Encouraging Signs for the Minnesota Twins Heading into 2013
Earlier this week, I took a look at the Minnesota Twins' biggest weaknesses heading into the 2013 season. I think most are aware of the recent pitching woes and the struggle this team has endured. There are bright spots, however, and some may even stay bright for years to come.
The Twins' front office isn't officially in rebuilding mode, because it feels it has the players to compete in the here and now. But if the Twins are truly serious about contending, they will need to add more pieces to enhance the pitching staff and defense.
That being said, this is a young and talented team that could surprise a lot of people. Getting back to "Twins baseball" seems to be the focus now, with the Twins prioritizing starting pitching.
If the Twins can build a steady nucleus around their current and future youngsters, we could see a resurgence in Minnesota—and soon.
In 2012, the Twins penciled in an offense that was consistently average in terms of all the other American League clubs (10th in runs, seventh in hits, 10th in RBI, seventh in AVG, fifth in OBP). There are two stats that stand out, however: The Twins were dead last in home runs, but first place in stolen bases.
Statistically, last season, the Twins' biggest strengths were their ability to get on base and steal bases.
Even with the departure of Ben Revere, this Twins team will be fast. In fact, Revere's most likely replacement—Darin Mastroianni—stole 21 bases in only 186 plate appearances.
The key now to improve an average offense is getting runs in. That's why the middle is the most important part to this new-look lineup.
If Joe Mauer can keep up his 2012 form, Justin Morneau can continue getting healthier and Josh Willingham can duplicate his huge numbers from last year, this will be a scary lineup.
But there are others who can contribute as well. This will be Chris Parmelee's first real shot at breaking camp with the Twins. Will we see the Parmelee that posted .229 in 2012? Or is this kid the real deal, as evidenced by his (short) breakout stint in 2011 where he hit .355?
Trevor Plouffe is another kid with big-bat potential in this lineup. A definite 30-home run threat if he stays healthy, Plouffe has a few areas he needs to clean up to become a sure thing at third base for the Twins.
The most exciting addition may be that of Aaron Hicks. He's the Twins' No. 5 overall prospect and is coming off a big year at AA New Britain. According to Baseball America, he has the best strike zone discipline, the best outfield defense and the best arm in the Twins system.
Sounds like Denard Span would have had some competition. Darin Mastroianni definitely will. Regardless of who lands the center field job out of the gate in 2013, expect Hicks to stick sooner rather than later.
Overall, it's hard for me to not get excited about this lineup. Despite the lack of a proven leadoff hitter, there is power, speed and discipline throughout. Throw in two former MVPs and the Twins just might have enough veteran leadership and young talent to amp up their offense tremendously in 2013.
A Stronger Bullpen
Glen Perkins has the fiery fastball. He has the filthy slider. And he has all the stuff to anchor the back end of a very powerful Minnesota Twins bullpen.
Although he was relegated to closing duties later on last year, he put together great stats in whatever role that was needed: 2.56 ERA, 16 saves, 11 holds, 78 Ks in 70.1 innings and a 1.04 WHIP. That's filthy.
I'm sure he's as excited as anyone to start the year as the bona fide closer, especially since he'll be set up by another All-Star-caliber pitcher in Jared Burton.
Burton made the absolute best of his minor league contract with the Twins before the 2012 season, solidifying his spot in the bullpen and earning a two year, $5.5 million extension with a $3.6 million club option for 2015.
He deserved it too. Burton put up career numbers towards the back of the Twins bullpen: 2.18 ERA, 18 holds and a staggering 0.92 WHIP.
Behind these two, Alex Burnett quietly had the best year of his young career in 2012. He hit career bests in nearly every category, pitching to a 3.52 ERA in 67 appearances for the Twins.
Casey Fien returns as well after posting a 2.06 ERA in 35 innings. His WHIP (0.97) and average against (.195) look pretty darn good too.
Filling out the rotation shouldn't be tough either. The Twins have a number of solid arms to choose from for the final few spots. Josh Roenicke was acquired this offseason after posting a 3.25 ERA in 88.2 innings of relief for the Rockies. Lefties Tyler Robertson and Brian Duensing will definitely get a look, as will Rule 5 pickup Ryan Pressly and the powerful young Michael Tonkin.
If all goes according to plan, this should be the best Twins bullpen in years.
What's most exciting for me every year is watching the fresh-faced youngsters get a shot at the majors. The Twins will have no shortage of young players, including top prospects Kyle Gibson, Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia.
Other youth, like Brian Dozier, B.J. Hermsen, Michael Tonkin and Caleb Thielbar, will all be fighting for spots on the roster as well.
I like the youth movement in Minnesota. It reminds me of the rebuild completed by none other than Terry Ryan in the late 1990s that led to a Twins juggernaut throughout the 2000s.
Young players like Corey Koskie, Jacque Jones, Doug Mientkiewicz, Christian Guzman and the lot contributed to a young team that just didn't want to lose.
These Twins need that fire back. They need youth and revolt. And more than anything, they need to build for this once again bright future in Minnesota.