Minnesota Twins Team Health Report: 2013 Injury Risk for Every Starter

Will CarrollSports Injuries Lead WriterMarch 4, 2013

Minnesota Twins Team Health Report: 2013 Injury Risk for Every Starter

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    Will Carroll has produced an annual Team Health Report for each MLB team for 12 years. The report gives risk ratings for every player in the expected starting lineup and starting rotation, plus two relievers. A proprietary formula sets a baseline according to a player's age and position. It is adjusted by 12 factors, including injury history, team history and expected workload.

    This risk rating is classified into three tiers—red (high risk), yellow (medium risk) and green (lower risk). It should be used as a guideline and is about probability, not prediction. To learn more about how the Team Health Reports are devised, click on this article

    2012 Rank: 7th best of 30 teams in DL days and dollars lost

    Biggest Injury: Scott Baker, $7.7 million lost value

    Head Athletic Trainer: Dave Pruemer

    Despite having a much healthier season in 2012 than they had in either of the previous two years, the Minnesota Twins enter 2013 with a new head trainer despite the top-10 finish in injury stats. Dave Pruemer inherits a team whose best players may be his biggest challenges, but whose most problematic players from last season likely won’t end up on his table again this year.

    Of the Twins’ 13 DL stints in 2012, only two came from players who are likely to open 2013 on the 25-man roster. Every Twin who missed more than 23 days last season is either off the team entirely or very unlikely to spend any serious time in the majors. 

    While he may not have to spend his time solving last year’s problems, Pruemer will have his hands full with the players that remain with the team. His job has the added degree of difficulty in that the team’s best players are also some of the most injury prone.

    Joe Mauer was healthy last year, but he hasn’t avoided the disabled list in consecutive seasons since 2005-06. Justin Morneau’s concussion seems to finally be behind him, but his wrists have bothered him on and off in his career. Josh Willingham was remarkably healthy last year, but he, too, has struggled to stay off the DL in consecutive seasons. 

    Perhaps Pruemer’s biggest challenge will be with his young pitching staff. As of right now, the Twins' rotation will open the year with pitchers ages 24, 25, 26, 29 and 32, giving them a median age of 26. As important as those first five are, monitoring the health of 25-year-old Kyle Gibson may be Pruemer’s most important task this year.

    Gibson, the team’s top pitching prospect, is expected to join the team at some point, but his 2011 Tommy John surgery has the team looking to limit his innings, which may mean he opens the year at Triple-A. While Gibson shouldn’t be struggling with any lingering effects of his surgery some 20 months after going under the knife, he is an integral part of the Twins’ future plans, and any setback now would be as damaging to the team spiritually as it would be to Gibson physically.

    This season doesn’t look particularly promising for the Twins, but healthy seasons from people like Willingham and Ryan Doumit makes it possible that they could be traded during the season. Neither will bring back a tide-changing return, but with the team looking to return to relevance soon, even a mid-level prospect who will reach the majors in two or three years is more valuable to the team than either aging hitter is now.

    This Team Health Report was written with the assistance of Dan Wade. More of Dan's work can be viewed at SI.com and Fangraphs.com.

    Click ahead for the Twins. Here are links to all the teams' reports.

     

    Will Carroll is the Lead Writer for Sports Medicine at Bleacher Report. He has written about sports injuries and related topics for 12 years. His column is called "the industry standard" by Hall of Famer Peter Gammons.  

C Joe Mauer (RED)

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    The 147 games Joe Mauer played last year were a career high, but his starts were split between catcher, first base and designated hitter. While Mauer’s bat is an asset in the lineup, there’s little disputing that he’s more valuable as a catcher than as a first baseman or a DH, especially when Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit are locked in as the starters. To that end, the Twins are hoping to get 125 games or more out of Mauer behind the plate.

    Extended time behind the plate raises Mauer’s risk in two ways.

    First, catchers just suffer more abuse than normal position players. Major injuries like those suffered by Buster Posey and Carlos Santana may spring to mind, but the wear and tear of absorbing foul tips, blocking pitches in the dirt, and getting struck by the occasional backswing are far more likely to force a catcher to the bench or the DL.

    Second, especially for a larger catcher like Mauer, the crouching and the exploding necessary to come out of that crouch to throw out base stealers puts extra strain on the knees. Mauer has had a history of lower-body issues, so while he was healthy last year, it’s not hard to rationalize this high-risk ranking of red.

1B Justin Morneau (RED)

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    Over the 81 games he played in 2010 before his concussion, Justin Morneau racked up 5.1 wins above replacement, more than all but 26 players in baseball managed over the course of the full season. Since then, Morneau has had the aforementioned concussion, a relapse of symptoms, surgeries on his left knee and ankle, multiple wrist issues, plus the normal assortment of day-to-day knocks. 

    His chronic inability to stay healthy makes him high risk, but the fact that he doesn’t have a specific injury that he’s been rehabbing this winter does bode well for him. Unfortunately for Morneau, age is beginning to become a factor, meaning that being healthy no longer means he’s guaranteed to be productive as well.

2B Jamey Carroll (GREEN)

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    Durability, thy name is Jamey Carroll. The 39-year-old didn’t start getting consistent playing time until he was in his mid-30s, but since then, he’s answered the bell with impressive consistency. A team-wide youth movement involving Brian Dozier or Eduardo Escobar is the biggest impediment to another 130- to 150-game season from Carroll.

SS Pedro Florimon Jr. (GREEN)

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    While he doesn’t offer much offensively, Pedro Florimon Jr. has a solid shot at being the Twins’ everyday shortstop because of his outstanding defense and instincts. Whether the two sides of his game will even themselves out remains to be seen, but good footwork around the bases will help Florimon from enduring the same type of contact injury that his predecessor, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, suffered at the beginning of the 2010 season.

3B Trevor Plouffe (RED)

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    Having a herky-jerky, up-and-down career can lead to problems with players pressing since they may end up in the mindset that any mistake might get them demoted. It also gives The System a sense that the player isn’t getting consistent playing time for a reason. Both things could be true of Trevor Plouffe. Last season was his first shot at consistent playing time, and while things went well at first, a late-July thumb injury derailed him badly.

    Plouffe shouldn’t be showing any lingering effects of that thumb injury, since there wasn’t any structural damage, but he’s starting to run low on chances to secure the starting third base job. If he struggles either in camp or at the beginning of the year, the Twins likely won’t waste too much time in finding someone else to man third base. 

LF Josh Willingham (YELLOW)

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    The 145 games Josh Willingham played last year narrowly edged out the 144 games he played in 2007 for a new career high. Perhaps unsurprising given the fact that Willingham has almost always been productive when he has been healthy is that he also set career highs in home runs, RBI, OPS and WAR. 

    2012 was only the third time in Willingham’s major league career that he avoided a stay on the disabled list and the first time since 2009, which is why he still shows up with a yellow ranking. As noted in the introduction, if he stays healthy, there’s a very strong possibility that the Twins would look to trade him. They shouldn’t want for bidders if they choose to do so. 

    I sat at a Twins game this season next to Terry Ryan, the Twins GM. A fellow scout asked Ryan what he was looking for when he went to trade Willingham. Ryan turned around and said "Not dealing him. I like watching him play." Willingham's likely to stay a Twin for a while.

CF Darin Mastroianni (GREEN)

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    With the offseason departures of both Ben Revere and Denard Span, the Twins go into a season without a presumptive center fielder for the first time in about 20 years. Darin Mastroianni has the inside track for now, but more by default than by merit. The biggest risk he faces going into the season is from Aaron Hicks, the team’s top pick in the 2008 draft.

    Hicks could earn the job with a stellar spring, but more than likely will start at Rochester (Triple-A) with the thought that strong play there would earn him a midseason call-up.

RF Chris Parmelee (GREEN)

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    Most of Chris Parmelee’s time in the minors came at first base, but he played enough right field that a move there shouldn’t be an issue. His range there could be an issue, but the Twins have a steady supply of fast center field prospects, which will help mitigate any defensive frailties the former first-round pick might have. 

DH Ryan Doumit (YELLOW)

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    Much like Mauer, Willingham and to a lesser extent, Morneau, Ryan Doumit is an oft-injured player who was far healthier than usual last year. 2012 was just the third time that Doumit played 100 games or more and was the first season since 2005 that he managed to avoid the DL all year. 

    As much as Mauer’s extra time behind the plate raises his risk, it also lowers Doumit’s. He’ll see some time there when Mauer needs a breather, but given that he’ll probably see the field mostly as the team’s DH, betting on another healthy season—even given his extremely suspect track record—is probably safer than betting on a relapse.

SP Vance Worley (RED)

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    It ought to go without saying that the Twins view Vance Worley as a long-term part of their rotation, but bringing him in—along with Trevor May—at the cost of Ben Revere means that they’re also looking for him to key the rotation this year as well. If that doesn’t happen, it will almost certainly be because of Worley’s problematic right elbow. T

    he loose bodies that plagued him last season have been removed, which bodes well for him, but the change in elbow anatomy can have some adverse effects.

    One thing that will help Worley going forward is his new home park. The move to the AL will do him no favors, but moving to Target Field from Citizens Bank Park will mean that the occasional two-seam fastball that doesn’t quite dive the way he intended won’t automatically leave the park. That margin for error may keep him from overthrowing and taxing his elbow more than necessary. 

SP Scott Diamond (YELLOW)

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    Like many pitchers, Scott Diamond had a small operation done on his arm during the offseason. Having bone chips removed isn’t a risky operation most of the time, but it is putting Diamond’s ability to be ready for Opening Day in some doubt. 

    Even if he were to miss a start or two as he rebuilds his arm strength, Diamond has one of the most secure rotation spots because of the yeoman’s work he did last season when he gave the team 27 above-average starts. No other member of the Twins’ rotation made more than 19 starts. That's a nice Rule 5 pick. 

SP Kevin Correia (YELLOW)

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    Given that he’s been around since 2003, it’s easy to forget that Kevin Correia wasn’t converted to a full-time starter until he joined the Padres in 2009 when he made 33 starts. Since then, he failed to reach 30 starts again and has never broken 200 innings. It would be easy to guess that he has been injury-prone, but other than an oblique strain that ended his season prematurely in 2011, Correia has remained on the team’s active bench if not the mound. 

    Had the Twins not invested a two-year contract in Correia, it seems likely that he would be the one who eventually lost his rotation spot to Kyle Gibson. It’s still possible, but the likely odd man out would seem to be Liam Hendriks, leaving Correia free to once again challenge to hit 30 starts for just the second time in his career.  

SP Liam Hendriks (YELLOW)

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    Working in Hendriks’ favor are his age—24—and the fact that he hasn’t yet had to bear a huge workload. The nearly 200 innings he threw between Triple-A and the majors last year were a career high by a large distance, but 106 innings in the majors aren’t typically enough stress to trigger any new injuries. 

    This is all good and well, but working against Hendriks is the fact that he allows nearly a quarter of the hitters who put the ball in play against him to hit a line drive. There’s no way to predict if one will ever come back up the box too quickly for him to get out of the way, but the more liners he allows, the greater the likelihood that one eventually catches him.

    He likely functions as a placeholder for now and a swingman before the calendar flips to June.

SP Mike Pelfrey (YELLOW)

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    Early indications are that Mike Pelfrey, who underwent Tommy John surgery in May last year, will be ready for Opening Day. That’s an aggressive timetable, but one that’s certainly possible if Pelfrey was diligent with his rehabilitation work last season.

    A move to the American League won’t do him any favors statistically speaking, but as long as the ligament is completely healed—which it should be by this point in the recovery timeline—and the surrounding musculature is there, then Pelfrey could start a new streak of 30-start seasons this year like the one he had from 2008 to 2011.

    The System did not anticipate a full year of starting or factor in the aggressive timetable, so this rating might understate the risk slightly. Tommy John surgery is predictable, but there's risk, especially with a pitcher like Pelfrey who clearly needs to correct his mechanics. The Twins don't have the best record at bringing players back from Tommy John either, so even with a new medical staff, this has to be considered.

RP Jared Burton (RED)

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    Despite reports that the Twins were going to be cautious with his workload, the 31-year-old Jared Burton appeared in a career-high 64 games in his first season back after having shoulder surgery in 2011. He had previously missed much of the 2010 season due to general fatigue symptoms that were believed to be related to the asthma he had as a child. 

    The System sees a huge increase in workload after two lost seasons as a reason to worry about Burton, and that seems fair. His shoulder remains the biggest source of concern, but if last year was a good representation of his health, then he’ll be fine. 

CL Glen Perkins (GREEN)

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    The move to the bullpen has done Glen Perkins a world of good both in terms of his health and in terms of his production. While it took an injury to former closer Matt Capps for Perkins to get his chance at the end of games, he now looks ensconced as the Twins’ designated save-getter for the foreseeable future.