Minnesota Twins: 10 Twins That Are in Hot Water for 2013
In the sport of baseball, pressure is a given.
Whether it is living up to the reputation built on a previous season, a monster contract or just trying to stay in the major leagues, pressure is as present in the major leagues as it is in making diamonds (which is ironic when you think about it).
The Minnesota Twins don't appear to have much pressure placed upon them as they figure to be toward the bottom of the American League Central in 2013.
However, there are several players that find themselves in hot water for a variety of reasons. Because of that, they'll need to perform well if they want to stay with what can be a promising nucleus of young talent.
Here are 10 Twins that will face the most pressure in 2013.
On the surface, Vance Worley looks like one cool dude.
He wears sport goggles on the mound. He has a mohawk. He even has a sweet nickname as he is known as "The Vanimal." But he'll need all of that coolness to live up to the expectations built for him in 2013.
Twins fans expected general manager Terry Ryan to go and sign several quality free-agent pitchers to bolster a rotation that was the worst in the American League in 2012. Names like Brandon McCarthy, Joe Blanton and Joe Saunders were being tossed around as possible acquisitions, but nothing came of it.
Instead, the Twins rolled the dice on Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey while acquiring Vance Worley in the trade that sent Ben Revere to the Philadelphia Phillies.
The difference between the 25-year-old right-hander and his free-agent counterparts is that he has upside that the other two do not have.
While Correia and Pelfrey are low-ceiling options, Worley is young and talented which gives him room for improvement.
His first two seasons in the major leagues were solid as he went 12-4 with a 2.86 earned run average for the Phillies. He also registered an 8.1 K/9 ratio that can provide loads of relief for a rotation that ranked dead last in the American League with 5.53 ERA in 2012.
While Worley's stats took a dip (6-9, 4.20 ERA, 7.2 K/9) in 2012, a bone chip in his pitching elbow was to blame.
After offseason surgery to fix the problem, Worley will need to pitch to his potential to become the middle of the rotation starter the Twins need.
Closers always face pressure in major league baseball, but Glen Perkins will face additional pressure trying to solidify the Twins' closer role.
Since Joe Nathan had Tommy John surgery before the beginning of the 2010 season, the Twins haven't had the same slam-the-door-in-your-face effect in the ninth inning that made the team successful during the 2000s.
With Matt Capps departing for free agency, Perkins will get his opportunity after converting 16-of-17 saves in the role toward the end of the 2012 season.
Perkins has the stuff to do that, but this will be the first season in which he'll be the undisputed closer (he split time with Jared Burton after Capps went down with a shoulder injury last year).
It's a situation that has brought down many promising relievers in the past but, if Perkins can handle it, the 30-year-old reliever has the chance to be the closer for years to come.
Who is Liam Hendriks?
Is he the pitcher that struggled at the major league level the past two seasons with a career record of 1-10 with a 5.71 earned run average?
Or is he the Greg Maddux impersonator that earned 2011 Minor League Player of the Year honors and lit the International League on fire with a 9-3 record and 2.20 ERA at Triple-A Rochester in 2012?
It's time to find out.
The door is open for Hendriks to make an impact as the Twins rotation continues to have gaping holes even after acquiring a plethora of starting pitchers last offseason.
In a situation similar to Worley, the 24-year-old right-hander has more potential than his free-agent counterparts.
If Hendriks comes close to putting up the numbers he had in Rochester, the Twins can take a pen and write him in for the next several seasons.
However, Hendriks may not have as much time to impress.
Several pitching prospects have been brought into the fold, and Hendriks finds himself competing with former first-round pick Kyle Gibson along with Trevor May and Alex Meyer coming up behind him in the lower levels of the organization.
Another bad season for Hendriks could mean that the Twins will have to look elsewhere for help.
Since making his debut during a September call-up in the 2011 season, Twins fans have been waiting for Chris Parmelee to make a prolonged impact.
After tearing the cover off the ball while making the jump from Double-A New Britain that September, he made enough of an impression for the Twins to keep him on the Opening Day roster for the 2012 season.
Unfortunately, that's where Parmelee's rise stunted.
With the Twins unable to find an everyday position for Parmelee, he sat on the bench and was used in pinch-hitting duty only. His numbers dipped to .229 with five home runs and 20 runs batted in and he was sent to Triple-A Rochester.
Down there, Parmelee showed the promise that made the Twins giddy the previous winter as he hit .338 with 17 home runs and 49 RBI over 64 games.
The performance convinced the team to make a spot for the 25-year-old and he will be the team's starting right fielder on Opening Day.
Now a major league regular, Parmelee will have to find the groove he hit in the International League if he wants to be a mainstay on the Twins roster.
The Twins have had a lot of success with the Rule 5 draft in their history, as the Twins have acquired players such as Shane Mack, Johan Santana and Scott Diamond through that process.
However, being a Rule 5 pickup is not easy.
The Twins have to use the spring to evaluate this year's pickup, left-hander Ryan Pressly or return him to his former employer, which in this case is the Boston Red Sox.
After failing as a starter in the Red Sox organization, the team decided to move him to the bullpen in 2012. As a result, Pressly became an intriguing relief prospect that the Twins decided to take a chance on.
With the success in the Rule 5 draft that the Twins have had, there's pressure to succeed. Especially when he was assigned the number of the greatest Rule 5 pickup in club history.
Like his counterpart Liam Hendriks, Brian Dozier had a season in 2011 that earned him the Minor League Hitter of the Year award in the Twins organization. That lead to expectations being raised and a mediocre 2012 season.
After hitting .320 with nine home runs and 56 runs batted in between High-A Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain in 2011, Dozier came up with the Twins and looked nothing like the player that had the organization beaming about his future.
His OPS, which had been in the high-7s to low-8s during his minor league career, had dipped to .603 in the major leagues.
His fielding, which had been solid with nine errors at shortstop in 2011, also took a hit as he registered 15 errors in 83 games. By comparison, the major league leaders were Trevor Plouffe and Miguel Cabrera who each had 19 errors while playing a full season.
The Twins wound up sending Dozier back to Triple-A Rochester in favor of the more sure-handed Pedro Florimon and decided not to call him up during the month of September.
As he enters 2013, Florimon has permanently supplanted him at short, meaning his future will be at second base.
Over his four minor league seasons, Dozier played just 47 games at second base. However, he'll have to be a quick student if he wants to stick around for 2013 and beyond.
Over the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Trevor Plouffe's majestic power in the minor leagues seemed as mythical to Minnesotans as Paul Bunyan.
Well, that's mainly because they had never witnessed it in person.
During those two seasons, Plouffe 30 home runs. That includes the 51-game power binge at the beginning of 2011 where he hit 15 and had an insane .635 slugging percentage.
After a cameo in 2011 and an extremely slow start in 2012, the month of June proved to be the one that kept Twins management from declaring the 2004 first-round pick a bust.
Plouffe hit .327 with 11 home runs and a 1.126 OPS over 26 games that month after taking over for Danny Valencia.
While the power display was nice, Plouffe's fielding still needed work as he recorded an American League-leading 19 errors at third base.
The Twins attempted to get some competition for Plouffe over the offseason, but he will begin the 2013 season as the team's undisputed third baseman.
This puts pressure on Plouffe to prove in 2013 that he is the answer to the Twins woes at the position since Corey Koskie left for Toronto prior to the 2005 season.
If he's able to do so, the Twins will build around him and super prospect Miguel Sano will be playing beside him in a couple of seasons rather than breathing down his neck.
On a modest contract, Joe Mauer would be the most beloved Twin on the roster. On his eight-year, $184 million mega-deal he signed prior to the 2010 season, he's their most polarizing figure.
With three batting titles and an American League Most Valuable Player award, you might think that Mauer has nothing left to prove.
Because of his contract, it's leaving Twins fans wanting more.
They want the Mauer that hit .365 with 28 home runs and 95 RBI that won him that MVP award in 2009.
They also want him to catch more games behind the plate as his 72 starts in 2012 were the lowest total in a season where he hasn't been injured.
Mauer will try to live up to those expectations again in 2013, despite coming off a season in which he played a career-high 147 games while hitting .319 and recording the third double-digit home run total of his career.
Some will argue that Mauer is what he is, and that's right to a point. But to justify his contract, Mauer needs to put up bigger numbers for the Twins and he needs to do it behind the plate.
At the end of last season, many thought that Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson was a dead man walking.
With a pitching staff that has an ineffective pitch-to-contact philosophy and horrifically bad overall numbers, it seemed like the successful Anderson era was about to be thrown out the window.
Instead, the Twins decided to reshuffle their staff and it was bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek that got the ax.
While Anderson's job was safe, his replacement could be at the major league level ready to take his job.
That's because Bobby Cuellar has worked with a lot of the Twins young talent at Triple-A Rochester.
While the overall numbers of 4.06 earned run average aren't spectacular with Cuellar, he's been able to get the most out of the pitchers he has there including the previously mentioned Liam Hendriks.
The talent that Anderson has to work with at the major league level may not give him a fair chance, but that's life in the major leagues. If he's unable to get the staff to perform at an acceptable level, he'll be packing his bags.
As it seems to be the case when talking about Rick Anderson, the pressure also falls on manager Ron Gardenhire.
Gardenhire has been the franchise's most successful manager in team history (behind Tom Kelly and his two World Series victories), but with the recent performance of the franchise his days could be numbered if the team plays like it has the past two seasons.
The Twins have taken a steep fall from grace, going from perennial contenders in the weak American League Central to lifeless doormats in a short amount of time.
A lot of the garbage has been taken off the Twins roster, and now is the time for Gardenhire to instill the principles on a young team to create another run of success.
If it doesn't work, the Gardenhire era could come to an end in 2013.
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