As every Twins fan knows, being in a small market sucks.
Every year, the Minnesota faithful watch their team become obsolete in free agency while the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox, and now even the Rays and Indians spend money to improve their teams and make the AL competition that much tougher.
But there is one thing the Twins can do well: overcome adversity and compete. This club is able to contend every year, despite their payroll being significantly less, and it all starts with a solid foundation. Minnesota was truly built from bottom to top.
Gammons, Winfield Praise the Twins
Hall of Famer baseball analyist Peter Gammons has praised the club for their management, coaching, and young talent.
"These pitchers know how to throw strikes, something taught by the great coaching staff of the Twins," he claims. "Never bet against the Twins, they will haunt you!"
Also, the great Dave Winfield claims the Twins do the fundamental things every day, including many hours of infield practice, bunting, and base running.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Here are Your Minnesota Twins!
- Denard Span, LF
- Alexi Casilla, 2B
- Joe Mauer, C
- Justin Morneau, 1B
- Joe Crede, 3B
- Jason Kubel, DH
- Michael Cuddyer, RF
- Nick Punto, SS
- Carlos Gomez, CF
Looking at this lineup, it seems the Twins will rely heavily on their two home-grown stars, Mauer and Morneau. Only problem is, Mauer will likely miss a month of action following lower back discomfort after kidney surgery. That leaves Mike Redmond and Jose Morales to split catching duties. Yikes.
The Twins led the league in batting average with runners in scoring position last year, and that's a stat that the team takes great pride in.
Over the winter, Minnesota signed third baseman Joe Crede to give the offense another potential power bat. Crede has had back issues since 2007, but the club hopes he is able to produce somewhere along the lines of his 2006 Silver-Slugger season numbers (30 HR, 94 RBI, .283 AVG).
Outfielder Delmon Young, still only 23 years of age, will see reduced playing time due to manager Ron Gardenhire's infatuation with Michael Cuddyer. Young still shows promise but needs to be a more relaxed hitter at the plate and develop his power more.
Gomez is an incredible athlete that can really fly around the bases, but as the saying goes, "you can't steal first base." First base coach Jerry White has worked with Gomez all offseason on pitch recognition and hitting the ball on the ground.
Defensively, the Twins should look solid once again. Shortstop Nick Punto appears almost nightly on Baseball Tonight with a Web Gem-like play. And according to the Fielding Bible, Gomez had the second-highest range factor of all Major League outfielders last season, trailing only former teammate Carlos Beltran. To boot, Crede provides an excellent glove at third base.
The Young Pitching
The Twins have one of the youngest rotations in the league, led by phenom Francisco Liriano.
Scott Baker emerged as an above-average pitcher last year, posting 11 wins and a 3.45 ERA in 172.2 innings.
Kevin Slowey was a strike-throwing machine, having a K to BB ratio of 5.13 and only walking 24 batters.
Nick Blackburn pitched magnificently against the White Sox in the "win and in," game only giving up one run. He is one of the pitchers I believe will improve significantly in the upcoming campaign.
All-Star closer Joe Nathan leads this group, which has many different faces.
Luis Ayala was signed to compete for the setup job with Jesse Crain.
Matt Guerrier struggled early last year, but came through down the stretch.
Craig Breslow produced an effective year, having an ERA of 1.63 with the Twins in 38 innings.
R.A. Dickey was picked up this winter to work the 'pen and occasionally spot-start.
2009 Season Prediction
The Twins proved "experts" wrong last year, going 88-75 and finishing one game away from the Playoffs.
Mauer will be the X-factor in this season; if he comes back healthy and plays up to form, the Twins have the potential to repeat last year's record. If not, they could be mediocre.
I believe the Twins will finish with around 81-83 wins and just miss out on the postseason in a wide-open AL Central.
But as Gammons says, "Never bet against the Twins."
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