We’re a quarter of the way through the season and the Minnesota Twins have been surprisingly—dare I say it?—good...or at least better than most people expected.
All year long this club has hovered around the .500 mark. The pitching has been subpar, but that was to be expected. The lineup, however, has been better than advertised. Unfortunately, just about everyone has gone through a slump, but when all the cylinders are firing, this club is dangerous.
The Twins can keep this up as long as the pitchers go deep into games. The lineup has left a lot of guys on base, but for the most part has shown promise early in the year.
Hey, let’s be honest, the Twins are a miracle team. They are best served with low expectations, and people outside the Twin Cities haven’t bought into them just yet.
All I’m saying is that I’m hoping for something crazy in 2013!
If only all the pitchers could be like Kevin Correia...
Never in my life did I think I would say that, but Kevin Correia has been a machine since arriving in the American League. It sounds counterintuitive, but the former Giant, Padre and Pirate has done better in the Junior Circuit than he did in the National League. While he does not get to face pitchers, Correia has thrived in a league where he knows he is not going to be substituted for a pinch hitter and can go deep into games.
And go deep into games he has. He went seven innings or longer in his first five starts and picked up wins in three of them. Correia struggled on the road trip, lasting only 5.0 innings in Cleveland and 5.1 in Boston, but was lights out once again facing former teammate Jake Peavy of the Chicago White Sox at Target Field.
“We’re always waiting for that,” said manager Ron Gardenhire after the White Sox game. “We’ve been taking guys out in the sixth inning enough.”
Sixth inning is generous.
Mike Pelfrey, Scott Diamond and Vance Worley are all capable of giving the team quality starts, but Pelfrey is coming off of Tommy John surgery, Diamond had bone chips removed from his elbow at the beginning of the season and Worley, well, Worley was a No. 4 starter in Philadelphia who has been forced to be the team’s ace. None of these guys is consistently going into the seventh inning yet.
My guess is that either Kyle Gibson or Cole De Vries is in a Twins uniform sooner than later, as Pedro Hernandez, 23, looks like he needs a little more seasoning in the minors, and both of those guys should be talented enough to make quality starts in the majors.
In order for Minnesota to win games this year, everyone in the rotation has to be like Correia: Nothing fancy, just get the job done.
What is going on with that leadoff spot?
Aaron Hicks began the year at the top of the lineup and hit .040.
Brian Dozier took over the spot, got really hot and then settled in with around a .250 on-base percentage.
That doesn’t cut it, and with Joe Mauer hitting in the 2-spot, Minnesota needs a guy to get on for him to knock in.
It comes as no surprise that the Twins are having trouble finding a leadoff hitter. They dealt away Denard Span and Ben Revere, two table-setters from last year, leaving a giant void at the top of the lineup. Darin Mastroianni went down with an injury early in the season, and Hicks was expected to produce immediately even though he had never played a game at Triple-A.
Hicks and Dozier are not the only guys whom they can use as a leadoff hitter. Jamey Carroll is more than capable of hitting in front of Mauer, but at 39 he is not a permanent solution and may wear down with a large workload. They could also go with Eduardo Escobar, who has been red-hot at the beginning of the year, but there is some question as to whether he can keep it up as an everyday player.
The best approach is to platoon the position. Hicks and Dozier have played well enough defensively to keep them in the lineup and both are young, so we’re still learning how much they have to offer. Mastroianni becomes an option when he gets healthy, Escobar could be a sleeper here and Carroll isn’t a bad last resort.
Hopefully, by rotating the leadoff spot, Minnesota will find someone to get on base for Mauer and the rest of the lineup.
Be patient with Trevor Plouffe, Chris Parmelee and Oswaldo Arcia
Trevor Plouffe is 26. Chris Parmelee is 25. Oswaldo Arcia is 22.
Plouffe is entering his prime. Parmelee will be soon. Arcia is greener than Snoop Dogg’s lungs.
Plouffe had a breakout season in 2012. He hit 24 home runs and probably could have reached 30 if he hadn’t had a lingering thumb injury. During his time in the majors, Plouffe has hit around .230 and may never hit for contact. He can improve upon his .241/.313/.422 line, but I’m not sure he’ll ever be a .300 hitter.
The Southern Californian has got some power in his bat, however, and went on a tear in the beginning of May. His opposite-field shot in Cleveland was the first of his career, and he bucked a trend by hitting a home run with a man on base in Progressive Field as well. Plouffe is blossoming, and when he finally harnesses the talent he has been blessed with, the man is capable of hitting 30 home runs a year.
I see Parmelee as Plouffe Jr. A fellow Southern Californian, both players were drafted No. 20 overall in back-to-back years, have some pop in their bats, don’t hit for contact and took a little time to get used to pitching at the game’s highest level.
Parmelee hit .355/.443/.592 with four home runs in 21 games as a 23-year-old in 2011. Last year he hit .229/.290/.380 with five homers in 64 games. Again, he is 25 years old this season.
For sake of comparison, Plouffe hit .146/.143/.317 with two home runs in 22 games as a 25-year-old and hit .238/.305/.392 with eight homers in 81 the next season before breaking out last year.
Arcia may have the most upside of the three. Signed as a free agent in 2007, the Venezuelan started the year in Triple-A, but has hit .300/.333/.500 with three homers in 22 games since getting the call. Pitchers have found out that he has some trouble with off-speed stuff, but once this guy works out the kinks, he’s gonna be a superstar.
Be patient, my friends, be patient. These guys are going to be good sooner than later.
The M&M Boys are back
Everyone loves to freak out with these two guys.
Joe Mauer isn’t hitting .300: Boo! Waste of money! Nice people suck!
Justin Morneau isn’t hitting home runs: Boo! He’s never going to be good again! Go back to Canada!
Then, when Mauer is approaching .400: Wahoo! He’s a model citizen, a loyal Minnesotan! He’s such a nice guy!
When Morneau is blasting bombs into right field: Wahoo! He’s back to MVP form! Canadians are basically Minnesotans!
Like with the young guys, people tend to overreact to little slumps and forget to look at the big picture with the franchise players: Yes, Mauer makes a lot of money, but do you want to see him in the Bronx or Boston? Yes, Morneau has slowed down and struggles against lefties, but he wouldn’t look right in Dodger Blue!
And what message does it send to the most promising prospects in the Minnesota system if the team always lets its best players go in their prime? It tells them that the Twins are simply a de facto minor league team and they need to leave the Twin Cities to win.
If you want to freak out about something, freak out about the Tsuyoshi Nishioka situation. Freak out about trading away J.J. Hardy and Wilson Ramos. Freak out about the Johan Santana trade.
All three are reasons why this team isn’t better while Mauer and Morneau are in their prime. That’s all in the past, though, and right now the team needs to get their starters to go longer into games, a leadoff hitter and the young bats to swat balls out of the park.
As long as that happens, this team can continue to surprise people.
The Twins are a miracle team, sports fans, and make no mistake: We’re all hoping for a miracle this year.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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