MLB: 5 Biggest Disappointments for the Minnesota Twins So Far
The Minnesota Twins have done well for themselves this season. No, really. They have.
At the beginning of the year, this was supposed to be one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball. With question marks all over the lineup and the rotation, it was going to be a stretch whether the Twins could win 60 to 70 games and finish out of last place in the American League Central.
As of June 20, the Twins find themselves with an admirable record of 31-36 and 2.5 games ahead of the last place Chicago White Sox.
It's not a surprise World Series run, but it can be agreed upon that the Twins have done well for themselves heading into the middle stretch of the season.
That doesn't mean the Twins haven't had their share of disappointments.
As with any team, there are several things that the Twins thought would go better, but haven't panned out. While most of them are able to have quick fixes, the potential of the team could be more than it is if some things went their way.
5) Aaron Hicks' Adjustment to the Major Leagues
After a solid spring training, Aaron Hicks earned the starting center field job along with the leadoff spot for the Twins.
The hope was for Hicks to continue to improve at the major league level while blossoming into the five-tool prospect he has been touted to be since being drafted in the 2008 MLB Entry Draft.
Things haven't gone to plan for Hicks from the start as he endured a horrendous 2-for-48 stretch to begin his career and hasn't been able to recover.
Looking back, it's possible that expectations were too high for the 23-year-old rookie coming out of March. He hadn't played a game above Double-A New Britain, and his learning curve had proven to be a slow one as it took him five years to reach the major leagues.
The good news is that Hicks has shown flashes of being a solid outfielder for the Twins in recent weeks. He's made a couple of stellar catches in the outfield (mainly his rob of Carlos Gomez in Milwaukee on May 28), and he was able to hit six home runs before landing on the disabled list with a strained hamstring.
Hicks' struggles are typical of a rookie making a big jump to the major leagues, but he'll prove to be alright once he gets his feet wet.
4) Leadoff Hitter Production in the Twins Lineup
The Twins offense has struggled as they enter their June 20 game with the Chicago White Sox 10th in the American League with 283 runs scored. A large reason is the failure that has been the leadoff spot.
Hardball Talk's Aaron Gleeman floated this tidbit on Twitter on June 19, which showed the Twins' ineptitude at the top of the lineup:
Twins leadoff men have hit .177 with a .232 OBP and .207 SLG in 67 games. Every other lineup spot has an OPS at least 160 points higher.— Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) June 19, 2013
Manager Ron Gardenhire has tried several options to set up Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau with RBI opportunities, but Aaron Hicks, Eduardo Escobar, Jamey Carroll and Brian Dozier have all flopped.
Just as sure as you can't steal first base, you can't expect to score runs if nobody is on base in front of you.
3) Chris Parmelee Is Being Usurped in Right Field
Heading into the 2012 season, Chris Parmelee was one of the most exciting names that a Twins fan could utter. Part of that was the lack of talent in the team's farm system, but it also had to do with his impressive September of 2011 when he hit .355 with four home runs and 14 runs batted in.
The following season, he had a major regression with a .229 average, five home runs, and 20 RBI, but he got a free pass from most because he never had regular playing time.
The Twins had hoped that finding an everyday position from Parmelee would get him going and unlock his brilliant numbers from Triple-A Rochester a season ago, so they decided to stick him in right field to see what happens.
Like Hicks, the results haven't been flattering.
As Parmelee approaches the 210 major league at-bats he recorded in 2012, his numbers have regressed to a .223 average and 12 extra base hits.
With rookie Oswaldo Arcia pushing him for playing time, it's time to wonder whether Parmelee will make an impact at the major league level.
2) Justin Morneau's Power
Justin Morneau possessed one of baseball's most feared bats prior to his concussion in July of 2010. If you have followed the Twins during that time frame, you would know that injuries and the lingering effects of that concussion have limited what the former American League Most Valuable Player has been capable of since then.
But nobody could have predicted that Morneau would have three home runs in the middle of June.
By comparison, Morneau hit 17 a season ago and that was while he was dealing with the nagging injuries that had plagued him in the past. This season, it seems like something else is bothering him when he's at the plate.
Morneau told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on May 30 that he had not changed his approach and he felt fine physically, but maybe it has to do with something mentally such as the fences at Target Field.
If you think that's crazy, watch the next fly ball off his bat that bangs off the high scoreboard wall in right field and you can maybe make out Morneau muttering obscenities about the park's current dimensions like he did after the 2010 season.
Nobody should be as devastated as general manager Terry Ryan about this power outage as Morneau is in the final year of his contract and would have been a candidate to be shipped off to a contender to further rebuild the farm system.
With an average hovering around .300, not everything has been a bust for Morneau this season, but nobody is going to pay $13 million for a "power-hitting" first baseman with three home runs.
1) Josh Willingham's Encore
Almost as baffling as Justin Morneau's fade in the power department is Josh Willingham's regression from Silver Slugger award winner to struggling outfielder.
Willingham put together one of the best offensive seasons in team history a season ago after hitting .260 with 35 home runs and 110 runs batted in, but has struggled to repeat that success in 2012.
Known as a hot and cold hitter throughout his career, there was a good case to make that "The Hammer" would see a decline in his numbers this season. But his .217 average is way below his career .258 mark, and he's only hit 10 home runs through the first half of the season.
Willingham can catch fire and start bashing balls out of a ballpark near you at any time. Still, the Twins could use the force that was in the middle of their lineup in 2011 if they want to become a surprise contender.