Joe Mauer continues to do his thing as the Minnesota Twins head into the second half.
The Minnesota Twins wrapped up their first half of the season on Sunday with a 10-4 win over the New York Yankees. The victory capped off one of the more positive moments for the team in what has been classified as a rebuilding year, but they still sit in fourth place of the American League Central with a 39-53 record.
As a team, the Twins enter the second half cold, despite their first series victory in New York since 2001. An admirable first half came to a halt when the team dropped 12 of their last 15 games before the break.
While some players are performing well for the Twins, others are struggling to produce for a team that desperately needs it, and that can lead to changes down the road.
One of the most disappointing aspects of the season has been the production of Justin Morneau. While he leads the Twins in runs batted in, that's more of a knock on the current state of the team rather than a compliment to the former AL MVP.
Morneau's power has mysteriously disappeared during the 2013 season, but he's been able to start driving balls thanks to a decent month of June. He only hit two home runs, but he was able to drive in 14 and have a season-high .476 slugging percentage over 23 games.
Morneau's first 13 games of July have not been kind, but if he's able to hit for power, a team such as the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays or Texas Rangers may have interest at the deadline to acquire his services.
In the event of a Justin Morneau trade, the Twins will turn to the more disappointing Chris Parmelee to fill the void at first base.
That was not the plan when the Twins created an opening in right field last offseason in hopes that an everyday job would help him live up to his beastly season at Triple-A Rochester from 2012.
However, he's slugging .372 with 20 extra-base hits in 242 at-bats to lose playing time to rookie Oswaldo Arcia and Ryan Doumit.
The Twins demoted Parmelee following the game on Sunday, but they hope that getting at-bats while playing his natural position will get him going.
Earning his first All-Star selection, Glen Perkins has made the conversion from successful setup man to dominant closer in 2013.
Converting 21 of 23 save opportunities, Perkins has slammed the door when he's gotten the opportunity, and he's putting up other great numbers such as a 1.82 ERA and 0.80 WHIP. Those marks rank as some of the best among AL closers.
However, success on a bad team usually means you're trade bait.
Many teams would love to acquire Perkins' services at the trade deadline, and an offer from another team may be too good for general manager Terry Ryan to pass up.
Bullpen arms are a commodity that teams usually overpay for at the deadline, so the Twins may feel the need to pull the trigger despite having him at an affordable price over the next two seasons (with an option for 2016).
A couple weeks ago, it wouldn't have been completely insane to mention Oswaldo Arcia as a candidate for AL Rookie of the Year. That may be because no other rookie candidates had performed like Mike Trout or Yasiel Puig, but he was having a solid rookie year until a recent slump that began on July 3.
On that date, Arcia's average was at .290, but a 4-for-37 stretch with 16 strikeouts to end the first half put a damper on what he had accomplished in his two stints with the Twins. The team saw him pressing at the plate, so they decided to demote him to Triple-A Rochester heading into the break.
A demotion isn't the end of the world for a 22-year-old, so it's a possibility that Arcia comes back and shows the solid approach at the plate he flashed several times during the first half.
Even when the Twins are losing, Joe Mauer keeps hitting.
As the most polarizing player on the Twins' roster, Mauer has gotten a lot of heat from talk-radio warriors about his skimpy 32 RBI total through the first half of the season. However, that has been a result of the brutal production from the team's leadoff spot and not an indictment on the six-time All-Star.
A .320/.402/.473 line with eight home runs screams Mauer at the All-Star break, and it's possible he can add to those numbers to have his second-best season—next to his 2009 AL MVP campaign.
While some Twins fans love to cry about his contract, others realize what's going on. A hitter that compares favorably to Tony Gwynn, Mauer is going to block everything out and keep doing his thing.
It's one thing to pick a player that's cold heading into the All-Star break. It's a much bigger problem when an entire group of players are ice cold heading into the All-Star break.
As mentioned in the previous slide, Joe Mauer has served as the Twins' de facto leadoff hitter because nobody at the top of the lineup can get on base. A lot of that had to do with Aaron Hicks' 2-for-48 stretch to begin his career, but nobody else has been able to set the table for the middle of the lineup.
Heading into the break, the Twins leadoff spot had a line of .196/.263/.287 which is dead last across the board in Major League Baseball.
While it hasn't mattered who the Twins have thrown at the top of the lineup, there is hope that a light bulb could turn on for somebody like Hicks who is still trying to dig his batting average out from underneath the Mendoza Line.