Minnesota Twins: Predicting Their 2015 Lineup
The Minnesota Twins have not been able to put together a solid lineup for the last several years due to injuries, declines in performance and players that are only good enough to lead the team to three straight 90-loss seasons.
As the Twins go forward, there is about to be a massive overhaul for a lineup that was known more for striking out than scoring runs. Many of the team's top prospects will be up in the near future which could be exactly what they need for a return to relevance.
With all the buzz going around for guys like Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, it's fun to guess just what the Twins' lineup will look like two years down the road. In fact, it's fun enough to take a stab at it right now.
1) CF Byron Buxton
In the Twins' future lineup, no player is more movable than the electric Byron Buxton.
Buxton has the bat that could produce runs in the middle of the order, but the Twins would be best suited by having him lead off and set the table for their run producers.
In the minor leagues this season, Buxton compiled an on-base percentage of .424 and stole 55 bases during his stops at Low-A Cedar Rapids and High-A Fort Myers. Such a force would help the Twins improve on their offensive output from 2013 as they ranked 25th in runs scored.
The excitement will be there when Buxton finally steps on a major league diamond, but there will also be plenty of results to back it up.
2) 2B Eddie Rosario
In the second spot of the batting order, the Twins will use another young prospect in Eddie Rosario.
The Puerto Rico native has impressed in the minor leagues with his hitting ability and his conversion defensively from outfielder to second baseman.
What makes Rosario stand out is his ability to hit. He's not a power hitter, but he has enough pop to make pitchers pay for mistakes outside of his .307 career average in the minor leagues.
The Twins could use a bat like that toward the top of their lineup, and it will be interesting to see what they do with their current emerging second baseman Brian Dozier when Rosario is ready to make his debut.
3) 1B Joe Mauer
You may have expected Mauer's name to be penciled in the three-hole of this lineup, but you probably didn't expect him to be at first base.
When Mauer signed his massive contract extension prior to the 2010 season, it was unrealistic to think that he would play out the entire contract behind the plate. When a team is paying a guy $23 million a season, it tends to accelerate the timetable for a position switch in order to protect their investment.
As it turns out, the time for a position switch has come.
Mauer has been set on proving his doubters wrong by playing as many games behind the plate as he can, but a concussion in mid-August lingered through the end of the 2013 season.
That has to prompt some bad memories of the concussion that derailed Justin Morneau's career, and that's something they can't afford to happen to their highest-paid player.
With Morneau being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates last September, the Twins have opened the door for Mauer to become their full-time first baseman.
While it may not be a popular move with some fans who believe that his value goes down once he moves behind the plate, but that's the best course of action for the team to take.
4) 3B Miguel Sano
Before there was Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano was the one making waves in the Twins' farm system.
Bleacher Report's Mike Rosenbaum even gave this glowing review of Sano this fall and dubbed him "The Next Great Superstar Third Baseman." After signing with the Twins in 2009 as an international free-agent, he has done nothing but slug his way through the Twins' organization and has his sights set on an early-2014 debut.
With the Twins ending the Morneau era in September (barring a free-agent return), Sano will be relied upon to put the muscle into the middle of the Twins lineup. With 35 home runs at High-A Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain this season, he's more than up to that task.
5) LF Oswaldo Arcia
While the Twins couldn't muster much production out of the middle of their lineup in 2013, the future looks bright with Sano forming a deadly combination with Oswaldo Arcia.
Arcia made his major league debut as a 21-year-old in late April and showed some promise as he cranked 14 home runs in 351 at-bats. There were still flaws in his hitting approach, as he drew just 23 walks on the season, but there's enough to think that Arcia can be a middle-of-the-order basher as he improves.
As a young player with major league experience, it will be exciting to see what Arcia will be able to accomplish.
6) DH Trevor Plouffe
In my mind, Trevor Plouffe was one of the most disappointing players on the Twins' roster in 2013. While his inconsistencies at the plate are mind-blowing, his futility in the field are enough to make manager Ron Gardenhire run out on the field and let out a primal scream.
Plouffe has been sub-par defensively at three positions in his short major league career, but the Twins don't want to take his massive power potential out of the lineup. That would make him worthless in the National League, but it's enough to have the Twins say, "God bless the designated hitter!"
The DH role seems perfectly suited for Plouffe as his one job will be to drive the runs in that Mauer, Sano and Arcia can't. If he's able to find consistency, he could make a solid lineup even deeper.
7) C Josmil Pinto
If the Twins decide to move Joe Mauer to first base, they'll have a glaring hole behind the plate. While the wounds of the Wilson Ramos trade are still fresh in Minnesota's mind, they might have a replacement in Josmil Pinto.
The good news would be that Pinto was possessed in the final month of the season by hitting .342/.398/.566 with four home runs and 12 runs batted in. He's also been able to hit in the minor leagues with a career average of .275 and 10-15 home runs per season.
But then there's the bad news about Pinto's September.
He looked a lot like Oswaldo Arcia during his first month of major league action. While it's not a bad thing to be mentioned with a guy that will be slotted in the middle of the order, it is concerning when you've struck out 22 times in 76 at-bats.
Those numbers will have to come down once pitchers adjust, but Pinto has just enough offense to make him a suitable replacement if they decide to move Mauer in the next two seasons.
8) SS Pedro Florimon
It was tough to decide who the Twins' starting shortstop would be in two seasons because they have a couple of options to sift through.
There's the option of having a younger player make his way to Minnesota through the minor leagues. A possible candidate in that route could be Danny Santana, who just had a solid season at Double-A New Britain. Unfortunately, he'll need to make some improvements to make the jump by 2015.
There's also the option of converting second baseman Brian Dozier back to shortstop. He had a breakout season toward the back half of 2013 and it would be nice if the Twins could clear room for Rosario to take over when he's ready.
Finally, there's the incumbent Pedro Florimon. He makes the plays in the field and formed a nice double play duo with Dozier in 2013. His hitting tools aren't as powerful as Dozier's are, but the Twins have been known to be a defensive team which gives him the edge.
When Dozier made his debut in 2012, he was the primary shortstop and committed 15 errors. That stuff doesn't fly with the Gardenhire regime, so it's a bigger possibility that the Twins try to move Dozier in an effort to find pitching.
If they have to roll with Florimon, it wouldn't be the worst case scenario. Still, it will be interesting who emerges by the time we reach 2015.
9) RF Aaron Hicks
The final intriguing piece in this lineup will be the position of Aaron Hicks. After a failed experiment in 2013 to use him as the leadoff hitter and starting center fielder, there's a possibility that he lost both responsibilities as the team moves forward.
But, the Twins saw something when they kept him on the Opening Day roster a year ago, and it's enough for the team to try him somewhere else. That could mean a move to right field and to the bottom of the order.
Moving him to ninth seems aggressive, but it's a good way to keep the pressure off his shoulders and use his speed to help create runs with Byron Buxton hitting behind him on the wrap around.
With a move to right, the Twins will also be able to cover a ton of ground and hopefully help their "pitch-to-contact" pitching staff that relies on their defense to succeed.
2014 will go a long way in deciding where Hicks and the rest of the Twins will be in this lineup, but if Hicks has a big year this lineup could look extremely different.
Chris Schad is a Minnesota Twins Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. His work has also been featured on Pro Football Spot and the Yahoo Contributor Network. You can follow Chris on Twitter @crishad.