Here are 12reasons why Twins fans should be optimistic for the future.
1. Joe Mauer
I don't really think I need to explain why he comes in first on this list. Short of Albert Pujols, Mauer could be the most important player for his respective team in baseball. Mauer is entering the final year of his contract, and Twins management is clamoring to lock him down for a multi-year deal. Look for the Mauer contract negotiations to be a hot button issue for the Twins this offseason.
2. Justin Morneau's back
Many people forget that the Twins were able to pull off their remarkable comeback in September without the services of 2006 MVP Justin Morneau. Morneau should be healthy and ready for spring training, adding another dangerous bat to the middle of the Twins' lineup.
3. Kevin Slowey
While Morneau's injury certainly gained more attention, one could argue that it was not the most significant injury for the Twins last season. Slowey went out for the season on July 3, and the Twins sorely missed his arm in their rotation. After a breakout year in 2008 when he posted a 3.99 ERA, a healthy Slowey will be a big boost for the Twins next season.
4. Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel
No one was more clutch down the stretch for the Twins than these two guys. They definitely rank as two of the most underrated players in the game today. The Twins just picked up Cuddyer's option for 2011, so look forward to seeing these two in the middle of the Twins' lineup for the near future.
5. Joe Nathan
Forget the playoffs blowup—Nathan is still one of the best closers in the game. The Twins won't hesitate to give him the ball in pressure situations.
6. Newly acquired young talent
The Twins seriously upgraded their farm system this season, adding two high-profile players. The Twins were ecstatic when Kyle Gibson, a right-handed pitcher out of Missouri, fell to them at pick 22. Gibson was considered to be a first round talent, but concerns about injuries caused him to fall out of the top 20.
The Twins were also very aggressive in their dealings with Latin American players, signing 16-year-old shortstop Miguel Angel Sano with a $3.15 million signing bonus.
These two moves certainly up the star potential for a previously thin farm system. Don't expect to see either of these guys in 2010 or 2011, but they are definitely important names to keep in mind for the future.
7. Outfield prospects
The Twins' farm system is rife with outfield depth. In fact, their best two prospects are high-ceiling outfielders in the upper levels of the system. Ben Revere was a first round pick in 2007, and Aaron Hicks was a first round pick in 2008.
While you shouldn't expect either of these guys to have a big influence on the Twins next season, there's no reason that they won't get a cup of coffee in September, with a chance to really start contributing in 2011. If you don't know anything about Revere, he could be a batting champion one day.
8. Francisco Liriano's potential
There is no way this guy is as bad as the last two seasons would indicate. He was so good in 2006 that the Twins will continue to give him opportunities to succeed. The best approach for the Twins to take with Liriano is to expect nothing and possibly be pleasantly surprised. The potential is such that he could finally get over his health issues and return to his 2006 form.
9. Old faithful
Scott Baker is possibly the least exciting and least sexy ace in baseball, but he consistently performs and comes through in important moments. I'm sure the Twins will trot Baker out again on opening day in 2010.
10. Wilson Ramos
Ramos will present the Twins with an interesting predicament as he gets closer to the majors. Mauer is obviously firmly entrenched as the catcher for Twins, and if they are able to sign him to an extension, there will be no room for Ramos.
Ramos is far too talented to merely be a backup and pinch hitter. He would be a perfect trade chip for the Twins to go out and add someone at the trade deadline as they try to get back to the postseason.
11. Improving youngsters
A few of the Twins' younger players made huge strides in 2009 and will look to continue that success next season.
Delmon Young finally began to silence his critics with solid play, especially down the stretch and in the playoffs. Nick Blackburn established himself as a reliable starting pitcher with the potential to be an ace someday. Denard Span played great defense in center field and provided the team with a dynamic leadoff hitter.
12. J.J. Hardy
The Twins finally admitted that Carlos Gomez was not the player they thought he would be when they dealt him to the Brewers this offseason for shortstop J.J. Hardy. While 2009 could be considered a disaster for Hardy, he is still an offensive upgrade over light-hitting Nick Punto and Brendan Harris.
Also, the Hardy acquisition means that the Twins have even more middle infield depth if they are unable to re-sign Orlando Cabrera.
Conclusion: The Twins will be good in 2010. Profound, huh?
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