The Minnesota Twins pulled off a miracle last season by winning the AL Central on a tiebreaker game against the Detroit Tigers. They went 87-76 and won their fifth division title in the last eight years. However, they were swept by the eventual World Series Champion New York Yankees in the ALDS.
AL MVP Joe Mauer definitively led the club, with a .365 batting average (he flirted with .400 for awhile), 28 homers, and 96 RBI. The Twins also got help from fellow slugger Justin Morneau, who hit 30 homers and drove in 100 RBI. They were the best one-two combination in the Central Division last season.
But the Twins also got some offensive help from unexpected people. Designated hitter Jason Kubel had probably the best season of his career, slugging 28 homers and 103 RBI while batting .300/.369/.539. They also got help from outfielder Michael Cuddyer, who hit 32 homers and drove in 93 RBI, also the best season of his career.
However, I think the downfall of the Twins last season was their pitching. They didn’t have an official ace on the team. They had a mix of young quality guys who, in some cases, did come through for them.
Pitchers like Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Glen Perkins, and Kevin Slowey had to step up for them. Fireballer Francisco Liriano was an awful 5-13 with a 5.80 ERA, which meant that Brian Duensing and Jesse Crain had to come into play as well. To help with the rotation, Minnesota acquired Carl Pavano from the Indians, who was 5-4 with a 4.64 ERA as a Twin.
I think that the Twins pitching needs to step it up if they want to be a legit World Series contender.
However, the Twins have already gotten some bad news on that front even before the start of the 2010 season. One of the top closers in the league today, Joe Nathan, might be out for the entire year with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. Nathan is coming off a 47-save season, and it would be a travesty if he misses the entire year.
If he does indeed miss all that time, I think the club would have to go shopping for a closer, since I don’t think anyone except for maybe Jose Mijares could fill in for Nathan at the closer role.
I think the Twins did upgrade their fielding, though. They traded center fielder Carlos Gomez to Milwaukee for shortstop J.J. Hardy, who replaces Orlando Cabrera. The Twins also got former Gold Glove-winner Orlando Hudson, who will replace Alexi Casilla at second. Jim Thome also joins the team as a backup to the phenomenal Jason Kubel.
Overall, I think the Twins will win the AL Central. But they will have to earn it, because I feel like the AL Central is a wide open race with the White Sox, the new look Tigers, the young Royals, and the healthy Indians all vying for the crown.
Projected Twins Starting Line up:
C: Joe Mauer
1B: Justin Morneau
2B: Orlando Hudson
3B: Brendan Harris
SS: J.J. Hardy
LF: Delmon Young
CF: Denard Span
RF: Michael Cuddyer
DH: Jason Kubel
SP: Scott Baker
SP: Kevin Slowey
SP: Carl Pavano
SP: Nick Blackburn
SP: Francisco Liriano
CP: Joe Nathan/Jose Mijeras