Are the Minnesota Twins Really a Playoff Contender This Year?

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Are the Minnesota Twins Really a Playoff Contender This Year?
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Joe Mauer with his silky smooth swing

The question everyone in Minnesota is asking right now is simple: Can this year's Twins team finally make it past the ALDS?

 

The answer is yes—even without former AL MVP Justin Morneau in the lineup.

 

The big reason why is very simple—Delmon Young and Danny Valencia. Young is finally starting to look like the player the Twins expected him to be when they traded two All-Stars for him—leading the team in RBIs, second in doubles, third in home runs, and third in batting average (Among current active players).

 

The Twins showed a lot of faith in his ability to get the job done when they traded Carlos Gomez to the Milwaukee Brewers for J.J. Hardy last offseason, and the move has paid off.

 

Hardy, while not having the offensive season the Twins has hoped for, has proven to be an excellent fielder. That is not to say that his bat has been bad, considering he hits seventh in the lineup or lower on a daily basis. He has also had some battles with injuries to his left wrist, which anyone knows can affect your swing more than you would like. But overall, Hardy might finally be the main stay at short stop this team has hoped for since Cristian Guzman played six seasons for the Twins at short.

 

 

 

 

Not to mention that Michael Cuddyer has been very respectable at first base since Morneau suffered a concussion sliding into second base. That isn't to say the Twins would not love to have the hard-hitting, left-handed Morneau back in the lineup, but with the power that Jim Thome has provided, it is much more important to be safe with Morneau.

 

Valencia, however, is probably the biggest reason this Twins team has continued to win games. He is hitting .343 through 63 games with 216 at bats, and as if that isn't good enough, he always seems to come up with that big hit to spark something late in the game. There is no question in my mind that Valencia needs a very, very serious look as an AL Rookie of the Year candidate.

 

You add all that offensive might (first in the majors in batting average, fifth in runs scored, first in hits, third in doubles, third in triples, fifth in RBI, and second in OBP) to the pitching staff they have and it is rather scary what this team might accomplish.

 

The Twins young starting rotation has been just about exactly what everyone expected them to be—consistent. With all five starters having at least eight wins so far this season, as well as Brian Duensing having stepped in to win four games as a starter, they have done their job well.

 

Carl Pavano has been the gritty veteran leader of the staff, showing the other Twins starters how to get it done while eating up innings so the bullpen can take days off. Pavano leads the team in wins with 16 and has an outside chance at making it to 20 on the season.

 

 

 

 

Nick Blackburn has pitched 23.2 innings since being brought back from Triple-A Rochester and has given up six earned runs in that time (With one of those 23.2 innings and runs coming in a relief appearance after third base coach Scott Ullger took over for Manager Rod Gardenhire after he was ejected).

 

The additions of Matt Capps (Via trade from the Washington Nationals for Wilson Ramos), Randy Flores (Via waivers from the Colorado Rockies), and Brian Fuentes (Via trade from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for a player to be named later) has shored up a bullpen that was already extremely good at what they did.

 

It is no secret that this team is built to win, and there is a very good chance that this is the year the Twins return to the World Series.

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