With all the talk about the 2011 Minnesota Twins, I decided to take a very early look at the 2012 Minnesota Twins and what kind of lineup they could have. Joe Mauer signed his 8 year/$184M contract extension last spring because this is his team and he wants to win a World Series in a Twins uniform. What players will be around him in 2012 and do they have enough talent around him and in the farm system to get him a ring? I'll share my thoughts on what players will make up their 2012 batting lineup.
In 2012, Span makes the move from center field to left field. He has the speed to cover the left field foul line and get to a ball in the left-center gap. He's also throws with his left arm which makes the transition easier for Span. He played 74 games in left field in the 2009 season and it was his better position of the three outfield positions. Span still retains the leadoff spot in the lineup with his good eye at the plate and ability to work the count. The only thing Span needs to work harder on is his base stealing ability and aggressiveness. The Tampa native still is a good bat at the top of this lineup and will score runs in plenty.
The switch-hitting Nishioka will be 28 in 2012 and have his first year in the MLB under his belt. It will be interesting to see how he makes the jump from Japanese pitching to Major League pitching in 2011, but I think he handles it rather well. He has the ability to hit .300 or better with 15 HRs probably as his ceiling for power. He isn't the best base stealer there is but he will give the Twins over 20 bases stolen and Tsuyoshi is also a smart baserunner. He has great range in the infield and can even play shortstop if need be which makes him even more valuable. With Span and Nishioka at the top of the lineup, the Twins will have RBI chances in lots.
The Twins superstar catcher will still be winning batting titles hitting in the 3 hole. Arguably the best catcher in the game, Mauer will continue to hit over .300 and play Gold Glove winning defense. The only aspect of Mauer's game that Twins fans hope for more of is power. He showed a glimpse of his power in 2009 when he hit 28 dingers and went on to win his first Most Valuable Player award. Other than his power, the Twins catcher has all the tools you want in a baseball player.
Justin Morneau was on his way to winning his 2nd MVP award in 2010, but a concussion against the Blue Jays on July 9th ended his season. The Twins hope for him to make a full recovery for his health first, then come back to baseball in 2011 with a good year and possibly help them finally win a post-season series.
Morneau has the ability to be a great all around baseball player. He hits over .300, he hits more than 30 HRs, and he is always good for 100 RBIs. He also has very very underrated defense at first base. He should at least have 2 Gold Glove awards by now but he has been snubbed of those awards. None of these change in 2012. He will be the amazing Justin Morneau and one of the M&M Boys and back to his old form in 2012.
Delmon Young moves from left field to DH in 2012. His bat continues to get more lethal as he matures but his defense is still not worthy of being in the field. Other than his good arm, Delmon's defensive ability is atrocious. That's why he moves to DH and Kubel is out of Minnesota. After a breakout season in 2010, Delmon will continue to be that bat that provides Mauer and Morneau with protection. Delmon will continue to put up 25 HRs and 100 RBIs and bat close to the .300 mark.
Joe Benson will finally earn himself a starting place in the outfield in 2012. With Michael Cuddyer's contract coming off the books and the Twins having no need to bring him back, Benson steps right in and bats in the 6th hole with his power and RBI potential. Last year, Benson slugged out 27 homers in the minors and won Twins Minor League Player of the Year. Benson has good speed for the outfield and also has a strong arm as well. He would definitely be an upgrade over Cuddyer in the field and at the plate. Benson also has the ability to play center field.
Danny Valencia had a great rookie campaign last year and he finished 3rd in the AL Rookie of the Year award race. Valencia batted .311, hit 7 homeruns, and drove in 40 runs. He also has a very good glove at the hot corner. Valencia is the answer to the Twins questions at third base as they haven't had a solid third baseman since Corey Koskie. Valencia can only get better and he will continue to be a good player for the Twins.
Alexi Casila will get a chance to start in 2011. While it's not 100% positive as to what middle infield position he will play, I believe it will be shortstop. Casilla is much better defensively at shortstop than second base and it is said that Nishioka doesn't have a strong enough arm to play shortstop in the MLB. Also, Casilla will be at the bottom of the order in 2012 because of his lack of power and RBIs. He does have good speed though so when he gets on base he can bring stolen bases and runs scored to this lineup.
Ben Revere is one of the Twins best outfield prospects and will get the chance to start in 2012. He has great speed on the base paths and in the field and will be a great base stealer in his career. He also is a good hitter as he hasn't had a year in pro ball where he has hit lower than .300. He is more of a singles and gaps hitter and not much of a power threat and that is the reason for him batting ninth. The 9 hole guy can basically be another leadoff hitter. He doesn't take the greatest route to fly balls in the outfield and he doesn't have a strong arm. A quick MLB comparison player could be that of a Juan Pierre or a Michael Bourne.