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The Minnesota Twins have won the AL Central six of the past nine seasons. They are said to be the best organization from top to bottom in baseball. They draft well, build around players from within their system, and play with probably the best style in the game today. Their manager, Ron Gardenhire, could be considered underrated for the job he's done with these Twins.
The one thing that Minnesota hasn't done over the last nine years, is get to the World Series. The last three times they've made the playoffs, they've been swept in the first round with the last two seasons being to the Yankees.
You know they'll be good this season and probably get to the playoffs, but will they make any noise come October? That question can't be answered any time soon, but they have the pieces once again to get the job done.
The leaders of the offense are the "M&M Boys" Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Catcher Mauer had a difficult season in the power department, adjusting to the Twins new ballpark Target Field. He also saw his batting average dip 38 points which is the biggest concern, although hitting .327 isn't bad by anyone else's standards.
First baseman Morneau will be returning from post-concussion syndrome which he began feeling after suffering a concussion on July 7 of last season. He missed the remainder of the season from that point on, and will look to return to his All-Star caliber ways.
The Twins imported a Japanese player to take over at second base, 26-year-old Tsuyoshi Nishioka. The former member of the Chiba Lotte Marines recorded 911 hits in eight seasons with the team.
The Twins outfield looks to be pretty strong with Delmon Young trying to duplicate his career-best success from last season. Young finally broke through, as he hit 21 home runs and drove in 112 runs, in his third season in Minnesota.
With a solid offense, the Twins will look to get stability from the back end of their starting rotation. The top two starters are very good with Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano—who was signed to return—combining to win 31 games last season.
The next three guys can pitch decently, but haven't showed it recently. Scott Baker continued to see his ERA rise after signing a nice contract and winning 15 games a couple of years ago. Brian Duensing stunned everyone and had a magnificent season, winning 10 games and pitching to a 2.62 ERA while splitting time in the bullpen and in the rotation but is still unproven.
In the bullpen, Joe Nathan will return after missing all of last season having undergone Tommy John surgery. He'll set up for closer Matt Capps, who'll enter his first full season with the Twins. The bullpen is pretty good right now and the Twins have the most depth of any team in the division.
As long as they play like they always do, they should win the division, but it's not a given.
AL Central team rankings
Starting rotation: 2nd
2011 prediction: 94-68, 1st place