The 2011 Major League Baseball season is nearing and baseball fans everywhere cannot wait. The offseason is coming to an end and players will be reporting to Spring Training soon to get ready for the upcoming season.
The Twins season hopes to be longer than last's as they try to make it out of the first round of the playoffs. These predictions look fantastic for the Twins, but remember, they are definitely bold.
The former Japanese stud, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, will make his Major League debut on opening day of 2011. The middle infielder from Chiba Lotte will have to make the transition from Japanese pitching to MLB arms and there are some who think that he will not be able to make that transition quite easily.
Nishioka had a spectacular year last season for the Chiba Lotte Marines batting .346 in Japan's Pacific League. He will add decent speed, good defense, and he will also solidify the No. 2 hole in the Twins lineup.
Bold Prediction: I think Nishioka hits anywhere from .310 - .320 while also hitting out 15 home runs and driving in close to 50 RBIs. He takes the ROY honors easily.
Minnesota Twins General Manager Bill Smith made the decision to trade away shortstop J.J. Hardy this off-season most likely because of his contract. Hardy was dealt to the Baltimore Orioles for relievers Brett Jacobson and Jim Hoey. This move signified that the Twins were going to have Alexi Casilla work for another opportunity to be a starter.
In Casilla's at-bats last season when he was playing for Orlando Hudson, Casilla actually looked good at the plate and in the field.
2011 will be the year where he shows that he can be a starting infielder in the MLB.
Bold Prediction: Casilla will bat close to .289 with 23 stolen bases with good defense at SS or 2B next season.
Danny Valencia will be the Opening Day starting third baseman in 2011. After a very impressive rookie season from Valencia, he has earned the job at the hot corner. Valencia batted .311, knocked out seven home runs, and drove in 40 runs. He has a very good glove and arm and can control third base with the best of them. He has the total package and he fits the mold of a Twins player.
Bold Prediction: Valencia backs up his solid rookie campaign with a good sophomore year. I see him batting .307, with 17 home runs, and 80 RBIs in 2011.
Delmon Young continues to grow into the great player he can be. After showing up to Spring Training last season as a lighter Delmon, his swing looked more controlled and he looked like he had more of an idea of what he was doing at the plate.
He is still a free-swinger, but the difference from 2009 to 2010 was that Delmon was making more contact with the baseball rather than swinging and missing. Delmon put up a career year as he batted .298, slugged out 21 home runs, and drove in 112 runs.
Bold Prediction: Delmon Young takes the next step in his career and earns a spot in the AL All-Star lineup. Delmon made the final player ballot last year, but in 2011 Delmon turns it up a notch. He finishes the season with a batting average of .297, a home run total of 31, and 100 RBIs. The Twins finally have the right handed power bat they needed to go along with Mauer and Morneau.
Francisco Liriano won the 2010 MLB Comeback Player of the Year award last season by going 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA and 201 strikeouts over 191.2 innings pitched. With one of the nastiest pitches in baseball, Francisco Liriano fully returns to his dominating 2006 form. The Twins will need him to be dominate in 2011 and for him to be their ace that they have been lacking.
Bold Prediction: Liriano goes 19-9 with a 2.89 ERA in 2011. He leads the AL in strikeouts with 240 strikeouts. Liriano finishes in the top three for the Cy Young Award.
After signing a one year deal worth $1.5M in January of 2010, Thome had a wonderful season. He was initially used as just a bench bat and an occasional designated hitter (DH). When former MVP first baseman Justin Morneau's season ended early due to a concussion, Thome's at-bats increased as he would take over the DH role for the rest of the season. Thome put up exceptional numbers in his 276 at bats as he hit .283 with a team-leading 25 home runs.
The future Hall of Famer, Jim Thome, will return for his 21st season in 2011 after signing a one year deal worth $3M one month ago. Thome will most likely be used as a bench bat once again but will probably see more time as a DH than most people think.
Thome is just 11 home runs away from being part of the "600 Home Runs Club" and just 20 behind Sammy Sosa for 7th all-time.
Bold Prediction: At 40 years of age, Jim Thome will crush 24 home runs in 2011 and take over the No. 7 spot in home run history.
Thome is one of the best players to ever play the game of baseball and one of the best people in the game. I hope this one turns out to be 100 percent accurate.
Justin Morneau finally makes his return to baseball after suffering a concussion that took place July 7th, 2010 against the Toronto Blue Jays. Morneau slid into second base and was kneed in the head while trying to break up a double play, which in the end resulted in his 2010 season being over. He was on his way to having another MVP season as he was hitting .345 with 18 home runs and 56 runs driven in through only 81 games.
Morneau has been getting healthier this off-season and will begin getting ready for Spring Training and eventually Opening Day. One can only hope just for the sake of his health that he has fully recovered and that there are no lingering effects from his concussion.
Bold Prediction: Only a bold prediction due to the fact he is coming back from a very serious injury, Justin Morneau will pick up where he left off. I believe the Canadian slugger bats .335, slugs out 29 home runs, and drives in the usual 100+ RBIs. Write it down. Morneau will be back.
After a disappointing season (based on Joe Mauer's standards), he will be coming off a season where he batted .327 in his first year at Target Field. The Minnesota native dealt with nagging injuries for most of the season last year and still managed to have a great year for a catcher. The power was not there for Joe in 2010 and one can expect that it will not be there in 2011 either.
Mauer is a phenomenal hitter that will bounce back in 2011 and continue to be the hometown hero. He is such an important player to the Twins not only with the bat but with his defense and controlling the pitching staff. Mauer is the key to the rotation being successful in 2011.
Bold Prediction: Joe Mauer flirted with batting .400 in 2009 for part of the season. In 2011, he once again comes close to doing the unthinkable of batting .400 for a season. Whether he does it or comes up short, Mauer will win his fourth batting title of his career and continue to be the best catcher in all of baseball.
The Minnesota Twins went on to win the AL Central for the second straight year in 2010. They went 94-68 in regular season play and that was without having players like Joe Nathan or Justin Morneau healthy. The Twins have brought back starting pitcher Carl Pavano and slugger Jim Thome while also adding international middle infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka.
The Twins will have one of the best offensive lineups in all of baseball next season with the "M&M Boys" Mauer and Morneau healthy as well as Delmon Young in the middle of that lineup. Pitchers will not have an easy task trying to go through the Twins because there is not a huge weakness to their team. They have a solid rotation with Liriano and Pavano at the top and pitchers Baker, Slowey, and Blackburn rounding it out.
Bold Prediction: The Minnesota Twins surprise many baseball fans with their play in 2011. They play great defense and can beat you with the long ball or with small ball. This team will be clicking on all cylinders as they easily win the Central and finish the regular season with a record of 100-62.
Two of the best organizations in all of baseball will meet up for the Fall Classic in 2011. The Reds and Twins are the most complete teams in their respective leagues and have the franchise players to get them there. The Reds have Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips while the Twins have Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Delmon Young. These two equal teams will be squaring off head to head for the championship in October.
Bold Predictions: The Minnesota Twins win the World Series in seven games against the Cincinnati Reds. Justin Morneau has a huge series and takes home the World Series MVP trophy and finally ends the Twins winless playoff game streak.