Looking Ahead: Minnesota Twins' Potential 2014 Starting Lineup
Baseball is a game of change. Today's biggest stars will move over to a new crop of young guns that will make their own mark on the game.
The Minnesota Twins have many potential major league players marinating in the minors who will be looking to break into the show soon.
Who will be manning Target Field in three years come 2014?
C. Joe Mauer
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Joe Mauer...duh. Do I really need to type more?
Mauer starts year one of his eight year, $184 million dollar contract in 2011, and to get their monies worth the Twins will want to keep the 2009 AL MVP firmly behind the plate.
The only question mark on this will be the health of Joe Mauer, and if his skills behind the plate hold up under his 6'5", 230 pound frame.
1B. Justin Morneau
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The 2006 AL MVP should still be holding down 1B for the Twins come 2014.
Justin Morneau will only be 33 for most of the 2014 season, and playing first base can limit the wear and tear on the sluggers body.
The big question for Morneau, like Mauer, will be his health after missing the second half of 2010 due to a concussion.
2B. Tsuyoshi Nishioka
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The Twins have a good farm system, but are woefully lacking in any quality middle infielders.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka signed with the Twins this offseason for three years and $9 million dollars that includes a club option for 2014.
Should Nishioka play up to his ability, the Twins would more then likely pick up the option for 2014, where Nishioka would only be 30 years old.
SS. Jorge Polanco
Ok. This one is way out on a limb. Like I said earlier when talking about Nishioka, the Twins have almost no middle infield prospects to speak of.
Jorge Polanco may be the most intriguing SS prospect the Twins have had since Cristian Guzman in the early 2000's.
Polanco comes to the Twins after signing as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic, where he was rated as the tenth best Dominican prospect, to the tune of $575,000 dollars.
Polanco won't turn 18 until July, 2011, but if he progresses like other Twins international signings such as Oswaldo Arcia and Adrian Salcedo, he could slide into the starting lineup by 2014.
3B. Miguel Sano
Miguel Sano is a can't miss prospect out of the Dominican Republic who was rewarded with a $3.15 million dollar signing bonus at the age of 16.
Sano will turn 18 this May, and has as much upside as anyone in the minor leagues, with power rating out at an 80 on the 20-80 scale. The only minor league player who projects higher is Bryce Harper of Washington.
Sano was signed as a shortstop prospect, but his 6'3" frame has already ballooned up to around 225 pounds, so a switch to either third or first base is almost inevitable. Due to his youth and above average arm strength, Sano shouldn't have to move out of third by 2014.
RF. Joe Benson
It has taken this second round pick from 2006 a little longer then expected to make his way through the Twins' farm system, but Joe Benson is here to stay.
Benson rates as above average in speed, arm strength, power and defense.
If he can take a little bit better approach at the plate (witch should come with maturity and experience), there is no reason not to believe Benson can't be an above average right fielder at the major league level.
Michael Cuddyer is in the final season of his contract in 2011, and there is little doubt that Benson will be ready to take over in right field for him come 2012.
CF. Aaron Hicks
Aaron Hicks, the fourteenth overall pick in the 2007 draft, was rated by ESPN's Keith Law as the number 10 prospect for the 2011 season.
He rates as a five tool player, with potential to be a gold glove center fielder and a plus hitter.
Hicks is only 21-years-old, and the Twins have taken their time in developing him.
He projects to make his MLB debut in either late 2012, or early 2013 and most certainly will be an everyday player come 2014.
LF. Denard Span
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By all accounts Denard Span took a step back in 2010 after a break-out 2009 campaign.
The Twins were, however, impressed enough to reward Span with a five year contract that runs until 2014.
Span rates as a below average center fielder defensively, but may be able to fair better in left field where he isn't expected to cover as much area and his arm will be less exposed.
For the last couple seasons Span has been the lead-off hitter for the Twins, but with the addition of Nishioka this off-season, Span may be moved into the two hole, where his skill set will be much better utilized.
With a nice contract running through 2014, and Aaron Hicks taking over center field, Span could be a perfect left fielder for the Twins in 2014.
DH. Delmon Young
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Delmon Young had his finest season at the plate in 2010.
Hitting for career highs in average, home runs, and RBI's bodes well for the former number one overall draft pick.
His bat, however, does not make him a better defensive outfielder. This shift to designated hitter is all but inevitable despite Young's very strong arm from the outfield.
The only question mark here for the Twins is if they are willing to pay a designated hitter what will likely be over $10 million a season once Young makes his way through his arbitration years.