2011 MLB Preview: Minnesota Twins

Ryan Gaydos@@RyanGaydosSenior Analyst IMarch 23, 2011

SARASOTA, FL - MARCH 03:  The Minnesota Twins line up for the National Anthem just before the start of the Grapefruit League Spring Training Game against the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium on March 3, 2011 in Sarasota, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

9 Innings Blog will be bringing you previews of every Major League Baseball team for the next 30 days. This is in accordance with our 30 teams in 30 days series. Today, we are going to give you the 2011 preview of the Minnesota Twins who are trying to three-peat as American Central division champions. The Twins also have Justin Morneau coming back this season as he could add to this dangerous team.

Last season was a good one for the Minnesota Twins. The Twins finished with one of the best seasons in baseball with a 94-68 record and single handedly dominated the AL Central for their second straight division title.

The Twins were led by the pitching prowess of Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano. Liriano was 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA and 201 strikeouts. Pavano was 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA and 117 strikeouts. That was one of Pavano’s best seasons he’s had in the majors.

The Twins did suffer some heart break though. Justin Morneau suffered a concussion and closer Joe Nathan having arm surgery, the team wasn’t exactly the same.

But two people stepped up their efforts. 40-year old Jim Thome, who is supposed to be washed up, hit 25 home runs and drove in 59 RBI in 108 games. Matt Capps, who was acquired mid-season from Washington, saves 16 games for Minnesota in Nathan’s absence and really helped down the stretch.

The Twins made it to the playoffs but ran into the Yankees which led to the usual sweep.

This year is looking like a good year for the Twins. Morneau is on his way back and Nathan is feeling better. Plus, the team added Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka to their lineup. However, they took some hard hits by losing key pieces in their bullpen like Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain, but I think the Twins could pull off another division title and may have a slight chance of making it to the World Series.

Breakout Player: Jason Kubel, DH

Key Addition: Tsuyoshi Nishioka, 2B

Prediction: First AL Central

CA: Joe Mauer
1B: Justin Morneau
2B: Tsuyoshi Nishioka
3B: Danny Valencia
SS: Alexi Casilla
OF: Denard Span
OF: Michael Cuddyer
OF: Delmon Young
DH: Jason Kubel

Pitching Rotation
SP: Francisco Liriano
SP: Carl Pavano
SP: Nick Blackburn
SP: Brian Duensing
SP: Scott Baker

RP: Kevin Slowey
RP: Dusty Hughes
RP: Jim Hoey
RP: Glen Perkins
RP: Jose Mijares
RP: Matt Capps
CP: Joe Nathan

CA: Drew Butera
UTL: Jim Thome
UTL: Luke Hughes
OF: Jason Repko

Top Prospects
1). Aaron Hicks, OF
2). Miguel Sano, SS
3). Kyle Gibson, RHP
4). Danny Valencia, 3B
5). Ben Revere, OF