1. Can Carlos Quentin and Alex Rios Bounce Back?
Quentin has missed significant time the past two years because of injuries. Juan Pierre was brought on-board to help set the table. His foot has healed and as long as he can avoid the injury bug, he should be a high-end OF again.
Rios was having a disappointing season even before he was dealt to the White Sox. He hit a brutal .199 for his new club with three HRs and nine RBI in 146 ABs.
The bad news for Rios is he’ll be playing his home games outside. His AB/HR in outdoor parks is 43.5 compared to 29.9. Minnesota no longer has a dome which would also work against him. His average and OPS have been on the decline the past four seasons.
2. How about Jake Peavy?
Peavy likely won’t be as dominant this year as in years past. He has to face a steady dose of American League hitters without the comfort of PETCO Park. Working in his favor though is the absence of the World Baseball Classic. I believe that threw off his April last year which led to his bloated 5.74 ERA in April.
3. And Grady Sizemore?
He battled through an elbow injury and a hernia to still put up respectable numbers (73 runs, 18 HRs, 64 RBI, 13 SB in 436 ABs). Don’t let his numbers get you down on him though. Not many players can bring what he can to the table.
Bump him down a few spots from where you had him ranked going into last year, but don’t let him slide too long.
4. What Will the Indians Do with Michael Brantley?
The Cleveland Indians have a good problem having four quality OFers for three spots. Grady Sizemore, Matt LaPorta, and Shin-Soo Choo are blocking the path for Brantley, who hit .313 after replacing Sizemore last year. LaPorta can play some first base, which would allow Brantley to play in LF.
LaPorta is one of the Indians’ few right-handed hitters though so don’t expect him to be out of the lineup very frequently. Brantley can play all three OF positions, which will help his cause. The Indians could choose to send him to Triple-A so he can get steady playing time. In any case, take the wait-and-see approach with him.
5. Can Austin Jackson Replace Curtis Granderson?
He certainly doesn’t have the power, but he has flashed his speed stealing 24 bases to go along with nine triples last year for Triple-A Scranton. He hit .300 as well. He’ll be challenged by Clete Thomas and Ryan Rayburn. Watch that battle during spring training.
6. Will Zack Greinke Get Some Help?
Gil Meche should be better for starters assuming his back and arm are healed. His ERA surged above 5.00 after being below 4.00 in his previous two years with the Royals. Luke Hochevar has a world of talent, and the former No. 1 pick should be better. He can’t get much worse.
I’d hold off on drafting him unless he shows some promise during spring training.
7. What Will the Twins’ New Ballpark Bring?
All you have to do is look at the two New York ballparks, and you know they can be unpredictable. The Yankees play in a launching pad while the Mets saw a power outage. The Twins won’t get as many infield hits as they move to grass.
8. Will J.J. Hardy Rebound?
Hardy was terrible last year, but a change of scenery could do him wonders. He goes to a club that is starving for solid shortstop play after they dealt away Jason Bartlett a couple years back.
Hardy averaged 83.5 runs, 25 HRs, and 77 RBI in 2007 & 2008. In a lineup that features Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, Jason Kubel, and Denard Span resurgence is very likely.
9. What Will the Twins Do at Third Base?
This is an annual issue. Nick Punto plays a great third base, but can’t hit. Brendan Harris had his moments. Joe Crede returning isn’t out of the question. No matter what their “solution” is, it’s not a fantasy-friendly one. Look elsewhere.