The Twins are a team that mixes elite fantasy players with fringe ones, with a relative shortage of mid-tiered players. On the offensive side of things, there are a number of players with no power and some speed, but not enough to make them fantasy assets. There are more wild cards on the pitching side, with a few lesser known arms with upside that may be worth stashing away if you can pick them up later in the draft.
The Top Tier:
Johan Santana (SP): Santana should be the first pitcher taken in any fantasy draft. Santana is in his prime and has established himself in a class of his own when it comes to starting pitchers. How does a 2.87 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 16 wins, and 238 K sound? Those are the worst numbers Johan's put up in each of those categories over the past three years. Couple his four-category dominance with a consistency and durability record as good as anyone in baseball, and you have the only starting pitcher worthy of a first round pick.
Joe Mauer (C): Probably the top catcher in baseball today, with apologies to Brian McCann. The defending batting champ hit .347 last year, and should remain one of the leagues best contact hitters for years to come. He's a lock to hit in a productive spot in the Twins batting order, which should give him a healthy balance of Runs and RBI. He'll even steal about 10 bases, a rare commodity from a backstop. He's not a power hitter, but he's nonetheless good for double digit homeruns, and if he continues the growth he showed last year in that category he could end up in the 15-20 HR range, rounding out the last piece of his offensive profile. If that's not enough, consider that he plays in the AL on a team without a true DH and he should get more playing time than your typical starting catcher.
Justin Morneau (1B): The reigning AL MVP, Justin Morneau established himself among the elite hitters in the game last year. Expect more of the same in 2007, as Morneau looks to duplicate last year's stellar performance. He should hit around .300 with another 35 HR or so, and should rank among the leaders in RBI. The Killer J.M.'s might not have the same ring to it as the Killer B's, but you can nonetheless count on Morneau driving in Mauer for as long as the twins can afford to keep them.
Joe Nathan (RP): Nathan's been as consistently dominant as any relief pitcher in baseball over the last three years, and should remain a top-three closer in 2007. While it's unlikely he'll match last year's 1.58 ERA or 0.79 WHIP, he'll still rank among the leaders in both categories while notching about 40 saves and striking out more than a batter an inning.
The Second Tier:
Torii Hunter (CF): Hunter's stolen base totals were down last year, but his power was up as he topped the 30 HR mark for the first time in his career. Hunter doesn't excel in any one category, but his balance of skills, particularly his combination of power and speed, makes him a solid option once the upper echelon outfielders are off the boards.
The Third Tier:
Michael Cuddyer (RF): Cuddyer's value as a fantasy player hinges largely on his remaining in a cushy spot in the batting order. His 24 HR last year are nothing to sneeze at, but it's not a particularly impressive fantasy feat for an outfielder who won't hit .300 or steal more than a half dozen bases. It's that 102 runs and 109 RBI last year that make him a juicy looking player. If he hits in the 4 or 5 spot again, he'll provide pretty good production in those categories and be worth having as a third outfielder. If he drops lower than that, he's just above a bench player on most mixed league teams. One thing to watch for with Cuddyer is positional eligibility. Given the relative lack of depth on the Twins' bench, injuries in the infield could feasibly force him to pick up a few games at second or third, positions he played as recently as 2005. If he gains eligibility at either of those positions, he shifts to second tier.
Luis Castillo (2B): Gone are Castillo's days of stealing 50 bases a year, and with it, gone is much of his fantasy value. He'll still steal 20-25 bases, he'll still hit for a decent batting average, and he'll still score some runs, so he does provide some fantasy worth. It comes at a steep cost, though, as he'll provide next to nothing in HR and RBI, making him a below average option even at a scarce position.
Jason Bartlett (SS): Similar to Castillo in that he'll provide a solid batting average, some speed, and very little power from a middle infield position. Watch for where he bats in the lineup. He hit ninth all of last year, and in that spot he'll be a liability in mixed leagues. If he hits second, however, he'll score enough runs to have a little value as a late rounder.
Juan Rincon/Jesse Crain/Pat Neshek (RP): Though not likely to pick up any saves barring a Nathan injury, the Twins strong bullpen can help out your ERA and WHIP ratios while providing some pretty good K rates. Additionally, the uncertainty of the Twins' rotation means the bullpen should be coming in early quite often, which sets them up for a potentially good W/IP ratio, an overlooked benefit to quality middle relief pitchers in leagues with inning limits.
Boof Bonser (SP): The "other guy" in the Liriano/Nathan/Bonser for Pierzynski robbery of 2003. Bonser's long been an interesting prospect with very good raw stuff but no command. Last year, however, he started to find success at the major league level as his command improved. Look particularly at his September, where he posted a nifty K/BB rate of 30/7, helping him go 4-1 with a 2.63 ERA in 37-2/3 innings. It's hard to judge how he'll perform this year, but he's someone with upside to keep your eye on.
Matt Garza (SP): Garza skyrocketed through the Twins organization last year, dominating at every Minor League stop before finally hitting a wall at the Major League level. Despite his command problems during his Major League stint, he struck out a respectable 6.8/9 innings, and he didn't give up too many homers, showing signs of potential. When you consider that this is a 22 year old who started the year in A ball, it's easy to forgive some early struggles. If you find yourself short on pitching later in the draft, pick this guy up and stash him on your bench until you get a read on his performance, assuming he makes the rotation. He may need a little more seasoning, but the potential is there.
Nick Punto (3B/2B/SS): This is not a guy who has any business starting on a fantasy baseball team. He is, however, a guy who may have a little value on a fantasy bench. First off, he's good for about 15 steals, which isn't bad. One other thing to note is that while his batting average jumped considerably from the rate he's shown at both the major league and the minor league level, it was accompanied by a reduction in strike outs, suggesting that it's not entirely a fluke. He has absolutely no power, but as long as he can keep his batting average in the respectable range, his ability to qualify for second, third, and shortstop in many leagues while adding a steal here and there make him a handy guy to sub in when other infielders have day-to-day injuries or days off.
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