|2010 Season Preview: Minnesota Twins||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on March 20, 2010
Rank: First in the AL Central - Beat the Tigers in a one game playoff.
Home Park: Target Field
*Signed minor league contract.
Strengths:Â An Elite Closer to top a solid bullpen, Good Offense, Starters with upside.
The Twins tend to win a lot of games late and locking down wins has become a commonplace event for any Twins bullpen.Â While elite closer Joe Nathan gets the bulk of the glory, players like Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Jose Milares and Jon Rauch deserved a fair bit of the credit in 2009.Â That doesn't look to change although those arms will find some additional backup from Clay Condrey and whichever lefties win the two final spots in the pen. This is assuming Nathan's elbow will be all right. If not, that reduces the Twins' depth.
As mentioned above, this is the best offensive team the Twins have fielded in probably a decade.Â The middle four in the lineup Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer and Kubel parked 118 balls in the seats last year and drove in 393 runs while hitting a combined .290.Â That's not small stuff, especially now that they've added Orlando Hudson as another tablesetter behind Denard Span.Â Seventh hitter Delmon Young looks poised to take another step forward too, while J.J Hardy could easily have a rebound year after a disaster of a season in 2009.
And then there are the starters.Â Throw out Carl Pavano for a moment, as Pavano's role isn't to be a star pitcher, but to help advise and provide wisdom to a group of young pitchers with seemingly limitless potential.Â Blackburn, Slowey, Baker and Lirano have all shown flashes of brilliance just to come back down to earth time and time again.Â They've had a lot of injuries woes and a fair bit of performance anxiety at times, but the talent is there and there is more behind it -- as Brian Dunsing and Glen Perkins are waiting in the wings for a chance to step into the spotlight.Â If any of it gels the Twins could run away with the division.
Weaknesses: Non proven pitching staff, state of Mauer's contract, uncertainty as to how the team will adjust to new ballpark, possibly the tail end of their lineup.
The Joe Mauer situation is definitely in the back of everyone's mind as the team as April gets closer and closer.Â Mauer, who can become an unrestricted free agent after the year, seems to want to stay in Minnesota and the Twins want to keep him there, but negotiations have not been moving quickly.Â That probably isn't a concern for Mauer or the Twins, but it's definitely a concern for fans who've watched this team trade away big name player after big name player as it so often has failed to get deals done.
A wild card in the mix will be the team's new ballpark Target Field.Â Leaving the power friendly Metrodome for an outdoor venue, especially for those early April, and late September games should prove an interesting adjustment.Â While the dimensions of the field aren't wildly different Target Field will actually be a smaller park than the 'dome was, especially for balls hit to left field.
The last two spots in the batting order could easily be the weakest links of the whole team.Â It's impossible to know just what the Twins will get out of JJ Hardy, or who their actual third baseman will be at the beginning of the season -- although at some point expect to see top rookie Danny Valencia, a pretty fair hitter to take over the job.Â Most of the other candidates for the job give the term "light hitter" a bad name.
One question that need answering: