30 Clubs in 30 Days: Minnesota Twins

Posted: February 26, 2013 in Uncategorized


Few teams, with perhaps the exception of the Boston Red Sox, have experienced as dramatic a fall from grace as the Minnesota Twins. Once the class of the AL Central, Minnesota won 85 or more games eight times between 2001 and 2010, including six postseason berths. Their luck, however, ran out in 2011. Injuries, inconsistency, and poor pitching have left the Twins and manager Ron Gardenhire searching for answers after back-to-back 96+ loss campaigns.

In the mid-2000s, the Twins relied on the offensive prowess of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau to provide enough pop for a balanced yet unspectacular pitching staff to thrive. That all changed when Mauer received his massive, 8 year, $184 million extension in April, 2010. Mauer was coming off an MVP season, raking .365-28-96 in just 138 games to lead the Twins to the postseason. A former All-American QB in high school, Mauer’s power has yet to rekindle itself, as he has hit just 22 HR in three seasons since.

Morneau, meanwhile, is a different story. The 2006 AL MVP, who is in the final year of a 6 year, $80 million deal, was coming off four consecutive 100+ RBI seasons when he suffered a concussion sliding into second base midway through the 2010 season. At that point, the All-Star was an MVP frontrunner at .345-18-56 in exactly half-a-season (81 games). In the two seasons since, Morneau has been in-and-out of the lineup with post-concussion symptoms. His numbers are just a fraction of what they used to be: .254-23-107 in 203 games in 2011-12. The Twins gambled by giving out uber-contracts to their star players, and so far, they have lost.

The pitching staff is going to look drastically different in 2013. Gone are Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, and Kevin Slowey. In their stead, the Twins brought in veterans Kevin Correia (12-11, 4.21 with PIT), Mike Pelfrey (7-13, 4.74 with NYM in 2011), and Vance Worley (6-9, 4.20 with PHI) to supplement holdovers Brian Duensing (4-12, 5.12) and Liam Hendriks (1-8, 5.59). Obviously, this is a huge question mark going into 2013 and is a large reason why the Twins are predicted by many to have the worst record in baseball.

The offense, outside of Mauer and Morneau, will look drastically different as well. Gone are outfielders Denard Span (.283-4-41) and Ben Revere (.294-0-32). The competition to replace them will be between youngsters Darin Mastroianni (.252-3-17), Chris Parmelee (.338-17-49 with AAA Rochester), and Aaron Hicks (.286-13-61 with AA New Britain). Clearly, the Twins have 2013 penciled in as a rebuilding year once again. Will this cost Ron Gardenhire, the longest tenured manager in MLB, his job? Time will tell.

Five Year Review:
2012: 66-96
2011: 63-99
2010: 94-68
Lost ALDS to Yankees, 3-0
2009: 87-76
Lost ALDS to Yankees, 3-0
2008: 88-75
Lost one-game playoff to White Sox, 1-0

2012 Team MVP: LF Josh Willingham: Choosing an MVP of the 2012 Twins is like choosing an MVP of the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles: few and far between. But, there is no doubt that Willingham was the premier offensive catalyst for Minnesota. The 33-year old had established himself in Florida, Washington, and Oakland as a power hitter with great OBP skills (an OPS of .838 between 2006-11). Knowing this, the Twins gave the University of Northern Alabama alumnus his first long term deal, a 3 year, $21 million contract running through 2014. In his first season with the Twins, Willingham produced a career-best campaign with a .260-35-110 line, earning an American League Silver Slugger award in the process. Willingham has never been an All-Star. But, he certainly deserved it with his performance in 2012. If the Twins continue to struggle throughout this summer, Willingham will be a hot name on the trade market. The left-fielder would be a particularly intriguing prospect for the Phillies, who have concerns at corner outfield and could use a RH bat in the middle of the lineup. 

2012 Team LVP: Every SP not named Scott Diamond: This was one of the worst staffs in recent memory. Outside of Diamond, who produced a capable 12-9, 3.54 mark, the rotation was atrocious. Starters not named Diamond recorded a pathetic 29-65 record (.308) with an ERA of 5.62. That is good for worst in all of baseball. Before he was traded, Francisco Liriano, the de facto ace of the staff, was 3-10, 5.31. It is no wonder the Twins went out and completely remade the look of their staff. They got some quality veteran arms. But, that does not necessarily mean they will be much better in the standings.

Key Acquisitions:

RHP Vance Worley (Philadelphia Phillies)
RHP Kevin Correia (Pittsburgh Pirates)
RHP Mike Pelfrey (New York Mets)
RHP Rich Harden (Free Agent)
RHP Josh Roenicke (Colorado Rockies)
LHP Rafael Perez (Cleveland Indians)

Key Departures:

OF Denard Span (Washington Nationals)
OF Ben Revere (Philadelphia Phillies)
IF Alexi Casilla (Baltimore Orioles)
RHP Scott Baker (Chicago Cubs)
RHP Carl Pavano (unsigned)
RHP Matt Capps (Cleveland Indians)

Projected Lineup/Rotation (w/composite 2013 projections):

1. CF Darin Mastroianni (.252-5-35-32 SB)
2. 2B Jamey Carroll (.275-1-31)
3. C Joe Mauer (.307-11-73)
4. LF Josh Willingham (.250-27-86)
5. 1B Justin Morneau (.270-18-73)
6. DH Ryan Doumit (.267-15-59)
7. RF Chris Parmelee (.253-10-45)
8. 3B Trevor Plouffe (.245-19-58)
9. SS Pedro Florimon (.234-3-28)

1. RHP Vance Worley (9-11, 4.45)
2. LHP Scott Diamond (8-11, 4.50)
3. RHP Kevin Correia (7-11, 4.99)
4. RHP Liam Hendriks (6-9, 4.68)
5. LHP Brian Duensing (7-8, 4.54)
CP. LHP Glen Perkins (3-2, 3.57, 18 SV)
SU. RHP Jared Burton (3-2, 3.90, 4 SV)

2013 Outlook:

For Minnesota, 2013 looks like nothing more than a rebuilding year. When Vance Worley is the ace of your staff in the American League, that is about all that your team can expect. The Twins still have some bonafide offensive firepower in Mauer, Willingham, and, hopefully, a rejuvenated Morneau. But, their support players are young and inexperienced. Their bullpen is questionable, as well, as former SP Glen Perkins continues his transition into the closer’s role that he took from Matt Capps.

Once a target for contraction in the early-aughts, the Twins emerged from the bowels of the league to establish a mini-AL Central dynasty. Those days are over. For Gardenhire and the Twins, 2013 is going to be more about rejuvenation than rejoicing. I have the Twins winning between 67-73 games, holding their position in last for the third consecutive season.


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