This series will evaluate one team per day, starting on January 23, 2013, and ending on February 22, 2013 (the first game of spring training). It is based on last season's performance, offseason changes since and the author's outlook for the team in 2013. Please keep in mind that rosters can, and will, change before Opening Day. We started in the AL East, previewed its NL counterpart and now go back to the AL to tackle the Central in alphabetical order. Next up, the Minnesota Twins.
2012 finish: 66-96 (5th place, AL Central)
RHP Rich Harden, RHP Mike Pelfrey, RHP Kevin Correia, RHP Vance Worley
RHP Matt Capps, RHP Carl Pavano, RHP Scott Baker, OF Ben Revere, OF Denard Span, 2B Alexi Casilla
Why they will improve this year
The Twins can't really get any worse. Last season was a complete mess in Minnesota, and a lot of that is owed to the league-worst starting pitching. Four new members to the rotation will be a fresh start for a staff that needs a jolt of energy.
Even though the names aren't huge, they brought in four right-handed guys who have the potential to form a very strong unit. If even two of them have good seasons, the Twins rotation automatically improves. Harden's biggest issue is health, but when he's not on the DL, he is routinely blowing hitters away. And Worley pitched very well out of the back of the rotation in years past.
Correia struggled to strike guys out, averaging about half a K per inning pitched. Both he and Pelfrey will probably start the season in the rotation, but it remains to be seen if they will stick. I like Correia's stuff, but the consistency really needs to change in 2013 to make him a legitimate leader for the Twins.
I don't expect the offense to improve much, but a bounce-back season from Justin Morneau would really do wonders. Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham should put up big numbers if healthy, and Ryan Doumit at DH will provide a little pop. Overall, this Twins team is in a better place than 2012.
Why they will regress this year
Not only did the Twins lose two of their better overall players in Span and Revere, but a ton of combined speed in those two and Casilla. Darin Mastroianni might make up a little ground in a full season, but it won't be nearly enough to replace the speed and defense they've sacrificed.
I understand it's for the long run—the Twins got some pretty good prospects out of the deal and rebuilt their starting rotation from scratch. But did it really get any better? Harden might not even make the cut as a starter this spring and is always on the shelf anyway. As mentioned previously, Correia might be the best pitcher of the bunch they got, and he hasn't posted an ERA below 4.00 in years.
Other than the young guns like Scott Diamond, I don't think Twins fans have much to look forward to in the rotation. The league's worst starting pitching might even decline in 2013. And other than the Killer J's (sort of—Willingham, Mauer, Morneau), there is nothing promising in the lineup.
I like certain aspects of certain players' games (Mastroianni's speed, Trevor Plouffe's power), but overall, the lineup is unflattering. If an injury bug hits or any of the young players regress, the Twins are looking at a long, painful season.
The outlook for 2013
Unfortunately for fans in Minnesota, I think the most likely scenario at Target Field this season is an even worse rebuilding year. The front office is pulling the right strings, but it's going to be a very slow process, especially for a club with a small payroll.
While I do like the boldness of the acquisitions on the pitching staff and the return they got for the two center fielders, I don't think it will make up for the players they lost. Not this year, at least. If Morneau stays healthy, Doumit puts up good numbers and most of the young players make great progress, the Twins may climb to respectability in 2013.
Otherwise, we're looking at a 66-win team from last year that may even get worse. The silver lining for the Twins is they will get to enjoy solid seasons from Mauer and Willingham, as well as the development of their young starting pitching. It's going to be a bright spot in a very dark season.
I apologize for being so negative, but I can't reasonably expect a good season out of this team. There will be some big moments for the young guys and maybe some excitement from the starting pitching, but it's the opinion of this writer that the Twins finish in last place and touch 70 wins in a best-case scenario.
There are two very good pieces of news for Twins fans at this point. First, I've been wrong before (I picked the White Sox to finish in last place in 2012). Secondly, patience is a virtue, as my mother always told me. Therefore, 2013 will make Twins fans virtuous people...oh come on, I'm trying.
Potential changes before Opening Day
It sounds like the only real moves general manager Terry Ryan is planning to make before the season starts might be adding an above-average arm to the rotation in the form of Joe Saunders. According to Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com (h/t MLBTradeRumors.com), Saunders' agent is attempting to get a three-year deal, but the Twins would only go to two at most for the best remaining lefty starter on the market.
The outfield could gain a little depth if the Twins snag free agent Scott Podsednik (per Darren Wolfson), but it wouldn't make a huge difference. The move they should make is getting Saunders, though there are at least two other AL teams interested in the pitcher's services.
Biggest surprise: Vance Worley
Biggest disappointment: Kevin Correia
Bold prediction: Justin Morneau returns to form, hits 25 homers, 100 RBI
1. Darin Mastroianni, CF
2. Jamey Carroll, 2B
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Josh Willingham, LF
5. Justin Morneau, 1B
6. Ryan Doumit, DH
7. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
8. Chris Parmelee, RF
9. Pedro Florimon, SS
1. Vance Worley, RHP
2. Scott Diamond, LHP
3. Kevin Correia, RHP
4. Mike Pelfrey, RHP
5. Cole De Vries, RHP
Projected finish: 67-95, 5th place
For more preseason evaluations:
You can follow Jeremy on Twitter @Jamblinman.
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