As Opening Day 2013 is wrapping up, I am going to give my impressions on the Twins. First off they did lose to the Tigers to start the season on the wrong foot but it wasn’t all bad. I am going to look through the lineup and the pitching to give my impressions.
Opening Day Lineup
Willingham LF AP Photo/Jim Mone
First, I would love to thank and compliment management on not playing the business side of MLB and start Aaron Hicks in AAA until June to save money. He earned his right to be the starter in Center today and I hope that he can keep the position all season. That isn’t a knock against Darin Mastroianni but he was hurt for most of Spring. I agree that Hicks should be at the top and will remain there barring injury or a huge disappointment.
Batting 2nd, Joe Mauer. ???? Still don’t really know what they are thinking here. Im guessing that they really don’t have any other options for the #2 spot. Talk was swirling around Dozier being slide in here but many don’t feel that he is ready for it. No mentions of Florimon, Eduardo Escobar, or Carroll. Plouffe still swings and misses too much. Everyone esle is too slow, not selective enough, or considered a power hitter so they don’t fit either. I will admit that when talks were for Dozier, I immediately thought slide Joe up a spot and adjust. So I agree here but look forward to Dozier maturing as a hitter enough that he can take this spot.
With Mauer at 2, his 3 spot is by default given to Willingham and then Morneau, Doumit, and Plouffe all move up a spot accordingly. Now at 7th and in Right is Chris Parmelee. He had a huge Fall in 2011 but last year just couldn’t seem to get traction while in Minnesota. Right Field is one position that we could see some moving this year. With Hicks winning Center and Willingham in Left, most of the platoon time for Mastroianni and Wilkin Ramirez will be at Parmelee’s expense unless he can recover some of the magic of that September call up. Mast and Wilk will see time in CF and LF also but as replacements for days off or injuries.
And as always, the center infield spots are still a mess. Dozier is at 2B now (SS most of last year). Florimon is at Short where he played quite a lot last year when he got called up. Carroll, who Minnesota went out and claimed was going to become an anchor in the middle, has been relegated to bench/utility role until either Dozier or Florimon make a couple of errors or their average dips below .200 for a while. Also on the team to break camp is Eduardo Escobar. He had a pretty good Spring and decided to make him their emergency Catcher/Super Utility spot. Escobar can and will probably play all infield spots except 1B.
Doumit and Mauer as the main catchers weren’t a surprise but the demotion of Drew Butera was one. Many thought that the Twins were going to break camp with 3 technical catchers on the roster with Doumit being mostly a DH and Butera being the real #2 behind the plate. Instead Terry Ryan optioned Drew and went with 2 catchers and a utility player as the emergency. I don’t agree here and really would have rather seen Ramirez start in AAA or maybe even cut Carroll. Carroll has no power, diminishing speed and range, and I don’t see him ever earning a starting spot but maybe given 1 if someone else fails.
Another surprise at the end of Spring was the move with Alex Burnett. Last year he had a 3.5 ERA and chewed a bunch of innings. The brass decided to put him on Waivers where he was picked up by the Blue Jays. I wish him the best but don’t think a bad Spring warranted his ousting. The pitching looks as follows:
About the only thing that people knew going into Spring was that Glen Perkins would be back as the team’s closer. The Twins went out and acquired the top 3 in the rotation in Worley, Correia, and Pelfrey, but the only one that I have been impressed with and agree with so far is today’s starter Vance Worley. He was part of the trade that sent Ben Revere to Philly and returned Worley and May to Minnesota. Pelfrey is recovering from injuries and was a bargain, and will be an easy cut, like Marquis was last year, if he doesn’t pan out. Correia has never impressed in the Pros and I still don’t understand the rationale of a 2 year contract for him. I just don’t think he will deliver better numbers in a harder league (he was in the National League last year with Pittsburgh). Scott Diamond, who many thought would be the Opening Day starter, is still recovering from getting some bone chips removed from his elbow in December and is slated to be back in another 2 weeks. From all of what I have seen and heard, my guess is that Liam Hendricks will be the one possibly moved to the bullpen or sent down when he comes back. Again nothing against Hendricks but I feel Cole DeVries had the better Spring and has the spot unless he is worse by a margin in the first 2 starts.
The bullpen I feel is going to get taxed again this year due to the subpar starters again. I don’t see Correia or Pelfrey being inning eaters. Worley shouldn’t be too bad, but the other starters are young and will still go through some growing pains. Duensing will be a long reliever again this year and might see a couple of spot starts through the year. Burton is quickly assuming the “Set Up” role as the 8th inning guy to get the lead to Perk to close out. Robertson will be the situational Lefty. Fein and Roenicke will be on shorter hooks than Pressley because Pressley is a Rule 5 pick up, so that means that he has to stay on the active roster in Minnesota or he is returned to Boston or Minnesota would have to make a trade to send a player back to Boston and send him down.
Now for the impressions on the team. To take a quote from one of the better baseball movies in history, “Major League”, “They are still shitty.” I am always optimistic about my sports teams and will route them on, even if they are the worst team in the league. Many are picking the Twins as the worst in the AL again and could contend for the worst in all of MLB again. I won’t go that far but Im not going to say that they are going to win the Central. I do firmly believe that they will do better than the last 2 years. I believe that they will finish above the cellar in the Central and come in below 90 losses this year. The young pitchers are a year older and more experienced. I think they improve and by the end of the year, the rotation will look more like some mix of Diamond, Worley, Hendricks, DeVries, Deduno, and Gibson. I don’t think Pelfrey will make it through the year and Correia will be released.
In the field, Ramirez and Escobar will be the movers, in that they will be the guys sent up and down repeatedly due to injuries to other players. If Carroll makes it through the year, he isn’t going to be brought back next year unless someone makes a huge regression in their developement (eyes on Plouffe’s defense and Dozier’s offense, and a whole season of Florimon). Hicks will stay in CF, Willingham will be a mainstay in LF unless he gets dealt around the All Star Break. Parmelee will be the main RF unless his hitting doesn’t return to acceptable levels. Mastroianni will be the first in line for time when there is an injury or just a day off needed. He very easily could be starting by the end of the year due to moves. He will also be the guy for any pinch running situation. Doumit is all but locked in at DH. The only time he will be in the field is when they force Mauer or Morneau to take a day off.
Some other players that will see time in Minnesota this year. Samuel Deduno will see time as a starter because there will be injuries and I believe that aside from his injury late in spring that he would already be in Minnesota. He had a great showing in the World Baseball Classic with the Dominicans. Swarzak and Wood are both on the DL to start the season but will spend most of the season with the Twins. Butera will be there when needed. If rumors come true and the Twins decide to deal Morneau because he is in a contract season and any other stupid excuse, Jeff Clement might very well be his replacement. Or they could move Parmelee back to 1B and bring up Oswaldo Arcia. Benson and Brandon Boggs could earn time in the Bigs depending on the way chips fall. Kyle Gibson and Rich Harden could both also find a way to Minnesota this season. Gibson is recovering from Tommy John Surgery and Harden is trying to come back from multiple injuries.
Overall, the Twins still have a ton of work and developing to return to the top half of the league. They still need some starting pitching. Middle Infield needs to solidify. At last of all, the talent that is sitting in the Minors just need some more seasoning. The Twins have some big prospects that are a few years out still. Players like Sano and Buxton could be superstars of the future but both are still 2 years from even getting a late season call up. May, Meyer, and Berrios could all be front of the rotation type of starters but are at May and Meyer still have at least 1 more season on the farm and Berrios probably has 2. The future is bright but fans keep saying that. It is time for the brass to start making some smart moves, players to start showing potential, and if not certain people should be shown the door.