Minnesota Twins v Toronto Blue Jays

2012 Record: 66-96, 5th AL Central
2012 Pythagorean Record: 68-94
Impact Player: C/1B Joe Mauer
Impact Pitcher: RHP Vance Worley
Top Prospect: 3B Miguel Sano

Significant Acquisitions: RHP Vance Worley, RHP Josh Roenicke, RHP Kevin Correia

Significant Departures: CF Denard Span, OF Ben Revere, RHP Carl Pavano, 2B Alexi Casilla, RHP Jeff Gray

For the first time in 12 years, the Twins have weathered two consecutive 90-loss seasons. The previous time it happened in 1999 and 2000, the Twins had the lowest payroll in baseball—now they have a new stadium and the money that goes along with it. Poor management and development has landed them back in the basement of the American League.

There is hope on the horizon, however. New/old General Manager Terry Ryan seems to have scrapped the old philosophy of drafting, developing and acquiring ‘pitch-to-contact’ pitchers who post low strike-out and walk-rates. The remnants of this philosophy are still present on the big league roster, but the acquisition of prospect pitchers like Alex Meyer and Trevor May—acquired in the Denard Span and Ben Revere trades this winter, respectively—signal a move toward pitchers with swing-and-miss stuff.

And therein lies the hope for the Twins and their fans. The current roster is as barren as any in baseball (the Astros excluded, of course), but the farm system is very deep. Most of it won’t help in 2013—with the exception of maybe outfielders Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia and pitcher Kyle Gibson—which means it could be another rough year in the North Country. 

Pitching

Trying to decide upon the best pitcher on the Twins’ roster is a bit like trying to decide what to eat at IKEA—it’s important to choose the thing that is least likely to cause a panicked run to the bathroom later. The Twins acquired Vance Worley as part of the Revere trade and inexplicably signed Kevin Correia to a multi-year deal to “bolster” a pitiful rotation.

Worley might be the only one who would make a first division team’s starting five. He was mediocre in 23 starts with Philadelphia last year. Joining Worley at the top of the rotation will be Guelph’s left-handed son Scott Diamond. Diamond came out of nowhere and posted a solid breakout campaign last year, leading the league in walks-per-nine at a miniscule 1.61. He’ll probably start the year on the DL after offseason shoulder surgery, but he isn’t expected to miss much time.

After those two, things get frightening. Correia likely has a hold on the number three spot and the last two starters will probably be some combination of Liam Hendricks, Brian Duensing, Anthony Swarzak, Nick Blackburn, Cole DeVries, or P.J. Walters. In other words: oh noes.

The bullpen was average at best last season, which gives it far more promise than the rotation (the rotation’s really bad, you guys). Lefty closer Glen Perkins was excellent last year and so were right-handed setup men Jared Burton and Casey Fien, all three of whom kind of came out of nowhere. Given the volatility of bullpens, they could all be equally as bad this year.

Josh Roenicke was acquired from Colorado after leading the NL in relief innings in 2012 and the rest of the bullpen will consist of Alex Burnett and a mix-bag of replacement-level arms with moderate upside.

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Lineup

The Twins were the fifth-best team in the AL at getting on base last season, but their complete lack of power saw them finish a mere tenth in runs scored. Still, the middle of the order has some talent. Leftfielder Josh Willingham had a career season, making the three-year, $21-million deal he signed before last year look like a bargain. He finished with 35 home runs and a .380 wOBA, ranking him eighth in the American League.

Joe Mauer, who split time between catcher and first base, may not ever be the player he was in his 2009 when he won the MVP, but he’s still one of the better hitters in the AL. Last year, he led the league in on-base percentage and posted his fifth 5.0+ WAR season.

The first base, DH duo of Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit are both solidly above average hitters and Morneau managed to stay on the field last year after a concussion in 2010 derailed his career. Doumit is best suited as a DH and will likely play most of his time there this year, although he can still catch, play first and in the corner outfield if need be.

Third baseman Trevor Plouffe will get the chance to be an everyday player for a full season after an impressive 119-game showing a year ago. His .301 on-base percentage was underwhelming, but he slugged .455 on his way to hitting 24 home runs. The rest of the lineup, meanwhile, leaves much to be desired with the likes of Darin Matroianni in center, Chris Parmelee in right and Pedro Florimon at short who are all slated for everyday playing time. Veteran Jamey Carroll is slated to see most of the time at second base and continues to be solidly average despite his overall perception.

There’s not a whole lot of depth on the bench either with no-hit catcher Drew Butera and infielder Eduardo Escobar being the most likely to land spots. Non-roster invitee Brandon Boggs and prospect Joe Benson will battle for the fourth outfielder role.

Defense

The Twins were a slightly-below-average defensive team last season and they stand to get worse considering the loss of Denard Span and Ben Revere in the outfield. The outfield combination of Mastroianni, Willingham and Parmelee might rival the worst defensive outfields in baseball and although the up-the-middle infield defense looks good, the corners with Plouffe and Morneau aren’t great. It’s unlikely that the already terrible pitching will see much help from their defenders.

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2013 Outlook

Only the Astros have lost more games over the last two seasons than the Twins’ 195 and with elite-level prospects like Miguel Sano and last year’s top draft pick Byron Buxton still far from making an impact at the Major League level, it’s unlikely to get better any time soon. Ryan, to his credit, understands that the Twins need to stay the course and weather some bad years in order to build a consistent winner like the they did under his tutelage in the aughts. 2013 will be a forgettable year.

2013 Prediction: 63-99, 5th AL Central

For a detailed depth chart with statistics, click here. Stats obtained from FanGraphs (Minnesota’s team page here) and Baseball Prospectus. Depth chart info provided by MLB Depth Charts.

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