Thursday, September 26, 2013

Look to 2014 While Reviewing 2013

Here is an early look at 2014 Minnesota Twins while reviewing 2013 season.
Catcher – Joe Mauer continues to show himself as a future Hall of Famer, but  concussion issues could force him to move to 1st soon. Youngster Josmil Pinto (age 24) has showed himself as the likey catcher of the future. Chris Herrmann meanwhile has not had the best of years, but his versatility (he can play in the OF and 1st as well) could help him make the team as the 3rd catcher. Veteran Ryan Doumit entered the year as Mauer’s primary backup, but his offense is down, and his defense has never been good. Doumit has one more year on his contract, but likely will be traded in the off-season.

1st Base – Upon trading Justin Morneau, the Twins are now in a time of uncertainty at 1st. In house candidates Chris Colabello and Chris Parmelle have been unimpressive. Trevor Plouffe might find his way over here as might Joe Mauer. For now the position is unsettled.

2nd Base – Brian Dozier is one of the few bright spots for the Twins this year. He looks to have secured the starting job here for the next few years with his great defensive play and solid offense. Dozier is also a class human being who represents the Twins well when dealing with fans.

SS – Pedro Florimon is great defensively, but sub par offensively. Daniel Santana is equally talented on the defensive side, and better hitter. Santana (age 22) will be starting 2014 at Triple A, but likely will find his way up to the Twins in 2014, and could displace Florimon by 2015.

3rd Base - Miguel Sano is the #3 minor league prospect in all of baseball. He is considered to have 30-40 HR a season power, and is already being hailed and the next great power hitter in baseball. Sano will be 21 next year, and the pressure from fans on the Twins to bring him up to Minnesota will be unrelenting. By the end of the 2014 Sano, barring injury, will be the starting 3rd basemen for the Twins. Current starter Trevor Plouffe has been disappointing on both offense and defense. Plouffe could be traded, released, or moved to 1st base. Whatever happens to him, his time at 3rd is short.

RF – Oswald Arcia (age 22) was hailed as one of the Twins top prospects, and upon promotion to the Twins he showed himself to be a potential star player. Arcia has great power to all fields, and seems to a player the Twins can have in the middle of the batting order. Arcia’s defense needs work, but he has been forced to play left field when right field is his more natural position. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that both Sano and Arica could hit 30 HR’s a year of the Twins while hitting 4th and 5th in the batting order.

CF – Highly regarded prospect Aaron Hicks (age 23) was given the starting CF job after the Twins traded away starter Denard Span and backup Ben Revere. Hicks had a terrible offensive year with the Twins, and upon being demoted to the minors, he got hurt and his offensive struggles continued. Hicks is a great defensive player, but he needs to hit at least .250 with some power to stick with the Twins.

Alex Presley, Darin Mastroianni, and Clete Thomas were given chances to take the starting job, with only Presley showing any signs of life. Presley will likely start in 2014, but the #1 prospect in all of minor league baseball one Bryon Buxton (age 19) is looming. Buxton has been hailed as the next Mike Trout (high praise indeed), and the Twins are already telling fans he is the team’s next mega-star. By the end of 2014 fans will be demanding to see him in Minnesota.

LF – Josh Willingham is owed $7 million dollars next year, so he is likely back in LF after and injury riddled and mostly unsuccessful 2013. Willingham can still hit HR’s, and draw some walks, but he will never hit for average, and he is a terrible fielder. If Willingham is traded, Eddie Rosario (age 21) could get a job. Hailed as a top prospect, Rosario has been playing mostly 2nd base where he has shown himself to be a good hitter and solid fielder. Rosario has played some outfield, and could find himself in LF for the Twins in 2014.

Starting Pitching – The Twins 2013 starting rotation is the worse in all of baseball. Kevin Correia is owed $5 million next year, so he will likely be back. Andrew Albers, Samuel Deduno, Vance Worley, Scott Diamond, Kyle Gibson will get chances with Gibson and Deduno having the best chances of making the starting rotation along side Correia.

Top pitching prospects Alex Meyer (age 23) and Trevor May (age 23) will also get chances. Meyer has a high 90’s fastball, and is viewed as #1 starter which the Twins have not had since Johan Santana was traded prior to the 2008 season. Other top Twins prospects Felix Jorge (age 19), Kohl Stewart (age 18), and Jose Berrios (age 19) are a few years away.

The Twins will likely try to sign some starting pitching via the free agent market, but the Twins have never been willing spenders in free agency. If they were, I would look into Phil Hughes, Dan Harren, Matt Garza, Scott Feldman, and maybe Josh Johnson.

Trades are another possibly, but the Twins have only Willingham, Doumit, and Plouffe available and they won’t bring much back. The Twins could trade some prospects, but Buxton, Sano, and Arcia are too valuable to trade. Rosario, Hicks, and Daniel Santana are probably the prospects who could get traded, but they may not be enough to bring in the need top-flight starting pitching.

I hope I am wrong, but my guess is the starting pitching staff will not be noticeably better till youngster Meyer, May, Jorge, Stewart, and Berrios get to the majors which may happen in 2015-2016.

Bullpen – Closer Glen Perkins has had an All-Star year, and it set for next year. Jared Burton, Caleb Theilbar, Casey Fien, Anthony Swarzak, Brain Duensing, Ryan Pressley and prospects Michael Tonkin, A. J. Achter, and Zack Jones give the Twins plenty of options for an area that was a strong area in 2013.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Reflecting on Justin Morneau

With the news that the Minnesota Twins have traded Justin Morneau a few things crossed my mind. One was reflecting on my personal interactions with Justin. I first meet him in 2005 at the Twins Autograph Party. He grabbed a black ink pen to sign my ball; I promptly grabbed a blue ink pen off the table and stuck in his face and asked him to use it instead. He could have been a jerk about it, but graciously took the blue ink pen and used it.

Over the years I would get his autograph on 2 baseballs, a photo, and five baseball cards. He had married a woman from a town my mother used to and my uncle and aunt still do live in. We got a chance to talk about that, and he always was nice to me.

Another thought I had was what could have been. In 2005 Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau were dubbed the M & M boys. Mauer was 22 and Morneau 24. They were going to rival other legendary Twins duos like Harmon Killebrew - Tony Oliva or Kirby Puckett - Kent Hrbek.

Morneau won the 2006 MVP and finished second in 2008. He was a 4x All-Star, and 2x Silver Slugger. Morneau was one of only 3 players in Twins history to have back to back 30 HR and 100 RBI’s seasons (Killebrew and Gary Gaetti were the other two). Morneau is 3rd all-time for the Twins in HR’s and 5th all-time in RBI’s.

Mauer and Morneau’s lead teams made playoffs in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010, but never won a playoff series. Morneau actually did not play in 08 or 10, and Mauer did not play in 04. Morneau downfall began in 2010 in the midst of a brilliant season during the prime of his career; Morneau suffered serious concussion in Toronto. He was never the same.

When I think of the greatest Twins of all-time I put Rod Carew, Joe Mauer, Harmon Killerbrew, Kirby Puckett, and Bert Blyleven in the top group. Then I would say Johan Santana, Justin Morneau, Tony Oliva, and few others in the next group. Had he not suffered that concussion in Toronto, I believe Morneau would have been in the top group. A player who could hit .300 with 30 HR’s and 100 RBI’s year after year instead ended up being traded for a reverse outfielder and low level minor league prospect.

Mauer and Morneau were together for 10 years - one year less than Killebrew - Olivia and Puckett - Hrbek were together. It should have been a longer and more successful time together, but injuries to both men, especially Monreau made that not possible. I will remember the great time Justin Morneau produced on the field for the Twins and off the field when I had chance to interact with him.

Best of luck in Pittsburgh Justin as you deserve a chance to at least be in if not win a World Series.