Thursday, 2 February 2012

2012 Previews: Minnesota Twins

Oh Old Joe Mauer, how I miss you.

Well, friends... I'm about to tell you something that you may not like.  Joe Mauer just isn't that good anymore. Seven more years!

The Majors
Alright, he's not bad at all, he's just... not... Joe Mauer anymore.  And if he can't stay at catcher, his value is cut very drastically.  And that's actually pretty much it.  If Mauer can't get over his "general leg fatigue" or whatever the fuck, not only will he be worse with the bat, but the difference between the value he provides at catcher and DH or 1B, in terms of replacement value, is fucking massive.  Fortunately, he should be able to get plenty of physically no-demanding time at 1B, but that's only because Justin Morneau can't seem to stay healthy either.  The combination of those two guys not being at the top of their game is a real killer for this club, because Mauer and Morneau are the obvious lynchpins in this offense.  If those two aren't in the lineup for 150 games each, this team has absolutely no shot.  And even with those two, there's not really anything else there.  They lost Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Jim Thome, and replaced that with Josh Willingham, Ryan Doumit, and Jamey Carroll.  In other words, behind Mauer and Morneau, they got worse.  Doumit's signing probably spells the end of Mauer as an everyday catcher, so that's probably a good indication that Mauer's days as a full-time catcher are over.

Speaking of "no shot", that rotation.  I mean, Carl Pavano is the ace of that staff.

Beyond that, look at their division.  The Tigers pretty much have this thing on lockdown for at least this year, and the Royals and Indians are on their way up.

The Minors
This system is nothing special.  Miguel Angel Sano looks like he should be pretty good, especially if he can stay at shortstop.  The big problem that I see is the lack of high-upside pitching prospects to add to their already terrible pitching staff.  Going forward, that might not be a huge problem, given the impossibility of hitting homeruns at Target Field (suppressing HR's doesn't necessarily make it a pitcher-friendly, though a big enough sample will show us that it probably is pitcher-friendly), but hey, pitching doesn't hurt.

The Verdict
I don't really think that this organization is in terrible shape, and this would actually be a half decent club to take over as a GM if you really wanted some kind of challenging project.  They have an owner who is willing to spend at a higher-than-average rate -- they're right around $110MM -- and their organizational talent isn't bad, per se.  They might not have a ton to move in a trade, but there are certainly some assets and payroll depth to help build from.  This team isn't as bad as they showed last year, but they definitely got worse, if that makes sense.  Mauer and Morneau playing 140+ games each will go a long way towards getting this team away from the 100-loss mark, but it's definitely not going to be enough to get them anywhere near 90 wins.

Unlike most teams, the Twins are tough to project going forward.  Their major league roster is young, and the farm system is just a piece or two away from being in the top tier, so it's not like there is no chance for the next few years.  I think their ballpark should help turn one or more of their mediocre pitchers in to something that they can move at the trade deadline.  If this team is going to compete at any point in the next three years, it's going to have to be through either the prospect route or the trade route, because they certainly don't have the talent in-house right now.

As is, Mauer and Morneau can't be relied on to play full seasons, and if that's the case, Josh Willingham is their best player.  I trust the organization to figure it out over the next 2 or 3 years, but this team is doomed to, at best, a 4th place finish in their division without some massive improvements.

Projection: 72-90, 5th in the AL Central

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