We will start off our previews of the White Sox AL Central competition by taking a look at the Minnesota Twins. The Twins finished in fourth place last year with a record of 66-96, or three games better than the White Sox. They aren’t expected to be much better this year but that has never seemed to matter to the piranhas before.
First, a look at their roster changes from the past few months …
Now for the analysis …
The Twins will have a different look to their starting rotation than they did a year ago with the additions of Hughes and Nolasco, who are expected to slide into the middle of the rotation along with the returning Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfry.
The additions of Nolasco and Hughes aren’t huge moves but they will certainly improve the teams pitching depth.
Nolasco has a winning career record, despite playing his entire career with the Florida/Miami Marlins until he was traded last year to the Dodgers. His 4.37 career ERA isn’t great but he averages more than seven strikeouts per nine innings and he has a 3.52 career K/BB ratio.
Hughes is coming off his worst year in the majors but is only a year removed from a 16-win season. His strikeout and walk numbers were in line with his career averages but he was getting hit more than in the past. If Hughes can stay healthy he should at least be able to eat up some innings and keep the Twins in some games.
The Twins' bullpen should once again be fairly solid.
Glen Perkins returns as the closer after 36 saves and a 2.30 ERA a season ago. Jared Burton, Casey Fien and Anthony Swarzak return as right handed setup men who all had solid numbers in 2013. They also signed Matt Guerrier, who spent the first seven years of his career in Minnesota, to a minor league deal. Brian Duensing will be the other lefty to compliment Perkins. It might not be the flashiest bullpen out there but they should get the job done most days.
Last season the Twins finished near the bottom of the AL in most offensive categories. They were 12th in batting average (.242), 11th in home runs, 13th in runs scored and struck out the second-most times.
Their lineup will be largely the same this year as it was at the end of last year.
Joe Mauer will be moving to first base this year and will fill the hole left there when the team traded Justin Morneau last season. Sox killer Kurt Suzuki was brought in to handle the catching duties. Josh Willingham and Trevor Plouffe will be looking to bounce back from poor seasons last year and add some pop in the middle of the order.
The rest of their outfield will be very young with Oswaldo Arcia (pictured above), Alex Presley and Aaron Hicks battling for two spots. Former Twin Jason Kubel was brought in on a minor league deal to possibly add some left handed pop but he has struggled this spring hitting just .087 with one home run.
The success of the Twins offensively will hinge on whether or not Willingham and Plouffe can bounce back to be some kind of power threat in the middle of the order and if some of the younger players take a step forward.
Arcia had the best season of the young players last year hitting .251 with 14 home runs but he also struck out 117 times in 97 games. His development will be huge for this team.
In the end the lineup will likely struggle again this season with no real additions from a group that struggled a year ago.
This will be a bit of a stopgap year for the Twins. They have one of the best farm systems in baseball stocked with young talent but that talent isn’t quite major league ready.
The Twins could be a force in the AL Central in the near future but as for now it will be more of the same from the Twinkies. I see them being about the same as they were a year ago and finishing in the cellar of the AL Central.
Photo Credit: Roto Analysis