|2009 Minnesota Twins Preview|
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on April 02, 2009
Minnesota contended in a division many thought it couldn’t win, myself included. The Twins lost ace Johan Santana and centerfielder Torii Hunter but finished one game out last season. They add Francisco Liriano, whose changeup has looked Santana-like according to a scout this spring, for a full season and hopefully see an improved Delmon Young.
Home Field: Metrodome
RP Luis Ayala (Signed from Mets)
3B Joe Crede (Signed from White Sox)
SS Nick Punto (Resigned)
Out of the Wrapper
SS Adam Everett (Signed with Tigers)
RP Eddie Guardado (Signed with Rangers) *
RP Dennys Reyes (Signed with Cardinals)
* - denotes minor league contract
Strength – Starting Pitching
Liriano dropped his world-beater slider from his arsenal but improved his changeup and still features a powerful fastball. He won’t be as good as he was in 2006, but Liriano will be a quality staff ace and probably the best pitcher in the AL Central.
Joining him will be four solid pitchers from last season: Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Glen Perkins and Kevin Slowey. None broke the 200+ innings pitched mark last season, but this year all of them could do so. The Twins have quietly assembled a deep rotation, one that is playoff caliber.
Weakness – Offense
The Twins feature several quality pieces on offense. Justin Morneau hit 23 home runs and 47 doubles last year, a sign that he’s got power in his bat. Young, considering his talent, cannot be 2008 bad once again. Denard Span may be an underrated top-of-the-lineup force, considering his .387 OBP, 18 steals and near 1:1 K:BB ratio.
But everything flows through Mauer. He is easily the team’s best hitter, because of his ability to get on base. His defensive skills behind the plate are excellent. Minnesota doesn’t need Mauer to contend, but he would make things much easier.
CF Denard Span
2B Alexei Casilla
C Joe Mauer
1B Justin Morneau
RF Delmon Young
3B Joe Crede
DH Jason Kubel / Michael Cuddyer
SS Nick Punto
LF Carlos Gomez
CL Joe Nathan
RP Jesse Crain
This is bordering on cliché, but how healthy is Mauer? No offense to Mike Redmond, but if he’s starting over Mauer for an extending period of time, that could cause the Twins the division.
Minnesota should win 90 games and be close to the division-winning Cleveland Indians. Liriano get back on track to being one of the better pitchers in the AL, while Morneau has another 30 home run season. Don’t fret Twins fans: A new stadium is on the way and all of this young talent is percolating for a run deep into the postseason one of these years.