Thursday, March 6, 2008
30 Teams in 30 Days: Minnesota Twins
A look back: The Twins entered 2007 as the defending AL Central champions, but the loss of Francisco Liriano and Joe Mauer helped derail any chance of a repeat. Minnesota wound up with a losing record and finished third in the AL Central. This year, there is no Johan Santana or Carlos Silva in the rotation, and no Torii Hunter in center field. Instead, the Twins will have to hope Liriano is healthy and that their well-stocked farm system has prepared its young players well enough for life in the AL Central.
Positives on the field: In Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer, the Twins have a pair of young stars who should solidify first base and catcher as long as they're playing in Minneapolis. When healthy, Liriano proved just as good as Santana in 2006, and if that wasn't a fluke, he'll be a solid ace. The Twins' bullpen is as good as any in baseball, Joe Nathan is an outstanding closer, and Pat Neshek was almost unhittable as a setup man. If the game gets through seven and the Twins have the lead, that's usually the end.
Positives off the field: The Twins have a new ballpark in the works. Fans of the team have desired an open-air park for years, and they'll have one in 2010.
Negatives on the field: The Twins' offense won't scare anyone outside of the 3-4-5 spots. Delmon Young is talented but is exactly what his name implies. The same applies to Carlos Gomez. Nick Punto has a balsa bat, Mike Lamb struggles against right-handers and Adam Everett is Punto with less speed and better defense. The Twins have several holes in the lineup that a pitcher can breathe somewhat easy against compared to most AL lineups.
The rotation is very young, besides Livan Hernandez. Boof Bonser is still more famous for his name than any of his pitches, Kevin Slowey may be taking a fast car (knew I could work in that Amanda Wilkinson reference somehow) to Rochester when the Twins break camp and Liriano has had arm problems in the past. If he comes back strong, he will team with Scott Baker and Hernandez to provide a decent top of the rotation, but that's a big if, since he hasn't been an ace before.
Outlook: The Twins are building for the future. That's what they do best. Minnesota would be the American League's version of the Florida Marlins, except the Twins develop their own talent rather than hold fire sales and remain competitive while doing so. But staying competitive will be difficult with this group. Minnesota is in position to be a strong team very soon, but will struggle in 2008.
Projected finish: 4th in AL Central. Season opener is March 31 at the Metrodome against Los Angeheim.
Spring base: Bill Hammond Stadium, Fort Myers, Fla. Like the Red Sox, who also train in Fort Myers at another complex, the Twins play all over the state during the spring.
Fan of the team?: Check out Twinkie Town, a Twins fan community.
Come back tomorrow: The road trip goes down I-35 to western Missouri, and stops in the City of Fountains for a visit to the Kansas City Royals.
My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Keane.