Going into the spring training, the Twins have more than a few uncertainties. Let's go back to the good 'ol baker's dozen questions format to try to answer some of them.
Q. Who's the center fielder?
A. Our options are: Alex Pressley, Aaron Hicks. I think I will shoot myself. Okay, that was a little dramatic those aren't exactly great options. I'm still optimistic about Hicks, though. Over his last 33 games, he hit .233, which is obviously well below average, but one helluva lot better than the .164 mark he posted in his first 28 games. I could see him doing better this year.
Q. How does Mauer handle the position change?
While I agree with the decision to move Mauer, I was profoundly disappointed after hearing the news. It completely makes sense, his health is the most important thing, but he won't be the same player at first. The fact that he's a solid fielding catcher was part of Mauer's greatness. He was an undisputed top three catcher. First base has a lot more depth. Mauer will be at the same position as Paul Goldschmidt, Adrian Gonzalez and Miguel Cabrera. You can pencil him in for another .330/.400 season, but he just won't be as valuable. Hey, what's happening at the backstop anyway?
What's happening at backstop anyway?
Josmil Pinto was excellent for the last month of 2013 last year and it looked like we would start off the year there until they signed Kurt Suzuki. I wouldn't be surprised if Suzuki started off as the starter while Pinto begins in Rochester to work on his defense.
What's the starting lineup going to look like?
Just off the top of my head, I'd say something like this:
LF Josh Willingham
2B Brian Dozier
3B Trevor Plouffe
RF Oswaldo Arcia
DH Jason Kubel/Chris Hermann/Chris Parmelee (excuse me while I wander into traffic)
SS Pedro Florimon
Can Scott Diamond bounce back?
There's no nice way of putting this. Diamond sucked last year. However, not everything is doomed. After spending the last fifteen minutes grasping for straws and looking for good pitchers who were awful their first few years I've discovered that Tom Glavine was 33-41with a 4.29 ERA in his first four seasons. He's just got to bounce back, I'm hopeful that he can do that.
Can Vance Worley bounce back?
There's no nice way of putting this. Worley sucked last year. He was also below average the year before. However, he was good the year before. Very similar to Diamond, he just needs to regain his form. Hey, Dozier showed us that people can make improvements, and Vanimal's only 26, I wouldn't be surprised to see him bounce back.
Are the Twins going out of their way to sign as many former players as possible?
Let's see, So far they've signed Jason Bartlett, Jason Kubel, Matt Guerrier and they're thinking of going after Johan Santana. My advice? Sign as many former players as possible. Why not? We're going to watch them lose a lot of games, we should at least have fun doing it. It's a shame Nick Punto signed with the A's, he would have made a great signing, even if it doesn't make any for a rebuilding team to sign a 36 year old utility infielder.
How will the new acquisitions do?
We'll start with Nolasco. I'm happy with that move, he had a 3.70 ERA in just under 200 innings pitched last year, making him by far the best starter the Twins have. (New ace, two games over .500 last year, ERA less than 4, feel the excitement, Twin Cities!) Hughes I'm not so thrilled about. They just threw 24 million at a guy whose never had an ERA under 4 in years that he started and has had a 4.65 ERA in the last two years.
Who's the DH?
As I said up while talking at the top, DH is really up in the air. Jason Kubel and Chris Hermann are considered the favorites, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Chris Parmelee be a possibility as well. So much for DH being a spot for a power hitter. These three guys combined for a .209 Batting average with 17 homers last year. I liked the Kubel signing, though just two years ago he hit 30 homers and for his salary there isn't much of a risk.
When can we expect the prospects to be up?
I asked Rob Antony about Sano at Twinsfest a few weeks ago, he told me that he had struggled in AA last year, (obviously) and that it would probably be awhile before we saw him in a Twins uniform. I bet he'll be up somewhere in late August or early September, possibly earlier if Plouffe gets injured. As for Buxton, it'll be awhile, I'd say late 2015 at the earliest.
Can the middle infield continue to do well?
One of the pleasant surprises of last year was how well Dozier and Florimon played. Dozier hit 18 homers, second among American League second basemen and fourth overall in the league. He was also arguably the best fielding second basemen in the league, leading the league in range factor per game and only committing six errors. Too bad he wasn't a good enough hitter to win a Gold Glove.
As per P-Flo, his hitting was nowhere near Doziers's but he excelled at one of the hardest positions on the diamond, leading all shortstops in range factor per game. Nothing got through the middle.
Will Glen Perkins continue to be good?
Perk was a solid, reliable closer last year, and it feels very good to have a solid, reliable closer ever since the Matt Capps era, who caused me to find out what hell was like while I he was blowing a save to the Brewers and my Dad and I were the only Twins fans in a section of drunk Brewers fans. But that's a story for a later time.
How many wins will the Twins have?
Okay, this is the only number that matters. They've made some improvements, moved some people around and all things considered, I'll say... 74 wins. It might be a rough year, but it'll be better than the last several, and if you're ever feeling depressed, just read this as many times as you need to.