Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Early Twins Lineup Projection

     Before I start this column, I just want to talk about Scherzer inking a seven year, 210 million dollar deal with the Nationals. While it's generally regarded as an overpay whenever a pitcher gets that much money and especially that many years. As we've seen from guys like Johan Santana, their arms can go out at any time. But, as smart as it seems to decide not to them those kinds of deals, if you want to sign somebody as good as Scherzer you're going to have to do it because there will always be another team willing to do it. Mike Rizzo's basically saying, "We're willing to have a huge untradeable burden on our team for a few years if it'll help us win a World Series right now." Which is why I like the deal for Washington. They're absurdly deep on the mound, with Tanner Roark moving to the bullpen. Now on to the original column.
SS Danny Santana
I've been on the Santana bandwagon since day one and I'm not getting off anytime soon. While he'll almost certainly regress at least a little from last year with his unsustainable .405 BABIP, he's still an excellent fielder and base runner. On top of that, his batting average on balls in play has been around the .320 range his entire career throughout the minors, meaning he's been getting a little lucky, but not as lucky as someone who has a lower career average.
1B Joe Mauer
Much like how Santana will probably regress next year, I'm almost positive Mauer will do better assuming he stays healthy. My goofy theory for his first half struggles last year: He was under a lot of pressure to make the all star game. After the break, he seemed to loosen up and hit like the Mauer of old. I bet he hits around the .310/.400/415 range.
2B Brian Dozier
One of the most unorthodox players in the league, Dozier's a power hitting second baseman who makes up for his low batting average with a very high walk rate. I'm slightly concerned that only five of his 23 homers came after the all star break, but he kept his on base skills all the way through and is a terrific fielder.
RF Torii Hunter
He hit .298/.319/.446 last year in Detroit, but his contributions will be more off the field. I can't think of a better mentor for Aaron Hicks, and overall it'll just be fun to have him in a Twins uniform again.
I wrote that just after the he signed with the Twins and everything there's still true.
3B Trevor Plouffe
After a quietly putting together a solid season (.258 80 RBI 40 doubles 110 OPS+) the Twins will eventually have to decide what to do when Sano comes up. I asked Terry Ryan about this at Twinsfest and his response was pretty noncommittal, but he mentioned that if Plouffe continues to play well, they could try to fit both into the lineup. It's a pretty good idea in theory, but that's how we ended up with the Plouffe in right field debacle a few years ago. We'll see how it turns out.
C Kurt Suzuki
I'm fine with Suzuki, but I thought and still think the Twins should have traded him at the deadline last year. He posted a .310 batting average on balls in play, much higher than his career average on .274, and he tailed off in the second half, hitting just .253. He's a great defensive catcher, but he's probably already peaked. It would have been better for the Twins to at least get something for him.
DH Kennys Vargas
I'm a huge Vargas fan. Anytime you have a guy with as much raw power as him who can still slap it the other way, you've got a keeper. He chased a lot of pitches in the dirt last year, something common for young hitters he'll likely be able to improve.
LF Oswaldo Arcia 
Last year was one of the worst seasons of my fandom of the Twins. Not just because of the losses, but because of the lack of personality on the team. Arcia however, was one of the few fun people on the team with his mohawk and towering homers he would flip his bat after. However, his excitement didn't translate to production, as he hit just .231/.302/.452 and an unsightly .198/.261/.313 line against lefties. If there's any consolation, he hit a lot better in the second half than the first, with a .239/.290/.517 line along with 17 of his 20 homers.
CF Aaron Hicks
This is Hicks's make or break season. If he doesn't at least show some progress this year I don't think he ever will. I'm still hesitantly optimistic about him for the same reasons I am about Dozier. Namely, his batting eye (he posted a .341 OBP last year) and fielding. He struggled a lot against righties last season, (.178/.300/.212 compared to .279/.410/.382 against right handed pitchers) so I'd love to see him platoon with Arcia in right in a few years.

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