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Minnesota Twins: The Offense Will Reign Supreme in the Future

If there’s one thing Minnesota Twins fans can take solace in this season, it’s that this team can hit the ball and will continue to hit the ball well for the foreseeable future.

The Twins rank in the top half of the league in many offensive categories.

Minnesota has the sixth most hits in baseball (963), 14th most RBI (448), runs (466), OPS (.732), 10th best batting average (.264), 10th most walks (340), fifth most stolen bases (86) and the sixth best on base percentage (.331).

Josh Willingham has 80 RBI (third best in baseball), 27 homers (seventh most in baseball), a .378 on base percentage (21st best in baseball), a .549 slugging percentage (16th best in baseball) and a .979 OPS (14th best).

He’s locked up for another two years, and is fully healthy.

Joe Mauer, for all of his problems with power, is the top-singles hitter in baseball. He boasts baseball’s 11th best batting average (.321) and the fourth best on base percentage (.417). Mauer is under contract through 2018.

Trevor Plouffe has come out of nowhere to be second on the team in homers (19), and his power appears to be genuine. He’s pre-arbitration eligible this offseason, which means Minnesota will pay him at least 80 percent of his 2012 compensation ($485,000) and cannot go beneath the league minimum. He’s arbitration eligible after the 2013 season.

Ben Revere is hitting .319 with 25 stolen bases. His contract status is the exact same as Plouffe’s.

Denard Span, despite my demands that the front office deal him, is a talented leadoff hitter with a contract keeping him in the Twin Cities through the 2014 season, with a club option for 2015. He’s hitting .291 with 12 stolen bases and a .354 on base percentage.

Ryan Doumit has been a pleasant surprise for Minnesota. He’s been so well-received that the franchise gave him a two-year extension for $7 million total. He’s hitting .285 with 10 homers and 50 RBI, with the ability to play catcher, first base and outfield.

On top of those six big-league players, Minnesota has a plethora of hitting prospects stewing in the minors. Aaron Hicks, Eddie Rosario, Oswaldo Arcia, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano all could be MLB-ready by 2014.

Sano projects as a prototypical power-hitting third baseman, meaning he’ll strikeout his fair share but also bash many baseballs into the Target Field seats.

Hicks and Buxton are basically the same players: fast, defensive outfielders with the ability to hit for a high average and steal some bases with a little power. Buxton has more upside as a power hitter because his body isn’t as filled out at 18 as Hicks’s is at 22-years-old.

Arcia and Rosario project as line-drive hitters with the ability to hit 15 homers per season (maybe more) and hit for a relatively high batting average.

With those players on the rise, it would appear the Twins would need just a few pitchers in the minor league system to step up to the plate. The problem is the two most likely candidates are recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Minnesota’s 2010 first round pick Alex Wimmers underwent the procedure in the last week and Kyle Gibson, Minnesota’s 2009 first round pick, is currently recovering from the procedure.

Beyond those two, the pitching cupboard is bare in Minnesota’s farm system.

The big-league team has one healthy pitcher worthy of a spot in any other teams’ rotation: Scott Diamond (9-5, 2.93 ERA, 1.17 WHIP).

Sam Deduno has shown glimpses of fulfilling his promise as Baseball America’s No. 11 prospect with the Colorado Rockies prior to the 2009 campaign, but still has plenty of rust to shake off.

The Twins may or may not re-sign Scott Baker this offseason (it may or may not be worth it depending on how his elbow recovers).

Minnesota’s starting rotation for 2013 shapes up as: Diamond, Deduno, Nick Blackburn, Anthony Swarzak and Brian Duensing. It doesn’t exactly get the people going.

Twins fans need to face a simple fact: The next few years aren’t likely to be your Twins of the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

These Twins will win and lose games on their ability to score more runs than the opposition. And not by playing small ball, but by hitting the crap out of the ball and making the opposition pay for pitches left over the plate.

Get ready Minnesota. A new era is coming.

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Minnesota Twins: Chris Parmelee the Loser at the Trade Deadline

It’s official.

Minus the minuscule Francisco Liriano deal, in which Minnesota acquired two fringe prospects, the Twins waved hello to the trade deadline and quickly waved goodbye without making a follow-up move.

In some respects, this should be taken as a positive. The Twins could have made a move merely for the sake of making a move and done something foolish.

What they should have done was find a way to deal Justin Morneau or Denard Span. In both cases the Twins have a younger player waiting in the wing to take his spot.

Morneau will cost Minnesota $14 million next season. That’s a large sum of cash to pay to an injury-prone, aging player.

Yes, Morneau has shown signs of life over the previous month batting .326 with three homers and 12 RBI. Over that same stretch, he posted a .370 on base and .500 slugging percentage.

For the year he’s hit a disappointing 13 homers with 46 RBI and a .263 batting average. He also boasts a .324 on base and .458 slugging percentage.

But given his reoccurring problems with concussions, they still affected him early this season, as likely did his his age (31, he’ll turn 32 in May). His value may have peaked, given his recent performance.

He could finish the year playing the way he has and prove the Twins were smart for holding onto the 2006 AL MVP. He could find his former self and become an All-Star caliber first baseman.

Or he could collide with a wall, a teammate or smack his head on the ground while sliding into second base and be done with baseball.

Don’t forget that prior to this season, Morneau said if his concussion problems continued that he would hang up his cleats and call it a career, according to the Star Tribune. One more setback and that state of mind could return.

Denard Span is a Twin I’ve called for the club to trade as early as last season. The rumor was that Minnesota could have obtained Drew Storen, Washington’s closer, for Span last season (at the very least Tyler Clippard), according to NBC Sports. That would have given Minnesota its closer of the future and allowed the club to let Matt Capps walk in free agency.

Fast forward one year and that looks like a smart move. Storen missed the first half of the season with an elbow injury.

But the fact remains that Span does exactly what Ben Revere could do but at a higher cost. Span’s contract is reasonable ($4.75 million in 2013, $6.5 million in 2014 and $9 million club option in 2015 with $500,000 buyout) but still more expensive than Revere.

Moving either Span or Morneau would have opened up a lineup spot for Chris Parmelee.

Parmelee was Minnesota’s first-round pick, 20th overall, in 2006. The Twins drafted Parmelee out of high school, so he’s only 24 years old with six years of professional baseball experience.

In 35 games with the Rochester Red Wings this year, Parmelee hit .341 (42-for-123) with seven homers and 27 RBI. He posted a .577 slugging percentage and .467 on base percentage.

He has little left to prove in the minors and needs time to adjust to the big leagues. With the Twins in 2012, he’s hitting a lowly .204 with two homers and six RBI. He’s posted a .283 on base and .323 slugging percentage.

Those numbers don’t warrant handing Parmelee a starting spot, but his draft status does. The only way to find out if he belongs in the big leagues is to open up a spot for him.

Span’s departure could have put Parmelee in left or right field (wherever Josh Willingham wasn’t) and Morneau’s would have given him first base.

The Twins aren’t in a position to win in 2012 and they won’t be in a position to win in 2013. Now should be about finding out who can help the club down the road, like Parmelee, while building the farm system for the future.

We don’t know exactly what Minnesota was offered for Span or Morneau, but the club missed out on an opportunity to build for the future while shedding 2013 salaries.

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Minnesota Twins: Matt Capps Injury Comes at Terrible Time

On Tuesday, Minnesota Twins closer Matt Capps was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of irritation in his rotator cuff. Capps is back on the disabled list just four days after being reinstated.

This latest injury could not have come at a worse time for the Minnesota Twins.

Minnesota is 15 games under .500 (37-52) and 12 games back of the first place Chicago White Sox. The Twins plan to be sellers come the July 31 trade deadline.

Capps was a piece Minnesota hoped to dangle in front of teams looking for bullpen help as a way to replenish its pitching depth.

On the season Capps owns a 3.81 ERA, 1.06 WHIP with 18 strikeouts and 14 saves in 28 1/3 innings pitched.

Now, Capps isn’t the best relief pitcher on the market. He doesn’t strike out many batters and can be erratic at times. No team would want to acquire him to be its closer, but he can be a difference-maker for a contending team as a set-up man.

If the Twins had struck a deal for Capps prior to the trade deadline, the team wouldn’t have received top-tier prospects. It could expect to receive average prospects, but that’s not a problem. The team needs all the pitching help it can get.

Minnesota doesn’t need Capps to be its closer either. The team is at least another full season away from competing—more likely two or three years.

Additionally, Capps’ contract is up at the end of this season, and given the state of the Minnesota Twins, many do not expect him to be brought back.

Capps is eligible to come off the disabled list on Aug. 1.

Look for the Twins to orchestrate a trade of Capps over the waiver wire between Aug. 1 and Aug. 31.

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Minnesota Twins: 2012 Season Hinges on Mauer and Morneau

The success of the 2012 season depends on two men: Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.

When the Twins won three of the previous five American Central League titles, Mauer and Morneau were at the heart of why Minnesota was successful. During that stretch, Mauer averaged 13 home runs, 80 RBI, posted a .334 batting average and never posted a slugging percentage below .426 or an on-base percentage beneath .382.

Morneau was even better.

He averaged over 105 RBI, over 27 home runs, posted a .298 batting average and never had an on-base percentage beneath .343 or a slugging percentage below .492. And that’s after Morneau missed 81 games in 2010 because of his lingering effects of a concussion.

But last year, the two were not on the field often—combining to play 151 games—and they were not  overly productive when they were.

Mauer’s .287 batting average, three home runs, 30 RBI, .360 on-base percentage and .368 slugging percentage were all career-lows—in a season when Mauer played more than 81 games.

The Canadian-born Morneau was right with Mauer. His .227 batting average, four home runs, 30 RBI, .285 on-base percentage and .333 slugging percentage were all career lows—in a season when Morneau plays 69 or more games.

Part of the reason both struggled was that neither was healthy for extended periods of time. Morneau had lingering concussion problems, and Mauer had bilateral leg weakness.


Morneau’s concussion problems, which began in 2010, have his career spiraling in the wrong direction and were the source of him missing so much time in 2011. The 2012 campaign will either get him back on track or continue him down his regressive path.

Mauer has never played over 146 games in his career, which is (in part) why the Twins have toyed with moving Mauer to first base—and should explore third base too. He’s injury prone.  

But this year has to be different. It has to be different for both.

The Twins have far too many uncertainties as they enter 2012. Mauer and Morneau cannot be part of that group. Those two need to revert back to the 2006-2010 form.

Without the two for much of the season, the 2011 season spiraled out of control very quickly and ended in the worst Minnesota team under Ron Gardenhire’s watch (63-99). One more loss and Minnesota would have had its first 100-loss season since 1957 (when they were the Washington Senators).  

In 2012, the Twins have $23 million invested in Mauer and $14 million in Morneau. For that type of dough, the Twins need better return on their investment than they received in 2011. Mauer and Morneau earned the same figures last year.

Without Michael Cuddyer and without Delmon Young—albeit an inconsistent Delmon Young—the Twins have no other proven threats in the middle of a MLB lineup. And without Cuddyer, the Twins need their top two earners to play larger leadership roles—something neither has excelled at during their careers.

2012 must be different if Minnesota has any chance to be successful. The M&M boys are the key to what happens in Minnesota from April through September. If they regain their form, then Minnesota can compete for an AL Central crown. If not, look out for six more months of terrible baseball.

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MLB Playoffs 2011: 5 Bold Postseason Predictions

The 2011 MLB Postseason is nearly here. Get ready. October always brings excitement. It brings unexpected twists and turns. October is where champions are made. October separates the men from the boys. It’s go time. 

In 2010, no one expected that the World Series would be a battle between the Texas Rangers and the San Francisco Giants. It was supposed to be the New York Yankees vs. the Philadelphia Phillies (much like the predictions for the 2011 World Series).

But the unexpected will happen again. That is one thing that is for sure. With that in mind, here are five bold predictions for the 2011 MLB playoffs:

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