The Minnesota Twins’ offense has comprised a lot of moving parts in the month of September.

Minor injuries to catcher Joe Mauer, shortstop J.J. Hardy, designated hitter Jim Thome, and outfielder Jason Kubel have left the team’s lineup in limbo since the team clinched the AL Central division crown last week.

Mauer is expected back at full strength by the end of the weekend, and Thome and Kubel have each proved ready to play when the lights come on for the American League playoffs next week.

Hardy’s status is slightly more in doubt, but he should be healthy in time for the postseason as well.

With the team nearly back to full strength (or as close thereto as they are likely to get, with first baseman Justin Morneau expected to miss whatever playoff action the Twins may see), it is time for manager Ron Gardenhire to sit down and formulate a lineup that will work for the team throughout October.

The batting order upon which Gardenhire ultimately settles will need to be potent in order to keep up with the scoring of potential first-round opponents the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays.

It has been so long since the team had a settled lineup that Gardenhire could reasonably fill in just about anything, but here is one (admittedly unorthodox) lineup that could put the Twins over the top.


1. Denard Span, CF—Bats: L

2010 Stats: .271/.337/.358, 3.1 WAR

Span has had a rough year in just his second full big-league season, as his OBP has fallen from .392 to .337 in one year. This is the Twins’ area of greatest vulnerability on offense, as they lack an obvious leadoff man. Span has done the job admirably overall since taking over the role in late 2008, however, and his patience may pay off despite the regression in the rest of his game.


2. Joe Mauer, C—Bats: L

2010 Stats: .331/.407/.473, 9 HR

It’s almost too bad for this year’s Twins that last year’s Twins got such an incredible season from Mauer. The athletic backstop hit 28 home runs a year ago, which drove the team to miscast him as a power-hitting, middle-of-the-order guy.

Mauer’s power has regressed into a range he more reasonably sustained this year, but he remains very patient and a great average hitter. Anyone who gets on base 40 percent of the time or more belongs in the top four in a team’s lineup, but Mauer belongs here, not in the third slot.


3. Delmon Young, LF—Bats: R

2010 Stats: .299/.334/.487, 19 HR, 108 RBI

Young, in contrast to Mauer, has unleashed his power potential this season simply by making contact more often: His 14.2 percent strikeout rate is by far a career-low mark. Because Young does everything well except draw walks, he belongs in the third spot, where free passes are statistically least valuable.

Believe it or not, Young has actually been a bit unlucky this year, hitting into a .315 BABIP that is 20 points shy of his career figure. He could be this year’s version of B.J. Upton circa 2008, breaking out in style under the national spotlight.


4. Jim Thome, DH—Bats: L

2010 Stats: .280/.412/.631, 25 HR

Thome last had a slugging average over .600 in 2002, when he cranked 52 homers for the Indians. Regular rest has given him a new lease on life, and his second-half surge helped shore up the heart of the order after Morneau went down with a concussion in July.

Thome still has the plate discipline to force his way on base and the raw power to make teams pitch to those in front of him—great news for the hyper-aggressive Young.


5. Danny Valencia, 3B—Bats: R

2010 Stats: .318/.358/.462, 2.7 WAR

Valencia’s rookie season has been better than the Twins could have hoped. Always a great pure hitter, Valencia has quickly developed more big-league power than most expected (seven home runs in 299 plate appearances) and a steady glove at third base.

His September numbers (.288/.316/.507 with five homers) set him apart from more obvious candidates like Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer.


6. Jason Kubel, RF—Bats: L

2010 Stats: .250/.323/.434, 21 HR

Kubel has been about the same kind of player for three or four years now: decent patience, decent power, and an uncanny knack for the big hit. His power numbers have dipped this year, but he is a home run threat deep in the order, behind several very good on-base-oriented batters.


7. Michael Cuddyer, 1B—Bats: R

2010 Stats: .271/.337/.416, 79 RBI

Cuddyer seemed like a fluke last season when he hit 32 home runs, and his power has been cut roughly in half by the move into pitcher-friendly Target Field. Still, the 10-year veteran has been of some value, playing both corner spots in the infield and the outfield. He has also cut down on his strikeouts by about 20 percent from last year, an eminently good sign for his plate discipline.


8. Orlando Hudson, 2B—Bats: S

2010 Stats: .268/.336/.370, 9.9 UZR

Hudson’s primary value has always been his glove at the keystone sack, and it has been golden this year. The Twins have him in a role he ostensibly fits well, batting second, but might want to move him down in the order when they begin facing tougher pitching next week.


9. J.J. Hardy, SS—Bats: R

2010 Stats: .276/.327/.406, 8.4 UZR

Hardy is a similar story to Hudson, though Hardy’s offensive upside is higher. He hit 50 combined homers in 2007-08 as the starting shortstop for the Brewers and could hit a big one (or two) in the playoffs. Mostly, though, Hardy is in the lineup for his sparkling work on defense. He and Hudson allow Twins pitchers to aggressively throw hittable pitches low in the zone, knowing very little will go for hits up the middle of the infield.

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