2005 Record: 83-79 (3rd Place)
2005 Runs Scored: 688
2005 Runs Allowed: 662
Expected 2005 Record: 84-78
It takes at least 90 wins per season for the Minnesota Twins to avoid contraction talk. Last season, injuries to Torii Hunter, Brad Radke, and Carlos Silva caused the Twins to go 11-16 in September (they did have a tough September schedule). The real culprit was their offense, ranked last in the AL. No one on the team had an OPS over .800.
All season long, the Twins tried to keep a philosophy of defense over offense for position players, which makes sense with the non-Santana portion of the Twins staff’s propencity to allow balls to be put in play. But this year, they realize that they are going to have to score a little more frequently if they want to remain a part of the Major Leagues.
2005 Starters: Joe Mauer, Mike Redmond
Projected 2006 Starters: Mauer, Redmond
Mauer has yet to show much pop, but got on base over 37% of the time last year and has surprising speed for a catcher (13 SB in 14 Attempts). This former 1st overall pick turns just 23 in April, so he should continue to improve in all aspects of the game.
2005 Starter: Justin Morneau
Projected 2006 Starter: Morneau
Morneau hit 41 homers in 146 combined AAA and ML games in 2004, but only hit 22 in 141 games with the Twins last year. Fans expect Justin to become the first Twin to hit 30 homers since 1987, but to do so he’ll have to shake off a horrrendus 2005 season.
2005 Starters: Nick Punto,Luis Rodriguez
Projected 2006 Starters: Luis Castillo, Rodriguez
Castillo ranges to his right extremely well, which is key since The Fielding Bible shows that only the Rangers allowed more hits up the middle than the Twins did last year. His 40+ SB days are long gone, but along with Mauer and Shannon Stewart, the top three in the Minnesota lineup should combine for an OBP around .375.
2005 Starters: Michael Cuddyer, Terry Tiffee
Projected 2006 Starters: Tony Batista, Tiffee
People act as though the Tony Batista signing is a huge risk, but I think the Twins know exactly what they’re getting: 25 homers, 90 RBI, 120 K’s, and a .295 OBP. This is actually an improvement over their 2005 production out of third base. The Twins have finally conceded that Cuddyer cannot play the hot corner at all... we’ll see how long it takes for them to admit that he doesn’t hit well enough to play the outfield.
2005 Starters: Juan Castro, Jason Bartlett
Projected 2006 Starter: Bartlett, Castro
Minnesota didn’t want to use Bartlett for fear that his defense wasn’t on par with Castro’s. However, The Fielding Bible shows that Bartlett actually made more plays than Castro last year, while they both turned double plays at an equally exceptional rate. The Twins must realize this and get Bartlett’s improving bat in the lineup every day if they want to contend.
2005 Starters: Shannon Stewart, Jacque Jones, Lew Ford, Torii Hunter
Projected 2006 Starters: Stewart, Ford, Hunter, Cuddyer
Hunter is coming off of an injury-plagued season, and Stewart and Ford each had the worst seasons of their careers in ’05. Cuddyer’s not likely to be any worse than Jacque Jones was last year. Basically, this outfield can’t go anywhere but up...yet it’s still among the weakest in baseball.
2005 Starter: Matt LeCroy
Projected 2006 Starter: Rondell White
Although I agree that using Rondell White as a full time DH is the best way to keep him healthy, he’s actually replacing the guy who led the team in OPS last year, so it shouldn’t be that huge of an upgrade.
2005 Front Three Starters: Johan Santana, Brad Radke, Carlos Silva
Projected 2006 Front Three: Santana, Radke, Silva
Injuries caused Silva to miss most of September, and Radke to post a 6.86 ERA in four September starts. They’re both extreme control pitchers, combining for just 32 walks in 389 IP last season, and therefore should not be prone to such injuries. Santana is building his credentials towards being the best left-handed pitcher in baseball, and the best second-half pitcher of all-time.
Other 2005 Starters: Kyle Lohse, Joe Mays, Scott Baker
Other Possible 2006 Starters: Lohse, Baker, Francisco Liriano
The Twins allowed the third fewest runs in the American League last year, despite the best efforts of Joe Mays to pull them back to the pack (5.65 ERA). Between power prospect Liriano and finnesse prospect Baker, the back end of the Twins’ rotation looks to be much stronger than it was last season.
2005 Top Relievers: Joe Nathan, Jesse Crain, Juan Rincon, Matt Guerrier
Projected 2006 Top Relievers: Nathan, Crain, Rincon, Guerrier
What a fine no-name bullpen! Nathan, Crain, and Rincon combined to go 25-15 with a 2.62 ERA in 226.2 IP last year, although Crain’s peripheral stats were junk. They’ve lost some depth with JC Romero and Terry Mullholland gone, but odds are that the Twins can find more no-names from within their organization to match or exceed their 2005 performances.
The Twins were actually a pretty good team last year, and should be even better in 2006. Unfortunately, The Twins and White Sox were better last year and both also improved this offseason. It is therefore quite unlikely that the Twins will be able to overtake them both and win the AL Central. Yet the 90-win contractionsbane goal is definitely within reach, and a whole lot of luck could also land them the Wild Card.
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Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith Glab resides in Chicago, Illinois, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.