The Minnesota Twins finished the 2012 season in last place in the American League Central with a record of 66-96. The team is in a rebuilding mode and, like the Astros, they have opted to let some of their veteran players go in favor of a youth movement. During the offseason outfielders Denard Span and Ben Revere were traded away for pitching and Left-hander Francisco Liriano escaped via Free Agency.
To get an idea of what’s in store for Twins fans this season I spoke with one directly. Ben Noble, Editor at FanSided’s Twins site, Puckett’ Pond, was kind enough to answer a few questions about Joe Mauerand some of the team’s youngsters. Here’s my Q & A session with Ben.
CTH: Joe Mauer bounced back last season after having a disappointing 2011, by Mauer standards. I thought he looked great in the WBC. Can we expect Joe to contend for another batting title this season? And how many games do you think he will play at the catcher position?
Ben: Yes, I do; competing for batting titles has kind of been Mauer’s bag thus far in his career. As far as how often he’ll catch, the Twins will probably go with a formula similar to last year, when he played roughly half of his games behind the dish and put up a career high in plate appearances.
CTH: Samuel Deduno is another player who has looked good in the WBC. What are his chances of making the Opening Day roster?
Ben: Personally, I’d like to see that happen, but Cole De Vries and P.J. Walters are in the mix for the 5th spot to start the season, too. Scott Diamond, Vance Worley, Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia are set, and the team would like Liam Hendriks to take the last spot, but looks like Diamond will miss his first couple starts of the season, so Deduno could be the guy to make those starts early on. You want a number? 33%. Chances of making a start for the Twins at some point during the season? More like 90%.
CTH: The Twins signed Rich Harden this offseason. Harden didn’t pitch at all last season. Is he likely to make the club, and if so, in what role?
Ben: He hasn’t pitched this spring yet, so he won’t be heading north April 1. Once he’s ready to let it fly, I think he’s most likely to end up in a relief role, considering he hasn’t put in the time to get stretched out over the past year-plus.
CTH: Much like the Astros, Minnesota has a number of youngsters that aren’t exactly household names. Tell us about a player that could potentially have a big season and make a name for himself in 2013.
Ben: Aaron Hicks is a 5-tool CF prospect who has been ready defensively for a couple of years now, but just finally put it together at AA last season, particularly from the left side as a switch hitter. Twins might keep him in AAA to start the season due to keeping an extra year of team control, but he’s absolutely crushed this spring, and his plus speed and plus-plus arm will see plenty of PT in Target Field’s spacious outfield in 2013.
CTH: What’s the overall status of the farm system and who are the Twins top three prospects?
Ben: Improved dramatically over the past year; don’t know the exact rankings, but they’re a top 5-10 farm system. Top 3? Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, and maybe Eddie Rosario? The Twins have about half a dozen prospects (or more) that could legitimately be most other teams’ top farm player.
Thanks, Ben. Strangely enough, the Astros and Twins don’t meet until early August. So, until then, we’ll have to keep an eye on them from afar. It will be interesting to see how our two teams’ seasons are progressing at that point. If either team can climb out of the cellar this season it will be an accomplishment.
Next up: Ray Kuhn takes a look at the 2013 New York Yankees.