The Twins will need a healthy Joe Mauer to improve on last year’s 66 wins.
by Alli Baker
Key Offseason Losses: Ryan Doumit
Minnesota Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire is one of the best in the business, but a lack of talent and a rash of injuries over the past three seasons resulted in an average of 65 wins per year. After finishing the 2013 season in fourth place in the AL Central Division, the Twins knew they had work to do this offseason.
Most importantly, the Twins needed to focus on building up their starting rotation. In 2013, the Twins had a league-worst ERA of 5.26 as well as the lowest number of strikeouts per nine innings pitched.1
Obviously Twins management realized this was a problem that needed to be fixed. The team filled in some holes by picking up free agents Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes and also resigned Mike Pelfrey. With more pitchers available, the Minnesota Twins have more options to work with for the upcoming season. However, the Twins have more problems to solve this offseason than just putting together a starting staff.
With Joe Mauer’s permanent move to first base and the departure of free agent Ryan Doumit, the Twins also had to find a replacement catcher, which they did when they signed free agent Kurt Suzuki. As for Mauer, the Twins hope that the defensive shift will keep the oft-injured Minnesota native healthy. He’s still in recovery mode from a 2013 concussion that ended his season prematurely on August 19 and may not be ready for the start of the regular season.
With a need to bolster their offense, the team brought back former Twin Jason Kubel. Kubel, although only signed to a minor league deal thus far, could provide much needed offensive spark and could fill the Twins’ need for a DH or left fielder. Kubel was a regular contributor to the Twins’ offense during the 2008-2010 seasons (averaging 23 HR and 91 RBI) and hit 30 home runs for the Diamondbacks in 2012.
All of the aforementioned moves were made with the goal of making an immediate impact for the 2014 season, as well as serving as a stopgap measure until the Twins top prospects are ready. The team’s farm system is ranked within the top five minor league organizations in Major League Baseball and includes talented prospects like Alex Meyer, Eddie Rosario, and Miguel Sano.
Meyer, a 6’9″ hard-throwing pitcher, was acquired in a trade with the Nationals for Denard Span prior to the 2013 season. Meyers had a strong first season in his first year in the organization (84 Ks in 70 IP at Double-A), and is known for his hard breaking ball and a fastballs that tops out at 98-99 mph.3 However, with the Twins’ recent pickups, Meyer probably isn’t likely to see time in the major leagues this year, but is definitely a player to watch out for in 2015.
Rosario, who is incredibly quick and defensively talented, could fill the Twins need for another outfielder in the near future. Rosario also has offensive potential, which the Twins need desperately. The 22-year-old, however, was recently suspended for 50 games for his second violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment program, which will surely slow down his development and may impact his chances to play in the Majors.
Sano, just 20 years old, is already proving that he can be an offensive force. The third baseman hit 28 home runs for Beloit (‘A’) and continued his home run prowess in 2013 with 35 home runs between advanced ‘A’ Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain.2 The Twins see a future with Sano and he could potentially see playing time in the big leagues during the upcoming season.
Update 3/1 – Bad news for Miguel Sano; the #6 prospect in Baseball America’s Top 100, will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss all of the 2014 season and most of 2015.
Overall, the Twins have patched together a team that has some potential for this season, but the Twins’ real future lies with its minor league prospects.