(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 19th of 30 team reports by GT sports editor Mark Mayer on major league baseball projections for the start of the 2013 season. Today: Minnesota Twins. On deck: New York Mets.)
MINNESOTA TWINS (2012: AL Central 83-79, third, 14 out)
The Minnesota Twins could win more games than either the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox. Problem is the Twins are projected for 68 victories.
The Yanks had their M&M boys Maris and Mantle. Now the M&M boys reside in the Twin Cities, but how long Justin Morneau remains with his good buddy Joe Mauer is anyone’s guess.
And thus, it’s tough to assess how successful 2013 can be for the Twins. There is room for optimism with a beautiful ballpark so much needed to escape that horrible Metrodome. Unfortunately most of Minnesota’s great moments in that horrible dome.
The great old days of Twins baseball were outdoors in Metropolitan Stadium where storied names like Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Rod Carew, Zoilo Versalles, Jim Kaat, Camilo Pasqual once toiled.
You can argue that no two players in the majors are more valuable to a team than Mauer and Morneau. Mauer is the golden child, one of baseball’s best hitters and Minnesota born and raised. The iconic All Star catcher is the franchise player and people’s choice.
Morneau, a Canadian export, is capable of 50 homers or 50 days on the DL. At age 31 and carrying a $15 million a year price tag, management has to decide pretty soon whether to keep, lose or trade him. Meanwhile the big lefty first baseman is looking good in preseason, which is great news for Twins fans.
A healthy Morneau combined with Mauer should be worth at least 68 victories. Pluw this 40-man roster mostly made up of 30-under players with limited stats and info for fantasy players has a few who could step up and challenge a .500 record.
Josh Willingham may have had the quietest 35 HR, 115 RBI season in baseball history. Trevor Plouffe hit 18 of his 24 homers in the first half of 2012. Aaron Hicks, a preseason star, is penciled in at CF to replace the departed Denard Span.
Vance Worley, listed as the No. 1 starter, was just 6-9 last year and has only 18 career victories. Lefty Scott Diamond is the one we figure to take over the ace role. Diamond had a nice 2012, going 12-9 with a tidy 3.54 ERA. Glen Perkins is the closer, coming off Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.
Detroit is clearly the best in the AL Central so the Twins have opportunity to finish as high as second or again in the cellar. We’ll say somewhere in between with at least 70 wins.
Minnesota Twins Projected wins (68)
Infield: C: Joe Mauer; 1B: Justin Morneau; 2B: Jamey Carroll; 3B: Trevor Plouffe; SS Pedro Florinson.
Outfield: LF: Josh Willingham; CF Aaron Hicks; RF Chris Parmalee; CF Aaron Hicks
DH: Ryan Doumit.
Pitching: Vance Worley; Scott Diamond; Mike Pelfrey; Kevin Correia; Kyle Gibson.
Closer: Glen Perkins.
Top reserves: OF Darin Mastroianni; INF Eduardo Escobar; RP Brian Duensing.
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].