MINNESOTA TWINS (AL CENTRAL)
2013 record: 66-96 (fourth, 27 GB)
Projected 2014: 70.5
World Series odds: 100/1
Key additions: None
X factor: Aramis Ramirez
Projected starting lineup: Infield: C – J. Pinto; 1B – J. Mauer; 2B – B. Dozier; 3B T. Plouffe; SS – P. Florimon. Outfield: LF – J. Willingham; CF – A. Presley; RF – O. Arcia.
Designated hitter: J. Kubel.
Starting rotation: R. Nolasco; K. Correia; P. Hughes; M. Pelfrey; V. Worley.
Closer: G. Perkins
Things got so bad for Minnesota last year that management was forced to break up the best M&M duo since Mantle and Maris.
The Twins weren’t about to part with the golden boy Joe Mauer so it was time to cut bait with longtime first baseman and Canadian hero Justin Morneau, who wound up in Pittsburgh and now takes over for the retired legend Todd Helton in Colorado.
As for Mauer, his critics keep complaining about the lack of homer production. Big deal – Mauer is a great catcher and a perennial All Star hitter. He continues to put up big numbers with the bat (.324 BA, .404 OBP) and will move this season to first base to prolong his career.
The Twins won just 66 games last year with Mauer. Without him they would have been worse than Houston, and that’s pretty bad. At least they have that beautiful ballpark and not that monstrosity with the hefty bag outfield “wall” plus a roof that collapsed when it snowed.
Actually the Twins do have a few solid players and a master plan – improve that sorry pitching staff. Enter Ricky Nolasco (Marlins/Dodgers) and Phil Hughes (Yankees) to join Kevin Correia, who led the staff with just nine wins.
The bullpen is solid with Glenn Perkins (36 saves) and Jared Burton (27 holds) if the offense and starting staff can get these guys the lead through seven innings.
Josh Willingham and DH Jason Kubel are capable of 25 homers and second baseman Brian Dozier showed nice pop with 18 dingers last year. Third baseman Trevor Plouffe has potential but his numbers have declined from his promising rookie season.
The Twins open with five on the road, facing the White Sox and Indians. Then it’s nine straight in the Twin Cities where the temperature is bound to be pretty chilly in early April.
Bottom line: Nine of those first 12 games are against the AL Central so we’ll see early if Minnesota has enough to keep fans interested the entire season and not thinking Vikings football with perhaps Johnny Manziel by mid May.
On deck: New York Mets
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].