Friday, March 27, 2015

Twins Spring Training Q&A

The Minnesota Twins have just over a week left down in Fort Myers for spring training prior to heading north for the 2015 Major League Baseball season. We have seen some position battles play out as well as watching who will grab the 5th and final spot in the starting rotation. No matter what though, this team has plenty of intrigue and has plenty of questions left to be answered.

Yesterday, I was asked a couple of questions on Twitter (find me @tlschwerz) in regards to the Twins upcoming season. In an effort to expand upon the answers to a further extent, this seems like the best avenue to go about answering them.

Let's get into it.
Right now, I have the Twins slated for a 79-83 record when the dust settles at the end of the 2015 season. That mark is not going to crack the playoffs, but that's not to say it isn't off. I really believe that no team in the AL Central will reach 90 wins this season (just like I don't see anyone losing 90 games). Detroit should be considered the division favorite, with Chicago and Cleveland falling somewhere after them. For the Twins, supplanting both teams is possible, but will take quite a few breaks.

The offense outperformed expectations last season, but should be poised to handle the regression. Danny Santana, Kurt Suzuki, and Eduardo Escobar probably aren't going to be as offensively capable as they were in 2014, but Torii Hunter, Joe Mauer, and Oswaldo Arcia should be key cogs in 2015. Pitching is going to be the major component for the Twins to grab a wild card spot. Both Hughes and Gibson should provide quality starts each time out, and if the Twins can get that from Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco, or the 5th guy, they'll be in a good spot.
Changing Mauer's position again probably depends on the people around him more than it does so on him. I addressed just how good I think he can be at first base this year, but no matter what he's an athlete. Kennys Vargas is never going to take time away from him, but Miguel Sano may need to move spots. Trevor Plouffe is another first base or left field option as well. I'd say the greatest likelihood on a position change is Plouffe, but that probably assume he continues his production.
It pains me a little to send you searching my old site, but it's funny you bring up Wally the Beerman. I actually wrote a piece a couple of months ago on how he may have actually cursed the Twins. The Cubs have their goat, and us Minnesotans love out beer. Check out the full piece here.
I addressed my timeline on Twins Tuesday last week on the Jeff Dubay show (make sure to check that out here). I think Rosario is the first positional callup, and quite possibly sees Target Field before Alex Meyer. Sure, his spring training performance may blow things out of proportion, but he's substantiated things with his minor league play. Had he not been suspended 50 games last year, and struggled to get going, he would have been in Target Field last September.

The Twins probably see Sano make his debut around August and Buxton will follow in September. Sano makes his case with his bat, and if Vargas struggles, the Twins could go to the power hitting third basemen in the designated hitter slot. I still believe Hicks has the ability to bring some of his 2014 minor league ability to the majors, and that allows the Twins to let Buxton get some seasoning. Rounding everything out, I think Jose Berrios gets a cup of coffee type call up in September as long as he shows well in Triple-A this season.
This is somewhat of a loaded question. Centerfield is only a weakness offensively at this point, as Hicks would be a plus defender. In left field, Arcia is definitely a liability. He's in the lineup for his bat and there's no question about that. Throwing Buxton into the equation is a bit premature however.

Buxton played in just 31 games in 2014 and batted .234 across two levels. What happens with baseball's top prospect this season is going to be a fluid discussion. If Hicks can prove that his production in Double and Triple-A last season was real, he will hold down center just fine. A fallback option for the Twins in both left and center would immediately be Rosario (see above, he's ready). If Buxton starts hot in Double-A Chattanooga, the Twins could give make him an option sooner rather than later.

Expecting Buxton to be called up from Double-A makes sense, but the timeline is somewhat foggy without games getting underway. He will be in the majors this season; at what time and under what circumstances remains the question. The Twins are best suited not to fix an immediate issue with a team not expected to win at the cost of a 15 year cornerstone however.