Monday, March 30, 2015

Twins Unveil Season Plans A Week Early

Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press
The Minnesota Twins are set to play the Boston Red Sox in five of their last six spring training games. The first of those contests takes place tonight as the Twins travel down the road to Jet Blue Park. The biggest storyline of the day however is the lineup in which the Twins will take into the contest, exactly a week away from Opening Day.

Paul Molitor and Terry Ryan have been busy making decisions lately. Aaron Hicks was sent down, Shane Robinson was added to the 40 man roster, and Blaine Boyer appears to have made the club. Today however, the lineup that the Twins new skipper will go with looks exactly like what we should be expecting on Opening Day.

Here is how the Twins are set to line up:
  • Santana SS 
  • Dozier 2B
  • Mauer 1B
  • Hunter RF 
  • Vargas DH 
  • Plouffe 3B 
  • Arcia LF 
  • Suzuki C 
  • Schafer CF 
Kyle Gibson was initially slated to start the game for the Twins, but has been scratched due to an illness. In his place, new roster addition Boyer will get the start for the away team. Looking at the lineup tonight however, we can begin to dissect what the Twins will bring to the plate against the Tigers a week from now.

The top of the lineup appears as expected, but it does also provide reason for displeasure. If you remember a couple of weeks back, Molitor mentioned being open to batting Joe Mauer second. That lasted all of 24 hours and was immediately abandoned. Lacking power and being an on base machine, Molitor would have been best suited to stick to that plan. Brian Dozier hits far too many solo home runs, and keeping him in the two hole does nothing to fix that. Mauer makes sense as a leadoff man from an OBP (on base percentage) perspective, but if you want to overlook him for speed, he absolutely should hit second.

From there, the lineup takes a bit more sensible shape. Torii Hunter was billed as a mentor, but there's no doubt the man can still hit. He probably won't push 20 home runs in Target Field, but hitting for power and average is something he is still plenty capable of. Kennys Vargas rounds out the heart of the order, and that should dispel any silly talk about him not going north. He's got holes in his swing, and he's going to strike out, but that power is going to play just fine.

At the bottom half of the lineup, the Twins show some luxury. Trevor Plouffe took considerable strides forward on both sides of the ball in 2014. From a defensive perspective, he looked like a major league caliber third basemen, and it was more than enough to hold off Miguel Sano. His bat played well and could potentially flash even more power this season. Having Oswaldo Arcia hit 7th is indicative of the lineup strength as a whole. Tom Brunansky has pushed his ability in recent months, and he should be poised for a breakout 2015. I have him hitting over 30 home runs and think he leads the Twins in that category.

Both Kurt Suzuki and Jordan Schafer are essentially placeholders at the bottom. Suzuki experienced the best statistical season in recent memory last year, and is going to have a tough time replicating that. If Josmil Pinto rotates in and out with Suzuki in the eight hole, that power should be an asset that far down in the order. Schafer provides the speed of the prototypical second leadoff man. The Twins will have to hope he gets on base and hits to even a fraction of the amount he did a year ago (he likely won't if his career numbers have anything to say about it), but he's a serviceable nine hitter.

Minnesota largely outperformed offensively a year ago. Losing 90 games was more indicative of a poor pitching situation than anything. This time around, Minnesota has all but fixed the starting rotation and the offense looks primed to handle some regression. Expect this team to open some eyes, and this lineup to win plenty of ballgames.