Real games are starting today! Woohoo! Not for the Twins, for that we'll wait until Saturday. However, with the baseball season back in full swing (okay, half swing) Pitcher's Duel is gearing up by writing about what we know best, the Twins. Expect to see our predicted pitching rotation and bullpen either Friday or Saturday and in the meantime, here's our preview of the lineup and bench. Let us know if you agree or disagree in the comments or twitter!
Nils’ Prediction: Joe Mauer
Starting off with a very bold prediction. Mauer will likely take the lion’s share of innings behind the dish with Ryan Doumit, Drew Butera and later in the season Chris Herrmann splitting the remaining the portion. After a 2012 season in which Doumit proved to be an awful defender and Butera continued to be an awful hitter, backup catcher is a more significant issue than it looks.
Andy’s Prediction: Joe Mauer
Not only does he have the greatest ass in Major League Baseball, he can swing the bat. Hopefully this year he can catch around 90-100 games as he only caught in 74 last season. If the Twins ever want to break even on the mega-deal he received, he needs to be behind the plate.
Make the jump!
Nils’ Prediction: Justin Morneau
Just wait. We’ll get to some more controversial predictions, I promise. Morneau will be a fascinating case this year as he claims to have finally recovered from his plague of injuries and enters a contract year. Behind Morneau, the Twins have Mauer, Doumit and Chris Parmelee who will competently fill in when required.
Andy’s Prediction: Justin Morneau
Well, this certainly isn’t a difficult choice. He is in the last year of his deal and it will be interesting to see how things go now that he has been cleared of all the concussion symptoms. If the Twins are smart (which remains to be seen) Morneau will be dealt if he is having a halfway decent season. He could retain a large deal of prospects if he proves he his healthy and hits.
Nils’ Prediction: Jamey Carroll
I remember thinking this time last year that the Carroll signing seemed redundant. The Twins already had Alexi Casilla, Luke Hughes, Trevor Plouffe and hotshot prospect Brian Dozier. Not that I expected much out of any of the aforementioned youngsters, but I figured one of them would step up. Well, I was very wrong. Turns out, Carroll is a necessary cog going into 2013. We can expect another average season out of Carroll where he’ll settle in as the every day second baseman. Behind Carroll will be Eduardo Escobar who offers little beyond a versatile glove.
Andy’s Prediction: Jamie Carroll
When I first tried to think who should play here, my first thought was Tsuyoshi Nishioka but then I remembered he did so bad he actually told the Twins they didn’t have to pay him anymore. Carroll is the only player who makes sense here and he can be a solid defender and put up some decent at bats.
Nils’ Prediction: Pedro Florimon Jr.
It really pains me to make this prediction. I would much prefer to see somebody else, but there’s just nobody else that could start. Besides, Florimon has the Gardenhire seal of approval; hopefully, with good ‘ol Gardy’s ass on the hot seat that seal won’t stick too much. Escobar will back up shortstop as well.
Andy’s Prediction: Pedro Florimon Jr.
He is a glove-first guy who would have trouble hitting his way out of a wet paper bag. If he is able to match his .318 OBP from the minors, he could become an above-replacement level player. Brian Dozier could be a possibility as well. Though his tour through the Majors didn’t go well, he could be solid. Throughout the minors he has shown the ability to get on-base and has some gap power.
Nils’ Prediction: Trevor Plouffe
The Twins reportedly spent the off-season looking for a better option at third; however, that quest ended fruitlessly. So Plouffe will go into the Spring with a hold on third. I’m a Plouffe fan, but he’s not the long-term answer. For now, there are bigger fish to fry (second base and shortstop). The backup? You guessed it, Escobar.
Andy’s Prediction:Trevor Plouffe
I am not as excited about this guy as Nils. On any contending team, I see Plouffe as a utility guy with power. He has pop but low OBP skills. I didn’t get to see his defense much this year but what I saw was shaky and I think the Twins may need to find a replacement for him soon enough as they wait for Baseball America’s number nine prospect, Miguel Sano.
Nils’ Prediction: Josh Willingham
I’m happy to be back in my safe zone. Willingham’s health could be a bigger issue than Twins fans know. He set a career high in plate appearances in 2012 while still missing 17 games and he’s 33. Consequently, the backup here is more important than at any other position besides catcher. My bet is on Joe Benson to grab a hold on the fourth outfielder spot out of camp. Benson can field all three outfield positions easily and has some seriously dynamic tools on offense. He had a really tough season in 2012, but good health in 2013 could result in a surprisingly good season.
Andy’s Prediction: Josh Willingham
How he was not dealt this offseason baffles me. Yes, he did have a great 2012, but I expect him to regress. The Twins traded two-thirds of their outfield so what stopped them from dealing Willingham. Maybe they dangled him and didn’t get what they wanted. He could be dealt come June or July. I do love his power though. I was able to see him one game at U.S. Cellular and he made the park look like a little league field. Could be a bright spot of the Twins outfield.
Nils’ Prediction: Darin Mastroianni
Ah, Gardy has his leadoff hitter. A guy who can’t hit or walk, but damn does he look good in a uniform, he can run and he plays up the middle! Sarcasm alert, but I’d be surprised to see anyone else manning center and the leadoff spot come Opening Day. Joe Benson comes in handy here, because he’s a wonderful backup centerfielder and will probably send Mastro to the bench a couple times a week. Where’s highly touted prospect Aaron Hicks you ask? He’s down in Rochester. Don’t worry, he’ll be up and starting in the Mastroianni’s stead before May 15th.
Andy’s Prediction: Joe Benson
This prediction may not actually happen but I would like for it to. He was once a top prospect for the Twins and already has experience at the MLB level. He is coming off injury so he might be off to a slow start but why not give him a shot to get back to his ceiling. He is just keeping the seat warm though for Aaron Hicks as I predict him to get the call once the team is protected against him getting Super-Two status.
Nils’ Prediction: Chris Parmelee
Here’s another position we’ll see some change in for 2013. With Revere and Span gone, right field is open for whoever can handle it. That might not be the best choice of words, as Parmelee actually can’t handle any outfield position defensively. But his bat will force him into the lineup, which will sorely need good hitters. I expect that if Parmelee proves himself to be even a 2.5 win hitter, the Twins will let Morneau walk and move Parmelee to his natural position, first base. Joe Benson will get some time out in right as well as center and left, however, the primary backup will be Ryan Doumit. Ideally, we’ll see Parmelee play 150+ games, but Gardy will have to get Doumit’s bat in the lineup as well.
Andy’s Prediction: Chris Parmelee
As you can tell, Nils and I are on the same page for many of these players. I hope Parm gets a full season to show the team what he can do. He hasn’t been able to get a full season under his belt and I don’t see any reason he would get benched. Many see him as the guy to take over for Morneau so sticking him here is to get him AB’s. Could be a power bat if everything plays out.
Nils’ Prediction: Ryan Doumit
Doumit should be the primary DH. As much as I rag on his defense, he can freaking rake. Expect Doumit to start half of the season as the DH and spend the other half trading positions with Mauer, Morneau and Parmelee.
Andy’s Prediction: Ryan Doumit
I think we learned what Doumit can and cannot do in 2012. He can hit. In 528 plate appearances, he hit 18 bombs and had a solid .275/.320/.461 slash line. He just signed an extension through the 2014 season and at an affordable salary. He could easily give the Twins their money's worth if he is able to give them one to two wins. What can he not do? He cannot catch. While studying pitch framing statistics at Baseball Prospectus, we learned he is among the worst. He should stick with first base, right field (very occasionally) and DH.
Bench Spots (Up to Four)
Nils’ Prediction: Eduardo Escobar, Drew Butera, Joe Benson
This I’m not nearly certain about, but I’m guessing the Twins take just 12 hitters North. Partially because about 3/5’s of the rotation is either returning from injury or completely up the in air and partially because there aren’t any good options. Ideally, the Twins could bring up a corner guy (maybe Chris Colabello or Jeff Clement) who could come off the bench to pinch hit and provide some pop. Unfortunately, there just aren’t any of those players on the roster now. Mike Carp was rumored as an option, but he’s since been nabbed by Boston. So for now, we’ll settle for no-bat all-glove youngsters as the backups. Regardless, I wouldn’t get too worked up about it, I expect this team to look very different by July with the additions of Aaron Hicks and possibly Brian Dozier and Oswaldo Arcia to the Major League Roster.
Andy’s Prediction: C-Chris Herrmann, INF- Brian Dozier OF- Darin Mastroianni 1B- Jeff Clement
This bench is likely not to happen. I imagine the team wants Dozier and Hermann to get consistent at bats so they will likely be assigned to Rochester. The good thing about Hermann is he isn’t Drew Butera. If Butera makes the roster again, I may lose it. He can’t hit and the defense he provides doesn’t override how much he can’t hit. If anything, they should put him on the mound (remember how he touched 94 against Milwaukee?).
Dozier can play all three infield spots (first doesn’t count as an infield position because playing “bench” can sometimes be more difficult) and he has proven he can hit in the minors.
Darin Mastroianni will most likely play centerfield until Hicks is called up. He clearly isn’t an everyday type of player so why not put him on the bench so he can learn his role. He plays a decent center and could hit enough to be a solid bench player.
Jeff Clement. I remember the good ol’ days when he was a top prospect for the Mariners after being drafted third overall out of USC. Now he is not going to provide much value but it would be interesting to see how he does with a full season, even if it is on a bench. He once hit 21 homers in the minors and 16 last season in the Pirates organization. If he can give some pop off the bench, he can’t hurt.