Team Ace: Vance Worley
Most Valuable Position Player: Joe Mauer
Breakout Candidate: Vance Worley
Notable Offseason Additions: Vance Worley, Kevin Correia
Notable Offseason Losses: Ben Revere, Denard Span, Matt Capps
Biggest Team Weakness: Pitching
First, the positives going into the season. Superstar catcher Joe Mauer returned to form last season and looks to have finally solved his health problems from two years ago. Justin Morneau also looks to be healthy and at 31 has a chance to make a huge impact offensively for the Twins. The team also has four young prospects, outfielders Aaron Hicks and Chris Parmelee, shortstop Pedro Florimon, and utility man Trevor Plouffe, who should be better this season than during their short stints in the majors in 2012.
Now, the bad. The two remaining players on their defense are up there in age. Josh Willingham, who did just have a career year, is 34-years-old and doesn’t bring any speed to the outfield. Jamey Carroll, who started his career as an Expo, is now 39 (I actually think it’s incredible a player as boring as Carroll could still find a job at that age. He’s a career .270 hitter with 13 homeruns to his name and had never topped 36 RBI for a season until last year. And he doesn’t steal bases. I particularly enjoy his 2006 campaign where he stole 10 and got caught stealing 12. Were the coaches telling him to run or did he just take off on his own). Even though losing Matt Capps is probably a good thing for the team, the bullpen is really unstable, even more so than last year. And to top it all off, the AL Central is a really improved division, with Cleveland taking steps forward, Kansas City signing James Shields, and Detroit getting Victor Martinez back from injury while they try to defend their American League title.
And last, their starting pitching. I’m a huge Vance Worley fan, and the Twins’ single noticeable acquisition in the off-season brought the righty in from Philadelphia for Ben Revere. I really liked Worley’s potential going into last season, and even after a down year with a few injuries I feel he’ll develop into a solid starter sooner rather than later. But I pictured him as a career high-end second or third option on a team, not a guy at the top of the rotation, which is where the Twins have him listed going into the season. This means one of two things: either the Twins somehow like the young pitcher a lot more than every other team in the league, or their other pitching options are so pathetic that they’re willing to risk Worley’s development by throwing him up against the top pitchers in the AL Central (Justin Verlander, Jake Peavy, James Shields) multiple times a year, slowly shattering his confidence piece by piece for years to come. I figure it’s the latter, and if he does struggle the Twin’s rotation will be looking even worse going into 2014.
I never imagined I would write this much about the Twins, but once I got going I couldn’t stop myself… I kind of feel bad for Jamey now.