Minnesota Twins Offensive Projections, 2011

This is another thing I like doing every year, although for the first time I was a miserable failure in 2010. In previous seasons I'd done pretty well--accurately projecting a handful of players within 10 points of their actual OPS and missing wide on just a fair couple. But last year, for any number of reasons, I completely blew it. Here are my projections, and here are the totals. See for yourself my epic failure.

I'll carry on this year, in the hopes that my crystal ball is a bit less hazy this time around.

Note: Projections only exist for players on the 40-man roster.

Catchers

Name Games PA AB Hits 2B 3B HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Joe Mauer 138 593 519 175 36 1 15 74 61 .337 .420 .497 1
Drew Butera 52 156 149 32 6 1 2 7 24 .215 .250 .309 0

If the Twins need a third catcher, I don't even know who they'd go to on the roster at this point. Danny Lehman seems to be the first port of call in Rochester, but after that I have no idea.

Anyway, for our two catchers there won't be many surprises. Mauer will mash and get on base, and I see him getting a few more homers in lieu of some doubles, but I doubt we'll see him hit anywhere near 30 home runs as he did in 2009. Then again, it's not like we saw that coming, either. For Butera we see slight improvement, but he's still going to be an all-defense backstop. I don't think I've done anything too outrageous here.

There will be a bigger gamble or two after the jump.

Infielders

Name Games PA AB Hits 2B 3B HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Justin Morneau 122 525 467 131 33 1 28 58 79 .281 .360 .535 0
Tsuyoshi Nishioka 141 606 557 158 36 4 8 49 67 .284 .342 .406 22
Danny Valencia 150 585 543 146 28 2 17 42 87 .269 .321 .422 5
Alexi Casilla 136 530 489 131 19 7 7 41 61 .268 .325 .378 16
Matt Tolbert 68 177 163 40 13 3 4 14 31 .245 .305 .436 3
Trevor Plouffe 61 165 157 35 9 0 5 8 39 .223 .261 .376 2
Luke Hughes 31 74 69 17 5 0 2 5 21 .246 .297 .406 1
Chris Parmelee 14 38 33 8 1 0 2 5 12 .242 .342 .455 0

This is one area where I feel like I may have been too generous power-wise. Maybe not with Morneau, who some people will think I've under-sold, or with Nishioka, who is a bit of a wild card anyway, but with Valencia and even Tolbert I could see it. Even in limited time, I may have given Plouffe, Hughes and Parmelee a lot of credit in limited samples. But it is what it is.

Specifically I shaved a few games off for Morneau, if only because I think Gardenhire will take it easy with him and will take every opportunity to give him a day off. I also think he'll miss a small stretch of games once or twice this season, although not necessarily because of his head. Casilla gets a lot of playing time, some of which will mean covering second on Nishioka's days off, but in general I think this projection is "bullishly optimistic" for him. Most people I know would be ecstatic for him to finish with that line.

Nishioka and Valencia are the only true "full time" infielders, in terms of plate appearances per games played, and I tried to play fair with both of them. While I dropped Valencia's triple slash quite dramatically from last season, we all knew that wasn't sustainable and for a second year guy playing 150 games he clearly holds his own. I also think he can reach 17 home runs, based off some of the power he flashed late last season. He really got a hold of a couple of those home runs.

The reserves are a mish-mash really, with Tolbert and Plouffe the popular choices for the most playing time. Something will have to happen to someone else to get Plouffe up to the Majors long enough to garner that many games, but something inevitably always does. With Hughes and Parmelee I don't see obvious roles. Hughes I see filling out the bench when Thome or Morneau or Cuddyer or Kubel go down for a couple of weeks, while Parmelee's numbers all come in September.

Outfielders

Name Games PA AB Hits 2B 3B HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Denard Span 151 695 625 189 26 8 6 70 81 .302 .373 .398 25
Delmon Young 152 615 584 177 40 1 24 31 93 .303 .338 .498 4
Michael Cuddyer 131 550 500 137 26 3 18 50 87 .274 .340 .446 5
Jason Repko 61 174 161 38 9 1 2 13 43 .236 .293 .342 5
Ben Revere 23 66 60 16 3 1 0 6 7 .267 .333 .350 6
Joe Benson 17 31 28 7 2 0 1 3 8 .250 .323 .429 1
Rene Tosoni 8 17 15 3 1 0 0 2 6 .200 .294 .267 0

We see Cuddyer playing in his fewest games since his injury-shortened '08 campaign, and his shortest healthy season since he was part of the third base experiment back in '05. But his triple slash bounces back from his dip last season, as does Span's. Young continues to improve, particularly in terms of his power game. While none of the three lines are particularly outlandish, predicting healthy seasons and improved production from all three is a relative gamble. If these three guys turn in performances like this, as table setters and supplementary bats for Joe and Justin, this team will be in good shape.

Repko is once again the replacement outfielder, getting a fair amount of time in spot starts and as a late-inning defensive replacement. Benson's and Tonosi's times come in September, while I wouldn't be surprised to see Revere for a week or two randomly at some other point during the season as well.

Designated Hitters

Name Games PA AB Hits 2B 3B HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG SB
Jason Kubel 124 459 414 118 22 1 19 45 83 .285 .355 .480 0
Jim Thome 101 326 273 71 15 0 17 53 85 .260 .380 .502 0

I've already over-estimated playing time in terms of yearly plate appearances, but here is where I did a little cutting. Both of these guys are fully capable of wiping right-handed pitching off the face of the planet, and that is where a lot of these numbers come from. Kubel is used in a bigger plattoon situation than he has in a couple of years, while Thome probably doesn't get as much time as we'd all like him to have, whether this is due to injury or simply the regular rest he's going to need. Overall, however, he's not actually playing that much less than he did in 2010 (108 games, 340 plate appearances), I just don't expect him to repeat the performance he gave us in such limited time. It's unrealistic to expect that.

Conclusions

Overall, by my calculations this team is hitting .281/.346/.441, which is way too high. In 2010 the team hit .273/.341/.422, and while some of that will be made up by more games from Morneau, a good year from Nishioka and a bounceback season by two or three other guys, I would still say my overall projection is a little high. The numbers will come down when pitchers have to hit, and when, inevitably, someone who isn't on the current incarnation of the 40-man roster picks up plate appearances.

How do they look to you? Realistic? Unrealistic? A bit of both?

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