By my figuring, here’s what I’ve come up with:
Now obviously, there’s plenty of fluidity in the starting lineup. A lot hinges on the health of well, everyone. There’s certainly a scenario that includes Morneau, Doumit, and Mauer all shifting one position down in the posted lineup, and there’s also a chance that Mr. Revere will patrol CF if Span’s concussion issues aren’t culled completely. This could be a really good offense if all falls into place, especially if the lower third is Valencia-Plouffe-Casilla, as I'd envision. I don't typically bounce off the walls with Twins signings, but this Willingham one has me doing just that. Parker Hageman of Over The Baggy and TwinsCentric says it better than I ever could here. For a point of reference on me and my feelings about Twins signings, the last one I was really excited about was Mike Lamb. Mike. Stinking. Lamb. Yeah, I get pretty vested in these Twins signings, one might say.
It doesn’t really matter how little one likes Butera; he’s almost guaranteed a spot on the roster. He’s a good catch-and-throw guy and for some reason Pavano’s personal caddy (we’ll get into that another time), and if the Twins can limit him to 100 plate appearances, that is probably OK. Ideally speaking, the Twins won’t let Doumit catch any more than they have to, especially in light of the work that Mike Fast has done over at Baseball Prospectus --free and it will change your life-- which basically portrayed Ryan as a complete disaster back there. Hughes is out of options, and carries a little position flexibility and and decent stick. I think there’s a good chance they pair him with a defensively-minded shortstop --perhaps Pedro Florimon is added back to the 40-man roster if a guy like Ronny Cedeno isn’t added-- to round out the infield. Revere will be the rover on the bench, though I could see a scenario where the Twins try Willingham in right and let Plouffe come off the bench with Ben patrolling left. That would be a more ideal defensive combination on a staff that’s like to induce a ton of bird chasers in 2012.
1. Scott Baker
2. Carl Pavano
3. Francisco Liriano
4. Nick Blackburn
5. OPEN (Liam Hendriks/Brian Duensing/P.J. Walters/Scott Diamond/Terry Doyle)
I hear those yawns. Yes, this is basically the same rotation as last season. Yes, I do think Blackburn is guaranteed a rotation spot even after a rough 2012. And yes, I do think this rotation can get the team to the playoffs. Wait, what? That’s right; I think the Twins can make the playoffs in 2012. Does a lot need to go right? Oh, absolutely. But if the health woes that plagued the team can be even moderately overcome, I think the team has done well enough in free agency to at least put itself into position to be an 85ish win club next year. In this rotation, the hurlers will need plenty of help from their defense. It was sort of a chicken-and-egg quandary last year, as the Twins abandoned J.J. Hardy and Orlando Hudson, and as a result the overall up-the-middle defense suffered. Not surprisingly, that meant the team’s BABIP against went from .302 to .310 from 2010 to 2011, which includes a jump from a .239 mark on grounders in ‘10 to a .269 mark in ‘11.
MU- Anthony Swarzak
MR- Brian Duensing, OPEN, OPEN
SU- Glen Perkins
CL- Matt Capps
Potential fillers include Esmerling Vasquez, Kyle Waldrop, Alex Burnett, Lester Oliveros, Matt Maloney, Carlos Gutierrez, and Jeff Gray.
This is more of a rag-tag group. I think Swarzak is guaranteed a spot after a pretty solid 2011, though I think it’d be a mistake to give him any high-leverage innings. With his banishment to the pen, I think Duensing will start out as a LOOGY or short stint type guy at first, but maybe he can have a Perkins-esque revival as well. I’m not as hopeful about that, but he’s useful if used correctly. I like Perkins in the setup role, but I’m not in love with Capps as the closer. As someone who has had fleeting contact with him over the last year or so, I’ll say this much: he’s an excellent guy, and nobody takes their struggles more seriously than he does. Still, his skill set just isn’t that of a shutdown closer.
So where does this leave the club? Well, certainly with one opening in the offense, which is likely to be more of a bench bat than anything. If the club could ink a guy like Luke Scott on the cheap to fill out the bench and play outfield on a regular basis, that would probably be a pretty good under-the-radar move. I’m not holding my breath, however.