Spring training is nearly upon us, and while there are still two weeks remaining in which the Twins might make a move on the free-agent market (Joe Saunders, please pick up the white courtesy phone), for now it appears the roster is more or less set. Let's take a position-by-position look at the spring roster, and try to understand what to expect in February and March.
Joe Mauer says he wants to catch 120 games this year, but given that Ron Gardenhire tends to give Mauer all day games, at least one game of every four-game series, and all Jewish and/or Jedi holidays off from catching, sheer mathematics dictates that 120 will be a tough number to reach.
Drew Butera will catch 25 games, which will lead to him batting 125 times, which should lead to - if all goes well - eight, maybe nine hits for the big guy this year.
The remainder of the games will be caught by Ryan Doumit, which is good in the sense that if he is behind the plate, he will not be injured by a routine fly ball in left field.
Everyone will play first base.
Theoretically Justin Morneau will play the most, but you'll look back at the end of the season and realize that 179 different players played at least one inning at first base in 2013, which is impossible.
Over at second, there will be some confusion, as the Twins are going into spring training with the assumption that Jamey Carroll will, if needed, play both second base and shortstop. Brian Dozier, he of the 2,400 errors at shortstop last year, went down to Venezuela to play second in winter ball, and has also been working with Paul Molitor over at the University of Minnesota to learn the fundamentals of the position. (You may laugh, but winter work at the U is what turned Corey Koskie into a decent major-league third baseman.)
I suspect that the Twins would like Dozier to prove he can play second a lot of the time, so that Carroll - who is eligible to collect Social Security next season - can be deployed in a utility role. Eduardo Escobar is theoretically also in the mix, but nobody seems too high on him, so he'll need to hit about .450 in the spring to get noticed.
The team appears to be treating this as Pedro Florimon's job to lose, which is strange because I don't recall Florimon getting a single hit last season. I know he must have, but I can't recall any of them.
The Twins do love his defense, though. They may actually sew "Florimon, He Can Really Pick It" on the back of his jersey this year, as that's what Gardenhire says about him in every interview - and if I'd watched Brian Dozier play a half-season at shortstop, I'd be putting a premium on defense too.
Assuming Florimon does not embarrass himself or his family in spring training, he should start at shortstop this season.
The Twins have not yet brought in a third baseman to "challenge" Trevor Plouffe, as planned, so I assume that Plouffe will spend spring training playing third base from a chaise longue, drinking a mai tai and shouting "Hang loose, brah!" at the pitcher.
The team seems to happy with "internal options" to challenge Plouffe at third, which I'm guessing means that if he doesn't play well, they'll send Jamey Carroll and his Lego head to loom over Plouffe's bed in a Scared Straight kind of thing.
Josh Willingham will play left field. The Twins are hoping for another monster year from him at the plate, for three reasons:
- His defense is just a couple notches above the Delmon Young Fly Ball Carnival, so if he's going to have any value, he'd better hit.
- He's the team's most powerful hitter, and the team desperately needs power.
- The better he hits, the more valuable he is at the trade deadline.
When Willingham is not playing, which unfortunately tends to be often, left field will be manned by OH GOD PLEASE NOT RYAN DOUMIT, THE MAN HAS CHILDREN, HE IS IN MORTAL DANGER OUT THERE, NEVER MIND ACTUALLY CATCHING FLY BALLS
This whole article could have been titled, "Who will play center field for the Twins in 2013?" because that's all we really care about. The travails of Aaron Hicks, Joe Benson, and Darin Mastroianni will likely be given their own daily pull-out special section of the newspaper, and I for one will read every column-inch of that paper. Can Hicks jump over Triple-A and become the latest descendant of the Twins Center Field dynasty? Can Benson get himself together? Can Mastroianni escape his current status as "terrible default option that nobody wants to see?"
Let's be honest: we're all cheering for Hicks here. No offense to Mastroianni or Benson, of course. But Hicks walks like a madman (88, 78, and 79 in the last three years), stole 32 bases and hit 11 triples last year, and even displayed some power for the first time in the minors. His ceiling is "awesome," whereas Mastroianni's ceiling is "serviceable," and Benson's ceiling is "not the disappointment he was last year."
I made fun of Chris Parmelee a lot last year, because he'd never played in Triple-A. He played a lot at Triple-A last year and murdered it. His OPS didn't even fit on the page. My computer ran out of numbers.
That said, he also hit .229 / .290 / .380 in the majors, with just five homers in 220 plate appearances, so let's hope he continues to develop in 2013, this time in the big leagues.
Scott Diamond is the staff ace, so we are not allowed to talk about his inability to strike anyone out, or his distinctly middling stats from July 1 on last year. Got it? Staff ace. Let's move on.
The team also signed Kevin Correia, and nobody had a single thing bad to say about it.* (*NOTE: Not true. Correia is the most-hated Twin already, without ever donning the team's uniform.)
The team will have a fifth starter, but it could be anyone. It could be you. Get your arm in shape.
Strangely, everyone feels pretty good about this. Glen Perkins is a decent closer. Jared Burton is an excellent setup man. Brian Duensing is an good reliever and a terrible starter, and the team seems to have finally realized this; he may be the second setup guy, or he may be a LOOGY, as he is death on lefties but gets crushed by righties.
Beyond those three, it remains to be seen whether Alex Burnett can continue his deal with the devil for another season, or whether Tyler Robertson can finally establish himself as the folk hero that he should be. Anthony Swarzak will pitch in 50 games again without you ever seeing him because if he's in the game then you've probably already flipped over to reruns of American Gladiators. Casey Fien is still around. The team signed Tim Wood in the offseason, and he has a great name, so that's something, too.
Ron Gardenhire is in the last year of his contract. Unlike every other coach in every other sport, he's totally okay with this, because he knows that if the team is terrible again, then he probably deserves to be fired. I like Gardy a lot.
Terry Steinbach is now the bench/catching coach, and Tom Brunansky is now the hitting coach. Expect dingers.
Joe Vavra is now the third-base coach. Got that, everyone? When Josh Willingham gets thrown out by thirty feet at the plate, it's now Vavra you want to yell at.
On the pitching side, Rick Anderson is still the pitching coach, but for some reason Bobby Cuellar keeps talking about the furniture he's going to move into the pitching coach's office.
When I played American Legion baseball in high school, I had a teammate who would shout, following the day's lineup being read, "Sounds like a win, boys!"
I'd like to believe that about the Twins, too. But we were occasionally the worst Legion team in South Dakota, and played a right fielder who had his arm in a cast for an entire season. I think this may be a metaphor of some kind.