I like to think of myself as a realist. Okay, yes, with an optimist's tilt, I can't really argue with that, but hopefully I'm fairly rooted in reality somewhere along the line. Looking forward to the summer to come, and with my "realist" cap on, here are a few predictions for the 2014 season and the Twins.
The Twins will lose 90+ games for a fourth consecutive season
I think the Twins are a better team than last season, at least on the pitching side. The offense may or may not actually get better, and I'm not really holding my breath, but I do think that the starting rotation gives the team a better chance to be competitive.
But yes, I still think they lose more than 90 games. I'll go with 71-91, which is a five-game improvement over 2013.
There will be changes in the organizational structure
I wasn't quite sure how to put this, but basically: if the Twins lose 90+ games for the fourth season in a row, something will change. Whether this means that Ron Gardenhire steps down or whether it means that it's Terry Ryan instead, I do think that another terrible season will have repercussions on the management structure of the franchise.
Joe Mauer will play 150+ games AND win a batting title
Losing 91 games doesn't mean that everything is doom and gloom. I think it's more than feasible that Joe moving to first base leaves his legs stronger and healthier all season, and that will translate not just to more of him but a more productive version as well. Mauer starts 125 games in by starting at first base plus a couple dozen starts as the team's designated hitter, and he wins a batting title with a .356 batting average.
Josh Wilingham is traded at the deadline
After a slow start, Willingham comes on in the middle of May and continues to mash into early July. With the Twins 16 games out of first the team pulls the trigger on a trade just prior to the All-Star break, sending him to Boston where the Red Sox are looking for offense down the stretch.
Kyle Gibson puts in a full season
An up and down April leads into a three-month stretch where Gibson goes 7-2 with a 2.80 ERA. His arm wears down in August and September and the Twins are careful with his innings, but on the season he puts in 31 starts and 181 innings for a campaign that restores faith in his ability to help hold down the rotation over the next half decade plus.
Twins Trade Kevin Correia in August
With a strong performance from Alex Meyer in Triple-A, by July it's clear that he's ready for a promotion to the Majors. The Twins hold him back for a few weeks before finding a partner for Correia early in August, clearing a rotation spot for the flame-throwing right-hander.
Gardenhire adds six more ejections to his running list
According to his career averages for ejections-per-games-managed, this is a bit high. But I think he hits a rough patch and maybe some frustration rears its head. Six ejections would push his career totals into the 70s.
Brian Dozier takes a step backward on offense
Dozier still has a good season, but the home run totals are cut in half. The batting average jumps to the .250s and the on-base percentage jumps into the .320s, but the slugging percentage dips below .400 as a couple of extra doubles can't off-set the loss of nine home runs.
Oswaldo Arcia becomes the cleanup hitter
By the time the calendar moves to June, the Twins will have been shuffling their batting order quite regularly in an attempt to find the best mix possible. One big change is moving Arcia into the number four spot, giving "protection" to Mauer. Arcia hits 28 home runs and slugs over .500, becoming a recognized name around the league.
Ricky Nolasco wins 14 games
Nolasco, while unremarkable, quietly gives the Twins exactly what they need: 208 innings and 34 starts, picking up three complete games and a shutout along the way. The season ERA isn't anything to write home about, coming in at just a shade over 4.00, but it's a very solid year for the biggest free agent contract in franchise history.
Maybe you can pick a few things that are a bit more "out there". What predictions do you have in the books for the Twins this year?