Denard Span likely is viewed as being a long shot of winning the position, but I do think that he's going to give the other two a run for their money. He knows that this might be his last shot of starting with the Twins as they have a strong group of outfielders both competing with him, and in the wings that perhaps provide more to the team than he does. I think he's going to be a great competitor this spring and I think he's going to surprise many doubters. He has good speed and a strong glove. He doesn't utilize his speed effectively on offense, but can cover quite a bit of ground on defense. He feels his base stealing is his weakness and if he can improve his instincts and can continue to develop gap power, he could be a fine outfielder.
If you'd like some of his thoughts on Spring Training, make sure to check out his short interview at Twins Territory in which he says:
"I'm ready to compete with whomever, whether it be Pridie or Gomez. I expect it to be a war in spring training because I gotta believe that they are just as hungry as I am. I know for a fact that I have a bigger chip on my shoulder because neither of those guys have been disrespected or slapped in the face like I've been by others and the Twins this off season."I expect this to be a great competition. Hopefully they all come out and give it their all.
Carlos Gomez was the centerpiece of the Johan Santana trade and is viewed as the future center fielder for the Twins. At just 21 years old in 2007, injuries forced him to have a short stay in AAA which was not what the Mets had planned. And as he struggled in his first trip to the majors, many think he could start the season back in AAA to help his development. However, I think that Gomez is the kind of player who will benefit more from seasoning in the majors. He reminds me a lot of Carl Crawford a lot and I think he'll likely progress the same way Crawford did as the Rays gave him more and more seasoning in the majors, despite the fact that he may not have been ready at first. Something else that may make you take another look at just how close Crawford and Gomez truly are, their minor league stats are very close:
Scouts rave about Gomez's defense and speed. He has gold glove potential and may steal 50+ bases per season. The one critical thing that scouts are unsure about is his bat. Despite the fact that he's 6'4'' and has a solid 200 lbs. frame, he does possess great power, at least not yet. Phil Miller explains that his bat speed is what has truly impressed him is not just his speed while covering the outfield and running the bases, but his great bat speed at the plate. The thing the team wants to work on him with is improving his on base percentage while getting more extra base hits. He's a very exciting player who could some day make people (at least somewhat) forget about Johan Santana.
Crawford: .295/.336/.400, 17 home runs, 27 triples, 134 stolen bases
Gomez: .278/.339/.399, 18 home runs, 20 triples, 141 stolen bases
Jason Pridie is another newly acquired outfielder who came along with Delmon Young and Brendan Harris in the Matt Garza trade early this off-season. He was actually drafted by the Twins in the 2005/2006 Rule V Draft but was returned to the Rays after he failed to make the Twins roster out of Spring Training. Upon his arrival back the the Rays, he struggled mightily in 2006 in AA. But 2007 he broke out and put together a great season where he hit .303/.352/.487 with 32 doubles, 11 triples, 14 home runs and 66 RBI in 524 at bats between stays in AA and AAA. He's viewed as being the most ready to take on the load of being an everyday player in the majors and could be the front runner as Spring Training begins.
Like I said, I think it's going to be a great battle with hopefully everyone deserving of the job. I personally think that the Twins will be so impressed with Carlos Gomez's potential and the fact that he's so exciting to watch, that they will choose him to start the season as the starter. If he starts, I think that Pridie makes the roster as well as he doesn't really have anything left to prove in AAA and would be a very good bench player.
But honestly, as long as it's a good competition, I really don't care who wins as long as the one who shows the most, wins the job.
• At Twinkie Town, there's a poll wondering who will become the Twins new clubhouse leader. I chose Michael Cuddyer, who did you choose?
• Josh Taylor gives us his Pre-Pre Season Predictions for the AL Central. I think that they are pretty accurate, but of course I'd love to see a different outcome.
• Seth Stohs is asking for readers to ask him questions, and he'll be answering them as the week goes on. He also proposes a re-alignment in the divisions.
• La Velle E. Neal III gives us some interesting bits of information on a few players.
• And yesterday, I told readers to make sure to check out both Neal's and Joe Christensen's blogs while I totally bypassed telling readers to make sure to check out Phil Miller's blog as well.
• Speaking of Christensen's blog, he posted a part of an article from the St. Petersburg Times which has Carl Crawford calling out ex-teamates Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes. I think he's right in some of his accusations and I don't think that they are all bad things. I too believe Young will mature more and become a better player now that he's out of Tampa Bay.