March 31, 2008

Your 2008 Minnesota Twins

The Twins open the 2008 season tonight against the Los Angeles Angels. There will be a familiar face in center field for the Angels, as former Twins center fielder Torii Hunter will be making his Angels debut tonight at the dome.

Los Angeles Angels vs. Minnesota Twins

Jered Weaver ..............Livan Hernandez
(0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Meet your 2008 Minnesota Twins.


Starter 1. Livan Hernandez, 33,Right-Handed Pitcher

Outlook: I don't expect a ton from Hernandez. We brought him in to solely eat up innings, and if he can give us a sub 5.00 ERA with over 200 innings, I think I will be satisfied. It will really be up to our offense and defense to help Hernandez out while he's on the mound.

Starter 2. Boof Bonser, 26,Right-Handed Pitcher

Outlook: Bonser shed the pounds, and now it's time for him to show better results on the mound. I expect him to have a much better season than in 2007 and I think we could be seeing Bonser near the 15 win mark.

Starter 3. Nick Blackburn, 26, Right-Handed Pitcher

Outlook: Blackburn doesn't figure to be in the rotation for a long period of time as Francisco Liriano looks to be poised to join the team on their first road trip of the season. Blackburn certainly turned the corner in 2007 and if he can turn in a couple solid performances, perhaps the Twins have found their most attractive trading pieces that they can use at the deadline to upgrade at a different position.

Starter 4. Kevin Slowey, 23, Right-Handed Pitcher

Outlook: The Twins pitcher of the year should be poised for a strong first full season in 2008. He doesn't have overpowering stuff, but his command has drawn comparisons to pitchers such as Greg Maddux and former-twin Brad Radke. His precise control has allowed him to an 8.8 K/9 ratio in the minor leagues, but without great velocity, he needs to stay very good with his control to get near that ratio in the majors.

Starter 5. Scott Baker, 26, Right-Handed Pitcher

Outlook: Probably our best starting pitcher out of the gate, but after a battle with the flu, Baker will end up being the teams 5th starter to begin the season. He really established himself as a solid starting pitcher last season after being called up in May. If he can further establish himself this season, we should expect to see Baker in the Twins rotation well into the new ballpark.


Long Reliever. Brian Bass, 26, Right-Handed Pitcher

Outlook: Bass finally has made his way to the majors. After being drafted in the 6th round of the 2000 draft, Bass was picked up by the Twins prior to the 2007 season. Pitching mostly in relief, Bass had a strong 3.48 ERA through 103 innings in Triple-A. He reminds me a bit of Matt Guerrier, and hopefully he can produce like he has with the Twins. He could be used in Spot Start situations and hopefully can provide a steady arm in the bullpen this season.

Middle Reliever. Jesse Crain, 26, Right-Handed Pitcher

Outlook: After missing all but 18 games in 2007 after undergoing rotator cuff/labrum surgery on his right-shoulder, I don't expect a ton from Crain this year. He had a successful first 3 seasons prior to 2007, and 2008 will likely be focused on just staying healthy. If he can stay healthy all season, I think we can all label this season a success for Crain.

Middle Reliever. Juan Rincon, 29, Right-Handed Pitcher

Outlook: Rincon had a very bad season in 2007, especially after 3 sub 3.00 ERA seasons while working as the main setup man to Joe Nathan. He went 3-3 with a 5.13 ERA in 63 appearances last season, but it was known that he had multiple off-the-field issues that he had to pay attention to during the course of the season. Hopefully everything on the field can click again, but regardless I expect this to be his last season in Minnesota. The Twins love having steady arms in the bullpen, but if he has an amazing year, he'll likely want mega-bucks and a chance to closer or setup elsewhere. And if he has another down year, why keep him? We can really only hope that he has a fantastic year to help the Twins out. If we're out of the race, I can fully expect to see him traded, and if the rest of our bullpen is great, I can see them moving him to upgrade a different position. We'll see, but I expect this to be his final year with the Twins.

LOOGY. Dennys Reyes, 31, Left-Handed Pitcher

Outlook: As the sole left-hander on the Twins opening day roster, a lot will be riding on Reyes' shoulders this season. He had a rough 2007 after a completely dominant 2006. He still posted a reasonable 3.99 ERA in 50 appearances and a lot of his bad outings had to deal with injuries which he fought with for most of the season. He had a great spring and should have a better season this season. I don't expect him to have a sub .90 ERA like he did in '06, but a 2.50-3.00 ERA in nearly 70 appearances would be great.

Set-Up Man. Matt Guerrier, 29, Right-Handed Pitcher

Outlook: Guerrier had a breakout season in '07 in which he emerged as one of the games top setup men in baseball. Guerrier posted a 2.35 ERA through 73 appearances while making 14 holds. He should have another strong season, but I expect him to regress a little closer to his 3.65 career ERA pre-2007. But another solid season is expected.

Set-Up Man. Pat Neshek, 27, Right-Handed Pitcher

Outlook: Neshek has been amazing over the last year and a half with the Twins. He really tailed off at the end of 2007 due to arm fatigue, but he devoted his entire off-season to gaining strength so that doesn't happen again. He was down right dominant the first half of the season and I expect him to have another phenominal season in 2008.

Closer. Joe Nathan, 32, Right-Handed Pitcher

Outlook: With his long-term contract now behind him, hopefully Nathan can check in another All-Star caliber season in 2008. He's been one of the best closers in the game since the Twins acquired him from the Giants before the 2004 season, and he there's no reason to believe he won't continue his dominance this season.


1. Carlos Gomez, 22, Center Fielder

Outlook: Gomez is definitely one of the most exciting players the Twins have had in a while, and he has not even officially played for the Twins in a regular season game. He has the ability to lead the league in stolen bases, win a gold glove, and continue to improve at the plate to someday be an All-Star caliber player. The Twins are going to have a very exciting lineup this season, and it will start at the top.

2. Joe Mauer, 24, Catcher

Outlook: Mauer had a great spring training and is fully healthy coming into the season. If he can stay off the DL and maintain health all season, he should be poised for another All-Star caliber season and could very likely start in his second All-Star game of his career. I don't expect him to hit nearly .350 or even flirt with .400 for any extended period of time, but I do expect him to hit for slightly more power this season while he continues to keep his average well over .300.

3. Michael Cuddyer, 29, Right Fielder

Outlook: Cuddyer doesn't really seem like the most logical fit in the third spot of the lineup, however he provides a steady bat with the ability to drive in quite a few runners. He also had an injury plagued season in 2007 and should be ready for a season closer to his 2006 production in which he had over 100 RBI's and 70 extra-base hits.

4. Justin Morneau, 26, First Baseman

Outlook: After winning the A.L. MVP in 2006, he had a great first half in 2007 before really falling off in the second half. He had 24 of his 31 home runs before the All-Star game. His pre/post All-Star Break splits are incredibly different and hopefully he can regain his 2006 form. He struggled this spring, which could make fans begin to worry after the team just signed him to the biggest contract in franchise history.

5. Delmon Young, 22, Left Field

Outlook: Young seems to be the better fit between Mauer & Morneau, however I do agree with Ron Gardenhire's reasoning to leave Young behind Morneau, which is to protect his first baseman at the plate. Teams won't be able to pitch around Morneau anymore as long as Young is hitting behind him. He's the example of a "free swinger" however he has the potential to be one of the games best hitters and at just 22-years-old, he has the chance to lead a much improved Twins offense. He has made mistakes in his past, but truly seems to have left all of that in Tampa Bay and he should be counted on to provide a very strong bat with great power potential in the heart of the order for the next 10-15 years.

6. Jason Kubel, 25, Designated Hitter

Outlook: Kubel really turned the corner the second half of last season which gives many the thought that this season (instead of last) is when he'll finally break out. He was one of the best all-around hitting prospects to come through the Twins system in recent years (a list that includes both Mauer & Morneau) and he looked poised for stardom until he severely injured his knee before the 2005 season. After missing all of '05 and counting all of 2006 a wash and having the main purpose of staying healthy in '07, he should be ready to step up and provide yet another strong bat to the Twins lineup. Unfortunately, Kubel saw most of his success come while batting in front of Joe Mauer, and this season, he'll have to do it without the help of one of the games best hitters batting behind him. The only reason I don't see Kubel having a breakout season this season is if manager Ron Gardenhire takes away at bats from him by giving them to Craig Monroe, which I have to say is a strong possibility knowing Gardy's tendencies to give veterans their share of at bats.

7. Mike Lamb, 32, Third Base

Outlook: One of the reasons I feel so optimistic about our offense this season is the addition of Lamb at the hot corner. He won't impress anyone with his glove, and I expect the turf at the Dome to give him his fair share of problems, but as long as he can separate offense and defense in his mind, he should give the Twins a big upgrade at the plate. He should give the Twins a great bat at the bottom of the order, and will also provide great veteran presence in the clubhouse as well.

8. Brendan Harris, 27, Second Base

Outlook: Harris finally got a chance to play (almost) everyday with the Rays last year and he certainly delivered. Playing mostly shortstop, he hit 12 home runs and batted in 59 runs while a strong line of .286/.343/.434 in 521 at bats. He's now played in 5 different organizations in 5 years, so hopefully that doesn't take its toll while he's expected to give the Twins a strong bat at the bottom of the order.

9. Adam Everett, 31, Shortstop

Outlook: Everett really does not have to do all that much to make me impressed. As long as he plays steady defense and hits around his career average of .248, I'll be satisfied.

Mike Redmond, 36, Catcher

Outlook: Redmond has really been impressive from behind the plate after signing him prior to the 2005 season. He is a very steady backup to Joe Mauer and should continue to be just that. Redmond is the kind of player you'd hope would be with your team forever, however this sadly may be his last season as his contract expires at the end of the season.

Nick Punto, 30, Utility Infielder/Outfielder

Outlook: As long as Punto comes in and plays good defense when needed, I'll be fine. But when Ron Gardenhire starts giving Punto a spot in the lineup 2-3 times a week (which I think is expected), I'll be extremely pissed. Of course, that is unless he all of a sudden turns it around again and starts hitting the ball. But I think that's very unlikely.
Matt Tolbert, 25, Utility Infielder

Outlook: Tolbert really had a strong first-half last season, but really dropped off in the second half and when many thought he'd be the guy brought up to replace Nick Punto at third base, the coaches in Triple-A labeled him "not ready, mentally" that must have flipped a switch in Tolbert and he came to Spring Training ready to fight for a spot. He hit .289/.347/.356 in 45 at bats this spring. Unfortunately, he's just another light-hitting utility player which the team already has in Punto. But I think that Tolbert will have a great year and will take over as the primary utility player next year, with Punto (likely) out of the picture.
Craig Monroe, 31, Outfielder

Outlook: Craig Monroe was traded for a PTBNL in the off-season and is expected to split time at DH with Jason Kubel. Gardenhire has said that he won't just base his DH decision on a Lefty/Righty basis, but instead will look at the pitching match-up and see who's best suited to face that pitcher. That's a fine reason, but I think it's truly just a way for Gardenhire to give his veteran pickup a few extra at bats. I like Monroe, but I would really like to see him as a fourth outfielder, instead of a platoon mate with Kubel at DH.

And there you have it folks, your 2008 Minnesota Twins. I'm very excited to see what this season brings, and as long as we can stay healthy, I think we can really surprise many teams this season.

I'm going to be at the game tonight, but be sure to post any thoughts you have on the game (or the post) in the comment section. Have a great day!