A rival scout sizes up the Twins
If the Twins are going to do anything, Joe Mauer has to be Joe Mauer again—and I just don't see it happening. He's no longer a batting-title contender. He's not a 30-home-run hitter. He's a very solid hitter as a catcher, but he's not an automatic All-Star. That $184 million contract they signed him to doesn't look very good right now.... An even bigger concern is Justin Morneau. He's having a lot of trouble pulling the ball—everything he hits is the other way. No one knows if he's ever going to be that scary middle-of-the-order hitter again. If not, they're going to have to consider trading him and moving Mauer to first.... Denard Span and Ben Revere are good, athletic outfielders, but they give you nothing powerwise, and this is a team that's a power-hitting outfielder short of being good. Getting Josh Willingham will help, but he's not a 30-home-run guy in that ballpark, which is a graveyard for hitters.... None of their starters are great: The rotation is full of Number 3s and 4s. The closest thing they have to an ace is Carl Pavano, but he has middle-of-the-rotation stuff at best.... Francisco Liriano was that ace before he got hurt—those days are over. He always got by on his stuff, and when the stuff went away, he didn't adjust. He was a 95- to 97-mph guy before, now he's at 91--93, and his breaking stuff isn't as sharp as it used to be.... They're scrambling to fill out their bullpen. Matt Capps doesn't throw as hard anymore, and the ball doesn't move as much. They don't have a late-inning guy they can count on.... Their system got real thin real fast. If this team goes .500, I'll be surprised.
With 2011 Statistics
MANAGER RON GARDENHIRE
11th season with Twins
Batting average for Twins catchers in 2011, the lowest at the position by any AL team in the expansion era. The return to health of two-time batting champ Joe Mauer and the addition of Ryan Doumit (.303/.353/.477 in '11) should fortify a onetime Minnesota strength.
The Twins' plan is failing at Target Field. In 2011, Minnesota was last in the AL in pitcher strikeouts and last at turning balls in play into outs. You can be bad at one of those things and contend. If you're bad at both, you end up second in the league in runs allowed despite playing in a pitchers' park. And yet the Twins made their defense worse by signing free agents Josh Willingham and Jamey Carroll to play rightfield and shortstop, respectively. Willingham is a bat-first player who has been, at best, adequate in the outfield. Carroll is 38, has never started 60 games in a season at short and is below average there over his career. They will make a defense playing behind another low-strikeout staff as last year even worse. The team has to change its focus to defense, both error prevention and, especially in Target's cavernous outfield, range. That means using Willingham at DH and sandwiching Joe Benson and Ben Revere around Denard Span in center. It means moving Carroll to third base ahead of Danny Valencia and giving Tsuyoshi Nishioka a crack at shortstop. The Twins cannot get away with even an average defense behind their staff of soft tossers.
RICK OSENTOSKI/US PRESSWIRE (MAUER)
CHUCK SOLOMON (WILLINGHAM)