A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE TWINS
Minnesota is better, but its results may not be, because the division has improved a lot.... They'll give Paul Molitor a lot of rope. The team stopped listening to Ron Gardenhire, so the manager change was smart.... The starting pitching is respectable now. Getting Ervin Santana helps.... Phil Hughes always had the stuff. Coming up, he was like a clone of Roger Clemens. He pitched with confidence last year.... Joe Mauer has lost his power, and in that ballpark it's not coming back. He's an opposite-field singles and doubles hitter now.... Torii Hunter is a role model for those kids, but he can't hit great pitching anymore, and he's not a Gold Glover anymore.... Miguel Sano will be a factor before Byron Buxton, their other big prospect. I think Sano will be up this year playing third base. Buxton is a tremendous talent and can really play in center, but he may not hit in the big leagues right away.... Brian Dozier is good at second, Kurt Suzuki is solid behind the plate, but Trevor Plouffe is a typical second-division third baseman. He'll hit 15 homers and play O.K. defense.... Oswaldo Arcia has power, but he's not going to hit for average, and I don't see a change in his approach. They have a good extra outfielder to cover him in Jordan Schafer, who can play the late innings.... Aaron Hicks doesn't look like he's going to hit in the majors.... Kennys Vargas is a monster, 6'5" and 280 pounds, a switch-hitter with big power—when he makes contact. He has DH written all over him.
Last year, the Twins' hurlers combined the AL's worst strikeout rate with its worst defensive efficiency—a measure of balls in play turned into outs—which is how you lead the league in runs allowed while playing in a pitchers' park. The outfield was a significant problem, as only the Rangers, Tigers and Blue Jays allowed more doubles-plus-triples than the Twins. If you can't get strikeouts and you can't make plays, you're going to lose. Bringing in Torii Hunter, who at this stage of his career is a poor outfielder, only exacerbates the problem, especially with Oswaldo Arcia in left. The Twins have to begin emphasizing position players with range if they're going to escape the basement. It can start with Jordan Schafer getting playing time alongside Aaron Hicks, with Hunter and Arcia DH'ing or on the bench. By late this year it can mean Byron Buxton joining the outfield to give the Twins three legitimate defenders in the pasture.
LEAGUE RANK 15
MANAGER PAUL MOLITOR 1ST SEASON WITH TWINS
2015 PROJECTED STATISTICS BY ROTOWIRE.COM
TONY GUTIERREZ/AP (HUNTER)