Tuesday, February 5, 2008
2008 Minnesota Twins
Hey everyone! Well, the Twins pitchers and catchers will be reporting on Sunday, February 17, and begin practicing on the 18th. With the Johan Santana trade complete, I have to believe that the Twins roster should be complete. I fear that the team will add a veteran starter. I don't believe that they will deal Joe Nathan. I also believe that they will not pursue a veteran CF. So with that, I am going to present a look at the 2008 Minnesota Twins roster as I see it coming out of spring training. I will add a few thoughts as well. And, you know me, I can't just stop right there, so I figured out my thoughts on the opening day rosters of the Rochester Red Wings, the New Britain Rockcats, the Ft. Myers Miracle and the Beloit Snappers. Those are the four full-season minor league affiliates of the Twins. Those will be posted in subsequent articles, so be sure to check back for them. I spent a little bit thinking through the rosters of the Elizabethton Twins and the Gulf Coast League Twins as well, but we definitely won't know the E-Town roster until after the June draft. Same thing with the GCL Twins.
I would love to hear your thoughts. If you agree, let me know. If you disagree, definitely let me know! If I am completely forgetting someone, you must let me know!! With that, let's get this started:
2008 MINNESOTA TWINS
|Starting Pitchers||Scott Baker||Boof Bonser||Francisco Liriano||Kevin Slowey||Philip Humber|
I figured I might as well start with the starting pitchers. That is the area that seems to concern most Twins fans. It certainly isn't due to a lack of talent. It is completely due to a lack of experience, a lack of big league innings. There are some really good pitchers in this group. Scott Baker seemed to gain confidence and turn the corner in the second half last year. He began to show at the big league level why he was so dominant throughout his minor league career. Boof Bonser was solid at times late in 2006 and early in 2007. The Twins told him that he needed to lose 25 pounds in the offseason, and he has. In my mind, he deserves the opportunity to begin the season in the rotation and show if the weight was truly the issue. Francisco Liriano? Well, that is certainly a question. What is the best way to bring him back from Tommy John surgery? Well, they were very wise in telling him not to consider 2007. If he is truly ready to go now and has full medical sign-off to pitch, I think that the best way is to have him start. They can best control his pitch count and innings that way. He can also better develop a between-starts routine. I hope that the Twins keep him at or below 150 innings. Kevin Slowey may not throw 95, but he is going to be something special. Whatever he figured out after his demotion back to Rochester, it certainly worked. Hopefully he will remain in the Twins rotation for a long time. Finally, there certainly will be a battle for the fifth starter spot and there are plenty of quality young arms that will get their chance. I just happen to think that Philip Humber is the right guy for the role. Humber is now preparing for his second full season after Tommy John. Last year, he was good at AAA New Orleans. He is 25 years old, and he is ready for the opportunity. Please note that I don't really have these starters listed as #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5. Those really are just numbers. Each of them has the ability to be very good. None of them is certain to spend the whole season in the rotation. It will be interesting.
Best closer in baseball over the last three or four years, Nathan is in a contract year. I really, truly believe that the Twins would be best to keep him around until at least the trade deadline. As good as the rest of the bullpen is, there are a couple of injury questions in the rest of the bullpen and it is never bad to have a dominator at the end of the game.
|Relief Pitcher||Pat Neshek||Matt Guerrier||Jesse Crain||Juan Rincon||Dennys Reyes||Nick Blackburn|
Pat Neshek was as good as any reliever in baseball the first half of the season and could continue to improve. Matt Guerrier showed that he could perform in high leverage situations. Now if you can add in a healthy Jesse Crain, who was excellent in this first two big league years before the injury, you've got something special. And let's not forget that just two or three seasons ago, Juan Rincon was as good as any other reliever in baseball. I know I would really like to see him get back to that old form. Dennys Reyes will try to get back to his 2006 form, which is incredibly unlikely and I would much, MUCH prefer that Glen Perkins be the lefty out of the bullpen. Nick Blackburn had an excellent 2007 including a strong Arizona Fall League season. I would like to see the Twins keep 12 pitchers early in the season to help out the starting rotation, but also to ensure that the top four relieves are not overused early in the season again.
|Carlos Gomez CF|
|Joe Mauer C|
|Delmon Young LF|
|Justin Morneau 1B|
|Michael Cuddyer RF|
|Jason Kubel DH|
|Brendan Harris 2B|
|Mike Lamb 3B|
|Adam Everett SS|
Twins fans really need to stop looking at the struggles that Carlos Gomez had in his first big league stint last year and realize just how incredibly young and talented he really is. And it isn't just the speed in terms of base running, but he will be an excellent defender in CF. I think that the Twins should just start with him in CF and let his athleticism take him. Because the Twins now have several really, really good hitters, I am now in 100% agreement that Joe Mauer should be the Twins #2 hitter. First, he is such a natural there. He can hit and run. He can spray the ball to the gaps. If Gomez gets on in front of him, he can take a few pitches to give him the chance to steal second. He isn't afraid to hit with two strikes and he will be able to drive in runs with singles. Delmon Young is also just 22 and about as talented a hitter as their is in baseball. I know a lot of people get down on him because of his complete inability to take a walk, but every once in awhile, there is a guy that is just fine despite that fact. Young will be a monster and putting him into the three spot, in between Mauer and Morneau should only help him out. Justin Morneau just got paid and now he needs to find a way to continue hitting for power throughout the season. He also needs to remember what helped him drive in so many runs in 2006. Sometimes it was taking a two strike pitch and driving in a run by slapping a single to left. Michael Cuddyer got paid too. He's a great ambassador for the Twins and baseball in general, but he is also a very good player. He will again have the opportunity to drive in over 100 runs with the guys in front of him. Is this the year that Jason Kubel has that season where he hits .320 with 25 homers and 90 RBI that I've been predicting for two years? I definitely think so. As long as Gardy plays him every day! Brendan Harris can hit, and he has a lot of pop in his bat. As long as Gardy doesn't feel the need to play Nick Punto more than once a week, Harris could surprise a lot of Twins fans. Mike Lamb is way better than your typical #8 hitter. In fact, he could hit second, sixth or seventh too. I put him here to maintain that lefty-righty thingy that seems so important to a certain Twins manager. Lamb will hit the gap a lot and take plenty of walks. Can he field at 3B? Well, one thing we know about Adam Everett is that he will be able to field his position. And although he may hit a little like Nick Punto, Everett actually has the ability to do all those "little things" that the Twins want us to believe that they do well.
|Mike Redmond||Backup Catcher|
|Nick Punto||Backup 2B, 3B, SS|
|Alejandro Machado||Backup 2B, 3B, SS, OF|
|Jason Pridie||Part-Time CF|
|Craig Monroe||Backup OF/DH|
Alright, there is no question who the backup catcher is. The beauty of the 2008 offense is that Mike Redmond will not have to be the team's DH! Jose Morales, who I saw limping still at Twins Fest, should be the #3 guy. At $2.4 million, obviously Nick Punto has to make the team, but if he's playing once or twice a week, I have no problem with that. Many may be surprised to see Alejandro Machado on my opening day roster. I just think that since the Twins kept him all of 2007 despite his injury and found a reason to keep him this year despite having about 375 middle infield options tells us something. I was intrigued by Machado's ability to take a walk throughout his minor league career, and he is best known for his glove. Machado also would have the ability to play the OF. I think that the Twins should start the season with a semi-platoon of Carlos Gomez and Jason Pridie. Both are new to the organization and there is a lot of pressure to fill the shoes of Torii Hunter in CF. By going with a young platoon, neither should feel too much pressure. Now, I don't think this should be a straight lefty-righty platoon. Gomez and his upside are incredible, so he needs to play four to five days a week. Although Pridie's upside isn't as high, he has a chance, so if he is with the Twins, he does need to find his way into the lineup three times, maybe even providing a day off occasionally for Young or Cuddyer. Finally, Craig Monroe does provide a right-handed bat off the bench with the ability to change a game with a home run. He really should make the roster.
You will notice that I have one extra player on my Opening Day roster. I do believe that the team should have 12 pitchers, especially early in the season. That likely means that one of Alejandro Machado, Jason Pridie or Craig Monroe would not make the roster. Pridie has plenty of options, so he would likely be the odd man out. Of course, if the Twins want to keep Carlos Gomez from being a Super 2, they could keep him down in Rochester for about four to six weeks and go with Pridie and Monroe in an actual platoon. There certainly are some options. Of course, they could go with 11 pitchers in which case, Nick Blackburn may not make the roster and end up starting in Rochester. Maybe they would realize that Dennys Reyes's Cinderella 2006 season was the anomaly and just let him go. It is also possible that Francisco Liriano and/or Jesse Crain could begin the season on the DL, or in a short rehab stint, etc., and Blackburn could fill one of their roles.
Any thoughts? Send me an e-mail, or let's talk about it in the Comments here.