Article Written By: Manny Alcala
2013 Record: 66-96 (4th place in AL Central)
Key additions: Phil Hughes, Rickey Nolasco, Kurt Suzuki, Jason Kubel.
Key losses: Ryan Doumit.
Most important players for 2014: Joe Mauer, Rickey Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Glen Perkins, Mike Pelfrey.
It’s no secret that the Twins are in serious rebuilding mode. It all began last year when the Twins traded three of their better and most consistent players in Denard Span, Ben Revere, and Justin Morneau. It was a frustrating 2013 season for Minnesota as they not only had the MLB’s worst team ERA, but also had down years from important players like Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit. Doumit is gone as he got traded and Willingham remains a big question mark for this team looks forward to the season.
Joe Mauer was, is, and will continue to be the leader and the best player for the Twins. The team has already announced that he will be changing positions from catcher to first base in hopes of lengthening his career. Mauer should continue to produce a high batting average, and should easily exceed the .300 mark.
In what came as a surprise, Josh Willigham had career low’s in HRs and RBIs (14 HRs 48 RBIs) last season right after having career high’s in 2012 when he had 35 HRs and 110 RBIs. The Twins are hoping that he can once again produce big power numbers, it can mightily help this offense that doesn’t have a lot of power threats.
The biggest problem for Minnesota has been starting pitching and the front office has already tried to fix that problem by bringing in both Rickey Nolasco and Phil Hughes. These two pitchers have now become the two largest free agents paid in Twins history.
Nolasco has been an innings eater throughout his career and Phil Hughes was once an all star in 2010 when he finished the year with 18 wins, but there is big risk with both of these starters as they both have career ERA’s over 4.00 (Nolasco: 4.37, Hughes: 4.54). Can a change of scenery help these pitchers? That is to be determined, but the Twins had to do something about their starting pitching and I feel that both Hughes and Nolasco had shown some signs of decent pitching, pitching that the Twins hope can improve even more.
The Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, and Kansas City Royals still remain better than the Twins on paper. Like any rebuilding team, look for younger players to get a chance to play and keep an a eye on top prospect Byron Buxton who could be called up sometime during this season. The Twins once again will be fighting with the White Sox to stay out of last place in the division.