StrategyMarch 19, 2009

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Minnesota Twins

By Kirk Beiser

Next up on the “30 Teams in 30 Days” schedule is the Minnesota Twins. In what was expected to be a rebuilding season in 2008, the Twins were able finish 88-74 before losing the divisional tiebreaker. The 2009 team will be returning all of the key players from that team with an additional year of experience and will be expected to compete for the AL Central division title again.

For a closer look at the Minnesota Twins and the rest of the AL Central, be sure to check out the The Can of Corn AL Central Preview Podcast.

Offensive Starters

C Joe Mauer.328.413.451989851536 
1B Justin Morneau.300.374.49997231290623 
2B Alexi Casilla.281.333.374587507385 
SS Nick Punto.284.344.3824322815338 
3B Joe Crede.248.314.4604117550335w/ChA
LF Denard Span.294.387.4327064718468 
CF Carlos Gomez.258.296.3607975933577 
RF Michael Cuddyer.249.330.369303365249 
DH Jason Kubel.272.335.4717420780463 

Unsettled: The outfield. There are five OFs and only four spots available (including DH). Jason Kubel is a lock to play as the left-handed DH platoon, but Denard Span, Carlos Gomez, Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer will be competing for playing time at the three OF positions and right-handed DH. Manager Ron Gardenhire stated a preferred outfield of Gomez, Span, and Cuddyer at a small Fargo farm meeting but later backtracked when his quotes made national news. At the start of the season, expect each player to sit once a week until either an injury happens or someone earns a spot on the bench.

Target: Justin Morneau, Carlos Gomez, Alexi Casilla, and Denard Span. With some uncertainty regarding Mauer (back pain), the target on the Twins offense is Morneau. His MDP is in the early 3rd rd so you won’t be able to wait for him. His HR’s were down last year but you can expect him to bounce back to 30+ HR’s with good avg, RBI’s and runs (and no SB’s). Everbody knows that Gomez will steal a lot of bases but he’s being drafted around pick 200; if he shows improved hitting he could be a late round steal. Casilla averaged 44 SB (78% success rate) in the minors from 2005-2007. He’s a good sleeper that has been getting drafted later than 250th and could be an excellent choice for those that use MI or are in deeper leagues. Span will look to show that his excellent overall play last year wasn’t a fluke but will need to improve his SB success rate to get past 25 SBs.

The Rotation

Francisco Liriano (L)6-43.911.39673276
Scott Baker (R)11-43.451.1814142172.1
Kevin Slowey (R)12-113.991.1512324160.1
Nick Blackburn (R)11-114.051.369639193.1
Glen Perkins (L)12-44.411.477439151

Unsettled: Potential call-ups. The starting rotation is set, so the only unsettled item for the Twins pitching staff is who will get called up if a starter is injured/ineffective. They have three solid candidates in Triple-A (Kevin Mulvey, Anthony Swarzak, and Brian Duensing) that could be adequate replacements while Phil Humber (out of options) will attempt to make the big league club as a long reliever. Mulvey might be the first choice but none of them offer much fantasy upside.

Target: Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, and Kevin Slowey. With the addition of Crede and possibly Span and Gomez in the outfield, the Twins should have an excellent defense to help their pitchers out. Liriano will be the first starter off the board with a MDP of 75. His second-half splits show that he has recovered from Tommy John surgery with a 6-1 record, 2.74 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 60 Ks in 65.2 IP. Obviously you can’t expect those stats (or his ’06 stats), but he has the upside of a top-ten pitcher. Grab him if drops past his MDP of 75. Baker and Slowey have MDPs near 175 and will give you solid wins, strikeouts and ratios, making them bargains at that point.

The 8th and 9th Innings

Joe Nathan391.330.90741867.2
Jesse Crain03.591.37502462.2

Chasing Saves: Joe Nathan is easily a top-five closer and is a lock for around 40 saves and great ratios. He had a minor shoulder inflammation that held him out of the WBC so monitor that before your draft but it looks like a non-concern. After Nathan, the rest of the bullpen is a mess. Crain will likely be the setup guy to begin the season and pitched well after having labrum surgery in ’07. Jose Mijares is a fiery high K rate rookie that could combine with Crain to give the Twins a solid lefty/righty combo in the eighth inning, but keep in mind that Mijares has had trouble with his conditioning and his BB rate in the minors so he is an unknown. Ayala and Guerrier look to bounce back from disappointing 2008 seasons and could be in the mix for seventh and eighth inning roles.

Final Thoughts

Once again this year the Minnesota Twins will expect to be competitive in the AL Central with a team featuring a handful of stars and a good supporting cast. Morneau, Mauer, Nathan and Liriano will be drafted in the top 100 and each should provide good value (although monitor Mauer’s back pain). But just like the Twins the rest of the players could be a strong supporting cast for your fantasy team.

Yesterday we previewed the Kansas City Royals. Check back tomorrow for the Los Angeles Angels in the next installment of “30 Teams in 30 Days!”

Kirk Beiser is a lifelong Twins fan. When he's not traveling he spends his time in MN looking for a job. You can catch up with Kirk in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of kab21.
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