Next up on the ’30 teams in 30 days’ schedule is the Minnesota Twins. After a busy off-season the Twins are expected to contend for another AL Central title this season. The Twins will also begin play in Target Field this season which has fueled the recent spending spree by the team.
Unsettled: Third Base and Delmon Young. The Twins will open 2010 with a combination of Brendan Harris, Nick Punto and possibly Matt Tolbert at 3B. Fantasy owners will want to avoid this situation regardless of who wins the starting position. 3B prospect Danny Valencia will likely be promoted to the starting position but he doesn’t possess much upside. Delmon Young ended an otherwise lackluster season with a big September (.340/.364/.544/.907). He will need to show that wasn’t a fluke since the Twins brought in Jim Thome as an insurance policy (Jason Kubel to LF).
Target: These are not the small ball Twins that you remember. Four players hit 28 or more homeruns last season. If you aren’t able to get MVP Joe Mauer then Justin Morneau is the player to target. He still hit 30 homeruns last year despite missing the end of the season with an injury. Two other guys to grab are Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer who will have a lot of RBI opportunities with four strong OBP hitters in front of them. They should return good value if drafted in the 11th round or later.
Unsettled: Francisco Liriano was absolutely terrible last year. He started games with a 0.721 OPS thru the first 3 innings but he then collapsed in the 4th inning allowing opposing hitters to hit a .940 OPS for the rest of the game. He did have a great winter league and received glowing scouting reports (best shape of his life). While fantasy owners shouldn’t get excited about winter league stats there is no denying that he still has the talent. The Twins likely will start out with Liriano in the rotation but they could move him to the bullpen if he performs like 2009. Brian Duensing will get the first opportunity if that happens or if an injury occurs in the rotation.
Target: Liriano should be watched and makes for a good sleeper if he falls in your fantasy draft. But Scott Baker is the Twins starting pitcher to target. His spring training was interrupted with a minor arm injury last year. He only missed one or two starts but pitched awful in April (9.82 ERA) and May (4.97 ERA). In the second half last year he went 8-2 with a 3.28 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. You can’t expect those numbers but he should be an excellent value in fantasy drafts this year.
The 8th and 9th Innings
Chasing Saves: Joe Nathan is easily a top 5 closer and is a lock for around 40 saves and great ratios. He did have bone chips removed from his elbow this off-season and this should be monitored during spring training. But expectations are that Nathan will be 100% for the season. After acquiring Jon Rauch last August the Twins now feature a deep bullpen. Rauch is expected to be the main 8th inning guy but Matt Guerrier and Jose Mijares (LHP) will also be used.
Expectations will be high this season after an active off-season and with Target Field opening this year. The fantasy options are led by Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer, but the offensive firepower doesn’t end there with Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Denard Span expected to be valuable fantasy players this season. Francisco Liriano might be the high upside pick in the starting rotation but Scott Baker is potentially a gem for fantasy owners. Don’t be surprised if you have several Twins on your fantasy team when you are finished. This team is loaded with solid contributors. Good luck this season.
Kirk Beiser is a lifelong Twins fan. He's currently in Taiwan drifting aimlessly around the world (and playing a little fantasy baseball when possible). You can catch up with Kirk in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of kab21.
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