StrategyMarch 2, 2012

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Minnesota Twins

By Jason Nelson

First, first, first, second and first. These were the projected divisional standings for the Twins in 2011 by Yahoo, PECOTA, Baseball Prospectus, CAIRO, and Marcel. How quickly expectations came crashing down around a team boasting two former MVPs in the primes of their careers and returning from a 94-win season in 2010 that saw the Twinkies finish atop the AL Central with a six-game margin.

The nightmare that was the 2011 Twins season began early, and the injuries continued to pile up as they finished with their worst winning percentage since the 1995 strike season. The poster child for the Twins season was Justin Morneau, who missed games with the flu, a sore wrist, pinched nerves, a bruised foot, a shoulder injury, and (not least of all) concussion symptoms similar to the injury that ended his 2010 season. It is these concussion symptoms that may put in jeopardy the future of the former superstar first baseman.

But Morneau wasn’t alone in his suffering. Every player from the 2011 Opening Day roster except for Carl Pavano, Danny Valencia and Michael Cuddyer made at least one pit stop on the DL during the season. Players performed their rehab assignments at the Major League level just to provide enough players to fill out a lineup card.

The off-season provided a much needed moment of rest and recuperation for the battered team. Former GM Terry Ryan was brought back in to try and rebuild the team into the small market darling it had been for the past decade. Gone are fan favorites Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and former closer Joe Nathan. The slick fielding Jamey Carroll and slugger Josh Willingham have been added in their places. With a limited budget and so many holes to fill, the team’s success will depend heavily on the improved health and production of their two cornerstone players Joe Mauer and Morneau.

In “30 Teams in 30 Days,” the Fantasy Baseball Cafe will preview each team in Major League Baseball on a daily basis. In addition to projecting starting lineups, rotations and closing situations, the Cafe will identify potential targets for 2012 fantasy baseball drafts.

Offensive Starters

C Joe Mauer.287.360.368383300296 
1B Justin Morneau.227.285.333194300264 
2B Alexi Casilla.260.322.3685222115323 
SS Jamey Carroll.290.359.3475201710452w/LAD
3B Danny Valencia.246.294.3836315722564 
LF Ben Revere.267.310.3095603034450 
CF Denard Span.264.328.359372166284 
RF Josh Willingham246.332.4776929984488w/OAK
DH Ryan Doumit.303.353.477178300218w/PIT

Unsettled: Health. Keeping the duo of former MVPs healthy and productive has been an ongoing battle for the organization. The arrival of Doumit could help alleviate the everyday abuse for Mauer behind the plate and also spell Morneau in the field. Doumit carries the label as an “all-hit, no-glove” player but the Twins may not have any better option if they want to avoid prolonged trips to the DL for the heart of their order.

Target: Josh Willingham. Typically getting out of Oakland is a major boost for any slugger. But, unfortunately for Willingham, Target Field is one of the few parks that is worse than the Coliseum for hitting home runs. He should still be able to post close to 30 dingers this season and approach 100 RBIs, which is a valuable commodity for a guy currently with a MDP of around 200.

The Rotation

Carl Pavano (R)9-134.301.3610240222.0 
Francisco Liriano (L)9-105.091.4911275134.1 
Scott Baker (R)8-63.141.1712332134.2 
Nick Blackburn (R)7-104.491.607654148.1 
Jason Marquis (R)8-64.431.497643132.0w/2T

Unsettled: Health. Starting to notice a trend here? Pavano is the only returning starter that was able to notch 150 innings last season. With word out of Spring Training that he will once again be sporting the Pavstache, look for his numbers to improve. The downfall of Liriano from Cy Young contender to non-tender contender continues to baffle fantasy owners across the nation.

Target: Scott Baker. The bright spot from the 2011 season was the abbreviated return to form of Baker. While he slightly outperformed his peripherals in 2010, his current MDP of around 250 will make him a strong end of the rotation option for fantasy owners.

The 8th and 9th Innings

Matt Capps (R)154.251.20341365.2 
Glen Perkins (L)22.481.23652161.2 

Chasing Saves: With the departure of Joe Nathan, the closer role is Capps’ to lose. Early money will be on him losing the role by the All-Star break unless he can regain the magic from his early days in Pittsburgh. Lefty Glen Perkins would likely be next in line should Capps falter.

Final Thoughts

For all of the down times experience in the Twin Cities during the 2011 season, they did get to witness the magic of Jim Thome’s run for the 600-HR plateau. With Thome now back in the NL, the fans shouldn’t have to look far to find the next HR chase. New shortstop Jamey Carroll is currently on a 309 game homerless streak while speedy center-fielder Ben Revere has started his career on an impressive 140 games stretch without a round-tripper. The downtown parade planned for the first one to go yard is supposedly epic. You just have to hope whichever one wins doesn’t injure himself during the home-run trot.

Check back tomorrow for our look at the Los Angeles of Anaheim California Angels.

Jason Nelson is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Jason in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Tavish.
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