Minnesota Twins: 2014 (70-92 5th Place) 2015 prediction (77-85 5th Place)
The years of being the class of the AL Central are long gone, but that doesn’t mean the Twins aren’t on the rise. They play in a ball park that is not kind to hitters, yet they mash the ball just as well as anyone. They are a young ball club led by veteran Joe Mauer. This offseason they brought back fan favorite Torii Hunter, which is not only an improvement to their offense, but he will also play a key role in the development of the very young and talented Twins hitters. Although I am predicting a 5th place finish for the Twins, a 7 game rise in their win total is very impressive, especially when you consider how strong the AL Central has become.
Impact Offensive Players:
1B: Joe Mauer
He was once a perennial all-star at one of the most demanding defensive positions in all of sports. Typically with catchers, the beating they take day in and day out behind the plate catches up with them and leads to a number of nagging injuries. Mauer is no exception to that as he has seen his numbers drop drastically over the last few seasons. In 2014 he became an every day first baseman and although his statistics were better, they were not super staresque. I believe that with a full season of playing 1B under his belt, Mauer will be able to focus more on his offense again and his all-star caliber numbers will return. He won’t give you the HR totals that you want from your 1B, yet he’s still steady across the board. 2015 Prediction: 15 HR, .307 BA, 84 RBI, 76 R, .389 OBP.
2B: Brian Dozier
Dozier was one of only a select few of players who hit at least 20 HR last year while also stealing 20 or more bases. He just signed a four year extension with the Twins who rewarded him for his well above average bat and great defense. Target Field is not the ideal ball park for power hitters, yet Dozier is one of the premier power hitting middle infielders in all of baseball. After his 20/20 season last year, he is on most people’s radars heading into the 2015 fantasy baseball season. He’s a solid player, just don’t reach for him.
2015 Prediction: 25 HR, .253 BA, 76 RBI, 98 R, 22 SB, .348 OBP.
SS/OF: Danny Santana
Definitely one of the bigger surprises for the Twins last year, Santana turned many heads with his bat, base running and his stellar defense in both CF and SS. Although his stats last season in the MLB were better than any of his years in the minors, I believe this kid is the real deal. In a full season at the MLB level, look for Santana to be one of the more productive MI in baseball and don’t be surprised if he falls late in drafts due to his limited track record. His multiple position eligibility only adds to his value.
2015 Prediction: 10 HR, .296 BA, 53 RBI, 81 R, 26 SB, .356 OBP.
OF: Torrii Hunter
Although he is getting up there in age and is no longer a gold glove caliber outfielder, Hunter continues to provide solid production at the plate. He has a very good shot at reaching 2,500 career hits in 2015, a number that many people will be shocked to find out, seeing as how his offense has always been overlooked due to his incredible defense. He is headed back to Minnesota where it at all started for him and I believe he has at least one strong season left in him. It is fitting that he end his career where it all began. 2015 Prediction: 16 HR, .279 BA, 82 RBI, 73 R, 5 SB, .325 OBP.
1B/DH: Kennys Vargas
In his limited time at the MLB level in 2014, Vargas was very impressive. Although his 200 AB’s is a small sample size, he has hit at every level he has ever played at. I expect big things out of this youngster and so do the Twins. He will definitely be available late in drafts and in some formats may even go un drafted. Check your waiver wire and pick him up if you can. If you are in a Dynasty league, I highly recommend you drafting him, you will thank me later. He reminds me of a young David Ortiz. You can call him “Smaller Papi”, “Younger Papi” or “Big Papi Jr.”.
2015 Prediction: 24 HR, .274 BA, 80 RBI, 70 R, .323 OBP.
SP: Phil Hughes
The Phil Hughes who used to pitch for the Yankees is much different than the one who was the anchor for the Twins pitching staff in 2014. I have always been a huge fan of this guy and am extremely happy that he is finally getting the recognition he deserves. As a fly ball pitcher, Hughes’ style got him into a lot of trouble in Yankee Stadium. Target field is much kinder to pitchers and it showed last year as he allowed a lot less HR, leading to better overall numbers across the board. He was rewarded with an early contract extension by the Twins and for the first time in years, he should be drafted in every format. Don’t be surprised if he goes early in drafts. He is finally living up to all the hype.
2015 Prediction: 17 W, 210 IP, 191 K, 3.44 ERA, 1.15 WHIP.
SP: Ervin Santana
After a dreadful 2012 season with the Angels, Santana has put together two solid seasons in 2013 and 2014, with the Royals and the Braves respectively. The Twins needed a reliable number two starter for their rotation and that is exactly what Santana provides them. He’s an innings eater who racks up a good amount of strikeouts, however his WHIP and BAA last season were far too high. Don’t be fooled by his first half numbers, he had a rough time in the second half of the year and probably doesn’t deserve the big money he got from the Twins as a free agent. 2015 Prediction: 15 W, 198 IP, 181 K, 3.89 ERA, 1.26 WHIP.
RP: Glen Perkins
He’s been very reliable at the back end of the Twins bullpen for a few years now. The only issue with Perkins is the forearm trouble he experienced at the end of last season, which certainly raises some questions heading into 2015. If he stays healthy he will get you saves, strikeouts and have a solid WHIP. Since becoming a RP, he has always averaged more than a strikeout per inning and there is no reason why that will change in 2015. Picking the right closer in fantasy can sometimes be all the difference. I would rate Perkins right in the middle of the pack.
2015 Prediction: 3 W, 36 SV, 65 IP, 73 K, 3.14 ERA, 1.16 WHIP.
Top Prospects who may see MLB action in 2015:
CF: Byron Buxton
In my opinion, Buxton was the best player in the 2012 draft class and the Twins, as well as their fans, should be thrilled to have him in their organization. He is the most hyped minor league offensive player since Mike Trout. He has 5-tool talent and if it weren’t for a wrist injury that caused him to miss much of the 2014 season, I believe he would have cracked the Twins opening day roster. I expect for him to get called up this season at some point and never look back. The projected starter entering spring training, Aaron Hicks, has already been sent down and now the position is being kept warm by defensive minded Jordan Schaefer. CF is the biggest weakness offensively for the Twins However, that will quickly change whenever Buxton takes his rightful place in center field.
3B: Miguel Sano
He is currently being blocked by Trevor Ploufe at the MLB level. Personally, I’m not sure why, considering Ploufe has never impressed me and he is one of the weaker players in the Twins lineup. Sano has raw power. He hit 35 HR in the minors in 2013, but like Buxton, he was slowed by an injury in 2014. He had Tommy John surgery and missed the entire season. His defense has been called “below average”, however, it has vastly improved since he signed as an international free agent back in 2009. If Sano hits the way he did back in 2013, the Twins will have no choice but to find playing time for him. If he gets off to a hot start or Ploufe starts slowly, look for Sano to get the call to the big leagues.
SP: Alex Meyer
It’s puzzling to me that Meyer did not even get a look in the competition for the 5th rotation spot this spring. Beyond Hughes and Santana, the Twins rotation has a ton of question marks and none of the guys vying for a spot did much to impress anyone. The only reason I can think of why Meyer is beginning the year in the minors is that the Twins want to bring him up later in the year an ensure an extra year of team control. Meyer was originally drafted by the Nationals and was then traded to Minny for Denard Span. Once Meyer makes his way to the majors, I’m convinced that the Twins will have gotten the better end of the deal, taking nothing away from Spans talent.
All in all, the Twins may not be in line for an above .500 season in 2015, yet they are certainly on the rise. They have one of the best young teams in baseball and are loaded in the minors as well. Look for them to be the class of the AL Central come 2017 or 2018. The 2015 version of the Twins can hit the ball as well as anybody. Their issue will be keeping opponents off the score board.
This wraps up my AL Central previews, but I will continue to provide you with fantasy information regarding important players in the division. If you have any questions, comments, or just want to talk some baseball, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.