Willingham, Mauer lead headlines of 2012
2012 has come and gone and there were plenty of story lines that comprised the year that was for the Minnesota Twins. After a decade of winning baseball, the Twins have suffered through back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 2000. Minnesota has been the worst team in the American League for two seasons but there were still some signs of life from the hometown nine.
Willingham's monster year: Last offseason the Twins had a choice to make when it came to free agent outfielders. Michael Cuddyer had been with the team since he was drafted and he had become a fan favorite but it was time to go in another direction. Josh Willingham became the man for the job and to say it was quite the year for the burly outfielder would be an understatement.[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]
The 35-year old had career highs in home runs, slugging percentage, runs, and he crossed the 100 RBI mark for the first time in his career. On a team that didn't manage many victories, Willingham provided multiple walk-off hits. He was awarded a Silver Slugger Award at the end of the season after being one of the best offensive players in the American League.
Mauer back and healthy: 2011 was a nightmare year for the Twins on many different fronts but Joe Mauer being sidelined for most of the season was tough for a lot of fans to take. It didn't help that he was in the first year of the biggest contract in team history. Some changes had to be made to keep Mauer on the field but those changes led to a rebirth for the star catcher.
Mauer appeared in a career high 147 games and he was back to his old offensive ways. He fought for the American League batting title for most of the season and he ended up leading the league in on-base percentage. The Twin Cities native son was elected to his fifth All-Star Game and it looks like he will be back to his old ways for years to come.
Hicks, Arcia emerge at Double-A: The Twins have been waiting for this type of season from Aaron Hicks since they drafted him in the first round. Oswaldo Arcia had been looking for a healthy season after sitting on the sidelines for parts of 2011. Both of these players would emerge with terrific seasons in the minor leagues.
Hicks knocked double digits in home runs for the first time in his career and he also set the New Britain record for triples in a season. He was a threat on the bases by swiping 32 bases in 43 attempts. Arcia spent half the year at High-A but he got better when he was promoted to Double-A. As he had shown in the past, he is able to combine a powerful swing with the ability to hit for a high average. These two top prospects could be appearing at Target Field as early as next season.
Winds of change hit coaching staff: At the end of the season, something needed to be done to shake up a team that had finished as one of the worst teams in baseball for the second year in a row. Jerry White, Rick Stelmaszek, and Steve Liddle were let go by the club. These were the biggest changes in the coaching staff since Ron Gardenhire took over as manager in 2001.
Tom Brunansky, Bobby Cuellar, and Terry Steinbach were named to the coaching staff. Brunansky and and Cuellar served in similar roles at Rochester and Steinbach has been a spring training instructor with the club. These men will be in charge of trying to turn the franchise around in the next couple of seasons. There will be some young players moving to the major leagues as the franchise tries to return to their winning ways.
Span, Revere traded away: There was a simple equation for the Twins when it came to the offseason. The front office needed to add pitching and there was a surplus of outfielders in the organization. This meant that Denard Span and Ben Revere would find themselves on different rosters and the Twins would gain some young pitching to add to a system that desperately needed a shot in the arm.
After a couple years of trade speculation, Span was sent to the Nationals organization for top pitching prospect Alex Meyer. The flame throwing young pitcher has only pitched in the lower levels of the minors but he has huge upside. One week later, the Twins sent Revere to the Phillies for right-handed pitcher Vance Worley and pitching prospect Trevor May. These moves are meant to improve the Twins and the future looks brighter