Although offense has hardly been a problem for the Twins here in the early going, finding a viable solution at shortstop remains a top-ranking priority for the long-term success of the club.
It's one of the most important positions on the field and it's been a frustrating problem area for this franchise for many years. Rarely has the deficiency at short been more noticeable than it is now, with Pedro Florimon batting .115 and sporting a horrendous .366 OPS.
At a position
A right wrist injury that bothered Oswaldo Arcia late in the 2013 season flared up again earlier this month, causing the young outfielder to miss a couple weeks of action just as his season was getting started.
Now, Arcia is by all accounts ready to put the wrist ailment behind him. He took batting practice on Target Field without incident Friday and then headed to Rochester, where he began his rehab assignment by going 3-for-3 as the DH on Saturday. He played
Despite the fact that more than half their games have been on the road and five of their seven series have been against clubs that finished with winning records last year, the Twins are above .500 after 21 games.
They've managed to win despite starting pitching that has been astonishingly bad. Nearly everyone expected improvement from the rotation after large offseason investments were made, but so far the Twins have gotten a 5.91 ERA from their starters, a regression from last year's
* The Twins rank third in the American League in run-scoring, which is pretty surprising on its own but even more so when you consider that Joe Mauer has chipped in very little thus far.
I certainly don't mean to contribute to the typical Mauer panic that arises any time he goes through any kind of slump, but the slow start is noteworthy. Early on, he's striking out way more than ever before (27 percent K-rate) yet hitting for no power (three extra-base hits and a .321 slugging
Out of the 276 major-league players that accrued 300 or more plate appearances last year, Pedro Florimon and Aaron Hicks ranked 257th and 261st in OPS, respectively.
Although they made up for it somewhat with strong defense at key positions, both were among the worst hitters in baseball, so it was puzzling that the Twins entered this season without much in the way of backup plans at either shortstop or center field.
Unfortunately, Florimon and
In 2013, the Minnesota Twins rotation was essentially in shambles from the get-go. Liam Hendriks started the team's fourth game of the season. Pedro Hernandez started the sixth.
Those two combined with Andrew Albers, P.J. Walters and Cole DeVries to make a total of 40 starts for the Twins last year. Now, they're all out of the organization, buried in Triple-A for other clubs (or in Korea) and unlikely to spend much if any time in the majors.
Meanwhile, the Twins
The fact that the Twins sit at 6-6 after two weeks could be viewed as a surprise in and of itself, given their low expectations and some of the rough patches we've already seen.
Of course, anything can happen over the course of 12 games, and that applies to individual players as well as the team as a whole. Still, the first half of April has been marked by some surprising developments -- from my perspective, at least.
Jason Kubel's Defense
In 2013, the Oakland Athletics averaged 9.7 runs per game in their seven tilts against the Twins, and 4.5 runs per game against all other opponents.
Oakland's reign of terror against the team that ruined its happy ending in Moneyball continued this week, as the A's thoroughly dismantled Minnesota in a rather sparsely attended home-opening sweep.
After investing $84 million into the rotation during the offseason, the Twins have received painfully
It happened again on Tuesday. A local mainstream writer put out a column that was, to some extent, critical of Joe Mauer, and the reactions from fans were highly visceral on both sides.
The piece in question came from Patrick Reusse, suggesting that the impetus is on Mauer (who still hasn't driven in a run this year) to step up and carry the team back to respectability.
Some saw it as a reinforcement of the reservations they have long held about
* The Twins' offense has been a very pleasant surprise in the first week of the season.
Though it hasn't always been pretty, and sloppy play from opposing defenses in Chicago and Cleveland were undeniable contributors, the Twins have scored 38 runs through their first six games.
The biggest story in the lineup is Chris Colabello. He has already piled up 11 RBI in five starts after hitting .349 in spring play. This guy is just sitting dead red.
We know about the negative trends: three straight years of losing, a spring marked by consistently low offensive output, and several veterans whose numbers have been on the decline.
Those trends are no fun to think about, especially here in a young season that remains full of possibilities despite some discouraging early signs. Today, let's focus on some positive trends that emerged last year and will hopefully serve as precursors of things to come.