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Diamond Divination: Predicting the 2013 Twins April and May

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Just for fun, I've gathered up my looking glass, my Ouija board, my Magic 8 ball, and put together a sneak peek into April and May. As I've felt with nearly everything I've predicted for the Twins in the last two years, I hope to heck I'm wrong. Be curious to see what you all think:

Pitching: Starting pitching will be borderline atrocious, sucking any possible enthusiasm from the casual fan base. Worley’s WHIP will be well above 1.60 and Pelfry will be alternately marginally effective and profoundly bad. Hendriks will be terrible, solidifying impressions that he’s strictly a AAAA pitcher. Correia will actually be the surprise, posting an ERA just barely above or below 4.00 and a few surprise wins bolstered by strong offense on the days he pitches. Ryan, in an interview, may declare premature victory in his signing. The bullpen will also have its bumps, including two blown saves by the otherwise-strong Perkins in the closer role, leading to the beginnings of rumblings from the fanbase to consider alternatives.

M & M Update: To the shock of many, Mauer will begin several games at the start of the season hitting 2nd, and he’ll perform statistically strong there. Gardy, however, will look for every routine out as a sign that Mauer is better slotted in the 3-spot, and Mauer will hit there the rest of the season. Morneau will struggle to hit above .250 with 2-3 home runs, leading some to wonder if back stiffness is the culprit, or if the change in batting coach is to blame. He may visit the DL.

The New Kid: Hicks will patrol the outfield well, but will struggle to hit for average, ending the month just above the .230 mark. Gardy will raise every missed relay or slight rookie mistake at the plate in postgame interviews, adding that “Hicksy’s learning.” With Mastroianni playing well, running well and hitting for average, articles about “CF competition,” and Hicks and “service time,” will begin to pop up again.

Summary: Defense is noticeably improved over 2013, but pitching is surprisingly worse. Poor play against the Tigers in the opening series in their series sweep sets the tone for a bad month (Twins officials will maddeningly use the cold weather start as a stock excuse for the team’s poor play and low attendance).

Record: 9-17

Likely DL Candidates: Morneau, Pelfrey, Plouffe

Pitching: Deduno returns to the rotation in late-April/early May, and will quickly lead the starters in K’s. However, his walk rate will continue to frustrate Gardy and cast doubt on his longer-term status with the organization. PJ Walters and Cole DeVries will also be starters in the rotation, offering some hope of stabilizing the back end of the rotation with so-so, but consistent, results. Many in the blogosphere will begin to call out Ryan for returning the Twins nearly to their 2012 rotation disasters, with the noticeable exceptions of Worley (still struggling, but showing slight improvement) and Correia (starting to get knocked around).

Hitting: With Parmalee hitting around .260, Gardy begins to platoon Ramirez more frequently in RF (if he’s not covering for an injured Morneau). Both prove to be serviceable, if unspectacular (5-6 HR between the two of the by the end of the month). Plouffe returns from the DL and retakes 3B from Carroll/Escobar and hits very well, leading all to hope the injury bug has been squashed for good. Hicks improves at the plate somewhat, but talk continues about whether or not he should “get some AAA at-bats,” as GM Ryan suggests in an interview. Mauer leads the AL in OBP. Willingham keeps to a good pace: .275 BA with 8-9 HR over the first two months.

The Mood: A rift between Gardy/Andy and Worley becomes apparent, as frustrations about the bad start linger into late spring. Dozier’s solid play and competitive-but-supportive attitude start positioning him as something of a clubhouse leader, and his outstanding play at 2B clearly stands out as a highlight of the first two months. The fans that remain attached to the team are calling for Gardy’s firing more loudly than ever, while Ryan defends him, saying that “we can’t let a cold start and some injuries be the reason why we push this guy out the door.” Ryan clarifies later, conceding that his evaluations of players and coaches are ongoing, and that things “have to get turned around here pretty quickly.”

The Skinny: The record improves, but not by much. Tears in the 2013 blueprint are now painfully obvious, and it appears that some of the young arms in the system may be getting their shot sooner rather than later. Gibson, unfortunately, continues not to be ready for a big-league start. The noticeable successes of Gomez, Hardy, Ramos and even, to a degree, Slowey keep the spector of the Smith era at the forefront of many fan rants. All eyes are now firmly on the play and development of the top prospects in the minors, as division contention is, by all indications, clearly out of reach.

Record: 21-34

Coming Up in May: June and July preview (in which I predict we see a characteristic summer hot streak for the Twins that helps them flirt with .500, tragically swaying Ryan towards hints of a contract extension for Gardy).
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