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stringer bell

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1) All baseball fans that have the capacity to visit Spring Training should do so. Hope springs eternal, but more than that, fans can watch drills and minor league games and scrimmages. At Fort Myers, we can sit next to minor league prospects, scouts, and knowledgeable fans. In past years, TR was on the premises and talked with fans sharing much more than makes the papers. It is great to watch both the top prospects and the most anonymous players. Autographs are fairly easy to get and the atmosphere is almost as warm as the weather.

2) Joe Mauer is where he should be, batting third and playing first base. After the concussion, Mauer needed to get out from behind the plate. First base is the proper position for him to transition to at this point. Mauer is a three-time batting champ and former MVP--he is a great hitter. He needs to be able to have the best chance to hit and stay strong and being a first baseman fills that bill. Further, I think that by midseason Mauer will be a fine defensive 1B. He still has good reactions, has a long reach and is accustomed to digging balls out of the dirt and he has played more than 50 games at first. Catching has robbed Mauer of most of his speed and he wouldn't cover much ground in the outfield. Perhaps he could have moved to third, but Miguel Sano lurks and he has never played the position. The team's best hitter should hit for a little more power and in my book profiles as the ideal 3-hole hitter.

3)A position player other than Buxton or Sano will develop into an All-Star for the Twins. DH Kennys Vargas, Adam Brett Walker, Danny Santana, and Josmil Pinto are some names in the upper minors. Vargas is drawing comparisons to Big Papi, Santana has shown an improved hit tool at a position of need and Pinto is on the cusp after a very good September audition. Walker is a strong, raw talent. There are many more talented prospects and I think someone will break through in the next couple of years.

4)Pitching will be the strength of the Twins minor league teams. Signing three free agents has the side effect of packing each level with high quality arms. From Cedar Rapids to Rochester, the Twins will have guys who perhaps merit competing at a higher level. In other years, Tonkin, Guerra, Pressly, and the loser(s) in the fifth starter competition would be on the major league roster. Thielbar would be a lock most years, but it is possible he will be optioned to Rochester.

5)Defense and lack of speed will be glaring weaknesses for the Twins in 2014. Florimon, Dozier, and Hicks have good, not great, speed. Most of the rest of the squad lacks speed and several are glacier-like. The gloves at third, left and right are below-average and it is probably more important for a pitch-to-contact staff that the Twins will field.

6)The 25-man roster going north this year will change dramatically over the course of this year. Given the contracts of the players, some obvious replacements making their way up the ladder in the minors, and (finally) pressure from within to start winning, transactions are bound to happen. I foresee Willingham being traded before or at the deadline. Plouffe and Parmelee, among others, could be traded off. Several pitchers should be available out of the bullpen, plus Correia. The Twins also have the payroll space to add a veteran for a prospect to fill a hole (SS or C, perhaps DH or OF).

7)There will be positive surprises. This is a karma thing. So many things have gone so wrong for the last three years, it seems only right and fair that the Twins have positive performances from unexpected sources. Maybe it will be Chris Colabello, maybe one of the Jasons, maybe a call-up like Danny Santana comes up and performs like an All-Star. Perhaps someone acquired in a trade will overperform.

8)Power will be key. With little speed, questionable defense, and many questions about the pitching, the Twins need to slug better. They have guys--Arcia, Willingham, Plouffe--need to hit balls over the fence, hopefully with more than a few runners on. Many guys have OK or better power--Mauer, Pinto, Hicks, Dozier, Kubel, Colabello or Parmelee--so that if they hit homers, the Twins might produce a few more runs than projected and that could mean quite a few more wins.

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