Season Preview: Future Shock
by, 03-30-2014 at 11:26 PM (410 Views)
For three straight years, the refrain for hopeful Twins fans has been the same: Keep waiting, help is on the way.
That can be difficult to accept, especially when few signs of progress are evident on the field. The Twins lost 99 games in 2011, and they've lost 96 in each season since. It wouldn't be too surprising if they lost 90-plus again this year.
So why watch? Fortunately, you don't have to look far to find reasons.
Letting The Kids Play
First and foremost, that help we were talking about earlier? It's arriving. Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia are both slated as regulars from the get-go, and Kyle Gibson is in the rotation. Josmil Pinto should appear in the lineup several times per week.
These are some of the premier talents the farm system has produced, and they will now have an opportunity to significantly impact outcomes for the major-league club right from the start. More importantly, Alex Meyer and Byron Buxton are not far behind.
Meyer will start the year in Triple-A and Buxton -- who rocketed through two levels last year -- will get a late start in Double-A. Either player is a credible candidate for a first-half call-up, offering contingencies that have never been available to the Twins in the past.
It's not often that an organization has the best position player prospect in the game and one of the best pitching prospects, both simultaneously on the verge of reaching the majors.
These are the things you should embrace if you're having a hard time getting excited about the group that is set to kick off the season at 3:10 on Monday afternoon.
Admittedly, that group faces some daunting question marks.
Where Are The Runs?
Will Jason Kubel and Josh Willingham bounce back from rough years and hit again in the middle of the order? Will Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia make the adjustments necessary to excel? Will Trevor Plouffe's power return while Brian Dozier's stays? Will Joe Mauer's production improve with a move away from catcher? And can this mishmash bench provide any punch?
All these players have shown an ability to perform in the past, so in a way you can see why the Twins are pinning hope on them.
For a realist, though, it's difficult to believe that enough of those scenarios will play out the right way for the team to compete, especially after a spring that sent pretty much all the wrong signals.
It will be a shame if the Twins can't score enough, because the pitching staff is finally looking respectable. Minnesota enters the season with a rotation that carries a decent track record and solid upside.
It seems unlikely that the team will fly through arms as rapidly as in the past few years, and even if that's the case there is now a level of depth that simply hasn't been available before.
At the very least, having starters that don't routinely dig early five-run holes should make the games much more watchable, and if needs should become evident, there are prospects coming and there is a lot of money available to spend.
So help is on the way. Unfortunately, it might not be here as immediately as we'd like.
The Transition Continues
Miguel Sano's Tommy John development was a devastating blow that sadly reflects the present status of the Minnesota Twins -- amazing things are coming, with the potential to fundamentally change a losing culture, but we're just going to have to wait a little bit longer as the goalposts keep inching backward.
This year, players currently on the roster and ones that will join along the way have an opportunity to accelerate that timeline, providing a much-needed jolt to a snakebitten franchise that sorely needs one.