The Twins season has five weeks to go. They aren't going to have a winning record and probably the best they can hope for is a 4th place finish in the division, but there is a lot to play for for all the individuals who take the field. I think it is a bit more important to finish the season strong after three straight death marches through September. The schedule looks pretty tough, but the Twins are pretty healthy and seem to be playing with more focus than in the tail end of the last three seasons. More than in past years, we will probably be seeing contributors to 2015 staking their claims in the fall.
Here are five guys (hey sounds like a good name for a hamburger chain!) to watch:
1) Ricky Nolasco--The most expensive free agent the Twins have ever signed. He has had a lost season. The question is whether the elbow injury was the cause or not. He has proclaimed himself healthy, now he has to get results on the mound. Nolasco pitching effectively late will help the Twins stop their string of 90-loss seasons.
2) Tommy Milone--Supposedly a very serviceable middle of the rotation left hander, Milone has had three outings for the Twins and hasn't looked very good at all. I'm sure the Twins' front office would be more comfortable with Milone and Nolasco pitching effectively along with Gibson and Hughes. If they could be confident that all four will be average to above average, then filling one spot with a prospect (Meyer or May) looks practical. If both Nolasco and Milone continue to look like AAA call-ups, the Twins will probably sign another projected mid-rotation starter. Gee, I hope not.
3) Kennys Vargas--Vargas has provided a real spark. He has done everything on the field that the Twins were hoping for from Kendrys Morales. If his hitting continues, the Twins can focus on preventing runs much more than adding more offense. For this season, Vargas makes the middle of the order pretty formidable, and provides protection for Mauer and Arcia.
4) Oswaldo Arcia--At times, he looks like one of the easiest outs in baseball. He is currently swinging well and when he's going good, it bodes well for the Twins. Arcia consistently putting up good at-bats will likely seal his ownership of right field and cause the Twins to count on him for next year. Arcia can carry the club to a few extra victories as well as help his own cause.
5) Joe Mauer--Is Mauer back? Do the Twins still have a potential batting champion playing first base? Will he ever hit for more power? A productive September might calm all of those fears, plus also providing interest for the balance of the season.