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Article: Minnesota Twins 2015 Season Preview

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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 06 April 2015 - 07:09 AM

Ask any player what his primary goal is in spring training, and you'll get the same answer: Stay healthy.

In that regard, the six weeks were beyond fruitful for the Minnesota Twins. The club's players reported shockingly few physical ailments. You might have forgotten that Trevor Plouffe broke his arm late last year, or that Glen Perkins finished on the DL with elbow problems, because there were no signs of any lingering effects.

Aside from a pesky flu strain and a couple of minor issues, the Twins kept the injury bug at bay and were set to enter this 2015 campaign at maximum capacity.

Then came the news.

There's no other way to slice it: Ervin Santana's suspension casts a pall over the start of this fresh season. But the team will move on without him and while losing the No. 2 starter hurts, the Twins still have plenty of potential for improvement on various fronts.Here's the thing about the Santana suspension: he'll be gone for the first half of the season, but it is the second half he's returning for that figures to be most compelling for the Twins.

By then, players like Trevor May, Alex Meyer and Aaron Hicks will have likely entered the fold. Fast-rising youngsters such as Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios could be making their cases as well. Several knowledgable onlookers in Ft. Myers opined that Sano and Berrios could play in the majors right now.

So, by the time Minnesota's biggest new acquisition actually makes his debut, things could be getting exciting, but not so much if the team has already fallen hopelessly out of contention by then.

What remains to be seen is whether this team, with considerable upside on the top half of the roster and considerable dead weight on the bottom half, can avoid a slow start that puts them in an early hole. Much might depend on the urgency and reactiveness of the new regime.

When Santana's suspension was announced, the club's decision to move Mike Pelfrey back into the rotation was a disappointing one, given that Trevor May seems to better serve both short-term and long-term goals. But the decision doesn't become truly damaging unless Paul Molitor is committed to letting Pelfrey work it out for 10 bad starts.

The same can be said for several of the questionable personnel moves that shaped the season-opening 25-man roster. It's not encouraging to see names like Shane Robinson, Aaron Thompson, Blaine Boyer and Eduardo Nunez occupying spots, but at this point the cupboard is well stocked with replacements. Maybe along the way a guy like Boyer or Robinson will prove to be worthy of a role.

In the early weeks, that will be the focus. This 2015 season is setting up to be one of experimentation and testing different fits as Molitor gets his bearings. Already the rookie manager has talked about quirky lineup choices, non-conventional reliever usage and increased implementation of modern strategies.

Molitor, of all people, is not ignorant to the capabilities of the incoming wave, having served as a minor-league instructor in the system for a decade. And this should go without saying, but he wants to win. He hasn't waited his whole life for this opportunity to waste it.

So I'll mostly hold off on sourness over the Opening Day roster makeup, with hopes that the Twins, under Molitor, can prove adaptive and savvy enough to make swift changes and pull the right strings. Of course, that's also incumbent upon players like May, Hicks, Meyer, Michael Tonkin and A.J. Achter demonstrating their readiness in the minors.

The upside of the young core on the roster, the quantity and quality of reinforcements in the wings, and the all-around excellent health of the team entering the season all serve as reasons to believe that the 2015 Twins could approach or even surpass a .500 record.

It's hard to believe that this is the year Minnesota turns the corner and returns to contention status. But we keep asking when a time will come that we stop hearing about the prospects and start seeing them. That time is at hand.

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#2 jokin

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Posted 06 April 2015 - 07:40 AM

Looking at the every-day lineup, Hunter's insertion into the lineup is offset largely by Escobar's removal and couple that with the strong possibility that Santana is likely to be a defensive downgrade at SS, at least initially . Plus, there are too many negative offensive regression candidates that should more than offset the possible breakout and positive regression candidates- and regarding health, we still don't know how long Plouffe's wrist issues might linger, he didn't exactly indicate that his swing was healthy in ST.

 

Overall, too many negatives about the 2014 and previous teams that were either woefully ignored or at best, just inadequately addressed by the GM.  The pen looks to be worse than 2014, possibly much worse if Graham turns into a roster boat anchor- the hardest thrower save Perkins has never pitched above AA, and was ineffective at that level, while 3/5ths of the starting rotation has a good chance of repeating the early exits of 2014 followed by a series of musical chair replacements for 3/5s of the rotation- haven't we seen this bad movie before?  The loss of probably 100+ innings not delivered by Santana, even at around a major league average level, will be crushing- given the proposed replacements at hand. We were all disappointed that May wasn't coming onboard as the 5th starter, as of now, this team now needs to look to replace two 5th starters- who may both turn out to be more like 7th- or 8th-level depth starters, May is likely to get the early call, perhaps as soon as May 1st, and that might help some.... but they appear forever-hesitant to be willing to throw Meyer into the rotation any time soon.

 

The early season emphasis on intra-division ALC rivals in the schedule (28 of the first 35 games) by May 14, could mean that the Twins might be already deeply buried at the bottom of the division before major personnel moves are even contemplated. By the time the kiddie "cavalry" is summoned from the minors, the die will have likely been cast, and then comes the various learning curves of the rookies, how many will start off their MLB careers like Santana did last year?  How many will struggle like May and Hicks did, and for how long?  Just the fact that you mentioned that Aaron Hicks is a potential source of hope and rescue in CF shows what a long-shot for success this season has in store.

 

Notwithstanding your glass half full prediction, which I admire and certainly hope comes to fruition- I've now lowered my own 2015 Twins W-L prediction to 68-72 wins, and I fear I may be a tad optimistic.

Edited by jokin, 06 April 2015 - 08:23 AM.

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#3 70charger

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Posted 06 April 2015 - 07:42 AM

It's hard to believe that this is the year Minnesota turns the corner and returns to contention status. But we keep asking when a time will come that we stop hearing about the prospects and start seeing them. That time is at hand.


I really want to believe that this is the case, but honestly I expected it to already be happening. If we aren't flushing out mediocre veterans in favor of high upside prospects by mid year, I'll be highly disappointed.
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#4 clutterheart

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Posted 06 April 2015 - 08:15 AM

The Outfield defense will be below average.
Santana is a question mark at SS and with the bat.
The bullpen is likely to be leaky.
Hughes Dozier and Suzuki are candidates to perform below 2014 levels.
I want to be wrong but I just dont see it happening.

#5 Mike Sixel

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Posted 06 April 2015 - 08:28 AM

What evidence is there that this is a season of experimentation and learning, given the VETERAN laden roster? 

It's been a fun year so far, GO Twins. 


#6 jokin

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Posted 06 April 2015 - 08:41 AM

 

What evidence is there that this is a season of experimentation and learning, given the VETERAN laden roster? 

 

Different uses of pitchers in the bullpen- including Perkins not always closing out the 9th.  

 

Turning Eduardo Escobar into Tony Phillips.

 

Committing to Santana at SS before Spring Training.

 

A commitment to more manufactured runs on the base paths.

 

Installing proven mentors to encourage the youngsters to do things the Twins Way, Hunter and Santana.

 

Oops.

 

OK, it's not really all that much, is it?  Mauer is still batting third, still no high OBP hitter leading off, the rotation is actually being praised for their "minimizing"*** talents, a bullpen that will likely have worse K/9 numbers than previously, the corner OF is still manned by DHs of the aging or defensive-butcher varieties and CF by below-replacement level, aging cut-outs

 

*** Is this just a variation on Gardy's "gettin after it"?'n't

Edited by jokin, 06 April 2015 - 09:24 AM.

 

Joyous, fact-based and tireless Twins fan for 40+ years, who unfortunately has been characterized as-

 

"forcing Twins fans to endure more bitter, baseless, and tiresome cheap shots about the Twins FO."


#7 Mike Sixel

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Posted 06 April 2015 - 08:48 AM

I think they could possibly be better than last year, but I am not so sure right now. 

 

The Braves just dealt their closer for legit prospects, the Twins are re-signing bad veterans and not trading any veterans.......so, to me, it just looks like last year and the year before. I just don't see a lot of evidence the FO is trying to figure out which youngster is good or not.

 

I hope to be proven wrong soon.

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It's been a fun year so far, GO Twins. 


#8 halfchest

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Posted 06 April 2015 - 08:51 AM

I think my biggest disappointment was not bringing up Meyer or May when the suspension news came. In small part because I was interested to see if Pelfrey could reinvent himself in the pen like Perkins did.  

 

I'm expecting some pretty big changes to this roster within the first 6-8 weeks.  Only time will tell.

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#9 Mike Sixel

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Posted 06 April 2015 - 08:53 AM

I don't expect those changes until week 6, at the earliest. The minor league teams start later, I believe....and they'll want those players to get some time. This is the roster, barring injury, until mid-May.

It's been a fun year so far, GO Twins. 


#10 Halsey Hall

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Posted 06 April 2015 - 08:56 AM

 

I don't expect those changes until week 6, at the earliest. The minor league teams start later, I believe....and they'll want those players to get some time. This is the roster, barring injury, until mid-May.

The minor leaguers break camp today, with one last game at noon, Ft Myers vs GCL. 

he gone!


#11 jokin

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Posted 06 April 2015 - 08:58 AM

 

I think they could possibly be better than last year, but I am not so sure right now. 

 

The Braves just dealt their closer for legit prospects, the Twins are re-signing bad veterans and not trading any veterans.......so, to me, it just looks like last year and the year before. I just don't see a lot of evidence the FO is trying to figure out which youngster is good or not.

 

I hope to be proven wrong soon.

 

The Kimbrel trade shows what all you can get for a top closer, and they got rid of enormous salary overhead, both with Kimbrel and BJ Upton.  Makes you wonder what the Twins could have gotten for shipping Perkins and some other dead weight in 2013- sure, not as much as Kimbrel, but still, lots in return, for a superfluous closer on a rebuilding team.  Being a hometown hero isn't all that, Terry.

Edited by jokin, 06 April 2015 - 09:00 AM.

 

Joyous, fact-based and tireless Twins fan for 40+ years, who unfortunately has been characterized as-

 

"forcing Twins fans to endure more bitter, baseless, and tiresome cheap shots about the Twins FO."


#12 jokin

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Posted 06 April 2015 - 09:00 AM

 

The minor leaguers break camp today, with one last game at noon, Ft Myers vs GCL. 

 

Rochester's first game is with Buffalo on Thursday.

 

Joyous, fact-based and tireless Twins fan for 40+ years, who unfortunately has been characterized as-

 

"forcing Twins fans to endure more bitter, baseless, and tiresome cheap shots about the Twins FO."


#13 Mike Sixel

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Posted 06 April 2015 - 09:05 AM

Ah, thanks, I thought it was about another 10 days, not 4......

 

My belief still stands, no major changes for 6 weeks.

It's been a fun year so far, GO Twins. 


#14 HitInAPinch

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Posted 06 April 2015 - 09:17 AM

The thing that bugs me the most about the Ervin Santana suspension is why did this come out a heartbeat before the season starts?Frustrating.....

It's not my fault !


#15 jokin

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Posted 06 April 2015 - 09:20 AM

 

Ah, thanks, I thought it was about another 10 days, not 4......

 

My belief still stands, no major changes for 6 weeks.

 

Barring someone doing a Hicks MLB debut-like performance, agreed.

 

Joyous, fact-based and tireless Twins fan for 40+ years, who unfortunately has been characterized as-

 

"forcing Twins fans to endure more bitter, baseless, and tiresome cheap shots about the Twins FO."


#16 KGB

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Posted 06 April 2015 - 10:29 AM

 

I think they could possibly be better than last year, but I am not so sure right now. 

 

The Braves just dealt their closer for legit prospects, the Twins are re-signing bad veterans and not trading any veterans.......so, to me, it just looks like last year and the year before. I just don't see a lot of evidence the FO is trying to figure out which youngster is good or not.

 

I hope to be proven wrong soon.

The Braves are an interesting counterpoint to the Twins method.They had one down year last year after winning 90+ for a few years and went right away into rebuild mode.The Twins are 4 years into lossing 90 games and still are holding on the the "Twins Way" of running the team, because they used to be good.

 

 

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#17 mikelink45

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Posted 06 April 2015 - 11:08 AM

Only the call up of minor leaguers will save the season.  If the vets in the pitching get the Bartlet and Kubel treatment and leave town will we be better.  But the Twins have a history of putting crap on the field in the beginning and being forced to make changes - lets hope it happens quickly.


#18 hybridbear

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Posted 06 April 2015 - 11:11 AM

with hopes that the Twins, under Molitor, can prove adaptive and savvy enough to make swift changes and pull the right strings

This is the key for this season. I hope that Molitor will give Pelfrey a short leash in the rotation and put him back in the bullpen if he struggles.


#19 TheLeviathan

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Posted 06 April 2015 - 02:47 PM

I think we'll see better baseball, but in one of the toughest divisions in baseball so the record might not reflect the improvement.


#20 Twodogs

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Posted 06 April 2015 - 06:15 PM

I think the Twins really need to consider using Santana in CF against Lefties, and putting Escobar in at SS.  At least then the Twins can get Escobar's bat into the game which I think is a plus over Schaffer??

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