With fantasy football season over now, fantasy baseball can now grab the attention of those who are so inclined. Certainly the best teams are flush with suitable fantasy options, but players on teams that are not expected to be playoff contenders can still contribute to fantasy league titles.
On that note, here is my outlook for the Minnesota Twins from a fantasy baseball angle for 2013.
Catcher- After an injury-riddled 2011 campaign, Joe Mauer played a career-high 147 games in 2012 and put together a solid season, hitting .319 with 10 home and 85 RBI along with a major league-leading .416 on-base percentage. 2009′s 28 home runs are a distant memory and are unlikely to repeated playing home games at Target Field, but Mauer is a top-five fantasy catcher who should be eligible at first base in most leagues since he played 30 games there last season.
Ryan Doumit’s first season in the American League was a success, as he hit .275 with career-highs in both home runs (18) and RBI (75). He will be listed as a catcher on cheat sheets, but he also should be eligible as an outfielder (22 games played in 2012) in a lot of leagues and thus has slightly more value in deep mixed leagues than might be expected.
First Base- Justin Morneau stayed mostly healthy for a full season for the first time since 2009 last season, hitting .267 with 19 home runs and 77 RBI over 505 at-bats. All reports suggest he is the healthiest he has been during an offseason in a few years, so there is some upside potential here. A return to his 2006 numbers (.321, 34 home runs, 130 RBI) should not be expected though, and those that draft Morneau need to have a backup plan in place in case his past health issues resurface.
Second Base- Jamey Carroll looks like the frontrunner to start right now, though an addition is possible. He is not a top tier fantasy infielder, but does offer multi-position eligibility (at least 37 games at second base, shortstop and third base last season) and hits well enough (.268 in 2012) to offer some value to owners in AL-only leagues.
Shortstop- The Twins don’t have a clear-cut starter here, with Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon and Eduardo Escobar all in the mix right now. Even if someone wins the job in spring training and keeps it through the season, fantasy owners can stay away from this situation and not feel like they missed anything.
Third Base- Trevor Plouffe had something of a breakout season in 2012, hitting 24 home runs (15 over a 31-game stretch from late May to early June), but his batting average (.235) and RBI total (55) did not match up with that power surge. Improved luck (a .245 BABIP last season) could lead to a jump in batting average as long as his contact rate (78 percent in 2012) continues to improve. Plouffe’s job security may be tenuous during spring training, but for now he has some sleeper potential in deep mixed leagues and is well worth drafting in AL-only formats.
Left Field- Josh Willingham had a nice first season in Minnesota last season, setting career-highs in home runs (35) and RBI (110). A late-season shoulder injury does not look like a big concern, but he will turn 34 before the season starts and durability is a concern. Fantasy owners that set a reasonable baseline for Willingham when drafting him (20-25 home runs, 85-90 RBI) should not be disappointed.
Center Field- The Twins dealt both Denard Span and Ben Revere this winter, leaving a significant void here. An open spring training competition is likely coming, with Darin Mastroianni and top prospects Aaron Hicks and Joe Benson in the mix to start. There is not a lot of fantasy appeal here at this point, though Hicks belongs on the radar of owners in keeper leagues.
Right Field- Chris Parmelee is currently slated to take over as the starter here, though he could also see time at first base if Morneau can’t stay healthy or is traded at some point during the season. His offensive potential makes him an intriguing option on draft day in AL-only leagues, but those in mixed leagues should leave him on the waiver wire until he proves he can stick as a full-time player.
Glen Perkins had an excellent 2012 season, saving 16 games (in 20 opportunities) with a 2.56 ERA and a 78:16 K/BB ratio in 70 appearances (70.1 innings). He will be the Twins’ closer from the start in 2013, and even with potentially limited save opportunities fantasy owners can find a lot to like here.
Scott Diamond became the de facto ace for the Twins in 2012, going 12-9 with a 3.54 ERA in 27 starts (173 innings). He is not a strikeout pitcher (4.7 K/9 last season), so any correction in his ground ball (53.4 percent) or fly ball (25.6) percentages could lead to his ERA rising significantly. Diamond is worth drafting in AL-only and very deep mixed leagues, but don’t expect a repeat of last season.
Vance Worley was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies in the Revere trade, and he has a legit chance to be Minnesota’s Opening Day starter. His 2012 season was shortened by an elbow injury, but his 2011 results (11-3, 3.01 ERA, 119:46 K/9 ratio) show there is some potential here. Worley may be the most fantasy-worthy Twins starter this year, for what that’s worth.
The rest of Minnesota’s starting rotation does not carry much fantasy value, with Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, Kyle Gibson and Liam Hendriks among those in the mix. Gibson has the most potential of this group, but he is likely to be on an innings limit this season as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery.