By Taylor Henrichs on March 12, 2014
Baseball is back, and Opening Day 2014 is less than three weeks away. Through a strong offseason, the Minnesota Twins will look to bounce back from three consecutive seasons of less than 67 wins in 2014.
As players are fighting for open positions down in Spring Training, here’s a look at the 25 men who are likely to represent the Twins in this season’s opener.
Veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki was signed by Minnesota to a one-year deal worth .75 million this offseason. Although I feel Josmil Pinto deserves to replace Joe Mauer behind home plate, the Twins will likely turn to Suzuki at the start of the season. Suzuki is a more reliable defensive option, and will help mold Pinto into a future starter.
Moving from behind the plate to first base in 2014, Joe Mauer is set to see more at-bats than he has in any other season during his 10-year career. The 2009 AL MVP sports a career line of .323/.405/.468. Look for a well-rested Mauer to step up his already solid production this season.
Brian Dozier was a true bright spot for Minnesota in 2013. He can hit for average and power, and has decent speed. Look for Dozier to improve on his first full season in the majors, and contend for an AL Gold Glove at second base.
Now that Miguel Sano is out for the season, Trevor Plouffe is the Twins’ only remaining option at third base. This, however, shouldn’t be taken as bad news for Minnesota. Plouffe has worked to become a reliable stopper at third base, and shows great potential at the plate. Plouffe produced a .254/.309/.392 line in 2013.
Currently recovering from an operation that removed his appendix, Pedro Florimon’s status for Opening Day is somewhat uncertain. He has yet to play in Spring Training, but Ron Gardenhire seems to think that Florimon will be ready by the season’s opener. He has solid speed and an excellent glove in the field, but will look to improve his hitting in 2014.
Entering the last year of his contract, Josh Willingham hopes to perform at a level deserving of an extension in 2014. Willingham struggled last season, but was plagued by injury for much of the campaign. This year, he hopes to get back to his 2012 form where he blasted 35 home runs and produced a .260/.366/.524 line.
Received via the Justin Morneau trade, Alex Presley will likely earn a starting job in Minnesota’s center field for 2014. Aaron Hicks proved last season that he was not ready to perform at the major-league level and should start the season in triple-A. Presley lacks patience at the plate, but has great speed and a solid bat. In 28 games with the Twins last season, he put up a .283/.336/.363 line.
Oswaldo Arcia is arguably the most exciting member of a group of young outfielders. He has outstanding potential at the plate, and occupies a certain fire that the Twins' clubhouse often seems to lack. In his 2013 rookie campaign, Arcia piped 14 home runs within a .251/.304/.430 line. Only 22-years old, expect Arcia to make Twins fans proud for many years to come.
Making his return to Minnesota in 2014, Jason Kubel hopes to revamp his once prominent career. Kubel recently launched a spring ball homer off of David Price, and will look to win the Twins’ Opening Day DH job. In two seasons away from Minnesota, Kubel produced a .241/.316/.442 line and drilled 35 home runs.
If Suzuki is is named the Opening Day starter, it’s probable that Josmil Pinto will back him up. Pinto was outstanding in his brief stint at the major league level last season, and likely has a promising future behind the plate in Minnesota. If the Twins choose to start Pinto out in triple-A in order to get him more reps, expect Chris Hermann to take his place on the 25-Man roster.
If Pedro Florimon is unable to recover by Opening Day, Eduardo Escobar will take his place at shortstop. Whether as a starter or not, Escobar will again make the Twins’ roster as a valued utility infielder. He plays solid defense at three different positions and is a streaky performer at the plate.
Chris Parmelee really got Twins fans excited after his brief big league stint back in 2011. In 21 games that season, Parmelee rocked a .355/.443/.592 line, but has since failed to live up to high expectations. In the two following seasons, he’s sported a dismal line of .228/.302/.364. Now out of minor league options, 2014 is go time for Parmelee, who hopes to get his game back on track.
The biggest free agent signing in Twins history, Ricky Nolasco will highlight a revamped Minnesota starting rotation. Nolasco has a career 4.37 ERA, but is coming off his best season where he sported a 3.70 ERA in just under 200 Innings pitched. In 2013, he carried a 1.209 WHIP, 7.4 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9.
Not to be outdone by Nolasco, Phil Hughes’ new contract with Minnesota makes him the second-largest free agent signing in Twins history. In 2014, Hughes will hope to get his career off to a fresh start away from Yankee Stadium for the first time in his career.
Kevin Correia was quietly the most consistent pitcher on Minnesota’s staff last season. A solid middle-tier innings-eater, Correia sported a 4.18 ERA over 31 starts last season.
Despite a 5-13 record and 5.19 ERA in 2013, the Twins re-signed Mike Pelfrey to a two-year deal this offseason. Hoping for a bounce-back campaign, Pelfrey will likely work as the fourth starter in Minnesota’s rotation.
Samuel Deduno will likely win the battle for Minnesota’s open fifth spot in the starting rotation. He’s looked solid this spring, and should build off his good numbers from last season. In 18 starts in 2013, Deduno was 8-8 with a 3.83 ERA.
Glen Perkins will anchor a strong Twins bullpen in 2014. One of the few left-handed closers in MLB, Perkins was selected to the All-Star Game last season, his first as Minnesota’s closer. Perkins should continue to improve on a 2013 that saw him produce a 2.30 ERA and 11.1 K/9 over 36 saves.
Two years ago, Jared Burton was one of the best relief pitchers in baseball. His 2.18 ERA over 64 games in 2012 regressed to a still solid 3.82 ERA over 71 games in 2013. Burton throws up to five pitches with confidence, and will be relied on to set up for Perkins this season.
Anthony Swarzak was one of the most surprising and important pieces of Minnesota’s bullpen last season. In 2013, Swarzak worked 96 relief innings to the tune of a 2.91 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. Look for him to eat up a ton of innings this season as well.
2013 was easily Brian Duensing’s best season as a relief pitcher. A former starter for the Twins, Duensing threw 61 innings last year, and posted a 3.98 ERA and 8.3 K/9. Duensing will be relied on to work more than just late-inning lefty-lefty matchups in 2014.
In two seasons with Minnesota, Casey Fien has been a very solid bridge to late inning throwers like Burton and Perkins. In 108 appearances with the Twins, Fien carries a 3.25 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 9.7 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 through 97 Innings.
Caleb Thielbar will serve as another quality left-handed reliever in Minnesota’s pen in 2014. Last season, Thielbar first at the major-league level, he posted an extremely impressive 1.76 ERA, 0.826 WHIP and 7.6 K/9 through 46 Innings.
Michael Tonkin has the tools of a potential setup man, and should don a Twins uniform this April. Yet to give up a hit this spring, the 24-year old Tonkin had a 0.79 ERA and 10 strikeouts in just over 11 innings of big league work last season.
The 25th and final Opening Day roster spot, out of sheer sympathy and wishful thinking, belongs to Scott Diamond. Diamond was the ace of Minnesota’s staff just two seasons ago, where he was 12-9 with a 3.54 ERA and 1.6 BB/9. Last season, Diamond regressed to 6-13 with a 5.43 ERA. Now out of minor league options, he will likely win the final spot over Vance Worley. Diamond is on thin ice in Minnesota and will look to get back to 2012 form in 2014.
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