By Peter King, SI.com
Player I Saw Whom I Really Liked
First baseman Justin Morneau. Beware of passing on this guy, fantasy players. I stood behind the batting cage Thursday and watched the ball jump off his bat like a exploding jackrabbit. After hitting 19 home runs in 74 major league games last season, the power prospect is going to get a chance to play 150 games, get 500 at-bats and feast on some mistakes. He roped a double off Jon Lieber during exhibition action, a ball that took about a second to get to deep right. Morneau's a tall drink of water who looks too young to be such a dangerous hitter. One last stat: 67 homers in Double-A, Triple-A and the majors over the past two years.
Team's biggest strengths
Pitching. Not a deep staff, but with Johan Santana and Brad Radke going every five days, it gives the Twins a cushion for failure on the other three days. As general manager Terry Ryan told me, "Radke and Santana, combined, had more quality starts than any two guys on any staff in baseball last year. That means on at least two of every five days, we've got an excellent chance to win. That's a tremendous boost to a ballclub." Check out the numbers of setup dudes J.C. Romero and Juan Rincon and closer Joe Nathan last year. Really, really good. Like the Red Sox with Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez last year, the pitching makes the Twins slump-proof.
Team's biggest weakness
The left side of the infield is unknown. After losing Cristian Guzman (Washington) and Corey Koskie (Toronto) in free agency, manager Ron Gardenhire is set to go with Michael Cuddyer at third -- he's never hit higher than .263 in any of four partial seasons in Minnesota -- and Jason Bartlett at short, assuming he keeps playing in spring training the way he has. Good range and a better bat than the Twins thought. Bartlett, a 6-foot stringbean, should hit OK for average without much pop.
The Twins are saying all the right things about the Joe Mauer situation, but how can you not be worried? He had medial meniscus surgery on his left knee last spring, playing in only 35 games, and missed the last two and a half months of the season because the knee hurt. It swelled early in camp, and all he could do today was DH. Alternatives: Matt LeCroy, who's been working at first too, and vet Mike Redmond. ... Ryan's office is as spartan as any exec's office I've seen in spring training or an NFL camp. Opposing rosters and depth charts are printed out and simply hang from the wall; a spring training schedule from USA Today is on the wall. He'd get along well with Bill Belichick and Bill Polian. No-nonsense guy, great respect for the game. ... Gardenhire is so involved with every phase of camp he hits grounders for 20 minutes at a side field before game, chirping all the time. "Here's a Chrissy Evert now!" he yelled to his second basemen before hitting them, of course, to their backhands. ... Best fielder I saw: 5-foot-9 Venezuelan second baseman Luis Rodriguez. What quick hands. ... Torii Hunter is as pleasant and as much of a clubhouse leader as, say, Jerome Bettis is in football. ... So hard not to come away from a day with this team and not think: "No wonder they win. Good guys, serious about their jobs, very good work ethic, no turds in the clubhouse."