Fantasy baseball 2014 team previews: Minnesota Twins
After winning the AL Central in back-to-back seasons in 2009 and 2010, the Twins have been cellar dwellers, finishing fifth, fifth and fourth, consecutively, over the past three seasons. As a result, not many Twins players have been drafted onto fantasy squads.
This year doesn't get much better, as there are just three Twins expected to be taken in a standard 23-round mixed league draft: Joe Mauer, Glen Perkins and Brian Dozier.
With several prospects on the way to The Show, Twins veterans are being shortchanged in the projections because they might not have their job by midsummer.
The Astros and White Sox were the only American League teams to score fewer runs than the Twins, but it's not for a lack of swinging. The Twins' 1,430 strikeouts were the second-most in the majors, and Minnesota's 52 stolen bases ranked 27th. That's right -- they made up for being a mediocre power club by being slow on the base paths.
So while there's not a ton of potential among the lineup and rotation coming out of Spring Training, there are plenty of good upside gambles that won't cost you much at all.
MORE TEAM PREVIEWS:
1. Alex Presley, CF
2. Brian Dozier, 2B
3. Joe Mauer, 1B
4. Josh Willingham, LF
5. Oswaldo Arcia, RF
6. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
7. Jason Kubel, DH
8. Kurt Suzuki, C
9. Pedro Florimon, SS
1. Ricky Nolasco, RHP
2. Kevin Correia, RHP
3. Phil Hughes, RHP
4. Mike Pelfrey, RHP
5. Vance Worley, RHP
Others: Samuel Deduno, Kyle Gibson, Scott Diamond
Bullpen: Glen Perkins (Closer), Jared Burton
When will super prospect Byron Buxton arrive to save the day? Buxton was named Baseball America's No. 1 prospect in February. The second overall pick of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft blazed through the lower levels of the Twins' minor-league system, and at the start of this season, he'll be just 20.
Buxton's power is overshadowed by his speed, and once he arrives for good, he could develop into a plus-power leadoff hitter. He should start in Double-A, the last step before a mid- to late-season call-up. If he gets off to a great start through May -- pick him up. His makeup is supposedly above average, which could make the transition to the majors even easier. BA sees him as a late-season addition to the Twins -- but I think a great start in the first two months pushes that arrival date up.
What's going on behind the plate in Minnesota? The Twins have decided to lengthen hometown hero Joe Mauer's career a little longer by moving him out from behind the plate over to first base full time. Fantasy owners are always a little sad to see a great hitter lose that catcher eligibility (...not until 2015, though), but in return, we'll get to see a good hitter play a few more seasons at an above-average caliber.
Prospect Josmil Pinto suddenly found himself with a clear path to a starting job in the majors -- until the Twins signed Kurt Suzuki in late December.
The former A's backstop will be the starter, and Pinto will likely get some starts here and there -- initially. Suzuki is not good offensively, but he brings leadership and quality defense.
Mauer is obviously still an excellent hitter, good for a pick in Round 6 or so, but mostly because he still has catcher eligibility. But Pinto is a gamble as a second catcher. He'll turn 25 in March, which is about the time it takes for catchers to develop into major league backstops.
Suzuki might get the most at-bats at this position for the Twins in the first half of the season, but you want fewer at-bats from a guy that hits .235, not more at-bats.
Who are these Twins pitchers?! Two of the top three starters on the pitching staff, Nolasco and Hughes, are new to the Twins this season, and the other three were new to the team a year ago. Nolasco will be asked to lead this team as the ace, in spite of the fact he has always been more of a second or even third starter. We'll talk more about Nolasco's chances in a bit, but he's likely the best fantasy pitcher in this rotation for 2014.
Mike Pelfrey had Tommy John surgery in April 2012, so he'll be two years removed from the operation by the time Opening Day rolls around. He started to look good in July and August, but came unraveled again in September. He should be back to 100 percent, with a full offseason to rest.
Hughes disappointed millions over the past seven years wearing pinstripes in the Bronx, but now, out of the limelight, we could see a career resurrected in Minnesota. He's not going to get you a ton of wins or strikeouts ... what was my point again? Oh, if he figures things out on his new pitching staff, he could be an ERA helper at some point this summer -- but he has to give up fewer hits. That's all.
Kevin Correia posted a couple good months last season, but from June on, he never won more than one game in a month. His ERA in August and September was under 3.60, but he just doesn't do enough of anything else to make him worth more than a spot starter in fantasy.
Vance Worley came over from Philadelphia with the hopes of an above-average start in the AL. Some disappointing starts led to his demotion to Triple-A, until finally, a shoulder injury led to the end of his season.
As you can see, there are some hopeful fantasy stories in this Twins rotation, but really, these guys are either late-round picks or players to target on waivers if they start strong.
Ricky Nolasco, SP -- Nolasco joins the American League for the first time, which could actually be a boon to his fantasy value. After seeing what he could do after a change of uniforms (from Miami to Los Angeles) last season, seeing him throw at pitcher-friendly Target Field should be enjoyable.
Unfortunately, he still doesn't have a great offense or a deep bullpen to help him tally wins. But for your ERA and WHIP, he's not a bad risk to start the season -- when very few AL hitters have seen his stuff.
Glen Perkins, RP -- For a bust in Minnesota, I really only have Mauer and Perkins from which to choose. Mauer moves to first base, which should allow him to stay healthier than recent seasons, so choosing him to be a bust doesn't make much sense. Although, you could say he's still an injury risk, considering he has played an average of 114 games in the past three seasons.
However Perkins has been a major league closer for all of nine months in the major leagues, dating to July 2012. Know that one-third of the saves in a given season come from pitchers that don't get drafted in mixed leagues. That means there are a lot of pitchers taking over jobs of closers that did get drafted.
Also, Perkins got five or fewer saves in four of six months last season. That's just a killer for head-to-head owners who need consistent production. Jared Burton would be next in line if Perkins falters or gets hurt.
Brian Dozier, 2B -- Can we call this section: Sleeper No. 2? I don't see Perkins becoming a top-five closer. While I like Nolasco and Phil Hughes, I don't think they'll suddenly become 15-game winners with sub-3.00 ERAs.
So that leaves Brian Dozier, the scrappy second baseman that surprised many with 18 home runs and 66 RBI. He ranked fifth in the position in homers, but then he also ranked fourth at the position in total strikeouts (120). If he can show some more patience at the plate (just a .312 OBP), then his batting average should rise (from .244), and he'll have even more opportunities to steal bases (his 14 SBs ranked 10th among second basemen).
Alex Presley, OF -- Not a lot of power, not a lot of speed, but if Presley hits leadoff, he'll get plenty of at-bats. If he can match his 2013 batting average of .275, then that high number of at-bats will suit AL-only owners well.
Oswaldo Arcia, OF -- He flashed a good amount of power in his rookie season of 2013, with 14 homers in just over 350 at-bats. If he can learn some patience (he's just 22), the Twins might have a guy that can knock in Buxton over the next few years.