Let's Go Tribe's American League Central Preview: Minnesota Twins

Our look at the Tribe's competition in the American League Central continues with the Twins, who have a bright future, but probably a gloomy present.



Between now and Opening Day, we'll be taking a look at each of the other American League teams, to see what they've done during the offseason, and examine their outlook for 2014.

Find other entries in the series here

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Minnesota Twins

2013 Record: 66-96 (4th in AL Central), 6-13 vs. Cleveland

614 runs scored (13th of 15 in AL), 788 runs allowed (14th of 15 in AL)

The Twins began the 213 season 18-17, surprising those who expected them to lose 95 games or so again, as they had the previous two years. An 11-gam losing streak ended whatever faint hopes there were for contention, but Minnesota was a respectable 36-42 through the June. From July 1 on though, they had the second worst record in the American League. They managed to avoid the AL Central cellar, so there's that.

The Twins really struggled on both sides of the game. Joe Mauer was the only player on the team to post a strong season at the plate (.324/.404/.476). The Twins gave 150+ plate appearances to 15 different players, only Mauer hit .260 or better. 7 of those 15 hit .230 or worse. Justin Morneau was a bit above average at the plate, but not for a first baseman, and the former AL MVP was traded to Pittsburgh at the end of August.

The pitching staff had a 4.55 ERA, better than only the Astros. Actually, the bullpen was pretty good. Closer Glen Perkins had a fine season, and Minnesota relievers combined for a 3.50 ERA, 5th in the AL. It was the starters who were truly miserable. Samuel Deduno was the only one of them with an ERA below 4.00, while 103 of the team's 162 games were started by someone who wound up with an ERA above 5.00. The rotation's combined ERA was 5.26, worst in baseball. They struck out just 4.93 hitters per 9 innings, which wasn't just the worst in baseball, it was the lowest by any team since 2006.

Key offseason additions:

Ricky Nolasco (SP), Phil Hughes (SP), Kurt Suzuki (C), Jason Kubel (OF/DH)

Key offseason departures:

Ryan Doumit (C/OF)

2014 Payroll: ~$83 million

Projected 2014 Starting Lineup (with ZiPS fWAR projection):

Pos

Player

Projected WAR

C

Kurt Suzuki

2

1B

Joe Mauer

3

2B

Brian Dozier

2

3B

Trevor Plouffe

1

SS

Pedro Florimon

1

LF

Josh Willingham

2

CF

Aaron Hicks

1

RF

Oswaldo Arcia

2

DH

Jason Kubel

0

TOTAL

14

Indians who have killed the Twins:

Jason Kipnis - .310/.385/.512, .897 OPS, 5 HR in 193 PA

Lonnie Chisenhall - .322/.372/.517, .890 OPS, 4 HR in 94 PA

Twins who have killed the Indians:

Joe Mauer - .339/.423/.462, .885 OPS, 9 HR in 504 PA

Trevor Plouffe - .286/.354/.521, .876 OPS, 8 HR in 158 PA

Projected 2014 Starting Rotation/Bullpen (with ZiPS fWAR projection):

Pos

Player

Projected WAR

1

Ricky Nolasco

2

2

Phil Hughes

1

3

Kevin Correia

0

4

Mike Pelfrey

0

5

Kyle Gibson

0

RP

Bullpen

2

TOTAL

5

2014 Outlook:

I don't really understand why the Twins went out and signed Nolasco and Hughes. I suppose the former is now their best pitcher, and the latter isn't especially expensive, but the team is at least two years from contending. I suppose every team has to have a starting rotation, and Minnesota was barely cobbling one together without those two, so there's that. In any event, their rotation is still headed towards being one of the worst in baseball.

The other big offseason move for the Twins wasn't adding or losing a player, it was committing to moving Mauer to first base, in hopes of keeping him healthy and productive at the plate. On the one hand, he should be a good defensive first baseman, and while he doesn't have the power traditionally found at the position, he's plenty good enough a hitter. Mauer is owed $23 million a year through 2018, so it makes sense to try and keep him on the field. On the other hand, taking a solid defender out from behind the plate automatically removes some of his value. Given that the team isn't going anywhere the next couple years though, I think the move makes sense. It'll be better to have him still productive come 2016.

By then, some of the Twins' many highly rated prospects should be on the scene, including Byron Buxton, who's the consensus #1 prospect in baseball, and could get a cup of coffee in Minnesota this September. Not far behind him on most lists is Miguel Sano, the top power hitter in the minors. Unfortunately, Sano had to have Tommy John surgery a few weeks ago (yes, position players can have that operation), and he'll miss all of 2014. If those two and a couple others turn out as many scouts expect them to, the Twins will be a good team eventually. Not this year though. This year they're probably headed back to the AL Central basement. 70 wins seems like a reasonable goal.

PECOTA Projection: 71-91 (5th in AL Central), 690 runs scored, 789 runs allowed

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