The 2013 Minnesota Twins are in a unique position. Their present doesn't seem all that promising, but their future looks pretty bright. The future is near as well. It is entirely possible that this team starts their turnaround as early as next season. Some might argue that the turnaround started in June of 2012 at the draft, with a new commitment to power pitching. This commitment was renewed during the off-season when fan-favorites Denard Span and Ben Revere were traded for young, power arms. The Twins are building something here. I can feel it.
Who will be a part of that something? Joe Mauer seems likely (understatement!). For many players, the 2013 season is an audition to be a part of the next good Twins team. These are young players who need to prove that they can contribute to a contending team. If they can't, the Twins have the money and resources to replace them in the near future. I feel the Twins are going to be much more likely to make major moves, once they know where their foundation lies. Who has the most to prove this season?
Something to prove in 2013
Brian Dozier needs to show that he can replicate the plate discipline that he showed in 2011. He needs to show that he can handle second base as well. He was not a good player in 2012. He may have been rushed to Minnesota, but he didn't show a whole lot in AAA either. Dozier will be 26 this season. In order to be looked at as more than a stopgap or a utility player, he needs to show something this season. If he posts another sub .300 OBP in 2013, there is no reason to think that he should be a part of the Twins' future plans.
Joe Benson is probably getting his last real chance with the Twins. He doesn't necessarily have to win the center field job outright, but he needs to show that he can make contact against major league pitching. He has a good glove and a good arm. He has power and speed. It all comes down to contact. If he can't make contact, there is no reason to keep giving him chances. All that being said, he could still carve out a niche as a fourth outfielder, even if he can't overcome the contact issues.
Chris Parmelee needs to hit. Odds are, he will never be an above-average defender. In fact, he could be pretty bad in the outfield. However, he can't help that the Twins chose that position for him. All he can do is go out and play right field as best he can. His real value should come from his bat. I won't be expecting huge home run power, but a .275/.350/.450 line is what he will need to provide to overcome his defensive limitations. Those aren't huge numbers, but very valuable from a young, cheap player. If he doesn't hit, then he might get relegated to the bench.
Is Trevor Plouffe a steady, powerful third baseman, or a shaky, low-contact third baseman? Plouffe's thumb injury makes it hard to properly evaluate his 2012 season (which, was a make-or-break season in itself). Even with his early struggles and late swoon, he still slugged over .450. If he can provide steady defense and 25 home run power, he can be a very useful player going forward. If his June/July power surge was a fluke, his future might be as a super utility player, capable of playing infield and outfield.
It looks like Brian Duensing will get to show what he can produce as a full-time
reliever in 2013. Over the past two seasons, Duensing has been a terrible starter and a productive reliever. His platoon splits are fairly massive, and it is very clear that his role should be that of a lefty specialist. The team has needed him to start games due to injuries, but should have enough depth to avoid this going forward. The question about Duensing is just how effective he can be. Is he a set-up man, or a middle reliever? We should learn the answer to that question this season.
Something, but less to prove in 2013
Scott Diamond will be a part of the Twins' plans, regardless of how 2013 goes. However, we will get answers about whether Scott Diamond can be as effective in the future as he was in 2012. I broke his 2012 season down in detail, and I think it was real production that can be replicated. However, he has a very small margin of error. I'm excited to watch him try to duplicate his 2012 success.
Liam Hendriks was not impressive as a Twin last season. However, he was very good for Rochester. As a Twin, Hendriks gave up a lot of home runs. In Rochester, he limited home runs, and posted a 2.93 K:BB ratio. While 2013 will be an important season for Hendriks, he should not be given up on if he struggles. He is only 24 and has a good minor league track record. It will be very interesting to see how he adjusts to major league hitters this season.
Kyle Gibson is coming off of a serious injury. His innings will be limited and he may not get to pitch in Minnesota very much, if at all. He is still relatively young. He was never known for his stuff. His command and control make him a good prospect. If he needs another season to get his feel back, it would be worth giving it to him. I feel that he should be ready to contribute full-time in 2014.
If Aaron Hicks looks awful in Spring Training and loses the center field job, that should change nothing about how we view his future. If he then goes to AAA and struggles, that should still change nothing about how we view his future. Hicks has typically adjusted to new levels slowly, and the same could happen this season. He is only 23. Defensively, he is ready to go. He'll likely need time to adjust to new pitchers. This could take a full season or more. However, he has the skills and he seems to have the aptitude to eventually adjust. I still hope he comes out like a freight train and wins the 2013 Rookie of the Year award though.
All of the Prospects
Any player that is considered a legitimate prospect should not be given up on
during this season. If Oswaldo Arcia fails to get to Minnesota, that doesn't change his long-term future. If Miguel Sano hits 15 home runs, if Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios struggle, if Alex Meyer is a little wild, if Eddie Rosario boots a bunch of ground balls, if... You get the point. We kind of collectively gave up on Aaron Hicks last year, and look, he might be the 2013 Rookie of the Year. Right? The Twins aren't a good enough team to give up on prospects. At least not yet.
Who did I miss? Who else has something to prove in 2013? Also, who am I wrong about? Let's chat. A/S/L please.