Monday, March 31, 2014

Minnesota Twins Power Rankings: March 31, 2014

OPENING DAY HAS ARRIVED!  As we all collectively rejoice/boogie, I thought it would be fun to send out the offseason Power Rankings with a bang!  Starting next Monday, the Monday Morning Madness will return, likely to much acclaim and fanfare.  I'll release monthly Power Rankings, designed to rank the best performances from the best Twins players each month.  Now that you are fully up to speed on my schedule, we can get to actual rankings.

I thought it would be fun to try to project the top 10 players by WAR for the upcoming season.  I've meticulously combed my list and I'm ready to project.  These are simply wild guesses, but if it makes you feel better, you can imagine me standing next to a giant computer, like this:

There, now my credentials have been confirmed.  I'm using rWAR (Baseball Reference) because they use ERA instead of FIP to calculate their pitchers' WAR and I prefer their fielding metric.  I also prefer to project actual performance instead of projected performance.  That would lead to projected projections and I'm not willing to make anyone dizzy right now.  Let's start.

10.  Josh Willingham - 0.3 in 2013, Projected 1.3 in 2014

If only there were a way to designate a hitter who just bats and doesn't field.  If that were possible, I'd rank Willingham higher on this list.  I think he bounces back offensively, at least to an extent, closer to his 2009-2011 production and short of his 2012 production.  In those three seasons, he was worth roughly 2.5 oWAR.  Back then, his defense was just bad, not Delmon, so he finished with WARs in the 2.5 range.  His defense has deteriorated to the point of liability and his overall WAR will greatly suffer as a result.  Of course, he'll still be better than he was in 2013, so I guess this is good news?

9.  Pedro Florimon - 2.1 in 2013, Projected 1.5 in 2014

Florimon's WAR comes almost entirely from his defense.  He was worth -18 runs as a batter last season, but his oWAR was slightly saved by some solid baserunning.  I don't think his offense will improve and I'm not sure he can hit enough to maintain that baserunning value.  Florimon hit .201/.262/.314 in the second half.  His defense is great; that's what keeps him in the lineup.  For now, anyway.  This projection basically takes his 2013 season and removes a mess of games because I think the Twins wise up and either give Eduardo Escobar some time at short, or they promote Danny Santana when he's ready.  Either way, I don't see Florimon scuffling through 446 plate appearances in 2014. 

8.  Aaron Hicks - 0.7 in 2013, Projected 2.0 in 2014

You're surprised that Hicks had a positive WAR last year, aren't you?  You're questioning the concept of WAR, aren't you.  You're closing this window, aren't you?  WAIT WAIT!  Hicks earned a positive WAR due to adept baserunning and solid, but sometimes shaky defense.  His overall offensive WAR was positive because of the baserunning, so don't get too upset about that figure.  His poor hitting was certainly accounted for, I promise you.  I expect Hicks to improve his hitting and fielding in 2014 while maintaining his solid baserunning.  I don't expect a full breakout just yet, but I think Hicks gets incrementally better and looks like a solid overall player by the end of 2014.

7.  Josmil Pinto - 0.7 in 2013, Projected 2.0 in 2014

It's hard to project Pinto any higher because we don't know how much playing time he will receive at the beginning of the season and we don't really know how his defense will rate.  If the concerns about his defense manifest, he could finish with a lower WAR.  He's not going to hit like he did last September, but he could easily surpass what Oswaldo Arcia did in 2013 (.251/.304/.430), which was good for 1.0 oWAR in just 97 games.  I hope the Twins intend to play Pinto more than 97 times in 2014 and I think he will post a better OBP than Arica, if nothing else.  If he can reach 2.0 oWAR, his positional score and defensive rating could be a wash, leaving him right at 2.0 overall.   

6.  Glen Perkins - 2.1 in 2013, Projected 2.1 in 2014

Perkins has been very consistent over the past three seasons, posting 2.1, 1.3 and 2.1 rWAR over that span.  The dip in 2012 had a lot to do with a shocking 5 unearned runs, which don't hurt his ERA but is reflected in his WAR.  Perkins has actually gotten better in the past three seasons, raising his strikeout rate to elite territory while maintaining a sparkling walk rate.  I see no reason to project Perkins any lower than before, as he will continue to be a dominant reliever.  He'd be higher on this list, but it's hard for closers to amass a high WAR total due to their low innings totals. 

5.  Ricky Nolasco - 1.8 in 2013, Projected 2.1 in 2014

Nolasco actually had a 1.8 WAR in 2012 as well, making him the most consistent player in the history of the World.  He was on pace to surpass that figure, but getting traded to the Dodgers and by proxy, Dodgers' Stadium, deflated his WAR due to a favorable new home ballpark.  Nolasco's new home ballpark is a lot more similar to his old home in Miami than his temporary home in Los Angeles.  Since Nolasco is the de facto Ace for the Twins, I expect him to reach 200 innings with an ERA in the 4.00-4.20 range.  If that happens, he'll finish with a slightly higher WAR in 2014.   

4.  Oswaldo Arcia - -0.5 in 2013, Projected 2.5 in 2014

Arcia was a league-average hitter as a 22-year-old rookie in 2013.  He only played 97 games and got shuttled between AAA and Minnesota three times.  With a more stable slate of games ahead of him, Arcia could nearly triple his oWAR of 1.0 in 2013.  I think that he rounds into a .260/.330/.450 hitter in 2014, roughly equivalent to what Coco Crisp and Stephen Drew hit in 2013.  Those two were worth about 3.5 oWAR apiece.  Both missed more than 30 games as well.  If Arcia can hit the figures I think he can hit, his oWAR could be just North of 4.0. 

Defense.  Ok, there's no way to sugarcoat this.  Arcia is a bad defender right now.  I had hoped he'd look good in Spring Training, but he hasn't.  I have long-term hope for Arcia in the outfield, but 2014 doesn't look promising.  If that's the case and he's an awful outfielder in 2014, his dWAR will greatly drag his overall WAR down, leaving him in the 2.5 range.  He's going to be a good hitter.  Hopefully he can round into a better fielder because it would be a shame to have to hear about how overrated Arcia is due to his shoddy defense.

3.  Phil Hughes - -0.7 in 2013, Projected 2.8 in 2014

Oh God, what am I doing?!?  I clearly have a good feeling about Hughes in 2014.  To reach the number I have projected, he'll need to throw a career-best 200 innings and post an ERA in the 3.75 range.  Whoa boy.  Hughes' best season was 2012 when he threw 191.1 innings and had an ERA of 4.19.  He was brutal last year, but I'm willing to ignore that because...well, I want to.  This isn't science, how many times do I have to say that?  If Hughes had been just unfortunate with home runs in 2012 instead of woefully and borderline unfairly unfortunate, his ERA could have easily been in the 3.75 range and he might have lasted longer in games (he did make 32 starts). 

I think Hughes stays healthy in 2014, makes 30+ starts and looks generally good.  This projection could look really bad in either direction, as Hughes has a huge range of potential outcomes in 2014.  I'm optimistic.  I was really optimistic about Aaron Hicks at this time last year, in case you were wondering. 

2.  Brian Dozier - 3.8 in 2013, Projected 3.8 in 2014

I'm going to hold steady on Dozier in 2014.  I think he'll hit for slightly less power, but his BA and OBP will improve.  It will all be a wash when it comes to actual value, although it wouldn't shock me if his OPS+ ticks up just a bit.  I see no reason to downgrade his defense at this time, as Dozier is still a young man and looked really solid last season. 

1.  Joe Mauer - 5.4 in 2013, Projected 5.6 in 2014

I'm projecting a slight dip in dWAR due to his move from catcher to first.  While I think he will rate as a good fielding first baseman, the move down the defensive spectrum (a complete shift from one end to the other) will hurt his overall figure.  He'll still hit like a champ and rack up value.  He should play more games in 2014, so that helps.  I'm blindly projecting a .500 slugging percentage because I love being let down.  If he hits that number with his typical .320 BA and .400 OBP, his oWAR will be over 6.0 but the defense/position will drag him down slightly.  Better power, more games but a less valuable defensive profile all add up to a slightly more valuable Mauer in 2014.   

Remember, I was standing next to that giant computer; I know what I'm talking about.  What do you think of my guesses predictions?  I feel pretty confident.  If these figures prove accurate, the Twins could be pretty good in 2014.  If I'm wrong, they'll be even better because I'll have undersold these players, right?  Optimism!  Check back tomorrow as I'll have instant analysis of today's game just a mere one day after it happens.  Honesty!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

2014 Minnesota Twins Predictions

Prior to the 2013 season, I made ten Minnesota Twins predictions.  Of those ten, I nailed six.  Honestly, that's a pretty good success rate.  However, two of the ten that I missed, I missed badly.  Here's a very quick recap on my predictions from last year:

Good:  Justin Morneau will be traded.  Josh Willingham will not be traded.  Rich Harden will not be good.  Joe Mauer will not win the AL batting title.  Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks and Kyle Gibson will make their MLB debuts.  Trevor May, Eddie Rosario and Alex Meyer will not make their MLB debuts (all correct, long live the King). 

Not quite:  Joe Mauer will win the OBP crown (he finished third).

Bad:  Kevin Correia will be bad (he was not bad).

Bad and slow-working:  Mike Pelfrey will be good (he was not good).

Downright terrible and undoing every good prediction made:  Vance Worley will be good (he was...ugh).

So, 6 of 10, but the Worley debacle takes a billion points from my slate, leaving me with nearly negative one billion prediction points.  Can I do better in 2014?  I'm turning the volume to 11 with 11 Twins predictions, each one more bombastic and brash than the next.  I'll start with the easy ones and move to the tough calls.

Let's roll:

Prediction #1 - Sam Deduno will be voted King of Minnesota

This could be tricky because Minnesota is part of a sovereign nation and a democratic nation at that.  If one man on the Twins can win the hearts of the fans and earn the right to rule over the masses, it is clearly Magic Sam. 

Prediction #2 - Kevin Correia will be traded by the end of the season

The Twins actually have five competent starters right now.  It's shocking, I know.  If you count King Magic Sam, you get to six.  Kyle Gibson needs to be on the active roster for most of this season and Alex Meyer is lurking (see prediction #4).  The Twins will need to open up a rotation spot at some point and Correia is in the final year of his contract.  Correia was 5,000 times better than I thought he would be, but if the Twins can flip him for a younger piece while opening a spot in the rotation, they'll wisely make that move. 

Prediction #3 - Eddie Rosario and Trevor May will not make their MLB debuts

I don't think May will do enough at AAA to earn a spot, especially with a better and more talented prospect in Alex Meyer (see prediction #4 again) ahead of him on the depth chart.  Kris Johnson, Brooks Raley, Sean Gilmartin and Logan Darnell could all be used in a spot start as well.  There are too many guys ahead of him.  Rosario is an obvious call, as he will miss the first two months and then need time to continue his transition to second base. 

Prediction #4 - Bryon Buxton, Alex Meyer and Danny Santana will make their MLB debuts

These three seem to have relatively clear paths to the Majors.  Santana has actual upside, making him an attractive candidate for when Pedro Florimon is hitting .210 in June.  Meyer could easily replace Correia when he gets traded.  Buxton is just too exciting to keep the Minors for a full season.  I envision Buxton getting a September call-up and never going back to the Minors. 

Prediction #5 - Pedro Florimon out, Eduardo Escobar in

Do you like predictions that contradict each other?  When Pedro Florimon is hitting .210 in June, I actually think Eduardo Escobar will get the first crack at the shortstop job.  However, even though everyone in the World seems to love Escobar, he'll get replaced shortly thereafter.  It will be kind of like when Yokozuna beat Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 9, but Hulk Hogan just came in after the match and beat Yokozuna for the title.  The diminutive Escobar is the 500-lb Yokozuna in this analogy.  Escobar won't get a long leash and he'll relinquish the job to the more promising Santana.  I'll lose my mind before eventually admitting that it's the right move. 

Prediction #6 - Josmil Pinto will replace Kurt Suzuki as the full-time catcher by June

Two major reasons.
  1. Kurt Suzuki is the same guy who has hit .235/.290/.353 since 2011, his age 27, 28 and 29 seasons.  
  2. Josmil Pinto is going to hit extremely well in his part-time role.  
The combination of those two reasons will be too much for the Twins' brass to ignore.  When the offense is sputtering as we all expect in June, the allure of better offense from an exciting, young player will be impossible to deny.  Pinto will replace Suzuki because he's better and it won't take long to figure that out (some may have already figured that out). 

Prediction #7 - Phil Hughes will be better than Ricky Nolasco

Upside, baby!  Nolasco is going to be who he is.  He'll throw around 200 innings, post an ERA around 4 and generally be worth his $12 million.  Hughes is going to be better than his $8 million.  I've explored all the avenues and come to the conclusion that Hughes has been really unlucky in his career.  He's been a better pitcher away from Yankee Stadium, but only because he's surrendered fewer home runs.  His fielding-independent stats were actually a bit better at home, but all the home runs really ruined his work. 

The shift from a short porch in right to a park that suppresses home runs will go a long way for Hughes and a long way for the Twins.  When you also consider his age and the relative lack of innings on his arm, his upside is a 200-inning, 3.50 ERA pitcher and that would be better than steady Ricky Nolasco.  
Going a step further, I think Hughes gets an even bigger boost in 2015 when Byron Buxton and Aaron Hicks combine to catch all of the fly balls.  Of course, that's a prediction for next season, isn't it?

Prediction #8 - Oswaldo Arcia will finish the season with 55+ extra-base hits

I'm all-in on Arcia in 2014.  I've predicted him as my AL breakout player and I think he's going to become the Twins' second-best hitter by season's end.  Now, that's like being the second-best something at a something convention, but it's still something.  Right?  I envision about 30-35 doubles and 20-25 home runs.  Too many?  He was on pace for 26 doubles and 22 home runs as a 22-year-old rookie last year (had he played 150 games instead of 97).  It seems conceivable that he will get better in his second season and play a lot more games. 

Not impressed with 55 extra-base hits?  Here's a list of players 23 or younger who have accomplished that feat in the last ten years:

Lots of great players on that list and Jeff Francoeur.  It works out to just fewer than five instances per year.  It will be impressive when Arcia joins that group in 2014.

Prediction #9 - Joe Mauer will win his 4th batting title

Mauer! Mauer! MAUER!  With the tools of ignorance no longer in his possession, Mauer will be freed up to prey on the ignorance of opposing pitchers.  They'll scoff when "Old Man Mauer" struts to the plate.  They won't be scoffing when their caps are knocked clean off their heads by repeated line drives up the middle.  I predict that Mauer will get into prolonged "grooves" that will no longer be squelched by day games after night games or "general soreness."  Now, Mauer will be able to find his swing and keep it going every day.  This will lead to hitting streaks, 5-5 evenings and a batting title at the end of the season. 

This ignores the fact that there is research that I refuse to cite that proves that catchers do not hit better when they move to a new position.  Joe Mauer transcends science, research, stats, nerds, Nerds, and my inability to quickly find something on Google.

Prediction #10 - Chris Colabello will hit more home runs for the Twins than Josh Willingham

Yeah, that's right, I'm going bold!  I actually think Willingham will bounce back to an extent, but I don't think he gets through the year on the Twins, at least not as a successful player.  If he does find his power stroke, he becomes trade bait.  If he doesn't find his power stroke, he won't hit home runs.  It's simple as that.

Colabello has been one of the Twins' best hitters during Spring Training and he earned a spot on the team last summer with a great AAA season.  Jason Kubel has been disappointing this Spring (if you expected anything from him) and I can see no reason to believe that he'll be able to keep his roster spot for the entire season.  That leaves Colabello as the Twins' DH and I think he'll hit 20-25 home runs, more than Willingham will have time to hit in his 4-5 months on the team.

I don't even care if Colabello is sent to AAA to start the season (he still hasn't technically made the team).  He'll force his way onto the MLB roster just like he did last season.  He's really big.  Like, strong big.

Prediction #11 - The Twins will win at least 75 games

EVEN BOLDER!  A nine-win improvement would seem like a bounty of wins for this win-deprived fan base.  However, I think the Twins have done enough with their rotation and have enough young players on the upswing to see this kind of improvement in 2014.  75 wins is still probably good for 4th in the Central and the Twins still have more building to do in order to get to an actual exciting win total in the future, but a nine-win improvement is a step in the right direction. 

My butt is officially on the line!  You're out of order!  What do you think of my predictions?  I'm going big this year, no holding back.  What do you predict for 2014?  Are you and I on the same wavelength, or do you see things differently?  I have some lemon juice in my eye, so please keep that in mind.  See you in the regular season!

If you looooooove predictions, do I have a treat for you.  I predicted award winners and league champions, free of charge!  Here's the National League and the American League, for the lovers.  Take care.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

2014 American League Predictions

Yesterday, I predicted the major National League awards and the National League champ.  If you missed it, you can find it here.  If you recall, I went 1 for 11 in predictions last year and I hope to at least double my success rate in 2014.  Here are six more predictions, each thoughtfully considered and filled with reason, rationale and science.  And math too, don't forget about math. 

Breakout Player - Oswaldo Arcia

This is an unashamed homer pick and I don't care one bit.  I think Arcia is going to become an excellent hitter and why not right now?  Arcia's strikeout rate was way too high in 2013, but I love his aggression.  He got shuffled between Rochester and Minnesota a lot more frequently than it seemed in the moment last season, so some consistent at-bats in the Majors to start the year could help him get off on the right foot.  I think he'll increase his OPS+ into the 115-120 range and it won't dip below for a long time. 

I have no math or science behind this prediction, I just really want this to happen and I'm the guy writing for this esteemed blog. 

Rookie of the Year - Nick Castellanos

There are two "veteran" rookies who are better bets than Castellanos.  Jose Abreu played professionally in Cuba and Masahiro Tanaka played professionally in Japan.  These two should be farther along in their careers than Castellanos.  Abreu and Tanaka could have better seasons and still receive fewer votes because of their professional experience.  I think that Castellanos will get a lot of exposure on a good team and he should be one of their better performers as well.  He should get ample RBI opportunities with talented hitters like Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez on base frequently. 

Xander Bogaerts is the other obvious pick, but I think that Castellanos will be a better hitter and he has more Upper Minors experience.  I think that makes Castellanos just a tad safer although both are terrific prospects. 

Apologies to Bogaerts, Abreu, Tanaka, Taijuan Walker and George Springer

Cy Young Award - Felix Hernandez

Long live the King!  I am a huge Felix Hernandez fan.  Hernandez has made 30 or more starts in every season since 2006, so you know he's durable.  He plays in a pitcher-friendly ballpark (although slightly less pitcher-friendly in 2014 due to some changes to the dimensions).  Seattle has historically done a poor job of supporting Hernandez offensively.  However, the addition of Robinson Cano and the emergence of Kyle Seager gives the Mariners an improved lineup.  Hernandez has proved over the last eight seasons that he is the best pitcher in the American League.  I think he'll have an award-winning season for an improved and potentially surprising team. 

Apologies to Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer, Chris Sale and David Price

MVP - Mike Trout

Will this be the year?  In my opinion, Trout should be coming off of two consecutive MVP awards.  Instead, Miguel Cabrera is in that position.  Cabrera is fantastic and I don't want to take anything away from him.  I simply think Trout is a better overall player and therefore, more valuable.  I also think the Angels could be better than the Tigers in 2014 and we all know that team record is a factor in MVP voting.  Trout is headed for his prime (a scary thought), while Cabrera will play in his first season after turning 30.  I think it will be another heavyweight fight in 2014, but I think Trout comes out on top in his third attempt.   

Oh right, other guys.  In the American League right now, there's Trout and Cabrera and then a bunch of really great players who aren't quite Trout and Cabrera.  Evan Longoria, Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano and a few others who will breakout in 2014 are in that tier.  They'll be in the conversation to finish third.   

Apologies to Cabrera, Cano, Longoria and Beltre

League Champ - Tampa Bay Rays

I'm picking a team that is planning to use David DeJesus in the leadoff spot and James Loney at first base as my AL champ.  It's true.  I love this team.  I think the 2-4 spots in their lineup (Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria, and Wil Myers) is the best 2-4 you can find.  I love that they have Yunel Escobar and Ryan Hanigan at short and catcher (two personal faves).  Desmond Jennings was the other guy I considered for AL breakout player, before ultimately deciding to pick a Twins player because I can. 

Mostly, I love their pitching.  David Price and Matt Moore are fantastic.  Alex Cobb and Chris Archer are great.  Jake Odorizzi should be just good enough to hold things down until Jeremy Hellickson is ready.  They also have top prospect Enny Romero nearly ready to take a spot if someone goes down.  Heath Bell is the fourth best pitcher in their bullpen, which is just where you want Heath Bell.  With Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Grant Balfour for the late innings, a lot of good starts are going to be converted to good saves.  Their rotation will be tough to top in the playoffs, as the Tigers are the only team who can truly match up.   

Apologies to the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals and Oakland Athletics

World Series Champ - Tampa Bay Rays

I had the Dodgers coming out of the NL and I think the Rays will beat the Dodgers to win the 2014 World Series.  This series would be insane.  Game 1 would be David Price v. Clayton Kershaw, probably the two best left-handed starters in baseball.  The pitching is close, but I give Tampa the edge in lineup and defense.  Of course, in a seven-game series, anything can happen.  Except a third team winning, that would be illegal. 
The Rays feel like the team of this current generation, so I think it would be fitting for that team to win a title before their window closes.  David Price is a free agent after the 2015 season, so that window could be closing very soon.  I'll take the Rays in seven exciting games!

Apologies to the Los Angeles Dodgers   

What fun!  I have now made 11 MLB predictions and if my record last year is any indication, I will get one of them right.  If I go 11 for 11, I will print out every Word doc I have on my computer and eat them in front of a camera.  I will post the video, and the ensuing hospital visit, on this blog.  Keep your eyes peeled for that one!  Tomorrow, I will post even more predictions!  I have 11 Twins predictions and some are quite saucy.  Stay tuned!  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

2014 National League Predictions

I love making predictions.  Predictions are great because they look cool in the moment but by the time the predicted event rolls around, everyone has forgotten all about your silly prediction.  Last year, I predicted 6 year-end awards, two breakout players, the AL Champ, the NL Champ and the World Series Champ.  I got one right - Wil Myers for AL Rookie of the Year.  That 9.1% rate of success basically screams for more predictions!  Today, I will predict the National League and tomorrow I will move to the American League. 

Breakout Player - Gerrit Cole

Cole had a really nice, under-the-radar rookie season.  It's odd that he didn't get more fanfare, as he didn't receive a single Rookie of the Year vote.  Of course, there were so many excellent rookie pitchers in 2013 that Cole was overshadowed by simply being good instead of great.  Cole made 19 starts, went 10-7 with a 3.22 ERA, 100 strikeouts and just 28 walks.  Cole had a 21.3% strikeout rate, 6.0% walk rate and a 49.1% ground ball rate.  Only Adam Wainwright and Felix Hernandez met those three figures among qualified MLB starters in 2013.  Fine company. 

Back to Cole, he was sitting 95 MPH with his fastball, often touching triple-digits.  His stuff is filthy and now he's got some MLB experience under his belt.  Cole will join the ranks of the elite NL starters in 2014.  He'll go from not getting ROY votes in 2013 to getting Cy Young votes in 2014. 

Rookie of the Year - Billy Hamilton

He's going to steal so many bases.  He stole 395 bases in 502 career Minor League games.  He stole 13 bases in 13 games with the Reds at the end of 2013.  He's stolen 9 bases in 16 2014 Spring Training games.  As long as Hamilton can reach base at a reasonable rate, he's going to steal bases in massive quantities.  In fact, he could approach 100 stolen bases.  If Hamilton gets to that giant, round number, another player will have to have a transcendent season to take this award from him.  With Oscar Taveras starting his season in the Minors and no other obvious candidate, Hamilton could run away with this award.  PUN ABSOLUTELY INTENDED.

Apologies to Taveras, Archie Bradley and Kolten Wong

Cy Young Award - Stephen Strasburg

I will predict this every year until it happens.  Human memory is just so strange.  I'm not sure I will ever get the image of Strasburg's debut out of my mind.  He was so dominant and so memorable.  I think I want him to get back to that level more than he does.  Ok, that's simply not true.  Strasburg should have the reigns completely removed in 2014.  He should eclipse his career highs in innings pitched and strikeouts.  His strikeout rate fell in 2013, but his ground ball rate jumped.  That's a worthy trade-off when you consider that both figures are now great.  Strasburg won just 8 games in 2013, but I wouldn't be shocked if he tripled that number in 2014. 

For the record, Clayton Kershaw will be the best pitcher in the NL but he won't win.  He's won two of the last three and voter fatigue is legit.  I think Strasburg will win, but Kershaw will be more deserving.

Apologies to Jose Fernandez, Kershaw, Adam Wainwright and Jordan Zimmermann

This was the hardest prediction.  Originally, I chose Yadier Molina, but I'm troubled by his three-year strikeout rate increase and three-year walk rate decrease.  Buster Posey has won the award every other year, so he's due.  I picked Bryce Harper last year and want to pick him again, but he might be a better bet in 2015.  Joey Votto doesn't hit enough dingers, but he's an awesome offensive player.  McCutchen is the best player in the National League, but the Pirates look to be worse and I'm worried that voters will take that out on McCutchen.  All that said, The MVP should be the best player in the league and that's McCutchen, so I'll take him. 

Apologies to Paul Goldschmidt, Posey, Harper and Votto

League Champ - Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers have outstanding pitching.  Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in the Majors.  Zack Greinke is one of the best pitchers in the NL.  Hyun-jin Ryu looked good to me.  Dan Haren could be the best 4th starter in the League and Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley should be able to fill the fifth starter role just fine.  The bullpen is excellent too.  Kenley Jansen is filthy, Brian Wilson looks to be back to form, and Paco Rodriguez is a gem waiting to be unearthed.  The Dodgers aren't going to give up a lot of runs. 

They should score plenty of runs as well.  Yasiel Puig is a sensation.  He's the most captivating player in baseball, and he can back it up with his play.  The rest of the lineup is a collection of veterans who have performed inconsistently over the years.  However, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez and Matt Kemp are all under 32 and if just three of those guys can perform as stars, the Dodgers' lineup will be potent. 

Plus, they're 2-0 already.  What a massive head-start!

The Dodgers are a lock for the playoffs in the expanded dual Wild Card format.  Once they get to the playoffs, their ridiculous pitching will carry them to the World Series.  They'll lose, but they'll get there.  Who will they lose to?  Check back tomorrow!

Apologies to the Washington Nationals, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds

There you have it.  At my previous rate of successful predicting, I should get zero of these predictions right (I round down.  Pessimistic!).  My amazing prediction skills will be back on display tomorrow as I will forecast the American League.  Spoiler alert, I do have one "homer" prediction in the queue.  Try to ignore the intrigue for at least a few minutes tonight.  Do something for yourself.  Tomorrow, you'll get to find out what I mean.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Minnesota Twins Power Rankings: March 24, 2014

With just one week until the start of the 2014 regular season, the Twins 25-man roster is starting to take shape.  The fifth starter battle appears to have been settled.  The center field job appears to have been won.  The shortstop and catcher jobs were never really in doubt, but the backups appear to be falling in place.  Many of this week's top ten come from those battles, so let's get to the POWER! 

It's rare to see a player who was just cut from a team and outrighted to AAA on a list of the best performances from the past week, but I do think that Worley was fortunate in an odd way.  The Twins were willing to risk another team grabbing Worley, but he got lucky when no one else wanted him.  For Worley, this creates stability that might not have been guaranteed had another team claimed him.  That team could have kept him for a few weeks, done exactly what the Twins did just last week and then started the whole cycle again.  Instead, Worley is safely off the 40-man roster and able to try to fix whatever is wrong with him in Rochester.  I still hold out hope for Worley, mostly because I am unwilling to come to grips with reality.  It's what makes me such an excellent laser tag player.  

Deduno has pitched well in Spring Training.  Well, except for the 7 walks in just 13.1 innings.  Regardless, it appears the Twins have settled on Kyle Gibson for the fifth starter job and I think that's the right move.  I've long been critical of Deduno's high-wire act and I don't think it points toward long-term success in the rotation.

In the bullpen?  It could work.  He has the endurance of a starter and he can be effective in bursts.  I actually think this is the best role for Deduno and I think the Twins' bullpen is a lot stronger as a result.  Anthony Swarzak now moves to a more high-leverage spot, something I advocated for at the end of last season.  I also think the rotation is better with Gibson in and Deduno out.  If I'm wrong, Deduno is literally in the clubhouse already.  That's convenience!

Is there a worse hitter who is guaranteed a job in all of baseball?  Florimon has continued his anemic hitting since returning last week, collecting just 3 hits in 14 at-bats with 5 strikeouts and only one walk.  Florimon's hitting is no surprise and I certainly value his defense.  I just don't understand why a bad team like the Twins is so set on handing the job to such a one-dimensional player.  Yes, Florimon's defense is swell, but Eduardo Escobar can play some swell defense himself.  Plus, Escobar might actually hit above .230.  Why not try something different?  Pizza is delicious, but I still eat other foods once per week. 

Kubel was on the "scholarship plan" himself, but then he started hitting this last week and now he seems to be somewhat earning his seemingly locked-in DH job.  I'm Team Chris Colabello for the DH position, but Kubel appears to be the favorite of those who actually have some sway in the decision making.  As of Sunday, Kubel has just 7 hits in 33 at-bats.  He's struck out 12 times, but has walked 6 times, balancing things out ever so slightly.  Kubel has just one double and one home run, in those 33 at-bats.  I don't have a problem with Kubel starting the year as the DH, but if this small sample of Spring suckiness gives way to a larger sample of dreadful April/May hitting, then I hope the Twins do the right thing and give another player a chance to contribute. 

6.  Dancing Twins

I spent about four hours more than I should have on this post from last Friday, so I am going to shamelessly share it once more.  I analyzed the 1991 Twins dancing video and split up some of my favorite moments into animated gifs.  I also determined which current Twins player would take the place of the 1991 Twins player if we were to remake this video in 2014.  We should totally remake this video in 2014.  Click here to see what I can do in 4 hours.

Pshhewww!  That's how I write an exaggerated, relieved sigh.  This tweet made my Sunday a lot better:
You should follow Rhett Bollinger, if you don't already.  Then, you'd feel better too!  Wrist injuries are very rarely a sign of anything too damaging to a player, but they can also linger.  Since Buxton is dealing with just a strain, he should be able to recover with some rest and resume dominating baseball.  Even though I wasn't too worried about this injury to begin with, it's always nice to get some confirmation in the form of a tweet.

4.  AL Central

I spent about four hours last week working on AL Central previews as well.  Actually, it was almost certainly more than that, but I like the idea of an entire division of previews taking me as much time as a frame-by-frame viewing of a dancing video with Jack Morris shaking his hips.  Here is a link to my Tigers preview

Since I wrote it, Bruce Rondon went down for the season with TJ surgery and my reservations regarding the Tigers have increased.  You can get to previews of each team, including the Twins, by going to the bottom of the Tigers' post.  I picked the Tigers to win the Central, but I'm getting closer and closer to thinking the Royals will knock them off. 

Here's another Bollinger tweet from Sunday that made me feel good:
This actually comes as a surprise to me.  I thought for sure that Hicks was destined for AAA, especially considering the criticism he's been getting from Ron Gardenhire and Rob Antony this Spring.  In addition, it would have been very easy to brush aside his hot Spring since he did the exact same thing last Spring and then failed so spectacularly in the regular season. 

That said, I support this move.  Hicks has more promise than Alex Presley.  He's a better defensive player, he has better speed, he has better power and he has better OBP skills.  Presley might post a higher batting average, but Hicks should outperform Presley in every other area.  If you've read this blog, you know I love Aaron Hicks.  Good for him.

2.  Kyle Gibson

I mentioned Gibson earlier as he has apparently won the 5th starter job from Sam Deduno.  I support this move as well.  Gibson needs to prove that he can be effective against MLB hitters.  He's proved that he can handle AAA hitters already, and this is the obvious next step.  Finding out if Gibson is a part of the long-term rotation is one of the more important potential discoveries this coming season.  Gibson should be an effective MLB starter but it could take him time to adjust to better hitters.  I'd prefer he does this during another lost season, rather than try to find his groove when team expectations are higher. 

1.  Terry Ryan

Who else?  Ryan made a surprise appearance in Fort Myers on Friday, just hours after receiving a radiation treatment at the Mayo Clinic.  Ryan planned to be in Fort Myers for just that day, but the fact that he is up for flying and visiting is a great sign.  He has a long road ahead of him, but it's super cool to see the Twins' GM fighting so strongly.  You can read a whole lot more about Terry Ryan from Mike Berardino's excellent Twinsights blog.  Just scroll down a bit as there are a few stories about Ryan's visit.  It was very cool to see just how much respect the Twins' players have for Ryan, who we often take for granted as one of the more prolific and respected GMs in baseball. 

That's all I have for today.  Next week, I'll have the final Power Rankings of the Spring.  In addition, at this time next week, we'll have actual for serious baseball to talk about!  As Wilson Phillips once said, "If you hoooooo-oooolld on, for one more day."  Then, just hold on for six more one days and you'll be set.  Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Remaking and Analyzing the Twins' 1991 Dancing Video (with GIFs!)

That video changed my life.  I was aware of it from my childhood days back in 1991 when I watched a lot of Twins baseball and therefore, Twins advertising.  Then, I forgot about the video for a good 20 years.  I saw it a couple years ago and I literally have not stopped talking about it since then.  How does this get made?  Who decided on this idea?  Why did these players agree to take part?  Does Tony Oliva know how to point?  We're going to answer a few of those questions today.

I have created a series of animated gifs to properly analyze this video.  In addition, I am going to propose a current Twins player for each of the roles, in a frantic attempt to try to re-create this video with the current team.  If anyone has the ear of a Twins' official, Twins' advertiser, or Twins' player, please get this post to through the proper channels.  Remaking this video would literally change the World.

Let's begin.

Dancer #1 - Willie Banks

Signature move - "The Willie Shuffle"

When you can dance like that, a 6.00 ERA is acceptable.  Banks is clearly the stand-out in this video, when it comes to actual dancing.  He's got style and he's got moves.  He's got a sideways hat, so you know he's cool.  You can see Kent Hrbek's signature move in the background, but I've got a clearer image that I'm saving for later.

Current Twins Player to take his place - Oswaldo Arcia

For my money, Arcia has the most charisma on the current team and I'm 100% certain that he's hiding some sweet dance moves.  He doesn't have to try to replicate Banks' moves, he just has to be the standout in the new video.  Remember, we're remaking this video, but I didn't say anything about a shot-for-shot remake.  We can do some updating.  I'm quite certain the colors in this video were only available in the 90s.

Other players considered - Eduardo Escobar (charismatic) and Mike Pelfrey (it would be hilarious)

Dancer #2 - Denny Neagle

Signature move - "The Super Spin"

Neagle is standout #2 in the video.  He's a pretty good dancer, but if you look, he requires intense focus on his dance moves.  While Banks appears loose and fun-loving, Neagle appears to be counting the beats in his head and trying like heck to not screw up.  There is also a brief moment when he actually becomes stuck to Banks and likely had to be removed later:

Current Twins Player to take his place - Brian Dozier

Dozier has charisma, but I imagine that he'd take his dancing just as seriously as Neagle did.  Dozier is a young man and it would be fun to see him join Arcia at the hip.  Literally.

Other players considered - Joe Mauer (I imagine he takes dancing very seriously) and Michael Tonkin (he's tall so it would be funny)

Dancer #3 - Jack Morris

Signature move - "The Hall of Fame Hip Wiggle"

Signature move #2 - "Juggling across the room without balls"

Two signature moves!  Morris is my MVP from this video and I'm not sure why this isn't on his Hall of Fame resume.  Morris appears to be legitimately enjoying himself and that makes him all the more charming.  It may seem like I am teasing him, but I honestly enjoy his work in this video and he's my favorite "character."

Current Twins player to take his place - Kevin Correia

You need a veteran for this part and a savvy one at that.  Correia looks like he could loosen up a bit, so this would be good for him.  Plus, I'm quite certain that he has some fun dance moves in his repertoire and I'd be excited to see what they are.  He'd be required to grow a lush mustache first.

Other players considered - None.  I'd cast this new video as a Kevin Correia vehicle and never look back.

Dancer #4 - Kent Hrbek

Signature move - "Aggressive Pointing"

Hrbek appears to be enjoying Willie Banks' dance moves and he wants everyone to know it!  Pointing is impolite, but you'll have to excuse Hrbek here, as watching Willie dance evokes animal instincts.  I'm pointing aggressively at my screen as I type this.  It's impossible to stop.  Although, at one point in the video, Willie's dancing is too fly and it actually injures Hrbek:

Later in the video when Willie Banks appears to be shot, it can only be assumed that it was an act of revenge from the previously injured Hrbek:

Current Twins player to take his place:  Josh Willingham

Willingham has proved his willingness to be silly in a commercial, famously appearing in a muumuu after losing a bet to Glen Perkins.  I am also certain that Willingham knows how to point or can be taught how to point.  Plus, he's a veteran and a power hitter, just like Hrbek was in 1991.

Other players considered:  Joe Mauer again (Can robots point?) and Kurt Suzuki (not enough power, perfect amount of veteran).

"Dancer" #5 - Tony Oliva

Signature move - "Falling in love"

DOWN IN FRONT!  Oliva is the only former Twins player (at that time) in the video, but he makes a lasting impression. The video starts with an extreme close-up of his smiling face.  Then, he kind of moves into the background.  At one point, he completely forgets how to point at someone:

Is he doing air quotes?  Is that a butterfly?  Is he trying to take flight?  Oliva needs to take some pointing pointers from Kent Hrbek.  Going back to the beginning of the video, I was able to isolate the exact moment when Tony Oliva and Willie Banks fall in love: 

Such admiration!  Denny Neagle is carefully thinking of his next move.  If someone could make a video that's just this still image with Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love" played in its entirety, that would be great.

Back to his overall role in the video, I believe Oliva is a trained EMT, so he was likely able to revive Hrbek after he was nearly killed by Banks' sweet moves and he probably at least attempted CPR after Banks was shot.  I could be making all of that up though.

Current Twins player to take his place - Kent Hrbek

Yeah!  A good remake at least gives a subtle nod to the source material.  If we bring Hrbek back in the Oliva role, we'd have a tie to the old video and we'd get to see Hrbek fall in love with Oswaldo Arcia.  Win, win!

Other players considered:  Jack Morris (another homage, but it would be impossible for him to not shake his hips and that was not a characteristic of the "Oliva" part).

"Dancer" #6 - Randy Bush

Signature move - "Sitting"

It took some intense investigation to place Bush, but he's there and here's a nice still image of his signature move:

You can clearly see his number 25 uniform.  There are also moments where I recognize his hairline, but that just makes me a weirdo.  He's also pointing, but he doesn't point with the aggression of a Kent Hrbek or the confusion of a Tony Oliva, so he just gets credit for some solid sitting.

Current Twins player to take his place - Alex Presley

Presley is a bench outfielder who might get some unwarranted starts and he's pretty nondescript.  He's also almost certainly capable of sitting and potentially pointing.  I'm not sure if I recognize his hairline.

Other players considered - Mike Pelfrey (I do recognize his hairline) and Chris Parmelee (we know he's capable of sitting).

"Dancer" #7 - Tom Edens?

Signature move - "The Edens Elbow"

I have no patience for horseplay.  Tom Edens should be suspended for 50 games for this rogue action.  One might say that Jack Morris instigated this elbow with his fake punch, but he's smiling and clearly having a good time.  Plus, Kent Hrbek nearly falls down in a domino effect from Edens' dangerous elbow.  We cannot sit idly by while Tom Edens murders everyone on our favorite team.

But wait, is that even Tom Edens?  Honestly, I can't tell.  I'm not kidding you when I say that I watched this video about 500 times to try to determine the identity of this horseplay artist.  In isolating frames, I came to the conclusion that his uniform starts with a 2 or a 5 and that the player is Caucasian.  This means the following players could be our elbow thrower:
  • Number 25 Randy Bush - not him, he's already in the video, plus he's standing and not sitting
  • Number 51 Carl Willis - not him, no mustache
  • Number 53 Mark Guthrie - not him, no birthmark
  • Number 58 Denny Neagle - not him, not smooth enough, not capable of human duplication
  • Number 59 Tom Edens - the only remaining candidate and therefore, our dangerous batterer
Mr. Edens, if I am besmirching you and you are not the person in this video, please reach out to me at and I will print a full retraction.  If you can identify the guilty party, I will absolutely tear them apart in a future post.

Current Twins player to take his place - Ryan Pressly

He's a middle reliever and it would be borderline impossible to pick him out of a lineup.  He wears a number in the 50s, so maybe that is Pressly in the video.  Are we sure that Pressly can't travel through time?  Has anyone asked him?  If it isn't, perhaps he could bring some class to the new video and invent a better, less dangerous signature move.  "The Pressly Patch?"  Like an exaggerated Cabbage Patch?

Other players considered - Caleb Thielbar and Edgar Ibarra

Dancer #8 - Some freaking extra!

Signature move - "Wandering on set in his replica Twins jersey"

What the H is this?  I was trying like mad to figure out the 8th player in this video.  It was taking forever.  Then, I noticed this dude with no jersey number.  You can clearly see him in the image above.  He's in the middle.  Who let this idiot in?  They couldn't find one more Twins' player to fill this role?  This is disgusting.  In the updated video, we'll get a real player.

Current Twins player to take his place:  Vance Worley

Well, he's technically a real player.  Worley would bring some much-needed swagger and glasses to this role.

Other players considered - Anyone within walking distance of the set apparently.


Yep, I agree. This video was a rousing success.  Hats off to everyone involved.  The remake will be epic.  There will be special effects, dinosaurs, 8 actual players and tons of pointing.  The kinks from the '91 video will be ironed out and the '14 video will become an instant classic and probably a 30 for 30 on ESPN.

Let's finish in the best way I can think of:  watching Willie Banks dance, Kent Hrbek point and Tony Oliva try to fly away once more:

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Minnesota Twins Fan Previews the 2014 Minnesota Twins

As a Twins fan, I am exhausted.  The baseball season is a lengthy commitment for a fan.  Getting up every morning and putting on all that face paint and gluing on that rainbow wig can become tedious, especially when your favorite team is losing.  The Twins haven't had a competitive season since 2010 and 2014 doesn't look super promising on paper.  However, the Twins have worked hard to improve the on-field product and they seem committed to building a winning team.  The farm system is loaded and the new-look rotation is intriguing.  Unlike 2012 and 2013 where the team looked brutal from the jump, you can squint and see a .500 team in 2014.  I'm not sure how likely that is, but that glimmer of hope is enough to keep me buying massive quantities of face paint and foam fingers every week. 

Key Acquisitions

"Key" Acquisitions

Sean Gilmartin, Kris Johnson, Brooks Raley, Jason Kubel, Jason Bartlett and Matt Guerrier

Notable Losses

Liam Hendriks, Clete Thomas, Ryan Doumit, Pedro Hernandez, Cole De Vries, and Andrew Albers

My favorite offseason move?

Phil Hughes and I outlined exactly why in the number 4 spot in my March 17 Power Rankings.  I won't repeat myself, I'll just link myself.  There are more links within the link.  It's a link party!

More importantly, are they better than last year?

It's hard to argue that they aren't.  The Twins had to mine deep to find starting pitching last year.  The number of different AAA starters on the MLB roster was outrageous.  10 different starters made 8 or more starts for the Twins in 2013, including the following immortals:  Pedro Hernandez, Liam Hendriks and P.J. Walters.  You can debate the quality of the guys the Twins signed, but both Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco should be capable of making 27 or more starts, which will limit the amount of starts made by dregs like I listed earlier. 

The offense is mostly the same, but young players often get better, not worse.  The Twins have a lot of young players. 

Awesome Name from the Organization

Engelb Vielma

Former Twin Alert!

Jason Kubel, Jason Bartlett and Matt Guerrier are all vying to become former former Twins. 

Depth Chart

Kurt Suzuki
Ricky Nolasco
Phil Hughes
Mike Pelfrey
Pedro Florimon
Vance Worley
Jared Burton
Alex Presley
Samuel Deduno
Jason Kubel


I would say the lineup is emerging.  You look at the names and it's not very exciting.  Joe Mauer is fantastic, Brian Dozier was pretty good last year and Oswaldo Arcia was above-average.  That said, among the likely 9-man lineup, only Mauer managed an OPS+ of 103 or better.  Arica posted a 102 OPS+ and Dozier had a 100 OPS+, both just hovering at league-average.  It looks bleak, as Justin Morneau is ostensibly replaced with Kurt Suzuki and Alex Presley will be in the lineup for the full year.  Other than those downgrades, it looks very similar to the lineup that scored just 614 runs, third worst in the AL. 

There are some potential bright spots though.  Whoever plays center will almost certainly perform better than Aaron Hicks did in 2013 and that includes Hicks himself, should he win the job.  Josh Willingham was awful last year, but had a 143 OPS+ in 2012.  Trevor Plouffe went from a 106 OPS+ in 2012 to a 94 OPS+ in 2013, so he could rebound a bit.  Arcia and Dozier could keep trending positively.  Jason Kubel and Chris Colabello could form a decent DH platoon.  Josmil Pinto could replace Kurt Suzuki.  The lineup is not a strength of this team, but it could get to a point where it is no longer a weakness. 


This really depends on who wins jobs.  If Alex Presley beats out Aaron Hicks, the outfield defense could be really bad.  I know that Hicks did not rate as a good defender last year, but he is a good defender and he has a massive arm.  Presley can get the job done, but he doesn't have Hicks' arm or range.  Arica and Willingham on the corners is really suspect.  The infield defense should be fine as Pedro Florimon is great and Eduardo Escobar would be about 80% of Florimon.  Brian Dozier looked good at second and Joe Mauer is a natural.  Trevor Plouffe isn't great, but he does make up for some of his lack of range with a really strong arm.  Kurt Suzuki is on the roster specifically for his defense.    

All that said, center field is the key to everything.  The Twins will catch a lot of fly balls if Hicks is in center and a lot fewer if Presley is out there. 


Regardless of how you feel about Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes as pitchers, you have to admit that the Twins were able to upgrade their rotation pretty significantly this offseason.  Last year, the Twins were forced to use this quintet of starters 48 times:  Kyle Gibson, P.J. Walters, Pedro Hernandez, Vance Worley and Liam Hendriks.  Those five fellows rewarded the Twins with a combined ERA north of 6.5.  That is an unbelievable figure.  If the Twins can simply replace those 48 starts with 48 starts from Nolasco and Hughes, their runs against and team ERAs will plummet.  Worley and Gibson could improve, as they are young players.  Hernandez, Walters and Hendriks are thankfully not available for the Twins any longer.

The rest of the rotation is suspect.  Sam Deduno looked crazily good last year and Kevin Correia was a nice surprise.  Mike Pelfrey was pretty awful at the beginning of the year, but improved as the year went on.  Scott Diamond made 24 starts and was not great.  Those starts could have been included in the 48-start quintet of crap, but that would have made a sextet and I didn't want any giggles.  If Correia and Pelfrey can average out their performances last year, if Hughes and Nolasco can stay healthy and if one of Gibson, Diamond, Worley and Deduno can turn in just an average season (say 25 starts at 4.5 ERA), the rotation could go from "AAA Special" to "Actual MLB rotation." 


I often discuss the Twins bullpen as a strength of the team.  I feel this is true partially because there are good performers in the bullpen and partially because the rest of the team has been quite poor.  The Twins' bullpen is good, but it isn't deep.  Glen Perkins is awesome and Casey Fien does a really nice job.  Jared Burton and Brian Duensing have been good pitchers in the recent past, but each had struggles in 2013.  Anthony Swarzak was possibly the Twins' best pitcher last year, when you consider the role he was given and how well he performed.  There are some young guys who look like potential contributors as well (Michael Tonkin, Edgar Ibarra and Ryan Pressly).  In addition, one of the losers in the 5th starter battle could end up in the bullpen and I think Deduno and/or Worley could really do well in that role. 

The bullpen is going to be good, but it could be better than that.  If the young guys improve and the veterans bounce back, the bullpen could become a strength of this team on its own and not by comparison to the rest of the team. 

World Series aspirations?

N/A, at least not right now.  I think there are aspirations down the line though.  The Twins should grow as an MLB team this year, but their organizational growth will be even more important.  If prominent prospects continue to grow, the franchise outlook will get brighter.  I think the Twins could contend for a World Series before the end of this decade. 

Can the Twins finish ahead of them?

This question doesn't really work.  Unless we think in a really meta manner.  I guess the Twins can exceed their expectations, thereby finishing ahead of the Twins.  So yes, they will finish ahead of the Twins.  I think the national perception is that the Twins are still a 95-loss team.  I don't think they are.  Locally, we are more optimistic.  I think the Twins could win as many as 81 games in 2014.  That would be their ceiling, but there is enough talent on this roster to win half of their games. 

Projected AL Central finish - 4th

The Twins avoided the AL Central basement in 2013, but that had more to do with the White Sox being a completely rancid team.  The Twins weren't good in 2013 and they really weren't much better than they were in 2012.  However, the Twins supplemented their roster by adding two quality pieces, strengthening 40% of their starting rotation.  The younger players should continue to develop and more young players are lurking, ready to claim their long-term spots on the team. 

The Twins could surprise in 2014, even if that is unlikely.  However, can a surprise really be likely?  Does that make it a surprise?  I can see the Twins winning anywhere from 65 to 80 games in 2014.  That would be a frustrating range if the ceiling wasn't immensely higher than Twins fans have grown accustomed to in recent years.  A run at a .500 record would energize me, I know that for sure.  It would be a step in the right direction and a positive sign of even better things to come.

If you're interested, here is the whole lot of AL Central team previews (in projected order of finish):

White Sox