by Jason Martinez
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MINNESOTA TWINS 2012-13 OFFSEASON PREVIEW
With two games left in the season, the Twins will be trying to avoid consecutive last place finishes (they're currently one game behind the 4th place Indians) for the first time since 1999-2000. Heading into 2013, they'll try to repeat the decade of success that followed those two miserable seasons when the Twins won six division titles and never finished below third place. Looking at the starting rotation as we approach the 2012-13 offseason, GM Terry Ryan has some work to do if that's going to happen.
The core of the lineup is strong and the farm system has some very good prospects that should be arriving over the next few years. The bullpen is good enough and there are several minor leaguers, including some high 2012 draft picks that could help in the very near future. But if you've read the first four offseason previews, you'll notice a continuing theme with some of the worst teams in the league. They all need rotation help and many of them have very little help on the way. The Twins may be the most extreme example.
STARTING LINEUP ANALYSIS
With a lineup that includes Josh Willingham, one of the best free agent pickups and greatest values of last offseason, Joe Mauer (.866 OPS), Justin Morneau (.773 OPS), Ryan Doumit (.781 OPS), and Trevor Plouffe (.758 OPS) hitting behind Denard Span (.344 OBP, 17 SB) and possibly Ben Revere (40 SB), the Twins appear to be in pretty good shape offensively. Of course, they could look to fill the area of obvious need, the starting rotation, by dealing from this area of strength in the offseason. Plenty of teams in need of center field help will once again come calling about Span. If they feel that Revere, who has struggled to get on base after a very strong 1st half, can handle the everyday center field job, at least temporarily with prospect Aaron Hicks (.844 OPS, 32 SB in Double-A) coming on quickly, then they could seriously consider trading Span this time around.
Plouffe has come back down to earth since a remarkable run when he homered 18 times over a span of a month-and-a-half. Still, they'll have areas of much greater need to worry about than whether Plouffe is a guy who can provide at least some of that spark in 2013 or the guy who was likely days away from being designated for assignment. The middle infield spots could be up for grabs with Pedro Florimon, Jr. the much better defender at shortstop and Brian Dozier having a much higher ceiling offensively. The solution could be to move Dozier to second base, allow Jamey Carroll to serve in a utility role, and possible non-tender the arbitration eligible Alexi Casilla, who is doing everything he can to save his job in September (15-for-35) after a terrible overall season.
Aside from Hicks, another prospect who could make the quick ascent from Double-A to the majors is Oswaldo Arcia, a left-handed hitting outfielder who combined to post a .928 OPS between Double-A New Britain and Hi-A Fort Myers. The 21 year-old Venezuelan could push Revere and Chris Parmelee for the starting right field job.
STARTING PITCHING ANALYSIS
Scott Baker, who is questionable for the start of the season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery in mid-April, will likely have his club option declined for 2013. Carl Pavano is also a free agent and Nick Blackburn, outrighted off the 40-man roster in August, isn't expected back either. With Scott Diamond the only current pitcher on the roster guaranteed a spot in next season's rotation, and Liam Hendriks and Cole De Vries the only others likely to be given a shot to compete for a spot, the Twins will have to work hard this offseason to fill some pretty big holes. Diamond would be a solid #3, #4, or #5 starter in a good rotation. Going into the offseason needing to find a #1 and #2, however, is not an ideal scenario for any organization.
Kyle Gibson, the organization's top pitching prospect before the 2011 season, returned from Tommy John surgery to finish with 28.1 minor league innings. The 24 year-old will also pitch in the Arizona Fall League but will need some more Triple-A innings before he's even in the conversation for a big league job. And even then, his overall innings will likely need to be limited in 2013. Other prospects who could help next season include Andrew Albers and B.J. Hermsen, who each had success in Double-A in 2012.
RELIEF PITCHING ANALYSIS
Glen Perkins and Jared Burton were the bullpen success stories in 2012 and figure to once again play a key role in 2013. Perkins, a 29 year-old lefty who agreed to a three-year contract extension in March, has posted a 2.56 ERA with 16 saves, 11 holds, and 78 K in 70.1 innings. He should be the top candidate to close for the Twins in 2013. Burton, a former Reds reliever who missed most of the 2010-11 seasons because of injuries, has a 2.18 ERA with 5 saves and 18 holds while holding opponents to a .186 batting average. He's due a significant raise in arbitration but should head into 2013 as the top setup man. Journeyman Casey Fien and sinkerballer Kyle Waldrop have made strong cases to return in middle relief roles.
Matt Capps could return at the cost of his $6 million club option, but the Twins could decide that it's better spent on the rotation. Help could also be on the way. Deolis Guerra, a former Mets prospect acquired in the Johan Santana deal prior to the 2008 season, could be ready to contribute. Bruce Pugh and Caleb Thielbar are two others to keep an eye on. It's also important to note that the Twins selected five college relievers in the first ten rounds of the 2012 draft, including lefty Mason Melotakis, who posted a 1.88 ERA with 6 BB and 34 K in 24 innings between Lo-A Beloit and Rookie Level Elizabethon.
TOP OFFSEASON PRIORITIES
1 Starting Pitching
2 Starting Pitching
4 Setup Man
5 Backup catcher
2012 HITTING STATS
2012 PITCHING STATS