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Monday March 17, 2008 9:09 pm

Team Preview: Minnesota Twins

After trading away Johan Santana and Matt Garza in the off-season, the Minnesota Twins clearly showed that their in a rebuilding phase from 2008 on. However that doesn’t neccesarily make the Twins a bad team this season; what it does mean is that the Twins will really have to rely on getting some bang for their buck to compete in such a talented division.

Starting Rotation: The Twins’ 2008 starting rotation should be decent, if it ever gets organized. Right now veteran Livan Hernandez figures to anchor the rotation; if for nothing else, to take pressure off of Francisco Liriano, who’s coming off of Tommy John surgery. Scott Baker and Boof Bonser should be 3rd and 4th in the rotation. Baker was successful at the Major League level last season (9-9 record, 102 K’s with a 1.33 WHIP), and Bonser was just so-so (8-12 record, 5.10 ERA). The 5th spot in the rotation is still up for grabs. It can go to Kevin Slowey, who inked 66.2 innings last season for the Twins, or Nick Blackburn (2.11 ERA in AAA last season). Phil Humber, acquired in the Johan Santana deal, could be a dark horse to make the rotation.

Bullpen: Joe Nathan should be dominant as closer, as always (Joe had a 1.88 ERA last season). The rest of the bullpen is a strength for the team. Pat Neshek (74 K’s in 70 innings) should continue to blossom into the game’s best righty specialist. After posting a 5.13 ERA last year, Juan Rincon should look to rebound and have a better season in 2008. Matt Guerrier (2.35 ERA in 2008) and Jesse Crain (60 K’s in 2006) are talented arms coming out of the pen as well. If Dennys Reyes and Carmen Cali can be anywhere near average, this bullpen should have no problems whatsoever.

Starting Lineup: Delmon Young will be starting in left field this season, and has breakout season potential. He’s a good defender, and has great power so 25 home runs or more should be a reasonable expectation. Center fielder Carlos Gomez has absolutely obscene speed, on turf he has 50+ stolen base potential. He should also be a terrific defensive replacement for Torii Hunter. Right Fielder Michael Cuddyer (81 RBI’s in 2007) should help carry the offensive load. The only glaring weakness for this team is the left side of the infield. Mike Lamb is an excellent platoon partner, but isn’t a complete offensive player, he only had 311 at-bats last year. Adam Everett is an excellent defender, but doesn’t provide any offense (Highest he’s hit since 2005 is .248).

Bench: The backup outfielders should be Jason Kubel and Craig Monroe. Each provides good power, and not terrific average. Mike Redmond will be backing up Joe Mauer, so he shouldn’t be seeing too much action. Alexei Casilla and Brendan Harris will compete for the 2nd base job.

Overall: The Twins will be pretty good in 2008. What’s more important is the Twins’ success in 2009 and 2010. The trade of Johan Santana must pay off in the future; for the sake of General Manager Bill Smith, Phil Humber Carlos Gomez Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra had better pan out. New players Delmon Young, Brendan Harris and Livan Hernandez should have an impact this season.



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