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November 18, 2013

Fantasy Team Preview

Minnesota Twins

by Ben Carsley

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Byron Buxton. Miguel Sano. Alex Meyer. Kohl Stewart. Eddie Rosario.

The next wave of talented Twins players is on its way, and in many circles, these names are more well known than several players on Minnesota’s current roster. There’s good reason for that, as many players on the projected Twins 2013 roster— especially on the pitching side—are pretty uninspiring from a fantasy point of view.

That being said, Minnesota is far from the most barren team in terms of potential fantasy steals and stalwarts. And with talented youngsters like Brian Dozier, Oswaldo Arcia, Josmil Pinto, Kyle Gibson, and Aaron Hicks all potentially on the roster to start 2014, there are some diamonds in the rough to be found immediately as well.

This will be a more exciting team in 2016, but it’s not devoid of talent now.

Projected Lineup

  1. CF Alex Presley
  2. 2B Brian Dozier
  3. 1B Joe Mauer
  4. LF Josh Willingham
  5. RF Oswaldo Arcia
  6. DH Ryan Doumit
  7. 3B Trevor Plouffe
  8. C Josmil Pinto
  9. SS Pedro Florimon

The Twins have an odd mix of veteran hitters looking for bounce back seasons, talented youngsters looking to cement their statuses and a few placeholders who aren’t likely to finish the year in the lineup. Willingham and Doumit comprise the first group, and both have the potential to be useful: the former for his power, and the latter for his catcher eligibility. Arcia, Dozier, and Pinto comprise the second group, and they all make intriguing sleepers, though I’m not optimistic about Dozier’s ability to hit. And finally, Presley will be three seasons removed from his BABIP-aided showing in 2011 and is just a placeholder for Hicks, if he beats Hicks out for the job at all. Florimon might steal 20 bases if he gets 600 PA, but he’ll kill you in every other category.

That just leaves Mauer, of course, who you might have heard is switching to first base full-time this season. Fortunately for fantasy owners, he’ll retain catcher eligibility for 2013, so take advantage of that while you can.

Projected Bench

Mastroianni has some usable speed, but he doesn’t get on base much and doesn’t figure to see a ton of playing time with all of Minnesota’s young outfielders in the fold. Parmalee’s power is too modest to use effectively in the sparse playing time he’s likely to see, and Escobar and Herrmann are fantasy non-factors. The only player here with any upside is Hicks, but he has a lot to prove after a very poor rookie season in 2013. We’ll discuss his battle for playing time below. Chris Colabello and Wilkin Ramirez are also candidates to make the team as bench players, but neither belong anywhere near your fantasy roster.

Projected Rotation

While the Twins lineup is tough to look at at first glance, it does have some interesting players when you dig deep. The same can’t be said for this rotation, which is utterly devoid of upside save for Gibson, who’s not even a guarantee to make the team out of Spring Training. “Staff ace” Correia strikes out about one batter every two innings and is a lock for an ERA above 4.00. Deduno misses a few more bats but his WHIP will kill you, and Worley has regressed for three straight seasons now. Albers did his best Correia impression in 60 MLB innings last season, but that’s not exactly high praise. Long story short, none of these arms is worth drafting in a standard 10- or 12-team league next season, and only Gibson could grow to be rosterable (let’s make this a word) by midseason.

Projected Closer Candidates

There’s not much controversy here. Perkins went 36-for-40 in save opportunities last season, boasting a 11.06 K/9 ratio and 2.30 ERA in 62 2/3 innings. He’s one of the game’s better closers. Burton would likely be next in line in a bullpen devoid of a lot of high upside arms. He could wrack up some holds, but there’s no reason to handcuff Perkins headed into the season: his job is safe and his performance speaks for itself. Minnesota could look to flip Perkins during the season, though, as closers always seem to fetch more than they should in trades.

Positional Battles to Watch:

Center Field: Alex Presley vs. Aaron Hicks
While Alex Presley is listed as the starter above, it wouldn’t at all be surprising to see Hicks give the nod with a solid spring training. The problem is there’s not much statistical evidence to suggest that Hicks will rebound in 2014, aside from a BABIP that could see his average creep back up to the .250 range. Hicks hit line drives at a below average rate last season, struck out in over one-fourth of his PA and hit for a TAv of just .241.

There’s still 15-homer, 20-steal upside with Hicks, and if he can mirror the excellent approach he showed in the minors, he may be valuable in OBP leagues. The Twins are also likely going to want Hicks to receive and extended look again at some point in 2014, with Buxton storming through the minors and potentially ready for a look in 2015. All things considered, there’s still enough to like about Hicks to hope he lands the job over Presley and his lack of upside, but either way, fantasy owners should take a wait-and-see approach with the former top prospect.

Rotation (x3): Kyle Gibson vs. Vance Worley vs. Andrew Albers vs. Liam Hendriks vs. Scott Diamond
I won’t spend a ton of time rehashing what I wrote about the rotation above, but I’ll reiterate that this is a sad, sad battle as far as fantasy owners are concerned. Gibson is the only player potentially worth owning, and we should all hope he lands one of these slots: unless he completely bombs in Sprint Training, I expect he will. Hendriks was once something of a prospect but is failing to live up to even his projection as a back-end starter. Sadly, Diamond may have the third-most upside of anyone in this group, as he’s somewhat capable of posting an ERA below 4.25.

It’s generally a good idea to avoid dolling out huge dollars in free agency to pitchers, but every fantasy owner should be praying that the Twins employee such a strategy this offseason. With Minnesota thankfully linked to everyone from Matt Garza to Ricky Nolasco to Bronson Arroyo and more, the odds that there will actually be three open rotation spots available are fairly slim. Given the lack of upside with the names above, that’s a good thing.

Player to Target: Oswaldo Arcia
I’ve been leading the Arcia bandwagon for a while now, and I remain optimistic about what he can bring to the table despite a modest showing in his MLB debut last season. Arcia hit 14 homers in just 378 PA last season, and was aided by a .336 BABIP but hurt by an uncharacteristically high 30.1 percent strikeout rate. Arcia generally struck out around 20 percent of the time in the minors, but while some swing-and-miss will always be a part of his game, he didn’t project for huge MLB K totals. I’d expect Arcia to start making more and better contact, which will allow his potential 25-homer power to shine through. He’s worth a flier pick in leagues with five outfielders or more than 12 teams.

Player to Avoid: Trevor Plouffe
This is admittedly a bit of a stretch, as I don’t think Plouffe is likely to be a hot target in many mixed leagues next season. But it’s possible some owners could see his 24 homers from 2012 and think they’re in line for a potential steal. Unfortunately, that’s unlikely to be the case. Plouffe managed just a .254/.309/.392 line last season despite a .301 BABIP, and his .138 ISO was more in line with his career norm after a spike to .220 as season earlier. Plouffe is basically biding time until Sano replaces him—potentially in midseason—and he won’t collect many runs or RBI batting in the latter third of Minnesota’s lineup.

Deep Sleeper: Danny Santana
Pedro Florimon showed surprising pop and solid defense as the Twins’ primary shortstop last season. He also hit just .221/.281/.330, and, his 15 steals aside, he’s useless for fantasy owners. There could be hope on the way, though, in the form of Santana, who tore through Single- and Double-A last season while amassing 47 steals. Don’t expect to see Santana before midseason, but with only Florimon and Eduardo Escoabar in front of him, the ball is in his court.

Ben Carsley is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

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