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2006 Minnesota Twins Baseball Preview

Minnesota Twins Predictions – AL CENTRAL

OVERVIEW:

Minnesota had enjoyed three years on top of the AL Central, but that all changed very quickly last year. Unlike many teams, their flaw was not in pitching but in hitting. This year, can they vie for a playoff spot in what is now a highly competitive division?

PITCHING:

Johan Santana is one of the premiere pitchers in all of baseball. Last year, he sported a 16-7 record with a 2.87 ERA, .210 OPP BA, and 238 SO. This season look for more of the same from him.

Second starter Brad Radke (9-12, 4.04 ERA) and third starter Carlos Silva (9-8, 3.44 ERA) both worked through injuries last year, which caused these quality starters to have off seasons. They should be back and their numbers, including win-loss, should be better.

The Twins are also expecting more from their final two starters, Kyle Lohse and Scott Baker.

Closer Joe Nathan is becoming an outstanding shutdown guy. In 2005, he earned 43 saves with a 2.70 ERA and a very impressive .183 OPP AVG! He’s got three quality pitches—92-97 mph fastball, 77-78 mph curve, and an 85-88 mph slider—all of which can get batters out.

HITTING:

There’s a new DH in town—Rondell White, formerly of the Tigers. The hope is that White, with his solid .313 BA, can invigorate the Twins’ lineup. Also on hand to help is Luis Castillo, who comes from Florida hitting 301.

Catcher Joe Mauer became the everyday backstop last season and contributed at the plate with a .294 average, making him the most consistent hitter on the club.

Justin Morneau led the team in homers with 22 but, like many of his teammates, including Shannon Stewart and Tori Hunter, he needs to really make use of every hitting opportunity.

DEFENSE:

In the field, the Twins were average.

Standouts include their young catcher Joe Mauer, who is athletic, skilled, and a good and developing game caller, and second baseman Luis Castillo, who possesses quick hands, good range, and solid double-play skills.

The outfield is quite solid, with 5-time Gold Glove winner Tori Hunter in center and versatile defender Michael Cuddyer in right field. Shannon Stewart has worked hard in left but runners still take the extra base on him.

MANAGER AND FRONT OFFICE:

• Manager Rod Gardenhire works hard and has an intensity devoted to winning but can also clash with players.
• Terry Ryan has been G.M. since the 90s and done well in making Minnesota competitive.
• Must draft carefully and continue to run exemplary farm system.

INTANGIBLES AND/OR OTHER STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES:

• Can G.M. Terry Ryan be a force in a now-competitive AL Central?
• Will Rondell White ever find his power numbers again?
• Tight budget—is there anyway to compensate for that?

CONCLUSION:

The Twins have been a division leader for much of the 21st century but all that has changed. Now they must reinvigorate themselves. But can they do enough to compensate for the transformation of their division from an also ran to world champs?

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