2010 Minnesota Twins Preview

Scott Baker, RHP
Carl Pavano, RHP
Kevin Slowey, RHP
Nick Blackburn, RHP
Francisco Liriano, LHP

Closers and Setup
Joe Nathan, RHP
Matt Guerrier, RHP

Starting Lineup
Denard Span, CF
Orlando Hudson, 2B
Joe Mauer, C
Justin Morneau, 1B
Jason Kubel, DH
Michael Cuddyer, RF
Delmon Young, LF
J.J. Hardy, SS
Brendan Harris, 3B

Player in Decline
Although precipitous declines are not likely, both Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer are coming off career years. Some of this could be a shift in true talent, but most of it was probably luck. They should hit closer to their career averages than their 2009 performance.

Player on the Rise
Outfielder Denard Span had a good 2009, but he could be even better in 2010. He has youth on his side and the speed to steal 30 bases if he starts running a little more often and converts at a higher rate.

Top 5 Fantasy Players
Joe Mauer: Elite
Justin Morneau: Elite
Joe Nathan: Elite
Scott Baker: Average
Denard Span: Average

Top 10 Prospects
1. Aaron Hicks, OF
2. Wilson Ramos, C
3. Kyle Gibson, RHP
4. Danny Valencia, 3B
5. Angel Morales, OF
6. Miguel Sano, SS
7. Ben Revere, OF
8. Joe Benson, OF
9. Jeff Manship, RHP
10. David Bromberg, RHP

Overall team outlook: The Twins club returns as nearly the same team that won the AL Central in a 163rd game against the Detroit Tigers last year. And the club should be just as competitive in 2010, its first year in Target Field, since the AL Central brethren (unlike the Mariners, Yankees, and Red Sox) made few impact moves.

The Starting Rotation: Heading into spring training, four of the five spots in the Twins’ rotation are set. Scott Baker is the ace of the staff; he always has great K/BB ratios, leading to nice number of Ks with a good WHIP. However, he gives up too many fly balls, and thus home runs, to post an elite ERA. He is a solid mid-rotation pitcher in all leagues. Kevin Slowey should be ready to go for spring training after his September surgery. Like Baker, he gives up lots of fly balls, but has elite – even better than Baker’s – K/BB ratios. If he comes back from the injury, Slowey could be a very good fantasy pitcher.

Carl Pavano and Nick Blackburn round out the four set rotation spots: both should only be considered in deep-mixed or AL-only leagues. The fifth spot is up for grabs and the most intriguing candidate, from a fantasy perspective, is Francisco Liriano. He had a terrible 2009, but he was amazing pre-Tommy John and his numbers in the 2009-2010 Dominican Winter League were encouraging.

Bullpen: Joe Nathan had another extraordinary year closing for the Twins in 2009. He is one of the top-five closers heading into 2010. If anything happens to him, Matt Guerrier should be first in line for saves, but if Pat Neshek comes back strong from Tommy John surgery he could be in the running as well.

Starting Lineup: Even if Joe Mauer regresses a bit from his amazing 2009, he is still late first-round or early second-round talent and the top fantasy catcher. Justin Morneau, the Twins’ only other elite fantasy hitter, will be ready for spring training after missing the final three weeks of 2009 with a stress fracture in his back. After that, the Twins lineup features guys who are average-at-best, shallow-league contributors. Newly acquired J.J. Hardy will be the starting shortstop and he looks to return to his 2007-2008 form after an ugly 2009. Brendan Harris and Nick Punto round out the infield and bring positional flexibility, but neither has much value at all with the bat and should be avoided outside of the deepest AL-only leagues.

With the trade of Carlos Gomez the outfield is locked in with Denard Span, Michael Cuddyer, and Delmon Young. Cuddyer had a great 2009, hitting more than 30 homers for the first time. He is a serviceable third outfielder but some regression is likely, so don’t pay for his 2009 performance. Span is also a fair third outfielder, but has more upside since 30 steals in not out of the realm of possibility. Jason Kubel will be the starting DH, but he played enough outfield in 2009 to qualify as a fielder in 2010. Like Cuddyer and Span, he is an okay third outfielder, but like Cuddyer, Kubel is coming off a career year that will not likely be replicated so he could be overvalued.

Bench: The Twins signed Jim Thome as a bench player. He should get a good amount of playing time and showed in 2009 that he can still hit. There is chance he could get regular playing time against right-handed pitchers if the Twins club loses faith in Young. (Kubel would take over in left and Thome would DH). Alexi Casilla will back up second, and has immediate fantasy value if he finds a regular spot because of his potential to steal some bases.

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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.

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