Previewing the AL Central: Minnesota Twins

Nobody wants to look at the camera - Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

A preview for the team most people expect to be the worst team in the American League Central in 2013.

In preparation for the 2013, it's probably a good idea for us Kansas City Royals fans to get to know our division rivals a little better. The Royals will face these teams more than any other this season, and how high they finish in 2013 will have a lot to do with how well they perform against their division opponents.

We will start this series with the Minnesota Twins, who finished last in the AL Central in 2012 and are expected to finish in the basement again in 2013.

Major Off-Season Transactions

Minnesota shipped off two speedy outfielders this winter in an attempt to bolster their present and future pitching staff. Revere and Span combined for 7.3 fWAR last season, so they were both important to the team's "success" last year. Both players were also under team control for the next few seasons, so there was no rush to trade them away.

In return, the Twins received the No. 88 prospect in baseball, along with the No. 51 prospect from 2012. That's not nothing, but Royals fans should be well aware of how fickle pitching prospects can be. Vance Worley has been basically an average pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies the past two seasons, but has only thrown around 130 innings each of the past two years.

Also, general manager Terry Ryan signed Kevin Correia to a two-year deal worth $10 million. Dayton Moore nods approvingly.

Projected Lineup

Player Position ZiPS Steamer Oliver PECOTA
Darin Mastroianni CF 0 1.4 1.1 0.2
Jamey Carroll 2B 1.1 1.5 0.5 1
Joe Mauer C 4.4 4.7 4.4 4.2
Josh Willingham LF 2.3 2.4 3 2.9
Justin Morneau 1B 1.3 1.5 1.9 1.4
Ryan Doumit DH 0.2 2.6 2.7 1.8
Chris Parmelee RF 0.5 1.2 1.8 0.4
Trevor Plouffe 3B 1 1.3 2.4 1.1
Pedro Florimon, Jr. SS 0.3 0.3 1.1 0.3

The Twins lineup looks to have one All-Star in Mauer, a couple of average players in Willingham and Doumit, then everyone else. Parmelee and Plouffe could make some sort of progress this season, and the Twins could flip Carroll at the deadline to a team that needs a second baseman if he continues to defy time. Mastroianni is basically Jarrod Dyson and Florimon hit 41 percent below league average last season.

Although the Twins lineup hardly strikes fear, the Mauer/Willingham combination should at least keep it passable.

Projected Rotation

Pitcher Throws ZiPS Steamer PECOTA
Vance Worley RH 2 1.4 0
Kevin Correia RH 0.1 0.9 -0.3
Mike Pelfrey RH 0.9 0.7 0
Liam Hendriks RH 0.8 1.1 0.3
Brian Duensing LH 0.6 0.4 0.4
Scott Diamond* LH 2.2 1.9 -0.3

Holy Shealy, that is a horrible pitching staff. I included Scott Diamond out of sheer sympathy, as he is currently questionable to start the season in the rotation. He will get the chance to start whenever he is ready, since the Twins view Diamond as their ace.

I'm not sure why PECOTA is so negative on Worley and Diamond compared to the other two projection systems. All together, PECOTA projects the Twins top six starting pitchers to combine for .1 WARP.

Minnesota has a fascination with acquiring pitchers who "pound the strike zone" and consequently don't strike anyone out. While I am sympathetic to the argument that there are pitchers who us SABR types overlook because they manage to limit quality contact but don't strike many people out, you probably want at least ONE starter who can strike out more than 7 batters per nine.

Bullpen

Glen Perkins will close games for Minnesota, and has been a useful left-handed arm out of the bullpen for three out of the past four seasons. The Twins would be wise to move him near the deadline to a team in need of some bullpen help.

Jared Burton is the team's setup man, and also should be decently effective out of the bullpen. No other Twins relievers appear to be particularly good.

Farm System

Top Ten Players (According to John Sickels)

1) Miguel Sano, 3B, A-
2) Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Grade B+
3) Byron Buxton, OF, Grade B+
4) Alex Meyer, RHP, Grade B+
5) Aaron Hicks, OF, Grade B
6) Eddie Rosario, 2B-OF, Grade B
7) Kyle Gibson, RHP, Grade B
8) Jose Berrios, RHP, Grade B
9) Max Kepler, OF, Grade B:
10) Trevor May, RHP, Grade B-

Minnesota's farm system has some high upside hitting prospects in Sano and Buxton, but they are expected to open the season in Double-A and Low-A, respectively. Arcia may see some playing time later in 2013, while Hicks is currently trying to win the Opening Day starting CF job.

Hicks has yet to play above Double-A, so some think it would be wise for the Twins to let the outfielder receive some seasoning while delaying his service time. The projection systems differ on their evaluation of Hicks, with PECOTA the lowest at 0.3 and Oliver the highest at 2.4.

While Hicks has the potential to improve the Twins lineup in the immediate future, there doesn't appear to be any prospects who can help the pitching staff anytime soon.

Projected Record

Baseball Prospectus: 71-91

CAIRO: 66-96

Vegas: O/U 64½

Nobody expects Minnesota to win very many games this season and I think it would come as a complete shock to most everyone if they manage to middle around .500.

They still have the opportunity to pester the Royals and potentially spoil their season. Kansas City only went 7-11 against the Twins last season, and while that is not predictive of how they will perform this season against Minnesota, it would be nice for the team to win more games against the Twins than they lose. The last time the Royals had a winning record against Minnesota was 2003.

Minnesota is clearly in rebuilding mode, especially when it comes to their starting pitching rotation. The Royals need to take advantage of the Twins this season while they are in a down cycle.

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