After back-to-back seasons with more than 95 losses, the Twins look committed to building for the future. That means plenty of youth to go along with a few familiar faces in 2013.
Minnesota didn't have a problem hitting the ball last year, ranking right in the middle of baseball's offensive pack. Joe Mauer rebounded with a .416 OBP in 147 games, while Josh Willingham had a career year (35 HR, 110 RBIs, .366 OBP) and Trevor Plouffe came out of seemingly nowhere to hit 24 home runs in 119 games.
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Starting pitching, though, was Minnesota's weakness. Scott Diamond was solid (3.54 ERA in 27 starts), but Francisco Liriano, Nick Blackburn, Liam Hendriks, Carl Pavano, Brian Duensing and P.J. Walters all made 10 or more starts with an ERA over 5. As a unit, Minnesota's starters had the worst ERA in the American League (5.40).
2B Alexi Casilla, OF Ben Revere, OF Denard Span, RHP Matt Capps, RHP Scott Baker
Span has been a thorn in the White Sox side ever since he came into the majors in 2008, hitting .324/.391/.439 with more walks (25) than strikeouts (24) in 62 games. Revere stole 40 bases with a .333 on-base percentage last year and is only 24. Casilla had a run of a few good years in the majors, but only hit .241/.282/.321 in 106 games for the Twins last year.
Baker didn't pitch for Minnesota in 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in early April, while Capps saved 45 games for the Twins in 2 1/2 years with them.
RHP Mike Pelfrey, RHP Kevin Correia, RHP Vance Worley, RHP Alex Meyer, RHP Trevor May
The Twins added a pair of stopgaps in Pelfrey and Correia, guys who can fill rotation spots until a decent crop of young starters makes its way to the majors. Meyer is one of those, as the prize return for Span posted a 2.86 ERA with 139 strikeouts in 129 innings last year in the Nationals' system. Right-hander Kyle Gibson, a 2010 first-round pick out of Mizzou, rates as a top-75 prospect and could work his way into the majors sometime this year.
The 25-year-old Worley regressed in his second year in the majors, following a 3.01 ERA as a rookie with a 4.20 mark with Philadelphia in 2012. He profiles more as a back-of-the-rotation starter. May came over to Minnesota with Worley in exchange for Revere and could challenge for a bullpen spot sometime in 2013.
Most likely, Minnesota will finish last in the AL Central for the third consecutive season. The Twins don't have the pitching, on paper, to compete with Detroit or Chicago, or the revamped rosters of Cleveland and Kansas City.
After years of futility, the White Sox have turned the tables on Minnesota over the last 1 1/2 seasons. Since early August of 2011, the White Sox are 22-6 against the Twins. Looking ahead, it's not unreasonable to expect that same kind of success to continue.