Last season was an ugly one in Minnesota, and now the Twins find themselves in unfamiliar territory in the Ron Gardenhire era: coming off two consecutive last place finishes in the AL Central and at the start of an earnest rebuild. Their successful teams of last decade were built on pitching, defense, speed and the famous "piranhas" that drew the enviable ire and grudging respect of Ozzie Guillen when he managed the White Sox. Last year's Twins posted a team ERA of 4.77, the third worst in the league. They allowed 832 runs, the third most. And they committed 107 errors, 10th most in the majors.
Signs of a rebuild are most evident in the rotation, where Scott Diamond, Vance Worley and Mike Pelfrey lead an unproven bunch. If Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham all stay healthy, the Twins will offer the fantasy community a strong middle-of-the-order group. However, that's about the only place they'll show up on the fantasy radar. The team surprisingly dealt both Denard Span and Ben Revere, a tacit acknowledgment that there will be no postseason in Minnesota in 2013. Credit GM Terry Ryan with doing something some GMs refuse to do. What's the value in winning 75 games instead of 70 this season? Minnesota fans may already be counting down the days until Adrian Peterson is back on the field, but fantasy owners and Twins supporters alike can find some value here if they know where to look.
1. Darin Mastroianni, CF 2. Jamey Carroll, 2B 3. Joe Mauer, C 4. Justin Morneau, 1B 5. Josh Willingham, LF 6. Ryan Doumit, DH 7. Trevor Plouffe, 3B 8. Chris Parmelee, RF 9. Pedro Florimon, SS
1. Scott Diamond 2. Vance Worley 3. Mike Pelfrey 4. Kevin Correia 5. Liam Hendriks
Unlike Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, Willingham thrives at Target Field. He hit .293/.407/.610 with 21 homers at home last season. While Target Field plays as a pitcher's park on the whole, it is actually quite friendly to right-handed pull hitters, such as Willingham. Though he struggled on the road, he still hit 14 homers and carried just a .255 BABIP. That should pick up a bit this year.
I see Willingham's home run total coming down because of the suspiciously high home run/fly ball ratios he has put up the last two seasons -- 21.2 percent last year and 17.5 percent in 2011. Willingham has always had power when healthy, but it's not often that a player finds and sustains a new level of power when he's well into his 30s. Willingham should be a starter in mixed leagues, but don't look for him to repeat last season.
Worley went 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 1.23 WHIP and 8.13 strikeouts per nine innings in his rookie season of 2011. His glamorous numbers fell off last year, as he went 6-9 with a 4.20 ERA, but he still had a decent 3.85 FIP. He posted a 46 percent ground-ball rate, getting nearly 1.5 ground balls for every fly ball, but opposing hitters still managed to hit .340 against him -- largely due to the lumbering infield defense playing behind him in Philadelphia. It wasn't just Worley, either. Cliff Lee had a .309 BABIP, the highest of his career. Roy Halladay's was .301. Cole Hamels had a monster season, but his .290 BABIP was the second highest of his career. Trading the Phillies' infielders for the Twins' should help Worley. He struck out fewer batters per nine innings, but his walk and contact rates fell, and his swinging-strike rate remained flat. This is a guy perfectly capable of whiffing eight batters per nine innings. I doubted the Revere-for-Worley trade for the Twins at the time, but I'm starting to come around on it.
AL-only guys to know