2013 Record and Finish: 66-96, fourth place in AL Central (27th overall)
2014 Projected Record: 62-100, fifth place in AL Central
The Case For
Yes, we know the future is bright. Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are coming (though Tommy John surgery will delay Sano's arrival). But until they get here? There's no doubt that the rotation in Minnesota is improved. General manager Terry Ryan spent $73 million on Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes to reverse the fortunes of a staff that ranked last in the league with a 5.26 ERA. There’s upside with Nolasco, as he showed flashes of top of the rotation stuff last year with the Marlins before being dealt to the Dodgers. If Joe Mauer rediscovers his power with his move to first base, and if Oswaldo Arcia blooms into one of the better young hitters in the game, then, yes, maybe the Twins will actually be watchable before the curtain rises on the Buxton & Sano Era.
The Case Against
Unless you think Jason Kubel and Kurt Suzuki are saviors, the Twins did little to improve an offense that ranked 25th in the majors in runs scored and 23rd in slugging. The revamped rotation might be better, but don’t expect any miracles. Phil Hughes was a better pitcher away from Yankee Stadium, but he’s best fit for a relief role. Mike Pelfrey returned from Tommy John surgery last year and posted a 5.19 ERA. And if the offense is as bad as it was last year, it won’t matter much if the pitching isn’t any better. Did we mention that the future is bright?
X-Factor: Early-season schedule
The Twins will have to overcome a treacherous early slate of games: 31 of their first 40 games are against teams who had a .500 record or better in 2013.
Number To Know: 477
Total number of strikeouts by Twins starting pitchers last year. No other team in the majors had fewer than 590.
Most overrated: Josh Willingham
"This is largely a young team, so perhaps it's unfair to focus on the few veterans. I know that Willingham has been hurt, but right now he's not running well, he can't throw and is a below-average outfielder. He's just not showing offense he once did, and given that contract, he stands out as overrated."
Most underrated: Josmil Pinto
"He’s going to give them a lot more offense than people think—a .280 hitter with 20-homer potential, that’s so valuable at that position, and for this team. But they signed Suzuki, and they’re calling him the starter. I don’t think Pinto is Mauer behind the plate, he’s still working on his defense, but his offense is so valuable that he should be an everyday guy for them."
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