In 2010, the Twins were a 94-win team, who won their division by six games despite coasting over the last two weeks of the season. In 2011, virtually the same team was an AL-worst 63-99 and only narrowly avoided a 100-loss season when Carl Pavano threw a five-hit shutout in the season finale against the Royals. There is some question as to whether the 2012 team, which is built around the same core, can reach the same heights as the 2010 squad now that the Tigers have laid claim to the division, but one thing is certain: If they have any dream of raising another flag at Target Field, they?ve got to stay healthier than they were last year. The focus may be on Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, but they're just two of the 16 players the Twins placed on the disabled list at least once in 2011.
Health Keys: While getting more than half a season out of Mauer and Morneau is essential, the Twins will be hurting badly if they were to lose Scott Baker for an extended amount of time.
(HEAD TRAINER: Rick McWane; FIVE YEAR RANK: 12; 2011 RANK: 21)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
SP3 Carl Pavano |
It may make Yankees fans wince to hear it, but Pavano has been a model of health since he left the Bronx, having made at least 30 starts in each of the last three seasons after having made just 26 during his entire stint with the Yankees.
3B Danny Valencia
LF Ben Revere
CL Matt Capps
SS Jamey Carroll |
The elder statesman of the Twins, Carroll has been extremely durable for most of his career, having been placed on the disabled list just once in the last five years. Since 1960 there have been just 22 middle infielders over the age of 38; they averaged 133 games played and a .674 OPS. Even if that's all Carroll can produce, he will have vastly outperformed what the Twins got from their shortstops in 2011.
RF Josh Willingham
The two biggest areas of concern regarding Willingham are a recurrent sore back and his left leg. While his back may sideline him for a game or two at a time, a left Achilles? strain cost him 19 days in 2011 and a left meniscus tear ended his season in 2010. The Twins' staff was able to keep Jim Thome's problematic back in check for his tenure in Minneapolis, which may give them a plan for keeping Willingham healthy in that respect, but his lower half remains of some concern.
SP Jason Marquis
For most of his career, Marquis' best trait has been his durability: from 2004-10, he threw fewer than 190 innings just once. However, in recent years he hasn?t been able to avoid the injury bug nearly so well. Bone chips sidelined him for well over half of 2010, and while he looked to be back in his old mode last season, a comebacker to the shin ended his season at 132 IP. His leg should be fine for the start of the season, but age is starting to become a factor in his risk profile.
SP Nick Blackburn
Despite his reputation as an innings-eater in the Livan Hernandez mold, Blackburn has reached the 200-innings plateau just once, in 2009, and his innings have decreased in both of the subsequent seasons. He missed the last month of the season with an entrapped nerve in his right forearm. He had surgery to correct the problem after the season and should be ready for camp, but it's a situation worth watching.
RP Glen Perkins
This yellow ranking is due to Perkins' rather odd route over the last three years more than any lingering injury concerns. His rather sudden drop in innings, a consequence of his move from marginal starter to effective reliever, is showing up as risk. Perkins did miss just under a month with a strained oblique last year, but he's not going to feel the effects of that some nine months after he came off the DL.
C Joe Mauer |
Perhaps unfairly, Mauer was the poster child for the Twins' injury issues last year. Yes, he did miss almost half of the season, first with a combination of a virus and a recovery from offseason knee surgery, then with a case of pneumonia, but he was hardly the only Twin to miss half the season or more. Mauer's particular injuries shouldn?t recur in 2012, but the System still sees a catcher who is big for the position and who has spent 137 days on the disabled list over the course of the last five seasons. The Twins are determined to keep Mauer healthy by cycling him out from behind the plate, but wherever they choose to play him, they simply have to keep him on the field.
1B Justin Morneau
With most injuries, thanks to advanced diagnostics and tests, it isn't hard to see when a player is ready to come back and play, but there isn't exactly a simple range of motion test for the brain. While Morneau has said that he is largely symptom free from the concussion he sustained in July, 2010 and the recurrence of symptoms that ended his 2011 season, the potential for another recurrence of concussion symptoms aren't the only reason for this red rating. Morneau underwent surgery on his left wrist, left knee and right foot last year, a rather unenviable litany of procedures to carry into 2012. Spring training should give an indication of where Morneau is physically, but it's hard to look at his last 18 months and see much beyond a series of red flags.
2B Alexi Casilla
Casilla was undone in 2011 by a strained right hamstring; it's not an injury that typically takes more than two months to heal, but Casilla's issue necessitated two separate DL stints, the second of which ended his season. The Twins have Casilla penciled in as the starting second baseman, but the 27-year old has never played more than 98 games in a season and has avoided the disabled list for an entire season just once since 2008. The hamstring didn?t prevent him from playing 31 games in the Dominican Winter League and shouldn't be an issue going forward, but Casilla's high-energy style of play certainly predisposes him to traumatic injuries throughout the season.
CF Denard Span
As puzzling as concussions can be, Span's vestibular neuritis complicated the recovery process and extended his time on the disabled list. Unlike many of his teammates, while Span missed a lot of time in-season, he didn't end the year on the DL. His 18 PAs at the end of September hardly means he's cured, but it offers some hope that Span won't be fighting either the concussion symptoms or his neuritis in 2012. This red rating comes from the System?s fear that his concussion isn't behind him; if it is, Span doesn't carry any other notable risks
DH Ryan Doumit
Bringing in someone with Doumit's ample injury history to act as Mauer's backup may seem a little strange, but the Twins are hoping that with neither aiming to catch all 162 games, both bats will stay in the lineup. Doumit missed parts of the last six seasons with wide range of injuries, though quite a few were sustained in situations unique to catching, something he'll do much less of this year than he has in the past. The biggest concern moving forward is his concussion history, which Doumit himself has admitted is rather substantial.
SP Scott Baker
There is no way to guarantee that a player is headed for elbow trouble, but there are some big red flags, and one of those is trouble with other connective tissues in the same area. Baker was sidelined twice in 2011 with a strained right flexor tendon, which limited him to just four starts in the second half, and which should serve as a warning that something isn't right with his arm. The Twins have some rotation depth with Brian Duensing likely headed to the bullpen and September call-up Liam Hendricks stashed in Triple-A.
SP Francisco Liriano
It's hard to blame the System for being a little bearish on Liriano, whose performance and health both seem to be determined by a dice roll and less by a pattern. While Liriano didn't have a major shoulder injury in 2011, he was placed on the DL with left shoulder issues twice, and the fact that he?s having any shoulder discomfort after already having elbow issues is more than a little worrisome.
Dan Wade is a research assistant for Will Carroll and writes regularly at Fangraphs.