Anyone who knows me knows I am a baseball fan, and also a fan of the Minnesota Twins (blame Kirby Puckett and Bud Selig, if you must). Having said that, the Twins may not be…well, they may be god-awful this year. The offense may not be too bad from 2-5, with the addition of another MLB-level bat in Delmon Young in right field, which along with Joe Mauer at catcher, Michael Cuddyer in left, and the meastiness of Justin Morneau at first, gives the Twins 4 decent bats in the lineup. That, however, will be offset by unknown quantity Carlos Gomez (one of the key components of the Johan Santana trade) in centerfield, Brendan Harris at 2nd (career .273/.331/.418 hitter, not too great, but on this team a damn bona fide threat), Mike Lamb (.281/.339/.427, not bad numbers for a shortstop, but not really for an AL 3rd baseman) at 3rd, Adam Everett (.248/.299/.357, godawful for any position) at short, and either Craig Monroe or Jason Kubel at DH (both have shown signs of being good hitters, Monroe-who had a monster 2006 playoffs with the Tigers-in particular, but neither have been consistent enough to warrant full-time spots with their teams). The pitching will be anchored by a young lefty with possibly the filthiest stuff in the game. However, this guy does not wear #57, he wears #47, and he is coming off Tommy John surgery. His name is Francisco Liriano, and he will be starting the season in the minors. Liriano was downright filthy in 2006 and along with current Met Johan Santana gave the Twins the best 1-2 punch in the AL for about 2 months before Liriano’s elbow exploded. Along with Boof Bonser and Scott Baker, both of whom should be improved with a year’s experience, he will lead a young Twinkies rotation this year, with Livan Hernandez brought in to help strengthen the backend of the rotation. Kevin Slowey will probably be the #5 starter, although University of Minnesota grad Glen Perkins will be in the running later on. The bullpen should still be fairly solid with the excellent Joe Nathan closing out, and Pat Neshek (who could probably close for many teams) as the set-up man. Juan Rincon, Jesse Crain, and Matt Guerrier should give the Twins some options in the 6th and 7th innings, with Dennys Reyes being the LOOGY (left-handed one out only guy) and the aforementioned Perkins being the primary long reliever.
The Twins will probably struggle this year to score runs, and their pitching will probably not be lights-out enough to survive that. Add to that a division that includes two bona fide World Series contenders in Detroit and Cleveland, and an up-and-coming team in Kansas City, and the Twins may be fighting an uphill fight for 4th in the division with the White Sox.