Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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The Twins reached the All-Star break at 44-50 after beating Colorado on Sunday.
Here's how that compares to their record at the three previous All-Star breaks:
Slightly better starting pitching, due mostly to Phil Hughes and Kyle Gibson, has made the Twins a little better this season despite vital injuries to key hitters, like Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham, and the failure of Aaron Hicks to become a useful big-league hitter.
But the Twins' chances to finish strong could be handicapped by the innings limit on AAA pitcher Alex Meyer, and the expectation that the Twins will trade away a few valuable players as the trade deadline approaches.
Spent a few days in Fort Myers with the Class A Miracle last week. The Miracle is the Twins' high-Class A affiliate.
Wrote about ace Jose Berrios, one of the most promising players in the farm system.
The position players who jumped out at me were shortstop Jorge Polanco, and infielder/outfielder Eddie Rosario.
Polanco played mostly second base last year at low-A Cedar Rapids, but with Brian Dozier looking like a long-term keeper in the majors at second, the Twins are trying out players at other positions. Polanco has made too many errors at short, but when I was in town he made spectacular plays, displaying great range and plenty of arm. He can hit, too.
But the best player on the field was Rosario, recently reinstated after a 50-game drug violation.
Rosario looks smooth at second, and the Miracle also played him in left and center. Again, this is due to Dozier's presence.
Rosario might be a wonderful big-league second baseman. He also looks comfortable in the outfield, and can throw well enough to play out there.
But what really jumps out at you is his bat. He has an unconventional swing. He looks like he's throwing the bat-head at the ball. He has an uncanny knack for hitting the ball hard to all fields, and for serving tough pitches on a line to centerfield.
Rosario could be the Twins' future leftfielder. He's insurance in case Dozier doesn't hold up. But with his talent and the trouble he's caused, he also might be a prime candidate to be traded if the Twins can drum up a market.
Personally, I'd keep him.
Again, here's my future Twins dream lineup: Buxton CF, Mauer 1b (if he regains his form and usual on-base percentage), Sano 3b, Arcia RF, Pinto C, Vargys DH, Rosario LF, Dozier 2b, Santana SS.
That's 7 guys who could hit 20 homers, three or four guys who could steal 30 bases, and three or four guys who could win Gold Gloves.
Still reeling with a hockey hangover, I'm at the Twins' game today at Target Field.
The season will be close to one-quarter finished by the end of the day, so it's getting to the time of year where statistical standards are more than just flukish.
The Twins rank fifth in the American League in runs scored. That's pretty good for a rebuilding team with a patchwork lineup. The concern is that the Twins may have already gotten the best offensive performances they're going to get from Chris Colabello, Jason Kubel, Kurt Suzuki and Trevor Plouffe.
The bullpen ERA of 3.59 ranks sixth in the American League, consistent with the belief that this is a strong bullpen when given a reasonable workload.
Here's what's worrisome: After spending all that money on two free-agent pitchers, and getting a few dominant outings out of Kyle Gibson, the best young pitcher in the current rotation, the Twins still entered Thursday's game with a league-worst 5.45 starting pitching ERA.
So in the Twins' pursuit of competence, they need to find a way to sustain their offensive performance (not likely) while improving the performance of their starting pitching. The latter is a necessity if the Twins are going to avoid losing 90 games again this year.
So my previous post addressed the importance of Aaron Hicks getting on base in the leadoff role. I still think that will be the key to the Twins' lineup for the bulk of the season, but Ron Gardenhire's first lineup is this:
I already hate this lineup.
For this team to be good, Hicks will have to be an offensive contributor. Suzuki is not a No. 2 hitter on any major-league club, not even the Twins. The rest of the lineup is essentially Gardenhire making the best of a bad situation, but there is no reason to bat one of your worst offensive players second in the order. You'd be better off batting Mauer leadoff, Dozier second, Willingham third, etc. This is a terrible sign.
He has a career .309 on-base percentage. He's an automatic out with no power. This is not a good decision.
I'll be on @1500ESPN at 12:15 to rip this lineup.
Chicago -- For some reason, I got to the ballpark about five hours before game time. Even though MLB has done all it can to ruin Opening Day by playing regular season games on the other side of the world to pretend the season has officially started, I can't stay away from the ballpark.
Paul Molitor is already testing the basepaths, and Phil Hughes and Mike Pelfrey are walking toward the bullpen at U.S. Cellular Field.
Wrote in today's paper about all the ways in which this Twins team needs to improve, but this can't be overstated or repeated enough: Aaron Hicks is a key to this team playing respectable baseball in so many ways.
If Hicks plays to his capabilities, the Twins will have a leadoff hitter who can get on base, run and drive the ball, and a centerfielder who can hold down the position capably all season.
If Hicks fails again, the top of the lineup will be in shambles, in a lineup that will already have automatic outs at the bottom of the order when Pedro Florimon and Kurt Suzuki start.
If Hicks succeeds, the Twins will finally have one of the top prospects they're counting on for the long-term up and running. If he fails, the future will be a lot harder to see, and a lot harder to care about.
In 2012, Hicks had a .384 on-base percentage at Class AA. Last year, he had a .259 on-base percentage in the majors and a .317 on-base percentage in the minors. He's still a five-tool talent who should be a big-league regular, if not a standout, for years. If he turns into a bust, this season will be hard to watch and the Twins' outfield of the future will be in flux.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at 12:15 with Mackey & Judd, and on WJON in St. Cloud tomorrow at 7:15. Those times are good for every weekday.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
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