Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS player projections for the 2014 Twins, released Friday at FanGraphs.com, can be read a couple different ways. In the short view, it offers a pretty pessimistic look at the potential offensive output for 2014, as it stands now — which of course still includes plenty of offseason.
That’s not terribly surprising since the Twins ranked 25th in MLB in runs scored a season ago and their only significant moves so far this offseason have dealt with starting pitching. Nonetheless, there are some interesting projections about position players currently on the 40-man roster.
Joe Mauer is projected to be the Twins’ best offensive player, but with his move to first base, his edge in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) will be diminished. We already suspected that, we suppose, but the raw Mauer projections — a .292 average with 10 homers and 60 RBI — would not make anyone in Twins country happy.
Perhaps more alarming for 2014 — but encouraging for the future, which is the other way to read these projections — are the players listed directly below Mauer in terms of projected offense. The site lists players in terms of projected WAR in 2014, and the next three are Josmil Pinto, Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton.
That is to say, one player who had a limited 2013 audition and two more who have never taken an MLB at-bat are projected — if they were in the majors full-time in 2014 — to be three of the Twins’ four best offensive players in 2014. Sano would bat .227 but would hit 30 homers, according to ZiPS. Buxton would steal 30 bases. Pinto would hold his own at the plate.
The bottom line: If these projections are to be trusted or at least used as a starting reference, Terry Ryan still has a lot of work to do this offseason — unless he and the on-field staff are ready to turn things over on offense to the prospects and ride it out.
The good news is that the pitching certainly will be better. Of course, the question of how much better won’t be fully answered until the games are played. The beauty and the curse of the offseason is that everything is somewhere between a guess and a projection right now, leaving us to imagine the best and worst of it all.