When spring training opened up in late February, I posted an article called Twins Two-Way Planning in which I said that the Twins 2011 roster was probably built perfectly to go one of two directions. In essence, if things went poorly, they had enough one-year, veteran contracts of guys that other teams might have interest in at the trade deadline. The Twins could get prospects to help push forward the rebuilding process.
However, the other scenario was, “IF seven or eight of the factors listed above are going positively, AND the Twins are getting positive performances from their minor leaguers and these new players, AND the team is in contention in mid-July, THEN they will have plenty of payroll flexibility to add a significant piece or two at the deadline, if they choose.”
So, what were the “factors listed above” and how are the Twins doing in those categories… you know, since they barely have double-digit wins on the season.
- The health of Joe Mauer
- The health of Justin Morneau
- The health of Denard Span
- The elbow of Scott Baker
- The durability of Carl Pavano
- The mindset and performance of Francisco Liriano
- The improvements of Danny Valencia, Ben Revere and other young players
- Matt Capps ability to get outs in the 9th
- 2-5 bullpen arms need to step up and contribute consistently well.
- Minor Leaguers coming up and contributing when needed throughout the season (Hendriks, Diamond, Gutierrez, Guerra, Waldrop, Oliveros, Benson, Parmelee, Dozier, etc.)
Each one of those ten Factors was a factor whether or not the Twins brought in any free agents. If seven or eight of those factors wind up positive for the Twins, they have a chance to compete.
Joe Mauer has been healthy, or at least he has been in the lineup all but one game this year. (1)
Justin Morneau just came off of the 15 day disabled list. If there are positives from this, they are that 1.) he just missed the 15 days, and 2.) it was for wrist pain, not concussion symptoms.
The health of Denard Span has been good all season, until the last couple of days when he has been out of the lineup with a hamstring injury. Hopefully this is just another day at most, and he’ll be back at the top of the lineup where he has been quite good. (2)
The elbow of Scott Baker certainly was a big story in spring as Baker tried so hard to get back while also trying so hard to make people understand that he really was in pain. He went in for elbow surgery that turned into Tommy John surgery too.
The durability of Carl Pavano probably can’t be questioned yet as he has not yet missed a start. However, concerns about his velocity have led to an MRI. He will make his next start this weekend, but this factor certainly is in flux at this point. (2.5)
The mindset of Francisco Liriano is always a question, and despite very good performance throughout spring training, his performance since Opening Day has been nothing short of immensely disappointing. He was finally moved to the bullpen a week ago.
The improvements of Danny Valencia, Ben Revere and otbher young players. I would assume that I meant players like Trevor Plouffe, Alexi Casilla and Luke Hughes in the “other” players grouping. Well, Valencia is in Rochester after a really horrible start to his season. Revere has spent most of the season in AAA as well. Plouffe is hitting below .150. Hughes was lost to the A’s when he was Designated for Assignment, and Casilla has a sub-.600 OPS.
Matt Capps is 7-7 save opportunities and despite two losses, he has been pitching fairly well. (3.5)
Two to five bullpen arms needed to step up. I would say that Glen Perkins, Matt Capps, Brian Duensing and Jared Burton have been really good in their roles this season. Anthony Swarzak has played multiple roles, but he has been solid for the most part. Jeff Gray has walked too many, but he has been better than expected. The bullpen was a huge concern coming into the season, and to this point, they have been alright. (4.5)
It’s always good to get help from the minor league roster, and this will or can happen throughout the season. Scott Diamond and PJ Walters have come up from Rochester and been very good in limited duty so far. Brian Dozier made his much-anticipated 2012 debut and has been very solid defensively and with the bat in his ten days with the club. Hendriks and Parmelee struggled after making the Opening Day roster and are back in Rochester but likely will contribute later in the. Waldrop should be healthy soon. Deolis Guerra is doing very well. (5)
As for the new guys, Willingham has carried the offense most of the season. Carroll has been a stabilizing force in the infield. Doumit started slow, but he has been great with the bat the last three weeks. (and now he may be hurt) However, Marquis has been quite bad, and Zumaya didn’t throw even twenty bullpen pitches before needing Tommy John surgery. (6)
Add to these factors that the Twins starting pitchers’ have all performed to a nightmarish, worst-case-scenario, and although no one could have predicted 11-25, it shouldn’t be surprising that this team is struggling already in the season.