Twins fans who are optimistic about 2012 may not describe their hopes in quite these terms, but they are believers in recovery, rebounds, redemption and maybe even a few miracles. How so? A close look at the probable roster and regular lineup reveals hopes, if not outright assumptions, that almost every position will feature a player recovering or gaining redemption from a year that all wish could be forgotten.
Judging by the dearth of news from the front office and an unusually quite rumor mill, the 2012 Twins spring roster appears to be set. Just ten days from pitchers and catchers reporting to training camp, there are few signs of any more changes before that date. While I would definitely not rule out any surprise roster moves, it seems safe for now to assume the players currently invited are the ones to consider for the opening day roster.
That being the case, let’s take a look at what will be required for the Twins to compete for a division championship.
Number 1: Pitcher
Starters: Four recovering from injury – Baker, Liriano, Blackburn, Marquis; one hoping to avoid continuing decline – Pavano. Summary: four recoveries and one minor miracle to beat old man time needed. Prognosis: Highly unlikely that all will perform to the top of form. Best bet is Baker.
Relievers: Capps – recovering from injury unreported in 2011, Duensing returning to the bullpen from a tough year in the rotation, Swarzak – hoping to build on a decent year, Perkins – hoping to repeat his best year, Zumaya – recovery from serious injuries, and bunch of others competing for a spot. Summary: two recoveries including one redemption, one rebound, two bright spots, and a slew of hopefuls. Prognosis: Capps will redeem himself and be a solid closer, others will perform better than expected to make the bullpen a surprising strength, Zumaya a long shot but worth the investment.
2. Catcher: Two recovering – Mauer and Doumit; Butera not major league hitter. Summary: two recoveries and one redemption needed. Prognosis: Mauer and Doumit have good years, Butera is eventually replaced by Towles.
3. First Base: Morneau recovering? Summary: Minor miracle needed. Prognosis: Unlikely to return to MVP form. Probably will struggle until finally replaced.
4. Second Base: Casilla recovering. Summary: recovery needed. Prognosis: Likely to be a solid middle infielder all year for the first time.
5. Third Base: Valencia rebound from sophomore jinx/slump. Summary: Rebound/redemption needed. Prognosis: Will become a respectable third baseman with decent offensive output but not middle-of-the-lineup numbers.
6. Shortstop: Carroll hoping for no decline. Summary: Solid performance needed. Prognosis: Will perform adequately giving Nishioka time to develop.
7. Left Field: Revere on the rise? Plouffe finds a home? Summary: decent production, better defense needed. Prognosis: Revere will play well in the field, but will not blossom at the plate. Plouffe will struggle in the field, but will be adequate as a hitter.
8. Center Field: Span recovering. Summary: Recovery needed. Prognosis: Likely to recover and return to good form as center fielder and lead-off hitter.
9. Right Field: Willingham new position. Summary: Needs to be adequate in the field while producing power and run production at the plate. Prognosis: Likely to perform about as expected.
Bench: Nishioka recovering/learning, Hughes recovering from winter season injury. Summary: full recovery and development needed. Prognosis: Nishioka improves both in the field and at the plate, Hughes is adequate as a utility player.
So, the twenty five man roster consists of exactly one player looking to improve upon a best in career year, a couple who are hoping to hold off Father Time and twenty two who the Twins are betting on making comebacks or demonstrating growth/competence of some sort. Under these circumstances it is difficult to see this team as anything more than a long shot for the division championship and might even struggle to stay out of last place.
The real need then is for a major miracle.