It is always exciting at the end of the season to pick the players that have performed the best on the field. Joe Mauer was the team's MVP in 2010, but half way through the season that award would have gone to Justin Morneau. Both Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano had outstanding years from the pitcher's mound. Danny Valencia burst onto the scene and showed that he could be a force at third base.
Who will be the leaders on the team this year?
Each of the awards predicted below has been named after someone that optimizes that award for the Twins organization. There are some stars from the past and even one current MLB player, but all have had a significant place in Twins lore.
Harmon Killebrew MVP: Joe Mauer, CatcherThe M&M Boys are back in the middle of the line-up for the Twins. Delmon Young showed the team that he could have high offensive production for an entire season. For the Twins to succeed, they will need all of this players producing at the highest level. It is hard to vote against a player that many consider to be one of the best in baseball. There is a chance that Morneau will take some time to regain his form and that could hurt his overall numbers for the season. Mauer had plenty of time to rest and recover during the offseason and Spring Training. That extra time will lead to extra production in the coming season.
Johan Santana Pitcher of the Year: Francisco Liriano, LHPThere is a surplus of starting pitching in Minnesota and that is a good thing. The Twins have six capable starting pitchers and a prospect waiting in the wings. As Liriano recovered from Tommy John surgery, the Twins had been waiting for him to return to the form that he showed in his rookie campaign of 2006. There were flashes of that ace last season as he won the most games of his career (14) and struck out over 200 batters. Liriano was not perfect in 2010 and to be an ace he is going to have to produce for an entire season. The Twins need him to take that next step and be an even bigger ace in 2011.
Rick Aguilera Relief Pitcher of the Year: Matt Capps, Set-Up Man/CloserThe Twins have a lot of question marks in the bullpen to start the season. The loss of a lot of good arms from the 'pen means that the Twins will have a new look when it comes to the middle and late innings of games. There is one player that the Twins are relying on to fill multiple roles in the bullpen this year. Matt Capps will be asked to be a set-up man for Joe Nathan and to close games when Nathan needs a day of rest. Capps had a very good spring (with the exception of last night's game) and Nathan looked shaky in some of his outings. This only increases the importance of Capps.
Rod Carew Rookie of the Year: Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Second BaseThe Twins have one player in their Opening Day line-up that will qualify for the Rookie of the Year Award. That gives Nishioka the edge to be the winner of this award. This spring he has shown the ability and maturity to succeed as a player at the major league level. That output needs to continue as the regular season begins. Nishioka has shown the capacity this spring to do the little things to help the Twins to score runs. He can hit-and-run, bunt, and steal bases to be the threat that the Twins need in front of the middle of their line-up. Look for Nishioka to make a push to be the first Twins player to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award since Marty Cordova in 1995.