Wednesday, April 4, 2012

2012 Twins Award Predictions

With Opening Day later in the week, it is time for my annual predictions for the 2012 baseball season. It is always fun to sort through all of the teams, players, and divisions to find out who will be the best of the best in the coming year. There are always going to be surprises along the way like the Diamondbacks were in 2011. The edition of the new wild card spots in each league will also add some spice to the race for the playoffs in the 2012 season.

Over the course of the week, I will release my picks from a variety of areas. For the National League and the American League, I will predict the division winners, the wild card teams, and the major award contenders. Later in the week I will focus on the Twins and decide who is going to stand out in the major and minor leagues. Here is the breakdown of the schedule for the week.

Monday: 2012 American League Predictions
Tuesday: 2012 National League Predictions
Wednesday: 2012 Twins Awards Predictions
Thursday: 2012 Twins Minor League Award Predictions
Friday: Links-N-Thinks
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, C-1B-DH
Runner-Up: Josh Willingham, LF
Wild Card: Justin Morneau, DH
2011 Killebrew MVP: Michael Cuddyer, RF-1B-2B-P
After a dreadful 2011 season, there is a chip on the shoulder of Mauer as he prepares for the 2012 campaign. He wants to prove to all of his doubters that last season was just an a blip on the radar of the outstanding career he is trying to put together. There is a good chance the Twins will try to get Mauer into the line-up as much as possible this year and that will mean more time at positions other than catcher. He brings the most value to the team when he is behind the plate but he is no use to the club when he is devastated by injuries from being a catcher.

The Twins are going to win more contests when the manager can put a healthy Mauer into the middle of the line-up. He should return to being a top ten hitter in the American League and he could challenge for an unprecedented fourth batting title for a catcher. The Twins will also need players like Josh Willingham and Justing Morneau to be strong hitters in the middle of the order but the expectations are much higher for Mr. Mauer. He is being paid like one of the top players in the game and the former MVP should be able to strive for that level again in this year. For the Twins to rebound in 2012, they will need Mauer to be in top form and for him to be the leader of the club.

Johan Santana Pitcher of the Year: Francisco Liriano, LHP
Runner-Up: Scott Baker, RHP
Wild Card: Liam Hendriks, RHP
2011 Santana Pitcher of the Year: Carl Pavano, RHP
Last year was a rough year for many of the pitchers in the starting staff so it was hard to pick the best player out of all of the sub-par play. Many of the starting pitchers on the Twins are entering a contract year and the team is hoping this will bring out the best in the arms of their rotation. Liriano is one of the players that is pitching for his next contract and the Twins are still waiting on him to be the player they think he can be. At this point in his career, the dominant ace pitcher the Twins wanted from Liriano could be a figment of their imagination. But if there were any time to shine, it would be the year before he can test free agency for the first time in his life.

In the offseason, Liriano pitched in the Dominican Winter League and the last time he was able to this he had a very successful season. The front office brass of the Twins is hoping to see more of the 2010 version of Liriano on the mound and he should glimpses of this in the spring. With injury concerns and age surrounding the other pitchers in the rotation, the Twins could be leaning hard on Liriano. This is a very scary proposition to many fans because of the inconsistencies he has shown in the past. If the team is successful in 2012, Liriano might have to become the ace of the staff. But if the Twins falter in the first half, Liriano could be a trade chip in July.

Rick Aguilera Relief Pitcher of the Year: Brian Duensing, LHP
Runner-Up: Glen Perkins, LHP
Wild Card: Anthony Swarzak, RHP
2011 Aguilera Relief Pitcher of the Year: Glen Perkins, LHP
The Twins tried to give Duensing a shot at being a starting pitcher for all of last year and that experiment didn't work out for the player or the team. He struggled to get right handed batters out and as a starter this is a critical task to accomplish on the mound. The Twins saw Glen Perkins, another lefty, burst onto the scene as the most consistent bullpen option for the team last year. Now the organization hopes to find similar success with Duensing shifting back into the role he had success with in the past. Perkins saw an increase in some of his velocity when he was shifted from starter to relief pitcher and the Twins can hope to see some improvements out of Duensing.

The late innings seem to be set for the Twins with Matt Capps in line to get the closing opportunities and Perkins pitching as the set-up man. This could leave a handful of other players fighting for the 7th inning role. Duensing could fit into the middle to late innings very nicely and he could also be called upon to make a spot start at different points in the year. His versatility and comfort level as a bullpen arm should allow him to return to his former glory and reemerge one of the best options out of the bullpen. The team will need multiple arms to step-up this year for the team to be successful and Duensing is just one of the piece that could make this happen.

Rod Carew Rookie of the Year: Chris Parmelee, 1B-RF-DH
Runner-Up: Liam Hendriks, RHP
Wild Card: Kyle Waldrop, RHP
2011 Carew Rookie of the Year: Ben Revere, CF-LF
A couple of weeks ago, I was leaning toward some other options for my preseason pick as the Carew Rookie of the Year. Times have changed in Twins Territory and it looks like Parmelee could be here to stay with the 2012 Twins. A tremendous spring from Parmelee combined with Justin Morneau's move to DH has allowed the young man to start the season on the Twins 25-man roster. There is a good chance Parmelee will see a lot of time at first base but he has also shown some versatility with his ability to play right field. If Parmelee is going to be with the big league team, they are going to want him in the line-up for most games so his ability to play multiple position will help the manager put together the line-up.

When the Twins called up Parmelee to make his debut last September, many fans had stopped paying attention to the Twins as they approached the 100-loss mark. Even though the fans might have given up on the year, Parmelee put up some numbers that caught the attention of those who were watching. He was able to hit for power with four home runs and six doubles in 76 at-bats but he also showed some patience by coaxing 12 walks. Parmelee has never played at the Triple-A level so it will be interesting to see how he handles his first full season with the team. His six years in the minor leagues were not nearly as good as the numbers he showed in September so the team needs more of the new and improved Parmelee to be a consistent hitter in the line-up.

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