Friday, February 15, 2013

Twins Spring Story Lines: Position Players

It's official.

Twins position players are required to report to Fort Myers today. The team's first official workout will be held tomorrow morning. Quite a few of the players have already reported for duty and have been taking part in informal workouts.

The road to the Opening Day 2013 officially starts and it's time to get the bad taste out of their mouths from the last two seasons. This could be quite the challenge with the roster that has been compiled by the front office and the AL Central is looking a little tougher these days.

Earlier in the week, I profiled some of the story lines to follow with pitchers and catcher reporting. There are also some intriguing stories when it comes to the other players on the roster. Here are some of the top headlines that fans will be following as the team prepares for 2013.

Who will win the starting job in center field?
With Denard Span and Ben Revere shipped out of town, there will be some change over in the middle of the Twins defense and at the top of the batting order. Span and Revere have spent the majority of the last two years in those spots and these will be some tough shoes to fill in the hearts of Twins fans.

Three men will be battling to win the starting job. Joe Benson, Aaron Hicks, and Darin Mastroanni will attempt to prove they belong as the replacement for Span and Revere. All of these men took different paths to get to this point and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.

Benson and Hicks might have to prove themselves at Triple-A before getting the starting job. Hicks is a top prospect that fans have been waiting to see. Like Hicks, Benson was considered a top prospect before injuries derailed his 2012 season. Mastroanni could have the upper hand at this point while the other two get a chance to prove they belong.

Which Trevor Plouffe will show up?
Fans got excited last season when Trevor Plouffe looked like Babe Ruth for a couple weeks in the middle of the season. He went on quite the tear at the plate and his defense even looked okay in the field. This allowed the Twins to part ways with struggling third baseman Danny Valencia.

The end of last season wasn't the greatest as Plouffe struggled through a hand injury. This might have been one of the biggest causes for his drop in power. With the full offseason to recover, the Twins hope Plouffe is ready to take the next step and prove he can be the third baseman for the future.

Plouffe has been down in Florida early and this could be to his advantage. There was talk for most of the offseason about bringing in someone to challenge Plouffe at third. It doesn't look like there will be much of a challenge for him to win the starting spot but the Twins could use other infielders at third if necessary.

Who wants to play middle infield?
On Opening Day, the Twins are going to have two players penciled in to the middle infield but some things need to get sorted out by that point. The team used multiple players at shortstop and second base last season to try and find someone that could stick. Unfortunately, there were plenty of unmemorable performances but a new season brings new optimism.

Brian Dozier and Pedro Florimon got long looks at shortstop last year and it sounds like Florimon has the inside track to win that position. His slick glove was fun to watch in the field at the end of the year. Compared to how good his glove looked, his approach at the plate was on the opposite end of the spectrum. That being said, he should still have enough to start the year at shortstop.

This leaves Dozier, Jamey Carroll, and Eduardo Escobar to fight it out for second base. It could be intriguing to see if Dozier can find success at a different middle infield position. Carroll would make a good utility man since he can play all over the infield.

Can Chris Parmelee adjust to being an everyday player?
There have been flashes of greatness from Parmelee over the last two seasons. In 2011, he was a September call-up and he looked great in the last month of the season. This was a great sign for a player that was trying to find a permanent position with the big league squad.

He broke camp with the team in 2012 and things were continuing to look up for Parmelee. The team wasn't getting him into the line-up and he was sent back to Triple-A so he could play everyday. Over the next couple months, he would destroy the ball in the minor leagues. The Twins had to find a spot for him.

Parmelee will get most of his playing time in right field this year and there shouldn't be too many players challenging him for that spot. If the Twins trade Justin Morneau before the deadline, he could be moved to first base. For now, he will have to show that his flashes of greatness over the last two seasons can translate to consistent performance at the big league level.

Will Justin Morneau be able to continue his success from the end of last season?
After back-to-back season of struggling with concussions and other injuries, Morneau is having a normal offseason where he can get through his entire routine. This is great news after the team wasn't sure if Morneau was even going to be able to play in the field last year.

In the second half of last season, Morneau looked to be getting back to his old ways. He was hitting for power and his batting average was actually higher than his career mark. These were steps in the right direction after a couple of nightmare years for Mr. Morneau. Fans hope that his performance can continue over from the end of last year.

It will be an interesting year for Morneau as he is in the last year of his contract. If he performs well at the beginning of the year, he could increase his trade value at the deadline. Morneau has been a cornerstone of the franchise since the early 2000s but his time could be running out in Minnesota.

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