Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Possible 2014 Twins Breakout Candidates

Every offseason fans can sit back and reflect on the year that was for the Minnesota Twins. There are usually some high points and some low points for any team no matter what their place in the standings. Unfortunately for the Twins, there have been more low points than high points over the last three seasons.

Last year's roster featured a few players in the midst of a breakout season. Brian Dozier set the franchise record for home runs by a second baseman and he backed that up with terrific up the middle defense. It was a long time coming for Dozier who struggled during his first taste of the big leagues 2012. Anthony Swarzak took over the long relief role and compiled his best numbers as a professional. He also led all of baseball in innings pitched by a relief arm.

Looking forward to the 2014 season, there are a variety of players who could be poised to make a big impact this year.

Oswaldo Arcia, OF: There were some positive signs from Arcia in his rookie year but the Twins would like to see some more offensive consistency from their 22-year old outfielder. In the minor leagues, Arcia was a career .314 hitter and he had a slugging percentage over .530 for the last four seasons. A few rookie nerves meant a drop in his batting average to .251 and his slugging percentage topped out at .431. He should be a regular starter in 2014 and the Twins would like him to get back to the numbers he put up in the minor leagues.

Kyle Gibson, RHP: With the logjam of staring pitching on the 25-man roster, Gibson might be forced to start the year in Rochester. It still could be a make or break year for the 25-year old as he is in his second season back following Tommy John surgery. There were plenty of struggles from Gibson during his big league debut. His ERA was over 6.50 and his WHIP was closer to 2.00 than 1.00. Thankfully, there is still hope for the former first round pick since he put up some impressive numbers in the minors before his elbow surgery. Gibson may never be a number one or number two starter but he could fit into the rotation for the next five years.

Michael Tonkin, RHP: Like the other men on this list, Tonkin debuted in 2013 but he played a much more limit role. In 2012, Tonkin pitched at High-A and Low-A so this meant he flew through three different levels last season including his MLB debut. Over the last two seasons, he has average 10.0 SO/9 or more in the minors. Minnesota's bullpen was a strength last year and Tonkin could end up playing an important late inning role for the club. Glen Perkins and Jared Burton will still figure prominently in the eighth and ninth inning but Tonkin could be asked to collect some important outs in tights games.

Dark Horse Candidate (Well kind of...)
Aaron Hicks, OF: The Twins wanted Hicks to be a breakout candidate in 2013 but those plans didn't exactly work out. There's a chance that he will begin the year in Rochester and this could be good for his confidence. Last season's poor performance has to be weighing on him and he should play with a chip on his shoulder for most of 2014. With Byron Buxton shooting through the minor league system, Hicks needs to prove himself now or get out of the way.

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