Monday, March 3, 2014

2014 Twins Spring Story Lines

The sun is slowly rising on another season of Twins baseball...

With this new beginning, comes the hope of a new season. The hope surrounding a team whose fans might me more focused on the prospects making it to the big leagues than on actual big league roster. Even with that considered, there are plenty of things to watch out for in Florida over the next few weeks.

There are position battles at different spots across the diamond, questions about the composition of the pitching staff, and some familiar faces making their return to Minnesota. This team's 25-man roster is far from set at this point in the spring and there are tough decisions still yet to be made.
Here are some of the story lines to follow in Florida:

Joe Mauer moves to first base
For the first time in his big league career, Joe Mauer didn't have to report to camp when pitchers and catchers were required to be there. Mauer is moving to first base and this will mean a very different spring training for himself. He can work on refining his defense at his new position and the position switch will likely mean he gets more at-bats throughout the season. This is all good news for Twins fans especially if he can stay healthy and tap into some of the power he has shown in previous years.

Fight for the fifth spot
The Twins stocked up their starting rotation this offseason with pitchers like Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, and Mike Pelfrey. With Kevin Correia already under contract, this leaves one starting spot open to a slough of players. Sam Deduno, Scott Diamond, and Vance Worley are all out of minor league options. If one of these men wins the fifth spot, the others would have to find a place in the bullpen or be passed through waivers. Younger pitchers like Kyle Gibson and Alex Meyer also have a shot but will likely end up in Rochester.

Top prospects in camp
There has been plenty of hype surrounding Miguel Sano since he was a teenager in the Dominican Republic. Flash forward to this season and he will be forced to the sidelines for most of the year as he will have Tommy John surgery. Byron Buxton has been the talk of the prospect world over the last few months. He lived up to the hype in his first season but he hasn't played a game above the High-A level. There is even more pressure on Buxton for this season with Sano out so it will be interesting to see how he handles it. Other eyes will be watching top pitching prospect Alex Meyer as he could debut in 2014.

Where will the offense come from?
Only the Astros and the White Sox scored fewer runs than the Twins last season. The team spent all of their offseason allowance to fix the pitching staff and this left little for offensive upgrades. Kurt Suzuki was brought in to replace Mauer behind the plate but he hasn't been known to hit the cover off the ball. Minnesota hopes Jason Kubel will have an offensive rebirth in his return to the Twin Cities. Younger players like Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia need to prove they can be big league regulars. It would also be nice for a healthy Josh Willingham to get back to his career averages.

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