Every season the folks over at Cards Conclave do a series called "Playing Pepper." In this series, they ask questions to a group of bloggers from each major league team to preview their club. There's offseason discussion, spring training battles, and even some rookies to watch. Overall, it is a fun series to take part in every year and you can click here to see the other Twins bloggers responses.
I wrote the answers to these questions near the beginning of spring training so some items have already changed. Miguel Sano is injured and out for the season. Alex Meyer has already been shipped off to minor league camp. Other than that, things should look good. Enjoy this year's "Playing Pepper" article.1) How would you grade the offseason?
I would give the Twins a B for the offseason. The Twins were very aggressive early in the offseason free agent market with the signings of Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes. There was talk of bringing in one of the top free agent catchers but that market dried up quickly and the Twins had to settle for Kurt Suzuki. Minnesota is also hoping Jason Kubel can rekindle some of his offensive magic as the team struggled to score runs a year ago. Other than that, there will be a lot of waiting for top prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton to make their debuts.
2) Will the switch to first base pay dividends or cause any issues for Joe Mauer?
I love the fact that Mauer will be able to be in the line-up on a more consistent basis. For a career .323/.405/.468 hitter, this is good news for Twins Territory. He has shown the athleticism to play first base in previous years and he could be a Gold Glove caliber defender at his new position. On the negative side, he won't be working with the pitching staff on a regular basis and this could hurt the organization. He has also seen an increase in strikeouts in recent years and this trend could continue as he might try to increase his power numbers with his shift to a corner infield spot.
3) Which roster battle will be the most intriguing during spring training?
The battle for the fifth spot in the rotation will be one of the most intriguing to watch. Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Kevin Correia, and Mike Pelfrey should occupy spots one through four. This leaves a variety of pitchers for the number five spot. Scott Diamond and Vance Worley both struggled last season and they are each out of minor league options. If neither wins a spot in the rotation, the team might have to make room for them in the bullpen. World Baseball Classic star Sam Deduno looked good for stretches last season and he might be the leader for the fifth spot going into spring training. Young pitchers like Kyle Gibson, Alex Meyer, and Trevor May could have an outside chance but they are more likely to end up in Triple-A.
4) What rookie, if any, will make the most impact on the team in 2014?
After a strong showing in his September call-up, Josmil Pinto should be in line to take on a more permanent role with the club in 2014. He hit .342/.398/.566 with nine extra-base hits over 21 games. There are still some questions about his defense and this is likely why he will start the year at Rochester. He's played more games at the big league level than at the Triple-A level. If he finds early season success in Rochester, he could come up a couple months into the season and split catching time with Kurt Suzuki.
5) What will be the final record of the team and where will they finish in the division?
73-89, 4th place in the AL Central.
6) Which player from your team do you most enjoy watching?
Twins closer Glen Perkins. I love the way he has developed from first round pick to failed starter to one of the best relievers in the American League. He also does some great things for the Twin Cities community so that helps his stock. Overall, he is a great player on the field and an even better person off of it.