Wednesday, April 2, 2014

2014 Minnesota Twins Awards Preview

Another regular season is upon us and that means that it is prediction time for a lot of writers across the inter-web. There will be surprise teams, surprise players, and even some other surprises along the way. The unknown and unpredictability of baseball is one of the most enduring qualities of "America's Past-time."

Through out the coming week, I will be making my picks for the National League and the American League, taking a closer look at the AL Central, and selecting awards for the Twins. Here is a look at the weekly schedule so make sure to stop in all week to get yourself primed for the season to come.

2014 Preview Series
Each of the awards below has been named after someone that optimizes that award for the Twins organization. There are some legends from the past and even one current MLB player but all have had a significant place in Twins lore.
Harmon Killebrew MVP Pick: Joe Mauer, 1B
Previous Winners: Joe Mauer (2013), Josh Willingham (2012), Michael Cuddyer (2011), Joe Mauer (2010)
If Mauer is healthy and playing regularly, there is no reason this award shouldn't be his at the end of the year. Even when he missed a chunk of playing time last season, he still came out on top. He is the best player on a roster with multiple holes. He will be picking up more playing time with his move to first base and this could help him to accumulate some better numbers. It would be nice for someone like Josh Willingham or a younger player like Aaron Hicks to challenge Mauer for the title of best Twins player. For now, Twins Territory has to be happy with Mauer as the best core player while the team waits for the likes of Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano.

Johan Santana Pitcher of the Year Pick: Ricky Nolasco, RHP
Previous Winners: Kevin Correia (2013), Scott Diamond (2012), Carl Pavano (2011), Carl Pavano (2010)
It's been difficult to pick a top pitcher on the Twins roster for the last couple of seasons. The starting staff has been rough to say the least. Last year, I contemplated giving the award to a relief arm like Anthony Swarzak but starters to add a lot of value with the innings they accumulate. For things to start to go better, the Twins are going to need the likes of Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes to perform at a high level. Nolasco didn't look great on Opening Day but the baseball season is long and he has plenty of time to bounce back. It would be great if Alex Meyer is in the discussion for this award next season so again Twins Territory is playing the waiting game. 

Rick Aguilera Relief Pitcher of the Year Pick: Glen Perkins, LHP
Previous Winners: Glen Perkins (2013), Jared Burton (2012), Glen Perkins (2011), Jesse Crain (2010)
This was one of the hardest picks for me to make because relief pitching can waver from year to year. Glen Perkins is the safe choice but I like to go outside of the box on a pick or two. Casey Fien did some great things last year and I think he will be taking on an even more important role this season. By the end of the year, I foresee the Twins relying on him to be the set-up man leading to Perkins in the ninth. Michael Tonkin is also an interesting name and he could pile up some strikeouts along the way. For now, the award pick has to go in favor of Perkins but things could change by the end of the season.

Rod Carew Rookie of the Year Pick: Josmil Pinto, C
Previous Winners: Oswaldo Arcia (2013), Scott Diamond (2012), Ben Revere (2011), Danny Valencia (2010)
The Twins haven't had a ton of top tier rookies coming through their system in the last handful of years. Arcia looks to prove he belongs in the line-up for years to come but Diamond, Revere, and Valenica are all out of the organization or off the 25-man roster. Josmil Pinto surprisingly made the Twins roster out of spring training and this means the club will likely use him frequently in the line-up. He showed some promise in his September call-up and he can learn a thing or two from veteran back-stop Kurt Suzuki. With no chance of Miguel Sano making his debut this year and Byron Buxton being at Double-A, Pinto should have an easy road to this award unless he gets into a hitting slump.

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