AL Central MLB MLB Team News — 28 February 2011
After winning the division once again last year, the Twins had to part with quite a few players in order to maintain their mid-level payroll. They’ve had to replace their middle infield and much of their bullpen this offseason, but their rotation and the rest of their offense has remained intact. They still have a couple stalwarts in the pen with Joe Nathan’s return and Matt Capps. But beyond that, they are filling from within with less proven talent.

The Twins have too many questions to be considered favorites in the Central. Will Joe Nathan return to his pre-injury form? Is Justin Morneau still hampered by his concussion? Will Danny Valencia repeat his rookie performance or hit a wall? Will Tsuyo Nishioka’s game translate to America? And, if so, how long of an adjustment period will he need?

If they can answer each of those questions, they’ll be headed for more October baseball. If they cannot, they’ll be in for a setback year. Either way, the Twins have continued to run their team as the model for small-to-mid-market teams. They know when and where to cut costs, and they know when and where to spend.

Key Additions: Tsuyoshi Nishioka

Key Losses: Orlando, Hudson, Brendan Harris, JJ Hardy, Nick Punto, Matt Guerrier, Brian Fuentes, Jon
Rauch, Randy Flores, Jesse Crain, Ron Mahay, Jose Morales, Rob Delaney

Lineup:

C: Joe Mauer
1B: Justin Morneau
2B: Tsuyoshi Nishioka
3B: Danny Valencia
SS: Alexi Casilla
LF: Delmon Young
CF: Denard Span
RF: Michael Cuddyer
DH: Jason Kubel/Jim Thome

Rotation:

1: Francisco Liriano
2: Carl Pavano
3: Scott Baker
4: Brian Duensing
5: Nick Blackburn
CL: Matt Capps/Joe Nathan

Critical Players to Success:

Tsuyoshi Nishioka: The Twins have an entirely new starting middle infield. Tsuyo Nishioka’s bat should fall somewhere between Hardy’s and Hudson’s. His reputation is with his glove, and if he can field nearly as well as Hardy, he’ll be well worth the money.

Carl Pavano: The trend with Pavano seems to be that when he’s healthy, he’s very good. If he stays healthy and Liriano stays around, the Twins have 2 staff aces at their disposal. That’s a scary prospect for the rest of the division.

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Tim Young is a Civil Engineer away from MLBSoup, but at the site he heads the pre-season fantasy baseball draft guide and reviews each week in the big leagues with his weekly round-up report. His heavily math-based background shows up in his writing, as he likes to keep a focus on numbers, and dig deeper than the usual surface scratching.

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