Twins Lineup Preview: Mauer & Those Other Guys
The Minnesota Twins are going to struggle to score runs again this year, simple as that. They had the fifth-fewest runs scored as a team last year to go along with the fifth-worst batting average. That has to improve if they are going to show they are a competitive team this season. Give them a year or so, and they will be one of the premier teams to be drafting from, but as far as your 2014 fantasy season goes, you will need to look elsewhere for everyday hitters. Save for Mauer, at any given moment any Twins position player could be traded, flown to AAA Rochester, or sent packing all together. That said, we will see what hidden gems the Twins may have for the upcoming season.
Top Six Fantasy Hitters - Analysis & Projections
1. 1B/C Joe Mauer (2013: 62 R, 11 HR, 47 RBI, 0 SB , .314 BA, .404 OBP)
The most AB that Mauer has put together in a season was 545 in 147 games in 2012. His move to 1B bodes well for him to get up around 550 AB again. He is destined to bat in the 3-hole, unless Gardenhire pulls a fast one on us. The theory is that he has a better chance to stay healthy and play 150 plus games this season and I am confident that will be the case. Being a 1B with C eligibility is what makes Mauer a top-5 fantasy option at catcher. He won't have power numbers, but he will get on base, score runs and keep the strikeouts to a minimum (they're rising, but he is still one of the best in the game). But don't depend on him as a first baseman! Repeat, Mauer should not be drafted as a 1B. His value is at C, and that is where you should start him. Here's to hoping he gets enough days at C this year to keep that eligibility for 2015.
2014 Projection: 80 R, 15HR, 80 RBI, 4 SB, .310 BA, .390 OBP
2. OF Oswaldo Arcia (2013: 34 R, 14 HR, 43 RBI, 1 SB, .251 BA, .303 OBP)
Arcia was 21 when he came on the scene in Minneapolis last year, and he made some waves. After a month or so he began to struggle, but always showed power and determination. He went back to AAA , but ended the season in a Twins uniform. If Gardenhire gives Arcia an everyday job in the outfield, he will be a sleeper pick deep in your fantasy drafts. Arcia is young, strong and oozing with potential. The Twins' outfield depth is filled with light-hitting AAA talent defensive players. Arcia should be given a chance to play everyday in the majors. He is definitely worth a waiver watch. It is improbable to predict any player on the Twins roster to hit 100 RBI, but Arcia is the only guy I would consider to be in that conversation. After draft day, look at your outfield, and if you are thinking "you know what... Grady Sizemore probably isn't the best option," then pick up Arcia and thank me later.
2014 Projection: 60 R, 20 HR, 75 RBI, 2 SB, .260 BA, .320 OBP
3. 2B Brian Dozier (2013: 72 R, 18 HR, 66 RBI, 14 SB, .244 BA, .312 OBP)
Based on his stats last year, he should be considered the second-best Minnesota Twins fantasy hitter going into the 2014 season. That is probably the saddest sentence to be written in MLB history, but I couldn't bring myself to put him on that pedestal. To be honest, Dozier could flop just as much as he could hit 20 HR this year. The suspension of 2B/OF Eddie Rosario makes Dozier the man at 2B for the time being in Minnesota. He will get the AB and the opportunity to produce. Dozier will be an AL-only darling and an acceptable infielder for 10-14 team leagues. If you're like me and you wait until the last minute to find a 2B, you could do worse than Dozier.
2014 Projection: 85 R, 12 HR, 60 RBI, .270 BA, .300 OBP
4. 3B/Util Trevor Plouffe (2013: 44 R, 14 HR, 52 RBI, 2 SB, .254 BA, .309 OBP)
For the sake of the children of Minnesota, I hope Gardenhire uses Plouffe as a DH and keeps him away from 3B. His bat is valuable, but his glove might as well be made of stone. With 3B Miguel Sano still at minimum a few months away from the majors, Plouffe is the only option currently at 3B and his bat makes him a must-start in the Twins everyday lineup. T-Plou will carry your team for a few weeks a year, but you should look elsewhere if you are in a shallow league.
2014 Projection: 60 R, 18 HR, 65 RBI, 2 SB, .250 BA, .290 OBP
5. C Josmil Pinto (2013: 10 R, 4HR, 12 RBI, 0 SB, .342 BA, .398 OBP)
Essentially, Josmil is in this spot because of the potential he could have in the C position. As we in fantasyland know, catcher can be a troubling position from year to year. Pinto could be a huge upside sleeper if he gets the everyday job. Like Mauer, his bat can keep him in the lineup on days he isn't behind the plate. C Kurt Suzuki will spoil Pinto's draft position, but keep a close watch on your waiver wire for Pinto if Suzuki is the starting catcher after Spring Training.
2014 Projection: 35 R, 10 HR, 45 RBI, 2 SB, .290 BA, .320 OBP
6. OF Aaron Hicks (2013: 37 R, 8 HR, 27 RBI, 9 SB, .192 BA, .259 OBP)
This is my homer pick of the season. I am a Hicks fan. I want him to be successful, and I am doing my part by putting him in this article (yeah, right). The man has a glove and speed, and he knows how to use them both. That bat thing they put into his hands, though, is a tad harder for him to understand. With several multi-home run games under his belt, we've seen what Hicks can do when he puts it all together. The trouble is that he rarely does that on a consistent basis. I don't mean to suggest that there's substantial reason for you to draft Hicks, because there is not. However, we all saw what Denard Span could do when he put it together and Hicks has the tools to have that same kind of success.
2014 Projection: 50 R, 15 HR, 50 RBI, 20 SB, .250 BA, .300 OBP
More Notes & Tidbits
Oh my, and now for the full disclosure... I ran out of solid options after the third spot. I was spitballin' like a second-grader in a poorly moderated lunchroom. Still, a few other players to keep a look out for are: OF Josh Willingham, OF/1B Chris Parmelee, OF Jason Kubel, and definitely keep an eye on 3B Miguel Sano. If the Twins bring up Sano he will be a must-add for power from the 3B or Util spot in your lineup.
TL:DR Mauer is the stud of the lineup and should be drafted in all leagues as a top-5 option at catcher. Dozier and Pinto have upside because of their positions. Arcia is a sleeper candidate in the outfield. Otherwise, once again, pay attention to the Twins minor league system for future fantasy stars.
Trivia Time: Q. Which Twins player never won the A.L. MVP award but was second place twice and fourth place once? A. Tony Oliva, he got enough votes to be second in 1965 and 1970, and fourth in his rookie year, 1964. He did win Rookie of the Year in 1964... so he has that going for him, which is nice.
Stay tuned for the Twins Pitchers and Prospects Preview. I have a funny feeling there will be more value from those players than on this page!