Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jim Thome Joins the Minnesota Twins

Jim Thome was drafted in the 13th round of the 1989 draft by the Cleveland Indians. That didn't stop him from becoming one of the best power hitting lefties of the last two decades.

Thome started his career at 3rd base, playing his first 6 years in the majors at the position. In 1996, his sixth year at 3rd base for the Indians, he stepped up to the next level. That year, he drove in 116 RBI's and hit 38 home runs while batting .311! After the 1996 season, Thome was switched to first base. He didn't lose any of his offensive abilities when he switched, producing outstanding numbers throughout his career. From 2003 through 2005, he played for the Philadelphia Phillies where he continued to produce elite numbers. From 2006 to late 2009, he played for the Chicago White Sox. For the White Sox, he has absolutely crushed Minnesota Twins pitching. Most Twins fans remember him as the guy who hit the 7th inning home run off Nick Blackburn in game 163 in 2008 to gain the lead (and eventually win 1-0). In late 2009, Thome finished the season with the Dodgers, his fourth team since joining the majors in 1991.

Many Twins fans are probably very excited about the signing this week of Jim Thome. He is a power hitter, hitting 564 career home runs. Jim Thome is going to be a great help for the Twins this year, but what position will he be playing? Jason Kubel is already the DH, and they will not bench him. He hit 28 home runs this year and 103 RBI's. Kubel is also left handed, which is why many are confused about why the Twins signed a leftie DH in Thome. There is also no way the Twins bench Delmon Young and put Kubel in left field. Well, the reason the Twins signed Jim Thome was probably not to play him at DH, it was to have him off the bench as a pinch hitter.

The Minnesota Twins pinch hitting has been pretty bad for a long time. The Twins have been looking for a top bench bat for a while now. Jim Thome is a great player, but he is 39 years old. Here are his numbers for the last 4 years:






















































































Looking at his numbers, his slugging production started to diminish from 2006. His BA was .39 less in 2009 than 2006. He also hit 19 less home runs, and only 77 RBI's. Part of the reason his numbers are diminishing is he is getting less AB's. One concern is that his BA has been getting lower and lower over the last four years. The good news is he kept around the same batting average about .250 in 2008 and 2009, so I don't expect the BA to drop significantly lower.

Many people are wondering, what should be expected of Jim Thome this year for the Twins? Well, anywhere between 200 and 350 AB's should be expected. He will probably get about 3-4 AB's per series, mainly as the pinch hitter. Once in a while, he might start at DH to give Kubel a day off. That will increase the amount of AB's he has.

I expect him to have between 15 and 20 home runs along with about 60 RBI's. His BA should be around .250. These numbers might not seem very high, but for only half the amount of AB's he would normally get, these are pretty good numbers. They are also by far the best numbers the Twins have had off the bench in a long time.

How much are the Twins paying for Jim Thome this year? Here is the breakdown of his contract (This contract information is from, link to the article: :

The contract is a 1 year contract worth $1.5 million. He also gets a $100k bonus for passing 250, 300, and 350 PA's. He will also get a $150k bonus for passing the 400, 450, and 500 PA's.

This essentially means he could get up to $2.25 million after incentives. I am going to guess though that he will not get more than the first 3 bonuses. So my guess is he gets $1.8 million total.

Is this a great deal for the Twins? Considering Thome got $13 million last year, this is an outstanding bargain for the Twins. The Twins get a reliable pinch hitter with the ability to tie or win a big game with one swing of the bat. For the numbers he should produce, he will be worth every penny of the contract.

Monday, January 11, 2010

2010 Projections for the Possible Twins Lineup

I wrote an article a little over a month ago making my predictions for the starting lineup next year. Now it is time to take a look at how each player in the lineup might do next year. I am going to give a description of how they did last year and what to expect this year.

1. Denard Span: CF
2009 Season: .311 BA/.392 OBP/.415 SLG/8 HR/68 RBI's

Denard Span is an interesting player. He was drafted in the first round back in 2002. Drafted mainly for his speed, he was considered a very good prospect. He had a couple problems though in the minors. Power was a concern, he had very little of it. Span hit only 10 home runs in his 7 year minor league career. For the first 5 seasons of his minor league career, he was poor at hitting doubles. Finally, a small problem was that he got caught stealing 1 out of every 3 times when trying to steal in his minor league career. All these issues caused many fans to disregard Span and consider him a bust. Well, that changed in 2008. He was called up in the middle of 2008 due to outfield injuries, and he has never looked back. In 347 AB's, he hit a whopping 6 home runs, batted .296, and had a 60 to 50 SO to BB ratio! His OBP was a .387! Finally, he drove in 47 RBI's. These stats changed the way most fans, along with the Twins Organization, thought about him. Span ended the 2008 season finishing 6th in the Rookie of the Year award.

In 2009, Span followed up his great 2008 season with an even more outstanding season. Looking at his numbers above, he improved even more from a level many people didn't expect. Span was considered one of the best lead-off hitters in the AL, and I can see why. Batting in 68 RBI's while getting on base almost 40% of the time in the lead-off spot is considered very hard to do. The one thing he hasn't really improved on is his bad SB to CS percentage since being in the minors. If he can just improve that percentage, he will be an even more complete player.

What should be expected of him next season? I think that for starters, he has to be up for consideration for an All-Star appearance. I think that Span could very easily duplicate those same numbers again. He might even get some better pitches this year to hit as he will probably be hitting in front of J.J. Hardy, instead of Brendon Harris or Orlando Cabrera. The more years he can continue to hold these numbers in the lead-off position, the more people will vote for him to make an All-Star appearance.

2. J.J. Hardy: SS
2009 Season: .229 BA/.302 OBP/.357 SLG/11 HR/47 RBI's

J.J. Hardy played for the Milwaukee Brewers last year before getting traded during this off-season for Carlos Gomez. Hardy is considered a great defensive shortstop, along with being one of the better offensive shortstops in the majors. In 2007 and 2008, he averaged a whopping 25 home runs at shortstop while batting around .280. His issue though was in 2009. His numbers dropped off dramatically, hitting only .229 with 11 home runs. Hardy was eventually sent down to the minors in August because of his offensive struggles. Many people don't know why his offense struggled last year. His career shows that he has hit a lot better in the second spot of the lineup than any other spot. Maybe if he hits second in the lineup for the entire next season, his numbers might go back up.

What should people expect from him in 2010? My prediction is that he will be able recover from his offensive struggles in 2009 and be the hitter he was in 2007/2008. A change of scenery might help. Expect him to hit around .275 with 20 home runs while batting second.

3. Joe Mauer: C
2009 Season: .365 BA/.444 OBP/.587 SLG/28 HR/96 RBI's

Mauer is a pretty special player. Having 3 batting titles at catcher, and an MVP award now under his belt, he has very high expectations going into next year. The really exciting thing that Mauer accomplished last year, is not something everyone knows about. Mauer lead the American League in BA, OBP, and Slugging. The important thing about this though, is what this means for him. Almost every player in the past who has achieved this feat is in the Hall of Fame. If Mauer continues to hit like he has in his career, he will be a sure lock for the Hall of Fame.

Taking a look at his stats last year, he has one glaring thing he improved on from previous years: his power. Going from 8 home runs in 2008 to 28 in 2009, he has now gained that one missing piece from making him a complete player. He also increased almost every other stat. The amazing thing is that he did all this while missing the whole first month of the season due to injury. Looking into 2010, he should be able to produce very similar numbers again if not even better. The reason he could hit better is as stated above, he missed the first month of last season. 30 home runs, 100 RBI's, and a .350 BA isn't unreasonable.

4. Justin Morneau: 1st
2009 Season: .274 BA/.363 OBP/.516 SLG/30 HR/100 RBI's

Having his now third 30 home run/100 RBI season, he is considered one of the best 1st basemen the Twins have ever had. One thing that noticeably picked up this year was his defense. He looked much more like a gold glove player than the sub-par defense he used to have. Unfortunately, his season ended about a month short when diagnosed with a stress fracture in his lower back. He was in line to probably hit atleast 35 home runs with 120 RBI's if he didn't get injured.

There are a couple glaring questions. Will he recover from his injury? How will he produce next year? It sounds as if Morneau will be healthy come Spring Training. Another 30 home run/100 RBI season could be in the cards for the 2006 MVP winner.

5. Michael Cuddyer: RF
2009 Season: .276 BA/.342 OBP/.520 SLG/32 HR/ 94 RBI's

In 2008, Cuddyer couldn't stay off the disabled list. A broken finger was the first problem. When in the process of rehab, he broke his foot playing for the Rochester Redwings. Garret Jones' line drive nailed him in the foot while he was on first base. Two big injuries shortened his season to just 71 games. His power was down, along with almost every other stat.

In 2009, things seemed to change for Cuddyer. His offensive stats greatly increased, sporting his first 30 home run season. He was a key contributor in the Twins race for the division title. When Morneau got injured, Cuddyer was the one that took his place at first base. After that happened, Cuddyer steped up and helped lead the team to a division title.

What should be expected out of Cuddyer in 2010? Will he be the player he was in 2009, or 2008? While maybe not having the same power numbers as he had in 2009, he definitely won't have the same stats as 2008. Expect somewhere around 20-25 home runs with 90 RBI's.

6. Jason Kubel: DH
2009 Season: .300 BA/.369 OBP/.539 SLG/28 HR/103 RBI's

Jason Kubel was a top prospect for the Twins back in 2004. He got a September call-up in 2004, and he hit so well that he got to be on the post season roster for the Twins against the Yankees. After the season was over though, a tragic injury in the Arizona Fall League occured. He collided into outfielder Ryan Raburn, and badly injured his knee. A torn ACL was just one of the things that happened. He missed the entire 2005 season. Many thought he might never be the same player that he used to be. Since 2006, he has improved in every year. In 2007, he hit 13 home runs and had 65 RBI's. In 2008, he hit 20 home runs and had 78 RBI's.

In 2009, there were many signs that he had fully recovered from his knee injury. He batted .300 for the first time in a full season in the majors. Second, he hit 28 home runs, eight more than in the previous season. Finally, he had his first 100 RBI season, driving in 103 total. Kubel ended up being a major contributor in the 2009 season for the Twins.

Now that it looks like he has fully recovered, he should be expected to repeat his 2009 numbers. He might even do better. About 30 home runs and a tleast 100 RBI's is definitely possible for the Twins Designated Hitter.

7. Delmon Young: LF
2009 Season: .284 BA/.308 OBP/.425 SLG/12 HR/60 RBI's

Delmon Young was traded in 2007 to the Twins from the Tampa Bay Rays. Young was a number 1 overall pick in 2003, so organizations have had very high expectations for him. In 2008, Delmon Young hit .290 with 10 home runs and 69 RBI's. Young had a fairly good 2008 season for being only 22 years old, though he did have one problem. He wouldn't listen to the coaches. The coaches started saying he wasn't coachable. Young would only listen to his father for hitting advice as he was Young's coach throughout high school.

In 2009, Young started out the same way as 2008, not listening to the coaches. About half way through the season though, he started to listen. He worked on changing his weight distribution while hitting. After these changes, he started hitting lights out. He had considerably better stats in almost every category in the second half than the first half.

Now that he is listening to the coaches, he could continue to excel in 2010, just as he did in the second half of last year. His second half stats show that he should be able to hit 20 home runs next year, and that should be the case. Twenty home runs, 80 RBI's, and a .290 batting average is a very realistic line for next year.

8. Brendan Harris: 3rd
2009 Season: .261 BA/.310 OBP/.362 SLG/6 HR/37 RBI's

Brendan Harris was traded to the Twins in 2007 along with Delmon Young from the Tampa Bay Rays. He was expected to be the starting second baseman, filling a hole that always seems to escape the Twins' ability to find a long-term solution. With Nick Punto holding that position down for now, and no one playing third base, Harris has now been playing more at third.

In 2009, Harris had a down year. Almost all his stats have considerably dropped each year since 2007. His OBS (On Base+Slugging Percentage) has dropped over 100 points from 2007 to 2009. With Danny Valencia waiting in the wings, Harris will need to have a great spring training or else he might lose that 3rd base job.

If he does play at third in 2010, expect somewhere around a .265 BA with 7 home runs and 50 RBI's.

9. Nick Punto: 2nd
2009 Season: .228 BA/.337 OBP/.284 SLG/1 HR/38 RBI's

In 2009, Nick Punto was the primary second baseman for the Twins. Don't expect that to change come 2010. Ron Gardenhire really likes him, particularly for his great positive influence in the clubhouse. He is also a great defensive player, and for batting ninth, his numbers aren't the worst. Yes, a .228 BA isn't that great, but the .337 OBP is pretty good. He had a 70 to 61 SO to BB ratio in 2009. It is always a good thing whenever you have close to a 1 to 1 SO to BB ratio.

In 2010, expect his BA to come up a little bit, as he had a .284 BA in 2008. A .260 BA with 40 RBI's are reasonable numbers to expect. Also, be ready for some more highlight defensive plays next year.

In conclusion, the lineup looks really solid for next year. This is a lineup that could seriously make a run for their money in the AL Central. They could also make it deep into the playoffs if everyone in this lineup produces.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Look at Delmon Young

Delmon Young was traded to the Twins a little over 2 years ago. Right now, many say the Tampa Bay Rays fleeced the Twins. The Rays got Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza, and Eduardo Morlan for Delmon Young, Brendon Harris, and Jason Pridie. Morlan and Pridie weren't key parts of the trade. Both of them haven't done anything so far, and neither of them look like they will make a significant impact in the majors. Jason Bartlett has been amazing for the Rays at SS, batting a line of .320/.389/.490 in 2009. Matt Garza has also been great for the Rays so far, capping off the 2008 season with a ALCS MVP award.

With those two players being great so far, I am going to take a look at how Delmon Young has progressed in the last 2 years for the Twins.

Delmon Young came into the Twins organization with super-star potential. In the first season for the Twins (2008), his line was .290/.336/.405. That really isn't too bad. His home run total did see a drop to 10 from 13 the previous season. However, he antagonized Gardenhire because he was un-coachable. The Twins organization was getting really mad that Delmon Young would not listen to their advice regarding his batting. The problem was that he would only listen to his father. His father was Delmon's coach throughout high school, and so he always wanted his advice.

In his second season for the Twins (2009), his line was .284/.308/.425. The line looks pretty much the same. One thing that isn't being looked at though, was his 1st half splits vs. his 2nd half splits. There was a marked improvement in his hitting. He started listening to the coaches for the first time at about the half way point. The key change that could be seen was his batting stance. In the first half of the season, he leaned back and put so much weight on his back foot that he was off balance. Because of that, he was having trouble not only getting the bat on the ball, but also had many more ground ball outs. Once he got to the second half of the season, he changed his stance to a slightly wider stance. He also didn't put all his weight on his back foot. The weight was divided equally. The result? A much higher BA, higher slugging, and half the amount of double plays.

Here is a look at his stats from the first half of the season to the second half:

















1st Half
















2nd Half
















His AB's were almost identical from the first half to the second half, so let's compare some of his stats from the first half to the second half.


Delmon Young had 50% more runs scored in the second half than the first half (30 to 20). That is a pretty dramatic improvement.


He hit over 50% more doubles in the second half than the first half (10 to 6), a result of greater power and not hitting as many ground balls.

Home Runs:

This was one of the key changes for him. He had 3 times as many home runs in the second half than the first half (9 to 3). It seems that there has been more power in his swing with the changed batting stance.

Batting Average:

Young had a whopping .34 higher BA in the second half of the year than the first half (.300 to .266). A big part of that is he is batting with more consistent contact.

Slugging Percentage:

This stat saw by far the biggest change. Young had a whopping .502 Slugging Percentage in the second half compared to .344 in the first half. That is a .158 difference! Anything over .500 is considered very good. That bodes well for the future as the Twins want Young to be a slugging left fielder.

Double Plays:

Here is the interesting stat. Young had 11 ground ball double plays in the first half of the year. In the second half? Just 6! His first half number was almost cut in half. Double plays are big rally killers, so if he can continue to keep his double plays low, the Twins will have many more big rallies.

In conclusion, the Twins might still have that super-star player in Delmon Young. If he can continue to hit like he did in the second half of last year, he might get to the All-Star level sooner than many think.