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.