Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What to Expect for the Twins at Spring Training

Spring Training is right around the corner again. Pitchers and catchers report soon. Many people have several questions about what should be expected this year at Spring Training. Who will win the starting third base job? Will Jacque Jones make the opening day roster this year as an outfielder? Those questions and more will be answered below.

Who will win the starting 3rd base job?

Right now, the 3rd base job seems to be a three-way race. The three players are: Danny Valencia, Brendon Harris, and Nick Punto. Let's take a look at each player.

Danny Valencia:

Valencia is the top 3rd base prospect for the Twins. Many people have high hopes for him. In 2009, he played for both the Double-A and Triple-A minor league teams. Last year, Valencia had a .284/.373/.482 line in 218 AB's in Double-A before getting promoted to Triple-A. In Triple-A, he batted a .286/.305/.454 line in 269 AB's. The main problem he had once he got to Triple-A was his SO/BB ratio. He is still very young though, and I think he will strive under the pressure for getting the starting 3rd base job. It will still be difficult for him to get the job, but he should be able to get his SO/BB ratio back up to a reasonable level.

Brendon Harris:

He is not that great of an option for 3rd base. Harris has very below-average power for a 3rd baseman. He only had 6 Home Runs and 37 RBI's in 414 AB's last year. His BA wasn't that great either, only having a .261 BA. At least with Valencia, you can expect to see some decent power numbers.

Nick Punto:

Punto is the one player that will seriously push Valencia for the starting 3rd base job. Punto really isn't that great offensively, but the Twins like him. Gardenhire is also a huge fan of Punto, so the 3rd base job is definitely open to him. One reason Gardenhire likes Punto is because of his defensive skills. He actually isn't that great defensively looking (UZR wise), but he does make the top ten plays on ESPN every once in awhile. The one advantage Punto does have is he is being paid $4 million next year. It's hard financially for a team like the Twins to keep a $4 million player as a super utility infielder.

The verdict? There will be a big battle between Punto and Valencia, but in the end, I think Valencia will get the starting 3rd base job.

Will Jacque Jones make the opening day roster?

Jacque Jones had his highlight earlier in the decade with the Twins, but recently, he has done really bad for other teams. He didn't even play in 2009. Jones gets to return to the Twins, where he had a lot of success. He will have to earn a major league spot though as he only got a minor league contract. Jones is going to have to be lights out in Spring Training to get a chance at a roster spot. One of the main reasons that it will be tough for him is because of the surplus of outfielders already on the major league roster. Right now, the Twins outfielders are: Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, and Jason Kubel. Nick Punto could also play in the outfield also if there is an emergency situation. For this reason, I don't think Jones will make the opening day roster. There is a chance though that he could be called up during the season if someone gets injured. Jones will be toward the top of the call-up list for outfielders, so there is a very high chance fans will get to see his face with a Twins cap another time.

Will Francisco Liriano finally be back to 2006 form?

Liriano has surprisingly been lighting up Dominican Winter League, having an 1.54 ERA in 11.2 innings. The amazing part is that he has a 17/2 SO to BB ratio. Moreover, his ground out to fly out ratio 1.71 to 1, which is great. He is showing a lot of promise going into Spring Training. I think this could be Liriano's big year, though only time will tell.

How much of an improvement will Orlando Hudson be at 2nd base to last year's second basemen?

Orlando Hudson will be a huge improvement. He will also be an upgrade defensively at 2nd base. Most of the games last year at second base were played by Nick Punto. Orlando Hudson is an upgrade from Nick Punto at Home Runs, BA, along with a lot of other stats. At Spring Training this year, Hudson will show Twins fans just how good he is. Hudson is just the player the Twins needed at 2nd base. Orlando Hudson should have a great year for the Twins in an already great lineup.

Will Pat Neshek be back to his dominant self before injury this upcoming season?

Pat Neshek was a dominating pitcher in both 2006 and 2007. In 2008, he struggled a little bit before getting injured with what ended up requiring Tommy John Surgery. Can he come back healthy and in 2006/2007 form this year? Absolutely. In Pat Neshek's website (, he said his mechanics are starting to come together and his confidence is increasing. This is always a good sign when coming back from Tommy John Surgery. I think he will come back write off the Tommy John Surgery as a success and be the dominating bullpen arm he was in 2006 and 2007.

I will continue in the next week with another handful of questions people might have.