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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Minnesota Twins

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Gross.

What else can you say about a team that went from first to worst last season, ending a three-year playoff run with an AL-leading 99 losses? It'd be one thing if it was planned, if after another early playoff exit in 2010, the Twins decided they couldn't win with the roster they had in place and began a full-scale rebuilding project. But it wasn't. The roster was virtually unchanged from one season to the next. They just stunk with it this time around.

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So now the rebuilding project begins, and for it, the Twins brought back former general manager Terry Ryan, who orchestrated the team's return to contending status back in 2002. Ryan's first offseason back at the helm was a relatively quiet one. He let mainstays Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Joe Nathan walk, replacing them with less-heralded free agents Josh Willingham, Ryan Doumit and Matt Capps. He signed career utility player Jamey Carroll to be the team's starting shortstop and journeyman innings-eater Jason Marquis to fill a hole in the rotation. Minor stuff.

Then again, you could argue the team's biggest acquisitions will come from within. Because of injuries both old and new, former AL MVPs Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau combined for only 560 at-bats last year. They hit a combined .259 with a combined seven home runs, leaving the lineup with two gaping holes that a small-market team had no hope of filling. Of course, neither is entirely out of the woods yet. An offseason of rest might not be enough to restore Mauer's pop, and Morneau might never be the same after the concussion that sidelined him in 2010.

The pitching staff has its own reclamation projects, with Francisco Liriano hoping to avoid last year's shoulder woes and Scott Baker recovering from an elbow injury. So yeah, the talent is there for the Twins. How much of it they can regain is what will ultimately determine their course for the next five years.

Bounce-back player ... Joe Mauer, C

Justin Morneau could easily fit into this category as well, but as if the 2010 concussion wasn't enough, he's also coming back from surgeries to his neck, wrist, knee and foot and, oh yeah, a second concussion. All things considered, Mauer is the safer bet to regain his elite form. He looked like the same batting title contender as always for much of 2011, hitting .317 in his final 202 at-bats. He simply couldn't drive the ball. His two months on the DL for bilateral leg weakness early in the year helped him regain enough strength to get by on his surgically repaired left knee, but the bottom line is he didn't get a chance to rehab it properly in his rush to return for opening day. He's had all the time he needs this offseason. Mauer may never be a model of health, but his best is still the best at catcher. You'll feel silly for passing on him if an offseason of rest was all he needed.

Breakout ... Scott Baker, SP

Baker has always been the owner of a stellar strikeout-to-walk ratio -- and the low WHIP you would expect to come with it -- but because of high home run rates, his ERA has never matched up. It started to last year. He had a 10-start stretch from the end of May to the end of July in which he posted a 1.85 ERA, lowering his season mark to an unfamiliar 2.86. But that's when his elbow began to bother him, more or less ending his season and undoing his progress in the eyes of many Fantasy owners. Who cares what he was doing last July? He's damaged goods now. No doubt, that opinion holds some merit -- his minor elbow injury could be the precursor to something major, ending his season in mid-April -- but if you focus on the negative, you're missing out on a rare opportunity to buy low on a long-awaited breakout candidate showing clear signs of a breakout.

Sleeper ... Ryan Doumit, C

OK, Doumit is a catcher. What makes you think he can be a Fantasy sleeper with the almighty Mauer ahead of him on the depth chart? Ah, but the depth chart isn't so straightforward in Minnesota. Doumit has experience at first base. He has experience in right field. At catcher and first base, the Twins have two players (Mauer and Morneau) who missed a combined 173 games last season, and in right field, they have one (Willingham) who has missed an average of 40.8 over the last four. They also have a wide open DH spot where Doumit can collect at-bats when he's not filling in somewhere on the diamond. Doumit's offensive potential has long made him a sleeper in Fantasy, but injuries and inconsistent at-bats held him back in Pittsburgh. The availability of the DH spot should counteract both. Project last year's .303 batting average and .830 OPS over 500 at-bats, and you can understand why he's a catcher to target with a late-round pick.

2012 Minnesota Twins Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Denard Span CF 1 Carl Pavano RH
2 Jamey Carroll SS 2 Francisco Liriano LH
3 Joe Mauer C 3 Scott Baker RH
4 Justin Morneau 1B 4 Jason Marquis RH
5 Josh Willingham RF 5 Nick Blackburn RH
6 Ryan Doumit DH Alt Liam Hendriks RH
7 Danny Valencia 3B
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Alexi Casilla 2B CL Matt Capps RH
9 Ben Revere LF SU Glen Perkins LH
Top bench options RP Brian Duensing LH
R Trevor Plouffe UTL RP Alex Burnett RH
R Chris Parmelee 1B RP Anthony Swarzak RH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Miguel Sano 18 3B Rookie Class A
Sano is awfully young, but his 20 homers in 267 at-bats back up the Miguel Cabrera comparisons. If you play in a long-term keeper league, he's worth the investment.
2 Chris Parmelee 24 1B Majors Triple-A
Parmelee lacks upside, but he showed good pop and a keen batting eye in a late-season trial. He's a potential low-end contributor given Morneau's health concerns.
3 Joe Benson 21 SP Majors Triple-A
The potential 20-20 man had a shot at a starting job before the Twins signed Willingham. He could still take over midseason if he gets his strikeouts under control.
4 Liam Hendriks 24 OF Majors Triple-A
Hendriks is in the running for a rotation spot this spring, but last season's poor showing makes him a long shot. Still, the control artist is worth monitoring in AL-only leagues.
5 Aaron Hicks 22 SP Class A Double-A
As long as Hicks continues to draw walks, his athleticism will keep him on the radar, but he seems to have stalled at Class A. He's no longer a must-have in keeper leagues.
Best of the rest: Eddie Rosario, OF; Oswaldo Arcia, OF; Kyle Gibson, SP; Alex Wimmers, SP; Brian Dozier, SS; Scott Diamond, SP; Lester Oliveros, RP; Kyle Waldrop, RP; Carlos Gutierrez, RP; Levi Michael, SS; David Bromberg, SP; Angel Morales, OF; and Deolis Guerra, RP.

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Player News
Reds sign Brennan Boesch to minor league deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Reds have signed outfielder Brennan Boesch to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. Boesch, 29, is a career .256/.309/.412 hitter over five seasons for the Tigers, Yankees and Angels.

He was in the minors for most of last season, hitting .332 with 25 homers for the Angels Triple-A affiliate. 


Royals acquire infielder Ryan Jackson from Dodgers
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Royals have acquired infielder Ryan Jackson from the Dodgers for cash considerations. Jackson was out for most of last season with a wrist injury. 

Jackson hit .278 with 34 RBI at Triple-A Memphis, playing 122 games at shortstop and third base in 2013.


Report: Talks break down between Yanks, Phils about Rollins deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Yankees and Phillies reportedly discussed a deal for 35-year-old shortstop Jimmy Rollins before talks broke down, according to ESPN reporter Jayson Stark.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Rollins is "one of the best shortstops in baseball still" but wouldn't confirm Yankees interest in the veteran. Amaro also said Rollins is "somebody we want on our club and would be very hard to replace."

Rollins is due $11 million this season and his contract is up at the end of 2015. Rollins hit .243 with 55 RBI and stole 28 bases in 2014. 


Padres' Blaine Boyer clears waivers, heads for free agency
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) Padres right-handed pitcher Blaine Boyer cleared waivers Wednesday and will enter free agency, according to U-T San Diego. Boyer was designated for assignment last week.

Boyer appeared in 32 games last season for the Padres and posted a 3.57 ERA. 


Rays designate Sean Rodriguez for assignment
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Rays have designated 29-year-old Sean Rodriguez for assignment. 

Rodriguez hit .211 with 12 home runs last season. 


Jose Molina, Cole Figueroa clear waivers, released by Rays
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) Catcher Jose Molina and infielder Cole Figueroa cleared waivers and were released by the Rays Wednesday. 

Both Molina and Figueroa were designated for assignment Thursday. Molina, 39, hit .178 over 225 at-bats last year, while Figueroa hit .233 in 43 at-bats. 


Rays sign right-hander Ernesto Frieri to major-league contract
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Rays have announced signing of right-hand pitcher Ernesto Frieri to a one-year contract. Frieri will make a base salary of $800,000, going up to $3.15 million with incentives, according to the Tampa Tribune.

Frieri, who had a career-high 37 saves in 2013, had 11 last season with a 7.34 ERA.


Yankees' Sabathia confident he can return to being 200-inning pitcher
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia continues to deliver positive updates coming off July knee surgery.

"The knee, I have no complaints," Sabathia told YES Network. "I’m able to do all of my workouts. … I’m changing a few things. Not as much pounding and running. I’m in the pool a lot, on different machines to get cardio, (on the) bike. Just adding a few different things to get some cardio in."

Despite coming off surgery and being limited to eight starts (46 innings) in 2014, Sabathia feels he can get back to being a 30-start, 200-inning pitcher in 2015.

"Yeah, for sure," he said. "I feel like I can. If you asked me that a couple of months ago, I would have said, ‘I don’t know,’ but the way I’m feeling now and being able to work out, definitely."


Report: Indians expressing interest in Kendrys Morales
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Indians have expressed inerest in DH/first baseman Kendrys Morales

Morales, who split time between the Twins and Mariners last season, hit .218 with 42 RBI.


Brewers' Ryan Braun 'cautiously optimistic' coming off thumb surgery
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is optimistic coming off October thumb surgery. Braun underwent a cryotherapy procedure in Los Angeles on Oct. 2, in which a needle was inserted at the base of his right thumb to essentially freeze a nerve.

"It definitely worked," Braun said Wednesday, per MLB.com. "It makes a huge difference."

Braun swung a bat 10 days after the procedure and was happy the pain in his thumb was gone.

"Right now, I don’t feel any [discomfort], and I haven’t been able to say that for two years," he said. "I think I’ve told you guys, it [bothered him] shaking hands, writing -- you know, just everyday activities. Now I don’t feel it at all, so I’m excited."

While Braun is definitely optimistic, he is also a bit cautious because he isn't in the grind of playing baseball every day. He has received full clearance, however, for all offseason activities.

"I’m encouraged by how it feels, but at the same time, I think I have to be cautiously optimistic [until] I get into spring training and see how it responds," Braun said. "But it hasn’t felt this good in a really long time."


 
 
 
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