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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 SS Ivan De Jesus blasts off in Saturday defeat
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:16 am ET) For a guy who emerged off the bench Saturday night, Reds shortstop Ivan De Jesus sure made the most of his opportunity.

De Jesus smacked two hits in the loss to Milwaukee, including his third home run, a solo blast in the fifth inning. He also walked in improving his slash line to a more-than-respectable .276/.333/.483.

He has six hits in his last 11 at-bats.


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by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:09 am ET) The Reds lost Saturday to hot Milwaukee, but don't blame third baseman Todd Frazier. He slammed two doubles and two singles. The trouble is that all of them went for naught. He neither scored nor drove in a run.

His first multi-hit game since June 25 was also his first four-hit game of the season. Frazier has strengthened his slash line of .289/.348/.610. The slugging percentage ranks third in the bigs.


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by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:02 am ET) The Brewers have won seven straight games and white-hot first baseman Adam Lind has at least one RBI in all of them.

Actually, Lind has at least one RBI in eight straight, courtesy of a solo home run in the fourth inning Saturday against Cincinnati. He also singled, walked twice and scored two runs.

Lind is batting .388 (19-for-49) since June 20 with four doubles, four home runs, 15 RBI and 10 runs scored.


Reds SP Josh Smith falls apart in loss to Milwaukee
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/4/2015) Josh Smith has gone from bad to unlucky to bad again in three starts with the Reds. The latest got downright ugly.

Smith gave up five runs on five hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings of a blowout by Milwaukee that lowered his record to 0-2. He fanned a pair along the way.

His collapse was sudden and pronounced. He allowed baserunners in the first three innings, but escaped, then gave up a home run to Adam Lind leading off the fourth. It all fell apart in the fifth after a single and his own error. Another single, walk and hit-by-pitch sent him to the bench, where he watched all three runners score.

Smith is now saddled with a 7.30 ERA.


Royals CF Lorenzo Cain doubles, drives in two runs on Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(7/4/2015) Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain went 2 for 4 with a double and a pair of RBI on Saturday, but it wouldn't be enough to avoid the 5-3 loss to the Twins. 

Cain doubled in two runs in the fifth inning to cut the Twins' lead to 4-2, but the Twins would tack on another insurance run in the seventh. Cain is batting an even .400 (14 for 35) over his last 10 ballgames.


SP Jimmy Nelson just OK in helping Brewers win seventh straight
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/4/2015) The suddenly surging Brewers didn't get a gem out of starter Jimmy Nelson on Saturday, but they scored enough runs that it didn't matter.

Nelson, who has just two quality starts in his last eight outings, allowed three runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings, but managed to win in Cincinnati. He walked one and fanned five.

He had allowed only a home run to Marlon Byrd through four, but an Ivan De Jesus blast in the fifth and Byrd run-scoring single in the sixth weakened his performance.

Nelson has surrendered 18 runs in his last 28 1/3 innings pitched, yet he has won three straight starts.


Twins 3B Trevor Plouffe collects three hits in win on Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(7/4/2015) Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe had a nice night at the plate in the 5-3 win over the Royals on Saturday. Plouffe just missed hitting for the cycle, as he went 3 for4 with a double, a triple, an RBI and a run scored.

Plouffe seems to be heating up at the plate again, as he is batting .316 with a home run and five RBI over his last 10 games.


Twins 1B Joe Mauer homers, doubles among four hits Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(7/4/2015) First baseman Joe Mauer gave the Twins an early lead against the Royals on Saturday. Mauer launched a two-run home run in the first inning, as the Twins went on to win by a score of 5-3.

But the home run, his fifth of the year, was just the beginning for Mauer on Saturday. He finished a triple-shy of the cycle, as he went 4 for 5 with the two RBI, a double and two runs scored. 

This was Mauer's first four-hit game since 2013, and he's hitting .375 over his last 10 starts.


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(7/4/2015) Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has just two hits in his last 18 at-bats, but they were certainly wonderful hits. Both traveled over the fence.

Gonzalez slammed his 15th homer, a solo job in the second inning, to help his team beat the Mets on Saturday. He was hitless in his other four at-bats.

He sports a fine .518 slugging percentage on the year.


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Herrera has been having a nice rookie season, as he is batting .261 with 22 RBI on the year.


 
 
 
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