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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Minnesota Twins

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Minnesota Twins put together a 66-win season in 2013, boasting the American League's third-worst record.

They scored the sixth-fewest runs in baseball, had the sixth-lowest batting average (.242 -- but they did walk the seventh-most times), carried the second-worst ERA (4.55), third-worst WHIP (1.41), and struck out the fewest batters in the majors. They weren't just disappointing; the Twins were fairly boring. But with an influx of young talent about to take over the roster, the story here is what lies just beneath the surface.

On the major league level alone, the 2014 season brings with it some hope for improvement. The Twins added Ricky Nolasco (3.70 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 7.4 K/9 in 2013) and Phil Hughes (5.19 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 7.5 K/9) to the rotation through free agency. While Nolasco had his best year since 2008 -- and should carry over some momentum to this year -- Hughes essentially bottomed out in 2013, with a 5.00-plus ERA for the second time in three seasons, spurred on by a very unbalanced home/road split.

2014 Fantasy Outlooks
A.L. East N.L. East
Orioles Braves
Red Sox Marlins
Yankees Mets
Rays Phillies
Blue Jays Nationals
A.L. Central N.L. Central
White Sox Cubs
Indians Reds
Tigers Brewers
Royals Pirates
Twins Cardinals
A.L. West N.L. West
Astros Diamondbacks
Angels Rockies
Athletics Dodgers
Mariners Padres
Rangers Giants

Hughes had a 6.32 ERA with 17 home runs allowed in 17 games at home, and a 3.88 ERA with seven home runs allowed over 13 games on the road. This nearly mirrored his disasterous 2011 split (7.83 at home, 4.14 on the road), and gives some reason for optimism in 2014, as Hughes is out of Yankee Stadium and into Target Field (which, while not representing a huge park factor swing overall, is, according to StatCorner.com, a marked improvement). Now 27 years old, Hughes is probably looking at one of his last chances to show off his potential (he's at his peak, with a fresh start on a new team) as a starter, before maybe being sent to the bullpen, where he had his best major league season (in 2009). The rest of the rotation (Mike Pelfrey, Kevin Correia, Vance Worley) remain relatively unexciting, but with enough potentially decent 2014 outcomes to justify dollar bids in AL-only formats.

The offense returns most of its core, with the major loss being first base mainstay Justin Morneau, who was traded to the Pirates at the deadline in 2013 (and is now with the Rockies). The Twins also traded Ryan Doumit to the Braves for pitching prospect Sean Gilmartin. Joe Mauer, who has caught 920 games for the Twins since his 2004 debut, will take over for Morneau at first base; this is important for Fantasy owners, as the position change should lessen the wear on Mauer's body, while giving him everyday at-bats at first base (as he retains his catcher eligibility for the 2014 season in nearly every format). Doumit had appeared at catcher, DH, and in the corner outfield spots, so his loss will open up more at-bats for the newly-acquired Kurt Suzuki and Jason Kubel, while giving Oswaldo Arcia full-time at-bats in right field.

Alex Presley was sent back to the Twins as part of the Morneau trade, and he performed well in 28 late-season games as the team's starting center fielder, hitting .283 with four doubles and a home run. But Aaron Hicks -- a top prospect who struggled in the role last season -- could factor into the team's plans again, if he can show some growth in spring training (or get off to a hot start in the minors). But both would essentially be one-year projects, as Byron Buxton -- the game's top prospect -- is the future at center field. Buxton, 20, hit .334 with 12 home runs and 55 steals across two levels of the minors last season. He'll almost certainly spend the bulk of the year in the minors (and is, by all signs, clear from a shoulder injury that shut down his Arizona Fall League season), but he may force his way up to the Twins by August -- and almost certainly will get a September call-up.

Buxton's fellow rising star, Miguel Sano, hit .280 with 35 home runs over two minor league levels last season (he has 90 home runs over 379 games), but was shut down in November with a strained UCL in his throwing elbow, which could require Tommy John surgery. If Sano's elbow is good to go by spring training, there isn't much more he can prove in the minors. He could see a mid-summer call-up (after the June Super-2 deadline date), moving Trevor Plouffe to the outfield or to DH. Sano's a risky proposition, but the closer he makes it to the start of the season without being shelved, the higher his value will be.

Breakout ... Oswaldo Arcia, outfield

2014 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Alex Presley CF
2. Brian Dozier 2B
3. Joe Mauer 1B
4. Josh Willingham LF
5. Oswaldo Arcia RF
6. Trevor Plouffe 3B
7. Chris Colabello DH
8. Kurt Suzuki C
9. Pedro Florimon SS
Bench Jason Kubel OF
Bench Josmil Pinto C

Arcia finished his debut season with a .251 average and 14 home runs over 351 at-bats. He hit 17 doubles and stole a base. And this was with several interruptions to the 2013 campaign, with a somewhat-surprising demotion as he slumped in mid-July (he was hitting .257 with six home runs over 53 games), and then intermittent battles with knee, hand, shoulder, and wrist injuries. But Arcia should enter 2014 healthy, and he has a minor league track record that would suggest success in the majors -- a .915 career OPS, a .314 average, and four seasons of double-digit home runs, despite having more than 350 at-bats just once in those seasons. With everyday at-bats and a good amount of power surrounding him, it's not out of the question to expect a .280 average with 20-25 home runs for the 22-year-old. He's a nice fourth outfielder in Roto formats, and could be a solid bench pick in H2H leagues.

Head-to-head hero ... Brian Dozier, second base

Dozier hit 18 home runs and stole 14 bases over 147 games last season, providing impressive counting stats at two relatively weak positions (shortstop and second base), no matter what the format. But Dozier also hit 33 doubles (seventh-most among second basemen) and walked 51 times (eighth-most among second basemen). Despite striking out 120 times, Dozier was still a top 12 second baseman -- the only position at which he'll be eligible in 2014 -- for most of 2013. While his average will probably top out at .260-.270, he can repeat the 15/15-ish numbers, and could hit 35 or more doubles. He still has plenty of value in Roto leagues, but Dozier's ability to hit doubles and walk a decent amount makes him an underrated asset in H2H formats.

Impact prospect ... Alex Meyer, starting pitcher

2014 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Ricky Nolasco RHP
2. Phil Hughes RHP
3. Kevin Correa RHP
4. Vance Worley RHP
5. Mike Pelfrey RHP
ALT Kyle Gibson RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Glen Perkins LHP
2. Jared Burton RHP
3. Brian Duensing LHP
4. Anthony Swarzak RHP
5. Michael Tonkin RHP

Meyer was the centerpiece of the deal that sent Denard Span to the Nationals before the 2013 season. A first round pick in 2011, Meyer -- who stands 6'9" and weighs 220 pounds -- finished last year with a 2.99 ERA and 1.26 WHIP across 78 1/3 minor league innings (some of them rehab outings), striking out 100 batters. A mid-season shoulder issue shortened his year, but Meyer, 24, was dominant in seven Arizona Fall League starts this offseason, with a 3.12 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, striking out 28 batters in 26 innings. There's little left for Meyer to prove in the minors; if he hadn't injured his shoulder last season, he probably would have worked his way up to Triple-A and made a late-season appearance with the Twins. Heading into 2014, that could be the new plan -- we could see Meyer after the Super-2 deadline passes in June. With Buxton and Sano getting most of the attention in the Minnesota system, it could end up being Meyer who makes the biggest splash in 2014.

Prospects Report

Most of this column has essentially been the Prospects Report, with Buxton, Sano, and Meyer representing a core of exciting young players scraping at the majors. But there's plenty more in a deep Twins system. Second baseman Eddie Rosario has never finished with an average below .294 in four minor league seasons, and has double-digit home runs and steals in each of the last three seasons. But a positive drug test (for a drug of abuse, not a PED) will knock him out for the first 50 games this season, which should stunt his development enough to push his arrival to 2015. ... Kohl Stewart, the fourth overall pick in last year's draft, had a 1.35 ERA and 0.85 WHIP over 20 innings last season (playing on two Rookie League teams). He's just 19, but is worth a long-term look in dynasty formats. ... Kyle Gibson disappointed in a 10-game major league stint last year, posting a 6.53 ERA over 51 innings (pushing him just above the rookie threshold), but 2013 was his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, and he was excellent in Triple-A, with a 2.92 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. He's another Twins minor leaguer who can be slapped with the, "if he gets off to a hot start, he could get called up," label.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS .

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Player News
Orioles' J.J. Hardy headed for MRA, aiming to stay off DL
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:17 am ET) Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy is scheduled to undergo an MRA (magnetic resonance angiogram) on his left shoulder Monday, per MLB.com.

An MRA is a type of MRI scan that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to provide pictures of blood vessels inside the body, according to WebMD.com.

“I feel much better today than I did yesterday and I felt much better yesterday than I did the day before,” said Hardy, who suffered the injury while diving for a baseball in Friday’s spring game.

Hardy is optimistic his latest injury won't require a trip to the disabled list.

“At this point, the way I feel, the way that it improved over the last few days, yeah, I feel pretty good about it,” he said.


Mariners pitcher J.A. Happ hit hard again in start Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/29/2015) Mariners pitcher J.A. Happ gave five runs on 11 hits in five innings of work Sunday against the Padres in his second consecutive rough outing.

"I was being way too tentative early on," Happ said to MLB.com. "I just wasn't finishing and as aggressive as I was later in the game. Maybe trying to be a little too fine after the previous outing. I think if I throw like I did the second part of that game, I'll be OK."

Happ, who is expected to be the fourth starter in Seattle's rotation, is now 1-3 this spring with a 7.90 ERA.


Rangers release outfielder Ryan Ludwick from minor league deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/29/2015) The Rangers have released outfielder Ryan Ludwick from his minor league contract, the team announced Sunday.

Ludwick hit .200 with one home run and three RBI in 30 plate appearances during spring training.


Report: Yankees' Domingo German may need Tommy John surgery
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(3/29/2015) Yankees pitching prospect Domingo German may be on the shelf for awhile. German may reportedly need Tommy John surgery for his injured elbow, according to MLB.com.

The team is yet to confirm the report. German went 9-3 in 25 starts with a 2.48 ERA in Class-A Greensboro in 2014.


Indians pitcher Austin Adams still in contention for roster spot
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/29/2015) Indians relief pitcher Austin Adams still has a chance to make the final roster, reports MLB.com.

Adams, who was a non-roster invitee to camp, has posted a 5.87 ERA in eight appearances this spring with nine strikeouts and 11 hits allowed.

"We wanted to tell him he'd done a really good job," manager Terry Francona said of his morning conversation with Adams, "but we still don't know."


Rangers remain undecided on pitcher Keone Kela
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/29/2015) Rangers pitcher Keone Kela tossed one scoreless inning Sunday with no hits and two strikeouts against the Dodgers. Kela has now gone 8 1/3 innings without giving up a run this spring, but the team is undecided still on his role this season, reports MLB.com.

"I haven't said if he was or wasn't on the team," Banister said. "That decision will be made at the appropriate time. You see what he has done. He has been impressive this spring."


Indians pitcher T.J. House gives up four runs in six innings
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/29/2015) Indians pitcher T.J. House, who was given a spot in the starting rotation Sunday, struggled in his appearance Sunday. House gave up four runs on six hits with two walks in six innings of work against the White Sox.

"This spring it looks a little glaring, that one inning is kind of getting to me in the box scores," said House to MLB.com. "It's nice to get them out of the way now and maybe during the season we won't see them.

"My ball kind of flattened out a little bit [in the fourth]. Besides that, I felt good. I pounded the zone and got to see some guys I'm going to see during the season, so I'll make a mental note of that."


White Sox second baseman Micah Johnson has edge in position battle
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/29/2015) White Sox second baseman Micah Johnson appears to be in the lead for the position when the season begins, reports MLB.com. Manager Robin Ventura likes what he's seen from Johnson enough to give him a vote of confidence at the position, even though nothing has been officially set.

"He's done well enough to kind of be the leading guy," said Ventura of Johnson, who had two hits in Sunday's 4-1 win over the Indians.

Third base coach Joe McEwing likes the progress Johnson has sowed on defense this spring.

"Initially what we wanted to do was try to slow things down because everything Micah does, he does fast," McEwing said. "Everything in his game is fast. Just, defensively, try to slow him down and allow him to focus on his feet and his hands and everything working together."


Athletics pitcher Kendall Graveman posts another stellar performance
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/29/2015) Athletics pitcher Kendall Graveman continues to impress this spring. Sunday, he went 6 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits with three strikeouts and no walks. Manager Bob Melvin loves how the young pitcher has performed this spring, reports MLB.com.

"He doesn't blow you away, although you look at the radar gun and at times we've seen 93, 94 this spring," Melvin said. "But he's a pitcher; he's pretty cerebral in the way he does it.

"He reads swings very well. You know, it's late movement off the barrel of the bat, whether it's sink, whether it's cut, offspeed just enough. But he knows what he's doing and he's aware of what the hitters are trying to do against him."

Graveman has a minuscule 0.74 ERA in five starts this spring.

"There's a reason that he went from [Class] A-ball to the big leagues [in 2014 with Toronto], and then continued to pitch this well for us. It means he's real confident in what he's doing," Melvin said.


Nationals pitcher Doug Fister struggles again in outing Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/29/2015) Nationals pitcher Doug Fister surrendered six runs in four innings of work Sunday against the Marlins, pushing his spring training ERA to 7.02 in five starts. Fister gave up three more home runs in the outing.

"I can't let any of that affect me. I know I have to get the ball down regardless," Fister said to MLB.com. "I felt good today. I felt I was almost back in the swing of things. There are obviously some things I have to fine tune at the end of spring.

"I left the ball up, and it allowed the Marlins to get good contact on the ball. I don't let outside influences affect the game. It's a game I have to control and make adjustments."


 
 
 
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