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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
Red Sox's Henry Owens impresses during camp
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:19 am ET) Red Sox pitcher Henry Owens impressed during batting practice recently, according to the Boston Herald

Owens hadn't faced big league hitters since last spring training, and had something to prove. While Owens didn't have great fastball command during the session, his changeup was spot on. 

"Great deception, hard to pick up," catcher Ryan Hanigan said. "He got me on the changeup today because you can’t see the spin. It looks just like his fastball. That’s a huge advantage."

Pitching coach Juan Nieves agreed, but said he wasn't sure whether Owens was ready for the majors just yet. "Is anybody ready to come to the big leagues?" Nieves said. "I don’t know. We don’t know until they get there and experience the competition."

The 22-year-old Owens enters the year as the team's second-best prospect according to Baseball America. He posted a 2.94 ERA over two minor-league levels last year. 


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(2/28/2015) Brewers general manager Doug Melvin expressed confidence Saturday that shortstop Jean Segura will bounce back after a subpar 2014 season, the Journal Sentinel reports.

"I'm pretty confident he's going to bounce back," Melvin said. "He had a very good September. He had a lot of stuff going on last year. But everybody says he's a much happier person and everything. He's a good, athletic player that we need."

After delivering a .294 average, smacking 12 home runs and stealing 44 bases in 2013, Segura hit just .246/.289/.326 with five home runs, 31 RBI and 20 stolen bases in 513 at-bats in 2014.


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(2/28/2015) Brewers pitcher Dontrelle Willis has made a favorable impression during camp, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

In particular, Willis has impressed manager Ron Roenicke. "He's got a great attitude," Roenicke said. "The things he said are exactly what you want a player to say. He gets it." Willis has also made a strong impression on his new teammates.

Willis, 33, has not pitched in the majors since 2011. He's attempting to make a come back with the Brewers this spring. 


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(2/28/2015) Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders said Saturday that he's feeling no pain one day after undergoing knee surgery, the Toronto Sun reports.

"I feel great," Saunders said. "I couldn’t believe it when I woke up this morning and I was walking around just fine. I walked out of surgery just fine. I actually started doing some exercises today and just got checked out by the doctor and he was pleasantly surprised with what he saw. There’s not as much swelling as he originally thought. Everything is checking out so far and everything is good news. No pain. It feels like I banged my knee on a pole and it’s a tiny bit swollen."

Saunders suffered a torn meniscus while tracking a foul ball Wednesday, tripping over a sprinkler head and hearing a popping sound. After initially being told he could need to have the meniscus repaired, a procedure that carries a recovery time of three-to-five months, Saunders had the torn portion of the meniscus removed, which places him on track to return to action within six weeks. While the outfielder is excited to be back on the field in a much shorter time, he indicated he'll be cautious with his rehab.

"I’m going to miss some spring training but it could be a lot worse," Saunders said. "My ligaments are intact. For me this is the best-case scenario. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I’m ready to go. I’d love to say that I’ll be ready opening day. That’s my goal. But we’re targeting more mid-April, on the safe side. At the end of the day I have to listen to my knee. It’s a long season. I’m going to get this right the first time and not rush back."


Athletics' Doolittle hoping to throw in a week or two
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/28/2015) Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle is hoping to be cleared to throw in a week or two, according to the San Francisco Chronicle

Doolittle was able to participate in strength tests on Saturday, and the results were positive. He has not been cleared to throw just yet, but is hoping that will come shortly. Doolittle has been sidelined by a shoulder injury during the start of camp. 

The 28-year-old posted a 2.73 ERA over 62 2/3 innings last year. 


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(2/28/2015) The Rays have released outfielder Josh Sale, Baseball America reports.

Sale was suspended for use of performance-enhancing drugs in 2013 as well as for conduct detrimental to the team that same season. He received a 50-game suspension last August for a second positive test for a drug of abuse. Before his most recent suspension, he hit .238/.313/.344 with four home runs and 46 RBI in 323 at-bats with high Class A Charlotte.


Yankees' Cashman downplays Bailey's chances of making team
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(2/28/2015) Yankees general manager Brian Cashman downplayed reliever Andrew Bailey's chances of making the 25-man roster, according to the Journal News.

Bailey, 30, is attempting to come back from a shoulder injury. He has not pitched in the majors since 2013 due to the issue. While Bailey has been able to participate in bullpen sessions this spring, Cashman took a more realistic view of the situation. "It’s one of those things where, non-roster situation, it’s a flyer, and the odds are against it," Cashman said. "And it didn’t work out for us last year. But because of who he is, his makeup, his work ethic, all those things, it made it easier to say, 'All right, let's keep trying,'" he added. 

Cashman stressed that while things look good now, the team wants to see how Bailey will respond in game situations. Bailey, meanwhile, has been optimistic during camp, saying he feels like he's finally over his injury.

Bailey posted a 3.77 ERA over 28 2/3 innings back in 2013. 


Hinch: Astros' Torreyes has 'earned every chance to get a look'
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(2/28/2015) Astros infielder Ronald Torreyes checks in at about 5-foot-6 and 130 pounds, but his success at avoiding strikeouts has manager A.J. Hinch ready to give him a chance at showing what he can do this spring, the Houston Chronicle reports.

"You like to see these guys play," manager A.J. Hinch said. "He can look to our starting lineup at the top or hitting first or second and he’ll see a guy who is pretty successful who is not the biggest guy in the world. I see a unique size for this level, but the way he’s hit and the way he’s performed he’s earned every chance to get a look."

Torreyes was added to the team's 40-man roster in November after hitting .298/.345/.376 with two home runs, 46 RBI and 12 stolen bases in 460 at-bats with Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2014.

"He doesn’t look like a ballplayer because he’s little like me, but he’s a young bull," Astros second baseman Jose Altuve said. "He hits a lot and plays good defense. Last year they put him on the 40-man roster because he has a good chance to help us. There aren’t many players like him so skinny and little in the big leagues, so when you see him for the first time you say, 'You know he has to be good to be here.' Then when you see him hit you realize the organization has a good reason to give him this opportunity."

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(2/28/2015) Twins starting pitcher Trevor May has looked to improve flexibility coming into his competition for a rotation spot this spring by turning to yoga to help repeat his delivery, the Star Tribune reports.

"I’ve been doing yoga for 30 or 40 minutes every morning, and I’m much fresher than ever before," May said. "Every scouting report I’ve ever seen on myself says, 'Has trouble repeating his delivery.' Well, yoga is literally repeating moves, keeping your body under your control. I do the warrior pose, which is [the same as] striding and throwing a baseball. It has to help."

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"Obviously I don’t know exactly what the people who are making decisions are thinking, but showing I can be successful after having my face beat up for two months, showing I can work through it, it’s a trait you have to have," May said. "I take pride in the fact that I didn’t give up. I didn’t let it get me down."


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(2/28/2015) Twins first baseman Joe Mauer was happy to have a "normal" offseason after dealing with concussion-like symptoms the previous year, MLB.com reports.

"I had a very productive offseason," Mauer said Saturday. "The last couple years I had a lot of things to deal with, especially last year with the concussion. I didn't really get a good base heading into the year. I feel great this year and I hope it stays that way."

Mauer believes that his vigorous stretching exercises this offseason will help keep him healthy in 2015.

"You have to pay attention to your body. I'm getting older," Mauer said. "I'm finding out what works and doesn't work. Trying to make adjustments."

Manager Paul Molitor indicated that he's noticed a difference in Mauer this spring.

"I think it means a lot for him," Molitor said. "I think coming back last year after what had happened the previous season, you always have those questions. He's got friends that have gone through it with Corey Koskie and Justin [Morneau]. We all know how validated our concern is over concussion issues. I'm sure there was a little hesitancy there. Like I said when I had a chance to visit with him this winter, he's excited to be back and not have to be concerned about those type of things."

Mauer endured a down offensive performance last season, hitting .277/.361/.371 with just four home runs in 455 at-bats.


 
 
 
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