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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
David Buchanan will compete for one of two spots in Phillies' rotation
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:08 pm ET) Phillies starting pitcher David Buchanan said refininig his curveball has been a point of emphasis this offseason, as he prepares to compete for a spot in the rotation this spring, per The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“I had success with (my curveball) in certain games,” he said. “It started coming along there toward the end. But it’s definitely something that has a lot of work still to go. It’s definitely something I’m working on. It’s getting better, which is all I can ask for.”

There is two spots currently open in the rotation behind Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Aaron Harang. Buchanan, Jerome Williams and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez are considered the leading candidates for the openings in the rotation. 

“There’s going to be some competition,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week. “I think that’s the only way that you can get better is by creating competition. I can’t sit here and tell you today that David Buchanan’s going to be one of our guys in the rotation, but he absolutely is going to get an opportunity to pitch in spring training and be ready and compete for one of those spots.”


Santana fine after throwing bullpen session; winter-league status is TBD
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:55 am ET) Free agent starting pitcher Johan Santana threw a bullpen session Sunday and is said to be feeling fine, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. It is now up to his Venezuelan winter league team to decide if he will pitch for them in the finals.

Santana has been dealing with some shoulder discomfort, which has put his status for the remainder of the winter-league season in doubt. Santana is hoping to latch on with another major-league team after suffering a torn Achilles in June.

The Yankees, Padres and Blue Jays are among the teams showing interest in signing the former two-time AL Cy Young award winner.


Mariners planning on batting Smith, Ruggiano in second spot in lineup
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:31 am ET) Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said he is tentatively planning to bat the right-field tandem of Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano second in the lineup, per The New Tribune.

The Mariners ranked last in the majors last season in on-base percentage (.260) from their No. 2 hitters. No other team was lower than .279.

Smith had a .367 OBP last season for San Diego, while Ruggiano had a .337 OBP in 81 games for the Cubs.


Rays' Jake McGee plays catch for first time since elbow surgery
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:25 am ET) The Rays announced Monday reliever Jake McGee played catch for the first time since undergoing elbow surgery in December. McGee is still expected to miss the start of the season.

Cardinals' Carpenter hoping to build off postseason power surge
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:17 am ET) Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter hit just eight home runs with a .375 slugging percentage during the 2014 regular season, but had a much better power swing in the postseason, belting four home runs and slugging .722 in nine games.

“I took a more of an aggressive approach in the postseason,” Carpenter said, per STLBaseballWeekly.com. “Part of that was from the experience that I had gathered the year before. After a long season, going into the playoffs I felt like I wasn’t as prepared as I felt like I could’ve been. It kind of snowballed and my approach and the way I took the regular season at-bat in the postseason it wasn’t playing out well.”

Carpenter said his postseason success could have a positive impact on his power numbers in 2015.

"Certainly, I’m always going to be a guy who’s patient at the plate, but that was a good learning experience for me -- being aggressive," he said. "I don’t remember the exact numbers but out of the four home runs I hit, I think three of them were on the first pitch. That’s something typically I don’t do a lot of, and it was a good learning experience.”


Tigers' Dombrowski expecting 'real big season' for Justin Verlander
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:48 am ET) Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander said last week this is the best he's felt physically approaching the start of spring training in at least three years.

Apparently, the optimism doesn't end with Verlander. Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski indicated the Tigers are expecting big things from Verlander in 2015 after he posted a 4.54 ERA in 2014, failing to make the All-Star team for the first time in six seasons.

"Justin Verlander is as prime a pitcher as there is in the game of baseball," Dombrowski said, per the Detroit Free Press. "Last year, he was not the traditional Justin. But when you look at what he came back from with the surgery, I think he's going to go out and have a real big season for us."


Sleep apnea almost caused Red Sox's Mike Napoli to retire
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:47 am ET) Dealing with sleep apnea almost caused Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli to retire prematurely from baseball, reports the Boston Globe.

"I couldn't do it anymore, feeling the way I was feeling," Napoli said. "I was like, 'I need to have the surgery or I'm not going play anymore.' That's how bad it was."

During the offseason, Napoli underwent facial reconstruction surgery to correct the condition, which was preventing him from getting a proper night of rest.

"It was a brutal process," Napoli said. "It was probably one of the worse things I've ever done."

With the surgery a success and Napoli recovered from losing weight due to a six-week liquid diet, Napoli is now sleeping better than he ever has.

Before the surgery, Napoli turned to medication, mouthpieces and a CPAP mask, but said those problems are now behind him.

"I wake up now and I'm ready to start my day," he said. "It's great."


Angels' Jered Weaver bulks up in effort to pitch deeper into games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:36 am ET) Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver has bulked up to 224 pounds, which is six pounds heavier than he has ever been, in an effort to pitch deeper into games in 2015, per the Los Angeles Times. Weaver dropped to as low as 199 pounds during the 2014 season.

“Numbers-wise, it was all right,” Weaver said of his 2014 season (18-9, 3.59 ERA). “But from a personal standpoint, me being ultra-competitive, I want to get deeper in games.

“The bullpen helped me a lot last year. I just want to gain some strength. I went on a different weight-lifting program last year, and it’s been paying off. I’m going to stick with it.”

The average velocity of Weaver’s fastball dipped to a career-low 86.3 mph last season. However, he said the added weight gain is more for endurance than velocity on his fastball. He averaged just over six innings per start last season and has just one complete game over the last two seasons after throwing seven complete games in 2011-12.

“I don’t care about velocity -- I just want to be stronger for the whole nine innings,” Weaver said. “If velocity comes along, so be it. I think I’ve shown I can pitch from 83 to 93 mph.”


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by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:08 am ET) After being acquired by the Mariners at the trade deadline last season, outfielder Austin Jackson struggled to produce for the Mariners. In 54 games, Jackson hit .229 and Jackson said the trade affected his playing ability, reports The News Tribune.

"Not making excuses, but I think getting traded and trying to get used to the travel and the sleep - those things affect your play on the field," Jackson said.

By starting the season in Seattle, Jackson said he hopes to avoid the distractions from last season and he's looking to return to his old form.

"Hopefully, getting started here and staying here, those distractions won't be there," Jackson said.


White Sox OF Avisail Garcia dropped weight during offseason
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:02 am ET) White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia dropped roughly 15 pounds during the offseason, according to MLB.com.

"I've been eating healthy, working real hard at the gym, Garcia said. "I have to be ready for spring training. I can't go there and be fat." With the weight loss, Garcia is hoping to keep his power potential. "I don't want to lose speed, I don't want to lose power," Garcia said. "I want to be in the middle. I know I can do a little bit of everything, so that's why I've been working really hard on speed, power, hitting and defense, so I can help my team win."

Garcia hit .244/.305/.413 over 172 at-bats last year.


 
 
 
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