Twinsfest is finally in the books and we’re now just a couple weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training. It seems like a good time to post my yearly stat projections for the 2011 season.
1. Denard Span, CF, .280 AVG, .360 OBP, 6 HR, 55 RBI, 31 SB
Span had a very good 2009 and a disappointing 2010. His average dropped from .311 to .264 and his OBP from .392 to 331. As is usually the case, he should come back toward the middle. The team’s supposed new emphasis on speed, and his batting in front of Nishioka, could also get him 30 SB for the first time.
2. Tsuyoshi Nichioka, 2B, .275 AVG, 5 HR, 50 RBI, 25 SB
Considering the Twins aren’t readily naming him the starting shortstop, I get the sense they aren’t overly impressed by is collection of gold gloves in Japan. The league over there also has much smaller parks, so don’t expect him to approach even his career highs of 14 homer runs and 59 RBIs. Also, he was a career .280 hitter before jumping to .346 last year, so expect something closer to that. On the plus side, he’ll give the team more speed and he’s a switch hitter that can bat second.
3. Joe Mauer, C, .335 AVG, .410 OBP, 40 2B, 14 HR, 85 RBI
Like Span, expect Mr. Minnesota to fall somewhere between his amazing 2009 and his (yawn) .327 average, 43 doubles, .402 OBP 2010. With his swing and the deep gaps at the new park, Mauer may never hit 28 home runs again. I’d bet against it. But he will continue to hit a lot more doubles.Â
4. Justin Morneau, 1B, .270 AVG, 24 HR, 90 RBI
Morneau was on his way to a career year last year, hitting .345 with 18 HR in 81 games before going down with a concussion. I think it’s probably unrealistic to think that he won’t miss a beat after not playing competitively for 8 months. Expect solid, if unspectacular numbers from him early on.Â
5. Delmon Young, LF, .288 AVG, 35 2B, 18 HR, 100 RBI
It will be interesting to see how Delmon comes back after his career year in 2010. He started last year in much better shape, and with an unrecognizable hitting approach, that resulted in a .298 average, 112 RBI, 46 doubles, a few more walks and fewer strikeouts. Will be be motivated to keep himself in good shape and do it again (especially considering he’s playing for a new contract) or will be revert back to his old form?
My guess is that he had a lot of fun last year, remembering what it was like to hit tape measure blasts in batting practice, and then carrying that into the game. He’s no longer content to flip the ball to right field, and he’s clearly got a better understanding of when (at what counts and in what part of the game) to swing for the fences and when to put the ball in play.
6. Jason Kubel, DH, .265 AVG, 22 HR, 82 RBI/
Jim Thome DH, .270 AVG, 16 HR, 40 RBI
My gut tell me Jason Kubel’s days with the Twins may be numbered. He’s pretty much already expendable in ’11 if Cuddyer, Morneau and Thome stay healthy, and after this year his contract is up. With the Twins’ desire to get faster as a team and better defensively, and several younger, cheaper prospects coming up, it seems unlikely that both Kubel and Cuddyer will be on the team after this season.Â
Morneau’s injury, and Cuddyer’s move to first, allowed Kubel to get a full season of at bats last year. He continued to struggle against left-handers, and finished with 21 HR, 92 RBI and a .249 average. He should once again provide some power in the lower part of the order, but a lot of at bats against lefties will once again keep him from posting a high average.
As for Thome, a healthy Morneau means he’ll get the playing time he was expecting to get last season (Morneau every day at first, Cuddyer every day in RF, and Thome, Kubel and the occasional righty Repko against lefties at DH). Instead of 25 HR in 276 at bats, expect 16 HR in 215 at bats.
7. Michael Cuddyer, RF, .275, 30 2B, 18 HR, 90 RBI
I’m expecting a bit of a bounce-back year for Cuddyer, who suffered more than anyone in his first year playing at Target Field. I don’t know if I believe Gardy’s theory that settling in at a position allows guys to focus on their hitting, but I hope he’s right. The Twins can’t afford to pay 11 million dollars for a .270s singles hitter, with no speed, who leads the league in ground ball double plays.
8. Danny Valencia, 3B, .280, 17 HR, 70 RBI
I really think the Twins have finally found their long-term answer at third base. Valencia probably won’t sustain the .311 clip he hit at for half a season to start his career, but if he even close to that, the team is set at third. His ability to work counts into his favor, draw walks and hit back through the middle, along with his late-season power surge, give me some confidence that he’s more than a half-season wonder.
9. Alexi Casilla, SS, .260 AVG, 4 HR, 40 RBI, 15 SB
Hopefully the third time is the charm for Casilla, who has already tanked twice after twice being in position to win a starting job in spring training. Still just 26, the Twins are hoping Casilla can regain his 2008 form where he hit .281 with 7 HR and 50 RBI in 98 games.
Check back in the coming weeks when I’ll preview the Twins bench, pitching staff and bullpen.