Monday, February 11, 2008

2008 Twins Pre-Pre-Season: Lineup

With spring training fast approaching, the blogosphere has come alive with organizational rankings and guesses about the Twins' roster. With the Santana deal finally done, what else are we going to do? The links at the left will lead to some very interesting thoughts along those lines. Here are mine. This roster assumes no further free agent signings, and will be amended periodically during spring training as certain people establish themselves.

Starting lineup
1. 2B - Brendan Harris
Lacking a mature, prototypical leadoff hitter, Harris looks like the best choice. In 2007, his first full MLB season, he compiled an on-base percentage of .343. His career minor-league OBP is .365. He's shown good plate-discipline throughout his career, and will likely improve in that area as he gets even more of a feel for big-league pitching this season.
2. C - Joe Mauer
Add me to the list of people who like Mauer in this slot. Having yet to showcase middle-of-the-lineup power, but with a career OBP pushing .400, and an ability to put the ball in play when necessary, this is a terrific spot for him.
3. RF - Michael Cuddyer
Am I losing you here? Cuddyer may never hit .300, but he's got decent pop (I suspect he'll improve on his power numbers from 2007), and he's always shown a good eye at the plate. His OBP has typically been 70-80 points higher than his batting average, and he usually has about a 2/1 K/BB rate. He can keep a rally going.
4. 1B - Justin Morneau
Not much of a surprise here. The $80 million man needs to be hitting cleanup. Despite his miserable second half in 2007, Morneau has generally been a stingy hitter; hopefully he can relax and do his thing like in 2006. He's certainly the best long-ball threat on the team, and the cleanup spot should provide plenty of RBI opportunities.
5. DH - Jason Kubel
It looks like Jason may have finally turned the corner - his final months of 2007 were reminiscent of the magnificent numbers he put up in the minors. He should have plenty of people on base in front of him. I look for him to work pitchers and hit a lot of line drives.
6. LF - Delmon Young
Some may surprised to see Young so far down in the lineup. He's scooted up to the Majors at a pretty young age, so I feel that he has a bit more developing to do before he becomes the #3 or #4 hitter a lot of people project. The biggest concern right now is his plate discipline - so far in his MLB career he's pretty much swung at everything. If he can become a little more selective, he has a chance to move up in the order. Until then, I look at him as a potential rally-killer, someone who could let a pitcher off the ropes in one or two pitches (like, say, Jacque Jones often managed to do).
7. 3B - Mike Lamb
I was tempted to put Lamb in the 6-spot, but you know that's way too many lefties in a row for Gardy's taste. He's had excellent plate discipline throughout his career, and has a good chance of sustaining any rallies that survive Mr. Young. It will be interesting to see how many at-bats he gets against lefties, but I think he should at least get a shot at playing everyday to start the season.
8. CF - Jason Pridie (vs. righties)/Craig Monroe (vs. lefties)
I'm stealing this idea from Twins Geek. I would like to see Span, Pridie, and Gomez each get another half-season at AAA, but there clearly isn't room for that. Pridie seems to be the most ready to hit, particularly if he's put in a position to succeed vs. righties only. Monroe will surely get some playing time to justify his salary and veteran-ness, and he will be at his best against lefties. His eye isn't wonderful in any circumstances, but I'll take his K/BB rate of 2.69 vs. lefties over the 3.41 rate he has against righties. Pridie can come in for defense late in the game. This solution has the added benefit of holding down Gomez' service time - if he starts the season in the majors, he could be eligible for arbitration in 2010. Phooey on that.
9. SS - Adam Everett
Obviously, he should get as few at-bats as possible. Hopefully, he can work the pitchers a little bit, and make a lot of productive outs.

Working pitcher and sustaining rallies - that's what this lineup is designed to do. A pitcher should have to throw at least 20 pitches before Young grounds into a double-play on the first pitch. This lineup should be better than 2007, but I think Delmon's the key to the whole thing. If he starts to develop some discipline at the plate, this lineup should be able to deliver a ton more runs than last year.

Tomorrow: the starting pitchers.

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