Saturday, April 4, 2009

2009 Twins Preview: Waiting in the 'Wings

Last year's opening day roster included Livan Hernandez, Mike Lamb, Adam Everett, Craig Monroe, Juan Rincon and Brian Bass. Needless to say, the Twins won't be finishing the season with the same 25 guys I reviewed earlier this week. Here are some other names that might find their way into the box scores at some point in 2009:

IF - Matt Tolbert
I'm sure it broke Gardy's heart to have to cut Tolbert, so he'll certainly be the first guy called up if anything happens to an infielder. A switch-hitter with pretty good speed, Tolbert can play any of the IF positions (although his stint at 1B this week wasn't inspiring, while Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris both did OK over there) and could even be used in the OF in a pinch. He's hit pretty well at every level but AA (even in his rehab assignment last year he didn't do well there) and has generally been a high-percentage base stealer. Pretty similar to Nick Punto or Denny Hocking: the ideal guy to have on your bench (when you have a big enough bench).

IF - Luke Hughes
Next on the IF depth chart would probably be Hughes. Other than a lousy time at A+ Fort Myers, he's been a pretty good hitter, and last year he absolutely exploded in a season split between New Britain and Rochester. He's never been much of a fielder, unfortunately, but at this stage he doesn't look any worse than Buscher, who has worked to improve his glove since arriving with the Twins. Hughes is still young enough at 24 to have some upside. He'll be a September call-up if the team doesn't need him before that.

OF - Jason Pridie
The last piece of the Delmon Young trade, Pridie was brought in to compete for the CF job vacated by Torii Hunter. This was before the Twins had acquired Carlos Gomez or realized that Denard Span had figured out how to hit. Pridie quickly fell by the wayside, staying the whole year at Rochester and putting up a .270/.305/.435 line with a Gomez-esque 152/30 K/BB ratio. Still, he has terrific range in the OF and is a pretty high percentage base-stealer, so he wouldn't be a bad guy to have on the bench as a defensive sub or PR. With over 200 AAA games under his belt already, he'll likely be the first guy they call if one of the outfielders goes down.

SP - Kevin Mulvey
With Philip Humber, Brian Duensing and R.A. Dickey all capable of providing the Twins with spot starts, it will probably be a couple of months before Mulvey is considered to fill in for one of the Twins' starters. He had mixed results for the Red Wings last season, increasing his K/9 rate but also elevating his BB/9 and HR/9. He was better in the second half, and, at 23 years old, there's still plenty of time for him to figure things out. I'm guessing that his performance will get people talking about him as the summer rolls along, and that he may put the Twins in position to make an interesting trade at the end of July.

RP - Jose Mijares
After the way Mijares pitched for the Twins last September, a bullpen spot was his to lose this spring. And lose it he did, showing up for camp out of shape and struggling through just about every appearance he made. He's been a tremendous strikeout pitcher throughout his career, allowing well under a hit per IP. His problem has been control - he's amassed an ugly 5.1 BB/9 over his pro career so far. If he can lose some weight and focus on throwing more strikes, I think he'll find his way back to the Majors before too much time goes by.

C - Joe Mauer
Oh yeah, don't forget about this guy. I'm sure his rehab will progress agonizingly slowly, but it sounds like he should be able to rejoin the team by the end of April. And this year, because of the extra week of spring training, April only has 22 games in it. As long as he can stick around and perform the way he did last year, I'll be satisfied with 140 or so games from the reigning batting champ.

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