1. Denard Span, CF
I've been as big a proponent of Span's abilities as anyone since Spring Training 2008, and was thrilled to see him have an immediate impact once he was finally given an opportunity with the Twins. It did come a bit out of nowhere, and his poor spring last year had me apprehensive, but he delivered again. Now he's got 1087 MLB PA under his belt, Carlos Gomez out of the picture, and a nice, long-term contract. He can relax and show everybody what he's really got.
Expected line: .300/.385/.415, 73% SB, 6/5 K/BB
2. Orlando Hudson, 2B
Last year I picked out Hudson as a potential fantasy sleeper: a sure-handed defender (that counts in my league) with a good eye, decent pop for a 2B, and a high-percentage base stealer. Because he was coming off an injury, I was able to get him in the 12th round or so, and he didn't disappoint. Though he made the All-Star team last year, he slumped a bit late in the summer, then was benched in favor of the scorching hot Ronnie Belliard down the stretch. I guess that slow finish enabled him to fall to the Twins for $5M on February 4th. A typical season from him will be an enormous upgrade over the miserable production the Twins got from the #2 spot last year, and the defense helps, too. What a great pickup!
Expected line: .280/.355/.430, 80% SB, 3/2 K/BB
3. Joe Mauer, C
The reigning MVP, Batting Champ, Silver Slugger and Gold Glover is now a $184M man, and likely a Twin for life. As he enters his peak years, his production at catcher should justify the expense. He hit an awful lot of "just enough" HR last year, so I'm not sure he'll be close to 30 in that department, but he's proven that his BA and OBP will be among the league leaders once again.
Expected line: .335/.420/.510, 3/4 K/BB
4. Justin Morneau, 1B
I covered Morneau's case extensively a few weeks ago. He's a top-5 1B for 4 months, then tails off in August and September. This year, he's taken it easy in the offseason and spring training. I'm raising the bar for him - his terrific work in April-July now needs to extend through September.
Expected line: .311/.379/.570, 7/6 K/BB
5. Michael Cuddyer, RF
I wasn't among the folks who thought the Twins needed to add a RH bat for 2009. Cuddyer can be the guy, just let him be healthy for a season. He was, basically matching the production from his previous career year, 2006. And his line drive and walk rates were actually a little low in 2009 relative to his career averages. If healthy, I look for him to hit at least 25 HR and make things very scary for opposing managers trying to nurse a LHP through the heart of the Twins' lineup.
Expected line: .280/.360/.480, 2/1 K/BB
6. Jason Kubel, DH
Kubel finally put his horrific knee injury from the fall of 2004 behind him last year. His .300/.369/.539 line with 28 HR in 578 PA was reminiscent of the damage he had done at every level of the minors before the injury. For me, that was the real Kubel. He's healthy and in his prime. Expect no regression.
Expected line: .290/.355/.510
7. Delmon Young, LF
I wrote at length last month about Young's potential for this season. I'll repeat what I said then: As far as I'm concerned, Young has everything he needs to make 2010 a breakout season. I'm encouraged by the .286/.333/.469 line he's put up in 54 PA this spring. I'm especially impressed with the 8/4 K/BB ratio - striking out in 14.8% of his PA and walking in 7.4% would both be significant improvements if he can carry them into the regular season. Many have lowered their expectations for him - I won't.
Expected line: .300/.340/.500, 73% SB, 5/2 K/BB
8. JJ Hardy, SS
After seeming to establish himself as one of the premiere young SS in the game in 2007 and 2008, Hardy's numbers went off a cliff last year. It seems to have been a triple-whammy of poor health, poor swing mechanics, and mentally pressing. A fresh start will probably be just the thing for him. Even if his bat doesn't bounce back, he should be a very reliable defender. But the bat should bounce back.
Expected line: .275/.335/.465, 2/1 K/BB
9. Nick Punto, 3B
I'm assuming Punto will get a lot of starts at 3B early in the season, especially against RHP. He's famously been on a yo-yo between good even years and poor odd years, so this year should be a good one. More importantly, he didn't actually swing the bat poorly in 2009, despite a .228/.337/.284 line. His line drive, grounder and fly ball rates were all similar to 2008, and he hit far fewer popups while walking in a career-best 13.9% of his PA. That stellar plate discipline, combined with some better luck on balls in play could turn this into a productive year for Punto. And there's no reason he shouldn't continue to play very good defense at 3B while stealing bases at a high rate.
Expected line: .260/.340/.340, 75% SB, 3/2 K/BB