KFFL answers important fantasy baseball questions about each Major League Baseball team as spring training approaches. What must fantasy baseball players know about the Minnesota Twins?
What are Justin Morneau's prospects of returning to All-Star form?
Plouffe won't go "poof"
Two years ago, they seemed close to nil. Entering 2013, they're probably better than most people realize. With at least a year and a half gone by without concussion symptoms, and what essentially qualifies as a full season (2012) in that stretch, things are looking up.
Morneau batted .267 with 19 home runs and 77 RBIs in 570 plate appearances - despite a rusty couple of months in the first half of the campaign. He looked like his line-drive-stroking self often enough, especially after the break, when shades of his above-average control of the strike zone became darker.
Morneau, 32 in May, also claims that he feels the best he has since sustaining that railroading head injury in 2010. He's been spending the offseason gaining weight back, not rehabbing. That creates promise for a rebound in fly-ball rate, to levels of 40-plus percent. He's a free agent after this season, and the Twins will undoubtedly dangle him as the trade deadline approaches, if not earlier.
Rotisserie owners will be taking some small leap of faith with an investment in Morneau, but will others compete so hard for him? It's too tempting to dive in when it's more like a hop and the potentially thrilling payoff is still that of a cliff jump.
How will Glen Perkins handle the closing gig?
Plenty of prognosticators felt that the southpaw should've stolen the job from Matt Capps last season - or even prior to it. Capps incurred an injury and was never healthy enough to reclaim the role. Jared Burton emerged as a right-handed complement and saved a handful of contests, but he didn't usurp the throne. Although Perkins was the club's only late-inning left-hander for much of the campaign, Ron Gardenhire deployed him in save situations most often, by far, in Capps' absence, and Perkins didn't let his skipper down.
Minnesota can't project to win many games, but they'll generate save opps. Will Perkins lead the league? No. But, given his two straight years of plus performance as a reliever as well as his marked improvement in multiple indicating stats, he will almost certainly not hurt your bottom line (in ERA and WHIP) and should pad your K total. Fantasy owners may be surprised at how many second- and third-tier relievers they can say that about, confidently.
What will Trevor Plouffe do with a full-time job?
For those in deep mixed and AL-only leagues who have the right-handed breakout masher on their radars, they should be aware that the ice under his feet is pretty thin. Plouffe's track record includes second-rate control of the strike zone and plate discipline; they don't foretell batting titles in his future. Mix that with his sub-par defense, and his playing time would seem to be far from secure.
Not in the Twin Cities, however. Unless esteemed prospect Miguel Sano beats his timeline by a couple of years or so, investors should probably feel pretty comfortable in taking a stab with Plouffe in mixed leagues, or going an extra buck on him in AL formats. Despite the 26-year-old's drawbacks, he's made great strides in those areas, and his average on balls in play from last year certainly has room to make a sizable climb.
Where will Minnesota get its best starting pitching?
Right-hander Vance Worley, who arrived in an offseason trade with the Philadelphia Phillies, should benefit from the move to a yard that suppresses home runs, especially to left-handed batters, more so than Citizens Bank Park did. Assuming that a September cleanup procedure on his elbow is the end of his minor health woes, he could be the best thing going for the Twinkies' rotation. He surrenders plenty of contact of the well-hit variety, however, and has been prone to yielding extra-base hits in bunches. The WHIP probably won't be pretty, and he'll probably deal with blow-ups, frequent or not.
Minnesota also projects to lean heavily on Scott Diamond, who for all intents and purposes finished last season as the club's de facto ace. A gain in control for the crafty southpaw was foreseeable, based on his minor league resume, but certainly not to the extent that he made it (1.61 BB/9). A big, looping curveball and his ground-ball prowess may keep the Twins in many games, if he gets glove support. Some probable hit-rate correction and his lack of swing-and-miss stuff warn AL roto players not to tempt fate.
And that about does it for serious - cough, cough - hope in the Twin Cities. Look, righties Kevin Correia and Liam Hendriks, or lefties Brian Duensing and lefty Cole De Vries, or prospect Kyle Gibson, or reclamation project Samuel Deduno, or ... any one of many could surprise. Chances are, only AL-only owners will be interested, though - at least until right-hander Trevor May (the real get in the Ben Revere deal) debuts, which may not be until 2014.
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.