Every holiday season brings with it lists, be it a Christmas wish list or a New Year’s resolution agenda, many tabs are created and checked off this time of the year. And yes it is the season of giving, but it also a season of want and hopeful change.
For the Minnesota Twins, it has been an offseason of transition and adjustment for the only professional sports team in Minnesota that consistently has a shot at the end of the regular season.
Just like any professional sports team in the offseason, the Twins are regrouping, replenishing and taking care of their lists of things to do in the winter months. One thing is for sure, the team will be sporting a much different look when they trot onto the field next season.
Instead of writing about the things the Twins desire in what they still need to acquire this offseason, I’m going to take a look at what the Twins hope to get from what they already have and who they desperately wish comes through for them in a big way in 2011.
Let’s start with some position players. Later in the week I’ll toss out a wish list for the Twins pitching staff.
Starting with the headliners, both Morneau and Mauer had relatively disappointing seasons in 2010, one because of a devastating concussion and the other because of an assortment of nagging injuries and an inability to match his ridiculous 2009 numbers.
The M&M boys and the success of the Twins go hand in hand. If they aren’t in the lineup or don’t play like stars, then the Twins cannot be successful. The team was shockingly able to survive without Morneau for the second half of last season and still win the AL Central, but they will need both to excel in 2011 if the Twins want to repeat.
At the top of the Twins wish list, in bold and capital letters, is Mauer and Morneau needing to prove themselves in the postseason. Mauer had zero extra base hits and zero RBI in the three-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees in the Division Series, and now has just one extra base hit and one RBI in 35 postseason at-bats. Shockingly, Morneau hasn’t played in the postseason since 2006, but to his credit he hit two homers in three games that year.
The team desperately needs to get out of the first round of the playoffs and the only way they can do that is if Mauer and Morneau play a vital part. And with the team taking on some heavy free-agent losses already this offseason, the faces of the franchise will be needed in a major way this season.
Young was the Twins top run producer last season and went from teetering on being a disappointment to being a potential stud in just one season. But he needs to build on his success in 2011 and not regress. The Twins will need his bat even more this season with a depleted bullpen that will likely be giving up more runs. He finished last season with a .298 batting average, while depositing 21 HRs and 112 RBI. If he can duplicate in 2011, the Twins wishes will come true and then some.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka/ Alexi Casilla
The assumed new double play combo for the Twins brings speed; something the Twins didn’t get enough of from J.J. Hardy or Orlando Hudson last season. But beyond the speed, it’s hard to figure how each will perform as an every day starter in the major leagues. Nishioka has been playing professionally for the past eight seasons in Japan, but he will still be a rookie in MLB. Casilla has spent the past five seasons back and forth between the Twins and AAA and his only good season was in 2008 when he had 385 at-bats and batted .281. Casilla hasn’t matured as fast as the Twins had hoped, but last season he showed signs of rounding into shape when his number was called.
The Twins won’t be looking for power numbers from either player. They simply want them to get on base, wreak havoc on the base baths and score a lot of runs. The team has the players to drive them in if they can get on base. Exceptional glove work will also be high on the Twins wish list.
The Twins wish that their first Japanese player pays immediate dividends and that Casilla finally takes a strangle hold on a starting infield position.
It’s easy to assume that the Twins have found their hot corner incumbent for years to come after his outstanding performance in the second half of last season, but it was too small of a sample size to call Valencia the next great one, yet. Yes he was awesome at times and did finish third in AL Rookie of the Year honors, but the true test will come when scouting reports catch up to him and a full season of playing every day takes its toll on the upstart third baseman.
For the Twins, they can only wish that he maintains a steady glove in the field, keeps his batting average up and registers 20+ homeruns. He finished with seven in 299 at-bats last season, so it’s not a farfetched wish to see him crank out 20 in 2011.
Simply put, the Twins just wish he comes back. He was the only Twins hitter who made Target Field look small last year, and they desperately need his power stroke to return to the lineup.
Don't forget to check back later in the week for the Twins pitching wish list.