Ever wondered what a man's attempt to review a team that didn't make a whole lot of offseason moves and doesn't have a lot of hope to win this season might look like? Well...
Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Kurt Suzuki
Nothing to see here. Everyone's fine, apparently.
Players to Watch
His health will be a strong determining factor in whether the Twins have any hope whatsoever of winning 70+, let alone getting anywhere near a .500 season. Though Mauer played in just 113 games last season, he produced a .324/.404/.476 triple slash and 5.2 WAR. Minnesota is hoping that a full-time transition to first base will keep him healthy, as well as being able to give him a day off at designated hitter every now and then.
His improvement from 2012 to 2013 was a welcome sight, and if he can continue improving as he enters his logical peak years, then Minnesota might have an asset at second base. Between his 18 home runs and his .278 BABIP, you've got to imagine that there is a possibility of some improvement available.
Phil Hughes & Ricky Nolasco
Forever tied as the pair of arms that Minnesota brought in to prop up an ailing rotation, Hughes and Nolasco have the unenviable position of trying to A) stay healthy and B) be productive. For Nolasco, that seems to be a fairly easy task; he pitched 199 innings between Miami and Los Angeles last season, and will slot in as the team's #1.
Hughes, on the other hand, hasn't been particularly effective over the last season and a half, while dealing with some injury concerns. He does do what Minnesota likes, which is throw strikes and not walk people. And as long as he is healthy, he is likely to be better than whatever Minnesota has at the ready to throw in his place.
Byron Buxton, et al.
The Twins have Baseball America's Top prospect in the system a breath away from being ready to contribute, an immortal taking the human form of Byron Buxton. He could be a key factor in contributing to an improved second half for Minnesota.
Likewise, Alex Meyer could be in for a late-season cup of java if he continues to show the dominance that he did at AA last season, striking out 10.80 batters per nine innings.
I won't sugar coat it for you; it's not good. It might not even be average. There's a lot of hope in Minnesota's future, but most of it lies beyond the 2014 season. Be patient and look for signs of improvement, health, and things you can build on.
In Order To Win The Division...
Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer, Miguel Cabrera, James Shields, Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, Carlos Santana, Justin Masterson, Nick Swisher, and about a dozen other players would need to be injured and/or suspended for a majority of the season. We're talking 60-day DL stints followed by 50-game violations tacked on at the end.
The Likely Result
Some improvement in the pitching staff occurs with Nolasco and Hughes in the mix. Additionally, Mauer's health steadies out and some prospects make a late-season impact to get the Twins above 70 wins.
Editor's Note: This story was amended 3/20/14 3:52 EST to account for Miguel Sano's season-ending injury that happened basically a month ago.