Barring any Spring Training acquisitions or injuries, here's how I expect the Twins lineuo to look come April.Catcher
We'll start off with a no-brainer. Joe Mauer has been the catcher of the future since he was drafted ahead of Mark Prior. After playing a full season last year with no major knee troubles, Twins fans hope that concern can be put to rest. Joe is hands down the top young catcher in the game, if not a top 5 catcher already. He lead all major leaguers at his position in OBP last year and I expect him to do the same in 2006. I'm guessing we will see a slight improvement in power, probably somewhere around 15 homeruns and 30 doubles. If Joe can match those numbers while playing in 130 games, Twins fans will be very happy.First Base
Morneau was promoted to the show after the All-Star break in 2004. For 76 games he made himself appear to be one of the up and coming power hitters in the league. He smashed 19 homers on his way to a .271/.340/.538 line. Much was expected of him coming into the '05 season. Instead, his numbers dropped in every significant category. He finished the year hitting only .239/.304/.437. It's tough to tell whether his '04 season was a fluke or whether his '05 season was a slump. The best guess is that it's somewhere in between. If Morneau can finish along the lines of .265/.335/.480 the Twins offense will be much improved.Second Base
In another of Terry Ryan's shrewd trades, Luis Castillo came over from the Marlins in exchange for two minor league pitching prospects. Castillo's speed and defense may have declined over the past few years, but it is still above average to good depending on who you ask. What hasn't declined is his plate discipline, something the Twins are in desperate need of. His .391 OBP last year was his highest since '00 and 2nd highest of his career, so expecting him to repeat that performance might be too optimistic. However, it isn't unreasonable to assume he will finish somewhere near that mark. He'll likely hit #2, as not to offend Shannon Stewart, so him being on base as much as possible will be vital towards the success of the offense.Third Base
Oh dear God! If Castillo was the gift, than Tony Batista was the curse. If Castillo will be the best of times, than Batista will be the worst. Every now and then, even a GM as qualified as Terry Ryan makes a blunder. Batista counts a two. Going into the offseason it was no secret that the Twins weren't real happy with Cuddyer at the hot corner. Rumors swirled about the possibility of acquiring Hank Blalock from the Rangers. As soon as that deal died, Ryan went to Japan to sign Batista. It's almost as if the Japanese are getting us back for dropping a atomic bomb on them 60 years ago. Batista has shown good power over his career. He even hit 41 dingers back in 2006. Unfortunatly, that's the only good I can say of this man. He will suck away innings with his free-swinging ways all en route to a below .300 on-base percentage. I don't see how he is an upgrade form Cuddyer, much less an improvement.Shortstop
Jason Bartlett should get the majority of the at bats form this position with several games going to Punto or some other defensive guy. I'm not convinced that Bartlett is the future for the organization at that position, but he should improve upon last year's numbers. A .270/.330/.355 line looks about right to me.Left Field
Until '05 Stewart ahd been pretty consistant with his production. I'd like to think he will revert to his old ways, but something makes me think he's one of those guys that trails off right after 30. He should raise his OBP form a measly .323, but I don't see him having the same power he has displayed over the past 5 years.Center Field
Assuming Torii is fully recovered from his ankle injury, I expect more gold glove defense, above average power, and a lack of plate discipline. His career numbers .267/.321/.458 won't be much different from his '06 numbers. Although one could hope for a Andruw Jones-like breakout year. Let me dream.Right Field
Newly acquired Rondell White should be the opening day starter until his inevitable injury-at which point Lew Ford will see increased time. White will bring another power bat to the lineup that the team desperatly needs.
With the additions of Castillo, White, and the likely improvement of Morneau and some of the other returnees, the offense should be improved. Although that's not saying much based on their production last year. Throw in the superb pitching staff-which will battle Oakland for best in the AL-and I think the Twins will be right in the thick of things going inot September. The AL Central is much improved from the last few years. It might end up being the most interseting race of all the divisions. As a baseball fan, I'd say Cleveland is the favorite, but I still wouldn't count out the Twins.
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