1. With just under 50 games remaining in the Twins season and sitting a full 10 games back of the AL Central leading Detroit Tigers, in your opinion, can this Minnesota ballclub put together a miraculous final two months and make a run at the division?
Short Answer: No. Long Answer: The Twins are every pitcher’s favorite team to face. Everyone who faces this line up looks like an All-Star. The Twins don’t have the chemistry in the clubhouse, or the familiarity on the field to rely on one another for another magical late season push. The Twins are now 114 games into the season and only 2 guys have played more than 80 games. Matt Tolbert and Luke Hughes have both played more games in 2011 than Denard Span, Jim Thome, Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Yeah, a utility guy and a guy that started the season in Triple-A (Rochester, NY) have both played more games than 50% of the Twins’ opening day position players. That is not the way to prepare for a late season come back. If the Twins go 34-14 to finish the season they’ll just barely make it to 85 wins, which probably won’t be good enough to win the Central. So no, the Twins will not put together another late season rally.
2. Should this team decide they are too far back in the standings, what players if any, do you see this organization looking at dealing in the next few weeks via the waiver wire?
I don’t know if this team is thinking about moving anyone, as evidenced by the non-waiver deadline. If they move anyone, I’d look for the Twins to possibly move veteran right-hander Carl Pavano, or perhaps the disgruntled Kevin Slowey (who is currently biding his time in Triple-A while the rest of the Twins’ rotation bursts into flames). I think the Twins would like to move Jim Thome, but as he chases 600 career HRs he remains as one of the only bright spots in the Twins’ lineup. The Twins will probably look to move an outfielder (Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Denard Span, Ben Revere, and Jason Repko are all on the 25 man roster, and with a couple of guys in the Minor League pipeline, this herd needs to be thinned), but they seem unwilling to accept anything other than stud prospects and viable middle relief help. Might be too high of a price for any of these guys.
3. How did Twins fans accept the lack of moves the organization made at the trading deadline?
I would not characterize the feeling in Twins Territory as one of acceptance, but rather, disbelief. As I noted above, the Twins’ outfield is full of players, several in contract years, exactly the kind of players the Twins should have been looking to move to prepare for 2012 and beyond. If the Twins were not willing to move any of the MLB talent at the deadline, then they should have been looking for bullpen help to shore up one of the Twins’ biggest weaknesses through the first 2/3 of the season. In retrospect, it seems that the Twins’ starting pitching and lack of hitting has really let them down since the all-star break, and the Twins were definitely not looking for upgrades at those two positions, so any buying the Twins could have done would have been for naught.
4. What’s been the biggest reason for a subpar season thus far for the Twins?
Injuries have been a big part of the Minnesota Twins’ problems this season, much like the Red Sox of 2010. But on top of that, the Twins are not hitting the ball well. If this team was hitting anywhere close to average they might still be within striking distance of the Detroit Tigers. Joe Mauer, who missed nearly a third of the season, is not hitting the ball like the Joe Mauer that Twins fans expected heading into 2011, and while he’s played better recently he still has just 1 HR, tied with Triple-A veteran Rene Rivera and outpaced by defensive specialist Drew Butera, both of whom are enjoying .264 slugging percentages. So when you’re injured, and you have half of your Triple-A roster filling the holes, and you just came back from 2 weeks on the DL, you’re not going to hit well, just isn’t happening. Throw in what might be the Twins’ worst defensive season in the last decade, wildly inconsistent efforts from the starting pitchers, and an unreliable bullpen and you end up 12 games below .500 with 48 games to go.
5. Joe Mauer is a rare talent and a cornerstone player to build a franchise around. With that being said, when, if at all should the Twins move Mauer from behind home plate to help salvage his body from the wear and tear the catching position takes on a player?
If Joe Mauer has it his way he’s going to be catching for the rest of his career. Twins fans would love that to be true, but the reality of the situation is that he’s going to have to move, and sooner rather than later if his legs and knees are still giving him serious trouble in 2012. This year Mauer has played a handfull of games at first base, and about the same number at DH, keeping his bat in the line-up when his body needs a day off. There has been recent talk about Joe Mauer moving to third base as well, where his value as a hitter and defender would both play well. Position player Rene Rivera will probably be back to give the Twins 3 catchers, and Luke Hughes will be back to provide infield depth. Chris Parmelee has a chance too.
6. Who do the Twins have in the minor leagues that you expect them to call up before September to get a good hard look at?
It is hard to say who the Twins might bring up in September that has not already been up this season as an injury fill in. From the pitching core the two leading candidates to make the team during the 2011 season were Kyle Gibson and Alex Wimmers. Gibson and Triple-A teammate Anthony Swarzak flew to Minnesota on Friday to have their elbows examined by team doctors, which is never good news. Alex Wimmers, on the other hand, started the season with a severe case of the yips, walking 6 straight batters, and has just recently returned to regular Minor Leage action, so I do not think he will be getting a call either. Scott Diamon, Jim Hoey, and Chuck James will probably all be back for September, but they’ve been up already in 2011 with limited success. Chris Parmelee has a chance to come up as a Double-A slugger, and it’s possible that the Twins bring back Rene Tosoni to have a speed guy available off the bench to pinch run for Jim Thome. With the exception of Parmelee, all of these guys have already been up in 2011, so Twins fans have already seen a glimpse of a good chunk of their Minor League talent.