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Monday, February 25, 2008

Liriano is Legal and Fantasy Preview

Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano obtained his visa today and will arrive in Fort Myers at Twins camp on Wednesday.

A new memorandum that was passed last summer by Secretary of State Condolezza Rice requires those with a DUI misdemeanor to undergo counseling and pass a sobriety test before receiving a visa. This new memorandum has kept Liriano out of Twins camp and will end up delaying the pitcher a full 10 days. Liriano has been working out at the Twins academy in the Dominican Republic while waiting for the visa issues to process. It has been reported that the lefty has looked "strong and healthy" in his pitching sessions in the D.R.

When Liriano arrives he will certainly be watched closely and I believe a healthy Liriano is the difference maker between a good and an average season.


If any MVB readers are into Fantasy Baseball, ESPN did a Minnesota Twins fantasy team preview today. Whether you're optimistic about the '08 Twins or more of a realist about this young squad in arguably baseball's toughest division, the Twins roster does have some solid fantasy contributors.

Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, and Joe Nathan are three players that will make any fantasy team better and are owned in every league. Michael Cuddyer is a solid contributer on many teams, Jason Kubel is regarded as many fantasy "experts" across the internet as a potential sleeper for 2008, and Liriano is the definition of a high-risk/high-reward player. Liriano shouldn't be drafted too early because of his glaring health issues, but should definitely be snatched up at the right time with his potential of posting monster numbers in 2008.

The Twins MVB will be participating in a couple fantasy baseball leagues this year and I will be giving any tips or advice that I can for your own league. I'm certainly no distinguished expert, but I did win the two leagues I participated in 2007 (one internet public league and one with old friends from home). At any point in the year, if interested, please feel free to post questions or comments regarding fantasy baseball.


The Twins rightfield job will belong to Michael Cuddyer in 2008. As of this winter, Twins fans can know that they will be able to watch Cuddyer for at least another 3-years.

Cuddyer's new 3-year deal will provide some stability to a young Twins roster in the lineup and in the dugout. Over the past two years Cuddyer has solidified himself as a consistent contributor for the Twins. In 2007, he hit .276 with 16 HRs and 81 RBIs in 144 games. It was a solid season for Cuddyer, but like every other player on the Twins roster '07 was a dip from Michael's '06 campaign when he hit .284 with 24 HRs and 109 RBIs. This year with a young lineup the Twins are going to need Cuddyer to match those '06 numbers or even improve on them.

Cuddyer brings a great arm in rightfield 19 outfield assists in '07. Manager Ron Gardenhire confirmed yesterday at Spring Training that Cuddyer will remain the rightfielder in 2008 and newcomer Delmon Young will fill the vacancy in left field. It does remain to be seen where Cuddyer will bat in the lineup. Gardenhire also stated on Sunday that he wants to have his MVP Justin Morneau bat in the cleanup spot at No. 4. "Gardy" hinted at the possibility of Joe Mauer batting in the No. 2 spot because of his high on-base percentage. That will leave the No. 3 and No. 5 spot to be filled in by the likes of Michael Cuddyer and Delmon Young. I believe Gardenhire would put Cuddyer in the No. 3 spot, but if it were up to me and Young develops a little more patience at the plate I would put Young as the third hitter.

All of these questions will be answered in the following weeks as practices conclude and Spring Training games begin. One thing is for certain, Michael Cuddyer is an important part of this team and the Twins will need him to hit, field, and lead in 2008.

For proof of Cuddyer already taking a leadership role, check out the new T-shirts Cuddy had made for the team on Saturday.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Third Base

Not only did the Twins sign the shortstop of the Houston Astros, Adam Everett, but a day after they signed Everett they signed the third baseman, Mike Lamb, from the Houston Astros.

Last year in a 3B platoon, Lamb hit .289 with 11 HRs and 40 RBIs in 311 at bats. In the past three seasons the Twins have started the season with a different player at the hot corner (Michael Cuddyer '05, Tony Batista '06, and Nick Punto '07). Simply put, third base has been a problem for the Twins. Cuddyer couldn't field as well as the Twins liked, Punto couldn't hit last year, and well... Tony Batista couldn't really do anything. The hope is that this year Lamb will be a solid combination of the two.

The Twins signed Lamb, 32, to a two-year deal worth $6.6 million and a club option for 2010. So the Twins are certainly investing in Lamb and hoping he will solve their problems in the past at third. Lamb has spent his entire career as a platoon player splitting his time between 1B and 3B. The Twins believe if Lamb has a solidified position day-in and day-out he will only improve on his career averages of .280 with 12 HRs.

I'm not completely convinced on Lamb's ability to be an everyday player, especially since he has shown some vulnerability to facing left-handed pitching. However, I'm ready for the Twins to try this experiment and any move that puts Nick Punto back as a utility player is a good move in my mind. With the infield stocked with options between Punto, Brendan Harris, and Alexi Casilla I feel confident that someone will emerge.

Although I have my doubts, I'm going to go ahead and make big expectations for Lamb in 2008. He is the most prototypical 3B the Twins have had in years. He'll bring a solid bat and an average glove, and with Astros teammate Everett playing along side him I think the infield defense will be just fine.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


This offseason the Twins decided to remake the left side of their infield. Part of this two step process included signing veteran Adam Everett from the Houston Astros.

Everett, 31, has spent his entire seven year career in the Houston Astros organization. Known for his glove and not his bat, Everett hit .232 with 2 homeruns and 15 RBIs in a short 66 game season. The Twins signed Everett to a one-year deal worth $2.8 million to be used as a quick solution at the SS position and to provide defensive stability in the infield which will be appreciated by the young, inexperienced starting rotation.

Everett is arguably the best defensive shortstop in the game and his glove will certainly be welcomed on the quick Metrodome turf. I'm not upset about the Twins bringing Everett in this year, but certainly am not excited about it. He seems to me to be another Nick Punto who plays a little better defense and hits about the same. Sadly, we don't have a solution at SS right now and within the near future there doesn't seem to be a solution in the Minor Leagues unless 2B Alexi Casilla moves back to his original position.

In 2007, injuries plagued Everett to a disappointing season, but at best the Twins can hope he can return to his 2003 numbers when he batted .273 with 8 homeruns, 31 RBIs, and scored 66 runs. For now, I will just have to get excited every time Everett makes a Web Gem type play at shortstop.

Although I may not be extremely excited about Everett, Joe Christensen of the Star Tribune reports that someone is excited.

“I’m really excited,” Everett said. “This has been one of the organizations that’s always talked about and how they put a competitive winning team on the field — year-in, year-out — no matter what the circumstances are. That’s what’s so intriguing. That’s what you want. You want to go to a team that has a chance to win. I’m in a fortunate situation, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Nice article on ESPN.com about the Twins moving on from the losses of Johan Santana and Torii Hunter.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Second Base

As we move across the infield more questions open up for the Twins lineup. After Mauer and Morneau, the starting second baseman for 2008 is a little more uncertain. The candidates for this 2008 campaign include the veteran Nick Punto, the youngster Alexi Casilla, and the newcomer Brendan Harris.

Each player offers their own combination of strengths and weaknesses. Punto is the veteran and has always been a favorite of manager Ron Gardenhire because of his intense approach to the game. Punto brings the best glove of the trio but also the worst bat. Last year, Punto severely struggled batting only .210 with 1 homerun and 25 RBIs.

Casilla has the most potential of the bunch but also needs the most work. The 23-year old hit .222 in 189 at bats last year and at the end of the season was basically handed the starting 2B role. However, he faltered having defensive issues as well as the Twins questioning his motivation and work ethic. The speedster did steal 11 bases in 12 attempts.

The newcomer Harris was brought over in the November trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. Besides the swap of P Matt Garza for OF Delmon Young, the Twins and Rays swapped infielders Jason Bartlett for Brendan Harris. The 27-year old Harris had a solid season last year for the Rays batting .286 with 12 HRs and 59 RBIs in 137. Harris brings the strongest bat of the bunch which is a plus for the Twins weak offense. His glove is average at best, but Harris can play 2B, 3B, and SS which he played last year in Tampa.

I believe on Opening Day, Gardenhire will pencil in Brendan Harris at 2B. I believe the Twins will need Harris' strong bat and because the Twins are going defensive at SS with newcomer Adam Everett (who does not hit well) the Twins will want a little more pop in their infield. Punto will certainly make the team and can be a back up at three positions. He will also offer a veteran presence to a young team and a spark off the bench. My guess is that Casilla may very well be the second baseman by the end of the season, but the Twins feel like he is still rough around the edges and they will want him to play everyday. Thus, Alexi will be starting at AAA Rochester this spring.

I think Harris will be the man, but anyone can win or lose this position battle during Spring Training. So only time will tell.

YOUR OPINION: Who do you want to see as the starting 2B on March 31 in the Metrodome? Check out the poll.

The Star Tribune offers 10 Questions the Twins must answer this spring training.

Friday, February 15, 2008

First Base

The only other position as locked up as Joe Mauer at catcher would have to be Justin Morneau at first base. The nicknamed M&M boys are undoubtedly the leaders and future of this franchise.

Morneau 2007 season was solid considering it is tough to follow up on an MVP season from 2006. The first baseman hit .271 with 31 homeruns and 111 RBIs. Having someone in the lineup to hit 30 HRs and 100 RBIs in back to back seasons is enough to make Morneau one of the best Twins hitters of the past 15 years.

After signing the biggest contract in team history last month, Morneau, like Mauer, is going to be counted on to produce and be both a leader on the field and a leader off the field. His bat is arguably the most important one in the lineup. Some critics feel the new contract is overpaying Morneau considering his career track record, but I think it was important move in many ways. The Twins learned their lesson this offseason losing former stars Johan Santana and Torii Hunter, and signing Justin to a 6-year deal not only shows their committed to keeping their star players but is sends a very needed positive message to Twins fans.

I'm excited to see Justin thrive this season it what I would claim as an improved lineup. Ideally, I'd love to see Morneau stay in his cleanup No. 4 spot in the lineup with new LF Delmon Young batting in front of him at No 3. and RF Michael Cuddyer hitting behind him at No. 5. If we can convince Ron Gardenhire to bat Joe Mauer in the No. 2 spot, we'd have a great lineup of left, right, left, right in Mauer, Young, Morneau, and Cuddyer.

I'm convinced this lineup will score more runs than last year and it must to make up for the youth and inexperience in the rotation. For the first time in many years, we may see some 10-9 and 8-6 Twins victories. If those victories are to pile up and the Twins are to have a winning season Justin Morneau must be a team MVP... and hopefully another AL MVP!

If you're a big Morneau fan check out his own website at www.justinmorneau.com. Random Morneau info, Justin announced this offseason that he is engaged to a "Minnesota girl." Sorry ladies!

YOUR OPINION: If you were manager, where would you bat Morneau in the lineup?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

2008 Team Preview: Catcher

With the roster probably near complete and Twins pitchers and catchers reporting in three short days, I thought I would begin my 2008 Twins Team Preview.

I decided to start behind the plate, with the team's most iconic and now young leader and star, Joe Mauer.

Behind those dark, long sideburns is a very special player. In 2007, in 406 at bats Mauer batted .293 with 7 homeruns and 60 RBIs. But his season like many in his young career was plagued by injuries. Mauer saw action in only 109 games and compared to his batting title season of 2006 last year was considered a bit of a disappointment.

The All-Star catcher suffered a stress facture at the end of spring training, strains to both his left quadriceps, and a left hamstring strain which resulted in a month-long stint on the disabled list.

Being a leader on a young squad, it will be critical for Mauer to be healthy to have his bat in the lineup. Whether he is catching, batting as the DH, or who knows even seeing some time at first base while Justin Morneau DH's the Twins need Mauer to get on base and drive runners in.

As important as Mauer's bat is, with the young rotation in 2008 his glove may be more important. Mauer calls very solid games and his experience will hopefully bring some stability and confidence to the young starters. Mauer truly is an excellent catcher and I understand why Manager Ron Gardenhire wants to keep the young star behind the plate.

There is no doubt Mauer is the new face of the franchise, and in 2008 the Twins will need more than just his pretty face and sideburns.

YOUR OPINION: Do you think Mauer can stay healthy this year and return to his 2006 numbers?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Twins sign veteran Hernandez

Fox Sports.com announced just over 40 minutes ago that the Twins signed veteran pitcher Livan Hernandez today to a one year $5 million deal.

The move is a clear sign of the front office's desire to add a veteran arm that can eat some innings for our current rotation where every pitcher is under 26 years old. Hernandez, 33, pitched for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season posting a record of 11-11 with a 4.93 ERA in 204 innings.

Hernandez is known for his durability and has pitched over 200 innings in seven of his last nine seasons. He has veteran leadership and pitched in two World Series: a 1997 victory with the Florida Marlins and a 2002 defeat with the San Francisco Giants.

Many critics will be upset about the cost of the Hernandez deal and comparisons to the Ponson/Ortiz signings of last offseason will certainly be made, but I personally like the deal. The current rotation is too young and with such little experience I believe too much pressure will be put on the bullpen. Young stud Francisco Liriano cannot be expected to pitch more than 150 innings coming back from Tommy John surgery and our two "experienced" starters Scott Baker and Boof Bonser each have a total of 48 career starts.

Hernandez will offer a strong durable arm to eat innings and will hopefully provide some leadership and guidance to the young starters. I think the Hernandez deal is different from the past flops of Ponson and Ortiz because those two were trying to revitalize their career whereas Hernandez has been consistent. You know what you get with Livan Hernandez. Plus, he ends up being essentially Carlos Silva at 60% the cost.

Here is the initial story leaked by Fox Sports.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Twins join Super Bowl frenzy

If you need any proof as to the direction of the Twins future, look no further than last week's Super Bowl commercials. For the first time ever the Twins joined the madness of the Super Bowl ads and constructed this 30 sec. piece preparing for the new ballpark in 2010. The new leaders and stars of the team Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Michael Cuddyer appear along with one more guest in the end. If you recognize who it is let me know if the comments!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Say it ain't so Santana

Alright MVB readers, I am still alive and I apologize for the long delay. My 10 day long roadtrip with no internet coupled with the fact that I thought if I didn't post about the Johan Santana news maybe it wouldn't come true, leaves me with a very overdue post.

So as everyone knows by now, last Friday, the Twins officially traded ace Johan Santana to the New York Mets when he signed a 6-year extension for $137.5 million. After a Friday, February 1st, 5 pm deadline had passed for the Mets to sign Santana to a deal it took a two hour extenstion for the two sides to agree on a deal.

In return, the Twins received a package of 4 prospects from the Mets: CF Carlos Gomez (22), P Deolis Guerra (18), P Phil Humber (26), and P Kevin Mulvey (22).

I don't need to link you to all the articles reviewing the trade and experts giving their analysis, but many baseball people have deemed the players on the Twins side as undervalue for Santana. Yet, I sympathize with the situation that GM Bill Smith was in. He was caught in between a rock and a hard place, and when it came down to it the New York Mets were really the only team he had left to deal with.

Smith may have overplayed his hand causing the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox to drop out of the race, but in the end it was time for Santana to go. Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire expressed concern over the distraction of bringing Santana back to Spring Training in Fort Myers.

So Santana is gone and the Twins now usher in a new era. I have to admit it would have been nice to see the Yanks' stud pitcher Phil Hughes, the Sox's slick outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, or even top Met prospect Fernando Martinez come over in a deal, but a trade like this will always seem unfair until years down the road. Maybe Santana will dominate in the NL, win multiple Cy Young awards, take a very good team to World Series, and the four prospects will never pan out for the Twins. But also, maybe Santana will have a couple solid seasons and begin to deteriorate as Gomez replaces Torii Hunter, Mulvey and Humber become solid starters in the rotation, and the young Guerra develops into an ace. Who knows???

For a more in-depth description of the Twins new prospects, Minor League Baseball.com offers a good review.

The Santana deal came shortly after the Twins locked up their young stars Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer. This duo along with star Joe Mauer are now the leaders of this very young club. As Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune writes, the Twins are set to contend in their new ballpark in 2010.

A bulk of my blog posts in the past 3 months have been devoted to Santana and the impending trade. If you want a great review of how this deal came to be and all the rumors and teams in between here is the offseason Santana review.

All and all the deal is a tough one to swallow. It is hard to patient and see if these prospects will contribute someday, and it is even harder to see a great player and class act like Santana leave. I'm happy for Santana as he really came out on top. He's making record money, going to a league with a significantly less quality of hitters, moving to a pitcher's ballpark, and to a team with much more run support. At the same time, the Twins organization has a history of succeeding in large prospect heavy deals like this, ex. Chuck Knoblauch to Yankees for Eric Milton, Christian Guzman and the biggest steal ever A.J. Pierzynksi to the Giants for Joe Nathan, Boof Bonser, and that one kid named Francisco Liriano.

Someday we will know how this deals turns out, but until then I think the 2008 Twins will be young, inexperienced, raw, but very fun to watch.

MVB readers... I'd love to hear your take on the deal in the comments section?

Also, stay tuned for a position by position preview of the 2008 Twins as we prepare for Spring Training.