The claim made often is that, on paper, the Twins look like favorites in the AL central. But that is not only "on paper", it seems to be based on optimistic projections for almost every player in the lineup. Who are the players most likely to disappoint? Here is a semi-pessmistic list of players who could disappoint. Of course injuries and high expectations could make any player a disappointment, but these are players who seem to be most likely to not to quite live up to Twins fans hopes:
JJ Hardy. Almost every evaluation of the Twins has Hardy hitting and fielding the way he did a couple years ago. But last year Hardy really struggled offensively and there are reports his defense has slipped as he has matured. He no longer has the range to be a plus at shortstop. Even Hardy's lose season averages last year may be optimistic, inflated by one hot month. If he continues to struggle the Twins will have a huge hole at shortstop.
Delmon Young: The Twins outfield looks solid, but it depends on Delmon Young hitting the way he ended the season, not the way he started out. That is a reasonable hope, but again until Young shows he can use his potential over a full season it is not a certainty. If he doesn't, with Gomez gone there are not a lot of options available to fill the hole. We may see Kubel in left and Thome at DH more than we want.
Jim Thome: Thome is old. He faded at the end of last season and didn't do very well in a pinch hit role. Its possible he will not be able to find his swing with irregular playing time for the first time in his career. Its also possible that fade was not a fluke, that pitchers found they could challenge him in ways they avoided to start the year.
Orlando Hudson:. Its not clear whether Hudson slipped and lost his job or if Joe Torre just decided to ride the hot bat in the playoffs. But it is a bit suspicious when an all-star, gold glove defensive infielder is replaced in mid-season no matter how hot the other player's bat. Hudson is slow and his "gold glove" defense may not be what it was. If his OBP slips, the excitement about him in the number two spot in the order could fade to disappointment at a base blogging runner who fails to score even when he gets on base.
Kevin Slowey: Slowey is being counted on to fill a spot in the rotation, but reported his wrist was still sore form his surgery which had two screws put in it. Its possible that will change his delivery or effect his control.
Francisco Liriano The spring hype about Liriano's return to his 2006 form could turn out to be just that and Liriano will struggle the same as last year.
Michael Cuddyer Cuddyer really stepped up when Morneau was hurt. Its not clear he can sustain that over an entire season. He could contribute to a disappointing outfield.
Carl Pavano. Pavano's arrival really transformed the pitching staff last year. Or maybe it didn't, but it coincided with improvement in the rest of the staff. Pavono may not be quite the pitcher some people have projected and he could easily follow a long line of disappointing veterans. He is not really an "inning eater". Instead he is a solid mid to back rotation starter. If he is asked to step up to the number two or three spot in the rotation he may not be up to it.
Joe Nathan Nathan is going to start slipping at some point. This could be the year and the Twins don't really have anyone to take his place.
The rest of the bullpen: The Twins bullpen looks solid, but ... any or all of its members could disappoint. Relief pitching is always high risk and the Twins are counting on a number of players who have had their ups and downs.
Of course there are also some players who could step up and surprise us. If you look at that list there is good reason for Twins fans optimism. Except for Hardy and Young, the downside for most of these players is either unlikely or not catastrophic.