Yesterday did an analysis of Twins starting pitching last year and its prospects for improvement next season if nothing is done over the off-season. While starting pitching was the Twins' biggest weakness last year, their position players' performance was also not really championship quality either. The first step to correcting that is to look at the players they have and whether there is room for internal improvement.
Joe Mauer started 72 games at catcher, Ryan Doumit 56 and Drew Butera 32. Mauer was clearly the best hitter in that group and his defense is more than adequate. Doumit is a below average defensive catcher who made up for that with his offense. Butera continued to be an offensively challenged player, who has to make up for it with his defense. If Mauer can sustain his offensive production and stay healthy while catching over 100 games next year, it would be a clear improvement on 2012. Butera is eligible for arbitration and the Twins will need to decide how much they are willing to pay him as a third catcher.
Justin Morneau started 99 games at first, Chris Parmelee 31 and Joe Mauer 30. Morneau started out slow as he worked past lingering effects from his concussion. He was playing regularly in the last half of the season and his production was getting back to what we had come to expect. If he starts more games and his production goes back to the MVP levels he showed before his concussion it would be a huge boost to the Twins offense. A better performance from Morneau is probably the Twins biggest opportunity for improvement next year.
Alexi Casilla started 83 game at second, Jamey Carroll 64. Carroll's offense fell off a notch last year. He is 38 and there is probably not much reason to think he will improve. Casilla is harder to judge. It seems like he has been around forever, but he was still only 27 last year and had a down year offensively. Casilla is very good defensively. Like Butera, Casilla is eligible for arbitration and may or may not be back. If he is back, Casilla could improve offensively and hold down the job as an everyday second baseman. That would make the Twins better offensively and defensively.
Brian Dozier started 81 games at shortstop, Pedro Florimon started 42 and Jamey Carroll 36. Carroll did not really have the range to play shortstop. Dozier struggled both offensively and defensively. Pedro Florimon was by far the best defender, but his bat is suspect. While its hard to see the Twins being much worse at shortstop next year. If Florimon gets most of the starts, it will be an improvement on Dozier's defense and his offense won't likely be much worse than Dozier's was. Dozier could also hold the job by improving on both offense and defense.
The Twins also picked up Eduardo Escobar as part of the Liriano trade. Its not clear where he fits into the middle infield picture or what he brings to the table. Its possible he could step up the Twins game at either second or shortstop if other players don't improve.
Trevor Plouffe started 93 games at third, Danny Valencia started 33 and Jamey Carroll started 30. Carroll is solid defensivelly, but his bat really doesn't product enough for third base. Valencia was terrible offensively and defensively. Plouffe needs to show he can be at least adequate defensively. Its not clear the Twins thought he had reached that level by the end of last season. If he can win the job and comes close to the offensive production he showed as a regular last year the Twins will be much better at third base.
Josh Willingham started 118 games in left, Ryan Doumit 16 and Darin Mastoianni 10. Neither Willingham nor Doumit will win any gold gloves. But Willingham was the Twins MVP last year based on his offense. Its hard to see real opportunities for improvement here except defensively. And that would depend on Willingham and Doumit getting their at bats elsewhere. Its doubtful Willingham will be as productive next year, so this is the one position where some decline might be expected from 2012.
Denard Span started 122 games in center field and Ben Revere 34. Span's offense dropped off a bit last year and he played fewer games than usual. Revere was a solid replacement, but Span playing everyday at his previous levels would be at least a slight improvement.
Ben Revere started 79 games, Darin Mastroianni 27 and Chris Parmelee 16. There are several possible places for improvement here. Revere is a young player who should show some improvement as he gets more experience. Even at last year's levels, if he plays more games in right field there will be some improvement over Mastroianni and Parmelee. Parmelee could also break through at the major league level. He is defensively challenged in right field, but his bat has the potential to be special. If he does get starts in right, he should be more productive than last year. This is a position where the Twins have every right to expect improvement.
Doumit, Mauer, Morneau and Willingham had most of the at bats at DH last year. They will likely share the at bats next year with only the percentages changing. Chris Parmelee could take some at bats. But that is likely to happen only when one of those other four is out of the lineup. There aren't really many opportunities for improvement here.
From those descriptions, you can see why the Twins are looking to add some options in the middle infield. Terry Ryan has said he is also looking for competition for Trevor Plouffe at third base. And the Twins will need to make some decisions on Casilla and Butera. Even if they refuse them arbitration, they need to decide whether to try to re-sign them as free agents.
This analysis shows potential for improvement at most positions and very few where you would anticipate them being worse next year. The Twins "auditioned" a lot of players at different positions last year. By the end of the season they seemed to have found some answers. Applying those answers for a full season can be expected to bring some significant improvement regardless of what moves they make in the off-season.