With the Twins pitching lacking really dominant starters, they are going to need to regularly produce runs to have a chance of winning even when the starters keep them in the game. The Twins start the year with four experienced hitters in their lineup. Mauer, Willingham and Morneau make formidable middle of the lineup. They are followed by Ryan Doumit. Those guys are going to produce some runs, but the Twins will need more than that to be competitive.
The key to the Twins producing even more runs is going to be the production they get from three former first round choices, Aaron Hicks mentioned yesterday in Keys: Up The Middle, Chris Parmelee and Trevor Plouffe. Hicks is the only rookie in that group. But Plouffe and Parmelee are still looking to spend their first full season in the big leagues. Neither one is an outstanding defensive player, so they are going need to show they are productive major league hitters.
Plouffe went on a tear in June last season when he hit 11 home runs. That's a Ruthian pace that no one expects to be repeated for a full season. He got hurt and struggled the last couple months. He needs to come back this year and put up numbers closer to those he had during the middle of last season. Last year was his first playing there regularly and it showed. He needs to demonstrate adequate defense at third base this year no matter how well he hits.
Parmelee tore up the International League while at AAA last year, but was unable to transfer that success to the major leagues with irregular playing time. Nonetheless, the Twins handed him the right field job in the off-season. He is probably more suited to first base than the outfield. But he appears to be an adequate fielder. He just needs to hit.
The Twins lineup goes from adequate to dangerous if Plouffe and Parmelee play up to the potential they had when drafted. There aren't many teams that have a guy hitting eighth with the pop Plouffe showed hitting 24 home runs last year in only 465 plate appearances. These two are key components of an offense that needs to compensate for a mediocre starting rotation.