Twins Preview: Starting Infield

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By David Palmer

I’m going to give you the position-by-position breakdown of where the Twins are at this spring regarding their starting infield.  It includes some new faces, some old faces and some killer sideburns thanks to Joe Mauer.  This team should get the most consistent offensive and defensive consistency from this position group.

In case you missed it, I broke down the Twins starting rotation last week right here.

Without further ado, I give you Justin Morneau.  The 2008 Canadian Athlete of the Year.  Not the best baseball player, the best athlete.   That means he beat out 90% of the NHL (including Crosby), Steve Nash, Mike Weir, and, well, that’s about it.  Anytime you can beat out hockey players in Canada at anything is a good thing.  Anyway, Morneau is the team’s first baseman and premier player, and if anything happens to him, we’re basically screwed.  He had 129 RBI last season, but it seemed more like 1,109.  I swear he drove in two-thirds of our runs.  The great thing about Morneau is that he wants to even get better.  He has publicly taken more of a leadership role, and transformed himself into a Gold Glove caliber first baseman.  He is also the only Twin that I can reliably say will hit more than 20 home runs this year.  I feel comforted by the fact that he is our first baseman for the foreseeable future.

After a solid rookie year last season, Alexi Casilla will be holding down second base and likely the second spot in the batting order also.  I’m a little skeptical about what his production at the plate will be this year.  He was red hot after being called up in June, but slowly cooled off as the scouting reports caught up to him.  Now that opposing teams have nearly 400 at-bats to look at from last year, he is looking like a possible candidate for the dreaded sophomore slump.  The upside is that he has tremendous range in the field and is a switch hitter, but still has a tendency to boot easy plays (ala Christian Guzman).  Hopefully, he can make the necessary adjustments and remain an offensive contributor.

The second half of our double play combination is shortstop Nick Punto, or “Nicky” as Gardenhire affectionately calls him, or “Bitch” as I like to call him.  I really have no idea what we are going to get out of him this season.  He might have the widest range of possibilities of any Twin this year.  He could hit .210 and play below average defense with a few Web Gems mixed in, or he could hit .290, score 85 runs, and cause chaos on the bases, while playing a Gold Glove shortstop.  All I really know is that Gardy has a total man-crush on Punto and will give him every chance to succeed.  Rumor has it, in this economy, the Twins put a clause into his new contact that says he has to do his own dry-cleaning from getting so many jerseys dirty the last couple of years.  He likes diving.  I think he’s found a way to get grass stains from Astroturf.   In all seriousness, his best asset is working pitchers.  Really, that’s about all he does well.  He goes to the plate with the mindset of fouling off as many balls as possible.  Not getting a hit, just slowly wearing a pitcher down.  Basically, he’s the anti-Delmon Young.  Hopefully he can justify his new 2-year $8.5 million deal.

I want to thank the White Sox organization and Kenny Williams for not re-signing Joe Crede.  Thanks to them, he is now our third baseman.  His back issues have been much discussed recently, but in my mind, it is a great pick-up even if he never gets one at-bat.  He was a notorious Twin killer.  In 40 AB against us last year he had 16 hits, 5 doubles, 7 home runs and 17 RBI.  Read that statline again.  Yeah, that says seven dingers.  Take that away from the Sox and we’re the ones hoisting a Division Champion banner in the rafters this April.  It will be interesting to see if Crede can live up to expectations at the plate.  With the pressure of staying healthy, playing for a new team, being the “power guy” from the right side and adjusting to the turf, I see a slow start out of the gate for him.  With that said, I still think he gives our team a little extra swagger.  Just knowing we took him from the Sox adds to the growing confidence of this group of guys.

Joe Mauer is the guy on the team that every girl wants to sleep with and every guy wants to be like.  He’s the quiet, unassuming, good-looking, hometown hero.  He was a high school player of the year in both football (as a stud QB) and baseball his senior season.  He’s a pretty decent athlete.  Joe is coming off his second AL batting title in three years.  I don’t think he’ll ever be the twenty plus homerun hitter that scouts thought he could become, but I’m okay with that if he can keep a .420 on base %, and play Gold Glove defense. Back inflammation has bothered him ever since his (since removed) kidney obstruction.  Hopefully he should be ready by the opener, or shortly thereafter, because he is a crucial cog in the machine.

I like where we’re at with this current group of infielders, and all of them should get a lot of at-bats to prove they belong.   And if Mauer isn’t healthy we can at least look forward to more Mike Redmond face time and nothing more.

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Comments

  1. paulmbanks says

    I have a feeling Crede is more damaged goods that any of us really know…or maybe we’re hoping

  2. Charley Davis says

    It is going to kill me to see Joe-Joe the late inning hero win games for the twinkies.

  3. Matt Stairs says

    I put Canadian baseball players on the map… Screw Morneau!!!

  4. Nick Punto has to be the worst starting shortstop in baseball, right?

  5. David Palmer says

    By far, maybe the worst starting player period in baseball.

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