2015 Fantasy Outlooks: Minnesota Twins

Brian Dozier

The Minnesota Twins are coming off a disappointing year in terms of results in 2014 but there were definite positives for a club whose eyes are firmly on the future. The continued emergence of Brian Dozier as a top end second base option as well as the decent showing from Kennys Vargas has set the platform for what could be a transitional 2015 that could set the Twins up for long term AL Central dominance given there exciting prospect they have waiting in the farm. In the offseason they added some big league experience in Ervin Santana and Tommy Hunter and but while Santana is a definite addition looking forward Hunter strikes me as more of a veteran to mentor the young talent that may start to filter through this season. The other key offseason move was signing Phil Hughes up to a three year extension through 2019 and while it feels like the Twins are heading in the right direction it is still unlikely there will be many huge fantasy performances from their roster in 2015.

Hitting

Predicted Line-up (courtesy of www.rosterresource.com)

  1. Danny Santana, SS
  2. Brian Dozier, 2B
  3. Joe Mauer, 1B
  4. Kennys Vargas, DH (vs RH), Josmil Pinto, DH (vs LH)
  5. Torii Hunter, OF
  6. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
  7. Oswaldo Arcia, OF
  8. Kurt Suzuki, C
  9. Aaron Hicks, OF

Build or Bust?: Brian Dozier, 2B

To question whether Dozier’s production last year is real may be unfair on him given that is has now been a season and a half of solid fantasy output from him after a decent end to 2013 was followed by elite production last season. The scary thing with Dozier is the combination of low batting average and high strikeout rate but then you can counter that by saying he is one of very few 20/20 guys in the league right now. His batting position means he should have the potential for 90+ runs with 70ish RBI and his ability to belt the ball out of the park and steal bases means he is a real all round contributor when he isn’t striking out. The danger is if the strikeouts start rising and the production begins to wain there is a stacked minor league system that could render him useless. I have split my chances on Dozier keeping him in one league and trading him away for general depth in another and that sums up how I am looking at him. I have no problem owning him at the right price but I am not going all in on him in 2015 and I am happy to sell high on him just in case the last season and a half have been a mirage.

Breakout part II?: Danny Santana, SS

Santana had an interesting 2014 where he flashed brilliance at times and then looked ordinary the following week. As we entered draft season I feared he was going to be overvalued in drafts but right now he is going in the 14th round as the 10th SS drafted (ADP is from fantasypros.com) and now he is looking like a bargain. Batting at the top of the order means that not only does he not help you in home runs but his RBI potential is also greatly diminished and that does hurt his value. However, he does offer the potential for 90+ runs and 30 steals and that is still valuable especially if you stacked up on power early in the draft. Personally I would take Santana over both Rollins and Zobrist and I would consider him in the Andrus region of value (10th round) so getting him in the 14th is a value I would be happy with for my starting SS.

Fading Star: Joe Mauer, 1B

Personally I have little to no interest in Mauer even with him going as the 34th first baseman in a really late round because I want my first baseman to provide me with power even if it doesn’t quite come at the same average that Mauer will offer (Ryan Howard is too much of a power sacrifice). What Mauer offers is roughly a 0.290 average with a decent amount of runs and RBI (65-80} but there is no chance of double digit steals and a slim chance of double digit power. If we heard Mauer was going to catch enough to be eligible there his value would rise at least 5 rounds but due to injuries that isn’t going to happen (he didn’t catch once in 2014 after having done it 75 times in 2013). I would rather have Napoli, Morse and Lind who are all going below him right now.

Late Round Power: Oswaldo Arcia, OF

For someone who was a hitter for average in the minors Arcia has undergone a massive change in the majors. Currently he is a power hitter whose average is barely useful but in the 18th+ round a 25+ homer guy is a very valuable commodity. Now he has settled into a major league role there is a chance we could see some increase in the average but that could come at the loss of some power. Batting 7th means there should be plenty of RBI opportunities and there is a chance he may even move up the order if the average comes up and the power remains. An interesting upside gamble late in drafts.

Solid but Unspectacular: Torii Hunter, OF

Torii Hunter is intriguing for me entering 2015 because I think he offers you solid production across four categories (he offers nothing in steals) but he isn’t so good at anyone thing to be worth massive investment. The fact you can get him almost 100 picks after Brett Gardner probably says more about Gardner being over valued than anything but I see them having similar value (Gardner offers more in steals and runs but less in the other three categories).  Honestly I think Hunter’s value is about right but personally I would probably rather wait a round or two and gamble on the upside of someone like Travis Snider or Anthony Gose. That doesn’t mean I don’t like Hunter it’s just I like upside in my 6th/7th/bench outfielder over solid steady production with limited upside.

Late Round Power: Kennys Vargas, DH

Roster resource have Vargas in a platoon with Pinto but I think he can shrug that challenge off this spring and I could see him having 550+ AB’s between DH and 1B this season. If that is the case then you are looking at a 20+ homer run guy who can be got late in drafts with the potential to possibly hit 30 homers if he gets hot. There is the potential that extra power this season could be traded off with a loss of average but I think he is a little more balanced than a Chris Carter type. Batting 4th means we should see plenty of runs and RBI to go with a decent average and the previously mentioned power. The big issue to his value is he starts the season only eligible at DH and it will take a while if he does gain more eligibility. However, if he produces like he can then you won’t mind having him taking up your utility spot all season. At his current value there is a fair chance I will own Vargas in every roto league I am in this season.

Any Other Business?

  • Trevor Plouffe, 3B: He falls right on the verge of mixed league relevance and there is no real why he is missing out on being drafted. He can offer 15+ homers with decent run and RBI totals at a 0.260 average. If he gets hot he is worth a pick up but beware long term value with Sano waiting in the wings.

Catcher is a frustrating position for the Twins because the hitting upside is with Pinto but the catching ability is all with Suzuki, who is just relevant in two catcher leagues, meaning that there is lost value at the position. If Pinto could learn to catch better there is 20 homer upside but he has yet to manage to learn and it is unlikely he improves enough to kick Suzuki out of his job this spring. As for Hicks you cannot help but feel he is just holding an outfield place at best and it is likely he will be replaced pretty quickly especially if Escobar beats out Santana at SS.

Pitching

Projected Rotation:

  1. Phil Hughes 12
  2. Ervin Santana 21
  3. Ricky Nolasco
  4. Kyle Gibson
  5. Tommy Milone

Similar to the hitting there is no fantasy superstar in the Twins rotation but there is one much underrated commodity in Phil Hughes. After years of mediocrity Hughes broke out in massive style in 2014 thanks to his move to Target Field. The home run rate came down and he walked just 16 batters all season! Now that total has to rise in 2015 but even with it I still see Hughes being a #3 pitcher for most staffs this year and I severely regret letting him slide out of my reach in one league already this year and trading him away in another dynasty league last year. Hughes will never be an ace for fantasy but there is #2 potential with a solid #3 being the most likely outcome. If you can grab him in the 12th round of a 12 team league you have got a #3 at #4 price which doesn’t sound like great value but fantasy is all about marginal gains.

As for the rest of the rotation only Santana is draftable in most leagues and even then he is a real late round pick. The issue with Santana for me is he always threatens to have a great year and then it just falls flat and disappoints his owners. There is so much available pitching that is similar this year that not drafting Santana is unlikely to be the thing you look back on at the end of year and curse as a massive mistake and that probably tells you everything you need to know.

Projected Bullpen

CL: Glen Perkins

SU: Casey Fien

SU: Michael Tonkin

MR: Caleb Thielbar

MR: Tim Stauffer

MR: Brian Duensing

LR: JR Graham

The only person I felt was a threat to Perkins last year has been released so the job is his as long as he doesn’t make an absolute meal of it. His limiting factor is more the quality of the rest of the team and whether he will get enough saves opportunities to be anything more than a top 15 RP for you. Perkins is unlikely to be an elite closer in any category and even a K/9 of 9.5 isn’t that impressive anymore so I wouldn’t be looking at Perkins as a number 1 closer unless I am strategically avoiding closers until the mid to late rounds.

Prospect Report

  • Miguel Sano, 3B: Sano’s value is hugely linked to Plouffe’s performances this year but how the team does will also affect him. If Plouffe is competent and the team is winning then Sano may not get called up until September but if the team bombs or Plouffe is struggling then we could see Sano by mid-season. There is power upside but that will likely come at a cost of average.
  • Jorge Polanco, SS: Between Danny Santana, Eduardo Escobar and Eduardo Nunez there is a lot that needs to go right for Polanco for him to get a short in the middle infield for Minnesota. Chances are Santana and Dozier are going to lock the middle infield up this season and we may not see Polanco once. However, I do expect he will be up at some point but that will probably not be until September meaning he is likely to be relevant late if at all this year.
  • Eddie Rosario, OF: I would expect that the Twins will do some reshuffling before they call on Rosario and even if the reshuffling fails they may turn to Buxton first if he is having a good year. Rosario is unlucky that he plays the same position as Buxton and it may be he has to move to a corner outfield spot to get some time for the Twins going forward. Un likely to be highly fantasy relevant this year but is someone for the radar given the weak outfield for the Twins in 2014.
  • Byron Buxton, OF: There is so much hype it’s hard not to just want to draft and hope the talent comes through but and it is a big but. He suffered a couple of injuries last year that derailed his progress and therefore has only played one game above high A. That is an obvious issue when looking at his single season value and means that he is at best a late rounder in redraft leagues. There is obvious speed upside if he does get an opportunity but it isn’t something I am chasing in the draft if I may have to wait until after the all-star break for the rewards.
  • Alex Meyer, SP: The news he is not going to the bullpen is great for owners of him in dynasty leagues but it also means he has limited value in 2015 unless he can win the 5th spot in the rotation. Right now I don’t think he will and therefore he is not someone who should be considered in drafts but he is worth monitoring for a potential in season pick-up/streaming.

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