« Pinto's Points

It Begins This Spring

by Dan Gunderson

As Mike McFeely and I get ready to leave for Minnesota Twins Spring Training in Fort Myers, Florida, I compiled a list of five questions that I will be watching to see how the Twins answer in the 2014 season.

This team is coming off back-to-back-to-back 90 loss seasons and a betting man would say they are not going to be turning all of that around in 2014. However, the future is much closer to being the present this season with players like Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano making an appearance in Spring Training.

You also have a position change for an All-Star catcher, the off-season signing of MORE pitching and some familiar faces coming back to the Twins. Should be an interesting, if not exciting, 2014 season for the Twins.

5. Who will start in center field?

The Twins center field position is about as clear as mud currently. Ales Presley, an outfielder the Twins attained in the Justin Morneau trade last season, looks to be the favorite to start in center field at the Major League level. He hit .283 in 28 games for the Twins in 2013.

Hicks couldn't hit last year. Simple as that. He showed flashes of brilliance with his glove but he just never improved after a slow start to the season. Hicks, who is only 24, will get a fair shot at center field but will need to ABSOLUTELY tear the cover off the ball in Spring in order to start over Presley.

Regardless of who starts at center field, they will only be there to keep things warm for the game's top prospect, Byron Buxton, who is projected to be in the majors by 2015.

4. So many pitchers! Are they any good?

So, we have Mike Pelfrey, Vance Worley, Phil Hughes, Ricky Nolasco and on and on and on. Needless to say, the Twins have starting pitchers. The real question is are they going to be any good? The signing of Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco indicates that they will be in the starting roation opening day.

Past that, good luck. Mike Pelfrey is probably going to be your number three starter. Scott Diamond, Samuel Deduno, Vance Worley, Kevin Correia and Kyle Gibson will all battle it out for those last two spots. That does not give you much hope as a Twins fan.

What does are the names Trevor May and Alex Meyer. Both are highly touted pitching prospects for the Twins, and Alex Meyer is currently in the Major League camp. The hope is those two can progress enough this season that Twins fans won't have to hear names like Kevin Correia, Vance Worley and Mike Pelfrey again.

3. Who is catching?

The top two catchers coming into camp for the Twins this season are Josmil Pinto and Kurt Suzuki. Suzuki is the veteran and most likely will be the starting catcher while Pinto should push him for time at catcher. 

These two have some big shoes to fill as All-Star catcher Joe Mauer has moved to first base. The hope for the Twins is that Suzuki is just keeping the spot warm for Pinto, who hit .342 in 21 games in the majors last season.

The Twins weren't quite ready to hand the whole pitching staff over to Pinto, who turns 25 this season. I wouldn't be surprised at Pinto getting a shot early in the season if Suzuki stumbles out of the gates. 

2. Joe Mauer at first base? Joe Mauer at first base.

It is a weird sight to say the least. It is for the best of not only the team but Mauer himself. Mauer should be able to appear in more games, meaning his bat is in the line-up more often, making the Twins line-up better. 

Now, Mauer will be working with Tom Kelly to refine his first base skills but fans should not fret. Mauer is a natural athlete and his limited time spent at first base the past couple seasons have been solid. I don't think players will have a worry throwing over to Mauer at first base.

Will this give the Twins the oppurtunity to win more games? Hard to say but it doesn't hurt to have a career .300 hitter in the line-up an extra 20 games or so a year. The bigger question is will the pitching staff suffer throwing to Pinto or Suzuki? I really don't think it matters with this collection of arms.

1. Will any of the big prospects make the Opening Day roster?

No. Miguel Sano is the only person I can see having a legitimate shot but with the amount of arms at starting pitching, Alex Meyer and Trevor May will start the season in the minors. Byron Buxton is going to be treated with kids gloves by the Twins after the mess that was Hicks last season.

Buxton could hit .750 with 20 bombs, Twins still would probably send him to the minors after spring training. Sano is different just because he has already been hitting Double AA pitching and there is not that much difference between Double AA and Majors when it comes to pitching.

Trevor Plouffe is still the starting third baseman and it would take a awful spring from him, coupled with a torrid spring from Sano, in order for Sano to make the Opening Day roster. Otherwise, the future is still just that, the future.

The Twins are a team on the rebuild but the young guns are starting to peek their heads around the corner, making Twins fans anxious to see what they posses. It will take some time but it truly all begins during this 2014 Spring Training.

You can follow Daniel "Pinto" Gunderson on Twitter at @pintoKFGO or friend him on Facebook. You can hear him on his weekly podcast show on kfgo.com, 740thefan.com or on iTunes called “The Pinto and White Shadow Show.” Pinto is a radio producer within the Midwest Communications-Fargo company.