Legends On Deck

How They Were Built: 2015 Minnesota Twins

Starting Pitchers

Phil Hughes – Drafted 23rd overall by the New York Yankees in 2004, Hughes is entering his ninth season in the big leagues.  He showed flashes of brilliance early on in his career in New York, but after injuries and a move to the bullpen things changed a bit.  He signed a 3-year $24 million deal in December of 2013.  After a bounce-back season in 2014 where he went 16-10 with an ERA of 3.52, the Twins wasted no time and signed him to a contract extension that goes through 2019.

Ervin Santana – After failing to find the contract he wanted during last offseason, Santana signed a one-year pact with the Atlanta Braves.  He went 14-10 which was his best record since he won 17 games in 2010.  His performance landed him a four-year $55 million contract with the Twins, with a club option for a fifth year.  Santana has proven his durability during his career and should fit in nicely in Minnesota.

Ricky Nolasco – Nolasco found his way to Minnesota in the winter of 2013, signing a four-year $49 million contract.  He didn’t produce the way the Twins had hoped winning just six games.  He recorded his third highest ERA in his career and in order for Minnesota to improve in the standings, Nolasco will need to improve on the mound.

Kyle Gibson – First round pick of the Twins back in 2009, Gibson made his major league debut in June of 2013.  He made 31 starts last season and posted a record of 13-12 with an ERA of 4.47, with a struggling Twins team.  Gibson would most likely be the team’s fifth starter if Mike Pelfrry were healthy.

Tommy Milone – Milone was acquired by the Twins from the Oakland A’s at the deadline last season for Sam Fuld.  He made just five starts and had a record of 0-1 with an ERA of 7.06.

Bullpen

Glen Perkins (CL)- Starter turned reliever turn closer, Perkins has enjoyed success as career advances.  The Twins drafted him in the first round back in 2004.  He has made two straight All-Star appearances and saved 36 and 34 games the last two seasons.  He signed a four-year $22.175 contact extension which replaced his old contract in March of last year, which also has a club option for the 2018 season.

Casey Fien – Fien is entering his fourth season as a Minnesota Twin after signing a free agent contract on February of 2014.  He and the Twins recently avoided arbitration by agreeing on another one-year deal worth $1.375 million.  He has put up relatively similar numbers the past two seasons appearing in 73 games each year.  He finished 2014 with a record of 5-6 with an ERA of 3.98.

Tim Stauffer – After spending his first nine season of big-league ball in San Diego, Stauffer signed a one-year deal this offseason with the Minnesota Twins.  He can start games if needed but is more serviceable out of the bullpen.  He appeared in 44 games last year with a record of 6-2.

Brian Duensing – Duensing was Minnesota’s third round pick back in the 2005 draft.  He, like Stauffer, has started games in the past but is better served out of the pen.  He made 62 appearances last season and recorded a 3-3 record with an ERA of 3.31.  Duensing is entering his seventh season in the major leagues.

Caleb Thielbar – Another decent left-handed option out of the bullpen for the Twins is Thielbar.  He was originally drafted in the 18th round in 2009 by the Milwaukee Brewers.  He signed a free agent deal in 2011 with the Twins after being released by the Brewers in 2010.  He made his first appearance in May of 2013 and has played in over 100 since.  He holds a record of 5-3 with an ERA of 2.59 in his two big league seasons.

Starting Lineup

Kurt Suzuki (C) – What is the best way to replace a catcher what was converted into a first baseman?  Sign an All-Star.  The Twins signed Suzuki to a one-year deal in December of 2013.  He responded by hitting .288 in 131 games while making his first All-Star appearance.  The Twins and Suzuki agreed on a 2-year extension in July with a vesting option in 2017.  The option will vest if he makes 485 plate appearances in 2016.

Joe Mauer (1B) – It is really hard to believe that Joe Mauer is entering his 12th year in the major leagues.  He was converted to an everyday first baseman last season and did see a dip in his statistics but they were still decent.  He was the first overall pick in the 2001 draft and very well could end up being a member of the Twins for his entire career.  Minnesota signed Mauer to an eight-year $184 million contract extension back in 2010, which at the time was the highest ever for a catcher.  He is a career .319 hitter and has 1,540 hits in his career in 1298 games.  Hard to argue his accomplishments with a MVP award, three Gold Gloves, five Silver Sluggers, and six All-Star appearances.

Brian Dozier (2B) – Dozier was selected in the eighth round of the 2009 draft.  Although his average is a bit low (.242 in 2014) he did hit for power (23 HR) and was able to get himself on base (OBP .345).  Dozier was a player that I suggested to keep an eye on prior to the season starting last year, and still feel the same way.  I think he has the potential to make the All-Star team one of these years as long as he gets the batting average up and maintains the other numbers.

Trevor Plouffe (3B) – Another Twins’ draft pick, Plouffe was drafted in the first round in 2004.  He made his major league debut in 2010.  He played in 136 games in 2014 with a batting average of .258 with 14 home runs and 80 RBI.  Although it isn’t much of an increase, Plouffe has improved every season he has played in the big leagues.  He is possibly just holding the spot down until one of the Twins top prospects (Miguel Sano) is ready which could be sometime this season.

Danny Santana (SS) – The Twins signed Santana as an amateur free agent in 2007.  He made his major league debut last season and really didn’t disappoint.  In 101 games, he hit .319 and registered 119 hits.  He has the ability to play more than just short stop as he split time in center field.  Santana could be moved to the outfield if Jorge Polanco is ready to take over everyday.

Oswaldo Arcia (LF) – Minnesota signed Arcia to an amateur free agent deal in 2007.  He played 100 games in right field last season but will need to be shifted after the Twins signed Torii Hunter.  Arcia saw a dip in his batting average last season from .251 in 2013 to .231 in 2014.

Aaron Hicks (CF) – Minnesota has a relatively deep farm system in terms of outfielders.  Hicks could be the odd man out if he doesn’t improve from his performance in 2014.  In 69 games, Hicks hit .215 but did have an on base percentage of .341.

Torii Hunter (RF) – Coming full circle, Torii Hunter signed a one-year deal returning to the team that drafted him in the first round all the way back in 1993.  Hunter spent 11 seasons in Minnesota before signing a free agent deal with the Los Angeles Angels.  Following his stint in L.A., Hunter became a member of the Detroit Tigers back in 2012.  In what could be his final season in baseball, it is great to see a guy return to where it all started in hopes to bring a title to town.  It will be expected to keep performing the way he has in his career and that is to hit around .280 or higher while hitting 15 or more home runs.

Kennys Vargas (DH) – Slotted in the designated hitter role for now is Kennys Vargas.  This can and will obviously change, but he proved that he can hit big league pitching in his limited playing time last season.  He played in 53 games, hit .274, with nine home runs and 38 RBI.  He can also play fist base which will be good for Mauer for needed rest.

Projected Bench

Josmil Pinto (Catcher) – Prior to signing Suzuki, it appeared as if the catcher position was going to be filled by Pinto.  When he debuted in 2013, he hit .342 in 21 games.  Sure that wasn’t a large enough sample size but it looked like he was going to be the heir apparent to Mauer.  He did struggle in 2014 playing in 57 games hitting just .219.  Pinto signed as an amateur free agent with Minnesota back in 2006.

Eduardo Nunez (Infielder) – Nunez signed as an amateur free agent with the New York Yankees back in 2004.  He was acquired by the Twins in April of 2014 for a minor league player.  He fielded the utility role quite nicely last season playing just about every position.  Nunez is a career .264 hitter, but with his ability to play everywhere in the field he gives Minnesota options.

Jordan Schafer (Outfield) – Drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the third round of 2005, Schafer selected off waiver from the Houston Astros in August of 2014.  He was once looked at as a top prospect in the Braves organization, but hasn’t quite lived up to the billing.  In his 41 games with the Twins last season he did hit .285 which is much higher than his .229 career average.

Eduardo Escobar (Infield/Outfield) – Escobar was signed as an amateur free agent by the Chicago White Sox in 2006.  He was acquired by the Twins in 2012 as part of the Francisco Liriano trade.  In 2014, Escobar also played just about every position, but mainly played short stop.  He hit .275 in 133 games.

John Ginder

Site Co-Founder/Senior Editor and Co-Host at Legends on Deck® The Podcast
In the past John has been a part of such successful sites as MetsMerizedOnline and MetsMinors.net.John was born and raised in upstate New York and has a love of all sports but mainly baseball. He has grown used to heartache with his teams as he roots for the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres too.John has a loving and understanding wife and is the the proud father of two amazing boys.He also loves heavy metal music.

You can also reach out to John at jginder@legendsondeck.com