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Minnesota Twins have the pieces to become a contender

After three very disappointing seasons for the Minnesota Twins, the club is looking to get back to relevancy in the AL Central. They have many areas where they need to improve greatly, and it all starts with the starting rotation.

The Twins starting pitchers combined for a 5.26 ERA in 2013, which was by far the worst in the majors. They tried to bolster the rotation last offseason by bringing in Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey through free agency, and acquiring Vance Worley in a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies. Correia came to Minnesota after spending the previous two seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and he led the staff in pretty much every category. He had a team high nine wins along with a 4.16 ERA in 31 starts accumulating 185 1/3 innings and 101 strikeouts. Mike Pelfrey came over after pitching his first seven seasons with the New York Mets. Coming off Tommy John surgery in early 2012, the Twins took a flier on Pelfrey to see what he could do in Minnesota. He finished the 2013 season with a 5-13 record and a 5.19 ERA along with 101 strikeouts in 152 2/3 innings. Worley as mentioned earlier was acquired in a trade that sent outfielder Ben Revere to the Phillies for Worley and pitcher Trevor May. Vance had a disastrous first season in a Twins uniform. In 10 starts, Worley went 1-5 with a 7.21 ERA giving up an astounding 43 runs in 48 2/3 innings while striking out only 25 batters. He was the Opening Day starter for Minnesota, demoted to Triple-A Rochester in late May after giving up 8 runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Atlanta Braves. Worley never made it back to the big leagues, but figures to be a part of the 2014 rotation plans for the Twins.

General manager Terry Ryan has made it known that the Twins will try to get quality starting pitchers to help improve the porous rotation. The club has taken a step forward in that pursuit. In the last few weeks, they have added free agent starters Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco. Hughes signed a three-year contract totaling twenty four million dollars with the Twins after spending his previous seven seasons with the New York Yankees. While struggling in his final season in New York, a change of scenery should do Hughes well without all the constant pressure and high expectations of pitching for the Yankees. Nolasco signed the biggest free agent contract in team history, a four-year, forty eight million dollar contract with a fifth year option. Ricky started the season with the Miami Marlins before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers before the trading deadline in late July. He pitched just under 200 innings combined between both teams, along with a 13-11 with a 3.70 ERA and 165 strikeouts. Both pitchers should pitch around 200 innings and be the workhorses for the rotation.

To counter the disappointment, the Twins may have the best farm system in baseball right now and quite a few prospects are about ready to see what they can do to help the big league club. When you talk about prospects and the Twins, you have to start with Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. Buxton is widely considered the best prospect in the minor leagues and is what scouts call a five-tool player. He was drafted as the second overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft out of Appling County High School in Baxley, Georgia. Sano was signed as an international free agent in 2009 out of the Dominican Republic. He is known for huge power and could be the third baseman of the future if he can get improve his defense. Sano could make debut in the major leagues sometime in 2014, and Buxton is projected to make his debut in 2015.

On the pitching side, the Twins feel like they have some potential future front line starters acquired through trades and the draft. Alex Meyer is perhaps the headliner. He was sent to the Twins from the Washington Nationals in exchange for outfielder Denard Span. Meyer spent last season at Double-A New Britain and had a 4-3 record in 13 starts with a 3.21 ERA in 70 innings pitched. Meyer should open next season at Triple-A Rochester, and he could make his MLB debut sometime in 2014.  As mentioned earlier, the Twins received Trevor May in the trade that sent Vance Worley and May to Minnesota for Ben Revere. May went 9-9 with a 4.51 ERA in 151 2/3 innings with 159 strikeouts. May also could open his 2014 campaign at Triple-A Rochester next season with the possibility of making it to the big show next season.

The Twins have many also areas on the major league that could possibly use an upgrade. They made the announcement that they will move Joe Mauer permanently from catcher to first base next season. Mauer dealt with a concussion after being stricken by a foul tip while catching late last season, and he did not return to playing after that. They have in-house options with Josmil Pinto and Ryan Doumit that could catch, but they still might test the market for a veteran guy to give Pinto, a rookie, more time to improve himself defensively. The outfield also could become a big question mark. Josh Willingham is not the long-term answer there, and Doumit might be relegated to the outfield if he doesn’t become the starting catcher. Guys like Oswaldo Arcia and Aaron Hicks are better long-term guys, and there could lie the possibility of guys like Willingham and Doumit being traded. Throw Buxton in that conversation as well, and there could be a logjam of outfielders in the organization within the next couple of years. Overall, this Twins team has a bright future with a very talented groups of new faces ready to help the Twins become contenders for many more years to come.