Aaron Gleeman from The Hardball Times and AaronGleeman.com joined Dan Scotto, Matt Kizner and myself for a Twins roundtable discussion this weekend. If you've never been to THT, its worth the visit everytime.
Dan Scotto: Mauer and Morneau have been fairly insane with the bats in the early going, but, outside of Jacque Jones, there's very little production elsewhere. Is this going to be a long term thing for the Twins? Is there any danger in relying so heavily on the two kids?
Aaron Gleeman: Funny, I was planning to write about this very thing on my blog Monday. The offense has essentially been Mauer-Morneau-Jones so far, and that is surprising considering the other good bats the team has. Lew Ford, Shannon Stewart, Torii Hunter ... all guys hitting quite a bit under their norms. Michael Cuddyer is down because of his horrible start, but he's killing the ball so far in May. But yeah, I do think Morneau and Jones are hitting over their heads right now, so someone is going to have to get on track from the rest of the lineup at some point. As for Mauer, I see no reason why he can't keep hitting like this.
Marc Normandin. I'm worried about Jacque Jones reverting to his past self, but that could be negated if Hunter or Ford picked up their production.
Aaron Gleeman: Ford will either start hitting soon or be out of the lineup. And yeah, I'm not buying into Jones suddenly being a .400 OBP guy.
Marc Normandin: I actually had Jacque Jones as one of my outfielders on my Baseball Prospectus HACKING MASS squad, and his fast start hurt my standings. He is already falling fast though, and my place in the standings is much improved. You think the Twins would deal Jones at the deadline while his stock is high...or atleast high for him?
Dan Scotto: Jones has never had an OBP above .341 and he's not a young guy anymore. So yeah, the jump seems like a hot streak
Aaron Gleeman: He is being more patient at the plate, there's no doubt about that, but I don't see him keeping it up all year.
Matt Kizner: I don't think there is any danger on relying heavily on 2 kids when these 2 kids are among the best prospects to break into the majors in the past decade.
Aaron Gleeman: Yeah, I agree with that.
Matt Kizner: Mauer is quite obviously going to be a great 280-300 power hitter, and morneau strikes me as the Pujols of the future, with more power and a little less average. And I'm inclined to agree with you Aaron, he's being more patient at the plate, but I think it's just a streak, it's outside the norm for him, to be honest, I think he's playing for his job right now, and that might be helping.
Aaron Gleeman: Pujols is still pretty young ... he might be the Pujols of the future himself. :-)
Matt Kizner: Touche'
Dan Scotto: I could go with that
Marc Normandin: Considering Pujols could realistically be a top 10 hitter of all-time when he retires, I would be happy with Morneau at half or a quarter of that.
Matt Kizner: I was just thinking of a first basemen to equate him to...Morneau has 300-40-100 all over him for years to come. And in reality, with Santana supposedly the best pitcher in the game, Radke pitching way above his curve, and Carlos Silva not being a detriment, the time is now for the Twins to step up and try and take that title, the early
WolfGSexy: playoff experience for kids like Mauer and Morneau will pay big dividends in the future.
Aaron Gleeman: Yeah, I've said before that I think this is the best Twins team since at least 1991.
Matt Kizner: I know the Indians aren't hitting this year, but i'd be worried about them sneaking up on me eventually (and much sooner than later) if I'm the Twins. Agreed.
Marc Normandin: I would love to see them deal Jones at the deadline if Ford can pick up his production
Aaron Gleeman: I don't think they will. I doubt they would ever head down the stretch with Ford in RF and LeCroy at DH.
Dan Scotto: I think that Jones will be a FA after the season... anyone know what type of draft picks they'd be getting if they hung onto him?
Aaron Gleeman: He is a FA, yeah. I'm not sure about the picks. They'd have to offer him arbitration to get anything, and that might be risky.
Marc Normandin: He'd probably end up taking it. Unless Jim Bowden could overpay for him or something.
Matt Kizner: I'm with Marc on this.
Dan Scotto: I always get the feeling that someone will overpay for him just based on his reputation.
Matt Kizner: Jones is a FA at the end of the year, he needs to be dealt while they can get something for him. Ford's the future anyhow, time to put up or shut up
Aaron Gleeman: I dunno, Ford is already 28. Jones is only 30. Jason Kubel is the eventual future RF.
Marc Normandin: Thanks for saying the age, I was going over 27and 28 in my head for Ford. We wouldn't be having this discussion if Kubel had not hurt his knee.
Matt Kizner: I'm still taking Ford for the consistency and bat..obviously Kubel is the future..so do you use Ford as a patch, and get something for Jones while you can, or do you sign him and waste me?
Marc Normandin: .256/.318/.487 against lefties this year; .235/.287/.340 for his career (Jones)
Matt Kizner: I'm thinking Jones turns into a pitcher or another bat down the stretch if I'm the GM of the Twins..Jim Bowden might be willing to overpay 2 or 3x his value
Aaron Gleeman: I would absolutely let Jones leave as a FA. I'm just not sure that they can deal him.
Marc Normandin: I'm not sure he is that dumb Matt.
Aaron Gleeman: Can from the sense that they don't have another good bat.
Matt Kizner: Cristian Guzman much Marc? Matt Kizner: Jones is still a good bat...I can't see a team in borderline contention not wanting his bat and glove, but i guess your right, it's all hypothetical.
Marc Normandin: Plus he doesn't overpay for people, the reason he is disliked is because he tries to squeeze every last drop of "screw you" out of a trade with the other teams. Signings, well there you got something. Aaron - whats your opinon on Brent Abernathy?
Aaron Gleeman: He's in the same league as Punto and Rivas. Good at AAA, borderline acceptable at MLB.
Matt Kizner: and the best fantasy option ever!
Marc Normandin: Aaron, we have a running Brent Abernathy joke in my fantasy league, and we were hoping he'd make the roster over Rivas this year. Back from his Tampa days.
Matt Kizner: If he makes the team it's required last years winner picks him up.
Aaron Gleeman: No chance. They didn't even call him up when they sent Bartlett down this week.
Marc Normandin: I was hoping his minor league numbers had something to them and he could start over Castro. I was pretty harsh on the Castro signing when it happened, calling it an absolute waste of resources or atleast something akin to that. Removing Bartlett from the lineup made me a little angrier.
Aaron Gleeman: It was a strange signing, mostly because he's being paid a lot for a no-hit infielder and it's a two-year deal.
Dan Scotto: Bartlett's been slumping a ton of late, though.
Marc Normandin: Bartlett slumping is Castro on fire though..220 SecAvg for Bartlett by the way. So even sabermetrics can't help there
Aaron Gleeman: Bartlett was hitting .227/.346/.364 this month when they sent him down.
Matt Kizner With the sox streaking this year, and the Indians eventually heating up (they can't not hit forever) what do you all think the twins need to do to make this year the year? A lot of ESPN people picked the Twinkies..they had to see something.
Aaron Gleeman: I think they'll win 90+ games and make the playoffs, as usual. As for what happens after that, who knows.
Dan Scotto: I'd still put the twins as the division favorite
Dan Scotto: I liked the indians a lot this year, but it's not looking too good for them, and the white sox are winning on a lot of unsustainably good pitching, imo
Aaron Gleeman: Yeah, I liked Cleveland too.
Matt Kizner: So what do you think they need to do to sure things up Aaron? What's the one move that seals the deal and makes a World Series possible?
Marc Normandin: I'll publicly apologize to Aaron Gleeman as the Twins representative and say I picked the Indians to beat out the Twins by a game or so. I don't see the White Sox keeping pace, which brings me to my question about when you think they will fade and the Twins can take control
Aaron Gleeman: heh
Matt Kizner: Ditto, but as with teams who have young hitting, they are streaky
Aaron Gleeman: The best addition the Twins could make would be to add another good SP. The White Sox have too many wins to fade too much, it'll be close all year.
Matt Kizner: Post all star break cooldown..Garland and Buehrle can't pitch above their 100th percentile PECOTA projections forever. Podsednik will even out, and last I checked I saw konerko hitting 212. And eventually, Hermanson might give up a run
Dan Scotto: 30-12 is a really, really hot start... even if they play .500 ball the rest of the way, they're like 90-72.
Marc Normandin: Yeah, the White Sox are the 2003 Royals, I'll say it for the 50th time. .500 ball the rest of the way keeps them in contention.
Aaron Gleeman: Yeah, I've seen a lot of White Sox fans saying "All we have to do is play .500 for the rest of the year to win 90 games."
Aaron Gleeman: The problem is that I don't think 90 games will beat the Twins.
Dan Scotto: So the Twins will need to win at least 91 or 92 games to win the division, and that's assuming that the white sox only go .500. It's conceivable that they play a few over. So I don't think that there will be a point where they "take control".
Marc Normandin: I agree. Who has more games left against KC? There is your division winner. Just kidding of course.
Aaron Gleeman: Right. Even if Chicago slumps, the Twins would have to go on an amazing run to take control of the division. I think the Twins can win 95
Marc Normandin: I can see that happening as long as everyone stays healthy.
Matt Kizner: Well, the Twins big question mark now is Santana, who has looked very unacelike as of late. ERA jumped a whole point over the last 2 starts
Aaron Gleeman: Yeah, he's had two bad starts in a row.
Dan Scotto: It's going to be a dogfight. I'll call the Santana struggles just coincidental. There was such a stretch of good starts that he was eventually due for a couple of bad ones. I can't see 100 wins from the twins, so i doubt that we're looking at that kind of run
Matt Kizner: Only division I see being tighter than the AL Central is the AL East.
Marc Normandin: Does anyone besides me think Carlos Silva is due to explode one day? And not in the good way like a hitter.
Matt Kizner: Very soon Marc. He's playing way above his head. But really, he's overdue..sometime soon he's going to be out against a streaking Yankees or Red Sox, and he's going to be beaten like a red headed step child.
Aaron Gleeman: Explode in a Bartolo Colon sense, or a pitching sense?
Marc Normandin: Ha, I meant in a pitching sense. The numbers of groundballs he induces amaze me. The reason I ask is I was forced to watch Derek Lowe for so long I get nervous about some GB guys.
Aaron Gleeman: I don't see that, although certainly a lot of people have been saying it. He hasn't gotten particularly lucky when it comes to BIPBA or anything. Silva is now 25-11 with a 3.95 ERA in 426.1 career innings.
Dan Scotto: he's also very economical... lowest P/IP in the bigs, I think. He's walked only 2 guys in 52 innings, assuming that's not a typo. I like silva a lot, but he can't keep up that kind of control.
Marc Normandin: Ok, so he has enough other things going for him, and the Twins defense is good enough that he should be alright?
Aaron Gleeman: Yeah. He doesn't give up a lot of homers, he doesn't walk anyone, and he gets lots of DPs from the grounders. He walked 35 batters in 203 innings last year.
Dan Scotto: He's got excellent control, but not as good as its been. Ao i say that he'll probably see his ERA go up a bit. But i think he's a good pitcher.
Aaron Gleeman: Yeah, I don't think he'll keep it in the low 3.00s for much longer. But he's not a fluke.
Dan Scotto: No; and that was a really, really good deal for the Twins.
Marc Normandin: Well score one for the Twins. How about Kyle Lohse? We're seeing the real one aren't we?
Aaron Gleeman: I'm getting tired of Kyle Lohse. He has really taken steps back from where he was 2-3 years ago. And Scott Baker is 2-1 with a 1.70 ERA in seven starts at Triple-A.
Matt Kizner: Yes, Lohse is going down, in a hurry..insert the snoopy red baron music here. Maybe Kyle Lohse should take some tips from Juan Rincon and try the juice..it's not like he could get worse from it.
Marc Normandin: Hey no steroids jokes, I'm tired of hearing about them from ESPN
Matt Kizner: Mine was tactful, and my name's not skip bayless
Aaron Gleeman: Well, it didn't really help Jorge Toca any.
Marc Normandin: Alex Sanchez on the other hand....
Dan Scotto: Power surging there.
Marc Normandin: Is there any help in the Twins minor leagues? Scott Baker at pitcher, as you mentioned. And Kubel when he comes back from injury. When is Kubel due back?
Aaron Gleeman: Not a lot. Baker will be up soon, but after that the next wave is a year or two away. Right. Baker, Kubel, a Single-A third baseman named Matt Moses. Kubel is going to miss the entire year, so 2006 is the best-case scenario.
Marc Normandin: Who did they get from the Nomar/Minky deal, anyone of consequence?
Aaron Gleeman: They got a SP from the Cubs, but he's been hurt and ineffective. Justin Jones...I was blanking on his name.
Marc Normandin: I see the Twins outlasting everyone in the divison for the next few years it seems; I thought the Indians might have a chance this year, and the White Sox do not worry me in the least. I actually see them refusing to acknowledge their fluke of a hot start and continuing with the same sort of roster in 2006.
Matt Kizner: The Indians can turn it around if Martinez Haffner, and Broussard (who is heating up) start hitting. And Aaron Boone stops hitting 190..but that's a different roundtable.
Aaron Gleeman: This division, as always, is very winnable now and for the near future. With Santana, Morneau, and Mauer it shouldn't be that tough to piece together 88-92 wins every year.
Dan Scotto: The Twins are well-built for future competition, more so than the others
I like the Indians a lot, but they don't have the pitching that Minnesota does.
Marc Normandin: How long do you see Radke maintaining his effectiveness? I was hopeful the Sox could steal him, but I like Clement too.
Matt Kizner: Maybe it's because I have him in fantasy baseball, but I see him holding it all year.
Aaron Gleeman: Hopefully at least one more year, since he'll be a FA after 2006. But I don't think he's slowed down at all yet. If he were left-handed Radke could probably pitch until he was 50, like Mulholland.
Marc Normandin: Terry Mulholland, 62 years young.
Once again, thanks to Aaron Gleeman for helping out with this discussion!