Friday, February 27, 2009

Spring Cleaning

It feels a bit strange referring to the current point in time as "spring" considering we just had several inches of snow dumped on us up here in Minnesota, but down in Florida spring training is definitely underway and the Twins have gotten their Grapefruit League schedule off to a good start with wins over the Red Sox and Reds. Today, we'll wrap up the week with some notes on various Twins-related topics...

* Yesterday's 10-4 win over the Reds was highlighted by an eighth-inning grand slam off the bat of first baseman Brock Peterson. Peterson is a player who I've always found be underrated as a prospect, and he's a guy I recently touted as a candidate to surprise people this spring. A .269/.349/.435 career minor-league line from a 25-year-old first baseman is far from impressive, and it's discouraging that his numbers took a dive last year in his second turn at Double-A, but Peterson is one of the few hitters in the Twins organization with power from the right side of the plate. If he can make some strides this year, Peterson could battle for a role as a backup first baseman and part-time DH on the big-league roster in 2010.

* If the first two games of spring training are any indication, the tales of Brian Buscher's added muscle mass were not exaggerated. Buscher started the spring opener at third base and got the nod yesterday at first, and through five at-bats he's already racked up four hits, including a double and a home run. Five spring at-bats don't really mean anything, but we'll take whatever flashes of power we can get from a guy who's managed just 16 extra-base hits in 338 major-league plate appearances. If Buscher wants to stick with the Twins as a bench option or succeed as a semi-regular third baseman in the event that Joe Crede gets hurt or proves ineffective, adding more power will be a top priority along with ironing out his defense.

* The hits just keep on coming. On the same day Twins fans learned that Boof Bonser would be gone for the season, they also learned that the team has reportedly ended their pursuit of the top setup option on the market, Juan Cruz. I never expected the Twins to make a serious play for Cruz in the first place and was somewhat surprised to hear that they actually made a move on him, but these reports sound about right to me. Of course, in a chat on the Star Tribune Web site yesterday beat writer Joe Christensen answered a question about whether the Twins might resume their pursuit of Cruz by noting, "Their ambivalence has me believing they still have a trade up their sleeve. I realize that's probably just my imagination." Hey, maybe not. After all, the Twins were reported to be at an "impasse" with Crede just before they signed him.

I suspect we'll be hearing Chad Cordero's name mentioned often in the coming weeks...

* Baseball Think Factory recently released their annual ZiPS projections for the Twins, which can be viewed here. I'm one of the least interested people you'll find when it comes to these projection systems, which is why you'll rarely see me refer to them here, but they can be somewhat interesting to look over.

These projections expect many of the team's prominent hitters -- Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel, Delmon Young -- to more or less repeat their performances from a year ago, with Michael Cuddyer returning to a level of production close to 2007. ZiPS sees Denard Span taking a significant step back (.270/.337/.369) and Carlos Gomez failing to take a step forward. I'd tend to disagree with both of those projections, as well as the projection for Scott Baker (10-9, 4.27 ERA). Crede is projected to hit .250/.303/.416 while playing in just 92 games, which undoubtedly disgusts many of the Crede-backers out there but isn't particularly unfair.