GameChat – Astros @ Twins, 7:05pm

The Twins welcome the Astros to Target Field for the first time as American League opponents. The Twins haven’t won a baseball game for almost a week, so don’t expect a lot tonight, but against the worst team in baseball, a little something would be nice.

Oh, sorry, I’m a little negative today.

Anywhoo, the sun is shining and it is a beautiful day in Minnesota, exactly the kind of day that makes Target Field a great place to take in a ball game.

Aaron Hicks will be replaced in centerfield by Clete Thomas, and I while that doesn’t seem great, it is an offensive upgrade.

Go Twins!

Astros

@

Twins
Villar, SS Dozier, 2B
Elmore, 2B Mauer, C
Castro, Ja, DH Morneau, 1B
Wallace, 1B Doumit, RF
Corporan, C Arcia, LF
Krauss, RF Plouffe, 3B
Dominguez, 3B Colabello, DH
Barnes, B, CF Thomas, C, CF
Grossman, LF Florimon, SS
  Cosart, P   Deduno, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 R H E
Houston 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 3 7 1
Minnesota 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 4 11 0

Ok, so I missed MUCH of this game since I ran off to the bar to see my little brother’s band play… BUT they did have it on at the bar so I was able to see things here and there and check score every once in awhile – I just couldn’t hear rulings or WHY things were done certain ways..  so I was pretty lost – and then heard the bottom of the 13th on the way home from the bar.

Can I tell you that I wasn’t any less confused at all!?!?!? I had to go read the play-by-play!!! (It didn’t help) How on earth are we in the position that we’re grabbing starting pitchers (admittedly former NL guys) as pinch hitters when it’s ONLY the 13th?!?!! Yes, I know that is still a lot of extra innings but come on guys, it’s not like we never do that. I definitely missed some things and yeah, I feel like there was some poor roster management in there as part of it. I would very much appreciate any comments you guys can add to help explain wtf happened.

All THAT being said, it sure made for a DRAMATIC ending! I have a feeling that if we had LOST after all that, I would be pretty damn crabby this morning.. seriously.. losing to the Astros is nothing to sneeze at especially when it looks like things got very loosey-goosey down the stretch. But all that being said, I’ll take a win. And THANK YOU to Dozier for finally ending it! For that, he gets today’s BOD!

Dozier at bat

Talk to Contact – Episode 47: The Sexy Mustache Episode

Episode 47 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

povano

Top Google Image Search Result for “sexy baseball fans Twins Minnesota mustache”

For the first time in many moons Cody takes a break and Paul and Eric are forced to go it alone. We talk about Aaron Hick’s demotion to AAA, whether or not the Twins are “rebuilding” and who the winners and losers were at the trade deadline. Adam (AJ) Pettersen is this week’s minor league prospect profile; will he ever get a cup of coffee in the big leagues? Google image search black holes, good summer beers and lots more on this week’s episode of the Talk to Contact podcast.

Enjoy 67 minutes of fun.

 

Talk to Contact Episode 44: Minor Leauge Caps

Episode 44 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

This week Cody and Eric get down on a bunch of Twins news from the past week+, including a mediocre Kyle Gibson, roster transactions, a surging Aaron Hicks and a slumping EVERYONE else.

285__8487983

Down on the Pond is about the Twins’ recent #1 draft pick Kohl Stewart.  After that Cody and Eric talk beer, baseball, and the news.

76 minutes of unmitigated baseball talk.

 

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan.  You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.  And of course, you can find me on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read my writing at Knuckleballs!

– ERolfPleiss

GameChat – Twins @ Brewers #2, 7:10pm

It really does feel like we play a LOT more inter-league play with this schedule but I think it’s just one of those thing that is more because of timing than actual game count.. maybe. I lose track.

So Mauer is back in the 3-hole – IMHO, FINALLY! – and it seems to be one of those things that has the twitter fandom in an uproar. I guess that everyone has their opinion but your best hitter on the team REALLY shouldn’t be your 2-hole guy. I know there is a lot of disagreement on that point.. y’all are just wrong. ;)

Let’s hope Scotty can put the Brewers away tonight and go deep into the game. I would like to start having a reason to send that 13th pitcher back down…

Minnesota

@

Milwaukee
Carroll, 3B Aoki, RF
Dozier, 2B Segura, SS
Mauer, C Braun, LF
Willingham, LF Ramirez, Ar, 3B
Morneau, 1B Gomez, C, CF
Doumit, RF Lucroy, C
Hicks, CF Weeks, R, 2B
Florimon, SS Betancourt, Y, 1B
Diamond, P Fiers, P

 

 

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

R

H

E

Minnesota

0

2

0

2

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

6

8

0

Milwaukee

0

0

0

3

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

5

13

1

yeah, I don’t know about you but I didn’t make it until the end…

I gave up when Perkins lost the save. I had this horrible feeling it was going to take awhile to fix. It did.. Thank GOD for Aaron Hicks finally getting something out there. Since there was only one person left in the chat by that point – she gets the sole BOD vote and she said Hicks. I can’t even argue that point! So there it is, congrats Mr. Hicks!

AaronHicks

GameChat – White Sox @ TWINS, 7:10 pm

It’s always fun to look at the AL Central Division standings and see the White Sox below the Twins and that’s what those standings show right now. Our guys are 2 1/2 games in front of the visiting South Siders.

Of course, that also means that if the Twins don’t take care of business in this three-game series, they could just as easily be looking up at the White Sox (and everyone else in the Division) by the time the series wraps up Wednesday.

The flip side, if you care to be a “glass half full” kind of fan, is that the Twins are also just 2 1/2 games out of first place in the Division, so sweeping the Sox out of town could also certainly improve their spot in the standings.

If anyone saw any of the game Sunday night between Chicago and the Angels, you’ll join me in also celebrating the fact that the Twins will not be facing pitcher Chris Sale this series. He was literally almost unhittable last night, giving up just a Mike Trout ground ball single up the middle.

Meanwhile, it appears Aaron Hicks and Pedro Florimon are over their respective owies enough to return to the Twins line up. Whether that’s a good thing or not, I’ll leave up to each of you to decide for yourselves.

WHITE SOX

@

TWINS
De Aza, CF Dozier, 2B
Ramirez, Al, SS Mauer, C
Rios, RF Willingham, LF
Viciedo, DH Morneau, 1B
Dunn, A, 1B Doumit, DH
Keppinger, 3B Plouffe, 3B
Wells, C, LF Arcia, RF
Flowers, C Hicks, CF
Greene, 2B Florimon, SS
_  Santiago, H, P Hernandez, P, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Baltimore 2 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 6 11 0
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 8 1

If there’s one thing more fun than watching the Twins beat the White Sox 10-3, it’s watching the Twins beat the White Sox 10-3 and listening to Hawk Harrelson explain why it’s happening (the Sox “gave” the Twins 7 of their 10 runs).

Tonight was hopefully Aaron Hicks’ breakout performance. He hit two home runs and stole a home run from Adam Dunn by snaring the ball as it sailed over the center field wall. He even got a curtain call from the fans after his second dinger. It really was great to see Hicks smile out there on the field. Let’s home this helped cleanse him of some of the tension he had to be feeling after his struggles thus far and we’ll start seeing more of this kind of thing going forward.

There were plenty of other solid performances from the Twins, including solid pitching from all involved and a fine night at the plate from Justin Morneau, but there can be only one choice as our BOD. That would be you, Mr. Hick. Keep up the good work!

AaronHicks

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 32

Episode 32 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

itunes pic

This week Cody and Eric forge ahead without Paul who is now out to sea with the United States Coast Guard.  The two of them talked about the first place Minnesota Twins, surprisingly decent starting pitching, and the hitter (Justin Morneau) and pitcher (Kevin Correia) of the week.  After a quick run down of Twins news from the first week of games Eric and Cody are joined by Andrew Walter, the Twins Fan from Afar.  Following a quick break Cody and Eric go Down on the Pond, talk about beer, and take a look around the league.  Join us for an enjoyable 90 minutes of Twins talk.

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes (ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which help Wilkin Ramirez get playing time).

You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.
You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan.  And of course, you can find me on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read my writing here at Knuckleballs!

– ERolfPleiss

The Two Week Warning

You may not have realized it by looking out your window at the new snow this morning, but the Twins’ Opening Day is just two weeks from today. That means it’s probably time to start taking a more serious look at how the team is rounding in to shape in Fort Myers.

Although Spring Training has officially been in gear for about a month, it’s usually pretty pointless to pay a lot of attention to individual performances during the first couple of weeks of Grapefruit League games. Veteran hitters are just shaking the rust off and working on specific things, such as hitting to this or that specific field or hitting particular pitches. Established pitchers use each early outing as an opportunity to refine deliveries or work on specific pitches. Results are of secondary concern.

But as the team gets down to it’s final dozen games or so, the hitters start wanting more plate appearances in the games and the pitchers start using all their pitches as they focus more on getting outs. We should also see with some level of certainty how the starting pitching spots are firming up as the Twins adjust their rotation so that they have pitchers lined up they way they want to open the season. Their final 10 Spring Training games will start this Thursday against the Yankees.

It’s a good thing, too, that we can conveniently discount performances up to this point, because a lot of those performances have been less than awe-inspring thus far. If you were inclined to predict the season’s outcome based on  the first few weeks of Spring Training results, it would be pretty difficult to find cause to believe the 2013 Twins will be much better than last season’s version.

While it’s encouraging to see Justin Morneau looking like his former MVP-level self and Aaron Hicks looking like a legitimate Major League centerfielder in the making, every fan has known all along that it’s the pitching rotation that had to improve significantly if the Twins are to have a chance to show significantly improved results this summer and there hasn’t been too much to get excited about in that area yet.

With Scott Diamond certain to start the season on the Disabled List, there are two rotation spots up for grabs among several of the Twins’ young arms. Kyle Gibson was expected to contend for a spot, but he’s already been sent across the parking lot to minor league camp, so he’ll be starting his season in Rochester. Liam Hendriks is another contender, but he’s struggled in most of his appearances. Hitters have averaged .295 against him and have hit him up four home runs in his 15 innings of work. His WHIP is a lackluster 1.40.

But here’s the kicker… Hendriks arguably has had a better spring, statistically speaking, than any of the three “locks” for Twins rotation spots, Vance Worley, Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey. Those three haven’t been as prone to giving up gopher balls as Hendriks, but through the past weekend, hitters are batting better than .300 against each of them and Worley’s 1.83 WHIP is the best of the trio.

Cole DeVries (Photo: Hannah Foslein - Getty Images

Cole DeVries (Photo: Hannah Foslein – Getty Images

On the other hand, if you want to look for encouraging signs for the Twins among their starting pitching corps, you can take a look in the direction of Cole DeVries. DeVries has only thrown 10 innings in his three starts, but he’s not giving up many hits (.121 batting average against), has not given up any home runs, has a tidy little 0.70 WHIP and, if you’re in to small sample size ERAs, he’s sporting a 0.90 in that category, too. Of course, “small sample size” caveats apply to all stat lines at this point.

Another rotation candidate that’s been at least moderately impressive is a guy who has only thrown one inning for the Twins this spring, Samuel Deduno. While he hasn’t been in camp for the past couple of weeks, Deduno has been getting work in the rotation for the Dominican Republic’s entry in the World Baseball Classic, where he’s had some success. In fact, he was the starting (and winning) pitcher for the Dominicans in their victory over Team USA last week.

Because Deduno is not on the Twins’ 40-man roster at this point, the team would have to make a roster move to keep him when they move north to start the season. Since they hope to have Diamond available by mid-April, it’s quite possible they’ll only need their initial fifth starter for one game before Diamond is activated. That being the case, Hendriks should still be considered the leading candidate for that spot.

So here’s what the rotation seems to be setting up to look like, to my eyes:

Opening Day starter: Vance Worley (started Sunday, will likely start again Friday and have his last Spring Training Start Wednesday, March 27… five days before Opening Day)

#2 starter: Kevin Correia (starting today, leaving remaining starts March 23 and 28)

#3 starter: Mike Pelfrey

#4 starter Cole DeVries

#5 starter: Liam Hendriks (may only be needed for one start, March 7, before Diamond is activated in mid-April)

That’s all pure speculation on my part, of course. The point is merely that, with two weeks remaining before the scheduled Opening Day, now is when these pitchers need to start showing me something more than they have already… something to make me believe they’ll make up a better rotation than the disaster we saw on the mound last season.

– JC

Do Twins Have Any Answers Yet?

We are about at what could be considered the half-way point of the Twins’ Spring Training, believe it or not. We’re hitting that point a little early this spring because of the way the World Baseball Classic has caused an elongation of the process. But regardless of how we got here, with all of the question marks the Twins had when pitchers and catchers reported to Ft. Myers, it’s as good a time as any to check in to see if any of those questions are any closer to being answered.

Will the Twins rotation be better?

Of course, the smart-ass answer to that is that it could hardly be worse than it was last season, so it almost has to be better. But based on early appearances, the “real” answer is also, “yes, it will be better.” Of course, it’s way too early to predict how much better.

Scott Diamond

Scott Diamond

With Scott Diamond as yet untested in games, all we’ve really been able to see are the newly acquired pitchers (Vance Worley, Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia) and the young pitchers trying to translate minor league success in to Major League careers (Liam Hendriks and Kyle Gibson). To be fair, holdovers from last season such as Cole DeVries and Sam Deduno also have to be considered in the mix, but unless those guys show something that makes everyone believe they’ve significantly improved, the fact remains that if they’re part of the Twins rotation for a significant part of the season, it probably means the answer to this question is that the rotation has not improved enough to make a real difference in the Twins short-term fortunes.

The good news is that, on balance, the leading candidates for rotation spots have not looked too bad in their first few outings. Worley looks like what we expected him to be, a legitimate mid-rotation arm. Pelfrey isn’t yet hitting his normal pre-Tommy John surgery velocity, but he hasn’t had any sort of medical setback that we feared he might have given his accelerated rehab schedule. Corriea missed a little time to be with his wife for the birth of their new son and showed some rust in his first game back on Thursday, but he hasn’t been getting rocked the way you might have expected if you believed all the harpoons directed toward him by writers and fans since signing with the Twins. Finally, both Hendriks and Gibson have had ups and downs but have generally demonstrated why they’re considered legitimate rotation options to start the season with the Twins.

Scott Diamond is scheduled to get his first Spring Training start on March 18 so we may not know until the final week of camp whether he’ll be ready for the Opening Day roster. That said, if the Twins had to open the season with a rotation of Worley, Pelfrey, Correia, Hendriks and Gibson, I could live with that and feel somewhat confident that said rotation would lead to better results than we saw in 2012, despite the obvious shortcoming of being without a lefty until Diamond returns.

Who’s going to be the centerfielder?

The Twins entered Spring Training telling us that three players would compete for the CF job… their 4th outfielder from 2012, Darin Mastroianni, and two young outfield prospects trying to make the Opening Day roster for the first time, Aaron Hicks and Joe Benson. 

Aaron Hicks

Aaron Hicks

The competition going in seemed set up in a way that made job Hicks’ to lose. He’s definitely the player with the highest ceiling and it was just a matter of whether he would prove to the decision-makers that he’s ready for prime time, despite never playing an inning of AAA baseball. If he failed to impress, Mastroanni was likely to get the job, by default. Benson’s only real shot to win the job would be if Hicks and Mastroianni both failed miserably and/or don’t survive Spring Training healthy.

Thus far, it’s been all about Aaron Hicks. He already has three home runs after leading off both Wednesday’s game against Puerto Rico’s WBC team and Thursday’s game against the Phillies with home runs. The former wasn’t “official,” of course, since it came in an exhibition game, but the latter came against Cliff Lee.

UPDATE: Almost before I could get this article posted, Hicks hit ANOTHER home run in that Phillies game Thursday afternoon. At this rate, he’s going to screw up his chances to open the season as the Twins’ leadoff hitter by showing too much power. That said, two words of caution for Twins fans who might be tempted to read too much in to Spring Training power displays: “Luke Hughes”.

UPDATED UPDATE: Hicks has hit a THIRD home run in that Phillies game. Just… wow.

There’s still a lot of games to play before Opening Day and it wouldn’t be unheard of for a rookie to start hot and then begin tightening up at the end of the spring as the pressure of knowing he’s really playing for a spot in a Major League starting line up hits him. Still, you definitely have to say that Hicks has grabbed hold of this opportunity with both hands.

Who’s going to get the middle infield jobs?

It was generally assumed that three of the four infielders competing for middle infield spots would move north with the Twins, while one headed for Rochester. However, while Brian Dozier and Pedro Florimon appear to be the early leaders in the race for starting positions at 2B and SS, respectively, it is now looking like both Jamey Carroll and Eduardo Escobar could stick, as well. Carroll brings a veteran presence along with the versatility to play multiple positions. Escobar, though, has been impressing coaches with his glove and, it turns out, could serve as an “emergency” catcher. His bat, frankly, may not be much more of a threat than Drew Butera’s, but he would provide much greater utility around the field than Butera would. This decision could come down to the wire in late March, so stay tuned.

In the end, none of the questions have truly been answered yet, but we can definitely see the roster starting to take shape. The first round of roster cuts could be announced almost any time, now that the minor league camp has opened up and pitchers are starting to get stretched out to four innings or so. Still, with several players still participating in WBC games, there will continue to be plenty of opportunities for young players to impress someone.

For now, the two most important things Twins fans need to hope for are (1) that the potential rotation members continue to improve as Spring Training rolls on, and (2) that Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau return from the WBC healthy.

– JC

Twins Prospect Rankings

As far as I can tell, thanks to Baseball Prospectus and FantasyRundown.com, these are the Twins prospects that appeared SOMEWHERE on a prospect ranking list. *

FIRST LAST POS
Oswaldo Arcia OF
Luke Bard RHP
Joe Benson OF
J.O. Berrios RHP
Byron Buxton OF
J.T. Chargois RHP
Kyle Gibson RHP
Deolis Guerra RHP
Carlos Gutierrez RHP
Chris Herrmann C
Aaron Hicks OF
Max Kepler-Rozycki OF
Trevor May RHP
Mason Melotakis LHP
Alex Meyer RHP
Levi Michael 2B
Angel Morales OF
Jeremias Pineda OF
Tyler Robertson LHP
Eddie Rosario OF
Miguel Sano 3B
Daniel Santana SS
Alex Wimmers RHP

That is a list of 23 players, I would feel comfortable considering these the 23 best Twins prospects in the Twins system.  Of these 23 players, six appear more frequently on lists, and higher up on lists, than any of the others: Oswaldo Arcia, Byron Buxton, Kyle Gibson, Aaron Hicks, Alex Meyer, and Miguel Sano.  No real surprise there, these are the six players that both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus included in their recent Top 100 (101 for BP) lists.  Paul and I talked about those players at some length in the recent episode of Talk to Contact, and compared where each of those two sites had the players listed.  If you have a copy of Seth Stoh’s Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2013 you can find several additional prospect lists in there.  Again, the same six names generally top those prospect lists in some order, with Buxton and Sano at the top, and the other four usually clumped together.

The other names on the list, I think, then are much more interesting, as they are less likely to have drool all over them from prospect hungry Twins fans looking toward the not-to-distant future when the Twins might not be terrible again.  Of the 17 other players included on FantasyRundown.com’s list, the most recognizable names are probably Trevor May, Eddie Rosario, J.O. Berios, and Max Kepler.  Those four players will usually round out the Top 10 lists for most Twins prospects, and in fact, in the Top 15 Twins Prospect list that Fangraphs released yesterday, three of those four appeared in their top 10.  Trevor May was the one on the outside (12), and in his place in the top 10 was middle infielder Jorge Polanco, who is not even listed above, and has yet to play full-season baseball for the Twins.  Eventually the list over at BP will be updated and the Fangraphs rankings will be included and not only will Jorge Polanco be added, but Travis Harrison, a promising third basemen who also has yet to play full-season ball will be on the list as well.

Get to know some of the names on this list, they’ll be a big part of the Twins future, and when you get tired of watching the Twins lose in 2013, you can follow these players through the Minor Leagues.

*The following prospect lists were used in compiling the list of Twins prospects listed above: 

Baseball America – Long-term Rankings
SeedlingstoStars.com – Long-term Rankings
Scout.com – Long-term Rankings
TopProspectAlert.com – Long-term Rankings
BaseballProspectus.com – Long-term Rankings
FanGraphs.com – Long-term Rankings
ScoutingBook.com – Long-term Rankings updated as of 02/06/13
ProjectProspect.com – Long-term Rankings
BaseballInstinct.com – Long-term Rankings
ESPN.com’s Keith Law – Long-term Rankings
Prospect361.com – Long-term Rankings
TheBaseballHaven.MLBlogs.com – Long-term Rankings
BullpenBanter.com – Long-term Rankings
MLB.com – Long-term Rankings
DeepLeagues.com – Long-term Rankings
ThroughtheFenceBaseball.com – Long-term Rankings
TheDynastyGuru.com – Top 150 Dynasty Lge Fantasy Prospects
Prospect361.com – Top 100 Longterm Fantasy Prospects
CBSSports.com – Top 100 Longterm Fantasy Prospects
ProjectProspect.com – Longterm Fantasy Rankings
Rotoprofessor.com – 2013 Fantasy Prospects
Razzball.com – 2013 Fantasy Prospects

 

Who will be the Twins’ Opening Day Starter?

With the Twins likely done making moves this winter, and with Spring Training games just around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to put my predictive powers to the test and try and suss-out the Twins’ plan for the Opening Day starter.  With the Twins opening the season at home this year, the Opening Day start has a little more significance than it has the past couple of years when the Twins started the season on the road.  The Twins have not started the year at home since 2009, and the last Twins pitcher to win the Opening Day game at home was Livan Hernandez in 2008 against the Los Angeles Angels.  In fact, the Twins haven’t won an Opening Day game since 2008, working on an 0-4 streak losing 6-1 in 2009 against the Mariners, 6-3 against the Angels in 2010, 11-3 in 2011 against the Blue Jays, and 4-2 a year ago in Camden Yards against the Orioles.  An Opening Day win would be a nice change of pace.

opening day optimism

Since the Twins moved to Minnesota to start the 1961 season, Opening Day starters are just 14-25, with 12 no decisions.  Not exactly a great track record on baseball’s biggest day, but with names like Camilo Pascual, Jim Kaat, Jim Perry, Bert Blyleven, Frank Viola, Brad Radke, and Johan Santana, the Twins’ Opening Day starter has historically been some of the most beloved players in Twins history.

Looking over the current 40-man roster, and some non-roster invites to Spring Training, there are several players who have a shot at being the Opening Day starter.  I’ll rank them from least likely to start to most likely to start on Opening Day.

Rafael Perez  (1% chance to start Opening Day) – Perez was just signed to a Minor League deal with the club a week ago.  He’s spent his entire big league career working out of the bullpen, and has not had a K/9 above 6 since 2008.  He has put up strong ERAs every year except 2009, but with the declining strike out rates and a ballooning walk rate, his ERA has been propped up by an above average strand rate.  Perez has an uphill battle to even make the team as a left-handed reliever, and an even tougher climb into the starting rotation.

Rich Harden (4%) – Like Perez, Harden is with the Twins on a Minor League deal.  Harden has not pitched in the big leagues since 2011, and while he has had a consistently above average strike out rate, he has not been an above average pitcher since 2009.  There is some question as to whether or not Harden’s shoulder can stand up to the high pitch counts associated with starting, so there is a pretty decent chance that if he makes the team at all, the Twins would prefer that he work out of the bullpen to keep him healthy for the entire season.  I like him more than Perez because Harden has a track record as a starting pitcher, and because the Twins are so desperately in need of strike outs, but he is still a long shot to even break camp with the Twins.

Mike Pelfrey (7%) – Pelfrey signed a 1-year deal with the Twins this offseason hoping to rebuild his value coming off of Tommy-John surgery.  Pelfrey is still not a ful year removed from surgery, so there are concerns about his ability to be ready to start the season in the rotation.  Unlike Harden and Perez, if he is healthy, Pelfrey has a guaranteed spot in the rotation.  If I was confident that Pelfrey would be healthy when the Twins break camp I would have him higher, but it is early in camp and I anticipate that he will end up needing an extra few weeks go get all the way up to speed.

Liam Hendriks (10%) – Hendriks is a fringe candidate to make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training, but with questions about health among several of the arms ahead of him on the pecking order, he is likely to be the next man in if any one of the projected five starters are not ready to start the season.  Even a healthy Liam Hendriks is a long shot to take the ball for the Twins on Opening Day as Ron Gardenhire usually likes to reward his veterans.

Kevin Correia (12%) – Poor Kevin Correia has been written off since before the ink was dry on his shiny-new 2-year $10 million dollar contract.  Correia certainly is not the type of pitcher that would typically get the ball on baseball’s biggest stage, but the Twins seem to like his veteran leadership and clubhouse presence, something that went a long way for Carl Pavano (who started back-to-back Openers in 2011 and 2012).  Pavano had almost a year and a half of starts with the Twins under his belt prior to taking the mound on Opening Day, but with no other experienced veterans on the roster, Correia might end up pitching by default.

Kyle Gibson (13%) – The Twins seem dead set on starting the year with Aaron Hicks in center field field despite not having any Major League experience.  If the Twins are trying to build excitement in 2013 and invite fans to buy into the Twins future, Gibson could wind up pitching on Opening Day to help build momentum toward 2014 and beyond.  But like Pelfry, Gibson is coming off of Tommy-John surgery, and unlike Pelfrey, Gibson figures heavily into the Twins future plans, so they are likely to treat him with kid gloves.  The Twins are looking to limit his inning totals in 2013, so putting him on the mound from Day 1 does not do a lot to aid that effort.

Scott Diamond (15%) – After playing the role of savior for the 2012 Twins, Diamond was the overwhelming favorite to take the ball on Opening Day.  If Diamond is healthy he will undoubtedly be pitching on April 1st.  But Diamond had surgery in December to remove some bone chips from his throwing elbow and is reported to be progressing through his rehab slower than anticipated.  There is still an outside chance that Diamond is healthy when the Twins open 2013, but the Twins want Diamond healthy long-term, so if any question marks remain about his health, expect the Twins to take things nice and slow.

Vance Worley (38%) – Vance Worley seems to have become the Twins de facto Opening Day starter because there really is not anyone else with a real shot at keeping him from it.  He has a lot of things working in his favor; he is healthy, he is young and exciting, has a chance to be a long-term part of the Twins ballclub, and he is not Kevin Correia (which is to say he is not old, ineffective, and overpaid).

When the Twins traded away Ben Revere for Worley and Trevor May I would not have though Worley had any shot to pitch on Opening Day, but he seems to be the last man standing.

-ERolfPleiss