The Minnesota Twins did some housecleaning in the offseason, sending speedy outfielders Ben Revere and Denard Span to the Phillies and Nationals, respectively, in exchange for pitching depth. The moves opened up roles for Chris Parmelee and one of Darin Mastroianni, Aaron Hicks or Joe Benson in the outfield, four unproven assets who could turn in big seasons if things break the right way. Mastroianni is a basepath burner -- he stole 21 bases in 163 at-bats last season with the Twins, while batting .252. The 27-year-old has stolen as many as 70 bases in a minor league season, while carrying a .279 average in 578 games. Hicks is a top prospect and was the team's first-round pick in 2008, but hasn't played above Double-A. He doesn't have as much speed as Mastroianni, but flexed more power in 2012. And Benson has the most power of the three, but falls short in speed. In a short 2011 stint with the Twins, he hit .239 in 21 games.
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Parmelee, meanwhile, fizzled in major league stints last year, hitting just .229 with five home runs over 192 at-bats, but he's shown solid power in the minors, with five seasons of double-digit home runs and three with 25 or more doubles. He hit .338 in 229 at-bats with Rochester (Triple-A) last year, as well. It wouldn't be out of the question for him to hit 20 home runs if given regular at-bats in the outfield this season.
The Twins also look like they're going to throw two of Pedro Florimon, Brian Dozier or Eduardo Escobar in the mix at second base and shortstop, as manager Ron Gardenhire has expressed an interest at keeping Jamey Carroll -- a starter for most of last year -- in a utility role for the season to keep him fresh. Escobar was acquired from the White Sox in exchange for Francisco Liriano last year, Florimon was claimed off waivers before 2012 and Dozier is a product of the seemingly bottomless Minnesota farm system. If you want any of these options on your team, it's Dozier, who should carry a nice average and maybe show some gains in speed and power, while likely being shifted to second base and gaining dual-eligibility.
The major pitching addition the Twins made this offseason was Vance Worley, who came over in exchange for Revere. There's some worry that Worley isn't past elbow problems that derailed his 2012 campaign, but with a bone spur removed and the problem supposedly corrected, he could be a steal as the anchor of the rotation, possibly with a sub-4.00 ERA and decent-but-not-great strikeout numbers. The most intriguing member of the rotation, however, will be Liam Hendriks. Worley is simple to figure out -- if he's healthy, he will be good. But Hendriks is an enigma. Stellar in the minors (2.65 ERA, 1.06 WHIP), the native Australian has been unable to put anything together in 20 major league starts (5.71 ERA, 1.54 WHIP) over two seasons. But with a relatively bare cupboard, the Twins are going to trot him out there and hope he can make the transition this season. Don't be surprised if Hendriks, just 24, emerges as a 2013 version of Wade Miley or Mike Fiers -- a young pitcher from seemingly out of nowhere putting it all together.
Sleeper ... Ryan Doumit, catcher/outfielder
Of his 18 home runs in 2012, 11 came after the All-Star break. Eligible at catcher again in 2013, Doumit should get full-time at-bats -- or at least something close -- as he bounces around the diamond once again, from outfield to DH to the occasional game catching. His flexibility should keep getting him at-bats, which will allow him to make a run on those 18 home runs from last season, a career high.
Buyer beware ... Trevor Plouffe, third baseman
Anytime a 26-year-old hits 24 home runs, there's reason to be excited. But Plouffe hit 11 of those home runs during an insane hot streak in June and didn't see more than five in any other month. Additionally, he had just two months with an OPS above .800 and his average wallowed below .200 in three separate months. There's a school of thought that will say Plouffe faded in the second half of the year -- with just five home runs -- and he should be able to adjust in 2013. But there's an equally strong theory that Plouffe just got into a zone in June and was unable to replicate that early success.
Roto gem ... Darin Mastroianni, outfielder
There's always a chance he loses the center field battle to Hicks or Benson in spring training, which would make this designation look a little silly. But he's the most likely candidate to be tabbed the starter and a Roto owner brave enough to take a risk on the unsettled position could get 50-plus steals for a one-dollar bid. Guess wrong, and you wasted a dollar. But if Mastroianni wins the job, it will be a huge boost to the stolen base category at a cheap price.
The Twins are stacked down on the farm, which makes the probable down year in 2013 for the parent club a little more comforting. Leading the way is Miguel Sano, a 19-year-old third baseman (drafted as a shortstop) who hit 28 home runs in 2012. He's still at least a year away, but we may get a glimpse of him in September, if the Twins are out of the race. ... Outfielder Byron Buxton was the No. 2 pick in last year's draft, which was a pleasant surprise for the Twins, as pretty much everyone had him pegged at No. 1. He hit five home runs and stole 11 bases in 48 minor league games in 2012. ... Alex Meyer was the prize of the Denard Span deal. The giant (6-foot-9) righty had a 2.86 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 129 innings last year and could make an appearance in the majors this season. ... The closest prospects are the ones who will be battling for spots -- Benson, Mastroianni, Hicks, Parmelee, Hendriks and Dozier. Pitcher Kyle Gibson is projected as a future stud, but is coming back from September 2011 Tommy John surgery. ... There's little more Anthony Slama can do on the farm. The 29-year-old has a 1.99 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in six seasons of minor league relief pitching. He has struck out an impressive 446 batters in 325 innings and has 100 career saves.
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