Friday, April 02, 2010

The Nicks' Picks 2010

As is the case each year, me and my former blogging partner Nick Mosvick have put together our predictions for the outcome of each division, playoff round and major award for the upcoming season. This year, we've also added a number of Twins-specific predictions, both because it seemed fitting for a Twins blog and because Josh Johnson started a campaign to make today "Twins Predictions Day."

Without further ado, our humble predictions for your 2010 MLB season, which kicks off on Sunday night:

Nelson's Picks

General

AL West: Mariners
AL Central: Twins
AL East: Yankees
AL Wild Card: Red Sox

NL West: Dodgers
NL Central: Cardinals
NL East: Braves
NL Wild Card: Phillies

World Series: Red Sox over Cardinals

AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez
NL Cy Young: Chris Carpenter

AL MVP: Joe Mauer
NL MVP: Albert Pujols

AL Rookie of the Year: Neftali Feliz
NL Rookie of the Year: Jason Heyward

Twins-Specific

Twins MVP: Joe Mauer
Twins Top Pitcher: Francisco Liriano
Twins Best Rookie: Anthony Slama
Twins Most Improved Player: Liriano
Bold Predictions: Jesse Crain will lead team in saves; Nick Blackburn will post 5+ ERA; J.J. Hardy will win first Gold Glove
A.L. Central Prediction (Standings): Twins, White Sox, Tigers, Indians, Royals
Three Keys to Success for the Twins: Slowey and Liriano stepping up, bullpen staying healthy, success at Target Field.

Mosvick's Picks

General

AL West: Rangers
AL Central: Twins
AL East: Red Sox
AL Wild Card: Yankees

NL West: Rockies
NL Central: Cardinals
NL East: Braves
NL Wild Card: Phillies

World Series: Rockies over Yankees

AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez
NL Cy Young: Tommy Hanson

AL MVP: Joe Mauer
NL MVP: Hanley Ramirez

AL Rookie of the Year: Neftali Feliz
NL Rookie of the Year: Buster Posey

Twins-Specific

Twins MVP: Joe Mauer
Twins Top Pitcher: Scott Baker
Twins Best Rookie: Anthony Slama
Twins Most Improved Player: Kevin Slowey

Bold Predictions:

1) Brendan Harris will get more at-bats than Delmon Young. I say this because of two reasons. One, I'm just not sure I buy into the notion that Young is new and improved and ready to break out. I think that it's going to become clear early that the Twins are better off putting another subpar fielder, but a much better hitter in the field (Jason Kubel) in order to get another superior hitter in the lineup (Jim Thome). Maybe I'm hoping for too much out of a 39-year old hitter, but I think that Thome has plenty left in terms of power and plate discipline. Second, I think that Punto may struggle again out of the gate at the plate and may force Gardy to play Brendan Harris a lot more at third and use Punto as a defensive replacement.

2) Jon Rauch will have 30 saves. While I would probably prefer Neshek to be the closer, I suspect that Rauch will end up with the role to begin the year. And I think he'll probably keep it. This is mostly because I believe that Gardy prefers to have defined roles in the bullpen and I doubt that he will really do too much playing around with who gets saves. I think he'll stick with one candidate most of the year, the Twins will get plenty of save opportunities, and that the guy picking them up usually will be Rauch.

3) Scott Baker gets over 200 strikeouts. I feel like this is probably my "boldest" claim, but I really like Baker, even though he just got beat up in a spring training game. Baker had an outstanding K/BB ratio last year (162/48 in 200 innings) and posted a good strikeout rate. My sense is that Baker will make the jump this year and get up to around 220-230 innings. If he does so and just moderately improves his K-rate, he'll be able to hit 200 strikeouts. It would be quite the impressive accomplishment, but I think Baker can do it. I'm sure most Twins fans feel that Liriano is more likely to get 200 strikeouts, but I think Baker will get the innings necessary to do so before Liriano does.

A.L. Central Prediction (Standings): Twins,Tigers, Indians, White Sox, Royals

Keys to Success for the Twins:

1) Proper Lineup Management. To clarify, by this I mean a few things. For one, I mean that Gardy will have to use his players in a way somewhat uncharacteristic for him. He'll have to pay more attention to splits, especially given Jim Thome's presence on the bench. I think that in order to maximize wins, Gardy is going to have to find a way to get Thome's bat in the lineup versus right-handed pitchers. This is especially true given that the AL Central has many more good right-handers (Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke) than great lefties (Danks is the only real standout). Getting Thome as many bats as possible will be key.

2) Bullpen Stability. I doubt this will be an issue, but its still important to the Twins' success. As Nick Nelson has already noted earlier this week, its unlikely that Gardy actually sticks with a closer-by-committee set-up. Whether its Pat Neshek or Jon Rauch who becomes the primary closer, it will be important that the bullpen maintains some defined roles that I'm guessing it will. That is, Jose Mijares should stick as a lefty-specialist, Matt Guerrier should stick as a set-up guy, and so on. As noted, I don't think this is an issue, because they Twins have a good amount of talented arms in their bullpen, but with a still-relatively young rotation, the Twins will need have strong bullpen in to maintain success.

3) Health. Health is always important. And its hard to ignore it for the Twins. Joe Mauer missed a month last year and has battled injuries throughout his career. Justin Morneau is coming off a serious back injury. Pat Neshek is coming back from Tommy John surgery. Kevin Slowey is coming off of major wrist surgery. This isn't to say that any of these guys is going to get hurt again, but just to make a fairly obvious point. Any of the Twins top stars could get injured at any time and keeping Mauer, Morneau, Kubel, Baker, Slowey, and many other key contributors healthy is going to determine how the season goes. Granted, the Twins could get lucky again and have a situation like last September in which a slumping star goes down with an injury (Justin Morneau) and is replaced by a streaking hitter (Cuddyer), but that's something hard to count on.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Under section 2, you said Jose Morales should be a lefty specialist. I think you meant to say Mijares instead of Morales.
-Patrick Matteson,Target Field 101
targetfield101.blogspot.com

Adam said...

My predictions are posted: http://justabitout.blogspot.com

I like your Twins rookie pick of Slama, I see him coming up mid-June and making a solid impact in the bullpen. Condrey is starting to worry me a bit, not just because of his performance, but because of his "sore arm." Hardy winning a gold glove is out there, but I like it because it is in the bold predictions section. I really hope you are correct with Rauch getting 30 saves, this closer by committee things absolutely can't last long.

Dave said...

Most, if not all of us, would prefer Thome's bat in the lineup to Young's. But this gets back to the reason I'm so uneasy we got Thome in the first place: the overwhelming temptation to put Kubel in left on a semi-regular basis to get his bat in the lineup. Physically, that is a disaster waiting to happen in left field.

mvmike said...

It's early, but --- 3 of 4 in Anaheim, and now 2 of 2 in Chicago certainly make for a good start. Better hitting, more power, strong pitching, good defense: the Twins have shown that this could be a very exciting season.

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