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The Twins CAN Contend in 2008 if....

Posted at 8:04 PM on March 11, 2008 by David Zingler

Conventional wisdom says the Twins are destined for another sub .500 season and third place finish behind the Detroit and Cleveland. While this is the most likely scenario, it is not inevitable.

If these six things happen, the Twins could be playing in October:

1. Francisco Liriano becomes an ace.
It's unreasonable to expect Liriano to pitch at the level he did in 2006, but he's the only pitcher on the roster that has a chance to come close to matching Johan Santana's production. If the 24-year-old could win around 17 games and post a 3.50ish ERA, the Twins would have the ace they need.

2. Three of this group - Baker, Bonser, Slowey, Perkins, Humber or Blackburn - become reliable big league pitchers.

All of the guys listed above have shown the ability to be good pitchers at some level. Baker, Bonser and Slowey have given us flashes at the big league level. Rick Anderson may be the best pitching coach in the big leagues. Let's see what happens.

3. Delmon Young blows up.
I think there's a good chance that Young will end up as the best offensive player on this team. That's not to say it will happen this year, but I think his ceiling is higher than both Morneau's and Mauer's. He will need to develop more plate discipline and control his much ballyhooed temper, but Young has the potential to be an MVP-type player.

4. Joe Mauer stays healthy and hits for more power.
We know Mauer has great plate discipline and he's probably the best defensive catcher in the game. But, he's also 6-5/220 and has just 35 homeruns in over 1,700 big league plate appearances. There's no reason the former batting champ can't hit 20-25 homeruns this year - if he stays healthy.

5. Mike Lamb has a solid offensive season.
There's no doubt that Lamb will be a significant upgrade offensively at third base. The 32-year-old hit .289/.366/.453 with 11 homeruns in 311 at-bats. If he gets 500 at-bats this year, his average and OBP stay the same and he adds about 7 or 8 homers, the Twins would be very, very pleased.

6. Carlos Gomez provides very good defense and above average offense.
I am pretty confident that Gomez will win the CF job. After all, if he doesn't Bill Smith might go into hiding. From everything we hear, the 22-year-old is good with the glove and there won't be a huge drop-off on defense in the post-Torii Hunter centerfield. The bat is a whole 'nother story.

While he only has a 125 at-bat big league stint to draw on, Gomez hardly tore up the minor leagues, hitting .278/.339/.399 with 18 homeruns in 4 seasons (338 games, 1291 ABs). The Twins are planning on batting him leadoff because he's fast, athletic and stole 141 bases in his minor league career, but his OBP says this is mistake. If Gomez can hit .270, get the OBP up to around .350 and steal 30 bases, I would call it a successful season.

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