There's no doubt it was a tumultuous offseason for Minnesota. Franchise players came and went, and when the dust settled what we had was a team that looked drastically different than the one the Twins had in 2007. But is it better or worse? I thought I'd take a look at the Twins [projected] roster and compare it to last year. Where did the Twins improve? And where did they lose out?
2007- Joe Mauer
2008- Joe Mauer
Well, there was no change here. Hopefully Mauer can bounce back from a relatively disappointing year and produce closer to his 2006 campaign, so I anticipate this position being a little better than last year.
2007- Justin Morneau
2008- Justin Morneau
Again, the same player, but now with a new contract. Will Morneau, like Mauer, be able to return to his 2006 form? Will his new financial security have any effect on his play? Either way, I definitely think that he should improve over last year.
2007- Luis Castillo/Nick Punto/Alexi Casilla
2008- Brendan Harris
Harris is undoubtedly better offensively than the Twins' second basemen last year. Even with modest numbers he'll dwarf Punto's and Casilla's stats from 2007; as long as he's not the worst hitter in the league, this position will be better off. That being said, his defense is more questionable, but I think the significant offensive improvement will prove to be more important.
2007- Nick Punto/Luis Rodriguez/Brian Buscher
A similar situation to second base, in which Lamb will in all likelihood be an improvement offensively, but potentially a liability defensively. Compared to the third basemen as a whole, Lamb will also be better than what the Twins had in 2008. It would be a little closer if we considered him versus just Buscher, rather than against Nick Putrid. Whoops, I meant Punto.
2007- Jason Bartlett
2008- Adam Everett
After the blockbuster trade with the Rays, the Twins were left with a void at shortshop, which they shortly filled by signing ex-Astro Adam Everett. A defensive specialist, he is well below average offensively. That being said, his career OPS of .656 is comparable to the production the Twins got last year (Bartlett's stats were dragged down by Casilla's and Punto's time at shortstop). Hopefully, Everett hits around his career averages, which would allow us to overlook his offense for his defense.
2007- Jason Tyner/Jason Kubel/Rondell White
2008- Delmon Young
The biggest part of the aforementioned trade will take over left field duties for the Twins. This should no doubt be an improvement over last year. Even if Young repeats his performance from last year, he would be better than the combination that was trotted out there last year. White was abysmal again, Tyner was predictably underwhelming, and Kubel didn't play there enough to make the left field stats look good. Hopefully, however, Young will hit markedly better than last year.
2007- Torii Hunter
2008- Carlos Gomez/Jason Pridie/Denard Span??
This is the first position where there isn't a clear-cut frontrunner for the starting job in 2008. New acquisitions Gomez and Pridie, along with former first-round pick Denard Span, all have a chance to start on opening day. I don't know how likely Span is to start, as his minor league record doesn't indicate he's ready, but it seems like Gardenhire is high on him. No matter who it is, we can expect a significant downgrade from 2007. Even though there was basically a consensus that Hunter couldn't be re-signed, there should also be a consensus that none of these guys will come close to matching his production.
2007- Michael Cuddyer
2008- Michael Cuddyer
Only the third of the eight positions that will have the same starter as 2008. Cuddyer had a down year after a great 2006, and was given a new multi-year contract this off-season. Along with Mauer, Morneau, Young, and Kubel, he should combine to make a somewhat formidable middle of the lineup that will help make up for the likes of Adam Everett and probably Nick Punto, who Gardenhire will surely find a way to fit in the lineup.
2007- Jason Tyner/Rondell White/Jason Kubel/myriad of others
2008- Jason Kubel
It's about time Jason Kubel gets a regular starting position, and there doesn't seem to be anyone in the way of him this time. Gardenhire has been known to do stranger things that start Craig Monroe at DH, though (for instance, starting Jason Tyner at DH). Kubel should be much better than what was used as an excuse for a DH last year, and I think he will make significant strides toward becoming a very good player.
Well, that wraps up my positional outlook for 2008. More season preview things to come over the next week and a half, including a divisional preview, statistical predictions (which will admittedly be essentially arbitrary guesses, but will certainly be interesting to look back on at the end of the year), and a comparison between the 2007 and 2008 pitchers.