The really, really late and completely incomplete edition. But there's no way I'll finish it before the season starts, so I might as well put up what I do have. You can calculate when I started this based on what I wrote up for it originally.
Finally, a mere 115 or so days after Alexi Casilla made the final out of the year in the Twins' 163rd game, I've compiled grades based on each player's performance in 2008. As with last year, each player with a significant amount of playing time has been given a grade along with a comparison to their previous year. The grades are totally independent of expectations, which is to say two players with the same statistics would receive the same mark, even if they were Justin Morneau and Nick Punto. They also are not based heavily on playing time, meaning that, for example, a .300/.400/.500 line would be only slightly downgraded if it was in 100 at bats versus 600 at bats. There is some weight given to defensive performance, position, and random gut feelings I have. Lastly, a player is only compared to a previous season if he played that year with the Twins.
Joe Mauer: A
2007 grade: B-
Mauer came back from an injury-plagued 2007 and had an excellent year. He claimed his second AL batting crown, and remember that no catcher had ever won one before him--now Mauer's done it twice in three years. He also placed second after Milton Bradley in the AL in OBP. He led AL catchers in almost every category: at bats, runs, hits, RBIs, walks, batting average, OBP, slugging percent, and OPS, and tied for the lead in doubles and triples. He was in the top 3 in the majors for all of those, except doubles (tied 5th) and RBIs (4th). His BB/K ratio was again superb (84/50). For all of this, he was rewarded with a start in the All-Star game and 4th place in the MVP voting.
2008: 146 G, 98 R, 9 HR, 85 RBI, 1 SB, .328/.413/.451
Justin Morneau: A-
2007 grade: B+
After a disappointing year in 2007, Morneau got closer to his MVP form in 2008. He placed second in MVP voting, perhaps losing his chance to win the award with his .243/.298/.398 line in September. That probably was due, at least in part, to the fact that he played every one of the Twins' 163 games. For whatever reason, though, Justin again performed much better in the first half of the year: .323/.391/.512 versus .267/.350/.481. He set a club record with 47 doubles (good for fifth in the majors), but his home run total dropped a little from the last two seasons. Still, he continued to rack up RBIs, losing the AL title in that category by one to Josh Hamilton. His RBI totals were remarkably consistent over the course of the year. Here they are by month: 22, 20, 21, 23, 22, 21.
2007: 163 G, 97 R, 23 HR, 129 RBI, 0 SB, .300/.374/.499
Denard Span: B+
2007 grade: --
Who could have predicted this? After his high billing upon his selection in the first round of the 2002 draft, Span continually put up unimpressive numbers in the minor leagues. In 2007, he put up a thoroughly unexciting .267/.323/.355 hitting line in AAA, while again stealing bases at a relatively low percentage (64% in 2007, 66% for minor league career). Then, in Spring Training he showed some life, but his track record and the presence of other outfielders forced him back to AAA. This time, though, something was different, and he started hitting. Span quickly got his chance when Michael Cuddyer went down with an injury, but didn't produce in his brief time at the Major League level. On the last day of June, though, he would again return to the Majors; and this time there was no looking back. He started almost every game after that, providing a necessary spark to the Twins. I've posted a picture that is the epitome of what Span (and also Carlos Gomez) meant to the team. It's right after Span has prevented a home run with a great catch.
2008: 93 G, 70 R, 6 HR, 47 RBI, 18 SB, .294/.387/.432
Delmon Young: B-
2007 grade: --
There were many mixed feelings about the trade with the Rays in the offseason, and specifically about Delmon Young. As the season went along, they became less mixed and primarily negative. His defense was roundly criticized and his lack of power was lampooned. All of this, I thought, was unfair. Sure, he was not great, but he's still 23 years old and he was not as horrible as some people want to believe. He was a pretty similar player to his rookie year, batting 2 points higher and slugging 3 points lower. He improved slightly in his plate discipline, raising his OBP from .316 to .336 and his BB/K ratio from 26/127 to 35/105. Obviously, that could get a lot better and it's certainly not looking like he'll be a superstar, but I think he deserves more of a chance than he got. Two encouraging signs: he hit .297/.345/.432 after the All-Star break, and his OPS+ went up from last year (91 to 102).
2008: 152 G, 80 R, 10 HR, 69 RBI, 14 SB, .290/.336/.405
Alexi Casilla: C+
2007 grade: D-
Can't wait for the 2009 season- it's just a week away!!
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