What to watch for with Twins as spring training gets under way

Something about a foot of snow and 40 mph wind guts gets me thinking about baseball this time of year.

Actually, regardless of the weather, it’s safe to say I’m in baseball mode by mid-Februrary. Temps are typically getting warmer, football is done, fantasy baseball registration is open and pitchers and catchers report. For the Twins, the latter happens on Tuesday.

Minnesota has had some turnover from a year ago, when the team posted its second straight season of 90-plus losses. I don’t believe the turnover will be overly impactful, but it’s turnover nonetheless.

So while I’m stuck in the house watching some Gophers basketball, I figured it would be a good time to review the Twins roster heading into this week’s first workouts of the season.

Let’s start with the position players for today.

The Twins had some encouraging signs regarding their offense in 2012.

Joe Mauer bounced back from an injury-plagued 2011 to hit .319 in 147 games, splitting time among catcher, designated hitter and first base.

First baseman Justin Morneau – another former AL MVP – also returned from concussion issues that had held him back the previous two seasons. He hit .267 with 19 homers and 77 RBIs in 134 games. His numbers against right-handers were very impressive (.291 BA/.531 SLG/.902 OPS).

And OF Josh Willingham (35 homers) and 3B Trevor Plouffe (24 homers) enjoyed career seasons at the plate.

However, despite all that went right, the Twins still were only 10th in the AL in runs scored. There will be concerns in 2013 as to whether or not the four players mentioned above can repeat their 2012 seasons, plus the Twins traded center fielders Denard Span and Ben Revere away in the offseason.

So the offense has some big holes to fill, notably in center field and in the middle infield. Darin Mastroianni would appear to the favorite to replace Span and Revere, with prospects Aaron Hicks and Joe Benson also under consideration.

Mastroianni actually put up a pretty similar season to Revere. Both players’ OBPs were around .330, with Mastroianni utilizing more walks in getting to his number. Both are crazy fast and neither slugs all that much.

In the middle infield, Pedro Florimon is expected to get a good look at shortstop. He hit just .219 in 43 games last season, and there’s no reason to think he’ll hit much better than that. But he brings a reliable glove, one that will be needed with the pitch-to-contact staff.

Brian Dozier and Jamey Carroll are also battling for playing time at shortstop and second base.

With the starting lineup in flux, it’s hard to gauge the bench. But if you’re looking for an under-the-radar player to keep an eye on, Brandon Boggs might be your guy. The 30-year-old outfielder and non-roster invitee has big league experience and a career .381 OBP at Triple-A.

My projected starting lineup
OF Darin Mastroianni
2B Brian Dozier
C Joe Mauer
LF Josh Willingham
1B Justin Morneau
DH Ryan Doumit
3B Trevor Plouffe
RF Chris Parmelee
SS Pedro Florimon

Bench
C Drew Butera
IF Jamey Carroll
IF Eduardo Escobar
OF Brandon Boggs

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