Hicks, Arcia are keys to respectability for Twins

After three straight seasons with 90-plus losses, the uphill climb that the Minnesota Twins face entering today’s season opener has become very steep.

There is hope for the future, which I touched on in our season preview in today’s paper. The Twins farm system is highly ranked by a number of sources, including Baseball America.

But in terms of 2014, two young players who will play significant roles in Minnesota’s fortunes are outfielders Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia.

Hicks and Arcia – who were among those top-ranked prospects entering last season – debuted in 2013, with Hicks struggling mightily and Arcia providing mixed results.

Hicks forced his way onto the opening day roster last season with a big spring, but hit only .192 in 81 games. The same spring scenario played out again this year, with Hicks once again the starting – and, like last year, lone – center fielder.

Arcia came up midseason and provided some pop with 14 homers in 97 games. But he also struck out 117 times in just 351 at-bats.

John Manuel, who is the editor in chief of Baseball America, spoke at length about the team’s prospects in today’s Forum story. But he also touched on Hicks and Arcia, saying he’s much more bullish on Arcia’s potential moving forward.

“I’m pretty excited about Arcia,” Manuel said earlier this month. “… I believe he will hit at the big league level. He impacts the baseball with consistency. I’m fairly bullish on him.”

As for Hicks, Manuel said: “Aaron Hicks is a much tougher guy to read. Didn’t read some good things about him when he got sent to Triple-A. The buzz around Hicks and how he was handling his struggles and his demotion was not great. … He had about as bad of year as you can have last year. He had to deal with a lot of failure. And indications were he didn’t handle it well. Generally the track record for guys who have a year that bad is not good.”

When looking at this team, I think the Twins – thanks to Glen Perkins, Casey Fien, Jared Burton and company – should have a solid, dependable bullpen. And while Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes probably won’t produce like the Nos. 1 and 3 starters that they are on the Twins, this is a veteran staff. And I think it’s a predictable staff. Not a great staff, but I think we know what to expect.

The hope is that Nolasco, Hughes, Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey can at the very least pitch deep enough into games to keep the top bullpen arms fresh and productive.

The lineup has the greatest amount of question marks. How much will Josmil Pinto play? Can Trevor Plouffe and Josh Willingham return to their 2012 forms? Who is the leadoff hitter? Who is the No. 2 hitter, for that matter?

But Hicks and Arcia are the keys. Right now, this feels like a team that will go 68-94. Pitching has been elusive for the Twins in recent years, and now the lineup looks like, even with a good start, that it might struggle to consistently produce enough runs each game to win.

One thought on “Hicks, Arcia are keys to respectability for Twins

  1. Thanks for your reasonable comments.The bottom line is no one really can say for sure how the season or our team will play out. Just check all the predictions from last year or all the other years . There are surprises and developements every year and all the ‘geniuses’ never remember them but are sure each spring they will know what will happen again. The nay sayers who seem to dominate the blogs too often , just seem to revel in their beliefs that if only “THEY’ could run these teams , they would never make all the bad decisions the managers and coaches and owners, make.
    Last year no one expected Boston to be that good , let alone Champs , because they did not do much in the off season that was flashy or loud. The previous year everyone thought Boston would dominate and then they stank , drifted to the bottom. The Yankees got old in front of most eyes yet few noticed as they just focus on the flashy stuff. ( Just like the Vikings). The Washington Nationals were THEE team last year but it didn’t happen , as were the Angels with all the mega bucks they spent ( just like all the knowitall naysayers who say the Twins should go all out spending , ‘We got a new stadium, I thought then the Pohlads would then spend spend spend!” ( you mean like the Angels did?) Look at Toronto last year ,spent like drunken sailors , finished last again!
    Anyway it all boils down to the young players and how they develope. A good example is Carlos Gomez . The young Twin was full of promise and talent. The knowitalls say use him or trade him for something. He never blossomed to stardom here. but the Twins traded on his promise. He did NOT do much in Milwauke for two years either. The fickle fans here would of not had the patience to wait and watch on him as he struggled to mature. Suddenly he breaks out , which NOBODY predicted , and then all the knowitalls , are whining why did the Twins get rid of him?
    It is a crap shoot . Is Hicks a Gomez ? A star someday when he puts it all together ? Arcia? Did anyone expect Dozier to lead the team in homers last year? Will Pinto be the rookie of this year? Maybe this is the year Gibson finds his groove.
    The Twins revamped their Bad starting pitching , just as eveyone wanted. The Twins have the players poised to respond and improve on the field. Will they ? It is spring. Spring is supposed to be full of hope and optimism . Like in ” Shawshank Redemption’- Hope is not a bad thing.

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