In addition to their two stars, they have one of the best managers in the game in Gardenhire. They say a good manager will win you an extra five games a season and that usually holds true with Gardenhire. With the concern that awaits the fate of Mauer and Mourneau, the Twins will need those five games plus to have a chance of getting back to the postseason. It wasn't too long ago when they were a fixture in the playoffs. They need a lot to go right for that to happen this year, even with my prediction of the AL Central being a weak division this year.
Losing free agents Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel will shorten the lineup. Cuddyer was a team leader who player both the outfield, 3B and 1B and his presence will be missed. Josh Willingham (.246, 29, 98 in 2011) should be able to make up for the loss of Kubel (.273, 12, 58 in an injury plagued season). Kubel batted .249, 21, 92 in 2010, very similar to Willingham's 2011.
They expect Mourneau and Mauer to be healthier this year as they were held to 69 and 82 games, respectively. The Twins brought in journeyman catcher Ryan Doumit in to hopefully allow Mourneau time to DH some and Mauer a chance to DH and play some 1B and OF. Doumit hit .303, 8, 30 in 77 games for the Pirates last year which was much better than the incumbent backup catcher Drew Butera (.167, 2, 23 in 93 games). Doumit will DH some, and play some catcher and 1B. 3B Danny Valencia (.246, 15, 72) will look to improve on his numbers and is expected to perform better. CF Denard Span is back, after playing in only 70 games last year due to his injuries. Free agent signing Jamey Carroll will either play SS or 2B with either Alexei Casilla or Tsuyoshi Nishioka will play the other middle infield position. Speedster Ben Revere should get the chance to play every day as the other outfielder. If healthy, the Twins may be able to hit and play the brand of ball that will win some close games. Camp invitees JR Towles and Sean Burroughs, along with last year's UT Trevor Plouffe should help out on the bench.
I am not as optimistic when it comes to the Twins pitching staff. Carl Pavano (9-13, 4.30 ERA in 222 IP) is the ace. Francisco Liriano, who I think has been one of the most overrated pitchers in recent years, has to improve on his terrible 2011 numbers (9-10, 5.09 ERA), despite his no hitter. Scott Baker (8-6, 3.14) should pitch well if he stays healthy. They signed veteran free agent Jason Marquis, who has battled injury issues of his own. Nick Blackburn rounds out the rotation. With the loss of Nathan, there is no doubt that Matt Capps will be the team's closer. They have little depth behind him though and will have to rely on former starting pitchers Glen Perkins and Brian Duensing to make major contributions. Duensing will be making the switch this year while Perkins has had a year in the pen already.
Health for Mourneau, Mauer, Span, Baker, and Nishioka could make this team more competitive as I expect the White Sox and Indians to be among those teams who have a down 2012 season. I just think that its too much to ask for. Though it wouldn't surprise me if the Twins became competitive again this year, I don't see it happening. Vegas has them at a 73 O/U and I predict they will finish slightly under at 71-91, fourth place in the AL Central. I just think the pitching staff is too weak, even if everybody is healthy. Getting Mourneau and Mauer for a full season should be fun to watch, though.