- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
The San Diego Padres offense has been awful this season. Not that it was awesome in 2010, but so far the Padres have scored just 70 runs in 25 games, and Wednesday night Tommy Hanson and a few pals shut them out on a mere four singles. It was the seventh time the Padres have not scored a run this season. But I'm not here to pile on the Padres. That's perhaps another blog for another day.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Twins have scored only three more runs than the Padres have. Awful, just awful.
I know, I know, take the team's best hitter out of the lineup -- the Padres traded Adrian Gonzalez, the Twins haven't had Joe Mauer for a few weeks -- and it changes everything, but I don't think we can blame all the Twins' problems on their missing catcher. Mauer hit the disabled list with leg weakness, and there remains no precise timetable for his return. The other Twins catchers haven't exactly picked up the slack, either. Drew Butera and Steve Holm have hit - get this - a whopping .145 this season, with just one walk.
Of course, other teams have black holes behind the plate as well. The Twins have other issues. Let's discuss them and spin it forward for fantasy baseball purposes:
Where's the power?: Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun has hit as many home runs this season as the Twins. No, really. They're tied at nine. And that's not exactly Mauer's fault; he hit only nine home runs last season anyway. Justin Morneau is playing, which is great since that was hardly a guarantee given all his concussion issues, but fantasy owners would have been better off if he wasn't playing. He is hitting .235 with nary a home run. I'm sympathetic to his problem, but I also didn't (and don't) advise fantasy owners to invest here. Morneau remains 100 percent owned, but not for much longer if he doesn't turn things around. I still think he'll hit enough to be owned in a standard 10-team league, but there's no telling when he'll return to form. Only five Twins have even hit home runs, but no player has more than two. Geez, even the Padres have three guys with more than two home runs!
Where's the speed?: The Twins are 10-for-10 in steal attempts this season, and they're the only team that hasn't been caught stealing. So why not run more often? Only two American League squads have fewer stolen bases. Tsuyoshi Nishioka remains on the DL because of a broken leg, but Alexi Casilla and Denard Span are certainly capable of creating havoc on the bases. Span was successful in 26 of 30 steal attempts last season, and with a .358 OBP, he has had opportunities to run more. I'm not a big Span favorite in fantasy, but I think there's potential for him to reach his 2009 numbers, which were far better than what he produced in 2010. Meanwhile, the speedy Casilla rarely reaches base.
Target on the back: Blaming Target Field is a convenient crutch, but the fact is, the Twins were eighth in the majors in runs scored at home last year, so it can be done. They didn't hit many home runs in their new ballpark, but only the Colorado Rockies and New York Yankees had a higher OBP in 2010 home games. Even this season, with a mere two home runs in eight home games -- weather has been a factor, including postponements -- the Twins rank 11th in home OBP. So Span, Jason Kubel and Jim Thome are getting on base at home, there's just been nobody to knock them in, although Morneau actually has six of his seven RBIs at home. Naturally, this is way too small a sample size. The Twins have people capable of hitting, capable of getting on base, and they can overcome Target Field. They did a season ago.
So let's cut to the chase for fantasy purposes: Who do I like as smart investments from here on out? I'd do a buy-low/sell-high thing, but who can you really sell high on? Kubel is hitting .354, but I like him.
Buy low on ...
Mauer: I'll take the under on double-digit home runs, but what else is new? He's won three batting titles. He won't get his fourth this year, but not many catchers hit .300 and knock in runs. Mauer should return in a week or two and provide this, and I say he still ends up as a top-5 catcher.
Thome: He leads the team in walks, so that skill remains, and I refuse to believe his start has been so slow that he can't hit 25 home runs, as he did last year. Thome hit 15 of those home runs in the second half, batting .315 with a 1.158 OPS after the All-Star break.
Delmon Young: Currently on the DL because of sore ribs, I absolutely blame his .228 batting average on the problem. Look, I'm far from Young's biggest fan; he has walked a total of 40 times the past two seasons. But he's also a .292 career hitter, with 20-homer capability. You just have to wait a few weeks now.
Cuddyer: Hey, his 15 homers and 75 RBIs will look a lot better when he reaches second base eligibility. I wouldn't bother with him in mixed leagues were that not the case.
Other Twins hitter thoughts: What a shame outfielder Ben Revere is hitting just .214 at Triple-A Rochester. He could have filled in for Young and made a name for himself. Instead, it will be Jason Repko. Yawn. Look for Kubel, Span and Cuddyer to play the outfield regularly, with fill-ins at second base and Thome getting every opportunity to hit. ... Casilla is proving once again he shouldn't be a starter. I could see the Twins trading for a shortstop/second baseman, because a healthy Nishioka can play either spot. Luke Hughes cannot. ... My over/under on Morneau home runs? Hmm, I'd say 17. ... We knew third baseman Danny Valencia would regress some after hitting .311 as a rookie, but this is a bit much. Maybe he hits .270, but sans power.
Eric Karabell examines the Minnesota Twins offense, which ranks second to last in the majors in runs scored, and discusses the players he sees as buy-low options.