2003 Preview: Minnesota Twins

Friday, January 03 2003 @ 04:26 AM EST

Contributed by: Coach

I'm conceding baseball's weakest division to the defending champs, and with the experience of last year's playoffs under their belts, this young, talented team could be even better next October. A couple of ESPN columnists agree. In the first of a series called Hot Stove Heaters, John Sickels takes a detailed look at the 2003 Twins, and raves about lefty Johan Santana. Best known for his excellent minor-league analyses, Sickels also rates the Minnesota farm system highly. Up next on Monday, it's the D-Backs on the Hot Stove, then Your Toronto Blue Jays will be dissected January 7.

Less thorough than his colleague, but usually more entertaining, Jim Caple calls Scrooge Pohlad's decision to increase the payroll to $50 MM, "as unexpected a move as if he drove up to a Minnesota farm and told the family not to worry about their late mortgage payments, he wouldn't even think of foreclosing." Caple also points out a problem they share with the Jays -- the Twins were 23-29 against LH starters and 71-38 against righties last year. If you're reading this, Art Howe, why didn't you start Barry Zito in Game One of the ALDS?