With one of the better farm systems in all of baseball, there's no doubt that the Minnesota Twins are going to be a team to keep an eye on in the coming years. Nonetheless, they enter the 2014 season with plenty of questions regarding the current state of the franchise. While there are many more than three questions, we're going to attempt to narrow it down to the largest three that will linger around this club heading into the new campaign.
When will Byron Buxton arrive?
The question on everybody's mind is obviously regarding the top prospect in all of baseball. With Miguel Sano out for the year, 100 percent of the focus for the Twins is now on Buxton and when he could make an impact at the big league level. Buxton doesn't have a lick of experience above High-A ball, so unless he absolutely sets the world on fire in spring training and makes it impossible for the Twins to send him down, he's not going to be up in the spring. Even so, that doesn't mean that we won't see him at some point during the regular season.
The recently-turned 20-year-old is a five-tool player, who demonstrates great patience at the plate. At each level last year, he posted an on-base clip of at least .400 and stole almost 60 bases. He has the pop in the bat too. There's a reason he's the consensus no. 1 prospect in baseball across the land. It may be an issue of service time and maximizing that, given the market in which the Twins play, but we're going to see Buxton in 2014. When it happens, get ready for Mike Trout-sized hype.
Will the Phil Hughes deal backfire?
The Twins shocked a lot of people when they signed former New York Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes to a three-year deal worth $24 million. It was certainly a shocking price to see for a pitcher that comes with the history of injury and inconsistency that Hughes features. Nonetheless, one has to like him as a change-of-scenery candidate following a season with the Yankees which Hughes described as a "nightmare."
Hughes' peripherals weren't quite as bad as his 5+ ERA indicated and the fact that opposing hitters went for a .324 BABIP off of him didn't help. He doesn't walk a lot of batters and his flyball stuff should play well at Target Field. It's not a guarantee that Hughes will bounce back, but playing in a lower profile market and a park that is more well suited for a pitcher of his skill set should benefit him greatly.
How will Joe Mauer handle the transition to first base?
One of the higher profile things that the Twins did during the winter, other than signing Hughes and Ricky Nolasco, was announce that face of the franchise Joe Mauer would make the move from behind the plate out to first base. The move was sparked by a desire to keep Mauer healthy, as he dealt with concussion issues last year, as well as a variety of nagging injuries that stemmed from playing behind the plate.
For Mauer, it's not a question of whether or not he has the offensive capabilities to be a success at first. While his power numbers have never returned to that outlier of a 2009 season, not that they should have been expected to, he's a premier offensive player. For him, it's going to be a matter of transitioning with the glove. Mauer played exactly eight games at first base in 2013, and has only 56 total to his credit during his career, so his transition to a new position is absolutely going to be something to keep an eye on in 2014.