Notebook: There's a 'good chance' Hicks bats leadoff if he makes team
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It's entirely too early to project an opening-day lineup, but with the Minnesota Twins' spring training opener slated for Saturday, let the speculation begin.
Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said the lineup structure will depend almost entirely on who wins jobs up the middle -- centerfield, shortstop and second base.
"If (Aaron) Hicks wins the job, I think there's a good chance he'll bat lead-off," Antony said on 1500 ESPN's Sunday SportsTalk.
"The biggest question is will he hit enough? He has some power. His defense is ready, he can throw, but it'll just be a matter of if he can hit enough."
Antony referenced Hicks' ability to run, switch hit and draw walks as reasons for why he could be a good leadoff hitter, if he's ready. Hicks has drawn at least 78 walks in each of the past three seasons in the minor leagues, with on-base percentages of .401, .354 and .384. Joe Mauer was the only Twins hitter to draw at least 78 walks in 2012. Hicks also stole 32 bases for Double-A New Britain last year.
Antony said Darin Mastroianni could also bat leadoff if he wins the centerfield job, but Mastroianni -- while incredibly fast on the base paths -- might have trouble getting on base often enough when exposed to every-day at-bats.
The No. 2 hole will be interesting as well. Jamey Carroll is the only other candidate who has gotten on base often enough in recent history to warrant top-of-the-order consideration, but he's unlikely to be a starter on opening day. The Twins would rather see Pedro Florimon and Brian Dozier win the shortstop and second base jobs.
Slotting Mauer and his league-leading on-base percentage in the No. 2 hole would seem to make the most sense, but 89% of Mauer's career plate appearances have come in the No. 3 hole.
Early reviews positive on Worley
The Twins acquired 25-year-old right-hander Vance Worley from the Phillies this offseason, along with Trevor May, for Revere.
Worley underwent minor elbow surgery in September, but that procedure has not hindered him thus far in Fort Myers. Many people in the organization have praised Worley's work ethic, including fellow hard-working starter Scott Diamond, who told 1500 ESPN on Monday that Worley is his new workout partner.
In 53 appearances, mostly starts, for the Phillies over the past three years, Worley posted a 3.50 ERA with 7.7 strikeouts per nine innings.
"We had some National League scouts tell us he might have been the best pitcher on that staff for a period of time," Antony said, referring to a Phillies staff that included Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay.
"We believe there is some upside there... and that he could be a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy for us."
Door not closed on Morneau?
By all accounts, Justin Morneau emerged through his first fully-healthy offseason in about four years -- just in time for perhaps the biggest season of his career.
Morneau's contract expires at the end of the year, leaving the Twins with multiple options over the next several months.
With so many young, inexpensive players on the horizon -- Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia, Chris Parmelee, just to name a few -- Morneau, who turns 32 in May, doesn't seem to figure into the Twins' plans beyond 2013, although Antony wasn't ready to go that far.
"I don't think that doors been closed by any stretch of the imagination by us. As much as anything, we just want to see him go out and be healthy and have a good year, and we'll have a much better idea of what type of player we're talking about come the end of the season."
Morneau hit .267/.333/.440 with 19 home runs in 134 games last year. His last fully-healthy season came in 2008, but as recently as 2010 -- prior to suffering a concussion in July -- he was perhaps the best hitter in baseball, posting a .345/.437/.618 batting line with 18 home runs in just 81 games.