MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins hovered around .500 throughout most of the first half of the season, and they even tried to deliver a statement that they believed they could compete this year by signing Kendrys Morales to bolster their lineup in early June.
But Minnesota has struggled a bit since then, going through a pair of five-game losing streaks in June, to enter the All-Star break six games under .500 at 44-50.
The Twins now seem primed to be sellers at the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31, unless they make a quick turnaround. They entered the All-Star break with some momentum, winning five of seven on the road against the Mariners and Rockies, but they are still tied for last place in the American League Central with the White Sox and trail the division-leading Tigers by 10 1/2 games.
Five key developments
1. Mauer's move to first
Joe Mauer was expected to see both his production and his playing time increase with the move to first base from catching, but it simply hasn't happened. He's uncharacteristically struggled this year, hitting .271/.342/.353 with two homers and 28 RBIs in 76 games, and he is currently on the 15-day disabled list with a strained oblique.
2. Suzuki steps up
Kurt Suzuki, Mauer's replacement at catcher, has proved to be a great signing for Minnesota, as he was named an All-Star for the first time in his career. Pitchers have raved about his defense behind the plate, and he's hitting .309/.365/.396 with 37 RBIs.
3. Dozier establishes himself
Brian Dozier has also developed into one of the game's better second basemen. He's showed off his power and speed, with a team-leading 18 homers and 16 stolen bases. He didn't make the All-Star Game, but he participated in the Home Run Derby at Target Field.
He has provided power and speed (18 homers and 16 stolen bases) while also playing superb defense at second base.
|Cy Young: Phil Hughes
He is having a bounce-back year in his first season with the Twins, and he boasts one of the best strikeout-to-walk ratios in the league.
|Top rookie: Danny Santana
He is currently out with a bone bruise in his knee, but he has been an impressive catalyst as the club's leadoff hitter.
|Top reliever: Glen Perkins
He has emerged as one of the game's best closers and is an All-Star for a second straight year.
4. Hughes bolsters rotation
Phil Hughes has been a major addition to the rotation in his first year with the Twins. The former Yankees right-hander has limited his walks and home runs allowed this season, and he has been the anchor of the rotation.
5. Nolasco faces early struggles
Ricky Nolasco has been a disappointment in his first season with Minnesota after joining the club on a four-year, $49 million deal. The right-hander has posted a 5.90 ERA while giving up an AL-leading 68 runs on 140 hits, and he is currently on the 15-day disabled list with a right elbow strain.
Five storylines to keep an eye on in the second half
1. Trade winds in the air?
Much of it will be determined by the way they play over the next two weeks, but the Twins could look to be sellers at the Trade Deadline. They have veterans such as Josh Willingham and Kevin Correia in the final years of their contract. They could also look to move Morales or Suzuki if the right deal comes up.
2. Young talent on the rise
Minnesota has plenty of inexperienced players on its roster such as shortstop Danny Santana, outfielder Oswaldo Arcia and right-hander Kyle Gibson. If the Twins are to compete in the near future, they're going to need their young players to continue developing.
Players to watch in second half
He has uncharacteristically struggled this year and will look to turn it around in the second half.
He has already tied his career high with 18 homers and has 16 stolen bases. Is a 30-30 season in reach?.
He has proved to be a smart signing for the Twins, but can the right-hander keep it up the rest of the season?
3. Mauer on the mend
There's still no timetable for Mauer's return from his oblique strain, but he'll look to turn it around in the second half after struggling in the first half. He was riding a 12-game hitting streak before his injury, so he was just starting to heat up, but now he'll have to find his swing all over again.
4. Time to show and prove for Nolasco
Nolasco also has plenty to prove in the second half. His elbow injury isn't considered too serious, and he's expected to pitch again this season. Nolasco was expected to be a huge piece for his team after signing the largest free-agent deal in club history, but he has failed to deliver so far.
5. Right-handers waiting in the wings
Minnesota has a pair of top pitching prospects at Triple-A Rochester in right-handers Alex Meyer and Trevor May, and one or both could make their Major League debut in the second half. May is more likely, because the Twins have been cautious with Meyer after he suffered a shoulder injury last season.