It feels wrong predicting a Twins regression of sorts, because they always seem to find a way to win. Without certainty about the status of Justin Morneau, though, I don't feel right picking them to stay with the improved White Sox.
2010 Record: 94-68 (1st in AL Central)
2011 Projected Record: 88-74 (2nd in AL Central)
Projected starters: C Joe Mauer, 1B Justin Morneau, 2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka, SS Alexi Casilla, 3B Danny Valencia, LF Delmon Young, CF Denard Span, RF Michael Cuddyer, DH Jason Kubel, SP Francisco Liriano, SP Carl Pavano, SP Scott Baker, SP Brian Duensing, SP Nick Blackburn, CL Joe Nathan, RP Matt Capps, RP Jose Mijares.
What's good: If you were building a team from scratch, you might very well start with the best catcher on the planet in Mauer. He's a great all-around player and the perfect leader for this team. ... If Nishioka can make the transition from Japan, there isn't a weak link in this lineup. This is a team that can score runs in a variety of ways, which works well when Target Field is its home. ... Nathan being healthy will help Capps, Mijares, Pat Neshek and company settle into less pressure-packed roles.
What's worrisome: Not a fan of this rotation. The Nos. 3-6 starters (Kevin Slowey is in the mix for a spot) have all had some success in the past but none is what you'd call reliable. The same can be said for the top two guys. Heading into last season, Pavano and Liriano were nothing more than reclaimation projects. ... If the health issues persist for either Morneau or Nathan, the Twins are in trouble. ... Span and his .264 batting average from 2010 worry me if he leads off.
What'll happen: This could be a 90-100 win team ... if everyone stays healthy, if Pavano and Liriano deliver big years again, if three other starters deliver decent results. There are too many ifs for me to pick the Twins over a White Sox team that has comparable talent. Then again, the Twins have been beating the odds for years. I wouldn't bet the farm against them doing it again in 2011.