There is a fair amount of value to carrying absolutely no stiff on the team, and with a starting quintet of Joe Mauer, Paul Goldschmidt, Rickie Weeks, Elvis Andrus, and Kung Fu Panda, they've succeeded in creating no sinkholes on the roster. What's more, in the aggregate, they contribute in multiple categories. Yes, Weeks hasn't sported a fabulous OBP the last few years, but he makes up for it in power.
The problem is that while there's nothing horrible here, there's nothing great either. Mauer is theoretically one of the best catchers in baseball, but that's a Tallest Midget argument. The rest of these guys are somewhere between above average and above replacement level with limited upside unless Goldschmidt cures his platoon splits or Andrus starts taking Andro. What this creates is an above-average offense that will probably keep them out of the bottom third in every category but without enough greatness to launch them into the top third in most categories either.
Here again, we have above-average but not stellar group. BJ Upton, surprisingly, was their lead source of power last year (28 HRs) but came with an absolutely putrid .298 OBP. To offset that they've added on base machine Shin-Soo Choo, who won't hit for a ton of power, but will bring the OBP back up to the norm. Allen Craig and Yoenis Cespedes are above-average performers in the outfield, and while both have room to improve, I think their levels last year about what you can expect from them this year. If one of them makes a leap, then we're looking at bonafide good production this year. But we've already seen one offense that's going to be great this year (Andy's) and haven't gotten to the defending champion yet. It's hard to see how this offense is the team's path to victory unless they add a star.
The good news is that they have seven pitchers that racked up double-digit wins last year. The bad news is not a single one of them sported an ERA below 3.00 and only two were below 3.65 in what is ostensibly the best pitching environment since Bob Gibson took the mound. And we all know that wins are the repeatable category, right?
There are a few things to like here. Cole Hamels and Yo-Yo Gallardo both are at the sweet spot of the aging curve and are laden with talent. I particularly like Gallardo to take a step forward this year and contend for the Cy Young Award. There are a few more guys that will give solid innings and K's, like Edwin Jackson and Jon Niese. But to actually contend, they're going to need Danny Haren to revert to pre-injury form or have Mike Minor become a real #2 starter. Outside of pure wishcasting or belief that God is actually Portuguese, there's no reason to think either is going to happen this year.
Well, there are four guys that racked up saves last year and the same four guys figure to close this year, none of which figure to be particularly great or horrible. But that's potentially 140 saves. Really, this is the best use of the number four since Leslie Feist decided to start dancing with chickens:
The crater potential here is pretty minimal, as most of the guys on this roster take the field regularly and haven't bombed spectacularly; the only guys I could really see doing that are Weeks and Upton. But there's scant chance for breakthrough seasons either, unless Upton really decides to go 40-40 this year or Minor and Haren become twenty-game winners. The result is a team that looks firmly ensconced in the 4th - 6th place area unless they make some additions or teams ahead of them run into trouble quickly.