If's and but's: The 2015 Twins

I won't predict the Twins season, except to say what needs to happen for them to have a good season:

•Right now, the team's strength appears to be its infield offense. Mauer at first must return to old form, which is more likely than not. Dozier at second must simply do what he did last year. Same for Santana at short. Plouffe has to rediscover his power at third. The team is strong up the middle: Suzuki is an excellent catcher, and can hit. Molitor has less tolerance for mental laxity than Gardenhire, so he is giving up on Aaron Hicks, the highly-talented but day-dreaming long-time prospect. They'll fill the hole with a rotating set of replacements until June 1 when they can bring up super-prospect Byron Buxton. 

•By June 1, the team's strength had better be starting pitching or they aren't going anywhere. The present rotation is slightly above average on paper, but has the potential to put in a good year. If one or two starters falter, there is likely help available from the minors, and it might be somebody we've never heard of. The Twins have been slowly stockpiling pitchers, and the system is chock full of good arms. 

•Molitor's approach could pay off. Changing managers gives a team the benefit of the former manager's wisdom, which they have probably thoroughly learned, and the new manager's approach, which should improve them. Molitor is of the Rick Pitino school of coaching, it appears. That is, you prepare, prepare, prepare in every facet of the game, especially those areas in which you are weak. Molitor has a theory that batting practice, which power hitters use to show off, actually harms the swing of sluggers. He is jumping on the talented young Latin ballplayers (Arcia, Vargas, Sano) in particular to discipline their practice time. He used the term "perfecting your craft," which is music to my ears.

Most Hall of Fame players turned manager aren't any good. However, Molitor got into the hall by constantly scrapping, constantly expanding on his considerable natural talent. In other words, he approached the game like most scrappy, good managers did when they played. 

•Molitor wants good defense. Defense slipped under Gardenhire even as the media continued to prattle on about the "Twins' way," which was basically Tom Kelly's insistence on fundamentals. Molitor is going to employ drastic shifts (moving players to where each batter usually hits the ball), which should make the games more interesting, if nothing else. 

•Molitor has put limits on cell phone use by players before games! Gotta admire that.