Justin Morneau suffering a concussion when he had just reached his absolute peak, was a more crippling blow then most realized. At the time of the injury he was hitting .345/.437/.618, and was looking like a sure fire MVP. Who's to say that Morneau would have pushed the Twins past the said Yankees, but he didnt play against them in '09 or '10. Mauer battled the knee injury in '10, affecting his performance in the playoffs, and all but wiping out his '11 season as well. His future behind the plate is unclear at best, at this point. Injuries to top pitching prospects Kyle Gibson and Alex Wimmers (I am calling Wimmer's Rick Ankeil impersonation an "injury") also has our pitching depth depleted.
When Terry Ryan stepped down in'07, he handed over the reigns to longtime assistant Bill Smith, and I felt the Twins would continue to chug along as usual. No one knew how in over-his-head Smith was and how big the talent gap he inherited was. Smith didnt help himself by trading our only impact prospect for an alright reliever, getting burned in the Delmon trade, not getting maximum return on the Santana trade, botching the Hardy-Nishioka decision, and being dealt some bad luck in his drafts. What Ryan inherited in his 2nd go 'round is a farm system with almost no major league ready talent and its best prospects at least 3-4 years away.
So where does that put the Twins next window? I was searching for that answer when I opened Baseball America's Prospect Pulse column. While the Twins where hardly represented in the pitchers column, they had more then their fair share of prospects in the position players portion. After reading it, a small shoot of hope started to sprout, and I came to the conclusion that, providing a lot of luck, the Twins could have a great young nucleous all reaching the majors around 2015 and hopefully hitting their peaks about 2017-20. Lets take a look three years out and see what the team might be look like then.
C Mauer age 32 / Hermann age 27 (spilting catching duties assuming Hermann continues to develop as a catcher and Mauer is still able to catch 60-80 games a year)
1B Parmelee age 27 / Mauer
2B Rosario age 24
SS Michael age 24
3B Sano age 23/Valencia age 31 (if Sano stops growing otherwise he could be at 1B instead)
LF Arcia age 25
CF Hicks age 26
RF Benson age 28
UTIL Dozier age 28
4th OF Revere age 26
SP Appel age 26 (hoping he slides to #2 in this years draft)
SP Gibson age 29
SP Baker age 33 or Other vetern free agent pitcher.
SP Wimmers age 28 (assuming he recovers his form)
SP Hendriks age 27
While the chances of all of these guys developing to even 80% of their ceilings is almost nil, and its likely a couple will wash out completely, it doesn't stop me from seeing the Twins next World Series window as being 2017-2020 when all of these guys will be within the peak ages of 27-31 with the exception of Mauer. So, if your are upset and bitter about the Twins not looking like contenders this year or the next, hopefully this gives a ray of hope and something else to follow.