Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Does A Flier Grab A Spot With Minnesota?

With Spring Training now kicking off for the Minnesota Twins in less than 30 days, the roster is going to begin to shape itself for the upcoming season. Paul Molitor's club will be looking to rebound from the worst record in franchise history. What is worth wondering is whether or not any veteran non-roster guys will make the trip north.

In their first season with the organization, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have made some solid acquisitions when it comes to guys considered fliers. They have inked a handful of veteran pitchers, they've brought in guys they have worked with previously, and they've handed out lottery tickets to guys that might have some upside. On a Twins team that needs to be fueled by youth though, will any of them claim a 25 man spot?

Here's a few names to keep an eye on down in Fort Myers this spring, and the likelihood that the break the exhibition season with the big league club.

Nick Tepesch 15%

In 2016, Tepesch pitched just 4.0 innings in the majors. He missed all of 2015 after having undergone Thoracic Outlet surgery (the same procedure Phil Hughes is battling back from). Across 116.0 IP at the Triple-A level last season, Tepesch owned a 3.96 ERA along with a 4.8 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9. Tepesch isn't a strikeout guy, and he's worked mainly as a starter. For the Twins, he'll need to compete for a final rotation spot and I just don't see it. There's more upside by going with someone such as Justin Haley, Adalberto Mejia, or Jose Berrios.

Ryan Vogelsong 30%

Now 39 years old, Vogelsong is absolutely at the tail end of his big league career. He's posted rising ERAs since his 2.71 ERA as an All Star with the Giants in 2011. A year ago in Pittsburgh, Vogelsong worked as a reliever for the longest duration since his return to the big leagues, and he ended up with a 4.81 ERA. His FIP rested at 5.00 and he issued free passes at a 4.4 BB/9 rate. I don't think any of his peripherals are good, but could see Minnesota giving him a shot as the long man out of the pen. I'd prefer they went with internal options in relief, but I wouldn't rule it out completely.

Chris Gimenez 49%

While Tepesch has ties to Levine through the Rangers, I think Gimenez and his ties to Falvey through the Indians are stronger. Gimenez is essentially a defense only catcher. His career OPS across 289 big league games is a paltry .632. He's consistently thrown out base runners at leave average rates though, and he's serviceable behind the plate. Long term, he doesn't provide much for the Twins, but if they're unsure of either John Ryan Murphy or Mitch Garver, he gets the nod.

Matt Hague 1%

Hague played in Japan last season. Manning the hot corner for Hanshin, he slashed .231/.339/.346 across 31 games. While he flashed power at the minor league level (79 HRs in 8 seasons), he's never homered in a big league game and smashed just two in Japan. He's a warm body and provides organizational depth, but he's not a 25 man roster option.

Ben Paulsen 5%

There's no immediate path to playing time for Paulsen, but he's an intriguing case. He'll likely compete as a bench bat and DH option with both Byungho Park and Kennys Vargas. As a distant third in that scenario, he'll need a really nice spring for the Twins. He got into 39 games for the Rockies last season but posted just a .562 OPS. He is a year removed from 116 games worth of a .787 OPS though, and was highly regarded as a third round pick back in 2009. The deck is stacked against him for sure, but there's a glimmer there.

J.B. Shuck 15%

When the Twins brought in Shuck, I thought it signified the writing being on the wall for Danny Santana. It may not directly correlate, but I think Minnesota wants better defense in the outfield off of the bench. Unfortunately for Shuck, he doesn't represent that either. His career .627 OPS is far from ideal, and while he can play all three outfield spots, it's at an average at best capacity. If the Twins are going with an extra outfielder, I'd hope the give Zach Granite a nod instead. Regardless, Shuck figures to be among the competition for one of the final bench spots with Minnesota.

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