Monday, March 6, 2017

A Twins Surprise In Filling Out The Bench

The Minnesota Twins have now played a handful of games this spring, and with the calendar quickly approaching the middle of March, players will be cut and reassigned to minor league camp shortly. For Paul Molitor's club, squeaking out extra wins on a roster looking to rebound from a tough 2016 is going to be an absolute must. I'm not so convinced there aren't a few surprises in store as to how the bench is constructed.

Arguably the most predictable scenario, or at least the one causing the least amount of change, would include a bench of John Ryan Murphy, Robbie Grossman, Eduardo Escobar, and Danny Santana. If the Twins go that route, they'd be looking to make as few waves as possible, and it's probably the safest bet as well. Although the ceiling for each player isn't high at all, the floor also isn't disastrous for the most part.

Getting creative though, there's a real situation in which none, or almost none, of those players go north with the Twins this spring. If Minnesota looks for upside, and some fresh talent, there's a surprise group of four players that could join together. Here's what that may look like:

Mitch Garver- Backup Catcher

Garver owned a ,764 OPS between Double and Triple-A in 2016. It was a nice offensive showing, and his defense was spectacular. He threw out 52% of would be base stealers in Chattanooga (44 attempts) and caught three of ten runners at Triple-A. Garver is 25 and has never been a household name, but he's pushed himself to the top of the Twins organization when it comes to up and coming backstops.

He's a right-handed batter and would give the Twins both a defensive minded option to spell Jason Castro, as well as bringing a respectable bat to the big leagues. It's a pretty big jump for him to go from 22 Triple-A games to the big leagues, so that could definitely work against him. Unless the Twins settle for John Ryan Murphy or Chris Gimenez, Garver absolutely makes a good deal of sense.

Ehire Adrianza- SS, 2B, 3B

New to the Twins organization, Adrianza has never been lauded as any sort of top prospect. What has been touted this offseason however is his glove, and specifically at shortstop. In a limited sample size, he's produced Andrelton Simmons-esque defensive metrics, and that's something the Twins haven't had for quite some time. Adrianza owns just a .605 OPS in 154 MLB games but he's got a .822 OPS across five Triple-A seasons.

Even if he can't bring much to the plate, Adrianza could be vital to the Twins with Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco slated to man the left side of the infield. Pitching could end up struggling to get consistent outs from that side of the diamond, and Adrianza as a fill in or defensive replacement makes a good deal of sense.

Zach Granite- OF

The Minnesota Twins minor league player of the year would be making his big league debut if he joined the 25 man roster. Granite brings exceptional speed and defense to the big league club, and that's absolutely what separates him from the competition. Last season, as a 23 year old at Double-A, Granite posted a .729 OPS (his best as a pro). More of a singles hitter than a gap guy, Granite got on base and then advanced via the steal. He racked up 56 stolen bases and nearly walked (42) more often than he struck out (43).

When comparing Granite to the likes of Robbie Grossman, or even J.B. Shuck, Minnesota gets a fielder that can realistically play all three outfield spots. Granite is above average no matter where he is in the grass, and has the speed to let very little fall in. The big jump from Double-A is worrisome potentially, but as a hitter with a great eye, the on base skills could quickly rival those of Grossman.

Byungho Park- 1B/DH

Removed from the 40 man roster this offseason, the Twins gave Kennys Vargas the leg up in winning the designated hitter role. He still could fill that spot, but a healthy Park should be expected to be a different player. He struggled with velocity in his first big league season, although a wrist injury could have contributed to that. Park's spring homers thus far have come off of 93 and 96 mph heat, and while he'll still strikeout plenty, that power can play.

While Joe Mauer is Gold Glove caliber at 1B, he's not going to be able to play every day. Vargas has been below average defensively, while in roughly the same limited sample, Park has been as asset. He was a quality player in the field over in Korea, and represents a clear upgrade in the field behind Mauer as well.

This construction would require the Twins to figure out what to do with the likes of Robbie Grossman, Danny Santana, and Eduardo Escobar. They can save money (roughly $2 million) by moving on from Escobar. Grossman has a smaller deal, and Santana has been a guy that I've contended Minnesota would be best served to move along from for quite some time.

The likelihood that this construction plays out if minute at best, but it remains an intriguing group of guys that I believe would serve the Twins well to start 2017. Admittedly the biggest hole here is the lack of a left-handed bat, but given Minnesota's options, it still may represent the most optimal scenario.

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