Thursday, March 30, 2017

Puzzling Pitching, and Disturbing Designating

The Minnesota Twins all but announced their 25 man Opening Day roster. In doing so, they dropped a couple of bombs. First, they would be going with 13 pitchers, and then secondly, they'd send ByungHo Park to Rochester despite no real good reason to do so. As the dust settled from the fallout, we're sitting here left to scratch out heads.

First and foremost, here's the Twins Opening Day roster:

Starters: Santana, Santiago, Gibson, Hughes, Mejia
Relievers: Kintzler, Pressly, Belisle, Breslow, Tonkin, Duffey, Rogers, Haley
Lineup: Castro (C), Mauer (1B), Dozier, (2B), Sano (3B), Polanco (SS), Rosario (LF), Buxton (CF), Kepler (RF), Grossman (DH)
Bench: Santana, Gimenez, Escobar

So, what to make of this? Let's start on the mound. Adalberto Mejia, the Twins return for Eduardo Nunez, cracks the Opening Day rotation. There's nothing wrong with this, and he's more than deserving. I wrote about how he could be a dark horse candidate even prior to Trevor May's injury. He had a strong spring, provides a second lefty, and while his ceiling isn't that high, he should be more than a serviceable back end starter.

What happened with Mejia however, allowed the Twins to balk on making a decision between him and Duffey. Instead of picking one for the 5th starter, the club then doubled down and sent Duffey to the pen. I really like him as a fit there, but putting him in the group to make a total of eight pitchers is nonsensical. There's no good reason to hang onto Michael Tonkin in this scenario, and if Duffey wasn't being stretched out to stay as a starter, then whittling the pen and using a higher value arm in Duffey makes sense.

Minnesota's bullpen could be among the worst in the big leagues this year. They did nothing to significantly improve it, and none of the high ceiling arms (save for Taylor Rogers and Ryan Pressly) are a part of it. Duffey can move the water mark, but adding him to a glut of mediocrity is silly.

Then we get to the position players...

Immediately, the most egregious problem is that the roster has no ByungHo Park on it. While it could be argued that Kennys Vargas is a better fit, he is also void of inclusion, likely to start the year on the disabled list. The Twins DFA'd Park prior to spring training, he went out and made it look silly, and then was still left out in the cold.

By leaving Park in Rochester, the Minnesota Twins will DH Robbie Grossman to start the year. That's a fine situation, especially given his on base prowess. What Grossman doesn't bring to the plate is much power. He hit 11 homers (a career high) a season ago, and his .828 OPS was over .100 points higher than his career water mark. On top of not having Park's power in the lineup, they also don't have his bat off of the bench.

Worse than not having Park getting regular at bats after showing a much improved process this spring, is what Paul Molitor will have available to him off the bench. Only three players are going to be in reserve, with one of them being backup catcher Chris Gimenez. Eduardo Escobar is limited to a utility infield role, while Danny Santana can play everywhere, but is a defensive liability in all those spots as well.

Although American League teams definitely don't need the bench that a National League team does, the Twins bench has three players with an average OPS of .609. Without looking, that has to be among the worst in the big leagues. There's no value coming into a pinch hit situation, and that could leave the skipper more hamstrung than you'd want him to be.

At the end of the day, the Twins are going to note they wanted eight pitchers. They have a bullpen comprised of guys that don't bring a bunch of value, and they sapped their offensive value through this construction. It doesn't look great on paper, and it's hard to see it being the best scenario. That being said, we'll get to see how it plays out in very short order.

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