With the Super Bowl now in the rearview mirror it is officially baseball season. This is the last week without the Minnesota Twins in action for the next eight months. Before the Spring Training action gets underway however, I’ll take a first stab at how Rocco Baldelli will utilize his 26 roster spots.
The Twins had a very strong offseason, and the front office did a great job once again allowing the market to play into their strategy. Key pieces were brought back, and new faces were added to the mix. Looking to go for a third straight AL Central division title, here is how I see the Twins breaking camp in Fort Myers as things stand now.
Starting Pitchers (5): Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ, Randy Dobnak
I think this is pretty set and don’t foresee anyone else threatening too much here. Minnesota could still bring someone in as a non-roster invitee, but Dobnak has earned the opportunity to have first crack. This is an area that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine can explore an upgrade during the season, and that could come internally in the form of top prospects Jordan Balazovic or Jhoan Duran. I still like Lewis Thorpe as a dark horse to throw meaningful innings this year, but that remains to be seen.
Relief Pitchers (8): Taylor Rogers, Alex Colome, Tyler Duffey, Hansel Robles, Jorge Alcala, Caleb Thielbar, Cody Stashak, Devin Smeltzer
If there’s a spot with change coming this is probably it. The first seven names on this list seem pretty straightforward to me and should make for a solid group. Including Smeltzer means that none of the waiver claims crack the Opening Day roster and that seems relatively far-fetched. Ultimately Smeltzer plays as a long-man, and that could be upgraded with the addition of another relief free agent acquisition. Given the number of names still out there, it’s probably a good bet that this group remains in flux at the back end.
Catchers (3): Mitch Garver, Ryan Jeffers, Willians Astudillo
This season Minnesota may have the best catching tandem in baseball. A resurgence for Mitch Garver should be expected, and Jeffers emerged in a big way during the 2020 season. Both should expect to get a ton of playing time, and that lends the roster towards inclusion of Willians Astudillo. Tortuga is still more gimmick than anything to me, and he shouldn’t see time behind the plate, but Baldelli is afforded flexibility by having him in the big leagues.
Infielders (5): Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Andrelton Simmons, Josh Donaldson, Luis Arraez
There shouldn’t be much surprise here as all of these guys are starters and going to get regular time. Don’t worry that Luis Arraez is now slated to come off the bench, he’ll still see north of 400 at bats this season. Travis Blankenhorn could be considered here, but I’d think Minnesota prefers Astudillo purely from a roster construction standpoint. Nick Gordon should be close to a now or never crossroads too, but I don’t see it happening on Opening Day.
Outfielders (4): Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Brent Rooker, Jake Cave
Much to the chagrin of Twins fans everywhere, I don’t think we see Alex Kirilloff out of the gate. Minnesota will likely play the service time game, while Cave and Rooker are more than capable in left field. I don’t think the uber-prospect stays down for long, but out of the gate this makes a good deal of sense.
Designated Hitter (1): Nelson Cruz
He’s back, that settles it.