If you’ve read Puckett’s Pond in the last month, you already know that there is a small army’s worth of non-roster invitees joining the team in Spring Training this year. There are 25 of them, which is a lot of players to keep track of. Fortunately, one hard-working, intelligent website has done a profile on every one of those non-roster invitees to keep you informed.
They run the gamut from young prospects who haven’t seen AA to grizzled MLB veterans. Among them are some hard-throwing pitchers, free swinging hitters, and stout defenders. And their personal stories are just as interesting. Almost all of them are struggling with some sort of adversity, whether it is a lack of opportunity, lack of respect, or, in one case, problems with drug addiction. Quite a few of them are former Tigers, some were once drafted by the Twins, and one of them is the nephew of a reality TV star.
But the thing we really want to know about them is which ones will play for the Twins this year. Unfortunately, all of these players have one built-in disadvantage in trying to make the Majors: they are not on the 40 man roster. In order to call any of these guys up, the Twins would need to place a player on waivers or the 60 day Disabled List. Those types of transactions do happen over the course of a season, but it can be a big impediment for a non-roster player.
That said I offer my humble opinions about which players are most likely to play for the Twins at some point during the season, with the non-roster invitees broken down by position.
The candidates: Jason Bulger, Jared Burton, Samuel Deduno, Phil Dumatrait, Casey Fien, Luis Perdomo, Aaron Thompson, Luis Thompson, P.J. Walters, Brendan Wise
The bullpen is the like the Wild West this spring. It’s a wide-open and dangerous competition. Only a few slots are set in stone, so it’s in theory possible that one or two of the non-roster guys could win a job there.
If the Twins are looking for Major League experience, Burton, Bulger, and Dumatrait have the advantage. Dumatrait has a further advantage because the Twins are familiar with him already, though his 1.69 WHIP and 6.3 K/9 aren’t exactly awe-inspiring numbers. Burton and Bulger have both had some succesful MLB seasons, albeit a few years in the past. For my money, Bulger is the most promising sleeper in camp with the Twins this year. If healthy, he could return to the form that has allowed him to strike out more than a batter per inning for his career. The Twins bullpen badly needs another leg to stand on, and Bulger might be that leg.
Fien has a track record of strong numbers at the minor league level. He’ll start the year at Rochester, but if he dominates AAA hitters, he could be in line for a call-up. Dumatrait, Burton, and Deduno are also candidates for a mid-season call-up, but I do not foresee any of them spending most of the season with the Twins.
Chris Herrmann, Danny Lehmann, Rene Rivera, Daniel Rohlfing, J.R. Towles
If any of these guys start more than a handful of games for the Twins, we’re probably in for another awful season. But given Drew Butera’s .481 OPS last year, it makes sense for the team to at least consider letting one of them compete for the number three catcher job.
Rivera held that title last year, except when Joe Mauer was injured and Rivera moved up to number two. But this year the most intriguing option behind the plate is probably Towles. He has some major hitting potential, and he could shine if given an opportunity. Herrmann is a Catcher of the Future type, but he could benefit from a year at Rochester before a September audition in Minnesota. Count Lehmann as a September call-up candidate as well, because his defensive skills make him an asset to the organization. Rohlfing is the youngster of the group, and he’ll likely spend the whole year at AA.
Aaron Bates, Sean Burroughs, Ray Chang, Brian Dinkelman, Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon, Mike Hollimon, Steve Pearce
Dozier is a top prospect in the organization, and he may win a starting job with the Twins very soon. But the Twins tend to be conservative about letting rookies take the jobs of veterans, so Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Jamey Carroll, and Alexi Casilla will probably hold down the team’s middle infield slots for most of 2012. If Dozier excels at AAA the way he did at AA, he should get a call some time in the summer. Dinkelman spent time with the Twins last year, and he will probably get another cup of coffee in 2012. Those two are at the top of the depth chart, so there might not be any MLB playing time for Florimon or Hollimon this year.
At the Hot Corner, Burroughs is an even bet to make it to the Majors some time this season. There will probably be some talk of him pushing for Danny Valencia’s job, but I do not think that is a realistic possibility. If Valencia struggles during the first half of the season, though, it’s possible Burroughs could get a few starts at third. Chang is another September possibility. He’ll play most of the year at Rochester.
First base is an interesting case. If Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit are healthy and productive, neither Bates nor Pearce is likely to be called up. But if Morneau struggles again and Doumit cannot take over first base duties, the two non-roster first basemen might see some playing time. Chris Parmelee is ahead of them on the depth chart, but one or the other could fill a bench role in that scenario.
Matt Carson, Wilkin Ramirez
The Twins website only lists two of the players as outfileders, though players like Herrmann, Dinkelman, and Pearce have all played in the outfield in the past. Alas, the reason the Twins invited so few outfielders is because their outfield jobs are already filled by Denard Span, Ben Revere, and Josh Willingham. Should they falter, Trevor Plouffe, Rene Tosoni, Joe Benson, and Parmelee would step in. Thus, Carson and Ramirez are probably destined to spend the season at Rochester. They should put up some nice numbers there and delight Rochester’s long-suffering fans with their right-handed power. But it would take a long series of unfortunate developments to put Carson or Ramirez in a Twins uniform.
This officially wraps up Puckett’s Pond’s series on the Twins’ non-roster invitees. I hope you enjoyed reading about them as much as I enjoyed researching and writing about them. But I hope that you enjoy watching them battle in Spring Training even more.
Good luck to all 25, and here’s to an exciting Spring!