Spring Training is underway, and the Minnesota Twins are making final roster evaluations before the team is set for the early summer. While there are plenty of locks on the roster, there are still some spots where we have no idea what will happen.
The bench, left field, and the bullpen all have question marks, and while contributors Dylan McGlynn and Billy Porter have released their predictions for the roster this year, here’s my annual projections, just a month away from the beginning of the season.
Minnesota Twins Catchers: Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers (2 Players)
This is a simple one. Mitch Garver was a Silver Slugger award winner two years ago, and despite a truly dreadful 2020, he will easily still get a good chunk of the starts. Ryan Jeffers is in the opposite situation. One of the Twins’ top prospects, he burst onto the scene in 2020. He’s going to compete for Rookie of the Year.
Minnesota Twins Infielders: Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Andrelton Simmons, Josh Donaldson, Luis Arraez, and Nick Gordon (6 Players)
Miguel Sano is the only option at first base, and Josh Donaldson is entrenched at third base as long as he’s healthy. Andrelton Simmons is a massive upgrade on defense at short, and Jorge Polanco should be a huge upgrade defensively at second over Luis Arraez.
Arraez will slot in extremely nicely in the Marwin Gonzalez role and will be a huge upgrade offensively. I think he’ll still get all the at-bats that he did before, just without a set spot. Adding Nick Gordon is a bit of wishful thinking, but the No. 5 pick from the 2014 draft is ready to step in as a depth guy to add speed to the team.
Minnesota Twins Outfielders and DH: Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Nelson Cruz, Jake Cave, and Brent Rooker (5 Players)
Byron Buxton will be the starting center fielder for the Twins until injury. Max Kepler stakes the same claim to right field. Nelson Cruz will stay at designated hitter until his performance drops off. The only question is who fills the other spots.
Jake Cave is an experienced veteran, and will hold down the fourth outfield spot. As for that starting outfielder spot…it’ll be Brent Rooker. As much as we all want to see Alex Kirilloff here, Rooker is ready right now, and Kirilloff might not be, as evidenced by the rough first Spring Training showing.
Rooker is ready to start and is 26 years old, so it makes zero sense to hold him for service time. If Kirilloff is ready, bring him up, send Cave to the minors for when an injury occurs. But Rooker is here, ready, and can play first base. Get him involved.
Minnesota Twins Starting Rotation: Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker (5 Players)
Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, and Michael Pineda form one of the best 1-3 set-ups in all of baseball, and J.A. Happ is an extremely solid fourth option if he plays like he has for most of the past three years. When Matt Shoemaker is healthy, he has excellent stuff.
Unfortunately for the Twins, he hasn’t been fully healthy. Ever. This will likely mean a trade or lots of bullpen games until the young guys (Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic) are ready. Double servings of Randy Dobnak and Devin Smeltzer as a long reliever seem likely.
Minnesota Twins Bullpen: Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Alex Colomé, Caleb Thielbar, Jorge Alcala, Hansel Robles, Cody Stashak, Randy Dobnak (8 Players)
Taylor Rogers enters the year with the chance to bounce back as the team’s closer, but he has a relatively short leash. Alex Colomé is right there, ready to steal saves if need be. In addition to those two, Tyler Duffey, Caleb Thielbar, and Jorge Alcala are also likely to eat up some of those innings too.
Cody Stashak and Hansel Robles will fill up whatever is left, with plenty of minor league relievers and taxi squad guys sprinkled in. Expect Lewis Thorpe and Devin Smeltzer to make appearances in that Randy Dobnak role too, rounding out the team’s roster.