The Minnesota Twins are now just a month away from Opening Day, and with Spring Training games starting yesterday, and just like one of my fellow contributors, I put together my first predictions on what the 26-Man roster might look like on Opening Day.
Minnesota Twins Catchers: Mitch Garver, Ryan Jeffers (2 Players)
Mitch Garver broke out in a big way in 2019, posting a .995 OPS with 31 home runs in just 93 games, but a shortened 2020 campaign saw him struggle mightily. In 23 games, Garver hit .167, with an OPS+ of just 42. An injury forced him to miss nearly a month so he really never got going, but that did allow Ryan Jeffers to secure a larger role.
In 26 games, Jeffers slashed .273/.355/.436, showing a solid eye and strong defensive skills. With the offseason departure of Alex Avila, Garver and Jeffers will likely be the two catchers for the Twins going into 2021.
Minnesota Twins Infielders: Miguel Sano, Luis Arraez, Josh Donaldson, Andrelton Simmons, Jorge Polanco, Willians Astudillo (6 Players)
Four of the five infielders are returning from 2020, with the lone addition being Andrelton Simmons. After signing a one-year deal with the Twins in the offseason, Simmons will presumably take over as the starting shortstop, which will likely leave Luis Arraez as the odd man out.
Jorge Polanco has started 456 games at short since his 2014 debut, but doesn’t provide nearly the same defensive value as Simmons, who is an elite fielder. As reported by Do-Hyoung Park, the Twins expect to move Polanco to second base, while Arraez will become the utility man.
Although Arraez only played second base last season, he has experience all around the field, receiving innings at third base, shortstop, and left field during the 2019 season. Josh Donaldson is entering his second year in Minnesota, and will continue to man the hot corner. Miguel Sano, who moved to first base following the acquisition of Donaldson, will stay there in 2021 as well.
Lastly, we have Astudillo. Carrying three catchers may seem weird, but Astudillo can also play the corner infield positions, which will be very beneficial for the Twins. Aside from Sano, Minnesota doesn’t have anyone else who would be considered a true first baseman.
Mitch Garver has just 10 career games at first, Josh Donaldson has 5, Kepler has 2, and nobody else on the roster has ever played the position in the majors. If Alex Kirilloff starts the year in the minors, expect to see Astudillo as the 26th man.
Minnesota Twins Outfielders: Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Jake Cave, Brent Rooker (4 Players)
The first three guys here are relatively obvious. Since Byron Buxton’s debut in 2015, he has exclusively played center field where he offers the best defense in the game. Kepler has been the full-time right fielder for the Twins since 2016, with just under 500 games played in the corner.
Jake Cave has played all three outfield positions in the past three seasons, and could possibly see himself in a starting role at the beginning of the year if the Twins feel Brent Rooker isn’t ready and Kirilloff needs to be kept down.
I also think that Rooker is likely to start the beginning of the year as the 4th outfielder, although many Twins fans will yearn to see Alex Kirilloff on the team as well. The team’s top prospect made his debut in the 2020 ALDS, but may see himself in the minors at the start of the year due to those darned service time manipulations.
A strong spring combined with league-wide pressure from the players and fans as a result of Kevin Mather’s statements could change this. I’m sure he’ll be the starter in Minnesota by the end of the year.
Minnesota Twins Designated Hitter: Nelson Cruz (1 Player)
Not much to explain with this one. Cruz, a seemingly ageless wonder, hasn’t played the field at all since joining the Twins prior to the 2019 season. The 40-year-old slugger rejoined the team on a one-year contract this offseason, and has hit .308 with 57 homers in 173 games in Minnesota.
Those numbers, combined with his stellar slugging percentage of .626 and OPS+ of 168 over the previous two seasons are a direct result of keeping Cruz at DH. Allowing him to focus solely on offense has helped him out quite a bit and is one reason he’s back as he nears age 41.
Minnesota Twins Starting Pitchers: Jose Berrios, Kenta Maeda, J.A. Happ, Michael Pineda, Matt Shoemaker (5 Players)
Even before the offseason began, the trio of Berrios-Maeda-Pineda were essentially locked into their roles. Pineda and Berrios have proved themselves as very good 2-3 guys, while Maeda would’ve won the Cy Young if Shane Bieber hadn’t had his historic season.
The signing of J.A. Happ assured him a rotation spot as well, but the role of 5th pitcher is more up in the air. Shoemaker will seemingly have an advantage due to his experience, but his spot is by no means assured. Randy Dobnak or Devin Smeltzer could possibly end up starting the year in the rotation as well, but Shoemaker should be the frontrunner.
Minnesota Twins Bullpen: Taylor Rogers, Alex Colomé, Tyler Duffey, Caleb Thielbar, Cody Stashak, Jorge Alcala, Hansel Robles, Randy Dobnak (8 Players)
Almost the entire core of relievers are locked into their roles. Rogers and freshly signed Alex Colomé will likely split time closing games throughout the season. Duffey, Thielbar, and Stashak should be the primary setup options, but Robles and Alcala could see later innings as well during the year.
Randy Dobnak is an interesting case, because in the last section, I also mentioned the possibility of him breaking the starting rotation out of camp. Obviously, however, I projected Shoemaker to take that final rotation spot. So, that leaves Dobnak with a bullpen role, as a solid long-relief option.