Who will be in the starting rotation on Opening Day?
Here’s what the rotation will probably look like on Opening Day, if nothing massive happens in Spring Training as far as injuries or trades:
This is really more of a question of who will slide in as a fifth starter for the Twins, and whether or not they decide to go with a six-man rotation to start the year. That’s something the teams has indicated it’s not interested in doing, but there’s a lot of starting power for Rocco to play around with in Spring Training as the rotation settles.
The likeliest candidates to land that fifth slot are Kenta Maeda, Chris Paddack, and Bailey Ober but they all have strings attached.
Maeda is coming off Tommy John surgery, which wiped out his entire 2022 campaign. However, he was the Cy Young runner-up the last season he was healthy and was a key piece of some really phenomenal Dodgers rotations before coming to Minnesota.
Paddack is also coming of Tommy John surgery, but it’s the second time since 2016 that he’s needed the procedure done. He wasn’t as dominant as Maeda while with the Padres but has shown enough that the Twins felt confident giving him a three-year extension this winter.
Ober seems to be the odd-man out in this trio, as he was part of the Twins rotation in 2022 almost out of default. That’s an unfair characterization of his potential, but it’s evidence that he might be best suited coming out of the bullpen to start the season or begin the year at AAA with the Saints.
At least on paper, a rotation of Gray-Ryan-Lopez-Mahler-Maeda feels a winning combination. This is, of course, the Twins we’re talking about which means even the best pitching outlook means nothing until it’s proven on the mound.
That being said, if Minnesota is faced with going into a must-win series in September like it did last year against Cleveland, rolling out any three of those pitchers versus what it had to trot out last year feels like an instant improvement.