Minnesota Twins biggest position battles in Spring Training
A lot happened for the Minnesota Twins this offseason, but the work is far from being done. Carlos Correa is back, Luis Arraez was traded but Pablo Lopez was added, and the team is looking to bounce back from an otherwise putrid season in 2022.
Finishing in third place seemed like a doomsday scenario, but bringing Correa back bought the team at least six tries at trying to make a World Series run. Health will play a big role in how things shake out, but Spring Training will also shed some light on who might be able to make an impact elsewhere on the roster.
We know who the main characters this season will be, but what about the fringe supporting cast?
Twins Position Battle: Bench
Heading into Spring Training it appears that four of the Twins bench spots are locked up with players who will rotate in and out of the lineup. Michael A. Taylor, who was acquired from the Royals, will help with the outfield platoon; Ryan Jeffers and Nick Gordon were on Minnesota's bench last season; Kyle Farmer is slated to help all over, perhaps at first base if things don't go well for Alex Kirilloff and his health -- although early indications are that things are on track.
Assuming the Twins carry five starters and eight relievers into Opening Day, that likely leaves one bench spot that as many as three players are going to be battling for in Fort Myers.
Gilberto Celestino and Kyle Garlick appear to be on the roster bubble, but could play their way into one of the bench spots. Trevor Larnach seems likely to get a spot on the Opening Day roster as well, which could edge out Celestino since Minnesota would have a wealth of outfielders.
Twins Position Battle: Starting Pitching
Perhaps the most exciting position battle this spring will revolve around starting pitching. It's not only about who will make the cut but how many pitchers will end up being in the starting rotation this season.
With all of the pitching talent the Twins, the team could realistically carry a six-man rotation into the regular season. That probably won't happen, but it goes to show the wealth of talent Minnesota has at a position that struggled to pull its weight last season.
That being said, for the number of pitchers Minnesota has it doesn't have a stand out ace to be a top of the rotation starter. Someone could emerge this spring to take on that role, as Sonny Gray having been that guy in the past and the Twins are expecting big things from Pabo Lopez given what they had to give up to get him.
What happens at the back-end of the rotation is where the true battle will happen. Gray, Lopez, and Joe Ryan are all locked into the rotation. Unless things go way off of the rails, it's probably safe to pencil in Tyler Mahle as well.
That leaves one spot in the rotation for Kenta Maeda, Bailey Ober, and Chris Paddack.
Maeda is the early favorite to land in the rotation on Opening Day. He's coming off Tommy John surgery but was a Cy Young runner-up the last full season he was healthy. Paddack is also coming back from injury but will probably get added to the 60-Day IL once the season starts. The question is what will happen when he's healthy?
Ober seems to be the odd man out in this battle, and will likely begin the season in Triple-A. There's a chance he heads to the bullpen to bolster that unit, but he'll probably be the next-man-up in case someone struggles or an injury gets in the way of the Twins plans for the starting rotation.