Predicting Minnesota Twins Opening Day roster in 2023
With Spring Training in full swing, it's time to start thinking about what the Opening Day roster might look like for the Minnesota Twins.
Things have already changed since February, as the Twins added three new players who could all make the roster, meaning some who were expected to make the cut will be forced to begin the season in the minors.
Let's jump right into it and take a look at what the Opening Day roster might look like right now. We'll be adjusting our outlook as the big day nears, but as it stands now here's who will make the cut and which players -- at least for now -- have some work to do in order to prove they deserve a spot over someone else.
Notable Players Who Will Miss The Cut
For one reason or another, there will be a handful of notable players who likely won't appear on the Twins Opening Day roster this year.
Chris Paddack and Royce Lewis are both expected to start the season on the 60-day IL, which right away opens up two potential roster spots to be filled by someone else. We'll get into who in just a second.
Here are a few notable guys who Twins fans will have to wait to see on the Big League roster:
Simeon Woods Richardson
Larnach is a tough cut, but he gets edged out by guys like Kyle Farmer and Michael A. Taylor. Donovan Solano needing a roster spot also lowers the likelihood that he makes the Opening Day roster but it's a narrow gap between his time in the minors and getting called up during the season.
Bailey Ober is in a similar situation, as he's likely the next-man-up from Triple-A St. Paul if the Twins need to reconfigure its pitching staff at some point.
This is where things are the most interesting. Minnesota could legitimately carry six starters into Opening Day and start the season with a six-man rotation.
It's unlikely that happens, and we're going to assume that won't be the case. All of that is to highlight that the Twins pitching staff already looks vastly improved from what it was last season, and that there are options in the event someone struggles or the injury bug bites the starting rotation again.
Two big names to watch this year are Kenta Maeda and Pablo Lopez.
Maeda is coming back from Tommy John surgery and looking to get back to the Cy Young runner-up he was in 2020. the COVID season shouldn't be read too far into, as Maeda benefited greatly from the AL Central-heavy schedule, but that doesn't change the fact that he was dealing all (shortened) season long. If he can tap back into that, the Twins are instantly many times better than what they were last year.
Pablo Lopez can provide the same spark. Where the Twins staff last year petered out, the opposite effect can happen this year. Maeda bouncing back is a boost, but couple that with Lopez becoming the ace of Minnesota's staff, and all of a sudden the rotation is in fantastic shape. The daisy chain from there could include another step forward by Joe Ryan and Sonny Gray returning to form.
If you're betting on the Twins rotation in 2023, you're gambling on upside -- which is rather significant. Twins fans know better than most not to get too excited, but things are already looking up compared to last season.
All that can be said about the starting rotation's upside can be said about the bullpen as well.
A lot of the bullpen's issues last season stemmed from the starters not pulling their weight, but not all can be blamed on that. Outside of Jhoan Duran, the Twins relievers crashed hard last year with particular dissapointment felt toward Emilio Pagan and Jorge Lopez.
Rather than anchoring the late innings for Minnesota, Pagan, and Lopez were liabilities that created more problems than they solved. Both of those guys are in line for bounce-back seasons, with Caleb Thielbar and Griffin Jax both looking to take steps forward after showing promise last year.
One big name to watch is Jorge Alcala, who was among those bitten by the injury bug but has high expectations entering the season. If he can become the pitcher he showed flashes of during his ascension through the minors, the Twins might have made the big addition to the bullpen fans wanted to see this winter without needing to use free agency to make it happen.
Donovan Solano will likely take one of the two vacated roster spots left by Paddack and Lewis, and he'll quickly prove he's worthy. Solano can play against left-handed pitching thus relieving Jorge Polanco from such duties -- which is big because Polanco against lefties isn't a great thing.
Christian Vazquez, a free agent addition, is also going to be useful against lefties and allow Rocco Baldelli to get creative with late-inning lineup changes in certain relief situations. As long as Alex Kirilloff can stay healthy, the Twins infield is shaping up to look pretty solid this season.
And, of course, Carlos Correa. Enough said.
Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but the Twins could have the best defensive outfield in the entire league this year.
Starters Byron Buxton and Max Kepler are joined by free agent Joey Gallo, with Michael A. Taylor thrown into the mix as well. That platoon is an absolute unit defensively, and compliments itself nicely. Just like how Donovan Solano will help take the load off Jorge Polanco against left-handed pitching, Taylor can bail out Kepler and also play center to give Buxton some time off so he can hopefully make it through the season healthy.
The loss of Luis Arraez is huge, but Nick Gordon will see time in the lineup as DH, specifically against right-handed pitching.
Michael A. Taylor