A group of players already has begun working out at the Minnesota Twins’ spring training complex in Fort Myers, Fla. More and more will start arriving daily.
Pitchers and catchers are due to report next Thursday, Feb. 18. Days later, the Twins will hold their first full-squad workout. And by the end of this month, believe it or not, the Twins will be playing baseball again.
A busy past few weeks for the front office has helped the roster take shape, and while there may be some moves still to come, president of baseball operations Derek Falvey indicated earlier this week that the heavy lifting, he believed, was done.
So, with that being said — and with the understanding that this will continue to change throughout the spring — here’s a look at what the Twins’ 26-man roster could look like come Opening Day on April 1:
Pitching rotation (5): Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ, Randy Dobnak
The first four members of the Twins’ starting rotation are very well defined, if healthy.
It’s what comes after those four — Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda and J.A. Happ — that will be something to watch this spring.
The Twins could still make another addition, like signing a veteran free-agent starter to a minor-league deal to compete for a rotation spot, but with Falvey’s comment about the heavy lifting being done, it sounds unlikely that someone, like, say Jake Odorizzi, will be showing up in Fort Myers later this spring.
That could leave them in a situation like last year in which Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe are competing for the fifth spot in the rotation. And if that’s the case, let’s give the edge to Dobnak, who has a career 3.12 earned-run average in 19 games — 15 starts — with the Twins.
The Twins have other interesting rotation options in their system, including their top two pitching prospects, Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic, though neither is expected to break camp with the Twins.
Relievers (8): Alex Colome, Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Caleb Thielbar, Hansel Robles, Cody Stashak, Jorge Alcala, Devin Smeltzer
The makeup of the Twins’ bullpen looks quite different than it did at the end of last season with Trevor May, Sergio Romo, Tyler Clippard and Matt Wisler now gone.
The Twins brought in Alex Colome, who had a 0.81 ERA in 21 games last season with the White Sox, to help out in the later innings. They also added Hansel Robles, who had a difficult 2020 season, but they’re hoping for a return to form.
Taylor Rogers and Tyler Duffey will fortify the back end of the bullpen, and Caleb Thielbar, Jorge Alcala and Cody Stashak all had strong 2020 seasons. As for a long guy, let’s give Smeltzer the edge over Thorpe right now, though Thorpe is out of options, which could play a factor in this decision.
Catchers (3): Mitch Garver, Ryan Jeffers, Willians Astudillo
Expect to see both Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers seeing their fair share of playing time behind the plate. The Twins are always cognizant of the strain the position puts on the body, preaching the principles of rest and recovery.
Luckily for them, they have two offensive threats who can split the time behind the plate.
Garver was kept out of action for much of last season, dealing with an intercostal strain, but he hit .273 with a .365 on-base percentage and .630 slugging percentage to go along with his 31 home runs a season prior. Jeffers performed well in his first taste of the majors, batting .273 with three home runs in 26 games last season.
For the sake of this exercise, let’s say the Twins roll with three catchers, as they’ve seemed to like doing in the recent past. It gives the Twins some flexibility to potentially use Garver or Jeffers as a pinch hitter, and Astudillo can provide some positional versatility.
Infielders (5): Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Andrelton Simmons, Josh Donaldson, Luis Arraez
Not a whole lot of question marks with this group.
Miguel Sano and Josh Donaldson are locked in at the corners.
The Twins signed defensive whiz Andrelton Simmons last month, and as a result, will shift Jorge Polanco from shortstop to second base. Though Polanco, who is coming off his second ankle surgery in as many years, hasn’t played that position much in the majors, the Twins are confident in his ability there, which he played frequently in the minors.
That leaves Luis Arraez to fill in in a super-utility role, much like the one Marwin Gonzalez occupied the past two seasons, allowing the Twins to get his bat in the lineup frequently while he fills in around the infield. He appeared in left field at points during the 2019 season, too.
The other two infielders on the 40-man roster, Travis Blankenhorn and Nick Gordon, would appear ticketed for Triple-A St. Paul.
Outfielders (4): Max Kepler, Byron Buxton, Jake Cave, Brent Rooker
With Max Kepler and Byron Buxton locked in at right and center field, respectively, the Twins will be looking to fill the spot they opened when Eddie Rosario was non-tendered.
At some point this season, it seems likely that top prospect Alex Kirilloff will play a significant role for the Twins, though whether that comes on Opening Day or later in the season is a story to watch this spring. Kirilloff debuted during the Wild Card Series last September, showing the team’s confidence in his readiness, though the Twins might prefer to send him back to Triple-A briefly so that they can get an extra year of club control.
Some sort of Brent Rooker/Jake Cave platoon seems like it could be an option for the Twins to begin the season. The Twins know what they have in Cave and saw positive things from Rooker in the seven games he played last season before suffering a season-ending forearm fracture.
In recent days, the Twins also have added waiver claim Kyle Garlick and signed outfielder Keon Broxton to a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training. Both seem likely to begin next season in St. Paul.
DH (1): Nelson Cruz
The Boomstick is back. Enough said.