Minnesota Twins Roster Projection 4.0
Image courtesy of Tyler Duffey (by Evan Habeeb, USA Today), Byron Buxton (by Jerome Miron, USA Today), Michael Tonkin (by Tim Fuller, USA Today)(As always, this is just a projection, a prediction of what a roster could look like on Opening Day. It is fully my opinion based on observation, reading, and too much time thinking about such things. Names in bold are givens, in my opinion.)
Starting Pitchers (5):
Ervin Santana, Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes, Tommy Milone, Tyler Duffey (remaining: Logan Darnell)
The top three pitchers have been announced as the Twins opening series starters. They have yet to name the fourth and fifth starters, so there are some questions. In my mind, Tommy Milone has been a given all along, even if they haven’t said it yet.
So, it really comes down to Tyler Duffey and Ricky Nolasco. Nolasco has pitched better, especially of late. Duffey has, frankly, struggled. They each have one more start to go before a decision would be made, and maybe they could both go to Washington and make starts before a final decision is made. I’m going to leave it at Tyler Duffey, but I feel very little confidence in that right now. In my mind, the Twins brass needs to ask this question; Is it better to have a two-pitch Duffey in the rotation right away, or better to send him to Rochester for two months to attempt to improve his change-up? Frankly, if he doesn’t develop the change-up as a quality third pitch, his long-term future is likely to be in the bullpen.
Relief Pitchers (8):
Glen Perkins, Kevin Jepsen, Trevor May, Casey Fien, Fernando Abad, Ricky Nolasco, Michael Tonkin, Ryan Pressly (remaining: Ryan O’Rourke (40), Brandon Kintzler, Dan Runzler)
First, I think if Tyler Duffey is not named the fifth starter, he will be optioned to Rochester. However, if Nolasco is not a starter, they will have to move him to the bullpen. That’s just the reality. We will see how that goes. So, that’s either zero or one roster spot.
The first five names listed above are givens. No question about that in my mind. Though Abad hasn’t been great, I feel that he is going to be given a spot. Removing Mike Strong from the 40-man roster makes that even more likely.
So there are five givens, and since I show Duffey as starting, that would make Nolasco a given as well. That puts us as six, and I think that Ryan Pressly has earned a job. I bolded his name above as a given, but not 100% certain.
The elephant in the room remains Michael Tonkin. When I was there eight days ago, he was not good, and I was certain that he would not make the roster. In his most recent outing, he threw two terrific, perfect innings. He still throws 95. He has a slider. It just hasn’t translated well to the big leagues, though he was better last September.
The other option, and the option that I’m projecting today, is going with a 13-man pitching staff. That isn’t ideal in the middle of the season much less at the beginning. No one wants that. Molitor and Ryan know that isn’t ideal. But, if they have any belief in Michael Tonkin, they won’t let him go for nothing. (Note – I also think that Terry Ryan may be trying to make a trade.)
Kurt Suzuki, John Ryan Murphy (likely sent down yet: John Hicks (40), Juan Centeno)
Coming into spring training, it was pretty much a given that Suzuki would start and Murphy would be his backup. They added some quality AAA depth in John Hicks and Juan Centeno, a couple of 26-year-olds. 24-year-old Murphy has just two hits in 25 at-bats and has thrown out just one of six base stealers in camp. We all know that spring stats don’t mean much at all, and Murphy is someone they believe in. He needs to work with the big league pitchers. That said, you could argue that if Duffey, Berrios and Meyer are in the Rochester starting rotation, you could send him down for four to six weeks and have him work with those guys. If that were to happen, Hicks would be the Opening Day backup.
I still expect John Ryan Murphy to back up Kurt Suzuki to start the season.
Joe Mauer, Byung Ho Park, Brian Dozier, Eduardo Escobar, Trevor Plouffe, Eduardo Nunez (sent down yet: James Beresford)
These spots are pretty much already set. Beresford is still around, showing that he is likely in line for that Doug Bernier role that we’ve seen the last three years. If there is an opening for a backup infielder, I think Beresford is that guy. If there is an injury and they would need more of a starter (at SS or 2B), they would likely call up Jorge Polanco.
Not a lot more to say with this group. These have all been givens throughout the spring, and also remember that Danny Santana can play three infield spots as well.
Eddie Rosario, Miguel Sano, Danny Santana, Oswaldo Arcia (sent down yet: Byron Buxton (40), Darin Mastroianni, Carlos Quentin)
All- right, here is where things get interesting for Twins fans, and more so, for Twins pitchers. Byron Buxton came to camp given the opportunity to win the starting center field job. He missed a couple of games with illness and one due to rain. He has been good, as expected, in the outfield. He has had a couple of good offensive games. Most of the time, he’s had a couple of bad at-bats each game, and one or two OK (or even good) at-bats as well when getting three or four plate appearances. I am starting to wonder if Buxton could start the season in Rochester. As we have said above with Duffey, or as we see with the Kepler demotion, there has to be a fine line between wanting to have the players on the big league roster with doing what is best for the players and the team in the short term and long term. It might be ideal for him to go to Rochester for a month and lead off every game. Get him as many at-bats as possible. Right now, I feel like the odds of Buxton being on the Opening Day roster right around 50/50.
If this is the outfield that they went with on Opening Day, there would be two possible outfield configurations lineups:
1.) Rosario (LF), Santana (CF), Sano (RF), or
2.) Arcia (LF), Rosario (CF), Sano (RF)
Obviously Arcia would be able to play right field as well to give Sano a day off if needed. Santana can at least cover some ground in the corner spots as well.
If Buxton is sent down, I don’t think it would be for very long. The Twins aren’t going to want to stay at 13 pitchers for very long. They want his defense and speed patrolling center field for the big league pitchers.
I’d also add that I think if Terry Ryan could trade Michael Tonkin before Opening Day, then Buxton would be in the big leagues and the Twins would have 13 hitters and 12 pitchers.
The Twins have just a few really tough decisions to make in the next seven days. I see there being 22 givens to be on the roster (pending injury, unexpected trade, etc.). That means three roster spots are up for grabs between these players:
(Tyler Duffey, Michael Tonkin, Byron Buxton, John Ryan Murphy, John Hicks, maybe Ryan O'Rourke)
Let’s see your rosters for Opening Day and what you would do.