Projecting the Saints' Opening Day Roster
Image courtesy of © Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY SportsSTARTING ROTATION
LHP LEWIS THORPE
Thorpe is turning heads early at camp, pumping 92-93 with his fastball after his velocity alarmingly dropped in 2020. The Twins would benefit greatly from a league-average or better performance from Thorpe in 2021. With another option in tow, it’s likely he’ll need to impress further in St.Paul to start the season before re-joining the Twins.
RHP BAILEY OBER
The 6-foot-9 Ober has dominated at every minor league level. The Twins added him to their 40-man roster this offseason, showing belief in his unique skillset. Ober’s stuff isn’t on the level of fellow giant Tyler Glasnow of the Tampa Bay Rays, but he has excellent command and his long right arm creates latitudinal diception for hitters.
LHP DEVIN SMELTZER
There’s a fair chance Smeltzer cracks the Twins’ opening day roster. It’s likely the team will favor 14 pitchers over 13 position players, which could open the door for the Alka Smeltz. The addition of Matt Shoemaker viably pushed Smeltzer, who owns a 4.57 ERA in 18 career MLB games, to Lowertown.
RHP GLENN SPARKMAN
Sparkman, released by the Royals in November, is a non-roster invite to Fort Myers. The 28-year-old has pitched to a 6.00 ERA over his last 141 major-league innings but owns a 3.53 ERA in 81 2/3 career innings at Triple-A. He upped his slider usage in a limited 2020 sample and averaged 93 MPH with his four-seamer.
RHP GRIFFIN JAX
Jax pitched to a 2.69 ERA over his first 18 starts for Double-A Pensacola in 2019. The Twins bumped him to Rochester for a couple weeks before sending him back for the Southern League playoffs. He started two postseason games for the Blue Wahoos, holding his opponents to a .171/.205/.195 slash line in 11 innings. Keep an eye on him.
RHP EDWAR COLINA
Colina’s debut with the Twins went as poorly as possible and he’s currently sporting an 81.00 career ERA. He’ll be an asset out of the bullpen soon for Minnesota, however. He just needs some more experience and tweaking. As a former starter, he could pitch in a hybrid role to endure more innings. Colina has an electric triple-digit fastball and a killer slider.
RHP IAN GIBAUT
Gibaut was outrighted and successfully passed through waivers, ultimately assuring he’ll pitch for the Saints. Spotty control of huge stuff has duped the 27-year-old throughout his career. He’s posted great strikeout rates, even in the majors, but needs to hone in his command in order to join the defending A.L. Central champions.
RHP DEREK LAW
Law might be the most interesting minor-league signing for the Twins. The right-hander was tremendous in 2016 for the Giants, posting a 2.13 ERA and 19.2% strikeout-to-walk rate in 55 innings. Law has since scuffled with command issues and overall ineffectiveness. Law throws in the mid-90s and drew a 42% whiff rate on his slider in 2019.
RHP TOM HACKIMER
Hackimer, 26, has posted huge strikeout rates in the minors as a side-winding righty. He struck out 31% of batters faced across High-A and Double-A in 2019. He combined for a 2.54 ERA in 36 appearances out of the bullpen. His walk rate was an alarming 11% but he’s flashed swing-and-miss stuff.
RHP JUAN MINAYA
Minaya, much like the right-handers above him, has battled with his command. He throws a tremendous changeup and enjoyed above-average numbers for much of his four seasons out of the White Sox bullpen. He’s a good depth piece for the Saints (and Twins).
LHP DANNY COULOMBE
Coulombe has big league experience, appearing in 155 games over six seasons. He throws a high-spin curveball much like Caleb Thielbar. The Twins could look to Coulombe if Thielbar or Taylor Rogers is hurt or struggling.
LHP BRANDON WADDELL
Waddell didn’t survive the late surge of Twins signings and was dropped off the 40-man to make room for fellow waiver claim Kyle Garlick. He passed through and was outrighted to the minors. Waddell revealed productivity with a 2.23 ERA and 29% strikeout rate in 2019 at Double-A Altoona. More left-handed depth for the club.
RHP IAN HAMILTON
Hamilton has been plagued by bad luck and setbacks. He possessed a high-90s fastball and low-90s slider not that long ago but suffered facial fractures after taking a line drive in 2019. He has high upside, maybe more than anyone on this projected roster.
SS/2B/OF TZU-WEI LIN
Lin, a super-utility Swiss Army knife, destroyed at Triple-A in the Red Sox system in 2018. He hit .307/.362/.448 with 20 doubles and five home runs in 68 games. Now 27, Lin has 101 games of big league experience, hitting a paltry .223/.298/.316 for Boston in short stints over four seasons. Maybe a change of scenery will help him flourish offensively.
2B/SS NICK GORDON
Gordon had a brutally long fight with COVID-19 last summer, knocking him out for a majority of alternate-site activities. He’s now entering the most crucial year of his career. Will he finally force his way to Minnesota?
SS/3B/2B DREW MAGGI
Maggi, 31, sported an impressive .384 on-base percentage for Rochester in 2019. He also hit 10 homers and 19 doubles in 108 games. Maggi is going into his 11th minor-league season and is a very solid asset for the Saints.
1B/LF ZANDER WIEL
Wiel has huge power, evidenced by his 69 extra-base hits and .514 slugging percentage at Triple-A in 2019. He’ll be a middle of the order bat for the Saints and needs to clean up his plate discipline in order to join the Twins.
SS/3B/OF JT RIDDLE
Riddle has 787 MLB plate appearances with little success. His OPS is 33% below league average since 2017. He’s a versatile, strong defender with the ability to play at multiple key positions. He could be a valuable piece for the Saints.
C TOMÁS TELIS
Telis, 29, was a star for the Red Wings at Triple A in 2019. He hit .330/.364/.490 in 82 games. He’s played in nearly 1,000 minor league games with impressive offensive numbers overall. Hitting just .230/.267/.298 in 122 MLB games has limited his opportunities to show more. If Mitch Garver or Ryan Jeffers go down, Telis could be a more attractive option than Willians Astudillo to fill the void for the Twins.
2B/3B TRAVIS BLANKENHORN
Blankenhorn projected to make the Twins’ opening day roster until they signed Andrelton Simmons. A big left-handed bat, Blankenhorn figures to man one of the top spots in St.Paul’s lineup. He owns a solid .756 OPS in five minor-league seasons.
C CALEB HAMILTON
Of the seven catchers in Fort Myers, Hamilton is one of the four or five with experience above Double-A. This puts the 26-year-old on track to start the season in St.Paul, backing up Telis. Hamilton is a lighter-hitting right-handed catcher but adds nice depth to the system.
IF/OF ROB REFSNYDER
Refsnyder was an interesting organizational pickup this winter. In 427 career games at Triple-A, Refsnyder has hit .296/.372/.436 with 100 doubles, 35 home runs and eight triples. Refsnyder is a bit of a tweener but his minor-league numbers pop.
Garlick, 29, has shown signs of harnessing a prolific bat. He’s hit .288/.345/.536 with 91 home runs in 464 minor league games. Garlick posted a 1.072 OPS against Triple-A lefties in 2019. He’ll compete with Brent Rooker as a right-handed option off the bench for the Twins.
Kirilloff’s journey will likely begin in St.Paul, although recent reports have shed light on the possibility of the Twins nixing service time manipulation to bring him up on opening day. Kirilloff, a .317/.365/.498 hitter in the minors, will be must-watch at either level.
Broxton played a decent center field and accumulated 2.5 bWAR in 2016-17 for the Brewers. His lack of contact skills came back to bite him over the next two seasons. He hit just .170 and settled for an NRI with the Twins. He has some pop and great speed and should be the starting center fielder for St.Paul.
PROJECTED LINEUP VS. RHP:
- DREW MAGGI, 2B - R
- ALEX KIRILLOFF, RF - L
- KYLE GARLICK, LF - R
- TRAVIS BLANKENHORN, 3B - L
- ZANDER WIEL, 1B - R
- TOMÁS TELIS, C - S
- ROB REFSNYDER, DH - R
- TZU-WEI LIN, SS - L
- KEON BROXTON, CF - R
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