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4 Options for Twins' Final Bench Spot

With Josh Donaldson in the fold, the Twins’ starting nine is set. Figuring out the bench is a little trickier. Alex Avila, Ehire Adrianza and Marwin Gonzalez are locks, but who will take the final bench spot and be the 26th man?
Image courtesy of © Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
On this week’s Gleeman and the Geek podcast, John and Aaron gave their thoughts on who they think should take the final bench spot. After reading this article, I’d definitely recommend giving this episode a listen if you haven’t already.

When it comes to the final spot on the bench, the Minnesota Twins have what I believe to be four options. In this article I will lay out the case for each of these options and opine what I think the Twins should do.

Internal Options:

1. Jake Cave

The case for: Cave represents continuity as he appeared in 72 games for Minnesota in 2019 after Buxton’s shoulder injury forced Kepler to move to center field and Cave to fill his spot in right field. At the dish, Cave performed better than anyone could’ve asked, posting an .805 OPS in 228 PAs. Compared to 2018, Cave improved his K%, BB%, and chase % in 2019. Cave is only 27 years old and could still have room to improve if given the opportunity.

The case against: A big strike against Cave is that he, like Rosario and Kepler, is left handed. His left handedness means that he isn’t much of a pinch hit candidate for the Twins and he wouldn’t be called upon to start unless there was a rest or injury situation. Additionally, Cave does not represent much insurance in the field. Last year Cave consistently misplayed balls off the wall, misjudged dives, and took poor angles.

Option 2: Willians Astudillo

The case for: Astudillo played six different positions in 2019 and offers the Twins a ton of defensive flexibility including the ability to carry a third catcher. This would mostly come into play on Garver’s off days. Astudillo would allow the Twins to pinch hit Avila’s spot against right-handed pitchers without forcing Garver to put his catcher’s gear on. Astudillo is also an extreme contact hitter who could be called upon to pinch hit in opportunities where the Twins simply need a contact play.

The case against: La Tortuga was not good at the plate in 2019, posting a .299 OBP and .678 OPS. Having a third catcher is handy, but Astudillo is no wizard behind the plate, so I can’t see Minnesota putting themselves in too many situations where they will need to call upon Astudillo to catch.

External Options:

Option 3: Kevin Pillar

The case for: Pillar had his best season in the big leagues at the plate in 2019, posting a career best .719 OPS with 21 home runs and 88 RBI. Pillar being a right -hander makes him much more valuable, as he posted a 105 wRC+ in 2019 with a .823 OPS against left-handed pitching. Spending his entire career as a solid center fielder, Pillar would be able to fill in at center field should Buxton get injured in 2020, allowing Kepler to stay in right field where he is a borderline Gold Glover.

The case against: Acquiring Pillar would require dropping someone from the 40-man roster, where the Twins don’t have a ton of wiggle room right now. Additionally, being just 31 years old and coming off his best offensive season, it’s not a slam dunk that Pillar would be willing to sign with a team as a fifth outfielder.

Option 4: Jarrod Dyson

The case for: Jerrod Dyson was an excellent center fielder for Arizona in 2019 when he was worth 5 DRS, 5.3 UZR/150 and six outs above average. Additionally he is a speedster, with what would be the second highest sprint speed on the Twins after Byron Buxton. Dyson represents a guy who could fill in admirably in the field for Buxton in the case of injury and also be called upon as a pinch runner late in games.

The case against: Dyson was not good at the plate in 2019, posting just a .633 OPS with a 19 K%. Dyson hasn’t had a season with an OPS over .700 since 2016. While his speed and defense are helpful, he is such a poor hitter that I’m not sure he makes sense as a bench guy, especially as he is also a left handed hitter.

Given all of the options my preference would be for the Minnesota Twins to go out and sign Kevin Pillar as their 26th man. Having an above average right-handed bat to occasionally start and pinch hit against left-handed pitching while providing capable center field defense is an enticing proposition for the Twins. If Pillar is not willing to join the Twins, I think they should roll with Cave who hit really well for the Twins last year, is a popular clubhouse guy, and wouldn’t require any 40-man roster moves.

Who do you think should take the last spot on the bench and be the 26th man for the Twins in 2020? Leave a comment below and start the conversation.

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43 Comments

Love the Dyson idea. I forgot he was out there but he's a perfect backup outfielder in case Buxton goes down. Dude can still run too. Nice article.

It's too soon for another player named Dyson.

    • KGB, PDX Twin, dbminn and 3 others like this
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MMMordabito
Jan 23 2020 08:26 PM

Only on Twins Daily will you continually read suggestions about trading Eddie Rosario in one place while also constantly reading about acquiring the even more OBP-challenged and slowing Kevin Pillar in another.

 

Bananas.

 

    • adorduan, dbminn, bighat and 3 others like this
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stringer bell
Jan 23 2020 08:44 PM
I think spending money on a declining Pillar makes very little sense and while the team needs more speed and a good defender, especially if (when?) Buxton is injured, Dyson really doesn’t have a major league bat.

I think the best and most versatile 26th man would be Astudillo, but he’ll need to win the job over Cave.
    • NapoleonComplex and DocBauer like this
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Patrick Wozniak
Jan 23 2020 08:59 PM

I'm really surprised at how much the just-released ZiPS projections like Astudillo (.283/.312/.452, 102 OPS+, 1.5 fWAR). They basically have Astudillo and Cave as equal hitters with Astudillo being the more valuable defender. I would still probably guess that Cave wins the job though.

    • wabene likes this

 

Only on Twins Daily will you continually read suggestions about trading Eddie Rosario in one place while also constantly reading about acquiring the even more OBP-challenged and slowing Kevin Pillar in another.

 

Bananas.

It's good to have diversity of opinion ... makes you think!

    • ashbury, Sconnie and wabene like this

Is LaMonte Wade completely out of this discussion?

    • goulik, wabene, rdehring and 3 others like this

I'll go with Austadillo as long as all Rosario, Buxton, Kepler, and Gonzales are all basically healthy. Cave doesn't offer much when that's the case. It might be good to try to trade him for someone relatively equivalent but right-handed - or maybe weaker offensively but better defensively. Easy to say, harder to do.

    • stringer bell, NapoleonComplex, Sconnie and 4 others like this
When I saw the title, I just assumed all 4 we're internal candidates. I figured Wade was one and maybe Gordon....

I don't see the need to go out and pay for a 26th man when you have Cave, Wade, and Astudillo in the system. I think they could all start for some of the rebuilding teams in the league, frankly.

 

    • Twins33, Sconnie, DocBauer and 4 others like this
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Homer Hanky
Jan 24 2020 05:46 AM

I'd say stay inside org... 

 

Wade or Gordon if we don't really care if they bat left or right 

Dyson in Rochester might be a good idea,

Is LaMonte Wade completely out of this discussion?

with options, he’s my first call up when Buxton gets injured.

In my mind Mr 26 is between Cave and Astudillo.
    • goulik likes this
I’d be very surprised, barring injuries, that Jake Cave isn’t the 25th player on the team. I think a better question is whether the Twins will go with 7 or 8 relief pitchers. I think they will go with 8 early in the season and Astudillo will rake in Rochester. Wade is the first call up if an OF gets injured. Kiriloff comes up later in the year if he performs as expected. Rooker and Raley are also options. I am also in favor of completely giving in to spellcheck and requiring all players to change their names to what spellcheck says so Rocker and Riley it is.
    • PDX Twin, dbminn, gagu and 4 others like this

There is no need to sign a backup OF and lose a player from the 40 man roster. Kepler is an above-average CF. Marwin and Cave are fine in the corners. Wade can come up from AAA if there's an early spate of injuries.

    • DannySD likes this

Does Cave have options?If not, he is the 26th man as Astudillo must still have an option or two.A big spring from Wade could see him enter the discussion.Doubt any of the big prospects would be considered as the Twins will want to see them playing every day.

    • PseudoSABR likes this
Without Astrudillo, Everytime Avila catches Garver will have to ride the pine. Can't really DH your only backup catcher. I'm pretty sure Cave is the best option for the 25th man and Astrudillo should be the 26th man by about May. I'd say early in the year to go with the 26th man in the BP. Then as the starting pitching gets more reps, to drop the extra bullpen arm and bring in Astrudillo.
    • DannySD likes this
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stringer bell
Jan 24 2020 08:26 AM

 

I’d be very surprised, barring injuries, that Jake Cave isn’t the 25th player on the team. I think a better question is whether the Twins will go with 7 or 8 relief pitchers. I think they will go with 8 early in the season and Astudillo will rake in Rochester. Wade is the first call up if an OF gets injured. Kiriloff comes up later in the year if he performs as expected. Rooker and Raley are also options. I am also in favor of completely giving in to spellcheck and requiring all players to change their names to what spellcheck says so Rocker and Riley it is.

There is a 26 man roster this season, so the Twins can have eight in the bullpen and still have four bench players. Especially early in the season, there is really no point to having more than 13 pitchers. Non-starters Avila, Gonzalez, and Adrianza are set, so the fourth bench spot is between the versatile Astudillo (including being a third catcher) and Cave. I believe both players have an option remaining, so which guy fits better? All things being equal, I think Astudillo is the better fit, but if Cave clearly outplays him in the spring, he can win the job. Most likely, someone will be injured and we won't be having this discussion at all.

Would any of these options be better than Rooker, a RH bat that plays corner OF, if has a good spring training. Cheap and available,

    • Beth27 likes this
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diehardtwinsfan
Jan 24 2020 08:43 AM

Donaldson should help, but lineup is still a bit OBP poor for my tastes.. I'd probably go Wade personally, but I could see Cave or Gordon too.

Another thing to consider is whether they stick with a 3-man bench (carrying 13 pitchers wasn't unusual with a 25-man roster) and use the extra roster spot to keep another pitcher active. Given the fact that they're starting the season short-handed in the rotation due to Pineda's suspension and Hill's recovery, and assuming Buxton and Polanco are fully healthy coming back from their surgeries, carrying 14 pitchers might make sense. This is particularly true given the versatility the Twins have built in to their roster. Marwin and Adrianza can both play 6 positions credibly.

 

Among the options they have already rostered (I'm guessing they aren't looking to sign a middling, at best, FA OF), I'd expect Cave to be the 4th bench bat.

    • howieramone2, wabene and DannySD like this
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Doctor Gast
Jan 24 2020 09:42 AM

Unless Astudillo really turns it around I`d go w/ Cave. It`d give Astudillo more time to work on his plate discipline. I like the idea of keeping Kepler in RF & having a purer CF like Jarrod Dyson, can we 1st put him AAA w/o needing to putting him on the 40 man? Hopefully we can trade some players off the 40 man.

 Gordon definitely not although I see him improving this year, he`ll take awhile to adjust to the ML & won`t be much more than average. I`d like to see him traded, he could fit better in a different org.

 Like I stated in a different article w/ the Twins flexibility of covering all the bases, couldn`t we bring up an extra pitcher & be more creative w/ the rotation?

Without Astrudillo, Everytime Avila catches Garver will have to ride the pine. Can't really DH your only backup catcher. I'm pretty sure Cave is the best option for the 25th man and Astrudillo should be the 26th man by about May. I'd say early in the year to go with the 26th man in the BP. Then as the starting pitching gets more reps, to drop the extra bullpen arm and bring in Astrudillo.


Zero reason they can't DH Garver when Avila catches.
They can play by NL rules for a few innings on the slim chance Avila has to leave the game.
    • Melissa likes this

Another thing to consider is whether they stick with a 3-man bench (carrying 13 pitchers wasn't unusual with a 25-man roster) and use the extra roster spot to keep another pitcher active. Given the fact that they're starting the season short-handed in the rotation due to Pineda's suspension and Hill's recovery, and assuming Buxton and Polanco are fully healthy coming back from their surgeries, carrying 14 pitchers might make sense. This is particularly true given the versatility the Twins have built in to their roster. Marwin and Adrianza can both play 6 positions credibly.

Among the options they have already rostered (I'm guessing they aren't looking to sign a middling, at best, FA OF), I'd expect Cave to be the 4th bench bat.


They aren't allowed to carry 14 pitchers. That's a new rule that came with the 26 man roster.
    • beckmt likes this

Not a Cave Fan at all....we have to be able to do better.