4 Options for Twins' Final Bench Spot
Image courtesy of © Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY SportsOn 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.
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.
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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