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Twins Minor League Talk 29 May 2020
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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

If Rosario does get traded, a possibility would be to get Maybin to platoon with Cave. He is still a decent player and along with Cave could be a cheap bridge until one of their prospects are ready. That hopefully would be next year.

    • DocBauer 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.

Isn't part of the new rule that teams have a maximum of 13 pitchers?Thought I saw that last summer when this first came out.

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Matthew Taylor
Jan 24 2020 11:08 AM

 

Isn't part of the new rule that teams have a maximum of 13 pitchers?Thought I saw that last summer when this first came out.

Yep, you are correct.

 

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

I forgot about that. thanks!

 

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.

If Cave is out of options, I'd say he's guaranteed a spot at this point.

 

He's been extremely hot/cold and I don't like his strikeouts (or defense, though that's more fixable). If he can hit as a role player, he's an okay piece on the bench. If he plays like last April-May, then no thank you.

Don't get some of the comments regarding Cave. He's a fourth outfielder. He catches the ball when it's hit to him and he has a 111 career OPS+...last year he was 112. Meanwhile, we think Buxton is about to become Willie Mays...his OPS+ last year was 114.

 

Likewise with LaMonte Wade. Beside the fact that his SLG is exceptionally poor...there were 7 guys at Rochester last year that had better OBP than he did. One of those was...you guessed it...Cave. Meanwhile, they're both left-handed and can't play center field. I can only chalk it up to the eternal desire for something new/different.

 

IMO, if not Cave...then someone like Dyson who can be a defensive substitution late in games, and play a legitimate center field once a week or so.

At this point, no need to go outside the organization. Gonzalez is a suitable backup for many a position. Kepler can move to center. Willians gives you a lot of position strength including catcher, plus he does put the ball in play. ight now the Twins have outfield strength. Who needs to play most everyday at Rochester (Raley, Wade, Celestino?). So, Cave could be a possibility, but I don't see the need to have him and be forced to play him unles someone does go down with an injury...but if that is a longterm issue, then I would add someone like Kirilloff for everyday use...if later in the season. But no need to go add other names if they aren't going to play.

The Gardenhire Rules for Roster Building insisted upon a third catcher on the 25man even in the absence of major league caliber talent at the position. Had to have three catchers. Had to.

Gardy is gone, and Rocco rules, so there’s no requirement to keep a third catcher. But a third catcher is essential with a 26man roster when the starting catcher, Garver, is first and foremost a hitter whose stick will be utilized at DH on days off from the wear and tear behind the plate. Having a third backup that doesn’t eliminate Garver as a DH in a game when the backup-starter has to be replaced, whether due to injury, heat exhaustion, a pinch hitter, runner, or whatever, is not a necessity, but I don’t see how Rocco says no to it as an option. All that flexibility is a good thing when you’re the one making the decisions.

Astudillo will be on the roster.
    • DannySD likes this
"Not a Cave Fan at all....we have to be able to do better."
Are you a fan of Sano playing 1b?

The Gardenhire Rules for Roster Building insisted upon a third catcher on the 25man even in the absence of major league caliber talent at the position. Had to have three catchers. Had to.
Gardy is gone, and Rocco rules, so there’s no requirement to keep a third catcher. But a third catcher is essential with a 26man roster when the starting catcher, Garver, is first and foremost a hitter whose stick will be utilized at DH on days off from the wear and tear behind the plate. Having a third backup that doesn’t eliminate Garver as a DH in a game when the backup-starter has to be replaced, whether due to injury, heat exhaustion, a pinch hitter, runner, or whatever, is not a necessity, but I don’t see how Rocco says no to it as an option. All that flexibility is a good thing when you’re the one making the decisions.
Astudillo will be on the roster.

Cruz will DH 6 days a week, sano will dh the 7th, no need for Garver to DH
    • railmarshalljon and Melissa like this

 

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,

I like Rooker a lot and he hut very well at Rochester. It seems to me he is MLB ready and they’d do well to give him chance.

 

I could get behind Pillar if Cave were traded. Veteran RH bat and quality CF option who would allow Kepler to pretty much stick to RF, even with Buxton out or taking a day off.

I wish Cave were more natural in the OF, particular CF. He makes some really nice plays and also has some ridiculous flubs. It almost seems like he just can't always judge/track the ball. But I'd still stick with him over Pillar at this point. He's younger, has a better bat, and there is still room for modest improvement.

It's got to be him or Astudillo for the last spot.
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specialiststeve
Jan 25 2020 03:57 PM

Actually am pretty sure that they will add a pitcher for the last spot. Adding the pitcher allows the Twins especially early to mix and match guys to get through the early part of the season when pitchers tend to not go as long. 

 

I would actually see Nick Gordon to make a push for the 26 spot alsoas is 24 years old and we need to see if he is going to contributor or have him move on. Not going to light it up but may as well see if he got game as they say. 

 

Pillar makes a lot of sense.

Actually am pretty sure that they will add a pitcher for the last spot. Adding the pitcher allows the Twins especially early to mix and match guys to get through the early part of the season when pitchers tend to not go as long.

I would actually see Nick Gordon to make a push for the 26 spot also as is 24 years old and we need to see if he is going to contributor or have him move on. Not going to light it up but may as well see if he got game as they say.


They aren't allowed more than 13 pitchers on the roster.
New rule when the 26 man roster was introduced.
    • Sconnie likes this
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specialiststeve
Jan 26 2020 07:20 PM

 

They aren't allowed more than 13 pitchers on the roster.
New rule when the 26 man roster was introduced.

 

Didn't know that ... thanks. 

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Cory Engelhardt
Feb 10 2020 10:44 AM

Hear me out, and maybe this is crazy, but Billy Hamilton maybe? I mean, yes, that's crazy. But keep him for JUST pinch running and defensive replacement late innings. Don't let him bat (heck, pinch-hit a pitcher instead) but late innings, someone gets on base, having a great pinch running option couldn't hurt. 

 

Otherwise, I really like the Pillar idea, and/or just sticking with Lamonte Wade.

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stringer bell
Feb 10 2020 01:31 PM

 

Hear me out, and maybe this is crazy, but Billy Hamilton maybe? I mean, yes, that's crazy. But keep him for JUST pinch running and defensive replacement late innings. Don't let him bat (heck, pinch-hit a pitcher instead) but late innings, someone gets on base, having a great pinch running option couldn't hurt. 

 

Otherwise, I really like the Pillar idea, and/or just sticking with Lamonte Wade.

Hamilton signed a couple of days ago with the Giants. I wanted him as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement for last year's postseason run. If the Twins are in a similar position this year, I think that would be a good move on or about August 31.

    • Cory Engelhardt likes this