Mailbag: Extension-Palooza, Infield Log Jam, New Spring Format
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
After locking up Jorge Polanco and Max Kelper last week, the Twins could still lock up another piece of their young core before the season begins. I believe the Twins lock up one more piece before the season begins and I think it will be a pitcher. That leaves Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson in the discussion.
Berrios is coming off an All-Star season and some recent MLB contract extensions could provide the outline for getting a deal done. Seth prognosticated on those possibilities over the weekend. Gibson can be a free agent at season’s end, but I believe the Twins want him to stay with the organization beyond this season.
If I was betting on the next extension, it would be on Berrios.
Even with the extension for Jorge Polanco, I believe Royce Lewis won’t be impacted. Nick Gordon will be slated to make his debut this season, but his stock has significantly dropped over the past year. Jonathan Schoop is only under contract for this season so Gordon could take over second base next year. Granted, Gordon is going to need to show some offensive improvements during the 2019 campaign.
Lewis will spend the first half of this season in Fort Myers with the possibility to make it to Pensacola in the second half. Depending on how he does in 2019, he could split time next season between Double- and Triple-A during the 2020 campaign. That puts him in line for a debut at the end of that season or early in 2021.
Middle infield depth is never a bad thing. It’s also something Minnesota hasn’t had in quite a long time.
At this point in their careers, I think Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario are both trade worthy. Neither of them has shown me they are irreplaceable and there will certainly be some pressure from the minor leagues. Alex Kirilloff could make his debut in 2019 (see below) and this could put added pressure on some of the other young outfielders on the roster.
Overall, I think John was right when he wrote about the Kepler deal at the end of last week. The club and the player might have found a balanced deal. However, it doesn’t mean Kepler is going to be in a Twins uniform for the remainder of his professional career.
Yes, I do believe the Indians win the division, but baseball is a crazy game. If I was a betting man, I would say Cleveland wins the division but only manages less than 90 wins. Their roster has flaws for the first time in multiple years and this is when other AL Central teams can begin to try to take advantage.
For Minnesota, it will be about their start to the season and how well their key players perform. The Twins could easily win as many games as Cleveland, but a lot of things are going to have to go right. Minnesota’s front office will also have to be willing to deal young players at the deadline to add impact pieces. Is that something that is in the best interest of the club? We will have to wait and find out.
For me, the easy answer is Willians Astudillo. He might be a fan favorite, but I don’t see a scenario where the Twins will need three catchers on the roster. Jason Castro and Mitch Garver are ahead of him on the depth chart. He provides some defensive flexibility, but I don’t think it is enough to warrant a utility spot on the 25-man roster.
Will he play for the Twins this season? Yes, but I don’t think he makes the 25-man roster out of spring training.
Hot or cold starts are a tough thing to predict. In recent seasons, the Twins haven’t exactly come bursting out of the gate with an 8-14 record last April and a 12-11 record the year before. With a new manager and plenty of young pieces, I would guess on a slower start for the core to gel. I think the team will have around a .500 record at the end of April. From there, the club will have to make strides in the right direction to make the playoffs.
I believe the Twins are going to use an opener most of the season. I don’t think it will matter if the starter is Jose Berrios or someone at the back end of the rotation. Minnesota is teaching their young players about the benefits of the opener and I think the veteran pitchers will follow the lead of Rocco Baldelli. He’s coming from the Rays organization that created the opener concept. Openers won’t be used every day, but I would guess the Twins use an opener four out of six games in a week.
As I wrote about in his profile last week, Alex Kirilloff is clearly on a path to Target Field. Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, and Max Kepler all sit on the 25-man roster ahead of Kirilloff. He hasn’t played a game above High-A so the team will have to be aggressive with him this season for him to make his debut. That being said, I certainly think it is a possibility.
He should be given the opportunity to start the year at Double-A. In the past, top prospects have shown the ability to skip Triple-A and head straight to the big leagues. Minnesota did this with Joe Mauer when he was making his debut. Even if Kirilloff moves quickly this year, there is no reason for him to debut before the second half of the year. Last season was outstanding, but he needs to show he can produce in the upper levels of the minor leagues.
With a new coaching staff, there is plenty that is left to be seen with how it impacts the club. The Twins have put a new spring training format into focus so far with the club. This has been meant to minimize time standing around and to keep the club moving through drills.
“I think the best way to describe it is to get the most out of our guys in a good, concise, short period of time,” Baldelli said. “We wanted to get out guys on the field, do good work, get them off the field to try to treat them good.”
Less down time during drills could leave plenty of opportunities for off-field bonding. The first position player workouts are just underway so it will be interesting to see how the player react to the new format.
I think Craig Kimbrel could be a very valuable piece for a bullpen, but I don’t think it will be in Minnesota. Maybe the asking price will become low enough. However, I think the organization is content starting the season with the bullpen arms already on staff. Especially with the news, about Fernando Romero joining the bullpen. I don’t know if the Twins will have a traditional closer. I wouldn’t be surprised if multiple players collect 10+ saves this season. I think Baldelli will go with the best match-up and not have a designated closer.
What do you think about the questions asked this week? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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