Projecting the Twins Opening Day Roster: Version 1.0
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY SportsCatchers (3): Mitch Garver, Ryan Jeffers, Willians Astudillo
Garver and Jeffers might be the best catching duo in all of baseball, especially if Garver can rebound after a rough 2020 campaign. Jeffers was tremendous last season and he has the potential to take home AL Rookie of the Year honors if he continue to produce at the same level. Astudillo is coming off a tremendous winter season in the Venezuelan Winter League where he finished as the MVP runner-up. His defensive versatility gives Rocco Baldelli some flexibility on Opening Day.
Infielders (5): Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Luis Arraez, Josh Donaldson, Andrelton Simmons
Donaldson and Simmons on the same side of the infield is quite the defensive pairing as both players have won Gold Gloves in the past. Moving Polanco to second base will help to improve his value by taking away some of the weaknesses he showed at shortstop. Sano was solid at first base in 2020 and he will only get better as he learns the nuances of his new defensive position. One of the toughest tasks for Baldelli might be finding enough at-bats for Arraez as he shifts to a utility role.
Outfield (4): Jake Cave, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Brent Rooker
One name noticeably missing from this list is Alex Kirilloff. Due to MLB’s arbitration rules, Minnesota will likely keep Kirilloff in the minors to start the year, so the club can pick up another year of team control. This means Cave and Rooker are the likely winners in this scenario because both should start the year on the big-league roster. The Twins can also use Arraez and Astudillo in the outfield, but that is not likely a preferable option. However, Baldelli might want to find extra at-bats for these players and the outfield can offer an open position until Kirilloff is called up.
Designated Hitter (1): Nelson Cruz
The Boomstick is back to anchor the middle of the Twins line-up. Father Time hasn’t caught up to him yet and the Twins are hoping the 2021 season matches his output from his first two seasons in Minnesota.
Rotation (5): Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ, Randy Dobnak
Berrios has been the Opening Day starter in each of the last two seasons, so it will be interesting to see what direction Baldelli goes for the team’s first game. Maeda is coming off a runner-up finish for the AL Cy Young, so he could get the honor of starting Opening Day. Pineda is looking to play his first full season in Minnesota after missing time due to Tommy John surgery and suspension. J.A. Happ slides nicely into the back end of the rotation and Dobnak should round things out unless the team makes another move in the coming weeks.
Bullpen (8): Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Alex Colome, Jorge Alcala, Hansel Robles, Caleb Thielbar, Cody Stashak, Ian Hamilton
This bullpen has the potential to be one of the team’s strengths in 2021. Rogers had a rough 2020 season, but some of the peripheral numbers point to him bouncing back. Duffey might be the team’s best relief option and he is a weapon the club can utilize in a variety of roles. Colome has been an All-Star level closer for multiple seasons so it will be interesting to see what role he fills in Minnesota. Alcala can be the Twins breakout player in the bullpen, and he might be one of the team’s most valuable set-up men this season. Hamilton might be the biggest question mark with Edwar Colina, Devin Smeltzer, and Lewis Thorpe having a chance to beat him out.
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