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Projecting the Twins Opening Day Roster: Version 1.0

After a flurry of moves last week, the Twins roster is slowly coming into focus for the 2021 season. With pitchers and catchers reporting later this month, let’s examine who could come north with the Twins for Opening Day.
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY Sports
Catchers (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.

Who do you think makes the Opening Day roster? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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34 Comments

Nice list.Looks like we still need two more signings.One starter and one reliever will complete this roster nicely.

    • jun likes this

Who among the players is out of minor league options? My impression is that the FO has done a really good job of keeping roster flexibility in this regard, with next to no marginal players who will have to be on the active roster or risk being lost via DFA.

I really think the Twins need to move on from Astudillo. Garver and Jeffers will be able to handle the catching duties as a duo and I don't want to see their ABs diluted with having Tortuga in the mix. Take off Astudillo and add Kirilloff. Alex the starting LF with Rooker being an corner OF backup and 1B backup

    • flpmagikat, Krasnoludki, JoshDungan1 and 3 others like this
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Matthew Lenz
Feb 08 2021 09:40 PM

I don't see any reason to have Astudillo on the active roster over Blankenhorn unless it's also the service time game, which i personally don't agree with but understand it's part of the game.

    • JLease, JoshDungan1, KFEY93 and 1 other like this
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Matthew Lenz
Feb 08 2021 09:45 PM

Thorpe is really the only one out of options, but they would need to pass Hamilton through waivers if they don't add him to the active roster. FWIW, he has failed to make it past waivers twice since September so, unless he's awful in Spring Training, I'm guessing he's gonna get the first crack at the front end of the bullpen. For partially the same reason, I'd venture to guess Thorpe may get the first crack at the number five rotation spot over Dobnak. In general, I tend not to believe in Dobnak so I would like to see Thorpe given an opportunity.

Who among the players is out of minor league options? My impression is that the FO has done a really good job of keeping roster flexibility in this regard, with next to no marginal players who will have to be on the active roster or risk being lost via DFA.

 

    • flpmagikat likes this
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Matthew Lenz
Feb 08 2021 09:46 PM

I wouldn't be surprised if they were done making any non-NRI moves, but I think they need a starter and 4th OF more than a reliever.

Nice list.Looks like we still need two more signings.One starter and one reliever will complete this roster nicely.

 

 

Thorpe is really the only one out of options, but they would need to pass Hamilton through waivers if they don't add him to the active roster. FWIW, he has failed to make it past waivers twice since September so, unless he's awful in Spring Training, I'm guessing he's gonna get the first crack at the front end of the bullpen. For partially the same reason, I'd venture to guess Thorpe may get the first crack at the number five rotation spot over Dobnak. In general, I tend not to believe in Dobnak so I would like to see Thorpe given an opportunity.

It looks like Anderson has 1 option left, so the Twins should be able to stash him in AAA if they so wish. Thorpe looks like the only guy who might who's in trouble.

 

It looks like Anderson has 1 option left, so the Twins should be able to stash him in AAA if they so wish. Thorpe looks like the only guy who might who's in trouble.

 

Yeah, I would put Thorpe over Hamilton for now because 1.) they need a long-man, and 2.) he's out of options... not necessarily in that order. 2020 was a lost season for him, but he's got talent. 

    • flpmagikat, DocBauer and rdehring like this

 

I don't see any reason to have Astudillo on the active roster over Blankenhorn unless it's also the service time game, which i personally don't agree with but understand it's part of the game.

 

Blankenhorn is a prospect. He needs to play. He should split most of the season between AA and AAA (mostly AAA, maybe) and play most every day. He shouldn't be playing one or two games a week in MLB. Astudillo can sit on the bench and be depth and rarely play and that's fine. 

    • LewFordLives, woolywoolhouse, DocBauer and 3 others like this

Still like to bring back Clippard for the bullpen.  

    • jun, DocBauer and wombat28 like this
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LylesCrocodiles
Feb 09 2021 05:38 AM
I will let spring training performance and injuries sort out things for the back of the pen. Coaches will have plenty of ways to pick the No 7 and 8 arms in the pen.

I like Dobnak at No 5 SP. If the front office wants to upgrade that spot so be it.

I prefer to see Nick Gordon on the bench over Tortuga. Gordon is 25. Let’s see what he can do in a limited role before Kirilloff Lewis and Larnach force their way into the lineup.
    • flpmagikat likes this

I see Gordon as trade bait. Unfortunately not much in return.

It'll be interesting to see if training camp really has significant battles for the last relief spot, the last rotation spot, a starting spot in the OF, and the last bench slot. Sometimes these things look decided before camp opens, sometimes a guy kicks a door open and refuses to be sent down.

 

Kirilloff could be one of those guys. Despite the service time manipulation issue, he might hit so well that the Twins just can't drop him down. I'd love for them to sign him to a long-term deal to get away from that issue, but with his representation I see that as being a zero-chance proposition. With the lack of minor league ball last year, the Twins have a legitimate case to start him in AAA...but I still think I'd rather see him starting in LF from day 1. That said...hard to say Rooker doesn't deserve a chance too.

 

We'll see if there's a late veteran starter signing, otherwise it sure looks like Dobnak is the 5th guy (I'm fine with that).

 

The last slot in the 'pen isn't that meaningful when you're carrying 26,574 pitchers on the roster...maybe Thorpe is the guy who is best suited to pitching once every 8 days. Even with starters going 5 innings, it's hard to find work for that last bullpen slot.

 

I think Tortuga gets the last bench slot; while I don't think the Twins love him at catcher, he does give them that flexibility. I think Blankenhorn starts at AAA and hops on the Green Line a lot this year if/when injuries hit.

    • DocBauer likes this
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nicksaviking
Feb 09 2021 08:28 AM

I think they need a long man in the pen. I think Thorpe stays and isn't in trouble unless a 5th starter is signed and Dobnak takes that roll.

 

I'd hate to lose Thorpe though without giving him an extended look in the pen if he's able to regain his velocity. But if he's still throwing 88-89 MPH, he's probably about done and I don't think the FO should have to think too hard about it.

    • LewFordLives, DocBauer, JLease and 3 others like this

Interesting exercise, Cody. 

 

When they add Kirilloff, will be interesting to see who is no longer on the 26-man roster...Rooker or Astudillo. One problem I see is lack of depth in the middle infield. When/if they have an injury they will be down to no backup. Who other than Gordon have they brought in for St. Paul? They are gonna need someone and can't count on Gordon after his missing all of 2020. Could Lewis be that close that they see him as next man up?

 

Also expect there will be a lots of back and forth with St. Paul for that 8th spot in the pen. Don't know what happens to Thorpe, could he be included in some type of spring training deal if he isn't lights out and winning a spot for opening day?

    • DocBauer likes this

The most interesting names in the comments are Thorpe and Smeltzer - I have no faith in either of them.I understand they want a bulk pitcher, but in the long run I would move on from them.Like many I do not have a lot of faith in Dobnak, but he has earned the right to prove that he is legitimate.  

    • jun and jud6312 like this
Instead of signing another retread, I'd love to see them give the ball to a young kid and tell the kid to go win a game.
    • mikelink45 and Dave The Dastardly like this
Oh, and Thorpe and Smeltzer are way to young to give up on.
    • DocBauer and Dave The Dastardly like this

 

One problem I see is lack of depth in the middle infield. When/if they have an injury they will be down to no backup. Who other than Gordon have they brought in for St. Paul? They are gonna need someone and can't count on Gordon after his missing all of 2020. Could Lewis be that close that they see him as next man up?

 

JT Riddle, Tzu-Wei Lin, Rob Refsnyder... 

    • rdehring likes this

A few thoughts.I think this is really close.

1) Interesting to not see Smeltzer or Thorpe in the pen.I can go either way on them. If they still have options, could see them on the St.Paul Shuttle until they had to clear waivers.

2) Rotation is one injury away from disaster...unless Duran or Balezovic are able to fill in.Would rather see one of them than Smeltzer or Thorpe over a long stretch.Suspect we'd see one of the lefties if it were for a start or two.

3) Listing Astudillo as a catcher may be off.With Garver and Jeffers, Tortuga should never be behind the plate.I can't imagine Polanco or Arraez wouldn't be better than him at 3B. I think I'd start him in St.Paul.

4) Sad reality is that with the current CBA on service time, Kiriloff starts in St.Paul. 

5) Man, I can't wait for baseball!!!

    • woolywoolhouse and DocBauer like this
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nicksaviking
Feb 09 2021 12:13 PM

 

JT Riddle, Tzu-Wei Lin, Rob Refsnyder... 

 

I don't think anyone wants to see them swing a bat though.

 

I'm holding out hope that Jedd Gyorko, Danny Santana or Brock Holt could be brought into the mix in one fashion or another.

ONLY version 1.0 but pretty accurate I'd say. And I agree with about 90% of this. A few thoughts in my suddenly traditional bullet points, lol:

1] Kirilloff: If he rakes, looks ready in the field and at the plate, I'd really like to see the team just run with him. But let's not forget that the Twins didn't invent the service time clause. It's probably gone next CBA, but it still exists for 2021. But let's also not forget that despite his St Paul time and playoff appearance, he bas yet to play a single game at AAA. Would a month at St Paul do anything but help him? Also, it allows time for Rooker to get AB and get his legs under him to begin the season. That's not a bad thing.

2] While Arraez needs AB and opportunity and will undoubtedly get them, I am still in favor of the Twins bringing in another bench option for depth. With health, the Twins have one of the very best infields in all of MLB. Astudillo has a real role to play as the 26th man, and I went in to recent depth in another thread why, but a couple $M spent on Frazier, Miller, Cabrera, etc, would build TREMENDOUS depth for the infield if injuries rear their ugly head again.

3] Astudillo: See point #2. He fits a perfect role, at least to begin the season, so guys like Gordon and Blankenhorn can play daily down the road and get ready. I like him. I appreciate his role. I can see him on the opening day roster with no objections on my part. But I'd rather see him as a 27th man in favor of another FA infielder "value" sign...and the options are out there folks...in case of injury and depth issues. I'd rather see Rocco having a hard time finding enough AB for an 11th at a couple $M than risk not having enough talent available. Again, see point #2.

4] STAFF: We have seen enough of this FO to know late signings and surprises should not be unexpected. I like Dobnak. I think they do too. They've also stuck by Thorpe to this point. They obviously see something. And the ship has not sailed on Thorpe yet, though the boat has weighed anchor and is getting ready to head out. But do we dismiss his milb results and glimpses he showed in 2019 vs a poor 2020? That's kinda short-sighted isn't it?

I don't know if the FO will surprise us with a major signing or trade, but they sure could based on past years. But at the least, I'd bet on a FA milb SP signing and invite, if not more, for depth and competition. With the additions of Anderson and Hamilton, plus the signings of Cruz and Colome, someone has to go off the 40 man. And that stinks, but at least 1-2 of the 40 man is going to have to go. Stinks not because of a potentially better addition, but because there are 4 arms with some potential that will have to be passed through waivers that have potential as helpful arms.

But that's not necessarily a bad thing in the end.

We're 90-95% there. But there should/could be at least an interesting invite away from the final 40 man heading in to ST. Question is, knowing the history of this FO, are we in for a surprise or two?

It says a lot about service time manipulation in MLB if the Twins can justify starting Kirilloff in a deciding playoff game but not Opening Day.

    • h2oface, Vanimal46 and GNess like this

 

It says a lot about service time manipulation in MLB if the Twins can justify starting Kirilloff in a deciding playoff game but not Opening Day.

 

well, Rooker was injured. He probably would have gotten the call if he hadn't had that fluke injury. and Buxton wasn't healthy either. I don't think giving Kirilloff his first start in MLB in a playoff game was a preferred option.

    • nicksaviking, Danchat, flpmagikat and 1 other like this
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yeahyabetcha
Feb 09 2021 08:22 PM
Could Arraez be the opening day left fielder and lead off batter? And then stay out there. Then Austidillo can be left off for more of an utility infielder

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