Twins Boast Plethora of Backup Options
Image courtesy of © Butch Dill-USA TODAY SportsBackups are inherently unexciting to fans like you and I for obvious reasons. Hell, even some coaches on professional sports teams have a dislike for backups. Nevertheless, “the next man up” is an important role as every year at least one starter will either go down with an injury, suffer regression, or become a monk and leave the sport as a whole which leaves an opening for someone else. I mean, just look at the Twins’ roster to start 2019 and the roster at the end (Adalberto Mejía and Blake Parker, anyone?)
Beyond the handful of minor league signings such as Cody Asche and Daniel Coloumbe, the Twins are also blessed with a fruitful farm system that inludes a large number of talented prospects who could provide help if need be. Baseball America recently posted their 2020 preseason top 100 prospects list and there were six players on it representing the Twins (Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, Brusdar Graterol, Trevor Larnach, Jordan Balazovic, and Jhoan Duran). None of these names should be especially surprising as we’ve been hearing about a number of these players and their potential for awhile at this point. But one of the most important things that all these players have in common is that they all finished the season at AA or above which means that they all stand a chance to play on the major league squad sometime this year.
Prospect development is much more complicated than that but with the recent somewhat aggressive approach the Twins have taken to some of their prospects, it still stands to reason that they could continue to push some of these players and have them ready for the majors sooner rather than later. It seems like they’re already doing this with Brusdar Graterol as Wes Johnson made comments the other day regarding the plan for Graterol in 2020. Nick Nelson already wrote a great article that touched on basically everything surrounding the move but more than anything the move showed that the Twins are potentially looking more towards the immediate impact of a player rather than planning for something greater in scope.
What does this mean for the Twins in 2020? Potentially if, say, Max Kepler goes down with an injury that takes a month for him to get back, the Twins might look towards replacing him with Alex Kirilloff over Jake Cave or (insert 28-year-old AAAA player here). Or if Homer Bailey slips on a banana peel and is out for a few weeks with a sore rear end, Jhoan Duran might be getting the call up to replace him instead of Blaine Hardy.
If they opt to not use top prospects to replace players, the current Twins bench presents some great options already. Ehire Adrianza could fill in well at any infield spot thanks to his generally solid defense at every infield spot and above average bat (102 wRC+ in 2019). The previously mentioned Cave provides solid offensive upside if they need to call on an outfielder (career 111 wRC+) and will at least look athletic when running in the outfield. Finally, Marwin González could step in at most every position and at least be passable with both the glove and bat. Although, giving him an everyday role strips him of a lot of his value so it would be best to avoid this option.
The third option is somewhere in the middle; a prospect who, while not of a high caliber, has proven that they should at least get a shot in the majors. This route graced the team last year with Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer, and Luis Arráez who all now look like regular contributors in the future and this could lead to someone like Zander Wiel showing off what he has to offer. No matter which direction they go, the team should have good options for replacing players and they might even find a future piece in the process.
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