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Hopefully Simmons "issues" are not like Romero...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 12:08 AM
Per multiple sources, new Minnesota Twins shortstop Andrelton Simmons has been delayed to the team's camp by visa issues. The exact detai...
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Timeline for Top Prospects: 2021 Edition

Twins Minor League Talk Yesterday, 11:54 PM
The Minnesota Twins will enter 2021 as one of the best teams in baseball, and whether they’re projected to win the AL Central or not, a f...
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Twins Daily 2021 Top Prospects: Recap

Twins Minor League Talk Yesterday, 10:36 PM
What did we learn while updating our annual Twins top prospect rankings after a year that offered no minor-league games, and very little...
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A Good Comp for Jhoan Duran and His Splinker

Twins Minor League Talk Yesterday, 11:54 PM
Getting one’s head around the unusual profile of Twins pitching prospect Jhoan Duran can be tricky. It might be helpful to use a starter...
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Twins Daily 2021 Top Prospects: #7 SS Keoni Cavaco

Twins Minor League Talk Yesterday, 11:54 PM
Yes, we are still high on Keoni Cavaco, our #7 Twins prospect for 2021. Let's take a look at what's to like (a lot), what's to work on (a...
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Twins Spring Training 2021: Roster Battles, Projections and Predictions

With position players reporting to camp on Monday, spring training is about to be in full swing for the Minnesota Twins. Here are some key competitions, decisions, and storylines to track in the four-plus weeks leading up to Opening Day.
On Friday, I was joined by John Bonnes and Seth Stohs on the final episode of Offseason Live, in which we previewed spring training by discussing and debating a variety of topics. You can watch our conversation below, or listen via audio on our podcast. But if you don't have 100 minutes handy, read on for a quick rundown of focal points and takeaways in our discussion, plus a chance to share your takes and predictions in the comments.



The Roster Outlook Entering Camp

The Twins are building toward a 26-man Opening Day roster. Barring injuries, a vast majority of the jobs are essentially spoken for, leaving only a few true battles to be decided in camp. Here's how the roster shapes up at this time, with three notable openings:

Attached Image: springtrainingroster.png


The projection above begs a few questions: Who's starting in left field, and who's rounding out the bench and bullpen? We sorted through these topics in the show.

Who Starts in Left Field on Opening Day?

Candidates: Alex Kirilloff, Jake Cave, Luis Arráez, Brent Rooker, Kyle Garlick


It's widely assumed that Kirilloff will ultimately hold down left field, but probably not out of the gates. The Twins stand to gain an extra year of service time by starting him in the minors, and there's certainly a case to be made the 23-year-old could use a bit more seasoning.

We landed on Arráez as the clear choice here. He's got nowhere else to play in the Opening Day lineup at this point, and the thought of him being on the bench for that momentous occasion is almost outrageous. (Especially against a tough right-handed pitcher.) Arráez played quite a bit of left field as a rookie and has stated his intent to sharpen up there this spring.

It seems likely Arráez will be the semi-regular left fielder early on, at least until Kirilloff arrives. Of course, that outlook can quickly change if someone gets hurt, requiring Arráez to fill in elsewhere. Then, Cave becomes the top candidate, or maybe even Kirilloff, should the Twins set aside service-time concerns or lock him up with an extension.

Who Gets the Last Spot on the Bench?

Candidates: Brent Rooker, Willians Astudillo, Kyle Garlick, Travis Blankenhorn, Nick Gordon


Here's how we see a four-man bench taking form currently:

Attached Image: twinsbench.png


Something to keep in mind is that, under the assumption Kirilloff starts in the minors, Arráez or Cave is starting in left field. So that theoretically opens up an additional bench spot, but there still might only be one for the taking. MLB removed the roster stipulation of a 13-pitcher limit this year, so it's possible the Twins will carry 14 arms. In fact it's quite likely, I'd argue.

So, let's stick with the idea that one final role on the bench is available. That role could take several different shapes. One might argue in favor of Rooker or Garlick, who offer right-handed bats to rotate with Arráez and Cave in left. There's also Blankenhorn and Gordon, who would provide necessary infield depth if Arráez is starting regularly in the outfield.

Personally, I'm in favor of Astudillo, who brings a versatile right-handed bat as well as useful depth at catcher and third base. (Critically, unlike most others mentioned, there's no need to worry about Astudillo's development being impeded if he rarely plays.)

Who Gets the Last Bullpen Spot?

Candidates: Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer, Lewis Thorpe, Shaun Anderson, Edwar Colina


As noted in the previous section, the Twins could very well go with a 14-man pitching staff, extending the bullpen to nine spots and adding another opening to the projection below:

Attached Image: twinsbullpen.png


One way or another, the team is all but certain to have at least one long-relief, starter-hybrid type arm in the bullpen mix, whether that's Dobnak, Smeltzer, Thorpe, or otherwise. The prohibitive favorite in such a race would be Dobnak, given his experience and track record.

If the Twins go with nine relievers, our panel liked Anderson to win the job, but there are plenty of other contenders, including non-roster invites and – perhaps – lingering free agents yet to be signed.

Which Player in Camp Will Surprise?

There are always at least a few players each spring who go from off-the-radar, or out-of-mind, to center spotlight. Maybe it's the transformed physical shape they arrive in. Maybe it's eye-opening displays in batting practice. Maybe it's huge performances in exhibition games.

On Offseason Live we each put forth a name we expect to generate some buzz in Fort Myers.
  • John's Pick: Nick Gordon. An incredibly challenging 2020, which saw him hospitalized for COVID and far away from the baseball field, leaves the former first-round draft pick on a path of redemption as he likely faces his last chance to emerge in the Twins organization.
  • Seth's Pick: J.T. Riddle. Keep an eye on this stellar defensive infielder, who could sneak his way onto the Opening Day bench if the Twins go all-in on their commitment to fielding the ball, and value his ability to play anywhere – including short and center.
  • Nick's Pick: Aaron Sabato. He's not exactly unknown, as last year's first-rounder and Twins Daily's eighth-ranked prospect, but fans have had no opportunity to get a handle on Sabato yet. He hasn't played in a minor-league game or participated in a spring camp, until now. He was one of the best and most advanced hitters in the 2020 class. I can't wait to see his heralded power first-hand.
Projecting the Twins Starting Lineup

We wrapped up the show by attempting to collectively predict the batting lineup Rocco Baldelli will write up for April 1st, against the Brewers and right-hander Brandon Woodruff. We went round-robin, taking turns at each successive spot in the order. This led to some interesting realizations.

(Note: it's since come to my attention that since the Twins are playing in Milwaukee and the designated hitter has been removed from the NL this year, Nelson Cruz will probably not be able to start in their opening series. Lame. Anyway, this analysis still applies with regards to predicting Baldelli's A-lineup.)

Seth chose first, and understandably went with the default at leadoff in Kepler. After all, Kepler has led off nearly two-thirds of Minnesota's games over the past two seasons (63%). But as we continued – Donaldson second, Cruz third – we quickly hit a wall. The cleanup spot that once so reliably belonged to Eddie Rosario is now open, and the best apparent fit to replace him had already been written in at leadoff.

In this our first pass, we went with Sanó at cleanup, Polanco fifth, and then followed with Garver, Arráez, Buxton and Simmons, arriving at this lineup:



Attached Image: twinslineup1.png


But, it didn't feel quite right. So we took another stab, moving Kepler into the cleanup spot and sliding Arráez up to leadoff. This one felt more plausible:

Attached Image: twinslineup2.png


Whether that's how the go-to batting order will look, I don't know. But after working through it in our discussion, I do feel comfortable saying this: Kepler's days as the regular leadoff man are finished. His left-handed power will be needed elsewhere in this lineup, at least until Kirilloff is here.

How do you expect the Opening Day lineup to materialize? Who do you see winning the roster competitions laid out above? Who else might the Twins add before the season starts? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Twins Daily's on-site coverage of spring training will officially commence later this week. John is on the scene and ready to report from the Fort.

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31 Comments

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tarheeltwinsfan
Feb 21 2021 08:07 PM

The second lineup looks better to me.Arraezneeds to lead off and worry the opposing pitcher. How patient is Simmons at the plate? Buck needs a few pitches to steal 2B.

    • Danchat, mikelink45, DocBauer and 2 others like this

Thielbar is a good story. But I don't think he's a lock.

    • Dman, tarheeltwinsfan and MNT1996 like this
Good podcast! We’ll see what spring training has to offer or sorts out!

I believe with Nelson Cruz they need a 4th bench. Araez in LF, Rooker, Jeffers, Cave and either La tortuga or a capable SS.

The last bullpen will be a rotation, in significant who is on the opening day roster l.
    • Twins1964 and 4twinsJA like this
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Nick Nelson
Feb 21 2021 10:30 PM

 

Thielbar is a good story. But I don't think he's a lock.

Pretty sure he's out of options so I'd say he's close to a lock, so long as he's not a total mess.

 

 

The last bullpen will be a rotation, in significant who is on the opening day roster l.

I tend to agree with this. Which underscores why they probably won't sign anyone else of note for the bullpen.

    • DocBauer and arby58 like this

What is the options status on Thorpe? I read he was out of options, but the I remember seeing something he had a 4th option. Anybody knows if this is true? That is important for who takes the spot on the bullpen.

 

The second lineup looks better to me.Arraezneeds to lead off and worry the opposing pitcher. How patient is Simmons at the plate? Buck needs a few pitches to steal 2B.

Agree, and maybe move Buxton down to ninth - as you note, he'll get pitches to look at from Arraez, and I doubt it will bother Arraez to have the Buxton commotion going on at first base.

    • DocBauer likes this

 

What is the options status on Thorpe? I read he was out of options, but the I remember seeing something he had a 4th option. Anybody knows if this is true? That is important for who takes the spot on the bullpen.

He was granted a 4th option for reasons I can't remember.

    • adjacent and Danchat like this

Blind squirrel finds a nut everyone once in awhile is Astudillo in a "nutshell."  One trick pony at the plate, doesn't help the twins.  Nice story but he needs to be parked with St. Paul team.  Give me Rooker, Blankenhorn or Garlick instead.  

    • saviking, MNT1996 and yeahyabetcha like this
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theBOMisthebomb
Feb 22 2021 07:43 AM
La Tortuga fills that final bench spot. Not too shabby having a .294 lifetime BA at the end of your bench. Although I would be fascinated to see how the Saints would market Tortuga and how wildly popular he would be at CHS Field.
    • Danchat and DocBauer like this
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strumdatjaguar
Feb 22 2021 08:11 AM
Buxton’s bat, especially power, is improving and justifies a higher place in the batting order. Dobnak inducing ground balls and improved defense gets him a place in the pen (if not 5th starter).
    • DocBauer, saviking and MNT1996 like this

I really enjoyed this session - the three of you had great give and take and of course I liked John's take on Kiriloff in LF!  

I hope Gordan has a good spring and can stick with the team.That young man needs to catch a break!

Interesting read. Hate that no DH is available when playing NL teams, that has to change at some point.

 

Had to do a double take when I read your pick for the surprise player this spring. Not certain if you expect him to have a great spring, or to be with the Twins on opening day or soon thereafter?

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Nick Nelson
Feb 22 2021 09:17 AM

 

Had to do a double take when I read your pick for the surprise player this spring. Not certain if you expect him to have a great spring, or to be with the Twins on opening day or soon thereafter?

I think we all approached that question in different ways. For John and Seth it was more of a "This guy is a sleeper to make the roster," for me it was more "This guy is gonna generate some buzz and get people talking." Certainly Sabato won't be on the Opening Day team but I think we'll see how advanced his bat is and realize he's not too far off. 

    • denarded, Dman, DocBauer and 2 others like this

Honestly looking at that bullpen lineup doesn't give me a ton of confidence. I'm not too worried about Duffey or Colome, but everyone else on that list seems risky. I think another above-average arm is needed. 

 

Also Sano really needs to step it up if he's going to be hitting in the 4th or 5th spot this year. He can't repeat the performance he had last year. If he's still striking out a ton I would consider moving him down to 7th and having Buxton and Garver/Jeffers hitting ahead of him. And if Sano continues to struggle further down the order I think a change at 1B might be necessary. Having him as a league leader in Ks with a .200 BA and .750 OPS is not what the team needs. Bring up Rooker or Kirilloff and plug them in 1B.

    • jun and Dman like this
I'm excited about all the young bullpen arms and how with MiLB options, the bullpen is more like 13 deep. It's interesting how fans don't understand that 23-29 year old guys continue to develop their skills. Out of the stock pile we have, we only need a couple shut pitchers for high leverage situations to win 100 games.
    • DocBauer likes this
I think Gordon might surprise. He can legitimately play SS which is critical for one of the bench spots. Would prefer Rooker not be in the field. I’ve long wanted a backup right handed CF but that ain’t gonna happen.

Jeffers is starting. Garver is going to be the backup catcher for now.

 

I'm excited about all the young bullpen arms and how with MiLB options, the bullpen is more like 13 deep. It's interesting how fans don't understand that 23-29 year old guys continue to develop their skills. Out of the stock pile we have, we only need a couple shut pitchers for high leverage situations to win 100 games.

I think this bullpen is a little thin. They lost May, Wisler, Clippard and Romo and only got Colome and Robles(who had a bad 2020 season). They need to sign Clippard.

    • MNT1996 likes this

I agree with Fatbat, bullpen is deep. There are 3-4 minor league FAs, plus few on 40 man, and 3 pickups that cleared waivers recently. Don't need all of them to click, but hopefully 3-4 do. See last spot or two in BP as rotating between Twins and St. Paul. League BPs have plenty of pitchers that washed out on other teams then found success on another team.

    • Dman and DocBauer like this
Buxton should hit ahead of Garver. Buxton on base allows Garver to see more fastball which he destroys!
    • Danchat, Scott51104 and baul0010 like this
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yeahyabetcha
Feb 22 2021 12:43 PM
Given The likelihood that Donaldson and Simmons are going to need multiple games off, I will be surprised if a Gordon or Riddle type backup is not on opening day 26 man
    • Danchat likes this

 

I agree with Fatbat, bullpen is deep. There are 3-4 minor league FAs, plus few on 40 man, and 3 pickups that cleared waivers recently. Don't need all of them to click, but hopefully 3-4 do. See last spot or two in BP as rotating between Twins and St. Paul. League BPs have plenty of pitchers that washed out on other teams then found success on another team.

 

I look at it this way. It's a tie game in the 8th inning and you need a reliable arm to come out of the bullpen a provide a shutdown inning. Who do you turn to? Right now the only 2 I would trust in that situation are Duffey and Colome. Rogers really imploded a lot in important games last season, Robles had over a 10 ERA last season, and the rest of the options are young guys with very little MLB experience or arms that are trying to reboot their careers. 

 

The bullpen is not deep. The Twins need more reliable, experienced BP pitchers.

    • Twins33 and jun like this
2020 isn't a year that I would spend any time looking at for stats indicator for future performance. By July, we only need a couple guys to find their groove. Trust in Wes Johnson... Our BP will be just as good as the last 2 years.
Big difference of opinions on status of our bullpen. Goes to show relievers are volatile. I am on the side of signing clippard. I've never seen a team have to many solid options...inspite of some people's opinions.
    • jun likes this