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Spring Training Games Thread 2021

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 05:30 PM
One thread to rule them all...   Er. Sorry. Got a bit ahead of myself. (Power does tend to go to one's head.)   Anyway, seein'...
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A 26 man roster is an improvement, but is MLB making a mi...

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 05:10 PM
The world of sports has changed over the years. As a result, leagues have adapted roster sizes to allow for more active players, reserve...
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Jake Odorizzi, What's going on w/ him?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 02:48 PM
Since the beginning there was a lot of FA talk surrounding Jake &thattherewas a lot of interest from various teams. Thought he'd be g...
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American League Power Rankings, by O/U

Other Baseball Today, 02:13 PM
With spring training in full swing, who are the favorites in the A.L.?15. Baltimore OriolesBetOnline O/U - 63.5 winsThe Orioles are bruta...
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Danny Santana

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 01:39 PM
Some reports that the Twins are interested in Danny Santana! As a utility guy if he can still play SS and CF I can see how he would fit...
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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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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.
    • 4twinsJA likes this
It was a fun and interesting podcast. Thank you, as always! Unfortunately, I was distracted and unable to post, but it was great!

1] The 2nd lineup is obviously the one that makes the most sense. And it was interesting how you came up with the first one! I forget who picked Kepler to bat leadoff initially. Seth? But loved how you all got stuck back peddling from there on, lol.

A] Arraez and Polanco need to hit #1 to set the lineup and it's time for Kepler to move down with his power in to an RBI slot.

B] Is Donaldson really best in the #2 slot? He's done well there in the past, but he's also performed very well in the 3-4 spots. I keep wondering if he and Donaldson wouldn't be better as the 3-4 hitters most days.

C] Buxton will determine where he best fits by just being healthy and on the field. He could easily slide up a few spots. But I wonder if he might not be a better fit in the 9th spot BEHIND Simmons. I think back to old-school La Russa when he was in the NL and he would hit the pitcher 8th because he wanted a better bat in the 9 hole to flip the lineup. Not saying Buxton shouldn't hit 8th, or higher depending on how he is producing, just offering a little "out of the box" thinking.

2] Not sure I buy the 14 man staff with a 9 man pen. With options available, we've seen the Twins flip a couple guys here and there as needed in both 2019 and 2020. I haven't looked at the schedule yet, but have to assume there will be some off days early. And just like 2020, reinforcements will be literal minutes down the road for half the season. I think the extra bench player...whoever it may be...makes more sense, especially to get Arraez AND Rooker early season AB.

3] Is this the obligatory portion where we discuss LF yet again? Even if Kirilloff is on the opening day roster, there is room for Rooker. Just not another bench player. Said it before and will say it again, there is a difference in AK MASHES in ST vs getting a few weeks to ramp up and get ready and actually let Arraez and Rooker get those first few weeks to perform. Forgetting the service time B.S., what is wrong with letting those guys play and have opportunity?

4] Am I CRAZY GOOD about the pen? No. But do I like the pen? Yes.

Duffey is great. I believe Rogers will rebound and be fine. How can you not be happy to have a proven arm like Colome added? Would I rather have May than Robles for an extra $4.5M? Yes. Despite a tendancy to give up some key hits and HR before settling down and SO the side, May mostly performed. He may or may not...no pun intended...reach a new level of consistency with the Mets. But why is everyone so down on Robles after 2020? He's a year younger and has produced fine numbers in his career that rival anything May has done.

Pure velocity and SO potential, I think the Twins have great expectations for Alcala and even Colina as movers.

Right now, LF is an intriguing development.

One of Dobnak, Thorpe and Smeltzer will probably fill a long spot in the initial bullpen. (NOTE: I found your report about Johnson's comments regarding Thorpe interesting). And there is a large number of guys who could option in and out for the final spots in the pen.

IF Kirilloff begins in St Paul, there is 1 bench spot available to begin the season. I'd still lay money on Astudillo at this point. But he has to earn that spot.
Feb 22 2021 11:21 PM
This is a solid team that keeps getting deeper. Should be lots of competition for roster spots. The No 5 SP is up for grabs. I will sharpie Colome Rogers Duffey on then opening day roster. I’m penciling in Alcala Robles and Stashek. I think Thielbar is the front runner for the 7th spot. And it’s a free for all after that.

The Twins have a prospect crop that’s reaching the higher levels. And it’s been 18 months since the minor league guys have even played. Who knows who will emerge.

This club should be a playoff team. If they are as good as the projections and oddsmakers are expecting, will this be the year the front office makes a trade for a significant upgrade? The conditions seem right.
stringer bell
Feb 22 2021 11:36 PM
I see a spot for a non-roster infielder like Riddle. Unless the club wants to move Polanco to short every time Simmons is out, there is a real need for a plus defender to back up on the left side. Gordon would also be interesting, but he hasn’t played third at all to my knowledge and I don’t know if he’s even average at short.
In My La-Z-boy
Feb 23 2021 08:21 AM

Given the new left side of the infield, I like Dobnak to be on the squad. I like Arraez in LF for sure since we aren't as left-handed as we've been & I like him to lead off. I'd guess we have 2 open bench spots after Jeffers and Cave assuming 13 pitchers. This leaves room for an infield spot and an outfield spot. Since I like Jeffers as a primary right handed pinch hitter, I'd put Tortuga on the roster. Last spot goes to the best looking young outfielder in spring training. Probably Garlick out of the gate with a St Paul OF of Broxton, Kirilloff and Rooker.

I like Doc Bauer's take on the 8-9 slots. Simmons has a high career OBP and Buxton has a higher BABIP so to me it makes sense to bat Simmons in front of Buxton.