Joe Mauer and the Twins made the announcement in November, but starting in spring, he will officially be the first baseman of the Twins. He had been the primary catcher for a decade. Likewise, Justin Morneau had been the primary first baseman (when healthy) for the team. Morneau was traded last August to the Pittsburgh Pirates and signed earlier this offseason with the Colorado Rockies.
The Big Leaguers
There is no question about it, Joe Mauer will be the opening day first baseman. He will, assuming good health, be near the top of the league in batting average and on-base percentage. The hope is that he will be able to play 155 or so games.
That doesnít provide a lot of opportunities at first base for Chris Parmelee or Chris Colabello. Parmelee, the Twins first-round pick in 2006, is out of options. He can play some first base and could play in the corner outfield positions, DH or pinch-hit. Parmelee has certainly shown glimpses of power, but consistency has been the issue. 30-year-old Colabello was signed from the independent leagues and in 2013 was the International League Rookie of the Year and MVP after putting up monster numbers in Rochester; he even showed power with the Twins.
40 Man Roster
Besides the three players mentioned above, the Twins added two more potential first base options to their 40 man roster this offseason, Kennys Vargas and Max Kepler.
The twenty year old Kepler has played a lot of outfield, including centerfield, in his young career. Obviously he will not be a centerfielder in the Twins system long-term (you know, because of Aaron Hicks and Byron Buxton). After spending the second half of the season in Cedar Rapids splitting time between the outfield and first base, he was invited to the Arizona Fall League where he played first base. At 6-4 and about 230 pounds, it may be his best position.
Kepler is dwarfed by twenty three year old Vargas, who is about 6-5 and 260 (or so) pounds. He has immense power from both sides of the plate. Granted, he may never play first base in the big leagues as his best defensive position is likely designated hitter. However, he did work with Doug Mientkiewicz throughout the season in Fort Myers.
The Century Club
Dalton (DJ) Hicks, twenty three years old, was the Twins' 17th round pick out of the University of Central Florida in 2012. The 6-3, 230 pound Hicks was the cleanup batter for the Cedar Rapids Kernels for the first two-thirds of the season. He was promoted to Fort Myers where he continued to be a very productive hitter. His total of 110 RBI was the most in all minor league baseball.
Kepler is certainly a Top 10-15 Twins' prospect. Vargas and Hicks are among the Top 30 Twins' prospects. Aside from these three, the top prospect is a guy who hasnít yet made an official plate appearance in a game in professional baseball. In July, the Twins spent over $1 million on a big international free agent. Seventeen year old outfielder/first baseman/DH Lewin Diaz was given $1.4 million and the Twins hope he develops into a big-time slugger. The assumption is he will spend time with the Gulf Coast League Twins in 2014.
In each installment, Iíll make my roster projections. Obviously additional signings or injuries will affect all of this, and thatís why it is important to have more than just two or even three at each level. There are also always players put on the disabled list. As a disclaimer, these are my projections and not meant to be used as anything official. This gives an idea of who could be at each affiliate at the start of the season.
- Minnesota: Joe Mauer, Chris Parmelee
- Rochester: Chris Colabello, Reynaldo Rodriguez
- New Britain: Kennys Vargas, CJ Ziegler
- Fort Myers: Dalton Hicks, Adam Bryant
- Cedar Rapids: Max Kepler, Bryan Haar
- Extended Spring Training: Lewin Diaz, (last year in the GCL their catchers played a lot of 1B when they werenít catching)
Feel free to discuss the players and the roster.