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Ranking the Twins Bench Options

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Is it fair to say that many Twins fans were pleasantly surprised when we learned on Monday morning that Tsuyoshi Nishioka had been optioned to Rochester? It was never really a question about whether he warranted a big league roster spot. It was clear to pretty much everyone that he wasn’t. It was the contract and the commitment that made it such a big decision. The Twins have three-million reasons to keep him at the end of their bench.

However, Nishioka’s demotion appears to open up a spot on the 25-man roster for someone else. There are several names being discussed for that roster spot, and frankly, it is difficult to pick out a favorite among the bunch. Several of the options are not on the 40 man roster which although not a complete deterrent, it does require one extra step. A couple of the possibilities would likely only make the roster if they would be starting. Will Ron Gardenhire be willing to use Alexi Casilla as his back up shortstop, or would the utility player need to be able to play shortstop?

I wanted to look at the candidates for that final roster spot. I’m making the assumption that the Twins infield will include Justin Morneau, Alexi Casilla, Danny Valencia, Jamey Carroll and Luke Hughes. I’m also making the assumption that the Twins will choose to keep three catchers on the big league roster, although that does appear to be excessive. If the Twins did decide to only keep Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit on the roster, then two of the seven players below could make the roster.

I believe there are seven candidates in camp that have some case to make the opening day roster, and I wanted to find a way to organize my thoughts on each in a consistent way for each player. I considered what the categories are that could differentiate the options.
  • Age: This is more just a reference number for readers.
  • 40 Man Roster: Is the player on the 40 man roster or no?
  • Must Start: Yes or No... is the player a prospect who should only make the big league roster as a starter?
  • Positions Played: what positions has the player played, particularly in recent years.
  • Offense: I’ll really just look at the 2011 numbers. That is recent performance-related information that isn’t completely small sample size.
  • Defense: What is the reputation of each player with the glove?
  • Spring Training Stats: This should be the last category and the most meaningless category at this point. Right now, the player below with the most appearances has just 26. And over the next two weeks, starters will play a bit more, so these candidate’s numbers over the next two weeks may mean a little bit more, but even that is a small sample size.
  • Other information: Just an open spot for any other information.
With all of that information, maybe there will be an answer that sticks out? Or, maybe we can eliminate a couple of candidates. Let’s take a look at the candidate’s in alphabetical order.

SEAN BURROUGHS

  • Age: 31
  • 40 Man Roster: No
  • Must Start: No
  • Positions Played: 3B, 1B
  • Offense: .273/.289/.336 in 115 plate appearance (78 games) in Arizona after not being in the big leagues since 2006. Has just 12 MLB HR in 1,805 plate appearances.
  • Defense: average defensive third baseman
  • Spring Training Stats: .286/.423/.381. 6-21 with two doubles, five walks and four strikeouts.
  • Other Information: Left-handed bat who spent 2011 as a pinch hitter.
Seth Opinion – I would much rather the Twins have Burroughs as a left-handed bench bat than a 3rd catcher.

RAY CHANG

  • Age: 28
  • 40 Man Roster: No
  • Must Start: No
  • Positions Played: 2B, 3B, SS
  • Offense: .271/.323/.368 in 65 games combined between AA New Britain and AAA Rochester. 22 HR in 1,789 minor league plate appearances.
  • Defense: Above average middle infielder
  • Spring Training Stats: .300/.462/.500 (3-10) with two doubles, 3 walks and no strikeouts.
  • Other Information: Played for the Chinese team in the WBC. Bats Right-handed.
Seth Opinion – Chang is probably a long-shot, but he might be the best combination of a little offense and solid defense needed to play all three infield positions as a utility player.

BRIAN DINKELMAN

  • Age: 28
  • 40 Man Roster: No
  • Must Start: No
  • Positions Played: 2B, LF, RF
  • Offense: .243/.316/.324 in 127 games at AAA Rochester. Hit .301 in 23 games with the Twins. 40 HR in 2,923 minor league plate appearances.
  • Defense: solid but average in the infield and outfield.
  • Spring Training Stats: .300/.348/.400 (6-20) with two doubles.
  • Other Information: Left-handed bat who hit in limited time last year.
Seth Opinion – He had a nice showing with the Twins last year, but the Twins need is more for a utility infielder and 2B is the only infield position the Dinkelman has played.

BRIAN DOZIER

  • Age: 24
  • 40 Man Roster: No
  • Must Start: Yes
  • Positions Played: SS, 2B
  • Offense: .320/.399/.491 last year between Ft. Myers and New Britain. 14 home runs in 1,413 plate appearances. Nine last year in 569 plate appearances.
  • Defense: solid defender with average arm, average range
  • Spring Training Stats: .273/.305/.500 (6-22) with triple and home run.
  • Other Information: right-handed bat was the Twins minor league player of the year in 2011.
Seth Opinion – The Twins are using a lot of the same adjectives to describe Dozier that they did when Joe Mauer came into spring training 2004 as a 20-year-old starting catcher who had not yet played in AAA. Dozier is older and has a lot of the same qualities. His possibility of making the opening day roster is only as a starter which would mean that either Jamey Carroll or (more likely) Alexi Casilla would move to the bench. There’s enough discussion to say that this is not a legitimate possibility.

PEDRO FLORIMON

  • Age: 25
  • 40 Man Roster: No
  • Must Start: No
  • Positions Played: SS, 2B
  • Offense: .267/.344/.396 at AA Bowie (Orioles). 27 HR in 2,428 career plate appearances. Played in four games for Baltimore in September. Went 1-8 with a walk and six strikeouts. He had a double and two RBI.
  • Defense: smooth, flashy defender with good range and a strong arm. Probably the top defensive shortstop in the mix.
  • Spring Training Stats: .188/.316/.250 (3-16) with a double, three walks and two strikeouts
  • Other Information: Might be the best option if the Twins want a backup shortstop behind Jamey Carroll. He is a free-swinger who did have several extra base hits last year.
Seth Opinion – He is a pretty solid shortstop, very good defensively although prone to make silly errors. Probably the weakest of the bats on this list but his role would be primarily defense. Although he profiles more as a utility guy, he did show enough with the bat at AA a year ago, that he should also get some every day work in Rochester.

MICHAEL HOLLIMON

  • Age: 29
  • 40 Man Roster: No
  • Must Start: No
  • Positions Played: 3B, 2B, SS, LF
  • Offense: .231/.326/.416 between AA (97 games) and AAA (29 games). 18 home runs.
  • Defense: average all over with glove
  • Spring Training Stats: .500/.526/.688 (8-16) with home run, two walks and three strikeouts
  • Other Information: The switch-hitter was the Twins 49th round pick in 2003. He later was drafted by the Tigers and hit .261 with two doubles, a triple and a home run in just 25 plate appearances with Detroit in 2008.
Hollimon and his bat have certainly been a story the first couple of weeks of spring games, but we will find out a lot more about him in the next week or two when he gets more at bats against big league pitchers. I think he could handle the utility role, and he has as much power as anyone on this list.

CHRIS PARMELEE

  • Age: 24
  • 40 Man Roster: Yes
  • Must Start: Yes
  • Positions Played: 1B, RF
  • Offense: .287/.366/.436 in AA New Britain. Hit .355/.443/.592 with six doubles and four home runs in 21 games with the Twins in September. He has 84 home runs in 2,663 minor league plate appearances.
  • Defense: getting there with the glove at 1B
  • Spring Training Stats: .308/.400/.577 (8-26) with a double and two home runs.
  • Other Information: Left-hander has shown power in minimal big league time last September and this spring. Promoted straight from AA New Britain.
Seth Opinion - His role with the Twins in 2011 seems to be directly tied to the health of Justin Morneau, or to Ryan Doumit to a lesser degree. I remain skeptical on what type of hitter he is. I’d like to see him get a half season in Rochester to find out if the power is legit or not.

Terry Ryan has also said a couple of times that it is possible that the Twins would look outside the organization for a utility infielder. I could be OK with that as well, as long as the Twins wouldn’t have to give up a prospect to get it.

Here is how I would rank these players’ likelihood of making the Twins Opening Day roster (assuming health all-around) as of right now. I am putting in this order with the hope that two of these guys make the roster while the Twins go with just two catchers.

#8 – Brian Dinkelman
#7 – Chris Parmelee
#6 – Ray Chang
#5 – Michael Hollimon
#4 – Brian Dozier
#3 – Pedro Florimon
#2 – Terry Ryan acquires a utility infielder from outside the organization.
#1 – Sean Burroughs

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