View RSS Feed

Nick's Twins Blog

Spring Training Preview

Rate this Entry
The Twins invited a staggering 66 players to big-league camp this year, which seems more than a little excessive when you consider that only 25 will make the Opening Day roster and very few of those spots are legitimately up for grabs.

So why the prodigious assembly at Lee County Sports Complex? I'd guess it has something to do with the coaching staff wanting a chance to familiarize themselves with as many guys as possible. Forty-five different players either took a swing or threw a pitch for the Twins last year, and while the team is hoping for better health this time around, nothing is guaranteed and they'll want to know what's going to be available when help is needed.

Today, I'll take a look at some of the positions and players worth keeping an eye on over the next six weeks, eventually taking a stab at projecting the Opening Day roster.

Position Battles

Left Field

This job is Ben Revere's to lose, and it would probably take a Herculean effort from Trevor Plouffe to unseat the 23-year-old speedster as the regular starter. With that said, if he hits and looks sharp defensively, Plouffe could go a long way toward increasing his playing time in the early going. If he wants to take over the gig on a more full-time basis, he'll need to cut down on his strikeouts and improve against right-handed pitching.

Backup Catcher

The Twins insist that they view Ryan Doumit as Joe Mauer's top backup, but since Doumit is likely to spend significant time at DH and other positions, they'll need another player who can help relieve Mauer's workload behind the plate. Chances are good that it will be Drew Butera, given that defense is the top consideration for this role, but Chris Herrmann, Danny Lehmann and J.R. Towles could make things interesting with big springs.

Utility Infielder

If his shoulder heals, Luke Hughes is a virtual lock to make the team given that he's out of options and provides Gardenhire with a flexible right-handed bench bat. That probably leaves room for one more backup infielder. If the ability to play shortstop is a requirement -- and this could very well be the case since Hughes can't play there -- Tsuyoshi Nishioka is basically the only option. If the Twins are willing to get creative when Jamey Carroll needs a day off from short -- say, shifting Alexi Casilla over there and starting Hughes at second -- they'll have more choices. Perhaps Sean Burroughs could be carried as a platoon mate for Danny Valencia at third? Maybe Chris Parmelee comes north to spell Justin Morneau at first and fill in at DH?

Final Bullpen Spots

Matt Capps is going to be the closer. Glen Perkins and Joel Zumaya (if healthy) will be setting him up, while Brian Duensing will serve as a left-handed specialist. Beyond those four, nothing is assured in the bullpen, leaving two or three spots up for grabs among 25 pitchers in camp. I'd say it's extremely likely that Anthony Swarzak lands one of those spots, as he's out of options and performed well as a reliever last season. Jeff Gray and Matt Maloney, who were brought in during the offseason, are both out of options, which may give them an upper hand, though neither has much of a track record. Alex Burnett has struggled in each of the past two years, but gathered valuable big-league experience. The Twins liked Terry Doyle enough to select him in the Rule 5 draft, and if they don't bring him north they'll either need to send him back to the White Sox or work out a trade. Ultimately, the winners of these last bullpen spots may be dictated by circumstance more than performance, although I hope that isn't the case.

Players to Watch

Brian Dozier

His chances of making the Opening Day roster are very slim, because both starting middle infield positions are spoken for and the Twins aren't going to carry him as a backup, but Dozier will be looking to make a strong impression and should get ample opportunity to show what he can do in March. His defense at shortstop will be under the microscope, since his ability to stick at that position will heavily impact his long-term value.

J.R. Towles

Last year Towles hit .300 with a .924 OPS in exhibition play for the Astros, but the success didn't carry over to the regular season, where he posted a .184/.256/.293 line in 54 games. Hitting when it counts has always been a challenge for the former top prospect, but he'll be worth keeping an eye on as a legitimate contender to replace Drew Butera in the second/third catcher role.

Carlos Gutierrez

Gutierrez has long held promise as a back-end reliever with a hard and heavy sinker, but command has been an issue. Over the winter he reportedly added a cutter to his repertoire. We'll see how that plays against live hitters.

Jared Burton

Burton was a pretty solid reliever for the Reds several years ago, before various injuries ravaged his arm and sunk his velocity. If he's healthy and throwing in the mid-90s again, he's got serious sleeper potential in the bullpen.

Projected Opening Day Roster

STARTERS
C: Joe Mauer
1B: Justin Morneau
2B: Alexi Casilla
3B: Danny Valencia
SS: Jamey Carroll
LF: Ben Revere
CF: Denard Span
RF: Josh Willingham
DH: Ryan Doumit

BENCH
C: Drew Butera
IF: Luke Hughes
IF: Tsuyoshi Nishioka
OF: Trevor Plouffe

ROTATION
SP: Carl Pavano
SP: Francisco Liriano
SP: Scott Baker
SP: Nick Blackburn
SP: Jason Marquis

BULLPEN
RP: Matt Capps
RP: Glen Perkins
RP: Joel Zumaya
RP: Brian Duensing
RP: Anthony Swarzak
RP: Alex Burnett
RP: Terry Doyle

Click image for larger version. 

Name:	ftmyers.jpg 
Views:	265 
Size:	91.2 KB 
ID:	152
Tags: None Add / Edit Tags
Categories
Uncategorized

Comments

©2014 TwinsCentric, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Interested in advertising with Twins Daily? Click here.