Questions still up in the air:
- Will the Twins sign any of the remaining free agents, starting pitcher or other, before Opening Day?
- Will the Twins go with a four-man rotation or a five-man rotation to start the season? Of course, this likely means the difference between a 12-man pitching staff and a 13-man pitching staff. Of course, that means the difference between four bench bats and just three bench bats.
Catchers (2): Jason Castro, Mitch Garver
Next in Line: Bobby Wilson
Jason Castro will be the primary catcher. He will likely catch 110-120 games, so the question will be who can start behind the plate in the other 40-50 games.
You may also have noticed that I’ve gone so far as to say that Mitch Garver is a given. To this point, the front office has not provided Mitch Garver with any real competition for the #2 catcher spot. As you know, I believe that is the right decision. If there would be an injury to either Castro or Garver before Opening Day, MLB-veteran Bobby Wilson is the catcher in-house that would likely take the backup catcher spot. Depending on the type of injury and the expected length of time for return, Jonathan Lucroy remains a free agent.
Infielders (7): Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier, Jorge Polanco, Eduardo Escobar, Logan Morrison, Ehire Adrianza, Erick Aybar, Miguel Sano (DL or suspended)
Next in line: Nick Gordon
Mauer at first. Dozier at second. Polanco at shortstop. Morrison at DH. That stuff we know.
We also know that Miguel Sano will be the primary third baseman when he is able to play. He’s already been playing third base in spring games, so it would appear that he may not be a DL candidate at the start of the season. That leaves the MLB investigation as the question mark out there. If Sano is suspended, Eduardo Escobar takes over as the starting third baseman. Ehire Adrianza would move up to the primary utility infielder role, and I still believe that Erick Aybar would be the favorite to take a second utility role. But again, depends on how many bench bats the team has.
Again, this leaves Kennys Vargas off the roster, especially due to his redundancy with Mauer and Morrison. He is out of options, so it will be interesting to see how the Vargas situation plays out.
While guys like Gregorio Petit and Taylor Featherston will head to Rochester and hope for an opportunity in-season if needed. But if a middle infielder gets hurt, Nick Gordon just might be the guy to get an opportunity.
Outfielders (4): Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Robbie Grossman
Next in line: Zack Granite, LaMonte Wade
They’re going to be part of a “Nothing falls but raindrops” bobblehead series. The starting outfield remains intact from last year. Rosario had a bit of a breakout season in 2017. Byron Buxton was tremendous in the second half and won not only the Gold Glove but the Platinum Glove as well in 2017. Kepler had a similar 2017 as he had in 2016, and we’re all hoping that he’ll take a step forward in 2018. The defense is strong.
With the additions of Morrison and Aybar, the fourth outfield spot is now up for grabs. Robbie Grossman and Zack Granite are the two options, so there may be a bit of a competition. Right now, I’m projecting Grossman mostly because he’s out of options and Granite has two options remaining. While Granite has been able to hit left-handers pretty well in his pro career, Grossman has traditionally been quite good against southpaws.
That would make Granite the first in line to come up if there is an injury as his defense is elite, and he can play all three outfield positions real well. LaMonte Wade isn’t yet on the 40-man roster, but he can make an impression when people see him in person. Ryan LaMarre has made a strong impression in his first couple of weeks of games for the Twins, even showing some power.
Here are some potential lineups for when Miguel Sano returns to the roster.
Primary lineup versus RHP: Joe Mauer 1B, Brian Dozier 2B, Jorge Polanco SS, Miguel Sano 3B, Logan Morrison DH, Eddie Rosario LF, Byron Buxton CF, Max Kepler RF, Jason Castro C.
Versus LHP: Joe Mauer 1B, Brian Dozier 2B, Jorge Polanco SS, Miguel Sano 3B, Logan Morrison DH, Byron Buxton CF, Eddie Rosario LF, Mitch Garver C, Max Kepler/Robbie Grossman RF.
THE PITCHERS (12)
Starting Pitchers (5): Ervin Santana (DL), Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson, Adalberto Mejia, Phil Hughes
Next in line: Aaron Slegers, Stephen Gonsalves, Zack Littell
Ervin Santana is out of his cast, and reports from Ft. Myers indicate he remains on pace to be ready to pitch again in late April or early May. Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi and Kyle Gibson are givens to make the Opening Day roster. Frankly after that, there are a lot of questions.
Will the Twins add another starter? Should they? Obviously recent reports regarding Lance Lynn indicate that the team is willing to add another starter, on the right terms.
Jose Berrios appears ready to take another step forward in 2018. The acquisition of Jake Odorizzi was a very nice move for the Twins. And hopefully whatever clicked for Kyle Gibson the last two months last season remains with him through the 2018 season.
And then there is the fourth starter spot, and maybe even the fifth starter spot. And maybe that fifth starter will be a long reliever until he is needed for a start. There are a couple of veterans who will be considered. Phil Hughes likely is the front-runner for another shot if he is healthy and has some velocity. Anibal Sanchez’s non-guaranteed contract likely means that he is gone if the Twins don’t have him on the Opening Day roster.
In terms of youth, Adalberto Mejia is the likely favorite with Aaron Slegers behind him, though they could flip-flop depending upon opportunity over the next couple of weeks.
Next in line will be the young guys. Adalberto Mejia and Aaron Slegers could both wind up in AAA to start the season. Also there will be Stephen Gonsalves who will be ready at some point this season, even as early as June. Fernando Romero is certainly one to watch as well. He’s got dominant stuff and no doubt Paul Molitor would love to see him in his bullpen. I have to think that the powers-that-be see enough bullpen depth that they will continue to push Romero’s path to starting. However, if he starts for half of a season, he could be a strong bullpen addition in the second half. Zack Littell and Felix Jorge were optionedon Wednesday, but we could see both of them in 2018.
Bullpen (7): Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed, Trevor Hildenberger, Ryan Pressly, Zack Duke, Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey
Next in line: Alan Busenitz, John Curtiss, Jake Reed. Gabriel Moya
New to the team are veterans Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed and Zack Duke. They will all make the team if healthy. Taylor Rogers and Trevor Hildenberger are also going to be on the roster. Out of options, Ryan Pressly is also going to make the team.
And then a lot of talent and a lot of questions. I think Tyler Duffey’s ability and history as a starter in the minor leagues makes him the favorite for the long-reliever role, though his fastball/curveball combination could eventually make him valuable in later innings too.
Of course, as long as Tyler Kinley remains on the roster and in the organization, he’s got to be a favorite to make the roster. Right now, it appears that 98 mph fastball is what keeps teams intrigued, but will he be able to contribute to a winning team in 2018? Could the Twins work out a deal with Miami to keep him? Will be an interesting couple of weeks.
Meanwhile Alan Busenitz, based on his late-season performance really deserves a legitimate chance to make the Opening Day roster. John Curtiss has some of the best stuff in the organization. Jake Reed gets great movement on his fastball and slider too. And Gabriel Moya will pitch a long time in the big leagues as a strong left-hander. We are likely to see all four of them in a Twins uniform in 2018.
What are your thoughts? What does your Opening Day roster look like?
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