It’s nearly the middle of March, and the Minnesota Twins are just 17 days away from their 2019 Opening Day game against the Cleveland Indians. Roughly one month ago I made my first roster projection for the season, and a handful of things have transpired since then. Heading down to Fort Myers to see the club in action this week, I figured now was a good time to come out with a revised edition.
Most notably, the club signed Marwin Gonzalez and Miguel Sano is destined to begin the season on the Injured List. That shuffles a few things for position players, but there’s a relative level of clarity there. It’s on the pitching side that things remain up in the air, and that will be worth monitoring down the stretch.
Here’s how I see things looking on March 28 given the information we have today.
Rotation (5): Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda, Martin Perez
The rotation has all been locked in since the beginning of Spring Training. Martin Perez was inked as the 5th starter, and while the move has drawn plenty of ire (myself included), it appears the Twins are right thus far. Wes Johnson has the former Rangers prospect shoving near 97 mph, and he’s working with a different pitch mix that could unlock a new level of effectiveness. Minnesota targeted Anibal Sanchez as an outlier last year and witnessed him succeed in the Braves organization. Perez looks to be that guy in 2019, and everyone wants to see it come together here.
Bullpen (7): Trevor May, Blake Parker, Taylor Rogers, Trevor Hildenberger, Adalberto Mejia, Fernando Romero, Matt Magill
Changes: Addison Reed to IL
Addison Reed was signed to a two-year contract last winter, and he was coming off a 2.84 ERA. He’s been very good out of the pen for most of his career, and he’d pitched in high-leverage situations tallying 125 saves to his credit. Unfortunately, with Minnesota, he turned in a 4.50 ERA, 5.11 FIP, and the strikeout numbers sagged dramatically. He also lost another mph of velocity for the third year in a row, and the swinging strikes fell off a cliff. Despite the small sample, spring training hasn’t been kind to him either. I’m not sure if he’s still hurt from 2018, but the club could make a case to stash him and let him find a bit more success on a rehab stint.
Should the Twins decide that Reed is right, and he needs to come north, the decision then comes down to the trio of Matt Magill, Trevor Hildenberger, and Fernando Romero. Magill looks like he has plenty of supporters in the clubhouse and will make the roster. Hildenberger has options, but despite late season struggles, has been plenty reliable in the past. No matter how much talk there’s been about Romero, letting him have a couple weeks of working as a reliever in real game action at Triple-A could be good. If Minnesota needs to make a tough decision, I’d bet on it being a short trip to Rochester for Fernando.
Catchers (3): Jason Castro, Mitch Garver
Changes: Add Willians Astudillo
There’s somewhat of a domino effect caused by Miguel Sano needing to start the year on the IL. Marwin Gonzalez goes from super utility to primary third basemen, and that opens a bench spot. Astudillo isn’t the most ideal catcher, but he provides defensive flexibility with the ability to play all over the diamond. La Tortuga probably isn’t going to live up to his September hype, but he’ll be given the opportunity early.
Castro returns with a clean bill of health, and although he’ll be the presumed starter, a defensively revitalized Mitch Garver could challenge sooner rather than later. Castro is in the final year of his deal, and Garver assuming a more serious hold on the full-time role would be a great development for the Twins.
Infielders (5): C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop, Jorge Polanco, Ehire Adrianza, Marwin Gonzalez
Changes: Miguel Sano to IL, Lucas Duda released
Miguel Sano had as impressive of a winter as the Twins could’ve hoped, but it ended on an unlucky note with a gash to the back of his heel halting the start of his 2019 season. He’ll be ready in May, but we could end up waiting to see him until June. That development makes the addition of Marwin Gonzalez even more imperative.
The Astros used Marwin all over the place last year, and Minnesota will likely do the same as soon as they are able. Ehire Adrianza will be able to spell most of the infield positions, and Marwin will need to slot in primarily at third from the get-go. A platoon at first base doesn’t appear likely, meaning Tyler Austin needs to be dealt or passed through waivers (unlikely) before hitting Triple-A. Duda was a nice get for camp, but not making the team, he’ll look to latch on elsewhere.
Outfielders (5): Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Nelson Cruz, Jake Cave
No changes to the outfield, and that’s a serious positive for this group. Byron Buxton has been en fuego this spring, while the starting trio has remained healthy. Jake Cave is due for some regression from his impressive rookie season, but he’s more than a serviceable fourth regardless.
It took a while for Nelson Cruz to appear in game action this spring, but being the veteran he is, that was never cause for concern. He won’t play outfield aside from the remote possibility of appearing in interleague action. That said, the 38-year-old year old should launch plenty of longballs from the heart of Minnesota’s lineup this year.
If there is something to monitor here, it’s Michael Reed. Like Jake Cave before him, the front office tabbed Reed as a player with a potential for more. He was hurt to start the spring and has just begun getting into game action. Zack Granite was jettisoned off the 40 man before him, and the hope would be that he could be shipped to Triple-A. Without options though, Reed will need to clear waivers before being able to be removed off the 40 man.