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Taking a Different Stab at the 2021 Opening Day Roster


The Minnesota Twins are set to take on the Milwaukee Brewers in exactly one week. That game will count and begins a string of 162 that follow suit. Who opens on the 26-man roster?Having spent the week down in Fort Myers, I’ve witnessed some heartbreak as top prospect Alex Kirilloff was re-assigned to minor league camp. While he definitely did himself no favors in the statistical department, the Twins also seek to gain a year of service time should they keep him in St. Paul for a matter of weeks.

 

On the flip side, the bullpen was among the chief areas of concern for me, and we’ve gotten additional clarity there. It doesn’t appear Lewis Thorpe will need to begin the year in the majors, and the pair of Brandon Waddell and Derek Law have really run with their opportunity as non-roster invitees.

Without waiting until things all become finalized, here’s my third and final revision to the Opening Day roster projection. If you so choose, you can find number one here, and number two here.

 

Starting Pitchers (5): Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker

 

This group sees no change from the last go round. Randy Dobnak has looked untouchable this spring, and I think he’s pitched his way onto the Major League roster despite being bumped out of the rotation. J.A. Happ may not be ready for his first turn or could be a candidate to use Dobnak as a piggyback option. Maeda looks poised for another run at the Cy Young, and Berrios is pushing his arrow straight up.

 

Relief Pitchers (9): Taylor Rogers, Alex Colome, Tyler Duffey, Hansel Robles, Jorge Alcala, Cody Stashak, Randy Dobnak, Caleb Thielbar, Derek Law

 

We’ve got our first change and it comes in the form of both addition and subtraction. Gone is Lewis Thorpe, who was granted a fourth option and is eligible to be sent to the minors without first passing through waivers. That opens the door for one Derek Law or Brandon Waddell. However, I have thought all along the Twins would open with a 14 man pitching staff, it just remained to be seen how that would work itself out. Caleb Thielbar is healthy which was an uncertainty and will take one of the two spots, then it becomes who and how Minnesota wants to juggle the 40 man. Law has been untouchable and should have the inside track.

 

 

Catchers (2): Mitch Garver, Ryan Jeffers

This group stays the same, although there’s a turtle-shaped infielder that can hack it behind the dish if need be. Rocco Baldelli would be afforded the opportunity to start both of his outstanding backstop tandem with La Tortuga on the roster.

 

Infielders (5): Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Andrelton Simmons, Josh Donaldson, Luis Arraez

It sounds like the Twins are fine with Jorge Polanco being the lone backup at shortstop, which is to the detriment of someone like J.T. Riddle. Luis Arraez is going to get at bats spelling both Polanco and Donaldson in the infield, while also occasionally mixing out in left field. Willians Astudillo starts on the farm in this configuration, although he could be kept if the pitching staff opens with 13 arms instead.

 

Outfielders (4): Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Jake Cave, Brent Rooker

Just one additional outfielder makes it for the Twins and that winds up being Jake Cave. Brent Rooker isn’t great defensively, but that bat can play and the drop-off from Cave is hardly substantial. Expect them to form a platoon of sorts out of the gate, and the progression could lead to a promotion of Kyle Garlick prior to seeing Alex Kirilloff. Minnesota could also try and squeeze Garlick through waivers to open a 40-man spot, but that may prove difficult after his torrid spring.

 

Designated Hitter (1): Nelson Cruz

 

Yes, he's here.

 

As an added bonus, here’s my stab at the Opening Day lineup against the Brewers and Brandon Woodruff.

 

1. Max Kepler LF

2. Josh Donaldson 3B

3. Jorge Polanco 2B

4. Miguel Sano 1B

5. Mitch Garver C

6. Byron Buxton CF

7. Andrelton Simmons SS

8. Brent Rooker RF

9. Kenta Maeda P

 

Take a look at Cody's roster projection here. How would yours differ?

 

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Assuming it is 13+13, which is what Ted has above, will be interesting as heck as to the pitcher who doesn't make it.

 

To be honest, haven't followed as close this spring to be aware that Law, whoever he is, is pitching this well. Expect that is do to not seeing any games on tv, which is another subject I don't want to think about. But who doesn't make it? Most years there will be a late injury right before breaking camp. Will that happen again?

 

Good news is that if it is this difficult to identify the top 26, should be a strong team.

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Drop Cave and Shoemaker. Add Cruz and Garlick.

If ST competition for jobs plus past history means anything, then Broxton and Garlick both beat out Cave and soundly! Larnach looks possibly ready! I’d like to find a way to keep Waddell and I’m not sure Astudillo adds as much to the team as Broxton, Garlick or Waddell.

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Has anyone noticed how well Larnach is starting to do now?  Very impressive.  Of course I think Kiriloff should still be getting ABs.  They are not just using their starters and it is better to give him experience.  A silly question - someone said he was sent down to avoid injury (which I do not buy), but could it be that they feared he might be like Larnach and catch fire at the end of ST which would have meant sending him down would have got a lot more attention?

 

Many of Ted's choices are solid, even if his ability to count to 26 isn't.  Maybe we do not count the DH - it is just an add on.  I do hate that in NL cities we once again have no DH and he has to sit.   How about if they both play by their own league rules.  We have Cruz bat, they have a pitcher.  That should speed up the universal DH decision.

 

One last thought - I cringe every time I see Kepler leading off.  

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Has anyone noticed how well Larnach is starting to do now?  Very impressive.  Of course I think Kiriloff should still be getting ABs.  They are not just using their starters and it is better to give him experience.  A silly question - someone said he was sent down to avoid injury (which I do not buy), but could it be that they feared he might be like Larnach and catch fire at the end of ST which would have meant sending him down would have got a lot more attention?

 

Many of Ted's choices are solid, even if his ability to count to 26 isn't.  Maybe we do not count the DH - it is just an add on.  I do hate that in NL cities we once again have no DH and he has to sit.   How about if they both play by their own league rules.  We have Cruz bat, they have a pitcher.  That should speed up the universal DH decision.

 

One last thought - I cringe every time I see Kepler leading off.  

I think sending Kirilloff to the back fields when they did was more about getting him back on track and not ruining his confidence by having him continue to get shredded as ST rosters get smaller and he faces real MLB pitchers more and more. Gave him the chance to stop pressing and just focus on getting himself right. Not worried about each and every AB helping or hurting his chances at the big club. Larnach looks real comfortable right now and I'm excited to see him at some point this year. Mauer with power.

 

Kepler definitely needs to flip the switch pretty quick here. Especially if they still plan on having him leadoff.

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Could we see Cruz in LF on Opening Day?

 

I doubt it since I don't think he's played an inning in the OF in a Twins uniform (in regular season), but it's intriguing just because of the nature of Opening Day.

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Sorry about the mistakes here, obviously Cruz was an omission and is making the roster.

 

I do believe the Twins will go 13/13, which was not the case when I put this together. Law ends up missing with Willians Astudillo grabbing the last bench spot in that scenario. Both Law and Waddell have been great this spring, so it'll be quite the boost for Minnesota to have them at their disposal.

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I do think that having Larnach a year behind Rooker and Kirilloff made the Eddie decision easier. Even if AK doesn't pan out, the Twins have another hitter for corner outfield nearing readiness. I wonder if Larnach ends up in St. Paul or Wichita. 

I don't think there's much concern Kirilloff doesn't pan out, but he could be at 1B next year if Sano moves to DH. Larnach is probably the better fielder/more athletic of the two as well.

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