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Projecting the Twins 2023 Opening Day Roster: Lopez and Taylor Trades Add Depth


Twins Daily Contributor

Minnesota's 2023 roster has started to come into focus after the front office completed multiple trades in the last week. Here is how the team projects to start Opening Day.

Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

 

Last season, the lockout forced MLB to allow teams to begin the year with 28-man rosters. The lockout forced a shortened spring training, and baseball was worried about an increased chance of player injuries. For 2023, teams must narrow their final roster to 26 players. Players listed below with the ** are on the bubble for the final roster spots. 

Catchers (2): Christian Vazquez, Ryan Jeffers
Minnesota's catching duo has been set since the club signed Vazquez to a multi-year deal. It was clear from the onset of the off-season that the Twins targeted Vazquez and paid a premium to sign him. The Twins have six catchers among their non-roster invitees to spring training, including veterans Tony Wolters, Grayson Greiner, and Chance Sisco. Teams rarely rely on just two catchers for an entire season, so the Twins will likely need help from these veterans to play at some point during the 2023 campaign. 

Infielders (5): Carlos Correa, Kyle Farmer, Alex Kirilloff**, Jose Miranda, Jorge Polanco 
Adding Correa to this group pushed Farmer to a utility role, which might be a better fit for his skill set. Miranda is getting the full-time job at third base after the team traded Gio Urshela earlier this winter. Polanco figures to get most of the playing time at second base, but it will be interesting to see if he feels any pressure from the team's top prospects. Kirilloff will get time at first base, but the team might have another option (see below) if the team wants him to get regular rest at the season's start. Top prospects like Royce Lewis, Brooks Lee, Edouard Julien, and Austin Martin can add depth to this group in the second half. 

Outfielders (6): Byron Buxton, Gilberto Celestino**, Joey Gallo, Nick Gordon**, Max Kepler, Michael A. Taylor
By adding Taylor, the Twins have three former Gold Glove winners in the outfield and another Gold Glove finalist. Minnesota's outfield defense has the potential to be one of baseball's best, but all four players can't fit in the outfield at the same time. Gallo has logged over 746 innings at first base, so the team might be comfortable moving him to the infield so Kirilloff can slowly work his way back. Gilberto Celestino can start the year at Triple-A, a level where he has played fewer than 25 games. Nick Gordon is out of minor-league options, so the Twins will keep him based on his breakout performance in 2022. Trevor Larnach and Matt Wallner add depth to the organization's outfield, but they will have to power their way from St. Paul to Minneapolis.  

Rotation (5): Sonny Gray, Pablo Lopez, Tyler Mahle, Kenta Maeda, Joe Ryan
Some Twins fans were disappointed the Twins traded Arraez, but Lopez lengthened the Twins' starting rotation. Depth was needed because there are injury concerns surrounding numerous players in the rotation. Since the last projection, Bailey Ober got bumped to Triple-A because of the Lopez addition. Other young pitchers like Louie Varland, Simeon Woods Richardson, and Jordan Balazovic will be waiting for an opportunity. It is one of the deepest rotations the Twins have had in recent memory, and the club will have to rely on that depth if/when the injury bug strikes again. 

Bullpen (8): Jhoan Duran, Jorge Lopez, Griffin Jax, Caleb Thielbar, Emilio Pagan, Jorge Alcala**, Jovani Moran**, Trevor Megill**
Minnesota has done little to address the bullpen this winter, but that has been a common theme for a front office that relies on veterans and internal options. Since Twins Daily's initial roster projection, all of the above names have stayed the same. Duran and Lopez should get the bulk of the high-leverage opportunities. Jax and Thielbar will combine to be a bridge to the late-inning arms. Pagan is a wild card, but the Twins are hoping for a better performance from a player with good stuff. ZiPS projects feel like the Twins' bullpen is top-heavy, which makes sense considering the recent track record of players expected to be on the roster. Minnesota will have some decisions at the bullpen's backend with other 40-man roster options like Ronny Henriquez, Cole Sands, and Josh Winder.   

How do you feel about the team's depth at multiple positions? What changes will happen to the team's roster before Opening Day? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

 


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Strongly disagree that Celestino is the one on the bubble and Larnach will have to "power his way from St Paul to Minneapolis." Celestino has no role on this team with Taylor here. Larnach is on the roster as of now with Celestino finally getting his much needed time in AAA to work on his game.

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I think this feels right - Celistino would benefit from a year at AAA to learn how to hit and with Taylor only having a year left on the contract that seems like a good direction to go.

Still would prefer anybody from the minors instead of Pagan - but it appears that unless he implodes during spring training, he is going to have to cost us some games (again) that count before hopefully moving on from him sooner rather than later.

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IMO Ober should be in the pen, replacing (hopefully) Pagan but probably Megill. I agree the pen IS top heavy, with a shortage of 2-3 inning guys. They got burned out last year that way, (and the way they seem set on limiting starters) so it would be nice to see Ober there. Jax and Ober would be a very good combo of 2-3 inning guys, while using Pagan as mop up.

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Overall, a middling lineup with all hopes for a playoff berth based on the rotation.

Unless Buxton is playing and hitting, this might be the weakest offensive outfield in the league (but great defensively). Gordon might be the only player to hit above .230.  The infield is relying on two young players (one who is oft injured and, when not, only occasionally rakes and the other who is at best middle of the road defensively and fell off quite dramatically at the plate after a hot stretch last season) - and a veteran coming off his worst season in years.  Catching will be so so more or less.  Rotation looks solid, particularly if Mahle, Gray, Lopez, and Maeda can stay healthy (but has the depth). The bullpen is pretty much a run back from last year.  The coaching staff hasn’t been upgraded either - we will see if they get better in getting more out of our fundamentals, base running and in-game tactics than last year.

On a side note, I’d really hate being a top prospect in the Twins organization at the moment.  Ageing vets (Gallo, Kepler, Taylor, even Polanco) seems to be a core strategy. There are lots of players - both positional and on the bump - lining up for a shot.  There’s a decent chance you will just get stashed until you start to age out of the sweet spot of getting majors experience. Then when you do get a chance, you are under team control long enough you might only get one bite at the big money deal.  I’m sure there is a ton of frustration right now among some of the prospects banging at the door.

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20 minutes ago, Nashvilletwin said:

 I’m sure there is a ton of frustration right now among some of the prospects banging at the door.

I see where one could think this way, but baseball players deal in focusing on the positives more than any other sport because failure is so common in baseball. A guy who fails three out of four times at the plate is pretty decent. The prospects are focused on determining their own future. Those who play well can push the veterans aside. Schoop was a premier defensive second baseman and power hitter who is still playing baseball, but when Luis Arraez proved he was ready to play the job fairly went to Arraez. Likewise players like Lewis, Lee, Martin, Larnach, Wallner, and Julien will need to prove that they are ready for MLB.

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Celestino's soft contact (observationally... I don't have numbers to back it up) is far too extreme for me to be excited about his potential at all.  He's also not an exceptional OF in my mind.  He is now redundant and I don't see much further development, but hope I'm wrong.

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8 minutes ago, tony&rodney said:

I see where one could think this way, but baseball players deal in focusing on the positives more than any other sport because failure is so common in baseball. A guy who fails three out of four times at the plate is pretty decent. The prospects are focused on determining their own future. Those who play well can push the veterans aside. Schoop was a premier defensive second baseman and power hitter who is still playing baseball, but when Luis Arraez proved he was ready to play the job fairly went to Arraez. Likewise players like Lewis, Lee, Martin, Larnach, Wallner, and Julien will need to prove that they are ready for MLB.

Don't forget Ober, Winder, SWR, and Varland.  I’m sure we are missing a few as well. But, you are correct. They 100% “are focused on determining their own future”. And many of them would welcome with open arms a trade where they might get more opportunity.

All I’m saying is that the queue is long and growing and many of them realise they might/probably have a better chance to prove themselves outside the Twins organization. Moving Arraez helps the infield log jam a bit. Trading for Lopez and Taylor, signing Gallo, and keeping Kepler do not. At some point, the kids need innings. 

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55 minutes ago, vulturepaj said:

Celestino's soft contact (observationally... I don't have numbers to back it up) is far too extreme for me to be excited about his potential at all.  He's also not an exceptional OF in my mind.  He is now redundant and I don't see much further development, but hope I'm wrong.

He also makes way too many mistakes in the field as well. Keep him in AAA to try to develop then reevaluate him with a full season in St. Paul under his belt.

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1 hour ago, Nashvilletwin said:

Overall, a middling lineup with all hopes for a playoff berth based on the rotation.

Unless Buxton is playing and hitting, this might be the weakest offensive outfield in the league (but great defensively). Gordon might be the only player to hit above .230.  The infield is relying on two young players (one who is oft injured and, when not, only occasionally rakes and the other who is at best middle of the road defensively and fell off quite dramatically at the plate after a hot stretch last season) - and a veteran coming off his worst season in years.  Catching will be so so more or less.  Rotation looks solid, particularly if Mahle, Gray, Lopez, and Maeda can stay healthy (but has the depth). The bullpen is pretty much a run back from last year.  The coaching staff hasn’t been upgraded either - we will see if they get better in getting more out of our fundamentals, base running and in-game tactics than last year.

On a side note, I’d really hate being a top prospect in the Twins organization at the moment.  Ageing vets (Gallo, Kepler, Taylor, even Polanco) seems to be a core strategy. There are lots of players - both positional and on the bump - lining up for a shot.  There’s a decent chance you will just get stashed until you start to age out of the sweet spot of getting majors experience. Then when you do get a chance, you are under team control long enough you might only get one bite at the big money deal.  I’m sure there is a ton of frustration right now among some of the prospects banging at the door.

I am wondering who will be the leadoff, get on base guy for Buxton and Correa to hit behind. I'm not seeing a great answer at this moment.

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2 hours ago, chpettit19 said:

Strongly disagree that Celestino is the one on the bubble and Larnach will have to "power his way from St Paul to Minneapolis." Celestino has no role on this team with Taylor here. Larnach is on the roster as of now with Celestino finally getting his much needed time in AAA to work on his game.

This

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16 minutes ago, DJL44 said:

Has an Opening Day roster ever lasted a whole week? Most times by game 4 there's been a transaction to change the roster.

I looked up last season. Opening Day April 8, first transaction 4/12.

4/12 - Recalled Jax, Alcala to IL

4/13 - Larnach and Derek Rodriguez up, Kirilloff and Cotton down

4/14 - Garlick up, Rodriguez down

The Opening Day roster lasted 4 games.

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50 minutes ago, rwilfong86 said:

I am wondering who will be the leadoff, get on base guy for Buxton and Correa to hit behind. I'm not seeing a great answer at this moment.

Polanco is a reasonable fit there, although he'd be great in #2 spot as a switch hitter. But there's nothing wrong with a lineup that goes:

  1. Polanco
  2. Correa
  3. Buxton
  4. Gallo
  5. Kirilloff
  6. Miranda
  7. Larnach
  8. Vazquez
  9. Kepler

It would be great if Kirilloff is hitting so well you could slide him in to the #3 spot, but he's probably not ready for that. But you don't need to go strictly L-R to protect yourself with the decline of the LOOGY, etc.

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No way Celestino isn't in St Paul to work on his game. Larnach is the probable replacement, playing both OF corners and even DHing once in a while. 

All of this is assuming 100% health, of course. Sure would be nice to leave ST 100% for a change, and stay that way for more than a few games. But assuming that 100% health, I just have such a hard time not having Ober in the rotation. But if he is, indeed, bumped, does he go to St Paul and stay stretched out? Or does he go to the pen and provide that middle/long arm that is missing with the OP roster? And if he goes to St Paul to stay stretched out, does Winder/Sands/Henriquez make the club instead of someone else to provide that middle/long arm?

Guess I'm saying that even if the Twins don't add another BP arm....and I think they might...I'm not sure I buy the above projection without that one stretched arm that was so lacking last season.

I'm starting to think Kepler just might remain a Twin, despite all the rumors and speculation to the contrary the past few months. 

I just have this feeling in my gut that there's going to be one more signing or trade before all is said and done.

Potential crazy surprise to the roster? Martin or Julien just looks so good that they somehow sneak on the roster and provide some missing OB% that we lost with the Arraez trade.

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Celestino, Larnach, Megill & if need be Moran down to AAA. Because of the log jam in the OF, I'd place Gallo temporary at 1B & send Kiriloff to AAA to remove some rust & find his groove until he blow off the doors. Then something has to happen in the OF. I'd have Ober piggy-back w/ Maeda to begin the season.

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Just now, Doctor Gast said:

Celestino, Larnach, Megill & if need be Moran down to AAA. Because of the log jam in the OF, I'd place Gallo temporary at 1B & send Kiriloff to AAA to remove some rust & find his groove until he blow off the doors. Then something has to happen in the OF. I'd have Ober piggy-back w/ Maeda to begin the season.

Gallo is a gold glove defender in the OF.

Who is your DH if Larnach and Kiriloff aren't on the roster? 

I really don't get this at all.

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So...the rotation in St.Paul could include SWR, Ober, Varland, Winder, Balazovic, with Henriquez and Sands in the bullpen?  I love it...should be a good AAA rotation.  Why are some in such a hurry to turn Ober or Winder into a bullpen arm?  Let 'em start at AAA until someone is needed.  They both had really good moments as starters last year.  Let's let them prove they are not major league starters before moving them to the pen.

If I'm being honest, I don't hate the idea of starting the year with Larnach and Kiriloff at AAA either.  Let them prove health, get 5 plate appearances every day and bring them up when someone gets hurt or they just mash to the point you HAVE to bring them back.

Celestino is gonna be in AAA all year IMO.  And I'm with most who seem to think that's best for him.

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15 minutes ago, Doctor Gast said:

Celestino, Larnach, Megill & if need be Moran down to AAA. Because of the log jam in the OF, I'd place Gallo temporary at 1B & send Kiriloff to AAA to remove some rust & find his groove until he blow off the doors. Then something has to happen in the OF. I'd have Ober piggy-back w/ Maeda to begin the season.

That's what the off season and spring training are for. Kirilloff is too talented to waste if he's ready. I like Gordon, but an everyday lineup with Kirilloff is much more dangerous. 

 

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6 minutes ago, Mike Sixel said:

Gallo is a gold glove defender in the OF.

Who is your DH if Larnach and Kiriloff aren't on the roster? 

I really don't get this at all.

This an early roster plan. I'm going by that Larnach & Kiriloff were hurt last spring & haven't played since. I can't expect them come right in & play up to their potential. Plus as I stated before to solve the log jam in the OF. 

DH was left off the roster so I forgot about it. In that case I'd reluctantly put Gordon at DH. & let Kiriloff play off any rust at 1B

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3 minutes ago, jsmort99 said:

Why can't the Twins start with a 6 man rotation for the first few weeks. Especially since everyone except Ryan has an injury history. Give everyone that extra day rest early on. 

because we're not allowed to have 14 pitchers, and adding another starter at the expense of a reliever is likely to leave us short, especially since most of our relievers aren't more than 1 inning guys. It won't hurt Ober to have him start in Saint Paul.

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