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


    Cody Christie

    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

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    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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    20 minutes ago, Alex s said:

    Compared to LY I think the Twins have really just added depth to the bottom of their batting order and bottom of their rotation.  It's just enough to compete in the AL Central and  that shouldn't be confused with being competitive.  That lineup is really bad and will easily get shut down in game 1 (and 2) of any playoff series.  I mean Joey Gallo?  It's unfortunate Carlos Correa gave this front office a lifeline because the best thing they can do is move on from the coach and the GM. 

    The total talent of the organization is low.  They're avg. at best in the pro's and below avg. with prospects.  In a market like this the front office has one responsibility and that's to develop players in the minors to make an impact.  They've been unable to do that.  The few that have got to the pro's only are allowed to play every 3rd game or pitch 5 innings because we're worried about them getting hurt and their replacements get rocked every time.  The best thing to happen to us this offseason is the lucky move up the draft lottery, though I'm sure that prospect will be traded for another #3 equivalent starter 2 years from now.

    It's a business and this is an organization trying to do the bare minimum to sell concessions and get butts in seats. 

    I could not disagree with this post more if I tried. so much is factually wrong, let alone the opinions I disagree with.

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    Both Celestino and TL will start in AAA. Ober will be on the 26 roster as a 6th starter for april and either he or maeda will throw some BP innnings. Probably just have buck, gordon, gallo, kep and taylor in the outfield most of the season. AK, Polanco, C4, Miranda and Farmer as IF, 2 catchers. Thats only 12 position players and 14 pitchers. Something will change when Lewis makes the roster. 

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    31 minutes ago, Major League Ready said:

    There might actually be a competition for the final spot among position players between Larnach / Martin, and Julien.  That could be interesting to watch as spring training unfolds.

    I'm a fan of making Spring Training meaningful, at least for that last spot or two. Additionally, the Twins need to keep an eye out for total nonperformance by a position player. Two weeks of nothing doesn't need to spill into five with the depth within the 40 person roster. If Gallo and/or Kepler are going to hit less than .200, give the starts to someone else. I'm not talking about a quick hook, but awareness of the type of at bats.

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    6 hours ago, Karbo said:

    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.

    Yeah, I think they absolutely need to have another multi-inning RP in the mix. at all times. One of Ober or Winder make sense, with the "loser" in the rotation across the river. I can imagine a St. Paul rotation of Winder, Balazovic, SWR, Varland, and Enlow perhaps, with Dobnak. Henriquez, Sands, and maybe eventually Canterino going multiple innings out of the pen, and with a bit of musical chairs to give all or most of these guys some opportunities to start during the course of the season. If history is any gauge, about a dozen of them will get some MLB action.

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    1 hour ago, Fatbat said:

    Both Celestino and TL will start in AAA. Ober will be on the 26 roster as a 6th starter for april and either he or maeda will throw some BP innnings. Probably just have buck, gordon, gallo, kep and taylor in the outfield most of the season. AK, Polanco, C4, Miranda and Farmer as IF, 2 catchers. Thats only 12 position players and 14 pitchers. Something will change when Lewis makes the roster. 

    https://www.mlb.com/glossary/transactions/26-man-roster

    Quote

    A club's 26-man roster is its full roster of active Major League players from Opening Day through Aug. 31, and during the postseason.

    Teams are limited to carrying 13 pitchers during this time. From Sept. 1 through the end of the regular season, all clubs must carry 28 players, with a limit of 14 pitchers.

    Unless something changes, twins will not be keeping 14 pitchers.

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    Celestino needs to spend beaucoup time in the minors for his only chance of regaining any luster. Ober if healthy is a starter, a good one. Winder hasn't shown the durability or ability and may end up in the pen. Kirilloff if healthy is a complete hitter and potential prime 1st baseman. Not bad in left either. Larnach if healthy has power to all fields, is good in the outfield, could be a nice #5 hitter corner outfielder. They gotta step up, this is their big chance.

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    Would substitute larnach for celestino

    Out of the bullpen moran should make the team but if he’s not looking in spring training expect danny coulumbe to return.  Would like the Twins to bring back Fulmer but if not then they will use that last spot as the emergency arm instead of megill but no doubt megill will be in that rotation of emergency arms

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    Is there any reasonable way to get Kepler, Larnach, Gordon, Kirilloff and Gallo in the line up? I suppose Gordon could play 3B but I don’t want Miranda in the short side of a platoon. One of those players needs to be traded or in AAA. They need a right handed bat in that spot. The best in house candidate is Garlick. I would sign Gurriel.

    I think they need one more reliever also. I think Fulmer over Megill would be a helpful upgrade. 

     

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    That bullpen doesn't look like it's going to strike fear in too many opponents' hearts. Duran is the exception of course, but other than him, some guys are going to have to step forward. 

    Jax in particular is one I'm skeptical about. His splits last year suggest he feasted on the less-capable hitters - batters in the #3 slot OPSed above 800 against him. Of course slicing and dicing relievers' numbers leads to pretty small samples, but in this case it matches up with my eye-test that capable hitters don't really struggle against him.  Maybe he takes a further step forward in 2023 though.

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    Will be shocked if Larnach isn't on the opening day roster with Celestino in St. Paul.  Would be best, for both players.

    Also don't see Ober in St. Paul.  Expect they are going to be careful with Maeda's innings.  See him missing every fourth or fifth start and having a few short 2-3 inning starts as well.  Ober is the best guy to have in the pen as a long inning reliever who is scheduled to pick up those missed starts/innings.  They may also have Mahle miss a few starts during the year.  Now should Varland or SWR force their way onto the team, Ober could be the odd man out.

    Also see Winder winning a spot as a multi-inning reliever.  Who that forces out remains to be seen?  Does Megill have options?  Does Pagan get traded and all of Twins Territory is elated?  Or does Pagan finally put it together and is the surprise of the spring?

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    All teams use the 40 man roster to shuttle pitchers up and down in order to maximize the number of healthy pitchers available.

    Twins pitchers with options:

    Lopez 2, Ryan 3, Paddack 2, Ober 2, Woods-Richardson 3, Varland 3, Balazovic 1

    Duran 1, Jax 2, Thielbar 1, Alcala 3, Moran 2, Megill 2, Winder 2, Henriquez 2, Sands 2, Headrick 3. Enlow 2, Ortega 2

    I don't expect them to option Lopez, Ryan or Duran and Paddack will be on the injured list but any of the rest could be optioned back and forth to allow for flexibility in the pitching staff. You wouldn't think of 36 year old Thielbar as someone with options but he still has 2 seasons left before free agency.

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    19 hours ago, HerbieFan said:

    Gurriel?  :)

    ASSUMING GOOD HEALTH:

    Gallo can DH - Buxton will DH - I do like Larnach getting nearly 1/2 of the DH at bats though - Miranda may see a few games here at DH for rest - same with CC.

    Gallo will plug the hole we need filled between RF - 1B - DH as needed.

    Kirilof, if healthy at 1B - Gallo if needed - Miranda against LH pitching.

    I believe that Gordon & Larnach have LF covered.

    I still see Gordon in CF against RH pitching for 50 games. Taylor has all CF starts against LH pitching, maybe 35. Buck has the other 75?

    No Celestino on roster - LARNACH will be on roster.

    Hopefully, no Pagán on roster - Ober/Maeda piggyback for first month & then one goes to long relief, 2-3 innings twice per week. This really saves others in Pen!!

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    37 minutes ago, DJL44 said:

    All teams use the 40 man roster to shuttle pitchers up and down in order to maximize the number of healthy pitchers available.

    Twins pitchers with options:

    Lopez 2, Ryan 3, Paddack 2, Ober 2, Woods-Richardson 3, Varland 3, Balazovic 1

    Duran 1, Jax 2, Thielbar 1, Alcala 3, Moran 2, Megill 2, Winder 2, Henriquez 2, Sands 2, Headrick 3. Enlow 2, Ortega 2

    I don't expect them to option Lopez, Ryan or Duran and Paddack will be on the injured list but any of the rest could be optioned back and forth to allow for flexibility in the pitching staff. You wouldn't think of 36 year old Thielbar as someone with options but he still has 2 seasons left before free agency.

    Good info, thank you. Looks like the Twins have plenty of options.

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    2 hours ago, DJL44 said:

    Batters in the #3 slot are usually pretty good. Most of them OPS 900 or better against the league.

    Concur on the first sentence.  The second sentence?  American Leaguers in 2022 OPSed .789 when batting third.

    https://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/split.cgi?t=b&lg=AL&year=2022#all_lineu

    I just don't see evidence Jax (.828 respectively) was something special against good hitters last season.  And I wouldn't make an issue of him except that he's one of the handful of relievers people point to as being the makings of a shutdown pen.  Can he improve?  Sure, along with the other young arms, and I hope so.

    BTW, Jhoan Duran's OPS-against when facing #3 hitters was .696.  I'm not asking for miracles when facing the best. Just... for evidence of effectiveness not dropping off. I mean, Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera allowed a .724 OPS against #3 hitters (though league OPS during his era was nearly .100 points higher), so no one is immune.

    Say, do you want to know Emilio Pagan's 2022 OPS-against when facing #3?  Do you wanna?  DO YOU WANNA?  Okay, since you twisted my arm.  1.011.  (#4 beat him to the tune of 1.134, also.)  :)

    (Again, for the individual relievers, it's all small-sample, so I wouldn't take any of this terribly seriously.  I'm just looking for a reason to change my opinion about Jax, and not finding any in the season's results.)

     

     

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    11 hours ago, ashbury said:

    That bullpen doesn't look like it's going to strike fear in too many opponents' hearts. Duran is the exception of course, but other than him, some guys are going to have to step forward. 

    Jax in particular is one I'm skeptical about. His splits last year suggest he feasted on the less-capable hitters - batters in the #3 slot OPSed above 800 against him. Of course slicing and dicing relievers' numbers leads to pretty small samples, but in this case it matches up with my eye-test that capable hitters don't really struggle against him.  Maybe he takes a further step forward in 2023 though.

    I'd guess most pitchers do better against bad hitters. I'm not sure your point.

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    9 minutes ago, Mike Sixel said:

    I'd guess most pitchers do better against bad hitters. I'm not sure your point.

    His pattern just looks more extreme than most.  It stood out to me.  And again (again, again), it's small sample size when sliced 9 ways, so I'm not taking it more seriously than, "hm". 

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    On 1/24/2023 at 11:39 AM, 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.

    My money is on Buxton. For some reason Rocco seams to like him at lead off.

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    1 hour ago, Mike Sixel said:

    I'd guess most pitchers do better against bad hitters. I'm not sure your point.

    I wish they had an icon for a 'smile.'  The haha one doesn't apply when you get a good smile from a comment, Mike, thanks.

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    48 minutes ago, roger said:

    I wish they had an icon for a 'smile.'  The haha one doesn't apply when you get a good smile from a comment, Mike, thanks.

    Let me try and say it another way: I like the idea of measuring performance against the best.  Unless our goal is just to sneak into the postseason and then get swept, I don't particularly care how a reliever does against the number 8 and 9 batters - Emilio Pagan did excellently against them too.  The level of competition goes up in various ways, in October, because even the best teams experiment with their rosters throughout the long season but they settle on who they think is best starting in game 163.  Many of those 8/9 hitters are gone by then.

    I'm not seeing a lockdown pen right now.  Reliever numbers are always sparse, so what I pointed out about Griffin Jax is merely an anomaly to wonder about.

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    5 minutes ago, ashbury said:

    I'm not seeing a lockdown pen right now.  Reliever numbers are always sparse, so what I pointed out about Griffin Jax is merely an anomaly to wonder about.

    What's left? Are any of the free agent relievers available better?

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    On 1/24/2023 at 1:35 PM, 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. 

    What does a 6 man rotation actually accomplish, though?  Off day on day 2 of season. 

    Now you're one man shorter in the bullpen and we all know how Rocco likes to go to the pen early and often.

    5 Man rotation with Ober to AAA in waiting or Maeda to the pen (for good).  Actually, Maeda in the pen is kind of tantalizing.

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    26 minutes ago, ashbury said:

    Let me try and say it another way: I like the idea of measuring performance against the best.  Unless our goal is just to sneak into the postseason and then get swept, I don't particularly care how a reliever does against the number 8 and 9 batters - Emilio Pagan did excellently against them too.  The level of competition goes up in various ways, in October, because even the best teams experiment with their rosters throughout the long season but they settle on who they think is best starting in game 163.  Many of those 8/9 hitters are gone by then.

    I'm not seeing a lockdown pen right now.  Reliever numbers are always sparse, so what I pointed out about Griffin Jax is merely an anomaly to wonder about.

    To wonder about isn't the tone. These kinds of "questions" are really comments. 

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    22 hours ago, jorgenswest said:

    Is there any reasonable way to get Kepler, Larnach, Gordon, Kirilloff and Gallo in the line up? I suppose Gordon could play 3B but I don’t want Miranda in the short side of a platoon. One of those players needs to be traded or in AAA. They need a right handed bat in that spot. The best in house candidate is Garlick. I would sign Gurriel.

    I think they need one more reliever also. I think Fulmer over Megill would be a helpful upgrade. 

     

    Gallo in LF

    Gordon in CF (unless somebody has a stroke, Gordon is a full time OF) ………Farmer has IF covered.

    Larnach at DH

    Kepler in RF

    Kirilof at 1B

    If they don’t trade Kepler, this could be a routine line-up vs. RH starters. All of the games Buxton doesn’t start…….at least 35 games up to maybe 50 games. If they want to play Buxton, he’s probably the DH.

    They have traded for Taylor. No more searching for RH bat, nor anymore rostering of Garlick.

    Would love to sign Fulmer……or Chafin. Need Pen depth & we’re set!!

    Piggyback Ober/Maeda for a month in the 5th starter spot and then shift one of them to long relief in Pen after 5-6 weeks.

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