In one week, the Twins will travel to Atlanta to take on the Braves in two exhibition games leading to Opening Day next weekend. They will likely bring a bunch of extra players, and who knows, they may even have a roster decision or two yet to make. The season is fast approaching, and although most of the jobs on the roster are pretty well set, the Twins still have a lot of players in camp battling for one or two more spots.
Let's start with the givens. Who will be on the roster (assuming health and no trades)?
- Catchers: Joe Mauer, Drew Butera (2)
- Infielders: Justin Morneau, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Alexi Casilla, Danny Valencia (4)
- Outfielders: Delmon Young, Denard Span, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Repko (4)
- Designated Hitters: Jason Kubel, Jim Thome (2)
- Starting Pitchers: Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Nick Blackburn, Brian Duensing, Scott Baker (5)
- Relief Pitchers: Joe Nathan, Matt Capps, Jose Mijares, Dusty Hughes, Kevin Slowey (5)
So there are 22 spots that are essentially accounted for. As you can see, I have included Dusty Hughes in the 'given' category, although I acknowledge that some may not find that to be the case. We have 12 hitters and 10 pitchers that are givens. The Twins will most likely go to Opening Day with a roster consisting of 13 hitters and 12 pitchers. (Again, that is not a given. They could go with 14 hitters and 11 pitchers, although that is unlikely.)
There are still a lot of players in camp. Obviously some of them have a better chance to make the Twins roster than others, but the fact that they are still there must mean something, right? Today I will take a look at who is still in spring training without a 'given' roster spot.
- Steve Holm - The 31 year old backstop has been around a long time, getting a couple of cups of coffee with the Giants over the past few seasons.
- Rene Rivera - Another 6 year minor league free agent, he is just 27 years old. He was a huge prospect for the Mariners five and six years ago, but they called him up as a backup and his career stagnated.
- Danny Lehmann - The Twins brought in the two veterans, and yet an in-house candidate for the 3rd catcher spot emerged. Lehmann has won the Twins minor league catcher of the year award the last two years, displays terrific defense, and although he won't win any Silver Slugger Awards, he can put the ball in play.
Summary - Joe Mauer and Drew Butera will be the Twins catchers. If Butera gets hurt, there are three really solid options to backup Joe Mauer. If Joe Mauer gets hurt, it is a little scary, but that is always the case when a top player gets hurt.
- Jeff Bailey - The 32 year old has had a terrific AAA career. When he got shots with the Red Sox during parts of three years, he displayed some power. He can play first base and the corner outfield positions.
- Luke Hughes - For the second straight season, Hughes has put together a terrific spring resume. The 26 year old is a major candidate for a bench role. He can play 1B, 2B, and 3B adequately in part-time duty, the question mark is at SS where he simply has not had much time. He has five spring homers, and that isn't a mirage. When he has been healthy the last four years, he has shown very good power.
- Chase Lambin - Like Bailey, 31-year-old Lambin was one of the first six-year minor league free agents that Twins signed to bolster the Rochester roster. He has primarily played 3B and some 2B this spring. Early, he played a little SS, but that is not a good position for him. He has double-digit HR power in AAA, and he will likely play well for the Red Wings all season.
- Matt Tolbert - It seems like the 28 year old has been around forever, doesn't it? It's hard to believe that he has an option left. He doesn't come close to Nick Punto defensively, but he can play all four infield spots without hurting the team at all. Offensively, he may be a little better than Punto. Fit's the "scrappy" mold.
Summary - The utility spot is between Hughes and Tolbert. When Punto signed with the Cardinals, many believed that Tolbert was the given to be the utility infield spot, although Trevor Plouffe might get a shot. Plouffe has already been sent to minor league camp, and it is Hughes who has taken Ft. Myers by storm. Bailey is worth watching in Rochester because he can be a right-handed power bat off the bench. He also could play into the Opening Day roster thoughts if Justin Morneau can't play every day and Michael Cuddyer is also unable to contribute.
- Brian Dinkelman - the 27 year old is not hitting much this spring, but I do think he has impressed some with his improved defense in both corner outfield spots.
Summary - The outfield is set. Jason Repko is the 4th outfielder. Jason Kubel can play the corners adequately as well. If there was an injury to Delmon Young or Denard Span, Ben Revere would be the guy called up. Dinkelman will go to Rochester and can hit in the 2-spot or down in the order.
Summary - Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn and Scott Baker. Baker was named to the starting spot just this morning. Kevin Slowey goes to the bullpen... or he could be traded as those rumors haven't totally disappeared either. Kyle Gibson and David Bromberg will be in Rochester awaiting an opportunity.
- Scott Diamond - 24 year old Rule 5 pick has to remain with the Twins the full season or clear waivers and be offered back to the Braves. The Twins like him but can he make the roster? What would they need to trade to the Braves to keep him around? If they can work out a trade, great. If not, would they be willing to give him a roster spot to not lose him?
- Phil Dumatrait - The 29 year old lefty is a former first-round pick. He's done well in the minor leagues, but he has never been able to secure a big league job for a long period of time.
- Carlos Gutierrez - The Twins 2nd first round pick in 2008 out of the U of Miami, the 24-year-old throws very hard and has a good sinker. No, the non-roster invite's minor league numbers don't look great, but assuming he's moving to the bullpen full-time this year, he could be a mid-season call up who could really help the Twins down the stretch. He also has not allowed a run yet this spring.
- Jim Hoey - The 27 year old with the great fastball came to the Twins this offseason in the JJ Hardy trade. He was viewed as a big part of the future of the Orioles bullpen in 2006 and 2007, but arm surgery set him back. He came back last year in AA and AAA with a lot of strikeouts, and a lot of walks. The coaches want a hard thrower. That is Hoey.
- Chuck James - The 29 year old lefty won 24 games for the Braves between 2006 and 2008, and then he had arm problems. After missing all of 2009, he signed with the Nationals a year ago and went 10-1 between AA and AAA. He likely will start with Rochester and is worth watching.
- Jeff Manship - Manship has been up and down with the Twins the last two years, including five trips last year alone. He has started and been a long reliever. This year, he is moving to a short-reliever role. His "stuff" does compare to Matt Guerrier, as the coaches have said. He has had ups and downs this spring. The Twins believe he can be very good in relief, but if he goes to Rochester and works out of that role, it may be a good thing for him.
- Glen Perkins - The still-just 27-year old lefty has had some ups and downs in his career. He did well as a starter early in his career, but he has really struggled the last couple of years on the mound and with the front office. But he has talent and stuff, and he is out of options. He can't get left-handed batters out, but he does throw 93 with two other good pitches that SHOULD transfer well.
- Anthony Slama - He has only pitched once this spring due to elbow problems. He is on a throwing program which may mean he starts season on the DL, but most likely would not be on the active roster.
- Kyle Waldrop - Waldrop could have become a six-year minor league free agent after last season, but instead, he quickly signed a minor league deal with the Twins. Since returning from shoulder surgery that cost him his 2008 season, he moved to the bullpen and has been terrific. He tired late last year, but he is back this spring and pitching well, throwing hard with a sinker.
Summary - With Pat Neshek now with the Padres, the Twins are at 39 on the 40 man roster. Does that mean that Waldrop or Gutierrez could get added to the 40 man roster so that they can be on the 25 man roster? Not necessarily. Interestingly, the Diamond situation will be resolved this week in some manner. The Twins will have to make a decision on Perkins. There are two spots open, and assuming that Hughes is a given, those two spots can but do not need to include a left-hander.
Overall Summary -
For the one hitter spot, Matt Tolbert and Luke Hughes appear to be neck and neck, with Jeff Bailey being an option only depending upon the Morneau and Cuddyer situations (in which case the 14 hitters/11 pitchers scenario may be required.)
For the two bullpen spots, it would appear that Glen Perkins has the best shot due to being out of options. I kind of think, at this point, that the Twins will either work out a trade with the Braves, or offer him back to Atlanta. I would say that Jeff Manship, Kyle Waldrop and Jim Hoey are all pretty evenly matched.
So, what do YOU think will (or should) happen?