La Velle wrote today about the decisions the Twins have to make in the fewer-than-two-weeks before the season opener in Chicago (assuming the game isn't snow/rained out or even moved to Missouri like the Gophers' baseball series this weekend against host Northwestern was).
In our mind, the 25-man roster is pretty well set. We're pretty sure it is in the Twins' minds, too.
Here it goes:
Starting rotation (5): Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Mike Pelfrey, Kevin Correia, Sam Deduno.
Ideally, there would be a lefty in the mix here, but Deduno has had a very nice spring and his stuff is too good to waste in the bullpen or take a chance on losing since he's out of options. The other four spots are pretty well locked down, at least to start the season, assuming everyone stays healthy. Kyle Gibson starts the year in Class AAA. The Twins take the risk of losing Vance Worley, but at this point the loss would hardly be devastating (though remember: he was the OPENING DAY STARTER last year).
Bullpen (7): Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Casey Fien, Caleb Thielbar, Brian Duensing, Anthony Swarzak, Scott Diamond.
This would make Ryan Pressly the odd man out, not really by fault of his own since he was adequate in 2013. It would be odd to have four left-handers, but the situation would likely be temporary -- stashing Diamond here and elevating him to the rotation if there is an injury or if another pitcher falters. You could also put Diamond in the rotation at the start of the year and put Deduno in the 'pen for more balance. Or the Twins could decide they have one too many lefties and try to deal one of them (Duensing or Diamond). For now, though, those are the 12 pitches we envision the Twins' taking north.
Starting lineup opening day (9): Aaron Hicks (CF), Brian Dozier (2B), Joe Mauer (1B), Josh Willingham (LF), Oswaldo Arcia (RF), Trevor Plouffe (3B), Jason Kubel (DH), Kurt Suzuki (C), Pedro Florimon (SS).
Bench (4): Alex Presley, Chris Colabello, Eduardo Escobar, Josmil Pinto
We'd be stunned if the opening day lineup was anything different than that. We would also note that the first six hitters were all here last year and played for a dismal offense. So there are a lot of hopes and dreams for scoring runs but not a lot of sure things. The bench is a little less settled, but here is our thought: Presley makes the team because he can run and because there has to be someone who can come in as a defensive replacement. Colabello gets another shot because of his hot spring and because he brings a power threat off the bench (and can play 1B or OF). Escobar gets the utility job. Sentiment is nice, but Jason Bartlett was 0-for-24 this spring going into Wednesday. Pinto showed enough promise at the plate last year to deserve at-bats. FanGraphs projected him in December to have the second-best WAR on the entire team, just behind Joe Mauer. If Bartlett shows any pulse at the plate in the next week, it would hardly surprise us to see him make the team over Escobar. The Twins are big on chemistry, for better or worse.
Bottom line: The pitching should be better than it was a year ago. The offense could be just as bad or worse as 2013, when the Twins scored a paltry 614 runs (the second-fewest in franchise history since MLB went to a 162-game schedule more than a half-century ago). With some surprises on offense, this team could win between 76 and 80 games. If the offense is as expected, our guess is more like 71 to 73 wins.
Your thoughts, please, in the comments.