After another long and frigid winter, spring training is almost here. We are only four days from the reporting date for pitchers and catchers in Ft. Myers, and from that point it will be a six-week countdown to the start of regular-season baseball.
Like last year, Twins Daily will be on location covering the action in Twins camp, but before all of that gets underway, let's preview some of the storylines that figure to be most compelling to follow as Paul Molitor and his newly appointed staff work to solidify a roster and forge an identity.
1. What's up with the catching depth?
Kurt Suzuki is locked in as the starting backstop, but it's less clear how things will play out behind him. It appears that the plan is for Josmil Pinto will back him up and start once or twice a week, but the Twins are hardly enamored with his defense and have usually preferred to have a catch-and-throw specialist on the roster. If Suzuki or Pinto gets hurt, who is next in line? Chris Herrmann is on the 40-man roster but isn't a strong option offensively or defensively. Could someone like Stuart Turner emerge?
2. Who gets the fifth starter spot?
This will be one of the most prominent storylines, and it's one we've already been covering extensively at Twins Daily. Make sure to check out Seth's writeups on various candidates for the job, including Trevor May, Tommy Milone, Tim Stauffer, Alex Meyer and Mike Pelfrey.
3. How will the bullpen shake out?
We know Glen Perkins will be there. We basically know Casey Fien, Brian Duensing, Caleb Thielbar and Tim Stauffer will be there. That leaves one or two remaining spots, with a lengthy list of contenders set to make their cases. Hurlers like Michael Tonkin, Stephen Pryor, Ryan Pressly, A.J. Achter and Lester Oliveros will all be in the mix, not to mention the guys that lose out on the fifth starter competition mentioned above.
4. Who plays DH if not Kennys Vargas?
Vargas had an exceptional rookie season, but the Twins have been insistent that nothing will be handed to him this spring. That makes sense, since he had played fewer than 100 games above Single-A prior to his promotion and took a downturn late in the season as big-league pitchers made adjustments. If Vargas doesn't appear up to the task in camp, who will the Twins turn to? Could Pinto be bumped into regular duty? Will Molitor rotate different players through the position? There's no obvious answer.
5. Will Danny Santana get a chance to stick at shortstop?
We know that the Twins would like to give Santana an extended shot at holding down this job, but we also know that they liked what he did last year in center field, a position that remains in limbo. If Aaron Hicks fails to impress, will the club search for another answer so they can stick to their plan of bringing Santana along at short, or will they slide the 24-year-old to the outfield and fall back on Eduardo Escobar, hoping to replicate last year's results? I'm guessing the latter, though I hope that isn't the case; we need to see what Santana can do at shortstop. Where he plays in exhibition games should give us a good idea of the team's mindset.
We cover five more questions over at Twins Daily, so click here to read the rest of the article and share your thoughts.
You can also check out the latest in our Top 10 prospect countdown with Cody Christie's profile of J.O. Berrios, our No. 3 ranked player in the system.