With the official reporting of 43 pitchers and catchers (as well as 16 non-roster invitees) to Fort Myers, Florida, spring training is officially underway for our Twins. It hasn't been an easy winter for Twins fans. Or a fun one, really. The highlights have been the return for our surplus of Major League center fielders and the almost universal finding that the Minnesota farm system is among the best in baseball.
Before the first official workout even begins, the questions facing this year's club are quite clear. Below I'll outline what I believe those questions are, and over the next few days we'll begin to discuss them in more detail. If there's something you'd like to see specifically addressed, just leave a comment to that effect.
The Starting Rotation
Twins Baseball says that the rotation will be "the talk of Twins camp", and it's hard to disagree. But that talk won't necessarily be a positive thing. There will be plenty of competition, and there will be the typical This-Guy-Is-Having-A-Good-Spring or This-Dark-Horse-Has-Become-A-Fan-Favorite conversations, but if we go on player profiles these discussions will be about the lesser of evils than something like whether the number four starter is good enough to give the team enough depth of quality.
At first glance it looks like Scott Diamond and Vance Worley are the two guys most likely to anchor the front side of the rotation, with Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia likely to slide into the three and four spots. That's our starting point.
The departures of Denard Span and Ben Revere, while fantastic for the farm system and fantastic for raising the profile of our minor league pitching, have left the Twins without a natural center fielder with Major League experience. Darin Mastroianni is the only player from last season who could be penciled into center, but he doesn't look like an everyday player.
Our front office has made it clear that players like Aaron Hicks and Joe Benson will have an opportunity to compete for this job in spring training. Hicks hasn't played a game above Double-A, and Benson is recovering from an injury-riddled and statistically awful 2012 campaign. That's our starting point.
The turnover in the middle infield over the last couple of seasons has been astounding. Guys who would be seeing playing time last spring, like Danny Valencia (HAHAHAHA PEDs), Alexi Casilla, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka, are all history. Jamey Carroll is the lone holdover, but at 39 it seems unlikely that the Twins would choose to start. Trevor Plouffe is likely to stay at third base unless something surprising happens and he's ousted, meaning he's not in the mix.
All of that leaves us with Brian Dozier, Eduardo Escobar, and Pedro Florimon as the most likely trio to snag the starting jobs at shortstop and second base. Dozier, Escobar, and Florimon - DEF. Mos' DEFense? Can we call them that? No? Okay. Anyway - that's our starting point.
Every year there are a few non-roster players who end up giving the incumbents (or believed incumbents) a run for their money. Last season we had a few favorites: Jared Burton, Casey Fien, even J.R. Towles for some of us. This season we have Rich Harden and Jeff Clement in the mix, and no doubt there will be one or two others who unexpectedly bare their teeth. We'll talk more about these guys this week as well.
What else do you see as a major issue for the Twins heading into spring training? Is the bullpen still a red flag for you? Maybe you have a few player-specific questions? Let's hear it in the comments.