And is this question really as cut-and-dried as it seems?
This is a question that's come up quite a bit in the comment threads over the last few days, so I thought I'd tackle it this morning. For the purposes of determining which guys should be on this list, we'll use the following nine guys as a starting point, knowing that they'll definitely all be around.
C: Joe Mauer
1B: Justin Morneau
2B: Orlando Hudson
3B: Nick Punto
SS: J.J. Hardy
LF: Delmon Young
CF: Denard Span
RF: Michael Cuddyer
DH: Jason Kubel
Additionally, we know the Twins will use a four-man bench because of their penchant for using a 12-man pitching staff. Now that's out of the way, make the jump to see a list of the most likely bench candidates.
The sure shot: Jim Thome
This is pretty much a given. It's possible that by opening day Ron Gardenhire will already be giving DH duties to Thome against right-handed pitching, with Kubel shifting into left field and Young rotating to the bench on those days. Whether this happens or not, Thome is the 10th man.
Backup Catchers: Drew Butera - or - Wilson Ramos
One of these two will be the backup to Mauer on opening day, barring a last-minute veteran signing sometime in March.
Butera, 26, is a career .214/.295/.317 hitter in the minors, but his being "a catch-and-throw guy" works in his favor. Ramos, 22, is a career .294/.343/.447 hitter in the minors, which is actually pretty damn good for his position. He's also been remarkably consistent in his offensive efforts, with an OPS history of .774, .783, .780 and then .795 last summer in double-A.
If the Twins plan on simply needing a body as the backup catcher in April, a guy who's simply there to step in for a few innings and maybe make a start or two, then Butera is probably the better choice. But if the Twins plan on using their backup catcher to start once or twice a week, with the option to also come off the bench as a pinch-hitter, then it's probably best to let the clock roll on Ramos (who is the better player).
Outfielders: Jacque Jones, Dustin Martin, Rene Tosoni, Ben Revere?
Let's be clear--the Twins don't have to take another outfielder north. We know they're in a difficult spot in regards to athletic outfielders, but right now the 40-man roster is full and none of these guys are on it. Still, it has to be considered, because while guys like Punto or Tolbert could substitute in a pinch that doesn't mean it's a good idea.
Revere is a bit of a dark horse option, and probably not very realistic. But for argument's sake, if he comes in and tears it up this spring, and the Twins have made some sort of a deal that opens up a roster spot, would it be an awful choice? He'd provide speed off the bench, can play center field (in spite of that noodle arm) and could probably be a late-inning defensive replacement in the corners.
Any of the other three options are far more likely, with Jones probably leading the list. Martin would have to have an exceptional March, as would Tosoni, while if Jones proves he can still run, catch and swing the bat that might be all he needs.
Whatever happens, a spot would need to open on the 40-man roster first. Right now none of these guys are actually an option, but could one of them force the Twins' hand by opening day?
Infielders: Brendan Harris, Matt Tolbert, Alexi Casilla, Daniel Valencia, Luke Hughes
As of today, you can pick two of these five. Harris and Casilla seem like the probable candidates, simply because the clock hasn't started ticking on Valencia or Hughes and Tolbert has one year of options left.
For Harris, in spite of his new two-year contract I'm hesitant to say his spot is guaranteed. We know that Gardy will start Punto somewhere, which means third base. Additionally, if Valencia comes out this spring and looks like he's ready to take the next step forward, or if Tolbert is a more appealing option as a less expensive bench option, then the Twins will have an interesting decision to make. Again, this isn't a likely scenario, but it's possible.
Who Makes Up the Four-Man Bench?
My guesses: Thome, Butera, Harris and Casilla. Who do you believe in?