It was confirmed today which players the Minnesota Twins would be sending to spring training as non-roster invitees, and as expected the organization's top three prospects will all be in attendance. None of the three will make the Opening Day roster, but Alex Meyer could debut sometime during the summer, Miguel Sano could see time towards the end of the season, and even Byron Buxton isn't that far away and could be ready to join the team on Opening Day in 2015.
Here's a full breakdown of who the Twins have invited to Fort Myers.
Kyle Knudson, Matthew Koch, Dan Rohlfing, Stuart Turner
Knudson and Rohlfing are organizational filler, which is fine, and for the sheer volume of pitchers that attend spring training it's a good thing to have a quantity of guys who can squat behind the dish. Koch was a 12th round pick in the 2011 draft, and at age-24 last season hit .278/.346/.401 at Fort Myers. He's likely to fit into the organizational filler category at some point as well, but if he continues moving along and holding his own at the plate, in a couple of years he could be one of the guys fighting for a third catcher position.
Turner is the one player on the list really worth paying attention to. As a third-round pick in last summer's draft, He won a Gold Glove for his defensive work as a catcher in a Division II Junior college, and he carries with him a reputation for a plus arm and strong "receiving" skills (Is that pitch framing? Does it mean he looks good catching a baseball? Or maybe it means he avoids wild pitches and passed balls? No idea.), but while his defensive game is considered advanced his hitting ceiling is still unclear. He batted .264/.340/.380 in 34 games for Elizabethton.
Jason Bartlett, James Beresford, Doug Bernier, Deibinson Romero, Miguel Sano, Brandon Waring
The only unfamiliar name is Waring, who is a minor league veteran of the Cincinnati and Baltimore organizations. He has some good power, but at 28 years old is more of a minor league slugger. He'll play a corner infield spot for New Britain or Rochester.
Beresford and Bernier probably fall under the organizational filler category; certainly they're capable of being short-term bench options for the Major League team. Romero's status as a prospect is interesting, but he's past the point where he could be considered a part of the future.
I'm not sure what's in store for Bartlett. He'll be 34 for the 2014 season, and hasn't played since 29 truly terrible games for the Padres in 2012. If he doesn't make the team, and that seems highly unlikely barring something unforeseen, could he just retire instead of toiling away in Rochester?
And then there's Miguel Sano. Hopefully the elbow is fine.
Byron Buxton, Jason Kubel, Darin Mastroianni, Jermaine Mitchell, Chris Rahl, Wilkin Ramirez
Mastroianni, Michell, Rahl, and Ramirez are all differing levels of filler. Maestro could see some time with the Twins when the remember that one guy can't play every single inning in center field, and Ramirez could get a handful of games too if something goes wrong, but it seems unlikely that Mitchell and Rahl will get a shot with the big league club.
Kubel is the guy who feels the most likely to make the roster out of all the players we've reviewed so far. If he can get back to mashing right-handed pitchers, he could be a useful platoon option. But would Gardy even bother?
And then there's Buxton. Every year is an exciting year when we're talking about further development of a talent like this.
Sean Gilmartin, Matt Hoffman, Aaron Thompson
Gilmartin is who the Twins received in exchange for Ryan Doumit, and while the lefty's prospect status as a first round pick has faded, he was also hurt for much of 2013. I'm very curious to see how he performs over a full, healthy season in Triple-A. Hoffman is a journeyman who seems destined for a bullpen role in Rochester if not New Britain. And Thompson looks like he may have found a niche as a decent relief arm, although it remains to be seen how that success could translate beyond Triple-A. Nobody here is likely to go north, but certainly Gilmartin will be watched closely.
Deolis Guerra, Alex Meyer, Lester Oliveros, Yohan Pino
All three of these (non-Meyer) guys have interesting stories. Guerra is the final guy left over from the Mets in the Johan Santana trade; he missed all of 2013 (the four rehab innings don't count), and he'll be 25 this season. As a starter moved into a bullpen role, Guerra found out he could rack up some strikeouts - but can that continue after a year lost?
Oliveros also lost most of 2013 to injury, but he's what's left of what the Twins got from the Tigers in return for Delmon Young. He has the stuff to get swings and misses, but better command would help him make the most of his abilities. If he bounces back strongly this season, he could be an ace reliever for the Red Wings and could possibly push for another shot with the Twins.
Then there's Yohan Pino. He's always posted decent numbers but never has been good enough to get to the Majors. Originally signed by the Twins out of Venezuela, he was dealt to Cleveland in 2009 for Carl Pavano. It's been an adventure since then, but he's back in the fold as a 30-year old swing man.
All three of these guys don't seem like good bets to make the team either, but they're certainly more interesting than the group of lefties.
And then there's Alex Meyer. This is the guy that could, finally, be the true ace this team has been looking for since 2007. But he won't be that guy, for the Minnesota Twins anyway, in 2014.
Who do you think will be the non-roster dark horse this year? Wilkin Ramirez ended up with a roster spot in 2013, and Jared Burton was a fan favorite in 2012. Do you see any realistic options for breaking onto the squad at the end of March?
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