It's not easy to maintain a 40-man roster in which you are able to maintain flexibility while also protecting your talented young players. Most of us on the outside can look at things quite simply: we need better players, we need to protect all of the young players with talent, we don't need so much "roster filler." But those aren't always easy waters to navigate, and it's an under-appreciated aspect of roster construction.
Nevertheless, I've had a look at the Twins' 40-man roster again today. It's full, which means that any significant addition to the roster (which won't come easy) would require the club to give somebody the heave-ho. But more interesting than that is the quantity of players on the 40-man roster who the team, due to youth and inexperience and the necessity for further development, doesn't want to call upon for help.
To show you what I mean, I've separated the roster into three areas: Starters (the 25 men you could peg as breaking camp with the Twins at the end of March), Available (players who the team could call up at any time for help), and In the Oven (players who are on the roster for purposes of protection and won't be available for recall from Opening Day).
|Starters||Available||In the Oven|
|Phil Hughes||Trevor May||Jason Wheeler|
|Ervin Santana||Alex Meyer|
|Ricky Nolasco||Logan Darnell|
|Mike Pelfrey||Ryan Pressly|
|J.R. Graham||Lester Oliveros|
|Caleb Thielbar||Michael Tonkin|
|Brian Duensing||Aaron Thompson|
|Tim Stauffer||A.J. Achter|
|Casey Fien||Stephen Pryor|
|Kurt Suzuki||Chris Herrmann||Jorge Polanco|
|Joe Mauer||Miguel Sano|
|Brian Dozier||Max Kepler|
|Trevor Plouffe||Eddie Rosario|
The most interesting aspect of this analysis, and I think you'll agree, is that if the Twins need to call up more than one position player before the All-Star break then they'll need to do a little math with that 40-man roster. It would be great if the team could stay that healthy. But in the likelihood that the team needs a little more help, it looks like the organization would need to designate a pitcher for assignment in order to add another position player.
If the need is a small one - say, the term of a couple of days - then I could see the team calling on Polanco or Rosario, simply for the purposes of having a warm body available. Yet we've seen time and again how teams go through stretches where there are multiple guys hurt or otherwise unavailable, at the same time. Ron Gardenhire went the three-man bench route more than once; short-term issues could be handled with those four players (Jorge Polanco survived quite well in brief appearances when two infielders were injured and a third was unavailable last June). But if the thing that goes wrong is long-term (i.e. longer than a week), then the club will need to make other decisions.
The alternative is that the front office is far more comfortable in throwing Polanco, Rosario, Sano, and perhaps even Kepler into the fire than we think they are. Knowing this organization like we do, that seems unlikely, and with "roster filler" to trim a long-term solution would likely involve 40-man roster moves before it would involve those four position player prospects.
Still, it's interesting. It'll be worth monitoring if that half of the roster is unchanged by Opening Day.