As we've officially entered the doldrums of winter, I thought it might be a good time to officially make our first call on who could be on the Twins' opening day roster. Ready? Let's go.
Kurt Suzuki, Josmil Pinto
With Suzuki's extension locking him in for the time being, we can forego trade talks and focus on his backup: Josmil Pinto. The Twins must feel confident in Pinto's ability to catch, because the third catcher on the 40-man roster - Eric Fryer - was designated for assignment. I think the Twins would have been wise to entertain trade offers, but considering that we haven't heard a whisper of interest in any other backstops and considering the lack of any mention of Pinto in trade rumors, it's safe to assume that Minnesota is gambling on the young man's abilities; that bat is pretty exciting.
Also, the fact that these two guys are the only catchers on the 40-man roster kinda gives us an idea of what the Twins will be doing.
Brian Dozier, Eduardo Escobar, Joe Mauer, Eduardo Nunez, Trevor Plouffe, Danny Santana, Kennys Vargas
Mauer, Dozier, Plouffe, and Santana are our givens as starters around the diamond. Vargas will be taking on a good deal of the designated hitter duties, and Escobar is something of a luxury as a backup infielder. That leaves us with Nunez, who is listed as an outfielder on the official Minnesota Twins website...which I can only imagine is somebody's cruel idea of a joke.
Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks, Torii Hunter, Jordan Schafer
While I'm still not sold on the idea of Arcia and Hunter both playing in the outfield at the same time, Hunter still makes the team better than it was in 2014. I'm pegging 2015 as the season of Arcia, and I'll be bold enough to call it right now: Arcia will his .265/.330/.485 with 30 home runs. He's going to start his run as a true middle-of-the-order threat.
Rhett Bollinger touched on center field on Thursday, noting that Byron Buxton's debut will either be late in 2015 or early in 2016 (which is what we've been estimating). But the discussion for center field centered (get it?) around Hicks and Schafer. This isn't surprising considering the shape of the roster, but it also drives home that the club really isn't looking around to make a big change. It really sounds like the team is counting on Hicks for one last charge into the breach before they make a call on what his role will be for the Twins in the future: starter or toolsy backup.
Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes, Tommy Milone, Ricky Nolasco, Ervin Santana
There's going to be competition for that fifth spot, but I think Milone takes it. He's left-handed, he has a decent track record in Oakland, and we probably didn't see him fully healthy while he was in a Twins uniform. I think both Trevor May and Alex Meyer deserve a strong look, and I definitely think they're a bigger part of whatever success the organization will have in the coming years, but coming out of spring training I'm betting that the team gives him an opportunity to prove something.
Brian Duensing, Casey Fien, J.R. Graham, Mike Pelfrey, Glen Perkins, Tim Stauffer, Caleb Thielbar
Ryan Pressly and Michael Tonkin both deserve long looks here, as does Lester Oliveros to a lesser extent (even though I like the velocity differential he could offer). It's a full house for the Twins, but I think they'll roll with four incumbents (Duensing, Fien, Perkins, Thielbar) while giving that long relief spot to Pelfrey in order to try and squeeze out any value they possibly can from what was obviously a bad decision. Stauffer's contract virtually guarantees him a spot in the bullpen provided he doesn't totally implode in Florida, and unless the Twins work out a trade with the Braves they'll need to keep Graham on the roster, too.
There are a lot more things that could happen in this section of the roster versus the other four sections. I'm not convinced that the Twins will take both Duensing and Stauffer, just because they're getting paid; if one or both of them bottom out, neither salary is too much to simply absorb. To an extent, you could say the same thing about Pelfrey. If the Twins don't think they can stash Graham all year but like him anyway, it would be interesting to see what kind of a player would be needed to consummate the trade that would allow Minnesota to send him to Triple-A; alternatively, the Twins could always just send him back and be done with it.
In short, as far as the bullpen is concerned I'm only confident with about three players.The rest is up for grabs, to differing extents, and for me that's where the most exciting battles of spring training will be taking place.
As the roster is constructed now, what's your guess at the opening day roster?