If you haven't had a chance to watch Jose Berrios pitch yet, worry not. He leads a strong pack of minor leaguers that have been given an invitation to spring training. Phil Hughes, Ervin Santana, and Kyle Gibson's spots will be locked up barring injury, but if Berrios forces the issue he could battle with Ricky Nolasco, Tyler Duffey, and Tommy Milone for one of the remaining two rotation jobs.
Other high-profile Twins prospects heading to spring training include fast-track power bullpen arms Nick Burdi and Jake Reed, defense-first catcher Stuart Turner, and the defensive shortstop wizard Engelb Vielma. Earlier this afternoon we ran through a number of minor league contracts the club handed out, and those players are among the lucky group as well. Here's the full listing of 22 players.
RHP (4): Jose Berrios, Nick Burdi, Brandon Kintzler, Jake Reed
LHP (4): Fernando Abad, Buddy Boshers, Dan Runzler, Aaron Thompson
OF (3): Joe Benson, Darin Mastroianni, Ryan Sweeney
IF (6): James Beresford, Buck Britton, Heiker Meneses, Reynaldo Rodriguez, Wilfredo Tovar, Engelb Vielma
C (5): Johnny Centeno, Mitch Garver, Carlos Paulido, Alex Swim, Stuart Turner
Most of these players don't have a realistic shot at the Opening Day roster, of course. Berrios could, Abad seems the most likely of the minor league contract pitchers from this week (although Kintzler nor Boshers can be counted out considering the state of the bullpen currently), and depending on what the Twins want to do with their bench Benson could get a look. Sweeney is a name we all recognize, being a top 100 prospect from 2005 through 2007. He'll be 31 in February.
The rest are simply depth. Burdi and Reed aren't expected to be ready to contribute when the team goes north, and you could say the same about catchers Garver, Swim, and Turner. Vielma will be fun to watch but has a lot of development left to happen on the offensive side of the ball. Beresford and Thompson are names we know, but neither player is going to be Plan A when it comes to constructing the Major League roster.
Spring training is still a few weeks away, and the Twins still have work to do on that bullpen, but it's good to see news like this. Any mention of spring training means green grass, blue skies, and the promise of another summer of baseball.