Following the two players who left camp yesterday, the Twins were still due to add to the eight cuts they had already made over the course of the week. This morning the hammer fell, and it's left the Twins with just 29 players on their spring training roster. We'll review the cuts first, and follow that up by examining what kind of competition remains.
#MNTwins get down to 29:— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) March 26, 2016
Quentin, Mastroianni, Centeno, Beresford, Runzler reassigned.
John Hicks is a player I really liked watching this month. He's the only other catcher on the 40-man roster besides Kurt Suzuki and John Ryan Murphy, and based on how well he played and how well he was received there's no reason to think he's not the third string catcher.
Carlos Quentin is the most interesting name on today's list. He started on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday this week, but after a pretty solid start to camp went just 1-for-13. That's not a bad thing on its own, but he wasn't making as good of contact over the course of the week and, as pitchers have ramped up their velocity and brought their breaking balls on line, he hadn't kept pace. The Twins released Sweeney yesterday as part of a good-guy pact, allowing him to explore options elsewhere; will Quentin get the same treatment? I'm not sure he will. His opt-out is June 1st, so if the Twins feel like he has a spot in Rochester and legitimately believe they could call him up if circumstances warrant, they might just give themselves a few weeks to work things through.
Dan Runzler lasted longer in camp than I thought he would. The 30-year old lefty is three seasons removed from Major League action, and the reason is clear: command. He did a nice job of pounding the strike zone this spring, but that's easy to do at this time of year. A mid-90s fastball is great, if you can put it where you like, but the biggest concern is whether he could throw his decent slider for strikes. The changeup has been a struggle at the best of times. When he's on, you could see Runzler being a good reliever by way of his velocity and ground ball tendencies (he's only allowed two homers in 71 Major League innings), but Minnesota has better options for Opening Day.
It's been good to see Darin Mastroianni back in a Twins uniform. He doesn't have an opt-out clause in his minor league deal, so he clearly likes being in the organization and is willing to bide his time in Triple-A for an opportunity. And just because of how much youth there is in Minnesota's outfield, he just might get one or two. Maestro had a nice spring, appearing in a team-high 19 games and hitting .407.
The second catcher sent out of camp today is Juan Centeno, who was clearly just a depth option during spring training. He got into 11 games but saw just 15 at-bats, with only one in the last eight days. He should share duties with Hicks in Triple-A. When the club decides to promote Stuart Turner, Centeno might be the odd man out.
Last, but certainly not least, is James Beresford. The Twins gave him a long look this year as he appeared in 18 games, but there was never a clear path for him to the Opening Day roster. He finishes his spring with 80 defensive innings, good enough for fifth on the team (behind Danny Santana, Eduardo Nunez, Eduardo Escobar, and Eddie Rosario), splitting most of his time between second and third but getting a handful of innings at short, too. It's always great to see organizational guys get their opportunities, but that won't be at the end of the month for James.
Michael Tonkin and Ryan Pressly are battling for a spot in the bullpen with non-roster invitee Brandon Kintzler. The Twins do have one open spot on the 40-man roster but it's commonly believed that's being held for a lefty. If the Twins do want to add Kintzler though, it's likely that would mean Tonkin loses out and the Twins would need to pass him through waivers before assigning him to Triple-A Rochester. If that happens, Tonkin could very well be claimed and presto, there's your 40-man roster spot. It should be said that Tonkin and Pressly are still the odds-on favorites for any remaining right-handed middle relief role.
Tyler Duffey, Ricky Nolasco, and Tommy Milone are still fighting for those last two roster spots. Terry Ryan seemed to think that Milone had earned one of those spots based off of his conversation with the broadcast booth last week, and Paul Molitor really wants to see Duffey take that role home, but at this point in the spring it's been Nolasco who's pitching like he deserves that last roster spot. As much grief as the Twins would get for choosing Nolasco over Duffey, there's no denying that it would be an incredible story to see the veteran regain some form. Some have speculated over Duffey being sent to the bullpen, but that isn't in the cards right now. Minnesota wants him groomed as a starter.
Fernando Abad, Logan Darnell, and Ryan O'Rourke are fighting for that second left-handed spot out of the 'pen. There's a scenario where the Twins give two of these guys jobs, meaning that Tonkin, Pressly, and Kintzler would all be out. That doesn't seem likely either.
On the position player side, things are set. The 13 position players still in camp are the ones we've assumed would be making the Opening Day roster all along.
We're entering the home stretch, folks. Meaningful games are right around the corner.