The Minnesota Twins play for real this coming Thursday, and that means that this our final weekly recap in Spring Training.
A lot happened this past week, but the transactions that occurred were much more newsworthy than any of the on-the-field stats. That said, it’s important to note who’s playing well and who isn’t as the team prepares to head north.
The 25-man roster doesn’t have a ton of intrigue surrounding it, although there are some questions as to whether or not the Twins go with a fourth outfielder and/or a five-man bench or if they weigh the pitching side of things a bit more heavily.
We’ll have plenty more coverage regarding the roster decision throughout the week here at Twinkie Town, but for now, let’s take a look at which regulars stood out over the past seven days and which ones ... didn’t.
All statistics current heading into play on Sunday, March 24.
Winners through Week Four
Jason Castro (C): .286/.364/.679 (8-for-28, 3 HR, 2 2B, 7 RBI)
In all likelihood, Castro was always going to be the starting catcher on this team.
Cult hero status notwithstanding, a healthy Castro is the superior defensive player to Willians Astudillo and more of a known quantity on offense, at least when it comes to supplying a bit of power to the bottom of the order.
Castro was able to answer any questions about his availability as spring training wore on. He didn’t play much early on as he worked his way into shape, but finished with a fantastic .286/.364/.679 line and tallied two doubles and three home runs.
That’s more than enough to make the coaching staff feel good about penciling him in as the starting catcher come Thursday.
Willians Astudillo (C/UT): .295/.304/.477 (13-of-44, 2 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI)
That said, Astudillo still had a solid spring. He played all over the diamond and held his own with the bat, which is exactly what he needed to do.
It’s important to note that his decent line came against largely minor league-caliber competition, at least according to Baseball Reference’s measure; Astudillo’s “Opponent Quality” clocked in at 6.7, which falls just shy of Double-A quality opponents.
But that said, Astudillo’s 2018 campaign, combined with a solid spring, should be enough to land him on the 25-man roster this week.
Jonathan Schoop (2B): .326/.370/.535 (14-of-43, 3 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI)
This is simply the classic case of a veteran player who had a down-year offensively last year and is expected to bounce back, and his spring performance has been good enough for some optimism.
Schoop didn’t play much early and wasn’t very good when he played, but has come on strong of late with five extra-base hits and an OPS of .904.
Losers through Week Two
Marwin Gonzalez: .115/.179/.115 (3-for-26, 1 RBI, 13 K)
This the inverse of Schoop’s “winner” status above; Gonzalez had a year that wasn’t quite up to the standard he’s set back in 2017, yet he’s expected to be a key member of the Twins’ lineup in 2019.
After signing late, Gonzalez was eased into game action and has scuffled thus far. He has struck-out in nearly half of his plate appearances, has only two walks, and only three singles on his ledger thus far.
Gonzalez will open the season as the every-day third baseman as Miguel Sano recovers from his heel injury, so the Twins will be relying on the former to regain some of his previous form so that he can hold down the fort until Sano returns in a few weeks.
Team ERA: 5.16
Four of five starting pitchers with ERAs above 4.00.
Spring training pitching stats are always a bit inflated — you know, the whole pitching-is-behind-the-hitting thing. (For some context, the MLB’s best team ERA this spring has Houston’s 3.53, and it’s the only team ERA to be under 4.00.)
But the Twins have taken things a step further, clocking in with an ERA of 5.16, tied for No. 20 in the league.
Of the likely five starting pitchers in this year’s rotation, only Michael Pineda has managed a sub-4.00 ERA, putting up a 3.52 in 15 1⁄3 innings. Jose Berrios has been respectable, managing a 4.43 ERA in 20 1⁄3 innings.
The rest of the rotation has struggled, although Martin Perez has been lauded for a clear uptick in velocity, which could go a long way as the team’s fifth starter.
Most of the bullpen has been fairly up-and-down, with newcomer Blake Parker (3.00 ERA in 9 innings) and Trevor May (2.35 ERA in 7 2⁄3 innings) opening the most eyes. Others, including Addison Reed (10 earned runs given up in just 5 1⁄3 innings) and Taylor Rogers (5.40 ERA in 8 1⁄3 innings) have been less impressive.
All things considered, there is plenty of noise in a spring training team ERA of 5.16. But it’s still something to keep an eye on as the pitching staff is already the largest question mark on a healthy Twins squad in 2019.
Looking ahead to...final cuts
The Twins play a day game on Monday and split-squad day games on Tuesday before enjoying a single day off on Wednesday. Then, the home opener against the Cleveland Indians at 3:10 CT on Thursday.
We’ll have reaction to the additional roster moves we’re all waiting on as they come available, but there shouldn’t be any major surprises.
That said, anything can happen...