The Minnesota Twins have played a week’s worth of spring games, and that means it’s time for the first installment of Winners and Losers of Spring Training.
Those classifications are a bit dramatic, obviously. There are no real winners and losers through a handful of games that literally don’t matter; the Twins have already finished three games in ties, after all.
The sample size is painfully small and competition varies greatly, but we’re still gonna list some guys that have played great and guys that haven’t.
Ed note: these stats are accurate prior to the start of the game on March 1st
I’ll be back with this exercise each week of spring training, so get used it...
Week One Winners
Jake Cave: .333/.385/.750 (4-for-12, 2 2B, HR, 2 RBI)
Cave is battling the likes of Willians Astudillo, LaMonte Wade Jr., and Ehire Adrianza for the final two spots on the roster. There are pros and cons to all of those guys, but Cave probably has the best combination of solid defense, power, and upside, although he lacks the positional flexibility of both Astudillo and Adrianza. He’s displayed all of the positive so far this spring and is making a solid case for that final roster spot.
Trevor Larnach: .308/.400/.769 (4-for-13, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 4 R, SB)
The Twins’ 2018 first-round pick has enjoyed plenty of opportunity in the early stages of camp as a non-roster invitee, flashing the power that made him the 20th selection of the draft. He only has 181 Double-A plate appearances under his belt, however, and surely will start the year in Pensacola, but a strong spring showing coupled with a good April and May mean that he’ll be on track to potentially debut in the big leagues by the end of the season.
Nelson Cruz: .500/.556/1.250 (4-for-8, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI)
From a non-roster guy in Larnach, who won’t make the team, to the lock of all locks in Cruz, it’s important to note just how ... locked in Boomstick has been thus far this spring.
Jose Berrios: 5 IP, 2 H, 6 K, 2 BB, 0 R
The Twins ace pitched two scoreless innings in the spring opener and followed that up with three scoreless on Saturday in the loss to the Pirates. It’s good to see him start off with such a strong pair of outings.
Jhoulys Chacin: 2 IP, H, 2 K, 0 R
Chacin has only appeared once, but was impressive in his first chance to prove that he deserves to make the club as the No. 5 starter. As a non-roster invitee, he’s competing against internal options Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer, and Lewis Thorpe. Dobnak was just okay in his initial appearances while Smeltzer struggled, and Thorpe was away from camp due to personal reasons and hasn’t played in a game yet. Safe to say that Chacin has the inside track through Week One.
Week One Losers
Willians Astudillo: .231/.231/.231 (3-of-13, RBI)
This isn’t really a fair designation for Astudillo so far this spring. After all, Miguel Sano is 1-for-10 and Luis Arraez is 2-for-11. La Tortuga hasn’t been the worst player to take the field for the Twins this spring, and he’s already been tasked with appearing in five games, largely due to his versatility.
But context matters, and Astudillo needs to do better than three singles in 13 at-bats if he wants to lock-down a roster spot. On the one hand, the Twins know what Astudillo can do. But on the other hand, he had a rough 2019 and needs to do all that he can to show that his pleasant surprise of a 2018 wasn’t a flash in the pan.
Royce Lewis: .000/.000/.000 (0-for-11, 4 K, CS)
The flip-side of Larnach’s impressive start to the spring as a guy with no shot of making the roster, Lewis has struggled in the same scenario. Lewis, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft, has zero hits in nine at-bats with four strikeouts, no walks, and was caught stealing once.
Lewis had a tough 2019, battling through an early injury and struggling both at High-A Fort Myers and in 148 plate appearances at Double-A Pensacola. But he finished strong, performing well in the Double-A playoffs and then winning the Most Valuable Player award in the Arizona Fall League, slashing .353/.411/.565 while hitting three homers and nine doubles in 85 at-bats and going 5-for-6 on stolen base attempts.
It would be great to see Lewis have a sprint training that shows some real, continued improvement. But so far, he hasn’t, and while it’s still early, he won’t have nearly as many opportunities to impress once Jorge Polanco returns to game action.
Devin Smeltzer: 4 1⁄3 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 K, HR
Smelzer has started two games already and with mixed results. He’s part of what’s now a three-way battle that includes Chacin and Dobnak. Two of the three may make the team, but only one will be the No. 5 starter. Smeltzer isn’t off to an inspiring start, although his apparent increase in velocity is intriguing.
Looking ahead to Week Two
The Twins should get a few regulars who haven’t played much, including Max Kepler and eventually Polanco, a few more at-bats soon.
Mostly, we’ll keep an eye on the No. 5 starter battle, as well as some of the pitchers competing for the final spots in the bullpen. Cody Stashak, Zach Littell, Sean Poppen, and Matt Wisler have all pitched extremely well so far, combining to throw 13 innings with zero earned runs allowed and racking up 20 strikeouts to just one walk.
It’s absolutely a good sign for the Twins that there are really only a final bench spot, the No. 5 starter role, and the final bullpen spot up for grabs. But those competitions will still be a ton of fun to keep our eye on moving forward...