It was only three weeks ago that it seemed like a good idea to build a 50-man roster: a 30-man squad of active players and a 20-man taxi squad.
Now, with the reality of a 60-game season upon us, the Twins front office is tasked with creating a list of 60 players that would be eligible to appear at the major-league level this year.
The active roster will start with 30 players, be trimmed to 28 after two weeks, and after another two weeks reduced to 26 — the original roster size that was supposed to be implemented in 2020.
Instead of a 30-man roster plus a 20-man taxi squad, this is now the 40-man roster plus the same 20-man taxi squad.
That makes the first step of this exercise easy; the Twins currently have 38 players on their 40-man. The only player not on that list who would have been included under normal circumstances is Michael Pineda, whose suspension will end somewhere in the middle of the shortened season.
That gives us 21 spots to fill. The 40-man includes mostly recognizable names and plenty of guys who have played with the Twins in the big leagues, but there are a few names that are perhaps unfamiliar to casual fans. Remember, these players are all automatically included in the 60-player count, unless they are waived. This also means we didn’t forget about Nelson Cruz, even though he isn’t explicitly mentioned.
Those names include Dakota Chalmers, who was acquired in exchange for Fernando Rodney in 2018 and hasn’t yet risen above High-A, and Gilberto Celestino, part of the return from Houston in the Ryan Pressly trade who was likely to start the year in High-A. But the majority of the names will look familiar, and most of them have a shot at appearing on the 30-man active roster at some point this season.
Let’s go position-by-position to try and fill the rest of the 21 spots.
Mitch Garver, Alex Avila, and Willians Astudillo are the only catchers on the 40-man roster. The Twins will surely carry at least two more, and probably will keep three, especially since Astudillo’s ideal role is as more of a roving utility man versus full-time catcher.
The Twins have a couple of journeyman veteran-types in the fold in Tomas Telis and Juan Graterol, both who have appeared in a handful of big-league games with other organizations. There are also a pair of minor-leaguers to consider in Ryan Jeffers and Ben Rordvedt, both former second-round picks. Jeffers has had much more success and is a legitimate prospect while Rordvedt appears to be more of a backup than anything else.
The bet here is that Telis, Graterol, and Jeffers all make the 60-man squad. If anything were to happen to Garver, Jeffers could step in and fill the everyday catcher role with support from the rest of the group.
That’s three down, 18 players to go.
Setting aside the regulars, the only middle-infielder on the 40-man who was not going to make the original 26-man squad is former first-round pick Nick Gordon. While Marwin Gonzalez and even Willians Astudillo can play a little bit of middle infield, neither one is suited to play defense up the middle in a pennant race. We should mention Travis Blankenhorn, too, who played mostly second base in Double-A last year but also can fill in at third base and in the outfield corners.
That means that we’re looking for defense, and Wilfredo Tovar is the only shoe-in from a non-roster invitee standpoint. Former first-round pick Levi Michael is back in the organization but isn’t a great fit at shortstop and doesn’t hit enough. Jack Reinheimer can play short, but also can’t hit and doesn’t quite check the same experience boxes as Tovar.
I’ve got to believe that the Twins keep Royce Lewis, who needs as much development as he can get and isn’t far from getting a taste of the big leagues, anyways.
Let’s go with Tovar and Lewis, bringing our remaining spots to fill to 16.
Again, going beyond the obvious names already on the 40-man, there isn’t much more to add here.
Positional flexibility helps a lot, as plenty of the aforementioned players can fill in capably at first base. Between Josh Donaldson, Ehire Adrianza, Marwin Gonzalez, Luis Arraez, Willians Astudillo, Blankenhorn, and even Miguel Sano, third base is pretty well squared away, too.
From a bat-first perspective, first baseman Zander Wiel should be able to easily parlay a .834 OPS and 24 home runs at Triple-A Rochester last season and a strong spring training this March into a spot. He’s the only one to add here.
That means there are 15 spots to fill...
Jake Cave, Lamonte Wade Jr., and Gilberto Celestino are all already on the 40-man roster. Behind Byron Buxton, all three of those players, plus Max Kepler, are all palatable options in center field.
All three non-roster invitees to spring training in the outfield were prospects, and all three should make this 60-man list: Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Brent Rooker.
You can bet that another one or two outfielders will be added to the list. It could be Matt Wallner, who was a first-round sandwich pick last year and has a ton of upside in his bat. But my bet is that it’s a player with the ability to play centerfield in a pinch and also bring value as a pinch-runner. That would probably be minor-league signee Lane Adams, who has played parts of three seasons in the big leagues.
Kirilloff, Larnach, Rooker, and Adams brings us to 10 players, leaving 11 spots to shore-up the pitching staff.
As mentioned, Pineda, Rich Hill, and Homer Bailey have already been counted. So too have Chalmers, who is unlikely to pitch in the majors this year, and Jhoan Duran, who may get a shot but has only thrown 37 innings above A-ball, all in Double-A Pensacola.
The Twins suddenly have a ton of options for the starting rotation, but it’s likely that Jhoulys Chacin could be added to the 40-man and would then count as one of these 21 players. Whether it’s as a starter or simply as depth on the taxi squad, there is still some solid upside in Chacin as a bargain signing and it’s likely the Twins choose to keep him around.
There are some legitimate prospects that will be kept as starting rotation depth but also to ensure that their development remains as much on track as possible. That includes Jordan Balazovic, who was a revelation across both levels of A-ball last year, and Blayne Enlow, who also hasn’t yet tasted Double-A.
Let’s count both of those guys in. I’m not sure the Twins need many more of the young starters to join them, however, because the likes of Lewis Thorpe, Devin Smeltzer, Randy Dobnak and Zach Littell are all capable of being stretched out and are already on the 40-man roster.
Let’s turn our attention to bullpen types. At least one of two lefties, Caleb Theilbar and Danny Coulombe, will make the roster, and quite possibly both. Corey Gearrin has seen some major-league success and will make the taxi squad, and Ryan Garton has a shot, too, although his major-league career hasn’t been quite as impressive. Juan Minaya fits the same category — a righty with major-league experience — and he would be my pick over Garton.
Jake Reed was a fifth-round pick way back in 2014 who has methodically made his way through the system. While he struggled last year at Triple-A Rochester, his previous success may give him a chance at making the club.
The Twins might go with young starters like Griffin Jax, Charlie Barnes, or Matt Canterino for the final couple of spots, or perhaps relievers with less upside like Andrew Vasquez, who has struggled in a couple of big-league stints for the Twins.
Here’s my list of taxi squad pitchers:
- Jhoulys Chacin
- Jordan Balazovic
- Blayne Enlow
- Caleb Thielbar
- Danny Coulombe
- Cory Gearrin
- Juan Minaya
- Jake Reed
- Griffin Jax
- Charlie Barnes
- Andrew Vasquez
That’s 10 position players and 11 pitchers. It gives the Twins some additional depth defensively and a couple of bats that could be bench options at some point. Plus, a few more starting pitching options.
Across the board, it’s a solid mix of veterans to contribute to a playoff push and young players who can contribute in a pinch but, most importantly, will get critical development time alongside the big club.
We should know what the roster will actually look like by Sunday night. What say you?