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What will the Twins’ 20-man taxi squad look like?

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It’s time to take a stab at a potential 50-man roster

MLB: Spring Training-Minnesota Twins at Philadelphia Phillies
Will Brent Rooker make the team if rosters expand?
Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball owners and the MLB Player’s Association haven’t agreed on much, and the fate of anything resembling a 2020 season still hangs in the balance.

But one of the things that everyone has reportedly agreed upon as part of an abbreviated campaign include expanding the active roster size from 26 to 30, as well as the implementation of a 20-man taxi squad.

The taxi squad would effectively be something of a hybrid between the traditional 40-man roster and the Triple-A clubs that almost certainly will not take the field in 2020. Because of this, there are a few criteria to consider when constructing this group of 50 players that the Twins would have access to for the balance of 2020.

First, legitimate depth at each position. That’s the most obvious one, although in a scenario when there is no Triple-A, no Double-A, and so on, contending clubs like the Twins may prioritize MLB-ready talent over talent that otherwise would spend the year developing in the minor leagues.

For instance, someone like a Jorge Alcala, who struggled through much of the 2019 season in Double-A but was great in five games in Triple-A and a two-game cup of coffee in the big leagues, may not make the taxi squad over a more seasoned option. Alcala may benefit from staying on a throwing program and participating in simulated games at the complex in Fort Myers, assuming that’s allowed. On the flip side, the Twins might benefit from having someone with more experience that doesn’t necessarily need additionally extra development in the minors.

Secondly, flexibility. The Twins have an enormously versatile group of players already. For instance, Marwin Gonzalez and Willians Astudillo are talented offensive players that can play decent defense around the diamond. When building a 20-man taxi squad, versatility is going to be seen as a key factor.

The final thing to consider was alluded to above, and that’s player development. This will perhaps a player like Alcala is in a place where spending a few months shuttling in and out of the Twin Cities will aid his development. These are the decisions that will include more behind-the-scenes knowledge of players’ personalities, intangibles, and overall outlooks on the season.

But we can only craft this roster based on what we know. So let’s take a stab at it.

First, the 30-man roster prediction.

Proposed 30-man roster

Catcher

  • Mitch Garver
  • Alex Avila
  • Willians Astudillo

Garver is the starter, Avila is the backup, and Astudillo will mostly play other positions but allows the Twins the flexibility to start Garver at designated hitter once a week.

Infield

  • Miguel Sano
  • Luis Arraez
  • Jorge Polanco
  • Josh Donaldson
  • Ehire Adrianza
  • Marwin Gonzalez

Outfield

  • Max Kepler
  • Byron Buxton
  • Eddie Rosario
  • Jake Cave
  • Lamonte Wade, Jr.

Starting Rotation

  • Jose Berrios
  • Jake Odorizzi
  • Kenta Maeda
  • Homer Bailey
  • Rich Hill

Bullpen

  • Taylor Rogers
  • Sergio Romo
  • Trevor May
  • Tyler Duffey
  • Tyler Clippard
  • Zack Littell
  • Cody Stashak
  • Matt Wisler
  • Lewis Thorpe
  • Randy Dobnak
  • Devin Smeltzer

Okay, that’s exactly 30 players. My one note of commentary here is that the first 29 were easy. The last spot came down to Wade or Gordon. It’s basically a toss-up, but Wades major-league audition went well last season, plus the combination of his on-base ability and speed, plus average-to-plus defense in the outfield corners gives him the nod.

Remember, in addition to Adrianza as the primary middle infield backup, Gonzalez can play passable second base and even Astudillo is a (non-perfect) option there, too.

Now, here’s a stab at the 20-man taxi squad. One note: it’s unclear what the league will mandate in terms of 40-man rosters. Will 10 of the players on the 20-man roster be required to be on the 40-man already, or will the league essentially abolish rules related to the 40-man until the end of the 2020 season?

For this exercise, let’s operate as if the current 40-man roster doesn’t matter.

Proposed 20-man taxi squad

Catcher

  • Tomas Telis
  • Ryan Jeffers

Infield

  • Nick Gordon
  • Wilfredo Tovar
  • Travis Blankenhorn
  • Zander Wiel

Outfield

  • Brent Rooker
  • Trevor Larnach

Pitcher

  • Jhoulys Chacin
  • Sean Poppen
  • Fernando Romero
  • Danny Coulombe
  • Sam Clay
  • Ryan Garton
  • Cory Gearrin
  • Caleb Thielbar
  • Jake Reed
  • Griffin Jax
  • Jorge Alcala
  • Jhoan Duran

The breakdown of the 20-man taxi squad is eight position players and 12 pitchers. Of the eight position players, there are two catchers, two middle infielders, two corner infielders, and two corner outfielders.

There’s an argument to be made for yet another catcher, but rare is the season that a major-league club needs more than five catchers. It would be fair to assume that there would be some sort of “hardship exception” for teams who suffer an inordinate amount of injuries. The NBA has exactly that as part of their regular operation, although it isn’t used all too frequently.

One of the pitching spots could be flipped to another middle infielder, whether it’s former first-round pick Levi Michael or journeyman and newcomer Jack Reinheimer, who has major-league experience with a couple of other clubs.

The pitching staff has a mix of starters and relievers, veterans and prospects. It seems to be about the right blend, as this could be the perfect time for rising prospects such as Alcala, Duran, and Jax to get some major-league seasoning and be available as emergency starters if needed.

Reed and Clay have been in the Twins system for some time and might get a golden opportunity to make a case to be with the club in 2021, depending on how everything shakes out this year.

Regardless of how accurate this projection is, it will be a fun exercise to consider if/when everything is finalized. If you thought roster debates were fun before, there’s a whole new layer to this now. Let the games begin...