Now that 2021 is (mercifully) in the books I thought it might be fun to look at what the Twins might look at heading into next season. I wanted to make a page on this to just spark some fun debate among our TwinkieTown faithful. As I am not a contributing writer, this is relegated to being a Fanpost unless someone with Admin rights decides it’s worth a link on the main page. This is my first real deep dive (for me) into constructing an article with some length to it.
For the purposes of this exercises I made a few (unrealistic) assumptions. I say unrealistic because players will be DFAed, trades will likely be made, players will become injured and free agents will be signed. However we can't predict who those players will be so I had to make a few rules. These include:
*No trading away players under contact for 2022 (so no fun Donaldson to the Mets scenarios)
*None of the free agents are back. This list includes Michael Pineda, Andrelton Simmons, Nick Vincent, Kyle Barraclough and Alex Colome. Looking at who the free agents are only Pineda makes any sense anyway. I did leave a little leeway as far as projecting a couple spots that will be filled by free agent signings.
*All injured players are fully healthy when camp breaks with the exception of Kenta Maeda.
*No major changes are made under the collective bargaining agreement and the season actually starts on time. The exception to this is teams will revert back to 25 man active rosters, post covid.
With those rules in the books here we go!
The cinches. These are the players that barring some calamity should break camp with the major league team:
Catchers: Mitch Garver, Ryan Jeffers
Infielders: Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Josh Donaldson, Luis Arraez (utility)
Outfielders: Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Alex Kirilloff
Starters: Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober (That’s it? Yes, sadly.)
Relievers: Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Caleb Thielbar, Jorge Alcala, Juan Minaya
Unknown role: John Gant. Could be a starter, could be a reliever. For the purposes of this exercise I am going to assume he starts, at least to begin the season.
So that’s 17 of the 25 spots as "cinches". Nine sports left to fill. Next I will put forth who my gut says will make the cut:
#18: Nick Gordon. He brings an element of speed this team desperately needs. He plays multiple positions which Baldelli has publicly stated he values from his players in the past. Oh and as of now there is no clear starting shortstop with Simmons set for free agency.
#19: Jake Cave. I could be wrong and maybe he gets outright released/DFAed. However, Cave brings a few things to the table that I cannot ignore even if I prefer going in other directions. First, he can play all three outfield spots. Second, he makes very little over the minimum salary. Third, he also has some decent speed and is one of the few base stealing threats on the club.
The "if no one else is brought in these guys will probably stick since there are no other options" list:
#20: Griffin Jax. Admittedly I am not particularly elated with including Jax on this list. However, we have 2 starting spots in the rotation to fill.
#21: Devin Smeltzer. If he weren’t injured I can’t see that Smeltz wouldn’t have gotten a whole lot of work in the rotation in 2021, can you? When you consider that not a single starter who began with the big club in 2021 will be doing so in 2022 this is where you end up for a 5th starter.
#22: Ralph Garza. His ERA of an even 6 over his last 7 appearances isn’t great. However, it was a reasonable 3.56 for the season. I have him taking a spot in the bullpen.
#23: Daniel Coulombe. Like Garza, he had a very workmanlike 3.67 in 2021. All but one appearance was in the bullpen and this makes reliever #7.
The "likely not on the team yet" spots:
#24: "Reliever TBD". If I had to take one from those under contract this might go to Dobnak. that is not particularly palatable so I believe they will bring someone else in.
#25: "Starting shortstop TBD". I don’t think the majority of fans who are paying attention believe that Nick Gordon will hold down this position full time. I also am going on the theory that they like leaving Polanco at 2nd and using Arraez as the super sub like they did in 2021. Royce Lewis is likely still another year away so my hunch is we go back to the free agent well here.
Missed the cut:
Willians Astudillo. The favorite "everyman", right? He will likely be on speed dial cross town at the first hint of injury.
Trevor Larnach. He looked good early and then looked pretty lost at the plate after a fashion. He will probably start in St. Paul and try to right the ship.
Brent Rooker. It became pretty apparent to me that he is a one trick pony 4A type of player. Depending on the 40 man roster needs I could see him getting DFAed and claimed by another club.
Rob Refsnyder. A very nice story for his short time up but this club still is deep at outfield.
Kyle Garlick. Again, outfield is a numbers game right now.
Randy Dobnak. That bargain contract doesn’t look like a very good bargain currently. Here’s to hoping he can get the off speed stuff to fall off the cliff again.
Lewis Thorpe. Making his way back from injury he will also be on speed dial.
Gilberto Celestino. The hitting just isn’t there yet.
Austin Martin. Not sure at what position he will eventually find a home. His time is coming though.
"One of the kids for the starting staff". This means Balazovic, Duran, Woods-Richardson and/or Strotman. All are certainly going to get looks in training camp and represent (hopefully) a return to respectability for the starting rotation in the future. I think that I speak for nearly everyone when I pray one or two forces the club’s hand with a strong spring but I am not counting on it quite yet.
So obviously this will not be 100% the way things go BUT...who do YOU see making the club next spring?