With the belated Opening Day rapidly approaching, the Twins made another round of roster cuts on Wednesday. The ten moves reduced the roster to 38 and the most notable names included were a pair of top hitting prospects who will now join Royce Lewis and Jordan Balazovic in continuing their development in St. Paul:
The #MNTwins have optioned Jose Miranda and Trevor Larnach to Triple-A St. Paul as part of today’s cuts.— Do-Hyoung Park (@dohyoungpark) March 30, 2022
Joining Miranda and Larnach in heading to the other side of the camp were a slew of non-roster invitees that will be available for depth against injuries throughout the year: RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez, RHP Ian Hamilton, RHP Trevor Megill, RHP Juan Minaya, C David Bañuelos, C Caleb Hamilton, INF Jermaine Palacios, INF Curtis Terry, and OF Derek Fisher.
In discussing the moves for the two touted prospects, Twins’ manager Rocco Baldelli emphasized that both players were competing for Opening Day roster spots this spring but their paths to the kind of regular playing the team wants them to get to continue their development were blocked by other, more established players:
Rocco said that the #MNTwins want Miranda and Larnach playing every day instead of limited to the big league bench.— Do-Hyoung Park (@dohyoungpark) March 30, 2022
Their paths to the Opening Day roster were definitely difficult given the current composition of the roster.
Here's Rocco's quote: pic.twitter.com/hBr0v8mvqq
To that end, both players received frequent opportunities to showcase their abilities this spring.
Larnach went 5 for 17, with three extra-base hits (two home runs), and led the team in on-base plus slugging (1.106) across nine games. While Spring Training stats do not matter, it’s worth noting that Larnach also punched out six times. Those strikeouts were partially offset by three walks, but given how declining amounts and quality of contact were the biggest factors in his inconsistent rookie season, they are the likely developmental focus points of his time in AAA. With clear development opportunities identified, Max Kepler and Alex Kirilloff healthy and the presumptive regulars in the outfield corners, and Luis Arraez in need of regular at-bats that will frequently come from the designated hitter spot, the 25-year-old Larnach was an obvious odd man out for now.
Miranda, 23, also played in nine games and saw 13 at-bats this spring. He showcased his elite bat-to-ball contact skills in delivering three singles and just one strikeout (against two walks), but the extra-base power that he generated from a more selective approach last season did not show up in this small Spring Training sample. Continuing to refine that selectivity, hunting pitches he can drive for extra-base damage, and working to become a passable defender somewhere on the diamond, will be the focal points for Miranda in St. Paul. With his glove limiting him primarily to third base or second base, he is clearly blocked behind newly-acquired third base starter Gio Urshela and Arraez, who figures to be the primary backup at both second and third.
Beyond the optioning of the top position player prospects, Baldelli also provided a window into the club’s thinking about two of its top pitching prospects:
Twins starter prospect Jhoan Duran is also very much in consideration (to say the least) for an Opening Day bullpen role, although his move to relief could be permanent.— Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) March 30, 2022
Winder and Duran are two of the highest-upside and hardest-throwing arms in the entire Twins organization.
Duran and Winder have impressed this spring, showcasing their terrific raw stuff, health, and apparent readiness to contribute. Duran’s raw stuff jumps out especially and he has quickly become a Pitching Ninja GIF favorite.
Thanks to that devastating power repertoire, Duran has forced his way into the final roster discussions with seven strikeouts over five scoreless innings and allowing just one walk and one hit.
In Winder’s case, he had looked like a viable candidate for the final rotation spot behind Sonny Gray, Dylan Bundy, Bailey Ober, and Joe Ryan in allowing just a single run across five innings with seven strikeouts and just one walk this spring. Of course, that spot will now be filled by free agent signing Chris Archer, but Winder’s performance will keep him in the discussion about heading north next week.
While the front office has again left more than anyone would like to chance with its low-cost (and sometimes confusing) approach to building the pitching staff this offseason, Duran and Winder being ready and capable of providing effective innings in bullpen roles would go a long way toward shoring up the most obvious weakness of the roster.
The Twins will look to find ways to use both pitchers in multi-inning opportunities that they hope will allow them to stay stretched out for potential starting roles later in the season. Of the two, Winder is probably more likely to return to starting thanks to the depth of his arsenal and the tantalizing draw of permanently using Duran as a high-leverage, late-inning relief weapon.
What do you think about these moves Twinkie Town? Is it the right thing for Larnach and Miranda to head to St. Paul? Do you like that the Twins are thinking of giving Duran and Winder bullpen roles?