The Minnesota Twins open the regular season two weeks from Monday when they travel to Chicago to face the White Sox. There’s still time in spring training for several players to make their cases for a spot on the 25-man roster. While nothing is set in stone yet, I took a stab at predicting what the Twins’ roster will look like when Minnesota breaks camp later this month.
1B Joe Mauer, 2B Brian Dozier, SS Pedro Florimon, 3B Trevor Plouffe, INF Eduardo Escobar, 1B/OF Chris Parmelee
The starting infield is pretty much a lock at this point, even though Florimon got a late start in camp after having an appendectomy. But the slick-fielding shortstop has returned to action down in Fort Myers and has a few weeks to catch up and get into game shape. Perhaps the biggest question mark among the starting infielders is Mauer, who will be making the full-time transition from catcher to first base. He’s shown this spring, though, that he’ll do just fine at his new position.
Escobar will be Minnesota’s top utility infielder, as he’s able to play second base, shortstop and third base. The versatile Escobar even played in the outfield briefly for one game with the Twins last year. And Parmelee makes the team for a couple reasons: 1) he’s out of minor-league options, so he’d have to pass through waivers, and 2) the Twins need someone who can play first base if Mauer needs an off day. On top of that, Parmelee can also play the outfield and could provide some pop off the bench in a pinch-hit situation.
LF Josh Willingham, CF Aaron Hicks, RF Oswaldo Arcia, OF Alex Presley, OF Jason Kubel
One of the biggest position battles this spring has been the starting center field job, which was a three-horse race between Hicks, Presley and Darin Mastroianni. The Twins sent Mastroianni to their minor league camp a few days ago, meaning that center field spot will come down to one of two players. Hicks won the spot out of camp last year without much competition, but struggled in the majors after making the jump from Double-A New Britain. As spring has progressed, it appears as if Hicks is the lead candidate for that starting job.
That means Presley will be Minnesota’s No. 4 outfielder, as he can play all three outfield positions. Kubel, a former Twin who signed a minor league deal this winter, has not put up impressive numbers this spring: 2-for-23 (.087) with a home run. Still, he’s proven that he’s healthy after injuries limited him to 97 games last season with Arizona and Cleveland. Kubel can provide a veteran bat off the bench, and he’s a favorite of manager Ron Gardenhire.
Kurt Suzuki, Josmil Pinto
Suzuki, signed as a free agent this offseason, was essentially anointed as the starting catcher before the Twins even left for spring training. A seven-year veteran, Suzuki is tasked with replacing Joe Mauer as the starter behind the plate now that Mauer has moved to first base. While Suzuki won’t produce anything close to the offense that Mauer provided, he does have a reputation as being a solid defensive catcher.
The question this spring was which catcher would be Suzuki’s backup. The options included Eric Fryer, Chris Herrmann and Pinto. Fryer was optioned to Triple-A Rochester on Sunday, narrowing the race to just two. While Herrmann provides versatility (he can also play either corner outfield spot), Pinto appears to have the bigger upside. While he still has some work to do defensively, he’ll benefit from being alongside a veteran in Suzuki who can help show him the ropes.
RHP Ricky Nolasco, RHP Phil Hughes, RHP Kevin Correia, RHP Mike Pelfrey, RHP Samuel Deduno
The only suspense with the Twins’ starting rotation was the No. 5 spot. Several candidates entered spring with a realistic shot to win the job, including Deduno, Scott Diamond, Vance Worley and Kyle Gibson. Diamond and Worley are both out of options, but neither has put up impressive numbers this spring. In fact, Worley has allowed nine earned runs in eight innings of work. Diamond leads all pitchers with 11 strikeouts, but he’s also allowed the most runs (10) and most hits (13).
Deduno, meanwhile, is also out of minor league options but has been sharp this spring. While he struggled with control issues in 2012, he took a step forward in that department last year. So far this spring he’s posted a 0.93 ERA, allowing just one run on five hits while striking out eight in 9 2/3 innings.
RHP Jared Burton, RHP Anthony Swarzak, RHP Casey Fien, LHP Scott Diamond, RHP Michael Tonkin, LHP Brian Duensing, LHP Glen Perkins
The bullpen was a strength for the Twins last season, and they really didn’t lose much from that group entering the 2014 season. Perkins recently inked a contract extension that will keep the Minnesota native with his hometown team through at least 2017. He earned his first All-Star appearance last year as the Twins’ closer. Meanwhile, Tonkin is one relatively new face in this group. He made his MLB debut last year but pitched in just nine games in the big leagues in 2013. His velocity is intriguing — his fastball can hit 96 mph — and he should be a nice addition as a hard-throwing right-hander in the pen.
Diamond and Duensing make the team as left-handers, although lefty Caleb Thielbar could also get a long look. Since Diamond misses out on the rotation and is out of options, he needs to be on the 25-man roster (in this case, in the bullpen) to avoid being claimed by another team. The same goes for right-hander Vance Worley, who was a disappointment last year, but I don’t think he’ll break camp. If he doesn’t, there’s a chance he could get claimed.