Making the cut: Contenders for Twins’ 30-man roster

Minnesota Twins players will hold their first “summer camp” practice at Target Field on Friday.

The Major League Baseball season is set to begin July 23-24. At that time, teams will have to pare down their rosters to 30 players. On the 15th day of the season, the roster will be trimmed to 28 and then to 26 on the 29th day. Rosters will remain at 26 for the remainder of the season.

Teams will have taxi squads – a total of 60 players can be on the “in-season” roster – to draw from as needed.

While some teams didn’t list a complete 60-man “summer camp” roster, the Twins did. Of the 60, 20 are considered to be on the taxi squad – basically all the non-roster invites – but any of those can be moved to the main roster at any point (with a corresponding 40-man roster move).

Some have a chance to see action for the Twins during the season, a few are insurance policies and others are prospects just getting in some work with major leaguers.

Here’s a look at all 60 players and who has a chance to stick to the opening roster.

 

PITCHERS

LOCKS (10)

Homer Bailey, Jose Berrios, Tyler Clippard, Tyler Duffey, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, Trevor May, Jake Odorizzi, Taylor Rogers, Sergio Romo

Summary: These 10 pitchers are on firm ground to be on the opening 30-man roster. If Minnesota goes with a five-man rotation, it figures to be some combination of Bailey, Berrios, Hill, Maeda and Odorizzi. Rogers is back for another year as closer and he has plenty of experience to help him out in Clippard, an offseason addition, and Romo, who came over via trade at last season’s deadline. Plus, Duffey is coming off the best season of his career. This is a solid staff. Now it’s just a matter of how many pitchers manager Rocco Baldelli wants at the start. We’ll presume in the 15-17 range until rosters are trimmed to 28.

OTHERS: 40-MAN (10)

Jorge Alcala: If the Twins want a potential long reliever, Alcala could eventually be in the mix. He’s mainly been a starting pitcher in the minors and tallied 101 1/3 innings at Double-A and Triple-A combined in 2019, not to mention 1 2/3 in September for Minnesota. Alcala has been a good strikeout pitcher in the minors (8.9 per nine innings over his five years) but needs to cut down on the walks (3.8/9). Seems a longshot to make the opening 30-man roster.

Dakota Chalmers: The return for Fernando Rodney from Oakland in 2018, Chalmers has yet to pitch about Single-A. He is 23 and a strikeout pitcher (10.7/9 in the minors) but it’d be a big surprise to see him pitch for Minnesota in 2020.

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Randy Dobnak: The guy started a playoff game so maybe you’re saying he should be a lock. We do think Dobnak will be on the opening 30-man roster, but keep in mind he only pitched 28 1/3 innings for the Twins in 2019 and began the season in Single-A. Minnesota took a long look at him in spring training – he pitched 10 innings, allowing five hits (two home runs) with three walks and six strikeouts. We’d expect him to be playing a role on Minnesota’s staff in some fashion, and likely right off the bat.

Jhoan Duran: He’s only 22 and has all over seven starts above the Single-A level – posting a 4.86 ERA in 37 innings at Pensacola last year – but he throws hard and, stop us if you’ve heard this before, strikes a lot of guys out. Duran is a longshot to pitch for the Twins in 2020 but they did use him in spring training for two innings and if the bullpen needs a little help, it doesn’t hurt to have someone who has touched 103 on the radar gun.

Zack Littell: Littell has bounced back and forth between the Twins and Triple-A each of the last two seasons. There’s no minor leagues in 2020 but we definitely could see a scenario where he’s shuttled back and forth between the majors and Minneaota’s taxi squad. Last year for the Twins he posted a 2.68 ERA and 1.162 WHIP over 37 innings. Back in the spring, he threw seven shutout innings, allowing just three hits with nine strikeouts although he walked five.

Sean Poppen: Poppen hadn’t pitched above Double-A until last season when he was called up to Triple-A Rochester and eventually made his major-league debut at age 25. While he had some success with the Red Wings – 3.84 ERA, 1.311 WHIP, 10.0 K/9 in 61 innings – he was knocked around in his 8 1/3 innings with Minnesota (seven runs on 10 hits and five walks). Perhaps Poppen is needed for a spot start or some bullpen help down the line.

Devin Smeltzer: One big thing on Smeltzer’s side – he’s left-handed, one of just four southpaws on Minnesota’s 40-man roster. He had an all-around good year in 2019, both in the minors and in his MLB debut with the Twins, where he recorded a 3.86 ERA and 1.265 WHIP. Smeltzer was knocked around this spring, for what it’s worth. With the lack of lefties on the roster and especially in the pen, Smeltzer is probably a near-lock to make the 30-man.

Cody Stashak: A 13th-round pick in 2015, Stashak had several successful seasons in the minors, never allowing more than 7.9 hits per nine innings and the past couple of years fanning over 11 per 9. Stashak got the call in 2019 to Minnesota and pitched in 25 innings to a 3.24 ERA and 1.200 WHIP with 25 strikeouts. In the spring he tossed seven shutout innings, allowing just three hits with no walks and nine punchouts. He’s definitely put himself in line for a role in 2020, whether to start or during the shortened season.

Lewis Thorpe: One of Minnesota’s top prospects, Thorpe got batted around in his debut in 2019, posting a 6.18 ERA and 1.735 WHIP in 27 2/3 innings. Then he didn’t pitch at all in a major-league spring game, sent down among the early cuts. That doesn’t bode well for him making the initial 30-man roster, although being left-handed and on the 40-man roster doesn’t hurt his cause.

Matt Wisler: Wisler has five years of MLB experience but has pitched for four teams in the last two years. Minnesota claimed him waivers this past offseason from Seattle. Wisler owns a career 5.20 ERA and 1.395 WHIP. He tossed five innings during spring training, allowing two runs on seven hits with no walks and six strikeouts.

OTHERS: RESTRICTED (2)

Michael Pineda: Pineda won’t be allowed to return from suspension until September. Will he be able to get in pitching shape for a home stretch?

Fernando Romero: Romero’s problems obtaining a visa leave his status in doubt for the foreseeable future.

OTHERS: NON-ROSTER INVITES (7)

Jhoulys Chacin: The 11-year veteran was battling for a rotation spot in the spring but months later and Hill now likely ready to go once the season begins, he might be on the outside looking in. However, Baldelli decides to go with a six- or seven-man rotation early in the year, Chacin would definitely be in the mix. Chacin has not been used often as a reliever in his career (255 games with 226 starts), so that might not be an optimal role for him. He pitched in eight spring innings, allowing six runs on seven hits.

Sam Clay: A fourth-round pick in 2014, Clay has worked his way up the Twins’ system. He pitched in Double-A and Triple-A in 2019. A left-hander, Clay was still in camp when things were shut down, so perhaps that’s a good sign for him making the club.

Edwar Colina: Just 23, Colina hadn’t pitched above Single-A until last season, when he appeared in seven games in Double-A and two in Triple-A. It’s probably a stretch imagining Colina pitching in the majors other than in an emergency circumstance.

Danny Coulombe: A five-year MLB veteran, although in 2019 he pitched in Triple-A for the Brewers and Yankees. Being left-handed, of course, never hurts anyone’s cause. Coulombe pitched four innings in spring training and allowed one hit (a home run) and struck out seven. Never count out a left-hander from joining the team during the 2020 season.

Ryan Garton: Garton has 64 1/3 innings of major-league experience, but only three of those were in 2019 and he was in the minors in 2018. It’s a small sample size, but he didn’t fare well in his five spring innings, allowing four runs on eight hits and four walks with four strikeouts.

Cory Gearrin: Another MLB veteran who was in camp, Gearrin has pitched over 300 innings for six teams in his eight-year career. Gearrin allowed seven runs in five spring innings.

Caleb Thielbar: Thielbar pitched for the Twins from 2013-15. Since then, he’s toiled in independent ball and the minors. A left-hander – again, that’s key – he had a decent spring, allowing two runs on two hits in six innings, walking just one and striking out 10.

 

CATCHERS

LOCKS (2)

Alex Avila, Mitch Garver

Summary: Garver had a breakout campaign in 2019, hitting 31 home runs with a slugging percentage of .630, and figures to be the No. 1. Veteran Aliva, who threw out 52% of attempted basestealers last year, slides in as the backup.

OTHERS: 40-MAN ROSTER (1)

Willians Astudillo: His opening-day roster spot might have been in jeopardy in March but if Baldelli decides on keeping three catchers around with the expanded roster, get out the marker with Astudillo’s name. His ability to play other positions helps his cause. Of course, the Twins could elect to just keep him on the taxi squad and take Astudillo on the road (teams can bring up to three players to away games as a taxi squad with one having to be a catcher).

OTHERS: NON-ROSTER INVITES (3)

Juan Graterol: There’s still a Graterol in the system (too soon?). Graterol has 67 games of major-league experience from 2016-19, including three with Minnesota in 2018. The 31-year-old is likely just an insurance policy.

Ryan Jeffers: A second-round pick in 2018, he’s probably sticking around to get some experience and keep his projection upward. Jeffers, who turned 23 on June 3, has played all of 24 games above the Single-A level

Tomas Telis: Another with big-league experience – 122 games from 2014-18 – Telis has been in camp with the Twins the past two seasons. Telis, who did hit .330 in 82 games in Triple-A in 2019, is likely another insurance policy.

 

INFIELDERS

LOCKS (6)

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

Summary: The infield is set with Sano at first, Arraez at second, Polanco at short and Donaldson, who can finally bring the rain to Minnesota, at third. Adrianza and/or Gonzalez playing pretty much anywhere on the diamond when someone needs a day off.

OTHERS: 40-MAN ROSTER (2)

Travis Blankenhorn: A third-round pick in 2015, Blankenhorn has yet to play in Triple-A. In 93 games in Double-A in 2019, he batted .277 with 19 home runs. If the Twins want to have even more power off the bench or in the infield, perhaps the soon-to-be 23-year-old gets a call. Blankenhorn has payed second, third and the outfield in the minors.

Nick Gordon: The former first-round pick’s career has stalled but he did slash .298/.342/.459 with 14 steals in 70 games at Triple-A in 2019. If Arraez can’t repeat his success from last year, maybe Gordon gets a chance. Or, possibly Baldelli sees a role for him as a pinch runner, especially in extra innings when a runner will be placed on second base. Gordon still won’t turn 25 until October.

OTHERS: NON-ROSTER INVITES (5)

Royce Lewis: The top pick in the 2017 draft just turned 21 last month. He’s around to get experience. It’s hard to see the Twins wanting to start his major-league clock in a shortened 2020 season filled with postseason aspirations.

Drew Maggi: A utility player – last season he played second, third, short and the outfield – the 31-year-old Maggi has yet to appear in a major-league game. The dwindling roster, instead of September expansion, could cost him a shot at making his debut. Maggi was 3-for-18 wit a home run during spring training.

Jack Reinheimer: Turning 28 on July 19, Reinheimer spent all of last season in Triple-A with Baltimore, batting .246. He has limited MLB experience – 23 games, mostly with the Mets in 2018 – and was 2-for-19 this spring.

Wilfredo Tovar: Another veteran (28) middle infielder, Tovar played in 31 games for the Angels in 2019, going 16-for-83 (.193). He did hit .321 in Triple-A, however. Tovar didn’t get too much time in games with the Twins during the spring – 1-for-4 over three games – so we don’t like his chances of getting on the 30-man roster, which would necessitate someone being removed from the 40-man.

Zander Wiel: If the Twins want a right-handed bat off the bench or maybe some insurance at first base, the 27-year old Wiel could find a place with Minnesota. In 2019, his first full season at Triple-A, the former Vanderbilt standout hit .254 with 40 doubles and 24 home runs.

 

OUTFIELD

LOCKS (4)

Byron Buxton, Nelson Cruz, Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario

There’s your starting outfielder and designated hitter.

OTHERS: 40-MAN ROSTER (3)

Jake Cave: Cave is probably as near a lock as you can get without being listed there. We expect he’ll make it as he’s the most natural backup center fielder, but it depends how Baldelli constructs his roster. Adrianza, Astudillo and Gonzalez can all play the outfield as well as other positions. If the Twins want to go with more pitching, especially in the first couple of weeks, we could see Cave waiting his turn.

Gilberto Celestino: Only 21 years old and having played just three games above Single-A (and that was in 2018 in the Houston organization), we suspect Celestino is around to soak it all in and get in some work.

LaMonte Wade Jr.: An on-base machine, Wade made his major-league debut in 2019, appearing in 26 games. He hit only .196 but true to form had an on-base percentage of .348 as he walked (11) more times than he whiffed (9). Wade can play all three outfield positions and first base, adding to his versatility. Like Cave, he bats left-handed, and perhaps can challenge for one of the final roster spots.

OTHERS: NON-ROSTER INVITES

Lane Adams: The 30-year-old Adams seems like a veteran insurance policy. He’s played 117 games in the majors (.263/.333/.467) and can play all three outfield positions. Adams had just one spring plate appearance but he’s on the 60-man roster so the Twins must think he has the potential chance to help out at some point.

Alex Kirilloff: Like Lewis, will the Twins want to start the clock for the former first-round pick? And where would he play. Injuries have curtailed his career so far a bit and last year was his first in Double-A, where he batted .283 in 94 games. Kirilloff was 9-for-21 (.429) with two doubles and two homers in spring training.

Trevor Larnach: Another former first-rounder who turned 23 this past February, Larnach has all of 43 games played above Single-A. He might be ready for the show, but again, see Kirilloff and Lewis. Larnach was 8-for-27 with three home runs in the spring.

Brent Rooker: Another former high draft pick, Rooker might be the most ready to join the Twins. He’s 25 and played 65 games in Triple-A last season (batting .298/.398/.535) before injuries ended his year. Rooker has some experience at first base but has mainly played left field for the Twins in the minors.