Rebuilding the Twins: Final 25 Man Roster
This edition of “Rebuilding the Twins” will focus on who I think will be on the Twins Opening Day roster. With Spring Training set to start in a few days, it won’t be too long before the roster will start to take shape. A lot of the pieces are already in place, with just a few key spots up for grabs. Let’s take a look at my roster:
Opening Day Lineup:
1. Denard Span (RF) – Span is in line for a bounce back season after a concussion kept him out of the lineup last year for most of the season. One of the keys for the Twins to have a rebound season is for all of their key players to stay healthy, and it starts at the top of the order. Span usually provides a high on-base percentage when he is playing every day and gives good speed and contact from the leadoff spot. Span also delivers gold-glove quality defense in the outfield and will be integral to the success of the Twins this season.
2. Jamey Carroll (SS) – Carroll was brought in to provide stability at shortstop until the Twins can find a long term answer at the position. Carroll is known for being a slap hitter and a strong defender, so he should provide a high batting average and high on-base percentage. While not possessing much power at all, Carroll should provide a great hit and run combination with Denard Span at the top of the lineup in front of the big bats in the order.
3. Joe Mauer (C) – Mauer is another prime candidate for a bounce back season this year. After admittedly rushing back too early last year, Mauer never looked like himself after battling leg issues for most of the season. Mauer has apparently been at full strength throughout the offseason. If Mauer is motivated and at full strength, he is in line for a strong season. Mauer has always provided a high batting average and a high on base percentage, while sprinkling in home runs and RBIs along the way. Mauer is going to be counted on to be one of the leaders of the team after Michael Cuddyer left via free agency. But needless to say, Mauer should have a strong season.
4. Justin Morneau (1B) – Morneau is one of the biggest question marks the Twins face this season. After missing most of last season and half of the season before that, Morneau believes he is finally ready to play full time again. The key is going to be managing his playing time and where he plays to prevent his concussion symptoms from resurfacing again. One idea has been to play Morneau at DH to prevent the wear and tear in the field. But Morneau has been adamant that he can still play first base at a high level. When healthy, Morneau is a complete force in the lineup and a player that opposing teams have to account for at all times. And a healthy Morneau would go a long way for the Twins to have a resurgent season this coming year.
5. Josh Willingham (RF) – Willingham is the Twins great free agent signing of the offseason. Willingham is expected to fill Michael Cuddyer’s shoes in the lineup and provide a consistent offensive punch behind Mauer and Morneau. Willingham has already proven he can provide power in spacious ballparks and drive in runs on anemic offenses as he did with Oakland last year. Willingham’s defense is questionable, but if he is able to provide a lot of offense his defense will be overlooked.
6. Danny Valencia (3B) – Valencia went through a substantial sophomore slump last year. Valencia slumped both offensively and defensively, while still providing pop in the middle of the order. After persisting through those struggles last year, we can expect Valencia to take a step forward and be a better overall player next year.
7. Ryan Doumit (DH) – Doumit was signed to provide injury insurance in the event that either Mauer or Morneau sustained an injury during the season. Doumit offers flexibility by being able to catch as well as play first base and right field. Should Mauer and Morneau prove to be healthier than last year, Doumit will be the primary DH to keep his bat in the lineup on a regular basis. If either one or both of them suffers injuries then Doumit will see regular action in the field at either first base or catcher. But for the time being at least, expect to see Doumit at DH.
8. Alexi Casilla (2B) – Casilla is yet another Twins player coming off an injury shortened season last year. Casilla will have a new double play partner at short with the signing of Jamey Carroll and should be helped by more consistent throws coming his way. With the Twins reverting back to utilizing the “Piranhas” approach at the top and bottom of the lineup, it will be crucial for Casilla to use his speed to get on base and create run scoring opportunities when he reaches.
9. Ben Revere (CF) – Revere was one of the lone bright spots for the Twins last season, filling in for Denard Span and providing legitimate speed at the top of the order. Revere gives the Twins a consistent base stealing threat, and should score more runs this season turning over the lineup for Mauer and Morneau. Even when slumping at the plate, Revere provides amazing defense in the outfield and has the chance to become a good major league player if he can improve his hitting.
Drew Butera (C) – Butera will enter the season as Joe Mauer’s primary backup catcher. While Butera has never been known as a great offensive option, he is admired for his chemistry with the pitchers as well as his ability to call games. With the flexibility of Ryan Doumit, Ron Gardenhire will be able to keep 3 catchers on the roster for the entire season, which is something he prefers to do in order to give Mauer off days when necessary.
Joe Benson (OF) – Benson was one of several rookies who received extensive playing time last year while filling in for injured regular players. While his final numbers weren’t anything to write home about, he is still considered a top prospect and will be given the first chance to fill in should one of the Twins regular outfielders sustain an injury this season. While it is clear the thing Benson needs most is at bats, if he is needed to fill in you can bet he will be getting his chance at the Major League level.
Trevor Plouffe (OF) – Plouffe has been a curious case for the Twins over the past few seasons. Always possessing a good bat, he just hasn’t been able to find a position he can play consistently. After an unsuccessful attempt at shortstop last year, Plouffe is moving to the outfield in the hopes that he can find success similar to the way Michael Cuddyer did when he moved to the outfield. Plouffe should get plenty of at-bats this season while spelling Denard Span as well as Revere and Willingham, and if he is able to finally supply consistent power, he could become a dangerous hitter in the Twins lineup.
Chris Parmelee (1B) – Parmelee had an impressive call up with the Twins last year. Filling in for Justin Morneau at the end of the season, Parmelee showed a consistent ability to drive the ball out of even spacious Target Field. With all of the uncertainty surrounding Justin Morneau, insurance will be needed in the event he is shut down for an extended period of time. Parmelee isn’t guaranteed to perform at the same level he did last year, but should be an adequate player if the need arises for him to step in again.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka (UTIL) – Nishioka’s first season in America was nothing short of a disaster. From the broken leg he suffered at Yankee Stadium, to his inability to hit any sort of a fastball, Nishioka greatly underperformed with the Twins. He struggled so mightily that Jamey Carroll was brought in to provide a more consistent approach from both the plate and the glove. Nishioka’s best chance to make the major league team is to be a utility infielder, so you can bet he will be taking ground balls all over the infield to make sure he is ready for his role.
Carl Pavano – Pavano provided yet another healthy campaign for the Twins last year. And while he was the only starter to be able to say so, his 2011 campaign was a disappointment compared to the 2010 season he had. Pavano endured his share of bad starts, granted he got little to no help from his infield defense. With the defense upgraded, Pavano should post better numbers this season, as his injury issues seem to be a thing of the past. We can yet again expect 200 plus innings from Pavano at the top of the rotation.
Scott Baker – While being arguably the Twins best starter last year, Baker battled elbow injuries and what had the potential to be his career season was cut short. As with a great deal of the current roster, health is critical for Baker to have a successful season. If he is healthy, Baker possesses great stuff and can dominate games. If he provides a full season, he will likely enter next season as the ace of the staff. But health is crucial for that to happen.
Francisco Liriano – Liriano regressed dramatically last year. His walk rate ballooned, his strikeouts dropped and his ERA went up a full run and a half. One of Liriano’s biggest issues is that often throughout the course of a start he is battling himself to stay on top of his control. If he can’t keep on top of his mechanics, he surrenders big innings and his pitch count skyrockets. For the Twins to have a successful season they will need major contributions from Liriano, otherwise he may be shown the door at the end of the year.
Nick Blackburn – As is common throughout this list, Blackburn battled injuries throughout the season last year which lead to arguably his worst season as a Twin. Blackburn relies heavily on his control and the movement of his sinker. When it flattens out he gets hit all over the park. This is exactly what happened last year. He couldn’t get good command on his sinker and thus it was flat and usually crushed when it was hit. Due to the injuries he battled, Blackburn is another candidate for a bounce back season this year. When healthy and generating ground balls, he can be a serviceable innings eater, and the Twins will want as many innings as he can give them this year.
Jason Marquis – Marquis was signed this offseason to provide depth in the starting rotation. Marquis compares favorably to Nick Blackburn, in that he is a sinkerball pitcher who relies on a strong infield defense to eat up the ground balls he generates. Marquis is a veteran who has been a starter on a handful of playoff teams, including the National League Champion Cardinals back in 2004. The Twins are hoping he can lead by example and be both a mentor for the younger pitchers on the staff and a quality innings eater.
Matt Capps (CL) – Capps is slated to be the Twins closer for the coming season. Capps gained the admiration of the coaching staff last year by pitching through injuries for a good portion of the season. Capps relies heavily on his ability to get ground balls, something that the Twins defense did not help him with last year. If the defense is marginally better this year Capps will be a solid closer for the Twins this year.
Glen Perkins (SU) – After several seasons of mixed results as a starting pitcher, Perkins finally put it together as a member of the bullpen last year. One of the few bright spots of the pitching staff, Perkins averaged a strikeout per inning and saw a jump in his fastball velocity. While he did seem to wear down near the end of the season, he still was a very solid contributor to the bullpen and will be counted on again this year to provide quality innings.
Brian Duensing (MR) – After spending the season as a starter full time last year, Duensing will shift back to the bullpen in order to try to recreate the success he has had over the last few years. Duensing is another Twins arm that relies on control to get batters out as opposed to generating strikeouts. While he does struggle against right handed batters, he has been very tough on left handed batters throughout his career. With so many tough left handed batters in the Central, Duensing will be counted on to get them out throughout the season.
Alex Burnett (MR) – Burnett was one of many Twins relievers that struggled last season. After a strong rookie season, Burnett was hit hard as teams figured out his tendencies and his stuff. Burnett is a hard thrower, who struggles with his control but will be needed to provide late innings out of this year’s bullpen.
Anthony Swarzak (LR) – Swarzak was given several opportunities spot start for the Twins last season due to the rash of injuries to the starting rotation. While the results were mixed, Swarzak had no problem taking the ball every time it was given to him and should be the long reliever for the Twins this season. Should a starter sustain an injury, Swarzak would figure to get the first call back into the rotation to fill that spot.
Lester Oliveros (RP) – Oliveros pitched in a fair amount of games for the Twins after being acquired in the trade that sent Delmon Young to Detroit. Oliveros throws hard which is something the Twins need more of. If he were able to work on his control and throw more strikes, he would be a valuable piece to the bullpen in the years to come.
And there you have it, the Twins roster as I see it playing out. Granted there is a lot that could happen between now and Opening Day, but I think the people on this list will be given the shot to help the big league club.
Up next will be keys to the season being a successful one for the Twins