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  • Spring Training Preview

    The Twins invited a staggering 66 players to big-league camp this year, which seems more than a little excessive when you consider that only 25 will make the Opening Day roster and very few of those spots are legitimately up for grabs.

    So why the prodigious assembly at Lee County Sports Complex? I'd guess it has something to do with the coaching staff wanting a chance to familiarize themselves with as many guys as possible. Forty-five different players either took a swing or threw a pitch for the Twins last year, and while the team is hoping for better health this time around, nothing is guaranteed and they'll want to know what's going to be available when help is needed.

    Today, I'll take a look at some of the positions and players worth keeping an eye on over the next six weeks, eventually taking a stab at projecting the Opening Day roster.

    Position Battles

    Left Field

    This job is Ben Revere's to lose, and it would probably take a Herculean effort from Trevor Plouffe to unseat the 23-year-old speedster as the regular starter. With that said, if he hits and looks sharp defensively, Plouffe could go a long way toward increasing his playing time in the early going. If he wants to take over the gig on a more full-time basis, he'll need to cut down on his strikeouts and improve against right-handed pitching.

    Backup Catcher

    The Twins insist that they view Ryan Doumit as Joe Mauer's top backup, but since Doumit is likely to spend significant time at DH and other positions, they'll need another player who can help relieve Mauer's workload behind the plate. Chances are good that it will be Drew Butera, given that defense is the top consideration for this role, but Chris Herrmann, Danny Lehmann and J.R. Towles could make things interesting with big springs.

    Utility Infielder

    If his shoulder heals, Luke Hughes is a virtual lock to make the team given that he's out of options and provides Gardenhire with a flexible right-handed bench bat. That probably leaves room for one more backup infielder. If the ability to play shortstop is a requirement -- and this could very well be the case since Hughes can't play there -- Tsuyoshi Nishioka is basically the only option. If the Twins are willing to get creative when Jamey Carroll needs a day off from short -- say, shifting Alexi Casilla over there and starting Hughes at second -- they'll have more choices. Perhaps Sean Burroughs could be carried as a platoon mate for Danny Valencia at third? Maybe Chris Parmelee comes north to spell Justin Morneau at first and fill in at DH?

    Final Bullpen Spots

    Matt Capps is going to be the closer. Glen Perkins and Joel Zumaya (if healthy) will be setting him up, while Brian Duensing will serve as a left-handed specialist. Beyond those four, nothing is assured in the bullpen, leaving two or three spots up for grabs among 25 pitchers in camp. I'd say it's extremely likely that Anthony Swarzak lands one of those spots, as he's out of options and performed well as a reliever last season. Jeff Gray and Matt Maloney, who were brought in during the offseason, are both out of options, which may give them an upper hand, though neither has much of a track record. Alex Burnett has struggled in each of the past two years, but gathered valuable big-league experience. The Twins liked Terry Doyle enough to select him in the Rule 5 draft, and if they don't bring him north they'll either need to send him back to the White Sox or work out a trade. Ultimately, the winners of these last bullpen spots may be dictated by circumstance more than performance, although I hope that isn't the case.

    Players to Watch

    Brian Dozier

    His chances of making the Opening Day roster are very slim, because both starting middle infield positions are spoken for and the Twins aren't going to carry him as a backup, but Dozier will be looking to make a strong impression and should get ample opportunity to show what he can do in March. His defense at shortstop will be under the microscope, since his ability to stick at that position will heavily impact his long-term value.

    J.R. Towles

    Last year Towles hit .300 with a .924 OPS in exhibition play for the Astros, but the success didn't carry over to the regular season, where he posted a .184/.256/.293 line in 54 games. Hitting when it counts has always been a challenge for the former top prospect, but he'll be worth keeping an eye on as a legitimate contender to replace Drew Butera in the second/third catcher role.

    Carlos Gutierrez

    Gutierrez has long held promise as a back-end reliever with a hard and heavy sinker, but command has been an issue. Over the winter he reportedly added a cutter to his repertoire. We'll see how that plays against live hitters.

    Jared Burton

    Burton was a pretty solid reliever for the Reds several years ago, before various injuries ravaged his arm and sunk his velocity. If he's healthy and throwing in the mid-90s again, he's got serious sleeper potential in the bullpen.

    Projected Opening Day Roster

    C: Joe Mauer
    1B: Justin Morneau
    2B: Alexi Casilla
    3B: Danny Valencia
    SS: Jamey Carroll
    LF: Ben Revere
    CF: Denard Span
    RF: Josh Willingham
    DH: Ryan Doumit

    C: Drew Butera
    IF: Luke Hughes
    IF: Tsuyoshi Nishioka
    OF: Trevor Plouffe

    SP: Carl Pavano
    SP: Francisco Liriano
    SP: Scott Baker
    SP: Nick Blackburn
    SP: Jason Marquis

    RP: Matt Capps
    RP: Glen Perkins
    RP: Joel Zumaya
    RP: Brian Duensing
    RP: Anthony Swarzak
    RP: Alex Burnett
    RP: Terry Doyle

    This article was originally published in blog: Spring Training Preview started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 10 Comments
    1. TwinsGuy55422's Avatar
      TwinsGuy55422 -
      I think your opening day roster is pretty much spot on assuming there are no injuries. As far as players to watch go, I would like to mention Chris Parmelee. I think it will be interesting to see if he can build on his September 2011 success with a solid spring, especially since we don't yet know what we are going to get out of Justin Morneau!
    1. swmnguy's Avatar
      swmnguy -
      I agree with "TwinsGuy55422." I bet you're right on the OD roster, all other things being equal. The rest of the invitees, other than the deep prospects, look like AAAA guys to me. Good to have, but bad to have to rely on. Hopefully Rochester is better this summer, if only to make it up to the fans there. But the cupboard is still pretty bare if a starter goes down.
    1. kemics's Avatar
      kemics -
      I'd love to see Towles on the bench rather than Butera, and I like the power Hughes has shown. That being said, if the lineup returns to 09/10 production, then the twins might make some noise. If it is any resemblance of last year, then we are in BIG BIG trouble.
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      For the first time in years, fans in Rochester may have a team worth watching! That opening day roster looks about right, and Rochester should be happy with the leftovers for a change. A good sign.
    1. roger's Avatar
      roger -
      Good morning Nick and congratulations to all four of you for putting this coop site together.

      Although I agree with your likely opening day 25, count me amongst a small minority who believes that Luke Hughes should be given the opportunity to prove that he deserves to be our everyday shortstop.
    1. jmlease1's Avatar
      jmlease1 -
      I think this is probably as accurate a prediction as you could have without trying to project for injuries. Which is too bad. I hate the idea that the Twins are going to roll with 12 pitchers again. Burnett (or Doyle) just won't pitch enough to make it worth keeping them on the active roster, IMHO. I would be much happier with an additional impact bat on the bench (Tosoni? Parmelee?), especially considering how many light hitters the Twins have in the lineup (Revere, Carroll, Casilla...god forbid, BUTERA).

      Tosoni is my first choice. He should be capable of playing LF or RF, and it's time to see what he's got. Plouffe & Hughes are decent RH options, but wouldn't it be nice to have LH bat on the bench too? Parmelee has the better bat, I think, but time in Rochester working on his skills at 1B and playing every day is probably better for him right now, and will get him ready to be called up if (when? boo.) Morneau can't go.

      I really don't want Butera as the backup. I'm frightened that Gardy will play him waaaay too much (especially if Morneau can't go and they have mauer at 1B more) and he just. can't. hit! His D is good, but it's not at the uber-elite level it would need to be to make him worth playing more than as a late-inning blowout replacement and a handful of starts. He has no value as a PH, which burns the roster more and the 25-man roster is tight to begin with. (Especially with the Twins being silly and carrying 12 pitchers) Rather see Towles get a shot; he at least has shown some hitting ability in the minors, even if he hasn't been able to translate it to the MLB level.
    1. J-Dog Dungan's Avatar
      J-Dog Dungan -
      Quote Originally Posted by TwinsGuy55422 View Post
      I think your opening day roster is pretty much spot on assuming there are no injuries. As far as players to watch go, I would like to mention Chris Parmelee. I think it will be interesting to see if he can build on his September 2011 success with a solid spring, especially since we don't yet know what we are going to get out of Justin Morneau!
      It would seem like the Twins will have plenty of options this Spring Training, and the problem I see is that if there are too many guys who have monster springs. If that happens, who do they choose? Your starting lineup seems really solid, and the rotation spots are all filled, so they really only have a few spots for the bullpen and bench players. Unfortunately, with his salary, Nishioka and his salary are best fitted for a bench position, because it seems like he needs seasoning down in the minors, which would be a big waste of his salary for a minor league position player. Hughes, unless he tanks the spring, will be going north as a bench player. I'd say that an interesting guy to watch would be Burroughs, because he seems like a genuine platoon player with Valencia, if he can turn it around. I could also see guys like Parmelee making a push to be brought north with big springs, and he could be a good backup when Morneau needs a day off.

      As for the bullpen, I have been a Twins fan for years, and the last person that was invited to Spring Training that I hoped wouldn't make the roster was Jesse Crain when he was going through that rough patch when he couldn't get anyone out. This year, I really hope the Twins realize that Burnett, while he might have potential to some, hasn't shown any at all when he has been called up, so I think that if he doesn't do well enough, someone will take his spot. The four that you mentioned that are solid, I would agree with. I would also say that Terry Doyle looks like a Swarzak-like player, who stays in the bullpen, but is comfortable with making spot starts. Swarzak will also likely make the team, as he has proven that he is capable of handling the Major League workload. Therefore, it seems like the Twins have 3 bench spots open and at most three bullpen slots (I would count Zumaya as a question mark with his injury history).

      Therefore, I would keep the same starting lineup and starting rotation, say that Perkins, Capps, Duensing, Doyle, and Swarzak are locks for the bullpen with Zumaya having the edge on one spot and any pitcher with a spring that is better than Burnett's. The bench is the haziest, but I see Hughes, most likely Nishioka and Plouffe, and Butera. I am crossing my fingers that a position player has a monster spring so that he could supplant Nishi or Plouffe as a legit power threat for this bench, otherwise the Twins will continue to have one of the weakest benches, comparatively in power threats, in the Majors.
    1. DL450's Avatar
      DL450 -
      I'm kind of surprised at how many people got invited to spring training. I don't think there's much legitimate question who will make the 25 man roster this season. As long as there are no injuries that will result in one of those guys listed on Nick's projected roster, I'll be surprised if that isn't accurate. I think the only real chance that it differs is with the final two bullpen spots, and even then, I would be surprised if Burnett at least didn't get one of them.
    1. Mr. Ed's Avatar
      Mr. Ed -
      Here is what LaVelle blogged this morning

    1. dadawg41's Avatar
      dadawg41 -
      i wonder what Rick Andersons shoe bill will be by the end of the season with all the trips to the mound hes going to have to make!
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