Roster Speculation: The Position Players
Well, that was brutal. Instead, let's focus on something else: tonight marked the start of the Twins second turn through the rotation, and their seventh spring training game. The roles for players are clearer as are the spring training battles. So what do several Twins positional hopefuls need to do to make it to Chicago for Opening Day?
This article was originally published in blog:
Roster Speculation: The Position Players
Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham, Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe, Kurt Suzuki, Alex Presley
What they need to do: Stay healthy.
What he needs to do: Get healthy. For what it's worth, he took grounders with the rest of the infielders today. He looks like he's getting close to returning.
What he needs to do: Stay healthy and show he's not completely done. He hasn't done the latter yet, but there's a lot of time.
What he needs to do: Last week, I would have said just be normal. As in, don't struggle too much, don't get too angry, don't go too cray-cray. The job in right field is his job to lose, but he can lose it. (Boy, can he lose it.)
That was last week. Today, I'm not so sure. If Arcia does NOT win that spot, he will not be on the bench. He'll be in AAA.
That takes care of he starting nine. If the Twins carry 13 position players, which would seem likely, it leaves four spots. Interestingly, assistant GM Rob Antony wasn't committing to that yesterday, saying "it hasn't been determined."
If they only carry three spots, those spots are going to a backup infielder, catcher and outfielder. More to the point - a backup shortstop, catcher and center fielder, since there is nobody in the starting nine that can back up those spots. Keeping that in mind, let's look at some other names:
What he needs to do: He's the default choice, because of his age and flexibility. Bartlett hasn't demonstrated that he can play third base, and the Twins haven't tried him there this year yet, either. Doug Bernier can play second base, shortstop and third base like Escobar, but he's also eight years older than him.
What he needs to do: Escobar would need to get hurt or do something else for the organization to completely lose confidence in him.
What he needs to do: First, he needs the Twins to carry at least 13 position players because if he's the shortstop, the Twins are going to need to also bring up either Escobar, Bernier, Deibinson Romero or Brandon Waring to back up third base.
However, He makes a somewhat intriguing 13th player in that he can be a backup infielder AND could theoretically be a bat off of the bench. It's not totally clear the 34-year-old can do either, but he might at least be able to get on base. He also looks pretty good as a possible substitution for Florimon late in the game.
What he needs to do: There might be a couple of ways he makes the team:
At DH - He needs two of Kubel, Arcia and Parmelee to look very, very bad while he looks very, very good. Even then, I'm not sure it's enough. He likely needs two of them to be unable to play, frankly.
He makes another interesting 13th man candidate. With as many left-handed bats as the Twins have, it makes sense to have a right-handed bat that they can plug in occasionally. To win that spot, he needs to look quite a bit more appetizing than Jason Bartlett and Wilkin Ramirez, who we'll get to in a second.
James Beresford, Deibinson Romero, Brandon Waring, etc.
What they need to do: There needs to be a series of small miracles.
It was interesting that Bereford started tonight at second base when most of the other starters were going to be in the Opening Day lineup. Dozier got to sit because he made the long trip to Jupiter yesterday, but that doesn't explain why Escobar and Bernier weren't there. Beresford also played third base yesterday. He would likely be option C as the utility infielder.
What he needs to do: Ideally, he would show he still has the wheels, if not the instincts, to play center field. He would show he has the wheels to do something when he's on base. He would show that he can get on base.
But he doesn't need to do any of these things. He just needs to play center field passably enough that nobody panics. The center field situation is petty dire until Hicks finds himself or Buxton charges up here. Mastroianni is the default fix for now.
What he needs to do: Ramirez is an interesting contrast to Mastroianni. He's less of a center fielder, but more of a hitter. If Mastroianni can't outplay him defensively, he could theoretically be the backup "center fielder," though I'm not totally sure the Twins would want to do that to him. He did play several games there for the Twins last year.
But Ramirez has another way to stick on the roster if Mastroianni beats him out. He could be the 13th man. He's right-handed, has some power and gives the Twins a fifth outfielder. His primary competition would be Colabello.
What he needs to do: Defensively, he's superior to everyone on this list including the starter Alex Presley. But the Twins would need to be desperately worried about Mastroianni's and Ramirez' defense to limit Hicks' playing time to that of a backup (or short-side of the platoon) in the majors. They have to want him playing every day in AAA.
What he needs to do: Parmelee's best chance to make this roster is probably to beat out Kubel or Arcia at a spot in the lineup. It's not as far-fetched as I might have thought. Gardenhire has batted Parmelee higher in the lineup than Arcia and Kubel a couple of times. Tonight, Parmelee started in right field while Arica came off the bench. It's clear that Gardenhire has confidence in Paremelee - provided Parmelee has confidence in himself.
"I don't worry about where I put him in the lineup," Gardy said after a recent game. "If he's confident, he can hit. It's all about a confident thing with him and not getting too deep into his own head and just going up there and swinging. When he does that, he's got no problems. And right now, he's not worried about a thing. He's just up there swinging. If we can keep that, we've got a good player."
Parmelee has one other thing going for him: he's out of options. If he doesn't make the roster the Twins could lose him to another team, especially if he has a nice spring.
He can't play center field, so his only other option is to be the 13th man. Even being out of options, that's an uphill battle because he bats left-handed and a right-handed hitter makes a lot more sense with this lineup. Perhaps if Ramirez is the right-handed center fielder, then maybe Parmelee would be an option. But maybe not even then.
This comes down to the Twins deciding which of three values they want to embrace?
Value = development. It's hard to tell if Pinto holds his own destiny in his hands this spring, but there is no doubt he does long-term. His goal right now is to show the Twins that he's ready, primarily defensively, or at least that he can continue to learn on the job from Suzuki. Even then they might want to keep him in AAA to play every day.
I would think his odds go up if Kubel struggles, since Pinto could play there when he's not catching and learn defensively from Suzuki. If he does make it, he could also be the right-handed bench bat the Twins would like, which is a nice benefit. That might open a door for Bartlett (for another right-handed bat with defensive chops) or Parmelee (as a left-handed bat who is out of options) to be the 13th man.
Value = Veteran defense. On the one hand, they might think they already have this with Suzuki on the roster. On the other, I would never underestimate the Twins to value veterans who play strong defense.
Value = Flexibility. If only he could also play center field. He can play first base or corner outfield, so keeping him opens the door to all kinds of mix and match possibilities with Bartlett, Colabello or Mastroianni and Ramirez as the 13th man. It would likely be bad news for Parmelee, because they would still need a right-handed bat.
If I had to guess right now, I think I'd say that if Parmelee wins right field, the bench is Escobar, Mastroianni, Fryer and ... let's go with Bartlett. And if not, maybe they try to stash him as the 13th man.