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  • Ranking the Twins Bench Options

    Is it fair to say that many Twins fans were pleasantly surprised when we learned on Monday morning that Tsuyoshi Nishioka had been optioned to Rochester? It was never really a question about whether he warranted a big league roster spot. It was clear to pretty much everyone that he wasn’t. It was the contract and the commitment that made it such a big decision. The Twins have three-million reasons to keep him at the end of their bench.

    However, Nishioka’s demotion appears to open up a spot on the 25-man roster for someone else. There are several names being discussed for that roster spot, and frankly, it is difficult to pick out a favorite among the bunch. Several of the options are not on the 40 man roster which although not a complete deterrent, it does require one extra step. A couple of the possibilities would likely only make the roster if they would be starting. Will Ron Gardenhire be willing to use Alexi Casilla as his back up shortstop, or would the utility player need to be able to play shortstop?

    I wanted to look at the candidates for that final roster spot. I’m making the assumption that the Twins infield will include Justin Morneau, Alexi Casilla, Danny Valencia, Jamey Carroll and Luke Hughes. I’m also making the assumption that the Twins will choose to keep three catchers on the big league roster, although that does appear to be excessive. If the Twins did decide to only keep Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit on the roster, then two of the seven players below could make the roster.

    I believe there are seven candidates in camp that have some case to make the opening day roster, and I wanted to find a way to organize my thoughts on each in a consistent way for each player. I considered what the categories are that could differentiate the options.
    • Age: This is more just a reference number for readers.
    • 40 Man Roster: Is the player on the 40 man roster or no?
    • Must Start: Yes or No... is the player a prospect who should only make the big league roster as a starter?
    • Positions Played: what positions has the player played, particularly in recent years.
    • Offense: I’ll really just look at the 2011 numbers. That is recent performance-related information that isn’t completely small sample size.
    • Defense: What is the reputation of each player with the glove?
    • Spring Training Stats: This should be the last category and the most meaningless category at this point. Right now, the player below with the most appearances has just 26. And over the next two weeks, starters will play a bit more, so these candidate’s numbers over the next two weeks may mean a little bit more, but even that is a small sample size.
    • Other information: Just an open spot for any other information.
    With all of that information, maybe there will be an answer that sticks out? Or, maybe we can eliminate a couple of candidates. Let’s take a look at the candidate’s in alphabetical order.

    SEAN BURROUGHS

    • Age: 31
    • 40 Man Roster: No
    • Must Start: No
    • Positions Played: 3B, 1B
    • Offense: .273/.289/.336 in 115 plate appearance (78 games) in Arizona after not being in the big leagues since 2006. Has just 12 MLB HR in 1,805 plate appearances.
    • Defense: average defensive third baseman
    • Spring Training Stats: .286/.423/.381. 6-21 with two doubles, five walks and four strikeouts.
    • Other Information: Left-handed bat who spent 2011 as a pinch hitter.
    Seth Opinion – I would much rather the Twins have Burroughs as a left-handed bench bat than a 3rd catcher.

    RAY CHANG

    • Age: 28
    • 40 Man Roster: No
    • Must Start: No
    • Positions Played: 2B, 3B, SS
    • Offense: .271/.323/.368 in 65 games combined between AA New Britain and AAA Rochester. 22 HR in 1,789 minor league plate appearances.
    • Defense: Above average middle infielder
    • Spring Training Stats: .300/.462/.500 (3-10) with two doubles, 3 walks and no strikeouts.
    • Other Information: Played for the Chinese team in the WBC. Bats Right-handed.
    Seth Opinion – Chang is probably a long-shot, but he might be the best combination of a little offense and solid defense needed to play all three infield positions as a utility player.

    BRIAN DINKELMAN

    • Age: 28
    • 40 Man Roster: No
    • Must Start: No
    • Positions Played: 2B, LF, RF
    • Offense: .243/.316/.324 in 127 games at AAA Rochester. Hit .301 in 23 games with the Twins. 40 HR in 2,923 minor league plate appearances.
    • Defense: solid but average in the infield and outfield.
    • Spring Training Stats: .300/.348/.400 (6-20) with two doubles.
    • Other Information: Left-handed bat who hit in limited time last year.
    Seth Opinion – He had a nice showing with the Twins last year, but the Twins need is more for a utility infielder and 2B is the only infield position the Dinkelman has played.

    BRIAN DOZIER

    • Age: 24
    • 40 Man Roster: No
    • Must Start: Yes
    • Positions Played: SS, 2B
    • Offense: .320/.399/.491 last year between Ft. Myers and New Britain. 14 home runs in 1,413 plate appearances. Nine last year in 569 plate appearances.
    • Defense: solid defender with average arm, average range
    • Spring Training Stats: .273/.305/.500 (6-22) with triple and home run.
    • Other Information: right-handed bat was the Twins minor league player of the year in 2011.
    Seth Opinion – The Twins are using a lot of the same adjectives to describe Dozier that they did when Joe Mauer came into spring training 2004 as a 20-year-old starting catcher who had not yet played in AAA. Dozier is older and has a lot of the same qualities. His possibility of making the opening day roster is only as a starter which would mean that either Jamey Carroll or (more likely) Alexi Casilla would move to the bench. There’s enough discussion to say that this is not a legitimate possibility.

    PEDRO FLORIMON

    • Age: 25
    • 40 Man Roster: No
    • Must Start: No
    • Positions Played: SS, 2B
    • Offense: .267/.344/.396 at AA Bowie (Orioles). 27 HR in 2,428 career plate appearances. Played in four games for Baltimore in September. Went 1-8 with a walk and six strikeouts. He had a double and two RBI.
    • Defense: smooth, flashy defender with good range and a strong arm. Probably the top defensive shortstop in the mix.
    • Spring Training Stats: .188/.316/.250 (3-16) with a double, three walks and two strikeouts
    • Other Information: Might be the best option if the Twins want a backup shortstop behind Jamey Carroll. He is a free-swinger who did have several extra base hits last year.
    Seth Opinion – He is a pretty solid shortstop, very good defensively although prone to make silly errors. Probably the weakest of the bats on this list but his role would be primarily defense. Although he profiles more as a utility guy, he did show enough with the bat at AA a year ago, that he should also get some every day work in Rochester.

    MICHAEL HOLLIMON

    • Age: 29
    • 40 Man Roster: No
    • Must Start: No
    • Positions Played: 3B, 2B, SS, LF
    • Offense: .231/.326/.416 between AA (97 games) and AAA (29 games). 18 home runs.
    • Defense: average all over with glove
    • Spring Training Stats: .500/.526/.688 (8-16) with home run, two walks and three strikeouts
    • Other Information: The switch-hitter was the Twins 49th round pick in 2003. He later was drafted by the Tigers and hit .261 with two doubles, a triple and a home run in just 25 plate appearances with Detroit in 2008.
    Hollimon and his bat have certainly been a story the first couple of weeks of spring games, but we will find out a lot more about him in the next week or two when he gets more at bats against big league pitchers. I think he could handle the utility role, and he has as much power as anyone on this list.

    CHRIS PARMELEE

    • Age: 24
    • 40 Man Roster: Yes
    • Must Start: Yes
    • Positions Played: 1B, RF
    • Offense: .287/.366/.436 in AA New Britain. Hit .355/.443/.592 with six doubles and four home runs in 21 games with the Twins in September. He has 84 home runs in 2,663 minor league plate appearances.
    • Defense: getting there with the glove at 1B
    • Spring Training Stats: .308/.400/.577 (8-26) with a double and two home runs.
    • Other Information: Left-hander has shown power in minimal big league time last September and this spring. Promoted straight from AA New Britain.
    Seth Opinion - His role with the Twins in 2011 seems to be directly tied to the health of Justin Morneau, or to Ryan Doumit to a lesser degree. I remain skeptical on what type of hitter he is. I’d like to see him get a half season in Rochester to find out if the power is legit or not.

    Terry Ryan has also said a couple of times that it is possible that the Twins would look outside the organization for a utility infielder. I could be OK with that as well, as long as the Twins wouldn’t have to give up a prospect to get it.

    Here is how I would rank these players’ likelihood of making the Twins Opening Day roster (assuming health all-around) as of right now. I am putting in this order with the hope that two of these guys make the roster while the Twins go with just two catchers.

    #8 – Brian Dinkelman
    #7 – Chris Parmelee
    #6 – Ray Chang
    #5 – Michael Hollimon
    #4 – Brian Dozier
    #3 – Pedro Florimon
    #2 – Terry Ryan acquires a utility infielder from outside the organization.
    #1 – Sean Burroughs

    This article was originally published in blog: Ranking the Twins Bench Options started by Seth Stohs
    Comments 26 Comments
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Nice write-up, and I agree with your rankings. Burroughs hasn't done much to blow anyone away this spring, but he's been taking good at-bats and Gardenhire would love to have a guy who can come off the bench late and give a good professional AB.
    1. J-Dog Dungan's Avatar
      J-Dog Dungan -
      I think you have a pretty good list here, but if Hollimon keeps hitting like he has, do you think there is a chance they take him north? Better question, what are the chances that Hollimon keeps hitting as well as he has, and has he faced any tried and true MLB pitchers, or is he usually out when the less-likely-to-get-to-the-Majors bullpen arms come out?
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I think his track record and 2011 season numbers say he isn't going to hit .500... but since he'll likely only get another 20 plate appearances, it's possible that he keeps hitting through that period. It's the beauty of small sample.
    1. roger's Avatar
      roger -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      Nice write-up, and I agree with your rankings. Burroughs hasn't done much to blow anyone away this spring, but he's been taking good at-bats and Gardenhire would love to have a guy who can come off the bench late and give a good professional AB.
      I will second that!
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      Good write up Seth. I am a bit confused with still having 6 middle infielders in camp. I wouldn't think there are enough AB's for them all. I agree that Dozier should be starting somewhere, and since he is still in camp, he must be in the running for the starting SS job. Otherwise he is taking AB's to no purpose because Gardy and his staff should of seen enough to know what he is.

      I am also surprised that Chang, Florimon and Hollimon are all still in camp. I would think you would pick 2 and let them compete for the backup job.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Fair question, but they aren't losing a whole lot of at bats. A couple more will likely be sent down to minor league camp late this week or early the following week. The starters aren't getting full games every day. I don't see any harm. If Dozier is not the opening day SP, then it's possible that one of those three (or someone from outside the organization) takes that final roster spot. Gardy needs to see them. Terry Ryan probably needs to see them too.
    1. whydidnt's Avatar
      whydidnt -
      I think Burroughs and Holliman are similar offensively (not good, but not Nishi like either), so I'd keep Holliman, just for his positional flexibilty. He's 29 and certainly nothing more than a ML bench player, but I'd like to see them give him a shot. Burroughs really hasn't looked good at 3B so far in ST, and has a reputation has a mediocre fielder. He's not going to hit much, based upon his track record so where's his value?

      I really don't think Ryan is going outside the organization at this point for a utility guy. We've got too many potential players in camp and fairly set IF. I think if he really thought they could contend this year they might bring someone else in, but at this point what are they going to gain?
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      I think going outside the organization will be a mistake... They already went outside the organization for a utility infielder, but just handed him the starting SS role.

      Burroughs has been from average to below average on the field, but seems to be picking up some steam with the bat. Will be an interesting ST to watch
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      I'm not sure why the team would go outside the organization either, unless they plan on getting a long term solution for 2B or SS. Utility infielders are a dime a dozen. None are going to be a significant upgrade to the current options, the nature of the backup infielder demonstrates that they are already a substandard major league option to begin with. In school, no one argues with the teacher to try to improve their grade from a D to a D+, it's just not worth the effort.

      On a side note, with questions about Carroll's range (and age) why did the team so adamantly stick him at SS and Casilla at 2B? Casilla has never proven to be a poor SS and he seems to be more comfortable there offensively. Last year his OPS was 67 points higher when he played SS, his carreer OPS is 55 points higher at SS than it is at 2B. And if the Twins though JJ Hardy's range hurt the groundball pitchers, what's going to happen when they expect Valencia to make up the ground that Carroll can no longer reach? Carroll would be much more useful at 2B. I must be missing some obvious issue because this current arrangement seems illogical and I have heard absolutely no discussion on a switch.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      I have heard Ryan say (over years) that Casilla's best position is 2B. Apparently Gardenhire agrees with that. While Casilla probably has better range than Carroll, it seems like we are looking at a short term situation here. The Twins seem to be looking at Dozier as the medium term answer at short. They seem to think it will be his position at some point(now, this year, beginning of next year) and that he will be able to hold it for awhile.

      If that is the case, and if you believe Casilla is at least a medium term answer at 2B, using Carroll as a short term answer at SS and maybe a longer term anwer at utility man, makes sense.

      Obviously, many people don't think Casilla is an answer to anything, and some don't think Dozier will be able to play major league SS. I would like to see the Dozier/Casilla combination but I doubt it will survive more than a couple of years.
    1. tharasix's Avatar
      tharasix -
      I agree that Casilla is a defensive liability at SS. This time a year ago there was much discussion about the Twins handing him the starting SS job when he had done little to deserve it based on the performance from previous years. Through the beginning of the 2011 season, he did little to prove those concerns wrong. I'd love to see Dozier make it and put Carroll or Casilla on the bench.
    1. WJ's Avatar
      WJ -
      I'd go with the two youngest guys on your list. The conventional wisdom seems to be that Dozier won't make the roster as a utility player because he needs to play everday in order to learn. I would hope the Twins pick a utility player that is ready to play at the major league level right now. He doesn't have to be the finished product, of course, but at least competent defensively. So, either Dozier is ready or he isn't. If he's ready right now, whether he starts or sits on the bench should depend on the other infield options on the 25-man roster.
    1. Ultima Ratio's Avatar
      Ultima Ratio -
      With Plouffe and Hughs as locks, I take Burroughs and Hollimon. One attribute the must be looked at with this group (and sadly absent here) is pinch running. You've got to have one bench guy for PR purposes. Who's the best base-stealing threat, fastest, best base-running awareness of this group. Also, I cannot endorse taking a waiver option (so I don't) until you know whom the waiver guy is and what he brings to the plate (pardon the pun). You can only evaluate real options at this point. And last, the landscape will arrange itself in the next two weeks for most of these guys with increased PA and PA against MLB pitching. If someone could put together that potential waiver list, that would be fun to see.
    1. Ultima Ratio's Avatar
      Ultima Ratio -
      I don't want to see Butera or Towles head north. There is no apparent need one can demonstrate for why three catches are necessary especially if/since one of the three is as bad as our third man options.
    1. chaderic20's Avatar
      chaderic20 -
      Sounds like I might be in the minority here, but I think the Twins do need to take 3 catchers north. Given Mauer's and Morneau's injury history you can be sure that there will be many times that both Mauer and Doumit will be in the lineup at the same time in some combination of C and 1B/OF/DH. When that's the case, we will need to have a 3rd catcher on the roster in case either of them needs to come out of a game.
    1. SweetOne69's Avatar
      SweetOne69 -
      Quote Originally Posted by chaderic20 View Post
      Sounds like I might be in the minority here, but I think the Twins do need to take 3 catchers north. Given Mauer's and Morneau's injury history you can be sure that there will be many times that both Mauer and Doumit will be in the lineup at the same time in some combination of C and 1B/OF/DH. When that's the case, we will need to have a 3rd catcher on the roster in case either of them needs to come out of a game.
      The only real reason to carry 3 catchers is to cover the scenario where both Mauer and Doumit both have to leave the game. Other than that situation, the worst case scenario with only 2 catchers results in the forfeiture of the DH for the remainder of the current game. After the game a replacement catcher can be called up if needed.
    1. Dilligaf69's Avatar
      Dilligaf69 -
      I agree there is enough internal options...no need to go outside the org IMO. The best bet is probably Burroughs. I would go Dozier at SS, Carroll at 2B and lexi as the utility...no he does'n't play 3b but you have Hughes for that although neither him or Valencia is a great defender. Either way it's probably best to get Dozier some AB's in AAA and get him up here by June.
    1. SweetOne69's Avatar
      SweetOne69 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ultima Ratio View Post
      One attribute the must be looked at with this group (and sadly absent here) is pinch running. You've got to have one bench guy for PR purposes. Who's the best base-stealing threat, fastest, best base-running awareness of this group. Also, I cannot endorse taking a waiver option (so I don't) until you know whom the waiver guy is and what he brings to the plate (pardon the pun). You can only evaluate real options at this point. And last, the landscape will arrange itself in the next two weeks for most of these guys with increased PA and PA against MLB pitching. If someone could put together that potential waiver list, that would be fun to see.
      I agree, Plouffe and Hughes can provide offense, they do need to consider a PR on the bench. To be honest I think the PR will be Revere some of the time as I see him and Plouffe platooning in LF.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      While I still think Matt Carson's power potential should be respected, I will accept this list as the possibles . . . but I would rank them:

      8. Dinkelman (no way). 7. Twins sign MI. 6. Parmelee. 5. Dozier. 4. Chang. 3. Florimon 2. Hollimon. 1. Burroughs.

      Having three catchers is stupid, which means they will probably do it. In that case, let's at least hope it is Towles.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      If they take 3 catchers: I would rank the bench options:

      1. Carroll (Dozier starting)
      2. Parmelee (Morneau DH and Doumit bench/OF)
      2. Rivera
      3. Towles
      4. Butera

      If they don't necessarily take 3 catchers, I would rank them:

      1. Carroll
      2. Hollimon
      3. Parmelee (Morneau DH)
      4. Rivera
      5. Burroughs (but his defense bothers me)
      6. Chang
      7. Dinkelman
      8. Florimon

      I don't see Benson making the team unless someone is injured.
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