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Jeremy Nygaard

Organizational Roster Bubble

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Last week, I examined some trends the team has exhibited while drafting. This week, I’m going to look at the construction of both the MLB and AAA rosters.

Many people like to “project” what they think the Opening Day roster will look like. I’m no different. However, I’m also going to consider how past rosters have been put together coming out of the spring – at least at the highest two levels – to make an educated guess at what players, especially those currently in big league camp, will need to have a good spring to stick around in the Twins organization.

Every fall, at the conclusion of the season, I try to project where I think guys will start the next year. It is pretty typical to for the organization to have around 225 total players. Or if you’d prefer to look at it as 200 minor leaguers, that works too. Last year, the Twins released between 15-20 players in the spring. This year, I think it’s a fair belief to think that number inflates to the 25-30 player range. Currently, I have the organization at 250 players, but by no means do I believe that to absolutely accurate. I do think its pretty close though.

We’re going to take a position-by-position look and see which players are fighting for their organizational lives – not only at the higher levels, but also some of the lower level guys on the “organizational roster bubble”.

We’re going to try and fit these guys on the MLB (25-man) and AAA (24-man) rosters, but the disabled list provides for a little bit of wiggle room. So while the target is 49, we’re going to end up with a number a little bit more than that.

CATCHERS
Background: I was actually very shocked when I realized the Twins have released or not brought back seven catchers from this time last season. They’ve also converted a few (now pitchers) while only adding one through the draft and two through free agency. They still have 18 from Rookie ball up, so there will be some competition to stay on the roster, though the pre-season exodus of the four catchers we saw last year will not be repeated.

MLB: Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit and Drew Butera. I don’t think there is a lot of mystery here. Butera, having two options left, provides the club with some flexibility if they choose to use it.

That still leaves five catchers in camp and I believe they will be split between AA and AAA.

AAA: Danny Lehmann, J.R. Towles and Rene Rivera.

Chris Herrmann, and his ability to catch and play outfield, could play his way into the AAA conversation, but I believe he starts in New Britain. Dan Rohlfing, who has half a season of AA experience, will likely join him there.

Roster Bubble: If Herrmann starts the season at AAA (which is possible), either Rivera or Towles will have to go. Towles is expected to push Butera for the 3rd catching spot in Minnesota, so I think that puts Rene Rivera on the organization roster bubble. That would leave two catchers per level, but also six in Extended Spring, which may be too many (especially after adding a few in the draft) once the short seasons start. I think that leaves players such as Jairo Rodriguez and Matt Parker on the roster bubble as well.

FIRST BASEMEN
Background: As recently as 2009, it appeared that there wouldn’t be a need at first base for the foreseeable future. Well, a few blows to the head of the MVP first baseman plus an avoidance to the position in the draft equals an organizational weakness.

MLB: Justin Morneau. I really believe that when Morneau isn’t the first baseman, Joe Mauer will be. Rotate the M&M boys and Doumit through the C, 1B and DH positions, pray for no injuries (would that be a miracle?!) and hope for the best.

I actually really like the depth at this position with what remains in camp.

AAA: Chris Parmelee, Aaron Bates and Steve Pearce. In an ideal world, there would be no need to keep three first basemen on the AAA roster when one is a prospect who will need to play every day. The fact that Parmelee and Pearce could both steal some innings in the OF allows for a little flexibility; however, the long and the short of it is that the Twins need to have backup options lined up in case there is an big-time, big-league emergency.

Roster Bubble: Adding Indi-baller Chris Colabello to the mix likely means a Collabello vs Nate Hanson roster battle in AA. There is also a Kennys Vargas-sized hole in the lower levels while he finishes up his suspension. That will force the Twins to get creative in their roster shaping in Beloit when the team breaks camp.

MIDDLE INFIELDERS
Background: These positions are dysfunctional enough that they have to be lumped together. I think that sums it up nicely.

MLB: Jamey Carroll, Alexi Casilla, Luke Hughes and Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Hughes will probably see time at every infield spot besides shortstop. Nishioka could be sent down, but that would inhibit the ability to get good looks at guys that might actual be able to help.

AAA: Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon, Ray Chang and Michael Holliman. Dozier has 350 plate appearances above A-ball, but will be given every shot to be the everyday SS in Rochester.

Roster Bubble: Is there room on the Rochester roster for Ray Chang and Mike Holliman? I think Chang will stick, but Holliman, who would have never made it through the year last year if not for all the injuries, is definitely on the roster bubble. Chris Cates, the shortest player in professional baseball, also will need a good spring.

THIRD BASEMEN
Background: The future of 3B will be debuting in Beloit this year.

MLB: Danny Valencia. Last year, there was no disputing that Valencia would be the starting 3B. But after the sophomore slump, there may be a little doubt. Luke Hughes will probably get some starts and don’t sleep on Sean Burroughs.

I think the best thing for Valencia is to know that he’s being pushed. That will keep Burroughs in AAA and a phone call away.

AAA: Burroughs. Ray Chang also brings some experience at 3B to the roster.

Roster Bubble: While there isn’t anyone high on the prospect radar until you get to Miguel Sano, there still are a number of third basemen on the roster. I would think it’s fair to say that Reggie Williams, Andrew Leer and Roy Larson are on the roster bubble.

OUTFIELDERS
Background: Even with the loss of Kubel and Cuddy, this is still the deepest position in the organization. There are eleven in big league camp and another that is in the mix for Rochester’s roster.

MLB: Denard Span, Josh Willingham, Ben Revere and Trevor Plouffe.

As much as I would like to see Revere get some substantial time at AAA, it appears he’ll be the almost-everyday left fielder. Plouffe will be the 4th OF and potential corner infielder.

In my opinion, the AAA (and AA) outfield is going to be the most interesting storyline in the shaping of the rosters this spring.

AAA: Rene Tosoni, Dustin Martin, Brian Dinkelman. Darrin Mastroianni, Matt Carson, Wilkin Ramirez are all in the mix, as is Joe Benson, who for now, I project to start at AA.

Oswaldo Arcia will be a future starter, but will probably start the year in Fort Myers.

Roster Bubble: I really consider Martin, Dinkelman, Mastroianni, Carson and Ramirez all on the bubble. There are two (maybe three) spots for these five guys. If Benson starts at Rochester, now you’re talking about one spot. I like Dinkleman because of his versatility. I am also intrigued by Ramirez, who is still relatively young. Further down the line guys like Mark Dolenc, Wang-Wei Lin, Jonathan Goncalves, Kelvin Mention and Drew Leachman could all find themselves in the roster crunch.

We’re going to look at pitchers a little bit differently…

STARTING PITCHERS
Background: Last year was a terrible year for the starting pitchers and right now, 80% of the projected rotation is coming into a contract year (three FAs and an option). To make matters worse, there isn’t a lot of help on the horizon.

MLB: Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Jason Marquis, Nick Blackburn. Brian Duensing and Anthony Swarzak could be stretched out, if needed.

AAA: Liam Hendriks and Scott Diamond are the only two I’m ready to pencil in right now.

RELIEF PITCHERS
Background: The Twins literally brought in a boat load of guys to see if they can help contribute to a bullpen that isn’t considered the worst in the league.

MLB: Duensing, Swarzak, Matt Capps, Glen Perkins, Joel Zumaya. That leaves two spots.

AAA: Carlos Gutierrez, Deolis Guerra, Kyle Waldrop, Lester Oliveros, Jeff Manship, Tyler Robertson can also be penciled into the AAA bullpen.

Doing some quick math, that leaves two major league spots and two to three AAA spots. Counting up the pitchers competing for these spots are 15 in big-league camp and up to nine guys in minor league camp. It doesn’t take a mathematician to know that getting from 24 to five will require some deep cutting. Chances are the Twins will stash a handful of guys on the disabled list, but we’ll still need to get rid of close to 15 guys.

Alex Burnett will most likely make the big club. Terry Doyle, a Rule V acquisition remains likely to make a team. Daryl Thompson will likely have a spot in Rochester’s rotation.

Roster Bubble:
Everybody else is on the roster bubble, here’s my list in order of sticking in the organization:
Phil Dumatrait – a familiar name, one of the few lefty options for the AAA bullpen.
Jeff Gray – on the 40 and out of options, could be a good guy to have around.
Jared Burton – has a shot to break camp with the big club.
Jason Bulger – has a shot to break camp with the big club.
Luke French – starter who will compete for a chance in Rochester’s rotation.
Steven Hirschfield – will remain in the organization in AA.
Brett Jacobson – will remain in the organization in AA.
Cole Devries – will compete for a Rochester ‘pen spot; New Britain likely.

On the outside looking in:
Matt Maloney – on the 40 and out of options, could be a back of the bullpen-type guy.
P.J. Walters – starter who will compete for a chance in Rochester’s rotation.
Esmerling Vazquez – recently passed through waivers, doesn’t look good.
Anthony Slama – fighting for a chance to make the Rochester bullpen.
Sam Deduno – fighting for a chance to make the Rochester bullpen.
Casey Fien – fighting for a chance to make the Rochester bullpen.
Luis Perdomo – fighting for a chance to make the Rochester bullpen.
Aaron Thompson – fighting for a chance to make the Rochester bullpen.
Brendan Wise – fighting for a chance to make the Rochester bullpen.
Brad Thompson – fighting for a chance to make the Rochester bullpen.

Some other guys fighting the number squeeze: Spencer Steedley, Blake Martin, Michael Tarsi, Edgar Ibarra, Tobias Streich (converted C) and Jhonathan Arias (converted C)

Summary: If you do that math, you’ll notice that we have 48 players on the MLB or AAA rosters before the list of eight pitchers I think will stick around. Take the three pitchers away I think will be at AA and we’re at 53. That allows for a little wiggle room. But overall I think it’s a pretty good snapshot.

Next week we’re going to take a look at some college players who appear to be Twin-type guys.

Jeremy Nygaard is the co-founder of ManCenter.com.

Updated 02-25-2012 at 02:46 PM by Jeremy Nygaard

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