Monday, March 20, 2017

Roster moves and new roles

A  newsy weekend out of Twins camp. Let's start with the lesser stuff:

The closest thing to a surprise among those eight Saturday demotions is Mitch Garver, who was supposedly in contention for the backup catcher job. But he didn't get much playing time in exhibitions. Priority one among the catchers appears to be giving Jason Castro a chance to learn this pitching staff, and they are giving veteran Chris Gimenez a real opportunity to make the team as a non-roster invitee. Garver has plenty of options, and he has a future.

On to the more important decisions:

Nick Gordon was taken with the fifth overall pick in 2014. Tyler Jay was taken with the sixth overall pick in 2015. These decisions suggest that both were overdrafts.

Start with Gordon, He's been a shortstop, but the decision to have him start splitting time at second base suggests that the Twins are skeptical of his defense at short, particularly his arm. The problem with Gordon as a second baseman: He's not a strong enough hitter for the keystone. He has almost no power.

I keep coming back to this: The Twins have not signed and developed a quality shortstop since setting up operations in Minnesota in 1961. Their best homegrown shortstop in more than a half century was probably Pat Meares.

Jay is a lefty drafted out of college, one of the many collegiate relievers the Twins have drafted in the last three years or so. The idea was that Jay has the pitches to be a starter. But he didn't make it through a full season last year and only threw 83 innings, and the new regime has pulled the plug on that notion.

It's possible for Jay to shoot quickly to the majors as a relief pitcher. Indeed, when the Twins signed in in 2015, when they were in a pennant race, there was chatter that he could get to the majors that year.

But they didn't spend the sixth overall pick with the intent of getting a reliever, even if he proves the equal of Glen Perkins at his best. They took him with the intent of getting a quality starter. And the very next player taken was Andrew Benitendi, who will be the Red Sox' starting left fielder this year.

Deron Johnson, the scouting director whose name is on the decisions to draft Gordon and Jay, won't be making the decisions this June. The Gordon and Jay selections may have had something to do with that.

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