Monday, February 20, 2017

Roster spot competiton

Saturday was the full-squad reporting date for the Twins, and all 61 were in Fort Myers on time: The 40 on the major league roster and the 21 non-roster invitees.

Let's assume that

  • the Twins open with a 12-man pitching staff (likely) and
  • there are no trades or injuries (not likely).

What are the position player spots that need a spring-training decision?

Start with a list of givens:

Regulars: Jason Castro, Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier, Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler.

Add to this Eduardo Escobar and Jorge Polanco, one as the shortstop and the other as a backup infielder. (Polanco is out of options, and I'm pretty sure Escobar is too.)

That' accounts for nine of the 13 roster spots and eight of the lineup spots (missing the designated hitter).

One of the four remaining roster spots will go to a backup catcher -- one of the trio of Mitch Graver, John Ryan Murphy and Chris Gimenez. That leaves three.

The Twins will probably want a right-handed hitting backup outfielder who can fill in for Rosario or Kepler against lefties; Robbie Grossman had that job last year and hit well but fielded poorly. The Twins brought in some better defensive outfielders as NRIs, but Drew Stubbs and J.B, Shuck aren't the hitters Grossman is.

Grossman, a switch-hitter, might figure in the DH competition, as does Kennys Vargas, who apparently got an extra option year.

Danny Santana came up as an infielder, is listed as an outfielder, switch hits and doesn't do any of those things particularly well. His selling point is his versatility -- a fifth outfielder/four middle infielder in one roster spot -- but being a Grade D outfielder/infielder/hitter hurts. For any one role, the Twins have better choices available.

Contemplating the options turns into something of a Rubik's Cube.

Let's say Grossman is the standard DH. That leaves a bench of:

  • Backup catcher
  • Escobar/Polanco, whoever isn't playing short
  • Glove-oriented fourth outfielder
  • Unknown priority

If the Twins are comfortable with Grossman as the fourth outfielder, Vargas or Byung Ho Park could get DH at-bats and back up Mauer at first. That would create a bench of

  • Backup catcher
  • Escobar/Polanco
  • Grossman
  • Unknown priority

Unknown priority ... possibilities include Santana's low-level versatility or an extra infield glove man (Ehire Adrianza?) to support the questionable left side of the infield. They could take Vargas as the DH, keep a defense-first fourth outfielder and still keep Grossman.

The spring training competition for roster spots in some regards isn't as much about chosing the talent as about chosing the priorities. Molitor has a track record of prefering hitters. The new regime may push him in a different direction.

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