One thing that I like to do when looking at and evaluating prospects is to forecast opportunity. I like to look ahead at who could be blocking a prospect’s opportunity for promotion, whether it’s in the big leagues or in a different level within the minor league system. I think it’s important to do because it gives perspective into some long term thinking from the side of management as to when a player’s major league playing time could realistically begin. With that in mind I thought I’d look at the Minnesota Twins and give some early projections into playing time going into next season.
Mitch Garver: #1 catcher
Jason Castro: Free Agent
Willians Astudillo: Bench
C.J. Cron: Third year arbitration
What this means: The Twins have some decisions to make here at 1B. Do they move Sano over to 1B and let Cron walk? Do they sign a UFA? I believe their long term plan is to test Alex Kirilloff at 1B to start 2020 in the minors and see how that goes. If he adjusts nicely, they can ease him into that role for the second half of 2020. Having 1B eligibility is a nice bonus to have for Kirilloff owners.
Jonathan Schoop: Free Agent
What this means: There’s no guarantee that Schoop comes back. If he does, he will likely start the year at 2B. Having that probably means that Luis Arraez continues his role of shuffling himself around a few positions, all while leading off. One situation that could arise is giving Arraez the full-time gig, utilizing someone like Marwin Gonzalez as well to play everywhere, and then giving someone like Nick Gordon a shot to sit on the bench and get some opportunities. However, this is a small chance situation in my opinion, as Gordon, despite making progress, is losing time and chances to prove his worth.
Jorge Polanco: Starting SS
What this means: After the amazing season Polanco had as their starting shortstop, there’s no need for the Twins to rush anyone up to the big leagues. Royce Lewis is your next in line for 2021, at the earliest.
Miguel Sano: Second year arbitration
Sano seemed to right the ship after a deep demotion to get things to where they should be. As I mentioned above, the Twins have a big decision to make about their infield this season that could have minor league ramifications. There are no impactful corner infield minor league bats ready to help the Minnesota Twins in 2020.
Byron Buxton: Starting CF
Max Kepler: Starting RF
Eddie Rosario: Starting LF
What this means: The starting OF is all but set in stone. Nobody there is fearful of losing their jobs. However, the reserves are not close to being set. LaMonte Wade Jr played better than his stats would indicate, Ian Miller is no guarantee to make the big league club and Ryan LaMarre probably finds himself on another team. That means either free agency or a look to their minor league system, which is ripe with players ready to go. If Kirilloff doesn’t end up at 1B, look for him to get the call after a month or so. You know my feelings on him, he’s a top prospect ready to impress. Keep an eye on Brent Rooker too, who has some pop in his bat. Finally a dark horse would be Luke Raley, but he’s not as talented as the ones stated above. Any of those could speed up a Travis Blankenhorn promotion to AAA.
What this means: Like a fine wine……..
Jose Berrios: SP1
Kyle Gibson: Free Agent
Martin Perez: Team Option in 2020
Michael Pineda: Suspended
Devin Smeltzer: SP4
Brusdar Graterol: SP???
Randy Dobnak: SP???
Jake Odorizzi: Free Agent
Sean Poppen: Injury to end year
What this means: As you can see by the many names above, the Twins altered their starting rotation many times and went with a lot of names. It’ll depend on how the Twins feel after being dominated again by the Yankees. Do they look at this year as a stepping stone and be happy with their progress, keeping things status quo? Or do they feel like they need to make a major move to change the end result? Berrios is a lock to start. Jake Odorizzi had a career year and will look to be paid. Since the Twins are probably OUT on big name free agent pitchers, Odorizzi will likely stay. Smeltzer did well upon his call up, as did Dobnak. Martin Perez, after his suspension, will probably have to find a new home. I could see the Twins moving on from Gibson too. My prospective fantasy perspective is to keep an eye on the final two spots in the rotation. Dobnak, Graterol and Smeltzer will likely be fighting for 1-2 spots combined. However, the takeaway from this should be that all 3 have back end rotation potential for 2020. Finally, closely monitor Stephen Gonsalves as he returns from a major injury in 2019.
Tyler Duffey: Arbitration eligible
Zack Littell: Bullpen
Trevor May: Bullpen
Taylor Rogers: Second year arbitration, closer
Sergio Romo: Free agent
Cody Stashak: Bullpen
What this means: Do they stick with what they have and make minor additions? Do they go after another closer who is a righty instead of Rogers? I think the Twins stick with what worked for them. Their bullpen was solid for most of the season. I could see the “losers” of the Dobnak/Graterol/Smeltzer SP trio getting time to pitch in the bullpen, but there doesn’t seem to be many changes on the horizon. Romo was a half year piece for them that can be replaced. Watch for Fernando Romero to put things together and get a legitimate shot. Another round of Lewis Thorpe at Rochester could elevate his stock going forward too.
I realize that it is early in the game to fully predict the changes that the Twins might make, but it’s fun and informative to speculate on what could happen, all while keeping an eye on minor league promotions and moves. The biggest mover and shaker within their system is Kirilloff for reasons stated above, while the back end of their rotation will be the most interesting competition.