The Minnesota Twins came into Spring Training following a successful off season where they were able to quietly add pieces to their already promising team to hopefully make their way to a division title. Players like Nelson Cruz, Marwin Gonzalez, Jonathan Schoop and C.J. Cron were all brought in to fill holes left in the lineup and add power to the lineup. With an already solid farm system, the Twins basically told their prospects (without actually saying it), that there wouldn’t be (much, if any) room on the main roster for them to start the year, thus alleviating any pressure they may have of making Opening Day for Minnesota.
That being said, it was a very interesting spring as many of the young players who were a part of the main roster looked confident at the plate and the mound, and nobody really did anything drastically awful. Here are a few of the standouts:
LaMonte Wade: 8/27, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 3 BB, 5 SO, .296/.375/.556
Wade did well for himself here. As I listed in my rankings back in January, he needed to adjust to pitching and limit his strikeouts. He did just that and tapped into some of his power. Not listed either is the fact that he also had four extra base hits this spring. He may have accelerated his big league call up with this performance, especially if he can stay hot in the minors.
Willians Astudillo: 9/38, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 0 BB, 0 SO, .237/.250/.421 (as of press time)
What a weird line for a guy who should have taken the bull by the horn when Miguel Sano went down with injury. The only positive here is that his competition for any spot is doing just as bad. Marwin Gonzalez (his 3B competitor), Mitch Garver and Jason Castro all have a combined nine hits amongst them and all look awful as well, so #AstudilloWatch is alive and kicking. I personally don’t put too much stock in Spring Training stats, and I do think that Castro is your Opening Day catcher, with Astudillo becoming, at best, a backup at 3B.
Nick Gordon: 6/20, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 1 BB, 6 SO, .300/.333/.450
The positive for Gordon was that he was able to sustain a good batting average (with two extra base hits), and play well defensively at 2B and SS, while exposing him to major league action. The negative, as is always the narrative with him, is the abundance of strikeouts and lack of plate discipline. Still, this was a nice little exposure to the big leagues, and hopefully he can take what he’s learned and prepare himself for the call up he’s probably receiving later this year.
Alex Kirilloff: 5/18, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 3 SO, .278/.278/.278
The Fort Myers Miracle stud (whom the club pumped on Twitter), did about what was expected of a guy getting a big league camp invite. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli and bench coach Derek Shelton made note that Kirilloff showed a keen sense of wanting to learn while at camp and took it very seriously. Alex would talk to members of the team, on and off the field, he would watch players and things when he was pulled from a game, and seemed very astute to the minor details. If he can translate that back to the minors and show that leadership there, he’s in for a fantastic 2019.
Brent Rooker: 4/22, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 0 BB, 12 SO, .182/.217/.545
Despite the ugly batting average, Rooker did well this spring as he was able to expose himself to major league pitching. After I posted a video of one of his home runs on Twitter, his former high school coach (Ryan Porter) reached out to me and we had a nice discussion. He said that in high school, Brent was reluctant to get more movement into his swing because he had always successfully relied on his own strength. Once Mississippi State got a hold of him, they were better able to reach into that power instead of a standstill. He was a great guy and it was nice to hear from him.
An oblique injury forced Lewis to miss major league action this spring, but he seems rather healthy now and actually doubled in his first at bat in a minor league spring game on March 13. He added weight to his frame this off season and looks ready for a promotion.
Stephen Gonsalves: 8.0 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 0 HR, 4 BB, 7 K, 5.63 ERA, 1.75 WHIP
It was a nice chance to show what he has, and unfortunately for him, the results were mixed. He did flash a fastball that touched 93 mph more than once, and, despite surrendering a high WHIP, seems confident in what he’s been told by the team about what to work on. He’s probably getting called up for spot starts this year, especially since the back of the Twins‘ rotation is by no means solidified.
As we get closer to Opening Day, it’s worth reiterating that most of the minor league invites to camp were done to give the players major league exposure. It’s a confidence booster for sure for these players to be around the pros and either subject themselves to major league pitching or batters and learn from their experiences. Most of the roster has already been set in stone. Their potential Opening Day roster is (likely) as follows:
1B: C.J. Cron, Tyler Austin – both have power and both have had great Springs
2B: Jonathan Schoop – no doubt here as he was signed to replace Dozier
SS: Jorge Polanco – he did well last season upon his return and will start
3B: Marwin Gonzalez – at least until Miguel Sano returns, as they’re paying him to play
DH: Nelson Cruz – no explanation needed
C: Jason Castro, Mitch Garver – they’re paying Castro too much to be a bench player, and Garver is better suited behind the plate
After that, I’m not sure where that leaves those trying to crack the roster. However, if anyone from the above proposed lineup struggles or gets injured, you can be sure that the Twins have a ton of talent waiting to help out.