Tuesday, March 20, 2007
The Twins gave their players the day off on Monday. They have been going every day for about a month. I think that a complete day off, where they don't even let the players get into the baseball complex is very smart. Now, they can head back to their "office" on Tuesday and hopefully be refreshed for the last two weeks of training camp.
So, two weeks to go before the get to face Erik Bedard and the Orioles. I thought it would be good to take a look at how the Twins roster is stacking up, who will be standing on the 3B line at the Metrodome on Opening Night. Some of this is pretty simple. Other position battles are a little more contested. However, it does appear that things are pretty close to being set. So, let's take a quick look and feel free to discuss in the Comments below.
Catcher - Joe Mauer - AL Batting Title winner. Recipient of a nice four year deal. I think he will be starting.
First Base - Justin Morneau - AL MVP - Twins first 30 home run hitter in 19 years. $4.5 million contract. I think he will be starting.
Second Base - Luis Castillo - Doesn't hustle too often. Looks hurt all the time. Final year of contract. Alexi Casilla will likely see plenty of time here when Castillo spends time on the Disabled List.
Third Base - Nick Punto - Plays hard... That's about all I've got. Corner infielder with no power who doesn't get on base too often. Does play a solid defensive third base though.
Shortstop - Jason Bartlett - Finally got the chance and started 99 straight games last year. He can hit, and he has great range and a very strong arm. Expect a big season.
Left Field - Rondell White - Last year was bad, but only the first half. Expect him to be a solid contributor throughout the year. Would be nice if he would walk once in awhile. Would be nice if he had a stronger arm in LF too.
Center Field - Torii Hunter - Had a huge June and a huge September. Normally he only has one hot month each season. Did he use up his 2008 good month in 2007? I kid. I'm sure he will have one good month again in 2008. I mean, it is a contract year. His defense has clearly taken several steps backward the last two years due to injury, but he is still respected and he has done a lot for the Twins organization in his dozen years with it.
Right Field - Michael Cuddyer - Many want to think that he will regress in 2007. They think he played over his head last year when he had triple digit homers and RBI. Some will remind you that he was not even a regular until May. I will add that he began by hitting 8th in the lineup for quite awhile too. He will be just fine!
Designated Hitter - Jason Kubel - Injuries have halted his career the last two years, but he will hit. Hopefully he can stay healthy this year because if he does, I predict a .300 average with 20+ homers and 80+ RBI. And, if he's doing that hitting 8th, the Twins will be just fine.
Summary - I know many believe that Mauer and Morneau could regress. In part, it is because they put up such good numbers. I don't' know if expecting anyone to hit .347 is fair when batting average is dependent on several things including number of bloopers that drop and number of line drives that aren't hit right at people. But his Isolated Discipline should continue to go up. Morneau was really bad the first six weeks of the season. Even if he isn't quite as great as he was the rest of the year, if he can just eliminate that bad stretch, he could put up similar numbers, maybe even 40 homers. Both are 25 and under, there is no reason to believe they can't get better. Michael Cuddyer gets to hit in between them which should give him plenty of opportunities. Health is the big key for both Rondell White and Jason Kubel. I think Kubel can be a star. I believe White can be a very solid contributor. Jason Bartlett hopefully will be hitting second soon. And Nick Punto... On-Base Percentage is the only number that matters with him. If he doesn't hit for power, that's fine. But if he's going to play 3B and not hit for power, he must find a way to get on base. Or we need to see more Jeff Cirillo!
Backup Catcher - Mike Redmond - Has been as good as it gets in backup catching the last two years. And because of it, he'll be here too more. Next in line - Chris Heintz.
Backup DH/3B/1B - Jeff Cirillo - Mashes lefties. A near-.300 career hitter. One of those 'veterans' that Gardy likes so much. Expect to see him get plenty of time at 3B.
4th Outfielder - Jason Tyner - essentially by default. Everyone thought he did so well last year, but if you look at the numbers, he didn't do much. He is solid defensively at all three positions and Lew Ford's second knee surgery give him this job.
Backup Middle Infielder - Luis Rodriguez - He has done everything asked of him this spring. For some reason the team does not believe that he can play SS. I don't get it. The other thing to remember... he hasn't even been given the opportunity to play SS this spring. But, because of the Alejandro Machado injury, L-Rod should be on the opening day roster. It shouldn't be a question any way.
Backup Corner Outfielder - Josh Rabe - Again, the Lew Ford injury makes this job open. Rabe can play all three outfield positions although we have really only seen him in LF. However, he has been in the minor leagues and in the organization long enough, that he would be just fine with this very limited role.
Summary - Redmond and Cirillo are solid. I'm still a big Luis Rodriguez supporter. Tyner and Rabe are more bit-parts, but they are backup OF in an OF where CF and RF are set, and Jason Kubel can also play LF. Rabe's spot could go several directions. Matthew Lecroy could get plenty of ABs in the next two weeks, but I just don't think he has much to offer any more. Want Power... Willing to take a lot of strikeouts... how about Garrett Jones? See some of the options... that's why I would go with Rabe.
#1 Starter - Johan Santana - Should be going for his fourth straight Cy Young Award, not just his second. The only question here is whether of not they'll extend his contract.
#2 Starter - Ramon Ortiz - Great in spring which, of course, means nothing. I have always liked Ortiz, regardless of the numbers he has put up the last couple of years. Call it a gut-feeling, but I think Ortiz will be just fine.
#3 Starter - Boof Bonser - Was bad in his first spring start. Has been just fine since then. Innings eater. Will get some strikeouts. Expect him to be about league average.
#4 Starter - Sidney Ponson - Here is where I start disagreeing with the Twins. It looks like Ponson will make the team. And, I guess I don't have a problem with that. $1 million isn't a lot, relatively speaking. I am fine with the Twins being patient with their pitching prospects. I think that does make sense. If Ponson can be near league-average, he is well worth the million dollars. If he's not, the Twins need to be quick in moving on.
#5 Starter - Carlos Silva - And, so many are opposed to Ponson being in the rotation, but many of the decisions surrounding Silva being in the Twins rotation have been questionable. Coming off a horrible season, the Twins picked up Silva's option for over $4 million for this year. That means, he's in the rotation. He has been horrible in spring, giving no reason to believe he has figured out any way to keep the sinker ball down. I know, spring numbers mean nothing and his contract means he starts the season in the rotation, but like Ponson, let's hope the hook comes quick if need be!
Summary - Uggh. Best pitcher, by far, in baseball, and a lot of big question marks after it. The fact is that Matt Garza, Glen Perkins and Kevin Slowey would all be better options that Silva and Ponson. Do any of us question that the three would put up better numbers over the course of the season? In reality, do any of us think that someone like Jeremy Cummings, Anthony Swarzak or even Mike Smith couldn't be just as good? However, like I said, I'm fine with being patient with rookies and pitchers. However, if the Twins brass feels that their best chance to win the division is with the young players, they need to call them up in May and June, rather than July and August, so that they can work through their nerves and such.
The Closer - Joe Nathan - Best in the league. Should they extend his contract too? It is nice having that sure-thing at the end of games.
RH Setup - Juan Rincon - definitely wasn't the same in 2006 as he had been the previous 2-3 years. Still solid. Throws hard. Nasty slider. Could he be dealt?
RH Setup - Jesse Crain - closer of the future? Signed a three year deal in the offseason. That strikeout rate went up again last year. He's still young and should just get better.
RH Setup - Pat Neshek - dominated AAA before coming up and dominating the big leagues. Can he duplicate those numbers? It'll be hard to do, but adding another pitch should make him even better!
LH Setup - Dennys Reyes - He was horrible from the time he debuted with the Dodgers in 1997 through the 2005 season with the Padres, and with six other teams in between. And then last year, he had a 0.89 ERA in 50.7 innings. Where did that come from, and is it possible he could do anything similar to it again?
RH Setup - Matt Guerrier - He has just done too well the last two years. He should be getting more important situations, but instead, he is fighting for a roster spot.
Summary - JD Durbin is the big question mark here. Remember up in the reserve section, I put Josh Rabe on the roster, assuming that the Twins will go with 14 position players and 11 pitchers. However, if they feel they don't need a 6th OF and extra hitter on the bench, both Guerrier and Durbin could make the team. The first four names on this list are the best in baseball. Reyes is still a question mark to me, but if he can even come close to his 2006, he will be vital again. Mike Venafro is another guy that I do think will surface with the Twins at some point during the season. I think that the JD Durbin situation needs to play itself out, whether that means a trade or putting him on waivers. But Venafro has had a very strong spring and deserves a shot. This is just such a tough bullpen to get into.
Francisco Liriano - It is important to keep Liriano in mind. His injury will cost him the entire 2007 season. However, his spot on the 40 man roster can be used once he is put on the 60 Day Disabled List. As my roster sits right now, Sidney Ponson and Josh Rabe would be the only two players that would need to be added to the 40 man roster. If he would make the team, Mike Venafro would have to as well.
Lew Ford - Ford has a roster spot as well because of his near-million dollar contract. He is a solid #4 outfielder, able to play all three outfield positions. How he recovers from surgery on both knees is a big question though.
Alejandro Machado - The Twins Rule V pick has not played in a game since the Concordia-St. Paul scrimmage because of shoulder pain. To me, this looks like the Juan Castro situation of 2006. Jason Bartlett did everything to earn the starting SS job out of training camp last year. Juan Castro was hurt in the WBC (where he also was horrible), play ed just six games in the spring and still won the SS job. As I mentioned, the Twins coaching staff seems to believe that Luis Rodriguez should not be a backup middle infielder. He has played well this spring. He has shown great plate discipline in the past. And yet, if Machado was healthy, even just for a few games in the next couple of weeks, I think that he would make the team as a backup middle infielder. Because of the injury, it is possible that Machado is put on the Disabled List so that the Twins don't have to return him.
So, what do you think of the roster? Much of it is not really a big question mark at this point, which is a good thing. There are a few positions being fought for in the last two weeks. Backup middle infielder, 4th and 5th start spots, the final spot on the bench and in the bullpen. That's about it. I'd love to hear your thoughts, so please leave some Comments below. If you prefer, you can also e-mail me.
Quick Former Twins Update
Jacque Jones - Cubs - CF - 2-5, HR (1), 2 Runs, 3 RBI
Casey Blake - Indians - 3B - 1-3, 2B
Aaron Fultz - Indians - RP - 2 IP, 6 Hits, 4 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
Luis Rivas - Indians - 2B - 0-0
Kenny Rogers - Tigers - SP - 5 IP, 3 Hits, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 K
Doug Mientkiewicz - Yankees - 1B - 1-3
Cristian Guzman - Nationals - SS - 2-4, RBI
Michael Restovich - Nationals - PH - 0-0, Run, Walk
Augie Ojeda - Diamondbacks -PH/SS - 0-1 (could he really make the team as Stephen Drew's backup)
AJ Pierzynski - White Sox - C - 0-2, RBI
Todd Walker - Padres - 2B - 1-3
Rob Bowen - Padres - C - 2-4, R
Shannon Stewart - A's - LF - 1-2
Grant Balfour - Brewers - RP - 1 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, BB, K
OK, that's it for today! Enjoy your Tuesday!|
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