It’s all but a forgone conclusion that the Minnesota Twins are going to play in the Postseason following the conclusion of the 2019 Major League Baseball season. With a 5.5 game lead in the AL Central, a soft schedule still ahead, and representative of the most superior team in the division, getting there is part of the battle Rocco Baldelli’s club has all but accomplished. The question become centered around who makes that roster, and that’s where things get sticky.
In the last year of active roster expansion to 40 players Minnesota has taken full advantage. They currently have 36 players up with the big-league club, and Kyle Gibson is hoping to return from Ulcerative Colitis in short order. That means there’s more than 10 players who must be trimmed prior to the Postseason, and there’s only a few spots up for grabs.
As of right now, here’s how I see this playing out:
Catchers (2): Jason Castro, Mitch Garver
This duo should be considered a lock. They have combined to represent the most impressive production at the position in years, and Garver has been a walking bomba for much of the season. Playing into the platoon advantage, and both now providing adequate or better defensive skills, just about every ability is crossed off here. Willians Astudillo was fun early in the year, but he’s not much of a factor at this point.
Infield (7): C.J. Cron, Luis Arraez, Jonathan Schoop, Jorge Polanco, Marwin Gonzalez, Miguel Sano, Ehire Adrianza
Starting positions have been well established in this group for a while. Arraez has taken over at 2B for Schoop, but Jonathan provides a nice right-handed option and some pop off the bench. Gonzalez can play all over the place, and his flexibility has spelled Minnesota in multiple different ways over the course of the season. Sano and Cron are both locked in on the corners, and there shouldn’t be any surprises here.
Edit: Completely blanked in leaving out Adrianza. He has been exceptional for the Twins this year, and will provide both utility and a capably bench bat. He definitely makes the roster.
Outfield (4): Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Ian Miller,
There are zero doubts who the Twins starting outfield trio is when health is at its highest. Buxton remains somewhat of a wild card as he returns from his shoulder dislocation, and there’s always the possibility of the next malady that puts him on the shelf. After being left for dead early in the year, Jake Cave has played himself into a significant opportunity both down the stretch and into October. Kepler and Rosario are etched in stone as well.
Miller represents the first wild card on the roster. He was added to the 40 man and made a September call up for a reason. Speed is his asset, and he can play as a defensive replacement in the outfield. The Twins don’t run much, but Postseason baseball certainly provides unique opportunities. I’d think he’s got an inside track at a spot right now and having a guy like that is evidence of strong roster utilization.
Edit: With Adrianza being added, it's Cave that was redundant. While Miller can't provide the bat, he's as good or better of a defender and brings the speed option to the table. Jake has been great since Byron has been out, but he will be left off the Postseason 25man assuming Buxton is full go.
Designated Hitter (1): Nelson Cruz
One and only, Nelson Cruz. No surprise here, but the 39-year-old that has crushed all season will be expected to do the same in October. There’s previous World Series experience under his belt and Minnesota is certainly hoping for that to be of value for much of the youth on the roster.
Rotation (4): Jose Berrios, Michael Pineda, Jake Odorizzi, Martin Perez
In the Postseason you don’t need a five-man rotation. For a five-game series, you probably don’t even need a fourth starter. Minnesota finds themselves in a weird spot though. The ideal game one starter would be Jose Berrios, but he’s scuffled through August. His last start against the Red Sox didn’t provide strong results from a command perspective, but the stuff was back. He had regained velocity and missed bats. In a short series you could ask him to go twice, and on short rest, but that may be playing with fire.
Baldelli has got the best, and most consistent, production from Pineda this year. He represents a strong option for game two, and Odorizzi has flashed enough to lock down game three. Perez has been up and down most of the season, but he’s trending back towards the positive of late. He could be pushed to the pen or may represent a game four option if the Twins have one in hand.
Noticeably excluded from this list is homegrown talent Kyle Gibson. That’d be a pretty tough reality for the former 1st round pick to swallow, but illness may make that a reality. His ability depends almost entirely on how he rebounds from his sickness, and the effectiveness of the medication. If he can get back, and get right, in enough time then there’s probability he bumps someone from this foursome.
Bullpen (7): Taylor Rogers, Sergio Romo, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Sam Dyson, Zack Littell, Brusdar Graterol
Recently Cooper did a great job constructing an ideal Postseason pen for Minnesota at Twins Daily. I’d agree with him that the first four names above are all locks. Rogers is the closer, Romo was brought in for these moments, and both Duffey and May have worked their way into high leverage. Dyson should also be considered a lock, but that requires him to be healthy. He’s dealt with bicep issues since the trade from San Francisco and owns a 7.15 ERA through 11.1 IP with his new team.
That leaves two openings for Baldelli to decide on, and one was seemingly already made. When Brusdar Graterol was promoted to the 40 man roster a few days ago, it was with an eye on the Postseason. Yes, he’s still transitioning to bullpen life for now, and he’ll need to make sure he doesn’t pitch himself out of the opportunity, but this is the goal. Triple-digit heat coming in from the pen isn’t something the Twins have employed previously, and that could be a significant weapon in tight October games.
Choosing from a known commodity on the roster is a bit tougher but Littell looks to be the right option. Following the blowup in Tampa he’s been nothing short of exception. Across 19.2 IP he owns a 0.92 ERA and .675 OPS against. There’s strikeout stuff and the velocity plays into the upper 90’s. Ryne Harper and his curveball may be enticing, Lewis Thorpe as another lefty makes some sense, and Trevor Hildenberger with previous experience could be tempting as well. Having been passed over previously however, I think this is the spot that Littell gets and thrives.
We’re still about a month away from Postseason action, and so much can happen from both a health and effectiveness standpoint. I feel good about this 25-man group right now, but we’ll re-evaluate as things get closer.
This article originally appeared on Twins Daily and was re-shared on Bring Me The News as an affiliate story.