The Minnesota Twins have clinched a playoff berth. No surprise there. With just four more games to play, we still don’t officially know yet who or where they will play, though I think most have accepted what is most likely. Who will be on the Twins 28-man roster for the first series? Let’s discuss.
Unlike “normal” seasons, the 2020 postseason roster will utilize a 28-man roster, as teams have done since the third week of this abbreviated season. However, no matter what the roster count is, the last roster spots always create some quality discussion.
The first thing that they’ll need to determine is how many hitters and pitchers they will want. Remember, the Wild Card series is a Best of Three series. For my purposes here, I am going to say that the Twins will go with 13 pitchers and 15 hitters. It’s very possible that they would go with just 12 pitchers for a short series as well.
The Hitters (15)
Catchers (3) - Mitch Garver, Ryan Jeffers, Alex Avila
Mitch Garver is being given opportunity here late in the season to regain his 2019 form, or something resembling it. Last night’s mammoth home run helps, of course. Ryan Jeffers also has earned a spot on the roster because he really came on strong in recent weeks too. Alex Avila is a terrific backup, and right now having a third catcher makes sense, especially since Garver and Avila are just recently back from their Injured List stints.
Infielders (6) - Miguel Sano, Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, Josh Donaldson, Ehire Adrianza, Marwin Gonzalez.
The only question here is if Luis Arraez is able to return. We learned on Tuesday that he sprained his ankle in an intrasquad game on Monday and needed a little more time. One would think the team would like to get him some at bats over the final four games of the season. But if he’s deemed healthy, he will be on the roster. No other surprises in this group.
Outfielders (4) - Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Jake Cave
Also, no surprises here. The Twins three outfielders have all impacted a few games of late, and Jake Cave has had some strong moments this year and in the past. He’s also been a pinch-running option for the team.
Designated Hitter (1) - Nelson Cruz
It certainly is concerning that Cruz hasn’t played for nearly a week with “minor soreness” in his knee and hip. The whole purpose of that is to make sure the MVP candidate is ready for the postseason.
That is 14 spots, so the team needs just one more hitter on the roster. Here are the candidates:
LaMonte Wade, Jr. - Wade has been on the big-league roster about half of the 2020 season. Early in the season, he didn’t get much playing time. Since his return, he’s provided solid outfield defense and done a nice job in a few games at first base. He puts together great at bats and gets on base which could be important in pinch-hitting duties.
Willians Astudillo - Do the Twins need a fourth catcher? No. But in talking about the final ‘hitter’ spot on the roster, Astudillo might make sense as a pinch hitting option.
Travis Blankenhorn - Blankenhorn can play second base, third base, first base and a little in the outfield. A depth piece, he could pinch hit or pinch run.
Royce Lewis - Since we’d be looking for players to fit certain roles, the team could use a speed guy. The speediest of options would be Royce Lewis. Could he make his MLB debut in the playoffs in a late-inning pinch-running situation? I'm "voting" for Lewis because I think that is a role that could be most useful to the team in a short series. Of course, my 'vote' doesn't hold much weight.
The Pitchers (13)
Starters (3) - Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios and either Michael Pineda OR Rich Hill
I think we can all agree that Kenta Maeda and Jose Berrios are going to be in the rotation. Maeda starting on Wednesday lines him up perfectly for Game 1. Having pitched on Sunday night, Berrios may be more in line for a Game 3 start, which would be fine too. Two weeks ago, I think we mostly agreed that Pineda would be the logical, mayb easy, choice for the third starting spot. He’s been just fine, but so has Rich Hill who has been good in four of his past five starts and has a ton of playoff experience. My assumption is that one of the two will be the third starter, if needed, in the Wild Card series. The other could be left off the Wild Card roster, set up to start Game 1 of an ALDS series.
Long Relief (1) - Randy Dobnak
Because of the starter situation explained above, I think Dobnak can fill the role of long reliever. It’s an important role because, even with a deep bullpen, it would be good to not have to use up all of those arms in a blowout situation.
Relievers (7) - Taylor Rogers, Sergio Romo, Tyler Duffey, Tyler Clippard, Trevor May, Matt Wisler, Jorge Alcala.
While there may be questions about individual roles in the bullpen, these seven names are the Givens to make the playoff roster. Who will be the closer? What is the pecking order that Rocco Baldelli and Wes Johnson will use in the Wild Card series? Those are questions for other article. But there is no doubt that these seven will be on the roster (pending something happening over the next four or five days).
So, now we are at 11 pitchers which means we have room for two more pitchers. The candidates:
Cody Stashak - I think that last night’s impressive outing might be enough to push Stashak from On The Bubble to a lock. He hadn’t been as sharp since returning from a month on the IL, but he sure looked strong on Tuesday.
Caleb Thielbar - Another that should be a lock, but it might be more about which team they match up with and their lineup potential.
Devin Smeltzer - Really it depends on if the Twins might want a second long reliever. In a three-game series, if you feel like need two long relievers, you probably aren’t in a good situation, at all. Smeltzer would be a good option.
Jake Odorizzi/Homer Bailey - Both are options to fill a long-relief role. Bailey returned to the mound on Tuesday and looked good for three innings before not getting an out in the fourth. Odorizzi has been snake bit this season. But he was an All Star last year and could start on Sunday. If he does, he probably wouldn’t be able to pitch in the Wild Card round, but he could be the fifth starter in a later series.
Jhoan Duran - Why not throw a surprise name into this? Could Duran make his MLB debut in a playoff role too? Not likely, but worth spending a minute just thinking about what he (or Edwar Colina) could do in a relief inning or two for the Twins.
My non-counting votes would go to Stashak and Thielbar. Both are very deserving.
Of course, the Twins could decide to go with 14 pitchers and 14 hitters. That could be more likely in the next round when there are more games (if the Twins get there)... We’ll worry about that later though. Let's see how we feel after seeing a playoff game won... and then a playoff series won!