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Alright, it is time to start thinking about 2009. The 2008 season was an overwhelming success in most ways although it sure would have been nice to get one more win and be in the playoffs. But hopefully the Twins will use that loss as motivation for next year. Hopefully the players work even harder in the offseason to take steps forward. And hopefully the Twins front office works even harder this offseason to bring the Twins roster forward, to make it even better.
And that’s really what today’s posting is about, What would I do if I were GM Bill Smith and had to construct the Twins roster? It’s a job that we all would probably love, and yet, after last offseason, I think we should all appreciate the difficulties of the job. This year, there isn’t a $150 million pitcher that should be traded. There isn’t an over-30 outfielder that wants five years at $18 million each. However, that isn’t to say that there isn’t plenty of work to be done.
The team will face much higher expectations in 2009 and with that comes the need to improve. The front office needs to determine their areas of need. They need to evaluate their current big league lineup and which players will continue to improve, and which could regress. Which players could be used in trades and which are untouchable? It would be hard for the team to hit so well (over .300) with Runners in Scoring Position, and that’s just one way to look at how the Twins must improve to keep up.
I do need to point out that I have no way of knowing who the Twins would receive if certain players would be traded, so my roster will be comprised of players currently in the Twins organization with a couple of guesses as to other players they could (or should) acquire. But remember who the Twins were able to receive as part of trades in the last couple of years. So, I will present who I believe the Twins should have on their roster, then I will take a look at those that I really don’t think should be back.
So, here you go, position-by-position. Normally, I go with 14 position players and 11 pitchers. However, I think that there are several reasons that the Twins can (or need to) go with 13 position players and 12 pitchers… Seth’s Minnesota Twins 2009 Opening Day roster: (Note – some of the 2009 contract values are known, but many of the value projections are estimated.)
Position Players (13)
Joe Mauer - ($10.5 million) – Arguably the league’s MVP. What he did in 2008 was incredible! He won his second AL batting title. He was second among all AL catchers in innings pitched. His percentage of base stealers thrown out was not terribly high, but part of that is because so few people run against him. He came up huge in clutch situations, leading the AL in WPA (Win Probability Added). $10.5 million is more than fair. In fact, I would try my best to extend his current contract, which runs out after the 2010 season, for at least three more years (about $42.5 million?).
Mike Redmond – (0.95 million) – The Twins have until shortly after the World Series is complete to determine if they will pick up the $950,000 option for 2009. In my mind, it is an easy choice. First, he has been as good as any backup catcher throughout his Twins tenure. Secondly, there just isn’t a better option available in the organization. Who knows if Jose Morales will come back from his injuries? Could Drew Butera hit enough to warrant consideration as a backup? How far is Wilson Ramos from being ready? Those are questions that the Twins will likely have better answers for after another year. Until then, there are no concerns with Redmond. The only concern is who is the Twins #3 catcher should Mauer or Redmond get hurt?
Justin Morneau – ($10.6 million) – The 2006 AL MVP could be in line for his second MVP award. If he wins it, it will be controversial based on ending the season by going just 3-30. However, the MVP award is about the full season, and that is why I believe that Morneau is clearly a candidate, along with Mauer. It would be nice to see the power increased in 2009, as he hit just 23 this year. But he hit .300 and showed good plate discipline most of the season. Defensively, Morneau has come a long way and should be considered for a Gold Glove as well. He’s signed through 2013.
Alexi Casilla – ($440,000) – We likely expected too much from Casilla in 2007. He had moved up to the Twins late in 2006, all the way from Ft. Myers, but in reality, he was brought up to pinch run in the playoffs. So when given a shot in 2007, he showed that he had a long way to go. He went down to minor league camp early and really struggled to start the season in Rochester. He was really only promoted because of all the injuries. Geez, even Howie Clark was called up first! But when he came up, he got off to a very good start and played well right up until he injured his wrist. Most impressive was how calm he was at the plate. He stood at the plate and was willing to take pitches and hit with two strikes. Now, some may want him to move to shortstop and bring in a 2B. Personally, I prefer that Casilla stay at 2B. If my calculating is correct, Casilla will not be arbitration-eligible until after the 2010 season.
Matt Tolbert – ($410,000) – Tolbert is a younger version of Nick Punto. I think he is a little better as a hitter. He may not be quite as good defensively, although he does have the ability to play 3B, SS and 2B fairly well. He even dove into 1B once like Punto and that stupid decision cost him about four months of this season. So, you basically have a Punto clone, who will make about $2.5 million less in 2009. Sounds like a pretty easy idea which one you would keep around, doesn’t it?
Adrian Beltre – ($12 million) – I spent much of late July saying that I didn’t think that the Twins should go after Adrian Beltre if the Mariners were insisting on acquiring one of the Twins five young starters and more. I have to say that I still agree. If the Mariners are unwilling to trade Beltre for a group of two or three second tier prospects, then I am more than happy to put Luke Hughes in this category. What am I looking for in a 3B acquisition? I want someone with a one year contract, and because of that, the dollars of the contract do not matter. Garrett Atkins is not real good outside of Coors Field. Kevin Kouzmanoff is OK, nothing great, but would be around for awhile. The reason… Luke Hughes and especially Danny Valencia. At least one of them will be ready to step into the Twins lineup by Opening Day 2010. With Beltre, you get a guy with 30 home run power. You also have a great defensive 3B, on par with Eric Chavez, circa 2003. Finally, Beltre had his best year in his free agent season with the Dodgers. Hopefully he could have another contract year with the Twins. When he leaves for big money after the season, the Twins can take those two draft picks in 2010, and replenish the system of those players dealt in the trade. My thought is that I would deal Anthony Swarzak, Boof Bonser and Jay Rainville (or an equivalent package) for Beltre.
Brian Buscher – ($440,000) – Buscher showed through his early time with the Twins in 2008 that he can be a solid hitter. He drove in a lot of runners early. Now, he did struggle the last month of the season, but I think he showed enough that he warrants a roster spot. It may just be a pinch hitting role if the Twins do acquire a regular 3B.
Ronny Cedeno – ($450,000) – This is probably a name that will get me bashed a little bit among readers, but it is a name that I happen to really like. Now, Cedeno was the Cubs starting shortstop through much of the 2006 season. He really struggled with the bat in his first full season. He actually spent much of the 2007 season at AAA Iowa where he hit .359/.422/.537 with 15 doubles and ten home runs. Now I do understand that is in the Pacific Coast League, but nevertheless, it is worthy of note. In 2008, he spent the season as the Cubs utility infielder. With Ryan Theriot as the Cubs shortstop, and Mark Derosa as their second baseman, I would target Cedeno. Would he have a huge impact on the Twins? Well, it would be unlikely he would become an All-Star. But he is known as being a very good glove, good range guy. There is the added bonus of maybe, just maybe, at age 26, he is ready to thrive in a full-time role.
Delmon Young - ($800,000) – Many were disappointed with the first year in Minnesota for Delmon Young. Was it his fault, or our fault? Were our expectations too high? And then let’s just take a step back and realize that he spent the whole year at 22 years of age and hit .290/.336/.405 with 28 doubles, ten homers and 69 RBI. When you consider that in the first two months of the season, he hit around .250 with just seven doubles and no home runs, he improved as the season went along. And if you compare his numbers to last year, he did improve. I fully expect him to take a big step next season. In the comments on this site within the last two weeks, someone compared Young’s numbers in his second season in the big leagues to those of Kirby Puckett in his second big league season. Puckett hit .288/.330/.385 with 29 doubles, 13 triples, four home runs and 72 RBI. Then remember that Puckett was 25 while Young was 22. Now, I’m not saying Young is about to become the next Kirby Puckett. But I definitely believe that he is worth building around. In reality, the Twins should also consider a four to five year deal with him now before he takes off in 2009. Time Allotment – 7 starts in 10 games in LF, 1 start at DH.
Carlos Gomez – ($450,000) – By hitting just .258 with a .290 on base percentage, and a sometimes wild and crazy swing, it was clear that Go-Go was anything but a leadoff hitter. Remember in the spring, he was certain that at some point, he would be hitting between Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Well, although it took about two months too long, Gardy finally moved Gomez to the spot in the batting order to best place his offensive skill… ninth! But let’s again not minimize just how young Carlos Gomez is. He won’t turn 23 years old for almost two more months. And, if we learned anything this year, it is that Gomez is a pretty incredible defensive centerfielder. In fact, he makes Torii Hunter look slow defensively. He made a lot of bad throws early in the season, but as the year progressed, he cleaned up most of those types of mistakes. Offensively, it is more than evident that the talent is there. Gomez exudes tools! Will they ever all come together? Will he ever hit for a solid batting average? Maybe. Will he ever be one to take a lot of pitches? Doubtful. Does he have the build and swing to eventually hit 20 or more home runs? Absolutely. If he can get on even 32% of the time, he could steal well over 50 bases in a season. Gomez needs to continue to play and get at bats (at the bottom of the order). He also needs to be out in CF most games. He also needs to bunt more. When he hit .299 with three homers and six steals in May, we were all ready to crown him the next coming. Then he hit .236, .220 and .238 in June, July and August and many were ready to give up on him. His month of September again gives us hope that he can be much more. Time Allotment – seven starts in CF every ten games, late inning Defense replacement in the other three.
Michael Cuddyer – ($6.75 million) – Unfortunately, so frequently fans subscribe to the whole “What have you done for me lately?” philosophy with players that get hurt. It really isn’t a very wise philosophy. In my mind, you don’t even look at the 2008 numbers of Michael Cuddyer. He was on the disabled list three times and missed significant time because of it. When he came back, it would take a week or so to get back into the swing of things and just as he was about to break out, he would get hurt again. So again, what he did statistically in 2008 should not be a factor in what you do with him in 2009. In my mind, you have to look at what he did between 2006 and 2007 when he did play healthy both years. In looking at batting average and on-base percentage, the numbers those two years were pretty close. There is a big different in slugging percentage because he hit 13 less doubles and eight less home runs. If he can be somewhere in the middle of those numbers, his run scoring and RBI production will sit in the middle too. That makes him a 90 run, 90 RBI type of right handed bat with power. For $6.75 million, I think you take that any year! Time Allotment – 7 out of 10 games in RF. 1 out of 10 games at DH. One game every two to three weeks at DH.
4th OF/Everyday Leadoff Hitter
Denard Span - ($440,000 million) – Sometimes the best thing to do is just admit that you were wrong. I’ve written several times that if Denard Span wants, I would be happy to eat some crow, prepared however he likes. What Denard Span did in 2008 for the Twins was shocking, and yet, when it goes this way, I am thrilled to be wrong. When Span came up the second time, he was a completely different player. He just looked like a major leaguer. His approach at the plate and plate discipline were incredibly impressive, and it took too long to install him as the team’s leadoff hitter. He really is the best pure leadoff hitter that the Twins have had since Chuck Knoblauch. And Span is not just some slap-hitter. He showed a lot of power whether it was the six home runs or all of the well-struck extra base hits. And speed? I really do think a race between Span and Gomez would be worth the price of admission. After never really having a very good stolen base percentage in the minor leaguers, Span stole 18 bases in 25 attempts. Defensively, he is a natural-born outfielder. He just makes playing the OF look so easy. Yes, there are the web gems. Yes, his range makes a lot of plays that others would not get to look easy. But he is just so smooth out there. That is why I believe he is the one Twins outfielder best suited to play all three outfielders in this scenario. Also, he seems so strong mentally that he would be able to handle it. I just think it is important that Span be considered the Twins every day leadoff hitter. Time Allotment – 3 out of 10 games in LF. 2 out of ten games in CF. 3 out of ten games in RF. Late inning defensively replacement in games not started. Again, sometimes it is great to be wrong.
As a side note – This scenario makes Jason Pridie a AAA outfielder and the Twins probably first call up should any of the four outfielders get hurt.
Jason Kubel – ($2.5 million) – The only thing that Jason Kubel needs to do is figure out how to hit in April and May! In April, he hit just .229. In May, he hit just .247. Although he hit for more power in the season’s first half, he was a far batter hitter overall in the second half. He also needs to figure out a way to hit a little better against left-handed pitchers. But it is interesting, he walks at a much better rate against left-handed pitchers than right-handed pitchers. So, is he more focused? Is he too patient? Is it too small a sample size? Jason Kubel hit 20 home runs, giving the Twins a second home run threat in the lineup. Kubel is in his second year of arbitration. In my mind, the Twins should try to work out a three year deal with Kubel with a fourth year option. Something like three years, $14 million with a $9 million option for 2012.
Starting Pitchers (5)
Scott Baker – ($500,000) – I think that Baker is right on the edge of maybe being a Super 2 arbitration-eligible after this season. If that is the case, I would expect him to make about a million dollars more than I’ve listed. In either case, I think a nice five year deal with a couple of option years would be about right if you ask me. I would offer a five year deal worth $21 million with a $0.5 million buy out with a $10 million option in 2014 and a $12 million option for 2015. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in Scott Baker. He went 11-4 with just a 3.45 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP. He doesn’t walk many and finds a way to get a lot of strikeouts. He is Brad Radke in terms of mannerisms and poise on the mound. But when it comes to stuff, Scott Baker has much more. Radke hit 90, maybe 91 if he really threw hard. Baker has two fastballs that act very differently, one with great movement, the other that hits 94! He also has a very good (not quite Radke-esque) changeup. He also has a very good curveball and slider, pitches that Radke simply did not have. I think that Baker is an All-Star waiting to happen, and a true ace for years to come. Plus, at 27, he is the elder statesman of the Twins rotation.
Francisco Liriano – ($500,000) – 18 months removed from Tommy John Surgery, Liriano threw a remarkable 199.1 innings in 2008 between the Twins and in the minor leagues. That is especially remarkable when you consider that those early starts with the Twins and Red Wings were pretty short. Having not thrown an inning since August of 2006, that was about as much as the Twins or anyone could have asked for him to do. Liriano went 6-4 with a 3.91 ERA in 14 starts with the Twins. After being recalled by the Twins on August 1st, Liriano went 6-1 with a 2.74 ERA. Opponents hit just .236 against him. In other words, he was back to being a very good major league pitcher. The scary thing for opposing teams is that Liriano was not quite back to 2006 form. It will be great for him to have a full offseason to just recover, rest and prepare for next season. Liriano will fall just shy of Super-2 eligibility, but I would again be more proactive in signing Liriano to a long-term deal. I think we all acknowledge that Liriano is more of an injury risk than Baker, but if the Twins want to continue to be competitive, having a 1-2 of Liriano and Baker at the top of a rotation is a great way to do that. To have them each pitching for less than market value allows the team to add other pieces. Like Baker, Liriano will be an All-Star again (remember, he was added to the All-Star roster late in 2006). However, Liriano is just 24 years old.
Kevin Slowey - ($440,000) – All I know is that if Kevin Slowey is your #3 starting pitcher, you are going to be a very solid major league baseball team. Slowey has drawn comparisons to Brad Radke and even Greg Maddux. Again, not sure the Maddux comparisons are fair to anyone, but earlier in the season, when he was just coming back from injury, I posted on several sites that I thought he would win 200 games in his big league career. Again, if someone like that is your #3 starter, you’ve got a chance every year! What we saw from Slowey in 2008 that we didn’t see in 2007 was more pitch selection and strikes with various pitches. Last year, we saw mainly just a fastball and secondary pitches that just weren’t working. In 2008, we saw a fastball with much better control. We saw a slider at 84-86 mph. We saw a slow curve in the mid-70s. The changeup in the low 80s was perfect speed. So we saw four big league pitches that he could use in any count. What we need to see as he progresses is just better and better control. Considering Slowey walked just 24 batters in 161 innings, it’s hard to say that control is the issue. The concern is control within the strike zone. It can be frustrating at times, as it was with Radke, to see 0-2 fastballs right down the middle hit for solid singles. But again, that will come with experience. He is just 24 years old.
Nick Blackburn - ($440,000) – I have to admit that Nick Blackburn far exceeded my expectations for him in 2008. He went 11-11 with a 4.05 ERA. (Note League Average ERA was 4.18) Considering he has remained true to his minor league form meaning very few strikeouts. He struck out just one batter every other inning. Fortunately, he only walked a batter approximately every six innings. He also gives up hits. The similarities to Carlos Silva are more than a little alarming. Blackburn has better fastball with a much more developed slider/cutter and curveball than Silva ever had. He has good movement that creates a lot of groundballs. I still believe that long-term, he may be best suited in the bullpen, maybe even in the back end of the bullpen, but what he did in 2008 should have people excited to see if he can improve upon it. What he did in his final start of the season tells us that when he’s on, he can be very good. He is already 26 years old.
Glen Perkins - ($440,000) – 12-4 with a 4.41 ERA. Not bad at all for a rookie in his first big league season as a starter. Perkins began the season in Rochester because the Twins wanted him to start. When Liriano’s struggles forced him back to AAA, Perkins came up and took his spot. The lefty from Stillwater and the U of Minnesota definitely got some run support on his way to the excellent record. Many will talk about his 7.45 ERA in five September starts. However, I have to point out that between July and August, he went 8-2 with an ERA of 3.63. For part of that time, he was the Twins best starting pitcher option. The fact that he put together a very strong 2008 is more impressive when you consider he threw all of 28.2 innings in 2007. I think there is a lot of reason to believe that Perkins will step up again in 2009 as a starter. Remember, he is still just 25 years old. One number that would have to be of concern though… in 2008, left-handed hitters hit .352/.437/.484 against him in 122 at bats. So Perkins was clearly the fifth of the five young starters that the Twins trotted to the mound, but there is plenty of reason to be excited about his future still.
Left-Handed Relief Pitchers (2)
Craig Breslow - ($420,000) – Did you know that in the Dome this year, Craig Breslow gave up just one run in 16.2 innings (0.54 ERA) over 17 games? Overall, he was 0-2 with a save and a 1.63 ERA. In 38.7 innings over 42 games, he walked 14 but struck out 32. The Twins have liked Breslow for quite some time, so when Cleveland took him off their 40 man roster after just seven games, the Twins happily claimed him, and he paid off. Not blessed with overpowering stuff, Breslow profiles as a LOOGY (Lefty One Out GuY). However, the Twins were not afraid to use him for an inning or sometimes two. Whatever role the 28 year old was put into, he succeeded.
Jose Mijares - ($400,000) – What a year for Mijares! Just to get back to AA this season after his broken elbow sustained in a car accident in Venezuela before spring training would have been a success. To have had Terry Ryan see him and tell Bill Smith that he could help the Twins in September made for a great story. The fact that it took Gardy almost two weeks just to get him into a game was unfortunate. The fact that he far exceeded anyone’s realistic expectations makes it a wonderful story. By season’s end, he was the team’s 8th inning guy and he did a tremendous job. And, he is just 23 years old still!
Right-Handed Relief Pitchers (4)
Jesse Crain - ($1.7 million) – It was good to see Jesse Crain back with the Twins for the 2008 season after major shoulder surgery took much of his 2007 season away. The fact that he pitched in 66 games this year tells us that he is nearly 100% and that the shoulder is at 100% That tells me that he will be ready completely in 2009, which I think is very important for the Twins. He was a big part of the Twins bullpen from 2004 to 2006 and was again, more than would have been planned, in 2008. The stuff is still there. He’s hitting 94-96 on the fastball, 89-91 on the slider, and his curveball is sharp at 76 mph. He will be a big part of the 2009 bullpen.
Pat Neshek - ($450,000) – Losing Pat Neshek early in May of 2008 really was a back breaker for the Twins. He was their link between the rest of the bullpen and Joe Nathan. Losing him meant not only the innings that he didn’t pitch, but the extra innings and extra tough situations that Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain and others had to come into. To this point, Neshek’s rehab has been flawless. Obviously we hope that continues. Hopefully Mijares and Crain and a rejuvenated Guerrier will allow the Twins to be extra cautious with Neshek through the 2009 season. Some will likely say that the Twins should go out and buy another reliever as insurance. I think that there is enough within the Twins system to feel good about their depth.
Matt Guerrier - ($1.6 million) – I am certain that many Twins fans would just assume let Guerrier go after his struggles the last two months of the season. In my mind, with Guerrier being in his second year of arbitration, he is worth the dollars that it will cost the team. Let’s not forget that he has been an important part of the bullpen since 2005. In 2007, he had a 2.35 ERA in 88 innings pitched. He was that good. His numbers through July this season were very much in line with the solid numbers he put up in his first two full seasons. In other words, given a full offseason, given a chance to just get away from the game, and being able to go to spring training and starting over is exactly what he needs. I expect him to be a big time performer again in 2009.
Philip Humber - ($600,000) – In this scenario, it appears that it is Boof Bonser or Philip Humber. In my mind, the bigger upside is in Humber, so I would stick with him as the long reliever. He is 25 years old and can provide innings. I also think that he has enough stuff and a big enough curveball that he can do very well out of the bullpen. In reality, though, Bonser came on at the end of the year. I just think that he could get the Twins more in a trade. In fact, Bonser is the guy I would send to the Cubs for Ronny Cedeno.
Joe Nathan – ($11.25 million) – 18 walks, 74 strikeouts, in 67.2 innings. 39 saves in 45 chances. 1.33 ERA. 0.90 WHIP. Again, Joe Nathan was an All Star and among the top relief pitchers in the entire game. He finally is getting paid close-to market value. He definitely deserves it. And because the Twins have so much payroll to work with, I wouldn’t consider trading him at this point.
So, there you have it, my look at a potential 2009 roster. If you add up those contracts, it comes to under $65.47 million. Here is a breakdown of the salaries:
Hitters (13) – $46.73 million
Starters (5) – $2.32 million
Relievers (6) – $5.17 million
Closer (1) – $11.25 million
All said, we’ve got a payroll of $65.47 million. What have we done? Well, we have a solid five man/four position outfield/DH situation. We shored up the need for a RH power bat and a solid defensive 3B by acquiring Adrian Beltre. We saved a couple million by letting Nick Punto leave and picking up a solid young SS with good range, a strong arm and potential with the bat. We are sticking by our young pitchers without trading away much of the AAA depth. We have let Dennys Reyes go make some money elsewhere and trusted Matt Guerrier to pitch like he did from 2005-2007. We also tried to sign long-term deals with Jason Kubel, Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano.
You may be asking yourself, what would the possible lineups look like? Well here are a couple of attempts, one against righties and one against lefties:
Every Day Lineup (with Gomez sitting)
Denard Span – CF
Joe Mauer – C
Adrian Beltre – 3B
Justin Morneau – 1B
Michael Cuddyer – RF
Jason Kubel – DH
Delmon Young – LF
Alexi Casilla – 2B
Ronny Cedeno – SS
With Span sitting – Move Casilla to leadoff, move Cedeno up to 8th. Gomez bats 9th.
With Young sitting – put Gomez in the 7th spot.
With Cuddyer sitting – put Young in the 5th spot, Gomez in the seventh spot.
With Kubel sitting – Move Casilla to the 2 spot, move Mauer, Beltre, Morneau and Cuddyer down one spot. Bat Gomez 8th.
· Nick Punto – Probably not as easy a choice as you would think. Punto put up a 96 OPS + in 2008 which is not at all bad for a middle infielder without any power. He hit .284. But again, I think that the Twins have equivalent options that are significantly cheaper. It will be interesting to me to watch this though. Obviously Gardy would love to keep him around. Will Bill Smith take him away from Gardy? This one will be interesting.
· Dennys Reyes – The 31 year old lefty is going to make himself a lot of money this offseason. He has been very good two of the last three years with the Twins, and solid lefty relievers are making a lot of money these days. Thankfully Jose Mijares stepped up the last couple weeks of the season and Craig Breslow was excellent during his time with the Twins, Reyes is very expendable.
· Adam Everett, Eddie Guardado – The Guardado trade in August ended up not being worth it as he did very little for the Twins. He will become a free agent and likely sign somewhere. Adam Everett was hurt most of the year and Nick Punto playing solidly made him a bench player. In fact, remember that the Twins were about the release Everett when Alexi Casilla got hurt so they brought him back. Both of these veterans will likely wind up somewhere.
· Randy Ruiz, Ryan Jorgenson – These two came up late in the season. Ruiz actually made several starts in a few August weeks, but played very little down the stretch. Jorgenson was a September call up who barely got into a couple of games late. Both should be taken off the 40 man roster to make space for more valuable pieces. I would have no problem with the Twins taking them off the roster and immediately offering them both minor league contracts with invites to spring training. I think both would realize that with the Twins, if they perform, they will get a big league opportunity.
· Brian Duensing – The 25 year old Twins 3rd round pick in 2005 out of Nebraska, Duensing stagnated in 2008. His big struggle was that he gave up a lot of big first innings. He went 5-11 with a 4.26 ERA in 2008. But he could be the next starter promoted from Rochester if there is an injury.
· Kevin Mulvey – If not Duensing, then I think that Kevin Mulvey would be next on the list. Mulvey went 7-9 but had a solid 3.79 ERA in Rochester in 2008. He’ll eventually be a mid-to-late rotation starter for someone, even if it’s after a trade to another organization.
· Anthony Swarzak – Of course, based on his 5-0, 1.80 ERA, performance in seven AAA starts at the end of the season, if Swarzak gets off to a fast start in 2009, he could be called up at any time too. Of course, if the Twins have a need in the bullpen, Swarzak may have the type of stuff that could do very well for the Twins in short work.
· Rob Delaney – Of course, if you want a bullpen guy who is about ready, Rob Delaney could be it. He spent half the season dominating the Florida State League and the other half of the season dominating the Eastern League. There was talk of him being promoted late in 2008, but the Twins wisely didn’t do that. The undrafted St. John’s grad will be quite the story when he gets to the Twins.
· Luke Hughes – If there is a bat that is closest to the majors, it is probably Luke Hughes. Although he needs more seasoning to work on cutting down the strikeouts, he has some serious pop in his bat. He just doesn’t have a real strong position. He’ll be playing 3B in Venezuela this winter.
· Danny Valencia – If But the 3B of the future is Valencia (who is about six weeks younger than Hughes – both 24), in my mind. He is a more complete package at 3B. Better defensively. Better ‘average’ type of hitter, and just as much, if not more potential power. He’s going to the AFL to see how he does against better competition.
· Trevor Plouffe – The other Twins area of need is SS, and hopefully Plouffe could be the answer to that. He spent half of 2008 in AAA and held his own against much older competition. He could use another year of work, but he could be solid even if called upon in 2009.
40 Man Roster??
Before any of this stuff happens, the Twins will likely make some 40 man roster decisions. The Twins ended the season with 37 players on the 40 man roster. Pat Neshek will have to be taken off the 60 Day Disabled List, so he will be added to that number. If I take off the names of the players I let go (six more), that puts us at 31 players on the 40 man roster. I would immediately take Julio DePaula off of the 40 man. He was horrible at AAA this year after a very solid 2007 that saw him promoted to the Twins twice. He’s not young, so if they lose him, oh well. Now we are down the 30. I personally would keep Oswaldo Sosa and Sergio Santos on the 40 man roster until there are other guys that the team would rather protect. As bad as Sosa was in 2008, he is still quite young and just needs to harness control of his pitches with such great movement. Control is not something he fought with previously. Santos just came to the Red Wings after being DFAd by the Blue Jays in June or July. I have always liked him and would like to see him stick around. But again, if other guys have to be protected to make that happen, those two could easily be removed. Same thing, really, with Jose Morales whose injury this year really hurt what could have been another very good season.
As for who I would add to the 40 man roster, I would automatically add Anthony Swarzak, Trevor Plouffe, Luke Hughes, Brian Duensing and Steve Tolleson. I would strongly consider Erik Lis. Others to consider would be Juan Portes, Kyle Waldrop (although the shoulder surgery and missed 2008 season would make it unlikely he would be taken), Jay Rainville, Matt Fox and Loek Van Mil. Some of these decisions can be made as late as early December, so I will put more thought into it at that time.
So there you have it, my choices to be on the 2009 Minnesota Twins rosters, who won’t be back, and what other minor leaguers may get an opportunity to contribute or at least be added to the 40 man roster. As I’ve mentioned previously, I really think that Bill Smith has another important offseason in front of him this winter. Again, I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please send me an e-mail or post Comments here.