Roster Preview: 2009 Minnesota Twins

7 Feb

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

Hey everyone! Well, the Twins pitchers and catchers will be reporting in less than ten days. With the pending signing of Luis Ayala, I have to believe the Twins are done adding players to the bullpen. There are still rumors of Joe Crede becoming the Twins 2009 3B, and I fear there is better than a 50% chance that it will happen. Other than that, the roster is pretty well set. In fact, there may only be one or two roster battles in the spring. So with that, I am going to present a look at the 2009 Minnesota Twins roster as I see it coming out of spring training. I will add a few thoughts as well. And, well, you know I can’t stop with just the Twins roster. I have to try to guess who will be on the opening day rosters of the Rochester Red Wings, the New Britain Rockcats, the Ft. Myers Miracle and the Beloit Snappers. Those are the four full-season minor league affiliates of the Twins. Those will be posted in subsequent articles, likely this week, so be sure to check back for them. I actually spent a little time thinking through the rosters of the Elizabethton Twins and the Gulf Coast League Twins as well, but we definitely won’t know the E-Town roster until after the June draft. Same thing with the GCL Twins.

 

I would love to hear your thoughts. If you agree, let me know. If you disagree, definitely let me know! If I am completely forgetting someone, you must let me know!! With that, let’s get this started:

 

2009 MINNESOTA TWINS

Starting Pitchers

Scott Baker

Francisco Liriano

Kevin Slowey

Nick Blackburn

Glen Perkins

A year ago, the Twins had lost Johan Santana, Carlos Silva and Matt Garza and the starting rotation was one of the Twins biggest question markets. This spring, there really is little question about who the Twins starting five will be. Scott Baker really solidified himself as a top of the rotation starter and has already been named the Twins Opening Day starter. A year ago, we had no clue what to expect from Francisco Liriano. Our hopes were high, but coming back from Tommy John surgery, it was impossible to guess what he would do. In reality, he probably did what we should have expected. He struggled with control early, was sent to AAA, earned his way back to the Twins roster and pitched very well. In my mind, he is the wild card to the outlook on the 2009 Twins. At times, he reminded us of what we saw in 2006. He also threw about 180 innings. Hopefully he can return to that form! Kevin Slowey showed just how dominant a pitcher with impeccable control can be. Just imagine, a guy perceived not to have an “out” pitch had two games with more than ten strikeouts. I believe all three of those can be top of the rotation pitchers. Nick Blackburn was the surprise of 2008. He had a very solid rookie season, far exceeding any of my expectations. And finally, Glen Perkins skipped a start in September, but we often forget that in August, Perkins shut out the Yankees and the Angels in a span of three starts. What is exciting is that at one point or more throughout the 2008 season, all five of these pitchers could have been called the team’s best pitcher. I happen to think that that bodes well for the Twins for now, and for the next several years.

Closer

Joe Nathan

Best closer in baseball since coming to the Twins, Nathan was as good as ever in 2008. 39 saves. A 1.33 ERA. A 0.90 WHIP. 74 strikeouts and just 18 walks in 67.2 innings. Can’t ask for anything more in your closer!

Relief Pitcher

Jesse Crain

Matt Guerrier

Luis Ayala

Craig Breslow

Boof Bonser

Phil Humber

Pat Neshek will be out for the 2009 season. We know that. It’s unfortunate really, but he should be back in 2010, ready to pitch in the new stadium. The state of the Twins bullpen was a cause of much debate throughout the offseason. The struggles over the last couple of months led to widespread belief that major change was needed. I didn’t buy that. I am a big believer in 1.) the Twins pitchers that were overused, and 2.) the Twins pitching depth as a whole. What Jesse Crain did in 2008 was astonishing considering he was less than a year from two major shoulder surgeries. Matt Guerrier was an excellent reliever for two and a half years prior to him breaking down in the second half of 2008. I fully expect him to be a very solid contributor again. Craig Breslow has arguably been the best acquisition in Bill Smith’s brief tenure. Boof Bonser clearly has the stuff to be a dominating relief pitcher. He’s always been a strikeout pitcher as a starter, so he could be even more dominant out of the bullpen. Phil Humber is kind of the question mark at this point. Like Bonser last year (and obviously this year too), Humber is out of options, and if he doesn’t make the Twins roster, he could be (and would be) lost to another team. I see Humber as a pitcher who is very comparable to Guerrier. Good fastballs. Good control. Very good curveballs. It would be unfortunate to lose him and his potential. Luis Ayala simply has to pass a physical to become a member of the Twins roster. I actually don’t mind this signing. I don’t think he is the 8th inning guy that we are told they need, but I do think that along with Crain and Guerrier and the rest, he can really help the bullpen. There is one name that I am certain you noticed is missing. That is Jose Mijares. A couple of weeks ago, we heard that he left his Venezuelan team and there certainly is concern about his attitude. There isn’t really any questioning his talent. That said, I have said all offseason that we have to look at the whole of his minor league development as opposed to just looking at how good he looked in ten games with the Twins in September. Remember that he only has a couple of games at AAA, and those were in 2007. I truly believe that it is a good thing for Mijares to start the 2009 season in AAA. It also allows the Twins more time to evaluation the back end of their bullpen. In reality, Mijares does have options remaining.  

Starting Lineup

Denard Span  CF

Alexi Casilla 2B

Joe Mauer  C

Justin Morneau  1B

Michael Cuddyer RF

Jason Kubel  DH

Delmon Young  LF

Brendan Harris  3B

Nick Punto  SS

There really are just two questions as it relates to the Twins starting lineup in 2009. The first is what happens if the Twins do sign Joe Crede. I think he would jump into the 5 hole in the lineup with Cuddyer dropping to 7 or 8. Obviously it would move Brendan Harris to the bench. The other question is the allotment of playing time to the OF. As I have stated previously, I think that a plan can be devised for the first half of the season. Denard Span is the best leadoff hitting option and needs to be in the option. There is a need for RH hitting, so Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer need to play most of the time. And as much as AAA time may help him significantly, I think we know that Ron Gardenhire will want Carlos Gomez manning CF much of the time. 3B is likely a platoon situation if Crede is not signed, although I would like to see Brendan Harris take the job and run with it. And any time you can have Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau in the middle of your lineup, you have to be happy. Having Cuddyer around to consistently separate Morneau and lefty Jason Kubel will be very helpful. That said, I believe that by mid season, Delmon Young will show what he can do and take over the five spot.

Reserves

 

Mike Redmond

Backup Catcher

Brian Buscher

Backup 1B, 3B,

Matt Tolbert

Backup 2B, 3B, SS

Carlos Gomez

Part-Time CF

Again in 2009, there is no question who the backup catcher is. Mike Redmond has been everything the Twins could have hoped for in 2009. He becomes a free agent after the season so he will need to continue to prove his value to come back for the first season in Target Field. In my mind, I like Brian Buscher’s bat enough for him to be a solid left-handed bat off the bench, and he can play some games at the corner positions. Matt Tolbert seems to be the front-runner for the utility infielder job. I think Alejandro Machado would be considered if he proves himself able to play the left-side of the infield and throw the ball across the diamond. And finally, the outfielder that isn’t starting on a particular day will be on the bench as well.  

You will notice that I have a roster that includes 13 hitters and 12 pitchers. Based on the composition of the roster, I think that in the American League, they can play with just four bench options. It is possible that they may need to add a hitter for inter-league games in National League parks.

So there you have it, my February 8th opinion on the Minnesota Twins 2009 roster. There aren’t too many question marks at this point. Any thoughts?  Send me an e-mail, or let’s talk about it in the Comments here.

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15 Responses to “Roster Preview: 2009 Minnesota Twins”

  1. Lax Fan February 7, 2009 at 11:41 pm #

    I like what you have here but I can’t see gomez sitting much..

    MLB reports that Crede has an offer from S.F.. Happy days are here again. Now Harris can show us what he is made of.

    Or lets put a deal together for Bill Hall to play 3b for Bonser and Humber. Just a thought…

  2. Dome Field Advantage February 8, 2009 at 12:02 am #

    Isn’t Mijares literally out of options?

  3. Lyndon February 8, 2009 at 1:02 am #

    Rosters are tough … and of course the Rochester personnel will be so much a part of the Twins. Still, a couple things worry me about this roster, as totally probable and logical as it is.

    (1) Having only one lefty in the bullpen (no Mijares) is a bit scary, especially when Breslow is such a situational guy and not a 1-2 innings eater. (2) No real power from any the bench players is quite a weakness.

    Thus the Crede option looks better all the time. If Crede does not do well, we still have Harris and Bushher to the rescue. If Crede does do well — the Twins will still want Valencia by 2010, assuming he does well at Rochester. So, one year only of a productive (big assumption) Crede does make sence. Crede’s on base percentage is held against him, yet Harris and Busher are very average in that category as well.

  4. Eric Olson February 8, 2009 at 3:33 am #

    I tend to agree with Lyndon on part of point 1, and on most of the Crede thing. Is that clear enough?

    Having a single lefty in the bullpen is definitely scary, but Breslow is most definitely not a situational guy. He was almost equally good getting out both lefties and righties (as I recall, don’t quote me on that) last year, and is probably who I would like to most see try out the eighth inning, in a sort of “platoon” with Crain/Bonser. Mijares… eh. I want him on the team. I have said it before, and I’ll probably say it again, I really don’t care what happens off the field (steroid stories included). Mijares acted like an eight-year-old (and I know I’m being charitable), but the dude can pitch. I hope he’s on the team, but I almost wouldn’t be surprised if the Twins trade him to whoever scoops up Reyes for Reyes (or something similarly asinine).

    If I were Gardenhire (… I already sound like the strib board), I would want to have Gomez in center field most every day (except for maybe days where the other starting pitcher throws a really good breaking pitch) and Span in Center when he is not, and in left most of the rest of the time. Kubel’s cleats should never touch grass/turf, and Young/Cuddy can fight over righty DH, RF, and LF when Spann is in center.

    Third base… meh. I like none of our options. I couldn’t care less if there is a deal made or if the platoon stays. I don’t like Crede, but I don’t like the Harris-Buscher platoon either. I would probably stick to the platoon, if only to save money (not that I have to tell the Twins’ FO to do that).

    Is there any way we could get a marginal prospect for Humber? Or Bonser? I don’t mean to be negative Nelly here, but I am fairly sure that one of them won’t be in the bullpen next year, and if one of them can be traded now… I would cheer.

    Other than that, forgive my bad cheer, it is 3:30 am on the East Coast. Seth, you did a great job here. I might try to put together some similar thoughts eventually, but I also might not. Good Work.

  5. drnkmn February 8, 2009 at 3:38 am #

    Mijares was added to the 40-man after the 05 season so he should be out of options.

  6. Jeff in So Cal February 8, 2009 at 11:34 am #

    The only part of your roster that I would disagree with is Humber in the bullpen instead of Mijares. I have to believe that the Twins will do there best to straighten this kid out. We have all seen what this kid is capable of and of all the arms we have I think it will come down to Crain or Mijares as our 8th inning guy for 2009 unless Bonser embraces the role and runs with it. I also don’t think we could expect much in a return for Humber so I would think they look at a larger trade where he is included.
    Great job Seth

  7. roger February 8, 2009 at 11:34 am #

    Agree with drnkmn’s post, I think Mijares is out of options Seth. I also think that the situation in Venezuela may have been a lesson that the Twins will benefit from and we don’t always know what was happening down there…unless you have more information than we do?

    Will be interesting to see how the 5/4 plays out in the outfield/DH. Pesonally, I am happy with this situation and expect that there will be an injury which will clear the problem during part of the year. Thanks Seth,

  8. doofus February 8, 2009 at 11:45 am #

    So if Crede is signed does Buscher go to AAA or Tolbert? Since Harris can play SS too Tolbert can go, but he is more versatile defensively, but Buscher has a better stick….What a quandry?

    I hope they sign Crede. He would be an upgrade over Harris and Busher can still play third against the tough righties and on turf to help keep The 3rd base numbers up.

  9. Adam Peterson February 8, 2009 at 1:09 pm #

    I sure hope Bill Smith knows whether Mijares is out of options.

    http://www.startribune.com/sports/twins/38668592.html

    “If he comes to camp thinking he’s a lock for our bullpen, he’ll probably be in [Class AAA] Rochester after our first cuts,” Smith said. “If he pitches the way he did in September, he has a good chance of making our club.”

  10. cmathewson February 8, 2009 at 10:09 pm #

    I would be shocked if Mijares doesn’t make the team out of spring training. He’ll have to earn it. But he’s the second best relieve on the team and he’ll prove that in spring training.

  11. Seth February 8, 2009 at 11:08 pm #

    I hope you’re right, cmat… but I would argue that in 2008 Delaney was much better than Mijares, just didn’t get that September opportunity. I just fear that fans’ expectations for Mijares based on a very small sample may not be fair.

  12. Ben February 10, 2009 at 1:42 pm #

    I wonder if there will be a perceived need for a third catcher with Mauer’s surgery recovery taking longer than anticipated.

  13. melshmeister February 10, 2009 at 1:56 pm #

    Mijares was signed as an 18 year old in 2002 (unless he was 17). This means he would not have needed to be protected until prior to the 2007 season. This would mean that 2009 would be his last option year.

    Does someone else have more concrete evidence?

  14. Mighty Casey February 11, 2009 at 2:36 pm #

    good point on the third catcher option. never know about injuries.

    …also with the injuries, we all know it would be shocking if they did not factor into the final opening day roster. someone is gonna go down, just a matter of who and when.

    you gotta think gomez’s speed, athleticism, etc, etc will be in there at least 5 times a week. that gives the twins a pretty strong bench with either young, cuddyer, or kubel waiting.

    span, gomez, and cuddyer have the OF filled simply with their defense. if one is struggling at the plate, others will be plugged in.

    i would be shocked if the twins went into the season with only one lefty in the pen. mijares, duensing, whoever… will be looked at closely.

    i don’t think humber makes the team unless a starting job opens up.

  15. Elizabeth Diaz April 6, 2009 at 5:10 pm #

    ARMANDO GABINO ES LA ESTRELLA A SEGUIR EN ESTA TEMPORADA, EL PITCHER ESTA EN SU MOMENTO Y CREO QUE NO HAY QUE PERDERLE LA MIRA EXCELENTE JUGADOR PALANTE

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