3 key questions Twins face ahead of camp

February 19th, 2016

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Spring Training is almost here. Twins pitchers and catchers report to CenturyLink Sports Complex on Sunday with the first full workouts set for Monday.

Plenty of players are already working out at the complex ahead of the report date, as they're eager to build on a promising 2015 season that saw them improve their win total by 13 games with an 83-79 record, their first winning season since 2011.

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The next six weeks lead up to Opening Day on April 4 in Baltimore, and there are positional battles to be won during Spring Training. With that in mind, here are three questions for the Twins with camp just around the corner in Fort Myers, Fla.

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1. How will youngsters such as Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler, Tyler Duffey and Jose Berrios fit into the club's plans?

Buxton, ranked as the No. 2 overall prospect by MLBPipeline.com, struggled in his first taste of the Majors last year, but the center field job is open for him after the Twins traded Aaron Hicks to the Yankees. With a strong spring, Buxton should be the Opening Day center fielder. If he has trouble offensively, though, Rosario, Kepler or even Danny Santana could open the year in center. Sano, who was the club's best hitter as a rookie last year, has to face adjusting to moving to the outfield. He has already been participating in outfield drills, but it's a big change for the 6-foot-4, 260-pound natural third baseman.

Like Sano and Rosario, Duffey is coming off a strong rookie year. The right-hander has a real shot to make the rotation this spring, but he has to compete with veterans such as Tommy Milone and Ricky Nolasco. Berrios remains the club's top pitching prospect and will get a strong look this spring, but is likely to be a victim of the numbers game and will start the season in Triple-A Rochester.

2. How much of a transition will it be for Korean slugger Byung Ho Park?

Park was a force in Korea, hitting a combined 105 homers over the last two seasons, and was signed to a moderate four-year deal worth $12 million after the Twins won the bidding with a $12.95 million posting fee. But it'll be a big change for Park, who has to adjust not only to better pitching in the Majors, but to a new culture in the United States.

The Twins plan to take it slow with Park at first to help him adjust, but believe his power is legit and that he'll be in the middle of their lineup as their everyday designated hitter. Team officials watched Pirates shortstop Jung Ho Kang's transition last year, and know it took some time before Kang settled in to become a very productive player.

3. What will the bullpen look like by the time the Twins break camp?

The back end of the bullpen is set with closer Glen Perkins and right-handers Kevin Jepsen and Casey Fien, but it will have a new look with veterans such as Brian Duensing and Blaine Boyer signing elsewhere this offseason. Right-hander Trevor May, who pitched in relief with much success late last season, is a strong candidate to be back in the bullpen again this year, but he will be given a chance to start this spring.

Michael Tonkin is also out of Minor League options, while fellow right-hander Ryan Pressly pitched well last year before suffering a season-ending right lat strain. The Twins have several right-handed options, but would like to carry another lefty outside of Perkins. Options include Ryan O'Rourke, Taylor Rogers, Logan Darnell, Aaron Thompson and Mike Strong, as well as Minor League signings such as Fernando Abad, Buddy Boshers and Dan Runzler. Several top relief prospects will also be in camp, including right-handers Nick Burdi, Jake Reed and J.T. Chargois, along with lefty Mason Melotakis.