MINNEAPOLIS -- As the dateline on this story indicates, I've finally relocated to the Twin Cities since the last installment of the Twins Inbox, and I am looking forward to meeting many of you across Twins Territory. I'll be trekking across Minnesota with the Twins Winter Caravan in a few
MINNEAPOLIS -- As the dateline on this story indicates, I've finally relocated to the Twin Cities since the last installment of the Twins Inbox, and I am looking forward to meeting many of you across Twins Territory. I'll be trekking across Minnesota with the Twins Winter Caravan in a few days and reporting on TwinsFest next weekend.
In the meantime, another Inbox column will have to suffice.
Looking around the Twins' 40-man roster, the only players that have yet to make their Major League debuts are pitcher Lewis Thorpe, outfielder LaMonte Wade and infielders Luis Arraez and Nick Gordon.
I could see Thorpe, the Twins' No. 10 prospect per MLB Pipeline, making the jump this year. He missed two seasons in 2015-16 after Tommy John surgery and a bout of mononucleosis during his rehab. But the Australian lefty has pitched well at every level of the Minors, including a 3.32 ERA with 26 strikeouts and six walks in four Triple-A starts to end the 2018 season.
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Wade and Gordon both had growing pains at the plate after being promoted to Triple-A Rochester last season, but with strong showings in Spring Training and early in the season, they could make their cases for promotions in the case of injuries on the Major League roster. Wade, the Twins' No. 13 prospect, has a good eye at the plate, outfield versatility and could compete with Zack Granite to be the next man up. Similarly, Gordon has infield versatility, but he might need to compete with Ronald Torreyes for Major League time.
• Gordon eager to prove he belongs with Twins
Arraez made the jump from Class A Advanced Fort Myers to Double-A Chattanooga in 2018, and he has showed an ability to get on base with good bat-to-ball skills at every level of the Minors so far. But given a recent ACL tear that sidelined him for most of '17 and the Twins' relatively crowded infield, I don't think he'd come up this season.
Of the players not on the 40-man roster right now, keep an eye on Luke Raley and Brent Rooker, who have good power potential and finished last season in Double-A.
It's a balance between building for the future and taking advantage of an opportunity to contend. The American League Central is up for grabs right now, and if the Twins get bounceback seasons from Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, this roster looks to have the ability to contend for the postseason. The front office is moving accordingly with the recent acquisitions of Nelson Cruz and Richard Parker.
Letting go of Aaron Slegers and John Curtiss takes away two able arms for the future, but there's organizational depth to keep the pitching pipeline populated moving forward. Eleven of the Twins' top 30 prospects are pitchers, and Minnesota currently has many young arms that, like Slegers and Curtiss, are on the brink of establishing themselves at the Major League level: Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves, Fernando Romero, Zack Littell, Adalberto Mejia, Chase De Jong and Gabriel Moya, to name a few.
And if the Twins' 2019 push falls short? In that case, Minnesota can deal some of these players to contending teams for more prospects, just like it did at last year's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Christopher Austin definitely showed good power potential last season, when he hit 17 homers with a .767 OPS over 69 games with the Yankees and Twins. He's also under team control through the 2023 season, while C.J. Cron is eligible for free agency after the '20 campaign.
The Twins need to dedicate a roster spot for Cruz, who shouldn't play regularly in the field, which means that versatility will be at a premium on Minnesota's bench. Two spots will need to go to a fourth outfielder (likely Jake Cave) and a backup catcher (likely Mitch Garver), with utility man Ehire Adrianza probably getting a bench spot, too. That leaves one more spot -- if the Twins go with a 12-man pitching staff.
Without Austin, the Twins wouldn't have a true backup first baseman. Adrianza has made 15 appearances at first over six seasons. Sano has played first, but that would force Adrianza into action at third, without any infield wiggle room on the bench. So the Twins have a need for first-base depth, but it'll be up to the front office to decide how it will address that, whether it's via giving Austin a roster spot or perhaps getting Max Kepler more reps at first base or something of the sort.
Don't you think getting a veteran as the fifth starter would work out better? For example, Clay Buchholz pitched well for the D-backs last season and is still a free agent. As far as closers are concerned, don't you also agree that getting a free agent is already proven to be better than staying in-house and taking a chance on not making the playoffs? -- Ronald C., Surprise, Ariz.
I wouldn't say that getting a free agent is necessarily proven to be better than staying in-house, and I also wouldn't say that staying in-house is taking a chance on not making the postseason.
Free-agent relievers carry a certain degree of volatility, especially among those not named Craig Kimbrel in this year's market. The Twins have made cost-effective and timely additions all offseason, and there's still some offseason left for prices to come down, given that the market isn't exactly moving quickly. With that said, I think there's room in the bullpen for the Twins to make another move.
As for a fifth starter, I agree that adding some depth to the starting-rotation options for the right price would make sense in case none of the young arms are ready for consistent Major League exposure over a full season. As you mentioned, Buchholz could be an interesting high-ceiling candidate. That market is also moving quite slowly, so you might need to be patient for things to take shape.
While I was growing up in Minnesota, my family didn't really travel to major cities -- we'd mainly go to state or national parks to hike and camp. Because of that, I've actually only been to five active ballparks: Target Field, Yankee Stadium, AT&T Park, Oakland Coliseum and Wrigley Field. I'm really looking forward to checking some more off the list.
Cheesy as it may sound, I'm also excited to spend time with La Velle Neal, Phil Miller, Dan Hayes and Betsy Helfand -- the other members of the traveling Twins beat -- throughout the season. They're good people.
Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.