MINNEAPOLIS -- Teams will surely take different approaches to the construction of their 60-man player pools for this unprecedented 2020 regular season.
Some teams, like the Mariners and Tigers, have already indicated that they will fill up many of their alternate slots with top prospects to maintain some organized development. Other teams, particularly clubs that expect to win this year, could have more of a focus on players who are closer to the Major League level in order to maximize their chances of surviving possible injury attrition through the season while maintaining a higher level of play.
Expect the Twins to fall into that latter group, president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said Thursday.
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"It's going to be focused mostly of a group we believe that is upper level, ready and closer to the Major Leagues," Falvey said. "There has been some conversation across the league if that is going to be prospects, younger players, older players. Our focus and goal right now is to get a chunk of players who are closer to the Major League level and guys who would normally fit into a Major League Spring Training environment."
Falvey said Thursday that the Twins could use CHS Field, home of the Independent League St. Paul Saints, as a possible alternate training site, but no official agreement has been reported.
It could certainly help some top prospects to be around the club's alternate training site as a way to keep some degree of organization around their development, but with no formal games scheduled between different teams' groups of reserves and many coaches likely to be on the Major League side, the possible degree of development activity remains to be seen.
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"I kind of view it like, for those of you who have been around and seen it enough, extended spring training over the course of our careers," Falvey said. "Those are games that you’re mostly playing that are intrasquad type, and you just build that way."
So, what groups of players not already on the 40-man roster could factor into the Twins' 60-man player pool, and what could influence those decisions? Let's take a closer look ahead of Sunday's 3 p.m. CT deadline for teams to lock in their rosters.
The veteran NRI guys
Examples: Danny Coulombe, Ryan Garton, Cory Gearrin, Juan Graterol, Drew Maggi, Jack Reinheimer, Tomás Telis, Caleb Thielbar, Wilfredo Tovar
This group is likely to account for a large chunk of the reserve players at the alternate training site. These are the Minor League free-agent types -- veterans with MLB service time who have strong routines and little left needed in terms of development, but who could be counted on to provide some stable baseline of performance in case of emergency. Most of these players were still active on the Twins' Spring Training roster when camps shut down in March due to the pandemic.
Included among these options are Coulombe and Thielbar, both lefty relievers with more than 100 games of big league experience apiece, right-handed reliever Garton, and Gearrin, who has the most extensive MLB résumé of them all -- mostly with the Braves and Giants. There are also several versatile middle-infield types on this list like Maggi, Reinheimer and Tovar, who would provide solid gloves as stopgap options around the diamond and veteran eyes at the plate.
The presence of a pair of bilingual veteran catchers in the organization in Telis and Graterol should also help alleviate depth concerns at the position.
Jhoulys Chacín was also technically a non-roster invitee to Spring Training, but he's much more likely to be on the 40-man roster than in the reserve pool. Falvey has already confirmed that Chacín is a part of the Twins' 2020 plans.
The advanced top prospects
Examples: Jordan Balazovic, Edwar Colina, Ryan Jeffers, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Royce Lewis, Brent Rooker
Many of these players could also make the cut, but the Twins would need to be more careful with how they would handle them as part of roster moves. This group encompasses the top four prospects in the organization per MLB Pipeline in Lewis (No. 1), Kirilloff (No. 2), Larnach (No. 3) and Balazovic (No. 4), with the highly regarded Jeffers (No. 6) and Rooker (No. 12) also in the mix. Colina, the only other pitcher in the group, checks in at No. 16 in the organization.
It would have been realistic for several of these prospects -- Jeffers and Rooker in particular -- to have made their MLB debuts as part of a normal 2020 season anyway, and if forced into action during the upcoming shortened regular season, none of these players would be too far ahead of their original timelines, meaning that considerations like service time and development would be less of an issue.
With that said, it's unlikely that the Twins would start these prospects' clocks and carve out spots on the 40-man roster for them without needing one or more of them on a semi-permanent basis at the MLB level. If, for whatever reason, the Twins were to add a top prospect to their active roster as a temporary replacement but need to make room again as part of a roster crunch, that prospect would need to be exposed to waivers, as usual, to be removed from the 40-man -- and that wouldn't be a great idea.
The productive Minor Leaguers
Examples: Charlie Barnes, Sam Clay, Griffin Jax, Bailey Ober, Jake Reed, Andrew Vasquez, Zander Wiel
These are the prospects that aren't ranked among the club's top 30 by MLB Pipeline but have the Minor League track record to suggest that they could be close to serviceable as Major League replacements. Reed, a right-handed reliever; Wiel, a first baseman/outfielder; and southpaw reliever Vasquez probably stand above the rest of the pack here in terms of preparation for exposure to the Majors based on their accumulated time in Triple-A.
It's certainly possible that several of these players would make the cut. Wiel, for example, saw plenty of action in the original Spring Training as first-base depth, and that's an area in which the 40-man roster could use some backup behind Miguel Sanó, Marwin González and the occasional Willians Astudillo or Ehire Adrianza cameo.
There are a range of ages and levels of development represented in this group, and again, the Twins' potential inclusion and usage of these players would likely depend on their comfort in dedicating a 40-man spot and the associated risk of possibly needing to expose those players to waivers in the need to remove them from the roster.
The still-developing top prospects
Examples: Matt Canterino, Blayne Enlow, Wander Javier, Gabriel Maciel, Ben Rortvedt, Cole Sands, Matt Wallner
And finally, this group encompasses the highly ranked prospects in the organization who aren't yet on the cusp of the Majors.
Pushing any of these players into Major League games in 2020 would put the Twins in a bind due to the risk of lack of production from that spot on the 40-man roster in the immediate future and the necessary acceleration of the player's planned development timeline. With the Twins hoping to win now (and in the years to come), that makes it unlikely that these prospects would make the cut for the 60-man player pool.
"We talked a little bit more about some of our younger players, and who would be worth bringing up here, and they're all obviously worth bringing up and continuing to develop," Falvey said. "But our focus was primarily on players at the upper levels that would fit more into a Major League camp environment."
There's some argument to be made for the idea that keeping top prospects near the Twins' home base could add some level of organization to their continued development, but Falvey did indicate that the Twins have still been remotely coaching their Minor League players in this time and hope to potentially hold more organized activity if the schedule and pandemic allow for it.
"My hope at some point is that we have the ability to get some of our Minor League players in smaller, dedicated camps of sorts to continue development," Falvey said. "I don’t know when that will be. It’s not right now. But if it’s sometime down the line, in the later summer or into the fall, we’ll see what that looks like."
Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.