Predicting Twins' 2021 Opening Day roster

February 22nd, 2021

The Twins' offseason flurry of moves looks to have neared its conclusion as camp opens in Fort Myers, Fla., and the structure of the 2021 roster closely resembles that of the '19 and '20 clubs assembled by president of baseball operations Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine: a reliance on the offensive core to perform, supplemented by a considerable amount of pitching depth aimed at surviving a 162-game season.

Most of the roster appears to be relatively set as camp begins, but there are a handful of races to watch at the back end of the rotation and bullpen, as well as in a left-field situation that could continue to evolve as the season progresses.

Let's take an updated look, then, at what the club's Opening Day roster could look like. This is the best-case scenario considering the Twins are expecting a fully healthy start to camp, but Minnesota's prospect and non-roster depth could still have the team in a good place as the injury toll begins to take shape, too.

Catcher (2): ,
It's unclear what version of Garver the Twins can expect: Will it be the 2019 Silver Slugger Award winner at the position who posted a .995 OPS, or the hitter who struggled to a .511 OPS in limited time last season? The answer almost certainly lies somewhere in between, and if Garver is even above-average at the plate, the Twins should have one of the stronger catching duos in the league between him and Jeffers, the club's top catching prospect who impressed with both the bat and glove in his debut last season. Expect a healthy mix of playing time.

First base (1):
The big man's athleticism actually translated well to first base in his full-season debut at the position last year, and though he was streaky at the plate, he still posted the second-best hard-hit rate and exit velocity in the league among qualified hitters last season. He should only improve with more time to develop instincts at first, and he'll likely be backed up by Brent Rooker and Alex Kirilloff, who can both shuttle between the outfield and first base.


Second base (1):
Polanco has been worth negative defensive runs saved as a shortstop in every season as a big leaguer, but he'll now have the chance to bring that experience and mindset across the bag to the less demanding position at second, where his skillset could play up in comparison. Getting occasional breaks in favor of Luis Arraez could help Polanco stay healthy after undergoing right ankle surgery in consecutive offseasons.

Third base (1):
The offseason has allowed Donaldson's calf issues from 2020 to subside for now, and the former MVP is healthy as Spring Training gets underway. An important element to the Twins' season will be in managing his usage and training program to ensure those problems don't flare up again after a mostly lost 2020. That could mean more time for his backups at the position, including Arraez, who will be fighting for playing time all over the field.

Shortstop (1):
Simmons' consistent contact bat should help the bottom of the Twins' lineup, but the Twins will get the most value from his defense, where he's been worth the most defensive runs saved (191) at his position by a wide margin since he debuted in 2012. It will remain to be seen what the backup mix looks like at the position -- whether Arraez will occasionally slide in at shortstop, Polanco moves over or perhaps a non-roster invitee emerges as a depth option.

Outfield (4): , , ,
Eddie Rosario is gone to Cleveland, but it appears likely that top prospect Alex Kirilloff could take over as the everyday left fielder at some point this season. One question to be resolved this spring will be if the Twins will immediately give him the job or start him in the Minors, as is the case for many top prospects due to service time considerations. Buxton and Kepler are healthy for camp, and a mix of Cave, Rooker and Arraez in left field to start the season would still be more than adequate.

Utility (2): ,
One benefit of signing Simmons to play shortstop was that Arraez will assume the everyday super-utility role vacated by Marwin Gonzalez, which, while a defensive downgrade, should be a big offensive upgrade after Gonzalez posted a .698 OPS over two seasons. He'll likely split most of his time between second, third and left field. Astudillo continues to serve as a neat fit on the roster as an option to spell time behind the plate and provide infield depth at the corners.

Designated hitter (1):
It took a while, but the lineup's focal point is back in a Twins uniform. Will they keep him in an everyday role or start mixing in more of Donaldson, Garver and others as Cruz continues to progress in age?

Starting pitchers (5): , , , ,
The top four in this rotation had been set for some time, and the signing of Shoemaker to a one-year, $2 million Major League contract indicated that he'll likely have the leg up in the competition to complete the starting rotation. There's high-end ability here led by the AL Cy Young runner-up in Maeda, consistency in Berríos, Pineda and Happ, and a high-risk, high-reward pick in Shoemaker. Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe should provide depth until top prospects Jordan Balazovic and Jhoan Duran enter the picture.

Relievers (8): , , , , , , ,
The Twins' once-decimated relief depth due to free agency has filled out with the signings of Colomé and Robles, and continued development from Stashak and Alcala could again give the Twins solid depth in a relief corps that has proved among the Majors' best over the past two seasons. There is also a bevy of non-roster invitees with MLB experience in camp -- led by Danny Coulombe and Derek Law -- and others who should filter in throughout the season as the lottery ticket depth that has served the club so well under pitching coach Wes Johnson.