Who makes the cut for Twins' 2023 Opening Day roster?
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With less than two weeks to go until Opening Day, the Twins’ roster situation has remained largely consistent throughout camp -- and, frankly, that’s a reassuring state of affairs for a team that entered with injury questions around their starting rotation.
So far, so good for the most part -- except, perhaps, for one injury situation that the Twins have tracked throughout camp that led to a shakeup in this third projection for the Opening Day roster.
Catcher (2): Christian Vázquez, Ryan Jeffers
The only question here is what the catching split will look like between the veteran Vázquez and the incumbent Jeffers, who has been a strong receiver but lacked consistency at the plate in the first few seasons of his career. Vázquez has missed more than a week of Twins games to join Team Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.
First base (2): Donovan Solano, Joey Gallo
First base is home to the only major change in this roster projection, where Alex Kirilloff has been replaced by a pseudo-platoon of the right-handed-hitting Solano and the left-handed-hitting Gallo, who could join others in rotating through the position.
Though the Twins have made no firm indication regarding Kirilloff’s readiness for Opening Day, president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said Kirilloff is tracking behind in his live-hitting progression as he continues to gain confidence in his swing following a second consecutive season-ending right wrist surgery last August.
Second base (1): Jorge Polanco
Though Polanco hasn’t seen game action, he’s hitting live on the back fields and progressing as expected in his ramp-up from the left knee tendinitis that ended his 2022 season and lingered into the offseason. Falvey indicated that the second baseman remains on track to be part of the team on Opening Day. Nick Gordon and Solano could be the primary backups here.
Shortstop (1): Carlos Correa
Correa returned to Twins camp on Tuesday following the birth of his second son, Kenzo Noak Correa, at home in Houston. Kyle Farmer should be his primary backup, with Gordon also looking like a more viable backup possibility than in years past.
Third base (1): Jose Miranda
Miranda's bat has looked impressive -- as expected -- throughout camp, and he appears to be progressing well in the throwing program to build him up from the right shoulder soreness that has limited him to hitting only in Grapefruit League action. Barring any setbacks, it doesn’t look like Opening Day should be a concern for the 24-year-old.
Outfield (4): Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Michael A. Taylor, Trevor Larnach
If Kirilloff misses Opening Day, that likely opens a spot for Larnach to break camp with the big league team for the first time. It’s not a one-for-one positional swap, as Larnach can’t play first base, but this scenario would likely involve Gallo playing more first base than outfield, which would open an outfield slot (and DH opportunities) for Larnach.
Bench/Utility (2): Kyle Farmer, Nick Gordon
A left high ankle sprain didn’t prove much of a hindrance to Gordon’s camp, and he’s back on track to be an integral part of the team’s plans on both sides of the ball. He should be able to fill in at every position but catcher, and Farmer gives the Twins even more flexibility around the infield, likely as the primary backup to Correa at shortstop.
Starting pitchers (5): Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Kenta Maeda, Pablo López, Tyler Mahle
Falvey noted not too long ago that the combination of superior health and performance from the Twins’ six experienced starters has made the club more open to thinking about what a six-man rotation could look like. But given the way manager Rocco Baldelli’s coaching staff likes to use pitchers, it’s tough to imagine them trying to make things work with one fewer reliever than usual -- though Bailey Ober is doing everything he can to stay in the picture.
Relief pitchers (8): Jhoan Duran, Jorge López, Griffin Jax, Caleb Thielbar, Jorge Alcala, Emilio Pagán, Jovani Moran, Cole Sands
Baldelli has said the Twins need to see consistency in Alcala as he regains his feel for pitching, and so far, signs appear encouraging for the right-hander. Though Trevor Megill has only allowed three hits since a rough first outing, Baldelli always likes to have a long reliever in a rotating slot -- and with Ronny Henriquez and Josh Winder slowed this spring, Sands could be the guy since he’s on the 40-man roster and has Minor League options.