Prospects Lewis, Kirilloff join Twins' player pool

June 30th, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- In the days leading up to Monday's announcement of the Twins' player pool for the 2020 season, team leaders noted that they would focus on building a roster of players who were at or near the Major League level in order to maximize their immediate winning potential.

Fortunately for those hoping for a glimpse of some top prospects around the Twin Cities, that still includes the triumvirate of Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach, the top three prospects in the organization, who were all named as reserves in the pool of 59 names that the Twins submitted ahead of Sunday's 3 p.m. CT deadline.

Though the Twins waited an extra day to publicly reveal their roster, there were no major surprises among the group of players that should convene in Minnesota for camp this week, which featured all 38 active members of the 40-man roster (plus Michael Pineda and Fernando Romero from the restricted list), a collection of top organizational prospects nearing the Major League level and solid depth from veteran non-roster invitee types that could provide, at minimum, a baseline of performance and experience in a pinch.

"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," said president of baseball operations Derek Falvey late last week. "But our focus was primarily on players at the upper levels that would fit more into a Major League camp environment."

No team will be allowed to exceed the limit of 60 players in its player pool at any time during 2020 play. The Twins will have to choose 30 for their Opening Day roster; the other 30 will work out at the alternate training site, which has yet to be announced by the club.

Here's a look at the 59 players -- including 57 currently eligible -- who made the cut:

Catchers (6): Mitch Garver, Alex Avila, Willians Astudillo, Ryan Jeffers, Tomás Telis, Juan Graterol

This is a deep group led by Garver, the reigning American League Silver Slugger Award winner at catcher, who hit 31 homers with a .630 slugging percentage in only 93 games last season. He and Avila were likely to have been joined by Astudillo on a normal Opening Day roster anyway, due to Astudillo's ability to both serve as a third catcher and flex out to the corner-infield positions. With active rosters expanding to 30 players for Opening Day, there's all the more opportunity for Astudillo to make the cut and give the Twins some extra depth.

But how much will that depth be needed? Twins manager Rocco Baldelli's focus on rest and recovery put a hefty restriction on Garver's playing time last season, but that could be less of an issue this year with only 60 games planned for the shortened regular season, giving Minnesota an opportunity to get Garver's potent power bat in the lineup more often for games that will each matter more.

It's not much of a surprise to see Jeffers, the club's No. 6 prospect, on this list. Though he's a more recent Draft selection from the 2018 class, his hefty bat and solid defense have propelled a fast rise through the organization, and he was likely already on track to debut at some point in '20. He'll be joined at the alternate training site by Telis and Graterol, a pair of bilingual veterans with Major League experience.

Infielders (13): Ehire Adrianza, Luis Arraez, Travis Blankenhorn, Josh Donaldson, Marwin González, Nick Gordon, Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sanó, Royce Lewis, Drew Maggi, Jack Reinheimer, Wilfredo Tovar, Zander Wiel

There's a good balance in this group, with established starters at all four infield positions in Donaldson, Polanco, Arraez and Sanó, a pair of productive and versatile veterans to back them up in Adrianza and González (don't forget Astudillo, too), and decent positional coverage in the 40-man depth between Gordon and Blankenhorn, a pair of mid-level top-30 prospects in the organization.

Lewis is obviously the flashy name in the reserve group, and he's at the stage in his development where he might have been knocking on the door of the Major Leagues within the next season-plus, but there's a robust group of Minor League veterans here that would make more sense as temporary stopgaps if needed. The Twins' MLB staff should be plenty familiar with Maggi and Reinheimer due to their prominent roles in Spring Training, while Tovar brings nearly 1,200 games of Minor League experience to the table. Wiel has plenty of pop in his bat and would serve as the roster's first-base depth.

Outfielders (10): Byron Buxton, Jake Cave, Gilberto Celestino, Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario, LaMonte Wade Jr., Lane Adams, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Brent Rooker

Three top prospects made the cut here in Kirilloff, Larnach and Rooker, but the Twins' 40-man roster was already swimming in outfielders. A healthy Buxton should be back to anchor his center-field position alongside Rosario and Kepler, and both Cave and Wade can back any of them up in a pinch. Celestino, the sixth outfielder on the 40-man, is still some time away from the Majors, but he does theoretically exist as a viable center-field option if needed.

Otherwise, there aren't really many center-field types among the reserves. Adams is a 30-year-old newcomer to the organization with 117 games of MLB experience, while Kirilloff, Larnach and Rooker are all solidly built for the corners. Rooker is closest to the Majors among that group, but it wouldn't have been out of the question for Larnach or Kirilloff to have seen MLB action in a normal 2020.

Designated hitter (1): Nelson Cruz

Officially, camps around MLB can start to open for organized activity on Wednesday. That's also the day that Cruz will celebrate his 40th birthday. His years on Earth still won't surpass his home run total from last season (41).

Starting pitchers (14): Jorge Alcala, Homer Bailey, José Berríos, Dakota Chalmers, Randy Dobnak, Jhoan Duran, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, Jake Odorizzi, Sean Poppen, Devin Smeltzer, Lewis Thorpe, Jhoulys Chacín, Edwar Colina

Berríos, Bailey, Odorizzi, Hill and Maeda will almost certainly be fully stretched out to start, and it would also make sense for Dobnak, Smeltzer, Thorpe, Poppen and Chacín to have some length in their arms, especially as Baldelli and pitching coach Wes Johnson navigate an abbreviated ramp-up period that could limit traditional starter usage at the beginning of the new regular season. But the younger arms in this group -- Alcala, Chalmers, Duran and Colina -- could be intriguing wild cards in terms of their usage and potential in a shortened 2020 season.

All four of those youngsters have been starters throughout their Minor League careers and would probably have been treated as such in a normal season, but they all have a big fastball and at least one solid offspeed offering that could serve them plenty well in Major League bullpen roles if needed. Alcala, Chalmers and Duran are already on the 40-man roster, and all four are ranked among the organization's top 30 prospects, headlined by Duran at No. 5.

Relief pitchers (13): Tyler Clippard, Tyler Duffey, Zack Littell, Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, Sergio Romo, Cody Stashak, Matt Wisler, Sam Clay, Danny Coulombe, Ryan Garton, Cory Gearrin, Caleb Thielbar

Only eight of these players are on the 40-man roster, but there's still plenty of depth behind them due to the ability of at least seven of the starting options listed above on the 40-man to flex to bullpen roles if needed. Dobnak, Smeltzer, Thorpe and Poppen already have experience moving between the rotation and bullpen, and it would make sense for Alcala, Chalmers and Duran to join that shuttle as needed.

Clay is a 2014 Draft selection included among the alternates alongside Coulombe, Garton, Gearrin and Thielbar -- a quartet of veterans with MLB experience. Gearrin has the most extensive service time of that group, with 336 big league games under his belt, while Thielbar, a Minnesota native, notably pitched out of the Twins' bullpen from '13-15.

Restricted list (2): Michael Pineda, Fernando Romero

Though Pineda still needs to serve the remaining 39 games of his suspension after he tested positive for a banned diuretic last September, he will count against the 60-player cap as he works out alongside his teammates in the Twin Cities until he is eligible for reinstatement in early September. According to the Twins, Romero is still dealing with the visa issues that prevented him from entering the United States for the original Spring Training period.

According to MLB's Operating Manual, all players on a 40-man roster “that the Club anticipates participating” during the season will be part of the player pool, while the rest will be made up of non-40-man roster players under contract. Any 40-man-roster players who are not included in a player pool (for example, maybe a prospect who isn’t deemed ready for the Majors) will still be paid during the season.