April 16, 2024

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Twins Opening Day roster reactions: Surprises, injuries and expected innings

Twins Opening Day roster reactions: Surprises, injuries and expected innings

Two weeks ago, it appeared that 25 of the 26 spots on the Minnesota Twins' season-opening roster were up for grabs, with only one job truly up for grabs. But injuries have a way of changing plans, and at the end of camp, the Twins lost closer Juwan Duran, setup arms Caleb Thielbar, Justin Topa, Josh Staumont and starter Anthony DeSclafani to the injured list, shaking up the pitching staff.

This is not the group the Twins expected to take to Kansas City, but this is their 26-man Opening Day roster Announce on Thursday, along with some thoughts on who did or didn't make the cut and all the roles expected.

Starting Pitchers (5): Pablo Lopez, Joe Ryan, Billy Ober, Chris Paddack, Louie Farland

DeSclafani's elbow injury opened the door for Farland to be the No. 5 starter, but he could end up playing the fourth game on the schedule, Tuesday at Milwaukee, so the Twins can start managing Paddack's workload throughout the season after he returns from Tommy II. John's surgery. Getting Paddack extra time between starts when possible makes sense, but the Twins likely don't want to skip his starting role.

Farland should be ready for his first big opportunity and there's a lot riding on him, as DeSclafani could be headed for season-ending surgery before he throws a pitch for the Twins and the next rotation options in line are untested prospects David Festa, Simeon Woods-Richardson and Brent Hedrick. This is one area where ownership's salary cuts hurt the Twins' ability to build depth.

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Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda left as free agents, and DeSclafani may not help in replacing them, but FanGraphs still stands Projects The Twins would finish second in the American League. Lopez is projected to be the second-best baserunner in the AL while Ryan (No. 13), Oubre (No. 26) and Paddack (No. 28) are expected to be among the top 30 players in a 15-team league. If he's healthy, it will be a solid rotation.

Relief Pitchers (8): Brooke Stewart, Griffin Jax, Jay Jackson, Stephen Okert, Jorge Alcala, Cody Funderburk, Daniel Duarte, Cole Sands

Charts still Projects The Twins will take first place in the AL despite the injuries to Duran, Thelbar and Tuba, but that's a season-long view and doesn't represent the immediately available relievers. If Thielbar and Tuba return, as expected, by mid-April, and Duran can return by early May, the Twins will be fine in the big picture, but things could be shaky in the meantime.

Stewart and Jax (or Jax and Stewart) are a highly capable duo, but moving them up the bullpen pecking order leaves keys to getting to the sixth and seventh rounds. That's where Thielbar and Topa could have come in, but now that mid-leverage job will likely go to Jackson, a 36-year-old right fielder signed for $1.5 million, and Ueckert, the trade returner for Nick Gordon. .

Alcala will be asked to fill an important role sooner than expected after back-to-back injury-riddled seasons. Funderburk replaces Thielbar on the roster and will serve as the No. 2 left fielder, with Okert moving to No. 1. Sands, who has filled an up-and-down role the past two seasons, elected to eat several innings in long relief.

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Duarte, who was waived in February, is the only player to join the team after not being on the 40-man roster when camp began. Control issues over the course of his career had previously kept the 27-year-old right-hander from remaining in the majors, but Duarte impressed for the Twins with a 12-to-0 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 12 1/3 innings this spring, throwing The ball away more hits without sacrificing its high-octane raw material.


Stephen Ockert, who was drafted last year with Miami, moves to the No. 1 left-handed reliever role. (Kyle Ross/USA Today)

Catchers (2): Ryan Jeffers, Christian Vasquez

No surprises here, as both Jeffers and Vasquez made it through spring training healthy and will share time behind the plate for the second year in a row. Jeffers led AL catchers in OPS last season while Vazquez struggled, but the Twins feel strongly about the importance of limiting a catcher's workload. Jeffers is the No. 1 catcher, but a 60-40 or 55-45 split is likely early.

Players (6): Carlos Santana, Edward Julian, Carlos Correa, Royce Lewis, Alex Kirillov, Kyle Farmer

Correa and Lewis will be the everyday left side of the infield and the Twins also seem inclined to use the 37-year-old Santana as their first baseman almost daily. They value Santana's switch-hitting ability and plate discipline enough to make him the No. 1 option against lefties, and consider him a much better outfielder than Kirillov, who will likely be used mostly at designated hitter.

Julien will start at second base and lead off against righties, with Farmer taking over for him at second base against most lefties in the same logical platoon the Twins often used last year. Farmer will also be the primary backup at shortstop, third base and second base, and may even play some first base. Willie Castro is listed below as an outfielder, but he will also be part of the outfield mix at times.

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Defense players (5): Matt Wallner, Byron Buxton, Max Keibler, Manuel Margot, Willy Castro

There was a sense of renewed optimism about Buxton's health when he reported to camp six weeks ago and that only grew stronger as he played center field regularly, ran well and hit .314/.368/.600. Buxton will start in center field on Opening Day, a welcome sight after he missed all of spring training last year and was limited to only a DH role before being locked down in August.

Left-handed hitters Kepler and Wallner will be the starting outfielders, but Wallner and perhaps Kepler will sit opposite several left-handers in favor of the right-handed Margot and the switch-hitting Castro. Margot, who came in a late February deal, will also replace Michael A. Taylor as a backup/insurance is essential for Buxton in center field.

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(Top photo by Daniel Duarte: Bryce Hemelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)