Monday, March 29, 2010

Twins Roster Thoughts

With the regular season a mere 7 days away, there is a lot going on with the Minnesota Twins. Who will make up the 25-man roster? Who will win the 5th rotation spot? Are the Twins going with an in-house option, or make an outside move to fill the void at closer?

As the season inches closer, answers to these questions are becoming much more clear. The Twins made another round of official cuts on Saturday, sending Matt Tolbert, Mike Maroth, Danny Lehmann and Ben Revere down to minor league camp. They also informed Jacque Jones, Kyle Waldrop and Anthony Slama, all of whom will be making the trip north for both exhibition games against the St. Louis Cardinals, that they will not be making the 25-man roster.

This news is significant because it reveals that Alexi Casilla will be given the final roster spot, filling out a bench that will include Jim Thome, either Drew Butera or Wilson Ramos (eventually Jose Morales, who will begin the season on the DL), and Brendan Harris or Nick Punto depending on how the 3rd base competition finishes. Personally, my belief was that it was Punto’s job to lose heading into spring training, and my guess is that Punto will be the starting 3rd baseman when the season begins a week from today. Also, my hope is that the Twins choose Butera as the temporary backup catcher until Morales is healthy. Ramos is one of the top prospects in the organization, and I would hate for him to not only lose at bats at the minor league level, potentially stunting his development, but also waste a year of major league service time to backup Joe Mauer for less than a month.

I am very disappointed to see that Jacque Jones didn’t make the team, for a couple of reasons. First, I really like Jones, I remember following him as he progressed through the Twins minor league system, and every year when my family and I were down in Fort Meyers for spring training, he was a genuinely nice guy (not that almost everybody in the Twins system isn’t). He was an outgoing, exuberant player whom I really enjoyed watching. During his time with the Twins, I would compare him to a much more fundamentally sound Carlos Gomez (although Jones swung at a lot of bad pitches as well), even though Gomez has much more raw athletic ability.

Second, Jones has significantly outperformed Casilla this spring training, hitting .344, with 2 HR and 5 RBI. Obviously his 13 games and 33 at bats are an extremely small sample size, and the fact that the last time he had a productive major league season was with the Cubs in 2007 when he hit .285/.335/.400, but still I believe Jones would have been a better choice based on performance. I know that Jones’ defensive abilities have regressed over his career, and I also know that Kubel can occasionally provide a off-day for a corner outfielder. However, I would much prefer to see Jacque Jones play center field in a pinch, as opposed to Cuddyer, Casilla or Delmon Young...

Finally, I really began to dislike Casilla last season, and my feelings weren’t altered this offseason. He has significantly regressed since his 2008 campaign in which he hit .281/.333/.374 and played solid defense, which is one reason to be frustrated. My main reason for disliking Casilla has less to do with his performance, and more to do with his overall demeanor. He seems to genuinely not care about anything that he is doing, and seems completely disinterested with every aspect of the game. This may stem from the fact that he saw a 2009 starting job at second base as a “right of passage,” due to his 2008 numbers. Unfortunately, instead of improving, he lost his starting spot as he regressed significantly, posting a line of .202/.280/.259, while playing below-average defense. A sophomore slump may have been more acceptable had he “battled his tail off” as Gardy likes to put it, but unfortunately he approached last season with less interest than I have for watching the WNBA.

The fact that Casilla is out of options has a lot to do with him making the team over Jones. The only issue I see with this is that Casilla can hardly be considered a prospect anymore at the age of 26, making this a make or break type of season. Personally, I don’t believe that Casilla will be with the Twins all season, I see him being packaged with another seemingly unpopular clubhouse guy, Glen Perkins, and being shipped somewhere for a prospect or two, or potentially even a closer, making room for Jacque to slide up to the big club, taking over the backup outfielder job.

The bottom line is that, barring an injury, the backup outfielder position shouldn’t be an issue for the Twins. Kubel will be able to play left field at times, with Thome stepping in as the DH. Denard Span played 145 games last year, and there is no reason to think that he won’t play more this season, as he wasn’t given the starting CF job last year out of spring training. If I have to watch Cuddyer play a few games in CF, or even Casilla for a game or two, it won’t kill me. I am just saying that if it were my choice, I would have liked to have seen Jones making the trip north for more than just a couple of exhibition games.


  1. To be honest, I am disappointed that Jacque Jones did not make the roster as well. His name is so fun to say.

    Also, I understand your lack of interest in the WNBA, but let's not take cheap shots here.

  2. You are not alone. There are also many disappointed Minnesota kids holding tight to their "Jacque bears".

  3. Their closer situation has already been decided... it's closer by committee, the same thing the Rays had in 2008.
    If you want the Twins to win more games, you'll want Ramos up in the majors. That's what matters. He can learn a lot from watching Mauer.
    Harris should be the 3rd baseman, hands down.
    Going into todays game, Harris was hitting around .350 with a .390 OBP.. while Punto was hitting .200 with a .300 OBP. Harris has earned it. And with Punto getting all the playing time, I have to wonder what Harris is thinking.
    You need to check your theory of Casilla making the team over Jones.
    Jones isn't on the roster.. not even the 40 man.
    He's an NRI, and we don't need to over crowd our roster with OF like we did last year.
    Saying Casilla regressed based off of one year of bad ball is crazy.