MINNEAPOLIS — I wonder how many combined hours of sleep will be lost this week as the Minnesota Twins try to settle on a 25-man roster for the A.L. Division Series that begins Friday. Injured players returning to health, roster coverage, protection against a possible 45+ innings on the mound if the series goes the distance. There are a lot of factors to consider.
Here’s a hot take. If we assume the players on the injury fence are cleared to play, the job of piecing together Minnesota’s roster for that series isn’t going to be tough. Don’t sweat it. Sleep soundly, decision makers.
They way I see it there are basically four decisions that need to be made.
1) Are you taking a 13th pitcher (I would)
2) How healthy is healthy enough to make the roster? (I’m thinking Max Kepler, Luis Arraez and Marwin Gonzalez)
3) How do you want to fill out the bottom couple of spots on the pitching staff?
4) Which bench players do you want at your disposal for the ALDS?
Here’s my take on jigsaw puzzle of the 2019 ALDS roster for the Minnesota Twins:
If I had to guess I would say that the Twins are leaning toward a 13th arm on the roster, given how much they are going to need to cover against the Yankees and how much relative length uncertainty there is among their pitching group. Jake Odorizzi and José Berríos are good pitchers, and each should start a game in the first 3; how many innings will they pitch on the night that they throw? I’ll throw Randy Dobnak, the hottest pitcher and most recently married Twins player, into that same stew. Good enough for me to feel confident asking him to start a game (I’d do at Yankee Stadium), but an open question as to how many outs he’ll tally in the series.
Take a look at recent history and let’s recognize that the likely outcome here is that the Twins will use somewhere between 8 and 11 pitchers. If you consider that of the previous dozen ALDS teams, the least numbers of pitchers used was 7 (Derek Falvey’s Indians in 2016), and the highest number used was the 13 pitchers deployed by the 2018 Yankees.
I go through the first 9 arms on that list above without any hand wringing. Three clear-cut starters, five relievers who have earned their branch on the trust tree, and Martín Pérez, whose overall struggles mask the fact that he’s been great against lefties. Beyond that? I’ll take some guys who might be light on experience but that I could use to match up against righties, Stashak, Smeltzer and Graterol. Really need a big out against a lefty in New York? Awesome, you’ve got Duffey, Romo, May, Littell and Pérez to do the job.
For position players, I’m taking a starter at every spot and assuming the health of players like Max Kepler, Luis Arraez and Marwin Gonzalez. If one of those guys can’t go — Arraez, for example — then it obviously changes the group. Maybe it even costs you a pitcher on the roster.
Gonzalez is a real game changer here because he allows you to cover a lot of different scenarios. Lose an infielder and Schoop can’t cover for it? Right on. Insert Cave in the outfield and move Marwin into the infield.
Now, if injuries factor into the equation this is another story altogether. Short of that, take your group of bats and cover yourself on the mound, and rest easy.