With the season starting Friday against the White Sox, the opening day 30-man roster is beginning to come into focus.
We know two presumed members of the 30-man will not be on it. Starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi was placed on the IL following Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Cubs with back soreness. He’s not expected to be out long, and could make his season debut during Minnesota’s series against Cleveland at the end of the month. Catcher Willians Astudillo hasn’t appeared in camp since testing positive for COVID-19 at the beginning of July, meaning he almost certainly won’t be on the roster Friday. With that in mind, here’s a best guess at the 30-man roster:
Notes: Prospect Ryan Jeffers impressed in camp, but SKOR North’s Darren Wolfson reported veteran Tomas Telis was on the Chicago trip as a member of the taxi squad, meaning Telis would likely be next in line if Garver or Avila had to miss time. When Astudillo is healthy, he should be added to the roster, though once the roster shrinks to 28 players two weeks into the season, and 26 players two weeks after that, it’s less of a certainty.
Bubble: Travis Blankenhorn
Notes: Blankenhorn impressed in camp and is on the 40-man, so it’s possible he could see time at some point this season, but with Gonzalez and Adrianza entrenched as utility men, Blankenhorn probably isn’t needed right now. Sano is still searching for his timing after missing most of camp, but he was in the lineup Wednesday against the Cubs. He went 0-3 with a walk, but did make a couple of nice defensive plays at first.
LaMonte Wade Jr.
Bubble: Lane Adams
Notes: Whitefield is the surprise addition here. His elite speed and fantastic defense make him an interesting player, particularly with the new extra-innings rule in which each team starts with a runner at second base, where Whitefield’s legs would make him an asset. This list also assumes Byron Buxton is healthy–he worked out in St. Paul on Wednesday and the Twins said he could be available by the weekend, but it’s not a certainty. If he’s not ready, Lane Adams, who has big league time, could be a candidate to fill-in on a short-term basis.
Starting pitchers (4)
Notes: Odorizzi going to the IL and Jhoulys Chacin signing with Atlanta means the Twins don’t have an obvious fifth starter. It’s possible they’ll go with at least one bullpen game to bridge the gap until Odorizzi returns; they certainly have the depth to pull that off without wearing out too many arms.
Bubble: Lewis Thorpe, Sean Poppen, Caleb Thielbar
Notes: Alcala grabs the final spot here due to his impressive camp (Twins Special Assistant LaTroy Hawkins talked at length on one of the Twins’ intrasquad broadcasts about how impressed he was with Alcala) and ability to throw in the high-90s. The Twins brought him to Chicago and he pitched a scoreless inning against the Cubs, suggesting they see him as a real option, though his control is still a work in progress. Dobnak, Smeltzer, and Thorpe can all start if needed, with Dobnak likely getting the first shot. It wouldn’t be surprising if Dobnak ends up a permanent part of the rotation by the end of the year–he’s done nothing but pitch well since being promoted to the big leagues. Thielbar could make the team if the Twins want a lefty specialist.