Baseball season is finally here, Pitchers and Catchers officially report to Spring Training today. Following a disastrous 63-99 season, the Twins have invited 66 players to camp this year and the roster will work it’s way down to 25 by the end.
It’s a good move by the Twins, creating some competition for everyone and showing that they are ready to put 2011 behind them. By all reports catcher Joe Mauer and center fielder Denard Span look to be in great shape and ready to go, the big question mark will be first baseman Justin Morneau.
The Twins’ season largely depends on the heath of Mauer, Morneau and Span. If all three can stay healthy and produce, the Twins will almost certainly drastically improve on last years record. If the team experiences the rash of injuries and lack of production they did last year, it’s going to be a long summer….again.
There are a few position battles I am interested in watching during Spring Training. First off is the bullpen, there are a couple of spots that should be open for competition and a lot of guys competing for them.
Second is the third catcher spot. Most think that Drew Butera is a lock to take this spot but it will be interesting to see if J.R. Towles, who was a highly touted prospect and was signed by the Twins to a minor league contract this offseason can out perform Butera and make the big league club.
The third is the utility infielder spot. Most likely this will go to last years Opening Day short stop Tsuyoshi Nishioka. With the offseason signing of Jamey Carroll, Nishioka will have to compete with infielders Brian Dozier, Luke Hughes and a few others to make the club this year.
The one thing that might give Nishioka is his contract, it would be tough to pay a minor leaguer $3 million. But after last season, if Nishioka shows he is not ready I expect Terry Ryan to send him down to AAA and give either Dozier of Hughes a shot.
Look for an upcoming post on my initial projections for the 2012 roster in a few days.