Will Quantity Lead to Quality for Twins?

Those of us who are planning trips to Spring Training in a couple of months had better make our lodging reservations quickly because Ft. Myers is going to be a bit more crowded than usual. The Twins have invited 25 non-roster players to their Major League camp which, when added to the 39 players on their current roster, means 64 players will fill their clubhouse. You have to also figure that GM Terry Ryan will find a relief pitcher to fill that last 40th roster spot, making the final number 65 players.

Dress them in purple and it will look more like¬†the Vikings training camp clubhouse than the Twins. Think of it this way… if all of the players invited to the Twins MAJOR LEAGUE camp are still with the organization in April (granted, that won’t happen), they would fill not only the Twins’ active roster… not only the Red Wings AAA active roster… but also nearly half of the Rock Cats AA active roster.

I’m not going to list all of the invitees here. The list is available elsewhere (click here for the post by the Star-Tribune’s Joe Christensen). I’d bet most of us have never heard of at least half of the non-roster invitees. (I’ll throw a few pictures up throughout this post… see how many you can name without running your mouse over the picture to see the filename.) That’s OK, though, because there are a few on the roster we don’t know very well at all, either.

Prevented by ownership from paying for quality additions to fill most of the Twins many holes in their line up, Ryan has apparently opted for quantity, hoping that there’s a couple of guys in the group that can provide at least replacement level production, if called upon to do so.

Maybe Ron Gardenhire and his coaches will find someone of value in that group, but you have to wonder just how much time they’ll have to seriously watch, much less work with, all of those players. Maybe that’s why the Twins are augmenting their Spring Training staff with an unusually large number of guest “instructors”. In addition to Tom Kelly, Tony Oliva and Paul Molitor, who have been Spring Training mainstays for some time, the Twins will have Jim Kaat, Rod Carew, Terry Steinbach and Eddie Guardado on staff in Ft. Myers.

Looking at the rest of the 2012 roster, Gardy might want to see if any of those guys would consider coming out of retirement.

I really want to feel more optimistic about the upcoming season, but it’s difficult when the most encouraging thought you can generate is that the rest of the AL Central Division looks almost as bad as the Twins. I’ve been starting to piece together a series of posts looking at each of the other division rivals and none of them are going to bring back images of the 1927 Yankees… or even the 2011 Yankees, for that matter.

Clearly, the Twins ownership is imposing on the front office a philosophy based on waiting to see whether their “stars” are healthy and productive enough to keep fans showing up at the ballpark. As I’ve written before, I still think that’s a risky business move but, as surpising as it may be, they didn’t ask for my opinion before charting this course.

I did find a couple of things interesting about the list of non-roster invitees.

First, it appears that the Twins will have a total of 32 pitchers in the Big League camp (33 if Ryan fills the last roster spot with a pitcher before pitchers & catchers report) and none of them are Anthony Slama. As Nick Nelson mentioned in his blog today, Slama pitched well at AAA before getting hurt last season and has also done so in Winter Ball (striking out more than a hitter per inning both in Rochester and in Mexico). Just seems odd that with the bullpen so void of talent, he may not even be going to get a look.

The second thing I noticed is that only three non-roster outfielders were invited to camp. I thought they might have wanted to get a peek at a couple of their talented younger outfielders, such as Aaron Hicks and Angel Morales. Oswaldo Arcia, another young OF, was added to the 40-man roster, so he’ll be in camp, and maybe the staff just figures that with so many other guys cluttering up the field, there just wasn’t going to be room for guys who are almost certainly at least another year from contributing.

In any event, seeing this list has pretty much cemented in my mind that I’ll be waiting until mid-March before heading to Ft. Myers. Once the minor league camp opens up, about 20 of these guys will probably be headed across the complex to one of the back diamonds.

Hopefully, out of all this “quantity”, the staff will be able to find a couple of guys with enough “quality” to make meaningful contributions this season. It just seems like an unnecessary exercise, for a team that’s no longer a “low revenue” organization, when so many reasonably priced free agents are still on the market.

– JC

UPDATE: I notice that the good folks over at Puckett’s Pond have started a series of posts with information on each of the 25 non-roster invitees. It’s an ambitious undertaking that Nate Glimore leads off with a look at 1B Aaron Bates. Keep on eye on the Pond (they’re included in our Blogroll at the right) for more.