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.

5 thoughts on “Will Quantity Lead to Quality for Twins?

  1. I guess if there’s any one area where you could compile 15 guys and try to find 1 guy to take up a roster spot, and produce a little bit, it’s probably in the bullpen. But then again, it’s not like they’ve been very successful lately finding guys when they have specifically tried (Jim Hoey, for example).

    But this is a serious job. It’s not as if the Twins are 1 arm away from having a great bullpen. Perkins, Duensing, Capps, perhaps in that order, are about the only “sure things.” (Use of quotes was dubious, there, with respect to Capps anyawy). And with this starting rotation, they might get a lot of work in.

  2. AW, I’m probably overly jaded at this point. I had such high hopes for Hoey after I watched him strike out the side in a ST game last year, with each pitch seemingly 1 mph faster on the speedgun than the last.

    I also have to mention that while everyone is talking about Perkins being the best of the returning bullpen arms, just a year ago most of us were wondering why the Twins even were keeping him around. Point is, it’s not like even Perkins should be heavily relied upon. He’s just as likely to flame out as he is to have another good season. In fact, I’d almost count Duensing as the most likely to at least be a reliable ‘pen arm throughout the season (and I still believe he’ll spend much of the season back in the rotation).

    Bottom line… the bullpen, at the moment anyway, looks like a timebomb waiting to blow up and, as you alluded to, the Twins are likely going to need to use it a lot.

  3. The key to a great Twins Spring Training experience is to NOT stay in Ft. Myers. The Twins and the Bloody Red Sux outdraw every Spring Training city my a country mile. Even worse this year as the Red Sux will open a new facility that will make Hammond Stadium look like a Little League park.

  4. The Twins have four guys pretty much set in the bullpen. Capps, Perkins, Swarzak and Duensing. That leaves something like 23 guys to compete for 3 spots. And its not like the candidates lack talent. They have some very talented players that lack experience. They have some talented guys coming off injuries. And they have some talented guys who have not been able to be consistent in the big leagues.

    Hoey was always a huge gamble, like a lot of guys who throw hard but can’t find the plate. Its not like he cost a lot. They got him for a guy (Hardy) they were going to let walk while dumping the salary of another guy (Harris). That isn’t much more value than your average waiver claim. Maybe less.