Last night at Twinkie Town we ran down the roster for the Minnesota Twins' triple-A affiliate, the Rochester Red Wings. There were a couple of surprises, not so much in terms of who made the roster as in terms of who didn't. Lester Oliveros in particular was an intriguing omission.
This morning, let's break down the roster a bit more.
Diamond and Manship both have Major League experience with the Twins, while Thompson and Walter have thrown a few Major League innings for other organizations. With Liam Hendriks beginning the season with the Twins, none of these players are considered part of the franchise's future. As place holders, they'll be fine. They have experience and have histories of taking down minor league hitters. Both Sam Deduno and Tyler Robertson have experience starting, but most recently have been relief pitchers.
Until Hendriks returns to Rochester, or until a pitcher like Alex Wimmers proves he's ready for the next challenge, it's difficult for me to say who will be the team's fifth starter. Regardless, this isn't a deep talent pool.
Deduno, Slama and Vasquez all had some Major League experience in 2012, and Fien came very close to making the team out of spring training this year. Robertson is by far the youngest, at 24, so this isn't a particularly young crew. Just like the rotation this is an experienced staff against minor league hitters.
Slama and Fein can strike a few hitters out, and Gutierrez can induce ground balls. Robertson isn't too far removed from being one of the organization's top pitching prospects, and Deduno isn't too bad either. Is there obvious help here for the Major League roster? Nothing obvious. Fien, Gutierrez and Slama seem the most likely candidates for callup eventually.
While Butera remains the only catcher currently available to be called up, Rivera spent a lot of time with the Twins last season and Towles remains an intriguing player. He has more MLB experience than Butera or Rivera, and a far superior minor league track record with his bat.
With the addition of Rizzotti, the Red Wings look like they'll have a first baseman with power again this season. Bates was with the team last year but will likely be on the bench. Chang was also with the Red Wings and will probably play third base. Hollimon is versatile and can back up a number of positions. Dozier is one of the team's up and coming stars and will start at shortstop. Finally, Nishioka will likely be Rochester's second baseman as he attempts to find the success he had in Japan.
This will be one of the strengths of the triple-A affiliate. Benson, Dinkelman and Tosoni all had time with the Twins last season, and Carson's seen a few plate appearances with the Athletics. Benson and Carson could provide some power potential, combining with Rizzotti to give the Red Wings some meat in the middle of their order. Tosoni and Dinkelman are both athletic enough to play either corner, although it'll be Tosoni who backs up Benson in center. Wilkin Ramirez could fill that backup center field role once he's healthy.
Predicted Starters: Drew Butera (C), Matt Rizzotti (1B), Tsuyoshi Nishioka (2B), Ray Chang (3B), Brian Dozier (SS), Rene Tosoni (LF), Joe Benson (CF), Matt Carson (RF)
Team Strengths: Bullpen depth, MLB experience, versatile fielders
Team Weaknesses: Speed, on-base percentage, lack of upper-tier prospects
The Twins deserve credit for doing a good job of assembling their triple-A roster, because it isn't an easy time. When the Major League team is in transition, and when the best prospects in the organization are still a couple of years away, the challenge becomes a delicate balance between doing what's the best for a player's development and filling the organization's needs. At times like these, patience can be a tough thing to practice.