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Predicting the Minnesota Twins 20-Man “Taxi Squad” IF Baseball Returns

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Labor negotiations between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association are a mess. Look no further than when I bitched about it in my previous post. Owners and players keep bickering about money instead of making it. Had they gotten their shit together early, they could be getting back to play right now. I could be writing about the start of the Minnesota Twins season right now…

There will be no ranting today, though! Instead of putting out another post about where negotiations are at, let us look at the positive side of things.

The two parties haven’t been able to agree on much, but have solidified the need for expanded rosters if play does return. And with that, a potential minor league taxi-squad that aims to aid teams with their depth, as the season wears on. 

Game day rosters will expand from 26 (which was agreed upon this year prior to the pandemic) to 30. The taxi-squads would hold up to 20 additional players, for a total of 50.


So, what is a taxi-squad you may ask?

Well, we don’t know exactly. There won’t be minor league baseball in 2020 (until Fall League) so the taxi-squad, in this situation, is the crop of players that you can draw from if you experience injuries or COVID-19 on your 30-man roster. These squads will likely change from team to team, with some valuing MLB-ready players vs developing prospects and vice versa. How it would all work is still a somewhat of a mystery…

Will the new 50-man roster have to include everyone on a team’s current 40-man roster? That could present some major issues… but that’s just the beginning of questions that are being asked. I thought Lindsey Adler of The Athletic said it best a couple of days ago:


Requiring teams to use their standard 40-man rosters would put many teams in a tough spot. Some of those spots are used to protect players in the lower levels of the minor leagues from eligibility for the Rule 5 draft. Tearing up the script to give teams more players to work with while also requiring them to have players who haven’t even seen Triple A on their taxi squad would be short-sighted, as would requiring them to take those less experienced players off the 40-man to accommodate a strange situation that should only be applicable to this season. What happens if someone gets injured and a player needs to be added to the taxi squad? Will there be a taxi squad for the taxi squad?

Lindsey Adler – The Athletic

What do the Minnesota Twins do?

The Twins have a roster that is versatile and deep, from top to bottom. We can expect Levine, Falvey and Baldelli to value players that can play multiple positions and contribute at the plate. They will also have to weigh player development vs a “win now” mentality. But that’s ok… because we have Derek and Thad. 



Time to assemble the squad!

The 30-man roster is the easy part, for the Twins. You just throw all the guys who were on the 26-man roster bubble, during Spring Training, onto the expanded 30-man. Those bubble players include Lamonte Wade, Jr.Lewis ThorpeDevin Smeltzer, and Jake Cave

The one wild card could be Rich Hill, who was initially doubtful to start the year, but has nearly recovered from his injury.

The Minnesota Twins are aided in this process by the strength of their farm system, which ranked 7th earlier this year according to MLB.com. There are plenty of players the club could utilize for a unique 2020 season. Let’s look at who the members of this new taxi-squad could be:  


Catcher:

The two most solid options for depth and potential contributions at Catcher, come from Telis and Jeffers. Tomas is first in line for a callup, if something were to happen to AvilaGarver, or Astudillo.

Telis has yet to pan out as a legitimate major league backup option, behind the plate, and is approaching 30 years old. But he put together a solid 2019 with Rochester, batting .330 with an .854 OPS… 


Infield:

I don’t think there will be too much dissent on the Minnesota Twins taxi-squad infielders. The most likely call-ups, would be Gordon and Wiel. It’s been a long road for Gordon, who is yet to get any play in the majors, after being the Twins’ top draft choice in 2014. Tovar does have major league experience, however, so the Twins could use him instead, depending on the situation.

After a solid 2019 in Rochester, now might be the time to test whether Gordon can sink or swim in the big leagues, though. The same goes for Wiel, because he provides additional stability at first base, that I’m not sure Blankenhorn does.

I would have loved to put Royce Lewis in here, but after a choppy 2019, he still needs some time to develop and hone his game. Rumors are already swirling about an extended Minor League fall season, which might be the better option for Lewis.


Outfield:

Look at the young power in the Twins’ taxi squad outfield… Rooker, Kirilloff and Larnach have totalled 108 HR and 447 RBI in a combined 5~ish seasons (not including time injured).

The call-up order would go as it’s listed. Some might be surprised that Kirilloff is ahead of Larnach, but when looking at the totality of both players’ careers, Kiriloff takes the slight edge.

While Larnach had the bigger year in 2019 as Kirilloff battled injuries, (even at his best) he’s not Alex Kirilloff. Remember, Alex is just one season removed from posting 101 RBI, 20 HR and a .970 OPS in 2018. Both guys rake, though.


PlayerGMSABAVGOPSRBIHR2BR
’19 Kirilloff94375.283.7564391847
’19 Larnach127476.309.84266133059


Pitchers:

This is where things get both interesting and difficult. The likes of Chacin, Poppen, Romero, and Gearrin are near locks to make this expanded Minnesota Twins roster. After that, it becomes a fine line between players who can stay sharp (despite minimal appearances) and players who need consistent time to continue developing.



I would have loved to place Jordan Balazovic on this list. He is the fifth-ranked minor league starter across the MiLB, according to MLB The Show 20 (video games are the real world, right?). Even with his real-life potential, I can’t see the Twins fiddling with his development or service time this year. 

Although unlikely, this could provide opportunity for Alcala and Jax to rise to the occasion. They could be emergency starters and/or help bolster a bullpen. The Twins will need both players on the 40-man and 26-man roster in 2020.


Looking Ahead:

While this is far from finalized (and completely hypothetical), the Twins have done an excellent job developing their young talent. This puts them in a great spot if we ever do get baseball this year. 

This mix of 50 players would give Baldelli plenty of options, especially at pitcher where top-end talent is lacking. It should also create minimal disparities between current players and those called up.

Let’s just get baseball started again! Assemble your own 50-man roster and let me know what you’d do differently.


via GIPHY


Jack Kewitsch | Minnesota Sports Fan

jkewitsch

Edina native and two-time grad of the University of Florida in Sport Management. Previously worked with the Timberwolves and Minnesota United FC along with the Gators.

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