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Restoring the rosters: No. 12 – Minnesota

Aug 28, 2009, 5:22 PM EDT

This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
No. 22 – Detroit
No. 21 – Tampa Bay
No. 20 – New York (NL)
No. 19 – Houston
No. 18 – Oakland
No. 17 – St. Louis
No. 16 – Florida
No. 15 – San Francisco
No. 14 – Texas
No. 13 – Cleveland
12th place certainly isn’t bad, but the Twins would be far higher if, instead of coming up with teams based on players drafted and originally signed, these rankings went strictly by major league debuts. Johan Santana, David Ortiz, Francisco Liriano, Jason Bartlett and Cristian Guzman came up with the Twins, but all began their minor league careers elsewhere.
Rotation
Matt Garza
Scott Baker
Kevin Slowey
Nick Blackburn
Glen Perkins
Bullpen
Pat Neshek
LaTroy Hawkins
J.C. Romero
Grant Balfour
Jose Mijares
Peter Moylan
Jesse Crain
Moylan is the only one of the 25 players on the roster the Twins would lose if going to the “major league debut” standard. He was signed by the Twins in 1996, spent two years pitching in Rookie ball and then disappeared for eight years before impressing the Braves with his performance for Australia in the 2006 WBC and debuting later that season.
The rotation options are essentially the Twins’ current group, with Garza subbing in for Liriano/Carl Pavano. That looks like a net win for this group. Anthony Swarzak is the primary alternative to Perkins in the fifth spot. Kevin Mulvey wouldn’t be, since he was part of the Santana trade with the Mets.
The bullpen would be pretty strong with a healthy Neshek (he’s currently working his way back from Tommy John surgery). I’m throwing him into the closer’s role, given Hawkins’ lack of success in his most recent American League stints. Failing to make the cut was Eddie Guardado.
Lineup
LF Denard Span
C Joe Mauer
CF Torii Hunter
1B Justin Morneau
RF Michael Cuddyer
DH Jason Kubel
3B Danny Valencia
2B Matt Tolbert
SS Luis Rodriguez
Bench
C A.J. Pierzynski
INF Doug Mientkiewicz
INF Terry Tiffee
OF Jacque Jones
There’s hope for Valencia as the future at third base, but realistically, the lineup is only six players deep. Without credit for Bartlett, Guzman or even Alexi Casilla, the Twins just don’t have any adequate middle-infield options. Rodriguez and the disappointing Trevor Plouffe were the shortstop candidates, and second base came down to Tolbert and prospect Steven Tolleson. Mientkiewicz might actually be the superior choice there.
At least the top six is really nice. Mauer is about as valuable as anyone in the game, and Hunter and Morneau have also been among the AL’s best this year.
Summary
Of course, the Twins do deserve credit for finding and developing Santana and Ortiz, even if they may have actually held Ortiz back. The Twins under former general manager Terry Ryan were probably in the top five in baseball at scouting out and developing talent. Whether that’s going to hold true under Bill Smith remains to be seen, but the early returns aren’t especially encouraging. Whereas Ryan was a scout before becoming a GM, Smith is much more of an administrator. He’ll maintain the bottom line, but he may not pull off the coups that helped get the Twins to the playoffs four times in five years from 2002-06. He certainly hasn’t so far.

  1. ScottyB - Aug 28, 2009 at 7:49 PM

    The Twins have been absolutely putrid at picking infielders. In the last 30 years, they have drafted the following infielders (2B, SS, 3B) who have started at least 3 years for them: 1 SS – Pat Meares; 2 2B – Chuck Knoblauch and Luis Rivas; and 3 3B – John Castino, Gary Gaetti and Corey Koskie. Castino was moved from 3rd to 2nd for Gaetti and would have been their starting 2B for the ’87 WS if his back hadn’t given out. They have had a few utility guys like Hocking, Reboulet and Rodriguez. They need to hire someone who can evaluate infield talent – and it would help if they signed Miguel Sano. (Of course Cuddyer was drafted as a SS, but was eventually moved to RF).

  2. Brent - Sep 8, 2009 at 5:44 PM

    By held Ortiz back, did you mean not let him use Steroids?
    How pathetic have the Twins been at developing middle infielders? Yikes

  3. Kevin - Sep 8, 2009 at 8:04 PM

    There is an error in the line-up. With Gardenhire managing, either L-Rod or Tolbert would have to hit in the 2 slot.

  4. lookatthosetwins - Sep 9, 2009 at 4:41 PM

    I agree with Kevin. We need a guy who can bunt and is scrappy in the 2 spot. Not someone who can hit.

  5. Knee - Sep 10, 2009 at 8:15 AM

    Scotty, those are actually some decent names you listed. Knoblauch was the ROY and a several time all star untill he forgot how to throw in New York. Gaetti and Koskie were solid as well.
    The funny thing about this is their rotation and line up didnt change much with the exercise.

  6. ScottyB - Sep 10, 2009 at 10:21 AM

    The players I listed were all good to outstanding, it’s just that you can probably go back another decade and not have any more. The embarrassment is that there are so few over such a long period, and that few were around more than 5 years. By the way, Castino was also ROY.
    It’s not that they can’t draft – they’ve had decent luck drafting pitchers and catchers (they’ve had close to a dozen catchers they’ve drafted who’ve gone on to significant careers as starters or backups).
    The main reason that there weren’t many changes in the lineup or rotation is that for decades, the Twins have been horders. They rarely make significant trades, unless free agency is involved (i.e. Santana, Viola, Knoblauch, Carew). They lucked out with the Pierzynski deal – basically forced to make room for Mauer. Where the Twins have been good over the last 30 years has been when they have been sellers at the trade deadline, selling off veterans for minor leaguers. They have found good players by flipping the veterans.

  7. Alireza - Sep 14, 2009 at 3:21 PM

    Knoblauch was an excellent player in Minnesota. The Yankee-centric media makes him out to be some sort of terrible player, but there is a reason the Yanks traded for him. Mr. Garlic was an elite defensive and offensive 2B. Gaetti was the 1980s version of Mike Jacobs with the bat, all sock and no walk, but he was an elite defensive player. Still, I don’t see how one can call those two flops.
    Now the current Twins, they aren’t good at picking up middle infielders.

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