Twins fans are likely to have their patience tested this season. One look at the rotation tells you that April and May are likely to see a lot of young pitchers trying to demonstrate they belong in a big league rotation. And its very likely some of them will be demonstrating that they don't belong. At least not yet.
But with all the questions in the rotation, there are also a lot of potential answers. And that is true of the position players as well. The Twins talent last year was very shallow. This year, its not. Looking at the team position, by position they have major league players at most positions and young players who might be able to take the job if someone stumbles or gets hurt. In a couple cases, they have players who, by the end of the season, might just be better than the veteran who has the job to start.
This was a position of depth last year and it remains that way this year. Mauer and Redmond provide a solid major league catching staff. Behind them are young prospects Jose Morales and Drew Butera, one an offensive catcher, the other defensive. They aren't going to take the major league catchers' jobs. But they provide some real depth in case of injury.
Here the Twins are thin after Justin Morneau. If he should get hurt, the Twins would be scrambling to find a replacement. This is the thinnest position in the Twins system.
Brendan Harris probably has this job to start the season. Punto is the backup. But Alex Casilla may be ready to take the job away from Harris by mid-season.
Clearly Adam Everett will start the season for the Twins at shortstop. His bat will never impress anyone but his defense will. Again, Punto is the backup. But also again there are players in the minor leagues who could take Everett's job, regardless of his defensive skills. Casilla is one guy who could do that. The other is Trevor Plouffe. Its not going to happen to start the season, but by July either of these two could be forcing their way onto the major league roster.
Mike Lamb is going to the starter. Chances are he will not hit lefties and Punto will see most of his action at third base against left handed pitchers. The minor league options here are not strong. Buys like Watkins, Basak and Macri are not going to take the job away from Lamb. Cut Harris might if Casilla is ready to take the job at second base.
Punto will have this job. The minor leagues have players like Basak, Macri, Watkins and Tolbert. None of them have the defensive skills you look for at shortstop. But they give some depth to the infield in case of injuries.
Delmon Young is set here. There isn't anyone in the minor leagues who would take this job even if Young was hurt. Jason Kubel is the backup. Craig Monroe can play left. So, probably, can Michael Cuddyer.
There are three guys in this competition, and really only one likely winner. Gomez will start the season in center field unless he really struggles in spring training. But Pridie or Span could take the job away from him if he stumbles to start the season.
Cuddyer starts here, Young is probably the backup. Monroe can play right and Kubel probably can in a pinch.
Monroe, Kubel will be available as backups in the outfield. Monroe can play center field, but its possible Pridie could win a roster spot out of spring training as well and give the Twins a true center fielder as a backup to Gomez. Span and Pridie would both be players who might start the season in the minor leagues, but win a bench job sometime during the year.
Kubel will be DH'ing most of the time. He will probably not see much duty against tough left handers. At least, not to start the year.
The Twins appear to be much deeper than they were last year. They will start the year with some true prospects at AAA, players who should improve and eventually win major league jobs. Combined with the young pitching staff, that may mean a team that is much better by July than it was in April. Its unlikely the young players will develop quickly enough to make the Twins contenders this year. But its not impossible. A lot will depend on how close the Twins can hang in while they are sorting out all the young talent.