With Opening Day approaching in less than three weeks, the Minnesota Twins are grinding away in Spring Training. The squad has compiled an even 6-6 record as of their scheduled Thursday day off, with two early ties as well. Due to the nature of Spring Training, given that the word “training” is explicitly in the title, win-loss totals do not mean anything. For instance, the Miami Marlins are the team to beat so far in the Grapefruit League, despite the fact that they are projected to lose 100 games and place dead last in the NL East’s race to the bottom.
Individual players and their peripherals are what experts look at when evaluating Spring Training. Promising catching prospect Mitch Garver has had a rough spring, with a homerun being his only success at the plate in 11 at-bats. Garver also gave the front office quite a scare last week with a knee injury, which turned out to be minor and he returned to work soon after. In two games played since returning from his hyperextended knee, Garver is hitless in five plate appearances. This is a tumultuous and frustrating start for last season’s minor league player of the year, who is expected to win the backup catcher gig for the Twins when the regular season rolls around.
Garver is not the only Twin suffering from spring injuries. Eddie Rosario, the club’s breakout left fielder, has been out for over a week with tendinitis. While outside observers where initially concerned about his health, Rosario and Twins manager Paul Molitor have assured the media that the injury is not a big deal. According to general manager Thad Levine, the team’s medical staff believe the elbow discomfort was caused by throwing too much, too quickly when training started. Rosario’s prolonged absence has led to more spring playing time for players Zack Granite and Robbie Grossman, both competing for an Opening Day roster spot on the Twins’ crowded big league bench. The upside of Rosario’s minor discomfort is the chance for both players to potentially prove themselves and make the major league roster. Given Granite’s youth, speed, and yet-to-manifest offensive upside, I would take his odds of making the team over Grossman’s.
As the regular season draws closer, we will see teams start to send their non-roster invitees down to minor league camp. The Twins made their first such move this week, sending four pitchers and two catchers packing to the minors. One of the pitchers was Zack Littell, acquired from the Yankees in a trade last season. He had a notably good, yet short, Spring Training, striking out 8 batters while holding the rest to a dismal .118 batting average over 5 innings of work.
Moving into the front office and baseball operations, it is ridiculous that we are still talking about free agent rumors in March. However, as this offseason has proven many times over, this season is an odd reality. Lance Lynn, arguably the third best available pitcher right now, turned down a two year contract from the Twins. The deal, which had an annual average value of $10 million, is dramatically less than what Lynn was expected to sign for in the beginning of the offseason. Hopefully, he finds a home sometime soon.
The Twins continue to move forward with player development as Spring Training goes on. While Opening Day against the Orioles gets closer, expect to see more regulars in the lineup and more prospects moved to minor league camp as the final roster battles grow more intense.