When contemplating the 2012 opening day roster, one important consideration is the readiness of some of the younger players to fill everyday slots in the lineup or rotation.
In the cases of Trevor Plouffe and Luke Hughes, both out of options, the time is now to find out if they can be contributors on a regular basis. Plouffe may have a chance at regular time in one of the corner outfield positions, but Hughes is almost definitely going to be a utility player this coming year if he is not traded.
Ben Revere is one of the more interesting decisions. He spent a good deal of time with the major league club in 2011 largely because of injuries, especially to Denard Span. He demonstrated that he can be a very disruptive force on the base paths, but was far less than adequate in his on-base percentage. He made some spectacular defensive plays, but also showed his inexperience in route to the ball mistakes. And he has a very weak arm, which becomes a liability as demonstrated by several teams taking extra bases on him late in the year.
I believe Revere would be well served to spend some more time at Rochester to work on his hitting, especially his patience and ability to draw walks. With Tom Brunansky now the hitting coach at Rochester, Revere could get extra work in to develop into a better hitter, by being wiser at the plate.
For this to be a possibility, the Twins are going to need to sign at least two outfielders. That is not very likely. Besides, if Gardenhire has a lot of influence, he will want Revere on the opening day roster and will probably have him in left field opening day – center field if Span is not able to return.
Three players who made late season appearances with the Twins all belong on the AAA Rochester Red Wings roster to open the 2012 season.
Rene Tosoni is not ready yet, but if he develops well, he could be an important member of the Twins later in 2012.
Chris Parmelee had a great month of September, but he can also benefit from more development time. The only way I see him in the 2012 picture before September is if Justin Morneau goes down again.
Joe Benson is the most highly rated of the three, but remains the most raw. He will definitely benefit by more work with Brunansky emphasizing plate better selection and reducing the strikeouts. I hope he is not rushed into a starting role with the Twins due to failure to sign another outfielder this off-season.
In addition to those position players, Scott Diamond and Liam Hendriks made starts for the Twins late in the season when so many regular starters were on the DL. Both need more development time and should start the season with the Red Wings. They should continue to work as starters rather than being brought in to fill holes in the bullpen at the major league level.
I like Alex Burnett as a solid middle relief pitcher down the road, but he too could do with a little time to regroup under less pressure at AAA. He was brought up in 2010 directly from AA to fill a spot on the opening day roster intended for Clay Condrey (who never made it back from injury) and had some very good moments both in 2010 and 2011, but he is not yet consistent enough to be the reliable pitcher he needs to be. It would be very wise on the part of the Twins to bring in enough veteran relievers to fill out the bullpen to open the season and then bring up guys like Burnett, Kyle Waldrop, and perhaps Anthony Slama later in the year if they prove themselves worthy at Rochester.