The Minnesota Twins added six players to their 40-man roster ahead of the 8 p.m. ET deadline to do so to protect them from selection in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. The Rule 5 draft is the event that signals the closing of the Winter Meetings each year, which will be held from Dec. 4-8 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md.
Players selected in the MLB phase of the Rule 5 draft must remain on the big-league roster for the entire following season. Recent Twins selections in the Rule 5 draft include current reliever Ryan Pressly and former Twin Scott Diamond.
Before getting to the players added to the 40-man roster, it’s worth noting the subtractions the Twins made. Most notable is third baseman Trevor Plouffe, who is expected to clear waivers and become a free agent after seven seasons with the big-league club and 13 seasons total in the organization. Plouffe was one of five selections by the Minnesota Twins in the first round of the 2004 MLB draft as a shortstop out of Crespi Carmelite High School. Injured Closer Glen Perkins was taken two selections later, with current Twins starter Phil Hughes going one pick after Perkins.
In seven seasons, Plouffe hit .247/.308/.420 (99 OPS+) while playing every position in the infield as well as some left and right field. Plouffe’s evolution into an everyday player came in 2012, when he hit .235/.301/.455 while playing 119 games and hitting a career-high 24 home runs. From that point on, Plouffe was primarily a third baseman with brief stints at first base. Plouffe deserves credit for turning himself into a very good defensive third baseman after throwing issues got him moved off shortstop and initially hampered him at third.
Also on the move is outfielder Adam Brett Walker II, who was claimed by his hometown Milwaukee Brewers. Walker graduated from Lutheran High School in Milwaukee and played at Jacksonville University before the Twins took him with their third-round pick in the 2012 draft. Walker spent the 2016 season on the Twins’ 40-man roster and hit 27 home runs with 202 strikeouts in 531 plate appearances at Triple-A Rochester. He is not regarded as a good defensive outfielder and may be moved to first base in the future, a move Brewers GM David Stearns hinted at on Friday. Over five seasons in the Twins system, Walker hit 124 home runs and struck out 744 times while hitting .251/.310/.486 overall.
Also possibly on the move is catcher Juan Centeno, who was outrighted off the 40-man roster and has the option to refuse it. The Twins purchased Centeno’s contract in early May and he spent the bulk of the season on the MLB roster, backing up Kurt Suzuki while getting into 55 games with a slash line of .261/.312/.392. Centeno struggled defensively, as he ranked near the bottom of all MLB catchers in most framing metrics while having five passed balls in just 438.2 defensive innings.
Now, for the additions:
OF Zach Granite
Granite is a thin left-handed hitting outfielder who won’t hit for power but can handle center field defensively and projects as perhaps a fourth outfielder moving forward. He has good speed (102 steals in four seasons in Twins organization) and held up fairly well to same-sided pitching in Chattanooga in 2016. Granite took a significant step forward with the Lookouts in 2016 and put himself on the MLB path in doing so. Some believe he’s got a similar future to Billy Burns, who has spent time in the big leagues with the A’s and Royals.
RHP Fernando Romero
Romero might have the highest ceiling of all Twins pitching prospects and won’t be 22 for another month. Romero split time between Low- and High-A this season and put together a 1.89 ERA with a strikeout per inning and a WHIP of 0.90. Romero missed all of 2015 due to Tommy John surgery, but even then was still on the radar as Baseball America named him the team’s No. 29 prospect — down from 24 and 12 the previous two seasons. According to BA before this season, Romero had a “loose arm and projectable frame” with a fastball sitting 92-94 with a peak of 97 mph prior to surgery. In the midseason update, Romero vaulted to No. 8 on BA’s list while they touted his curve and changeup. Multiple outlets agree he could rocket up the rankings quickly in a good, but not great Twins system.
RHP Felix Jorge
Jorge was seventh on BA’s midseason update this season. According to BA, Jorge put together his finest season to date in 2016 — as of July — as a sinker-slider guy with good command. They were complimentary of his changeup as an out pitch as well. The Twins have continuously — at least in the Terry Ryan regime — compared him to Ervin Santana as a prospect. The body comps seem fairly apt — both are 6-foot-2 with Santana presently listed at 175 lbs. and Jorge at 170. Between two levels, Jorge posted a 50 percent groundball rate as he split the season almost evenly between Fort Myers and Chattanooga. The grounders held up at Double-A (51 percent) as he held his own as a 22-year old — 4.12 ERA, .734 OPS against and 32-12 K/BB ratio in 74.1 innings. He’ll need to find strikeouts as he moves up the ladder.
OF Daniel Palka
Palka came over in the Chris Herrmann trade as both players had solid 2016 seasons. Palka started at Double-A Chattanooga, where he terrorized Southern League pitchers to the tune of an .894 OPS in just under 80 games with 21 home runs, but also 100 strikeouts. His progress at Rochester was a little stunted, as he hit .232/.296/.483 with 86 strikeouts in just 223 plate appearances, but he still managed to hit 25 extra-base hits — 13 home runs and 12 doubles. He’s got real power and projects as a better defender than Walker, but still might be hard-pressed to make enough contact in the big leagues to be a difference maker. He’ll get at least one shot to show he can stick, most likely.
C Mitch Garver
Garver was a ninth-round selection in the 2013 draft out of the University of New Mexico and was already probably the organization’s best bet to carve out a career behind the plate before putting up a solid 2016 season. Garver hit .257/.334/.419 in 95 games at Chattanooga before getting a late-season promotion to Rochester, where he hit .329/.381/.434 with six extra-base hits in 22 games. Garver continues to improve in his actions behind the plate while throwing out an impressive 52 percent of runners at Chattanooga and 30 percent in 125.1 innings behind the plate at Rochester. What the Twins do in free agency this offseason might tell a bit of the story about if they feel he’s a long-term starter or just a very solid future player.
IF Engelb Vielma
Vielma is a glove-first infielder that really hasn’t hit at any level in five seasons in the Twins system. Some in the game believe he’s MLB-ready defensively right now, with the most likely scenario being a long career as an MLB utility man, perhaps a la former Twin Juan Castro. He’s coming off a fairly good stretch offensively at Chattanooga, where in 90 games this past season he hit .271/.345/.318 while moving around the infield a bit. He started the season playing some second base to accommodate Nick Gordon in Fort Myers but was promoted rather quickly. It’d probably take a Danny Santana and/or Eduardo Escobar move to get him to the big leagues in the very near future.
With the additions and subtractions, the Twins’ 40-man roster presently stands at 39.