The Minnesota Twins announced on Saturday morning that they’d sent four players to Triple-A Rochester and assigned another four to minor-league camp.
Rochester recently started playing Triple-A games in Florida to prepare for the season, with players like Mason Melotakis, Travis Harrison, Nik Turley and others playing key roles in early action.
Catcher Mitch Garver is one of the four who was sent to Rochester. Garver is the team’s best and most advanced catching prospect, but he was the third dog in a three-headed race to be backup catcher behind Jason Castro. Garver has drawn solid reviews for his improved defense behind the plate and he’s coming off a solid offense season where he hit .270/.342/.422 between Double-A Chattanooga as well as a 22-game stretch with the Red Wings. Garver hit .231/.333/.385 in 13 spring training games before being sent out.
Infielder Engelb Vielma was also sent out on Saturday. The glove-first infielder hit just .167/.231/.250 in 12 spring plate appearances and was destined to begin the year in the minors either way with a crowded bench competition heating up. Vielma, who was added to the 40-man roster in the offseason, has played only 90 games above High-A and is a career .264/.327/.309 hitter in 422 career minor-league games.
Outfielder Zach Granite is also headed to Rochester. Entering play Saturday, Granite had the fifth-most plate appearances on the team this spring (28), but failed to do much with them as he’d hit just .214/.258/.250. Granite is a solid defensive outfielder at all three spots and excellent at stealing bases, and is coming off hitting .295/.347/.382 at Double-A Chattanooga last season. That performance earned him Minor League Player of the Year honors in the Twins system. He was added to the 40-man roster in the offseason and had an outside shot to crack the team as a reserve outfielder.
The final player sent to Triple-A was outfielder Daniel Palka, whom the Twins acquired from Arizona for utility man Chris Herrmann prior to the 2016 season. Palka, who was added to the 40-man roster in the offseason, hit .254/.327/.521 in 133 games between Chattanooga and Rochester last season. Palka’s numbers took a step back in his 54 games with the Red Wings, as he hit .232/.296/.483 with 13 home runs in his first taste of Triple-A ball. He too was in the mix — but also a longshot — to make the team as a reserve outfielder. Palka hit .167/.423/.389 in 18 spring training plate appearances.
The four players sent to minor-league camp were catcher Dan Rohlfing and infielders Niko Goodrum, Nick Gordon and Leonardo Reginatto.
Rohlfing returned to the Twins organization after spending the last two years in the Mets and Diamondbacks systems. He spent the first eight years of his career on the farm with the Twins and is a career .244/.316/.338 hitter in 610 minor-league games. He has no MLB experience, and in addition to catching has played some corner outfield (about 1,000 innings worth), first base and has even pitched three innings.
Goodrum was the Twins’ second-round pick (No. 71 overall) in 2010 from Fayetteville, Ga. — about 200 miles from Baxley, where Byron Buxton grew up. Goodrum was taken one pick after Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons, and has yet to play above the Double-A level thus far through seven minor-league seasons. He’ll still be just 25 years old all season, so he still has a chance to reach the major leagues as a utilty man. He hit a solid .275/.352/.464 between High-A Fort Myers and Chattanooga last year while getting into just 55 games due to injury. Last season alone, Goodrum played at third base and short as well as some in center field. He’s also played second and first base at times in them minors, as well.
Gordon is the team’s top position prospect, and appears poised to being the season at Double-A after spending all years at Fort Myers last year. Gordon is lauded for his likely future as a solid big leaguer, and he hit .291/.335/.386 in 116 games before a solid stint in the Arizona Fall League (.862 OPS in 21 games).
Reginatto will turn 27 early in the season, and is a career minor-league utility player with 653 games under his belt between the Tampa Bay and Minnesota systems. Reginatto hit .265/.318/.327 in 132 games between Double- and Triple-A last year while playing mostly third base.
The Twins still have 48 players in camp. Sixteen are non-roster players. There are 25 pitchers (seven non-roster), four catchers (two), 12 infielders (five) and seven outfielders (two).