Minnesota Twins: Meet the Non-Roster Invitees for Spring Training

Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins have 60 players slated to report to Fort Myers for spring training, and that includes the entire 40-man roster as well as 20 players who received invitations to big-league camp.

Here’s a quick breakdown on each of those players (with their age on Opening Day):

Catchers (4)

Brian Navarreto (24) – Teams typically invite extra catchers to camp to make sure all the pitchers can get their work in. Navarreto fits that bill as a defense-first catcher who has hit just .218/.269/.306 in six minor-league seasons but has thrown out 50 percent of attempted base thieves. If he makes the big leagues in the future, it’ll be as a Drew Butera type.

Ben Rortvedt (21) – He appeared to be potentially headed down the Navarreto path — especially disappointing as a 2016 second-round pick — but Rortvedt’s bat found life between Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers last season. Rortvedt hit .262/.331/.379 in 90 games between those two stops while throwing out a solid 36.8 percent of attempted base thieves. Getting to Fort Myers and still holding his own offensively against players on average 2.4 years older than him is a pretty solid boost to his previously sagging stock. He still appears to have the foundation of a starting big-league catcher from this vantage point.

Wynston Sawyer (27) – Sawyer came over from the Dodgers organization last year, and got into 36 games between Double- and Triple-A. He hit .257/.387/.347, which is fairly on-brand for his career (.248/.342/.366). He’s only thrown out 22 percent of attempted base thieves, and at age 27 has only played 23 games above Double-A. That was last year with Rochester, where he hit .318/.446/.394. There might be some backup potential here based on potential framing/blocking numbers.

Tomas Telis (27) – Telis signed a minor-league deal with the Twins over the offseason, and has some MLB experience with the Rangers and Marlins between 2014-18. He’s hit just .230/.267/.298 in 122 MLB games (267 PA). Telis has thrown out only three of 29 attempted base thieves over his MLB career, and is not regarded as a particularly good pitch framer, either. In 11 minor-league seasons, Telis has hit .294/.333/.401.

Infielders (5)

Dean Anna (32) – Anna resembles former Twins utility infielder Doug Bernier in a lot of ways. He’s gotten a cup of coffee in 2014 and 2015 with the Yankees and Cardinals — hitting .130/.192/.304 in 26 plate appearances — while playing shortstop, second base and even pitching an inning. Anna hit .271/.367/.341 with Triple-A Lehigh Valley (Phillies) in 122 games (530 PA) last year, and in his minor-league stops has played has played every defensive position except catcher and center field.

Randy Cesar (24) – The Twins picked up Cesar in minor-league free agency from the Astros organization this offseason. Cesar broke a Texas League record with a 42-game hitting streak last year, and for the season hit a respectable .296/.348/.428 in 116 games at Double-A Corpus Christi. Nearly 400 of his 517 minor-league games have come at third base, but this does feel a little bit like Yangervis Solarte, whom the Twins lost in minor-league free agency after 2011, when he hit .329/.367/.466 at Double-A New Britain.

Lucas Duda (33) – Duda was the highest-profile signing for the Twins in minor-league free agency this offseason, and is best known for his time with the Mets — including the 2015 NL Championship team. Duda is a career .242/.337/.452 hitter in nine years, but is strictly limited to first base defensively. Duda’s role in the big leagues moving forward would be as a righty masher, as he’s hit .251/.354/.485 against them in his career. It’s hard to imagine him platooning with Tyler Austin or CJ Cron, but not an impossibility.

Royce Lewis (19) – Lewis continued his rapid ascent in the organization by hitting .292/.352/.451 between Low-A Cedar Rapids and High-A Fort Myers. Lewis has drawn recent comparisons to Barry Larkin, Derek Jeter and Carlos Correa for his abilities on the field, and he’s regarded as a terrific teammate and presence in the community as well. There is no chance he’ll crack the roster to start the season — or perhaps even 2019 at all — but he’s clearly on the fast track. Do not be surprised if he opens this season at Pensacola — or maybe very, very briefly in Fort Myers — and reaches the big leagues in 2020.

Adam Rosales (35) – Rosales is a journeyman utility infielder with big-league stops in Oakland, Texas, Cincinnati, Arizona, San Diego and most recently, last year with Cleveland. He’s a career .226/.291/.365 hitter and got into just 13 MLB games last year, so he and Anna will be considered the clubhouse leaders in Rochester most likely — a team that had plenty of pitching but almost no offensive talent to speak of for much of the 2018 season.

Outfielders (3)

Alex Kirilloff (21) – Kirilloff hit the ground running after missing a full season for Tommy John surgery, hitting .333/.391/.607 at Cedar Rapids in 65 games before spending his final 65 hitting a comparable .362/.393/.550 at High-A Fort Myers. The odds of him starting the season at Pensacola seem quite high, and he could be in the mix for a big-league call-up sometime this season if he continues his blazing pattern. A 2020 promotion seems more likely, but he has absolutely scorched everything put in front of him to this point since going in the first round in 2016.

Luke Raley (24) – Raley came over in the Brian Dozier deal with the Dodgers, and hit a solid .276/.371/.449 in 27 games at Chattanooga — almost a carbon copy of his line at Tulsa before the trade. Raley’s a bat-first prospect who’ll have to play a corner, but he’s got plus power and a nice left-handed swing.

Brent Rooker (24) – Rooker spent the whole year at Double-A Chattanooga last year, and hit a respectable .254/.333/.465. It’s hard to say for sure if he’ll repeat Double-A — Pensacola this time around — due to his age and the need to continue to challenge him, but it’s clear he didn’t dominate the Southern League in the same way he terrorized the the SEC, Florida and Appalachian Leagues in 2017. His entire profile revolves around his bat.

Pitchers (8)

Tim Collins (29) – Collins is known for his tenure with the Royals, but he was signed by the Blue Jays, traded to the Braves — for two weeks — and then flipped to the Royals in a deal for Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth. Collins is an anomaly, as he’s listed as 5-foot-7 and 168 pounds but has made his living throwing the baseball 93-95 mph. Collins didn’t pitch in the big leagues at all from 2015-17, but resurfaced with the Nationals last year after undergoing back-to-back Tommy John surgeries. Collins posted a 4.37 ERA (5.76 FIP) in 22.2 innings with the Nationals with 8.3 K/9, 4.8 BB/9 and 1.99 HR/9. Those are all ugly numbers to be sure, but as a stepping stone, it’s a huge personal win for Collins. He can help this year’s Twins.

Justin Nicolino (27) – Nicolino is the quintessential soft-tossing lefty, with a 4.65 ERA in 201.1 MLB innings and just 3.8 K/9. He’s a nice insurance policy in the rotation — though behind a lot of guys like Stephen Gonsalves, Kohl Stewart, Fernando Romero and others — but it’s also unclear how his profile could work out of the bullpen. There are some options here.

Chase De Jong (25) – De Jong came over from the Mariners in the Zach Duke trade last year, and was outrighted off the 40-man roster after TwinsFest to make room on the 40-man roster for Martin Perez. De Jong’s peripherals don’t jump off the screen — 5.1 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 29.6 percent GB rate in 46 MLB innings — and as a righty, he’s an exceptionally soft tosser (89.8 mph). As a result, he cleared waivers and will be in the mix for swingman innings at Rochester and perhaps at some point in Minnesota.

Ryan Eades (27) – The Twins selected Eades out of LSU in the second round of the 2013 MLB draft, and while he hasn’t broken through to the big leagues yet, he’s knocking on the doorstep. He’s spent a large part of the last two years working in relief between Chattanooga and Rochester, and has seen his strikeout numbers rise drastically — typically 6.5-7.5 K/9 as a starter, 10-11 in relief — with fairly good secondary numbers. Eades has done a very good job keeping the ball in the park in the minors (0.5 HR/9) but is not much of a groundball pitcher (~40 percent groundball rate each year). He’s typically in the mid-90s with his fastball — 93-96 but probably settling in around 94, a source told Zone Coverage — with a curve and slider and a solid changeup.

Preston Guilmet (31) – Guilmet has some big-league experience over the last six years — Cleveland, Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Toronto — but hasn’t thrown more than 10.1 innings with any of those teams in the big leagues as he’s mostly been a minor-league journeyman. Guilmet was hit hard in the majors last year in 10 innings — six homers, 13 earned runs — but was very good at Triple-A: 1.60 ERA, 9.9 K/9, 0.65 WHIP and just 4.3 hits per nine. Guilmet is a soft-tossing righty — 89.4 mph average fastball in the big leagues — but his best secondary pitch is a splitter which has induced grounders at a rate of nearly 50 percent with an 18 percent swinging-strike rate. He could be this year’s Matt Magill.

He also has a really quirky delivery:

Ryne Harper (30) – Harper turns 30 the day on the eve of the MLB regular season, and put together quite the interesting season in the system last year before re-signing this offseason. Harper was brilliant with Chattanooga — 2.54 ERA (1.21 FIP) in 39 innings, 11.8 K/9, 1.2 BB/9 — and moved up to Rochester, where things were a bit uneven. In 26 innings with the Red Wings, Harper posted a 5.19 ERA, but his FIP was 2.33 on the strength of 12.1 K/9, 1.7 BB/9 and a sterling groundball rate of 61.8 percent. Harper has racked up strikeouts at every stop in the minors — 11 K/9 over eight MiLB seasons — but for whatever reason just hasn’t been able to break through to the big leagues, perhaps largely due to only decent Triple-A numbers overall (4.35 ERA, 1.30 WHIP).

Mike Morin (27) – Morin has MLB experience with the Angels and Mariners over the past four seasons, posting a 4.66 ERA (3.32 FIP) in 174 innings with nearly a strikeout per inning and solid secondary rates. He doesn’t throw particularly hard — 91.5 mph career average — but his changeup (22.2 percent whiff rate) and slider (16.4 percent) have been strong pitches for him in the past. His changeup is particularly devastating — .207/.230/.258 line against — and it seems like he might have the best chance of any of the non-roster invitees of making the team out of spring training. He was born in Andover, Minn.

Here’s a good look at that nasty changeup:

Jake Reed (26) – Reed has been stuck in purgatory of sorts since reaching Triple-A in 2016, as he’s yet to advance to the big leagues or even be added to the 40-man roster despite posting solid numbers. In parts of three seasons with the Red Wings, Reed has posted a 1.92 ERA, 8.4 K/9 and a WHIP of 1.12, yet that didn’t even generate interest in the Rule 5 draft, where he’d seem to be a good fit as a ready-made, fairly safe middle reliever who could be useful to many teams. Maybe he’ll get that chance with the Twins sometime this season, but it’s easy to see how he could be frustrated after posting a 1.89 ERA at Rochester last year but still didn’t make the big leagues.

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