At the beginning of each offseason, every team goes through the ritual housecleaning of shedding players from the 40-man roster to prepare for a winter of adding new players and protecting new prospects.
As one of baseball’s worst teams for a third straight year, the Twins have no shortage of dead weight on the 40-man roster, plus plenty of marginal talents clinging to spots.
So here’s my breakdown of the players most likely to be shed and where they stand (in alphabetical order):
Andrew Albers: Odds are Albers’ early success after being called up is enough to keep him on the 40-man roster for next season, but as of about two months ago, he was nowhere to be found in the Twins’ plans, and soft-tossing former independent leaguers tend to always be close to the chopping block. Extreme strike-throwing could allow Albers to survive as a fifth starter for a bit, but he’s totally lacking in upside and has predictably struggled to miss bats.
Doug Bernier: Signed to a minor-league deal this offseason, Bernier had the best season of his dozen-year career by hitting .295/.370/.407 in 95 games as Rochester’s starting shortstop. That earned him a call-up in July when the Twins demoted Eduardo Escobar from the utility infielder role and Bernier has played sparingly. As a 33-year-old career .249/.347/.341 hitter in 600 total games at Triple-A, there’s no reason to keep a marginal utility man on the roster.
Chris Colabello: He crushed Triple-A pitching to be named MVP of the International League, but Colabello has hit just .196 with a 51-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 47 games for the Twins, and 29-year-old rookies signed out of independent leagues often don’t get second chances. He’s shown some pop, and based on his Triple-A destruction, Colabello seems capable of being at least a useful platoon first baseman against lefties, but it’s hard to imagine his roster spot being secure.
Cole De Vries: As a local guy and undrafted free agent, De Vries making his big-league debut last year at age 27 was a great story, but he was never particularly deserving of the call-up in the first place based on his track record and this year he was injured and ineffective at Triple-A. De Vries is exactly the type of pitcher who will be available on minor-league deals every offseason, and there’s zero reason for the Twins to keep him on the 40-man roster like they have since mid-2012.
Brian Duensing: After a miserable first half that saw him demoted from setup man to mop-up man, Duensing has quietly turned things around in the second half. His overall numbers are solid, including a 53-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio and just three homers allowed in 56 innings, but he’ll never be trustworthy versus right-handed hitters, and with a raise to at least $2 million coming up via arbitration, he’s a non-tender candidate.
Eric Fryer: Added to the 40-man roster and called up two weeks ago because the Twins simply needed another warm body behind the plate after Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit suffered brain injuries, Fryer got the nod despite a .215/.339/.365 line in 65 games at Triple-A. His track record is similarly poor, and at age 27, there’s no upside to be had, so it seems safe to assume that Fryer will be dropped from the 40-man roster as soon as the season is over.
Liam Hendriks: Being rushed to the majors slightly ahead of schedule in 2012 hasn’t helped, and giving up on Hendriks at age 24 would be a drastic move. On the other hand, underwhelming raw stuff and mediocre strikeout rates always made him a second-tier prospect. His results for the Twins so far have been brutally bad, and this year his Triple-A performance also ceased being encouraging. It all depends on how long the Twins want to wait for a potential fourth starter.
B.J. Hermsen: Terrible strikeout rates and poor fastball velocity stopped Hermsen from being a quality prospect, despite nice-looking ERAs in the low minors. He was named Twins minor league pitcher of the year in 2012 but ranked just 29th in my prospect rankings coming into the season, and he then got knocked around at Double-A for a 4.81 ERA and .328 opponents’ batting average with just 35 strikeouts in 86 innings. He’s still only 24 years old but has very little upside.
Pedro Hernandez: Acquired from the White Sox in the Francisco Liriano trade, Hernandez is a soft-tossing left-hander who likely struggles too much against right-handed hitters to succeed as a starter. Righties have hit .331/.400/.587 off him through 57 innings in the majors and also did a lot of damage off him in the minors. Hernandez fares well enough versus lefties to possibly carve out a bullpen niche, but that’s true of most southpaw pitchers, and his value is pretty limited.
Shairon Martis: Much like Fryer on the position player side, adding Martis to the 40-man roster and calling him up earlier this month would have warranted a lot more criticism if it didn’t seem so obvious that the Twins will cut him loose as soon as the season ends. Martis is 26 years old with a 5.24 ERA in the majors and a 4.40 ERA at Triple-A, which includes a mediocre performance after shifting to the bullpen in Rochester this year. He has no business in the big leagues.
Darin Mastroianni: It’s tough to evaluate Mastroianni’s season because he got hurt during spring training and initially tried to play through the injury before undergoing ankle surgery that cost him four months. However, even before the lost season he was a marginal major-leaguer ticketed for a bench role, and he can’t afford to lose any speed, considering it’s his primary skill. If healthy, he’s a useful backup outfielder, but he’s a fairly fungible player type.
Chris Parmelee: There have been a few brief flashes of big-time production, both for the Twins and at Triple-A, but Parmelee simply hasn’t hit enough. He’s at .225/.299/.371 in 152 games for the Twins since an impressive September debut in 2011, and he hit just .231/.318/.380 in 45 games at Triple-A this year. Going back further, he hit just .282/.355/.416 at Double-A and will be 26 years old before spring training, so at the very least the clock is winding down on Parmelee.
Mike Pelfrey: Signed to a one-year, $4 million contract coming off Tommy John elbow surgery, Pelfrey was terrible early, decent in the middle and terrible again recently. Add it all up and you get 28 starts of a 5.34 ERA with just 96 strikeouts in 147 innings and a .300 opponents’ batting average. His fastball velocity doesn’t help much without a usable off-speed pitch, and a slow pace on the mound makes watching him torture. Free agency will take him off the 40-man roster.
Wilkin Ramirez: The latest example of the Twins overreacting to a strong spring training by a mediocre player, Ramirez won an Opening Day job, despite a decade-long track record of terrible plate discipline and poor overall production in the minors. He’s a career .255/.310/.430 hitter at Triple-A and hit .272/.302/.370 with an ugly 23-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio for the Twins before multiple injuries wrecked his season. He’s also not a true center fielder defensively.
Josh Roenicke: Claimed off waivers from the Rockies last fall, Roenicke has done about what should have been expected by eating some low-leverage relief innings with too many walks and not enough strikeouts. He’s basically a replacement-level middle reliever, and at age 30 with a raise via arbitration eligibility ahead, Roenicke wouldn’t be missed in what looks to be a relatively deep right-handed bullpen mix for 2014.
Clete Thomas: Aaron Hicks‘ struggles and Mastroianni’s injury led to Thomas getting a second shot with the Twins after struggling mightily last year in a brief look. He stuck around much longer this time, logging more than 300 plate appearances, but Thomas has hit just .219/.291/.314 with a ton of strikeouts and is simply overmatched as a regular. Decent range in center field is enough to make Thomas a usable backup outfielder, but the Twins should be able to do better.
For a lengthy discussion about what the Twins’ roster will look like next season, check out this week’s “Gleeman and The Geek” episode.