Twins' Opening Day roster: Who makes the cut?

FORT MYERS, FLA. — A little more than a month before Opening Day in Kansas City, the Twins will kick off their spring training schedule when they face the University of Minnesota on Friday at Hammond Stadium.

The Twins are scheduled to play 34 exhibition games to prepare for the upcoming season and settle their 26-man roster. Entering Grapefruit League games, pitchers Josh Winder (shoulder) and Jovani Moran (Tommy John surgery) are the only Twins players who are sidelined long term.

There is the possibility they add to the roster in the coming weeks, particularly a righthanded-hitting outfielder, but here is an early Opening Day roster projection:

CATCHERS (2): Ryan Jeffers and Christian Vázquez.

Others on 40-man roster: Jair Camargo.

Outlook: The easiest part of the roster to project because the Twins are planning a similar rotation as last year. Jeffers, who started all six postseason games, totaled 335 plate appearances and Vázquez had 355. Jeffers should earn more at-bats this year as he attempts to repeat his breakout offensive year, and he could earn some additional playing time as a designated hitter.

INFIELDERS (7): Carlos Correa, Kyle Farmer, Edouard Julien, Alex Kirilloff, Royce Lewis, Austin Martin and Carlos Santana.

Others on 40-man roster: Jose Miranda and Yunior Severino.

Outlook: The left side of the infield is set with Correa at shortstop and Lewis at third base. Julien and Farmer will split time at second base. "I think we're going to see Farmer play a lot of second base," manager Rocco Baldelli said Thursday.

Santana is the favorite to see the most time at first base. He was a Gold Glove finalist last year and the switch hitter will receive a chance for everyday playing time if he hits righthanded pitching at an acceptable level. Kirilloff, who entered camp ahead of schedule in his rehab, will see starts at first base, too.

Martin and Miranda could be battling for a spot this spring, but they have different skill sets. Martin, acquired in the José Berríos trade, has more defensive versatility (second base, center field and left field) and a contact-oriented offensive approach. Miranda, recovering from an offseason shoulder procedure, will DH for the first couple of weeks of spring training games.

OUTFIELDERS (4): Max Kepler, Byron Buxton, Matt Wallner, Willi Castro.

Others on 40-man roster: Trevor Larnach and Emmanuel Rodriguez.

Outlook: Buxton's health has been, arguably, the team's top storyline to begin camp. He feels 100%, and he's looked the part by showing off his speed in wind sprints, catching balls in center field and showing his power against pitchers in live batting practice sessions.

Kepler and Wallner were key parts of the Twins' offensive success in the second half of last season. Castro's versatility is an asset at several positions whether it's splitting time with Buxton in center, sharing time in left field with Wallner or spending time in the infield.

STARTING ROTATION (5): Pablo López, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Chris Paddack and Anthony DeSclafani.

Others on 40-man roster: Louie Varland, Simeon Woods Richardson, Matt Canterino and Brent Headrick.

Outlook: The first four spots seem straightforward. López was already named the Opening Day starter, Ryan and Ober return from last year, and Paddack will rejoin the rotation after he recovered from Tommy John surgery.

DeSclafani, acquired in the Jorge Polanco trade, has dealt with injuries for the last two seasons, but he is healthy at the start of camp and he's working on adding a split-change to his repertoire. Varland is competing for a starting spot, and he's shown he can dominate in the bullpen, but starting pitching depth is important and he could be the odd man out if all the starters remain healthy like Ober to begin last year.

BULLPEN (8): Jhoan Duran, Griffin Jax, Caleb Thielbar, Brock Stewart, Justin Topa, Jay Jackson, Steven Okert and Josh Staumont.

Others on 40-man roster: Kody Funderburk, Jorge Alcala, Zack Weiss, Cole Sands and Winder.

Outlook: Duran, Jax, Thielbar and Stewart formed the core of the Twins' bullpen in the postseason last year, and they could all return to their same roles.

Topa pitched in the seventh and eighth innings for the Seattle Mariners last season, and he could be a late-inning option. Jackson signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract, so the Twins like his pitch mix. Okert, acquired from Miami in the Nick Gordon trade, is out of minor league options, but he gives the Twins some lefty depth and he started throwing a changeup. Staumont was solid for Kansas City in 2020-21, and he's healthy after he underwent thoracic outlet surgery.

Funderburk was excellent for the Twins last September, and Alcala can match almost anyone with his top velocity, but they both hold minor league options.