Additions to the Roster
As of this moment, the Twins have 4 spots open on their 40-man roster. The odds are very good that they'll add more players through free agency over the course of the off-season, so a couple of spots might be reserved with that expectation. Alternatively, the Twins could add four players to the roster now and remove excess baggage (i.e. Darnell McDonald, Chris Basak, maybe even players like Ricky Barrett or Julio DePaula) from the roster to make room for free agents as needed. My guess is that they're more likely to protect player now and adjust as necessary later on.
Briefly, here are the four players I would add to the roster if I were Twins GM Bill Smith:
Garrett Guzman - OF - New Britain Rock Cats
Guzman is a lefty who will be 25 when the season opens next year, and he'll almost certainly be playing for in AAA for the Red Wings. Originally signed in 2001, Guzman has been Rule 5 Eligible for a couple of years now, but for the first time there's a reasonable chance that he'd be taken this year (both because he's risen to the AA/verge of AAA level and because he had a solid 2007 season). Last year was Guzman's best since his rookie year in the Gulf Coast League (when he hit .355) -- he put together a .312 average and 812 OPS in 475 AB's, along with 14 HR's and 88 RBI's. For an organization that is hurting for both offensive prospects generally and outfield prospects in particular, the Twins probably can't afford to risk losing a player like Guzman.
Matt Tolbert - IF - Rochester Red Wings
Tolbert, a switch-hitting infielder who can play at 2B, SS, and 3B, will turn 26 in May. He was drafted and signed by the Twins in 2004, making this the fourth Rule 5 Draft to take place since he was signed -- and therefore the first for which he is eligible (he was 22 when he signed). Tolbert was a relative unknown coming into this season, but his early season success brought him to the attention of many Twins fans who were actively looking for a replacement for Nick Punto or Luis Rodriguez on the roster throughout 2007. Tolbert finished the season with a .293/780, which is solid enough to merit the attention he received. Tolbert would be a nice addition to a young club that could afford to stash him on the roster next season (i.e. Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Washington -- the usual suspects). I would be very surprised if Tolbert was not added to the roster before the deadline.
Brock Peterson - 1B - New Britain Rock Cats
Peterson is a righty who turns 24 tomorrow (November 20). In 389 AB's for New Britain last year, Peterson hit .285/858 with 15 homers and 64 RBI's. He's not a big-name prospect by any means, but the Twins should protect anyone who demonstrates mid-level power and a reasonable batting average. Peterson, who was signed in September 2002 at the age of 19, has been eligible previously, but this year is the first time that he could potentially be taken (although I acknowledge this would be a reach -- someone would have to stash him, because there's no way he's ready to contribute at the big league level). I would probably toss a roster spot his way.
J.P. Martinez - RHP - Rochester Red Wings
Martinez will turn 26 in June of 2008, and was taken in 9th round of the 2004 draft. He'll be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time this year. Martinez rose from Ft. Myers to Rochester this season, pitching great in High A (2.49 ERA in 21.2 innings), so-so in AA (4.9 ERA in 53.2 innings), and horribly in very limited action in AAA (12.00 ERA in just 3 innings). He's pitched well at every level that he's played at prior to this season, however, and I suspect that he'll perform well in a full season in AA next year. Martinez is still a bit raw, but raw pitchers are easier to stash on a roster than are raw position players, and I think Martinez could contribute down the road.
Of course, there are a number of fairly high profile players that will not be added to the 40-man roster simply due to lack of roster space. Here are some of the names, along with a very limited explanation of my reasoning:
Matt Moses (3B) - has never performed as a professional; who would take him right now? I'm not saying that he's officially a bust, but placing him on the roster would serve no logical purpose.
David Winfree (1B/3B) - Seems to have both power and average potential, but he hasn't played well enough to be a real risk of being taken. He's probably the guy that I was closest to putting on my list who didn't make it, and there's a very good chance the Twins will add him.
Jay Sawatski (LHP) - Had a mediocre 2007 between AA and AAA, but has had a solid minor league career. Probably a risk to be taken, because he's pitched at AAA and he's left-handed. Twins could add him instead of someone like Martinez for the same reasons.
Kyle Aselton (LHP) - Turned back into a relief pitcher in 2007 after spending 2006 as a starter. Solid minor league career, but never pitched above High A, making him a less likely target.
Undoubtedly, I left a player or two out of my consideration -- if you think there's someone who should at least have been on my "left out" list, let me know in the comments. And, of course, feel free to disagree with the four guys I picked. And once again, just as a reminder, be aware that the Twins could just as easily only add 2 or 3 of these players instead of filling the roster up by adding four. We should find out tomorrow.