Over the past week, four of the players I’m covering in this column—Stephen Gonsalves, Nick Gordon, Engelb Vielma, and Daniel Palka– were causalities of two rounds of cuts made by the Twins. They’ve joined the fifth player I’m tracking, relief pitcher Nick Burdi, in minor league camp. Here’s a quick update on how each is doing, plus notes on Adalberto Mejia and Tyler Jay.
Stephen Gonsalves, LHP: After a really good start to the spring, Gonsalves suffered a flare up in his throwing shoulder, and has yet to appear in another game. A similar injury caused Gonsalves to miss most of the Arizona Fall League last year. It’s hard to know for sure how concerned Twins fans should be about the injury. The information coming out of Fort Myers is that it isn’t serious, but any type of injury to a pitcher’s throwing arm or shoulder is worth monitoring. If Gonsalves starts the minor league season on the DL, I suspect the level of concern will rise.
Nick Gordon, SS: Gordon finished his first big-league camp 2 for 11. Several times this spring, Paul Molitor has stated his belief that Gordon’s offense is ahead of his defense, and he’s played Gordon both shortstop and second. Whether Gordon can be an MLB-level defensive shortstop is probably the biggest—and most important—question mark in his game. With similar questions about Jorge Polanco’s glove, Gordon has an opportunity to be the everyday shortstop as soon as 2018, if he can demonstrate his glove is up to the task.
Engelb Vielma, SS: Vielma nearly mirrored Gordon’s spring performance, going 2 for 12 with a walk. If Vielma hits well in April and May, and Jorge Polanco struggles defensively to start the year, don’t be shocked to see Vielma in Minnesota at some point this summer, given his outstanding defense. In Molitor’s words: “He can do things you can’t really teach with the glove.”
Daniel Palka, OF: I was a little surprised to see Palka sent out of camp with more than two weeks left, for a couple of reasons. First, he was tied for the team lead in games played, suggesting the Twins were interested in getting a close look at him. Second, he’s done fairly well at the plate this spring. Although he was just 3 for 18 with a double and a home run, he drew six walks, boosting his spring OBP to .423. Assuming his power remains consistent, a big key for Palka is drawing enough walks to help negate his huge strikeout totals. In a small sample size this spring, he did that.
Nick Burdi, RHP: Burdi tossed a scoreless inning in a Triple-A spring game; an early positive sign as he works his way back from injuries that sidelined him for nearly all of 2016.
Wild Card: Adalberto Mejia, LHP: Mejia turned some heads last week with an impressive performance, striking out 8 Cardinals hitters in 3.2 scoreless innings. Mejia now has 14 strikeouts and a 1.88 ERA in 14.1 spring innings. With Trevor May likely done for the season with a torn UCL, I think Mejia has an outside shot of making the opening day rotation. At the very least, he’s put himself in a great position to be one of the first starters called up this year. If Mejia turns into a mid-rotation starter at some point, I’d consider that to be a major victory for the Twins and former interim G.M. Rob Antony, who orchestrated the Eduardo Nunez-Mejia trade at the trade deadline last year.
Blatant self-congratulatory note: With the news that Tyler Jay has apparently been moved to the bullpen, at least 1 of my 64 predictions about the 2017 Twins season appears to have come true. Don’t expect many more.