Twins counting on young core for '17 success

Twins counting on young core for '17 success

With Spring Training fast approaching, will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Twins squad each day this week. Today's topic -- What's the vision?

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey often speaks of his goal of building a sustainable championship-caliber franchise, but what would that type of team actually look like?

Much of it involves building around the club's young and athletic core of position players, such as center fielder Byron Buxton, third baseman Miguel Sano, right fielder Max Kepler, shortstop Jorge Polanco and left fielder Eddie Rosario. But it's obvious that overhauling the pitching is going to be the most-important -- and most-challenging -- undertaking.

Every club preparing for Spring Training with own vision

The Twins finished with the second-worst ERA in the Majors last year, but they are bringing back most of the same pitchers. The lone major change isn't a pitcher at all, it's defensively minded catcher Jason Castro, who was signed to a three-year deal.

The rotation is veteran-laden with Ervin Santana, Hector Santiago, Kyle Gibson and Phil Hughes, but the Twins have a slew of pitching prospects who could impact the rotation soon: Jose Berrios, Stephen Gonsalves, Tyler Jay, Kohl Stewart, Adalberto Mejia and Fernando Romero. The Twins had that in mind when they signed Castro for three years, as he had previously worked with and helped develop Astros starters such as Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh and Lance McCullers.

Castro key for Twins in 2017

"I think my background lends itself pretty well to the situation," Castro said. "I was with the Astros during their rebuild process, so I was able to work with a lot of younger guys trying to establish themselves. I'm kinda looking to bring that here."

Falvey, coming from an Indians organization envied for their development of pitching, said the Twins are exploring ways to overhaul its developmental pipeline, which could include the implementation of weighted balls. The organization has had trouble developing successful starting pitchers, and even Berrios, who was among the club's Top 30 prospects entering the 2016 season, was overwhelmed in his first taste of the big leagues with an 8.02 ERA in 14 starts.

"We're committed to being collaborative in our approach to pitching development," Falvey said. "We wouldn't shut out any avenue to acquire or develop a player, and I expect that's a slight change from how we've operated here, but I look forward to leading that."

MLB Now: Derek Falvey

The Twins also have been stockpiling power relief arms in their system such as J.T. Chargois, Nick Burdi, Jake Reed, John Curtiss and Mason Melotakis. Chargois made his debut last year, and figures to see his role expanded this year along with other young relievers such as Ryan Pressly and Taylor Rogers. Trevor May and Tyler Duffey also could factor into the bullpen, although May is a candidate to return to the rotation.

So much of the club's success is dependent on the development of young talent, as Castro and Hughes are the only veterans under contract through '19. Twins stalwarts Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier have two more years left on their deals, and Dozier was subject to trade rumors all offseason so there are no guarantees he won't be traded for pitching help.

Dozier is Twins' star for 2017

But the Twins believe they can compete sooner than later, as they think this roster is closer to the 83-win team in 2015 than the 103-loss team in '16. But much of that depends on how quickly the young core develops.

"I've been in the trenches the past five years," Dozier said. "It's one of those things where you want to stay for a long period of time in this rebuilding process. I feel like there's a lot of excitement for the coming years, and many years to come."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.