also avaiable at www.SethSpeaks.net -
First things first… I would like to wish you all a Very Happy Opening Day!
As you read, and maybe saw, I was in attendance at Target Field on Friday night for the first Twins game in the stadium’s history. I saw the Twins lose to the Cardinals, but it was an incredible experience. I was very happy to be there. The rest of the weekend, I actually stayed away from the computer quite a bit. However, as I was watching Saturday’s Twins game, it was announced the Clay Condrey was headed for the Disabled List and Alex Burnett would be on the Twins Opening Day roster. What a terrific thing for the Twins young relief pitching prospect. He will head home to Anaheim to potentially make his big league debut in front of his friends and family.
I have to admit, when I heard that news, I was shocked. Not that Condrey was put on the DL, but that the Twins decided to promote Alex Burnett instead of Anthony Slama. Slama has pitched well throughout spring training, but he is not on the Twins 40 man roster. However, that is not a huge issue because Joe Nathan could be moved from the 15 Day Disabled List to the 60 Day Disabled List to open up a spot on the 40 man roster. Of course, it is also likely that the Twins will bring up veteran lefty Ron Mahay soon, and he will need a 40 man roster spot, so I understand not adding Slama at this time. So, adding someone from the 40 man roster does make sense. The bigger question in this scenario is why Alex Burnett was promoted ahead of Rob Delaney. To me, that decision speaks volumes about what the Twins think of Delaney right now.
The other question I have received a lot since the Twins made this transaction on Saturday is: Who is Alex Burnett, and how will he do?
To answer the latter first, the only logical answer is, “Who knows!?” In my mind, Burnett is the Twins top relief pitcher prospect right now. Carlos Gutierrez would possibly overtake him when (or if) the Twins decide to make him a reliever. Billy Bullock and Ben Tootle are two guys who could claim that title in the near future. But Burnett does have very good stuff. He’s young, and I don’t think it’s likely he will remain on the Active Roster for too long. In other words, the sample size will likely be small enough to make whatever numbers he posts questionable. Hopefully he just does well when presented opportunities.
Who is Alex Burnett? What do we know about him? Well, to illustrate that, I am going to post what I wrote about Alex Burnett in the Minnesota Twins 2010 Prospect Handbook (available for just $13.95 here and at Amazon.com for a little less.):
Alex Burnett – RHP – (7/26/87)
Acquired: 12th round pick in 2005 from HS in California
2009 Team(s): Ft. Myers Miracle, New Britain Rockcats
2009 Stats: 3-3, 1.85 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 78 IP, 26 BB, 78 K
Burnett was 17 when he was drafted out of high school and, as a result, has always been young compared to the competition at each level. Yet, he has succeeded, working primarily as the No. 1 or 2 starter at every level. He was known as a bulldog, and quite competitive. Burnett could have moved up to AA New Britain and been a decent starter. Instead, someone in the organization decided that his stuff might play better out of the bullpen so he returned to Ft. Myers. Well, I would say that ‘Someone’ was clearly right. In 18 games and 22.2 innings with the Miracle, he was 2-1 with a 1.99 ERA. He moved up to New Britain and was even better. In 40 games and 55.1 innings, he went 1-2 with a 1.79 ERA. After Anthony Slama was promoted to AAA, Burnett took over as the Rockcats’ closer and recorded nine saves in nine attempts. Suddenly Burnett was a strikeout pitcher and his status as a future big leaguer has never been higher. So, how did he do it? Burnett’s fastball was always solid, but he was now throwing it in the mid-90s. He has a very good curveball and is developing a slider as well. When he is throwing either of those pitches for strikes, he is nearly unhittable. That also makes his fastball look even faster. He has the mentality for late innings. He is very competitive and hates losing. He attacks hitters and he has good control. In an organization that boasts bullpen prospects like Anthony Slama, Rob Delaney and Billy Bullock, Alex Burnett tops them all, and because of that, the Twins added him to their 40 man roster.
In the Minnesota Twins 2010 Prospect Handbook, I ranked Burnett as the Twins #18 prospect. In February, Josh Johnson also ranked him as the Twins #18 prospect.
Opening Day presents so many reasons for hope. Will the Twins fulfill their promise? Which players will step up? Which players will struggle beyond expectation? Which minor leaguers will join Alex Burnett as players to make their big league debut? Will Jon Rauch remain the closer all season? If not, how will the bullpen play out? Who else will step up? Can Joe Mauer put together another MVP-caliber season? How about Justin Morneau? How will Ron Gardenhire manage to get them out of the lineup enough to keep them fresh? Can Nick Punto or Brendan Harris be adequate at third base or will Danny Valencia get an opportunity? Will JJ Hardy rebound? Will Orlando Hudson provide more hits or quotes? How will Delmon Young’s weight loss affect him and his play over the course of a full season? Just how good can Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel be?
Sure, the Twins and their fans have to wait until 9:00 central time to open their seasons, but hey, we’ve been waiting for real games in over five months, we can wait a few more hours!
Let the journey begin!!
And don’t forget the TwinsCentric Viewing Party at Majors Sports Café in Blaine on Saturday. The Twins are in Chicago taking on the White Sox starting at noon, and we’ll be at Majors in Blaine, watching the game, enjoying drink and appetizer specials and giving out more prizes. Hopefully many of you can make it!
With that, I again welcome your questions or comments on anything. What are you most looking forward to? Which players intrigue you the most? As opening day is upon us, how excited are you.