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This is about four to six days late, but today I am posting my April Minor League Report. Obviously the records of the affiliates are from a week ago, but more important, there are 15 players listed here that are worthy of being recognized. Since this was written, Dan Osterbrock threw a no-hitter for Beloit, was named the Midwest League Pitcher of the Week for the second straight week and has now been promoted to Ft. Myers. Danny Rams is temporarily in New Britain. Likewise, Jair Fernandez will stay in Rochester until Wilson Ramos is returned to Rochester at which time Fernandez will head back to Ft. Myers.
Twins Minor League Month on Review
Although the Twins were an impressive 14-8 in the month of April, the story was definitely not as positive through most of the Twins minor league system. Heading into May, the Twins top three minor league affiliates are all in last or tied for last in their division. Only the Beloit Snappers have more wins than losses at this point.
· AAA – The Rochester Red Wings head into May with a record of 9-13. They are tied with Pawtucket, five games behind Syracuse in the North Division of the International League.
· AA – The New Britain Rockcats have a record of just 4-16 and are already 9.5 games behind New Hampshire in the East Division of the Eastern League. They must not have a home field advantage because through the season’s first month, they are just 1-11 at New Britain Stadium.
· Hi-A – The Ft. Myers Miracle are also really struggling to start the season. They had an April record of 8-13 and are tied for last, six games back in the South division of the Florida State League.
· Low-A – The Beloit Snappers have been the lone bright spot in the Twins farm system. They finished April with a rain delay and a 12-8 record. That puts them in 2nd place in the Western division of the Midwest League.
Although teams and their fans would prefer to see more wins, it is most important to remember that at each of these levels, Player Development is of paramount interest. Players and coaches #1 focus is on how to get the players to the big leagues and for them to be successful when they arrive. That said, learning how to win can also be part of the development process. Learning how to play within a team function and help your team win is also important to development.
As bad as the month of April was for most of the Twins minor league affiliates, there were still several individuals that put together strong first months to their seasons. Here are TwinsCentric, we will present our Twins Minor League Hitter of the Month, Starting Pitcher of the Month, and Relief Pitcher of the Month. We will run down the top contenders for the awards, before announcing the winners.
TwinsCentric Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month
#5 –Dakota Watts – 22 – Beloit Snappers (8 G, 13 IP, 0-1, 2.08 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 7 BB, 14 K)
The Twins used their 16th round draft pick in 2009 on the lanky right-hander from Cal State Stanislaus. After signing, Watts recorded four saves in six appearances for the GCL Twins. Due to need, he was asked to pitch for the Ft. Myers Miracle, and he predictably struggled. He went back to Elizabethton. He will likely spend most of 2010 with the Beloit Snappers, hoping to continue pitching well while reducing his walks.
#4 – Kyle Waldrop – 24 – Rochester Red Wings (11 G, 15.1 IP,0-0, 2.35 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 2 BB, 9 K)
The Twins had five first round draft picks in 2004. They used their third first round pick on right-handed pitcher Kyle Waldrop. He was a starting pitcher through the 2007. Shoulder surgery cost him his 2008 season, but when he returned in 2009, he returned with full range-of-motion. He also returned to the bullpen, a role he had not previously experienced. He did very well in 2009 and stayed healthy. He was invited to big league spring training. He arrived strong, with good control and with tremendous sinking action on his pitches. He spent all of spring training with the Twins, and thanks to Alex Burnett’s big league promotion, Waldrop began the season in Rochester. His great spring led to a very good first month in AAA.
#3 – Kane Holbrooks – 22 – Beloit Snappers (9 G, 12.2 IP, 2-1, 0.00 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 3 BB, 14 K)
Holbrooks earned 2nd team All-American status in 2009 after going 10-1 with a 3.29 ERA at Texas State. The Twins drafted the righty with their 21st round pick following that college season. He pitched out of the Elizabethton bullpen in 2009. He has experienced a lot of success in baseball while really possessing only a fastball. He continues to try to develop more pitches.
#2 – Spencer Steedley – 24 – New Britain Rockcats (7 G, 14.2 IP, 1-1, 1.23 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 4 BB, 17 K)
The Twins used their 25th round pick in 2007 on UNC-Wilmington lefty Spencer Steedley. After a very good year in 2009 split between Ft. Myers and New Britain, Steedley was invited to pitch in the Arizona Fall League. When Steedley is throwing strikes, he can be very good. He is tough on left-handed batters thanks to his curveball and slider. He also has a sneaky-fast fastball. The strikeout to walk ratio from April is something he will need to continue to strive for as he advances. Many around the Rockcats credit his offseason wedding for his improved control!
#1 – Anthony Slama – 26 – Rochester Red Wings (12 G, 15.1 IP, 0-0, 5 Saves, 1.17 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 7 BB, 19 K)
Twins fans have been clamoring for Anthony Slama for a few years already. Considering the Twins drafted him with their 36th round pick in 2006, and that he did not sign with the team until June of 2007, he has been a remarkable draft success. Since signing, he has dominated at every level, including AAA late in the 2009 season. He participated in his first Twins big league camp this year, and he made a very strong impression. No surprise that he is again off to a terrific start in Rochester, and aside from the fact that he is not on the Twins 40 man roster yet, there is no reason for him to remain in the minor leagues.
TwinsCentric Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month
#5 – Kyle Gibson – 23 – Ft. Myers Miracle (5 GS, 30.2 IP, 2-1, 1.76 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 7 BB, 28 K)
When Gibson fell to the Twins with the 22nd overall pick in 2009, Twins officials were thrilled. Although he had the injured forearm and would not pitch in 2009, his ceiling is higher than any other pitcher in the Twins minor league system. It took until the final few minutes before the deadline to sign him, but it got done. Gibson struggled in his first professional start (5 R, 3 ER in just 3.2 innings), but since then he has continued to improve. In his final April start, he faced just 27 batters in a complete game, one hit, one walk, shutout against Jupiter.
#4 – David Bromberg – 22 – New Britain Rockcats (4 GS, 24.0 IP, 1-0, 1.13 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 6 BB, 19 K)
The 2009 Florida State League Pitcher of the Year has led his league in strikeouts each of the last three years. He has continued to adapt his game, adding new pitches, but most important, he has gained more control of his pitches each year. Capable of hitting 94 on a radar gun, the former 32nd round pick (2005). After throwing five shutout innings in his 2010 debut, he has throw three straight Quality Starts.
#3 – Tom Stuifbergen – 21 – Beloit Snappers (5 G, 4 GS, 30.2 IP, 3-0, 1.38 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 7 BB, 23 K)
The Twins signed the now-21 year old from the Netherlands in August of 2006. He pitched in 2007 but missed all of 2008 after shoulder surgery. He returned in 2009, for the upstart Netherlands team in the WBC. In fact, he was the starting pitcher in the game that eliminated the Dominican Republic. His success continued with a strong 2009. At Elizabethton, he was 5-2 with a 3.28 ERA. In 79.2 innings, he struck out 69 and walked just six. Stuifbergen knows how to pitch and will continue to be successful.
#2 – Bobby Lanigan – 22 – Ft. Myers Miracle (4 GS, 22.1 IP, 1-1, 0.81 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 4 BB, 20 K)
Lanigan was the Twins 3rd round pick in 2008 out of Adelphi University. The Staten Island native was known as having a very good slider. He spent most of 2009 in Beloit as a starter where he went 10-7 with a 4.52 ERA. He was promoted to Ft. Myers where he struck out 14 in 15.1 innings. He is back in the starting rotation for the Miracle and was excellent in April. Just two of his five runs allowed this month were earned. His walk to strikeout rate for April was excellent, and not unusual for him so far in his career.
#1 – Liam Hendriks – 21 – Beloit Snappers (4 GS, 22.0 IP, 1-0, 0.41 ERA, 0.41 WHIP, 2 BB, 26 K)
The Twins signed Hendriks from Australia in February of 2007. He pitched in the GCL that summer, but he missed all of 2008 with a spinal cord injury. He returned strong in 2009, pitching briefly with Elizabethton before making 11 starts with Beloit. He went just 3-5 but his ERA was 3.51 and he struck out 62 in 66.2 innings. He made four April starts with the Snappers. In the first, he went five shutout innings and gave up just one hit. In his second start, he gave up just one hit in six innings. In his third start, he gave up four hits, but once again, no runs, in six innings. In his fourth start, he finally gave up a run, just one run, on one hit in five innings. Not only has hit walks to strikeout rate been incredible, he only allowed seven hits in the entire month. Hendriks has been very successful in international competitions as well. He has one of the higher baseball IQs of any of the baseball players I have chatted with. Simply put, he knows how to pitch.
I had the opportunity to ask Liam Hendriks a few questions:
Seth: How strong did you feel going into spring training?
Liam Hendriks: I felt good going into spring training although it was definitely weird. I hadn’t been on a mound very much and was pretty excited to get back on the hill.
Seth: Were you at all surprised that you started the season in Beloit?
Liam Hendriks: Not really I expected after only being in Beloit for 2 months last year. I would’ve liked to be in Fort Myers but I think coming back to Beloit has helped me and now I need to work harder to be promoted.
Seth: How much does it mean to get off to a good start with the Snappers this spring?
Liam Hendriks: It definitely means a lot to get off to a good start in trying to get the call up to Fort Myers but it’s whether you can keep it going through the season.
Seth: If you could pinpoint one or two things, what has helped you get off to the good start?
Liam Hendriks: It’s mainly fastball control, being able to throw both inside and outside of the plate, and keeping hitters off balance. My changeup and slider have been going well, as well. But I think the biggest thing is the cold hitters don’t like it, and I seem to enjoy pitching in it. Ha Ha.
Seth: What are a couple of things you’re still working to improve as you prepare to move up the Twins ladder?
Liam Hendriks: I’ve really been working hard on a cutter that I can throw to left handed hitters and being able to get a sharper break on my curveball. I really just need to keep it going and try to avoid the big pitch count innings.
TwinsCentric Minor League Hitter of the Month
#5 – Steve Liddle – 22 – Beloit Snappers (20-68 – .294/.347/.485 – 4-2B, 0-3B, 3-HR, 11 RBI)
The Twins drafted Steve Liddle, the big league bench coach’s nephew, in the 15th round of the 2009 draft out of Vanderbilt. He had hit .348/.443/.572 with 22 doubles, two triples and ten home runs. He did not sign until late, so he played in just 13 games at Elizabethton. In that time, he hit .360/.441/.520 with two doubles and two home runs. As expected he started this year at Beloit and he proved himself a quality middle of the order hitter.
#4 – Aaron Hicks – 20 – Beloit Snappers (20-67 – .299/.427/.463 – 2-2B, 0-3B, 3-HR, 7 RBI, 5 SB)
Hicks may be the biggest surprise on this list. The 14th overall pick in the 2008 draft, Hicks started the 2010 season in a 1-31 (.032) slump. He ended the season by going 19-36 (.528). Since being drafted, Hicks has shown a tremendous eye at the plate and a willingness to take a walk. His defense and his arm are far better than average. For Aaron Hicks, he will want to be more consistent over the coming months to earn an opportunity to advance to Ft. Myers.
#3 – Rene Tosoni – 23 – New Britain Rockcats (24-71 – .338/.385/.493 – 4-2B, 2-3B, 1-HR, 7 RBI)
Tosoni was the Twins 25th round pick in 2005. The Toronto native was not able to debut in the States until 2007 due to work visa problems. Always a good Twins prospect, Tosoni gained more national recognition in 2009 when he was named MVP of the Futures Game and participated in the Arizona Fall League. Tosoni has a very well-rounded game, hitting for both average and power. A good defender with a strong arm, Tosoni spent some time as a DH due to pain in his shoulder, but clearly he did not let it affect his hitting.
#2 – Angel Morales – 20 – Beloit Snappers (18-64 – .281/.356/.500 – 5-2B, 0-3B, 3-HR, 11 RBI, 8 SB)
The Twins used their 3rd round pick in 2007 on a high school outfielder from Puerto Rico. The player has become a five-tool talent. In 2009, Morales was co-MVP of the Snappers (with James Beresford) when he hit .266/.329/.455 with 22 doubles, 5 triples, 13 home runs and 22 RBI. So it was rather surprising when he was returned to Beloit to start the 2010 season. He has started the season very well, hitting for average, and power, driving in runs and stealing bases. The lone concern with his game is too many strikeouts.
#1 – Dustin Martin – 26 – Rochester Red Wings (22-65 – .338/.419/.585 – 2-2B, 1-3B, 4-HR, 17 RBI)
The Twins acquired Martin along with Drew Butera in July of 2007 from the Mets in exchange for Luis Castillo. He immediately made an impression in the Twins organization by playing well at Ft. Myers. In 2008, he hit very well in New Britain and earned an invitation to participate in the Arizona Fall League. He then went to Twins major league spring training in 2009 and made a good impression. However, when he went to Rochester and struggled. He hit .254/.319/.351 with 16 doubles, five triples and five home runs. The disappointing 2009 season left him off of the 40 man roster and without a 2010 big league camp. Heading into the 2010 season, Martin was expected to be a backup outfielder in Rochester, but there were early opportunities for Martin to play, and he definitely took advantage. He has hit for average, been able to get on base, and he has hit for power. He is already just one home run shy of his 2009 tally. By any account, Martin had a great April, and that is why he is the SethSpeaks.net April Minor League Hitter of the Month.
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