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Twins Organizational Depth Chart: Relief Pitchers

8 Feb

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2012 – Now Available as an e-book for $6.99 by clicking here. You can, of course, still get the print version for $13.99 by clicking here

Today, we will conclude our Organizational Depth Chart by looking at the Relief Pitchers. Frankly, it is kind of a mess thanks to about 89 minor league veterans brought in, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out. As I said on Monday, many starters will get time as a reliever, and vice versa. This is especially true in the lower levels of the minor leagues where innings limits are still so important. The Twins bullpen in 2011 was pretty much horrible. They had lost Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier, both guys who had long been in the Twins bullpen. They also let Jon Rauch and Brian Fuentes, and Ron Mahay departed via free agency. Each made huge money for relievers in free agency. As I’ve said, I would have wanted to bring back Crain, but I definitely understood letting the others go. The Twins brought in some minor league free agents, but as they had done so many times before, they made the decision to build a bullpen from within. Needing two or three pitchers to step up, only Glen Perkins really stepped up throughout the season. Anthony Swarzak was a surprise success as well in long relief and as a spot starter. Joe Nathan struggled in his return. Matt Capps just struggled. Two pitchers that likely would have been counted on to perform, Jeff Manship and Anthony Slama were out most of the season with injuries. Had those two been healthy all season, it could have been a better situation. To the surprise of many, the Twins seem to have gone with much the same philosophy in 2012. Instead of going after retread relievers, they are choosing to believe in their in-house options. They brought back Capps, are taking a flyer on Joel Zumaya, and have invited a small village of minor league veteran pitchers with some big league experience. All in the attempt to hope that three or four of them step up. It’s a philosophy I completely agree with despite the fact that it went very wrong in 2011. Then again, pretty much everything went wrong for the Twins in 2011. Fortunately 2012 is a new year. You can clamor for guys like Dan Wheeler and Chad Qualls and Todd Coffey all you want. Or you can realize that they all struggled early in their careers and didn’t become big league regulars until late in their careers. They didn’t succeed in their first opportunities in the big leagues, and they have all had their struggles in the big leagues even after being given regular bullpen duties. So, although I am incredibly nervous about the Twins bullpen, and don’t have any idea how they will perform in 2012, I do think they have some talent, some young talent that should continue to get opportunities. That’s just smart.  Relievers who are good year in and year out are a rarity. Are there a dozen  in the entire big leagues that you could say have been lights out, have been difference-makers each of the past five seasons? (I’ll give you Mariano Rivera… you name another 10.) Because of that, bringing in 26-30 year olds with good arms and some measure of success makes a lot of sense to me.  

Below you will get a look at the names of many Twins minor league pitchers who will likely spend a lot of time in bullpens this upcoming season. I need to reiterate that these are just my thoughts. I have no insider information to know where players will be playing for certain in 2012. Obviously after spring training, some of these players will be let go. There will be Disabled List players, extended spring training and more.

Minnesota Twins  

Matt Capps (RHP), Glen Perkins (LHP), Joel Zumaya (RHP), Brian Duensing (LHP), Alex Burnett (RHP), Anthony Swarzak (RHP), Jeff Gray (RHP), Terry Doyle (RHP-R5)

Some Twins fans choose to say that Matt Capps has been pretty bad in two of the last three years. Since it’s less than two weeks before spring training, so I’ll say that he’s been really good in four of his last six seasons! If healthy, he’ll be solid at the end of games. I think Glen Perkins proved himself throughout the 2011 season to believe he can be a dominant lefty reliever again in 2012. Brian Duensing likely moves to the bullpen. He is one of baseball’s best at getting left-handed hitters out, but one of the worst at getting right-handers out. Joel Zumaya hasn’t pitched since 2010, and hasn’t pitched a full season since 2006, but I guess there is a chance he could be really good for half of the season! Anthony Swarzak is out of options and he really proved himself in long-relief and spot-starting last year. He could find himself being thrown into more high leverage situations in 2012. Alex Burnett has the arguably the best stuff in the bullpen and hopefully he will be able to put it all together. He won’t turn 25 until late July. If Terry Doyle pitches fairly well in spring training, I believe that he will make the team. If a starter is hurt, he could be the guy to make some starts early in the season, or he could be a long reliever. I also believe that Jeff Gray will make this roster as well. He is on the 40 man roster and out of options.  

Rochester Red Wings

Anthony Slama (RHP), Carlos Gutierrez (RHP), Lester Oliveros (RHP), Cole DeVries (RHP), Deolis Guerra (RHP), Kyle Waldrop (RHP), Esmerling Vazquez (RHP), Tyler Robertson (LHP), Jared Burton (RHP), Jason Bulger (RHP), Samuel Deduno (RHP), Phil Dumatrait (LHP), Casey Fien (RHP), Luis Perdomo (RHP), Daryl Thompson (RHP), PJ Walters (RHP), Brendan Wise (RHP), Luke French (LHP), Brad Thompson (RHP), Matt Maloney (LHP)

What a mess spring training will be? The Twins will have to play a few split-squad games to get all of these guys innings. Inexplicably, Anthony Slama has never been given a shot by the Twins despite 10.3 K/9 and a 2.59 ERA in 92 AAA appearances. I think Lester Oliveros has a chance to be pretty good but he needs more time. The Twins don’t need to rush him (like they did with Alex Burnett). The Twins claimed Vazquez from the Diamondbacks on the last day of the 2011 season. He’s a hard-thrower with control issues. The same can be said for Deduno and Perdomo. Kyle Waldrop finally got a shot with the Twins in September and he should be given a very legitimate opportunity to make the Twins opening day roster and get time throughout the season with the Twins. The two non-roster invites that have a legitimate chance of making the big league roster early in the season are Jared Burton and Jason Bulger. Each has had quite a bit of big league success. Burton has been hurt much of the past two seasons. Bulger spent a long time with the Angels. Phil Dumatrait got way too much time with the Twins last year. Carlos Gutierrez and Tyler Robertson were added to the 40 man roster this offseason. Gutierrez made the move to the bullpen last year and pitched pretty well until shoulder issues. Still walks too many though. Robertson was terrific in the second half of last season as the New Britain closer. The lefty may not throw hard, but he was quite successful in his first season in the bullpen. Cole DeVries had a tremendous 2011 including a very good performance in the hitting Arizona Fall League. Matt Maloney is on the 40 man roster. The left-hander was brought in before Terry Ryan was named GM, but as a former Reds pitcher, it is likely that he was recommended by Wayne Krivsky, which makes him intriguing. He is on the 40 man roster and out of options, but there is a chance he could go unclaimed. Non-roster invites Burton, Bulger, Deduno, Dumatrait, Fien, Perdomo, Walters, French and the two Thompsons all have spent some time in the big leagues. Liam Hendriks said in a recent podcast that Brendan Wise is similar to Kyle Waldrop in terms of ability to get a lot of ground balls. The Aussie has been very good in AAA the last two years. Finally, it is a huge year for Deolis Guerra. After being really bad as a starting pitcher, he moved to the New Britain bullpen last year and was incredible. Suddenly he had better control, gave up less hits and struck out more than a batter an inning. How will he perform in AAA in 2012? It will be interesting to watch. I suspect we will see him by season’s end. He has one option left.  

New Britain Rock Cats

Matt Hauser (RHP), Andrew Albers (LHP), Brett Jacobson (RHP), Daniel Turpen (RHP), Tony Davis (LHP), Blake Martin (LHP), Cole Nelson (LHP), Spencer Steedley (LHP), Ricky Bowen (RHP), Jhon Garcia (RHP), Bruce Pugh (RHP), Dakota Watts (RHP), Steve Hirschfeld (RHP)

Will any of the leftovers from the Twins minor league signings move down to AA? We shall see. Matt Hauser ended the 2011 season with one appearance with the Rock Cats. He is a hard-throwing right hander who I think will be a big breakout candidate in 2012. Andrew Albers was the story of the year in the Twins system last year and my choice for Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. Brett Jacobson, Blake Martin and Spencer Steedley spent 2011 in New Britain, each splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen. Turpen came over from Colorado in the Kevin Slowey deal. He throws hard and side-arm but gets no strikeouts. Bruce Pugh and Dakota Watts both had disappointing 2011 seasons between Ft. Myers and New Britain. Each struggled in the Arizona Fall League. But each throws really hard and if they can find any measure of control, they are legit prospects. Hirschfeld was my choice for Twins minor league pitcher of the month in both April and May. He struggled in June and moved to the bullpen, which is likely where he’ll wind up. Tony Davis is not a big guy, but he throws left-handed and touches 94-95 mph. He missed about half of last season with a shoulder surgery. He will be ready for spring training. Cole Nelson is a Minnesota native who came over from Detroit in the Delmon Young trade. Ricky Bowen signed with the Twins in May and did a nice job pitching out of the Ft. Myers bullpen. Jhon Garcia throws hard and can pitch in any role in the bullpen and spot start.

Ft. Myers Miracle

Jose Gonzalez (LHP), Michael Tonkin (RHP), Clinton Dempster (RHP), Bart Carter (LHP), Nelvin Fuentes (LHP), Edgar Ibarra (LHP), Kane Holbrooks (RHP), Matt Schuld (RHP), Brad Stillings (RHP), Caleb Thielbar (LHP), Blayne Weller (RHP), Miguel Munoz (RHP)

Jose Gonzalez was the closer in Beloit last year. He’ll likely continue in that role with the Miracle. He’s not tall and resembles Jose Mijares, but he throws hard and has a terrific slider. Michael Tonkin moved to the bullpen in 2011 and pitched very well. Dempster was terrific in the bullpen for Beloit but struggled upon his promotion to Ft. Myers. Carter dominated in Elizabethton and then pitched very well for the Snappers. A four year college guy, he should be pushed. Nelvin Fuentes has been pitching well for Puerto Rico in international competition. He has also steadily moved up the Twins system. The lefty works slow but he gets hitters out. Edgar Ibarra struggled in the Miracle rotation last year but finished strong in the bullpen. Kane Holbrooks had a tremendous 2010 season that saw him pitch well in Beloit, Ft. Myers and New Britain. 2011 was disappointing. He pitched well with no run support in April, but then he really struggled. He then missed the last couple of months. St. Thomas alum Matt Schuld pitched very well in Ft. Myers and then threw pretty well in New Britain. I only have him in Ft. Myers because of the numbers crunch at the higher levels. Caleb Thielbar became the first player the Twins signed from the St. Paul Saints and pitched in a few games for the Miracle. Blayne Weller pitched in the bullpen in Beloit although he ended the season pitching well as a starter. Miguel Munoz made his first start last year with the Miracle, hurt his elbow and then didn’t pitch again until late in the season. In his return to the Miracle, he re-aggravated the elbow injury and was shut down. Reports indicate that he did not have elbow surgery and rehabbed throughout the offseason.

Beloit Snappers

Corey Williams (LHP), Steve Evans (LHP), Steven Gruver (LHP), Jason Wheeler (LHP), David Hurlbut (LHP), Corey Kimes (LHP), Garrett Jewell (RHP), Cole Johnson (RHP), Tobias Streich (RHP), Jhonatan Arias (RHP).

Corey Williams was the Twins 3rd round pick just a year ago. The lefty signed for nearly double the slot recommendation. But the Twins are quite excited about him. He’s another hard thrower, said to have nasty stuff and a strong mentality. Evans, Gruver, Hurlbut and Johnson were all 2011 draft picks out of college that pitched well at Elizabethton during the summer. Kimes pitched in just a couple of games before suffering from mono. Jason Wheeler was the team’s 8th round pick and signed at the deadline. He will debut in 2012. Tobias Streich and Jhonatan Arias were both strong-armed catchers without much bat. Last year at Instructs, the two were moved from behind the plate to the mound. The Twins have done this in the past with mixed results. Tim Lahey was drafted as a catcher, but a year later he moved to the mound, and although he didn’t get to the big leagues, he spent 3 years in AAA as a reliever. Danny Santiesteban was an outfielder with a bunch of tools in the lower levels of the Twins system for a few years. He was moved to the mound but was released soon after. (By the way, Santiesteban has been a hitting star for the Newark Bears of the independent leagues the last couple of years.)

Elizabethton Twins

Luis Nunez (LHP), Ricardo Arevalo (RHP), Nathan Fawbush (RHP), Tyler Herr (RHP), Gonzalo Sanudo (RHP), Markus Solbach (RHP), Dallas Gallant (RHP)

Luis Nunez went 5-0 with 5 saves and a 1.67 ERA in 16 relief appearances in the GCL. The 20-year-old lefty throws gas with decent (but improving) secondary stuff. He is certainly one to watch. Tyler Herr is a tall right-hander who showed improvement in his second year in the GCL. Arevalo has gone 0-11 with a 4.37 ERA in 25 games over the past two years in the GCL. Nathan Fawbush is another tall kid with a lot of talent, but he has missed time each of the past two seasons since the Twins drafted him. Sanudo signed with the Twins in 2011 and in 20.2 innings in the GCL, he walked seven and struck out 22. He just turned 20. Markus Solbach signed about this time last year from Germany, and he went 3-3 with a 1.91 ERA in 28.1 innings in the GCL. He also pitched well in the World Cup.  Gallant had Tommy John surgery last spring and will be brought back slowly.

GCL Twins

Josh Burris (RHP), Josue Montanez (LHP), Gerardo Ramirez (RHP)

The Twins signed Ramirez last year out of Mexico and threw 17.1 innings in the GCL. He just turned 18. Montanez just turned 20 years old. He signed with the Twins last year as their 15th round pick a year after being taken in the 25th round in 2010 by the Padres. His first outing didn’t go well, and then he was really good his next seven outings. Josh Burris signed very late with the Twins last year out of LSU-Eunice. Last year, he played some 2B and some in the outfield. He hit .273 with a triple and a homer and stole 13 bases. He also was a reliever who walked too many. However, he hits 94 mph on the radar gun and is best known for his great 12-6 curveball.

TOP THREE (OR SO…) PROSPECTS

1.)    Corey Williams, 2.) Matt Hauser, 3.) Lester Oliveros, 4.) Deolis Guerra, 5.) Carlos Gutierrez, 6.) Luis Nunez, 7.) Tyler Robertson, 8.) Dakota Watts, 9.) Bruce Pugh 10.) Steven Evans

SUMMARY

The Twins bullpen was really bad last year. I don’t think there is any way around that. Glen Perkins stepped up, and once he was called up, Anthony Swarzak pitched well. If the Twins have any hope at being successful in 2012, they are going to need a few more guys to really step up. Capps is going to have to be healthy and pitch well. Zumaya may have to be healthy and successful. Duensing will have to fill the role of lefty-reliever. They brought in a bunch of minor league veterans, and it would be great if one or two of them would step up and contribute when called upon. There are several Twins minor leaguers who deserve an opportunity to step up, guys like Waldrop, Gutierrez, DeVries and even Anthony Slama. The Twins have made an effort to bring in some strong arms, and in doing so have found guys who also walk a bunch. In recent drafts, the Twins have also added some power arms to mixed results. Guys like Matt Hauser and Tony Davis could move up. 2011 draft picks Corey Williams, Matt Summers, Madison Boer, Trent Higginbotham and Josh Burris throw hard. Oh, and remember a couple of years ago when the Twins had something like three or four left-handed relievers in their entire farm system? Now, it appears that each team may have three or four lefties! There is definitely some talent in the bullpen, some very strong arms. Of course, we also have to remember that many starting pitchers who have decent stuff and aren’t working out as starters could be moved to the bullpen as well.  

If you have any further questions, please feel free to e-mail me at sethspeaksnet@hotmail.com or leave your thoughts in the Comments Section!

Roster Projections: New Britain Rock Cats

30 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

  • Step 1: Finalize 2011 Minnesota Twins roster – Check.
  • Step 2: Find a way to keep Scott Diamond in the organization – Check.
  • Step 3: Configure the 2011 Triple-A Rochester Red Wings 24-man roster – In progress.
  • Step 4: Configure the 2011 Double-A New Britain Rock Cats 24-man roster – In progress.

The fun of projecting minor league rosters after major league rosters is that we don’t know what’s happening. We don’t always understand the big picture. For instance, I projected that Chris Province would be in the Triple-A bullpen. Yesterday, I found out that he, in his words on Twitter this morning, “voluntarily retired.” The Twins made 12 cuts over the past couple of days, and as I review the names of all of the players still in Twins minor league camp, it is difficult to place all of them. We don’t know injury situations. I was unaware the Bruce Pugh was set back a few days by back soreness. That will likely keep him back in Ft. Myers and in the bullpen for at least a little while. Some of the decisions on these minor league veterans brought in has kept several minor leaguers down a level. In some cases, that’s good. In other cases, it is a little surprising. For instance, I understand that Tony Davis will be heading back to Ft. Myers to start the season.

With all that in mind, I present to you my thoughts on a projected roster for the Twins Double-A affiliate, the New Britain Rock Cats. (the below roster is my opinion and my guesses, and nothing official.)

Catchers: Danny Lehmann (40 man – No) – Jair Fernandez (40 man – No) 

Lehmann was impressive this spring. He has been named the Twins minor league catcher of the year the past two years. Defensively, he is ready to be a backup catcher for the Twins. Offensively, he’s probably a notch above Drew Butera. Fernandez, like Waldrop and Portes, could have been a six-year minor league free agent after last season. He chose to stay with the Twins. He is a big guy with a little pop in his bat. Not a great catcher at all though despite a strong arm.

Infielders: 1B – Chris Parmelee (40 man – Yes), 2B – Steve Singleton (40 man – No), 3B – Nick Romero/Deibinson Romero (40 man – No/No), SS – Estarlin de Los Santos (40 man – No), Utility – Chris Cates (40 man – No), IF/OF/DH – Yangervis Solarte - (40 man – No)

Chris Parmelee is going to be my choice for preseason Twins minor league hitter of the year. Hopefully he will be able to stick with the Rock Cats all season, as I believe that would be best for his development. Steve Singleton should be in Rochester. I know, I’m shy about expressing that, aren’t I? He should get some time at both 3B and SS as well. Estarlin de Los Santos should get a couple of months here to regain his prospect status or else Brian Dozier will be here and get the playing time. 3B is where I’m not certain. So, I can see a scenario in which Nick Romero and one-time prospect Deibinson Romero split time, or even platoon. Solarte can play anywhere on the field, kind of like Luke Hughes. He has hit when healthy and was up with the Rock Cats last year before getting hurt. The utility infield spot will be interesting. Chris Cates is the incumbent, but could Ray Chang or Matt Brown be sent to AA? Neither can play SS well, so I’m leaning toward Cates.

Outfielders: LF – Evan Bigley (40 man – No), CF – Joe Benson (40 man – Yes), RF – Rene Tosoni (40 man – Yes), 4th outfielder – Mark Dolenc (40 man – No).

At this time last year, Rene Tosoni thought he was packing to go to Rochester, but then the Twins signed Jason Repko right before Opening Day and Tosoni went back to New Britain. His shoulder was bad, and he was DHing until a midseason shoulder surgery ended his season. But he was still added to the 40 man roster, and he could move up quickly if he swing returns. Joe Benson was last year’s Twins Minor League Hitter of the Year. The sky is the limit for Benson. The only thing is his contact rate will need to improve for him to advance where we all hope he will. Again, I think the best thing for his development would be to stay in New Britain for the entire season, get comfortable, make adjustments and see what kind of numbers he can put up in a full season. Evan Bigley is an underappreciated prospect. He’s got some power, and he can hit for average. He can play solid defense. When he moved up to New Britain last year, he played better than he had with the Miracle early in the season. I mention Dolenc as the 4th outfielder, and that’s where he is always put. However, every year, he gets a lot of at bats, and he performs better than expected. He is fast and plays very good defense at all three positions.

Starting Pitchers: RHP David Bromberg (40 man – Yes), RHP Deolis Guerra (40 man – Yes), RHP Bobby Lanigan (40 man – No), Liam Hendriks (40 man – No), Dan Osterbrock (40 man – No)

I was very much surprised to learn that David Bromberg would start this season in Double-A after he made nine starts in Rochester last year. That said, I think that it can be a good thing for him to spend a couple of months. He’s seen Triple-A. He’s now been to big league spring training and likely learned a lot. It will be great for him to implement some of the things he’s learned at Double-A, perfect them and get back to Rochester. Deolis Guerra pitched well in New Britain last year before being promoted to Rochester, and from that point on he was never able to find it again. Guerra is the best example of why bringing in some minor league veterans at the upper levels can be good. Guerra should not have been rushed, but the team was forced to. Bobby Lanigan’s fastball/slider combination is tough. I think long-term he can be a terrific reliever, but might as well keep him starting as long as he keeps putting up the numbers and stays healthy. I would be surprised if both Hendriks and Osterbrock start the season with the Rock Cats, but both pitched so well at Ft. Myers last year that they could be ready for this next challenge. Pitchers often say that they experience their first struggles at AA. Osterbrock experienced some struggles with Beloit in 2009, but figured things out last year. Hendriks is a tremendous prospect, very driven and competitive, and worth watching closely.

Bullpen: RHP Carlos Gutierrez (40 man – No), RHP Brett Jacobson (40 man – No), RHP Steve Hirschfeld (40 man – No), LHP Tyler Robertson (40 man – No), RHP Dakota Watts (40 man – No), RHP Santos Arias (40 man – No), LHP Spencer Steedley (40 man – No), LHP Jake Stevens (40 man – No), LHP Paul Bargas (40 man – Yes)

I think that Gutierrez is ready for Triple-A. Some could argue he’s ready for the big leagues. But this is the first time he has gone into a season as a reliever, and I think it would be good to start him back with New Britain for a month or two, let him close and pitch in more tough situations and get comfortable. It also gives some of those AAA guys a couple of months to prove what they have. There is no rush with Gutierrez. He doesn’t need to be added to the 40 man roster until after the season, and they aren’t going to want to use an option, so patience is a good thing. Jacobson was the second piece that came over from the Orioles in the Hardy trade. He has an interesting delivery, but he does throw hard and has a good curveball. Hirschfeld is definitely an option to start. He was terrific in 2009 but missed more of 2010 with injury. Robertson struggled as a starter with the Rock Cats last year, and when he went to the Arizona Fall League, it was announced that he would be moved to the bullpen. I think he has the makeup and the stuff to be successful in the role. Dakota Watts started the 2010 season (his first full season) with Beloit and ended in New Britain, and in the middle, he was touching 98 and 99 on the radar gun in Ft. Myers. Arias really struggled with the Rock Cats last year, but he should be given another shot. Steedley had a terrific April for the Rock Cats last year, but by the end of May, he had his elbow worked on. He could start this season on the Disabled List, but if he can come back, he is a good LOOGY possibility down the road. Jake Stevens is also left-handed. He was out of baseball last year, but the Twins gave the Naples, FL, native a chance to make the team. Paul Bargas was acquired by the Twins in the trade of Jose Morales. He’s got decent numbers in his minor league career, especially against left-handers. Bargas also has meningitis, and on one of the first days of minor league camp, he collapsed on the field and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. He has not yet returned to the team, but he should at some point.

Overall: This is where some really exciting Twins prospects will be. A couple of these guys would be ready to play at Rochester, but in terms of development, I think that Parmelee, Benson, Bromberg, Tosoni and Gutierrez may be best served by spending more time in AA. The first four were only added to the 40 man roster this offseason, and Gutierrez isn’t even on the 40 man yet, so time is on their side. This should be a solid team. Don’t be surprised if the likes of Ray Chang and Matt Brown end up here as well, which would make them a more veteran team. This should be a fun team to watch and several of them could be called up to the Twins at some point this season, if needed.

The minor league rosters should be announced later this week as their seasons get started next week. In fact, most of the roster spots have been determined and players are finding out. I have been quite surprised by some of the reports I have heard, but without knowing background, injuries, etc., it’s hard to determine from afar what some of the reasoning might be. Either way, it will be fun to find out and more importantly, to get this season started!

If you have any thoughts or questions, please feel free to comment or ask.

——————————————————–

  • Cody Christie, the North Dakota Twins Fan, joined me on the SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast last night. Lots more Twins topics covered such as the Jim Thome/Jason Kubel playing time question, Joe Nathan and Matt Capps, food options at Target Field, and many, many more topics.
  • If you are interested in the Twins minor league system, Twins Minor League Weekly podcast will begin on Thursday night at 10:00. Travis Aune and Seth will host the 10:00 p.m. podcast each Thursday throughout the season. We will talk about what’s going on with each Twins affiliate, how the teams are doing, who is hot, who is not, transactions, and much more.

Twins 2011 Impact Prospects

15 Feb

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

As you have seen, Danny Valencia graces the cover of my Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2011. Under his picture reads, “Danny Valencia arrived in 2010 and held the Twins to the A. L. Central Title.” Under four pictures of Twins minor leaguers, the question is asked, “Which Prospect(s) will help the Twins in 2011?”

Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2011

Now, as you know, there are over 160 profiles of Twins minor leaguers in the book. How many of them could we see in Minnesota, and under what circumstance would we see them? Here are some names (alphabetically) to keep in the back of your mind heading into spring training.

Let’s start with the prospects that we have already seen play for the Twins.

Luke Hughes - We didn’t get to see a lot of Hughes in 2010, but what we saw was positive. I mean, he became the first Twins player since 1984 to hit a home run in his first at bat. Hughes struggles defensively, but at least he can play multiple positions, and most important, he is right-handed and has a lot of power in his bat. His role with the Twins could be a right-handed bench bat and designated hitter who can fill in from time to time around the field.

Trevor Plouffe - Plouffe was back and forth between Rochester and the Twins throughout last summer. He struggled late in the Triple-A season, but he displayed power and improved his defense. I think he’ll compete with Alexi Casilla for the starting shortstop job. As this is his final option season, I would anticipate that he will play at 3B and 2B in 2011 than he did in 2010 as he could potentially be a utility infielder as well.

Ben Revere - We got a glimpse of Revere in September and I think that is the role we will see him fill in 2011 as well. If Denard Span is hurt, Revere could replace him for a couple of weeks in centerfield and in the leadoff spot. Some think he should be a fourth outfielder already, but he is just 22, hasn’t spent a day in AAA, and despite hitting .300 yet again and having game-changing speed, he still has parts of his game that need to improve, specifically defense.

Next, there are two guys that we haven’t seen yet, but we know we will hear a lot about this spring:

Scott Diamond - The Twins Rule 5 pick from the Atlanta Braves organization has to spend the season with the Twins or go through waivers and be offered back to the Braves. It is likely he would be claimed or the Braves would take him back, so the Twins will likely give the left-hander every opportunity to make the team.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka - The Twins made big news last Thanksgiving when they won the bid to negotiate exclusively with Nishioka. The two sides agreed to a three year contract with an option for a fourth year. It’s almost a given that Nishioka will be with the Twins and playing at 2B, although he will also see time at shortstop in spring.

The following are Twins minor leaguers that I think have at least some chance of debuting with the Twins in 2011:

Joe Benson - The Twins Minor League Hitter of the Year hit 31 doubles and 27 home runs in 2010. He is an excellent defender with Revere-like speed, and a Cuddyer-like arm. He has work to do before he’s ready for a full-time big league job. It woudl be great if he could spend the year at Double-A.  He has to work on putting the ball in play more consistently, but if he does, he could get a September call-up.

David Bromberg - After leading three minor league levels in strikeouts from 2007 to 2009, his strikeout rate was down at Double-A last year. However, he ended the season with nine starts and AAA where he struck out just over eight per nine innings. He will start the season in the Rochester rotation, and if the Twins have a need for a starter and Bromberg is pitching well, he very easily could be the one promoted for a spot start, or even possibly a long-relief role.

Billy Bullock - Bullock throws gas. The 2nd round pick from 2009 consistently throws around 95 mph with a very good slider. He began the 2010 season by striking out 45 in 37.1 innings at Ft. Myers. After being promoted to Double-A, he struck out and incredible 60 batters in 36.2 innings. Of course, he also walked 24. If he can display any semblance of control in 2010 in the upper levels of the minor leagues, he becomes very intriguing for the Twins in the second half of the season.

Tony Davis - Bullock’s college teammate is a left-hander who also pitched well in his first full season. He began the season by posting a 2.87 ERA in Ft. Myers and followed it up with a 2.64 ERA in New Britain. Again, control is his issue. He walked 46 batters and struck out 45 batters in 2010. The Twins added some left-handed veterans this offseason, so it would take a lot of control and some breaks for Davis to debut in 2011.

Kyle Gibson - The 2009 top pick is clearly the Twins top pitching prospect. He moved from Ft. Myers to New Britain and ended the season with three starts at Rochester. Gibson is clearly going to be a starter for the Twins at some point. The question is whether it is in June, August, or if they can wait for him to debut until 2012. If he pitches well early in the 2011 season, he should be starting for the Twins by June. If he’s pitching well later in the season, but the Twins starters are doing their part, there is some opportunity for him to debut later in the summer in the bullpen.

Carlos Gutierrez - The Twins second first round pick in 2008 throws hard and induces a lot of ground balls because he gets a lot of sink on his pitches. He has struggled as a starter, and he thrives in the bullpen. He has a chance to contribute to the Twins in the second half of the 2011 season if he is pitching well.

Chris Parmelee - The Twins 2006 first-round pick had always shown an ability to take a walk and hit for some power. In 2010, he made major strides in putting the ball in play and hitting for average. Hopefully in 2011, he can put it all together and become a big-time, all-around hitting prospect. It would be great if he could spend the full season in AA, but if he’s hitting well and (the worst-case scenario occurs and) Justin Morneau needs to miss extended time, Parmelee becomes an option for the big league club.

Chris Province - Province came to the Twins last year in spring training from the Red Sox in exchange for Boof Bonser. He is a reliever, although he made several starts a year ago between Double-A and Triple-A. A lot would need to happen for him to debut with the Twins, but he has a fastball that darts in on a right-hander’s hands. If he’s pitching well at a given time when there is a need, he has an outside shot.

Brandon Roberts - Roberts has generally played well throughout the four years he has been in the Twins organization. The problem is that he has been hurt so much. Last year, he finally remained healthy enough to work up to AAA where the CF hit over .300. He has had some knee problems, but speed is his game. Again, there is a smaller chance, but if he stays healthy and produces like he did last year, you never know.

Steve Singleton - After a slow start in 2010, he came on well late in the season. He led the organization with 43 doubles, and had 54 extra base hits on the year. He puts the ball in play and plays solid defense at 2B and has also played 3B and shortstop. He has a lot of pop for a second baseman, and if he can continue to play well, if there is an injury, he deserves an opportunity.

Rene Tosoni - Tosoni is just a solid all-around player. The only weak part of his game has been an inability to hit left-handed pitching. He tried to play in 2010, but his shoulder was experiencing just too much pain, so his season ended with surgery. He profiles similarly to Jason Kubel in terms of hitter. He is a little better defensively, has a little bit more speed, and has a strong arm. It will be interesting to see how he returns from missing so much time last year.

Kyle Waldrop - He had an absolutely incredible first-half of the season a year ago. It started with a great spring training before being sent to Rochester. Prior to the AAA All-Star game, he had posted both an ERA and a WHIP of under 1.00. He struggled some in the second half. He is not a strikeout pitcher, but he gets a lot of movement and sink on the fastball and could be a groundball reliever option sometime this season.

Dakota Watts - Maybe the biggest long-shot on the list, the Twins 16th round pick in 2009 pitched at Beloit, Ft. Myers and New Britain in 2010. He was clocked at 99 mph while in Ft. Myers. That along makes him worth watching. He can get a strikeout, probably walks too many, but is at least worth watching, and maybe he would be a long-shot September call-up.

Finally, there are some more veteran minor leaguers that the Twins brought in for the 2010 season that are worth noting:

Justin Huber is back after a year in Japan. Consider the day that Michael Cuddyer took over at 1B for an injured Justin Morneau in September of 2009, Huber was initially supposed to play 1B, but an oblique injury took him out of the lineup the rest of the season. Jeff Bailey spent parts of three seasons with the Red Sox from 2007 to 2009 and showed some power.  He can play 1B and the corner outfield positions. Chase Lambin was an International League All Star a year ago. He can play 3B, 2B and 1B. Matt Brown has spent a little bit of time in the big leagues and can play the four infield positions and spent time in the OF last year. Ray Chang is an option at 3B and 2B. Rene Rivera and Steve Holm are backup catcher options with big league service time.

Yorman Bazardo has always pitched well in the minor leagues, but still just 26, it hasn’t transferred to success in the big leagues. He pitched well in Venezuela this winter. Chuck James pitched well for the Braves for a couple of years before he was injured. The lefty went 10-1 between AA and AAA with the Nationals organization. Phil Dumatrait is a lefty-reliever option with big league time. Eric Hacker had a decent 2010 with the Giants AAA team and got a 40 man roster spot for it.

In a typical year, the Twins will promote between 12 and 18 players from Rochester throughout a season . Sometimes it is a straight promotion. Sometimes it is an injury-fill. There are various reasons. I mentioned 18 names above before discussing the minor league veterans that the organization added.

How many of these guys will come up and contribute in some way? Who will be surprise candidates? Can any of them have an impact in 2011 the way that Danny Valencia did in 2010? That is the fun part about following prospects. We can guess, but once the season gets started, you never know how it will play out.

—————————————————————————————–

John and the TwinsCentric guys helped put together the Maple Street Press Twins Annual 2011, and it has been quite the project. However, the results are tremendous. The magazine is 128 pages of Twins content, with no advertisements. Just pure Twins talk. The TwinsCentric crew wrote player profiles on the Twins roster, and we each wrote an additional article or two.

I wrote one article on the success that the Twins Advanced-Rookie League team in Elizabethton, Tennessee, has had over the last 25 years and the role that consistency has played in that. Their manager, Ray Smith, signed with the Twins as a non-drafted free agent in 1978 and debuted with the Twins in the strike-shortened 1981 season. He spent parts of three years with the Twins. When his playing career ended, he became the Elizabethton Twins manager, in 1987. 25 years later, he has won a lot of games and a lot of championships, but more important, he has helped a lot of young men and young ball players begin their path up the Twins system. His pitching coach, Jim Shellenbeck, and his hitting coach, Jeff Reed, have ton of playing and coaching experience. It was a really fun article to research and write, and I think it turned out very well.

The other article I wrote was essentially an organizational depth chart. In the article, as I did last year, I broke out the Twins prospects into Infielders, Outfielders, Catchers, Starting Pitchers and Relief Pitchers, and gave my top five prospects in each category along with a Sleeper and One to Watch. There are also charts with 2011 roster projections.

Minnesota Twins Organizational Depth Chart Article

There is a lot of Twins information in the magazine. There is information on the current roster, Target Field, the minor leagues, several historical articles and much, much more.

The magazine is now available for pre-order at the Maple Street Press website. The magazine will be available on news stands around Minnesota starting March 1. However, if you pre-order, the magazines are set to ship out on February 17, so you can get it before it hits the news stands. For those of you outside the Minnesota areas, it will not be available in your market, so ordering online is the way to go if you are interested.

Maple Street Press Twins Annual 2011

Minnesota Twins Top Prospects (Part 1: 26-50)

13 Jan

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

Interview – Did an interview for Bullpen Banter regarding the 2010 Twins and many Twins minor leaguers. Check it out here.

Before we jump into Part 1 of a two-part prospect ranking, I need to point out a terrific article in today’s Ft. Myers News-Press. Remember last week when Bert Blyleven got into the Hall of Fame? (You’re Twins fans… you remember!) He, and many others, gave a lot of credit to BaseballAnalysts.com’s Rich Lederer for pushing Blyleven’s case. It should have been an easy case for baseball’s writers, but obviously it took 14 attempts to get it right. Lederer and Blyleven had spoken several times on the phone in the past with Blyleven frequently crediting Lederer for his help and efforts. On Tuesday night, the two met and embraced. The Twins surprised Blyleven by inviting Lederer to their fantasy camp. Lederer’s answer to their request was easy. Blyleven’s response to Lederer being there was priceless. Just a great story by the News-Press’s David Dorsey; a must read.

SethSpeaks.net Minnesota Twins Top 50 Prospects List 2011

As you know, I have been working on the 2011 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook for months. After of research and writing, a conclusion is finally in sight. In the next week, I will provide more information on the book, and how you can order or pre-order.

One thing that the book includes is my Top 30 prospects and a reminder of my previous Top 30s, going back to 2005. The book will include top 10 lists from many of your favorite bloggers.

I did something a little bit different in compiling my Top 50 list. I took the entire list of Twins minor league prospects from the GCL through Rochester, and in an Excel spreadsheet, I put each name in the first column and each name in the first row. Then I went through and compared every prospect to every other prospect, picking which of the two I thought was the better prospect. My ‘vote’ on each was based on a ton of research, stats, scouting reports and more. I considered which of the two players I would trade if a team said that I could pick which prospect to send in a potential deal. I compared Aaron Hicks to Kyle Gibson and Miguel Sano, and also against Matt Schuld and Matt Trau. I compared Manuel Soliman to Dan Osterbrock, Joe Benson and Dallas Gallant. After doing that for every player (which took WAY too long), I added up the total number of times I selected each player. The player that I chose above all players obviously ended up with the most points at the end of the day. The one with the second most votes would be the #2 prospect. And so on. Of course, there were ties, sometimes three-way ties, which I broke by my head-to-head results, so to speak. The results were interesting, at least in the middle of the list, but really throughout. Today I will post my choices for Twins Prospects #26 through 50 with a brief description. As you would expect, there was a tie at 50, so in fact, here are prospects 26-51. As always, your thoughts and opinions are welcome.

#50 (Tie) – Kyle Waldrop – RHP – Rochester

The Rochester relief pitcher has a terrific 2010 season and will head to spring training with the Twins again in 2011. Throws strikes and gets ground balls.

#50 (Tie) – Dan Osterbrock – LHP – Ft. Myers

Based on the season he had in 2010, he should be way up this list. A no-hitter in Beloit and sub-3 ERAs in Beloit and Ft. Myers. The soft-tossing strike thrower is intriguing. It will be interesting to see how he does when he gets to New Britain

#49 – Rory Rhodes – 3B – GCL Twins

                The 6-7 infielder from Australia had a solid season in the GCL. I have mentioned him as a 2011 breakout candidate.

#48 – Cesar Ciurcina – RHP – GCL Twins

                The righty came to the States and held his own in 2010 after putting up very good numbers in the Dominican in 2009. A long way to go, but plenty of potential.

#47 – Daniel Santana – SS – Beloit

                Split time between E-Town and Beloit. Little guy who struggled some in Beloit, but played well in E-Town, including showing some decent power numbers.

#46 – Evan Bigley – OF – New Britain

                The outfielder struggled to start the season back in Ft. Myers, but heated up in June. Played very well following a promotion to New Britain.

#45 – Anderson Hidalgo – 3B – Beloit

                Lone Snappers hitter to hit over .300 in 2010. Has good doubles power already. Missed some time with injury again.

#44 – Lance Ray – OF/1B – Beloit

                Twins 8th round pick in 2010 out of Kentucky, he quickly moved up from Elizabethton and played very well in Beloit. Good power.

#43 – Brian Dozier – SS – Ft. Myers

                Just one of those solid, solid players. Hit about .280 at both Beloit and Ft. Myers. Good defense. OK speed. No power. Surprise non-roster invitee to big league camp.

#42 – Edgar Ibarra – LHP – Beloit

                Experienced ups and downs throughout the season, but the lefty has four good pitches, just needs to be more consistent with them.

#41 – Dakota Watts – RHP – New Britain

                2009 pick pitched at three levels in 2010. Some control issues, but the guy throws consistently in the upper 90s and hit 99 in Ft. Myers.

#40 – Logan Darnell – LHP – Elizabethton

                Twins 6th round pick from Kentucky (yes, he teamed with Lance Ray and non-drafted free agent Gunner Glad there), the lefty had a nice debut with the E-Twins. Three good pitches.

#39 – Kane Holbrooks – RHP – New Britain

                Began the season by dominating in the Beloit bullpen, then made a couple of starts before being promoted to Ft. Myers where he pitched even better. Ended season with a start in AA.

#38 – Nate Roberts – OF – Elizabethton

                Twins 5th round pick in 2010 from High Point University put up some of the best numbers of an Elizabethton Twins player over the last quarter-century.

#37 – Chris Herrmann – OF – Ft. Myers

                The 2009 pick skipped Beloit and held his own (including an All Star appearance) with the bat. Tremendous defensive LF but will also catch, including in big league training camp.

#36 – Michael Tonkin – RHP – Beloit

                It was surprising when he was the first starting pitcher promoted from Extended Spring Training, but he pitched well in Beloit before going back to Elizabethton.

#35 – Luke Hughes – IF/OF/DH/PH – Minnesota

                Homered in first big league at bat. OK at Rochester, but again was injured and didn’t play after June 6. Two surgeries (knee and groin). Potential big league super utility bat and pinch hitter.

#34 – Danny Rams – C/1B – Beloit

                Returned to the Snappers in 2010. Tremendous power. Improving catcher. If he can learn to hit a breaking ball, he could fly up this list. Time will tell.

(NOTE  – I just realized that I neglected to include Anthony Slama in my analysis/rankings. I will put the right-handed reliever with the tremendous K-Rate who should be in the Twins bullpen throughout 2011 right here at #33.5)

#33 – James Beresford – SS – Beloit

                Also returned to Beloit for second straight year, and was the team’s MVP for the second straight year. Amazing defensive middle infielder who just needs to get bigger to be a real big time prospect.

#32 – Rene Tosoni – OF – New Britain

                He’s been a top 10 guy for me in previous years. He was OK last year in New Britain before his season-ending shoulder surgery. Just a solid all-around player. If healthy, he will move up quickly.

#31 – Miguel Munoz – RHP – Beloit

                Hard-throwing right-hander did a nice job as a starter early in the Snappers season. Tired late, and did alright in the Snappers bullpen. Has great stuff.

#30 – Tom Stuifbergen – RHP – Beloit

                Another guy who will move up this list if he is healthy in 2010. He was top pitcher in Beloit after Hendriks and Osterbrock promoted, when healthy. Good stuff, and a very smart pitcher.

#29 – Martire Garcia – LHP – Elizabethton

                Garcia struggled in E-Town in 2009 after strong ’08 in GCL. Returned to E-Town in ’10 and started 6-0 before promotion to Beloit. Throws hard, good movement. Young.

#28 – Scott Diamond – LHP – Gwinnett

                Pitched well in Braves organization since signing as undrafted free agent after 2008 college season. He’ll give up some hits, but he gets a lot of ground balls. Twins Rule 5 pick has legitimate shot to make Twins roster.

#27 – Steve Singleton – 2B – New Britain

                After bad April, Singleton played well for Rock Cats the rest of the season. Led organization with 43 doubles (2 behind Doug Mientkiewicz’s New Britain record). 54 extra base hits. Just 57 strikeouts. Not sure why the Twins don’t seem to like him more.

#26 – Niko Goodrum – IF/OF – GCL

                Don’t worry about the numbers that he put up in the GCL. Goodrum is as good of an athlete as Hicks, Torii Hunter, Joe Benson, any other great athlete in the Twins system. He’s just very raw and has a long way to go, but the sky is the limit.

So there you have it, my choices for Twins Prospects 26-50. What do you think? Any surprises? Remember that the top 25 prospects are yet to come. If I’m able, I will separate them, maybe posting 11-15 later tonight and my top ten around noon on Friday. Check back when you are able to. Feel free to e-mail me or leave your comments here.

SethSpeaks.net Minor League Pitcher of the Year

23 Sep

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

The Twins have clinched. The team has played remarkably. Now, they are tied with the Yankees for the best record in all of baseball. I would say that the starters earned their day off on Wednesday afternoon, and the whole team will benefit from another day off today. As a minor league guy, I enjoyed the Wednesday lineup that included only Denard Span and Jason Kubel among regular starters.

Following this team through a pennant race is exhausting and it feels like we have covered just about every possible topic as it relates to the 2010 Twins and the push toward the post season.

So today, I’m going to jump back into one of my favorite topics, Twins minor league baseball. Today, I’m going to give you my top five choices for Twins Pitcher of the Year and select the 2010 SethSpeaks.net Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Despite some disappointing team records through the minor league ranks, there were some very good pitching performances that deserve to be recognized. When it comes to my choice for Pitcher of the Year, that is different than a prospect ranking. Of the eight players that I will mention below, it is likely that three of them will be in my top ten Twins prospects list later this fall. It is possible that a couple of them won’t even be in the top fifty prospect list, but still had terrific seasons. Last year’s pitcher of the year, David Bromberg, quietly had another very strong season as he moves up the Twins organizational ladder. Let’s get to the list:

#5 – Anthony Slama – Rochester Red Wings – 26 years old – RHP

Anthony Slama finally got his opportunity to help the Twins at the big league level. He pitched in five games for the Twins. He again spent most of his season in Triple A Rochester. While there, he went 2-2 with 17 saves and a 2.20 ERA in 54 games. In 65.1 innings, he walked 32 and struck out 74. Opponents hit just .170 against him all year. Slama will turn 27 years old during the offseason and the Twins really need to just give him an opportunity in 2011 and see what he can do.

#4 – Kyle Gibson – Ft. Myers/New Britain/Rochester – 22 years old – RHP

Gibson made his much-anticipated official pro debut in 2010. He signed late after being the Twins top pick in 2009 and pitched some in the Instructional League. But he played his first official games this year, starting with Ft. Myers. There, he was 4-1 with a 1.87 ERA in 43.1 innings. He moved up to Double-A New Britain and went 7-5 with a 3.68 ERA. He was finally summoned to Triple-A Rochester where he was 0-0 with a 1.72 ERA before being shut down for the season. Overall, he went 11-6 with a 2.96 ERA. In 152 innings, he gave up 136 hits, walked 39 and struck out 126. Opponents hit a combined .242 against him. Gibson definitely fits the mold of a Twins pitcher. Throws strikes, mixes pitches, pitches to contact. We could see him at Target Field by the end of June.

#3 – Dan Osterbrock – Beloit/Ft. Myers – 23 years old – LHP

After being named the Appalachian League Pitcher of the Year in 2008, Osterbrock struggled in Beloit in 2009. He returned to the Midwest League to start the 2010 season. He made five starts, was twice the Pitcher of the Week and threw a no-hitter. And then he was promoted to Ft. Myers. There, he went 7-8, but had just a 2.73 ERA. Overall, he went 9-9 with a 2.65 ERA. In 139.1 innings, he walked just 28 and struck out 106. He does not throw very hard, so his .236 opponent batting average against is even more impressive. Just a tremendous bounce-back season for the lefty from the University of Cincinnati.

#2 – Kane Holbrooks – Beloit/Ft. Myers/New Britain – 23 years old – RHP

Holbrooks was a 2nd team All American in 2009 yet he fell to the Twins in the 21st round of the draft. He pitched solely out of the bullpen at Elizabethton after signing with the Twins. He began 2010 in the Beloit Snappers bullpen where he dominated before getting two starts. In Beloit, he was 2-1 with a 2.30 ERA and nine saves. In 54 inning, he walked 13 and struck out 71! He moved up to Ft. Myers and made seven starts. He was 3-3 with a 2.27 ERA. At the end of the year, he was moved up to New Britain where he made one start and gave up three runs in five innings. Overall, Holbrooks went 8-6 with a 2.10 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. He made 32 appearances out of the bullpen and ten starts. In 102.2 combined innings, he gave up 90 hits, walked 29 and struck out 120. Opponents hit just .231 off of him.

The SethSpeaks.net Twins Minor League  Pitcher of the Year is…

Liam Hendriks – Beloit/Ft. Myers – 21 years old – RHP

Hendriks missed just over a month of the season because of an emergency appendectomy and yet his numbers are so incredible that he is still my choice for Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Week. He began the season at Beloit where he went 2-1 with a 1.32 ERA. In 34 innings, he gave up just 16 hits, walked four and struck out 39 while batters hit just .138 against him. He moved up to Ft. Myers where he went 6-3 with a 1.93 ERA. In 74.2 innings, he gave up 63 hits, walked eight and struck out 66. Overall, he went 8-4 with a 1.74 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP. In 108.2 innings, he gave up just 79 hits, walked just 12 and struck out 105 while limiting batters to a .199 average.

Honorable Mention –

  • David Bromberg – New Britain/Rochester – 23 years old – RHP (6-9. 3.75 ERA, 151.1 innings, 152 H, 48 BB, 112 K)
  • Kyle Waldrop – Rochester Red Wings – 24 years old – RHP (59 G, 5-3, 2.57 ERA, 2 saves, 87.2 innings, 89 H, 20 BB, 60 K)
  • Dakota Watts – Beloit/Ft. Myers/New Britain – 23 years old – RHP (6-3, 3.10 ERA, 8 saves, 81.1 innings, 61 H, 44 BB, 89 K)

What do you think? Who would get your vote? Remember, this is now a vote for the best prospect, but the Pitcher of the Year. I think it’s pretty easy to say that Kyle Gibson is the Twins best prospect, although Bromberg and Hendriks certainly have to be in the discussion. Where would your vote go?

Feel free to leave your questions and comments here.

Day 2 in Beloit

24 May

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

Click here to listen to last night’s SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast.

On Saturday night, I blogged some thoughts live from Beloit on seeing the Beloit Snappers and the Cedar Rapids Kernels play on Friday night. Today I’ll discuss my thoughts on seeing the teams play on Saturday. (If you don’t want to read my thoughts, you can scroll down for the Minor League updates from the games). Josh Johnson and I got to Beloit on Friday afternoon and watched the team’s play that night. We found a hotel room, but we had to check out by 11:00 a.m. One thing we didn’t consider is what to do from the time we had to get out of the hotel until going to the ballpark around 5:00. Well, I got an oil change in my car and we ate at a sports bar called Jerseys in Beloit. We decided to go to the theatre and watched Iron Man 2. I actually really liked it, which surprised me, considering I hadn’t seen the first and don’t really get into the Marvel Comics movies. But it was very good and we (as in me) really like Scarlett Johansson. She just seems very, well, friendly. Then we went to Applebee’s to watch the Twins/Brewers game until we headed over to the park.  

 Here are a few quick notes from watching the Saturday night Snappers game in person (so take it for what it is worth, a very small sample size):

  • Aaron Hicks is where he should be. Going 2-4 with two walks is very good. It shows his ability to take pitches and work a walk. He stands right on the plate and has very quick hands. He has a very strong swing. His second hit was a line drive to the opposite field. He played CF in this game and completely misplayed a ball to dead center. He froze and even took a step forward on a fly ball that ended up landing on the warning track. He showed a good arm, or course. He is close to ready to advance, but there is zero rush, so it would be good to see him stay for a little longer.
  • Angel Morales struck out just once in the two games. That is good because he had really been struggling. He struggles some with curveball and sliders, as a lot of hitters at this level do. But he has such a strong, quick swing. I was expecting to see more bad swings on breaking balls, but he was on all of them and fouled a couple straight back. His speed is very impressive. He played RF in this game (after DHing on Friday night), and did alright out there. Nothing stood out either way. Good arm, certainly not comparable to Hicks, but pretty accurate. It would be nice to see Morales go on a strong run for the next month and then move up.
  • James Beresford was the most impressive players to me. He looks very young and is very skinny, but I was impressed by how he looked at the plate. In this game, he was 1-6, but I was still impressed by the type of at bat. He took pitches, he had very good bat control. But I was especially impressed by his defense. He is a very good shortstop, but he played 2B both games. He made all the plays and made them look easy. In this game, he made a play going far up the middle, back-handing the ball and leaping toward left field to throw out the runner at first base (similar to the play that Derek Jeter has made famous). He’s got a good arm and good range on grounders or pop ups. And then there are the intangibles. He was the clear leader of that infield. He took charge out there. In fact, there was one time during a tough situation that he called catcher Tobias Streich out to the mound for a quick discussion. We keep hearing that when he grows into his body and gains weight, he will be very good. I now completely agree with it.
  • Danny Rams can crush the ball. He can hit fastballs pretty well. But he also has struck out a lot in his career, and watching, it is pretty clear why. He swings and misses a lot at breaking balls. After crushing a fastball to the right center field gap and then drilling a fastball for a single in his second at bat, he struck out the final three at bats, on curveballs. One of them landed in the left-handed batters box.
  • Michael Tonkin looked alright. Decent fastball. Doesn’t throw real hard. Early in the game, his curveball just rolled, but as the game went on, it got more and more sharp and was very good. Very thin, he has a chance to be good if he can get bigger and stronger, add some velocity and maintain his terrific control.
  • Dakota Watts is a reliever to watch. He throws pretty hard and has a solid slider. But he came into a tough position and got out of it with strikeouts. One thing I noticed about all of the Snappers relievers is that they have the ability to work out of really tough situations. Of course, they also showed a great ability to put the team in some really tough situations to get out of.
  • Tobias Streich had a rough game too on Saturday night. He threw out two would-be base stealers… out of 11. That’s right, nine stolen bases against the Snappers. On two of them, the ball went in to centerfield and he was changed with an error. Now, some of that is on the pitchers and I believe that a middle infielder should try to knock the ball down if it could go in the outfield, but it was a tough game for the defensive-minded catcher.
  • Reggie Williams was drafted as a great athlete. He played 3B both games and had a couple of plays that made me, a former 3B, cringe, and then he had a couple of plays there that made me say “Wow!” He looks more like a 2B to me.
  • Daniel Santana came up and had a rough Midwest League debut. He went 1-5 with three strikeouts. In his first at bat, he had three fastballs blown right by of them. A couple of them were at head level. As the game went on, you could see that he has an ability to be a line drive hitter if he swings at good pitches. Defensively, I saw a guy who could be a very good defensive shortstop. He has good hands and a very strong arm. However, a couple of his throws were wild. He had three errors in the game as well. Josh said the first part of the following and I added the second part: “Daniel Santana makes James Beresford look old and chubby.” Santana is tiny. He may be 5-7, and he may be 150 pounds, but he has a chance if he keeps working. Ideally he would head back to Elizabethton for the 2010 season.  
  • Finally, in a couple of games that had Aaron Hicks and Angel Morales, the best prospect that I saw was Mike Trout of the Cedar Rapids Kernels. He was the Angels 1st round pick (25th overall) last year. The 19 year old centerfielder is hitting about .360 so far this year, gets on base via walk, and has nearly 20 extra base hits already this year, including five home runs. Offensively, he is incredible. In centerfield, I thought he was pretty advanced. His arm may not be as good as Aaron Hicks, but he got tremendous reads on fly balls. In general, I just think he looks like a guy that prospect fans will want to get to know.

In all, I think that going to Beloit was a great experience. Saturday’s game went 11 innings and didn’t finish until about 10:20 p.m. It was a great game. The only negative is that we had to drive back to the Twin Cities after the game to get Josh back for a previous commitment. I drove until about 12:30 and then couldn’t keep my eyes open, so I asked Josh if he could. He did, and I got into the passenger’s seat. After talking for a couple of minutes, the next thing I knew, I looked at the clock and it had been 40 minutes. I apparently fell asleep mid-sentence. I was awake for another couple of minutes, and the next thing I knew, it was an hour after that. I asked how he was doing driving and he said just fine. Next thing I knew, it was 3:00 and we were to St. Paul, just about to 35E! Dropped Josh off at 3:30 and then I got home about 3:50. I am WAY too old for that. I am thinking of getting back to Beloit again in June if it works out.

If you have any questions or comments about Beloit, the trip or any of the players, please feel free to e-mail me.  

Here is a quick glance at what happened on Saturday and Sunday in the Twins minor league system:

SethSpeaks Saturday Minor League Hitter of the Day – Chris Parmelee – Ft. Myers Miracle

SethSpeaks Saturday Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Joe Testa – New Britain Rockcats

SethSpeaks Sunday Minor League Hitter of the Day – Ben Revere – New Britain Rockcats

SethSpeaks Sunday Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Carlos Gutierrez – New Britain Rockcats

  • A bunch of people have asked me about what is happening with Matt Bashore. I finally received confirmation that he had, or will have, Tommy John surgery and miss this entire season.
  • Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco will begin their Twins playing career in the Dominican Summer League. They will play there for a few weeks, until the GCL Twins season starts. At that time, they will evaluate whether to push them to the GCL or let them continue to play in the DSL.
  • Paul Kelly and Drew Thompson are both currently out of the Ft. Myers Miracle lineup with injuries. Thompson has a hamstring injury, while Kelly is having wrist issues.
  • Tom Stuifbergen told me that he threw a bullpen on Friday and felt good. He expects to be out another week and probably pitch out of the bullpen a couple of times.
  • As LaVelle posted last week, Ben Tootle has been sent back to the Twin Cities to check out why he is experiencing elbow soreness and pain.  

Red Wings Report   

Saturday – Rochester 9, Norfolk 2 Matt Fox pitched well and was helped by plenty of offensive support to gain his fourth win of the year. In six innings, he gave up two runs (1 earned) on five hits. He struck out two and walked none. Jose Lugo gave up three hits and a walk, but no runs, in 1.2 innings. Anthony Slama struck out two in 1.1 scoreless innings. Matt Tolbert went 3-5 with his eighth double and fifth stolen base. Toby Gardenhire went 3-5 with his first double (actually his first three hits with the Red Wings). Danny Valencia went 3-4 and was hit by a pitch. Brian Dinkelman went 2-5 with his ninth double. Wilson Ramos went 2-5 with his third double.

Sunday – Rochester 8, Norfolk 4 Jeff Manship started and gave up three runs on seven hits in 4.2 innings. He struck out four. Tim Lahey walked two in 1.1 scoreless innings. Kyle Waldrop gave up a solo home run in two innings. Rob Delaney walked one in a scoreless inning. Danny Valencia went 2-4 with a walk. Matt Macri went 2-3 with a walk and his seventh double. Jason Repko went 2-5 with two RBI and his fifth stolen base. Jacque Jones went 2-5. Brian Dinkelman hit his second home run.   

New Britain Notes

Saturday – New Britain 1, Binghamton 3Santos Arias made his first start of the 2010 season. He gave up two runs on three hits (two solo home runs). He walked two and struck out one in 4.2 innings. He falls to 0-6 with a 4.50 ERA. Joe Testa has come on of late. He was perfect for 2.1 innings. Loek Van Mil gave up one run on two hits and a walk in one inning. Matt Williams walked one and struck out one in an inning. Ben Revere went 3-5 with his 14th stolen base. Allan de San Miguel went 1-2 with two walks. Erik Lis hit his second home run.

Sunday – New Britain 5, Binghamton 2Ben Revere again led the offense. He went 3-4 with a walk and two stolen bases. Carlos Gutierrez recorded his first win of the year. He gave up just two runs on seven hits in 7.2 innings. He walked one and struck out four. Matt Williams recorded his first save with 1.1 scoreless innings.

  • Ben Revere is on a tear. In his last nine games, he has gone 18-38 (.474) with six walks, two doubles, a triple and a home run. In his last six games, he is 14-26 (.538).
  • Carlos Gutierrez improved to 1-3 with a 3.75 ERA. In his first start of the season, he gave up four runs in four innings. In his April 24th start, he gave up eight runs in four innings. In his seven other starts, he has given up two or less runs.

Miracle Matters

Saturday – Ft. Myers 1, Daytona 6 – Chris Parmelee got off to a slow start in Ft. Myers, but had a great weekend. In this game, he was 3-4. Brian Dozier made his Miracle debut and was 2-4. Jair Fernandez also was 2-4 and drove in the lone run. Liam Hendriks had his first rough start of the year. He gave up four runs on eight hits in four innings. He walked two and struck out six. Andrei Lobanov gave up just two hits in three shutout innings. Steve Blevins gave up two runs on four hits in two innings.

Sunday – Ft. Myers 7, Daytona 9 – Chris Parmelee again went 3-4 in this game, adding a walk, a triple and three RBI to raise his average to .360. Brian Dozier went 2-5 with two RBI. Dan Osterbrock fell to 0-4. In 5.1 innings, he gave up seven runs (5 earned) on 10 hits. He walked one and struck out three. Shooter Hunt came in and gave up a run on two hits and two walks in 1.2 innings. Billy Bullock struck out four in two scoreless innings.  

Snappers Snippets

Saturday – Beloit 5, Cedar Rapids 7 (11 innings)Michael Tonkin started and gave up four runs (3 earned) on eight hits. He walked none and struck out just two in 5.1 innings. Dakota Watts came in and walked two and struck out three in 1.2 innings. Kane Holbrooks gave up one run on two hits and two walks in his two innings. He struck out four. Jhon Garcia gave up two runs on two hits and two walks in two innings to take the loss. Aaron Hicks went 2-4 with two walks. Danny Rams went 2-5 with his tenth double and two RBI. Josmil Pinto was 2-5. Angel Morales went 0-2 with two walks and a hit by pitch. In the bottom of the ninth, he was hit in the helmet by a fastball. Josh Johnson has video of it that he will soon post on YouTube that you will want to watch. Daniel Santana made his Midwest League debut and it was a rough one. He went 1-5 with three strikeouts. He also committed three errors.   

Sunday – Beloit 2, Cedar Rapids 14 Miguel Munoz gave up four runs on six hits in four innings. He walked two and struck out three. Peter Kennelly gave up six runs (5 earned) on six hits and two walks in three innings. Matt Tone gave up a solo home run and struck out two in his inning. Catcher Tobias Streich gave up three runs on two hits and a walk in his inning of work. James Beresford went 2-3 with his fifth double. Aaron Hicks hit his eighth double.  

If you have any thoughts, please feel free to comment here.

April Minor League Report

6 May

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

 

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.   

Any questions? Leave your comments here.

2010 Ft. Myers Preview

12 Apr

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

The 2010 Twins minor league roster previews are brought to you by the Minnesota Twins 2010 Prospect Handbook. Get your copy here!

Jake Mauer will be the Miracle’s manager in 2010 after managing the GCL Twins the last couple of years. Former long-time big leaguer Jim Dwyer will be the hitting coach while Steve Mintz is the pitching coach. Let’s take a look at players on the Miracle roster to start the 2010 season (note – prospect ranking for my choices for Top 30 Twins prospects as updated in the Minnesota Twins 2010 Prospect Handbook):

The Starting Pitchers

Kyle Gibson (5), Michael Tarsi, Bobby Lanigan, Bruce Pugh, Brad Tippett.

Obviously Gibson is the name here, but he isn’t the only pitcher with upside. That said, he clearly has tremendous upside, multiple average or better pitches, and great makeup. Lanigan has a good fastball and is probably best known for having a very strong slider. Pugh throws hard and is still working on secondary pitches. He moved into the Beloit starting rotation late last year and was impressive. The goal would be for him to continue that progression. Brad Tippett doesn’t throw hard, but he absolutely knows how to pitch. Long and lanky, he still has room to grown and add strength. Tarsi is a tall lefty who doesn’t throw hard. He is the one returning to the Miracle rotation for the second year.

The Bullpen Arms

Billy Bullock (20), Henry Arias, Michael Allen, Tony Davis, Shooter Hunt, Blake Martin, Matt Williams.

This group is an interesting mix of hard-throwing talents and guys who have a lot to show. Billy Bullock is arguably the best relief pitching prospect in the system. The hard throwing righty became a reliever one year ago and added velocity to go with a very good slider. Tony Davis was drafted a year ago as well, and he spent time with several of the Twins affiliates, including a AA New Britain. The lefty knows how to pitch. Shooter Hunt had a rough 2009, and his first outing this year was ugly, but Mauer got him back out there the very next day and he was better. His upside is tremendous. Hopefully he can work through his control issues. Matt Williams has been around for a long time yet is still young. The Australian always does a good job and is sometimes overlooked. It is a big year for Arias, Allen and Martin.

The Catchers

Jair Fernandez, Chris Herrmann, Daniel Rohlfing.

This is a solid group of catchers, but the shock (for me) of spring was that Herrmann is skipping Beloit. He has played everywhere. He told me he played a lot of 2B his first year in college. He caught, played OF and played 3B over the next two years. The Twins drafted him as a catcher, but he played LF most days in Elizabethton. He was moved to catcher at Instructs, and in the first couple of games, he has played CF and catcher. Could he be another Craig Biggio type? The big thing is, that he can hit with a smooth lefty-handed swing. Fernandez came to camp this spring and played a little. Rohlfing actually played some in the outfield last year as well.

The Infielders

Nate Hanson, Yangervis Solarte, Drew Thompson, Paul Kelly, Chris Cates, Deibinson Romero, Nick Romero.

In 2005, the Twins drafted high school middle infielders Paul Kelly and Drew Thompson. They both had great starts to their career, but both missed significant time over the next two years. Last year, Thompson made a successful comeback in Beloit. This year, hopefully the same will be said for Kelly. Both are good guys, very talented, and if they can stay healthy through this season, both should jump back into the prospect rankings. Deibinson Romero was taken off of the 40 man roster this winter and returns to Ft. Myers where Twins officials would love to see anything positive. Nate Hanson played all over the Beloit infield a year ago, and will likely spend more time at 1B this year. Likewise, Solarte has the ability to play as many as seven positions. Chris Cates is great defensively and pitchers love when he is playing SS behind them. Nick Romero is another guy fully capable of playing around the infield. He has some real pop in his bat as well.

The Outfielders

Evan Bigley, Michael Harrington, Ramon Santana.

Three games into the season and there are already rumblings that Aaron Hicks or Angel Morales could move up to Ft. Myers in an attempt to give them an actual center fielder. Evan Bigley is a very good player, a very good hitter. Harrington can play all three positions and last year had a lot of extra base hits. Ramon Santana is an infielder that has now moved to the outfield, probably because of how good of an infielder he was. Chris Cates and Chris Herrmann have already played centerfield this year.

SUMMARY

To be completely honest, this is a team that has the ability to lose a lot of games early in the season. However, there are a few guys that are clearly have a chance to advance, but this could be a team built for a second half playoff run when some guys from Beloit are added to the roster.  

If you have any questions or comments on this preview of the roster, please feel free to ask… Leave your questions or comments.

Roster Projections: Beloit Snappers

26 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

Before we jump into my Beloit Snappers (Twins Low-A affiliate) roster projection, here are a couple of quick updates:

  • Last night was one of my favorite episodes of The Show.
  1. The first guest was Twins prospect Trayvone Johnson. This was one of my favorite interviews that I’ve done. The 2009 draft pick was selected as a catcher, but he has been moved to the mound. He was drafted out of high school, and explained why he had not played organized baseball for three years before the Twins drafted him last June. He is just a really good guy and I was very happy with the interview.
  2. Next, JJ Stankevitz from the White Sox Examiner came on and we talked about the White Sox. We spent time talking about their starting rotation. I also asked for his thoughts on Gordon Beckham and how his name keeps popping up in rumors about Adrian Gonzalez. I asked for his thoughts on Carlos Quentin, Alex Rios, Paul Konerko, AJ Pierzynski, Bobby Jenks and more.  
  3. Finally, Twins 17-year-old outfield prospect Max Kepler spent about 15 minutes answering questions. He is currently sidelined by some tendonitis in his shoulder, but talked about how his first spring training is going. We talked about his early baseball days in Germany and the reasons he signed with the Twins. He corrected me on some German pronunciations. It was a lot of fun.  So be sure to listen to The Show.
  4. We also noted that the planned time for The Show throughout the season will be 9 p.m. central time on Sunday nights. I think it’s a good time. Generally, the Twins will play Sunday afternoon games (with a couple of exceptions). They will have ended a weekend series and will be about to start a new series. Hopefully that will mean more major league and minor league interviews can be done. Although I am working on adding other guests, Pat Neshek has already confirmed that he will be on The Show

 

The Beloit Snappers’ season also begins on April 8th with a road series at Cedar Rapids. Starting on April 11th, the Snappers begin their home schedule with games against Peoria. The Snappers will be again managed this year by Nelson Prada. Tommy Watkins begins his full-time coaching career as the Snappers hitting coach.

So here are my thoughts on the 2010 Opening Day roster of the Beloit Snappers:

The Hitters

  Beloit
C Tobias Streich
1B Michael Gonzales
2B Derek McCallum
3B Anderson Hidalgo
SS Brian Dozier
LF Chris Herrmann ( C)
CF Aaron Hicks
RF Steve Liddle
DH Josmil Pinto
Bu C Buddy Munroe
Bu IF Matt Gaski
Bu OF Reggie Williams
Bench Jonathan Goncalves
DL (Dan Rohlfing)
  (Adan Severino)

Analysis: The Twins have some quality catching depth in these low levels. In fact, yesterday I pushed Danny Rams up to Ft. Myers, in part, due to the number of catchers that could (or should) be in Beloit. Tobias Streich was the best defensive catcher in the 2009 draft, so he should be here. Buddy Munroe was drafted last year as well and is another defensive catcher. Josmil Pinto has a very strong arm, but he is not known for his defense. However, he has a tremendous bat. Chris Herrmann was drafted as a catcher last year, but he played only outfield in 2009. He moved to catcher in Instructional league, but with his bat, he needs to be in Beloit and needs to be in the lineup. I think that Aaron Hicks will go back to Beloit for at least six weeks. Steve Liddle signed quite late last year, but he’s an advanced hitter, from Vanderbilt, and should play here. The infield has some quality prospects as well. Michael Gonzales is a large man, but he can hit. He had a strong run last year for a few weeks at Elizabethton. Former Gopher standout Derek McCallum will be the primary second baseman. Fellow 2009 draftee Brian Dozier will play a lot at shortstop. Anderson Hidalgo will be at 3B. Reggie Williams is likely to play a lot, but he is a tremendous athlete and should be able to play the infield and outfield positions and be in the lineup most days. Matt Gaski is about the glove. Jonathan Goncalves is another solid athlete who will get plenty of playing time in the outfield. Its’ hard to find a place for Dan Rohlfing even after he was moved to the outfield from behind the plate last year. Also, Adan Severino was hurt most of 2009, so this will be a big year for him.    

The Pitchers

 

  Beloit
SP Liam Hendriks
SP Tom Stuifbergen
SP Edgar Ibarra
SP Miguel Munoz
SP Brad Stillings
   
CL Zach See
8L Nelvin Fuentes
8R Dakota Watts
BP Matt Tone
BP Kane Holbrooks
BP Ben Tootle
BP Tony Davis
   
  (Matt Bashore)
  (Shooter Hunt)
  (Brian Kirwan)

 

 

Analysis: This gets a little bit tricky here. There are still a lot of good pitching prospects, but here are my thoughts. Liam Hendriks missed all of 2008 and last year started with Elizabethton before moving up to Beloit. I think he starts here again, but he could move up quickly. Tom Stuifbergen just knows how to pitch. He’s still very young, but he will do well. He was E-town’s top pitcher last season. However, toward the end of the year, Edgar Ibarra certainly put himself into consideration as well. Miguel Munoz is up and down, but he is probably the hardest thrower and working on other pitches. Brad Stillings was selected in 2009 and started with E-Town. He came up to Beloit but pitched out of the bullpen, so I would suspect that he will be a starter here to start the season at least.

Zach See signed as an undrafted free agent last year and pitched very well, good strikeout numbers. The three lefties that I have on this roster are all capable of dominating. Nelvin Fuentes also missed all of 2008. He pitched well in 2009, especially for Puerto Rico in the World Cup. Matt Tone and Tony Davis were both drafted in 2009. Tone dominated Appy League hitters. At one point, he went over 15 innings without giving up a hit, and over 18 innings without allowing a run. Tony Davis played for a couple of teams, but he ended the season on the New Britain playoff roster. Ben Tootle, when healthy, can approach 100 mph with his fastball. That’s how you get drafted in the third round. Hopefully he is fully healthy and strong in 2010. Dakota Watts was drafted in 2009 as well and played for three affiliates. Kane Holbrooks was a college All-American last year and the Twins got him after the 20th round. He had always started but feels that he is probably better suited for relief work.

If Matt Bashore is healthy, he will definitely be starting somewhere, maybe even in Ft. Myers. It’s hard to tell what the Twins will do with Shooter Hunt. And Brian Kirwan will be back after missing all of 2009 with shoulder surgery.

So, who isn’t here? Who did I not put on a full-season roster?

Those top three pitchers at the GCL last year will probably all have a chance to pitch for Beloit at some point this season. On Tuesday night’s podcast, Adam Foster said that Adrian Salcedo was turning eyes. The 18 year old was hitting 93 mph with a sharp curveball and a very good changeup. BJ Hermsen also put up silly numbers last year in the GCL. Blayne Weller often gets overlooked because of those first two, but his numbers are right on par. All three could be with the Snappers by June, and if any of them go to Elizabethton, I would consider them favorites for Appy League Pitcher of the Year. Michael Tonkin is likely going to E-town, and I think that Martire Garcia may repeat at E-Town. Relief Pitcher Andrei Lobanov had an incredible 2009 in the GCL as well (1 BB, 35 K in 22 IP!), but I think he will go to E-Town too.

The young’ns (Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler) will all likely play for the GCL Twins. Sano and Polanco may go to the Dominican Summer League and play during Extended Spring Training.

ELIZABETHTON

It’s impossible to project the Elizabethton or GCL Twins rosters because they will also contain players drafted in the 2010 draft. The college draftees will mainly play in E-Town. But just to try to send a reminder of some of the other players in the Twins system, here are some Elizabethton “projections.”

  Elizabethton
C Jhonatan Arias
1B Kennys Vargas
2B Daniel Santana
3B Rory Rhodes
SS Jairo Perez
LF Matej Hejma
CF Oswaldo Arcia
RF Daniel Ortiz
DH Wang-Wei Lin
Bu C Nick Freitas
Bu IF Hyeon-rok Choi
Bu OF Brian Bistagne
Bench Fred Hanvi
   
  Elizabethton
SP Martire Garcia
SP BJ Hermsen
SP Adrian Salcedo
SP Blayne Weller
SP Michael Tonkin
   
CL Andrei Lobanov
8L Jose Gonzalez
8R Jan Rehacek
BP Peter Kennelly
BP Jhon Garcia
BP Jean Mijares
BP Eliecer Cardenas
BP Trayvone Johnson

I hope everyone has enjoyed this series of Roster Projections. Of course, I don’t have any inside information into these rosters, so they are just what they are, projections. I like to think that they may be fairly close, but we shall see in less than two weeks.            

If you would like, you can e-mail me, or feel free to leave your comments here.

Spring Training Q&A: Dakota Watts

10 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

The Twins made college pitching a priority (or at least that’s how it ended up) in the 2009 draft. In the 16th round, the team selected 6-6 righty Dakota Watts from Cal-State Stanislaus. After signing, he spent time with the GCL Twins, then Ft. Myers, then he went back to Elizabethton, which is where he should have been all along. He is heading to his first Twins minor league camp, so it should be a lot of fun getting to know Dakota Watts. (To see all previous SethSpeaks.net Q&As, click here) (and feel free to leave questions or comments here)

…Let the Questions Begin!

SethSpeaks: Now that you’ve had a few months to look back and reflect, what are your thoughts on your 2009 season?

Dakota Watts: Looking back now I realized that I’m not as far behind a lot of the higher guys as I originally thought, I got into some trouble this year trying to press to hard instead of just going out and doing what I’ve always done.

SethSpeaks: What do you do when you’re not playing baseball or working out in preparation for the upcoming season?

Dakota Watts: When I’m not playing ball I usually do a lot of hunting with friends from home and family, I just try to stay as busy and as active as possible till season comes around again.

SethSpeaks: When did you start getting ready for the 2010 season, and what was your routine?

Dakota Watts: I started working out in the gym back home on the 1st of Nov. to build overall strength, and came back to Florida to train on the 6th of Jan. to work out with some guys doing more conditioning and baseball specific exercises.

SethSpeaks: What are your goals for the 2010 season? Where would you like to play, and are there any statistics that you are looking to improve?

Dakota Watts: My goals for 2010 are to pick up where I left off after instructional league and to develop myself as a closing pitcher. I would like to play up in Ft Myers but will probably start in Beloit and hopefully get a chance to move up at the half way mark, and I would like to lower my walks.

SethSpeaks:  What does spring training mean for you, and what are you looking forward to this year?

Dakota Watts: Spring training to me means developing as a pitcher and proving myself, to let all the top dogs in the organization see how hard I worked this off season and much better I can get each year.

SethSpeaks: Who was your Favorite Player?

Dakota Watts: Growing up I never really had a favorite player, but if I had to pick one i remember really watching it would have to be Mark McGwire.

SethSpeaks: What team did you grow up watching and cheering for?

Dakota Watts: Favorite team was the A’s because it was a local team back home, now I gotta say the Twins because I’ve met too many great people throughout the organization.

SethSpeaks: What were your thoughts as you were considering signing with the Twins?

Dakota Watts: Lots of stuff was going through my mind around draft time, lots of questions, When? Where? How much? The usual, and when I heard it was the Twins I was excited because I knew they were out on the east coast which I had never been to. It took me about 24 hours to decide I was for sure going to sign, playing pro baseball had been a dream of mine since I was just a kid so the seizing the opportunity was in my best interest.

SethSpeaks: Best thing of career in baseball?

Dakota Watts: The best part of my career so far besides meet a bunch of great guys which I consider some of my best friends would be getting to play at a few different levels and seeing each caliber of baseball, it was a great eye opener and great confidence booster.

SethSpeaks: Toughest thing of career in baseball?

Dakota Watts: The toughest thing so far for me was going up to Ft Myers and not really succeeding to the best of my ability, not knowing any of the guys kind of challenged me mentally from the get go. I felt I had to excel and produce right away and pressed a little too hard to be good.

SethSpeaks:  Funniest story in your minor league career?

Dakota Watts: Probably the funniest story would be watching Joe Testa try to run on the woodway treadmill for the first time and lean to far forward and fall flat on his stomach!!

SethSpeaks: What would it mean to make your big league debut?

Dakota Watts: To make my Big League debut would mean the world to me, I pride myself on work ethic and being rewarded by getting a shot in the majors would be nothing but satisfying, a personal and family Dream Come True.

Thank you very much to Dakota Watts for his time and excellent, thoughtful responses as he looks forward to his first spring training camp.. If you would like, you can e-mail me, or feel free to leave your comments here.

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