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Should Twins Fans Worry about Aaron Hicks?

18 Feb

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

It is always strange to me when I hear Twins fans and some minor league baseball fans talking about how disappointing Aaron Hicks has been in Beloit. I think part of it is because many, myself included, thought he would end the 2010 season in Ft. Myers. I realize everyone from fans to players to front office personnel are eagerly awaiting his breakout year when his incredible tools become skills and he puts up some terrific numbers. But I wanted to take a look at how his numbers at Beloit compare to other Twins players and their numbers in the Midwest League.

Let’s start by reviewing the numbers that Aaron Hicks has put up the last two years in Beloit:

Player Age Year Team BA/OBP/SLG (OPS) 2B/3B/HR/RBI BB/K
Aaron Hicks 19 2009 Beloit .251/.353/.382 (735) 15/3/4/29 40/55
Aaron Hicks 20 2010 Beloit .279/.401/.428 (829) 27/6/8/49 88/112

Here are some current and former Twins players and how they did in the Midwest League (Note – Delmon Young’s A-ball numbers from the Sally League):

Player Age Year Team BA/OBP/SLG (OPS) 2B/3B/HR/RBI BB/K
Torii Hunter 18 1994 Ft. Wayne .293/.358/.439 (797) 17/1/10/50 25/80
Michael Cuddyer 19 1998 Ft. Wayne .276/.364/.451 (815) 37/7/12/81 61/107
Justin Morneau 20 2001 Quad Cities .356/.420/.597 (1017) 17/2/12/53 26/38
Joe Mauer 19 2002 Quad Cities .302/.393/.392 (785) 23/1/4/62 61/42
Jason Kubel 20 2002 Quad Cities .321/.380/.521 (901) 26/4/17/69 41/48
Denard Span 20 2004 Quad Cities .267/.363/.308 (671) 4/3/0/14 34/49
Delmon Young 18 2004 Charleston .320/.386/.536 (922) 26/5/25/115 53/120
Alexi Casilla 20 2005 Cedar Rapids .325/.392/.409 (801) 11/3/3/17 29/31

Here are a few notes:

  • Everyone talks about how Torii Hunter didn’t put up great numbers in the Midwest League. Well, he did, and he did it at the age of 18. He was already showing some of that power.
  • Michael Cuddyer put up some incredible minor league numbers all the way up the ladder, and it started as a 19 year old in 1998. Look at all those extra base hits.
  • Justin Morneau didn’t get to the Midwest League until he was 20, and he only spent a half season there because he completely dominated the level.
  • Joe Mauer’s OPS isn’t exciting, but we did get a glimpse of the player he has become too. Many more walks than strikeouts, a few doubles, and a good batting average.
  • How fun would it have been to see Quad Cities play in 2002 with Mauer and Jason Kubel? You can see why so many people back then saw Kubel as a mix between Morneau and Mauer.
  • Denard Span didn’t exactly put up monster numbers, and he did miss quite a bit of time with injury. The take-away from those numbers is that he had a very nice Isolated Discipline already even though he was, like Hicks, very raw at the time.
  • Delmon Young was a beast after being taken with the 1st overall pick in the 2003 draft. Ever wonder why people still think he’ll develop a lot of power, check out those numbers!
  • Alexi Casilla was with the Angels organization, but what he did for Cedar Rapids made him the guy they wanted in a trade of JC Romero the next offseason.
  • I included international players and high school drafted players in this group. Danny Valencia hit .302/.374/.500 (874) with 15 doubles and 11 homers in a half-season with the Snappers, but he was 22 years old after spending three years playing Division I baseball. Matt Tolbert played four years at the University of Mississippi, so the Twins had him skip the Midwest League and go right to Ft. Myers.

Can we take anything away from these numbers? With Hicks, you have to love his Isolated Discipline and On-Base skills from both years. The strikeouts increased some in 2010, but he has shown some extra base power. Delmon Young, Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel put up really tremendous numbers in the Midwest League, and that has translated to the big leagues eventually. Cuddyer was an extra base machine as a 19 year old in Beloit, and yet his OPS was lower than Hicks’ was in 2010, as a 20 year old. Joe Mauer has always had a terrific eye, and yet Hicks has produced significantly better IsoD while producing more extra base hits.

Of course, we don’t know what will happen. We know that all players develop differently, but I think that this quick, cursory glance at Hicks’ numbers compared to current big leaguers gives us no reason to believe he won’t continue developing and become a very good big league player.

Let’s also take a look at the Midwest League numbers of some of the other Twins hitting prospects to see how they compare:

Player Age Year Team BA/OBP/SLG (OPS) 2B/3B/HR/RBI BB/K
Trevor Plouffe 19 2005 Beloit .223/.300/.345 (645) 18/0/13/60 50/78
Chris Parmelee 19 2007 Beloit .239/.313/.414 (727) 23/5/15/70 46/137
Chris Parmelee 20 2008 Beloit .239/.385/.496 (881) 10/3/14/49 52/83
Joe Benson 19 2007 Beloit .255/.347/.368 (715) 18/8/5/38 49/124
Joe Benson 20 2008 Beloit .248/.326/.382 (708) 16/3/4/27 24/73
Ben Revere 20 2008 Beloit .379/.433/.497 (930) 17/10/1/43 27/31
Angel Morales 19 2009 Beloit .266/.329/.455 (784) 22/5/13/62 30/104
Angel Morales 20 2010 Beloit .289/.381/.474 (855) 13/7/4/36 24/65
James Beresford 20 2009 Beloit .289/.342/.313 (655) 11/0/0/38 34/70
James Beresford 21 2010 Beloit .297/.349/.363 (712) 19/5/1/59 34/56
Danny Rams 20 2009 Beloit .229/.308/.429 (737) 14/0/7/23 18/77
Danny Rams 21 2010 Beloit .243/.310/.450 (760) 28/4/16/68 31/145
Anderson Hidalgo 21 2010 Beloit .316/.375/.443 (818) 25/1/3/28 24/50
  • Trevor Plouffe put up those numbers only because he played much better in the 2nd half of the season. Good power numbers, but he could have used another year with the Snappers.
  • Both Joe Benson and Chris Parmelee struggled in their first seasons in the Midwest League. Then both got hurt halfway through their second season with the team. However, in the second year, you can see why people are excited about his patience and power potential.
  • Looking at Revere’s Beloit numbers, what a year he had. Very much batting average based, of course. But if we were to only look at OPS, his is right up there with anyone (except Morneau). And he stole 44 bases that year too.
  • Angel Morales… how/why is he so overlooked in many prospect rankings?
  • James Beresford showed good improvement from 2009 and 2010. Reports are that he has gained some weight this offseason. If he can add any semblance of power to his game, he could jump up prospect rankings quickly!
  • Danny Rams has so much power potential, but he just needs to put the ball in play more. His 77 strikeouts in 2009 came in just 175 at bats. He struck out 145 times in 407 at bats in 2010. Yet, his power numbers still make him intriguing.
  • Anderson Hidalgo may be the least known, or maybe underrated, prospect in the organization. He had another solid year in 2010.

What is the summary? There really isn’t one. There is no science to prospect rankings and we don’t know how things will turn out, but if nothing else, I believe this data shows that Twins fans should continue to be very excited about the future of Aaron Hicks.

Any thoughts? Feel free to leave your comments here. Also, for more links to Twins articles and thoughts throughout the weekend, be sure to follow me on Twitter where I like to retweet Twins-related articles and post thoughts frequently. Have a great weekend!

In Defense of Denard

24 Aug

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

With Nick Punto out with injury so much this second half, it appears that some Twins fans feel the need to find a new player to bash for any and all reasons. It appears that that guy is Denard Span, at least for the foreseeable future. Some of it is earned. He is not having a good season by the high standards he set in his first two seasons. His OPS+ of 122 in 93 games in 2008, and his 114 OPS+ in 145 games in 2009 were remarkable standards. An OPS+ of 100 is league average, so he was well above that with OPS of .819 and .807. In 119 games so far in 2010, his OPS is .691, and his OPS+ is at 88.

I don’t think OPS is the best stat to look at when looking at a leadoff hitter. Most leadoff hitters do not have the power to have a high slugging percentage which is half of the OPS equation. However, I believe that the On-Base Percentage half of the OPS equation is very important for a leadoff hitter. After posting OBP of .387 and .392 his first two seasons, his OBP is just .337 in 2010. That is significant.

Defensively, we knew he wasn’t Carlos Gomez in centerfield. He certainly wasn’t going to be like Torii Hunter or Kirby Puckett out there. That said, I think we all assumed that he would be better than he has been. Too many times he has been tentative. Carlos Gomez was horrible at running routes to fly balls, but his incredible speed more than made up for it. Kirby Puckett wasn’t as fast as Denard Span, but he got tremendous reads on fly balls and too charge of centerfield. Outfielders are going to make errors. They all have a couple of bad drops throughout a season, and lose a ball or three in the lights/sun/high sky. It happens. However, Span did such a nice job in the corner outfield positions his first two years that the move to center field should have been easier.

And Span’s base running has not been terribly good or smart. He has been picked off more than a half-dozen times. That really wasn’t an issue his first two seasons, although as someone who monitors the minor leagues, it was definitely an issue for him throughout his minor league career, including in AAA.

So, has it been a particularly good year for the Twins leadoff hitter and centerfielder? Not at all. Not even an optimist like me can spin it to make it look like Span is having a good 2010 campaign. But there are several things to consider before judging too harshly, or at least some numbers that you may want to consider, just food for thought.

Let’s start with the offense, and I looked at a few numbers to compare Span to. I didn’t compare him to other centerfielders. That doesn’t make much sense. I mean, to compare Span to someone like Josh Hamilton doesn’t make a lot of sense. He’s a #3 hitter. So, I compared Span’s numbers in 2010 to those of other leadoff hitters in 2010. Actually what I did was compared Twins leadoff hitters to other leadoff hitters around baseball, with the understanding that Span has been the team’s leadoff hitter in about 95% of their games.

OPS – .701 ranks 17th among the 30 teams.

OBP – .337 ranks 14th among the 30 teams.

IsoD – .071 ranks 10th in the league.

GB/FO – The 1.26 ground outs to fly outs is 7th in the league.

So again, Denard Span has some disappointing numbers compared to his numbers in previous season. No question about that. However, I think that when we take a look at the production compared to league average leadoff hitters, we see something different. He has been very average in 2010. His OPS is just below the middle of the pack. Again, when power is factored in, his numbers aren’t as high. Consider that he may have lost two or three home run balls in centerfield, and realize that he already has a career high in doubles and seven triples, and those numbers could be a little higher. On base percentage is huge, and he has taken a large step back. However, he is right about average among the league’s centerfielders. I thought looking at his Isolated Discipline would make sense too. That is simply his on-base percentage minus his batting average. In the two previous seasons, Span was at .093 and then .081. This year it is down to .071 which is still not bad at all, and it is still in the top third in baseball. It also indicates that his lower numbers are directly attributable to batting average. A leadoff hitter should ground out more than he flies out. It is cliché, but you want speed guys to hit the ball hard and low, and he is doing that.

How about his defense? And, I am still one who is skeptical of any defensive metrics, but many are starting to buy into them. UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) and UZR/150 seem to be the metrics that more and more are subscribing too (and you can find them and many more stats at fangraphs.com). Let’s look at how Denard Span compares to other centerfielders around baseball:

UZR (0 is average) – 2.6 – this is 8th among regular starting centerfielders and above average.

UZR/150 – 3.9 – this is also 8th in the league.

RZR – .940 – according to this, Span is #2 in baseball among CF.

To add a little perspective to those numbers, Torii Hunter’s UZR this year is -3.9, and his UZR/150 is -5.5. Matt Kemp is by far the worst with a UZR of -15.6 and a UZR/150 of -21.2. Again, certainly not a great or elite center fielder, but Denard Span, by these metrics, is playing at a slightly better than average level.

Last night in the reactionary or over-reactionary social media form of Twitter, many Twins fans were talking about the fact that Denard Span didn’t make a leaping catch at the wall that turned out to be a double. Would Torii Hunter have caught it? Maybe. Would Carlos Gomez have caught it? Probably. But in this one case, Span didn’t make the catch. Should he have? That’s debatable. Twitter was all a-Twitter with people bashing Span (again!), and that’s the point where I started realizing that he has become the new Nick Punto. If making leaping catches at the wall have become expectations, then I definitely think that we have been spoiled as Twins fans by the CF defense.

Has Denard Span had a good 2010 season? Of course not. No one is insinuating that he has. He wouldn’t tell you that he’s happy with his season. Has it been disappointing year for him? Absolutely.

But should Twins fans give up on him? Of course not!! He’s 26 years old. He has been one of the best leadoff hitters in the game the last two years. Right now, he is in a funk both offensively and defensively as well as on the base paths. It’s not pretty, but the Twins would be crazy to quit on such a talent, such an athlete. He will be just fine.

As I said on last night’s SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast, he has been one of the more disappointing members of the team this year. I would put Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn and the Twins medical and training staff ahead of him.  But I did note that for the Twins to win the AL Central and advance, Span will have to pick it up. It would be great if for the final four weeks of the season, Span can find his 2009 form and be a force at the top of the order. He is absolutely capable of it. He has done if before and will again.

What do you think? Is this just me being too positive again? Have you given up on him?

Here are some notes from Monday’s minor league games:

  • Rochester 0, Lehigh Valley 7 (6 innings) – This game was rained out after six innings, and based on how well it was going for the Red Wings, that is just fine. Cole DeVries was called up to make the start in place of the promoted Nick Blackburn. He went 2.1 innings and gave up three earned runs on four hits and two walks. He struck out three. Jose Lugo then gave up three runs on four hits and five walks in 1.2 innings. Tim Lahey then gave up one run on three hits and two walks in 1.1 innings. The Red Wings managed six hits, and Erik Lis hit a double.
  • Beloit 6, Burlington 4 – James Beresford went 3-4 with a walk and his 18th double. Wang-Wei Lin hit his fifth and sixth doubles. Steve Liddle added his 12th home run. Clint Dempster started and gave up four runs (2 earned) on seven hits and a walk. He struck out three in five innings. Brad Stillings came on and gave up one hit and one walk in three scoreless innings. He struck out five. Eliecer Cardenas picked up the save with a scoreless ninth.
  • Elizabethton 9, Bluefield 6 – Danny Ortiz had a big game! He was 3-5 with his 13th doubles, his ninth and tenth homers and four RBI. Oswaldo Arcia went 3-5 with his fourth steal. Kyle Knudson went 2-3 with two walks. Andy Leer was 2-5 with his 14th double. Jean Mijares made the start and gave up two runs on five hits in five innings. He walked just one and struck out nine. Adam Achter made his professional debut and gave up four runs on five hits in 1.1 innings. But of the four outs he got, three came on strikeouts! BJ Hermsen got the next five outs. Jose Gonzalez struck out two in a scoreless inning for his sixth save.
  • New Britain, Ft. Myers and the GCL Twins all had games postponed by rain.

Any questions or comments on the Twins or the minor league system? Feel free to leave your questions and comments here.

Twins Win Again!

19 Aug

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

Leading Off with Quick Hits:

  • I’ll be on KFAN, its affiliates and KFAN.com on Thursday at about 9:20 with Paul Allen, talking about the Twins. Listen live or listen later.
  • I posted a blog on the StarTribune.com TwinsCentric page last night with an update on the 2010 Twins draft. Now that the signing deadline has passed, who did the Twins sign, and how have those guys been playing?
  • Finally, in conjunction with Sooze, the next TwinsCentric Viewing Party will be Saturday, August 28th, and this time, we are heading out of the Metro and up highway 10 or highway 94 to St. Cloud. It will be held at Howie’s Sports Bar in down town St. Cloud. There will be prizes and drink and appetizer specials. And, as always, it’s just fun to bring a bunch of Twins fans together. I always tell people that the outstate produces more Twins fans than the Metro, so help prove me right!

For the second straight night, the Twins were able to get in the end zone and kick the extra point. On Tuesday night, the White Sox got two field goals but were unable to hold the late lead. On Wednesday night, the White Sox got a touchdown, but were unable to take advantage of it by missing the extra point. Two straight games ended with a final score of Minnesota 7, Chicago 6. And in both games, the White Sox had their opportunities. On Tuesday night, they fought back and took the lead only to see Jim Thome walk-off in the bottom of the 10th with a long blast. On Wednesday night, the Sox were unable to take full advantage of a wild Francisco Liriano.

But this is where it is important to look at the big picture. The Twins beat the White Sox on Wednesday night and now hold a five game lead over the Sox in the AL Central. Think about that for a second. Last Tuesday when the Twins were set to start a three game series in Chicago, the two teams were tied atop the division. The two teams split the first two games of that series. So going into last Thursday’s game, the two teams were again tied. That means that in the last seven days, each team has played six games and the Twins have gained five games in the standings on the White Sox. It is incredible how quickly things can change. Of course, remember in late May, the Twins had a 9 ½ game lead on the White Sox, and it was not long before the Twins were four games behind the White Sox in the division. So, regardless of what happens tonight, there still are a lot of games to be played, and nothing is yet guaranteed. The Twins are now 70-50 and have 42 more games to play. The Twins are twenty games over .500. How about this… the Twins Magic Number to clinch the American League Central title is 38.

With that, let’s take a quick look at the Good and the Bad from last night’s game. Fortunately, there should be much more good than bad!

THE GOOD

  • Joe Mauer – He is pretty good at playing the game, baseball. Since the All-Star break, he is now hitting .446. He has raised his batting average from .295 to .335 in no time. He is a doubles machine, tied for the league lead with 39 doubles. He is on pace to set a new doubles record for catchers. He had four more hits last night including his very first official home run at Target Field, a line drive to left field that barely went over the fence.
  • Michael Cuddyer – Cuddy went 3-4 in the game and is 5-9 in this series. Always a streaky hitter, Cuddyer was 0-9 in the Oakland series (with three walks). He went 5-12 in last week’s series in Chicago. Or, maybe he just plays his best when the team is playing its best competition. Also, his 1B defense has become very good.
  • Denard Span – He had another two hits on this night. He now has four multi-hit games in his last six games. Not only that, but he has started to hit the ball with more authority.
  • Ron Gardenhire’s Bullpen Usage – Jeff Manship replaced Francisco Liriano and had a 1-2-3 sixth inning. He got one out in the seventh inning and allowed one single. With the middle of the White Sox lineup coming up, Gardy brought Jesse Crain into the game and he got the job done! Again! He then got three more outs in the eighth inning. Credit obviously goes to these two pitchers as well, but I thought that the usage of the best bullpen arm against the best hitters from the White Sox was great strategy by the Twins manager.

THE BAD

  • Francisco Liriano might be fighting a little dead arm phase. He went just five innings last night and walked four. That is the alarming number. But he struggled with control in and out of the strike zone. The four walks show the lack of control outside the strike zone, but the fastball right down the middle to Andruw Jones (that he launched into the Twins bullpen) shows lack of control in the strike zone. In his past three starts, Liriano has gone only a combined 15.1 innings. He will be fine, but the most beneficial thing of getting a large lead would be to feel more comfortable giving Liriano and Pavano some extra rest.
  • Matt Capps – “Threevolts” tweeted during the top of the 9th “Capps has become the new Guardado.” Fair, but I responded by saying, “Capps has become the new Rauch.” Let’s face it, even if Capps looks a little better as a closer than Rauch, there is a reason that his overall numbers were so similar to Jon Rauch’s numbers. Yes, he throws a mile or two per hour faster than Rauch, but he is almost as hittable. I still stand by my comment that adding Capps does make the Twins bullpen a little bit better, but I will also stand by my comment that giving up Wilson Ramos, who was called up by the Nationals, for him was WAY too much.
  • Gardy’s Repko Usage – Don’t get me wrong, I like Jason Repko and think that his defense is terrific. However, I don’t understand why Gardy insists on putting him into the game late in place of Jason Kubel. If we have visually seen anything in the Twins outfield, it is that Jason Kubel doesn’t do a bad job out there, and if he gets to a ball, he catches it. He does a nice job playing the wall and has a very strong arm. Meanwhile, Delmon Young struggles out in left field. He is not a real natural outfielder in left, and even if he gets to a ball, it isn’t a certain out. He does have a very strong, accurate arm though. I guess my comment would be that I don’t know that it is Jason Kubel is the one outfielder that would or should require a defensive replacement. In fact, I think an argument could be made that Denard Span in centerfield of late could be the outfielder replaced.

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

Red Wings Report   

The Red Wings lost in the bottom of the ninth at Buffalo 7-6. Nick Blackburn made another start. He gave up five runs (4 earned) on eight hits and a walk. In 5.1 innings, he struck out five. Kyle Waldrop got the final two outs of the sixth inning, but not before allowing an unearned run and the two inherited runners to score. Anthony Slama then threw two shutout innings. Rob Delaney got two outs in the ninth but then allowed the final run to score. Matt Tolbert went 3-4. Brandon Roberts went 2-5. Erik Lis hit his fourth Triple-A home run and drove in three runs. He has been on a tear.  

New Britain Notes

Chris Province was the story in the Rockcats 3-1 win over Richmond. Province came to the Twins organization from the Red Sox in exchange for Boof Bonser before spring training. Province has been forced to make a few spot starts for the team, and on this night, he was very good. He gave up one run on two hits over the first 6.2 innings. Carlos Gutierrez came on and got the final seven outs, three on strikeouts, to record his second save. Chris Parmelee went 2-4. Jair Fernandez hit his fourth home run, a two run blast.

Miracle Matters

The Miracle figured out Rays top prospect Matt Moore after seeing him late last week and beat Charlotte 5-0. Angel Morales was 2-4 with his ninth double and three RBI. He also stole his ninth base. Nick Romero went 2-4 with his 22nd double. Ramon Santana was 2-3. But Kane Holbrooks was again up for the challenge. The 2009 draft pick threw seven shutout innings. He gave up seven hits, walked two and struck out six. Dakota Watts came in and got the final six outs.  

Snappers Snippets

The Snappers got a big 14-7 win over Wisconsin. Reggie Williams went 3-6 with his third triple, sixth home run and three RBI. Lance Ray went 3-3 with a walk and his 6th and 7th doubles. Michael Gonzales went 3-5 with his 22nd and 23rd doubles and four RBI. Danny Rams was 2-5 with a walk and his 26th double. Michael Harrington was 2-5 with his first double. Yorby Martinez was 2-5. Aaron Hicks returned to the lineup and went 1-4 with two walks. Clinton Dempster was the recipient of the great run support. He went the first five innings and gave up three runs (2 earned) on six hits. He walked two and struck out five. Matt Tone gave up two runs on two hits and a walk in two innings. Zach See worked a perfect inning. Andrei Lobanov came in and gave up two runs on three hits and a walk in his inning.

E-Twins Talkers

Elizabethton and the rest of the Appalachian League did not have games scheduled for this game.  

GCL Twins Topics

The Twins lost 3-1 to the Rays. Cesar Ciurcina started and gave up just one run on three hits and a walk in six innings. He struck out seven. Hein Robb gave up two runs on four hits and a walk in two innings. Bart Carter pitched the ninth and was perfect. Rory Rhodes and Kennys Vargas were both 2-4 and had four of the team’s six hits.  

Any questions or comments on the Twins or the minor league system? Feel free to leave your questions and comments here.

Droppin’ some notes

13 May

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

After spending three-plus hours hanging out with six great kids at Chuck E. Cheese for my young’ns 4th birthday party, I don’t have a lot left in me tonight, so here are some notes:

EVENTS

1.)     I will be on KFAN and KFAN.com with Paul Allen today at 9:15 am, so be sure to check out on your radio or listen online.

2.)     On Saturday at noon, the Twins and Yankees will be playing in New York. The TwinsCentric guys will be hosting another TwinsCentric Viewing Party during the game. This will be at Majors Sports Café in Bloomington. Hopefully many of you will be able to attend. There will again be drawings for prizes including a couple of Twins tickets. And not just that, but there will again be drink and appetizer specials. Oh, and you can watch the Twins game with a whole bunch of Twins fans.

3.)     Be sure to follow me on Twitter and Facebook for updates.

TWINS NOTES

1.)     The Twins got another two-run, seven inning performance from Carl Pavano. It was the third straight game that he gave up two runs. It was the first one in which he recorded a win. The veteran gave up two first inning runs,  but that was it. He was excellent again. Brian Duensing and Matt Guerrier pitched a perfect 8th inning before Jon Rauch threw a perfect ninth inning for the save. A Justin Morneau single scored Denard Span to tie the game at two a piece in the 3rd. Then in the fourth inning, Span singled in Delmon Young.

2.)     What a day for Delmon Young. First, if was Delmon Young Day in the Twins blogosphere. He responded by going 3-4, including doubles in his first two at bats.

3.)     JJ Hardy was put on the Disabled List, and to no one’s surprise, the Twins promoted the no-hit, decent glove Matt Tolbert. Yes, I am bitter. There is no reason that the Twins should not have called up Trevor Plouffe and given him a week’s worth of starts.

4.)     After the game, the Twins activated Jose Mijares from the Disabled List and optioned Wilson Ramos to AAA Rochester. The decision to demote Ramos makes complete and total sense. He’s a terrific prospect with tremendous upside with the bat, both in terms of batting average and power, but he has work to do. The semi-surprise was that Jose Mijares was brought back from the DL so quickly. He was really bad before he was put on the Disabled List. He worked and rehabbed for a few weeks. He went to Rochester and got hit hard both Friday and Sunday, and then he was activated by the Twins on Thursday. Why not have him make another appearance or two with the Red Wings? Brian Duensing and Ron Mahay have been tremendous. A player on a rehab assignment can be in the minor leagues for 20 days, so I just don’t understand the need to rush him back.

5.)     In a Dan Barriero interview with Bill Smith on KFAN on Wednesday afternoon, Smith said that Jose Morales was going to begin a rehab assignment in Rochester today. With both Morales and Ramos going back to Rochester, it will be interesting to watch the catching carousel. I assume that Allan de San Miguel will stay in Rochester. Jair Fernandez will likely go back to Ft. Myers, although he could go to New Britain and allow Danny Rams to go back to Beloit. It will be interesting to see what happens.

TWINS/YANKEES SERIES

The Yankees series is going to be talked about by Twins fans all over. What do the Twins need to do? After losing every game in 2010 to the Yankees, could it be a successful series if the Twins win just one game? Would it be the end of the world if they were swept (of course not, but there are some who seem to believe that.) Obviously, they are the Yankees. They spend a ton. They have some very good players. Many are past their primes (yet still productive). The Twins have nothing to be intimidated by though. They can beat this team. So what do you think? Here are the position-by-position matchups (although they don’t actually match up:

  1. Catcher – Joe Mauer or Jorge Posada – Advantage Twins, and by a long shot.
  2. 1B – Justin Morneau or Mark Teixeira – Push – Normally, I’d probably acknowledge Teixeira by a slight margin, but first, it is close enough, and second, Tex isn’t off to a terribly good start while Morneau is among league leaders in about everything.
  3. 2B – Orlando Hudson or Robinson Cano – Advantage Yankees, and by quite a bit, at least offensively. Hudson may be a bit better with the glove.
  4. 3B – Nick Punto or Alex Rodriguez – Advantage Yankees, and I hope I don’t need to add too much to this.
  5. SS – Harris/Casilla or Derek Jeter – Advantage Yankees, and if JJ Hardy was playing, it wouldn’t be a whole lot closer.
  6. LF – Young/Kubel or Randy Winn – Advantage Twins, even if Gardner or Thames is out there for the Bombers.
  7. CF – Denard Span or Brett Gardner – Advantage Twins, although Gardner has taken steps forward this year.
  8. RF – Michael Cuddyer or Nick Swisher – Push – Both are pretty good, maybe a bit underrated. If I had to pick an advantage, I’d give the slight nod to the Twins.
  9. DH – Kubel/Thome or Marcus Thames – Advantage Twins, even with Kubel’s slow start. The Yankees actually use the DH spot to give guys days off from the field a lot.
  10. Game 1 – Francisco Liriano vs AJ Burnett – Burnett is actually pitching pretty well this year, and Liriano was the AL Pitcher of the Month in April. Hopefully this will be a good matchup.
  11. Game 2 – Scott Baker vs Andy Pettitte – Advantage Twins, but Pettitte is a crafty veteran, capable of still having some decent games. (UPDATE – Baker is pitching on Friday night, and Liriano is starting on Saturday. Probably doesn’t affect much of the analysis though.)
  12. Game 3 – Nick Blackburn vs Javier Vazquez – Advantage Twins. Vazquez can be so good, but the Yankees fans hate him already. He’s been bad. Blackburn has been great his last two outings.
  13. Closers – Jon Rauch vs Mariano Rivera – see 3B reasoning.
  14. Bullpens – I’ll take the Twins bullpen any day of the week.
  15. Bench – I don’t think it can get much worse than the Twins bench with Butera, Casilla and Tolbert on it. The odd man out in the Kubel, Young, Thomas saga is the other. The Yankees have Francisco Cervelli, Ramiro Pena, Kevin Russo and Greg Golson. I might even take the Twins bench!

In other words, this should be a very good series between two very evenly matched teams. The Twins are 22-12. The Yankees are 22-11.

MINOR LEAGUE NOTES

1.)     Rochester lost 5-2 to Indianapolis. Matt Fox started and gave up three runs (on a Pedro Alvarez home run) on four hits and two walks in 3.1 innings. Cole DeVries made his first AAA appearance and gave up two runs on two hits and a walk in 3.2 innings. Tim Lahey also pitched a scoreless inning. Dustin Martin went 2-4 with his sixth double. He had two of the team’s five hits in the game. Danny Valencia collected a single to give him a 16 game hitting streak.

2.)     Ft. Myers beat Tampa 2-1. Drew Thompson and Ramon Santana each went 2-4. Liam Hendriks He gave up just one run on three hits in seven innings in an impressive Florida State League debut. He walked none and struck out eight. Billy Bullock struck out three (And walked two) in two scoreless innings for his seventh save.

3.)     New Britain’s game with Trenton was postponed by rain. The same happened to the Beloit-Kane County game as well.

4.)     On Thursday, Deolis Guerra will make his AAA debut for the Red Wings in a morning game (11:00 eastern, 10:00 central).

Alright, I must sleep. I hope you all have a great day! Leave any comments here.

See. Wuh. Ha. Happened.

29 Apr

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

Before jumping into today’s blog entry, I wanted to mention that I will be on KFAN (and KFAN.com) with Paul Allen again today during the 11:00 hour. Be sure to tune in, listen live or podcast it after the fact.

So, the Twins scored two runs in the top of the first inning on a two-run homer by Jim Thome. Then Luke Hughes hit a home run in the top of the 3rd inning, in his very first at bat. Then they scored three more runs. It was 6-1. It was the fourth inning. But then Scott Baker was the definition of non-clutch in the bottom of the fourth, giving up four runs which cut the lead to 6-5. A double into the bottom of the 5th inning and Baker was gone. Alex Burnett came in and did very well to get out of that mess. Then came the sixth. Burnett gave up a base runner, so he was taken out of the game. Ron Mahay came in to face Johnny Damon and got him to fly out on a great catch by Denard Span, who seemingly outran the ball to the left center field gap. After the catch, Span took two or three steps, spun to throw and the ball fell from his glove. The umpire inexplicably calls it a drop. Ron Gardenhire captured his first ejection of the year, and rightfully so. Pat Neshek came in with runners on 2nd and 3rd and just one out. He walked Magglio Ordonez before hitting Miguel Cabrera in the arm to allow a run. Then Jesse Crain came in and two swings of the bat later, the game was over, for all intents and purposes. Here are some of my thoughts:

  • If you read many Twins fans on Twitter, you might think that this is the worst 14-7 team in baseball history!
  • Did you know? That it is a 162 game season, and that each team will lose from time to time. In fact, the Twins may, at some point, maybe as early as today, lose (gasp) two games in a row.  Sorry, but a little bit of perspective is needed here. Every team will lose 60 games. Every team will win 60 games. Of those 60+ losses, some of them won’t be pretty or fun-filled losses. Games like this happen. That said…
  • At the end of the year, Scott Baker is going to have some very good numbers. I think my projections had him winning about 16 games, and finishing with an ERA in the upper threes. However, I have always agreed that the moniker “Big Spot Scott” has never been earned. In big games, you can count on him not being very good. Most of the time his calm demeanor is beneficial, but there is a difference between calm and cool, and calm and shaking on the inside. This was anything but a big game, but with a 6-1 lead, it would be nice to see just a little toughness. Again, he has never claimed to be an ace. He signed the long-term, very fair contract a year ago, and the dollars were very fair for a young #3 pitcher with #2, Brad Radke like upside. Personally, I think that he can be a better pitcher than Radke. But the point doesn’t change, Baker is not a big game pitcher.
  • Jim Thome needs to play more. I think we all agree with that. But Jason Kubel needs to play most every day. Delmon Young needs to play most every day. Michael Cuddyer needs to play every day. This is a great problem to have, but it is tough and will create plenty of second guessing, no matter which player does not start.
  • I have been Jesse Crain’s biggest supporter. I always say, he has a fastball at 96 (which actually moved at times earlier in the season), slider at 88 and that slow curve at 76. I definitely thought it was the right decision to give Crain another year. I much prefer working with the guys you’ve got with upside, than sign free agents. Crain was rocked when he came in with the bases loaded. I don’t blame the manager for bringing him in with the bases loaded in the 6th. I mean, Pat Neshek had come in and walked a guy and hit another guy. I would bet that he would not call it his best performance and probably would have taken himself out. He was fooling nobody. It is also important to note that he also pitched the 7th and 8th innings, when he could start the inning himself, and he was dominant. That said, another few weeks of this from Crain, and even I will be supporting the need for a Change of Scenery for Crain. He is out of options, so he can’t be sent to Rochester. Plenty of teams would claim him, and he would be lost. At that stage, I probably will be able to be convinced that that would be just fine. I would like to see him go to Colorado or somewhere in the NL because I still believe that he can be very good. The other side of this discussion remains… Anthony Slama is more than ready and has earned the opportunity.
    • Some may call out the Twins front office for signing Crain after offering him arbitration this offseason. I 100% agreed with that decision. Like I said, I am getting to the point where I am going to fully admit that I was wrong, and should they decide to let him go, they will be admitting it as well. But it is hard to be too disappointed in the Twins front office. Of course, there are misses, as there are with every team. But I again have to ask the readers here a few questions. Raise your hand if you thought that the Twins should have signed Juan Cruz to that 2 year $8 million deal a year ago. In doing so, they would have given up their 2009 #1 pick which turned out to be Kyle Gibson. I thought the price was fair for Cruz. I was wrong. How many of you wanted the Twins to trade for Freddy Sanchez last July and keep him around for 2010? How would that look right now? How many were disappointed when the Twins didn’t sign Eric Gagne a year ago? My point here isn’t to say that the Twins front office is a bunch of geniuses who never get one wrong. They wouldn’t say that. It’s more to say that if we ran things, we would have hits and misses too. I like admitting when I’m wrong. I prefer to be wrong, like I was wrong on Denard Span a couple of years ago.
  • In his post-game press conference, Ron Gardenhire said that the umpires told him that Denard Span ‘caught the ball’ and when he spun to throw, they didn’t see what happened. They were blocked somehow. Clearly as he was turning to throw and reached into his glove, the ball popped out. It was ruled an error, and manager Ron Gardenhire, after hearing the pathetic excuse, was finally ejected. I rarely agree with Gardy getting ejected, but this one was worth it. But that call is not why the Twins lost. Who knows what would have happened after that play. Maybe there would have been another quick groundout and the game is still 6-5 Twins. But very soon, the Twins were down 11-6.
  • Personally, I thought there was a little bit of over-managing in the 6th inning. Alex Burnett had done well. When Johnny Damon came up, you could understand Gardy going to the lefty, Ron Mahay. However, with Ordonez and Cabrera coming up, you knew another pitching change would be required. It’s easy in hindsight to say that maybe keeping Burnett in would have meant more, but with Burnett, his development is important as well. Would Gardy and Rick Anderson have wanted Burnett pitching to Ordonez and Cabrera anyway? With his stuff, I think I would have taken that chance. But who knows? That wasn’t what caused the loss.
  • It was good to see Jason Kubel get three hits and raise his batting average another .035 to .212. 
  • With Justin Morneau out, Ron Gardenhire’s lineup remained the same with the exception that Jim Thome was slotted into the Number Four spot in the lineup. No real argument with that. However, it does make me wonder about this whole idea of (and I haven’t heard this anywhere, but it may come into play) Michael Cuddyer is comfortable hitting fifth, and Jason Kubel is comfortable batting 6th. I think that it is annoying to think that the bullpen pitchers can feel better pitching in the 8th inning than the 6th or in the 7th instead of the 9th. A reliever’s job is to come into whatever situation, in whatever inning they are called upon and get hitters out. Likewise, if you are batting anywhere from #3 to #8 in a lineup, your job each at bat does not change. In other words, if the #4 hitter comes up with a runner on 2B, his job is to have a good at bat and ideally drive in the runner from second. Likewise, if a #5 hitter comes up with a runner on 2B, his job is to have a good at bat, and ideally drive in the runner from 2B. If a #7 hitter comes up with a runner on 2B, his job is to take a good at bat and preferably drive that runner in from second. In fact, whatever the lineup position, the job of the hitter is to put together a quality at bat, look for a pitch that he can hit hard, and if he doesn’t get strikes, take the walk and get on base. The only possible exception would be the leadoff hitter in the first at bat or two each game when, they should take a couple of extra pitches just to give the rest of the lineup an idea of what the pitcher may throw, but even the goal of the leadoff hitter is to have a good at bat, and get on base, and if there are runners on base, if he gets a pitch, drive them in.
  • Admittedly, I just made too big of a statement on the value of lineup construction and roles for someone who doesn’t believe that it makes too big of a deal. The only possible exception would be the leadoff hitter in the first at bat or two each game when, they should take a couple of extra pitches just to give the rest of the lineup an idea of what the pitcher may throw, but even the goal of the leadoff hitter is to have a good at bat, and get on base, and if there are runners on base, if he gets a pitch, drive them in.
    • Admittedly, I just made too big of a statement on the value of lineup construction and roles for someone who doesn’t believe that it makes too big of a deal. Yes, I want on-base guys in the #1 and #2 spots, I want the best hitter batting third. Then I want to line up as many good hitters as I can throughout the rest of the lineup. Like I said, I don’t know if Ron Gardenhire made the comment that he prefers to keep Cuddyer in the #5 spot, or anything like that, but I happen to think that Cuddyer could handle hitting 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th.
  • I feel that with more activity  and more people in social media, that I have had to utter the phrase “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” a lot. It’s amazing to me that people somehow forget that there is a 162 game season, not a one game series or a best two out of three series. The big picture is the 162 game season. I think it is becoming clear that several Twins players need a day off. In my mind, Orlando Hudson is at the top of that list. Watching JJ Hardy run to 2B on a double made it very clear that his knee or quad or calf or something is not right. He may need a day or two off. Giving Justin Morneau these days off may be a blessing in disguise. And yes, Joe Mauer needs to get days off from time to time. The key point being that the results of the 162 game season is far more important than the results of any one game. And, please, that does not minimize the value of every game. The last two seasons, each ending with a Game 163, have proven that.
  • It is hard to believe, but with a 14-7 record, the season is almost 1/8th complete already. It is amazing how quickly it goes.

SethSpeaks Wednesday Minor League Hitter of the Day – Reggie Williams – Beloit Snappers, Jason Repko – Rochester Red Wings

SethSpeaks Wednesday Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Bruce Pugh – Ft. Myers Miracle

Red Wings Report   

Wednesday – Rochester 5, Lehigh Valley 4 Allan de San Miguel had never caught a knuckleball pitcher. He told me after the game, “I thought it would be a lot harder. I was really happy with how it went.” Charlie Zink made his first start for the Red Wings. He went five innings and gave up two runs on four hits. In strange stat of the night, Zink walked six batters and struck out none. Jose Lugo came in and gave up two runs on two hits in two innings. Rob Delaney came in and gave up two hits, but no runs in two innings. He also struck out four. Jason Repko had a big game. He went 3-4 with a walk, a double and his second home run. Brian Dinkelman went 2-4 with a walk. Danny Valencia hit a game winning double in the 8th inning.

New Britain Notes

Wednesday – New Britain 3, Richmond 5 – Another day, another blown save and another loss for the Rockcats. Santos Arias entered the game in the 8th inning with a one run lead. He pitched a scoreless eighth inning, but gave up three runs in the ninth for the loss, his fourth. Cole DeVries made his first start of the season. He gave up two runs on five hits and a walk in just four innings. He struck out three. Spencer Steedley came in and continued to pitch great. He threw three shutout innings, giving up just one hit and walking one. The Rockcats again managed just five hits in the game. Joe Benson was 1-3 with a walk and his third double. Estarlin de Los Santos had a two run double.

Miracle Matters

Wednesday – Ft. Myers 0, Jupiter 3 – Bruce Pugh has incredible potential. He throws 94 and is working on other pitches. Tonight, his stuff really came together. The right-hander threw seven shutout innings. He gave up just four hits, walked one and struck out 12 opponent batters. Tony Davis came in and pitched a perfect eighth inning. Billy Bullock came in for the ninth inning and recorded his third save. He gave up no runs on one hit and struck out two. The Miracle bats again managed just five hits. Drew Thompson was 1-3 with a walk and a double. Deibinson Romero and Evan Bigley were each 1-3 with a walk.    

Snappers Snippets

Wednesday – Beloit 11, Burlington 1Tom Stuifbergen continues to impress. The Dutch right-hander gave up one run on five hits. He walked three (high for him) and struck out five. Kane Holbrooks and Dakota Watts each pitched a scoreless inning. Reggie Williams had a big game. He went 3-4 with a home run and a stolen base. The incredible streak of Aaron Hicks continued. He was 2-4 with a walk, his third home run, four runs scored and his fifth stolen base. James Beresford was 2-3 with a walk and his third stolen base. Steve Liddle hit his third homer.  

Do you have any thoughts on the 14-7 Minnesota Twins, or their minor league system? Leave your comments here.

2010 Twins Predictions – Hitters

6 Apr

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

We are now one game into the 162 (or 163) game season, so I wanted to post all of my predictions for the world to mock and ridicule. You had previously seen my projections for Joe Mauer and Delmon Young, but here are the rest of the Twins hitters.

  BA OBP SLG OPS 2B 3B HR RBI SB
Joe Mauer 0.321 0.404 0.517 0.921 41 2 24 104 2
Jose Morales 0.265 0.308 0.299 0.607 6 0 0 11 0
Drew Butera 0.227 0.261 0.273 0.534 1 0 0 3 0
Jim Thome 0.243 0.348 0.491 0.839 8 0 13 39 0
Justin Morneau 0.294 0.365 0.543 0.908 38 1 32 122 0
Orlando Hudson 0.274 0.347 0.408 0.755 27 5 8 54 6
JJ Hardy 0.287 0.349 0.448 0.797 34 2 18 82 2
Nick Punto 0.262 0.332 0.371 0.703 22 3 3 41 12
Brendan Harris 0.257 0.306 0.372 0.678 23 0 9 39 0
Alexi Casilla 0.159 0.197 0.202 0.399 2 1 0 8 1
Delmon  Young 0.309 0.344 0.471 0.815 33 5 21 82 18
Denard Span 0.296 0.381 0.411 0.792 25 8 8 56 26
Michael Cuddyer 0.281 0.360 0.508 0.868 33 3 27 107 4
Jason Kubel 0.317 0.396 0.578 0.974 43 1 34 132 0

Yes, you read it right. I believe that Jason Kubel will put up better offensive numbers than Joe Mauer. Take a look, review the numbers. Let me know what you think… Leave your comments.

2010 Roster Projections: Minnesota Twins

21 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

Alright, Opening Day is just two weeks away. The minor league seasons will begin in about 2 ½ weeks. It’s late time for me to post my roster projections. I know a lot of people in the cities of the Twins affiliates appreciate this, having an idea of who they may be able to see in their home stadium this year. Today I will be posting my projected Twins roster. Tomorrow I’ll post my projection on the Rochester Roster and so on through the week until I post my projected Beloit roster on Friday.

So here we go, starting with, the Minnesota Twins:

The Hitters

  Minnesota
C Joe Mauer
1B Justin Morneau
2B Orlando Hudson
3B Brendan Harris
SS JJ Hardy
LF Delmon Young
CF Denard Span
RF Michael Cuddyer
DH Jason Kubel
Bu C Drew Butera
Bu IF Nick Punto
Bu IF,OF Alexi Casilla
Bench Jim Thome
DL (Jose Morales)

 Analysis: I guess there really aren’t any surprises here. Yes, Nick Punto will likely start at 3B just as much as Brendan Harris. I think as long as he isn’t traded, Alexi Casilla will make the roster because he is out of options and they don’t want to lose him for nothing. And, I think I’ve been fairly clear on my thoughts that Wilson Ramos needs at bats and time behind the plate, so being a backup, even for a short time, makes no sense. Mauer, Morneau, Hudson, Hardy, Young, Span, Cuddyer, Kubel, Thome. This is a pretty exciting lineup that is going to score a lot of runs.

The Pitchers 

  Minnesota
SP Scott Baker
SP Nick Blackburn
SP Kevin Slowey
SP Carl Pavano
SP Francisco Liriano
   
CL Matt Guerrier
8L Jose Mijares
8R Jon Rauch
BP Jesse Crain
BP Pat Neshek
BP Anthony Slama
BP Clay Condrey
DL (Joe Nathan)

Analysis: Starting Five looks set and looks really good. We’ve spent the last couple of months trying to convince ourselves that Francisco Liriano could turn things around, and so far, so good. The other four are just very solid, if not underrated. I put Matt Guerrier in the closer’s role, just because he did such a good job in the 8th inning (often against the other team’s best hitters), that there is no reason to think he can’t do it in the 9th inning. If not, Jon Rauch, Jesse Crain or even Pat Neshek can get the job done. My thoughts on Neshek’s return have changed somewhat. He appears to be back and continues to get better and stronger. I now believe that he will make this roster, and who knows, by midseason, he could be closing too. Clay Condrey hasn’t been very good in spring, but he was solid for the Phillies the last three years, so I trust that over six or seven innings in March. Finally, the final bullpen spot may be determined by how much Gardy wants a second left-hander. If he is insistent upon it, then Brian Duensing is the guy. If he’s looking for the best relief pitcher, then Anthony Slama is the guy. Slama hasn’t pitched much this spring, but when he has, he has done well. It will be good to see him facing some big league hitters the next couple of weeks.

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

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