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Get to Know: Joe Benson

18 Aug

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

First things first… I will be on KFAN, on The Paul Allen Show at 9:55 this morning to talk about the Twins. You can find it online at www.KFAN.com, on its many affiliates, and please remember, that KFAN is now on 100.3 FM in the Twin Cities. So, tune in if you are able, or download the podcast later.

The Twins should be calling up Joe Benson today. There are many reasons. I’m sure the Twins brass was considering whether to call him up in September anyway. But right now, the Twins need an outfielder. Obviously Delmon Young was traded earlier this week. Jason Repko is on the Disabled List. We know that Luke Hughes is coming up today and that either Michael Cuddyer or Denard Span will be going on the Disabled List. The fact that they’re not sure which one tells me that neither of them will be available tonight. Jason Kubel will be unavailable at least for tonight due to some family reasons. Matt Tolbert can’t swing a bat, so he isn’t really even an outfield option. So, if my calculations are correct, tonight against CC Sabathia, the Twins three outfield options are Ben Revere, Rene Tosoni and Trevor Plouffe with no fourth outfielder available. Two of them are left-handed, so good luck against CC!

Why Joe Benson and not someone at AAA like Brian Dinkelman, Dustin Martin, Brandon Roberts or Jeff Bailey? Those guys are not on the Twins 40 man roster. Joe Benson was one of four players added to the 40 man roster after last season. Last night for New Britain, Benson went 2-5 with two home runs and six RBI. So, here are some things you should know about Joe Benson:

 

  • Twins 2nd round pick in 2006 out of Joliet Catholic Academy in Joliet, Illinois.
  • By signing with the Twins, he gave up a scholarship to play football (RB) at Purdue.
  • Former NFL great Mike Alstott went to the same high school as Benson.
  • Benson was the Twins Minor League Hitter of the Year in 2010 when he hit .259/.343/.538 with 31 doubles, eight triples and 27 home runs between AA New Britain and Hi-A Ft. Myers.  (23 of the home runs were in AA)
  • This year with the Rock Cats, he is hitting .283/.379/.489 with 25 doubles, two triples and 13 home runs.
  • He missed a little more than a month of the season when he had his knee scoped.
  • At 6-1 and 210 pounds, he is very strong. However, he is probably the second fastest player in the Twins organization behind only Ben Revere.
  • He is a terrific outfielder, capable of playing all three positions. He has the speed for centerfield and the arm for a right fielder.
  • He is a season ticket holder of the Chicago Bears. “Bear Down!”
  • He has done Football Picks here at SethSpeaks.net for several years.
  • He is 23 years old.
  • He is very intense and competitive. This is primarily a positive thing, but can have its negative moments.
  • His strikeout rate was something that he and the Twins needed to watch this year. Last year in New Britain, he struck out 115 times in 423 plate appearances (1 K every 3.68 PA). This year with the Rock Cats, he has 92 strikeouts in 378 plate appearances (1 K every 4.11 PA).  

I haven’t heard yet if Benson will be promoted. I’m sure we won’t know more until early this afternoon. But I think it is exciting when young players, especially those that are such highly regarded prospects, get an opportunity. Calling him up from AA is not an indication that he is ready for the big leagues, so fans need to have their expectations tempered. He will most likely start the 2012 season in Rochester and that would be the right thing. But for a short-term fix and just to see where he is at, this would be a good thing.

Any thoughts?? E-mail me, or leave some Comments.

Twitter Mailbag – Part 1 (Contest)

3 Aug

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

As I noted yesterday, the second contest (for two 1991 World Series DVDs) began yesterday afternoon. It’s a simple Twitter contest. On Twitter, ask me a Twins-related (specifically minor league related) question, and be entered into a drawing. I will accept questions through 5:00 p.m. central time on Wednesday. At that time, I will take all of the names, put them into a hat, and pick out the winner.

To be honest, I already have had a lot of questions submitted, so the Twitter Mailbag will be multiple parts. Here is Part 1, and again, to get your question asked and be entered into the contest, follow me on Twitter and send a question to @SethTweets. Enjoy the questions and responses today. And again, I will be back later with Part 2.

thecazbah @SethTweets #91worldseriesdvds What is your fondest Twins memory?

Tough first question because there are so many. As far as games I have been at, it is hard to get better than Jim Thome’s walk-off homer off of Matt Thornton at Target Field last August. Getting a Batting Practice foul ball from former Red Sox pitcher John Henry Johnson when I was 8 or 9 years old was pretty cool! And of course, I remember Game 7 of the 1987 World Series. I remember being in my parent’s then-unfinished basement, watching it by myself on a snowy, black-and-white TV because I was too nervous to watch it with other people. Game 163s have been great. So many great memories as a Twins fan!

JoshuaJSwain @SethTweets Is there any way the Twins offer arb to Capps? It has to be too big of a risk….right?

Dave_MN @SethTweets Is there any reason on Earth that the #Twins would offer Matt Capps arbitration this offseason? #ContestEntry

Absolutely not! OK, I wouldn’t be 100% shocked, but I think it would be crazy unless they can somehow tell him that he can’t accept it (which they can’t). He is a Type A free agent which means declining arbitration would mean another team would have to give up a draft choice and pay Capps. That will hurt him. He would accept and that would not be good.

thundernation41 @SethTweets Hi Seth. In your opinion, who will be in the starting OFs on opening day next season?

Ben Revere in LF, Denard Span in CF, and Michael Cuddyer in RF.

Hattsmoustache @SethTweets Would it be wise to consider Joe Benson for the 2012 outfield? Defense alone makes him an upgrade over Delmon.

Good question, but really two very distinct questions too. Personally, I would be shocked if Delmon Young remains with the Twins. If he hits like he did in 2010, the defense isn’t a big deal. If he hits like he has through most of 2011, it just isn’t acceptable.

Benson’s defense would be a HUGE upgrade over Delmon’s. However, I don’t think he would be considered as an Opening Day 2012 guy yet. Maybe midseason though. As we’ve said, the biggest part of his game that needs to improve to get a good shot is his contact rate. He knows it, and he has improved it somewhat in 2011.

jjlee1980 @SethTweets Who gets to the bigs first Benson or Hicks?

Benson, and it’s not even close. I do think that Benson gets to the big leagues in 2012. With Hicks, he will need to be added to the 40 man roster following the 2012 season, and it will be late 2013 at the very earliest that we would see him.

George__Damian @SethTweets Twins starting OF in 2012 and then 2013. With explanations of course. And why not, how should Gardy handle it the rest of 2011?

Like I wrote above, I think the starters in 2012 on Opening Day will be Ben Revere in LF, Denard Span in CF and Michael Cuddyer in RF. The Twins love Revere and his speed and his range, even if he can’t get on base. I also believe that Revere will improve and be an average OBP guy in time. Span should be around for awhile, and I do think that Cuddyer will come back for multiple years.

Because of multi-year contracts, I think that Span and Cuddyer remain in the OF in 2013 (unless Cuddyer is at 1B, but Morneau will still be under contract). I think we could see some sort of Joe Benson/Ben Revere platoon system in LF or CF (if Span does move to LF in time).

I think Rene Tosoni will be a 4th OF, part time DH, corner OF, pinch hitter type. I don’t think Jason Repko will be around next year. I’m curious what happens with Trevor Plouffe going forward. And, would the Twins bring back Jason Kubel to play RF and DH since Jim Thome will not be back.

coryjensen @SethTweets Who do you like for the Twins to either call up or acquire to make a run at the division?

In previous Augusts, GM Bill Smith has brought in Carl Pavano, Jon Rauch and Brian Fuentes, so I definitely think that the Twins will be watching the waiver wire closely throughout the month for anyone that makes sense. The Twins allegedly had discussions with the Blue Jays about bringing back Rauch, so that is something that could happen in August. The Twins have such a low record in the AL, so they have a great spot in the waiver order. It is possible that the Twins could acquire Heath Bell, although the Padres would likely pull him back unless the Twins made a big offer. Most players get put on waivers in August, so really the Twins could go a number of directions.

As for call ups, the only players that I think could be called up that has not already spent time with the Twins is Liam Hendriks and Kyle Waldrop.

bbeecken @SethTweets What level do you think Miguel Sano will start next season at?

He will start the season (and probably spend the whole season) in Beloit.

thecazbah @SethTweets #91worldseries As of right now what do you see as a starting rotation for next year? Gibson, does he make the squad?

That is such a tough question because I don’t know that there is a given in the group other than Scott Baker. I can’t imagine teams would be terribly excited to acquire Carl Pavano, but he could be traded in August to a contender looking for a veteran. Can the Twins trade Francisco Liriano in the offseason for anything interesting? Nick Blackburn has the bad contract and low strikeout rate, so he’s not tradable. Brian Duensing has been a solid big league starter the last three years. So there are five guys, plus until Kevin Slowey is traded, he is still a Twin. Anthony Swarzak has warranted a look.

So, I will guess that the starting rotation out of spring training next year will be Pavano, Baker, Blackburn, Duensing and Slowey. However, I think that by mid-June, we could see any or all of Kyle Gibson, Liam Hendriks and David Bromberg in the Twins starting rotation.

nibbish @SethTweets Who are some of the bigger prospects that you think will be included in September callups?

My thoughts on September call-ups is that the Twins will bring up Rene Rivera, Luke Hughes, Rene Tosoni, Jim Hoey and Chuck James. Tosoni is the only prospect in that bunch. If they are way out of contention, I would like to see Deolis Guerra brought up since he is doing a very good job since he was moved to the Rock Cats bullpen. And, I do think there is a chance that we could see Liam Hendriks in September.

bgipple @SethTweets Will the Twins ever draft a high-ceiling high school pitcher in 1st rd.? Or will we continue to see “safer” college pitchers?

High School Pitchers drafted in Round 1 by Twins in last 25 years: Willie Banks (1987), Johnny Ard (1988), Todd Ritchie (1990), Dan Serafini (1992), Kyle Waldrop (2004), Jay Rainville (2004).

Aside from when the Twins drafted Ben Revere in 2007 instead of the big-bonus-demanding Rick Porcello, who else have the Twins passed on… and based on where the Twins have drafted, who have they passed on that every other team passed on too?

And, in 2011, the Twins took Hudson Boyd with a supplemental first-round pick. Let’s hope they can sign him and his upper-90s fastball.

cdelzer @SethTweets With the contract the Span has, the emergence of Revere, what are the plans for Benson and Hicks?

Let them develop. See, as excited as we get, and I get in prospects, they are prospects because they haven’t done it yet. Guys like Span, Kubel and Cuddyer have already done it. Until guys do it at the big leagues, we just don’t know what will happen. So, you just let them develop in the minor leagues, and when they get up to AA and AAA, then you start thinking about where they ‘might’ fit in over the next couple of years.

Joe Benson definitely fits into the planning for 2013, but some of that does depend on what happens with Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel in the offseason. Ben Revere hasn’t done enough on the field to earn for-sure status in 2012. He would be best served to go back to Rochester and play. However, we know that Gardy loves him, and he’s fun to watch and he has the great smile, so we have to assume that he will be in the lineup somewhere in 2012.

gaborik24 @SethTweets when do you think Liam Hendriks will be ready to pitch in the MLB?

I think he’s pretty much ready now. But I’m sure getting some more AAA innings under his belt and facing AAA hitters that have been in the big leagues will help him. But I’m convinced from all reports that he is pretty close to ready now. That said, I would say early in the 2012 season.

hoss792 @SethTweets will Liam Hendricks be an expanded roster call-up, not hard throwing, but a “pitcher” could be useful.

I don’t know if he will be. I think it will be more about where the Twins are in the standings and how many they plan to bring up. Like Ben Revere a year ago, Hendriks has to be added to the 40 man roster in November, so there is no logistical reason not to bring him up in September.

themnjocksniffe @SethTweets Where does Chris Parmelee stand with the #Twins? Will we see him ever?

I would think he stands pretty well with that Twins right now. He is hitting for average, along with taking walks and cutting down the strikeouts, and he has a lot of doubles and 11 home runs in AA. I definitely think we will see him. Of course, a big part of that is the future status of Justin Morneau. I think he can be a very solid big league first baseman in the mold of a Lyle Overbay-type.

Again, head over to my Twitter page, follow me, and submit a question to me and be entered into the contest for the two 1991 World Series DVDs. Any thoughts or comments on what you’ve read today?? E-mail me, or leave some Comments.

Saturday Minor League Scoreboard

31 Jul

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

As Denard Span to the Nationsls’ rumors continued to swirl, he was not in the Red Wings Saturday lineup. Officially, the Twins said it was because of the travel from Louisville to Rochester… I am not certain I believe that. Today if the trade deadline and after a rough loss by the Twins last night, it will be a very interesting day, to be sure. Saturday was very interesting. First, the Tigers acquired starting pitcher Doug Fister and reliever David Pauley from Seattle. Later, Cleveland gave up Alex White and Drew Pomeranz and two other prospects for Ubaldo Jimenez. Cleveland then dealt Orlando Cabrera to the Giants.

So, what will today bring? Will the Twins get Drew Storen, Steve Lombardozzi and Roger Bernadina from the Nationals for Span. Will Jason Kubel remain a Twin? How about Jim Thome, Michael Cuddyer and others? How will Kevin Slowey’s performance for the Red Wings on Saturday affect his trade prospects today, or is it possible he remains with the Twins?

To see how Slowey and the rest of the Twins minor leaguers did on Saturday, see below:  

Rochester Red Wings

Rochester 6, Scranton/Wilkes Barre – Amid all the trade discussions surrounding him, Kevin Slowey put together his best start in his time with the Red Wings. The righty went eight innings and allowed only an unearned run. He gave up just five hits, walked none and struck out eight. Kyle Waldrop gave up only a run on two hits in his inning. Aaron Bates went 3-5. Michael Hollimon, promoted due to the Luke Hughes promotion, went 2-4. Jeff Bailey and Toby Gardenhire were also 2-. Rene Rivera celebrated his 27th birthday just a little early with his fourth home run with the Red Wings.  

New Britain Rock Cats

New Britain 0, Bowie 1 – Joe Benson went 2-2 with two walks and two stolen bases in this game. Those were the only two hits and two of the three walks that the Rock Cats managed in this game. Blake Martin started and gave up one run on five hits. He walked three and struck out three in 5.2 innings. Spencer Steedley threw two scoreless innings, and Dakota Watts got the final four outs.   

Ft. Myers Miracle

Ft. Myers 9, Lakeland 2 – The Miracle ended its losing streak at nine games with a big win on Saturday night. James Beresford went 3-5 with his ninth double. Anderson Hidalgo went 2-4 with a fourth-inning grand slam. It was his fifth home run of the year. Oswaldo Arcia hit his sixth double, and Danny Rams went 1-2 with a walk. Logan Darnell improves to 8-2 with the Miracle. The lefty went the first seven innings and gave up one run on four hits. He walked two and struck out six. Ricky Bowen gave up an unearned run in two innings with three strikeouts.

Beloit Snappers

Beloit 10, Cedar Rapids 5 – BJ Hermsen improved to 11-7 with a Quality Start in front of friends and family in Cedar Rapids. The righty went the first six innings and gave up three runs on eight hits and a walk. Blayne Weller then gave up two hits and a walk in two innings ,but no runs. Ben Tootle came in and gave up two unearned runs in the 9th on two hits and a walk. Reggie Williams went 4-5. Tobias Streich went 3-4. Lance Ray was 2-3 with two walks and his 30th double. He also stole his ninth base. Jairo Perez went 2-5.Michael Gonzales doubled for the 21st time. Danny Ortiz hit his ninth home run.   

Elizabethton Twins

Elizabethton 2, Danville 3 – The E-Twins recorded ten hits, but just two runs, in this loss. Eddie Rosario went 2-4 with his sixth double. Niko Goodrum also had two hits. Rosario also stole his ninth base. David Hurlbut started and gave up three runs on seven hits and two walks in 5.2 innings. Derek Christensen got the next four outs. Steve Evans and Madison Boer each pitched a scoreless inning.  

GCL Twins

GCL Twins 2, GCL Red Sox 4 – The Twins managed just four hits in this game and Jacob Younis had two of them. Josh Hendricks hit his fifth double and drove in both runs. Hung-yi Chen went the first three innings and gave up two hits and a walk and struck out three. Ricardo Arevalo went the next 1.1 innings and gave up two runs (1 earned) on one hit. He walked four and struck out one. JR Krogstad came in and gave up just one hit in 1.2 innings, striking out two. Tyler Herr gave up a run on three hits and a walk in two innings. Luis Nunez pitched a scoreless inning.

Any other questions on the Twins minor leagues? E-mail me, or leave some Comments.

Minor League Scoreboard (Perez, Benson, Wimmers and More)

27 Jul

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

Here are the scores and highlights from the last two days of Twins minor league baseball:

Rochester Red Wings

On Tuesday, the Red Wings topped the Louisville Bats 11-3. Liam Hendriks started and gave up all three runs (on 5 hits) in the first inning. On the game, he went six innings and gave up just those three runs on eight hits. He walked one and struck out three. Brian Dinkelman went 3-5 with his 20th double. Aaron Bates was 2-4 with a walk and his 15th double. Rene Rivera and Dustin Martin were each 2-5 with a double.

On Wednesday, it was a pitcher’s duel between the Red Wings and the Bats. Andy Baldwin started and threw five shutout innings. He gave up four hits, walked two and struck out one. Jake Stevens threw two scoreless innings. Kyle Waldrop got the final eight outs for the win. Denard Span went 2-5 with a double and a stolen base. He played nine innings. Aaron Bates went 2-4 with his 16th double. Chase Lambin went 2-5.  

New Britain Rock Cats

Tuesday night, the Rock Cats lost 5-4. Dennys Suarez started and gave up five runs on seven hits. In seven innings, he walked four and struck out six. Brett Jacobson threw two scoreless innings. Deibinson Romero was 2-4 with his 17th and 18th doubles. Joe Benson was 2-4. Michael Hollimon hit his 11th homer.

The Rock Cats had a double header on Wednesday. In the first game, the teams needed 11 innings to decide a winner. The Rock Cats won 7-6 when Chris Parmelee singled in Deibinson Romero with the game-winner. Joe Benson went 4-5 with a walk, his 21st double, 8th home run and three RBI. Chris Herrmann went 2-4 with two walks and his fifth home run. Brian Dozier, Nate Hanson and Deibinson Romero went 2-5 on the day. Romero hit his 19th double. Andrew Albers started and gave up four runs on eight hits and a walk in 4.1 innings. He struck out five. Dakota Watts then gave up two run on four hits and a walk in 2.2 innings. He struck out four. Deolis Guerra struck out three in three scoreless innings. Tyler Robertson struck out two in a perfect innings.

The second game did not go well for the Rock Cats. They lost 17-3 to New Hampshire. Bobby Lanigan gave up 11 runs (6 earned) on 14 hits in 2.2 innings. Spencer Steedley gave up just one hit over the next 2.1 innings. Infielder Chris Cates threw the final two innings. He gave up six runs on four hits and four walks. He did strike out two. Brian Dozier went 3-4. Joe Benson was 2-3. Michael Hollimon hit his 12th home run.

Following the games, Albers was sent back to Ft. Myers. David Bromberg was activated from the Disabled List.

Mark Dolenc Report – On Monday, Dolenc went 4-5 with a double, triple and the game-winning hit in the Rock Cats big extra inning win over New Hampshire. In the three games since then, he is 0-7. On the season, he is now hitting .279/.333/.357 with ten doubles, four triples and two homers. He has 16 stolen bases as well.

Ft. Myers Miracle

On Tuesday, the Miracle lost a 2-1, 11 inning game to Tampa. They managed just six hits, and Aaron Hicks had two of them. Jhon Garcia started and gave up just one run on six hits in seven innings. He walked one and struck out five. Matt Hauser threw three scoreless innings before allowing the winning run in the 11th inning.

Angel Morales was activated, and Ramon Santana was released.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Miracle lost 6-1 to Tampa. Miguel Munoz came off of the Disabled List and made his first start since April. Unfortunately, he left after recording just one out and giving up five runs on five hits and a walk. He left the game injured. He had been rehabbing an elbow injury, so obviously best wishes to him as he finds out what’s going on and needs to be done. Edgar Ibarra went 4.2 scoreless innings. He gave up two hits, walked two and struck out three. Alex Wimmers threw the final four innings. He gave up one run on four hits. He walked none and struck out two. James Beresford went 2-3 with a walk. Oswaldo Arcia, Josmil Pinto and Nick Romero each doubled.

Aaron Hicks is in a bit of a slump. He is now 2-31 in his last eight games.

Beloit Snappers

The Snappers had the day off on Tuesday. The day off did wonders for their bats as the Snappers won 21-8 over Burlington. Jairo Perez was the star in this one. He went 4-5 with a walk, his 11th double, 10th and 11th home runs and eight RBI. Not a bad week’s worth in one game. Michael Gonzales went 3-4 with his 19th double. Wang-Wei Lin went 2-3 with a walk and his fourth homer. Reggie Williams went 2-6 with his second double and second home run. Danny Santana went 2-5 with a walk and his 22nd stolen base. Andy Leer was 2-6. Ryan O’Rourke started and gave up four runs on six hits and four walks in five innings. He struck out five. Blayne Weller struck out two in two scoreless innings. Nelvin Fuentes pitched a 1-2-3 inning and hit a double. Ben Tootle pitched the final inning and gave up four runs on four hits and a walk.

Elizabethton Twins

The E-Twins beat Burlington 6-4 on Tuesday. Tim Shibuya gave up two runs on eight hits in 6.1 innings. He didn’t walk any and struck out five. Steven Evans got one out (and walked one). Matt Summers got the final out of the 7th. Then Madison Boer gave up two runs on two hits and two walks. He struck out two in his two innings. Max Kepler was 2-3 with his first triple. Eddie Rosario was 2-5 with his 5th triple. Miguel Sano went 2-4.

The E-Twins had a day off on Wednesday.

GCL Twins

The team was postponed by rain on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the team lost 5-2 to the Rays. They managed just six hits. Candido Pimentel and Dereck Rodriguez each went 2-5. Hein Robb went the first four innings and gave up only an unearned run on five hits in four innings. He walked none and struck out three. Kyle Wahl gave up an unearned run in his two innings. Markus Solbach then gave up just one hit in two scoreless innings. Luis Nunez struck out two in two scoreless innings. Marcus Limon gave up three runs (2 earned) on two hits and a walk in two innings.

Any other questions on the Twins minor leagues? E-mail me, or leave some Comments.

Plouffe is on Fire!

6 Jul

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

When the Twins went out of their way to denigrate Trevor Plouffe at the end of May and demoted him to Rochester, Plouffe could have sulked. He could have folded. Coupled with the media and the Twins manager’s efforts to call him out, Plouffe had an injured finger and missed about a week or game action before playing for the Red Wings. And since then, there has not be a better player anywhere in the Twins system, if not in all of minor league baseball. And frankly, I do not fully understand how he, and specifically his bat, is still in Rochester and not with the Twins.

In early May, Alexi Casilla was really struggling at shortstop. Defensively, he was adequate, but he wasn’t hitting close to .200 and time for change was imminent. Plouffe was hitting well for the Red Wings after a slow start. Plouffe was finally promoted to the big leagues. In his first plate appearance, he hit a home run over the Green Monster at Fenway Park against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Plouffe would play in 18 games and hit .200 (12-60). However, of those 12 hits, two were doubles and three were home runs. Defensively, he looked more comfortable, until that one bad game. The first bad throw came on a play that Plouffe went deep into the shortstop hole, dove and made a great play, got up and threw too tall for the first baseman. It was a great play unfortunately capped by a bad throw. Soon after, there was a slow roller, and instead of setting and throwing, Plouffe threw on the run. He didn’t get a good grip on the ball and the ball fluttered to 1B too late. I thought that he needed to throw on the run, he just didn’t get anything on it. Some thought he was showboating, which I guarantee was not the case. Soon after, a hard hit, one hopper bounded a way from him. Just one error, but the manager felt the need to call Plouffe out loudly. And then again. And again.

No wonder Plouffe was struggling. Few could play under those circumstances. Plouffe was benched for three games, played another and then back on the bench. There were words between the manager and the media about Plouffe. Plouffe was upset that Gardenhire made it so public. It wasn’t pretty and soon Plouffe was headed back to Rochester. Sure, Luis Rivas and Alexi Casilla got 4-5 years worth of opportunities. Plouffe got 12 starts. Does anyone think that the manager will ever play Plouffe on a regular basis at SS? Of course not.

Again, Plouffe could have sulked and been frustrated when he went back to Triple-A. He missed some games with the finger injury. However, since he started playing, he has been incredible. In 18 June games, he hit .310/.388/.648 with five doubles, two triples and five home runs. In six games so far in July, he has hit .400/520/.1.000 with four home runs. Plouffe has hit 15 home runs in Rochester now to go with the three he hit with the Twins. In 2010, Plouffe had 15 home runs with the Red Wings and two homers for the Twins, all season. He already has a combined 18 homers this year and it is through July 5!

Since Plouffe’s return, he has played all over the field. Yes, he has played some at shortstop. He has played 2B. He has played right field and left field. We know he can play 3B, and in Game 2 on Tuesday night, he played 1B. Clearly the Twins now plan for him to be a super utility player, which is not a bad thing.

Regardless, there is no question that Trevor Plouffe’s bat needs to be on the Twins roster and most days in the Twins lineup. So, how do we get him there? Well, do the Twins really need a third catcher? That is kind of redundant and ridiculous. Matt Tolbert can play four infield positions, but can’t hit. He could go down. Luke Hughes hasn’t exactly been lighting the world on fire at 1B, so Plouffe could take his spot. For me, that is the order in which I would send guys down to get Plouffe up here. Maybe they’re waiting for him to get a little more comfortable at a few more positions.

Trevor Plouffe could then play all four infield positions. He can also play both corner outfield positions. Worried about his outfield defense? As Josh Johnson tweeted on Tuesday night, Delmon Young has played a lot of LF, how much worse can Plouffe be out there? Who knows? Plouffe could probably even pitch if necessary! Remember when the Twins used their first pick in the 2004 draft to take Plouffe as a shortstop. Many teams considered drafting him as a pitcher.

Hey, even if none of us expects Plouffe to maintain an OPS north of 1.000 in the big leagues, he has earned another opportunity for a big league job!

Any thoughts?

Rochester Red Wings

As you may have noticed, Trevor Plouffe was the star of this double header. In the two games, he went 3-4 with four walks and three home runs. So what happened besides Plouffe?

In the first game, the Red Wings beat the Paw Sox 13-3. Former Twins pitcher Matt Fox started for the Paw Sox. He gave up 11 runs on ten hits and two walks in just 2.2 innings. Kevin Slowey started for the Red Wings. He gave up two runs on four hits and four hit batters in 2.2 innings. Chuck James gave up one run on two hits and two walks in 2.1 innings. Dusty Hughes recorded two strikeouts in 1.1 scoreless innings. Kyle Waldrop struck out two in one perfect inning. The Red Wings hit six home runs in the game. Plouffe hit two. Dustin Martin went 2-4 with his eighth homer. Brandon Roberts went 2-4 with his first homer. Delmon Young was 2-4 and hit the first pitch that he saw on the day out for a home run. Danny Lehmann hit his second homer and drove in three. Toby Gardenhire went 1-2 with two walks and his tenth double.

In the second game, the Red Wings lost 4-2. Brandon Roberts and Trevor Plouffe each homers. Jeff Bailey had two hits. Delmon Young went 0-3. Cole DeVries made his first start of the year. He gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks in 2.2 innings. Thomas Diamond threw 2.2 scoreless innings, despite allowing four hits and three walks. Jim Hoey went 1.2 scoreless innings.

New Britain Rock Cats

The Rock Cats lost 7-2 to New Hampshire. Brett Jacobson gave up seven runs on ten hits and two walks in five innings. He struck out six. Deolis Guerra struck out two in two scoreless innings. Tyler Robertson gave up one hit in a scoreless inning. Joe Benson returned to the Rock Cats lineup. He went 1-2 with a double. He hit a sacrifice fly and was hit by a pitch. He even threw out a runner at home. Chris Parmelee went 1-2 with two walks and his seventh home run.

Ft. Myers Miracle

Ft. Myers lost 9-2 to St. Lucie. The Miracle managed just four hits. Steve Liddle hit his tenth double. Oswaldo Arcia went 1-2  and is hitting .313 (he went 4-5 the day before). Kane Holbrooks started and gave up two runs on nine hits in five innings. Ricky Bowen gave up two runs on two hits and a walk in his inning. Matt Tone gave up five runs on five hits and a walk in just 0.2 innings. Bruce Pugh got the final four outs, two via the strikeout.

Beloit Snappers

Beloit lost to Wisconsin 8-3. Manuel Soliman gave up six runs (5 earned) on seven hits and a walk. He struck out three in his 4.1 innings. Blayne Weller then gave up two runs on four hits and two walks in two innings. Andrei Lobanov was perfect for 1.2 innings. Ben Tootle struck out two in a scoreless inning. Tyler Grimes went 2-3 with his first pro home run. Adam Bryant went 2-4 with his fourth double. Michael Gonzales hit his 14th double.  

Elizabethton Twins

A sacrifice fly by Jairo Rodriguez and a Niko Goodrum RBI single gave the E-Twins a 6-4 lead in the top of the 9th, a lead they would hold for the win. Tim Shibuya started and gave up four runs on six hits and two walks in four innings. Derek Christensen threw two scoreless innings. Pedro Guerra threw a shutout frame. Madison Boer struckout two in a scoreless eighth inning for the win. Matt Summers struck out two in a scoreless inning for the save. (Summers now has two innings pitched with the E-Twins and five strikeouts. Goodrum went 2-4. Nick Lockwood hit a triple. Miguel Sano hit his third home run.

GCL Twins

The GCL Twins beat the GCL Rays 8-3. Hein Robb threw three hitless innings to start. Matthew Tomshaw gave up two runs (1 earned) on one hit in two innings. He struck out two. Mark Trau came in and gave up one run on one hit and three walks without recording an out. Marcus Limon came in and struckout three in three scoreless innings. Markus Solbach threw a scoreless inning. Phillip Chapman was 2-4 with two doubles. Michael Quesada was 2-3 with two three-run home runs. Josh Hendricks went 3-5 with a double. Hendricks began the season by going 0-16. Since then, he is 10-15 and is now hitting .323.  

Any other thoughts or questions on the Twins minor leaguers? Feel free to comment here.

SethSpeaks.net May Twins Minor League Hitters of the Month

1 Jun

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

It doesn’t seem like long ago that I was handing out the SethSpeaks.net Hitter and Pitchers of the Month for April, and here we are on June 1 and it is time to hand out the awards for May. As always, there have been some good performances and some bad performances, but you know what I am going to choose to look at.

In April, our top two players of the month came from the Beloit Snappers. Number Two, Oswaldo Arcia, went on the Disabled List on May 1 and had elbow surgery and is likely out for a couple of months. Danny Ortiz was the choice for Hitter of the Month in April when he hit .377/.429/.768 with seven doubles, a triple and six home runs in 69 at bats. In May, he hit .236/.267/.364 with eleven doubles and one home run in 110 at bats.

Today, I will post my top 5 choices for Twins minor league hitter of the month. Tomorrow, I will point out the top 5 Twins starting pitchers for May as well as well as the top 3 relievers that deserve recognition.

Before getting to the Top 5, here are some guys who just missed the subjective list:

  • Rochester – Brian Dinkelman (35-103) .340/.400/.476 with nine doubles, a triple, one home run and ten RBI.
  • Rochester – Ray Chang (28-87) .322/.375/.448 with five doubles, two home runs and nine RBI.
  • Rochester – Aaron Bates (20-63) .317/.434/.476 with four doubles, two home runs and five RBI.
  • New Britain – Yangervis Solarte (32-99) .323/.374/.455 with six doubles, two triples, one home run and 10 RBI.
  • Ft. Myers – Aaron Hicks (24-84) .286/.390/.440 with seven doubles, two homers and 12 RBI.
  • Beloit – Wang-Wei Lin (32-101) .317/.439/.512 with eight doubles, and nine RBI.

Number 5 – Beloit – Michael Gonzales – 1B (31-104) .298/.412/.433 with five doubles, three home runs and 24 RBI.

Gonzales stands out on the Beloit Snappers roster. Part of that is because he stands at 6-6 and 270 pounds. He was the Twins 9th round pick in the 2008 draft out of Diablo Valley College. Last year at Beloit, he hit .236/.322/.439 with 27 doubles and 13 home runs. He walked 36 times and struck out 107 times, about one in three at bats. He had 52 RBI, so the fact that he drove in 24 runs in 32 May games certainly stands out. On the season, Gonzales is hitting .288/.400/.466 with five doubles and seven home runs. When I saw him play in Beloit last year about this time, he had a very slow bat, a very long swing, so the strikeouts are understandable. He also has a ton of power. He had little range at 1B a year ago, but I am told that he has greatly improved his defense over the past year. Gonzales will turn 23 on June 16 and is a candidate for a call up to Ft. Myers later in the season. To this point, he has 38 strikeouts in 175 plate appearances.  

Number 4 – New Britain – Joe Benson - OF (30-101) .297/.398/.485 with eight doubles, a triple, three home runs and 14 RBI.

Benson was honorable mention in April, and only because he really struggled the final week of April. Those struggles continued the first couple of weeks of May, but he has been terrific of late. In his last 10 games, he has hit .484/.579/.774 (15-31) with four doubles, a triple and a home run. In other words, he went 15 for his first 70 in May (.214) and ended the season strong. During his struggles, Benson’s strikeout rate was very poor. On the season, he has 49 strikeouts in 198 plate appearances. Again, this is the key number for Benson as we look at him each month. He isn’t hitting for quite the same power as he did a year ago when he hit a combined 31 doubles, eight triples and 27 home runs in 459 at bats. This year, in 179 at bats, he has 16 doubles, two triples and five home runs. The team’s 2006 second round pick is playing well overall. The reason I think he should remain in Double-A is to try to help him become more consistent.

Number 3 – Beloit – Nate Roberts - OF (29-96) .302/.456/.396 with seven doubles, a triple, and 12 RBI.

The day that Oswaldo Arcia was put on the Disabled List (May 1), Roberts was summoned from Beloit where he had been rehabbing. The 22 year old was the Twins fifth round pick a year ago out of High Point University. After hitting .336/.444/.547 in 128 at bats at Elizabethton last year after signing, he has shown that it was not a fluke. The reason he is this high on the list is because he got on base 45.6% of the time for the month. That is hard to do! He struck out 13 times while walking 16 times. The highlight of his month likely came on May 27 when he went 3-3 with a walk and three doubles. He

Number 2 – Ft. Myers – Evan Bigley - OF (31-103) .301/.363/.544 with ten doubles, three triples, three home runs and 18 RBI.

The Twins drafted Bigley with their 10th round pick in the 2008 draft out of Lew Ford’s alma mater, Dallas Baptist University. Bigley was tremendous for the Rock Cats, especially in the first half of the month. In five games from May 3 to May 7, Bigley had five multi-hit games. Of his 11 hits, he had four doubles, two triples and a home run. He had an 0-2, and then came back with a 2-4 game with another double. Since May 12, he has gone 3-31 (.097) with ten strikeouts. The overall numbers are still good enough for the #2 spot.

The SethSpeaks Minnesota Twins Minor League Hitter of the Month of May is…

Ft. Myers SS Brian Dozier (33-98) .337/.426/.469 with seven doubles, three triple, and 11 RBI.

Brian Dozier celebrated his 24th birthday on May 15th and really hit great after that point. Although, it’s hard to notice because one of the great attributes of Dozier since the Twins used their 8th round pick on the Southern Mississippi shortstop has been his consistency. In April he hit .299 with and OPS of .863. In May, he hit .337 with an OPS of .895. Both months, he walked more than he struck out. On the season, he has 27 walks to go with 20 strikeouts. He is now hitting .320/.430/.464 with 11 doubles, five triples and one home run. He has 13 steals in 17 attempts. And, he plays very good defense. All that said, I expect that his tenure with the Miracle will last until the FSL Western Division first-half title is determined.

For the most part, May was a rough month for hitters throughout the Twins minor league system, but that is not to say there weren’t some really solid performances. Congratulations to Brian Dozier on being the top hitter of the month of May, but also to the others discussed and even those receiving honorable mention.  

Please feel free to discuss and ask questions.

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.

Spring Game 1: Twins 8, Red Sox 4

28 Feb

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

Yes, I do know that it is a spring training game. Yes, I know that it really doesn’t mean anything. Yes, I realize everything is small sample sizes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

But I don’t care. It was the first spring training game of the year tonight, and it was awesome. The Twins could have lost 18-4 and I would have enjoyed it just as much. Sure, pitchers and catchers reported about 10 days ago. The hitters showed up earlier in the week and got a few practices in, but now there are actually games to talk about. The specifics of what happens in the game are not the big thing. It’s just that, for fans, there are box scores. And, like John Gordon and Dan Gladden or not, there are games to listen to. By next weekend, we’ll be able to actually watch games on TV. Early October was a long time ago. It is now late February and here we go again, the baseball season is upon us!

On Friday morning, the temperatures here in Northern Minnesota were at 22 degrees below zero. On Saturday morning, it was about 15 below. So, I officially booked my trip down to Ft. Myers. I will be on a very early morning flight next Tuesday, and I will be in Ft. Myers before noon! I have never been in Ft. Myers for the sole purpose of being at Twins spring training camp, so I am really looking forward to it.

So, let’s get back to last night’s game between the Twins and the Red Sox. Here are a few notes:

  • Twins Starting Lineup was: Denard Span (CF), Tsuyoshi Nishioka (2B), Jason Kubel (RF), Jim Thome (DH), Danny Valencia (3B), Chris Parmelee (1B), Jason Repko (LF), Alexi Casilla (SS), Drew Butera (‘C).
  • Carl Pavano got the start and went two shutout innings. Then there were scoreless innings by Pat Neshek, Dusty Hughes, Alex Burnett, Jeff Manship and Scott Diamond. Anthony Swarzak pitched the 8th inning and despite losing 30 pounds in the offseason, he gave up three runs (2 earned) on four hits in the inning. Chuck James came in for the 9th and gave up a leadoff home run and another hit, but struck out two.
  • Even with Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer and Delmon Young out of the lineup, the team put together what would be a decent Sunday afternoon lineup.
  • In a post-game tweet, Phil Mackey noted that Justin Morneau will be seeing a doctor in the next couple of days, and hopefully he will be cleared to play in spring games soon.
  • Each of the starters got two at bats. In fact, the only starter with a third at bat was Tsuyoshi Nishioka. After two left-handed at bats (one against Josh Beckett, and one against Clay Buchholz), he was able to get one right-handed at bat in against fellow Japanese player, Hideki Okajima. Nishioka got his first hit against Okajima and was immediately replaced by Ray Chang.
  • Chris Parmelee and Jason Repko each had two hits. In the 2nd inning, Parmelee doubled down the right field line off of Beckett. Repko followed with a triple high off the fence in left field. In the 5th inning, Parmelee grounded a single up the middle off of lefty Okajima. Repko followed with another single.
  • Alexi Casilla added a bloop single that loaded the bases. One out later, Joe Benson made his first plate appearance of the spring. With two strikes, Benson launched a ball to deep centerfield, out of the reach of Mike Cameron. The triple drove in all three base runners, and Benson showed off his tremendous speed. Equally important, he showed his speed and instincts while playing centerfield. He made several catches in the gaps. Benson isn’t going to make the team out of spring training, but he can make a big impression, and he has already made a big first impression.
  • I’m under the assumption that the utility infielder job is Matt Tolbert’s to lose. I do think that Trevor Plouffe and Luke Hughes should and will also get an opportunity. But a few Twins non-roster options got a chance to play tonight:
    • Chase Lambin – The 31 year old has never stepped field in a big league game during the regular season. He was one of the first veteran minor leaguers that the Twins signed this offseason. Last year at Syracuse (Nationals AAA), he hit .252/.327/.414 with 28 doubles and 15 home runs. He was an International League All-Star. He has primarily played 1B, 2B and 3B throughout his career, and to give himself a real chance to be a utility player for the Twins, he will need to show he can play an adequate shortstop. That is the position he played on Sunday. He had a throwing error, but it was an unusual play. The Red Sox batter singled to the gap. Joe Benson made a nice diving play to keep the ball from getting to the wall. He relayed to Lambin who, seeing the runner had scampered too far past first base, threw errantly to the bag. On another play, a ground ball deep in the hole between third and short, he made the play, but Mike Cameron beat the throw to first base. (Again, one game.)
    • Ray Chang, who is a 27 year old from Kansas City, is another option. He played in 98 games at the Triple-A level between 2006 and 2008. Last year, he hit .298/.384/.436 with Portland, the Double-A affiliate of the Red Sox. In 116 games, he hit 30 doubles and nine home runs. He has played 173 games at shortstop, 108 at second base, and 65 at second base in his pro career. He is a terrific defender who has started hitting a lot better the last two years. He played for Team China in the World Baseball Classic.
    • Matt Brown got to play a couple of innings at first base. In his career, he has played 567 games at 3B, 158 games at first base and 57 games at 2B. He has played 26 games in left field, all of them in 2010. In 2007, he went 0-5 in four games with the Angels. In 2008, he went 1-19 with the Angels. Last year, he played in 79 games in AAA for the Rangers, in Oklahoma City. He hit .249/.311/.442 with 18 doubles, five triples and ten home runs. That one was a strange signing.
  • Jeff Bailey came in to play first base, and in his first Twins at bat, he launched a home run to left field. Bailey was drafted in 1997, but he went to the Red Sox in 2004. In 2007, he got into three games for the Sox and went 1-9 with his first big league homer. In 2008, he hit two more homers in 50 big league at bats. In 2009, he hit three home runs in 77 at bats for Boston. In 2010, he played in 129 games for Reno, the AAA affiliate of the Diamondbacks. He hit .289/.387/.462 with 33 doubles, seven triples and 12 home runs. Like Lambin, he was one of the first guys that the Twins signed. I think that Bailey is someone to watch in Triple A. He posted an .899 OPS against left-handed pitchers in 2010. In 64 Major League at bats against left-handed pitchers, he has hit .316/.391/.649 with five of his six home runs. We talk about the Twins needing a right-handed bench bat. Bailey may just be a perfect option for the role.
  • Steve Liddle made his debut as the Twins third base coach. With Brian Dinkelman at 2B and two outs, Liddle sent him home on a single, and Dinkelman was thrown out at the plate. At least it was a very close play.
  • The Twins and Red Sox will play again on Monday at noon (central time).

FORMER TWINS UPDATES

  • Saturday Games
    • Garrett Jones – RF – Pittsburgh – BB, Run
    • Luis Ayala – RP – NY Yankees – 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 K
    • Brad Thomas – RP – Detroit – 1 IP, 0 R, 1 K
    • Jason Pridie – CF – NY Mets – 0-1
    • David Winfree – RF – Arizona – 1-3
    • Former Twins Player of the DayRob Delaney – RP – Tampa Bay Rays
      • 2 Innings pitched, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K – Win
  • Sunday Games
    • Boof Bonser – RP – NY Mets – 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K
    • Sean Henn – RP – Toronto – 1 IP, 0 R
    • Doug Deeds – RF – Texas – 1-2, HR, 2 RBI
    • Gil Velazquez – 3B – LA Angels – 0-1
    • Casey Blake – 3B – LA Dodgers – 1-2, 2B
    • Juan Rincon – RP – LA Dodgers – 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 1 BB, 2 K
    • Steve Tolleson – 2B – Oakland – 0-2, BB, R
    • Matt Garza – SP – Chicago Cubs – 2 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1-1
    • Corky Miller – C – Cincinnati Reds – 1-1, 2B, 2 RBI
    • Orlando Cabrera – 2B – Cleveland – 0-2
    • Kevin Mulvey – RP – Arizona – 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, Save
    • Former Twins Player of the DayGarrett Jones – RF – Pittsburgh Pirates
      • 3-3, 2-2B, 3 R, 2 RBI, SB

BLOG SPOTTING

Please feel free to comment in the comments section.

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!

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.

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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

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