Archive | Pat Neshek RSS feed for this section

Neshek Claimed by Padres

21 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

The news came across shortly after noon on Sunday. On his Twitter account, Pat Neshek wrote, “I just got news that I am now a member of the San Diego Padres, packing up & heading west.”

Immediately the Twitter discussions were traveling in several directions. The prevailing theme of most comments was that the Twins are evil. There was a lot of confusion, predictions and even anger. Understandably, there are a lot of dueling emotions that all Twins fans feel due to this transaction.

Where does it start?

Twins fans feel a connection to Pat Neshek in many ways and for many reasons. Although he was born in Madison, Wisconsin, he grew up in Minnesota and attended Park Center High school. He’s one of us. The Twins drafted him out of high school and then again in the 6th round of the 2002 draft out of Butler University. He moved all over the place for the next two seasons, but after a 2005 season in which he posted a 2.19 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP and 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings at Double-A New Britain, he was added to the 40 man roster. He began the 2006 season at Triple-A Rochester. He went 6-2 with 14 saves, a 1.95 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP and 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings. Thanks to a large and loyal blog following, he easily won an internet vote and was named the Triple-A All-Star relief pitcher that year. Unfortunately he was not able to pitch in the game because he was promoted to the Twins, and on July 7, 2006, he made his big league debut in Texas against the Rangers. In 32 games with the Twins, he was 4-2 with a 2.19 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP. He struck out nearly 13 batters per nine innings. In 2007, he was 7-2 with a 2.94 ERA, a 1.01 WHIP and more than a strikeout per inning.

Beyond the playing field, there has never been a professional athlete better with the fans. He was always willing to do a Q&A at SethSpeaks.net, or join a podcast. He wrote regularly of his travails through the minor leagues at his blog, On the Road with Pat Neshek. He has a great message board there, and his willingness to exchange sports memorabilia and willingness to sign autographs for all fans. In 2007, you may recall, there was the “Vote for Pat” campaign when Neshek was one of five players on the internet ballot for the final spot on the All-Star roster.

We like the person. We liked the statistics. We like the side-arm delivery, the bounce in his step, and the finger point toward the hitter on his arms recoil. With players like Johan Santana, Torii Hunter, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau on the roster, a case could be made that Pat Neshek was as popular as any of them.

Then in early May of 2008 while on the mound in Chicago, Neshek left the mound after hearing a pop in his elbow. The Twins decided rest and rehab was the right course of action, but a setback in October of that year led to Tommy John surgery in November. He missed all of the 2009 season and worked really hard in Ft. Myers. So hard, in fact, that he made the Twins opening day roster. And, as you know, there was the hand injury and the option to Rochester.

Where are we now?

Neshek came to camp this year after signing a $625,000 contract in the offseason. All of the talk this spring has been about his velocity. When I saw him pitch in Ft. Myers last week, his fastball topped out at 84-85 mph. His slider was around 78 mph and his changeup was around 69 mph. Depending upon the radar gun, he was anywhere from 84 to 89 mph.

He was in a competition for a bullpen spot this spring. When camp started, he was competing with Jim Hoey, Jeff Manship, Eric Hacker, Anthony Swarzak, a starting pitcher and a slew of left-handers for three or four spots. The assumption was that Neshek would have a real chance to make the team this year, but even if he didn’t, he has an option left, so he could head to Rochester and move back and forth between AAA and the Twins throughout the season.

That the Twins were willing Designate Neshek for Assignment now, with a full option year left, leads to one conclusion. They do not believe that he will ever get back to what he was in 2006 and 2007. And because of that, they are not worried about that option year or losing him. That is the business side of baseball.

Beyond that, it is easy to see that the Twins now view Kyle Waldrop and Carlos Gutierrez ahead of Neshek. Waldrop, who has been terrific the last two seasons after coming back from shoulder surgery, is pitching well again this spring. He is a major ground ball pitcher who, at 25 years old, is ready. Carlos Gutierrez, who has yet to give up a run this spring, is going to be a major contributor to the Twins bullpen for years to come. I don’t think he would start the season with the Twins as he has pitched just two games in AAA and was a starting pitcher during the first half of last year again. Both appear to be ahead of Neshek in the eyes of the organization at this point. Both are not on the 40 man roster right now, and if they were to make the opening day roster, they would first need to be added to the 40 man roster.

By taking Neshek off the 40 man roster, a spot is open up for Waldrop or Gutierrez. They could be added next week. Could Jeff Bailey be added to the 40 man roster and be on the opening day roster as protection if Justin Morneau can’t play every day and Michael Cuddyer isn’t ready right away? Other teams will also be making roster cuts and other players will be available to claim. And, of course, there have been plenty of trade rumors. Or, there could be something in the works that will surprise us. 

Some have said that the Twins did Neshek a favor by letting him go at this time. That may be true if they knew that he would be claimed by the Padres, but the Twins likely would have been very happy if he had cleared waivers and they could have sent him to the minor leagues. However, the opportunity with the Padres could be great for Neshek. Pitching in pitcher-friendly Petco Park is never a bad thing. The Padres should be a solid team. He does still have that option year so he can continue to work. All things considered, it could be a good opportunity for him.

Hopefully this turns into a Craig Breslow thing and Neshek regains his form with the Padres. We all want to see that. But the Twins were not wrong in the decision either. It is a business, and in their minds there are several pitchers ahead of Neshek on the depth chart including a couple who are not currently on the 40 man roster.

If you like, please feel free to comment.

The Final Spots

18 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

For the most part, spring training is a formality. Of the 25 man roster, likely 21 or 22 of those positions were set. Joe Mauer doesn’t need to win a job in spring training. Neither does Justin Morneau or Michael Cuddyer. Joe Nathan had to prove that he was healthy, but if he did, he isn’t fighting for a roster spot. Who were the givens coming into spring training?

Hitters: Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Alexi Casilla, Danny Valencia, Delmon Young, Denard Span, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Jason Repko, Jim Thome, Drew Butera (12)

Pitchers: Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Joe Nathan, Matt Capps, Jose Mijares (9)

Coming into spring training, the Twins’ brass talked about a bullpen spot or two being up for grabs and the utility infield spot, and based on the above, that is clearly true. The Twins need a utility infielder and three pitchers. There was no shortage of options coming into spring training for those spots either.

For the utility infielder spot: Matt Tolbert, Trevor Plouffe, Luke Hughes, Chase Lambin

For the three bullpen spots: Jeff Manship, Pat Neshek, Jim Hoey, Glen Perkins, Scott Diamond, Dusty Hughes, Chuck James, Phil Dumatrait, Anthony Swarzak, Kyle Waldrop, Alex Burnett, Yorman Bazardo, Eric Hacker, Anthony Slama

Backup Infielder:

Going into spring training, most of us believed that the “competition” was more in name than in reality. Matt Tolbert is a “Gardy Guy.” He can play all three infield positions defensively. He has some speed. Not much of a hitter, but he has shown an ability to hit at times over the last few seasons. Trevor Plouffe has played shortstop and second base, and even logged some innings at first base, but he has struggled this spring with the bat and with the glove.

Meanwhile, Luke Hughes has again shown up to spring training and shown that he can flat-out hit. He is 14-40 (.350) with three doubles and five home runs. We will ignore the 12 strikeouts in 43 plate appearances. He has played adequate defense at 3B, 2B, 1B and even a couple of innings at SS. In his minor league past, he has played all three outfield positions as well. Gardy has been making quotes about defense not being the only thing that matters in the utility infield spot which certainly bodes well for Hughes.

Remember that the utility infielder will hopefully play about once a week, although Hughes would also be a good right-handed bat off the bench to compliment lefty Jim Thome. He may have to play ten to twelve innings of defense a week. How will he adapt to a role position? Can he stay healthy?

Tolbert and Plouffe each are in their final option year. Hughes has two options left. So, options do not need to factor into this decision, which is good.

Gardy’s Decision: Will come down to defense versus offense. Will he want Hughes’ right-handed bat off the bench, or will he want Tolbert’s defense at the three positions?

If the season started today: Hughes would be the man, no question. I think that when spring training started, it was Matt Tolbert’s job to lose. Instead, Luke Hughes has come to spring training likely made such a strong impression that he may have pushed his way onto the Opening Day roster.

Bullpen:

Anthony Swarzak, Yorman Bazardo and Eric Hacker have already been demoted to minor league camp. Chuck James and Phil Dumatrait haven’t done enough to put themselves into Opening Day consideration. Anthony Slama was my choice before camp started, but he has been unable to pitch due to an elbow injury. Alex Burnett will be a big part of the Twins bullpen for years to come, but I don’t think he’s in the competition for an opening day spot right now. Kyle Waldrop probably would be a strong candidate if he was on the 40 man roster. I believe he will be a Twins pitcher, but not by Opening Day. Same with Carlos Gutierrez. So that leaves six pitchers for three spots, and at least one of them (And maybe two) should be left-handed).

Jeff Manship: He has given up five runs on nine hits and three walks in nine innings. He has just two strikeouts. The organization compares his stuff to Matt Guerrier, and it’s hard to argue with that comparison. They both have good fastballs, though not overpowering. They have good control. They both have very good curveballs and changeups. The comparison is fair, but Manship has done little pitching out of the bullpen in his career. He has the stuff to do it well.

Pat Neshek: People talk about Neshek and his velocity. It is seemingly the biggest story. On Thursday, he hit 89. He also has a good changeup and slider. To me, it’s more about pitch movement and mixing up speeds. He has given up three runs on six hits and a walk in 6.1 innings. Of the six hits, three have been home runs. If Neshek makes the team and is given the opportunity to continue to gain strength by pitching in low-leverage situations, he can play a big role in the Twins bullpen as he has in the past.

Jim Hoey: Hoey came over from the Orioles in the JJ Hardy trade. He throws hard, touching 99 mph. As we know, it’s all about throwing strikes for him. If he can harn the velocity, he can be dominant. That is yet to be seen. He has given up five runs on seven hits and four walks in 6.2 innings.

Glen Perkins: Perkins is out of options. He’s left-handed and can’t get left-handed batters out. He really struggled last year. The year before, he got off to a great start and then was hurt most of the season. The year before that, he was a double-digit winner for the Twins. Clearly the Minnesota native has some stuff. He’s left-handed, throws hard, has a good slider and he is breathing. Did I mention that he is out of options? That may be the biggest factor at the end of the day. However, for what it is worth, this spring he has given up two runs on seven hits and two walks in seven innings.

Scott Diamond: He was the Twins Rule 5 pick in December which means that he has to stay on the Twins roster throughout the 2011 season or be offered back to the Braves. Although he has given up just one run on six hits in six innings, he has also walked six batters. Twins brass talks about how slowly he has worked, which is something they have not seen in their years of scouting him.

Dusty Hughes: Inexplicably, the Royals designated the southpaw for assignment and the Twins happily claimed him and added him to the 40 man roster. They speak of his four-pitch mix. He has certainly made a strong impression during spring. In eight shutout innings, he has allowed just three hits. He has walked three also, but all three came in his Thursday outing.

Gardy’s Decision: The coaching staff seems quite high on Manship, and everyone is saying great things about Glen Perkins. Hughes has pitched great this spring, but the team needs to determine what happens with Perkins and Diamond before they determine what they will do with Hughes.

If the season started today: Pat Neshek, Glen Perkins, Dusty Hughes

The Big Picture:

How good can the Twins be if the roster decisions at this point are for the 12th hitter and 11th and 12th pitchers? That isn’t to minimize their roles at all. Each of the 25 players can help the team win games at any time. How large does a small sample need to be (good or bad) to be large enough to mean something? I mean, Dusty Hughes has been amazing through eight innings, but what if he gives up five runs without getting a batter out in his next outing? Luke Hughes has shown great power from the right-side, but what if he strikes out in his next 14 at bats against big league pitchers and commits two errors a day all around the field? The Twins have been disappointed with Scott Diamond and the pace he has shown on the mound this spring. In an interview on 1500espn on Sunday, assistant GM said that it was something they hadn’t seen in their years of scouting him. That scouting led them to love Diamond, so are they really going to let six innings in spring training completely negate what he had done for three minor league seasons before?

What if the Twins keep Dusty Hughes and let Glen Perkins and Scott Diamond go? If Hughes then struggles, two options are gone.

In the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook, I included Luke Hughes on my 2011 roster blueprint, as a right-handed bench bat because of his power. He had a great spring last year and was the first non-catching hitter called up. If not for injuries last year, we would likely have seen much more of him. What he has done this spring with the bat is likely taken a job that going into spring training, he was third on the depth chart. Again, he’s crushed it in spring for a role on the Twins bench that may get him six or seven at bats a week, but I do like the bat.

Sprint Training is always fun and interesting, and there are always great stories. To this point in spring, the Hughes Brothers (who of course are not brothers) have both put together strong springs that probably put them on the big league roster. With two weeks to go, what are the other stories of spring to follow? Are any other jobs up for grabs? What are your thoughts?

Here are some other notes and blogs to peruse:

That’s it for today! Have a great weekend! If you like, please feel free to comment, ask questions.

Still Building from Within

21 Dec

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net and www.startribune.com/blogs/twinscentric.

Look back a decade: Torii Hunter spent a couple of seasons making people wonder about his skills before becoming a star. Look back a generation: Frank Viola spent two seasons with a five-plus ERA before blossoming. Tell me why Casilla is utterly hopeless?

Howard Sinker in his A Fan’s View blog yesterday made a tremendous point. It is important to remain patient. Of course, in Viola’s third year, he posted a 3.21 ERA over 257.2 innings. I think Alexi Casilla will be fine. I think that Tsuyoshi Nishioka will be just fine. Will either post a .730 OPS? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t fill their roles adequately. I just don’t think that offense will be the biggest issue for the Twins in 2011. Pitching, both starting and bullpen, is where there are question marks, but the cupboard is not empty.

What I would like to see is if 29-year-old Scott Baker, in his seventh season with the Twins, can hit 200 innings (or post a sub-4.20 ERA) for just the second time, and earn his $5 million salary. I’d like to see Kevin Slowey, in his fifth big league season, be 100% healthy, and see what he can do. He threw 199 innings in 2007 between Rochester and Minnesota. I’d like to see Nick Blackburn get back to going 11-11 with an ERA between 4.03 and 4.05 like he did in 2008 and 2009. As bad as portions of their 2010 seasons were, none of this is unrealistic. They have done it before. Along with that, maybe Brian Duensing can prove a lot of us wrong and put together another strong season in 2011, hopefully the full season as a starter. And, Francisco Liriano put himself back in discussion for best pitchers in the league (which is also helped by Cliff Lee moving to the NL). If healthy, he can still continue to improve.

So, if Carl Pavano leaves for greener pastures in places like Washington, D.C., or Pittsburgh, it really is not the end of the world. What are the odds that he could post a 3.75 ERA again or throw another 221 innings in a season? Not terribly good.

The Twins have a history of building from within, or giving opportunities to players who have come up through their system, and to stand behind them through struggles. We have seen it time and again. And for the most part over the last decade, it has paid off. The Twins have used free agents to complement their core of home-grown players. Last year, there wasn’t a solid internal option at second base, so they signed Orlando Hudson.

Last week, the Twins lost Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier to free agency. It is likely that they will not bring back Brian Fuentes, Jon Rauch or Ron Mahay either. Fans, understandably, are up in arms about the lack of certainty in the Twins bullpen. There is no certainty that Joe Nathan will return to form in 2011. Jose Mijares is immensely talented, but he was up and down in 2010. Matt Capps is the given in the Twins bullpen, and he is what he is (a solid reliever). Beyond that, there are a lot of question marks.

Twins fans don’t want to hear about someone like Glen Perkins being a bullpen option in 2011. There are also a lot of guys with little or no big league experience being mentioned as options. I understand that is scary. We want certainty in the bullpen, right? Certainty, in this case, would have been retaining Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier because they are veterans, right? But if I read the comments here at the StarTribune.com blogs or many Twins blogs, most blog commenters were not big fans of Jesse Crain. Most blog commenters were not exactly confident when Matt Guerrier would come into games. But aside from Rafael Soriano, Brian Fuentes and Type A free agent and former Twins pitcher Grant Balfour, few relievers have been more reliable than Crain and Guerrier. And you didn’t want them back. So, who would be out there at this stage that could be counted on more? I am a proponent of signing RHP Jose Veras and LHP Hideki Okajima, but in each case, there are reasons that their 2010 team non-tendered them. Certainly not guarantees.

Simply stated, there are very few reliable relief pitchers from year to year. Most (or at least many) relief pitchers are failed starters. There are a lot of injuries. It is in the bullpen where you can find diamonds in the rough. It’s where guys (like Guerrier) who are out of options to get an opportunity, and a few take advantage of it. Look at the Yankees’ David Robertson. In 2009, he was a question mark. In 2010, he was getting put into some pretty big situations for the pinstripes.

With that said, there are a lot of options for breakout types in the Twins bullpen. Remember that they only need three or four of these guys to produce for the Twins in 2011:

  • Anthony Slama - It amazes me that many Twins fans seem to think he can’t contribute to the team. Are people really willing to say that a poor 4.2 inning debut in the big leagues tells us that he can’t pitch up there? Really? His 1.95 ERA over four minor league seasons mean nothing? His 12.5 K/9 means nothing? His 1.06 WHIP? His 2.44 ERA in one-plus seasons at AAA mean nothing? Bloggers and blog commenters have been clamoring for Slama for a few years, and now they’ll give up on him? Because of 4.2 bad innings? I think Slama can be a solid 7th inning guy.
  • Alex Burnett - he has a chance to be really good. He came up as a starter, a successful starter, but in 2009, he moved to the bullpen. Despite not pitching in AAA, and only a short time in AA, he was on teh Twins Opening Day roster and spent most of the first half with the Twins. He struggled as the season went along, but he has great stuff and will definitely be back with the Twins, eventually pitching late innings.
  • Pat Neshek - It amazes me how quickly some Twins fans turned on the sind-winding reliever. Yes, his velocity was down. I get that. But this year, he will get an actual offseason of working out and preparing, not an offseason of rehabilitation. Will he come back and be as incredible as he was in 2006 and 2007? Maybe, maybe not, but I’m willing to give him that opportunity.
  • James Hoey - Similarly, there was a lot of excitement about Hoey with the Orioles in 2006 and 2007. The righty throws hard and was generally thought to be the closer of the future with Baltimore. And then he had shoulder surgery, and he worked his way back up the ladder. His velocity is back. The strikeouts are back. He will need to cut down walks, but he is a power arm that the Twins bullpen needs.
  • Rob Delaney - Delaney was undrafted in 2006 and dominated the lower levels of the minor leagues, including AA. AAA has been more of a struggle, but consider that in 80 AAA innings, he walked just 23 and struck out 92. Sure, his one inning in the big leagues last September wasn’t pretty. He looked nervous and gave up a homer, a single and a walk before getting the three outs. But again, I’ve heard some say that he can’t handle the big leagues because of that one outing.
  • Kyle Waldrop - It surprised a lot of people that the Twins didn’t protece Waldrop after a terrific 2010 season with the Rochester Red Wings. Since returning from his shoulder surgery, he has been incredible out of the bullpen. After 20 games in Ft. Myers, he posted a 1.46 ERA in 31 New Britain games. He posted a 2.57 ERA in 2010 in Rochester, but his ERA was at ONE halfway through the 2010 season. Yes, he was not good in the Arizona Fall League, but he still has a chance to be a very good, groundball reliever.
  • Glen Perkins - A left-hander who did succeed a few years ago as a starter, he looks to be a lefty reliever in 2010. Of course, he doesn’t get left-handed batters out, so I just don’t know how he can contribute, but stranger things have happened when players get opportunities.
  • Eric Hacker, Yorman Bazardo, Jeff Manship, Anthony Swarzak, Chuck James - These guys could all get an opportunity for a long relief role. Manship filled the role toward the end of 2010 and could do so again, but the others are options.
  • Carlos Gutierrez - In a podcast just last week, Gutierrez informed me that he wants to pitch out of the bullpen, that it is where he is ‘at home.’ However, he acknowledged that spending the last couple of years as a starter has been valuable in helping him develop secondary pitches. I’m frequently asked who could be the 2011 version of Danny Valencia. Kyle Gibson certainly could come up in June and contributed as a starter. Carlos Gutierrez could come up in June and really help out the Twins bullpen.

Are any of those big name acquisitions? No. They are internal options. Can any of them contribute to the Twins in 2011? Absolutely. Can three of four of them join Nathan, Capps and Mijares to form a solid bullpen? Defintely. Am I just trying to be positive here? Probably. But can the internal choices be equal or better than the external, high-cost free agents? Absolutely.

The Twins historically have relied upon their own players, on building from within. It’s been a philosophy that has worked well for them. Even if their payroll has gone from $65 million to $100 million to $115 million, there is no reason to start spending foolishly on free agents or giving up the farm for players who might help. Can the Twins win the division with their current roster? I think so. It’d be tough, but I would not put it against them.

To be fair (and honest), I have been immensely frustrated with the Twins offseason. I expected them to wisely stay away from high-dollar free agents. I thought we might hear more about trades than we have. The Twins might soon spend a lot of money for two or three years on a guy who is already 35 years old. They could also give two years to a 40 year old one-dimensional player. I’m sure those moves will make a lot of fans happy. Maybe I’m strange. I figure there are six or seven weeks until pitchers and catchers report, so I still hold out that the team will add an impact player, the type of player who can make a difference without breaking the bank. But I don’t know that the team is better. I also don’t know what the Twins plans are, or their contingency plans are (if Pavano and/or Thome were to sign elsewhere). No one does because the Twins front office is great at not letting information leak We can’t all be Jim Breen!

Finally, Twins fans need to remember one important thing… at least the Twins and their stability is a lot better than following the Vikings and their chaos this year!

MORE TO READ TODAY:

Here are a few more articles for you to peruse throughout the day:

·         JJ Stankevitz has been a frequent guest of the SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast. He does a great job as the blogger for the White Sox site on Examiner.com. He is also a student at the University of Missouri where he writes for KBIA Sports Extra as well. He recently had the opportunity to meet fellow Missouri student/alumni and current Twins prospect Kyle Gibson. The results were a terrific article on Gibson.

·         Parker from Over the Baggy posted an article on the blueprint for a bullpen.

·         Needless to say, Fanatic Jack is Dazed and Confused about what is going on with the Twins offseason. It is really hard to disagree with him.

·         Twinkie Town has now completed its Top Ten Twins Prospects and you can now vote for Twins Prospect #11. Roger Dehring is going a great job of running the polls, and the discussion is terrific for anyone interested in Twins prospects.

Be sure to tune in to tonight’s SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast, live at 9:00.

More Arbitration Decisions

2 Dec

also available at http://www.SethSpeaks.net -

The Twins have a lot of decisions to make the 11:00 tonight. They have to determine if they will offer arbitration to the players that have more than three years of service time and less than six years of Major League service time. Although JJ Hardy is the name most mentioned, the Twins have to make decisions on ten other players. So although I think few of the decisions are difficult, here are some thoughts on each.

  • JJ Hardy – I think it would be absolutely crazy to non-tender Hardy. Although there has been some movement in the shortstop market, Hardy would still fit the needs of several teams for 2011. He’s young, terrific with the glove and when healthy, adequate with the bat, at least at the bottom of an order. Even if they have no intention to keep him in 2011, they should tender a contract and then trade him. My preferred Opening Day lineup would include Hardy at SS and Nishioka at 2B with Casilla as the primary utility infielder. If Hardy is gone and either Casilla or Nishioka struggles, it’s Trevor Plouffe time. I’m a big Plouffe backer, but I wonder how many Twins fans would be. Decision – Easy. Tender him a contract, and go from there.
  • Matt Capps – There should be more discussion about Capps, but there isn’t. Bill Smith has said that the team will bring back the right-hander. He is an interesting case. Although he was non-tendered after the 2009 season and signed with the Nationals for $3.5 million, he has some terrific save numbers the last two years. Saves equal dollars. So, will he jump up to $6 million in 2011, or could he jump up to $8 million? Capps is a very solid reliever. He does provide insurance if Joe Nathan is not ready to go early in the season (and odds are that he won’t be). But compare what Capps is to what Jon Rauch is, and tell me why the Twins should give Capps that kind of money. I understand that the team needs to keep Capps, in part, because they gave up Wilson Ramos to get him. But at what cost? However, with the Twins bullpen potentially decimated with the loss of so many free agents and an acknowledgement that the team will not turn the bullpen over to its talented/inexperienced minor leaguers, bringing back Capps is a no-brainer. I’d just prefer Crain for the money.
  • Francisco Liriano – Speaking of no-brainers, the only question here is whether or not to negotiate a long-term contract.
  • Delmon Young – Speaking of no-brainers, the only question here is whether or not to negotiate a long-term contract.
  • Alexi Casilla – Whether or not people have confidence that he can be a quality everyday player at SS or 2B, Casilla showed in 2010 that he can play both positions defensively, he can fill in for an extended time period, and he can put together decent at bats. This is another no-brainer since he could be a starting option and he is certainly a top utility option. He also won’t cost very much.
  • Kevin Slowey – There is no question that Slowey has terrific talent. The main problem the last two years has been staying healthy. In 2009, he missed time with a wrist injury that carried into 2010. He also was having problems in the back of his arm. When you look at his numbers, and no, I’m not talking about his terrific W-L record, he has performed as a middle-of-the-rotation type. It’s hard to complain with an ERA in the low-4s from a guy who was the team’s 4th or 5th starter much of the year. The problem last year was his inability to work consistently into the 6th inning, much less the 7th or 8th innings. It’s an easy choice to tender Slowey a contract. It will likely be about $2 to $2.5 million.
  • Pat Neshek – This could be an interesting decision. As much as it would be a no-brainer for me to tender Neshek a contract, I don’t know which direction the Twins will lean. I tend to look back at 2006 and 2007 and think about just how dominant he was. Since then, he hurt his elbow in May of 2008, and instead of having Tommy John surgery right away, the Twins decided that rest and rehab might be a proper plan. In November, Neshek had Tommy John surgery. He missed all of 2009, and came back in Spring Training. He pitched well enough that he earned a spot on the Twins Opening Day roster. Neshek hurt his hand early in the season and after a DL stint, he was optioned to Rochester where he stayed until September. Like Liriano, I would expect that Neshek will be significantly improved in 2011, his second full season back from Tommy John surgery. For less than $750K, I’d be willing to take that chance.
  • Glen Perkins – This is another interesting decision. Perkins showed signs a couple of years ago, that he could be a solid back-of-the-rotation starter. The left-hander has fought injuries and dog house time the last couple of seasons. Last year was a really tough year for Perkins down in Rochester until about three weeks before the Twins called him up. If tendered, Perkins could compete for a long-relief job. My fear would be that he would also be competing for a left-handed reliever job, and he can’t get left-handed hitters out. Again, we are talking about a 2011 contract that would be around $750,000, and the Twins need arms in the bullpen. The tough part is that he is out of options, so if he doesn’t earn the job out of spring training, he could be lost for nothing or would make the team because he has to. This one is 50/50 for me, but again, I probably would tender a contract and hope.
  • Jason Repko – The Twins signed Repko a day or two before the AAA season started and he played terrific for the Red Wings. Offensively, he was their best hitter, and he was terrific with the glove. The Twins called him up to be a fourth outfielder and he played well early, even hit a couple of home runs. Can’t hit much, but his defense in the Twins outfield was tremendous. I think they tender him a contract, and guarantee him about $650,000.
  • Clay Condrey – Condrey was kind of the forgotten member of the Twins roster. The team signed him last offseason for just $900,000 after the Phillies decided to non-tender him. He had pitched well out of the Phillies bullpen during their run from 2006-2009, but as a non-strikeout pitcher, they didn’t want to give him the $2+ million he may have received in arbitration last year. He came to Twins spring training and struggled. The groundball pitcher was giving up doubles and home runs. Something wasn’t right, and he was shut down with a shoulder injury that cost him the entire 2010 season. The assumption by many is that he won’t be back. I don’t know that that is true or fair. People can call the signing a bad one because the results were a season missed with injury. However, it doesn’t take away from what Condrey is. He is a veteran with big league bullpen experience, including in the playoffs and World Series. He is a ground ball pitcher. He is the type of pitcher that the Twins should sign. And in 2011, they may be able to get him to agree to a $750,000 contract. If they think  they can, they should tender him a contract. If not, they can cut ties.

 So there you have it, a couple of thoughts on the players that the Twins have to tender contracts to by 11:00 tonight or lose. I’d be interested in your input, so please feel free to discuss (nicely) in the Comments section. By the way, in the last couple of days, I’ve been talking about the Twins on the SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins Podcast, on The Dan Hammer Show yesterday on The Fan 740 in Fargo, and last night The Twins Geek and I joined the Fanatic Jack Twins Podcast. Be sure to listen to those if you haven’t already.

PODCAST ANNOUNCEMENT – In my podcast on Tuesday night, I announced that I am going to host special SethSpeaks.net Twins/Winter Meetings podcasts each night from Sunday night through Thursday night. Be sure to check daily for the show’s times (likely 10:00 central time). The shows will be a half-hour in length, and I will be joined by a guest each night to talk about the day’s signings, Twins rumors, AL Central rumors, trades and anything Twins fans want to discuss. We will definitely want your feedback and questions in the chat room for those shows. I am lining up guests, but at this point, Aaron Gleeman and Phil Mackey have confirmed that they will be on one of the nights each. Mackey will be in Orlando, at the Winter Meetings. It should be fun.

Twins Bullpen Blitz

14 Oct

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net and www.StarTribune.com -

It will be another offseason full of difficult decisions for the Minnesota Twins front office. There are double-figure free agents. They have two contracts with 2011 options that they need to determine if they should be picked up. There could be as many as nine arbitration situations. Although the Twins have a fairly solid core of players under contract for 2011, it will be interesting to see how those players are complemented.

One area that could experience the most turnover is in the bullpen. Over the last decade, Twins fans have seen how important a strong bullpen can be as well as how much it can hurt if the bullpen struggles. Even with Joe Nathan out for the entire 2010 season, the Twins went into the playoffs with what was believed to be solid, deep bullpen.

However, that group in the bullpen was comprised of several players who may not be in a Twins uniform in 2011 for various reasons. Here is what we know today:

Joe Nathan – We know that the Twins will be paying the veteran closer $11.25 million for the 2011 season even if we can’t confidently predict how good and how healthy he will be.

Matt Capps – He has a year of arbitration left. Looking historically at closers in their final arbitration year, it is likely that Capps could demand somewhere between $7 and $9 million in 2011. He was solid in 2010, and he would provide insurance should Nathan not be ready. He is prone to allowing plenty of base runners.

Jesse Crain – Despite the hanging slider to Mark Teixeira in Game 1, Crain proved himself to be one of baseball’s better relievers through most of the 2010 season. He is a Type B free agent. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he accepted, he could make $3 to $3.5 million in 2011. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he declines it, the Twins would get a supplemental 1st round draft pick when he signs elsewhere. After his season, it is likely that Crain could command a three or four year contract at an average of $3.5 to 4 million a season.

Jon Rauch – He was solid as the Twins closer through most of the season’s first half. Very hittable, but he racked up good save totals. He was also so bad late in the first half and early in the second half that the Twins had to trade their most big-league ready prospect for Capps. He also would be a Type B free agent. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he accepted, he could earn as much as $4 million in 2011. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he declines, the Twins would get a supplemental 1st round draft pick when he signs elsewhere. He could likely get a two year contract in the neighborhood of $5 million.

Matt Guerrier – Guerrier has racked up the relief appearances over the last four years. He has remained remarkably durable. He has also pitched at a very good level, well enough that he would be a Type A free agent. If the Twins offer him arbitration, and he accepted, he could earn $4 million in 2011. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he declines, the Twins would get the signing team’s first round pick next summer (unless the signing team owns one of the first 15 picks in draft, in which case, the Twins would receive their 2nd round pick) and a supplemental first round pick. Because he isn’t a strikeout pitcher, Guerrier could struggle to find a team willing to give up and early draft pick to sign him. If the Twins do not offer him arbitration, Guerrier could probably sign a two year deal worth between $6 and 7 million total.

Brian Fuentes – The Twins got a good one when they acquired Fuentes from the Angels. The 35 year old southpaw was amazing against left-handed bats. He led the league in Saves in 2009 and recorded 25 saves with the Angels in 2010 before the trade. He made $9 million in 2010. He becomes a Type B free agent because his 2011 option would only vest with 55 games finished (he finished 35 total in 2010). If the Twins offer him arbitration and he accepts, the Twins would likely pay him between $9 and 10 million in 2011. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he declines, the Twins would gain a supplemental 1st round pick next summer. If the Twins do not offer arbitration, he could sign with a team needing a closer and get two years and $14-15 million. Or, if all teams see him as an 8th inning lefty type, he could still get two years and $8-9 million.

Clay Condrey, Randy Flores, Ron Mahay – We have to assume that these free agents will not be back with the Twins in 2011, and if so, it would be like Mahay’s minor league deal signed late in spring training.

Pat Neshek – He made $650,000 in 2010, his first arbitration year. If he is offered arbitration, he likely would be in the $650,000 to $750,000 range. If not, he would become a free agent.

Glen Perkins – Perkins got enough time in 2010 with the Twins to make himself arbitration-eliglble this offseason, a year later than he wanted. He would probably make $750,000 in arbitration, if offered.

Jose Mijares, Alex Burnett, Jeff Manship, Anthony Slama, Rob Delaney, Kyle Waldrop, Anthony Swarzak, Jose Lugo – These pitchers all have less major league service time than required to be arbitration eligible, so they would make about the league minimum, around $420,000. Mijares would likely be closer to $450,000-500,000.

More to Consider:

  • The Twins bullpen generally consists of six and sometimes seven relievers, including the closer.
  • Joe Nathan is pretty much untradable right now. Until he proves he is healthy, the assumption must be that he will be paid by the Twins.
  • There are free agent bullpen options left and right, many of whom will be available and looking for a job as spring training approaches. So your bullpen does not completely need to be filled by the above players.
  • It cost top prospect Wilson Ramos to acquire Matt Capps from the Nationals. There is no way that the Twins would non-tender Capps. But think about this; would you rather have Matt Capps at $8 million, or bring back Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier at a combined $7 million? Would you rather pay Capps $8 million. Could the Twins trade Capps before arbitration to bring back more young talent?
  • How much money should the Twins tie up in the bullpen? Potentially $20 million is locked up between Nathan and Capps. If we assume a $110 or even $120 million payroll, how many dollars should the bullpen cost?
  • With that in mind, would you rather have Capps at $8 million or JJ Hardy $6 million and a veteran, right-handed bench bat who could spell Justin Morneau at 1B for $2 million?
  • If the Twins bring back Carl Pavano and pay him $9 million in 2010, there could be a starter or two who would pitch out of the bullpen. Francisco Liriano and Brian Duensing will be in the rotation. Scott Baker will get a big pay raise in 2011, so he should start. Nick Blackburn’s salary jumps up to $3 million in 2011. Kevin Slowey could get $2 million or so in his first year of arbitration. Without a trade, there are six starters right there, and one would likely get pushed to the bullpen.
  • And that doesn’t even take into account a couple of pretty strong starting pitching prospects in Kyle Gibson and David Bromberg, both of which could be ready by June for the big leagues. It also doesn’t factor in a couple of very hard-throwing bullpen arms who could be ready soon like Carlos Gutierrez or Billy Bullock.

So, if you’re the GM, and you have to worry about a payroll, and you alone have the final call on the Twins roster, what does it look like? Which free agents do you offer arbitration? Which do you want back? Which young pitchers do you want to be on the big league roster? How do you make it all work?

The TwinsCentric Offseason Handbook is now available for pre-order at just $4.95 for the first 500 copies sold THIS WEEK. To learn more about the entire Twins roster, all the questions they have to ask, and the options that they may have, this is a must-have electronic book. We will look at the 40 man roster decisions, outline the entire Organizational Depth chart, review the cases for and against the many Twins players eligible for arbitration, look at the Twins players who can become free agents, look at other players around the league who will be available via free agency as well as potential trade targets. This book is as comprehensive as it gets. If you’re not convinced, you can get last year’s version for FREE as a sample of what you will be getting.

PODCASTS – Last night, the Twins Geek and I were both on Fanatic Jack’s podcast and we talked about all of the Twins free agents and arbitration-eligibles and some possible trade candidates. It was a lot of fun and if you have a chance, please listen to it here. Of course, if you missed my podcast on Tuesday night, you can http://www.blogtalkradio.com/sethspeaks/2010/10/13/sethspeaksnet-weekly-minnesota-twins-podcastlisten to that here.

BLOGS -

Arizona Fall League

The AFL is back in swing now and the Twins prospects are playing for the Peoria Saguaros. In their first game, on Tuesday night, Chris Parmelee went 1-4 with a double. Joe Benson was 0-2. Ben Revere was 0-1. Tyler Robertson gave up one run on a hit and three walks in his first inning. Kyle Waldrop gave up two runs in his two innings. Last night, Ben Revere went 1-4 with an RBI. Chris Parmelee was 2-4. Joe Benson went 1-3 with a run scored. Carlos Gutierrez struck out two in a scoreless inning. The one Twins prospect that has not played in their first two games is David Bromberg. The righty will start for the team on Friday.

Lots of things covered above, please Leave your comments here.

Neshek Injury was Misdiagnosed

6 May

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

1500 ESPN’s Phil Mackey was the first to report that Pat Neshek had posted an update on his injury situation on his Twitter account.

 “Had MRI, Went to Hand Specialist, found pain was coming from my palm and not my finger like 1st diagnosed Can’t wait to be back pitching.”

 

Late last night on his Facebook page, Neshek wrote:

“Yeah it’s been a drag on me. Here’s what’s going on. I injured my finger about 3 weeks ago, got a cortisone shot in the finger and told to rest for a week. The pain never went away but my finger felt a little better. During the entire time throwing I have not felt that well out there playing catch (painful to grip and release the ball) and in games. I pitched with pain since the initial diagnosis said that it would go away and throwing a baseball would help it. Well, 3 weeks have passed and I’m still having trouble gripping a ball. I went in for an MRI and to a hand specialist and learned that I was misdiagnosed. My pain was coming from near the palm of my hand where my middle finger in my palm…called a pulley tendon. The best thing to help it is a direct injection of cortisone, rest, not to stretch it or use it doing things that put stress on it. To get a cortisone injection I need to wait at least 4 weeks after my last one. I had my last one 3 weeks ago. I’m not happy with anything that has gone on especially when it could have been taken care of 3 weeks ago and was told the wrong info. For me, I’m not going to risk tearing a finger, I want this to be healed ASAP and I want to pitch ASAP. My number one priority is to get this feeling fine and pitch…I don’t care where I pitch Twins, AAA, AA, A, whatever, because I know when I’m healthy, I will be getting guys out, But as for right now, I’m hurting and need to get this feeling normal. That’s where I’m at right now. Gardy & I are on the same page, we had a miscommunication in Cleveland but are on the same page and both agree the #1 thing is to get healthy and pitch.”

I am really happy that Pat has made this information known. He has been unfairly beaten up a little by some in the media who took some initial reports (Please note- the Twins beat writers have done a great job of reporting. They reported the information that they had at the time. Some columnists and radio shows have taken the unfair shots at Neshek.), made some assumptions and ran with them. Hopefully with the news that Neshek did have an MRI and found that he was misdiagnosed, some of those people will take a step back. Why the Twins didn’t have Neshek do an MRI right away instead of wasting a month, who knows? I don’t think anyone can or should question Pat Neshek’s effort and desire to pitch. He has shown that over the last couple of years. Most important, it is good to hear that Pat and Gardy are on good terms. That is obviously important as well. The key is that they now have the right diagnosis and a plan in place that will help get Pat Neshek back on the mound for the Minnesota Twins when he is ready.

RADIO UPDATE – At approximately 9:15 on Thursday morning, I will be on KFAN and KFAN.com with Paul Allen, talking about the Twins, so be sure to listen if you are able.

SethSpeaks Wednesday Minor League Hitter of the Day – Yancarlos Ortiz – New Britain Rockcats

SethSpeaks Wednesday Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Edgar Ibarra – Beloit Snappers

Red Wings Report   

Wednesday – Rochester No Game Scheduled

New Britain Notes

Wednesday – New Britain 9, New Hampshire 3 – The Rockcats needed a win, and they got a laugher. David Bromberg had a substandard start by his standards), but he kept damage to a minimum. Bromberg gave up three runs (2 earned) on seven hits and five walks. Joe Testa recorded his first win. In two innings, he gave up three hits but no runs. He walked none and struck out three. Spencer Steedley, Chris Province and Santos Arias each gave up one hit and one walk, but no runs, in one inning of relief. Yancarlos Ortiz went 3-3 with two walks. Chris Parmelee went 2-5 with his fourth and fifth doubles. Rene Tosoni was 2-4 with a walk and second home run. Alexander Soto went 2-5 with a double. Ben Revere had two hits and his seventh stolen base.

Miracle Matters

Wednesday – Ft. Myers 0, Jupiter 3 – The Miracle bats simply were unable to get much accomplished in this game. They managed just three hits. Michael Tarsi started and went five innings. He gave up three runs on five hits. He walked four and struck out three. Blake Martin and Shooter Hunt each threw two scoreless innings. Hunt walked none and struck out two.  

Snappers Snippets

Wednesday – Beloit 5, Clinton 2Edgar Ibarra joined the Snappers starting staff, replacing the promoted Dan Osterbrock, and recorded his third win of the year. The lefty went five innings and gave up one run on three hits. He walked none and struck out three. Peter Kennelly gave up one run on two hits and walked five in two innings. Dakota Watts then threw two shutout frames.

Any questions? Leave your comments here.

Ramos to AAA, Neshek Makes Team!

31 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

 

Twins fans and bloggers have probably spent way too many words this spring on the backup catching situation, myself included. I’m as high on Wilson Ramos as anyone. In the Minnesota Twins 2010 Prospect Handbook, I ranked him behind only Aaron Hicks in my Top 40 prospect list. But Ron Gardenhire this morning had to tell Ramos that he would be starting the season in Rochester. Thankfully Bill Smith made the right decision here, as much as I would like to see Ramos get an opportunity with the Twins. It really was the easy choice. Fortunately, Ramos did everything he could to make the choice more difficult. Simply put, Ramos needs to play. 

But Twins fans and bloggers should be spending a LOT more time talking about one of the best stories in baseball this spring, the return of Pat Neshek. After being out since May of 2008, Neshek proved himself strong this spring and earned a spot on the Twins opening day roster! It’s a testament to all of the hard work that he has put in to make it happen. So, congratulations to him.

 

Any thoughts? Leave comments here.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 35 other followers