Minor League Report

16 Apr

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

UPDATE – I have now posted my most recent blog at the Star Tribune’s Your Voices blog page. It is called Why the Vikings? I think Twins fans will enjoy it, but it is also asking for your comments, so please feel free to add your opinions in their comments section. I would also encourage you to let any Vikings fans know about the article too, because I am very curious about their thoughts. I also want to encourage you to check out the great writings there of Darren “Doogie” Wolfson, who has been writing a couple of blog postings each week. I think you’ll really enjoy his list of the top 10 Gophers Multi-Sport Athletes.  

 

 

The Twins lost 12-2 to the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night. It was a horrible game. The Twins jumped ahead 2-0 on Scott Richmond but then the Jays scored a dozen straight. Scott Baker made his first start of the year, and his performance looked a lot like his spring starts. He gave up four home runs (out of the five hits he gave up). He gave up six runs as he also walked two. Philip Humber struggled again. R.A. Dickey did a nice job for 2.1 innings, but then Luis Ayala gave up two runs in the 9th inning. The offense did a good job of making another pitcher they hadn’t seen before look good.

 

So, we are simply not going to talk any more about that game. We just have to keep saying that it was just one out of 162 games! For much more on the Twins, please be sure to listen to last night’s MNGameNight.com podcast. I was the host, Parker Hageman of Over the Baggy was the guest, and John Bonnes, the Twins Geek, called in from outside the Dome after the game. And then at 10:00 (central time) tonight, John and I will be hosting the final episode of the week.  

 

 

Instead, we are going to talk about the Twins minor league system. The four full-season Twins affiliates have now been playing for about a week. As a quick reminder for most of you, or a bit of information for those of you who weren’t aware, here are the Twins full season affiliates:

·         AAA – Rochester Red Wings (New York) – International League – for the great majority of players, this is the final stop before the big leagues. This year’s roster has a good combination of prospects that could be Twins in the future, guys like Trevor Plouffe, Luke Hughes, Kevin Mulvey, Anthony Swarzak, Jose Mijares, Drew Butera and Dustin Martin. There are also several minor league veterans who are brought in for organizational depth (to fill a whole either for a year or just temporarily until someone from AA is ready to move up) or guys that a Twins scout or coach saw do something and felt might have a chance.

·         AA – New Britain Rockcats (Connecticut) – Eastern League – there is generally a belief that if a player succeeds at AA, he may only need an opportunity to become a big leaguer. Although the Twins prefer to promote one step at a time, there is plenty of precedent showing they will promote from AA. Brad Radke was called up from AA. Just last year, the Twins weren’t afraid to promote Jose Mijares from AA during a pennant race. In previous seasons, the Rockcats have had tremendous talent and expectations, yet have really struggled. This year’s roster has a ton of talent and several guys who arguably could be playing in AAA. Guys like Steve Tolleson, Rob Delaney, Zach Ward and Danny Valencia all had success at this level a year ago. They will start the season back here and with a strong start could be promoted quickly.

·         Hi-A – Ft. Myers Miracle – Florida State League – this is typically known as a pitcher’s league, but this year’s team has scored a lot of runs early in the season. The Twins have a history showing that if a prospect has a strong first half with the Miracle, they will be promoted to AA for the season’s second half. Last year, four players were promoted after the team won the 1st Half championship and clinched a playoff spot.

·         Low-A – Beloit Snappers – Midwest League – This is typically a group of players spending their first season in full-season ball. That is an adjustment from the short-season teams. They also have to deal with Wisconsin weather in the spring, so its’ always interesting to see how the Latin American players as well as players from southern climates perform early in the season.

·         BONUS – Extended Spring Training – Players that did not make a full-season squad and were not released stay in Ft. Myers and participate in drills led by Jake Mauer. They also play games against each other and other organizations in the area. It is an opportunity for young players to develop skills without the pressure of a full-season team. It allows them to mature. There are currently 55 players in Extended Spring Training. Several players who played last year in the Dominican Summer League came to Ft. Myers last week, so they will also be learning a new culture and new teammates. This will continue until mid-June, after the draft, when these players and the drafted players will go to either Elizabethton, Tennessee, to play (usually college players drafted) or if they will stay in Ft. Myers and play for the Gulf Coast League Twins. Of course, injured players will also be in Ft. Myers rehabilitating.

·         Learned that the Twins will again maintain their academy in Venezuela in 2009. However, they will again choose not to participate in the Venezuelan Summer League.  

 

So, of course, one of the obvious discussion points at this time is where the players ended up. Here are some guys I was curious about:

·         Steve Tolleson – after a solid season in AA in 2008, he went to the Arizona Fall League and surprised a lot of people with a very strong showing. He was added to the 40 man roster in December. The assumption was that he would move up to Rochester for the 2009 season. Instead, he is back in New Britain. There are a couple of reasons. First, he was injured during big league camp and didn’t get a lot of playing time. Secondly, the Rochester middle infield already includes Trevor Plouffe, Matt Macri, Alejandro Machado, Luke Hughes and Matt Tolbert, and they all deserve to be there and play as well. Adding Tolleson to that mix would mean that he would not play every day, and his at bats would take at bats away from those other guys. Tolleson has three years worth of options remaining. He can go back to New Britain and play every day and continue to get better.  

·         Rob Delaney – he started the 2008 season by dominating at Ft. Myers. He was one that moved to New Britain for the second half of the season where he continued his dominance. He was named MiLB.com’s Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. He went to the Arizona Fall League where he had his moments, but certainly didn’t dominate. After a full season, that should not be factored terribly much. Since he was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2006, he did not yet need to be added to the Twins 40 man roster last winter. The Twins did invite him to big league came as a non-roster invitee. From box scores and reports, Delaney did alright, but nothing spectacular. So, I think another half season at AA will be good for him. He can again team with Anthony Slama to form a great back end of the bullpen. That said, unlike Tolleson, who is blocked by players that need to play and could contribute to the Twins in 2009, Delaney is being blocked by several organizational fillers. That is not to say that there aren’t still things he could work on at AA. There is value in him spending more time there, but I also believe that he could be called up soon.

·         Kyle Waldrop – after missing all of 2008 because of shoulder surgery, several people were asking me where I felt Waldrop should start the 2009 season. In 2007, he split time between Ft. Myers and New Britain. He has begun the 2009 season in the Ft. Myers bullpen, and I fully support that decision. The overall future of the Twins top 2004 draft pick remains as a starter at this point. However, after missing all of 2008, I think it is important to ease him back in. To start the season, it will be nice for him to be able to pitch a couple of innings at a time rather than feeling like he has to provide five or six innings and throw more pitches. Pitching out of the bullpen allows him to be a little more structured and progress naturally. Secondly, a guy that is coming off of major arm surgery is better off staying in the warmth of Ft. Myers than being asked to push it in the northern climates. Waldrop appeared on a SethSpeaks.net Weekly Twins Podcast this offseason and I made the comment that where he starts the 2009 season doesn’t really matter. Where he ends it will be much more important.

·         Tom Stuifbergen – ‘Stuif’ became a known Twins prospect this spring when he started the elimination game between the Dominican Republic and his team from the Netherlands. Stuifbergen managed to throw four shutout innings against that incredible Dominican lineup. Many Twins fans wondered if he might have done enough to start the season as high as Ft. Myers! Think about that for a second, the 20 year old would have been approximately the same age that Deolis Guerra was at Ft. Myers last year, and I think we all believe that he was unjustly pushed too quickly. Then add in the fact that Stuifbergen missed all of the 2008 season with shoulder surgery and pitched just a handful of innings in the GCL in 2007. It is likely that he will be pitching for Elizabethton in June, unless there is a need in Beloit earlier.

·         Rene Tosoni – Last year, Tosoni skipped Beloit and played well during the early stages of the 2008 season for Ft. Myers. Unfortunately he was hurt early in the season and only came back for the last two games of the regular season and the playoffs. I thought he would head back to Ft. Myers for a little time, but instead he is now playing in New Britain. The Twins are often accused of being overly patient and cautious with promotions, but Tosoni is certainly a case of the opposite. There is a strong belief in the organization in not only Tosoni’s ability to hit, but also in his abilities as an all-around baseball player. They are also confident in his maturity and ability to handle the promotions.

·         Aaron Hicks – Obviously this is the one most people talk about first. Remember that Hicks is even younger than Ben Revere was a year ago. Although he is more advanced than Revere was overall, that isn’t to say there aren’t things that he could work on before moving up to a full season team. Tyler Robertson is another example of a recent high school draft pick who began his first full season at Extended Spring Training before moving up and having a lot of success. That is not a bad pattern to follow. Secondly, notice that the Twins did not invite Hicks to spring training. Several major league organizations invite their top pick from the previous season to big league camp. Look at the Philadelphia Phillies. They had 2008 top pick Anthony Hewitt in big league camp. A year earlier. They had Kyle Drabek, another top pick out of high school, in big league camp. The Twins believe, and rightfully so, that players need to earn things, no matter their draft status. Big league camp has to be earned. And by not just handing Aaron Hicks a job in Beloit, it may be beneficial on several levels over time. Finally, Aaron Hicks is from southern California. He has likely never played ball in the types of conditions and temperatures that he would see in Beloit. Trevor Plouffe’s early season numbers in his Midwest League season would be an indicator. I have no doubt that Aaron Hicks will be in Beloit before the short season teams start.

 

I also asked about some players who are beginning the season on a Disabled List in the Minor Leagues:

·         Paul Kelly is at home resting his knee. Not much more he can do right now.

·         Oswaldo Sosa will miss the entire season with a fracture in his lower back. This is the same injury that Whit Robbins has had in the past, and Joe Benson missed most of the second half of 2008 rehabbing. Drew Thompson also had this injury and has not played in about two years. He was able to stay healthy throughout spring training, but the organization wisely is not putting him into the cold of Beloit yet.

·         Several players with arm injuries are rehabbing at various stages from return. Loek Van Mil had the same injury as Pat Neshek and like Neshek was told to rest and then rehab it. He is close and has been pitching in minor league spring games and EST games. Blair Erickson missed a bunch of time in Spring Training but appears to be close. David Martin could start throwing in about a week. That is about the same timeline that Curtis Leavitt will start throwing again. Michael Tarsi and Ben Hendrickson are also rehabbing, but their timelines are a little longer. Thomas Wright broke his hand, so his timeline is certainly still up in the air. Finally, Brian Kirwan had surgery and will likely miss the entire season.

·         With Brian Duensing returning to Rochester, a roster move was necessary. Tim Lahey was put on the Disabled List with a foot injury.

 

Every once in awhile, I learn something that I previously was unaware of. Maybe I should have known, but maybe there was just never any reason for me to think of it.

·         The Twins signed Justin Huber very late, right near the start of the World Baseball Classic (Huber played for Australia). When the tournament was complete, he reported to Twins minor league camp and participated. So it was strange to me that he had visa problems at that time and could not play. That is why he is on the restricted list for Rochester. To play in the WBC, Huber was on a visa waiver program. The Twins signed him late, so they were not prepared with a work visa, but they are now in the process of doing that. He was able to play in Spring Training games because players are not paid during spring training. I was unaware of that. The players are provided with three meals a day and lodging in a hotel (or a per diem if they choose not to stay in the hotel). Technically, the contracts do not start until the regular season. Major League players receive an ‘allowance’ during the spring, something that was negotiated in the Basic Agreement.

 

Have you changed your opinion yet?

·         When the Twins added Drew Butera to their 40 man roster in December, it was roundly criticized by bloggers and fans alike. I was a little surprised, but I also understood. I remain curious about his defense. Seeing Jose Morales struggle with his throws has made me wonder more if Butera should be promoted. With all of the talk of the defensive abilities of Butera, I am curious if anyone has changed their opinion on the Twins decision to add him to the 40 man roster?

 

Speaking of catchers –

·         I found it interesting that 1.) Eli Tintor was moved back to catcher, and 2.) That he was sent back to Beloit after playing in Ft. Myers last year. Natural, level-by-level promotion would put him in New Britain this year. The decision was made because Tintor has not caught for awhile and pushing him too far up would likely not be fair. Allan de San Miguel is the backup catcher to Wilson Ramos for the Rockcats. The organization has a lot of confidence in his abilities behind the plate.

 

That’s what I’ve got for a minor league update for today. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and hopefully you have learned something. I hope to do occasional updates on the minor league system and I would love your input. What types of questions do you have about players, or player development, or philosophies that I should dig into? Please feel free to e-mail me those types of questions and I will research.

 

With that, here are the reports on the Twins minor league games from Wednesday night:

 

ROCHESTER REPORT

Wednesday – Rochester 2, Pawtucket 4 – Six Red Wings hitters had one hit. Matt Tolbert was 1-3 with a walk. Kevin Mulvey started and in 4.2 innings, he gave up three runs on seven hits and a walk. He struck out five. Armando Gabino gave up a run on three hits in 2.1 innings of relief. He struck out two. Mike Gosling struck out four in two innings.

 

ROCKCAT RECAP

Wednesday – New Britain 6, Portland 3Matt Moses went 3-5! Yes, that Matt Moses. He had three hits in this game! Erik Lis went 3-4 with a walk. Juan Portes went 2-4 with his second double. Brian Dinkelman went 2-5. Jay Rainville made the start. In four innings, he gave up three unearned runs. He allowed six hits and a walk while striking out four. Then the bullpen took over with five scoreless innings. Zach Ward struck out two in two innings. Jose Lugo threw an inning. Rob Delaney struck out all three batters he faced. Anthony Slama got the save with two strikeouts in the 9th.   

 

MIRACLE MEMOS

Wednesday – Game 1 – Ft. Myers 3, Jupiter 0Deolis Guerra threw five shutout innings for his first win of the year. He gave up three hits, walked one and struck out three. Santos Arias pitched a scoreless sixth, and Alex Burnett picked up the save with two strikeouts in the 7th. Rene Leveret led the offense by going 3-3 with an RBI.

Wednesday – Game 2 – Ft. Myers 2, Jupiter 4 – The Miracle managed just six hits in this game. Mark Dolenc and Chris Cates each had a double. Carlos Gutierrez started and gave up a run on four hits in five innings. He walked none and struck out three. Matt Williams struck out two in his inning. Kyle Waldrop came in for the save, but he gave up three runs (just one earned) on three hits in the inning to take the loss.  

 

SNAPPERS SNIPPETS

Wednesday – Game 1 – Beloit 0, Quad Cities 3Michael Allen threw a complete game in the first game, all six innings. He gave up three runs on eight hits and a walk. He struck out six. Unfortunately Hector Cardenas and Kevin Thomas combined to no-hit the Snappers. A Ramon Santana walk was the only thing from perfection.

Wednesday – Game 2 – Beloit 3, Quad Cities 6 – The Snappers were able to manage four hits in the second game though! Ramon Santana hit his second homer and drove in two runs. Ozzie Lewis hit his second double. Shooter Hunt remains a complete anomaly. In just 3.2 innings, he gave up two runs on two hits. Not bad, right? Until you see that he also walked seven hitters and hit another. He did strike out five. Dan Berlind came in and got one out. He walked two batters and both scored. Henry Reyes gave up two runs (1 earned) on a hit. He struck out two. Steve Blevins came in and threw a scoreless inning.

 

That is it for today. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.   Send me an e-mail, or leave your questions or comments here.

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6 Responses to “Minor League Report”

  1. Jeff in WI April 16, 2009 at 7:52 am #

    I went to Cedar Rapids over the weekend and saw the Snappers. They look a bit disjointed if that makes sense. Not all on the same page. Morales had a couple of so so games and his double that he picked up on Sunday was a gift from the Ump, it might have caught a thread of 3rd base as it bounced down the line in foul ground.

    Best performance I saw was Lanigan with Rondon coming in second, Rondon almost worked out the bases loaded no outs mess from Blevins. Hitters no one really stood out, I may head down to Beloit Sunday to catch a game.

    Good to see Matt Moses get some hits. I have said this before, but besides Mauer he had the best swing I have seen a Twins player have in A ball. (I never got to see Morneau.)But he has been at AA for awhile so he should be showing some signs of progress there.

    I root for guys like him and Plouffe who have had high expectations and struggled to meet them. Also I think Trevor is a real good kid from his time in Beloit.

    Love reading your stuff both here and at Strib.com. Take care!

  2. mike wants wins April 16, 2009 at 8:14 am #

    I’m curious. Given your complete support of Young and Cuddeyer, what role do you see Hughes or Martin playing anytime soon for this team?

    Delaney and Slama are better than Humber right now. They are probably better than Ayala also. I’d much rather those two were up here than the two I named. The obsession with keeping Humber so they don’t lose him just makes no sense, given his track record since surgery.

  3. JA April 16, 2009 at 10:02 am #

    Great stuff Seth! Is the bullpen concerning you yet? Humber does not surprize anyone, we all know why he is on the roster. My question lies with Ayala, he does not look good. On the plus side, Nathan, Crain, Guerrier, and Breslow all look fine. We sure could use a power lefty who can get both handed batters out. Let’s hope Ayala will find something

  4. Han Joelo April 16, 2009 at 2:05 pm #

    Did Shooter walk that many people in college? If not, what do you suppose changed? Should I feel encouraged or even excited by Guerra’s line? And finally, do you think a fellow like Morales has ever experienced anything like Beloit weather, let alone played in it?

  5. Seth April 16, 2009 at 2:34 pm #

    With Hughes, I’ve said all along that I think that he should play some 2B, 3B and LF along with DH and PH. I think Martin is a little better than Jason Pridie potentially, and Tosoni is a little better than that. They all could start if necessary. None would probably be stars.

    Delaney and Slama are “probably” bette than Humber and maybe Ayala now, but we don’t know. Also, both aren’t on he 40 man roster. They could very easily be added to replace the two you mentioned. But again, let’s give a little more than ten days.

    Bullpen is a bit of a concern, although not really worried about Nathan, Crain or Guerrier and RA Dickey will be fine in the role he will be asked to fill. Ayala and Humber are concerns, and Breslow has been up and down (but not quite as worried yet about him). If the starters can go seven innings with a lead, I like having those first three.

    Shooter Hunt was considered a top 10-15 pick coming into last year and then he walked a ton his junior year at Tulane, so this isnt a new problem. And look what he did in his short time at Beloit last season.

    Shouldn’t be overly excited or concerned about any numbers in the minor leagues at this point. It is just 5-6-7 games into the season.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Twins Morning Doinks : Baseball Digest - April 16, 2009

    […] more Minor League information, make sure to head over to Seth Speaks where Seth Stohs gives us a Minor League Report where he took a look at how each organizational team did yesterday and gave his thoughts on several […]

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