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Programming – At 10:00 tonight, be sure to join me for the SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins Podcast. Guests being lined up.
The full-season minor league campaigns just got started on Thursday. The Twins affiliates have played four or five games. Little can be made out of the small sample size, but already some stories are jumping to the forefront. So, take any statistics below with a grain of salt. Few players even have 20 at bats yet. However, here are some interesting notes and stories from the season’s first handful of games:
Trevor Plouffe was named as the International League Player of the Week. After going 0-4 on Opening Night, Plouffe recorded eight hits (including five extra base hits, three of which were home runs) over the next three games. His second home run in Saturday’s game came with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and tied the game. Three innings later, Jeff Bailey would end the game with a walk-off home run. With the early struggles of Alexi Casilla, Trevor Plouffe will be a prospect to watch. We saw last year that he can hit for power, but can he get on base, put the ball in play, and maybe most important, can he make the plays with the glove and his arm?
In 2008, the Twins used their third first-round draft pick (first pick of the supplemental first round) on Shooter Hunt. Since a solid debut that year, he has struggled with his control. This has been well documented. In the past two seasons, he has thrown 100 innings and struck out 105 batters. That speaks to his incredible stuff. However, he has walked 142 in that same time. He returns to the Ft. Myers bullpen in 2011 where he has pitched twice so far this year. In 3.2 innings, he has give up four unearned runs on five hits, three walks and has two strikeouts.
Hunt is joined in Ft. Myers this year by 2010 top pick Alex Wimmers. When drafted, some ‘experts’ deemed Wimmers the pitching prospect from that draft most ready for the big leagues because of his terrific control and a big league changeup. A couple of weeks ago, it was reported to me that Wimmers, too, was experiencing a case of the “yips.” He was really struggling with his control in spring training games. I didn’t make much of it, hoping that when the regular season started, he would be just fine and there would be nothing to make of it. He was the fifth starter for the Ft. Myers Miracle (Where after signing late last year, he gave up six hits, walked five and struck out 23 in 15.2 innings). Last night, he made his first start of the season. He faced six batters. He walked all four of them and threw three wild pitches before being removed from the game. Hopefully this is a short-term story, but it is one that can’t, and won’t, be ignored.
Ft. Myers is currently 4-1 on the short season. Chris Herrmann was invited to spring training as a non-roster invite and as a catcher. He has caught one time in the first five games and has played left field three games. Last year, he was described to me as the best defensively left fielder in the Florida State League. He is also a solid, improving catcher. After skipping Beloit last year, Herrmann represented the Miracle at the midseason All-Star game. He is off to a terrific start. He has seven hits in 14 at bats, including a triple. He has walked three times and has not struck out.
2008’s first, first-round pick, Aaron Hicks may have experienced some ‘struggles’ late last week, but has has done well in his adjustment to the Florida State League. He is 7-20 (.350) with a double and a triple. He has walked four times and struck out just once. He has played terrific defense in centerfield. The one area that he really has to improve is his base running. He is 0-2 in stolen base attempts and been picked off twice.
After hitting 27 home runs last year (and 23 of them in AA), Joe Benson returned to New Britain to start the 2011 season. He currently is 8-17 (.471) with two doubles and a home run. The key number to watch, if you’re following the progress of Benson, is his strikeout number. At this point, he has three strikeouts in 17 at bats, a rate he will hopefully be able to maintain throughout the year.
Andrei Lobanov is a recently-turned-21-year-old lefty from Moscow who has done a terrific job the last two years in the Twins lower minor league levels. In 109 innings coming into the season, he has walked just 19 batters and struck out 111 while working out of the bullpen. This year, he is going to get an opportunity to start. He made his first start last night for Beloit and gave up two runs in four innings. However, he walked just one and struck out six. Could he be a solid starter, or is he just getting a chance to do that until Pat Dean comes back from his injury?
One thing that is always interesting to me is to see how players adjust from Elizabethton to Beloit. It is a move from the Twins Advanced Rookie League team to the Low A Midwest League. It is always interesting to see how players from the Caribbean or Latin America, or from Florida, Texas, California or other warm-weather states, do in the cold of Beloit’s early April. Most often, these players (and their bats) take a month of so to heat up.
Well, through five games, a couple of Snappers are standing out:
- Outfielder Daniel Ortiz is 8-14 (.571/.647/.1.214) with a double, triple and two homer runs. Last night, he was a double from the cycle. He was my preseason choice for Twins Minor League breakout player of the year. The reason is that after making a strong debut in the GCL after the Twins drafted him in the 4th round of the 2008 draft. Unfortunately, a knee injury cost him his entire 2009 season. He came back in 2010 and played for Elizabethton. It was a slow progression for him, but in August, he hit eight home runs. He is not a big guy, but he has a lot of power.
- DH Oswaldo Arcia is 7-16 (.438/.474/.750) with three doubles and a triple. I list him as a DH because he is yet to play in the field. When I watched him take a few rounds of batting practice in Ft. Myers, he would crush the ball around (and out of) all parts of the field, but then he would come out of the batting cage holding his right elbow. he has told me that it continues to improve, but he will play the outfield when it is fully healthy.
- Adrian Salcedo is from the Dominican Republic. He is an incredible athlete, with long, lanky arm and electrifying stuff. In his 2011 debut, he went six innings and gave up two runs on four hits, including two solo home runs. He walked justone and struck out ten.
The back end of the Ft. Myers bullpen will be very impressive early this season. Hard-throwing Bruce Pugh and Dakota Watts return to the Miracle to start the 2011 after finishing the 2010 season with an appearance (each) in New Britain. Both can throw the fastball in the mid-90s. Recall that Watts was clocked at 99 in Ft. Myers last summer. In his three innings this season, he has three strikeouts and one save. Bruce Pugh has two saves. In his two innings, he has five strikeouts. I’m not certain if there are any good closer options in New Britain, but I would fully expect these two to be promoted at some point.
If you want one guy to cheer for, there are a lot of great choices. I would really, really like to see infielder Paul Kelly stay healthy. The 2005 second-round pick was hurt midway through the 2006 season and it has been one injury after the next ever since. He played in two games in 2007, and seven games in 2008. He missed the entire 2009 season, and he played in just 12 games in 2010. He has played in three games in 2011. He has the world of talent, and despite the missed time, he hasn’t given up. Last night, after two at bats, Kelly left the Ft. Myers game after just two at bats. His arm started to get numb, so they toook him out of the game as a precaution. Hopefully it isn’t anything serious.
The Rochester Red Wings have started at 2-3 this season. New Britain is 2-2. Both lost a lot of games last year, so it will be interesting to see how the signing of all those minor league veterans will affect the Win-Loss records for those two teams. The Ft. Myers Miracle are 4-1 to start the season. The Beloit Snappers are 3-2.
Finally, there have been some other really good pitching performances to start the season:
- Eric Hacker – Rochester – 5 IP, 0 R, 2 Hits
- Anthony Swarzak – Rochester – 4.2 IP, 0 R, 3 Hits
- Bobby Lanigan – New Britain – 5.1 IP, 1 ER
- Steve Hirschfeld – New Britain – 5 IP, 0 R, 1 Hit
- Deolis Guerra – New Britain – 5 IP, 0 R, 3 Hits
- Miguel Munoz – Ft. Myers – 5.2 IP, 1 ER, 2 Hits
- Chuck James – Rochester – 4.2 IP, 0 R, 2 Hits, 2 BB, 10 K (Bullpen)
- Cole DeVries – New Britain – 3 IP, 0 R, 0 Hits, 0 BB, 5 K (Bullpen)
On Monday and Thursday nights at 10:00 Central Time, Seth and Travis Aune (Travis Twins Talk) co-host Twins Minor League Weekly. It’s a 45 minute show, for now, discussing the Twins minor league system. We talk about who is hot and who is not, and how the teams are doing. Check out last night’s episode, if you like.
If you have any question on the Twins minor leagues, please feel free to ask.
- Congratulations to former Twins utility infielder Luis Rodriguez on his Game-Winning hit in the Mariners’ big comeback last night. After leaving the Twins after the 2007 season, he playe 64 games with the Padres in 2008 and 93 games for them in 2009. He spent the 2010 season playing for Charlotte, the AAA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. This year, he signed a minor league deal with the Mariners and made the team.
- If you haven’t seen the Babes Love Baseball interview with Joe and Teresa Mauer (his mom), you really should do that.
- Nick wrote Three-Bagger: Grounders, Injuries and Plouffe.
- Seth will be providing game notes at the Twins minor leaguers throughout the season.
Below are game notes and highlights from the Twins affiliates’ Friday night games. Again, my plan is to post highlights, extra base hits and pitching performances throughout the season. I’ll also discuss some notes when applicable. Please feel free to share topic ideas or notes with me. If you have any articles on Twins prospects in their local papers, notes or more, please feel free to e-mail me.
Saturday SethSpeaks.net Minor League Hitter of the Year – Trevor Plouffe, Rochester Red Wings
Saturday SethSpeaks.net Minor League Pitcher of the Year – Bobby Lanigan, New Britain Rock Cats
Sunday SethSpeaks.net Minor League Hitter of the Year – Rene Tosoni, Rochester Red Wings
Sunday SethSpeaks.net Minor League Pitcher of the Year – Steve Hirschfeld, New Britain Rock Cats
Monday SethSpeaks.net Minor League Hitter of the Year – Danny Ortiz, Beloit Snappers
Monday SethSpeaks.net Minor League Pitcher of the Year – Blayne Weller, Beloit Snappers
Red Wings Ramblings
Saturday – Red Wings 7, Scranton/Wilkes Barre 6 (12) – With two outs in the bottom of the 9th of the Red Wings home opener, Trevor Plouffe knocked his second home run of the game to send the game to extra frames. In the bottom of the 12th, Jeff Bailey hit a walk-off home run to win the game. Plouffe went 3-5 with a walks, a double and his second and third homer runs. Bailey was 3-6. Ben Revere went 2-5 with a walk and two stolen bases. Rene Tosoni and Brian Dinkelman each had two hits. Kyle Gibson made the start. He gave up three runs on seven hits in three innings. He walked none and struck out four. Yorman Bazardo went the next three innings and gave up two runs on five hits. Chuck James struck out five in two innings. He gave up one run on a hit and a walk. Phil Dumatrait struck out three (and walked three) in three shutout innings. Carlos Gutierrez worked a perfect top of the 12th to be credited with the win.
Sunday – Red Wings 5, Scranton/Wilkes Barre 7 – Scott Diamond made his first start in the Twins organization. He gave up three runs (1 earned) on three hits. He walked two and struck out three in five innings. Jim Hoey gave up two runs on two hits, including a home run, in two innings. Kyle Waldrop was charged with two runs on six hits, including a home run, in his two innings. Rene Tosoni went 2-3 with a walk, his second double, a home run and three RBI. Trevor Plouffe went 2-4 with a walk.
Monday – Red Wings 0, Scranton/Wilkes Barre 11 – It wasn’t what Andy Baldwin was looking to do in his season’s first start. The Minnesota native gave up nine earned runs on ten hits and three walks in just 3.2 innings. Carlos Gutierrez came in and gave up one run on one hit and a walk in 2.2 innings. Yorman Bazardo gave up a run on three hits (and struck out three) in 1.2 innings. Chuck James struck out two in his perfect innings. Jeff Bailey went 2-3 with a walk. Brian Dinkelman had a single and a walk in the game.
Rock Cats Report
Saturday – Rock Cats 2, Richmond 6 – Bobby Lanigan started and gave up one run on six hits and a walk in 5.1 innings. He struck out three. Michael Tarsi came in and after getting the final two outs of the 6th, he gave up three runs (2 earned) on two hits and a walk in the 7th. Brett Jacobson pitched a scoreless innings. Santos Arias came in and gave up two runs on two hits and two walks (and two strikeouts) in his inning. Joe Benson led the offense with a 3-4 day.
Sunday – Rock Cats 4, Richmond 0 – Steve Hirschfeld put together a great start. He gave up just one hit in five shutout innings. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out three. Jake Stevens struck out two in two scoreless innings. Spencer Steedley gave up two hits in 0.2 innings, but he didn’t allow a run. Tyler Robertson picked up the save as he struck out two in 1.1 innings. Ray Chang had two doubles in four at bats. Chris Parmelee went 2-4 with his first double. Joe Benson was 2-4 with his second double and his first home run.
Monday – Rock Cats, Harrisburg – This game was suspended due to rain after just one inning. Steve Singleton led off the game with a double and promptly stole third base. Liam Hendriks struck out two in a perfect first inning. The two teams will finish the suspended game on Tuesday before playing a second, seven inning game.
Saturday – Miracle 5, Jupiter 3 – Tom Stuifbergen made his first start of the year and after some bloopers in the first inning, he finished the day with a quality start. The righty gave up three runs on seven hits and a walk in six innings. He struck out five. Matt Tone came in and threw two shutout innings for the Win. Dakota Watts came in and pitched a perfect ninth for his first save. Aaron Hicks went 2-3 with a walk. Chris Herrmann was 2-4.
Sunday – Miracle 6, Jupiter 5 – Nick Romero again led the offense. He went 2-3 with two walks. Nate Hanson was 2-5, but he hit a big three-run homer. Aaron Hicks was 2-5 with a double. Chris Herrmann was 1-2 with two walks. Brad Stillings got the start. In four innings, he gave up two runs on four hits and three walks. Blake Martin gave up two runs on one hit and four walks in 1.2 innings. Jhon Garcia gave up a run on three hits and a walk in 3.1 innings. Bruce Pugh came in and struck out two to record his second save.
Monday – Miracle 2, St. Lucie 9 – Unfortunately, the lead story in this game was the first 2011 start of Alex Wimmers. The 2010 top pick started and faced six batters. He walked all six of them and threw three wild pitches. Just four of his 28 pitches were strikes and many were nowhere near the strike zone. He gave up four runs. Edgar Ibarra came in and gave up one run on four hits and a walk in three innings. Shooter Hunt came in and gave up four unearned runs on four hits and two walks (and two wild pitches) in 1.2 innings. He struck out three. Matt Tone struck out three in 2.1 scoreless innings. Dakota Watts struck out two in two scoreless frames. Chris Herrmann went 2-4 with an RBI triple. James Beresford went 2-4.
Saturday – Game 1 – Snappers 1, Quad Cities 8 – Things didn’t go well for the Snappers in game one of this double header. Logan Darnell started, and in three innings, he gave up five runs on five hits. He walked one and struck out four. Michael Tonkin then gave up two runs on three hits in his two innings. Ryan O’Rourke came in and gave up a run on a hit and two walks in his inning. The Snappers had just five hits. Lance Ray had a double, and Oswaldo Arcia had a triple.
Saturday – Game 1 – Snappers 7, Quad Cities 3 – Despite some lack of control, the Snappers managed a win. Martire Garcia starting and in 2.1 innings, he gave up two runs on two hits. He walked five and struck out two. Blayne Weller came in and walked three in 2.2 scoreless innings. Clinton Dempster gave up a run on a hit and got two outs. Matt Hauser got the final four outs to record the win. The Snappers scored four runs in the top of the 7th inning. Gunner Glad went 2-3 with his first home run and three RBI. Daniel Ortiz was 2-2 with a walk and a double. Oswaldo Arcia went 1-2 with a walk and a stolen base. Daniel Santana had a triple.
Sunday – Snappers 5, Quad Cities 3 – Oswaldo Arcia went 3-4 with his second and third doubles and two RBI. Daniel Santana went 2-5 with a double. Kentucky teammates Lance Ray and Gunner Glad were both 2-5. Daniel Ortiz went 1-3 with a walk. Adrian Salcedo was very good in his season debut. In six innings, he gave up two runs on four hits. Both came via a solo home run. He walked one and struck out ten. Michael Tonkin got the win. He gave up one run on two hits and a walk in 1.2 innings. Jose Gonzalez recorded his first save by getting the last four batters out, two of them on strikeouts.
Monday – Snappers 7, Clinton 2 – Andrei Lobanov got the start in this game. In four innings, he gave up two runs on six hits. He walked one and struck out six. Blayne Weller gave up three hits and a walk in 3.2 innings. He struck out two. Clinton Dempster picked up the save by getting the final four outs, two via the strikeout. Daniel Ortiz went 3-4 with his first triple and his second home runs (just a double short of the cycle).
Feel free to leave your thoughts, questions or comments.