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Twins Infield Situation

5 Jan

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

The locker room in Ft. Myers will be full when spring training begins in February, and there will be a lot of infielders. Of course, that doesn’t meant that there aren’t still a lot of question marks. Here’s a look at the Twins infield positions as they stand now:

  • First Base – Justin Morneau, Ryan Doumit, Luke Hughes, Joe Mauer, Aaron Bates, Chris Parmelee, Steve Pearce
  • Second Base – Alexi Casilla, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Jamey Carroll, Pedro Florimon, Brian Dozier, Michael Hollimon
  • Third Base – Danny Valencia, Luke Hughes, Sean Burroughs, Michael Hollimon, Ray Chang
  • Shortstop – Jamey Carroll, Alexi Casilla, Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon, Ray Chang

First Base

If Justin Morneau is right and healthy and able to play 150 games, he is an MVP candidate. Therein lies the issue. What can be expected from Justin Morneau in 2012? And, unfortunately, the answer at this time is that we don’t know. It’s not a question of effort, as I often hear. His long-term well-being is far more important than its effects on the Twins. But if he can be back, the Twins have a chance. Joe Mauer showed last year that he can handle the position, if needed, and to keep him in the lineup more. Ryan Doumit can also play the position. Did you know that Aaron Bates hit .316 last year in Rochester with an On-Base Percentage over .400? He can play multiple positions too. He played in the big leagues for the Red Sox in 2009 after being their 3rd round pick in 2006. We saw Chris Parmelee in September and what we saw tells us that if needed, he can contribute. Steve Pearce is nice depth as well and has long been a big hitter in AAA.

Second Base

Alexi Casilla goes into the season as the starter at 2B, but which Casilla will show up, and will he be able to stay healthy for a full season? Luke Hughes was solid at second base and provides some power as a starter or off the bench. Tsuyoshi Nishioka will likely be in a utility role and spend time at both middle infield positions. Jamey Carroll may end up at second base at some point. I think we can assume that Brian Dozier will be plenty of time at second base in the minor leagues and could be ready at some point in 2012. Pedro FLorimon, Michael Hollimon and Ray Chang also provide depth.

Third Base

Danny Valencia remains the starting third baseman. The numbers from 2011 didn’t match his rookie season of 2010, but if he continues to hit line drives like he did in 2011, the hits will fall in. Luke Hughes can spend some time there as well. Knowing how Ron Gardenhire works, I would not be at all surprised if we hear him talking about Sean Burroughs as competition for Valencia. That would, of course, be crazy, but Burroughs has definitely hit at the AAA level and can be a decent bench option for the Twins at some point this season. Michael Hollimon and Ray Chang provide depth. And Deibinson Romero had a solid season in AA and remains in the system.

Shortstop

Jamey Carroll isn’t young, and may not have a ton of range, but he will make all the plays that he gets to and he is an on-base machine who will fit nicely into the #2 spot in the lineup as well. Nishioka and Alexi Casilla can give him a day off occasionally. As we know, Brian Dozier is waiting in the wings. Will he start the season in New Britain or with Rochester? We shall see. Pedro Florimon is a flashy defender who debuted last September with the Orioles. I believe that we would have seen Ray Chang with the Twins at some point last year if not for his broken fibula.

Free Agents

The one free agent that is intriguing is Derrek Lee. He’d be a nice right-handed bat who could play 1B and also DH. Of course, he would likely cost more than the Twins are willing to spend.

Other infield free agents include: Wilson Betemit, Brooks Conrad, Craig Counsell, Miguel Tejada, Orlando Cabrera, Ronny Cedeno, Alex Cora, Adam Everett, Aaron Miles, Will Rhymes, Omar Vizquel, Jack Wilson, Russell Branyan, Jorge Cantu, Carlos Guillen, Brad Hawpe, Dan Johnson, Casey Kotchman and Xavier Nady.

Frankly, none of those names are all that intriguing. Some were good several years ago. Some are solid utility guys. The Twins have a lot of question marks, but none of these options would do anything toward helping the Twins compete in 2012. The Twins chose to invest in Nishioka, enough to give him a second chance after a season that quickly came to a halt just six games into the season. He had a lot to overcome, and maybe in a less stressful role, we can see what he is really capable (good or bad!). The Twins have solid, unspectacular starters, and Morneau is a difference-maker if only he can be healthy. There is depth at Rochester and on the bench. And, Brian Dozier is probably pretty close to big-league ready.

What would you do? Feel free to leave comments in the Comments section.

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Twins Minor League Hitter of the Year

6 Sep

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Note – Listen to last night’s final episode of Twins Minor League Weekly where Travis Aune and I talked about everything throughout the Twins minor league season. We discussed our choices as top players for each team and in the organization, how each team did, and much, much more. Check it out here!

As games finished on Labor Day in the Twins minor league system, the Twins minor league season came to an end. New Britain had an opportunity to make the playoffs had Reading lost and the Rock Cats won. Unfortunately, the R-Phillies won their game. The Elizabethton Twins were the lone playoff team in the organization, although they lost in the first round. It was a disappointing season in the Twins farm system. However, there are a lot of guys who had very good seasons. Today, I’ll present for you my choices for the Twins Minor League Hitter, Starting Pitcher and Relief Pitcher of the Year in three separate blog entries. We will start with the Relief Pitchers. Feel free to debate them, or ask any questions you may have in the Comments section:

Starting Pitcher of the Year

There were a lot more good hitters up for Hitter of the Year consideration, or at least mention, than there were pitchers this year. There will be more of a countdown.

#10 – Aaron Bates – Rochester Red Wings (.316/.408/.439, with 23 doubles, 7 HR, 37 RBI)

Didn’t even sign with the Red Wings until May, but played well throughout the season.

#9 – Oswaldo Arcia – Beloit Snappers/Ft. Myers Miracle (.291/.335/.531, with 23 doubles, 4 triples, 13 HR, 51 RBI)

Missed a month with elbow surgery, but came back and moved up to Ft. Myers. Great power to all fields. Very quick bat.

#8 – Michael Gonzales – Beloit Snappers (.289/.371/.468, with 27 doubles, 1 triple, 15 HR, 76 RBI)

Consistent performance in his second season with Snappers. Lost 30+ pounds, and his bat speed was much improved.

#7 – Chris Parmelee – New Britain Rock Cats (.287/.366/.436, with 30 doubles, 5 triples, 13 HR, 83 RBI)

2006 top pick finally gets that big league promotion today. He had a very solid, consistent season with the Rock Cats. He also improved his defense at 1B while still occasionally playing in RF.

#6 – Yangervis Solarte – New Britain Rock Cats (.329/.367/.466, with 36 doubles, 3 triples, 7 HR, 49 RBI)

The 24-year-old Venezuelan hit .300 or higher every month of the season. He also led the organization with 36 doubles.  

#5 – Miguel Sano – Elizabethton Twins (.292/.352/.637, with 18 doubles, 7 triples, 20 HR, 59 RBI)

He had just 290 plate appearances, yet I just couldn’t put him any lower on the list. Sano’s 20 home runs is third-most in Elizabethton history. His 45 extra base hits led the team. At just 18 years old, it was a remarkable season for one of the team’s brightest future stars.  

#4 – Jairo Perez – Beloit Snappers (.337/.413/.580, with 20 doubles, 1 triple, 15 HR, 60 RBI)

Perez missed the entire 2010 season because of Tommy John surgery. His 2011 season didn’t start until June, and yet when he was activated by the Snappers, he did nothing but hit the rest of the summer. Not a large man, Perez takes a huge swing and as you can see, he made a lot of contact in 2011.

#3 – Joe Benson – New Britain Rock Cats (.285/.388/.495, with 28 doubles, 4 triples, 16 HR, 67 RBI, 13 SB)

The Twins 2010 Minor League Hitter of the Year is certainly a candidate to repeat again in 2011 despite missing 4-5 weeks because of knee surgery. Benson is a remarkable athlete with tremendous power and speed. He had great range in the outfield and a very strong arm. The weak point in his game is his contact rate, which did improve significantly from 2010 to 2011. He was also promoted to the Twins and will be flying to Minneapolis on Tuesday. It would be great for him to be able to make his big league debut against his home town White Sox. Benson will be a key for the Twins in the next year or so.

#2 – Eddie Rosario – Elizabethton Twins (.337/.397/.670, with 9 doubles, 9 triples, 21 HR, 60 RBI, 17 SB)

It is hard to put a player from one of the short-season teams up this high on the list, but Rosario was the Appalachian League MVP this year and posted incredible numbers. His 21 home runs were just one shy of Paul Russo’s E-Town single-season record. He also hits for average. He has great speed. Plays very good centerfield and has a canon for an arm. The Puerto Rico high school product drafted in the 4th round just one year ago will soon turn 20. After five homers in June and six homers in July, Rosario hit ten home runs in August. It will be interesting to see how his game translates to the full season.  

Hitter of the Year – Brian Dozier – Ft. Myers Miracle (.320/.399/.491, with 33 doubles, 12 triples, 9 HR, 56 RBI, 24 SB)

Dozier was drafted as a senior out of the University of Southern Mississippi after leading his team to the College World Series. After signing, he hit .353/.417/.431 in Elizabethton. Last year, he started the season by hitting .278/.347/.338 in 39 games in Beloit. He was promoted to Ft. Myers where he hit .274/.352/.354 with 11 doubles and his first five pro home runs. It was surprising when he received an invitation to big league spring training but he made a strong showing. He returned to Ft. Myers and hit .322/.423/.472 with 11 doubles, five triples and two home runs in 49 games. He then moved up to New Britain and hit .318/.384/.502 with 22 doubles, seven triples and seven home runs in 78 games. His .885 OPS led the Rock Cats (Benson was at .883). Dozier is not the fastest runner, but he stole 24 bases. He is said to have average range and an average arm, but pitchers I have talked to that have had Dozier playing behind him, love it. Dozier will be representing the Twins in the Arizona Fall League. He will likely receive another invitation to big league camp next year, and depending upon what other moves that Twins make in the offseason, he could make his debut with the Twins any time in 2012!

Feel free to discuss in the Comments section.

SethSpeaks.net May Twins Minor League Hitters of the Month

1 Jun

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please feel free to discuss and ask questions.