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Twins Organizational Depth Chart: Relief Pitchers

8 Feb

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2012 – Now Available as an e-book for $6.99 by clicking here. You can, of course, still get the print version for $13.99 by clicking here

Today, we will conclude our Organizational Depth Chart by looking at the Relief Pitchers. Frankly, it is kind of a mess thanks to about 89 minor league veterans brought in, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out. As I said on Monday, many starters will get time as a reliever, and vice versa. This is especially true in the lower levels of the minor leagues where innings limits are still so important. The Twins bullpen in 2011 was pretty much horrible. They had lost Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier, both guys who had long been in the Twins bullpen. They also let Jon Rauch and Brian Fuentes, and Ron Mahay departed via free agency. Each made huge money for relievers in free agency. As I’ve said, I would have wanted to bring back Crain, but I definitely understood letting the others go. The Twins brought in some minor league free agents, but as they had done so many times before, they made the decision to build a bullpen from within. Needing two or three pitchers to step up, only Glen Perkins really stepped up throughout the season. Anthony Swarzak was a surprise success as well in long relief and as a spot starter. Joe Nathan struggled in his return. Matt Capps just struggled. Two pitchers that likely would have been counted on to perform, Jeff Manship and Anthony Slama were out most of the season with injuries. Had those two been healthy all season, it could have been a better situation. To the surprise of many, the Twins seem to have gone with much the same philosophy in 2012. Instead of going after retread relievers, they are choosing to believe in their in-house options. They brought back Capps, are taking a flyer on Joel Zumaya, and have invited a small village of minor league veteran pitchers with some big league experience. All in the attempt to hope that three or four of them step up. It’s a philosophy I completely agree with despite the fact that it went very wrong in 2011. Then again, pretty much everything went wrong for the Twins in 2011. Fortunately 2012 is a new year. You can clamor for guys like Dan Wheeler and Chad Qualls and Todd Coffey all you want. Or you can realize that they all struggled early in their careers and didn’t become big league regulars until late in their careers. They didn’t succeed in their first opportunities in the big leagues, and they have all had their struggles in the big leagues even after being given regular bullpen duties. So, although I am incredibly nervous about the Twins bullpen, and don’t have any idea how they will perform in 2012, I do think they have some talent, some young talent that should continue to get opportunities. That’s just smart.  Relievers who are good year in and year out are a rarity. Are there a dozen  in the entire big leagues that you could say have been lights out, have been difference-makers each of the past five seasons? (I’ll give you Mariano Rivera… you name another 10.) Because of that, bringing in 26-30 year olds with good arms and some measure of success makes a lot of sense to me.  

Below you will get a look at the names of many Twins minor league pitchers who will likely spend a lot of time in bullpens this upcoming season. I need to reiterate that these are just my thoughts. I have no insider information to know where players will be playing for certain in 2012. Obviously after spring training, some of these players will be let go. There will be Disabled List players, extended spring training and more.

Minnesota Twins  

Matt Capps (RHP), Glen Perkins (LHP), Joel Zumaya (RHP), Brian Duensing (LHP), Alex Burnett (RHP), Anthony Swarzak (RHP), Jeff Gray (RHP), Terry Doyle (RHP-R5)

Some Twins fans choose to say that Matt Capps has been pretty bad in two of the last three years. Since it’s less than two weeks before spring training, so I’ll say that he’s been really good in four of his last six seasons! If healthy, he’ll be solid at the end of games. I think Glen Perkins proved himself throughout the 2011 season to believe he can be a dominant lefty reliever again in 2012. Brian Duensing likely moves to the bullpen. He is one of baseball’s best at getting left-handed hitters out, but one of the worst at getting right-handers out. Joel Zumaya hasn’t pitched since 2010, and hasn’t pitched a full season since 2006, but I guess there is a chance he could be really good for half of the season! Anthony Swarzak is out of options and he really proved himself in long-relief and spot-starting last year. He could find himself being thrown into more high leverage situations in 2012. Alex Burnett has the arguably the best stuff in the bullpen and hopefully he will be able to put it all together. He won’t turn 25 until late July. If Terry Doyle pitches fairly well in spring training, I believe that he will make the team. If a starter is hurt, he could be the guy to make some starts early in the season, or he could be a long reliever. I also believe that Jeff Gray will make this roster as well. He is on the 40 man roster and out of options.  

Rochester Red Wings

Anthony Slama (RHP), Carlos Gutierrez (RHP), Lester Oliveros (RHP), Cole DeVries (RHP), Deolis Guerra (RHP), Kyle Waldrop (RHP), Esmerling Vazquez (RHP), Tyler Robertson (LHP), Jared Burton (RHP), Jason Bulger (RHP), Samuel Deduno (RHP), Phil Dumatrait (LHP), Casey Fien (RHP), Luis Perdomo (RHP), Daryl Thompson (RHP), PJ Walters (RHP), Brendan Wise (RHP), Luke French (LHP), Brad Thompson (RHP), Matt Maloney (LHP)

What a mess spring training will be? The Twins will have to play a few split-squad games to get all of these guys innings. Inexplicably, Anthony Slama has never been given a shot by the Twins despite 10.3 K/9 and a 2.59 ERA in 92 AAA appearances. I think Lester Oliveros has a chance to be pretty good but he needs more time. The Twins don’t need to rush him (like they did with Alex Burnett). The Twins claimed Vazquez from the Diamondbacks on the last day of the 2011 season. He’s a hard-thrower with control issues. The same can be said for Deduno and Perdomo. Kyle Waldrop finally got a shot with the Twins in September and he should be given a very legitimate opportunity to make the Twins opening day roster and get time throughout the season with the Twins. The two non-roster invites that have a legitimate chance of making the big league roster early in the season are Jared Burton and Jason Bulger. Each has had quite a bit of big league success. Burton has been hurt much of the past two seasons. Bulger spent a long time with the Angels. Phil Dumatrait got way too much time with the Twins last year. Carlos Gutierrez and Tyler Robertson were added to the 40 man roster this offseason. Gutierrez made the move to the bullpen last year and pitched pretty well until shoulder issues. Still walks too many though. Robertson was terrific in the second half of last season as the New Britain closer. The lefty may not throw hard, but he was quite successful in his first season in the bullpen. Cole DeVries had a tremendous 2011 including a very good performance in the hitting Arizona Fall League. Matt Maloney is on the 40 man roster. The left-hander was brought in before Terry Ryan was named GM, but as a former Reds pitcher, it is likely that he was recommended by Wayne Krivsky, which makes him intriguing. He is on the 40 man roster and out of options, but there is a chance he could go unclaimed. Non-roster invites Burton, Bulger, Deduno, Dumatrait, Fien, Perdomo, Walters, French and the two Thompsons all have spent some time in the big leagues. Liam Hendriks said in a recent podcast that Brendan Wise is similar to Kyle Waldrop in terms of ability to get a lot of ground balls. The Aussie has been very good in AAA the last two years. Finally, it is a huge year for Deolis Guerra. After being really bad as a starting pitcher, he moved to the New Britain bullpen last year and was incredible. Suddenly he had better control, gave up less hits and struck out more than a batter an inning. How will he perform in AAA in 2012? It will be interesting to watch. I suspect we will see him by season’s end. He has one option left.  

New Britain Rock Cats

Matt Hauser (RHP), Andrew Albers (LHP), Brett Jacobson (RHP), Daniel Turpen (RHP), Tony Davis (LHP), Blake Martin (LHP), Cole Nelson (LHP), Spencer Steedley (LHP), Ricky Bowen (RHP), Jhon Garcia (RHP), Bruce Pugh (RHP), Dakota Watts (RHP), Steve Hirschfeld (RHP)

Will any of the leftovers from the Twins minor league signings move down to AA? We shall see. Matt Hauser ended the 2011 season with one appearance with the Rock Cats. He is a hard-throwing right hander who I think will be a big breakout candidate in 2012. Andrew Albers was the story of the year in the Twins system last year and my choice for Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. Brett Jacobson, Blake Martin and Spencer Steedley spent 2011 in New Britain, each splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen. Turpen came over from Colorado in the Kevin Slowey deal. He throws hard and side-arm but gets no strikeouts. Bruce Pugh and Dakota Watts both had disappointing 2011 seasons between Ft. Myers and New Britain. Each struggled in the Arizona Fall League. But each throws really hard and if they can find any measure of control, they are legit prospects. Hirschfeld was my choice for Twins minor league pitcher of the month in both April and May. He struggled in June and moved to the bullpen, which is likely where he’ll wind up. Tony Davis is not a big guy, but he throws left-handed and touches 94-95 mph. He missed about half of last season with a shoulder surgery. He will be ready for spring training. Cole Nelson is a Minnesota native who came over from Detroit in the Delmon Young trade. Ricky Bowen signed with the Twins in May and did a nice job pitching out of the Ft. Myers bullpen. Jhon Garcia throws hard and can pitch in any role in the bullpen and spot start.

Ft. Myers Miracle

Jose Gonzalez (LHP), Michael Tonkin (RHP), Clinton Dempster (RHP), Bart Carter (LHP), Nelvin Fuentes (LHP), Edgar Ibarra (LHP), Kane Holbrooks (RHP), Matt Schuld (RHP), Brad Stillings (RHP), Caleb Thielbar (LHP), Blayne Weller (RHP), Miguel Munoz (RHP)

Jose Gonzalez was the closer in Beloit last year. He’ll likely continue in that role with the Miracle. He’s not tall and resembles Jose Mijares, but he throws hard and has a terrific slider. Michael Tonkin moved to the bullpen in 2011 and pitched very well. Dempster was terrific in the bullpen for Beloit but struggled upon his promotion to Ft. Myers. Carter dominated in Elizabethton and then pitched very well for the Snappers. A four year college guy, he should be pushed. Nelvin Fuentes has been pitching well for Puerto Rico in international competition. He has also steadily moved up the Twins system. The lefty works slow but he gets hitters out. Edgar Ibarra struggled in the Miracle rotation last year but finished strong in the bullpen. Kane Holbrooks had a tremendous 2010 season that saw him pitch well in Beloit, Ft. Myers and New Britain. 2011 was disappointing. He pitched well with no run support in April, but then he really struggled. He then missed the last couple of months. St. Thomas alum Matt Schuld pitched very well in Ft. Myers and then threw pretty well in New Britain. I only have him in Ft. Myers because of the numbers crunch at the higher levels. Caleb Thielbar became the first player the Twins signed from the St. Paul Saints and pitched in a few games for the Miracle. Blayne Weller pitched in the bullpen in Beloit although he ended the season pitching well as a starter. Miguel Munoz made his first start last year with the Miracle, hurt his elbow and then didn’t pitch again until late in the season. In his return to the Miracle, he re-aggravated the elbow injury and was shut down. Reports indicate that he did not have elbow surgery and rehabbed throughout the offseason.

Beloit Snappers

Corey Williams (LHP), Steve Evans (LHP), Steven Gruver (LHP), Jason Wheeler (LHP), David Hurlbut (LHP), Corey Kimes (LHP), Garrett Jewell (RHP), Cole Johnson (RHP), Tobias Streich (RHP), Jhonatan Arias (RHP).

Corey Williams was the Twins 3rd round pick just a year ago. The lefty signed for nearly double the slot recommendation. But the Twins are quite excited about him. He’s another hard thrower, said to have nasty stuff and a strong mentality. Evans, Gruver, Hurlbut and Johnson were all 2011 draft picks out of college that pitched well at Elizabethton during the summer. Kimes pitched in just a couple of games before suffering from mono. Jason Wheeler was the team’s 8th round pick and signed at the deadline. He will debut in 2012. Tobias Streich and Jhonatan Arias were both strong-armed catchers without much bat. Last year at Instructs, the two were moved from behind the plate to the mound. The Twins have done this in the past with mixed results. Tim Lahey was drafted as a catcher, but a year later he moved to the mound, and although he didn’t get to the big leagues, he spent 3 years in AAA as a reliever. Danny Santiesteban was an outfielder with a bunch of tools in the lower levels of the Twins system for a few years. He was moved to the mound but was released soon after. (By the way, Santiesteban has been a hitting star for the Newark Bears of the independent leagues the last couple of years.)

Elizabethton Twins

Luis Nunez (LHP), Ricardo Arevalo (RHP), Nathan Fawbush (RHP), Tyler Herr (RHP), Gonzalo Sanudo (RHP), Markus Solbach (RHP), Dallas Gallant (RHP)

Luis Nunez went 5-0 with 5 saves and a 1.67 ERA in 16 relief appearances in the GCL. The 20-year-old lefty throws gas with decent (but improving) secondary stuff. He is certainly one to watch. Tyler Herr is a tall right-hander who showed improvement in his second year in the GCL. Arevalo has gone 0-11 with a 4.37 ERA in 25 games over the past two years in the GCL. Nathan Fawbush is another tall kid with a lot of talent, but he has missed time each of the past two seasons since the Twins drafted him. Sanudo signed with the Twins in 2011 and in 20.2 innings in the GCL, he walked seven and struck out 22. He just turned 20. Markus Solbach signed about this time last year from Germany, and he went 3-3 with a 1.91 ERA in 28.1 innings in the GCL. He also pitched well in the World Cup.  Gallant had Tommy John surgery last spring and will be brought back slowly.

GCL Twins

Josh Burris (RHP), Josue Montanez (LHP), Gerardo Ramirez (RHP)

The Twins signed Ramirez last year out of Mexico and threw 17.1 innings in the GCL. He just turned 18. Montanez just turned 20 years old. He signed with the Twins last year as their 15th round pick a year after being taken in the 25th round in 2010 by the Padres. His first outing didn’t go well, and then he was really good his next seven outings. Josh Burris signed very late with the Twins last year out of LSU-Eunice. Last year, he played some 2B and some in the outfield. He hit .273 with a triple and a homer and stole 13 bases. He also was a reliever who walked too many. However, he hits 94 mph on the radar gun and is best known for his great 12-6 curveball.

TOP THREE (OR SO…) PROSPECTS

1.)    Corey Williams, 2.) Matt Hauser, 3.) Lester Oliveros, 4.) Deolis Guerra, 5.) Carlos Gutierrez, 6.) Luis Nunez, 7.) Tyler Robertson, 8.) Dakota Watts, 9.) Bruce Pugh 10.) Steven Evans

SUMMARY

The Twins bullpen was really bad last year. I don’t think there is any way around that. Glen Perkins stepped up, and once he was called up, Anthony Swarzak pitched well. If the Twins have any hope at being successful in 2012, they are going to need a few more guys to really step up. Capps is going to have to be healthy and pitch well. Zumaya may have to be healthy and successful. Duensing will have to fill the role of lefty-reliever. They brought in a bunch of minor league veterans, and it would be great if one or two of them would step up and contribute when called upon. There are several Twins minor leaguers who deserve an opportunity to step up, guys like Waldrop, Gutierrez, DeVries and even Anthony Slama. The Twins have made an effort to bring in some strong arms, and in doing so have found guys who also walk a bunch. In recent drafts, the Twins have also added some power arms to mixed results. Guys like Matt Hauser and Tony Davis could move up. 2011 draft picks Corey Williams, Matt Summers, Madison Boer, Trent Higginbotham and Josh Burris throw hard. Oh, and remember a couple of years ago when the Twins had something like three or four left-handed relievers in their entire farm system? Now, it appears that each team may have three or four lefties! There is definitely some talent in the bullpen, some very strong arms. Of course, we also have to remember that many starting pitchers who have decent stuff and aren’t working out as starters could be moved to the bullpen as well.  

If you have any further questions, please feel free to e-mail me at sethspeaksnet@hotmail.com or leave your thoughts in the Comments Section!

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Twins Minor League Predictions: 2011 Pitcher of the Year

7 Apr

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

INJURY UPDATETsuyoshi Nishioka left this afternoon’s Twins/Yankees game with an apparent leg injury. Nick Swisher (legally) took him out, breaking up a double play. Nishioka stayed on the ground and then walked off with a trainer and his interpreter, putting little weight on his left foot. Luke Hughes is set to play 2B and bat fourth for the Rochester Red Wings tonight. We will have to monitor if that changes. Should Nishioka need to go on the Disabled List, Hughes would most likely be recalled.

PODCAST UPDATE Twins Minor League Weekly will go live at 10:00 central time tonight. Join the chat or call in and let’s talk Twins minor leaguers.

Alright, we’ve looked at our panels’ choices for Twins Minor League Breakout Hitter and Breakout Pitchers. Earlier today, I posted our predictions for Twins Minor league hitter of the year, and now, it’s time for our predictions on Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year. In the Comments at the bottom, please feel free to discuss your choices. But here is just one more reminder of who is on the panel (and thank you to them):

Roger Dehring – He has been tracking the Twins minor league system and players for a long time. He is an occasional guest writer here, but he does a tremendous job of keeping the fine folks of Twinkie Town updated on the Twins minor leagues with his Weekly Minor League Reports each Saturday.

Josh Johnson – Finishing up college may inexplicably understandably been his top priority of late, but when it comes to knowing the Twins minor league system, Josh is among the top! He has written at Josh’s Thoughts for several years.

Steve Lien  – Steve writes the Twins content for Gear Up for Sports. He has written a lot of information on Twins minor leaguers and spent nearly as much time watching minor league practices in Ft. Myers as I did.

Cody Christie – Cody is the North Dakota Twins fan even if he now makes his residence in the Twin Cities. He has been a he addition to the Twins blogosphere in the past year writing on all levels of Twins baseball from the minors to the history.

TWINS MINOR LEAGUE PITCHER OF THE YEAR

Here are our choices for Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year:

Seth – David Bromberg – Bromberg was the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2009 when he was also the Florida State League Pitcher of the Year (beating out Kyle Drabek). Bromberg has four or five pitches that he is comfortable using. He can get some strikeouts. I fully expect him to be back up with the Red Wings by about midseason, and I would not be surprised to see him in a Twins uniform in September. Runner-Up: Pat Dean.

Roger – Adrian Salcedo – Everything one reads about this young man, who Baseball America ranked as the eighth best prospect in the Appalachian League, says that he is special.  As he matures and gains experience, he just may be that next pitcher to come through the organization to pitch at the front end of future Twins rotations.  I expect Salcedo will begin this season in Beloit and 2011 will be our first good look of what is to come as he pitches so well that he earns the Twins Pitcher of the Year award.  Runner-up:  Manuel Soliman   

Josh – Alex Wimmers – I see Wimmers having a season a lot like Kyle Gibson had last season and I fully expect him to be in Triple-A at the end of the season. Wimmers is a lot more advanced than the hitters he’ll be facing in High-A and probably even Double-A.

Steve – Alex Wimmers – 2011 for Wimmers should unfold in a similar fashion to Kyle Gibson’s 2010.  Many scouts and observers don’t rate Wimmers ceiling as highly as they do Gibson’s, but I think that’s underrating him and his stuff, which includes a Plus-Changeup and impeccable control.  Made only 4 Starts at Fort Myers after being drafted, but they included 5 Innings of No-Hit ball in 1 start, and 9 K’s in 5 IP in another.  This selection is almost a lock to me. RUNNER-UP: Liam Hendriks.

Cody – Liam Hendriks – Depending on how the season is going at the major league level, the Twins could be digging deep into their pitching prospect pool at the major league level. This award is a tough call for me between Hendriks and Wimmers. If Wimmers can be successful at three different levels for the Twins, the award could be his for the taking. Hendriks will be pitching against tougher competition for the entire season and his success against those players will be what puts him over the top. Runner-Up: Alex Wimmers

So now you’ve seen our minor league predictions. What do you think? Games start tonight! Feel free to leave your pitcher choices in the comments today.

Roster Projections: Rochester Red Wings

29 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Step 1: Finalize 2011 Minnesota Twins roster – Check.

Step 2: Find a way to keep Scott Diamond in the organization – Check.

Step 3: Configure that 2011 Triple-A Rochester Red Wings 24-man roster – In progress.

Now that the Twins have set their own roster, what does it mean for the Triple-A team? After the Red Wings lost nearly 100 games last year, the Twins went out and acquired a lot of minor league veterans. They did this for a few reasons, but the primary one had to be to win more games and keep the Rochester fan base happy. Secondly, it does allow the Twins to be more patient with actual prospects so that they can play and develop at the proper pace. So, let’s take a look at a projected Red Wings roster. These are the guys who could be called up at any time to play for the Twins if needed. I will include whether or not they are on the Twins 40 man roster because if they are not, they will need to be added before being called up.)

(the below roster is my opinion and my guesses, and nothing official.)

Catchers: Rene Rivera (40 man – No) – Steve Holm (40 man – No) 

With Wilson Ramos with the Nationals and Jose Morales with the Rockies, the Twins went out and acquired two minor league veterans, each with Major League service time and many years of AAA experience. Danny Lehmann impressed in spring training and although I believe he will start at AA New Britain, he is also an option for a call up should Drew Butera be hurt.

Infielders: 1B – Jeff Bailey (40 man – No), 2B – Luke Hughes (40 man – Yes), 3B – Chase Lambin (40 man – No), SS – Trevor Plouffe (40 man – Yes), Utility – Michael Hollimon (40 man – No), 1B/DH – Erik Lis – (40 man – No)

Bailey and Lambin were the first two minor league free agents that they signed. Bailey got some playing time and displayed power with the Red Sox in parts of three season. He and Lambin both have a lot of experience. Lambin was an International League All-Star last year. Luke Hughes showed his power in spring training. He will just need to stay healthy in 2011 (something he hasn’t been able to do in recent years) and he will be with the Twins at some point. So will Trevor Plouffe, despite a tough spring. Bailey can play some right field. The other four infielders listed should move around the infield, including 1B, because their role with the Twins would likely be off the bench. Yes, it is possible that Toby Gardenhire is on the roster, although my guess is that he will be on the “Disabled List.” Steve Singleton and his organization-leading 43 doubles will likely begin the season back in New Britain due to the veterans brought in. Matt Brown and Ray Chang, who each got a Non-Roster Invite to spring training, are also possibilities for the Red Wings roster. Justin Huber, who was another Non-Roster invite, was recently released which likely means that Erik Lis could get a lot of at bats as the Designated Hitter. It is possible Chris Parmelee will end the season with the Red Wings.

Outfielders: LF – Dustin Martin (40 man – No), CF – Ben Revere (40 man – Yes), RF – Brian Dinkelman (40 man – No), 4th outfielder – Brandon Roberts (40 man – No).

Martin will return for his third season with the Red Wings. Dinkelman will be there for his second full season. Both should have better seasons in 2011. Brandon Roberts has missed so much time the last few years with leg injuries. When he was healthy last year, he played really well, and in 153 at bats with the Red Wings at the end of 2010, he hit .333. He has primarily played CF in his career. As mentioned above, Bailey can play right field. Ben Revere will be making his Triple-A debut in 2011, even though he made his major league debut in 2010. Some believe he is ready for the big leagues. I believe he is close, but getting a year at AAA can only help him. He will likely be the one promoted to the Twins if there is a need. Joe Benson and Rene Tosoni impressed in spring training, and Tosoni could be the first promoted to AAA, if needed.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Eric Hacker (40 man – Yes), LHP Scott Diamond (40 man – No), RHP Kyle Gibson (40 man – No), Chuck James (40 man – No), Anthony Swarzak (40 man – Yes)

Obviously Gibson is the guy that everyone is going to be anxiously waiting for, but it will be good for him to get at least another 12-15 starts in Rochester. Triple-A hitters frequently have some big league time, and it is a good transition for pitchers to get to see hitters who are usually much more patient. Swarzak lost a lot of weight and he has regained some of the velocity he showed two years ago. Hopefully he can regain some of the effectiveness. The Twins gave up a lot (Billy Bullock) to retain the services of Scott Diamond. Hopefully it will be a good move. Diamond has put up terrific numbers throughout his minor league career, never posting an ERA above 3.52 at any level and striking out 7.3 per nine innings. Chuck James has 24 big league wins, and went 10-1 between AA and AAA last year with the Nationals organization in his return from surgery. Hacker went 16-8 with a league-average 4.51 ERA last year in the Pacific Coast League. He didn’t have a strong showing in big league camp, but he can provide Rochester with a solid season. The surprise omission here is David Bromberg. He made nine starts with the Red Wings last year and pitched well. He was added to the 40 man roster after the season, and he is a very good prospect, but it could be a positive in the long run for him to get a few more starts in AA and use what he learned in AAA late last year and in spring training this year.

Bullpen: RHP Alex Burnett (40 man – Yes), RHP Kyle Waldrop (40 man – No), RHP Jim Hoey (40 man – Yes), LHP Phil Dumatrait (40 man – No), RHP Chris Province (40 man – No), Yorman Bazardo (40 man – No), Andy Baldwin (40 man – No) RHP Anthony Slama (40 man – Yes)

I assume based on his arm issues during spring training that Anthony Slama could start the season on the Disabled List. Jim Hoey was the last guy with a chance to make the team to be sent down. He and his fastball could be promoted soon if he shows any semblance of control. Kyle Waldrop made another very strong impression this spring, and with the open 40 man roster spots, he could be added if needed. Alex Burnett was on the Twins opening day roster one year ago without any time in Rochester. He was sent back down in July before a September call-up. He will get more opportunities with the Twins. Phil Dumatrait is a former first-round pick who has quite a bit of big league time. He was the #4 lefty on a roster that kept three lefties in the bullpen. Chris Province came to the Twins last year from the Red Sox in exchange for Boof Bonser. He pitched mainly in New Britain last year. He did make a couple of starts for the Red Wings late in 2010, but he is a bullpen arm. Bazardo pitched well for the Tigres de Aragua this winter in Venezuela and got a minor league deal with the Twins. Low strikeout numbers, but he could be a long reliever. Baldwin is a Minnesota native who has spent the last three seasons pitching in AAA for the Mariners organization. You likely noticed that I did not include Carlos Gutierrez on this roster which may be a surprise to you. It was also somewhat of a surprise to me as well because he ended 2010 with two games for the Red Wings. I just think that with the minor league veterans, it would be good for him to begin the season pitching as the closer in New Britain. Remember, he has been doing a lot of starting in his pro career. It will be good for him to get some development time in the late innings for the Rockcats.He will get to AAA quickly. Additionally, Ryan Mullins and Minnesota-native Cole Devries remain options for the Red Wings bullpen.

Overall: This is a very veteran team which should mean a lot more wins in Rochester in 2011. I do believe that it is best for most of the prospects in the system in the long run, but there are not many prospects to watch in Rochester this year. Ben Revere and Kyle Gibson are the two that would be deemed top prospects. Plouffe is still just 24 and a prospect, but he is now in his fourth season with the Red Wings. Hughes and Waldrop made great impressions in spring training again, and we could see both of them this year.. Hoey and Burnett are exciting, but no longer “prospects” due to their time in the big leagues.

Due to the minor league free agents, AA New Britain should be filled with several exciting prospects such as Joe Benson, David Bromberg, Chris Parmelee, Carlos Gutierrez, Dakota Watts, Steve Singleton and more.

The minor league rosters should be announced later this week as their seasons get started next week. It will be very interesting to see where some of the team’s top prospects end up. There were more releases in the last couple of days, a couple that surprised me, and there will likely need to be more in the coming days to bring the rosters down to the appropriate level.

If you have any thoughts or questions, please feel free to comment or ask.

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Twins Fest Weekend: Part 3 (Name Dropping)

4 Feb

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Before we get started, I do want to mention that the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook is now available to the public. You can get your copy today, electronically or the paperback printed book, by clicking here. Again, thank you so much for your support.

In the last couple of days, I’ve posted comments and thoughts and memories of my Twins Fest weekend. I’ve written about Friday night at the Hot Stove Banquet. I’ve written about the big Twitter vibe around Twins Fest, and I wrote about Fanatic Jack and I having a conversation with Twins GM Bill Smith. Today is going to be my last formal Twins Fest Weekend blog, although it is likely that additional stories may come out over time. Today, I want to write a bit about some of the people I met or talked to. There was a nice Twins blogger showing, and I also had a chance to meet many Twins prospects.

The Bloggers

It was a lot of fun meeting up again with several of the Twins bloggers at Twins Fest. As I’ve mentioned, I spent quite a bit of time with Fanatic Jack. He is a backpack-toting autograph collector. It was fun to see what he was going after. He got some very cool stuff signed. He was excited to meet Doogie Wolfson, and if you have heard his podcasts, you can imagine how much energy he has for Twins Fest.

Cody Christie is the North Dakota Twins Fan. I met him last July on the Twins Train trip to Detroit. I met him quickly on Friday with Mrs. North Dakota Twins Fan. They got a few autographs and their picture taken.  

Andrew Bryz-Gornia runs the Off the Mark blog. This past year, he worked as an usher at Target Field while going to college. He was able to work Twins Fest Friday and Saturday, and then was there as a fan on Sunday.

Betsy from For the Love of the Game texted me that she and Karlee from OMG Twins Blog were waiting in line to get their pictures with Joe Mauer.

Topper Anton flew in from NYC for Twins Fest. He was supposed to be here on Thursday but didn’t make it until Friday because of all the flight cancellations. He does a nice job at Curve for a Strike. And Emily Jipp was also in attendance. She’s known by many as Twins Chatter.

After the completion of Twins Fest on Saturday, several Twins bloggers got together at Park Tavern in St. Louis Park. Those listed above were joined by John Bonnes (Twins Geek) and Nick Nelson (Nick’s Twins Blog), and also by Twitter friend MrHorrorPants! It was a great time.

On Sunday, it was good to see Phil Mackey hosting two hours of Twins talk on 1500espn. It was nice to be able to say hi to him. A huge “Congratulations” to him for his success in the last ten months or so. The Reusse & Mackey Show will now be on weekdays from noon to three.

I also had the opportunity to meet Lindsay Guentzel, Intern Gal at KFAN. She is very cool!

Marty Andrade made the trek down on Sunday as well with some really cool stuff. He had game used bats from Rene Tosoni and Joe Benson that he got signed. (Note – if you’re interested, head up to Alexandria, MN, go to the mall and you’ll find him there!).

The Twins blogging community is a lot of fun, to be sure.

The Players

I used to go to Twins Fest and do the autograph thing. Even a year ago, I brought my daughter and bought a ball so she could go through and ask for autographs. But this year, I didn’t go through the lines at all. Instead, I just walked around and talked to people. Of course, I generally hang out near the Down on the Farm section. The autographs there are free, and those are the players that I typically converse with from time to time. I had some fun experiences. Some of them I’ll share him, and obviously some of them I’ll keep for myself. I posted some on Twitter, but then Parker from Over the Baggy started making fun of me on Twitter for name-dropping.

I ran into Carlos Gutierrez and his family following his Saturday morning signing session. What a nice family! It is always fun for me to see people from south Florida in Minnesota in January. We chatted for probably five minutes. I don’t like to bother people when they’re with their family.

I was actually walking toward the bathroom at the time, and as I was coming out of the bathroom, I nearly bumped into Jeff Manship. I had talked to him the week before at the Twins Caravan in Thief River Falls, and again, he recognized me first. Again, he really seems to enjoy the event. We talked for maybe two minutes when I realized where he was going, and that it was likely he had just completed a nearly two-hour autograph session, so I didn’t bother him for too long.

At that point, I was just kind of walking around. I was in awe seeing how long the line was for people trying to get their picture taken with Joe Mauer. When I say people, I think it is fair to distinguish that a good 95% of those people were on the female gender. Kyle Gibson was the player whose photo session was right before Mauer’s. With ten minutes to go in his session, and no one willing to leave their spot in the line for Mauer, Gibson was left standing by himself. He looked around the curtain to see if anyone was around to get their picture taken with him. I saw him, and tipped my cap. Gibson saw me, smiled and waved me over there. I was a good 40 feet away and started walking in that direction when a security guard asked me what I was doing. I pointed and said, “He said I could.” Gibson nodded in agreement and the two of us chatted for a few minutes before it was his turn to leave the photo station and Mauer’s to come in. We talked about his hectic life since getting married in November, looking forward to spring training, and trying to figure out where he might start his season.

I then went back over to the minor league area. I was talking to someone when David Bromberg walked up. If there was one Twins player or minor league player that stood out to me as drastically changing, it is Bromberg. I had mentioned his name at the Hot Stove Banquet on Friday night (in part because Howard Sinker had asked me about him earlier) as someone to kind of keep in the back of your mind for a possible bullpen spot in 2011. When Bromberg came up though, it was clear that he has been working hard. He can run long distance, something he hadn’t done much previously. He is working out a lot. He is down to just over 240 pounds. When I asked him where he was last year, he said he was just over 260 pounds. On his 6-5 frame, he looks like a different guy with the 20 pound weight loss. Maybe it’s the soul patch? Bromberg is a very confident guy, and he is also quite competitive. He is heading down to Ft. Myers next week already to start working out in the Twins facilities.

Bromberg thought he was supposed to be there for a 2:30 autograph session only to find out that he didn’t need to be there until 4:15, but he stuck around for a bit and chatted. As Rene Tosoni was coming out of the session, I got to point out where the bathroom was for him!

The next group was making its way in. As Joe Benson led the way, I said in a deep voice, “Bear Down!” Benson looked over, smiled, came over and gave me a handshake, man-hug thing. Following Benson was Kyle Waldrop. As you know, Waldrop has been a long-time friend of SethSpeaks and has participated in the NFL “Expert” Picks for five years, but we had never met in. I know I sound repetitive, but what a nice guy. It was just a couple of minutes, but it was a nice discussion. Gibson was the third guy in that group. As you can imagine, the line for that group of free autographs was quite long.

For the last session of the day, things finally slowed down around the National Sports Center. The place was so crowded on Saturday, but things really quieted down late in the afternoon. In fact, as the final autograph groups were signing, there were none in the minor league line. So, I just went in and chatted briefly with Chris Parmelee. As you recall, Parmelee participated in the football picks this year, and there is an article on him and his development in the new Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. Again, it was brief, but it went very well.

On Sunday, I was able to shake hands and introduce myself to Nate Hanson. He is the Eden Prairie graduate who went to the University of Minnesota to play for John Anderson. He had a nice breakout season in Ft. Myers in 2010, and he was the subject of an article I wrote for the Prospect Handbook. Minnesota nice! I also was able to shake hands with BJ Hermsen who was leaving and then making the trek home to Iowa.

Late in the day, Alex Burnett had just finished up an autograph session, and I introduced myself to him. He introduced me to his fiancé and said they were going to head outside to play in the snow before a late-afternoon flight back home to southern California.

Finally, I was exhausted and ready to be done. I decided I would walk by the Down on the Farm booth. Marty Andrade had taken one of my Prospect Handbook review copies through the line to have it signed. Gibson and Benson had signed the cover. Waldrop signed the inside. As I walked along the side of the booth, Benson noticed me. “Seth! We were just talking about you!”

“Ummm… What?”

Gibson added, “Yeah, we’ve got a great idea, and it will be a lot of fun!”

Of course, that is the teaser, and you will have to wait to see what they had in mind, but soon… I wished them (and Waldrop) well and safe travels, and that was the end of my Twins Fest weekend.  

FI NAL THOUGHTS

Here are just a few random thoughts from Twins Fest Weekend, from my perspective:

  • I’m glad that the deflating Metrodome didn’t force the Twins to cancel Twins Fest. It is a great fundraising event for the Twins Community Fund, and it is a great way to get the fans excited about the game. It’s also a great way to meet and greet people/players that we typically only get to see on TV.
  • Blaine and the National Sports Center was a good place for the event. Sure, it wasn’t convenient for it to be in two buildings, but they made it work. It was a good thing that they limited the number of tickets. Saturday was really hectic. But Sunday was very comfortable. Considering the Twins had about six weeks to find a location and make it work, they did very well.
  • It was unfortunate that Justin Morneau wasn’t there, but I think we all fully understand that. Jim Thome was only there on Friday night. Joe Mauer was not there on Sunday. I’m assuming they had good reasons to not be there. Carl Pavano was not there. I don’t know if we ever did get a good reason for that. Dominican players Francisco Liriano and Alexi Casilla were not there either, and neither is playing in the Caribbean World Series. I can understand Tsuyoshi Nishioka not being there, unless he would go directly to Fort Myers from Minneapolis. It would have been great for him to be there and see this event, although I am guessing that the lines for his autograph would have been crazy. Matt Capps wasn’t there either.
  • Michael Cuddyer and Denard Span seemed to be taking a leadership role. They were active in interviews, with the Tweet-n-Greet and more. The star seemed to be Danny Valencia though. He was everywhere, with long arms, and he looked to be enjoying it all.
  • As always, I had a great time! I do believe that the Metrodome is much more spacious and is ideal, but the Twins made the best of an unfortunate situation.

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know.

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.

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.

NFL “Expert” Picks – Week 1

9 Sep

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

  • Be sure to check out the Nine to Noon Show with Paul Allen today on KFAN, its affiliates and KFAN.com. I will be joining the show at 9:20 to talk Twins. With the start of the Vikings season tonight, PA will be live from New Orleans preparing for the Vikings/Saints game, but we will be talking about the Twins.

TWINS ON FIRE, Sweep Royals

The Twins just finished a series at home in which they won eight out of nine games. The only loss on the home stand was the horrible 13 inning loss to the Detroit Tigers where many Twins fans thought the sky was falling down. Many thought that it would be the beginning of the end for the Twins and yet, as they have every other time they met adversity, they have gone on to sweep the Texas Rangers and the Kansas City Royals. I don’t care if the Royals have a lineup that could make the Eden Prairie American Legion team look big league caliber, it is still huge to get the sweep. There is a reason such teams are called “spoilers” at this time of year… because they have the ability to spoil playoff runs. The Twins have to bear down against the Royals, or in the upcoming series against Cleveland, in an attempt to not let down. Because if they continue to play good baseball, it’s hard to envision the team not making the playoffs.

Consider this: The Twins have 22 games remaining in their season. The White Sox have 23 games remaining. If the Twins continue on their current pace, they should go 13-9 the rest of the way. If they do that, the White Sox would have to go 19-4 the rest of the way in order to force a third straight Game 163 for the Twins. If the Twins play .500 ball (11-11), the White Sox would have to go 17-6. With a Magic Number of 18, it’s hard to imagine the Twins not winning the AL Central. Is it over yet? Of course not, but like I wrote, if the team just plays well down the stretch, it will be really hard for them not to.

The Twins are on pace to finish the season with a 96-66 record. It would mark the 14th time in the team’s 50 years in Minnesota that they had over 90 wins:

Year Record Win %
1965 102-60 0.630
1970 98-64 0.605
1969 97-65 0.599
2006 96-66 0.593
1991 95-67 0.586
2002 94-67 0.584
2004 92-70 0.568
1963 91-70 0.565
1962, 1967, 1988 91-71 0.562
1992, 2003 90-72 0.556

And five of those 90 win seasons have come during the Ron Gardenhire tenure. And yet there are still Twins fans out there that question every single move the manager makes. No, I don’t say that I agree with everything Gardy does either, and that’s OK, but sometimes I do think it is wise to step back and appreciate what Gardy has done. 

And I will argue that 2010 is his best work yet. I have never seen so many injuries in a season. Yes, other teams have injuries too, but not like this team has gone through. 2006 was an incredible year with a most unlikely second half. I think that this year’s team has more talent all-around, but that team had the AL MVP (Justin Morneau), the stat-heads’ MVP (Joe Mauer), the Cy Young Award winner (Johan Santana), a should-have-been Rookie of the Year despite his season coming to an early end (Francisco Liriano), and Torii Hunter talking away in centerfield.

One other thing to note about Ron Gardenhire and Rick Anderson… Baseball Prospectus has put together a statistic on Pitcher Abuse Points. It looks at the number of pitches that each pitcher has thrown. Considers how many pitches they average per start. It looks at the maximum number of pitches that starters have thrown in a game and other things. To no one’s surprise, Edwin Jackson is #1 in pitcher abuse points. Francisco Liriano is the first Twins pitcher to show on the list, at #63. Next on the list for the Twins? Carl Pavano at #118. The others are Kevin Slowey at #130, Nick Blackburn at #157, Scott Baker at #167, and Brian Duensing at #187.

It would sure be nice to get Danny Valencia back into the lineup. Matt Tolbert has done a nice job in his place the last five games. Valencia has put himself into contention for AL Rookie of the Year, but behind Neftali Feliz of the Rangers and Austin Jackson of the Tigers, so it would be great to get him back. That said, Tolbert has done well, and consider this: In 2009, he was the Twins starting 3B in September. In 78 September plate appearances, Tolbert hit .333/.365/.464 and played great defense. It was such a surprise last year because coming into September, he had hit just .178 with the Twins in 129 at bats. His 23 September hits equaled his total for the previous five months put together.  

Speaking of Baseball Prospectus and some of their cool stats, they also look at the odds of teams winning their division, the wild card or advancing to the playoffs. Before last night’s win and White Sox loss, it listed the Twins as having a 89.6% chance of winning the division, and having a 90.1% chance of making the playoffs. I imagine that those numbers will be significantly higher when updated this morning.

The Twins should enjoy their off day today before heading back on the road. Hopefully Valencia, Jim Thome and Brian Fuentes will be able to get back on the field this weekend!

NFL “Expert” Picks – Week 1

Before getting to the picks, I would like to introduce this year’s panel (Please note that others have been invited and could be joining the weekly panel):

Jeff Manship – Jeff is in his fourth year on this panel. He was the Twins 14th round draft pick in 2006 out of Notre Dame. He has been promoted to the Twins five times this year, making one spot start and otherwise pitching in long relief.  

Alex Burnett – Alex joins the panel for the second time. The Twins 12th round pick in 2005 out of his California high school, Burnett surprisingly was on the Twins Opening Day roster. He showed his promise throughout the first half of the season before being sent back to Rochester. He recently returned to the Twins for September.  

Matt Fox – Matt is on this panel for the second year. He was a supplemental first round pick of the Twins in 2004 out of Central Florida. His story has been well documented in the last week, since I was able to break the news that he would be making his major league debut last Friday. He pitched great against the Rangers.

Dan Osterbrock – Osterbrock was the Twins 7th round pick in 2008 out of the University of Cincinnati. He was named the Appalachian League Pitcher of the Year in 2009. After a difficult 2009, Osterbrock was as good as any pitcher in the Twins farm system in 2010. He returned to Beloit and made five starts. He was twice Midwest League Pitcher of the week and threw a no-hitter. He was just as good the rest of the season with the Ft. Myers Miracle. This is his second year on this panel.

Steve Blevins – Blevins is also on the panel for the second year. The Snappers’ reliever was the Twins 21st round pick in 2008 out of Marshall. He returned to Beloit to start the season  but throughout the course of the 2010 season, he was promoted to Ft. Myers and then to New Britain.

Kyle Gibson – Kyle was the Twins 1st round pick in 2009 out of the University of Missouri. He made his professional debut in 2010 with the Ft. Myers Miracle, but he also made starts in Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Rochester. It is likely Gibson will debut with the Twins in 2011. Gibson is on the panel for the second year.

Chris Parmelee – Chris is competing in this panel for the first time this year. He was the Twins 1st round pick in 2010. He began the 2010 season at New Britain but was sent back to Ft. Myers in mid-May. He quickly returned to New Britain where he played some of the best ball of his career. He will also be headed to the Arizona Fall League for the second straight season

Nate Hanson – He is from Chanhassen, went to Eden Prairie high school, moved on to the University of Minnesota before being drafted by the Minnesota Twins. After spending 2008 in Elizabethton and 2009 in Beloit, he moved up to Ft. Myers in 2010. He was one of the team’s top hitters and hit 11 home runs. This is his first year on the panel.

BJ Hermsen – Another first-timer on this panel, Hermsen had a very solid 2010 season. He began the year at Extended Spring Training, but advanced to Beloit where he made several starts. He eventually was moved back to Elizabethton where he pitched really well.

Dan Slowey –Dan is the man behind a very interesting website called Blogonoscopy. This is his third year in the panel. He will be working hard to defend his 2010 championship.

Anthony Maggio – Anthony joins the panel for the first time. He writes on the Twins for Fox Sports North and does a terrific job.

John Bonnes – John has been involved in the world of Twins blogging longer than anyone else. He is The Twins Geek,. He is also one of the TwinsCentric group.

Josh Johnson – Josh has been writing at Josh’s Thoughts, an excellent Twins blog. He is on the panel for the fourth year.

Andrew Kneeland –Andrew is in his third year on the panel. He writes about the Twins blog where you can get your Twins Target.   

Travis Aune – Travis writes the Twins blog Travis Talks. He focuses a lot on the minor league system. He and I co-hosted Twins Minor League Weekly throughout the 2010 season. This will be his second year on the panel.

John Meyer – John is another very busy individual. His business is going strong into its second year and he does a great job as the Twins Most Valuable Blogger. This is his second year on the panel.

LaVelle E. Neal III – LaVelle has been on this panel for several years now. He is a Twins beat writer for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune which includes the blog Twins Insider. He also frequently appears on KFAN radio. He’s always a strong competitor in this competition.

Phil Mackey – P-Mac is on the Reusse and Mackey Show from noon to 2 weekdays on 1500espn. He frequently writes on the Twins at 1500espn.com. He is also co-owner of the MNPokerMag.com. He is one of the busiest sports media types in the Twin Cities, and this is his second year on the panel. 

Darren “Doogie” Wolfson – Speaking of busy Twin Cities media types, Doogie can be found everywhere. He now works for KSTP-TV in the Twin Cities, and is the host of Twins Wrap on 1500espn. He is joining the panel for the second year.

Seth Kaplan – Seth is the sports director for Fox 9 in the Twin Cities. He often is on Sports on Demand, a weekly Monday afternoon sports talk show on MyFox9.com.

Jack Michaels – Jack competes in this panel for the third straight year. He is the host of The Jack Michaels Show on ESPN 710 The Fan in Bismarck, ND, and has been kind enough to let me be on his show from time to time. He was the original radio play-by-play guy of the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks where he teamed with former Dodgers great Maury Wills.

Cory Hepola – Cory is currently a sports anchor for WROC-TV in Rochester, New York. You can find much more about him on his personal blog that includes postings and videos and much more.

Vic Quick – Vic has been on this panel for a long time. He is currently a sports reporter/anchor for KOTA-TV in Rapid City, South Dakota, and proclaims himself the biggest Texas Rangers fan in South Dakota. The Dallas native is also likely the biggest Cowboys fan in the state too! My former college roommate definitely knows his football, at least anything about Emmitt Smith or Troy Aikman, well, and the Concordia Cobbers!

Roger Dehring – Roger is one of the more knowledgeable people you can meet when it comes to the Twins minor league system. He writes a Weekly Minor League Report for the Twinkie Town website.

Cody Christie – Cody writes the North Dakota Twins Fan blog, and is competing in the panel for the first year.

Topper Anton – Topper is on the panel for the first time. He writes the blog Curve for a Strike, and is the co-host on Fanatic Jack’s podcast.

Kirsten Brown – Kirsten will be making her debut on the panel this year. She writes the K-Bro Baseball blog and makes the best brownies ever!

Shawn BergOn the Road with Shawn is the name of his blog. The Minnesota native lives out in New York and frequently gets to Twins minor league games in Rochester and New Britain.

Emily Jipp – Emily joins the panel this year for the first time. She writes Cheap Seats Chatter. She’s also in charge of our Twoggers League, a fantasy football league with 14 Twins bloggers.  

Andrew Bryz-Gornia – You may have met Andrew at Target Field this year where he enjoyed watching games while being an usher. He writes Off the Mark and is competing in the panel for the first time.

Blake Meyer – Blake is the originator of an incredible Twins website, Twins Cards. If you go there, you can see Twins baseball cards back to the team’s inception. You can find autographs and memorabilia and much more. Blake provides us an international flavor to the panel!

Michael Brasel – Long time friend (well over 30 years now), Mike was listed among the best players I have played ball with. He was one of the original panelists.

The Week 1 Picks

Alright, to see this week’s picks, go to www.SethSpeaks.net.