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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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Friday Notes

6 Jan

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Good morning! I just wanted to post a few quick notes on an early Friday morning. I fell asleep early last night (not a bad thing!) and got up early this morning, so here are a few notes.

  • First of all, congratulations to Brian Duensing and his wife on the birth of their first child yesterday, a daughter.
  • I was quite surprised last night to read that the Twins decided to release minor leaguers RHP Cesar Ciurcina, RHP Todd Van Steensel, and RHP Pedro Guerra.
    • Ciurcina was a guy who was terrific in the DSL and GCL and pretty bad last year in Elizabethton.
    • I’m a little surprised by the Van Steensel decision. He didn’t have a great 2011 at Elizabethton, but at times, he pitched well. The strange thing, according to Jeremy Nygaard, is that Baseball America posted the releases at 6 p.m. last night central time. At 8 p.m. central time, Van Steensel, who is in Australia, tweeted that he just learned that the Twins released him. Strange timing. (Be sure to continue following Van Steensel’s Clubhouse Chronicles blog)
    • I am very surprised by the decision to release Pedro Guerra. He began each of the past two seasons at Elizabethton and advanced to Beloit where he pitched well.
  • Read also that the Orioles signed former Twins minor league catcher, Australian Allan de San Miguel.  
  • Happy Birthday to Anthony Slama today! Also, congratulations to Slama and his girlfriend on their recent engagement. Slama’s soon-to-be brother-in-law, Collin Balester was traded earlier this offseason to the Detroit Tigers. (This is Page 6 kind of stuff, huh?)
  • MLB is conducting its Rookie Career Development Program this week. According to Jonathan Mayo, the Twins sent Joe Benson, Chris Parmelee and Rene Tosoni to the conference.
  • Phil Mackey wrote an article on the Twins payroll that I find myself completely agreeing with. Most Twins fans probably don’t.
  • Former Twins Kevin Slowey and R.A. Dickey began their trek to reach the peak of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro. The two are doing it for a charity that rescues girls from enslavement in the sex trade and fights human trafficking.
  • Those in the Beloit area will want to consider attending the 8th Annual Snappers Hot Stove Banquet on January 19th. Guests will include Twins GM Terry Ryan, Senior Director of Minor League Operations Jim Rantz, and Twins outfielder Ben Revere. MLB Umpire Marty Foster will also be speaking at the event. For more details on the event and to see how to secure your tickets, click here.
  • The Twinkie Town 2012 Top 50 vote is up to Round 24. Be sure to get your votes in. The voting is somewhat different than mine, and that’s a good thing because no prospect lists that go as deep as 50 should be exactly the same! Great discussion in the comments too!
  • I always have to encourage people to follow me on Twitter, or at least bookmark my Twitter Feed page. Why? Because I tweet quite a bit, and often I don’t wind up blogging all of the information that gets tweeted. I retweet a lot of other people’s blog entries and articles for people to read. One such article was Roger’s Minor League Report from last Saturday. He had a sit-down with Minnesotan, former Gophers and Twins 2011 draft pick AJ Pettersen. AJ is one of the really good people, and Roger wrote about their discussion.
  •  By the way, my plan is to be at Twins Fest on January 27 and 28. I’ve enjoyed attending the event for several year and now enjoy meeting up with other bloggers and fans. It’s also fun to chat with the players and the minor leaguers. If you’re heading down to the Metrodome (and it is great that the Twins are back there for Twins Fest this year after the roof collapse a year ago), let me know!
  • One thing that I would love to eventually attend, and won’t be able to this year, is the 2012 Diamond Awards. This year, it is on Thursday, January 26th, at Target Field. It’s a great even that provides dollars for the University of Minnesota’s innovative research and patient care in ataxia, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and ALS.
  • Check out Parker’s blog on A team building exercise.
  • Quick Update on the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2012 – I also wanted to let people know that I hope to have the book available in the next three weeks. My goal is always to have it available so that people can bring it to Twins Fest and get it signed by players. It is definitely coming together, and I’m nearly to the point of doing the final editing and production. I hope to have more information for you next week, but if you have any questions, please feel free to ask!
  • There are a ton of great Twins blogs, and instead of me doing a Link blog today, I’ll encourage you to check out the NoDak Twins Fan’s Friday Links-N-Thinks and Aaron Gleeman’s Link-O-Rama.

That’s it for today! Feel free to leave comments or more links/topics in the Comments section.

Gibson to Avoid Tommy John Surgery… for now

10 Aug

The Twins announced on Tuesday that top pitching prospect Kyle Gibson has a … let me get this right… flexor pronator muscle strain of the right elbow and a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament… uffdah… and will, at least for now, avoid Tommy John surgery. Instead, he will head down to Ft. Myers and rehab.

This is obviously not exactly great news for the Minnesota Twins as the very talented right hander will be shut down for the rest of this season. The only cure for a torn ligament is Tommy John surgery, but the Twins are going to attempt the rest and rehab thing again. If you recall, that is what they did with Francisco Liriano in 2006 and Pat Neshek in 2007. If Gibson had Tommy John surgery now, he would likely miss all of the 2012 season. If Gibson has Tommy John surgery in October or November, he would miss all of the 2012 season. According to Phil Mackey (Via Twitter) of 1500espn, Braves pitchers Mike Minor and Arodys Vizcaino have successful rehabbed from partial UCL tears and remain great prospects. Both have  been recalled to the Braves in the last week, with the 20-year-old Vizcaino just recalled late last night.

When the Twins drafted Gibson with the 22nd overall pick in the 2009 draft, they were thrilled. Because of some forearm issues, which Gibson was very forthright about, he slipped to the Twins. There was some concern at the time about the injury. However, after signing late in 2009, he made his pro debut in 2010. He scurried through the minor leagues, starting at Ft. Myers before moving up to New Britain and finally to Triple A Rochester where he made three starts before being shut down. In 2011, he returned to Rochester after impressing manager Ron Gardenhire in spring training. He was one of my Top 3 Twins minor league starting pitchers for both April and May. However, he struggled some in June and after pitching in the Futures Game in Arizona, he had just one second half start, and it went really poorly. Uncharacteristically, he walked five batters. Concern for the elbow was immediate. The team shut Gibson down, hoping that it was just inflammation and missing a start or two would help. It just wasn’t recovering as quickly as he had hoped. That’s why he flew to Minneapolis on Sunday night. That’s why he had an MRI on Monday, and went through more testing on Tuesday.

The top pick in that 2009 draft, Steven Strasburg got to the big leagues early in 2010, but was shut down and required Tommy John surgery which he had last September. On Sunday, he made his first rehab appearance and went 1.2 innings. That is a very aggressive timeline. Recovery from Tommy John surgery is generally 12-17 months. If Gibson has his surgery this month, he could be ready next August or September, but most likely (and wisely), the Twins would wait until spring training of 2013 to have him come back. At that point, he will still be just 25 years old and have plenty of time for a comeback. Obviously there is no cookie cutter return from Tommy John surgery, but there are so many examples of pitchers who have come back and been just as successful that there is no reason for pessimism.

But again, first and foremost, best wishes go out to Kyle Gibson and his family. I’m sure this would be a very nerve-wracking moment, but he is very strong and strong in his faith.  FEWDY, right Kyle?!

I asked Gibson if he cared to join me for a bit on last night’s SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins Podcast. He politely declined saying that he “doesn’t have too many answers right now.” He did say that in the near future he would join a podcast again and we can talk through some of this with him.

The news was a little better for fellow Twins minor league pitcher Anthony Slama who was diagnosed with a flexor pronator muscle strain in his right elbow, as well. He will also be heading back to Ft. Myers to rehab the elbow area. I like to think that, if healthy, Slama could have played a big role in the Twins bullpen in 2011, although the Twins have never really given him that opportunity.

Miracle shortstop Estarlin de Los Santos was put on the Disabled List yesterday and traveled to Minnesota where he will be having Tommy John surgery. I had heard that last week, but he kept playing 2B throughout the weekend.  

Miracle pitcher Brad Stillings is in Minnesota where he will have shoulder surgery

It has been a very difficult year on the injury front of the Twins and throughout their minor league system. Jeff Manship is on the DL with a rib injury. New Britain reliever Tony Davis had his elbow scoped. Michael Tarsi has been out quite awhile now. Miracle outfielders Oswaldo Arcia and Angel Morales also had their elbows scoped. I heard that Miracle starter Miguel Munoz had bone chips removed from his elbow. Jhon Garcia is on the Disabled List now. Dan Osterbrock has missed most of this season with a shoulder injury. Ben Tootle was just put on the disabled list. Matt Bashore hasn’t pitched since July 24. 2010 draft pick Dallas Gallant had Tommy John surgery earlier this spring. Of course, no injury has been as serious as that of Paul Bargas, who was diagnose with brain cancer in April. He continues to be at home in California.

When it rains, apparently it pours.

BLOG SPOTTING

Let’s take a quick look around the Twins blogosphere and see what people are saying:

MINOR LEAGUE HIGHLIGHTS FROM TUESDAY

Rochester lost to Durham 10-6. Justin Morneau went 3-5 with two doubles. He now is 8-14 in his last three games after going 1-8 in his first two games with the Red Wings. (yes, I would say he is rather close!) Luke Hughes went 2-5 including a first inning home run, his third for the Red Wings this year. Dustin Martin went 3-5 with his fourth triple. Brian Dinkelman was 2-3. Scott Diamond started and was roughed up again. The lefty gave up eight runs (6 earned) on eight hits and a walk. In four innings, he struck out five. Kyle Waldrop gave up a run on three hits in two innings. Dusty Hughes struck out two in a scoreless inning. Jim Hoey gave up a solo home run in the 8th.

Tom Stuifbergen picked up his fifth win of the season with seven strong innings. He gave up three runs on eight hits. He walked none and struck out five. Bruce Pugh struck out two in two scoreless innings for his 13th Miracle save as Ft. Myers beat Bradenton 6-3. Oswaldo Arcia was 3-5 with his 9th and 10th doubles, and his fifth home run. Angel Morales and Dan Rohlfing were each 2-4. James Beresford was 2-5. Aaron Hicks was 0-2 but he walked three times. Josmil Pinto followed up Arcia’s home run with his fourth homer of the year.

The Snappers split a double header with Quad Cities on Tuesday. In the first game, Beloit won 12-6. AJ Achter gave up six runs (5 earned) on nine hits and two walks in just three innings. Bart Carter came in and gave up two hits and a walk but no runs in two scoreless innings. He struck out two. Jose Gonzalez gave up two hits and a walk in his two scoreless innings. Lance Ray led the offense. He went 3-4 with his 13th home run. Daniel Ortiz was 2-3 with his 30th double. Jairo Perez was 1-3 with a walk and his 12th homer. Andy Leer knocked a grand slam for the Snappers, his second homer of the season.

The Snappers lost the second game 6-5. Pedro Guerra made his first Snappers start of the year. He went four innings and gave up six runs on six hits (2 homers). He walked three and struck out six. Sam Spangler came in and gave up just one hit over three scoreless innings. On offense, Tyler Grimes went 2-3 with his second homer. Lance Ray added his 32nd double.

Elizabethton got a two-run, pinch-hit double from Eddie Rosario in the top of the 9th to tie the score at two. In the 10th, Kennys Vargas knocked his sixth home run of the season to give the E-Twins a 3-2 win over Danville. Max Kepler was 2-5 with his ninth double. Niko Goodrum went 2-2 with three walks. David Hurlbut started and gave up two runs on six hits and a walk in six innings. Cole Johnson threw two scoreless innings. Steve Evans picked up the win with a scoreless frame, and Matt Summers recorded his fourth save with a perfect tenth.

The New Britain/Altoona game and the GCL Twins/GCL Rays game were both postponed by rain.

By the way, LaVelle E. Neal tweeted last night that he will be posting his new Top 10 Twins Prospect list, with numbers 6-10 posted today and 1-5 posted on Thursday. Check out the Twins Insider blog throughout the day to see how it compares to my most recent Top 10 list from August 1. (Oswaldo Arcia, Liam Hendriks, Aaron Hicks, Kyle Gibson, Miguel Sano, Joe Benson, Adrian Salcedo, Eddie Rosario, Angel Morales, Chris Parmelee).

Feel free to E-mail me, or leave some Comments.

SethSpeaks.net June Twins Minor League Pitchers of the Month

4 Jul

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Yesterday, we looked at some of the top hitters in the Twins minor league system in June and named Aaron Hicks of the Ft. Myers Miracle as the hitter of the month. Today, I want to share with you some of the top pitchers in the Twins minor league system in the month of June. We have a new name at the top of the list this month. Steve Hirschfeld was my choice for Twins minor league pitcher of the month in both April and May. He had a very solid June too, but was just honorable mention. There are a couple of the same names in the Top 5 again, but the top three are new names.

I’ll name the top 3 relievers and the top 5 pitchers, but I’ll start with just a few honorable mentions:

  • New Britain – Steve Hirschfeld – 5 GS, 2-2, 3.00 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 30.0 IP, 32 H, 10 BB, 16 K
  • Ft. Myers – Logan Darnell – 5 GS, 2-1, 2.93 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 30.2 IP, 33 H, 7 BB, 8 K
  • Beloit – BJ Hermsen – 4 G, 3 GS, 3-0, 2.42 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 22.1 IP, 26 H, 6 BB, 15 K
  • Ft. Myers – Matt Tone – 9 G, 1-1, 1 save, 1.20 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 15 IP, 9 H, 12 BB, 17 K

Let’s start with the Top 3 Relief Pitchers:

Number 3 – Rochester – Anthony Slama – 10 G, 1-1, 1 save, 1.54 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 11.2 IP, 8 H, 5 BB, 17 K

For the second straight month, Slama is the #3 reliever in the organization. He actually spent about a week with the Twins and pitched on the last day of May and June 4. Combined, he threw 2.1 scoreless innings for the Twins. He returned to Rochester and was again very good. Although one of the two runs (and three of the five walks) he gave up came on the final day or June, he has been pitching very well. In his previous four outings, he struckout 13 in 5.2 innings. Anthony Slama deserves to be in the big leagues, for someone.

Number 2 – Beloit – Clinton Dempster – 8 G, 1-0, 2 saves, 0.77 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, 11.2 IP, 4 H, 4 BB, 14 K

Dempster was the #2 choice for reliever of the month in May too. It was another tremendous month for him. The lefty gave up just one run in the entire month. He was incredibly dominant. The 16th round pick in 2010 continues to beg the question, Why is he still in Beloit? However, pitching has been the story for the 2011 Snappers, and with such strong starting pitching, it has been great to have someone so dominant at the backend of games.  

And the SethSpeaks.net Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month of June is:

Rochester Red Wings – Andrew Albers – 9 G, 1-0, 1 saves, 1.04 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 17.1 IP, 18 H, 2 BB, 19 K

Albers asked for an received a tryout, and it is fair to say it went well as he signed with the Twins shortly before spring training. Although he began the year at Extended Spring Training, the already-25-year-old lefty first pitched for the Miracle on April 13. Since then, he has really been terrific. On the year, he is 4-1 with a 1.68 ERA and seven walks and 41 strikeouts in 48.1 innings. Albers was the 10th round pick of the San Diego Padres in 2008. He missed all of 2009 with injury, was released, and last year pitched in 40 games for Quebec in the independent Can Am League. The Canadian, who went to college at Kentucky, is definitely taking advantage of this new opportunity.

With that, let’s jump to the starting pitchers. Here are the Top 5 Starting Pitchers for June:

Number 5 – Beloit – Adrian Salcedo – 4 GS, 1-0, 2.30 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 27.1 IP, 20 H, 4 BB, 24 K

Salcedo is just 20 years old, but he has been terrific for the Snappers in 2011. He is 5-3 with a 2.88 ERA. He was even better in June. In fact, his worst outing may have been his 0.2 inning stint in the Midwest League All-Star game in which he gave up two runs. Typically, Salcedo doesn’t walk many, but it was also good to see him get more strikeouts in June. He was #4 on this list last month. Although he falls to #5, he actually pitched much better.

Number 4 – New Britain – Liam Hendriks – 5 GS, 3-0, 2.03 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 31 IP, 36 H, 4 BB, 23 K

Hendriks is in the Top 5 for the third straight month. The 22-year-old Australian continues to get better with each start. With a win on July 3, he is now 8-2 with a 2.70 ERA on the season. Like most on this list, Hendriks does not hurt himself with walks. He will give up some hits, but he is able to work out of situations. He began June with seven shutout innings. He had a hiccup and gave up four runs in five innings in mid-June. He gave up one earned run in his other three starts in the month. He jumped from 5 to 4 on this list since last month. In my Top Twins prospects list, he jumped from #6 to #4 since the beginning of the season.  

Number 3 – Beloit – Pat Dean – 4 GS, 2-0, 1.46 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 24.2 IP, 17 H, 4 BB, 27 K

Dean was my choice during the offseason as the breakout pitching prospect for 2011 in the Twins minor league system. Unfortunately, his season did not start on time due to some shoulder concerns. He made his 2011 debut with the Snappers on May 15th. He was at full strength for June and to no surprise, he was very good. So good, in fact, that his final start of June was supposed to be with the Ft. Myers Miracle. However, he did make one last start in Beloit knowing he would be promoted following the game. On June 11, Dean threw 6.2 scoreless innings, walking two and striking out nine. He was removed from the game having not allowed a hit. In his start before that, he threw six shutout innings and gave up six hits, a walk and struck out nine. It was a great month for Dean.

Number 2 – Beloit – Ryan O’Rourke – 7 G, 4 GS, 2-0, 1.59 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 22.2 IP, 16 H, 2 BB, 29 K

Last month, O’Rourke was an honorable mention selection as a relief pitcher. He began June with two relief outings, then made two starts. Then he made one more relief appearance before the All Star break. He came back from the break as the second-half opening night starter for the Snappers. As you can see, he has transitioned to the rotation well. The key stat from his June stat line has to be the two walks and 29 strikeouts. The left was the Twins 12th round pick a year ago. By the way, be sure to check out his blog, The Daily ScoreBored.

And the Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month is:

Ft. Myers – Tom Stuifbergen – 5 GS, 3-0, 0.87 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 31.0 IP, 25 H, 7 BB, 16 K 

I mentioned several times that Stuifbergen ended June having allowed just four earned runs over his previous 43+ innings. Obviously that streak began in mid-May when he was back at full strength from a sore shoulder. Stuifbergen has taken large strides forward in 2011. His fastball velocity has increased from the 88-91 range to the 90-93 range and has even touched 95 at times. He has one of the best changeups in the organization. He has a slider and continues to work on a curve ball. Although his first July start did not go as he would hope, Stuifbergen is definitely making a name for himself.

Congratulations to the three choices for players of the month, all from the Ft. Myers Miracle, OF Aaron Hicks, LHP Andrew Albers and RHP Tom Stuifbergen. But Congratulations to all of those players mentioned in these two articles on a great month of June. We saw many transactions in June, and I would anticipate a few more in July.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.

SethSpeaks.net May Twins Minor League Pitchers of the Month

2 Jun

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Yesterday, we looked at some of the top hitters in the Twins minor league system in May and named Brian Dozier of the Ft. Myers Miracle as the hitter of the month. Today, I want to share with you some of the top pitchers in the Twins minor league system in the month of May. I’ll name the top 3 relievers and the top 5 pitchers, but I’ll start with a few honorable mentions:

  • Rochester – Andy Baldwin – 5 GS, 1-3, 3.64 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 29.2 IP, 32 H, 4 BB, 24 K
  • Ft. Myers – Matt Schuld – , 6 GS, 3-1, 4.02 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 31.1 IP, 30 H, 11 BB, 16 K
  • Rochester – Carlos Gutierrez – 13 G, 1-1, 2.75 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 19.2 IP, 16 H, 7 BB, 11 K
  • New Britain – Brett Jacobson – 8 G, 4 GS, 1-0, 1.54 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 23.1 IP, 14 H, 17 BB, 13 K
  • Ft. Myers – Andrew Albers – 6 G, 2 GS, 2-1, 2.08 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 21.2 IP, 22 H, 3 BB, 15 K
  • Beloit – Matt Hauser – 10 G, 1-0, 3 saves, 1.54 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 11.2 IP, 8 H, 9 BB, 17 K
  • Beloit – Jose Gonzalez – 11 G, 1-1, 2.65 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 17 IP, 14 H, 8 BB, 16 K
  • Beloit – Ryan O’Rourke – 9 G, 2 GS, 0-1, 1.50 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 18 IP, 17 H, 7 BB, 11 K

Let’s start with the Top 3 Relief Pitchers:

Number 3 – Rochester – Anthony Slama – 11 G, 2-0, 2.08 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 17.1 IP, 12 H, 5 BB, 19 K

I can’t help but believe that Slama would have been on the Twins big league roster since Opening Day if not for the elbow issues during spring training. April was his spring training, and he really struggled in his five outings. In seven innings, he gave up six runs on seven hits and six walks. However, he turned things around quickly with the start of May. Control has been one of his concerns throughout his minor league career, so it is great to see just five walks in his 17.1 innings. He’s always been a big strikeout guy, and hopefully we see plenty of those with the Twins too. Slama should be with the team the rest of the season.

Number 2 – Beloit – Clinton Dempster – 11 G, 3-1, 1.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 18 IP, 11 H, 4 BB, 19 K

Dempster was the Twins 16th round draft pick in 2010 from Nicholls State U. The 22 year old southpaw made four appearances in Elizabethton before moving up to Beloit where he made ten appearances, including six starts. This season, he has worked exclusively out of the Snappers bullpen. He has pitched in long relief, and he has been the closer at times. In his last ten games in May, Dempster was 1-1 with a 0.56 ERA. He gave up just one run in 16 innings over that time. He is another guy with the possibility to move up to Ft. Myers soon.

And the SethSpeaks.net Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month of May is:

Rochester Red Wings – Chuck James – 10 G, 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 14.1 IP, 9 H, 4 BB, 17 K

Free Chuck James! That was the cry from many Twins bloggers throughout the month of May when the 29 year old lefty put up incredible numbers across the board. James signed a minor league deal with the Twins this spring after going 10-1 last year with the AA and AAA affiliates of the Washington Nationals after shoulder surgery the year before. Well, after going the entire month of May without allowing a run while walking very few and striking out well more than one per inning, James finally was added to the 40 man roster and promoted to the Twins over Memorial Day weekend. James was my #2 reliever of the month in April and was better in May. Like Slama, hopefully James proves the bloggers’ confidence accurate and remains with the big league club the rest of the year. And no, not just so that I can write new names in here next month.

With that, let’s jump to the starting pitchers. Here are the Top 5 Starting Pitchers for May:

Number 5 – New Britain – Liam Hendriks – 5 GS, 2-1, 2.90 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 31 IP, 31 H, 10 BB, 31 K

Hendriks was the #3 minor league starter last month, and he was very good again this month. It is exciting since the Australian right-hander is still just 22 years old. He has more than held his own in Double-A and legitimized himself as a top pitching prospect. Overall, he is now 4-2 with a 3.12 ERA. He has 51 strikeouts in 52 innings pitched. He has actually pitching better against left-handed batters (.174)  than right-handed batters (.270).

Number 4 – Beloit – Adrian Salcedo – 6 GS, 3-2, 3.75 ERA, 1.25 WHIP,36 IP, 35 H, 10 BB, 20 K

Salcedo was actually better in April when he was 1-1 with a 2.78 ERA, but he was just honorable mention then. This month, he was able to make the Top 5. Again, Salcedo is a big-time prospect. He has a long, lanky athletic frame with long arms. He throws pretty hard and has good control In 58.2 innings, he has just 16 walks. He has gone six or more innings in six of his ten starts, and he has failed to go five innings just twice (both times going 4.2 innings).   

Number 3 – New Britain – Bobby Lanigan – 6 GS, 3-1, 3.11 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 37.2 IP, 33 H, 7 BB, 19 K

Lanigan, the Twins 3rd round pick in 2008 out of Adelphi University, turned 24 years old in early May, and he celebrated by pitching very well. He had one clunker during the month (gave up five runs on eight hits in four innings), but he went at least six innings in his other 5 starts and gave up three once and two or less each other time. The highlight came on May 13 when he threw eight shutout innings and gave up just four hits and no walks against Portland. Overall this season, he is 4-3 with a 3.41 ERA.  

Number 2 – Rochester – Kyle Gibson – 6 GS, 3-2, 3.86 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 35 IP, 32 H, 7 BB, 38 K

For the second straight month, Twins top prospect Kyle Gibson finishes second in the monthly pitcher of the month voting (ok, it’s a one-person vote, but that’s ok). In April, the 23 year old from the University of Missouri went 0-1 with a 3.15 ERA in four starts and in 20 innings. He has tremendous control, and he is striking out more batters this year. He has great stuff, and he is very competitive. Gibson “struggled” in the middle of the month for a few starts. However, when Gibson “struggles”, it is giving up four runs in five innings. In many of his starts where he has given up runs, he has one bad inning and makes some adjustment and still gets through five innings. His last two starts have been very good. In 12.2 innings, he has given up two runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out 18 batters. I think there is a possibility that sometime in June, Gibson’s minor league career will come to an end, and he will be in a Twins uniform through the 2017 season, or longer!

And the Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month is:

New Britain – Steve Hirschfeld – 5 GS, 2-2, 2.93 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 30.2 IP, 21 H, 8 BB, 23 K 

For the second straight month, Hirschfeld was the easy choice for Twins minor league pitcher of the month. In April, he was 1-0 with a 2.05 ERA and opponents hit just .190. In May, he was just as good. Besides the numbers you see above, opponents hit just .196 against him. Overall, he is 3-2 with a 2.56 ERA. In 52.2 innings, he has given up just 36 hits, walked only 13. Opponents are hitting just .194 off of him. The 25 year old right hander missed most of the 2010 season, but he is making up for it now and there is no reason he should not be pitching in Rochester very soon. In fact, today, he has thrown six more shutout innings for the Rock Cats.

Congratulations to the three choices for players of the month, Brian Dozier of the Ft. Myers Miracle, Chuck James of the Rochester Red Wings and Steve Hirschfeld of the New Britain Rock Cats. But Congratulations to all of those players mentioned in these two articles on a great month of May. I think that this is a time when there will be several transactions and many of these players you have read about could be promoted (and some already have been.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.

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 2011 Impact Prospects

15 Feb

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

As you have seen, Danny Valencia graces the cover of my Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2011. Under his picture reads, “Danny Valencia arrived in 2010 and held the Twins to the A. L. Central Title.” Under four pictures of Twins minor leaguers, the question is asked, “Which Prospect(s) will help the Twins in 2011?”

Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2011

Now, as you know, there are over 160 profiles of Twins minor leaguers in the book. How many of them could we see in Minnesota, and under what circumstance would we see them? Here are some names (alphabetically) to keep in the back of your mind heading into spring training.

Let’s start with the prospects that we have already seen play for the Twins.

Luke Hughes – We didn’t get to see a lot of Hughes in 2010, but what we saw was positive. I mean, he became the first Twins player since 1984 to hit a home run in his first at bat. Hughes struggles defensively, but at least he can play multiple positions, and most important, he is right-handed and has a lot of power in his bat. His role with the Twins could be a right-handed bench bat and designated hitter who can fill in from time to time around the field.

Trevor Plouffe – Plouffe was back and forth between Rochester and the Twins throughout last summer. He struggled late in the Triple-A season, but he displayed power and improved his defense. I think he’ll compete with Alexi Casilla for the starting shortstop job. As this is his final option season, I would anticipate that he will play at 3B and 2B in 2011 than he did in 2010 as he could potentially be a utility infielder as well.

Ben Revere – We got a glimpse of Revere in September and I think that is the role we will see him fill in 2011 as well. If Denard Span is hurt, Revere could replace him for a couple of weeks in centerfield and in the leadoff spot. Some think he should be a fourth outfielder already, but he is just 22, hasn’t spent a day in AAA, and despite hitting .300 yet again and having game-changing speed, he still has parts of his game that need to improve, specifically defense.

Next, there are two guys that we haven’t seen yet, but we know we will hear a lot about this spring:

Scott Diamond – The Twins Rule 5 pick from the Atlanta Braves organization has to spend the season with the Twins or go through waivers and be offered back to the Braves. It is likely he would be claimed or the Braves would take him back, so the Twins will likely give the left-hander every opportunity to make the team.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka – The Twins made big news last Thanksgiving when they won the bid to negotiate exclusively with Nishioka. The two sides agreed to a three year contract with an option for a fourth year. It’s almost a given that Nishioka will be with the Twins and playing at 2B, although he will also see time at shortstop in spring.

The following are Twins minor leaguers that I think have at least some chance of debuting with the Twins in 2011:

Joe Benson – The Twins Minor League Hitter of the Year hit 31 doubles and 27 home runs in 2010. He is an excellent defender with Revere-like speed, and a Cuddyer-like arm. He has work to do before he’s ready for a full-time big league job. It woudl be great if he could spend the year at Double-A.  He has to work on putting the ball in play more consistently, but if he does, he could get a September call-up.

David Bromberg – After leading three minor league levels in strikeouts from 2007 to 2009, his strikeout rate was down at Double-A last year. However, he ended the season with nine starts and AAA where he struck out just over eight per nine innings. He will start the season in the Rochester rotation, and if the Twins have a need for a starter and Bromberg is pitching well, he very easily could be the one promoted for a spot start, or even possibly a long-relief role.

Billy Bullock – Bullock throws gas. The 2nd round pick from 2009 consistently throws around 95 mph with a very good slider. He began the 2010 season by striking out 45 in 37.1 innings at Ft. Myers. After being promoted to Double-A, he struck out and incredible 60 batters in 36.2 innings. Of course, he also walked 24. If he can display any semblance of control in 2010 in the upper levels of the minor leagues, he becomes very intriguing for the Twins in the second half of the season.

Tony Davis – Bullock’s college teammate is a left-hander who also pitched well in his first full season. He began the season by posting a 2.87 ERA in Ft. Myers and followed it up with a 2.64 ERA in New Britain. Again, control is his issue. He walked 46 batters and struck out 45 batters in 2010. The Twins added some left-handed veterans this offseason, so it would take a lot of control and some breaks for Davis to debut in 2011.

Kyle Gibson – The 2009 top pick is clearly the Twins top pitching prospect. He moved from Ft. Myers to New Britain and ended the season with three starts at Rochester. Gibson is clearly going to be a starter for the Twins at some point. The question is whether it is in June, August, or if they can wait for him to debut until 2012. If he pitches well early in the 2011 season, he should be starting for the Twins by June. If he’s pitching well later in the season, but the Twins starters are doing their part, there is some opportunity for him to debut later in the summer in the bullpen.

Carlos Gutierrez – The Twins second first round pick in 2008 throws hard and induces a lot of ground balls because he gets a lot of sink on his pitches. He has struggled as a starter, and he thrives in the bullpen. He has a chance to contribute to the Twins in the second half of the 2011 season if he is pitching well.

Chris Parmelee – The Twins 2006 first-round pick had always shown an ability to take a walk and hit for some power. In 2010, he made major strides in putting the ball in play and hitting for average. Hopefully in 2011, he can put it all together and become a big-time, all-around hitting prospect. It would be great if he could spend the full season in AA, but if he’s hitting well and (the worst-case scenario occurs and) Justin Morneau needs to miss extended time, Parmelee becomes an option for the big league club.

Chris Province – Province came to the Twins last year in spring training from the Red Sox in exchange for Boof Bonser. He is a reliever, although he made several starts a year ago between Double-A and Triple-A. A lot would need to happen for him to debut with the Twins, but he has a fastball that darts in on a right-hander’s hands. If he’s pitching well at a given time when there is a need, he has an outside shot.

Brandon Roberts – Roberts has generally played well throughout the four years he has been in the Twins organization. The problem is that he has been hurt so much. Last year, he finally remained healthy enough to work up to AAA where the CF hit over .300. He has had some knee problems, but speed is his game. Again, there is a smaller chance, but if he stays healthy and produces like he did last year, you never know.

Steve Singleton – After a slow start in 2010, he came on well late in the season. He led the organization with 43 doubles, and had 54 extra base hits on the year. He puts the ball in play and plays solid defense at 2B and has also played 3B and shortstop. He has a lot of pop for a second baseman, and if he can continue to play well, if there is an injury, he deserves an opportunity.

Rene Tosoni – Tosoni is just a solid all-around player. The only weak part of his game has been an inability to hit left-handed pitching. He tried to play in 2010, but his shoulder was experiencing just too much pain, so his season ended with surgery. He profiles similarly to Jason Kubel in terms of hitter. He is a little better defensively, has a little bit more speed, and has a strong arm. It will be interesting to see how he returns from missing so much time last year.

Kyle Waldrop – He had an absolutely incredible first-half of the season a year ago. It started with a great spring training before being sent to Rochester. Prior to the AAA All-Star game, he had posted both an ERA and a WHIP of under 1.00. He struggled some in the second half. He is not a strikeout pitcher, but he gets a lot of movement and sink on the fastball and could be a groundball reliever option sometime this season.

Dakota Watts – Maybe the biggest long-shot on the list, the Twins 16th round pick in 2009 pitched at Beloit, Ft. Myers and New Britain in 2010. He was clocked at 99 mph while in Ft. Myers. That along makes him worth watching. He can get a strikeout, probably walks too many, but is at least worth watching, and maybe he would be a long-shot September call-up.

Finally, there are some more veteran minor leaguers that the Twins brought in for the 2010 season that are worth noting:

Justin Huber is back after a year in Japan. Consider the day that Michael Cuddyer took over at 1B for an injured Justin Morneau in September of 2009, Huber was initially supposed to play 1B, but an oblique injury took him out of the lineup the rest of the season. Jeff Bailey spent parts of three seasons with the Red Sox from 2007 to 2009 and showed some power.  He can play 1B and the corner outfield positions. Chase Lambin was an International League All Star a year ago. He can play 3B, 2B and 1B. Matt Brown has spent a little bit of time in the big leagues and can play the four infield positions and spent time in the OF last year. Ray Chang is an option at 3B and 2B. Rene Rivera and Steve Holm are backup catcher options with big league service time.

Yorman Bazardo has always pitched well in the minor leagues, but still just 26, it hasn’t transferred to success in the big leagues. He pitched well in Venezuela this winter. Chuck James pitched well for the Braves for a couple of years before he was injured. The lefty went 10-1 between AA and AAA with the Nationals organization. Phil Dumatrait is a lefty-reliever option with big league time. Eric Hacker had a decent 2010 with the Giants AAA team and got a 40 man roster spot for it.

In a typical year, the Twins will promote between 12 and 18 players from Rochester throughout a season . Sometimes it is a straight promotion. Sometimes it is an injury-fill. There are various reasons. I mentioned 18 names above before discussing the minor league veterans that the organization added.

How many of these guys will come up and contribute in some way? Who will be surprise candidates? Can any of them have an impact in 2011 the way that Danny Valencia did in 2010? That is the fun part about following prospects. We can guess, but once the season gets started, you never know how it will play out.

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John and the TwinsCentric guys helped put together the Maple Street Press Twins Annual 2011, and it has been quite the project. However, the results are tremendous. The magazine is 128 pages of Twins content, with no advertisements. Just pure Twins talk. The TwinsCentric crew wrote player profiles on the Twins roster, and we each wrote an additional article or two.

I wrote one article on the success that the Twins Advanced-Rookie League team in Elizabethton, Tennessee, has had over the last 25 years and the role that consistency has played in that. Their manager, Ray Smith, signed with the Twins as a non-drafted free agent in 1978 and debuted with the Twins in the strike-shortened 1981 season. He spent parts of three years with the Twins. When his playing career ended, he became the Elizabethton Twins manager, in 1987. 25 years later, he has won a lot of games and a lot of championships, but more important, he has helped a lot of young men and young ball players begin their path up the Twins system. His pitching coach, Jim Shellenbeck, and his hitting coach, Jeff Reed, have ton of playing and coaching experience. It was a really fun article to research and write, and I think it turned out very well.

The other article I wrote was essentially an organizational depth chart. In the article, as I did last year, I broke out the Twins prospects into Infielders, Outfielders, Catchers, Starting Pitchers and Relief Pitchers, and gave my top five prospects in each category along with a Sleeper and One to Watch. There are also charts with 2011 roster projections.

Minnesota Twins Organizational Depth Chart Article

There is a lot of Twins information in the magazine. There is information on the current roster, Target Field, the minor leagues, several historical articles and much, much more.

The magazine is now available for pre-order at the Maple Street Press website. The magazine will be available on news stands around Minnesota starting March 1. However, if you pre-order, the magazines are set to ship out on February 17, so you can get it before it hits the news stands. For those of you outside the Minnesota areas, it will not be available in your market, so ordering online is the way to go if you are interested.

Maple Street Press Twins Annual 2011