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Solarte, 11 Others Become Free Agents

4 Nov

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

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Yangervis Solarte was one of 12 Twins minor leaguers who were allowed to become Six-Year Minor League Free Agents five days after the World Series. Solarte signed with the Twins from Venezuela in June of 2005. In 2011, he hit .329/.367/.466 with 36 doubles, three triples, seven homers and 49 RBI. Not bad for a 2B. For a team that has struggled with middle infield development, it’s hard to believe that Solarte would not have been added to the 40 man roster before becoming a free agent. He can now sign with any team, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him get a 40 man roster spot with another team. Then again, it wouldn’t surprise me if he re-signed with the Twins still.

Here are the others who became six-year free agents:

  • RHP Andy Baldwin – The Duluth native pitched in Rochester last year.
  • LHP Dusty Hughes – Spent time with the Twins early in the season and pitched alright in Rochester the rest of the season.
  • LHP Chuck James – The #FreeChuckJames campaign, and his tremendous early-season pitching, got him a couple of very brief looks with the Twins.
  • LHP Jake Stevens – The Naples native pitched in New Britain and Rochester. Following the season, he mentioned that he was called in to the Twins minor league offices, was given a ring for his part in throwing a no-hitter in Rochester, and then told his services were no longer needed with the Twins.
  • C Jair Fernandez – The catcher came to the Twins from Seattle for RA Dickey, and played pretty well. He was just too injured in 2011.
  • C Allan de San Miguel – The Aussie catcher signed when he was so young. Great defense. Struggled with the bat. Elbow surgery in 2011.
  • 1B Jeff Bailey – Brought in quickly after becoming a free agent last year to help the Red Wings, he struggled mightily the first couple of months of the season.
  • IF Toby Gardenhire – The manager’s son has been a utility infielder throughout his minor league career. Great teammate and leader, not much of a hitter. Can’t help but assume he’ll be back. Should be.
  • 3B Chase Lambin – 32 year old came to the Twins last offseason as a free agent. Struggled early.
  • SS Paul Kelly – 2nd round pick in 2005 from Texas high school. Solid debut in 2005, and played well for half of 2006 before he was hurt. Since 2007, he has played a combined 24 games in five seasons with various injuries. If healthy, he probably (maybe?) could have been the Twins shortstop the past few years already. After three games this season, they found a blood clot in his neck and he missed the rest of the season. What could have been!? And, hopefully he can continue to play!
  • OF Brandon Roberts – Came to the Twins in the Kyle Lohse trade, the speedy outfielder had too many knee issues and missed a lot of time.

It’s possible some of these guys will be back. It’s possible some of these guys won’t play again.

Here are some other names you may recognize that became free agents for other organizations:

  • Michael Restovich – Arizona Diamondbacks
  • Armando Gabino – Baltimore Orioles
  • Brendan Harris – Baltimore Orioles
  • Matt Fox – Boston Red Sox
  • Jose Morales – Colorado Rockies
  • Matt Macri – Colorado Rockies
  • Alex Romero – Florida Marlins
  • Ryan Rowland-Smith – Houston Astros
  • Gil Velazquez – Los Angeles Angels
  • Anderson Machado – Milwaukee Brewers
  • Boof Bonser – New York Mets
  • Mike Lamb – New York Yankees
  • Steve Singleton – Philadelphia Phillies
  • Jeff Clement, Brandon Wood – Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Steve Tolleson, Bobby Kielty – San Diego Padres
  • Casey Daigle – San Francisco Giants
  • Doug Deeds – Texas Rangers
  • Yohan Pino – Toronto Blue Jays

Any thoughts?

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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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2010 Rochester Red Wings Preview

7 Apr

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

The 2010 Twins minor league roster previews are brought to you by the Minnesota Twins 2010 Prospect Handbook. Get your copy here!

Second, I will be on KFAN at 10:30 central time with Paul Allen. If you can get it on the radio, great. If not, head over to KFAN.com and listen live.

And, by the way, if you’re able to, be sure to join me and the rest of TwinsCentric at Majors Sports Café in Blaine on Saturday from 11:30 a.m. until the end of the Twins/White Sox game. Drink and appetizer specials. Lots of prizes to give away. Lots of talk with Twins fans. It’d be fun to meet you!

On Thursday night, Anthony Swarzak will take the mound for the Rochester Red Wings against Boof Bonser and Pawtucket. Tom Nieto will be the Red Wings manager in 2010 after leading the New Britain Rockcats a year ago. Floyd Rayford will be the hitting coach while Bobby Cuellar is the pitching coach. Let’s take a look at players on the Red Wings roster to start the 2010 season (note – prospect ranking for my choices for Top 30 Twins prospects as updated in the Minnesota Twins 2010 Prospect Handbook):

The Starting Pitchers

Anthony Swarzak, Jeff Manship (16), Glen Perkins, Mike Maroth, Yoslan Herrera.

As far as upside, I think most would agree that Glen Perkins could be the most talented pitcher in this group. Does that mean he’s the best pitcher? Probably not. Manship and Swarzak both profile as back of the rotation starters. Both showed in 2009, in short stints with the Twins, that they are capable big league pitchers, but they also both showed that they have more to learn. Having talked with Manship several times, I know that he’ll take a lot from what he learned at the big league level and incorporate it into his game. I like to assume the same for Swarzak. Mike Maroth is a veteran. He was the last 20 game loser in the big leagues. I had so much respect for him during his Tigers days for being strong enough mentally to keep pitching, and he wasn’t as bad as that win-loss record indicated. Of course, a couple of years later, he was that bad and out of baseball. This spring, he was given a chance by the Twins and had a solid camp, so he can be a veteran in the AAA rotation. Herrera signed a four year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates after defecting from Cuba. Those four years are up. He became a free agent and signed with the Twins. At 28, he’s not a prospect, but he has been solid enough in the minor leagues that this is a worthy risk to take. I also believe that Matt Fox and Ryan Mullins will each get an opportunity to start at some point during the season.

The Bullpen Arms

Anthony Slama (23), Rob Delaney, Jose Lugo, Kyle Waldrop, Tim Lahey, Matt Fox, Ryan Mullins, Ron Mahay.

The back-end of the Twins bullpen is incredibly talented and should be a strength of this roster. Anthony Slama has done nothing but dominate since signing in early 2007. Rob Delaney has been just about as good, although he struggled more in his time in AAA than did Slama. Jose Lugo is pretty similar to Jose Mijares. Occasional lapses and loss of control, but has tremendous stuff, especially against lefties. Kyle Waldrop was a pleasant surprise in camp this spring. The non-roster invitee was one of the Twins first-round picks in 2004 out of his Tennessee high school. He missed all of 2008 with surgery in his shoulder. He stayed healthy in 2009 and should be strong in 2010. Fellow 2004 first round pick Matt Fox and 2005 3rd round pick will be the righty and lefty (respectively) to pitch out of the bullpen, and as I said earlier, both could get opportunities to start. Tim Lahey was drafted as a catcher, and soon the Twins made him a reliever. He quickly worked through the system and last year he really struggled. But he lost nearly 30 pounds in the offseason and looked strong in camp, so it will be a very big year for the right-hander. And remember, in all likelihood, Alex Burnett will be optioned to Rochester, a place he has not yet played. But he could be the best relief pitching prospect in the Twins system too. Ron Mahay will start the season in Rochester, but he is expected to be up with the Twins relatively soon. Big league veteran, Brad Hennessey, who had a couple of very good years with the San Francisco Giants, missed last year and will spend the first couple of months this year. But this was a nice

The Catchers

Wilson Ramos (2), Allan de San Miguel.

When it came to on-field, baseball decisions, Wilson Ramos was probably the story of spring training. Ramos did not lose the battle to Drew Butera, but Butera was – rightfully – given the Twins backup catcher duties until the return of Jose Morales. Ramos is an incredible prospect. I ranked him the team’s #2 prospect this winter. He has displayed an ability to hit for both average and power, and play a very solid catcher defensively. The incredible thing is that he isn’t even the top prospect in the International League this year. Both Jesus Montero of the Yankees and Carlos Santana of the Indians will also be playing in the league.

De San Miguel has been in the Twins farm system for a long time and yet he is still just 23 years old. He knows and understands that his future with the Twins is as a backup catcher, and he has embraced the role. Offensively, he hasn’t hit for average or power, but he has really improved his ability to get on base. But again, that’s all secondary to what he provides for the pitching staff. Jose Morales would likely rehab in Rochester at some point, and when he returns to the Twins, Drew Butera would likely come back to Rochester to back up Ramos.

The Infielders

Brock Peterson, Luke Hughes (27), Trevor Plouffe (21), Danny Valencia (7), Erik Lis, Matt Tolbert, (Matt Macri)

Peterson became a free agent this past offseason, but the Twins were happily able to bring him back. He was the Red Wings top hitter in the second half of 2009. Plus, it’s fun to cheer for a former 49th round draft pick! Erik Lis likely will not play much first base and will get plenty of at bats as the team’s designated hitter. This is a big year for Trevor Plouffe. He’s still just 23, but now in his third year at Rochester. With the acquisition of JJ Hardy, Plouffe may need to play other positions as well. Danny Valencia is immensely talented, and there are questions at 3B with the Twins. There could be a scenario in which he is up with the Twins by June, but most of that depends as much on the performances of Nick Punto and Brendan Harris, along with his own performance. Matt Tolbert, simply, is not very good, but he can play all around the infield and on opening night, he will actually be the Red Wings leadoff hitter and center fielder. Ron Gardenhire loves him, so he likely remains in the plans. Matt Macri begins the season on the Disabled List.

The Outfielders

Brian Dinkelman, Jason Repko, Jacque Jones, Dustin Martin, (Brandon Roberts)

Jacque Jones was one of the great Twins stories of spring training. Brought back for camp, almost as a courtesy for all he did at the beginning of last decade for the team, Jones was not going to make the big league roster. But he almost did, and now he will head to Rochester. If a need arises in the outfield for the Twins, Jones might be the first promoted. On Monday, the Twins signed Jason Repko, a centerfielder who had spent time with the Los Angeles Dodgers four of the past five seasons. Not a great hitter, he is right-handed and probably the best option to play center field. Dustin Martin had a very good 2008, a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League, and a nice showing in spring training 2009. And then the season started, and Martin didn’t even get an invite to big league training camp this year. Brian Dinkelman was a second baseman throughout his career, until Steve Singleton was promoted to New Britain last year. Then Dinkelman started playing in the outfield, and he performed fairly well. A good contact hitter who finds ways to get on base, I think he will be hitting near the top of the Red Wings order throughout the year. Finally, Brandon Roberts spent most of the past two years in New Britain, on their Disabled List, and that’s where he will begin the 2010 season with the Red Wings.

SUMMARY

Overall, I think this is a very solid roster. For AAA, it is a good mix of veteran players, with decent AAAA types of players and a good number of prospects who will likely contribute to some degree, some significantly, in the next couple of seasons. On Opening Night, Danny Valencia will be batting 8th with Brian Dinkelman betting 9th. I’m not saying agree with that, but if that is the case, this should be a very strong lineup. As I mentioned before, the back end of the bullpen should be very strong, so the starters can hopefully provide at least six good innings each night. The fans in Rochester should get to see some quality baseball this season. Hopefully they can not only develop players for the Twins to use as necessary, but also compete for a playoff spot in the International League.  

If you have any questions or comments on this preview of the roster, please feel free to ask… Leave your questions or comments.