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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 Top Moments of 2011

27 Dec

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

99 losses. Confusing injuries and rehabilitation stories. Players traded, and players lost via free agency. 2011 was a really tough season for the Twins organization. However, there were a few positive moments during the season as well.

Blyleven to the Hall of Fame

  • Early in January, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced that Bert Blyleven was finally to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. The Twins had some special nights for him, and in August he was inducted.

20 Year Anniversary of the 1991 World Series

  • Also in August, the Twins celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the greatest World Series of all-time, that 1991 thriller against the Atlanta Braves. Many of the Twins players from that roster were in attendance for the reunion. It’s always great to see so many of those players coming back.

No-Hitters

  • On May 4 in Chicago, Francisco Liriano was wild, and yet he completed a no-hitter against the White Sox. The final out came on a line drive to Matt Tolbert off the bat of Adam Dunn. Liriano was pitching to stay in the rotation at the time, and despite all the walks, the no-hitter continued to show how good his stuff can be.
  • On July 6, Jeff Manship made his first start for the Rochester Red Wings. Due to injury, it was his first appearance in seven weeks. Manship threw four no-hit innings. He was followed by Jake Stevens who threw three no-hit innings. Kyle Waldrop gave up no hits in the 8th innings, and Jim Hoey finished the job with no hits in the 9th inning.
  • On July 16, Tim Shibuya, the Twins 23rd round pick a month earlier, started for the Elizabethton Twins. The right-hander threw seven no-hit innings. He was followed by 31st round pick, RHP Garrett Jewell, who threw a no-hit 8th inning. 7th round pick, lefty Steven Gruver, struck out two in a scoreless ninth inning to preserve the no-hitter.
  • September 3, Alex Wimmers tossed a seven-inning no hitter for the Ft. Myers Miracle. His season started with a six batter faced, six walk outing. He was shut down for a couple of months and brought back slowly. But to end the season in such fashion was a nice way to end a rough season.

Major League Debuts

  • April 1 – Tsuyoshi Nishioka went 1-4 on Opening Day against the Blue Jays.
  • April 28 – Rene Tosoni went 2-4 with an RBI in his debut against the Rays.
  • June 4 – Brian Dinkelman went 1-3 with a walk. In his first plate appearance, he was hit by a pitch. His walk was intentional. The Twins beat the Royals 7-2.
  • July 18 – Scott Diamond was called up for a spot start in the second game of a double header against Cleveland. He gave up four runs (3 earned) on seven hits and two walks in 6.1 innings.
  • September 5 – Kyle Waldrop gave up two runs on three hits and a walk in 1.2 innings against the White Sox. The first inning he pitched was scoreless.
  • September 6 – Joe Benson led off for the Twins and went 0-3 after walking in his first plate appearance in a 3-0 loss to the White Sox.
  • September 6 – Chris Parmelee batted fifth and went 2-4 in the same game.
  • September 6 – Liam Hendriks made the start for the Twins in this game. He gave up three runs on four hits and three walks in seven innings.

The Killebrew Tribute

  • Obviously one of the saddest moments during the 2011 season was the death of legendary Twins great Harmon Killebrew. However, listening and reading the stories of what a great man he was made us almost forget what a great baseball player he was. The Twins had a tribute for Killebrew on May 26. It was great to see so many former players there. Mudcat Grant was again amazing with his rendition of What a Wonderful World. However, the highlight had to be the speech of Nita Killebrew. Her poise and strength in that moment were amazing. Her words were inspirational. It was a great tribute to a great man.

Nathan Sets Twins Saves Mark

  • On August 10, Joe Nathan set the Twins all-time saves record by recording his 255th save. He surpassed Rick Aguilera’s mark of 254.

Thome Hits 600th Home Run

  • On August 15, the Twins traded Delmon Young to the Tigers in the afternoon. That was fairly big news that day, but fortunately, there was much bigger news coming later that night. Through his first two at bats, Jim Thome was 1-2 with a single. In the 6th inning, he hit home run #599 against the Tigers in Detroit. For many, it takes awhile to hit that 600th home run. Thome’s came just one inning later with two runners on against lefty Daniel Schlereth.

Draft Picks Sign

  • Within the final hour before the deadline for teams to sign their draft picks, the Twins signed all three of their first round picks. Levi Michael was the 30th overall pick and signed for $1.175 million (about $86,000 over slot). Supplemental first-rounder, Hudson Boyd, the 55th overall pick, signed for a $1 million bonus (about $350,000 over slot). Travis Harrison, the 50th overall pick in the draft, signed for $1.05 million (about $350,000 over slot). The Twins signed several other players with big potential on that final day, including Minnesota’s top high school player in 2011, LHP Austin Malinowski (the team’s 16th round pick).

Award Winners

  • Brian Dozier and Liam Hendriks were named the Twins minor league hitter and pitcher of the year, respectively.
  • Eddie Rosario was named the player of the year in the Appalachian League after putting up monstrous numbers including 21 home runs, one better than teammate Miguel Sano. Teammate Tim Shibuya was the pitcher of the year in the Appalachian League.

Terry Ryan Reclaims the GM Role

  • On November 7, the Twins announced the Bill Smith was being relieved of his duties as GM of the Twins and that former GM Terry Ryan would resume the duties in an interim role. The question is how long “interim” might be.

It was a tough year, and when trying to come up with positives from 2011, it was quite difficult to make it even this lengthy. I’m certain I missed some things. Were there any other positives from the 2011 Twins season that you can think of? Help me out here!!

TwinsCentric Notes

Joe Nathan Signs with the Rangers

21 Nov

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Reports out of Texas are saying that Joe Nathan has signed on with the Texas Rangers. The deal is said to be for two years at $7 million with an option for a third year. The Rangers are also said to be moving Neftali Feliz from his closer’s role to the starting rotation.

After missing the entire 2010 season with Tommy John surgery, Nathan came back and reclaimed his closer’s role in April. It didn’t take too long for him to give it back to Matt Capps. After a DL stint, Nathan returned and pitched quite well, especially late in the season.

In the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook, we predicted two years and $14 million for Nathan… Not too shabby.

Nathan joined the Twins at about this time in 2003. The Twins sent AJ Pierzynski to the Giants in exchange for Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser. He had one career save before coming to the Twins, and eight years and 260 saves later, he is the Twins all-time Saves leader, having surpassed Rick Aguilera just this past season.

I know there are people who can’t get past the Mark Teixeira homer in the playoffs… or a couple of other playoff blunders. I think it’s important to remember that from 2004 through 2009, Joe Nathan was, at worst, the second-best closer in all of baseball. In those six seasons, he posted an ERA higher than 2.10 just one time (2.96). He never posted a WHIP of greater than 1.06. He didn’t give up many hits. He didn’t walk many, and he averaged 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

As Twins President Dave St. Peter tweeted, “Joe and Lisa Nathan = Class Acts. Many contributions on the field and in the community. THX for 8 great years with Twins. Best of luck in Texas.”

Joe Nathan is one of the best Twins players in their history, and he has represented the organization and the community very well. At the same time, Nathan turns 37 on Tuesday, so as much as he appeared to return to form late last year, it’s hard to know what he will do over the next two seasons. So it’s easy to understand why the Twins would have been hesitant to sign him to this reasonable contract. Nathan said that “winning” was going to be a huge factor in where he would sign. I’d say he stayed true to that by signing with the Rangers.

 Feel free to comment.

Twins Add Three Players to 40 Man Roster

18 Nov

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

The Twins announced this afternoon that they have added Three players to their 40 man roster. But before I get to that, the Twins decided to remove RHP David Bromberg from their 4r0 man roster, which I have to admit disappoints me to no end. I just don’t understand it. A year ago, he was clearly someone who had to be added to the 40 man roster. Now, he is removed after a season in which he broke a bone in his forearm. It’s not an elbow or shoulder injury. It was a fluke injury. He worked like crazy to get back and is in terrific shape, ready for a second go-‘round. And he was removed from the 40 man roster. This is crazy. Then again, he cleared waivers, so he was outrighted to Rochester. I would hope (and assume) that he would get an invite to big league spring training again.  

But on to those that we can be happy for today, those added to the 40 man roster. They are:

  • RHP Carlos Gutierrez
  • OF Oswaldo Arcia
  • LHP Tyler Robertson

Going by my list yesterday, I ranked Arcia the easiest choice, followed by Gutierrez. I think ranked Tom Stuifbergen #3, Angel Morales #4 and Manuel Soliman #5 before Tyler Robertson at #6. I’ve got to admit, I am definitely surprised by the moves today, although as I pointed out, there were really only two easy choices, and they were both added.

I’m still shocked about the Bromberg news. I can’t say shocked because I had heard rumblings about it being possible awhile back. But I thought the idea was so crazy that it wouldn’t really happen.

I’m curious your thoughts and reaction. Feel free to comment.

40 Man Roster Decisions Due Soon

16 Nov

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

I expect that the Twins will announce their 40 man roster additions on Friday afternoon, but just in case they announce them a little early, I’m going to make my 40 man roster decisions. I wrote an article for the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook on this decision that the organization needs to make every year.  This will be some of the content from the handbook, but it will be updated, and since I expect the decision to be made in the next two days, I will give my final thoughts on who I think would be added. I will break it into The Givens, the Strongly Considered, the Have To Think Abouts, and the others who are eligible.

Who Must be Added? Players who signed when they were less than 19 in 2007 must be protected or potentially lost. Players that were signed when they were 19 or older in 2008 also have to be added. Typically, this means that high school players drafted in 2007 are eligible, and college players drafted in 2007.

So here are my predictions, for your consideration. I will also put a number after the name for where I would rank their likelihood of being added, relative to the other options.

The Givens

  • Oswaldo Arcia (1) – He has the kind of bat that someone is willing to put on a big league bench even if he isn’t ready.
  • Carlos Gutierrez (2) – The former first-rounder had a tough 2011 season, but if healthy, his sinking fastball and ground ball rate make him a given.

Strongly Considered

  • Tom Stuifbergen (3) – Improved velocity, has three pitches, knows how to pitch, comes up big in big situations, incredible in international play, made one start in Rochester after spending the season in Ft. Myers.
  • Angel Morales (4) – missed most of 2011 with an elbow injury. Came back six weeks after arthroscopic elbow surgery. Although the power hasn’t shown as much, no one doubts he has it. Good speed and defense. Works counts. Can he stick on a big league roster? He is younger than Aaron Hicks.
  • Manuel Soliman (5) – Pitched in Beloit in 2011, so the question is whether or not he would be able to remain on a big league roster. He’s only pitched for 3 years. He throws hard. He could be a bullpen arm if he can develop a second pitch. He could be an impact starter if he develops a third pitch.
  • Tyler Robertson (6) – Lefty came on strong as the New Britain closer in the 2nd half of the 2011 season. 15 saves, 10 wins, and pitched well. He was the 3rd round pick out of high school in 2006 (after Parmelee and Benson were taken in the first two rounds). He’s young and left-handed and smart, but the velocity is low.
  • Andrew Albers (7) – Because he was a free agent when the Twins signed him last spring, he is eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Like Robertson, he doesn’t throw hard, but he is very aggressive on the mound. Already 26 years old, he was my choice as the Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year this year when he pitched well in Ft. Myers and New Britain, in the bullpen and making a few starts.

Have to be Considered

  • Cole DeVries (8) – Sometimes last impressions matter, and DeVries was tremendous in the Arizona Fall League.
  • Bruce Pugh (9) – Sometimes last impressions matter, and Pugh falls down to this level from the Strongly considered due to a rough AFL.

Others Who Are Eligible

The Twins took Anthony Slama off of the 40 man roster last month. He could not become a free agent, but he is eligible for the Rule 5 draft. If I’m a GM, I absolutely would take Slama with a Rule 5 pick. He’s ready for the big leagues, and he can actually pitch out of a bullpen. I can’t imagine that the Twins would add him back to the 40 man roster after taking him off last month, but maybe the change at GM will give a different thought.

Phil Dumatrait and Brian Dinkelman were also taken off the 40 man roster. Dinkelman elected to become a free agent because he had been outrighted for the second time. He resigned with the Twins on a minor league deal last week. Dumatrait is a veteran and became a free agent, but yesterday, he returned to the Twins on a minor league deal. Both of these guys are eligible.

Others: Jairo Perez, James Beresford, Anderson Hidalgo, Steve Hirschfeld, Edgar Ibarra, Danny Lehmann, Brett Jacobson, Nelvin Fuentes, Jhon Garcia, Evan Bigley, Bobby Lanigan (10), Danny Rams, Mark Dolenc, Chris Cates, Jonathan Goncalves, Josmil Pinto, Spencer Steedley, Michael Tarsi, Jairo Rodriguez, Miguel Munoz, Wang-Wei Lin, Reggie Williams, Pedro Guerra, Rory Rhodes, Shooter Hunt, Nate Hanson, Deibinson Romero, Michael Hollimon, Ray Chang.

What Will Happen?

With the signing of Jamey Carroll, the Twins now have 35 players on their 40 man roster. They could add as many as five players, assuming they don’t sign any other big league free agents before the announcement. I would think that the Twins would prefer to leave one spot open on their 40 man roster which means they would likely add four players from above. (The Twins added four players last year – David Bromberg, Joe Benson, Chris Parmelee and Rene Tosoni) Those players are required to remain on the 40 man roster until after spring training next year. So what happens if the Twins want to sign another free agent, but they are already at 40 on the roster? I think many would agree that there are several of the 35 players currently on the 40 man roster that they could take off without missing too much.

Current 40 Man Roster

Here is the 40 man roster as it sits right now:

  • Pitchers: Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, David Bromberg, Alex Burnett, Scott Diamond, Brian Duensing, Jeff Gray (out of options), Deolis Guerra, Liam Hendriks, Jim Hoey, Francisco Liriano, Matt Maloney (out of options), Jeff Manship, Jose Mijares, Lester Oliveros, Carl Pavano, Glen Perkins, Kevin Slowey, Anthony Swarzak (out of options), Esmerling Vasquez (out of options), Kyle Waldrop.
  • Catchers: Drew Butera, Joe Mauer
  • Infielders: Jamey Carroll, Alexi Casilla, Luke Hughes (out of options), Justin Morneau, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Chris Parmelee, Trevor Plouffe (out of options), Danny Valencia.
  • Outfielders: Joe Benson, Ben Revere, Denard Span, Rene Tosoni

Feel free to comment, ask questions and make your predictions.

40 Man Roster Decisions

18 Oct

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Last Friday, the Twins announced the Jason Repko, Rene Rivera, Anthony Slama and Matt Tolbert had been removed from the 40 man roster. Nick Blackburn and Alexi Casilla were removed from the 60 Day Disabled List. That put the Twins at 38 players on their 40 man roster.

That’s where we are today. What will happen over the next couple of months?

Following the World Series, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Matt Capps will become free agents. That will put the 40 man roster at 35.

Then the Twins will have to decide whether or not to pick up the option on Joe Nathan’s contract. When they don’t, Nathan will become a free agent and the Twins 40 man roster will be at 34.

Late in November, the Twins will add some players to the 40 man roster in preparation for the Rule 5 draft, which takes place on the final day of the Winter Meetings in early December. If they are still at 34 players, they could add as many as six players. If they add five, they can make a Rule 5 selection as they did a year ago when they picked Scott Diamond from the Braves organization.

The Twins have had some success in the Rule 5 draft. That’s how they acquired Shane Mack. The Twins drafted Jared Camp but had a pre-arranged traded worked out with Florida to acquire their Rule 5 pick, a left-hander named Johan Santana. In recent years, the Twins have had players like Tim Lahey, Jose Lugo and R.A. Dickey selected in the Rule 5 draft. Lahey and Lugo were returned to the Twins after not making the big league roster. The Twins received catcher Jair Fernandez from Seattle so that the Mariners could keep Dickey.

So who needs to be added to the 40 man roster or risk being lost in the Rule 5 draft? Players signed before they turn 19 in 2007 and players who were 19 or older when they signed in 2008.

For instance, reliever Carlos Gutierrez was a compensatory first round pick of the Twins in 2008 out of the University of Miami. When he signed, he was 21. Oswaldo Arcia was 16 years old when he signed with the Twins in 2007.  

In my opinion, those two players are the easy choices to be added. If they wouldn’t be added, I think they would be lost.

So as not to give away everything that you can read in the soon-to-be-released TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook, I won’t tell you which other players I think should or will be added, but there is a list of players that would be eligible to be drafted in the Rule 5 draft if they are not protected on the Twins roster.

James Beresford, Evan Bigley, Cole DeVries, Mark Dolenc, Jair Fernandez, Nelvin Fuentes, Jhon Garcia, Anderson Hidalgo, Steve Hirschfeld, Edgar Ibarra, Brett Jacobson, Bobby Lanigan, Danny Lehmann, Dustin Martin, Angel Morales, Jairo Perez, Josmil Pinto, Bruce Pugh, Danny Rams, Tyler Robertson, Yangervis Solarte, Manuel Soliman, Tom Stuifbergen.

That’s just a partial list of those that should be considered. I would guess that the Twins will add four or five players. Who would you add?

Please feel free to comment in the Comments Section.

Help Coming?

23 Aug

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

We hear so often that the Twins minor league system is bad, that there are not players ready to come up to the big leagues and contribute to the team. I think most Twins fans understand that the Twins have done a lot in the last two or three years to really improve the overall value and talent level of the minor league system. However, most of that high-end talent is in High-A Ft. Myers or lower levels. Names like Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks, Angel Morales, Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano will pop up in Top Prospect lists very soon. But the Twins also have some very good talent in the upper levels as well.

I am often asked if there are any players in the Twins minor league system that can come up and contribute in 2012. The answer is absolutely Yes, but there are several angles to answering that question.

ALREADY THERE

In 2010, the Twins came into the season with a very veteran lineup. Not one rookie was in the everyday lineup to start the season. Alex Burnett was a surprise in the Opening Day bullpen despite zero innings pitched above Double-A. Danny Valencia came up in June and became a regular in July. Because he was the only rookie playing, there was little pressure on him and he went out and contributed mightily for the Twins down the stretch. In 2011, because of all of the injuries, Valencia has frequently been joined in the starting lineup for three or four players with less than a year of big league service time. That puts a lot of pressure on everyone in the lineup to do more than what they may be ready for. That isn’t good for the team and we have seen those struggles. Consider the current Twins roster. Here are the players with less than two years of big league service time: Valencia, Burnett, Drew Butera, Ben Revere, Trevor Plouffe, Luke Hughes, Rene Tosoni, Anthony Swarzak and now Lester Oliveros. We have seen already that Valencia can put up some numbers, including some power. We have seen the value of Ben Revere’s speed on the base paths and in the field. Trevor Plouffe has struggled with the glove, but he leads the organization in home runs this season. Luke Hughes was the story of spring training and has contributed a couple of home runs while playing 1B and 2B. Tosoni has shown patience at the plate and good power potential. Swarzak has been very important as the Twins long reliever and spot starter. Butera’s defense has proven to be as good as advertised. Burnett has shown signs of how good he can be out of the Twins bullpen. And, at this point, we don’t know anything about Lester Oliveros, other than that he throws hard, walks and strikes out a lot and is still just 23 years old. Again, that is a lot of players expected to contribute despite such little time. They have certainly struggled at times this year. However, most of these players have also shown that they can contribute to the Twins over the coming years. Valencia, Plouffe, Swarzak and Tosoni are guys who have been Top 10 Twins prospects and have the talent to contribute for years to come.

RETREADS AT ROCHESTER

The Twins went out of their way to appease the Rochester masses and brought in a ton of minor league veterans. After losing 95 games in 2010, the Twins wanted to give Rochester a more competitive team. It didn’t work. The Red Wings are currently 48-82 this season. Sure, guys like Phil Dumatrait and Chuck James have pitched for the Twins, but those veterans were not really brought in to help the Twins. They were brought in to help the Red Wings. Guys like Jeff Bailey and Chase Lambin really struggled early in the season. However, the real purpose in bringing in the veterans was so that the real prospects who were not ready for AAA were able to stay in New Britain and develop appropriately. The best players of the Red Wings were the prospects. Unfortunately for the Red Wings, all those injuries meant that the Red Wings carousel was continuous again throughout the season. The Twins again called to Rochester frequently, taking the pitchers and top hitters from the Red Wings. Plouffe was one of the International League’s best hitters. Revere, Hughes, and Tosoni were also all in the opening day lineup for the Red Wings.

There are prospects in Rochester, but at this point, there are question marks with them.

  • Scott Diamond – His best start of the season may have been his Major League debut when he went 6.1 innings and gave up three runs. It has been a real struggle for the lefty with the Red Wings. The 25-year-old has gone 4-14 with a 5.88 ERA. It will be very interesting to see how he responds with the team in 2012 because coming into the season, he had never posted an ERA above 3.52 at any stop along his trek up the Braves minor league system. That includes a 3.30 ERA in ten 2010 starts with Gwinnett, Atlanta’s AAA affiliate in the International League.
  • Kyle Gibson – He came into the season as the Twins top prospect and rightfully so. The Twins top pick in 2009 made his minor league debut in 2010 and advanced from Ft. Myers to Rochester. He began the 2011 season with the Red Wings and went 3-3 with a 3.60 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP in the season’s first two months. He walked very few, got a ton of ground balls and even struck out a batter an inning. He was definitely on pace to debut with the Twins in 2011. Unfortunately, in his final eight starts, he went 0-5 with a 6.47 ERA and a 1.88 WHIP. Clearly something wasn’t right, and he is currently in Florida rehabbing an elbow injury, hoping to avoid Tommy John surgery that would cost him his 2012 season. However, this does not make him a lesser prospect. It will just be 2013 before he is able to contribute to the Twins.
  • Carlos Gutierrez – The Twins second first-round pick in 2008 has been a starting pitcher to start each of his previous seasons in the minors. This season he finally went full-time into the bullpen. He has had his ups and downs with the Red Wings. His overall numbers are not impressive. He is 2-3 with a 4.88 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP. He almost made the Twins roster out of spring training. Control continues to be his problem at times. However, he also missed most of July with an arm injury and has struggled since his return. But again, in terms of ‘stuff,’ Gutierrez definitely has it. He throws hard and gets a lot of ground balls due to his sinker. He will play a role with the Twins at some point in 2012.
  • Liam Hendriks – The Twins pushed Hendriks to AA New Britain to start the 2011 season and he pitched great. The Australian went 8-2 with a 2.70 ERA. Because of the need for pitching in Rochester, he was promoted after pitching in the Futures Game and in the Eastern League All-Star Game. He began his AAA tenure with three very good starts before two clunkers. His last two starts have again been solid. The 22-year-old has walked 21 and struck out 100 batters in 125.1 innings this year overall. Hendriks needs to be added to the 40 man roster following the season, so it is possible that he could get a September call-up.
  • Kyle Waldrop – Another reliever who impressed in Spring Training (For the second straight year), Waldrop struggled in the first half this season. However, since the All-Star break, he has been wonderful. His big sinker ball has been in full effect for the last month and he should be given a September opportunity. If so, he will be another important possibility in the Twins bullpen in 2012.

PLAYOFFS FOR PROSPECTS

The New Britain Rock Cats are 64-64 this season, but they remain in contention for a spot in the Eastern League playoffs. Since the Twins and Red Wings (and Ft. Myers Miracle) are out of contention for the playoffs, there are some terrific prospects who are staying with the Rock Cats in an attempt to make the playoffs. Many believe that being on a winning team, and playing for the team, is an important part of the development process. I would say that it can’t hurt. But the Rock Cats also have several players who could contribute to the Twins in 2012. A couple could be in contention for an opening day spot while each of them could be seen at some point in the 2012 season. Here is a look at the top prospects:

  • Joe Benson – The Twins Minor League Hitter of 2010, Benson has been a much better all-around player in 2011. He is hitting .284/.379.499 with 26 doubles, three triples and 14 home runs. He also has 13 stolen bases. All that, despite missing five weeks after knee surgery. Benson is an incredible athlete with tremendous power who is also probably the second fastest player in the organization after Ben Revere. Benson is also a terrific outfielder with great range and a rocket for an arm. His biggest area for needed improvement was his strikeout rate. In 2010, he struck out every 3.5 plate appearances. This year, that number is about four. Depending upon which outfielders the Twins bring back next year, Benson could play a very big role for the Twins starting in 2012.
  • Chris Parmelee – Benson was the team’s second round pick in 2006. Parmelee was the team’s first round pick, and he backed up a very good 2010 with an even stronger 2011. The left-handed hitting first baseman is hitting .291.371/.451 with 27 doubles, five triples and 13 home runs. He does struggle against left-handed pitching. He has more power potential. It isn’t fair to expect him to be Justin Morneau offensively or defensively, but he can be a very solid big leaguer at 1B, maybe in the Lyle Overbay mold. He has a terrific approach at the plate, and if the Twins have a need at 1B in 2012, Parmelee will be ready to step in. He could also DH against right-handed pitching. He also can play a little bit of right field if needed.
  • Brian Dozier – I would argue that no Twins minor leaguer has made a stronger impression in 2011 than Brian Dozier. The Twins surprised a lot of people when they invited Dozier to big league camp this spring. But he has come through with a tremendous season. It began in Ft. Myers and hit .322/.423/.472 in 49 games. In 64 games with the Rock Cats, he has hit .317/.384/.500. Overall, he has 30 doubles, 11 triples and seven home runs. He also has 24 stolen bases. As a top of the order hitter, he has 50 walks and 60 strikeouts. He profiles as a good #2 hitter. Twins minor league pitchers love when Dozier is playing shortstop behind them. With the struggles of Tsuyoshi Nishioka, the 24 year old Dozier should go to spring training with a legitimate opportunity to be the Twins starting shortstop.
  • Yangervis Solarte – Solarte broke out in 2010 when he hit at Ft. Myers and got an opportunity with New Britain, but he got hurt and missed a couple of months. He began this season with the Rock Cats and he has hit the entire time. He hit .300 or higher in April, May, June and July. Overall, he has hit .320/.361/.441 with 30 doubles, three triples and four home runs. He doesn’t walk a lot, but he also strikes out only about once every 13 plate appearances. The only question with Solarte is if there is a position that he can play adequately. That will be the thing that will determine how big his future role with the Twins will be. The 24 year old has played primarily at second base and can also play both corner outfield positions, but not really well.
  • Deolis Guerra – This may be a surprise name to many, especially if you look at his overall numbers in 2011, but Guerra has been terrific. Overall, he is 7-7 with a 5.83 ERA on the season. He began the year with ten starts. He went 3-5 with a 9.00 ERA. In 43 innings, he gave up 66 hits, walked 15 and struck out 30. Opponents hit .357. Then he was moved to the bullpen, and he has been great since. In 24 relief appearances,e he is 4-2 with a 2.80 ERA. In 45 innings, he has given up 33 hits, walked 11 and struck out 55. Opponents have hit just .198 against him. The still-just-22 year old right-hander has a good fastball and a great changeup. It’s remarkable how the role change has improved his control, but his strikeout rate is very improved. He still has an option year in 2012, so hopefully he continues to make improvements and plays a role with the Twins as early as mid-2012.
  • David Bromberg – Twins fans should not forget Bromberg. He was an easy choice to add to the 40-man roster after last season. He has consistently moved up the Twins farm system, three times leading his league in strikeouts. He began this season in New Britain, but in late April, he was hit in the forearm by a line drive and he missed three months of the season. He returned recently, but probably too quickly. It’s important to note that his injury was not to his elbow or shoulder, it was a fluke injury. In other words, there’s no reason to believe that he can’t regain his form which means he will compete for a job with the Twins in 2012.

There are others on that Rock Cats roster who could find themselves with the Twins in time. Evan Bigley is an outfielder in the Chad Allen mode. Danny Lehmann is the most respected catcher by pitchers in the Twins minor leagues. His defense is on par with Drew Butera’s, with probably a little better offense. Andrew Albers has had a tremendous season with the Miracle and the Rock Cats. The lefty could continue to work his way up. Dakota Watts and Bruce Pugh are two pitchers who can throw into the upper-90s and are potential bullpen arms. Brett Jacobson has had an up and down season, but he has a chance. Bobby Lanigan has struggled some as a starter, but he profiles well as a future reliever because of a good fastball and a very good slider. Steve Hirschfeld was my choice for Twins minor league pitcher of the month in April and May. Finally, lefty Logan Darnell began the season in Beloit and is now with the Rock Cats.

ONE MORE

Although it is a rarity for a player to jump from Ft. Myers to the big leagues in one season, I would encourage people to keep an eye on Oswaldo Arcia. The 20-year-old outfielder was the Appalachian League Player of the Year last year for Elizabethton. He spent a month at Beloit this year, posting an OPS over 1.000. He then missed six weeks due to arthroscopic elbow surgery. Instead of going back to Beloit, Arcia went to Ft. Myers where he has continued to hit well. I believe his bat is legit. I posted on Twitter a couple of days ago that I think Arcia may be the best hitting prospect that the Twins have had since Jason Kubel in 2005. He seems to be a natural hitter. It might be a little aggressive to consider Arcia as a possibility for the Twins in 2012, but if there is a hitting prospect for Twins fans to really get excited about, it is Arcia.