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Roster Projections: New Britain Rock Cats

30 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 the 2011 Triple-A Rochester Red Wings 24-man roster – In progress.
  • Step 4: Configure the 2011 Double-A New Britain Rock Cats 24-man roster – In progress.

The fun of projecting minor league rosters after major league rosters is that we don’t know what’s happening. We don’t always understand the big picture. For instance, I projected that Chris Province would be in the Triple-A bullpen. Yesterday, I found out that he, in his words on Twitter this morning, “voluntarily retired.” The Twins made 12 cuts over the past couple of days, and as I review the names of all of the players still in Twins minor league camp, it is difficult to place all of them. We don’t know injury situations. I was unaware the Bruce Pugh was set back a few days by back soreness. That will likely keep him back in Ft. Myers and in the bullpen for at least a little while. Some of the decisions on these minor league veterans brought in has kept several minor leaguers down a level. In some cases, that’s good. In other cases, it is a little surprising. For instance, I understand that Tony Davis will be heading back to Ft. Myers to start the season.

With all that in mind, I present to you my thoughts on a projected roster for the Twins Double-A affiliate, the New Britain Rock Cats. (the below roster is my opinion and my guesses, and nothing official.)

Catchers: Danny Lehmann (40 man – No) – Jair Fernandez (40 man – No) 

Lehmann was impressive this spring. He has been named the Twins minor league catcher of the year the past two years. Defensively, he is ready to be a backup catcher for the Twins. Offensively, he’s probably a notch above Drew Butera. Fernandez, like Waldrop and Portes, could have been a six-year minor league free agent after last season. He chose to stay with the Twins. He is a big guy with a little pop in his bat. Not a great catcher at all though despite a strong arm.

Infielders: 1B – Chris Parmelee (40 man – Yes), 2B – Steve Singleton (40 man – No), 3B – Nick Romero/Deibinson Romero (40 man – No/No), SS – Estarlin de Los Santos (40 man – No), Utility – Chris Cates (40 man – No), IF/OF/DH – Yangervis Solarte – (40 man – No)

Chris Parmelee is going to be my choice for preseason Twins minor league hitter of the year. Hopefully he will be able to stick with the Rock Cats all season, as I believe that would be best for his development. Steve Singleton should be in Rochester. I know, I’m shy about expressing that, aren’t I? He should get some time at both 3B and SS as well. Estarlin de Los Santos should get a couple of months here to regain his prospect status or else Brian Dozier will be here and get the playing time. 3B is where I’m not certain. So, I can see a scenario in which Nick Romero and one-time prospect Deibinson Romero split time, or even platoon. Solarte can play anywhere on the field, kind of like Luke Hughes. He has hit when healthy and was up with the Rock Cats last year before getting hurt. The utility infield spot will be interesting. Chris Cates is the incumbent, but could Ray Chang or Matt Brown be sent to AA? Neither can play SS well, so I’m leaning toward Cates.

Outfielders: LF – Evan Bigley (40 man – No), CF – Joe Benson (40 man – Yes), RF – Rene Tosoni (40 man – Yes), 4th outfielder – Mark Dolenc (40 man – No).

At this time last year, Rene Tosoni thought he was packing to go to Rochester, but then the Twins signed Jason Repko right before Opening Day and Tosoni went back to New Britain. His shoulder was bad, and he was DHing until a midseason shoulder surgery ended his season. But he was still added to the 40 man roster, and he could move up quickly if he swing returns. Joe Benson was last year’s Twins Minor League Hitter of the Year. The sky is the limit for Benson. The only thing is his contact rate will need to improve for him to advance where we all hope he will. Again, I think the best thing for his development would be to stay in New Britain for the entire season, get comfortable, make adjustments and see what kind of numbers he can put up in a full season. Evan Bigley is an underappreciated prospect. He’s got some power, and he can hit for average. He can play solid defense. When he moved up to New Britain last year, he played better than he had with the Miracle early in the season. I mention Dolenc as the 4th outfielder, and that’s where he is always put. However, every year, he gets a lot of at bats, and he performs better than expected. He is fast and plays very good defense at all three positions.

Starting Pitchers: RHP David Bromberg (40 man – Yes), RHP Deolis Guerra (40 man – Yes), RHP Bobby Lanigan (40 man – No), Liam Hendriks (40 man – No), Dan Osterbrock (40 man – No)

I was very much surprised to learn that David Bromberg would start this season in Double-A after he made nine starts in Rochester last year. That said, I think that it can be a good thing for him to spend a couple of months. He’s seen Triple-A. He’s now been to big league spring training and likely learned a lot. It will be great for him to implement some of the things he’s learned at Double-A, perfect them and get back to Rochester. Deolis Guerra pitched well in New Britain last year before being promoted to Rochester, and from that point on he was never able to find it again. Guerra is the best example of why bringing in some minor league veterans at the upper levels can be good. Guerra should not have been rushed, but the team was forced to. Bobby Lanigan’s fastball/slider combination is tough. I think long-term he can be a terrific reliever, but might as well keep him starting as long as he keeps putting up the numbers and stays healthy. I would be surprised if both Hendriks and Osterbrock start the season with the Rock Cats, but both pitched so well at Ft. Myers last year that they could be ready for this next challenge. Pitchers often say that they experience their first struggles at AA. Osterbrock experienced some struggles with Beloit in 2009, but figured things out last year. Hendriks is a tremendous prospect, very driven and competitive, and worth watching closely.

Bullpen: RHP Carlos Gutierrez (40 man – No), RHP Brett Jacobson (40 man – No), RHP Steve Hirschfeld (40 man – No), LHP Tyler Robertson (40 man – No), RHP Dakota Watts (40 man – No), RHP Santos Arias (40 man – No), LHP Spencer Steedley (40 man – No), LHP Jake Stevens (40 man – No), LHP Paul Bargas (40 man – Yes)

I think that Gutierrez is ready for Triple-A. Some could argue he’s ready for the big leagues. But this is the first time he has gone into a season as a reliever, and I think it would be good to start him back with New Britain for a month or two, let him close and pitch in more tough situations and get comfortable. It also gives some of those AAA guys a couple of months to prove what they have. There is no rush with Gutierrez. He doesn’t need to be added to the 40 man roster until after the season, and they aren’t going to want to use an option, so patience is a good thing. Jacobson was the second piece that came over from the Orioles in the Hardy trade. He has an interesting delivery, but he does throw hard and has a good curveball. Hirschfeld is definitely an option to start. He was terrific in 2009 but missed more of 2010 with injury. Robertson struggled as a starter with the Rock Cats last year, and when he went to the Arizona Fall League, it was announced that he would be moved to the bullpen. I think he has the makeup and the stuff to be successful in the role. Dakota Watts started the 2010 season (his first full season) with Beloit and ended in New Britain, and in the middle, he was touching 98 and 99 on the radar gun in Ft. Myers. Arias really struggled with the Rock Cats last year, but he should be given another shot. Steedley had a terrific April for the Rock Cats last year, but by the end of May, he had his elbow worked on. He could start this season on the Disabled List, but if he can come back, he is a good LOOGY possibility down the road. Jake Stevens is also left-handed. He was out of baseball last year, but the Twins gave the Naples, FL, native a chance to make the team. Paul Bargas was acquired by the Twins in the trade of Jose Morales. He’s got decent numbers in his minor league career, especially against left-handers. Bargas also has meningitis, and on one of the first days of minor league camp, he collapsed on the field and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. He has not yet returned to the team, but he should at some point.

Overall: This is where some really exciting Twins prospects will be. A couple of these guys would be ready to play at Rochester, but in terms of development, I think that Parmelee, Benson, Bromberg, Tosoni and Gutierrez may be best served by spending more time in AA. The first four were only added to the 40 man roster this offseason, and Gutierrez isn’t even on the 40 man yet, so time is on their side. This should be a solid team. Don’t be surprised if the likes of Ray Chang and Matt Brown end up here as well, which would make them a more veteran team. This should be a fun team to watch and several of them could be called up to the Twins at some point this season, if needed.

The minor league rosters should be announced later this week as their seasons get started next week. In fact, most of the roster spots have been determined and players are finding out. I have been quite surprised by some of the reports I have heard, but without knowing background, injuries, etc., it’s hard to determine from afar what some of the reasoning might be. Either way, it will be fun to find out and more importantly, to get this season started!

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

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  • Cody Christie, the North Dakota Twins Fan, joined me on the SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast last night. Lots more Twins topics covered such as the Jim Thome/Jason Kubel playing time question, Joe Nathan and Matt Capps, food options at Target Field, and many, many more topics.
  • If you are interested in the Twins minor league system, Twins Minor League Weekly podcast will begin on Thursday night at 10:00. Travis Aune and Seth will host the 10:00 p.m. podcast each Thursday throughout the season. We will talk about what’s going on with each Twins affiliate, how the teams are doing, who is hot, who is not, transactions, and much more.
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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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Twins Win Again!

19 Aug

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Leading Off with Quick Hits:

  • I’ll be on KFAN, its affiliates and KFAN.com on Thursday at about 9:20 with Paul Allen, talking about the Twins. Listen live or listen later.
  • I posted a blog on the StarTribune.com TwinsCentric page last night with an update on the 2010 Twins draft. Now that the signing deadline has passed, who did the Twins sign, and how have those guys been playing?
  • Finally, in conjunction with Sooze, the next TwinsCentric Viewing Party will be Saturday, August 28th, and this time, we are heading out of the Metro and up highway 10 or highway 94 to St. Cloud. It will be held at Howie’s Sports Bar in down town St. Cloud. There will be prizes and drink and appetizer specials. And, as always, it’s just fun to bring a bunch of Twins fans together. I always tell people that the outstate produces more Twins fans than the Metro, so help prove me right!

For the second straight night, the Twins were able to get in the end zone and kick the extra point. On Tuesday night, the White Sox got two field goals but were unable to hold the late lead. On Wednesday night, the White Sox got a touchdown, but were unable to take advantage of it by missing the extra point. Two straight games ended with a final score of Minnesota 7, Chicago 6. And in both games, the White Sox had their opportunities. On Tuesday night, they fought back and took the lead only to see Jim Thome walk-off in the bottom of the 10th with a long blast. On Wednesday night, the Sox were unable to take full advantage of a wild Francisco Liriano.

But this is where it is important to look at the big picture. The Twins beat the White Sox on Wednesday night and now hold a five game lead over the Sox in the AL Central. Think about that for a second. Last Tuesday when the Twins were set to start a three game series in Chicago, the two teams were tied atop the division. The two teams split the first two games of that series. So going into last Thursday’s game, the two teams were again tied. That means that in the last seven days, each team has played six games and the Twins have gained five games in the standings on the White Sox. It is incredible how quickly things can change. Of course, remember in late May, the Twins had a 9 ½ game lead on the White Sox, and it was not long before the Twins were four games behind the White Sox in the division. So, regardless of what happens tonight, there still are a lot of games to be played, and nothing is yet guaranteed. The Twins are now 70-50 and have 42 more games to play. The Twins are twenty games over .500. How about this… the Twins Magic Number to clinch the American League Central title is 38.

With that, let’s take a quick look at the Good and the Bad from last night’s game. Fortunately, there should be much more good than bad!

THE GOOD

  • Joe Mauer – He is pretty good at playing the game, baseball. Since the All-Star break, he is now hitting .446. He has raised his batting average from .295 to .335 in no time. He is a doubles machine, tied for the league lead with 39 doubles. He is on pace to set a new doubles record for catchers. He had four more hits last night including his very first official home run at Target Field, a line drive to left field that barely went over the fence.
  • Michael Cuddyer – Cuddy went 3-4 in the game and is 5-9 in this series. Always a streaky hitter, Cuddyer was 0-9 in the Oakland series (with three walks). He went 5-12 in last week’s series in Chicago. Or, maybe he just plays his best when the team is playing its best competition. Also, his 1B defense has become very good.
  • Denard Span – He had another two hits on this night. He now has four multi-hit games in his last six games. Not only that, but he has started to hit the ball with more authority.
  • Ron Gardenhire’s Bullpen Usage – Jeff Manship replaced Francisco Liriano and had a 1-2-3 sixth inning. He got one out in the seventh inning and allowed one single. With the middle of the White Sox lineup coming up, Gardy brought Jesse Crain into the game and he got the job done! Again! He then got three more outs in the eighth inning. Credit obviously goes to these two pitchers as well, but I thought that the usage of the best bullpen arm against the best hitters from the White Sox was great strategy by the Twins manager.

THE BAD

  • Francisco Liriano might be fighting a little dead arm phase. He went just five innings last night and walked four. That is the alarming number. But he struggled with control in and out of the strike zone. The four walks show the lack of control outside the strike zone, but the fastball right down the middle to Andruw Jones (that he launched into the Twins bullpen) shows lack of control in the strike zone. In his past three starts, Liriano has gone only a combined 15.1 innings. He will be fine, but the most beneficial thing of getting a large lead would be to feel more comfortable giving Liriano and Pavano some extra rest.
  • Matt Capps – “Threevolts” tweeted during the top of the 9th “Capps has become the new Guardado.” Fair, but I responded by saying, “Capps has become the new Rauch.” Let’s face it, even if Capps looks a little better as a closer than Rauch, there is a reason that his overall numbers were so similar to Jon Rauch’s numbers. Yes, he throws a mile or two per hour faster than Rauch, but he is almost as hittable. I still stand by my comment that adding Capps does make the Twins bullpen a little bit better, but I will also stand by my comment that giving up Wilson Ramos, who was called up by the Nationals, for him was WAY too much.
  • Gardy’s Repko Usage – Don’t get me wrong, I like Jason Repko and think that his defense is terrific. However, I don’t understand why Gardy insists on putting him into the game late in place of Jason Kubel. If we have visually seen anything in the Twins outfield, it is that Jason Kubel doesn’t do a bad job out there, and if he gets to a ball, he catches it. He does a nice job playing the wall and has a very strong arm. Meanwhile, Delmon Young struggles out in left field. He is not a real natural outfielder in left, and even if he gets to a ball, it isn’t a certain out. He does have a very strong, accurate arm though. I guess my comment would be that I don’t know that it is Jason Kubel is the one outfielder that would or should require a defensive replacement. In fact, I think an argument could be made that Denard Span in centerfield of late could be the outfielder replaced.

Here is a quick glance at what happened on Wednesday in the Twins minor league system:

Red Wings Report   

The Red Wings lost in the bottom of the ninth at Buffalo 7-6. Nick Blackburn made another start. He gave up five runs (4 earned) on eight hits and a walk. In 5.1 innings, he struck out five. Kyle Waldrop got the final two outs of the sixth inning, but not before allowing an unearned run and the two inherited runners to score. Anthony Slama then threw two shutout innings. Rob Delaney got two outs in the ninth but then allowed the final run to score. Matt Tolbert went 3-4. Brandon Roberts went 2-5. Erik Lis hit his fourth Triple-A home run and drove in three runs. He has been on a tear.  

New Britain Notes

Chris Province was the story in the Rockcats 3-1 win over Richmond. Province came to the Twins organization from the Red Sox in exchange for Boof Bonser before spring training. Province has been forced to make a few spot starts for the team, and on this night, he was very good. He gave up one run on two hits over the first 6.2 innings. Carlos Gutierrez came on and got the final seven outs, three on strikeouts, to record his second save. Chris Parmelee went 2-4. Jair Fernandez hit his fourth home run, a two run blast.

Miracle Matters

The Miracle figured out Rays top prospect Matt Moore after seeing him late last week and beat Charlotte 5-0. Angel Morales was 2-4 with his ninth double and three RBI. He also stole his ninth base. Nick Romero went 2-4 with his 22nd double. Ramon Santana was 2-3. But Kane Holbrooks was again up for the challenge. The 2009 draft pick threw seven shutout innings. He gave up seven hits, walked two and struck out six. Dakota Watts came in and got the final six outs.  

Snappers Snippets

The Snappers got a big 14-7 win over Wisconsin. Reggie Williams went 3-6 with his third triple, sixth home run and three RBI. Lance Ray went 3-3 with a walk and his 6th and 7th doubles. Michael Gonzales went 3-5 with his 22nd and 23rd doubles and four RBI. Danny Rams was 2-5 with a walk and his 26th double. Michael Harrington was 2-5 with his first double. Yorby Martinez was 2-5. Aaron Hicks returned to the lineup and went 1-4 with two walks. Clinton Dempster was the recipient of the great run support. He went the first five innings and gave up three runs (2 earned) on six hits. He walked two and struck out five. Matt Tone gave up two runs on two hits and a walk in two innings. Zach See worked a perfect inning. Andrei Lobanov came in and gave up two runs on three hits and a walk in his inning.

E-Twins Talkers

Elizabethton and the rest of the Appalachian League did not have games scheduled for this game.  

GCL Twins Topics

The Twins lost 3-1 to the Rays. Cesar Ciurcina started and gave up just one run on three hits and a walk in six innings. He struck out seven. Hein Robb gave up two runs on four hits and a walk in two innings. Bart Carter pitched the ninth and was perfect. Rory Rhodes and Kennys Vargas were both 2-4 and had four of the team’s six hits.  

Any questions or comments on the Twins or the minor league system? Feel free to leave your questions and comments here.

2010 New Britain Rockcats Preview

9 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!

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!

Jeff Smith will be the Rock Cats’ manager in 2010 after managing the Ft. Myers Miracle last year. Rudy Hernandez will be the hitting coach while Stu Cliburn is the pitching coach. Let’s take a look at players on the Rock Cats 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

Carlos Gutierrez (15), David Bromberg (8), Mike McCardell (25), Deolis Guerra (11), Tyler Robertson (17).

This is the group that I predicted would be the starting five for New Britain. That said, it’s actually strange being right. Gutierrez is going to get another shot as a starter, and I like the decision. He could be a very good relief pitcher today, but if he can develop a second and third pitch, through more innings pitched, it will be best long-term. Bromberg, as you all know, has led his league in strikeouts each of the last three seasons. He has terrific stuff, throws hard, gets good movement and has a good idea of what he is doing on the mound. He should continue to be solid. McCardell ended last season with the Rockcats. In the offseason, he had some bone chips removed from his elbow, and he said that he is back to 100% Deolis Guerra is the one remaining direct piece from the Johan Santana trade. All along, he was the one with the biggest upside. He struggled in 2008, but made great improvement, specifically with his control, in 2009. He has the best changeup in the organization and should be even better this year. Finally, Tyler Robertson was my #1 Twins prospect in 2007. But injury hurt him in 2008, and in 2009, he returned, stayed healthy and pitched well. He moves up a level where his high baseball IQ should really help him adjust.

The Bullpen Arms

Santos Arias (28), Cole Devries, Steve Hirschfeld, Chris Province, Joe Testa, Spencer Steedley, (Loek Van Mil).

This is certainly an interesting bullpen. Province was in the same league in 2009 when he was with the Red Sox organization. He came to the Twins in the Boof Bonser trade. He should be solid. Spencer Steedley impressed me when I saw him in the Arizona Fall League. He mixed some slow curves and change ups, and then suddenly would throw fastballs at 92 mph right by hitters. Joe Testa dominated in Beloit and Ft. Myers last year and gets to start with the Rockcats this year. The undrafted lefty has a chance to move up another level this year. Cole Devries signed in 2006 as an undrafted free agent from the University of Minnesota. He began 2009 in the Rockcats rotation and pitched well in the first half, but he really struggled in the second half. He’s back, but this time he begins in the bullpen. Santos Arias and Steve Hirschfeld both started 2009 in the Ft. Myers bullpen, and by the second half, they were arguably the Miracle’s top two starters. Arias is a big-time sleeper, a little guy who is wiry and throws 95! Hirschfeld is a solid prospect who also pitched in the AFL last spring. Loek Van Mil begins the season on the Disabled List again. At this stage, health is his only concern. He became a legit big league prospect last year when he hit 97 on the radar gun, so it’ll be interesting to see how healthy he is.  

The Catchers

Danny Lehmann, Alexander Soto.

I was a little surprised that Lehmann didn’t start the season in Rochester, but the more I think about it, the more it says about what the Twins think of him. First, they must want him to play. If he was backing up Wilson Ramos in Rochester, he wouldn’t play a lot. By sending him back to AA, he can play more. Secondly, all five of the pitchers in the Rockcats starting rotation, and at least half of the bullpen, are realistically future big leaguers. The Twins are wise to set them up with a great defensive catcher, and a smart catcher who can work with them and help make them better. Soto is a solid defensive catcher. Several pitchers like throwing to him. He doesn’t hit for average, but he has shown glimpses of power in his career.  

The Infielders

Chris Parmelee (14), Whit Robbins, Steve Singleton (26), Estarlin de Los Santos, Yancarlos Ortiz, Juan Portes, Toby Gardenhire.

Chris Parmelee had a very strong year in 2009 in Ft. Myers. He continued to take walks and display some good power, but he also cut down on the strikeouts a little bit. He had a solid performance in the AFL last year too. Whit Robbins was an All-Star in the Eastern League a year ago, and displays a tremendous glove. He will likely play a lot of 1B with Parmelee at DH or in the OF. Singleton is a strong prospect who can play three positions. Now a switch-hitter, he has certainly put himself on the map. Juan Portes surprisingly spent the entire spring camp with the Twins as a non-roster invite. He primarily played in the corner outfield spots, but he is expected to play a lot of 3B for the Rockcats this year. Estarlin de Los Santos was the surprise name added to the 40 man roster, but there is no question that he has a ton of talent and speed. Ortiz was the shortstop quite a bit last year in AA and will likely play significantly up the middle. And Gardenhire is a solid defensive player at all four infield positions, can play the outfield and is even willing to don the tools of ignorance. Having a glove like his on a roster is a good thing for the pitchers.

The Outfielders

Joe Benson (12), Ben Revere (6), Rene Tosoni (9), Mark Dolenc.

This outfield is incredibly talented and incredibly athletic. I’m sure Tosoni was disappointed in the Twins signing of Jason Repko as it means he heads back to the Rockcats where he hit 15 homers a year ago. I actually think that it makes the most sense to send him back to New Britain. Tosoni’s game is pretty well-rounded, but he still needs to figure out how to hit left-handed pitchers. Since he isn’t on the 40 man roster, and there isn’t a need in the Twins outfield, there is zero need to push him when he still has much to improve. Ben Revere had a very good showing in big league camp. He is a very good batting average hitter. He still needs to work on his patience at the plate and has room to improve tremendously. I am still waiting for some power to show, as his power numbers dropped in 2009. Joe Benson is arguably the best athlete in the Twins system (all due respect to Aaron Hicks). He had a very good season in 2009 at Ft. Myers. He is one of the fastest players in the system, but he is also very strong and capable of power. His eye at the plate vastly improved, and he plays a very strong outfield with a strong arm. Dolenc is a guy who is a great athlete. The Minnesota State-Mankato alum has all the tools, but he isn’t young. He is a potential fourth outfielder who should still get some good playing time this year.

SUMMARY

This is an incredibly talented team, probably the most talented in the system. Many of the Twins top prospects are here. The starting five all has high potential. There are two other guys that could be starting that are currently in the bullpen. The lineup should be quite strong as well and improve over the course of the year.

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

Roster Projections: Rochester Red Wings

23 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net – 

Before we jump into my Twins AAA projection, here are a couple of quick notes:

  • I was on part of Travis Talks Minnesota Sports podcast last night talking about Twins minor leaguers which obviously I always thoroughly enjoy doing that.
  • Tonight, I will be hosting an episode of the SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast. I’ll be joined by Baseball Daily Digest’s Joe Hamrahi who was at the Joe Mauer press conference on Monday night. There may be another guest or two as well, and lots of Twins talk.
  • There will be an episode of The Show on Thursday night at a special time of 8:00 p.m. I already two Twins minor leaguers (one of which some have been clamoring for me to bring on for awhile now).  During that show, we will also announce the regularly scheduled night and time for The Show throughout the season. So be sure to take in that show.
  • And please be sure to go to the Star-Tribune’s TwinsCentric blog today. Parker had a chance to sit down with Twins Assistant GM Rob Antony down in Ft. Myers last week. He transcribed his interview and posted the first half of it here. The rest of it can be found at Over the Baggy.

The Twins open their season on April 5th. The Rochester Red Wings season begins on April 8th in Pawtucket. Their first home game is on April 17th.  They will be managed this year by Tom Nieto, who managed the New Britain Rockcats a year ago.

So here are my thoughts on the 2010 Opening Day roster of the Rochester Red Wings:

The Hitters

  Rochester
C Wilson Ramos
1B Brock Peterson
2B Luke Hughes
3B Danny Valencia
SS Trevor Plouffe
LF Brian Dinkelman
CF Charlton Jimerson
RF Dustin Martin
DH Erik Lis
Bu C Danny Lehmann
Bu IF Toby Gardenhire
Bu OF Jacque Jones
Bench Matt Tolbert
DL… (Brandon Roberts)

Analysis: I discussed my thoughts on the Twins backup catcher situation yesterday, and I will stand behind my feelings that Wilson Ramos needs to play, not sit on the bench. That is why I have him starting in Rochester. When Drew Butera is optioned to AAA (when Jose Morales comes back), he will take over as the Red Wings backup catcher, behind Ramos. Danny Lehmann would then go back to New Britain. Lehmann is very respected among pitchers and coaches. Bringing back Brock Peterson (a six year free agent) is a great thing for the Red Wings, and I am just hoping that the former 49th round draft choice gets a chance to get a cup of coffee with the Twins. He was the Red Wings best hitter during the second half of 2009. Although I expect to see Matt Tolbert play a lot, I really believe that we will see a lot of Luke Hughes at second base. He played there, and played pretty well there, in spring training, and he could be another option for 2010. Think Jeff Kent? Danny Valencia should play most days at 3B, and hopefully he can get off to a fast start and be in Minnesota by mid-June. Trevor Plouffe will likely see time at all three infield positions as well, and if anything happens to JJ Hardy (or he doesn’t come back well), Plouffe could get a big league call too. Brian Dinkelman played mainly 2B until last year when Steve Singleton was promoted to New Britain. Then he started playing in left field where he is still learning, but works hard and can get better. The other two outfield positions could be a rotating carousel. Charlton Jimerson’s defense and speed is terrific. Dustin Martin needs a rebound season. Jacque Jones needs to play well. Really, all three of them need to play well because Rene Tosoni may not be far away from AAA. Erik Lis has hit well in AA New Britain for two years, so he needs to move up. And the DL seemed like an appropriate place to place Brandon Roberts at this time. Yes, I am not including Matt Macri here, although it is possible he could be another utility infield type. That said, defensively, I think Toby Gardenhire is just as good and can play eight positions. And no, this is not at all a choice, by me, that has anything to do with nepotism. He’s got a very strong glove.  

The Pitchers

  Rochester
SP Anthony Swarzak
SP Jeff Manship
SP Matt Fox
SP Ryan Mullins
SP Brian Duensing
   
CL Rob  Delaney
8L Jose Lugo
8R Chris Province
BP Yoslan Herrera
BP Kyle Waldrop
BP Mark McLemore
BP Mike Maroth
   
  (Glen Perkins)
  (Brad Hennessey – DL)
  (Tim Lahey)

Analysis: As you can see there several question marks in this pitching rotation. That really starts with Glen Perkins. If he doesn’t make the Twins roster (which he won’t), will they be able to trade him? If not, he will be sent to Rochester. Will he start? Will he pitch out of the bullpen? Will he be put on the Fake DL? Since I included Anthony Slama on the Twins roster, it meant Brian Duensing goes to the Red Wings, and I believe he will start. Should there be an early-season injury, he would be the first promoted. Anthony Swarzak and Jeff Manship both were rushed to the big leagues a year ago, and both showed signs that they can be solid big league performers, but each showed that they could also use more seasoning. Matt Fox spent the entire season in the New Britain starting rotation last year. It was the first time that the 2004 supplemental first round pick had done that. I think he deserves the shot to do it again as he has improved remarkably his arm strength and seen success. Ryan Mullins had a solid season last year in New Britain. It was his third with the Rockcats. He needs to move up. He actually pitched a couple of games for the Red Wings in 2007. So there is my starting five. 

The bullpen is even more perplexing. Again, with Slama on my big league roster, I’ll move Rob Delaney to the closer role. Jose Lugo will certainly be back in the Red Wings bullpen. I have Tim Lahey on the outside looking in, but he would be another option. Chris Province came from the Red Sox in the Boof Bonser deal. Yoslan Herrera was signed as a free agent recently. The lefty was very solid last year in AA, but needs to show he can pitch well in the International League. I really like this signing. He can replace Reid Santos as a lefty who could pitch both out of the bullpen and start as well. Mark McLemore could be that as well. He started his comeback from Tommy John surgery last year, and this will be his second year back. Mike Maroth has done better in spring training than I would have guessed he would do. That’s not to say great, but enough that if he wants to, he could go to AAA. There is really no risk in signing a former big leaguers like Herrera, McLemore and Maroth, letting him get healthy and seeing where he is at. Maybe he comes back fully. Speaking of healthy, Brad Hennessey was a solid bullpen arm a couple for a couple of years in the big leagues. He is likely to miss at least a couple of months, but I like this signing as well as a no risk, potentially decent reward signing.  

If you would like, you can e-mail me, or feel free to leave your comments here.