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Organizational Depth Chart – Catchers

22 Jan

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

For the most part, the Twins spring training rosters are pretty well set. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is another reliever brought in, and there could be some more minor league signings. I thought it would be late enough in the offseason to start taking a look at the Twins organizational depth. So, over the next two weeks, I’ll go position by position and name the players throughout the farm system with a few thoughts. In doing so, I’ll be trying to figure out what the Twins minor league rosters will look like.

I’m going to start with the catcher position and work through all of the positions. First and foremost, I need to point out that these are my thoughts. I have no insider information to know where players will be. 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  

Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit, Drew Butera

Maybe it’s hopeful optimism, but I’m not worried about Joe Mauer in 2012. 2011 started out with injury, a bad diagnosis made public, and a not-so-subtle hint of confusion surrounding his health, his toughness and how even his teammates and managers didn’t always understand what the situation was either. If Mauer is healthy, he’s one of the best catchers in baseball, offensively and defensively. Ideally, he could again catch 110-120 games and if he does so, we know that he will likely hit .320/.390/.490 or so with 35 or more doubles and potentially a dozen home runs.

Doumit was a tremendous signing early in the offseason. His career numbers in the NL show that he has posted an OPS very similar to Jason Kubel’s. Offensively, I expect the same type of hitter as Kubel. That’s probably a little optimistic. I think Doumit (along with Trevor Plouffe and Luke Hughes) will be the primary DHs, unless Justin Morneau can’t play 1B and they have him DH. Doumit can also catch 30-40 games a season to give Mauer a day off from behind the plate. He’s not too good back there.

Butera is the opposite. He has no chance offensively, particularly when overexposed as he was last year. Butera is the actual backup catcher, in my mind, since Doumit should be starting every day. As a true backup catcher, he’s fine, plays good defense, does a good job against the running game, and works well with pitchers. When he has to play most days and gets 400 plate appearances, that isn’t the design. In reality, the Twins have a bunch of versatility on their major league roster, so I might prefer to have Butera in Rochester. If Mauer or Doumit is hurt one game, the other could catch the rest of that game, and Butera could be up the next day. Of course, that would assume the Twins utilized the DL well, something they did very poorly the last couple of years.

Rochester Red Wings

Rene Rivera, JR Towles

We saw in 2011 what Rivera could do, and it was pretty much just as bad offensively as Butera. He just swung more crazy and more often. Defensively, he is obviously quite solid.

JR Towles comes over from the Astros where he was once a top prospect in baseball. He never really hit with the Astros, although he never really got much consistent playing time. There may be some hope here for some optimism.

New Britain Rock Cats

Danny Lehmann, Chris Herrmann

Butera, Rivera and Towles are pretty much the same. I may be wrong, but everything I’ve seen, read and heard from players throughout the system, Lehmann is the best of that group. He won’t hit a lot, but no worse than Rivera and Butera did, and his defense is just as good, if not better. I’ve talked to a lot of pitchers in the Twins system the last couple of years and all agree that they love throwing to Lehmann.

Chris Herrmann is the Twins top catching prospect, and it isn’t terribly close. He made a very strong impression in 2011 at Ft. Myers and in New Britain. He didn’t hit for average, but he gets on base a lot. He also hits a lot of doubles with a smooth left-handed swing. He runs very well for a catcher. Part of his value is his versatility. In college, he played mostly in the infield. Early in his Twins career, he played mainly in the outfield and played well there. Pitchers say that his defense behind the plate has improved, and he now throws out a solid percentage of would-be base stealers. He could be a versatile backup player with the Twins by September, and he is also good enough to be the primary backstop for the team as well should they move the $184-million-dollar man to another position at some point.

Ft. Myers Miracle

Danny Rams, Dan Rohlfing, Josmil Pinto

Rams made a good impression last year at big league spring training and was very good in April. At that point, he got hurt and played through it, but his numbers were not what he and organization would have wanted. Defensively, he has a strong arm, but isn’t touted as a great defender. It’s just a gut feeling, but Rams is very talented, and I think once he gets to New Britain, we’ll start seeing some of his power potential turn into some power numbers.

Rohlfing played infield in high school and the Twins moved him to catcher. After awhile, he was moved to the outfield. Last year, he was pushed to New Britain where he held his own as a backup catcher. When he was sent back to Ft. Myers, he was in the lineup most every day, either behind the plate or in the outfield and he played well. He was invited to spring training this year because he has made an impression on the right people.

Josmil Pinto put up huge numbers in E-town a couple of seasons ago, but he really struggled in 2010 in Beloit. He returned to Beloit and did alright before being moved up to Ft. Myers. He has a strong arm, but it’s likely he’s a DH because he does struggle behind the plate.

Beloit Snappers

Andy Leer, Philip Chapman, Matt Koch, Matt Parker, Jairo Rodriguez, Kyle Knudson

This is where you start realizing that not all of these players will remain in the organization beyond spring training. There will likely be some injuries and others also added to the Disabled List for depth.

Andy Leer is from North Dakota and went to college at the University of Mary. He was an infielder with the Snappers in 2011, and at Instructional League, he was moved behind the plate. Philip Chapman and Matt Koch were both drafted in 2011. Chapman hit well, but he was a college guy playing in the GCL. Koch signed late and played in a dozen or so games in Elizabethton. Both are old enough that they should move up to Beloit, but based on numbers, one could stay in Extended Spring Training. Matt Parker was a non-drafted free agent singing a couple of years ago. He’s a defensive guy. Knudson played with Beloit in 2011, but he missed most of the second half of the season with a groin injury. He’s one that they will need to keep because he is solid defensively and has some offensive potential. Jairo Rodriguez is a strong-armed backstop without much offensive upside. 

Elizabethton Twins

Kelly Cross, Michael Quesada

Cross was drafted out of high school in 2010 and signed late. He got into just a couple of games. He really struggled last year with the GCL Twins, but he’s a guy that they’re going to have to push quickly because he’s only got one more season that he can play in the short seasons. 

Quesada was one of the better hitters with the GCL Twins last year and showed good power. Some scouts really like his potential. 

The Twins typically draft a couple of college catchers in the first ten rounds or so, and they go to Elizabethton as well. So, it’s really impossible to predict who will play any position in Elizabethton or the GCL.

TOP THREE PROSPECTS

1.)    Chris Herrmann, 2.) Danny Rams, 3.) Dan Rohlfing

SUMMARY

Joe Mauer is an All Star, an MVP, a Gold Glove winner, a Silver Slugger winner, and he’s paid like it. A couple more big seasons and he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But, he has to stay healthy. Chris Herrmann is likely a year away from being ready for the big leagues. He is likely the one player in the minor leagues that has the chance to be a starting catcher. There are several terrific defensive catchers whose ceiling is backup catcher, not that that is a bad thing! 

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

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Wednesday Game Notes: Twins Sweep White Sox

5 May

Before we start, I will be on KFAN, The Fan Radio Network and KFAN.com at about 10:20 on the Paul Allen show.

The Twins may be struggling during the early part of this season, and it’s not hard to come up with several reasons why. There are the injuries to several key players. There is a lack of defense. There is a lack of offense. There is a lack of basics. There is the fact that as of now, nine players who started the year in Rochester have had to play for the Twins, ready or not. There are logical reasons to understanding the Twins early struggles. Speaking to the offense, when we see a lineup that includes Casilla, Repko, Butera, Holm, Tolbert, etc., we shouldn’t expect these guys to be hitting higher than they are.

The White Sox struggles likewise are surprising. Their bullpen, assumed to be one of their biggest strengths coming into the season, has been a mess. Their offense is horrible, almost as bad as the Twins. The difference is that the White Sox haven’t had the injuries. The offensive struggles have been from the guys that are their core. In other words, they don’t have guys on the Disabled List that they can look forward to coming back. Their lineup is their lineup.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Twins topped the White Sox 3-2 to complete a two-game sweep. Nick Blackburn gave up just one run on four hits in 6.2 innings. He walked four batters for the second straight game and struck out just one. Jose Mijares got the final out of the seventh inning. Glen Perkins came in for the 8th inning and gave up an unearned run on a walk and a hit. He got just one out before Ron Gardenhire went to his closer, Matt Capps. Capps got out of the 8th, and although he put a couple of guys on in the 9th, he got the save.

The Twins offense did not exactly return to juggernaut-mode in the series. They scored just four runs in the two-game sweep. Jason Kubel drove in three of the four runs. He hit the home run that gave the Twins a 1-0 lead in Francisco Liriano’s no-hitter on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, he drove in the first run of the game with a single in the first inning. He added a sacrifice fly later in the game. Rene Tosoni drove in the third run of the game that proved to be needed in the 3-2 win.

With another day off today, the Twins (11-18) will head to Boston for a four-game series against the Red Sox who are now 14-16. Amazingly, they are just four games out in the AL East.

As you know, Trevor Plouffe and Ben Revere were on the bench for the Twins on Wednesday. They were added to the roster when Jim Thome and Jason Repko were put on the Disabled List. I would expect that when the Twins play on Friday night, Plouffe will be starting at shortstop and Revere will be manning the Green Monster.

Following the game on Wednesday afternoon, the Twins announced that backup catcher Steve Holm was being sent down to Rochester. No subsequent move was announced which, of course, made the Twitter world start thinking. The easy answer is that the Twins will promote either Danny Lehmann or Rene Rivera to the big league club. Either would need to be added to the 40 man roster. Because the Red Wings did not play on Wednesday and the Twins don’t play on Thursday. Holm could be playing for the Red Wings on Thursday night, and if he can, there is no reason that the player called up to wait until Friday to go to Boston. That’s the kind of stuff that makes me wonder if there isn’t something else going on. Could the Twins be looking to sign a free agent catcher? Could the Twins be working on finalizing a trade? If so, they would wait until the trade is officially finalized to announce the Holm move. So, again, I assume that it will be either Rene Rivera is 27 years old and hitting .200/250/.333 for the Red Wings. Danny Lehmann impressed in big league camp this spring. He has been the organization’s top minor league catcher the last two years. After going 6-13 (.462) in New Britain, he moved up to Rochester where he has gone 7-25 (.280) with a double and a home run. Of course, I prefer the Twins go with Lehmann, in part, because I prefer when the Twins promote from within. He was the Twins 8th round pick in 2007 out of Rice. He is the defensive equivalent to Drew Butera with a slightly better bat. I believe that Butera is a guy who can hit .180-210 in the big leagues (despite his current .111 batting average). I think that the 25-year-old Lehmann could hit .200-.240 in the big leagues.

As I mentioned on my podcast the other night, this is the time of year when transactions start happening in the minor leagues, and we saw some of that yesterday. Early in the day, the Twins:

  •  promoted C/OF Chris Herrmann from Ft. Myers to New Britain.
  • Josmil Pinto moves from Beloit to Ft. Myers to take his place.
  • Ray Chang was promoted to Rochester on Tuesday night (after the Plouffe promotion), and
  • last night, Steve Singleton got the call that he was also headed to the Red Wings.

Just as a reminder, I post all of this information, and much more, on Twitter immediately after I learn of it. So, if you want this kind of information sooner, be sure to follow me on Twitter.

Ft. Myers beat Palm Beach last night 6-2. Kane Holbrooks picked up his first win. The right-hander gave up two unearned runs on six hits. In six innings, he walked one and struck out three. Blake Martin recorded the three-inning save. He didn’t give up any runs, hits or walks and struck out just one. Danny Rams went 3-4. Anderson Hidalgo went 2-4 with his fourth double. Aaron Hicks was 1-2 with two walks and a double.

Beloit beat Wisconsin 4-1. Adrian Salcedo went seven innings and gave up just one run on five hits. He did not walk a batter and struck out eight. Clint Dempster struck out five in two one-hit innings to record the save. Daniel Ortiz went 2-4 with his ninth and tenth doubles.

Since the Twins don’t play today, you can follow the Twins minor league teams throughout most of the day. Here are the times (all central) and starters:

  • Rochester hosts Gwinnett at 6:05. Anthony Swarzak will pitch against Braves prospect Mike Minor.
  • New Britain hosts a double-header against Richmond starting at 9:35 this morning. Steve Hirschfeld, my choice for Twins minor league pitcher of the month, will start the first game. Liam Hendriks will start Game 2.
  • Ft. Myers will host Palm Beach in their “Cinco de Miracle” game. Andrew Albers threw 4.2 scoreless innings in relief in his last appearance, and now he will get a start.
  • Beloit will host Wisconsin again today, starting at 11:00. Andrei Lobanov will start for the Snappers.

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

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.

——————————————————–

  • 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.

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 Non-Roster Invitees

11 Jan

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Via Twitter, the Twins announced that they are inviting 19 non-roster players to big league spring training. According to the Tweet, the list will include “6 pitchers, 6 catchers, 5 infielders and 2 outfielders.”

According to the press release sent later, here are the players who will come to Major League spring training camp along with the players on the team’s 40 man roster.

Pitchers: Kyle Gibson, Carlos Gutierrez, Yorman Bazardo, Phil Dumatrait, Chuck James, Kyle Waldrop.

Catchers: Steve Holm, Rene Rivera, Jair Fernandez, Danny Rams, Chris Herrmann, Danny Lehmann.

Infielders: Chase Lambin, Brian Dozier, Justin Huber, Matt Brown, Ray Chang.

Outfielders: Jeff Bailey, Brian Dinkelman.

Shocked that wasn’t invited to spring training: Steve Singleton. It makes no sense at all. Twins need to release him and let him catch on with a team that will give a second baseman with a good glove and pop in his bat a chance. When guys like Chase Lambin and Matt Brown and Ray Chang are getting an opportunity ahead of him, it’s really disappointing. Not sure what’s going on there.

I have written about each of the players added throughout the offseason as the Twins added so many minor league free agents. Chris Herrmann is an interesting add. They really like him and keep calling him a catcher, but he’s actually a tremendous defensive outfielder. Obviously he’s 2-3 years away from big league ready, but it’s a nice honor for him. With all of the pitchers in camp, they need a lot of catchers as well.

The big picture is that Waldrop and maybe Dumatrait are the only players above that have a chance to make the team out of spring training. Gibson and Gutierrez, their 2009 and 2008 first round picks respectively, won’t make the team out of camp. They are actually prospects, so expect to see them promoted in June, when they pass that Super-2 date.

Any thoughts? Feel free to e-mail me or leave your comments here.

Franchise Thoughts

16 Apr

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Thursday was a good day for the Twins and their fans. They beat the Boston Red Sox 8-0. They won two out of three in the first Target Field series. They improved to 7-3 on the season. People (ok, at least me) thought that beginning the season at .500 would be a good thing. In yesterday’s game, the only Twins starter that did not have a hit was Joe Mauer (not too worried!). Five hitters had multi-hit games. Denard Span and Nick Punto (yes, that Nick Punto) each had two doubles. Michael Cuddyer found a jet stream. Justin Morneau had three hits. Ron Mahay made an impressive return to the Twins bullpen. Jose Mijares got out of another jam.

But all anyone wants to talk about is the performance of Francisco Liriano.

And rightfully so. The talented lefty threw seven shutout innings against the Red Sox. He gave up just four hits. He walked two. He struck out eight batters. 64 of his 96 pitches were strikes. Of the 13 outs that he got there were not via the strikeout, 11 of them were of the ground ball variety.

I always feel the need to say I was wrong, because I admit, it happens, quite a bit… and that is great in my mind when it means good things for the Twins. I spent all offseason saying that I thought Brian Duensing did enough down the stretch last year to warrant the first shot as the Twins #5 starter. I thought the best thing the Twins could do was start Liriano in the bullpen, much like they did when he first came up to the team, and much like they did with Johan Santana. That strategy made sense to be because I thought he could gain some confidence by throwing in shorter stints. Hopefully he could regain his confidence and eventually be inserted back into the rotation. And then came the video from his starts in the Dominican Republic this winter. He was throwing hard, the slider was nasty again, and he was hitting his spots. Then he got to spring training and continued to show control, confidence and racked up strikeouts.

Twins bloggers around the region started to get excited again, and for good reason. In a division that boasts ‘aces’ like Zach Grienke (who pitches against the Twins tonight), Justin Verlander and Jake Peavy, the Twins really have a lot of very good starters who could be solid #2s. Francisco Liriano is the ex-factor. As Nick Punto said after yesterday’s game, “That’s [Liriano] our wild card. I feel we’ll be as strong as he is.” Liriano is capable of being an ace. In 2006, for those amazing two months, he was better than Johan Santana, who would go on to win the AL Cy Young Award. He showed some glimpses of that in Rochester in 2008. 2009 was a disappointment as his confidence was completely gone. However, in 2010, that confidence, that swagger is back…

And this is the point where I need to remind Twins fans that it wasn’t all that long ago (a week, to be exact), when many Twins fans worried about the five walks he issued in his 2010 debut in Chicago against the White Sox. I believe that Liriano is back. Maybe not to 2006 levels, and he doesn’t need to be. But if he can be in control, and he can be confident, he has the ability to not only be an All-Star again, but also to be the ace that the Twins need to go further. With that said, we also need to be fair. We need to curb the enthusiasm just a little bit. He isn’t going to be Sandy Koufax every game. As many have said, “you’re only as good as your next outing.” For Liriano, that will be next week against Cleveland.

If nothing else, Francisco Liriano has brought some excitement back. On a team with MVPs Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, that has hitters like Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span and Delmon Young, that has a very good defense, and that has four other solid starting pitchers and a solid bullpen, Liriano is potentially the most electrifying (and most important?) figure on the roster.

Maybe that is why there are still some Twins fans out there complaining about not being 10-0!!

SethSpeaks Thursday Minor League Hitter of the Day – Danny Lehmann – New Britain Rockcats

SethSpeaks Thursday Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Miguel Munoz – Beloit Snappers

  • Last month, the Twins released minor leaguer Kyle Carr. The left-handed pitcher had been selected by the Twins in the 12th round of the 2007 draft. They have drafted him three years earlier from his hometown of Linton, North Dakota. Yesterday, Carr signed with the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks of the independent Northern League.
  • The New Britain Rockcats are 0-7 so far this season, and tonight, they get to face Stephen Strasburg. Good luck!! Actually, I think they’ll do fine against him because I guarantee every hitter will be 100% focused. Not that they aren’t in every at bat, but this will be something different.
  • In former Twins prospect news, Yohan Pino will get another AAA start tonight, and he will face the Reds’ Aroldis Chapman.

Red Wings Report                                                                  

Thursday – Rochester 1, Lehigh Valley 4 – If you take away the three home run balls, Jeff Manship had a decent start. The righty gave up four runs (all on the 3 HR), on seven hits (including 3 HR) in five innings. He walked none and struck out five. Matt Fox came in and threw three innings of one-hit shutout relief.  Brock Peterson and Dustin Martin each went 2-4.

New Britain Notes

Thursday – New Britain 5, Portland 6 – This one was a tough one to lose. The Rockcats went into the final frame with a two run lead. Then a walk, a single, a runner picked off second base, another walk, a pitching change, two singles, a strikeout to give hope, and then a wild pitch meant another loss for the Rockcats. Mike McCardell was the starter. He worked 5.2 innings and gave up three runs on six hits. He walked two and struck out four. Chris Province came in and gave up one run on two hits over the next 1.2 innings. Joe Testa got the final two outs of the eighth inning, but got just the one out in the 9th inning. He gave up two runs on two hits and two walks. Santos Arias came in and gave up the last two hits, got the strikeout and then threw the wild pitch. Danny Lehmann did all he could for the team in this game. He picked the runner off of second base in the ninth. He also saved a wild pitch just before the game-ending wild pitch. He also went 2-2 with a triple and was hit by a pitch. Chris Parmelee continues to hit. He went 2-4 with his third double of the young season. Whit Robbins was 2-5. Steve Singleton and Joe Benson each hit a double.

Miracle Matters

Thursday – Ft. Myers 0, Charlotte 7 – The Miracle bats needed a miracle in this game. They managed just four hits in the game, although Drew Thompson, Evan Bigley and Dan Rohlfing each had a double. Bobby Lanigan gave up three runs (1 earned) on three hits and two walks in 4.2 innings. He struck out five. Michael Allen gave up a run on a hit and a walk while striking out two in the next 1.1 innings. Blake Martin then gave up three runs on four hits and two walks in two innings.  

Snappers Snippets

Thursday – Beloit 4, Kane Country 5 – For the second straight game, the Snappers led by two going into the 9th inning, and lost by one. However, Miguel Munoz was very strong again. He threw five shutout innings. He gave up three hits and three walks while striking out three. Peter Kennelly came in and gave up two runs on two hits and two walks and recorded just one out. Edgar Ibarra got the next five outs, allowing a hit and a walk, but no runs, and struck out three. In the eighth inning, Matt Tone struck out the four, five and six hitters. However, he started the 9th inning and walked the seven and eight hitters. The ninth hitter in the lineup bunted to Tone who got a force out for the inning’s first out. Unfortunately he then walked the leadoff hitter. Kane Holbrooks came in and gave up a bases-clearing double to end the game.  

Any thoughts on Francisco Liriano or the Twins minor league system? Leave your 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.