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Twins Organizational Depth Chart: The Outfielders

1 Feb

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2012 – Now Available as an e-book for $6.99 by clicking here. You can, of course, still get the print version for $13.99 by clicking here

At this point, we have reviewed the infielders and catchers throughout the Twins organization. Today, we will jump to the outfield. This information, of course, could be completely altered by an unexpected free agent signing or a trade. This exercise is not so much an attempt to perfectly predict where all of these players will wind up. In reality, there will be changes. Several players will be released. Some will be placed a level higher (or lower) than I would guess. This is just giving readers a reminder of who remains in the Twins system from last year, and who are the new players brought in this year. That said, I try to think about where these guys will

I need to reiterate that these are my thoughts. I have no insider information to know where players will be playing for certain in 2012. Obviously after spring training, some of these players will be let go. There will be Disabled List players, extended spring training and more.

Minnesota Twins  

Ben Revere (LF), Denard Span (CF), Josh Willingham (RF), Trevor Plouffe, Ryan Doumit

A lot of people seem to wonder why Willingham would be the right fielder. To me, that’s an easy choice. At Target Field, left field, centerfield and the gaps are pretty huge. I want Span and Revere covering the ground. Willingham isn’t a good left fielder. As far as playing the strange bounces off of the right field wall, anyone can have difficulties and will have to adjust to hit. Willingham will walk a lot and hit a bunch of home runs. I was chatting with Jamie Ogden at Twins Fest, and the comment that we agreed upon was the he will have the ability to take advantage of a pitcher’s mistakes and hit them a long way. It’s nice to have a guy like that in the middle of the lineup. As for Revere, I think it’s much better for him to play 3B. Simply, the throw from LF to 3B is much shorter than it is from CF. Also, the throw to home from CF is longer. Span doesn’t have a rocket for an arm, but he can throw. Span, when healthy, is a good on-base guy with speed and some extra base pop. Revere should be much improved, at least in terms of OBP, in 2012. He said that his goal is to steal 100 bases on 2012. He dropped that number to 80, but he plans on going whenever he gets a chance. Even though he didn’t play great in 2011, he made the Twins fun to watch and he made things happen. Imagine what he can make happen when he actually gets on base at a good clip! Trevor Plouffe should get plenty of time in left field, but he could also DH. He can hit lefties, and it will be interesting to see how he does in left field now that he doesn’t have the infielder’s glove. Ryan Doumit could get some time in right field as well.

Rochester Red Wings

Wilkin Ramirez (LF), Joe Benson (CF), Matt Carson (RF), Rene Tosoni, Mark Dolenc, Dustin Martin

Ramirez and Carson were minor league free agents brought in by the Twins. Carson is a power hitter. Ramirez is an all-around player who was a top prospect with the Tigers just a couple of years ago. Joe Benson has spent the past two years at New Britain, so he is ready for the challenges of AAA. He could move up to the Twins as necessary throughout the year, at least after the June Super 2 timeline. The same can be said of Rene Tosoni who will likely play nearly every day between the three outfield spots as well as DHing.  Benson could be a star if everything comes together. He could be a 30/30 guy with plus-defense in time. Tosoni is a guy who I think could fill a role as a platoon player and bench bat and occasional DH. He showed at times the power the he possesses. Dolenc has spent the past two years in New Britain and will likely need to advance to Rochester in 2012. He has averaged 439 plate appearances over the past four years and had a career-high 467 plate appearances in 2011. He has terrific tools, can play all three positions, gets on base, has very good speed, and plays really good defense with a strong arm. Dustin Martin put together his best year at Rochester (in his third season there).

New Britain Rock Cats

Angel Morales (LF), Aaron Hicks (CF), Evan Bigley (RF), Steve Liddle, Michael Hollimon

Aaron Hicks had a frustrating and inconsistent season in 2011 in Ft. Myers. He was tremendous in June and then struggled for a couple of months. He definitely represented himself well in the Arizona Fall League. His defense and arm are certainly ready for advancement. It is a big year for Hicks. He will be added to the 40 man roster following the season, but he will have to continue to show improvement on the field, in his approach at the plate and show consistency. What he does in 2012 may determine whether he remains a switch-hitter as well. Evan Bigley spent all of 2011 in New Britain and showed that he could be a candidate for a midseason promotion. Angel Morales is younger than Hicks (something many seem to forget). 2011 was a lost year for him. He missed three months with his elbow injury. He had arthroscopic surgery and came back at the end of the season. He has good speed and a vastly improved approach at the plate. Although he hasn’t hit as many home runs the last couple of seasons, no one seems to be worried about his power. Liddle really struggled last season in Ft. Myers, and he had shoulder surgery following the year. The Vanderbilt product is the nephew of Twins 3B coach Steve Liddle. Hollimon can play all around the infield and can also play around the outfield. He could be the guy to go back and forth between New Britain and Rochester regardless of where the need is.   

Ft. Myers Miracle

Lance Ray (LF), Nate Roberts (CF), Oswaldo Arcia (RF), Wang-Wei Lin, Danny Rams, Dan Rohlfing

I was surprised when the Twins sent Arcia to Ft. Myers following rehab of his elbow. I would be surprised if he jumps up to New Britain to start the season, but not completely. If he has one thing to work on, it is cutting down on the strikeouts. I think he can end the year with the Rock Cats. Lance Ray can hit, even if his 2011 Beloit numbers didn’t strongly indicate that. He has a very fluid swing and good power. Nate Roberts was the 5th round pick a couple of years ago. He missed a lot of time on the DL with a knee injury. He is an on-base machine, taking walks and always willing to get hit. Wang-Wei Lin has steadily improved over his time, and after two years in Beloit, he will need to play in Ft. Myers. He has a good, line drive swing but the Taiwan native still has plenty to improve. Dan Rohlfing impressed behind the plate and will go to big league spring training in that role, but he can also play the outfield. At Instructs, Rams was moved to the outfield, although he will continue to catch some. The goal is to let him really focus on his swing and his bat.  

Beloit Snappers

Danny Ortiz (LF), JD Williams (CF), Tyler Koelling (RF), Drew Leachman, Matej Hejma, Jhonatan Goncalves

Ortiz was my choice for player of the month last April in Beloit, but it was a struggle through most of his season. He could start with the Snappers and spend a couple of months there (he already played in the Midwest League All-Star game last year). Tyler Koelling and Drew Leachman are two college outfielders who should advance to Beloit. JD Williams had an incredible season in Elizabethton in 2011, yet it went almost unnoticed thanks to Rosario and Sano. Baseball America just called him the fastest player in the Twins farm system, and he has the ability to bunt for hits from both sides of the plate. He played RF usually for the E-Twins because Eddie Rosario was in center. Matej Hejma is from the Czech Republic. Although he didn’t play a lot, or that well, in Elizabethton, he has to move up to Beloit because he has already played three seasons in the short season leagues. Goncalves is an interesting case. He has played most of the past two seasons in Ft. Myers, but he ended last year in Beloit which is probably where he should have been all along.  

Extended Spring Training/Short-Season

Max Kepler (CF), Candido Pimentel, Romy Jimenez, Kelvin Mention, Kelvin Ortiz, Dereck Rodriguez

Like Niko Goodrum, I suspect that Kepler will begin the season at Extended Spring Training. Like Goodrum, I suspect that Kepler will not return to Elizabethton but will instead advance to Beloit before the short season begins. He has so much talent but is still very raw. Pimentel is similar to Otis Nixon, very thin and very fast. Romy Jimenez (formerly known as Romy Trinidad) missed most of last year with an injury in his first year in the States. Kelvin Mention did miss all of 2011 with injury. Kelvin Ortiz came to the States and really struggled. He should go back to the GCL. And Dereck Rodriguez (the son of Ivan Rodriguez) will certainly spend another season in the GCL.  

TOP THREE (OR SO…) PROSPECTS

1.)    Oswaldo Arcia, 2.) Aaron Hicks, 3.) Joe Benson, 4.) Angel Morales, 5.) Max Kepler, 6.) JD Williams, 7.) Lance Ray, 8.) Danny Ortiz

SUMMARY

Barring injury, the Twins starting outfield should be solid despite the losses of Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel (And to a lesser extent, Jason Repko). Benson and Tosoni are fairly close to being ready to contribute on a regular basis. Beyond that, there is a lot of talent but a lot of question marks. Can Aaron Hicks take that next step? Will Angel Morales return in 2012 with some added power? How quickly will the Twins advance Oswaldo Arcia? The ceilings of JD Williams and Max Kepler are very high, and there are so college draft picks (Roberts, Ray, etc.) who could advance fairly quickly. Of course, Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano also remain in the future outfield situation as well which provide even more depth over time. Outfield is a position of strength for the Twins system. 2012 will be a big year for many of them! 

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

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Twins Outfield Situation

4 Jan

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

If the Twins season were to start today, the Twins outfield would be pretty well set. Denard Span would be leading off and playing in centerfield. Josh Willingham will be hitting somewhere in the middle of the lineup and playing in right field. Ben Revere will be playing in left field most days with Trevor Plouffe spelling him from time to time, particularly against some tough left-handers. Ryan Doumit can spell Willingham in right field from time to time while also DHing.

Waiting in the wings will be Rene Tosoni and Joe Benson, both of whom we saw in 2011, and both of whom likely would need another half-season of Triple-A seasoning before being ready for more full-time duty in the big leagues. Dustin Martin is as ready as he’ll ever be after putting up very solid numbers in 2011, his third Triple-A season. The Twins also added some minor league free agents with big league service time. Wilkin Ramirez was a highly touted prospect in the Tigers system just two years ago. Brian Dinkelman saw time during the 2011 season with the Twins and is now a career .301 hitting in the big leagues. Matt Carson hit 24 Triple-A home runs in 2011 and spent time with the A’s in 2009 and 2010.

Waiting in the wings are several outfielders including Aaron Hicks, Angel Morales and Oswaldo Arcia who could all spend time in Double-A in 2012. Also, Chris Herrmann will primarily be catching, but he is also a terrific outfielder.

Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Jason Repko will all be playing elsewhere in 2012. Willingham was added and will do a fine job providing power and on-base percentage to the middle of the lineup.

Trade Options

From time to time we hear a rumor about the Twins potentially trading Denard Span. Obviously that all originated with the Nationals rumors last year at the trade deadline revolving around Drew Storen. Trading Span before the season makes absolutely no sense. With the injury concerns that affected him much of the second half of the 2011 season, the Twins would be trading low. With his defense and on-base skills, he can provide a lot of value to a team, but he will need to rebuild that value. He is signed to a very reasonable contract and can be a new team leader for the Twins.

Then some turn their attention to Ben Revere. Should the Twins trade Revere? What is his upside? That has certainly been a discussion topic for blogs the last year or more. However, he will make league minimum for a couple more years, and if the team is working on a salary cap, and has some huge contracts (Mauer, Morneau, etc.), then having production at the league minimum is necessary. Revere will hit for more average than he did in 2011 and with that will increase his on-base percentage. He plays good defense and is a terror to opponents on the base paths.

Of course, the appropriate saying for both is that they should remain with the Twins unless Terry Ryan is overwhelmed by an offer.

Free Agents

The Twins have really filled out the offense for their 2012 season, it appears. There are some names available in free agency. There are some DH types like Luke Scott, Vlad Guerrero, Johnny Damon, Magglio Ordonez and Hideki Matsui that are still available. There are names like JD Drew and Kosuke Fukodome who certainly can get on base at a good clip. The only outfielders that would be worth going after, in my opinion, are Cubans Yoenis Cespedes and Jorge Soler, but those two will get huge signing bonuses from the big money teams.

Others: Alfredo Amezaga, Rick Ankiel, Milton Bradley, Jay Gibbons, Scott Hairston, Bill Hall, Willie Harris, Brad Hawpe, Eric Hinske, Conor Jackson, Austin Kearns, Ryan Ludwick, Xavier Nady, Corey Patterson, Juan Pierre, Cody Ross, Ryan Spilborghs, Marcus Thames and Dewayne Wise.

Frankly, outside of Cespedes and Soler, I’m not really interested in any of the above outfielders or DHs. Does that mean that I think Trevor Plouffe is better than someone like Cody Ross? No, but Plouffe makes league minimum while Ross will be very overpaid. And, Plouffe, being out of options, needs an opportunity to show whether he is a capable big leaguer or not.

I feel the Twins outfield situation is fine. Obviously they will have to play well on the field, but I wouldn’t make any additions. Would you? What would you do? Feel free to leave comments in the Comments section.

Red Wings Combine on No-Hitter!

6 Jul

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Yesterday the talk was about getting Trevor Plouffe back to the Twins from Rochester. Tonight, there was another great story in the Red Wings 7-0 win over the division-leading Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Not only did four pitchers combine for a shutout, four pitchers combined for a no-hitter.

Jeff Manship made his first appearance May 15. He started and threw four no-hit innings. He walked two and struck out four. Jake Stevens, who was just called up today from New Britain when Anthony Slama was put on the Disabled List, threw the next three no-hit innings. Kyle Waldrop pitched the 8th, and Jim Hoey pitched the 9th frame to complete the no-hitter. With an out in the 9th, Toby Gardenhire ranged far to his right, dove, and came up firing to get Pete Orr at first base.

It was the 21st no-hitter in Red Wings history. The first, according to play-by-play man Josh Whetzel came exactly 123 years ago today, July 6, 1888.

Offensively, Dustin Martin led the way by going 2-3 with his 14th and 15th doubles. Brandon Roberts was 2-4. Delmon Young was 1-4 with a double.

Trevor Plouffe, after Ron Gardenhire called manager Tom Nieto to make it happen, started at 1B where he played the first eight innings. In the ninth inning, Plouffe went out to right field, switching spots with Jeff Bailey.

It’s been another frustrating year for the Red Wings and their fans, but this is a pretty exciting event. Congratulations to all involved, but especially to Jeff Manship on his return and to all of those pitchers!

SethSpeaks.net June Twins Minor League Hitters of the Month

3 Jul

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

It is hard to believe that the third month of the season is now complete and it is already July. It is again time to take a look at June and determine the SethSpeaks.net June Minor League Hitter and Pitchers of the Month. As always, there are some really good options which is why I do a Top 5 for hitters and starting pitchers and the top three relievers.

Today, I’ll be posting my choice for the June Hitter of the Month. In April, the winner was Danny Ortiz of the Beloit Snappers. Last month, the selection was Ft. Myers shortstop Brian Dozier. Soon after the calendar changed from May to June, Dozier was promoted to Double-A New Britain where he got off to a fast start before being hit in the face with a pitch. He returned to action after missing less than two weeks and has been playing even better. He missed too much time to qualify for the June player of the month, but check out these number. He went 16-48, and hit .333/.418/.500 with four doubles and two triples.

Also, the Twins short-season affiliates started late in June. There were some quick starts, but with less than 45 at bats, none of the players had enough playing time to get considered for more than mention.

Before getting to the Top 5, here are some guys who just missed the subjective list:

  • New Britain – Chris Parmelee (32-99) .278/.388/.412 with three doubles, two triples, two home runs and 14 RBI.
  • Ft. Myers – Anderson Hidalgo (24-81) .296/.345/.457 with nine doubles, two homers and 9 RBI.
  • Beloit – Lance Ray (25-81) .309/.398/.407 with eight doubles, and eight RBI
  • Elizabethton – Eddie Rosario (.357/.421/.720) with two doubles, a triple, five home runs and 13 RBI.

Number 5 – Beloit – Michael Gonzales – 1B (33-101) .327/.361/.525 with 6 doubles, a triple, four home runs and 19 RBI.

Gonzales gets the #5 spot for the second straight month. He had a nearly identical OPS as he did in May, however, he went about it a different way. In May, he was a walk-machine. In June, he didn’t walk as much, but he had a terrific slugging percentage. Gonzales started in the Midwest League All Star Game. At 6-6, Gonzales had a ton of power potential, but a long, slow swing in 2010. He lost 30 pounds in the offseason and has a much quicker swing and the numbers are showing. I can’t help but wonder if he should be promoted to Ft. Myers, but we forget that the 23-year-old spent just one year in junior college before the Twins drafted him in the 9th round of the 2008 draft. It will be good to see if he can continue to put up numbers throughout the second half.   

Number 4 – Rochester – Dustin Martin – OF (34-105) .324/.408/.533 with eight doubles, a triple, four homers and 14 RBI.

In 2009, Martin posted a .670 OPS in his first season in Rochester. Last year, he improved that number to .733. Through half of 2011, the 27-year-old is posting a .780 OPS for the Red Wings. Martin was the 26th round pick of the New York Mets in 2006. A year later, he and Drew Butera came to the Twins in exchange for Luis Castillo. After hitting .195 in May, Martin was a force in the middle of the Red Wings lineup in June.   

Number 3 – Beloit – Jairo Perez – IF (27-68) .397/.475/.618 with three doubles, four homers and 16 RBI.

Perez signed with the Twins way back in 2006, but it would not be surprising if most Twins fans had never heard of him until this month. He spent two years in the Dominican Summer League, and then hit .217 in 2009 in the GCL. Then, he missed all of 2010 with Tommy John surgery. His rehab contributed to him missing the first two months of the 2011 season. He was promoted to Beloit and debuted with a 2-4 effort on June 8th. He has continued to rake ever since. He had multi-hit games in eight of his 20 games played. He walked a lot, hit for power and drove in a ton of runs. He has a .414 BABIP to this point, so it may not be maintainable, but he certain started out well for his new team.

Number 2 – Rochester – Trevor Plouffe – IF/OF (22-71) .310/.388/.648 with five doubles, two triples, five home runs and 13 RBI.

Of course, when Trevor Plouffe was Jairo Perez’s age, he was in his second season in Triple-A Rochester. Unfortunately, the 25 year old is still in Rochester. When Plouffe was sent down (And bashed by the organization) early in June, he could have sulked. Especially when he had to miss a week of games with a bad finger. Instead, he just continued to do what he had done all year, and that is destroy the baseball. He leads the organization with 15 total home runs this season. Plouffe is now playing all around the field for the Red Wings in an attempt to make him more of a utility player, a role many in the organization envisioned for him the last few years.

The SethSpeaks Minnesota Twins Minor League Hitter of the Month of June is…

Ft. Myers OF Aaron Hicks (23-83) .337/.466/.530 with eleven doubles, one triple, one home run and eight RBI.

The team’s #1 prospect is also the choice for the team’s #1 minor league hitter of the month in June. Hicks has been playing very well now for the last two months, showing that he is taking his incredible tools, and they are now becoming skills. One of the reasons that he has been so highly touted, by me and others, is his ability at such a young age to take walks. He walked 20 times in June alone. In June, he knocked a lot of doubles. A perfect illustration of the type of player he is and hopefully will become was the extra innings game this month in which he went 3-3 with three walks and three doubles. Will the home run power come? I think so. He is very strong. His defense is already there. He has recorded many outfield assists this month because of his great arm. Now the key for Hicks, and for many top prospects, will be to become more and more consistent. In his first month in Hi-A Ft. Myers, he posted a .593 OPS. In May, he increased that number to .830. In June, his OPS was 996. Like his OPS, Hicks’ prospect stock continues to rise.

June was another difficult month for most hitters in the Twins system, but there were many that do deserve recognition for great play, many beyond the above list. Wait until tomorrow I post my choices for the June Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Month. There are a lot of very strong options and many were considered!

Please feel free to discuss and ask questions.

April Minor League Report

6 May

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

 

This is about four to six days late, but today I am posting my April Minor League Report. Obviously the records of the affiliates are from a week ago, but more important, there are 15 players listed here that are worthy of being recognized. Since this was written, Dan Osterbrock threw a no-hitter for Beloit, was named the Midwest League Pitcher of the Week for the second straight week and has now been promoted to Ft. Myers. Danny Rams is temporarily in New Britain. Likewise, Jair Fernandez will stay in Rochester until Wilson Ramos is returned to Rochester at which time Fernandez will head back to Ft. Myers.

 

Twins Minor League Month on Review

 

Although the Twins were an impressive 14-8 in the month of April, the story was definitely not as positive through most of the Twins minor league system. Heading into May, the Twins top three minor league affiliates are all in last or tied for last in their division. Only the Beloit Snappers have more wins than losses at this point.

 

·         AAA – The Rochester Red Wings head into May with a record of 9-13. They are tied with Pawtucket, five games behind Syracuse in the North Division of the International League.

·         AA – The New Britain Rockcats have a record of just 4-16 and are already 9.5 games behind New Hampshire in the East Division of the Eastern League. They must not have a home field advantage because through the season’s first month, they are just 1-11 at New Britain Stadium.

·         Hi-A – The Ft. Myers Miracle are also really struggling to start the season. They had an April record of 8-13 and are tied for last, six games back in the South division of the Florida State League.

·         Low-A – The Beloit Snappers have been the lone bright spot in the Twins farm system. They finished April with a rain delay and a 12-8 record. That puts them in 2nd place in the Western division of the Midwest League.

 

Although teams and their fans would prefer to see more wins, it is most important to remember that at each of these levels, Player Development is of paramount interest. Players and coaches #1 focus is on how to get the players to the big leagues and for them to be successful when they arrive. That said, learning how to win can also be part of the development process. Learning how to play within a team function and help your team win is also important to development.

 

As bad as the month of April was for most of the Twins minor league affiliates, there were still several individuals that put together strong first months to their seasons. Here are TwinsCentric, we will present our Twins Minor League Hitter of the Month, Starting Pitcher of the Month, and Relief Pitcher of the Month. We will run down the top contenders for the awards, before announcing the winners.

 

TwinsCentric Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month

 

#5 –Dakota Watts – 22 – Beloit Snappers (8 G, 13 IP, 0-1, 2.08 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 7 BB, 14 K)

The Twins used their 16th round draft pick in 2009 on the lanky right-hander from Cal State Stanislaus. After signing, Watts recorded four saves in six appearances for the GCL Twins. Due to need, he was asked to pitch for the Ft. Myers Miracle, and he predictably struggled. He went back to Elizabethton. He will likely spend most of 2010 with the Beloit Snappers, hoping to continue pitching well while reducing his walks.

 

#4 – Kyle Waldrop – 24 – Rochester Red Wings (11 G, 15.1 IP,0-0, 2.35 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 2 BB, 9 K)

The Twins had five first round draft picks in 2004. They used their third first round pick on right-handed pitcher Kyle Waldrop. He was a starting pitcher through the 2007. Shoulder surgery cost him his 2008 season, but when he returned in 2009, he returned with full range-of-motion. He also returned to the bullpen, a role he had not previously experienced. He did very well in 2009 and stayed healthy. He was invited to big league spring training. He arrived strong, with good control and with tremendous sinking action on his pitches. He spent all of spring training with the Twins, and thanks to Alex Burnett’s big league promotion, Waldrop began the season in Rochester. His great spring led to a very good first month in AAA.

 

#3 – Kane Holbrooks – 22 –  Beloit Snappers (9 G, 12.2 IP, 2-1, 0.00 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 3 BB, 14 K)

Holbrooks earned 2nd team All-American status in 2009 after going 10-1 with a 3.29 ERA at Texas State. The Twins drafted the righty with their 21st round pick following that college season. He pitched out of the Elizabethton bullpen in 2009. He has experienced a lot of success in baseball while really possessing only a fastball. He continues to try to develop more pitches.

 

#2 – Spencer Steedley – 24 – New Britain Rockcats (7 G, 14.2 IP, 1-1, 1.23 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 4 BB, 17 K)

The Twins used their 25th round pick in 2007 on UNC-Wilmington lefty Spencer Steedley. After a very good year in 2009 split between Ft. Myers and New Britain, Steedley was invited to pitch in the Arizona Fall League. When Steedley is throwing strikes, he can be very good. He is tough on left-handed batters thanks to his curveball and slider. He also has a sneaky-fast fastball. The strikeout to walk ratio from April is something he will need to continue to strive for as he advances. Many around the Rockcats credit his offseason wedding for his improved control!

 

#1 – Anthony Slama – 26 – Rochester Red Wings (12 G, 15.1 IP, 0-0, 5 Saves, 1.17 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 7 BB, 19 K)

Twins fans have been clamoring for Anthony Slama for a few years already. Considering the Twins drafted him with their 36th round pick in 2006, and that he did not sign with the team until June of 2007, he has been a remarkable draft success. Since signing, he has dominated at every level, including AAA late in the 2009 season. He participated in his first Twins big league camp this year, and he made a very strong impression. No surprise that he is again off to a terrific start in Rochester, and aside from the fact that he is not on the Twins 40 man roster yet, there is no reason for him to remain in the minor leagues.

 

TwinsCentric Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month

 

#5 – Kyle Gibson – 23 – Ft. Myers Miracle (5 GS, 30.2 IP, 2-1, 1.76 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 7 BB, 28 K)

When Gibson fell to the Twins with the 22nd overall pick in 2009, Twins officials were thrilled. Although he had the injured forearm and would not pitch in 2009, his ceiling is higher than any other pitcher in the Twins minor league system. It took until the final few minutes before the deadline to sign him, but it got done. Gibson struggled in his first professional start (5 R, 3 ER in just 3.2 innings), but since then he has continued to improve. In his final April start, he faced just 27 batters in a complete game, one hit, one walk, shutout against Jupiter.

 

#4 – David Bromberg – 22 – New Britain Rockcats (4 GS, 24.0 IP, 1-0, 1.13 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 6 BB, 19 K)

The 2009 Florida State League Pitcher of the Year has led his league in strikeouts each of the last three years. He has continued to adapt his game, adding new pitches, but most important, he has gained more control of his pitches each year. Capable of hitting 94 on a radar gun, the former 32nd round pick (2005). After throwing five shutout innings in his 2010 debut, he has throw three straight Quality Starts.

 

#3 – Tom Stuifbergen – 21 – Beloit Snappers (5 G, 4 GS, 30.2 IP, 3-0, 1.38 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 7 BB, 23 K)

The Twins signed the now-21 year old from the Netherlands in August of 2006. He pitched in 2007 but missed all of 2008 after shoulder surgery. He returned in 2009, for the upstart Netherlands team in the WBC. In fact, he was the starting pitcher in the game that eliminated the Dominican Republic. His success continued with a strong 2009. At Elizabethton, he was 5-2 with a 3.28 ERA. In 79.2 innings, he struck out 69 and walked just six. Stuifbergen knows how to pitch and will continue to be successful.

 

#2 – Bobby Lanigan – 22 – Ft. Myers Miracle (4 GS, 22.1 IP, 1-1, 0.81 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 4 BB, 20 K)

Lanigan was the Twins 3rd round pick in 2008 out of Adelphi University. The Staten Island native was known as having a very good slider. He spent most of 2009 in Beloit as a starter where he went 10-7 with a 4.52 ERA. He was promoted to Ft. Myers where he struck out 14 in 15.1 innings. He is back in the starting rotation for the Miracle and was excellent in April. Just two of his five runs allowed this month were earned. His walk to strikeout rate for April was excellent, and not unusual for him so far in his career.

 

#1 – Liam Hendriks – 21 – Beloit Snappers (4 GS, 22.0 IP, 1-0, 0.41 ERA, 0.41 WHIP, 2 BB, 26 K)

The Twins signed Hendriks from Australia in February of 2007. He pitched in the GCL that summer, but he missed all of 2008 with a spinal cord injury. He returned strong in 2009, pitching briefly with Elizabethton before making 11 starts with Beloit. He went just 3-5 but his ERA was 3.51 and he struck out 62 in 66.2 innings. He made four April starts with the Snappers. In the first, he went five shutout innings and gave up just one hit. In his second start, he gave up just one hit in six innings. In his third start, he gave up four hits, but once again, no runs, in six innings. In his fourth start, he finally gave up a run, just one run, on one hit in five innings. Not only has hit walks to strikeout rate been incredible, he only allowed seven hits in the entire month. Hendriks has been very successful in international competitions as well. He has one of the higher baseball IQs of any of the baseball players I have chatted with. Simply put, he knows how to pitch.

 

I had the opportunity to ask Liam Hendriks a few questions:

 

Seth: How strong did you feel going into spring training?

 

Liam Hendriks: I felt good going into spring training although it was definitely weird. I hadn’t been on a mound very much and was pretty excited to get back on the hill.

 

Seth: Were you at all surprised that you started the season in Beloit?

 

Liam Hendriks: Not really I expected after only being in Beloit for 2 months last year. I would’ve liked to be in Fort Myers but I think coming back to Beloit has helped me and now I need to work harder to be promoted.

 

Seth: How much does it mean to get off to a good start with the Snappers this spring?

 

Liam Hendriks: It definitely means a lot to get off to a good start in trying to get the call up to Fort Myers but it’s whether you can keep it going through the season.

 

Seth: If you could pinpoint one or two things, what has helped you get off to the good start?

 

Liam Hendriks: It’s mainly fastball control, being able to throw both inside and outside of the plate, and keeping hitters off balance. My changeup and slider have been going well, as well. But I think the biggest thing is the cold hitters don’t like it, and I seem to enjoy pitching in it. Ha Ha.

 

Seth: What are a couple of things you’re still working to improve as you prepare to move up the Twins ladder?

 

Liam Hendriks: I’ve really been working hard on a cutter that I can throw to left handed hitters and being able to get a sharper break on my curveball. I really just need to keep it going and try to avoid the big pitch count innings.

 

TwinsCentric Minor League Hitter of the Month

 

#5 – Steve Liddle – 22 – Beloit Snappers (20-68 – .294/.347/.485 – 4-2B, 0-3B, 3-HR, 11 RBI)

The Twins drafted Steve Liddle, the big league bench coach’s nephew, in the 15th round of the 2009 draft out of Vanderbilt. He had hit .348/.443/.572 with 22 doubles, two triples and ten home runs. He did not sign until late, so he played in just 13 games at Elizabethton. In that time, he hit .360/.441/.520 with two doubles and two home runs. As expected he started this year at Beloit and he proved himself a quality middle of the order hitter.

 

#4 – Aaron Hicks – 20 – Beloit Snappers (20-67 – .299/.427/.463 – 2-2B, 0-3B, 3-HR, 7 RBI, 5 SB)

Hicks may be the biggest surprise on this list. The 14th overall pick in the 2008 draft, Hicks started the 2010 season in a 1-31 (.032) slump. He ended the season by going 19-36 (.528). Since being drafted, Hicks has shown a tremendous eye at the plate and a willingness to take a walk. His defense and his arm are far better than average. For Aaron Hicks, he will want to be more consistent over the coming months to earn an opportunity to advance to Ft. Myers.

 

#3 – Rene Tosoni – 23 – New Britain Rockcats (24-71 – .338/.385/.493 – 4-2B, 2-3B, 1-HR, 7 RBI)

Tosoni was the Twins 25th round pick in 2005. The Toronto native was not able to debut in the States until 2007 due to work visa problems. Always a good Twins prospect, Tosoni gained more national recognition in 2009 when he was named MVP of the Futures Game and participated in the Arizona Fall League. Tosoni has a very well-rounded game, hitting for both average and power. A good defender with a strong arm, Tosoni spent some time as a DH due to pain in his shoulder, but clearly he did not let it affect his hitting.

 

#2 – Angel Morales – 20 – Beloit Snappers (18-64 – .281/.356/.500 – 5-2B, 0-3B, 3-HR, 11 RBI, 8 SB)

The Twins used their 3rd round pick in 2007 on a high school outfielder from Puerto Rico. The player has become a five-tool talent. In 2009, Morales was co-MVP of the Snappers (with James Beresford) when he hit .266/.329/.455 with 22 doubles, 5 triples, 13 home runs and 22 RBI. So it was rather surprising when he was returned to Beloit to start the 2010 season. He has started the season very well, hitting for average, and power, driving in runs and stealing bases. The lone concern with his game is too many strikeouts.

 

#1 – Dustin Martin – 26 – Rochester Red Wings (22-65 – .338/.419/.585 – 2-2B, 1-3B, 4-HR, 17 RBI)

The Twins acquired Martin along with Drew Butera in July of 2007 from the Mets in exchange for Luis Castillo. He immediately made an impression in the Twins organization by playing well at Ft. Myers. In 2008, he hit very well in New Britain and earned an invitation to participate in the Arizona Fall League. He then went to Twins major league spring training in 2009 and made a good impression. However, when he went to Rochester and struggled. He hit .254/.319/.351 with 16 doubles, five triples and five home runs. The disappointing 2009 season left him off of the 40 man roster and without a 2010 big league camp. Heading into the 2010 season, Martin was expected to be a backup outfielder in Rochester, but there were early opportunities for Martin to play, and he definitely took advantage. He has hit for average, been able to get on base, and he has hit for power. He is already just one home run shy of his 2009 tally. By any account, Martin had a great April, and that is why he is the SethSpeaks.net April Minor League Hitter of the Month.   

Any questions? Leave your comments here.

Links and Notes

5 May

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

RADIO UPDATE – I will be on KFGO’s Front Row tonight at around 6:30. KFGO is 790 on the am dial in Fargo, and Front Row is their night time talk show. The host is Mike McFeely. You can listen live online too.

The Twins beat the Detroit Tigers last night and won yet another series. It took a great defensive play by JJ Hardy, and a nice triple by JJ Hardy, and JJ Hardy scoring on a passed ball to do it. Whatever it takes. That’s all that matters. Nick Blackburn was the story. The righty returned from being gone for family emergency leave and pitched a complete game. Through eight innings, he had just 85 pitches. In that eighth inning, he recorded three more ground balls, something that was common place in the game. But sending him out for the 9th inning was an easy choice, and the right choice for the manager. Blackburn deserved the opportunity. The bullpen needed a performance like that, and he came through. Again, you win however you can, but to win on a wild pitch is too bad. It would have been great to see what Wilson Ramos could have done in that at bat.

It has been a little while since I have posted links to many Twins blogs and bloggers, so today I will do just that. I hope you enjoy and bookmark several of these sites. You can find these sites on the left side of this screen, where you can also find the links and times for the Twins-related podcasts. It is interesting. At the beginning of April, pretty much all of those blogs were up and running. We’re less than a week into May, and most of the sites on the left have not been updated since early or mid-April. That’s not a big deal at all. My main point is that, if there are other Twins-related blogs, please e-mail me and I’ll be sure to post a link soon. Thanks!

  • Yesterday my StarTribune.com TwinsCentric blog discussed what the Twins should do with Wilson Ramos. Today, Nick Nelson posted that there is one clear choice for what to do. (I disagree)
  • Luke Hughes bruised his right thumb last night and will likely miss a game or two.
  • Allan de San Miguel is the only catcher in Rochester right now. That’s it. I know that people have been disappointed in previous years when the Twins left them short-handed. When the AAA team has just one catcher, it’s hard not to disagree.
  • That said, with Danny Lehmann banged up in New Britain and likely to miss several more games, the Rockcats are limited to just one catcher as well, their backup Alexander Soto. That said, Toby Gardenhire has already been behind the plate once. And, if absolutely necessary, Joe Benson could probably don the gear like the old high school days for a game or two.
  • Jair Fernandez is at Ft. Myers this year after being a Beloit last year. Chris Herrmann and Dan Rohlfing are at Ft. Myers this year after playing last year in Elizabethton and skipping Beloit.
  • The Twins Geek wrote about attending last night’s game.
  •  Aaron Gleeman broke some news late last night. Wilson Ramos is, in fact, human!
  • Over the Baggy analyzes Denard Span’s Hand Placement, some excellent analysis.
  • Josh’s Thoughts took a look at the April’s of each of the Twins minor league affiliates.
  • If you want to know just how horrible the 18-9 Twins are, and what a horrible manager Ron Gardenhire is, be sure to check out Fanatic Jack’s blog.
  • Here’s to you, Nick! Courtesy of K-Bro.
  • Undomed posted some thoughts from Week 4.
  • For the Love of the Game says Gracius to Wilson Ramos.   

Last night, Travis Aune and I will be hosted Twins Minor League Weekly. We spent an hour discussing the Twins minor league system, from the Rochester Red Wings through the Beloit Snappers. We named top players from each levels and talked about surprises. There were a lot of very good questions in the chat room, so it was just a fun show. I know a lot of Twins fans don’t care much for the minor leagues. Look at the 2010 season already. Alex Burnett was called up to the Opening Day roster and with the exception of a three day demotion, he has been with the team all year. He has been getting more high-leverage situations of late. Jeff Manship was promoted for one start when Nick Blackburn was put on the Family Emergency list. He gave up two runs in six innings last weekend. Luke Hughes came up to the Twins for the first time and got three hits in his two games played. He homered in his very first at bat. And most recently, Wilson Ramos came up from Rochester and proved what he could do given an opportunity. Odds are, another half-dozen players will come up to the Twins in 2010, maybe more. I think getting to know about these players well before they debut is fun and interesting. Of course, that’s probably why I’ve written two books on Twins prospects (Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook, 2009 and 2010.)

SethSpeaks Tuesday Minor League Hitter of the Day – Dustin Martin – Rochester Red Wings

SethSpeaks Tuesday Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Tom Stuifbergen – Beloit Snappers

Red Wings Report   

Tuesday – Rochester 7 Durham 10 Dustin Martin had an incredible April and it has continued in into May. On this night, he went 2-4 with his third double and fifth home run. Jason Repko went 2-3 with two walks and his third home run. Matt Macri went 2-5 with a double. Glen Perkins started for the Red Wings and gave up six earned runs on eight hits and two walks in just 2.1 innings. Ryan Mullins came in and gave up two runs on three hits and a walk in 3.1 innings. Anthony Slama had not given up a run in nearly a dozen outings, but in this game, he gave up two runs on two hits and two walks in two innings. Rob Delaney got the final four outs.  

New Britain Notes

Tuesday – New Britain 4, New Hampshire 8 – The Rockcats fall to 4-20 with another loss. They are now 13.5 games behind division leading New Hampshire. Mike McCardell started, and went six innings (despite a rain delay in the third inning). He gave up five runs on nine hits (3 home runs) and two walks. Santos Arias gave up a run on two hits and two walks in his inning. Henry Arias gave up two runs on three hits and a walk but he got just one out. Joe Testa came in to get the final two outs. Joe Benson had another very good game. He went 2-4 with his third home run. Mark Dolenc went 2-3 with a walk. Alexander Soto and Chris Parmelee each had two hits.  

Miracle Matters

Tuesday – Ft. Myers 4, Jupiter 2 – Kyle Gibson improved to 3-1 with another very good outing. He gave up two runs on six hits and two walks. He struck out four. Matt Williams struck out three in two shutout innings. Michael Allen recorded his first save with a perfect ninth. Deibinson Romero went 2-4 with his third double. Nate Hanson continued to hit well, going 2-4 with a double. Brandon Roberts returned to his rehab assignment and went 2-3.  

Snappers Snippets

Tuesday – Beloit 2, Clinton 0Tom Stuifbergen was terrific again and improved to 4-0 on the season. The righty went six shutout innings. He gave up four hits, walked just one and struckout nine. Ben Tootle walked two and gave up a hit, but no runs in 0.2 innings. Matt Tone came in and struck out three of the five hitters that he got out. Steve Blevins got the game’s final two outs. Angel Morales went 2-4 with an RBI in the game.  

Any questions? Leave your comments here.

Small Sample Struggles

15 Apr

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Do April statistics mean anything? Well, the obvious answer to that is that, of course the stats matter, just like a game in April is worth as much as a game in August or September. However, I am fully of the belief that people can make too much or worry too much about a slow start. There have been a lot of very slow starts throughout the Twins minor league system throughout the first week. That by itself is not a surprise. What is a surprise is that so many are struggling. Of course it will even itself out over time and a guy hitting .100 through 20 at bats probably won’t hit .100 over 400-500 plate appearances. Think about this, a guy who is 2-20 (.100) can go 5-8 over the next two games (certainly not otherworldly), and he is hitting .250. A couple more hits and you could be approaching .300. So, to see Aaron Hicks hitting .050 (1-20) right now, maybe you can understand why I’m not too terribly worried. Here are some other guys who likely would prefer to have started off a little faster (And yes, I do realize that batting average is about the worst way to evaluate a hitter):

Rochester Red Wings

  • Luke Hughes – .167 (4-24)
  • Danny Valencia – .167 (4-24)
  • Wilson Ramos – .208 (5-24)

New Britain Rockcats

  • Juan Portes – .050 (1-20)
  • Whit Robbins – .067 (1-15)
  • Estarlin de Los Santos – .118 (2-17)
  • Steve Singleton – .176 (3-17)
  • Joe Benson – .188 (3-16)
  • Ben Revere – .238 (5-23)

Ft. Myers Miracle

  • Evan Bigley – .053 (1-19)
  • Deibinson Romero – .118 (2-17)
  • Ramon Santana – .130 (3-23)
  • Jair Fernandez – .133 (2-15)
  • Chris Herrmann – .188 (3-16)

Beloit Snappers

  • Aaron Hicks – .050 (1-20)
  • James Beresford – .091 (2-22)
  • Danny Rams – .150 (3-20)
  • Angel Morales – .211 (4-19)

SethSpeaks Wednesday Minor League Hitter of the Day – Dustin Martin – Rochester Red Wings

SethSpeaks Wednesday Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Michael Tarsi – Ft. Myers Miracle

Red Wings Report                                                                  

Wednesday – Rochester 5, Lehigh Valley 2 Ryan Mullins was given a start and pitched admirably. The lanky lefty gave up one run on three hits over five innings. He walked one and struck out six. Tim Lahey gave up one run on four hits in one innings. Then Kyle Waldrop, Rob Delaney and Anthony Slama each pitched a scoreless inning. Delaney struck out two and Slama struck out three. Jacque Jones went 2-3 with a walk and his second double. Dustin Martin went 2-4 with a home and three RBI. Erik Lis was 2-4 with a double. Brian Dinkelman was an on-base machine, going 1-2 with three walks.  

New Britain Notes

Wednesday – New Britain 1, Portland 3Carlos Gutierrez was much improved in his second start of the season. In five innings, he gave up just one run on five hits. He walked one and struck out five. Spencer Steedley struck out three in two perfect innings. Cole Devries gave up two runs (1 earned) on two hits (including a home run). He walked one and struck out two. Chris Parmelee was 2-4 with his second double. Estarlin de Los Santos went 1-2 with two walks. Yancarlos Ortiz and Rene Tosoni each hit doubles.  

Miracle Matters

Wednesday – Ft. Myers 2, Charlotte 1Michael Tarsi recorded his first win of the year. He threw six shutout innings. He walked four and walked just one. Tony Davis gave up one run on three hits in 1.2 innings. Then Shooter Hunt came in and got the last out of the 8th and three outs in the ninth for his first save. The Miracle managed just five hits. Yangervis Solarte, Drew Thompson and Evan Bigley each had a double.  

Snappers Snippets

Wednesday – Beloit 6, Kane Country 5Steve Liddle continues to hit well. He went 2-3 with a walk, a double and a stolen base. Derek McCallum was 2-5 with his third double. Michael Gonzales hit his first home run of the year. Angel Morales stole two bases. Dan Osterbrock started and went 4.2 innings. He gave up two runs on five hits and a walk while striking out six. Ben Tootle got two outs, but he gave up three runs on two hits and two walks. Dakota Watts struck out five in 2.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Edgar Ibarra got the final out of the 9th frame. After the Snappers grabbed the lead, Steve Blevins came in and pitched a perfect 10th for his second save.  

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to Leave your comments here. 

Do April statistics mean anything? Well, the obvious answer to that is that, of course the stats matter, just like a game in April is worth as much as a game in August or September. However, I am fully of the belief that people can make too much or worry too much about a slow start. There have been a lot of very slow starts throughout the Twins minor league system throughout the first week. That by itself is not a surprise. What is a surprise is that so many are struggling. Of course it will even itself out over time and a guy hitting .100 through 20 at bats probably won’t hit .100 over 400-500 plate appearances. Think about this, a guy who is 2-20 (.100) can go 5-8 over the next two games (certainly not otherworldly), and he is hitting .250. A couple more hits and you could be approaching .300. So, to see Aaron Hicks hitting .050 (1-20) right now, maybe you can understand why I’m not too terribly worried. Here are some other guys who likely would prefer to have started off a little faster (And yes, I do realize that batting average is about the worst way to evaluate a hitter):

Rochester Red Wings

·         Luke Hughes – .167 (4-24)

·         Danny Valencia – .167 (4-24)

·         Wilson Ramos – .208 (5-24)

New Britain Rockcats

·         Juan Portes – .050 (1-20)

·         Whit Robbins – .067 (1-15)

·         Estarlin de Los Santos – .118 (2-17)

·         Steve Singleton – .176 (3-17)

·         Joe Benson – .188 (3-16)

·         Ben Revere – .238 (5-23)

Ft. Myers Miracle

·         Evan Bigley – .053 (1-19)

·         Deibinson Romero – .118 (2-17)

·         Ramon Santana – .130 (3-23)

·         Jair Fernandez – .133 (2-15)

·         Chris Herrmann – .188 (3-16)

Beloit Snappers

·         Aaron Hicks – .050 (1-20)

·         James Beresford – .091 (2-22)

·         Danny Rams – .150 (3-20)

·         Angel Morales – .211 (4-19)

SethSpeaks Wednesday Minor League Hitter of the Day – Dustin Martin – Rochester Red Wings

SethSpeaks Wednesday Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Michael Tarsi – Ft. Myers Miracle

Red Wings Report                                                                  

Wednesday – Rochester 5, Lehigh Valley 2 Ryan Mullins was given a start and pitched admirably. The lanky lefty gave up one run on three hits over five innings. He walked one and struck out six. Tim Lahey gave up one run on four hits in one innings. Then Kyle Waldrop, Rob Delaney and Anthony Slama each pitched a scoreless inning. Delaney struck out two and Slama struck out three. Jacque Jones went 2-3 with a walk and his second double. Dustin Martin went 2-4 with a home and three RBI. Erik Lis was 2-4 with a double. Brian Dinkelman was an on-base machine, going 1-2 with three walks.  

New Britain Notes

Wednesday – New Britain 1, Portland 3Carlos Gutierrez was much improved in his second start of the season. In five innings, he gave up just one run on five hits. He walked one and struck out five. Spencer Steedley struck out three in two perfect innings. Cole Devries gave up two runs (1 earned) on two hits (including a home run). He walked one and struck out two. Chris Parmelee was 2-4 with his second double. Estarlin de Los Santos went 1-2 with two walks. Yancarlos Ortiz and Rene Tosoni each hit doubles.  

Miracle Matters

Wednesday – Ft. Myers 2, Charlotte 1Michael Tarsi recorded his first win of the year. He threw six shutout innings. He walked four and walked just one. Tony Davis gave up one run on three hits in 1.2 innings. Then Shooter Hunt came in and got the last out of the 8th and three outs in the ninth for his first save. The Miracle managed just five hits. Yangervis Solarte, Drew Thompson and Evan Bigley each had a double.  

Snappers Snippets

Wednesday – Beloit 6, Kane Country 5Steve Liddle continues to hit well. He went 2-3 with a walk, a double and a stolen base. Derek McCallum was 2-5 with his third double. Michael Gonzales hit his first home run of the year. Angel Morales stole two bases. Dan Osterbrock started and went 4.2 innings. He gave up two runs on five hits and a walk while striking out six. Ben Tootle got two outs, but he gave up three runs on two hits and two walks. Dakota Watts struck out five in 2.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Edgar Ibarra got the final out of the 9th frame. After the Snappers grabbed the lead, Steve Blevins came in and pitched a perfect 10th for his second save.  

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to Leave your comments here.