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Organizational Depth Chart: Middle Infielders

31 Jan

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.

 Last week, I started looking at the depth throughout the Twins system. I reviewed the catchers, first basemen and third basemen. After a weekend at Twins Fest (which I’ll write about very soon), I thought it would be good to get back into the Organizational Depth Chart series. Today, I am going to write about the Middle Infielders. I decided to put the shortstops and second basemen together because so many of these players can and will play both positions. As I’ve said before, the purpose of this series is two-fold (if not more). First, it’s a look at the depth at or near the big leagues. Second, it’s a glance at the depth at the position throughout the system. You can find out who might be coming up to the Twins if there is a need, and you can find out who the prospects to watch might be.

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

Minnesota Twins  

Jamey Carroll (SS), Alexi Casilla (2B), Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Luke Hughes

About the time spring training starts, Carroll will turn 38 years old. Most consider him a utility player, and he probably is because he plays multiple positions. He has accumulated more than 350 plate appearances five of the last six years. The last two years, he has combined for 924 plate appearances. He played 129 games at second base, and another 135 and shortstop. The Twins are bringing him in for the next two seasons to be their starting shortstop. He’s an on-base machine, perfect for the #2 spot in the lineup. Alexi Casilla has proven himself to be a solid utility infielder but has often shown that he can’t handle an every day job. I thought last year was his last chance to prove that, but he’s getting another opportunity in 2012. I’m not going to say Luke Hughes is the answer, but Casilla has received so many opportunities, I’d rather Hughes get a shot at the regular, daily second base job with Casilla as a role player. We don’t know if Hughes will hit, but he does have some pop in his bat. We know that Casilla won’t do much. I’m understanding that Nishioka needs and deserves to start 2012 with an empty slate. 2011 was an awful year for him. He was adjusting to so many things on and off the field, and then he was hurt within the first week and never fully recovered. The best thing would have been for him to get a lot of time in the minors last year. Maybe that can happen in 2012.  

Rochester Red Wings

Brian Dozier (SS), Pedro Florimon (2B), Ray Chang, Brian Dinkelman

Brian Dozier was the minor league player of the year in 2011 and hopes to build upon that starting in spring training in 2012. There is little chance he’ll open with the Twins. In fact, there’s a better chance he returns to New Britain and based on the past, I would not be shocked if he did start the season with the Rock Cats. But he’s ready for AAA, and nearly ready for the big leagues. Part of why I would like to see Hughes get the starting gig with the Twins, is because by June, he could move to the bench with Carroll shifting to second base and Dozier jumping to the Twins. But, let’s see how he starts the 2012 season before counting any eggs, or something like that. The Twins claimed Florimon from the Orioles in December, but nearly immediately placed him on waivers. He cleared and was outrighted to Rochester. He jumped from AA to the big leagues with a September call-up. He will certainly get plenty of time at shortstop with Dozier moving to second. Chang will play all around the infield. He was the Red Wings starting shortstop while he was with the team last year, before his broken leg. Dinkelman finally got his chance with the Twins last year and hit .301. He struggled in Rochester. He can play second base but can also play the corner outfield positions.

New Britain Rock Cats

James Beresford (SS), Estarlin de Los Santos (2B), Chris Cates

James Beresford is tremendous with the glove. He is a smooth fielder with soft hands and a strong arm. He can play both middle infield positions well and is a leader on the infield. His play in international competition has really been impressive. He has hit for average in his minor league career. He takes really good, quality at bats. But because he is almost exclusively a singles hitter, he will not be walked often. He also doesn’t strike out much. He works very hard to gain weight, and hopefully that will happen soon to give the opponents a little concern for extra base hits. De Los Santos was once considered a quality prospect in the Twins system. He was added to the 40 man roster, but that lasted just a year. 2011 was a lost year for him. He spent most of the season on the Disabled List, rehabbed quite a bit in the GCL. He got a little time at Ft. Myers, played second base before he finally ended his season with elbow surgery. Although he could have become a free agent at the end of the season, he signed quickly to remain with the Twins. Cates is a strong defender at both middle infield positions. He also has a very strong arm.

Ft. Myers Miracle

Tyler Grimes (SS), Danny Santana (2B), Reggie Williams, Adam Bryant

Grimes was the Twins 5th round pick just last year out of college baseball power house Wichita State. He missed a little bit of time after signing with the Twins and reporting to Beloit. He can hit. He’s another on-base percentage guy with some pop in his bat. He has good speed and plays solid defense. Santana primarily played shortstop in Beloit, but he will likely get time at second base and in centerfield as well in 2011. He has great range, soft hands and a very strong arm. He does have pop in his bat although his 2011 numbers don’t necessarily show it. He has a immense talent and all the tools, but he will need to start putting it together. Reggie Williams was a fourth round pick in 2007 out of high school. He is a terrific athlete, and he will play all around the diamond in 2012. He can play four infield positions and probably all three outfield positions. He primarily plays 2B, 3B and LF, but who knows, we may even see him behind the plate this year.

Beloit Snappers

Levi Michael (SS), Eddie Rosario (2B), AJ Pettersen, Stephen Wickens, Nick Lockwood

One question we’ve been hearing all offseason is Where will Levi Michael start his 2012 season? The Twins have had top college pitchers jump straight to Ft. Myers. All indications are the Michael will begin the season with the Beloit Snappers. Making me want to get to Beloit early in the season is an infield that should include Michael, Rosario and Miguel Sano. I would also expect that Michael would get no more than a half-season in Beloit before being promoted. Rosario was the Appy League co-MVP last year when he hit .337 with 38 extra base hits, including 21 home runs in 67 games. He also is a tremendous center fielder. During Instructional League, he was moved to second base. It will be interesting to see how that plays out. I would assume he will continue to get some time in the outfield as well. Sano will likely see some time at shortstop. Minnetonka native and former Gopher and last year’s 25th round pick AJ Pettersen said he is willing to play anywhere, but he is a natural shortstop who started there for the Gophers four years. Wickens is a Canadian who is a four year college shortstop as well with very good on-base skills. I would expect that Michael will be promoted in mid-June with Niko Goodrum moving up to take his spot. Nick Lockwood is a tremendous defensive second baseman. Although he didn’t hit much at E-town last year, he has a strong, line drive swing and uses the whole field.

Extended Spring Training/Short-Season

Niko Goodrum (SS), Jorge Polanco (SS), Wander Guillen (2B)

Goodrum had a very strong season with the Elizabethton Twins, even if it was lost behind the big seasons of Sano and Rosario. He is a tremendous athlete who will take a while to develop. That’s why I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts the season at Extended Spring Training. I would, however, be surprised if he spends any more time with Elizabethton. I would expect him to be promoted to Beloit whenever there is a need, or whenever Michael is promoted. Polanco signed with the Twins for over $750,000 two years ago. He and Miguel Sano split 2010 between the DSL and GCL. Polanco returned to the GCL in 2011 and didn’t do much with the bat. Touted for his terrific defense at shortstop, he played 19 games there in 2011, 14 at third base and 11 at second base. He also played all three outfield positions. He will spend 2012 in Elizabethton. Wander Guillen is a third baseman, but with Travis Harrison around, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Guillen play more at second base, where he has played a little the past two seasons. He also should advance to E-Town in 2012 after splitting 2011 between the DSL and GCL.

TOP THREE PROSPECTS

1.)    Eddie Rosario, 2.) Brian Dozier, 3.) Levi Michael, 4.) Niko Goodrum, 5.) Danny Santana, 6.) James Beresford, 7.) Tyler Grimes, 8.) Jorge Polanco

SUMMARY

After what Twins fans saw at the shortstop position in 2011, it was pretty clear that the Twins needed a change in 2012! Alexi Casilla started the season as the shortstop and through five weeks was hitting about .150. Trevor Plouffe got a couple of games. Tsuyoshi Nishioka was given an opportunity. It wasn’t pretty all season. Jamey Carroll should bring consistency to the position. He may not have a ton of range, but he will make most of the routine plays and it winds up that trait is pretty important. Cailla and Hughes may be a solid platoon and the Twins should see again what they have in Nishioka, if anything. Brian Dozier is on the cusp and we should (or at least could) see him by July. The lower levels of the system actually provide a bunch of solid prospects to at least be excited about. Rosario is intriguing as a second baseman. Scouts love Levi Michael and he could move fairly quickly. He was one of five college shortstops the Twins drafted in 2011 (Michael-1, Grimes-5, Bryant-9, Pettersen-25, Wickens-33), each of which should get a lot of playing time in 2012. Accumulating a lot of talent in the lower levels is great, and hopefully a couple of them will continue to progress through the system.  

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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Roster Projections: New Britain Rock Cats

30 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

  • Step 1: Finalize 2011 Minnesota Twins roster – Check.
  • Step 2: Find a way to keep Scott Diamond in the organization – Check.
  • Step 3: Configure the 2011 Triple-A Rochester Red Wings 24-man roster – In progress.
  • Step 4: Configure the 2011 Double-A New Britain Rock Cats 24-man roster – In progress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Minute Notes

24 Jun

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

If you are able, I will be on the radio with Paul Allen this morning at 9:20 on KFAN (am 1130 in the Twin Cities, affiliates around the state/region) or listen live in on KFAN.com. Or, be sure to listen to the podcast (Fan on Demand) an hour later.

Time is of the essence today, so here are some quick thoughts on the Twins game last night and highlights from the affiliates:

  • The Twins lost to the Brewers. The decision to go with a lefty-laden lineup worked well for Ron Gardenhire. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau each had two hits while Jason Kubel had two hits off of a lefty. Of course, pinch hitting Jim Thome against a lefty in the top of the 6th really hurt.
  • Also, Danny Valencia needs to be playing 3B on this team… not Michael Cuddyer. I’m as big of a Michael Cuddyer fan as there is, but he is not a 3B. I get that it is nice to have that ability and get his bat in there along with Young and Kubel, but he’s not a 3B. There were two plays last night that most 3B make that he didn’t come close to, and those plays led to three Brewers runs. Oh yeah, the Brewers won, by three. This isn’t at all a knock on Cuddyer. He’ll do anything he’s asked to for the time, and I admire that. I can’t even really blame Gardy for playing him there since in his two games at 3B in Philadelphia, he only had one play to make. You can’t hide a guy at 3B for very long. I think this is a great cautionary tale for all of the Twins fans who seem to think that Joe Mauer can easily move to 3B. Seriously, it’s not that easy.
  • Glen Perkins got crushed again last night in Rochester. He gave up six runs on eight hits and four walks in just 3.2 innings. Fortunately Tim Lahey threw 3.1 hitless innings in relief. Then Pat Neshek came in and gave up five runs on six hits and got just one out. Of the 23 pitches he threw, 18 were strikes. Kyle Waldrop came in and gave up a hit but got the final two outs. Rob Delaney struck out the side in the 9th. The Red Wings lost 11-2 and had just six hits including four doubles (Trevor Plouffe, D’Angelo Jimenez, Jose Morales, Jacque Jones).
  • New Britain beat Binghamton 10-2. Chris Parmelee was 3-4 with a walk. Mark Dolenc went 3-5 with his seventh double and four RBI. Erik Lis was 3-5. Jair Fernandez went 2-3. Joe Benson was 2-5 with a walk and his seventh double. Carlos Gutierrez started and gave up one run on six hits and a walk in six innings. Chris Province gave up a run on three hits in two innings, and Cole DeVries threw a perfect inning.
  • Ft. Myers beat Palm Beach 9-6. Brian Dozier went 4-6. Estarlin de Los Santos went 3-5 with a walk. Evan Bigley went 3-5 and drove in three runs. Nate Hanson went 2-4 with a walk. Angel Morales went 2-4 with his first FSL double. Santos Arias gave up three runs on six hits in four innings. Andrey Lobanov gave up one run on three hits in 2.2 innings. Billy Bullock notched his 13th save with two strikeouts in a perfect ninth inning.
  • Beloit did not play. They are still on their all-star break and start playing games again tonight. Tom Stuifbergen told me that he expects to be back on the mound around the 4th of July.
  • Elizabethton lost to Bristol 8-4. Blayne Weller got knocked around a bit. He gave up five runs (4 earned) on nine hits in four innings. Sam Spangler gave up one run on two hits in two innings. David Gutierrez debuted and struck out two in a perfect innings. Kyle Necke gave up two runs on three hits and a walk in an inning. Oswaldo Arcia hit his first triple and his second home run (in 2 games). Brandon Henderson went 2-2 with a walk and his second stolen base.
  • The GCL Rays topped the GCL Twins 7-4. Eddie Rosario went 3-4 with his first homer and his first stolen base. Candid Pimental went 3-4 with a walk and two stolen bases. Nick Lockwood hit two doubles in five at bats. Kennys Vargas went 2-3 with a walk and his second double. Clay Condrey started for the team and pitched the first inning. He gave up two hits and a walk in an inning but no runs. Ricardo Arevalo went the next 4.1 innings and gave up four runs (3 earned) on four hits. He didn’t walk any hitters and struck out four. Bart Carter struck out two in 1.2 scoreless innings. Brett Carroll gave up three runs on five hits in an inning. Matt Trau struck out two in a scoreless inning.

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

Late Night Blues

2 Jun

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Nick Blackburn did a nice job of making me really tired and ready to sleep by about the 7th inning last night. The lasers that he was giving up early in the game eventually had to find holes. And they did. Seattle grabbed the 5-1 lead in the middle innings, and they added a couple more. But it was over. Sure, the offense didn’t do much, but Jason Vargas was effectively wild and has had a good year. Blackburn was the story. And, to be honest, it doesn’t bother me because he had such a great May that I’m not gong to worry about one rough start.

Things will not get easier in Seattle. The Twins will face Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez in the next couple of games. It should be a lot of fun to watch. The Twins starting pitchers will have to be on their game, and the Twins offense will have to take advantage of any chances they get.

Minnesota fans, if you’re a fan of the draft, one name to watch is that of Minnesota Gophers catcher/outfielder Michael Kvasnicka. The first time I saw him play, he was a catcher as a freshman. My initial thought was that he was a future first round pick. Good size. Strong arm. Switch-hitting catcher. Good athlete also able to play in right field. I saw him play a few games in the last couple of years and again, he is a player. Here are some links to stories and scouting reports on Kvasnicka (whose father Jay was a 8th round draft pick of the Twins in 1988.  

It will be interesting to see where and to whom Michael Kvasnicka is drafted. If you’re looking for more Mock Drafts, click here.

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

SethSpeaks Tuesday Minor League Hitter of the Day – Estarlin de Los Santos – New Britain Rockcats

SethSpeaks Tuesday Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Glen Perkins – Rochester Red Wings

Red Wings Report   

Tuesday – Rochester 3, Norfolk 4 –Anthony Slama came in to a tie game and gave up a run on three hits and an intentional walk in the 9th inning to take the loss. The good news? Glen Perkins put together a very good start, really his first of the year. The lefty went seven innings and gave up just two runs on seven hits. He walked none and struck out five. Another good story? Brad Hennessy, a reliever the Twins signed during spring training after recovering from Tommy John surgery, made his first appearance. He gave up a run on two hits and a walk in his inning. Brian Dinkelman hit two doubles in his four at bats.   

New Britain Notes

Tuesday – New Britain 1, Altoona 4David Bromberg started and gave up two runs on nine hits and three walks in 5.1 innings. Santos Arias came in and struck out three in 2.2 scoreless innings. Michael Allen allowed two unearned run in his inning. Ben Revere went 2-4 with his 19th stolen base.   

Miracle Matters

Tuesday – Ft. Myers 6, Dunedin 4 – Liam Hendriks improved to 3-1 and reduced his ERA to 2.30 with eight strong innings. He gave up three runs (1 earned) on six hits. Billy Bullock gave up a run in his inning. Estarlin de Los Santos went 3-4 with his fifth steal. Deibinson Romero went 2-4 with his fifth double.     

Snappers Snippets

Tuesday – Beloit 2, Lake County 3Tom Stuifbergen returned to the mound as a starter in this game. The righty gave up two runs on five hits in 3.2 innings. Edgar Ibarra gave up one run on two hits and three walks in 2.2 innings. Matt Tone worked 1.2 scoreless innings. Michael Gonzales knocked his sixth home run of the season to account for the Snappers’ runs.   

If you have any thoughts, please feel free to comment here.

2010 New Britain Rockcats Preview

9 Apr

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

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

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

Jeff Smith will be the Rock Cats’ manager in 2010 after managing the Ft. Myers Miracle last year. Rudy Hernandez will be the hitting coach while Stu Cliburn is the pitching coach. Let’s take a look at players on the Rock Cats roster to start the 2010 season (note – prospect ranking for my choices for Top 30 Twins prospects as updated in the Minnesota Twins 2010 Prospect Handbook):

The Starting Pitchers

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

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

The Bullpen Arms

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

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

The Catchers

Danny Lehmann, Alexander Soto.

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

The Infielders

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

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

The Outfielders

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

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

SUMMARY

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

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

Roster Projections: New Britain Rock Cats

24 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net – 

Before we jump into my Twins AA New Britain projection, here are a couple of quick notes on some upcoming podcasts:

  1.  
    1.  Baseball Daily Digest’s Joe Hamrahi who was at the Joe Mauer press conference on Monday night. We talked about his trip to Ft. Myers, and what he hopes to do while there, but much of the discussion was on the Mauer press conference and the contract, of course.  
    2. Scott Povolny, owner of Twins Train came on for a bit to talk about some of his Twins trips and a few other Twins topics. I am seriously trying to pick a Twins Train trip. They’re providing trips to Chicago, Kansas City, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Detroit, all-inclusive, at very reasonable rates. I asked last week, but where have you gone? Where should I go? I’ve been to Milwaukee, but that’s it.  
    3. Finally, Adam Foster from Project Prospect joined us. He too was in Ft. Myers and spent a lot of time watching Aaron Hicks and other Twins prospects. Read more about his Digital Prospect Guide, something that is absolutely remarkable and ahead of its time! If you would like to learn more about the Digital Prospect Guide, you can e-mail Adam and he can send you the Digital Guide of their Top 10 Prospects. Oh, and if you buy a copy of the Digital Prospect Guide, he’ll send you video of your favorite Twins prospect that he took today. He got a lot of Aaron Hicks, Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, Adrian Salcedo (who he said was throwing 93 with a plus changeup and a good curveball with mechanics that looked very good) and more.
  1. I will be joined by Twins prospect Trayvone Johnson. The 2009 draft pick was selected as a catcher, but he has been moved to the mound.
  2. Next, JJ Stankevitz from the White Sox Examiner site will come in to talk about the team most of us believe will be the Twins primary competitor in the AL Central.
  3. Finally, Twins 17-year-old outfield prospect Max Kepler will join us for the last part of the show. Listeners to the show have been asking for me to try to get Kepler on the show and it finally appears to work.
  4. During The Show, we will also announce the regularly scheduled night and time for The Show throughout the 2010 season. So be sure to take in that show.

The Twins open their season on April 5th. Like the Rochester Red Wings, the Rock Cats season begins on April 8th with a four game home stand against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. They will be managed this year by Jeff Smith, who managed the Ft. Myers Miracle a year ago.

So here are my thoughts on the 2010 Opening Day roster of the New Britain Rockcats:

The Hitters 

  New Britain
C Alexander Soto
1B Chris Parmelee (RF/DH)
2B Steve Singleton
3B Whit Robbins (1B)
SS Estarlin de Los Santos
LF Juan Portes (3B)
CF Ben Revere
RF Rene Tosoni
DH Rene Leveret
Bu C Allan de San Miguel
Bu IF Yancarlos Ortiz
Bu OF Mark Dolenc
Bench Chris Cates
DL (Yangervis Solarte)

Analysis: Again, the effects of the catching situation at the big league level trickle down throughout the system. When Danny Lehmann comes back to New Britain, he will play. Until then, I think that the combination of Alexander Soto and Allan de San Miguel can do a solid job. Soto has some power. De San Miguel knows how to get on base and run a pitching staff. We know that Ben Revere will be in centerfield. If I’m right and Rene Tosoni is in AA, he will be in right field and bat third. Chris Parmelee will probably bat fifth, but he will spend time at 1B, RF and DH. Whit Robbins is tremendous defensively at 1B. He hasn’t played much at 3B since his pro debut. I actually anticipate Juan Portes spending a lot of time at 3B. Portes will play some in left field again, but when he is in the infield, Mark Dolenc will get plenty of time in the outfield. Rene Leveret can hit. That’s about it, but he’ll get some time too. I think that Steve Singleton and Estarlin de Los Santos will get the majority of playing time up the middle, but I would think that Singleton will also play 3B and SS and de Los Santos will play some 2B. Likewise, I expect Yancarlos Ortiz and Chris Cates to get plenty of playing time because pitchers love having those two behind them.  I think there are some players that are definitely worth watching at this level. I think Singleton, Revere and Tosoni are all guys that are close to big-league-ready and we may see them if something negative happens at the big league level. Side notes – I fully expect Tosoni to only get a couple of months in AA before being promoted to AAA. At that time, I expect that Joe Benson will come up to play right field for the Rock Cats.

The Pitchers 

  New Britain
SP Mike McCardell
SP Deolis Guerra
SP David Bromberg
SP Carlos Gutierrez
SP Tyler Robertson
   
CL Alex Burnett
8L Spencer Steedley
8R Blair Erickson
BP Joe Testa
BP Cole Devries
BP Steve Hirschfeld
BP Santos Arias
   
  (Henry Arias)
  (Loek Van Mil – DL)

Analysis: There is some serious talent in this pitching staff. Mike McCardell pitched pretty well upon his promotion to AA last year. After a couple of AFL outings, he went home and had some bone chips removed from his right elbow. Deolis Guerra had a couple of very good performances, and he could really take a step forward in 2010. David Bromberg has quickly and consistently improved his standing in the Twins farm system. Can he lead the Eastern League in strikeouts in 2010 (as he led the Florida State League in 2009, and the Midwest League – and all minor league baseball – in 2008, and the Appalachian League in 2008)?  Tyler Robertson is ready for the chance to move up to New Britain. His four pitches and strong baseball IQ will be put to the test. The big question becomes how long Carlos Gutierrez is a starter. We know that he will begin the season as a starter to build arm strength, but primarily to work on secondary pitches. I really believe that at some point, he could be the closer for the Minnesota Twins.

Until then, Alex Burnett will likely get the majority of Save opportunities for the Rock Cats. We learned how good he can be in 2009 when he was moved to the bullpen. Spencer Steedley did a nice job after his promotion to AA last year. He got off to a slow start in the Arizona Fall League but came on quickly. The lefty can pitch, but has enough pop to surprise hitters when a fastball gets past them. Cole Devries likely returns to New Britain. He may get another shot as a starter, or he could move to the bullpen and work long relief. Similarly, I think that Steve Hirschfeld and Santos Arias will start the season in the Rock Cats bullpen. However, at Ft. Myers last year, they moved into the starting rotation and the two were probably the Miracle’s top pitchers down the stretch, along with Bromberg. Knowing how the Twins typically work, I almost expect that Joe Testa starts the season back with Ft. Myers. He was just so good, that I would really like to see him pushed to AA. Blair Erickson may get pushed to AA just because he’s now old enough that they need to see what he can do. I hope that Loek Van Mil can be healthy and see what he can do with that 95-97 mph fastball. Henry Arias is a guy that needs to move up to AA. He throws very hard, and he could be a Fake DL, injury replacement type in the bullpen.  

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

Twins Minor League Draft – Part 3

19 Feb

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

If you would like to hear my interview with Denard Span, please click here.

Today, we conclude our look at the Twins Minor League draft held last week. Roger Dehring, Josh Johnson, Travis Aune and myself conducted a 22 round mock draft, just to see how it might turn out. Today, I will post our final six selections. So, here we go:

 THE DRAFT (Rounds 17-22)

Round 17 – 65th Overall – Roger – LHP – Matt Tone

I debated between two excellent young lefty relievers and decided to go with the more experienced, Matt Tone.  I was hoping that Lobanov could slide through another six picks, however, Seth picked him with the next pick.

Round 17 – 66th Overall – Seth – LHP – Andrei Lobanov

(Lobanov, Lugo or Steedley? How do I pick? Well, I take the youngest, the guy with the 35 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio, of course.)

Round 17 – 67th Overall – Josh – IF – Ramon Santana

(I believe that Ramon Santana and Luke Hughes can battle to see where each plays, one will start at second base and the other will start at third base. Santana had a great year in 2009, but he turned 23-years-old this year when the average age in the Midwest League is 21. Santana helps extend my lineup. I also considered both Steven Liddle and Michael Harrington with this pick.)

Round 17 – 68th Overall – Travis – OF – Michael Harrington

(The reason I drafted him is not because of his low batting average but his extra base power.  For quite a long time last season he led the whole organization in doubles and that to me is very impressive.  It will be interesting to see if he can improve on the other parts of his game to become a true prospect.)

Round 18 – 69th Overall – Travis – RHPBobby Lanigan

(I was very happy to get him because he is on the cusp of good things going forward.  He is a little bit inconsistent, but the sky is the limit as he has all the tools to be a very good pitcher.  I will be interested to see if he shows the promise the Twins saw in him when they drafted him as high as they did.)

Round 18 – 70th Overall – Josh – OFSteve Liddle

(As I mentioned above, I considered taking both Steven Liddle and Michael Harrington when I took Ramon Santana. Travis took Harrington which left Liddle, which was completely fine by me. Although he was taken in the 15th round last of June’s draft, he went to Vanderbilt (a college baseball powerhouse) and played great in the Appalachian League this year (but keep in mind that he was a year older than the rest of the competition). Liddle should start in Beloit in 2010 and could move up quickly through the system. His uncle (also named) Steve Liddle is the Twins’ bench coach. )

Round 18 – 71st Overall – Seth – 1BMichael Gonzales

(I need a 1B. Next pick, I’ll take either Miguel Munoz or Martire Garcia, just hoping Roger doesn’t take both of them!)

Round 18 –72nd Overall – Roger – SSDaniel Santana

(I believe that one of the better middle infield prospects in the organization is Daniel Santana.  He was one of the better hitters for the GCL Twins last simmer, while showing excellent speed with 11 stolen bases in only 12 attempts.)

Round 19 – 73rd Overall – Roger – LHP – Spencer Steedley

(I then went back to a veteran of last year’s Arizona Fall League to pick up another top reliever for my bullpen, Spencer Steedley.)

Round 19 – 74th Overall – Seth – RHP – Miguel Munoz

(Well, they were both still available, so I’ll take the guy that hits 94. Not much left in OF or any bats, several good BP options.)

Round 19 – 75th Overall – Josh – LHP – Kyle Carr

(With Andrei Lobanov, Spencer Steedley, Matt Tone and Joe Testa already taken, I knew that Kyle Carr or Jose Lugo would be my pick. I went with Carr primarily because he’s a couple years younger and should be in Ft. Myers in 2010. That’s really what it boiled down to.)

Round 19 – 76th Overall – Travis – LHP – Jose Lugo

(The reason I drafted him is everything that I hear about him is positive.  Everyone tells me that he will be in the big leagues in the not too distant future so I really wanted to know more about him.  After doing research on him I agree he will be a Twin soon.)

Round 20 – 77th Overall – Travis – OF – Dustin Martin

(The reason I selected Martin was the simple fact that last year he was two different people and I want to see which one he is.  In spring training with the Twins he hit the cover off the ball hitting over .400 and doing a good job in center field.  However, with the Red Wings he really struggled and with his age it is almost time to put up or shut up because there is a dealth of center fielders in the upper minors for the Twins so there is definitely an opportunity.)

Round 20 – 78th Overall – Josh – SS – Nick Lockwood

(I needed a middle infielder and at this point its slim pickings. Nick Lockwood was taken in the 9th round and signed to a $125,000 signing bonus last June to forgo his commitment to the University of Southern Florida to sign with the Twins. He is solid defensively and showed good power in High School. Roger took Daniel Santana a couple rounds before, who I was hoping to take in either the 21st or 22nd round, so I wanted to make sure I took Lockwood. I also considered taking Anderson Hidalgo with this pick.)

Round 20 – 79th Overall – Seth – RHP – Bruce Pugh

(Since we’re talking about success 2-3 years down the road, I’ll go with a sleeper pick instead of Chris Province)

Round 20 – 80th Overall – Roger – OF – Mark Dolenc

(I closed out my outfield with a player I was looking to take for about five rounds, Mark Dolenc.  Without a lot of publicity, Dolenc was one of the better outfielders in the organization last summer when he hit .288/.332/.392 for Ft. Myers.  He also had 27 stolen bases in 33 attempts, which is a better stolen base success rate than either Revere or Benson.)

Round 21 – 81st Overall – Roger – LHP – Michael Tarsi

(With Seth picking one spot ahead of my 20th pick, he again picked the player I was eyeing for one of these two picks, Bruce Pugh.  With Pugh gone, I closed out my bullpen with a big left handed long reliever/starter, Michael Tarsi.)

Round 21 – 82nd Overall – Seth – EX – Anderson Hidalgo

(Solid offensive season at E-Town, and Gleeman’s got him in his top 40!)

Round 21 – 83rd Overall – Josh – OF – Romy Trinidad

(With my “Extra” pick, I wanted another outfielder and it came down between two Dominican players, Romy Trinidad and Candido Pimentel. I went with Trinidad because he’s a year younger and is three inches taller than Pimentel. Trinidad hit .312/.443/.363 as an 18-year-old in the DSL last summer and should be making his way to the States in 2010.)

Round 21 – 84th Overall – Travis – IF – Nick Romero

(I am very surprised he was not selected earlier as he was playing just about every day at 2nd for the Miracle.  He has some things to work on in his game, but he plays good defense and if you can do that the rest will take care of itself.)

Round 22 – 85th Overall – Travis – OF – Jonathan Goncalves

(I selected him because we don’t know much about him and if he has the ability to be a good prospect or someone that will hang around for a year or two.  He did not do much at E-Town, but he did not get a lot of opportunities so my hope is that he gets more at bats so we can know if he a contender or a pretender.)

Round 22 – 86th Overall – Josh – 1B – Jonathan Waltenbury

(I kind of shot myself in the foot on this pick. I had a feeling Travis might take Nick Romero and I took the risk of waiting for him in the 22nd round. Travis ended up taking Romero with his next pick and Jonathan Waltenbury was really the only other player that appealed to me. He climbed prospect charts in 2008 but fell off in 2009. He’ll likely repeat Single-A Beloit but he still has good upside.)

Round 22 – 87th Overall – Seth – OF – Matej Hejma

Not much to choose from. D. de La Osa is older. Wang-Wei Lin is a 5-tool type, but 22 and not out of GCL due to injuries.

Round 22 – 88th Overall – Roger – C – Allan de San Miguel

(With the final selection in the Seth Stohs 2010 draft, I selected my extra player/back up catcher.  It seems like Alan de San Miguel has been around for forever.  But he didn’t turn 22 until last week, thus, is very young for someone who played on all four full-service teams last year.  An excellent defensive catcher who has never hit for a high average, de San Miguel had his best season at the plate last year.  At his age, should he continue to improve with his bat again this year his future will also continue to brighten.)

SETH’S TEAM SUMMARY

Real Briefly, I am going to write about my team, and then I will encourage you to check out the other drafters/bloggers for their thoughts on their rosters (here is Josh’s):

LINEUP

James Beresford – SS

Steve Singleton – 2B

Rene Tosoni – RF

Danny Valencia – 3B

Aaron Hicks – CF

Michael Gonzales – 1B

Chris Herrmann – C

Anderson Hidalgo – DH

Oswaldo Arcia – LF

Bench: Reggie Williams, Matej Hejma, Estarlin de Los Santos

Starting Rotation: Deolis Guerra, Blayne Weller, Matt Bashore, Miguel Munoz, Edgar Ibarra

Closer: Carlos Gutierrez

Bullpen: Santos Arias, Rob Delaney, Andrei Lobanov, Bruce Pugh

There you have it, Part 3 of the Minor League draft, and my team. For more information, lineups and more from each of the other teams, check out the sites of Roger Dehring, Josh Johnson and Travis Aune. Have yourself a great weekend. Feel free to leave your comments here.