Archive | Francisco Liriano RSS feed for this section

Twins Organizational Depth Chart: Starting Pitchers

6 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.

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve pointed out the organizational depth charts for the Twins hitters. We’ve looked at catchers, 3B, 1B, Middle Infielders and Outfielders. Today, I’ll take a look at the starting pitchers. Now, especially as I move to the lower levels, I won’t pretend to know which players will move to the bullpen. Often, due to innings limits, some ‘starters’ will begin the season in the bullpen. Others will begin the season as starters and get moved to the bullpen later due to innings. Frankly, most of the pitchers in the lowest levels have been starters their whole lives and some will be given at least some opportunity. As we saw with Carlos Gutierrez, even guys destined for the bullpen can be given an opportunity to start to work on pitches and gain arm strength.  

That’s OK, though, because the biggest purpose of this was to provide the organization’s depth. I need to reiterate that these are just my thoughts. I have no insider information to know where players will be playing for certain in 2012. Obviously after spring training, some of these players will be let go. There will be Disabled List players, extended spring training and more.

Minnesota Twins  

Carl Pavano (RHP), Francisco Liriano (LHP), Scott Baker (RHP), Jason Marquis (RHP), Nick Blackburn (RHP)

Gardy has announced Pavano as his Opening Day starter, an obvious choice based on last season. He’s been solid in his 2 ½ seasons with the Twins, most important he has provided a ton of innings despite an alarmingly low strikeout rate. There’s no question that Francisco Liriano has the best stuff of anyone on the staff, but if he can’t find control of his fastball, it will be another frustrating season. It is a contract season for Liriano, so the goal has to be for him to have a strong season. In 2011, Scott Baker was easily the Twins top starting pitcher. He was pitching the best he had in his career, until elbow problems curtailed his season. Nick Blackburn averaged 200 innings pitched his first two seasons while posting solid ERAs. He’s been pretty bad ever since getting the long-term contract. Unfortunately, the contract has given him many opportunities and likely will continue to do so. He misses very few bats, so we can just hope that a lot of baseballs get hit right at a defender. Many Twins fans are down on the Jason Marquis signing, and although I’m not a bit fan of the contract, he has actually had a pretty solid big league career.

Rochester Red Wings

Liam Hendriks (RHP), Scott Diamond (LHP), Aaron Thompson (LHP), Jeff Manship (RHP), Deinys Suarez (RHP)

We saw Hendriks and Diamond late in the 2011 season. Hendriks was the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year and likely needs another half-season. Diamond had his moments, but overall 2011 was the first year in his career that he really struggled. He says he has made some adjustments, so we’ll see how it goes. Manship came up with the Twins and his first major league victory came on the final weekend of the 2009 season, when the Twins needed to sweep the Royals. He was supposed to be in the Twins bullpen last season, but he was hurt the entire season. He likely will pitch in the Twins bullpen, but they may have him start in Rochester first. Aaron Thompson is intriguing, at least. He will turn 25 years old later this month. He debuted with the Pirates last season, but in 7.2 innings, he gave up 13 hits, walked six and struck out just one. He has just six AAA games under his belt, and his AA career numbers are 15-37 with a 5.03 ERA in 96 games (80 starts). Deinys Suarez signed with the Twins last spring. The Cuban defector split time between New Britain and Rochester, not pitching particularly well either place.

New Britain Rock Cats

David Bromberg (RHP), Logan Darnell (LHP), Tom Stuifbergen (RHP), Marty Popham (RHP), Dan Osterbrock (LHP), Bobby Lanigan (RHP)

Bromberg’s 2011 season was unfortunately a lost season. He began the season in Twins spring training, but he went back to New Britain, had a line drive break his arm, spent a lot of time rehabbing, came back too quickly, shut it down, worked hard and then found out the Twins had removed him from the 40 man roster. However, he will be just 24 years old throughout the 2012 season, so don’t forget about him. Logan Darnell was a 2010 draft pick who started last year in Beloit and got all the way to New Britain. Stuifbergen had a solid season in Ft. Myers, had a terrific one-start showing in Rochester, and then was the pitcher of the year in the World Cup tournament that his Netherlands team won. He was then knighted in his homeland. Sir Tom Stuifbergen should spent this season with the Rock Cats. Dan Osterbrock missed most of last season with shoulder problems which was unfortunate because he was coming off of a very good season in 2010. Bobby Lanigan was in the Rock Cats rotation all throughout the 2011 season. Some think his stuff (specifically his slider) will play very well out of the bullpen, and we may see some of that this year too. Marty Popham was selected by the Twins in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. He has pitched in Hi-A, AA and AAA each of the past two seasons. He should spend this season in AA.

Ft. Myers Miracle

BJ Hermsen (RHP), Pat Dean (LHP), Adrian Salcedo (RHP), Alex Wimmers (RHP), Manuel Soliman (RHP), Ryan O’Rourke (LHP), AJ Achter (RHP)

This is certainly an intriguing group of pitching prospects. If not for Liam Hendriks’ terrific 2011 season, my starting pitcher of the year choice would have been BJ Hermsen who pitched very well in Beloit and followed it up with a solid performance in Ft. Myers (minus a rough final start). Alex Wimmers had a rough 2011 season too in Ft. Myers, but it ended with the seven inning no hitter. Assuming he has his control issues under control, he could move quickly. Adrian Salcedo has long been a top ten Twins prospect, and he’ll move up to the Miracle. Manuel Soliman was the innings-eater for the Snappers last year despite only having pitched now for three years. He is an intriguing prospect, but for him to remain a starter, he will need to improve his secondary pitches. Pat Dean is definitely a solid prospect  but like so many others, he missed a lot of time with injury in 2011. His season started about six weeks late, but he still pitched for three teams (including a late-season spot start in New Britain). Ryan O’Rourke is a tough, competitive left-hander with a nasty slider. When I saw him pitch in Beloit last summer, my comment was that I didn’t think big league left-handed hitters could hit that slider. He was successful as a starter, but he could also become a very good relief pitcher, so it will be interesting to see how his career progresses. The game I saw AJ Achter start last year, he was tremendous. He touches 90-91 with the fastball, but he has a terrific changeup and a curveball that had good bite.

Beloit Snappers

Tim Shibuya (RHP), Madison Boer (RHP), Matt Summers (LHP), Matt Bashore (LHP), Tim Atherton (RHP), Matt Tomshaw (LHP), Derek Christensen (RHP) 

Tim Shibuya was the Appy League Pitcher of the Year and threw seven innings of a no-hitter for the E-Twins. A smart pitcher with a full mix of pitches, he should adapt well to the Midwest League. Madison Boer and Matt Summers both began their pro careers in the E-Town bullpen. Each unsurprisingly dominated. Boer struggled upon his promotion to Beloit. It is likely the Twins will have each start. I believe Boer will move to the bullpen, but I think Summers can stick as a starter. Matt Bashore was a first-round pick in 2009 and has pitched very little since. However, reports indicate that in Instructs last fall, he was looking really good and throwing as high as 93 mph again. He could be one to watch in 2012. Matt Tomshaw was the Twins 43rd round pick just last year. Like many, he was given a shot with the Ft. Myers Miracle after a couple appearances with the GCL Twins. Like few, he was very successful for the Miracle. My guess, however, is that he will step back to Beloit and start. Derek Christensen had a terrific season as a starter with the E-Twins. The side-winder may eventually move to the bullpen but his combination of deception, fastball and slider make him a very intriguing prospect. Tim Atherton was with the Twins organization a few years ago as an infielder. The team let him go, but he came back in 2011 as a pitcher, and he pitched very well. He has all the pitches, but all will need to further develop.

Elizabethton Twins

Tyler Jones (RHP), Corey Kimes (LHP), Brett Lee (LHP), Chris Mazza (RHP), Angel Mata (RHP), Hung-yi Chen (RHP)

There are plenty of pitchers from the 2011 draft and from last year’s GCL team that will not be heading to Beloit to start the season. Tyler Jones was the 11th round pick a year ago out of LSU. He’s got great upside, throws hard, good breaking pitches. Kimes is a four year college guy who should probably be up in Beloit due to age, but he got hurt last year shortly after signing. Brett Lee and Chris Mazza both signed very near the deadline and didn’t pitch in 2011. Angel Mata and Hung-yi Chen were the two most intriguing pitching prospects from last year’s GCL team. Both have good stuff and are young.

GCL Twins

Hudson Boyd (RHP), Trent Higginbotham (RHP), Kuo-hua Lo (RHP), Austin Malinowski (LHP)

Boyd and Higginbotham are two very high ceiling high school picks from last year. The Twins had to go over-slot to sign their second supplemental first round pick from Ft. Myers. He touched 96-97 at times last year. Higginbotham was a late-round pick but the Twins went way over slot to sign him as well. He touches 94-95, and some believe he can be a top of the rotation starter or a dominant closer. Time will tell for both of them. Lo signed last year from Taiwan, and he’s fairly advanced for his very young age. He also has hit 94 mph on a radar gun. He debuted in Instructional League last year, and will likely be with the GCL Twins in 2012. Malinowski was the Twins 16th round pick out of Centennial High School (MN). He gave up a scholarship to Arizona to sign at the last minute with the Twins.   

TOP THREE (OR SO…) PROSPECTS 

1.)    Liam Hendriks, 2.) Kyle Gibson, 3.) Alex Wimmers, 4.) Adrian Salcedo, 5.) Tom Stuifbergen, 6.) Manuel Soliman, 7.) Hudson Boyd, 8.) BJ Hermsen, 9.) Pat Dean, 10.) Matt Summers 

SUMMARY  

The Twins starting pitching was really bad last year. That was a combination of struggles, injury and poor defense. For the Twins to be successful, Carl Pavano needs to throw 220 innings with a league-average ERA and WHIP. Francisco Liriano will have to pull his regain control of his fastball and show a little bit of self-confidence. Scott Baker needs to pitch like he did the six weeks before he got hurt. All three need to stay healthy. I personally think Jason Marquis will be just fine. He’s not going to post a sub-3 or sub-4 ERA, but I think he can do what Pavano did in 2011. Blackburn needs to pitch like he did his first two seasons… or so badly that Liam Hendriks gets called up. Frankly, there’s not much else waiting in the wings, ready to contribute right away as a starter. Manship can be solid, but I think the team has moved him to the bullpen in their minds. Diamond will have had to improved quite a bit to say he’s ready (which is possible).

That doesn’t mean the cupboard is bare though. There are some solid pitching prospects throughout the minors. Kyle Gibson should be back in 2013 (if not late in 2012). Alex Wimmers could move very quickly as well. There are several pitchers that have the potential to be a decent #3 pitcher, if all goes well on the way up. The Twins have been successful with “Twins-like” pitchers. Guys like Hermsen, Salcedo, Stuifbergen and Shibuya fit that mold. The Twins have added some power arms in the last draft or two, especially in 2011’s draft with Boyd, Higginbotham, Jones, Boer, Summers, Corey Williams and others. It will be interesting to see how they develop. 

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!

Advertisements

Twins Arbitration Scenarios

15 Jan

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Major League players with less than six years of service time and more than three years of service time are eligible for salary arbitration. As we all know, there are a bunch of Super-2 arbitration-eligible players as well each year. On Tuesday, arbitration numbers will be exchanged. The teams will say how much they are offering to the player, and the player and his agent will submit the value that they think they should receive. Of course, in most cases, the team and the player come up with a value somewhere in the middle and numbers never get exchanged.

When the offseason began, and TwinsCentric was working on its Offseason GM Handbook, the Twins had eight arbitration-eligible players on their roster. Since the end of the season, there have been a few changes:

  • Phil Dumatrait – Was Designated for Assignment and removed from the 40 man roster. He became a free agent but returned to the Twins on a minor league contract. That means, he is no longer eligible for arbitration.
  • Jason Repko – Was Designated for Assignment and removed from the 40 man roster. He became a free agent but has not yet signed with another organization.
  • Matt Tolbert – Was Designated for Assignment and removed from the 40 man roster. He became a free agent but has not yet signed with another organization.
  • Jose Mijares – Was non-tended last month by the Twins. Less than a week later, he signed with the Kansas City Royals.
  • Kevin Slowey – Was traded to the Colorado Rockies in December.

That leaves the Twins with three arbitration-eligible players. The Twins will likely attempt to sign all three before Tuesday’s deadline. It is also possible they are working on multi-year deals with one or more of them. Here they are:

1.)     Alexi Casilla – In 2011, the 2B/SS made $700,000 in his first year of arbitration. In the Offseason GM Handbook, TwinsCentric predicted that he would get $2.5 million in arbitration. If I were to place my bet, I think it will be closer to $1.5 million.

2.)     Glen Perkins – In 2011, the lefty reliever made $865,000 in his first year of arbitration. TwinsCentric projected him to make $1.8 million, and I think that is about right. I also believe that the Twins may look to lock up Perkins for three years (to buy out one year of free agency). Perkins may be hesitant to sign a long-term deal knowing that there is a chance he will get some time as Twins’ closer this year, and closers make a bunch more money. However, if he wants to stay with the Twins, it’s possible that he could be signed in the neighborhood of three years and $8 million.

3.)     Francisco Liriano – In 2011, Liriano made $4.3 million. Despite a frustrating season, he will likely get a raise. TwinsCentric predicted that he would be awarded $6 million, but I think it will be closer to $5 million. A year ago, I said that the Twins should sign him to a 4 year, $40 million deal. At this point, I’d be very hesitant to give Liriano a multi-year deal. However, if they are at all interested, now is the time to do it. This would be a buy low scenario. Could the Twins now have the talented (but enigmatic) Liriano to a three year, $18 million now? If so, would you consider it?

We will learn quite a bit before Tuesday’s deadline. Many years the Twins get all their arbitration situations figured out before numbers are even exchanged. This year, the Twins have three very interesting situations.

What do you think will happen? Leave your thoughts in the Comments Section!

Twins Top Moments of 2011

27 Dec

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

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

Blyleven to the Hall of Fame

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

20 Year Anniversary of the 1991 World Series

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

No-Hitters

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

Major League Debuts

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

The Killebrew Tribute

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

Nathan Sets Twins Saves Mark

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

Thome Hits 600th Home Run

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

Draft Picks Sign

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

Award Winners

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

Terry Ryan Reclaims the GM Role

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

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

TwinsCentric Notes

What’s the Going Rate?

11 Aug

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Remember the 1994 movie Little Big League? In it, the owner of the Twins passes away and wills the team and the stadium to his grandson, 12-year-old Billy Heywood. He names himself the manager of the Twins. Some of the veteran players do not like that decision and needing to abide by the rules of the youngster. A veteran pitcher tells him that he isn’t going to pitch and isn’t going to do anything to affect his upcoming free agency.

 

Heywood says, “What’s the going rate for a 30 year old free agent pitcher that can’t get anybody out?”

 

Suddenly, the pitcher had a change of heart and pitched well again.

 

The Twins will have some big decisions to make between now and the beginning of the 2012 season. Two of the bigger decisions involve a couple of immensely talented but enigmatic ball players, Delmon Young and Francisco Liriano.

 

Some believe that the Twins should trade them for whatever they can get for them. Both have one more year of arbitration remaining, but some fans believe that the two are non-tender candidates. What would you do?

 

How about this? Go to each player with the Billy Heywood comment.

 

“Hey Francisco, what is the going rate for a 28 year old pitcher with an ERA of 5.00, a history of injuries and the perception that he doesn’t put in his work?”

 

“Hey Delmon, what is the going rate for a 26 year old corner outfielders coming off of a season with a .650 OPS, less than 30 extra base hits, bad defense and a questionable attitude?

 

Neither of these guys is old. Both have had very good seasons as recently as 2010 when Young hit .298 with 46 doubles, 21 homers and 112 RBI and Liriano won 14 games with an ERA of 3.62 and 201 strikeouts in 191+ innings.

 

Instead of selling low on both of them, why not put the pressure on them to work really, really hard in the offseason, knowing that they really need to put up big numbers in 2012 or potentially lose out on a lot of money. Why not let the Twins see what they can get from those players in a contract year? Let the Twins be the beneficiary of that effort. Both do have the world of talent. We have seen that talent on the field. They are both young enough to still reach that level again.

 

Of course, bringing them back means that the Twins will need to pay them at least 80% of what they are paying them this year. Most likely, each would be in line for a small raise. That could mean $10-13 million for the two players that could be used elsewhere.

I just really do not believe in selling low. What do you think?

 

(For the record, I don’t think that this is what will or even necessarily should be done. I think at least one, most likely Young, will be traded in the offseason, or sooner)

 

TWINS WIN!!

 

The Twins were able to beat the Red Sox 5-2 on Wednesday night. It was a much-needed win for the team. A couple of quick notes:

 

  • Following the game, Trevor Plouffe was optioned to Rochester with Alexi Casilla coming off the Disabled List. He got a few games here and there in this stint, but again, no regular, daily playing time. He definitely was shaky defensively no matter where they put him, and the bat did not come through in the limited playing time.
  • Justin Morneau will be activated on Friday before the game in Cleveland. At that time, the Twins will need to send one more player down. I have to assume the decision is between Jason Repko, who has an option, and Ben Revere, who has all three of his options remaining. Revere is clearly the better player, but that isn’t the decision. Revere needs to play pretty much every day. If he will do that with the Twins, then keep him up. If not, send him to Rochester for the next two weeks and let him play. With Denard Span struggling, I have to believe Revere stays.
  • Nick Blackburn needed a good start, and he got it.
  • Congratulations to Joe Nathan for becoming the Twins all-time leader in Saves, passing Rick Aguilera on the list.

 

MINOR LEAGUE NOTES

 

  • Rochester 11, Durham 3 – Justin Morneau went 2-4 with a walk and a long home run. Dustin Martin went 2-5 with his 21st double. Michael Holliman went 1-3 with a walk. Jake Stevens started and gave up only an unearned run in four innings. He gave up eight hits, walked none and struck out two. Eden Prairie native and former Gopher Cole DeVries struck out four in three scoreless innings. Dusty Hughes struck one out in one shutout frame. Jim Hoey gave up two solo home runs in his inning of work.  
  • After being rained out on Tuesday, the New Britain Rock Cats and Altoona played two games on Wednesday. In the first game, the Rock Cats lost 5-0. David Bromberg went four innings and gave up four runs on eight hits. He walked two and struck out one. Brett Jacobson then struck out three and gave up an unearned run in two innings. Matt Schuld pitched a scoreless inning. The Rock Cats managed just five hits. Yangervis Solarte (30) and Mark Dolenc (13) each doubled.
  • The second game got ugly quick, and the Rock Cats lost 14-1. Spencer Steedley started and went one inning. He gave up seven runs on seven hits and four walks. Dakota Watts then gave up five runs on five hits and a walk in the next two innings. Steve Hirschfeld gave up a run on two hits and two walks in two innings. Deolis Guerra gave up a run, but struck out two in one inning. Tyler Robertson worked a scoreless inning. The Rock Cats had just six hits. Mark Dolenc went 3-3 with his 14th double.  
  • Beloit lost to Wisconsin 3-1. Blayne Weller made the start in place of BJ Hermsen. He went four innings and gave up two runs on three hits and a walk. He struck out four. Michael Tonkin gave up one run on three hits and a walk in three innings. He struck out three. Adrian Salcedo pitched a scoreless inning. The Snappers had just four hits. Nate Roberts was 1-3 with a walk.
  • Elizabethton shut out Danville 3-0. Tim Shibuya threw five scoreless innings. He gave up eight hits, but he walked none and struck out four. Corey Williams gave up one hit and two walks in two scoreless innings in which he struck out four. Steven Gruver struck out two in two scoreless innings. Eddie Rosario led the offense by going 2-4 with his sixth triple. He also stole his 12th base. Kennys Vargas hit his 11th double. Matthew Koch, the Twins 12th round pick, made his debut and went 1-1 with a walk and a sacrifice fly.
  • The Ft. Myers Miracle and the GCL Twins games were both rained out.
  • Twins Minor League Weekly will be on tonight at 10:00.
  • LaVelle blogged his updated prospect list, starting with Twins prospects 6-10. Today, he will post his Top 5 Twins Prospects.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Pitch to Contact

12 Jun

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

“Pitch to Contact.”

It’s just a three-word phrase, but for some reason, a lot of Twins fans seem to think it has a negative connotation, and frankly, I don’t understand why.

Here is my definition of “Pitch to Contact.”

Don’t walk people. Throw strikes. Hit spots in the strike zone. Make the batters swing the bat.

That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less.

For some reason, people take that phrase as saying, “Don’t strike people out.”

Earlier in the year, the Twins told Francisco Liriano to Pitch to Contact. Some thought that it meant that he shouldn’t strike people out. That’s not the case. The team wanted him to stop walking people and throwing five to seven pitches per batter. Liriano was struggling early with command of the strike zone. He wasn’t getting through even five innings.

In the game after getting the advice, he got beat by an inning where he gave up a bunch of seeing-eye singles. However, in that game, he was throwing more strikes. Even in his no-hitter, he walked a bunch and yet, as the game went along, he also got some quick outs. In his two starts since his return from the Disabled List, he has been terrific. And on Sunday, he threw eight innings and walked none and struck out nine. When Liriano pitches to contact (ie, throwing strikes), his “stuff” is still hard to hit and he gets strikeouts. When Scott Baker throws strikes and pitches to contact, he can get strikeouts. He has terrific stuff. When Carl Pavano and Nick Blackburn pitch to contact, they have to be a little bit more fine because they don’t have the great ‘stuff’ and can more easily give up hits.

This pitch-to-contact philosophy is one that has been very successful for the Twins in the past decade. It is what made pitchers like Jack Morris and Bert Blyleven and Jim Kaat and Brad Radke and Kevin Tapani successful over the years. Strikeouts come from throwing strikes. Runs are given up by walking hitters and falling behind in counts.

If Liriano continues to pitch to contact, he is going to be great and rack up a lot of strikeouts. All that is great for the Twins, and their fans!

For more on Liriano and the Twins big decisions to come this week, be sure to listen to last night’s SethSpeaks.net Sunday Night Twins Podcast.

Feel free to comment here.

Liriano Throws No-Hitter Against Sox

4 May

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

For the first time since September of 1999, Twins fans got to witness a Minnesota Twins no-hitter! Francisco Liriano came into the game with an ERA over 9 and a manager’s threat that if he didn’t pitch better, he could be replaced in the Twins rotation by Kevin Slowey. He proceeded to walk the first batter he faced, Juan Pierre. But he got a double play. He got another inning-ending double header in the 2nd. It was anything but pretty. Liriano needed 123 pitches to throw his first career complete game. He threw just 66 strikes to go with 57 balls.

In a season that has been so rough for the Twins and so disappointing for their fans, a no-hitter certainly brings excitement. I obviously knew he was throwing the no-hitter early. In the 4th inning, I was already wondering how many innings he could get through. Danny Valencia made an absolutely remarkable play behind 3B in the 7th inning. Playing a deep 3B, Valencia went quickly to the foul line, and although the ball took a funny bounce, he made the play, planted and made a really strong throw to 1B. With a runner on in the 8th inning, Gordon Beckham grounded into a double play, even if he really was not tagged by Justin Morneau. Hey, I’m a Twins fan. I was just fine with that call.

On the first play of the 9th inning, Matt Tolbert fielded a ground ball, took about six or seven steps and threw to 1B. Justin Morneau made a tremendous scoop. It may have been an error to Tolbert, but would have been another out that Liriano would have needed to record. After a third walk of Juan Pierre, Liriano got Alexei Ramirez to pop out to shortstop. After falling behind Adam Dunn 3-0, he forced a full count and Dunn lined a shot to the glove of Matt Tolbert. The no-hitter was complete.

In that ninth inning, I couldn’t even type .It was the first butterflies and nerves that I have felt in a long time! Think about this… once Pierre was on 1B in the 9th, Ramirez and Dunn represented the winning run. All I could think was how awful it would have been for Liriano to get that far in a no-hitter and give up a game-winning home run. Devastating! But Liriano came through.

Considering where Francisco Liriano was coming into the start. Considering where the Twins were at as a team coming into the game. Despite the walks. It was pretty great to witness a no-hitter.

Does it mean that the Twins will suddenly turn things around and start winning? Of course not, but hopefully! Does it help answer where the Twins will get production from their offense? No. But for the day, who cares? Let’s just enjoy it!

The last Twins pitcher to take a no-hitter into the 9th inning was Scott Baker against the Royals. He issued a walk to break up the no-hitter, and then Mike Sweeney came on to pinch hit and blooped a single.

The last Twins pitcher to complete a no-hitter was Eric Milton in September of 1999 against the Angels. It was an 11:00 game on a Saturday morning that wasn’t even televised. The Twins lineup on that day was: Jacque Jones (CF), Denny Hocking (SS), Matt Lawton (RF), Terry Steinbach ( C), Todd Walker (DH), Corey Koskie (3B), Torii Hunter (LF), Doug Mientkiewicz (1B), Cleatus Davidson (2B).

Ramon Ortiz started that game for the Angels. Steve Mintz gave up a run in the 8th inning for the Angels. He has been coaching in the Twins organization since 2002, and he is now the pitching coach of the Ft. Myers Miracle.

I’m sure you recall that Scott Erickson got the final out of his 1991 no-hitter on a pop up, caught by Alex Cole in left field.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

It wasn’t a pretty start for Liriano, but he needed it. The Twins needed it ,and their fans needed it too. Hopefully it can spur some momentum going forward for the team, but I guess we shall see. And, by the way, even though Drew Butera’s batting average (.100) is now half of Shin Soo Choo’s Blood Alcohol Level (.20), he does deserve a ton of credit for getting Liriano through that start last night.

That ninth inning was really exciting for me. It was nerve-wracking! But when Matt Tolbert caught the Adam Dunn line drive, what a great feeling. It was great seeing Liriano show some emotion and hit his glove. It was great seeing the Twins run out to him and embrace him. I’m sure they were not only excited to be part of something so special, but also happy for their teammate. It was great to see Liriano smiling before the ninth inning and then after the ninth inning. We haven’t seen that in a long time!

For much more on the no-hitter, the Twins and the White Sox, be sure to check out last night’s SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast. What are your thoughts? What was going through your mind? Feel free to discuss.

2011 Twins Predictions

1 Apr

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Thursday was officially Opening Day, and I have to admit, it was a strange day for me. First, it was on a Thursday for the first time. I had enough troubles with ESPN getting a Sunday night season opener, after Opening Day had always just been a Monday thing. MLB decided to start the season three or four days earlier in an attempt to keep the World Series out of November. Second, the Twins didn’t play on Opening Day. Only 12 teams did. So, I guess all I can say is:

Happy Minnesota Twins Opening Day to you!

Predictions are always fun because at the end of the year, I can pick and choose which ones I will remind you that I made. Or, if they’re that far off, I can forget to remind you about my picks and hopefully you won’t remind me too often. Below are some predictions, some more bold than others, for the 2011 Minnesota Twins season with some other predictions randomly thrown in.

2011 MINNESOTA TWINS PROJECTIONS

  • Matt Capps will record twice as many saves as Joe Nathan.
  • Joe Mauer will hit less than .320, but he will hit more than 40 doubles and more than 16 home runs. He will win his fourth straight, and fifth total, Silver Slugger Award.
  • Justin Morneau will post an OPS of just over .880.
  • Delmon Young will:
    • Hit over .300.
    • Hit more than 28 home runs
    • Drive in more than 120 runs
    • Post an OPS of less than .900.
  • Tsuyoshi Nishioka will post an OPS of over .720 and steal more than 25 bases. He will also deserve to win the AL Gold Glove, but he won’t because Robinson Cano is a really good hitter.
  • Alexi Casilla’s OPS will be within .030 of JJ Hardy’s. He will also be within 2.0 UZR of the former Twins shortstop.
  • The date that I will stop watching the Twins on FSN with the volume on will be April 6th.
  • Denard Span will post an OBP over .370. He will steal more than 30 bases.
  • Michael Cuddyer will lead the Twins with more than 40 doubles. He will also top 20 home runs.
  • Danny Valencia will post an OPS greater than .820 with more than 32 doubles and more than 15 home runs.
  • Jim Thome will NOT post an OPS of over 1.000 again in 2011. In fact, he won’t post a .900 OPS. He will hit less than 15 home runs but more than the 11 home runs he needs to reach career home runs number 600.
    • Let’s go on a limb and say that he will his Home Run #600 on August 24th at Target Field in the 2nd inning off of Jake Arrieta.
  • Carl Pavano will throw 200 innings, but his ERA will be over 4.40.
  • Francisco Liriano will throw less than 190 innings with an ERA over 3.50 and a K-rate less than 8.5 per nine innings.
  • Brian Duensing will throw 175+ innings with an ERA of under 4.25.
  • Nick Blackburn will throw more than 210 innings with an ERA just under 4.00.
  • Scott Baker will throw 190+ innings with an ERA under 4.20.
  • Kevin Slowey will not make a start for the Twins in 2011, and he will average more than a strikeout per inning
  • I will be wrong about one of the five starters pitching well, Kyle Gibson will make his Twins debut on June 18 at Target Field against the Padres.
  • Joe Mauer and Delmon Young will represent the Twins at the All-Star game.
  • The Twins will open their 2011 home schedule with a 3-4 record, including a split against the Yankees at Yankees Stadium.
  • Ron Gardenhire will be ejected eight times in 2011.
  • No Twins hitter will top 30 home runs, however, Justin Morneau and Delmon Young will come close, while Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel will hit over 22 each.

AL CENTRAL STANDINGS (Projected)

Minnesota Twins        93-69

Chicago White Sox      91-71

Detroit Tigers              80-82

Cleveland Indians        72-90

Kansas City Royals     63-99

AMERICAN LEAGUE PLAYOFF TEAMS

AL Central – Minnesota Twins (2)

AL East – Boston Red Sox (1)

AL West – Oakland A’s (3)

Wild Card – Chicago White Sox (4)

ALDS: Boston over Chicago in 4 games, Oakland over Minnesota (in 5 games, the A’s rotation contains lefties Gio Gonzalez, Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden, and the bullpen has Brian Fuentes, Craig Breslow and Bobby Cramer. The Twins have not addressed their need for a right-handed bat. Unless they do, it could be another one and done.)

ALCS – Boston over Oakland in 5 games.

NATIONAL LEAGUE PLAYOFF TEAMS

NL Central – Milwaukee Brewers (3)

NL East – Atlanta Braves (2)

NL West – Los Angeles Dodgers (1)

NL East – Philadelphia Phillies

NLDS: Braves over Brewers in 4 games. Phillies over Dodgers in 4 games.

NLCS: Braves over Phillies in 7 games.

WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS

                Braves over Red Sox in 6 games.

 What are your predictions for the 2011 season, for the Twins or the league. If you have any thoughts or questions, please feel free to comment or ask.

——————————————————–

  • TWINS MINOR LEAGUE WEEKLY PODCAST LAST NIGHTNIGHT – If you are interested in the Twins minor league system, check out Twins Minor League Weekly podcast from last night. Travis Aune and I will host the 10:00 p.m. podcast each Thursday throughout the season. Last night, we discussed the projected rosters and picks to click for the Rochester Red Wings and New Britain Rockcats. We started talking about the Ft. Myers Miracle when the 45 minute podcast abruptly came to an end. Next Thursday, we’ll discuss minor league opening night and continue to look at the Miracle and Snappers rosters.