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Twins Organizational Depth Chart: Relief Pitchers

8 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

Today, we will conclude our Organizational Depth Chart by looking at the Relief Pitchers. Frankly, it is kind of a mess thanks to about 89 minor league veterans brought in, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out. As I said on Monday, many starters will get time as a reliever, and vice versa. This is especially true in the lower levels of the minor leagues where innings limits are still so important. The Twins bullpen in 2011 was pretty much horrible. They had lost Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier, both guys who had long been in the Twins bullpen. They also let Jon Rauch and Brian Fuentes, and Ron Mahay departed via free agency. Each made huge money for relievers in free agency. As I’ve said, I would have wanted to bring back Crain, but I definitely understood letting the others go. The Twins brought in some minor league free agents, but as they had done so many times before, they made the decision to build a bullpen from within. Needing two or three pitchers to step up, only Glen Perkins really stepped up throughout the season. Anthony Swarzak was a surprise success as well in long relief and as a spot starter. Joe Nathan struggled in his return. Matt Capps just struggled. Two pitchers that likely would have been counted on to perform, Jeff Manship and Anthony Slama were out most of the season with injuries. Had those two been healthy all season, it could have been a better situation. To the surprise of many, the Twins seem to have gone with much the same philosophy in 2012. Instead of going after retread relievers, they are choosing to believe in their in-house options. They brought back Capps, are taking a flyer on Joel Zumaya, and have invited a small village of minor league veteran pitchers with some big league experience. All in the attempt to hope that three or four of them step up. It’s a philosophy I completely agree with despite the fact that it went very wrong in 2011. Then again, pretty much everything went wrong for the Twins in 2011. Fortunately 2012 is a new year. You can clamor for guys like Dan Wheeler and Chad Qualls and Todd Coffey all you want. Or you can realize that they all struggled early in their careers and didn’t become big league regulars until late in their careers. They didn’t succeed in their first opportunities in the big leagues, and they have all had their struggles in the big leagues even after being given regular bullpen duties. So, although I am incredibly nervous about the Twins bullpen, and don’t have any idea how they will perform in 2012, I do think they have some talent, some young talent that should continue to get opportunities. That’s just smart.  Relievers who are good year in and year out are a rarity. Are there a dozen  in the entire big leagues that you could say have been lights out, have been difference-makers each of the past five seasons? (I’ll give you Mariano Rivera… you name another 10.) Because of that, bringing in 26-30 year olds with good arms and some measure of success makes a lot of sense to me.  

Below you will get a look at the names of many Twins minor league pitchers who will likely spend a lot of time in bullpens this upcoming season. 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  

Matt Capps (RHP), Glen Perkins (LHP), Joel Zumaya (RHP), Brian Duensing (LHP), Alex Burnett (RHP), Anthony Swarzak (RHP), Jeff Gray (RHP), Terry Doyle (RHP-R5)

Some Twins fans choose to say that Matt Capps has been pretty bad in two of the last three years. Since it’s less than two weeks before spring training, so I’ll say that he’s been really good in four of his last six seasons! If healthy, he’ll be solid at the end of games. I think Glen Perkins proved himself throughout the 2011 season to believe he can be a dominant lefty reliever again in 2012. Brian Duensing likely moves to the bullpen. He is one of baseball’s best at getting left-handed hitters out, but one of the worst at getting right-handers out. Joel Zumaya hasn’t pitched since 2010, and hasn’t pitched a full season since 2006, but I guess there is a chance he could be really good for half of the season! Anthony Swarzak is out of options and he really proved himself in long-relief and spot-starting last year. He could find himself being thrown into more high leverage situations in 2012. Alex Burnett has the arguably the best stuff in the bullpen and hopefully he will be able to put it all together. He won’t turn 25 until late July. If Terry Doyle pitches fairly well in spring training, I believe that he will make the team. If a starter is hurt, he could be the guy to make some starts early in the season, or he could be a long reliever. I also believe that Jeff Gray will make this roster as well. He is on the 40 man roster and out of options.  

Rochester Red Wings

Anthony Slama (RHP), Carlos Gutierrez (RHP), Lester Oliveros (RHP), Cole DeVries (RHP), Deolis Guerra (RHP), Kyle Waldrop (RHP), Esmerling Vazquez (RHP), Tyler Robertson (LHP), Jared Burton (RHP), Jason Bulger (RHP), Samuel Deduno (RHP), Phil Dumatrait (LHP), Casey Fien (RHP), Luis Perdomo (RHP), Daryl Thompson (RHP), PJ Walters (RHP), Brendan Wise (RHP), Luke French (LHP), Brad Thompson (RHP), Matt Maloney (LHP)

What a mess spring training will be? The Twins will have to play a few split-squad games to get all of these guys innings. Inexplicably, Anthony Slama has never been given a shot by the Twins despite 10.3 K/9 and a 2.59 ERA in 92 AAA appearances. I think Lester Oliveros has a chance to be pretty good but he needs more time. The Twins don’t need to rush him (like they did with Alex Burnett). The Twins claimed Vazquez from the Diamondbacks on the last day of the 2011 season. He’s a hard-thrower with control issues. The same can be said for Deduno and Perdomo. Kyle Waldrop finally got a shot with the Twins in September and he should be given a very legitimate opportunity to make the Twins opening day roster and get time throughout the season with the Twins. The two non-roster invites that have a legitimate chance of making the big league roster early in the season are Jared Burton and Jason Bulger. Each has had quite a bit of big league success. Burton has been hurt much of the past two seasons. Bulger spent a long time with the Angels. Phil Dumatrait got way too much time with the Twins last year. Carlos Gutierrez and Tyler Robertson were added to the 40 man roster this offseason. Gutierrez made the move to the bullpen last year and pitched pretty well until shoulder issues. Still walks too many though. Robertson was terrific in the second half of last season as the New Britain closer. The lefty may not throw hard, but he was quite successful in his first season in the bullpen. Cole DeVries had a tremendous 2011 including a very good performance in the hitting Arizona Fall League. Matt Maloney is on the 40 man roster. The left-hander was brought in before Terry Ryan was named GM, but as a former Reds pitcher, it is likely that he was recommended by Wayne Krivsky, which makes him intriguing. He is on the 40 man roster and out of options, but there is a chance he could go unclaimed. Non-roster invites Burton, Bulger, Deduno, Dumatrait, Fien, Perdomo, Walters, French and the two Thompsons all have spent some time in the big leagues. Liam Hendriks said in a recent podcast that Brendan Wise is similar to Kyle Waldrop in terms of ability to get a lot of ground balls. The Aussie has been very good in AAA the last two years. Finally, it is a huge year for Deolis Guerra. After being really bad as a starting pitcher, he moved to the New Britain bullpen last year and was incredible. Suddenly he had better control, gave up less hits and struck out more than a batter an inning. How will he perform in AAA in 2012? It will be interesting to watch. I suspect we will see him by season’s end. He has one option left.  

New Britain Rock Cats

Matt Hauser (RHP), Andrew Albers (LHP), Brett Jacobson (RHP), Daniel Turpen (RHP), Tony Davis (LHP), Blake Martin (LHP), Cole Nelson (LHP), Spencer Steedley (LHP), Ricky Bowen (RHP), Jhon Garcia (RHP), Bruce Pugh (RHP), Dakota Watts (RHP), Steve Hirschfeld (RHP)

Will any of the leftovers from the Twins minor league signings move down to AA? We shall see. Matt Hauser ended the 2011 season with one appearance with the Rock Cats. He is a hard-throwing right hander who I think will be a big breakout candidate in 2012. Andrew Albers was the story of the year in the Twins system last year and my choice for Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. Brett Jacobson, Blake Martin and Spencer Steedley spent 2011 in New Britain, each splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen. Turpen came over from Colorado in the Kevin Slowey deal. He throws hard and side-arm but gets no strikeouts. Bruce Pugh and Dakota Watts both had disappointing 2011 seasons between Ft. Myers and New Britain. Each struggled in the Arizona Fall League. But each throws really hard and if they can find any measure of control, they are legit prospects. Hirschfeld was my choice for Twins minor league pitcher of the month in both April and May. He struggled in June and moved to the bullpen, which is likely where he’ll wind up. Tony Davis is not a big guy, but he throws left-handed and touches 94-95 mph. He missed about half of last season with a shoulder surgery. He will be ready for spring training. Cole Nelson is a Minnesota native who came over from Detroit in the Delmon Young trade. Ricky Bowen signed with the Twins in May and did a nice job pitching out of the Ft. Myers bullpen. Jhon Garcia throws hard and can pitch in any role in the bullpen and spot start.

Ft. Myers Miracle

Jose Gonzalez (LHP), Michael Tonkin (RHP), Clinton Dempster (RHP), Bart Carter (LHP), Nelvin Fuentes (LHP), Edgar Ibarra (LHP), Kane Holbrooks (RHP), Matt Schuld (RHP), Brad Stillings (RHP), Caleb Thielbar (LHP), Blayne Weller (RHP), Miguel Munoz (RHP)

Jose Gonzalez was the closer in Beloit last year. He’ll likely continue in that role with the Miracle. He’s not tall and resembles Jose Mijares, but he throws hard and has a terrific slider. Michael Tonkin moved to the bullpen in 2011 and pitched very well. Dempster was terrific in the bullpen for Beloit but struggled upon his promotion to Ft. Myers. Carter dominated in Elizabethton and then pitched very well for the Snappers. A four year college guy, he should be pushed. Nelvin Fuentes has been pitching well for Puerto Rico in international competition. He has also steadily moved up the Twins system. The lefty works slow but he gets hitters out. Edgar Ibarra struggled in the Miracle rotation last year but finished strong in the bullpen. Kane Holbrooks had a tremendous 2010 season that saw him pitch well in Beloit, Ft. Myers and New Britain. 2011 was disappointing. He pitched well with no run support in April, but then he really struggled. He then missed the last couple of months. St. Thomas alum Matt Schuld pitched very well in Ft. Myers and then threw pretty well in New Britain. I only have him in Ft. Myers because of the numbers crunch at the higher levels. Caleb Thielbar became the first player the Twins signed from the St. Paul Saints and pitched in a few games for the Miracle. Blayne Weller pitched in the bullpen in Beloit although he ended the season pitching well as a starter. Miguel Munoz made his first start last year with the Miracle, hurt his elbow and then didn’t pitch again until late in the season. In his return to the Miracle, he re-aggravated the elbow injury and was shut down. Reports indicate that he did not have elbow surgery and rehabbed throughout the offseason.

Beloit Snappers

Corey Williams (LHP), Steve Evans (LHP), Steven Gruver (LHP), Jason Wheeler (LHP), David Hurlbut (LHP), Corey Kimes (LHP), Garrett Jewell (RHP), Cole Johnson (RHP), Tobias Streich (RHP), Jhonatan Arias (RHP).

Corey Williams was the Twins 3rd round pick just a year ago. The lefty signed for nearly double the slot recommendation. But the Twins are quite excited about him. He’s another hard thrower, said to have nasty stuff and a strong mentality. Evans, Gruver, Hurlbut and Johnson were all 2011 draft picks out of college that pitched well at Elizabethton during the summer. Kimes pitched in just a couple of games before suffering from mono. Jason Wheeler was the team’s 8th round pick and signed at the deadline. He will debut in 2012. Tobias Streich and Jhonatan Arias were both strong-armed catchers without much bat. Last year at Instructs, the two were moved from behind the plate to the mound. The Twins have done this in the past with mixed results. Tim Lahey was drafted as a catcher, but a year later he moved to the mound, and although he didn’t get to the big leagues, he spent 3 years in AAA as a reliever. Danny Santiesteban was an outfielder with a bunch of tools in the lower levels of the Twins system for a few years. He was moved to the mound but was released soon after. (By the way, Santiesteban has been a hitting star for the Newark Bears of the independent leagues the last couple of years.)

Elizabethton Twins

Luis Nunez (LHP), Ricardo Arevalo (RHP), Nathan Fawbush (RHP), Tyler Herr (RHP), Gonzalo Sanudo (RHP), Markus Solbach (RHP), Dallas Gallant (RHP)

Luis Nunez went 5-0 with 5 saves and a 1.67 ERA in 16 relief appearances in the GCL. The 20-year-old lefty throws gas with decent (but improving) secondary stuff. He is certainly one to watch. Tyler Herr is a tall right-hander who showed improvement in his second year in the GCL. Arevalo has gone 0-11 with a 4.37 ERA in 25 games over the past two years in the GCL. Nathan Fawbush is another tall kid with a lot of talent, but he has missed time each of the past two seasons since the Twins drafted him. Sanudo signed with the Twins in 2011 and in 20.2 innings in the GCL, he walked seven and struck out 22. He just turned 20. Markus Solbach signed about this time last year from Germany, and he went 3-3 with a 1.91 ERA in 28.1 innings in the GCL. He also pitched well in the World Cup.  Gallant had Tommy John surgery last spring and will be brought back slowly.

GCL Twins

Josh Burris (RHP), Josue Montanez (LHP), Gerardo Ramirez (RHP)

The Twins signed Ramirez last year out of Mexico and threw 17.1 innings in the GCL. He just turned 18. Montanez just turned 20 years old. He signed with the Twins last year as their 15th round pick a year after being taken in the 25th round in 2010 by the Padres. His first outing didn’t go well, and then he was really good his next seven outings. Josh Burris signed very late with the Twins last year out of LSU-Eunice. Last year, he played some 2B and some in the outfield. He hit .273 with a triple and a homer and stole 13 bases. He also was a reliever who walked too many. However, he hits 94 mph on the radar gun and is best known for his great 12-6 curveball.

TOP THREE (OR SO…) PROSPECTS

1.)    Corey Williams, 2.) Matt Hauser, 3.) Lester Oliveros, 4.) Deolis Guerra, 5.) Carlos Gutierrez, 6.) Luis Nunez, 7.) Tyler Robertson, 8.) Dakota Watts, 9.) Bruce Pugh 10.) Steven Evans

SUMMARY

The Twins bullpen was really bad last year. I don’t think there is any way around that. Glen Perkins stepped up, and once he was called up, Anthony Swarzak pitched well. If the Twins have any hope at being successful in 2012, they are going to need a few more guys to really step up. Capps is going to have to be healthy and pitch well. Zumaya may have to be healthy and successful. Duensing will have to fill the role of lefty-reliever. They brought in a bunch of minor league veterans, and it would be great if one or two of them would step up and contribute when called upon. There are several Twins minor leaguers who deserve an opportunity to step up, guys like Waldrop, Gutierrez, DeVries and even Anthony Slama. The Twins have made an effort to bring in some strong arms, and in doing so have found guys who also walk a bunch. In recent drafts, the Twins have also added some power arms to mixed results. Guys like Matt Hauser and Tony Davis could move up. 2011 draft picks Corey Williams, Matt Summers, Madison Boer, Trent Higginbotham and Josh Burris throw hard. Oh, and remember a couple of years ago when the Twins had something like three or four left-handed relievers in their entire farm system? Now, it appears that each team may have three or four lefties! There is definitely some talent in the bullpen, some very strong arms. Of course, we also have to remember that many starting pitchers who have decent stuff and aren’t working out as starters could be moved to the bullpen as well.  

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

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Twins 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!

Top 10 Pro Athletes Under 30 from Minnesota

20 Sep

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

With the Twins (and their fans) suffering yet another loss, and the Vikings tough Week 2 loss, I thought something different would be good. So today, I ranked the Top 10 professional athletes who are from high schools in Minnesota. There are several others who could make this list in a couple of year, and several others such as Brad Hand or Eric Decker that will make it. But here are my rankings for the top ten. How would you rank them? Who is missing?

#10 – Blake Wheeler – The Breck School – 8/31/86  

After a junior season in which he led The Breck School to a state championship, he spent a season in the USHL before playing three years for the Gophers. He was the fifth overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Phoenix Coyotes. He came to the NHL in 2008 with the Boston Bruins. He was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers in February. In three seasons in the NHL, he has accumulated 57 goals and 70 assists. The Thrashers moved to Winnipeg and became the Jets. He signed a two years, $5.1 million deal this past offseason.  

#9 – Tom Gilbert – Bloomington Jefferson – 1/10/83

Gilbert played three seasons at Jefferson before spending a season in the USHL. After being drafted by the Avalanche in the 5th round of the 2002 draft, he spent four seasons at Wisconsin. He spent most of the 2006-07 in the minor leagues before a late season call-up. He has played at least 79 games in each of the four seasons since. In that time, he has 30 goals and 11 assists. In 2008, he signed a six year, $24 million deal.

#8 – Glen Perkins – Stillwater – 3/2/83

Perkins graduated from Stillwater and pitched two seasons for the Gophers. In that time, he was 19-5 with a sub-3.00 ERA and the Big 10 Pitcher of the Year. The Twins used their second first-round pick (22nd overall) to select the southpaw. He quickly advanced through the Twins farm system and made his big league debut in September of 2006. He spent 2007 in the Twins bullpen. He went 12-4 in 26 starts for the Twins. He really struggled in 2009 starting for the Twins. He really struggled in 2010 pitching for the Rochester Red Wings. Somehow in 2011, he has been the Twins and one of the league’s most reliable, dominant left-handed relievers.

#7 – Kris Humphries – Hopkins – 2/6/85

At Hopkins, Humphries helped his team to the 2002 Minnesota State basketball championship. In 2003, he was a McDonald’s All-American and Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball. After committing to attend Duke, he changed his mind, stayed home and played one season for the Gophers. (Side Note – I haven’t watched Gophers hoops or college hoops since that year.) In his season with the Gophers, he averaged 21.7 points and 10.1 rebounds. To no one’s surprise, he left school and entered the NBA draft. He was the 14th overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Utah. He spent two years with the Jazz, three years in Toronto, and part of a season in Dallas. He was traded to New Jersey during the 2009-10 season where he has finally been given an opportunity to play more than 13 minutes a game. He responded well. In 2010-11, he averaged 10.0 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, including making 44 starts. He sits out right now thanks to the NBA labor issues, but he will become a free agent at which point he should have a big pay day. Apparently, he got married recently too. Not sure if anyone heard about that.

#6 – Keith Ballard – Lake of the Woods (Baudette) – 11/26/82

Ballard played for Lake of the Woods high school in Baudette through his sophomore season. He then went to the USHL and spent a year with the US National Development team and a year in Omaha. Then in three years with the Gophers, he scored 33 goals and had 67 assists. He also was part of two national championship teams. In 2002, he was the 11th overall pick by the Buffalo Sabres. He was traded two times before he signed with the Phoenix Coyotes. Due to the NHL Lockout, he spent his first season in the minor leagues. He then spent four seasons with the Coyotes and two years with the Florida Panthers. Last year, he played for the Vancouver Canucks. He has scored 35 goals and assisted on another 121 goals. He has also played in many international competitions.

#5 – Zach Parise – Shattuck-St. Mary’s (Faribault) – 7/28/84

Parise is a rare top high school player who actually played four years at his high school. In 125 games during his final two seasons with Shattuck, he scored 146 goals and had another 194 assists. He spent two seasons at the University of North Dakota. The New Jersey Devils made him the 17th overall selection of the 2003 draft. He spent one year in the minor leagues before being promoted. He played in 81 or 82 games in each of his first five seasons before a torn meniscus limited him to just 13 games last year. He signed a one year, $6 million deal with the Devils for the 2011-12 season. In his six years, he has scored 163 goals and assisted on another 178. He has participated in many international competitions and really made a name for himself thanks to a great run in the 2010 Olympics.  

#4 – Marion Barber – Wayzata – 6/10/83

At Wayzata high school, Barber was a great all-around athlete. He was a sprinter in track, a centerfielder in baseball and a running back and defensive back in football. Football is in his blood. His dad played six seasons as a running back for the Jets in the 1980s. His brother Dominique is a safety with the Texans. As a senior in high school, Barber ran for nearly 1,800 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also had ten interceptions, three of them off of Joe Mauer. He spent three seasons with the Gophers during which he scored 35 touchdowns. He entered the NFL draft following a junior season in which he teamed with Lawrence Maroney. He was drafted in the 4th round by the Dallas Cowboys. In six years with the Cowboys, he ran for nearly 4,000 yards and 43 touchdowns. He also caught another 163 passes for another 1,231 yards and six touchdowns. He was a Pro Bowler after a 2007 season in which he ran for 975 yards. He was released by the Cowboys and is now the #2 running back of the Chicago Bears.

#3 – Lindsay Whalen – Hutchinson – 5/9/82

Whalen was a four year starter at Hutchinson high school before leading the Gophers women’s basketball team to incredible popularity. Before she arrived, the Gophers had been to the NCAA tournament just one time. In her four years, they made it to the tournament three times, and no one in Minnesota will forget that Final Four run in 2004. Unfortunately, the WNBA didn’t allow regional signings and Whalen was selected with the 4th overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Connecticut Sun. She led the Sun to the WNBA championship her first two seasons. She was traded to the Lynx and has played for them the past two years. Many believe that she should have been the 2011 WNBA MVP as she led the Lynx to the best record. In eight seasons, Whalen has averaged 12 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds. She has played professionally in Prague the last couple of seasons as well.

#2 – Larry Fitzgerald – Holy Angels Academy – 8/31/83

Fitzgerald spent the final three football seasons of his high school career at the Academy of Holy Angels after a freshman year at Minnehaha Academy. Fitzgerald was a ball boy on Denny Green’s Vikings teams, and learned a lot from Cris Carter and Randy Moss. After a remarkable two-year career at the University of Pittsburgh in which he was a runner-up in Heisman Trophy voting, Green (coaching the Arizona Cardinals) drafted him with the 3rd overall pick in the 2004 draft. In his seven seasons with the Cardinals coming into this season, he had 613 catches for 8,204 yards and 65 touchdowns. He has been a Pro Bowler five times, and recently, he signed an 8 year, $120 million contract to remain with the Cardinals.     

#1 – Joe Mauer – Cretin-Derham Hall – 4/19/83

At Cretin-Derham Hall, Mauer averaged over 20 points per game. He was all-state his final two years. He was the national player of the year in both football and in baseball. To say he was a pretty good athlete might be an understatement. Florida State and Bobby Bowden offered Mauer a full ride to Mauer to play football, but when the Twins used the #1 overall pick in the 2001 draft (and a signing bonus north of $5 million), baseball became Mauer’s career. Mauer was on the fast track and on Opening Day 2004, he was the Twins catcher. Mauer is the only catcher in major league history to win three batting titles. He has played in four All Star games, won four Silver Slugger Awards, three Gold Glove awards and was the 2009 American League MVP (When he led the AL in Batting Average, On-Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage).  

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to discuss in the Comments section.

Don’t Forget – The TwinsCentric Viewing Party will be on Saturday at Manitou Station in White Bear Lake during Game 1 of the Twins/Cleveland double header Gt there around 11:30 and stay through the game.

Nine Innings with Seth

7 Jul

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

It’s time for another Nine Innings blog here at SethSpeaks.net. I think there are enough topics. Sure, the first inning is something that I posted last night already, but the rest of it will be new to you. I’d be curious your thoughts on the Nine Innings concept and if it is something you’d like to see continued.

1st Inning – Red Wings Combine for No-Hitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any thoughts?

2nd Inning – Minor League Notes and Scores

Along with that exciting Red Wings game, here is a quick update on the goings on through the rest of the Twins farm system with a reminder that at 10:00 central time tonight, you can catch Travis Aune and I for another episode of Twins Minor League Weekly.

The New Britain Rock Cats and New Hampshire got through two complete innings with no score. Dennys Suarex threw two scoreless innings. The Rock Cats had no hits, but they did score a run in the top of the 3rd before the rains came. The game was suspended and the teams will play a double header tomorrow.

Ft. Myers topped St. Lucie 3-2 in 11 innings. Jhon Garcia started and gave up just one run on six hits and two walks in six innings. He struck out three. Matt Schuld came on and gave up just one run over the next four innings. He got the win, and Matt Hauser came in with a runner on in the 11th and finished the game for his second save. Derek McCallum went 2-4. Nick Romero hit his third triple. Jhonathan Goncalves hit his 12th double. Jake Mauer was ejected in the 7th inning.

By the way, be sure to check out the most recent episode of Miracle Insider by Alex Margulies and Bryce Zimmerman. They have a fun interview with Tom Stuifbergen.

Beloit dropped a 3-2 decision to Peoria. Michael Gonzales provided the offense. He was 2-4 with his 12th home run and 58th RBI. AJ Achter started and gave up one run on four hits and a walk in six innings. He struck out five. Jose Gonzales took the loss. He gave up two runs on three hits in his two innings.

Todd Van Steensel put together his best start of the year and Elizabethton defeated Kingsport 9-3. Van Steensel threw five shutout innings. He gave up four hits, walked one and struck out two. Steven Evans pitched a scoreless frame. Garrett Jewell gavec up three runs (1 earned) on three hits and a walk and recorded two outs. Nick Alloway got the next four batters out. Steven Gruver pitched a perfect ninth. Miguel Sano led the offense. He went 3-5 with his fifth double and second triple. (He also committed his 11th error.) Nick Lockwood went 2-5 with his fifth double. Jairo Rodriguez went 2-3, was hit by a pitch twice, and stole a base.

The GCL Twins lost 5-3 to the GCL Orioles. Angel Mata went the first three innings and gave up two runs (1 earned) on four hits. He walked one and struck out three. Tyler Herr gave up three runs (2 earned) on five hits and a walk in 2.1 innings. He struck out three. Nick Cicio struck out two in 1.2 scoreless innings.

3rd Inning – Twins Take Two of Three from Tampa

The Tampa Bay Rays have the third best record in the AL East, and the third best record in the American League. And the Twins won the series two games to one. Yes, the Wednesday afternoon 12-5 loss was a frustrating one because the Twins bullpen imploded in the 8th and 9th innings after the Twins came back three times to tie the game at five after seven innings. But it should be no more frustrating than if they had played great and lost 6-5. The big picture remains to win series, especially at home.

On Monday afternoon, it was all about Brian Duensing in the team’s 7-0 win. Duensing threw his second career complete game shutout to top All Star David Price. Tsuyoshi Nishioka had his biggest hit as a Twins player to date. He broke the game open with a bases-loaded two-run double. Danny Valencia went 3-4 with a home run and the final dagger, a three-run home run.

On Tuesday night, the Twins won a tight one, by a 3-2 margin. In this game, it was about All-Star Michael Cuddyer and the bullpen. Scott Baker continued his dominance at Target Field with five scoreless innings before he left with a tender elbow. Michael Cuddyer grounded out to score the Twins first run, but he also grounded a single up the middle to drive in the second and third runs. After Baker left, Phil Dumatrait got five outs. Alex Burnett got the Twins out of the 7th inning. Joe Nathan looked tremendous again in the 8th. Matt Capps didn’t complete a save opportunity for the third straight time. Thankfully it was the second straight time that Gardy went to Glen Perkins to face a tough lefty, and for the second straight time, Perkins got the job done and recorded the save.

And again, on Wednesday afternoon, after Michael Cuddyer hit his 13th home run to tie the game at five after seven innings, Alex Burnett gave up four runs in the eighth and Phil Dumatrait gave up three more in the 9th for the final 12-5 score. Nishioka went 3-3 with a walk in the game. But Franky-ly, when your starter gives up five runs on six hits, four walks and three hit batters and doesn’t get through five innings, winnings isn’t too likely.

But in the end, the Twins won six of nine games on this home stand, and won all three series. That is a good thing, and a successful home stand.

4th Inning – AL Central Standings and Schedule

Cleveland Indians      46-39

Detroit Tigers             46-42      1.5

Chicago White Sox    43-45      4.5

Minnesota Twins       38-47      8.0

Kansas City Royals    36-51   11.0

Again, it remains far too early in the season to be scoreboard watching or to worry about the standings. That said, the All Star game is next Tuesday, and the July trade deadline is just three weeks away. I don’t think that the Twins need to determine now whether they will be Buyers or Sellers. However, The next 16 games for the Twins are all in the AL Central. It starts with four games against the White Sox in Chicago. Then, following the All Star break, the Twins will play the next 11 games at Target Field. It will be four against the Royals, three against Cleveland and four against the Tigers. The Twins will then play four games in Texas and then three games in Oakland, the third game on July 31, the trade deadline. However, following those 16 games against the AL Central, we may know a lot more about what the Twins should do.

5th Inning – Twins and White Sox for Four in Chi-Town

The Twins have had a lot of success in recent years, both at home and on the road. It would be great for the Twins to end the first half on a nice role. On Thursday, we expect to see the big league debut of Joe Mauer at first base. That should be entertaining. Who will start in Scott Baker’s place on Sunday? I would assume Anthony Swarzak will and that the two innings he pitched on Wednesday should not affect that decision. On Thursday, we will get to see short-term Twins pitcher Phil Humber who has been incredible for the White Sox this year after being really terrible for the Royals last year and the Twins the year before, and the Mets the year before. It has been one of the better stories of the year. Good for him. Here are the pitching matchups for the four game series (W-L, ERA, WHIP, Opp BA):

  • Thursday night – 7:10 p.m. – Carl Pavano (5-6, 4.19, 1.30, .280) vs. Phil Humber (8-4, 2.69, 0.98, .201)
  • Friday night – 7:10 p.m. – Nick Blackburn (6-6, 4.02, 1.41, .286) vs. Gavin Floyd (6-8, 4.17, 1.20, .250)
  • Saturday afternoon – 3:10 p.m. – Brian Duensing (6-7, 4.25, 1.46, .280) vs. Mark Buehrle (6-5, 3.66, 1.30, .278)
  • Sunday afternoon – 1:10 p.m. – Anthony Swarzak (1-2, 3.94, 1.34, .273) vs. Jake Peavy (4-2, 4.83, 1.11, .236)

6th Inning – The Twins Closer?

As those who have read this website for years, I am not a big fan of the Closer’s role, or the Save statistic, and really think that the Hold state can be overrated as well. I understand, someone has to have the backbone to get the final three outs of a game without the other team scoring the tying or the go-ahead run. Personally, I believe in the concept of Closer-by-committee. I think it makes much more sense to make pitching decisions based on matchups rather than by inning. The closer role is the worst case of that. Think about it. How many times has the closer been warming up with his team holding a two or three run lead? If the team scores and goes ahead by four runs, another pitcher warms up. The average closer is successful on about 80% of save opportunities. Mariano Rivera has been a given for about 15 years. How many other closers in baseball can be counted on from year to year. Papelbon, Rodriguez, Valverde, Cordero. These closers have all had really good runs, and some really poor stretches. Joe Nathan was as much of a given as anyone until he got hurt. Joakim Soria has been tremendous the last few years, but even he temporarily lost his closer’s role earlier this season.

Closers, by their very nature, are put into situations where they are either successful, or the team usually loses. There is stress in that. A pitcher has to be able to handle that. Matt Capps has been an adequate, average closer for more of the last five seasons. He has failed in his last three save opportunities. Before that, he did not allow a run in 11 appearances and looked very good.  Joe Nathan has really looked good with his fastball and slider since his return from the DL a little more than a week ago. Glen Perkins has been tremendous all year and he continued that run since his return from the DL.

So, who should be the Twins closer? My first response is that I don’t really care. First things first, I don’t want it to be Glen Perkins? Why? Because I think that he is the team’s best relief pitcher. I don’t want him to be wasted in that glorified ninth inning role. I want him coming into the potentially game-changing situation in the 7th, 8th, or 9th inning. Last year, Jesse Crain was incredible in that role. While the closer comes in generally with the bases empty and a one, two or even three run lead, Crain (and now Perkins) has come in with runners on and a crucial point. Crain came through well last year, and Perkins has done the job incredibly this year.

Joe Nathan could take over the job again, but although he has looked good, it is hard to believe that he could pitch effectively two or three games in a row. I think if he can get there, that will be huge for the Twins.

Matt Capps has done the job most of the time, but he is struggling right now. What he needs is to get another opportunity and despite any struggles, get that 27th out. He has done the job and he can do the job. And frankly, will we trust him any more, or feel more confident, that he will get the job done in the 7th or 8th innings?

So, I guess I would have a situation where Nathan is the closer, but Capps gets that role if Nathan did the day before. And, Glen Perkins should face tough lefties in the ninth inning and come into crucial situations in the 7th or 8th inning.

7th Inning – Tom Kelly in the Booth!

Bert Blyleven is taking an extended All-Star break. On Wednesday, Tom Kelly joined Dick, errr… Richard, Bremer in the Twins TV telecast. I was able to listen for about three innings or so, and I have to say that I was impressed. I learned more from Tom Kelly in those innings than I have learned from Blyleven over the last several years. I’m sure he can’t say everything that he would know about players, but he knows a lot more than Blyleven. It was interesting to hear him talk about the struggles that Joe Mauer could have at first base. He said that it won’t be about catching the ball at 1B, but it will be more about understanding situational play like bunt plays or cut-off situations. It was interesting to hear him talk about the growth process of Danny Valencia, and also about Michael Cuddyer who is the only player remaining from when Kelly managed.

I am eagerly anticipating listening to Kelly throughout the next four games. No, I don’t think that he would be good as the everyday guy. He may not be good for the average fan who watches the Twins game. Let’s face it, if you’re reading this and peruse Twins blogs daily, you’re probably not the average Twins fan that watches Twins games. The average fan will listen to Blyleven’s old jokes and think it’s funny and any time he says anything (over and over) about pitching or team chemistry, etc., they enjoy it. I don’t mind listening at times, but I certainly don’t listen to Blyleven to learn anything. With Tom Kelly, I really felt like I was learning something and gaining just a little bit of inside information.

8th Inning – Jeter Approaches 3,000 Hits

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter sits at 2,997 career hits entering games on Thursday. The team will head back to the Bronx for games this weekend. It is likely that Jeter will achieve the impressive career statistic at home in front of the Yankees fans, which is quite appropriate.

When he achieves the 3,000 hit milestone, he will become the 28th player in Major League Baseball history to do so. The most recent member of the exclusive club was Craig Biggio who got a single on June 28, 2007. Before that, it was Rafael Palmiero in July of 2005. Before that, Rickey Henderson in 2001. The last player to get his 3,000th hit in a Twins uniform was Paul Molitor in September of 1996 when he became the only player to hit a triple for his 3,000th hit. Exactly three years later, September 16, 1993, Dave Winfield got his 3,000th hit.

Derek Jeter is the Brett Favre of MLB. The media loves him and maybe over-hypes him. He can do no wrong. Nicknames like “Captain Clutch” may not be appropriate at all times. Sure, he may not have earned those Gold Gloves. Maybe he hasn’t been an “All Star” the last two years (his 36 and 37 year old years).

But take a step back. In my mind, when considering his position, Derek Jeter is as close to an inner-circle Hall of Famer as we have seen. Maybe not in the Babe Ruth category. Maybe not in the Willie Mays or Hank Aaron category, but he is elite.

He is a career .312/.383/.449 hitter. He’s a middle infielder so I’m not looking for huge power numbers, and yet he has 236 career home runs. He is a batting average and on-base percentage guy. And then, you can say that he’s played for the Yankees, but he has been a winner, and he has been the clear leader of that winner. I’m amazed by his durability. Since his first full big league season in 1996, he has had less than 650 plate appearances just once, and that was 2003 when he had 542 plate appearances. He has had one year in which he hit less than .290, and that was last year, his 36 year old season when he hit .270. He has seven top ten MVP finishes, has finished top three times and many believe he should have won at least one of those. He has stolen bases. He walks. He’s been terrific as a top of the lineup hitter. Honestly, there is nothing to not like about Jeter!

Maybe it’ll be 20 years down the line, but at some point, people outside of New York have to take a step back and realize just how good Jeter has been.

9th Inning – Rain Delay

Alright, for the second straight week, you’ll only get through eight innings, but there will be another blog post later today that you will want to consider. A discussion with KFAN’s Joe Nelson has given me an idea for a blog posting.

I will be on the Pale and Hosed podcast, a White Sox podcast, at about 9:30. I’ll provide more details when I can. Then at 10:00, Travis Aune and I will be co-hosting Twins Minor League Weekly.

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading! As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.

Perkins to Disabled List

22 May

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

If you stayed up to watch the Twins and Diamondbacks finish their second of three games this weekend, I’m sorry! Many of you likely went to bed with the Twins leading 4-3 or maybe even 6-3 going into the 8th inning. Joe Nathan, who needed just eight pitches to get through the 7th inning, gave up a leadoff single in the 8th frame. Ron Gardenhire went to Glen Perkins as the Diamondbacks had three straight left-handers coming to the plate, well, and Perkins has been the team’s top relief pitcher this year. Just a few pitches later, the game’s outlook changed completely. Perkins gave up a single to right-field, but as he was moving toward the 3B line to back up the bag, he stopped and summoned the training staff. He immediately left the game and was replaced by Matt Capps.

Obviously these were the correct moves for the manager to make at the time, but things just went bad. Capps allowed a couple of inherited runners to score, but the team held on to a one-run lead when Kelly Johnson came to the plate. I immediately tweeted that Kelly Johnson is so similar to Adam Kennedy in my mind that this would not be a good matchup. A couple of pitches later, the Johnson crushed a Capps fastball into the right field bleachers to give the Diamondbacks the 9-6 lead that they would hold on to.

But, back to the key point in the game, the Glen Perkins injury. After the game, the manager acknowledged that the Perkins injury would put him on the Disabled List. He said that it was an oblique injury.

UPDATE – less than 3 minutes after I posted this, StarTribune’s LaVelle E. Neal informed us that the Twins announced that Dusty Hughes was being promoted to replace Perkins. No surprised at all, but definitely disappointing. You can still read the below to see what some of the other options were.

This of course brings about several questions.

1.)     Which Rochester reliever will come up, and

2.)     If that pitcher is not on the 40 man roster, who could be removed from the 40 man roster?

Let’s start with the first question: Which Rochester reliever will come up? Terry Ryan and Tom Kelly are actually in Rochester right now evaluating players. Bill Smith likely called them not long ago to ask who the right person to promote would be. Seemingly, these would be the options:

1.)     Chuck James – Why he wasn’t called up and added to the 40 man roster last week instead of Phil Dumatrait is unknown to me, but he has been terrific for the Red Wings. He threw two scoreless innings last night, but he is now 1-1 with a 1.75 ERA in 17 games. In 25.2 innings, the left-hander has allowed 17 hits, walked nine and struck out 35. Seems the most deserving, but again, he is not on the 40 man roster.

2.)     Dusty Hughes – If they want to replace the lefty Perkins with another lefty, Hughes is an option. He has posted a 5.06 ERA in 5.1 innings over five games with the Red Wings. However, he is on the 40 man roster so the paperwork would be easier.

3.)     Carlos Gutierrez – I said all winter I thought he could come up in July or August and really play a big role for the Twins bullpen. That timeline may be pushed ahead. Gutierrez is 2-2 with a 2.67 ERA in 16 games. In 27 innings, he has given up 20 hits, walked 13 and struck out 18. He has been very good of late and may be an option. He throws hard, and has a big sinker and groundball rate. He is right-handed, and the Twins may feel that they need a second left-hander in the bullpen to go with Dumatrait.

4.)     Kyle Waldrop – Another right-hander, Waldrop’s season numbers don’t look too good. He is 1-3 with a 5.48 ERA. This would be a case of going with the hot hand. In his last two games, he has seven strikeouts in four innings. He came in to one game and struck out the International League’s best hitter to record the save. Two days later, he struckout six in 3.2 perfect innings. He had given up runs in five of his previous six outings. He admitted to me the other day that he finally found his proper release point and believes that will make a huge difference.

5.)     Others – Eric Hacker and Scott Diamond have struggled in their last 2-3 starts. Kyle Gibson has been struggling his last four starts. It wouldn’t make sense to bring up a starter, unless the plan would be to move Brian Duensing back to the bullpen, which would be a mistake. Anthony Slama is still working his way back to success since missing most of spring training and early April. Jeff Manship has moved back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation and it hasn’t gone well. Jim Hoey needs to stay down there to work on control and that split-finger pitch that has potential to be a great one for him.

Of those four options, only Dusty Hughes is on the 40 man roster, so if the Twins choose one of the other three, someone will need to be removed from the 40 man roster. Who could that be? Here are some options:

1.)     Deolis Guerra – still just 22 years old, Guerra is about two years younger than the average player in the Eastern League. However, in his seven starts for the Rock Cats this spring, he is 3-4 with a 9.85 ERA. In just 28.1 innings, he has given up 31 earned runs on 43 hits and eight walks while recording just 19 strikeouts. A year ago, he posted a 6.24 ERA in 19 starts and went 2-10. He was added to the Twins 40 man roster on November 20, 2009, which means he can stay in the minor leagues until the 2013 season. Despite the struggles and numbers, there is a lot of talent here, so it would be hard to remove him from the 40 man roster.

2.)     Dusty Hughes – With Jose Mijares and Glen Perkins now on the Disabled List, it is hard to imagine the Twins would take a lefty off the 40 man roster.  Hughes is likely better long-term than Dumatrait, so removing him would not make sense.

3.)     Phil Dumatrait – If they were going to call up James in Dumatrait’s place, they would have called up James last week instead of Dumatrait.

4.)     Alexi Casilla – This is an interesting option. When Jason Repko comes off the DL on Monday, Ben Revere likely goes back to Rochester. Jim Thome will also come off of the DL on Monday. The Twins could option Matt Tolbert or Luke Hughes, or they could designate Casilla for assignment. If DFAing Casilla is an option on Monday, it should be an option on Sunday. Of course, then someone else would need to be optioned on Monday still (Burnett, Hughes or Tolbert probably).

There are a couple of guys who could go to the 60 Day Disabled List to open up a spot:

1.)     Joe Mauer – if the Twins don’t believe that he will be able to play until late in June, then this is a possibility. If they think he could be back any sooner than that, it won’t happen.

2.)     David Bromberg – This has some gray ground for me. He is on the Disabled List right now, and could be out until mid-June already, he would be a possibility. However, he is on a minor league Disabled List, so would the Twins have to promote an injured player to the big leagues first?

3.)     Tsuyoshi Nishioka – This may make the most sense. Again, depending upon when it is realistic for him to return, Nishioka has not played since April 7, so if he is going to be out until about June 10th or so anyway, this could buy them some time.  

In my mind, those are the options (unless they have some sort of trade lined up, which is unlikely. What do you think will or should happen? Comment here.

The Final Spots

18 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

For the most part, spring training is a formality. Of the 25 man roster, likely 21 or 22 of those positions were set. Joe Mauer doesn’t need to win a job in spring training. Neither does Justin Morneau or Michael Cuddyer. Joe Nathan had to prove that he was healthy, but if he did, he isn’t fighting for a roster spot. Who were the givens coming into spring training?

Hitters: Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Alexi Casilla, Danny Valencia, Delmon Young, Denard Span, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Jason Repko, Jim Thome, Drew Butera (12)

Pitchers: Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Joe Nathan, Matt Capps, Jose Mijares (9)

Coming into spring training, the Twins’ brass talked about a bullpen spot or two being up for grabs and the utility infield spot, and based on the above, that is clearly true. The Twins need a utility infielder and three pitchers. There was no shortage of options coming into spring training for those spots either.

For the utility infielder spot: Matt Tolbert, Trevor Plouffe, Luke Hughes, Chase Lambin

For the three bullpen spots: Jeff Manship, Pat Neshek, Jim Hoey, Glen Perkins, Scott Diamond, Dusty Hughes, Chuck James, Phil Dumatrait, Anthony Swarzak, Kyle Waldrop, Alex Burnett, Yorman Bazardo, Eric Hacker, Anthony Slama

Backup Infielder:

Going into spring training, most of us believed that the “competition” was more in name than in reality. Matt Tolbert is a “Gardy Guy.” He can play all three infield positions defensively. He has some speed. Not much of a hitter, but he has shown an ability to hit at times over the last few seasons. Trevor Plouffe has played shortstop and second base, and even logged some innings at first base, but he has struggled this spring with the bat and with the glove.

Meanwhile, Luke Hughes has again shown up to spring training and shown that he can flat-out hit. He is 14-40 (.350) with three doubles and five home runs. We will ignore the 12 strikeouts in 43 plate appearances. He has played adequate defense at 3B, 2B, 1B and even a couple of innings at SS. In his minor league past, he has played all three outfield positions as well. Gardy has been making quotes about defense not being the only thing that matters in the utility infield spot which certainly bodes well for Hughes.

Remember that the utility infielder will hopefully play about once a week, although Hughes would also be a good right-handed bat off the bench to compliment lefty Jim Thome. He may have to play ten to twelve innings of defense a week. How will he adapt to a role position? Can he stay healthy?

Tolbert and Plouffe each are in their final option year. Hughes has two options left. So, options do not need to factor into this decision, which is good.

Gardy’s Decision: Will come down to defense versus offense. Will he want Hughes’ right-handed bat off the bench, or will he want Tolbert’s defense at the three positions?

If the season started today: Hughes would be the man, no question. I think that when spring training started, it was Matt Tolbert’s job to lose. Instead, Luke Hughes has come to spring training likely made such a strong impression that he may have pushed his way onto the Opening Day roster.

Bullpen:

Anthony Swarzak, Yorman Bazardo and Eric Hacker have already been demoted to minor league camp. Chuck James and Phil Dumatrait haven’t done enough to put themselves into Opening Day consideration. Anthony Slama was my choice before camp started, but he has been unable to pitch due to an elbow injury. Alex Burnett will be a big part of the Twins bullpen for years to come, but I don’t think he’s in the competition for an opening day spot right now. Kyle Waldrop probably would be a strong candidate if he was on the 40 man roster. I believe he will be a Twins pitcher, but not by Opening Day. Same with Carlos Gutierrez. So that leaves six pitchers for three spots, and at least one of them (And maybe two) should be left-handed).

Jeff Manship: He has given up five runs on nine hits and three walks in nine innings. He has just two strikeouts. The organization compares his stuff to Matt Guerrier, and it’s hard to argue with that comparison. They both have good fastballs, though not overpowering. They have good control. They both have very good curveballs and changeups. The comparison is fair, but Manship has done little pitching out of the bullpen in his career. He has the stuff to do it well.

Pat Neshek: People talk about Neshek and his velocity. It is seemingly the biggest story. On Thursday, he hit 89. He also has a good changeup and slider. To me, it’s more about pitch movement and mixing up speeds. He has given up three runs on six hits and a walk in 6.1 innings. Of the six hits, three have been home runs. If Neshek makes the team and is given the opportunity to continue to gain strength by pitching in low-leverage situations, he can play a big role in the Twins bullpen as he has in the past.

Jim Hoey: Hoey came over from the Orioles in the JJ Hardy trade. He throws hard, touching 99 mph. As we know, it’s all about throwing strikes for him. If he can harn the velocity, he can be dominant. That is yet to be seen. He has given up five runs on seven hits and four walks in 6.2 innings.

Glen Perkins: Perkins is out of options. He’s left-handed and can’t get left-handed batters out. He really struggled last year. The year before, he got off to a great start and then was hurt most of the season. The year before that, he was a double-digit winner for the Twins. Clearly the Minnesota native has some stuff. He’s left-handed, throws hard, has a good slider and he is breathing. Did I mention that he is out of options? That may be the biggest factor at the end of the day. However, for what it is worth, this spring he has given up two runs on seven hits and two walks in seven innings.

Scott Diamond: He was the Twins Rule 5 pick in December which means that he has to stay on the Twins roster throughout the 2011 season or be offered back to the Braves. Although he has given up just one run on six hits in six innings, he has also walked six batters. Twins brass talks about how slowly he has worked, which is something they have not seen in their years of scouting him.

Dusty Hughes: Inexplicably, the Royals designated the southpaw for assignment and the Twins happily claimed him and added him to the 40 man roster. They speak of his four-pitch mix. He has certainly made a strong impression during spring. In eight shutout innings, he has allowed just three hits. He has walked three also, but all three came in his Thursday outing.

Gardy’s Decision: The coaching staff seems quite high on Manship, and everyone is saying great things about Glen Perkins. Hughes has pitched great this spring, but the team needs to determine what happens with Perkins and Diamond before they determine what they will do with Hughes.

If the season started today: Pat Neshek, Glen Perkins, Dusty Hughes

The Big Picture:

How good can the Twins be if the roster decisions at this point are for the 12th hitter and 11th and 12th pitchers? That isn’t to minimize their roles at all. Each of the 25 players can help the team win games at any time. How large does a small sample need to be (good or bad) to be large enough to mean something? I mean, Dusty Hughes has been amazing through eight innings, but what if he gives up five runs without getting a batter out in his next outing? Luke Hughes has shown great power from the right-side, but what if he strikes out in his next 14 at bats against big league pitchers and commits two errors a day all around the field? The Twins have been disappointed with Scott Diamond and the pace he has shown on the mound this spring. In an interview on 1500espn on Sunday, assistant GM said that it was something they hadn’t seen in their years of scouting him. That scouting led them to love Diamond, so are they really going to let six innings in spring training completely negate what he had done for three minor league seasons before?

What if the Twins keep Dusty Hughes and let Glen Perkins and Scott Diamond go? If Hughes then struggles, two options are gone.

In the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook, I included Luke Hughes on my 2011 roster blueprint, as a right-handed bench bat because of his power. He had a great spring last year and was the first non-catching hitter called up. If not for injuries last year, we would likely have seen much more of him. What he has done this spring with the bat is likely taken a job that going into spring training, he was third on the depth chart. Again, he’s crushed it in spring for a role on the Twins bench that may get him six or seven at bats a week, but I do like the bat.

Sprint Training is always fun and interesting, and there are always great stories. To this point in spring, the Hughes Brothers (who of course are not brothers) have both put together strong springs that probably put them on the big league roster. With two weeks to go, what are the other stories of spring to follow? Are any other jobs up for grabs? What are your thoughts?

Here are some other notes and blogs to peruse:

That’s it for today! Have a great weekend! If you like, please feel free to comment, ask questions.

Arbitrary Thoughts

17 Jan

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

On Sunday, the Twins avoided arbitration with infielder Alexi Casilla by agreeing to a 2011 contract worth $865,000. Assuming that Casilla can remain the Twins starter at shortstop or second base throughout the season, it is a great contract. In the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook, we projected that he would sign for about $800,000.

By tomorrow, the Twins will be working with the agents of five more Twins players who are arbitration-eligible. If you recall last year, all of the Twins arbitration-eligible players agreed to deals with the Twins before numbers needed to be officially exchanged. I would anticipate that a few of the five remaining players could come to an agreement, but I also think that it is likely we will see some numbers exchanged. Here are the players:

Glen Perkins – This one ought to be interesting. He made about $430,000 when he was in the big leagues in 2010, which wasn’t too much. No one knows how big of a factor the past issues between the Twins and Perkins’ camp will play into this. TwinsCentric projected that he’ll make $800,000 in arbitration. I’d like to think it’ll be closer to $600,000. This is why I think that we may find out. Seth Guess: $700,000.

Kevin Slowey – After making $470,000 in 2010, Slowey is eligible for arbitration for the first time. He has the win-loss record. He’s got league-average ERA. He doesn’t walk people. Good strikeout rate. TwinsCentric’s $2.75 million seems a little bit high, but that’s what guys of this ilk make. I’d like to see it closer to $2.25 million. Seth’s Guess: $2.4 million.

Francisco Liriano – In his first arbitration year last year, he made $1.6 million coming off of a couple of bad seasons. Now he’s coming off of a terrific season. I mentioned that I thought a four year, $40 million deal would be market value, and I’m sure they will have some discussions. But that wouldn’t happen until spring training begins, so for now it’ll be about putting a 2011 deal in place. TwinsCentric projects $4.5 million, and I fear that may be a little bit low. Seth’s Guess: $4.5 million, and negotiate later.

Delmon Young – Young finally had a season that many hoped he might have, although it still produced just an .826 OPS. That said, .298 with 21 homers and 112 RBI will look good to arbiters. TwinsCentric projects $5.25 million, and although I think that’s a reasonable amount, I’d fear it could be higher. Seth’s Guess: $6.2 million.

Matt Capps – Capps was non-tendered a year ago by the Pirates and signed for $3.5 million by the Nationals, and as you of course know, came to the Twins at the July deadline. In his final year of arbitration-eligiblity, the comps for him are all over the place. He has the big save number from 2010, but if arbitration is based on two years, he was bad in 2009. TwinsCentric projected $7.5 million. I HOPE it is lower than that, but we shall see. Seth’s Guess: $6.25 million.

What do you think about it? Feel free to e-mail me or leave your comments here.