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Organizational Depth Chart – Catchers

22 Jan

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

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

I’m going to start with the catcher position and work through all of the positions. First and foremost, I need to point out that these are my thoughts. I have no insider information to know where players will be. Obviously after spring training, some of these players will be let go. There will be Disabled List players, extended spring training and more.

Minnesota Twins  

Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit, Drew Butera

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

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

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

Rochester Red Wings

Rene Rivera, JR Towles

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

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

New Britain Rock Cats

Danny Lehmann, Chris Herrmann

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

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

Ft. Myers Miracle

Danny Rams, Dan Rohlfing, Josmil Pinto

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

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

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

Beloit Snappers

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

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

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

Elizabethton Twins

Kelly Cross, Michael Quesada

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

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

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

TOP THREE PROSPECTS

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

SUMMARY

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

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

TwinsCentric: Versatility Needed

2 Nov

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

As the four TwinsCentric guys sat down to work through our Blueprints for the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook, I’m sure we jotted down some “musts.” We “must” add at least one upper level starting pitcher. We “must” balance the batting lineup. Hopefully many of you will work through a blueprint of your own and e-mail it to twinscentric@gmail.com to be entered into a random drawing for one winner of the TwinsCentric 2012 Twins Annual next spring.  

One of my “musts” was that the roster should be full of players that have the flexibility to play multiple positions and complement each other well. I figured that with physical question marks in Justin Morneau and Denard Span and with all of the injuries that the team experienced in 2011, it would be important to have players who can play a couple of roles. Here is how some of that could play out:

  • Michael Cuddyer – He can play RF, 1B, 2B, 3B and D. That isn’t saying that he plays any of them particularly well, but to know that he could fill in at any of those positions definitely helps. Cuddyer is a free agent, but versatility is one of his many traits that make him a top free agent this offseason.
  • Joe Mauer – Obviously he needs to continue catching, but it is great that he has now accumulated some innings at 1B as well, and played RF fairly well in the game he played there. This could become more important.
  • Backup Catcher – There are several options out there who hit right-handed, can catch 80+ game and spend time at 1B or at another position.
  • Luke Hughes/Trevor Plouffe – Both are out of options. Both could be used as trade chips. Both are right-handed with the ability to hit the ball out of the ball park. Hughes can play 1B, 2B and 3B. Plouffe can play all four infield positions and the two corner outfield positions. (No, not particularly well, but in a pinch it helps.)
  • Alexi Casilla – The Twins seem poised to make him a starter at 2B or shortstop, but does he have more value to a team if he is a utility player, playing three infield positions?
  • Outfielders – Ben Revere and Denard Span can play LF and CF, and RF if needed. Rene Tosoni never played LF until he was up with the Twins last year. He had primarily played RF with some time in CF. Jason Repko was taken off the 40 man roster, but he could play several positions.

If you have enough flexibility in your roster, you could afford to keep Drew Butera on the roster so that the backup catcher and Mauer can play most days in the same lineup. Or, you could have a big bopper to pinch hit, someone like Jim Thome or Vlad Guerrero, if that’s the direction that you choose.

Versatility and roster flexibility is always important but with so many question marks heading into the offseason, I think it’s particularly important for the Twins this year.

Any thoughts or comments?

QUICK HITS

  • Parker posted some Quick Hits at Over the Baggy, discussing Joe Nathan, Ryan Madson and more.
  • Seth hosted last night’s SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins Podcast. He was joined by Cody Christie (North Dakota Twins Fan) and they discussed their offseason blueprints and several other Twins topics.
  • Seth posted some thoughts on the Twins claims on LHP Matt Maloney and RHP Jeff Gray on Monday.
  • Brian Dozier was named yesterday to represent the Twins in the Arizona Fall League’s annual Rising Stars game which will be played on Saturday evening. On Monday, Dozier knocked in the go-ahead run for Mesa. Brett Jacobson got the win in the game, and Dakota Watts threw two scoreless innings for the save. On Tuesday, catcher Chris Herrmann went 1-3 with a walk.
  • The Winter Leagues in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela continue to run. The Puerto Rico League will get started on Friday. On Thursday, the Australian Baseball League will start their schedule. Here is a quick look at the Twins organization players in the ABL:
    • Sydney Blue Sox – Jacob Younis and Todd Van Steensel.
    • Melbourne Aces – Josh Hendricks
    • Brisbane Bandits – Rory Rhodes
    • Perth Heat – Luke Hughes, Liam Hendriks, Allan de San Miguel
    • Canberra Cavalry – Mark Trau and Tim Atherton.
  • If you are looking for a review of the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook, we’ve got a couple for you. Check out the reviews by Puckett’s Pond and Twinkie Town.
  • It was disappointing to read yesterday that Ryan Lefebvre is no longer a candidate for the Twins radio job. Also, as someone who listened to a lot of Rochester Red Wings games the last couple of years, it was disappointing to hear that their play-by-play man, Josh Whetzel, was also told that he is not in the running.   

Any thoughts?

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.

Monday (and Mauer) Notes

19 Sep

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

The Twins got swept at home against Cleveland in three games over the weekend. The highlight for the Twins had to be the performance of Brian Dinkelman. The outfielder/second baseman collected three hits on Saturday and followed that up with four hits on Sunday. He is now 15-40 (.375) in his time with the Twins this season. Chris Parmelee had two hits on Sunday and is now hitting .364 (12-33) with the Twins. On Saturday, he was 3-3 with a walk and his first big league home run. Joe Benson is 10-37 (.270) in his time with the Twins. Of those ten hits, six are for extra bases. On Friday night, with his dad at Target Field watching his son for the first time live at a big league game, Benson went 4-4 with two doubles and a triple. Everything he hit, he hit hard in the game. He came to the plate for the fourth time, needing a home run for the cycle. On an 0-2 pitch, he hit a line shot halfway up the wall in right-center field for a double. It may have been out of most big league ball parks. All three have done well in their limited big league time which is great to see.

Jim Thome homered off of Joe Nathan in his return to Target Field on Friday night. The homer ended up being the difference in the ball game. When he came to the plate for the first time in the game, the Twins fans ushered him in with a well-deserved standing ovation. He tipped his cap to the crowd. He’s hit 603 home runs in his career, but his shattered bat, infield single was the most unlikely way for Cleveland to take the lead for good in Sunday’s game.

The Twins will play a make-up game today in Yankees Stadium. I’m sure a lot of these young guys will take in the moment, probably be a bit overwhelmed by the stadium, the history of the Yankees, some of the big names on the other roster and the bright lights of the city, and I believe that is part of the reason that the Twins wanted to see some of these guys up, to take away several of those big firsts. The most exciting part of the game today, for me, is that Rochester Red Wings radio voice Josh Whetzel will be calling the game for the Twins. Yes, he had a good opportunity to see many of these players in Rochester this year, so it is appropriate. I also think that he is very good and hopefully he will get a real chance to take over for John Gordon who is retiring after the season.

Lefty Ryan O’Rourke who spent the 2011 season pitching for the Beloit Snappers was my guest on last night’s SethSpeaks.net Sunday Night Twins Podcast. He made 17 bullpen appearances before making 17 starts for the Snappers. He went 5-5 with a 3.18 ERA. He was a terrific guest, so be sure to check out the show.

On Friday night before the Twins game, they announced that Joe Mauer had been diagnosed at the Mayo Clinic with ‘mild pneumonia.’ The doctors there encourage two weeks of rest, so the Twins announced that he will be shut down for the season. It marks the end of a very frustrating season for Mauer. He had offseason knee surgery, pushed back too quick in spring training, was put on the DL with the mysterious “Bilateral Leg Weakness”, came back, clearly was not healthy, lacked any power (and yet still hit for decent average and got on base), got on base, got sick a couple of times, and now the pneumonia. It was equally frustrating for Twins fans. First of all, forget the contract. He earned that over the first years of his career, and that’s how it works. Moving into Target Field, had the Twins not signed him, they would have been bashed for still being cheap. Had he gone to the Yankees as a free agent this year, Twins fans would have bashed the team. But instead, he stayed with the team and the fan base, jealous of his contract, bashed him for various reasons. The reality, however, is he was either hurt or sick. If he wasn’t, there is no reason to believe that he wouldn’t have played. Mauer has always worked hard, and his stats speak for themselves. Some of the comments about Mauer have been flat-out unfair. Now, in previous years, I was ridiculed for pointing out that Mauer didn’t always block balls in the dirt. Now, things have turned on Mauer, and I personally think it is unfortunate. Assuming health, there is no reason to believe that he can’t hit .320/.400/.480 again next year, and top the 40 double mark, and get back into double figure home runs.

I get it. We all want answers. Is it possible that there aren’t better answers? Is it possible that they’re still trying to figure it out? Is it possible that we know everything there is to know? Yes, Mauer should maybe be a little more accommodating with the media and talk more about the same questions every single day. I don’t blame him for not. Mauer never talked before. I don’t understand why people seem to think he would or should talk more just because of the contract. People want to question his leadership. He’s quiet. He is who he is. That doesn’t make him bad, and to change who he is because of a contract is ridiculous. He was completely respected before this year, so there is no reason to change that now.

It bothers me a lot when I read people questioning a players heart, or say that they aren’t trying. It’s a ridiculous accusation, most of the time. But unless we have any real stories reported that indicate a lack of effort, it’s never fair. To say that the Twins have given up on Gardenhire isn’t fair. Right now, you’ve got a lot of young guys trying to make their mark in the big leagues. You can’t tell me they’re not giving it their all. You’ve got guys like Trevor Plouffe and Luke Hughes, who are out of options next year. There’s no questioning their effort. Do you really think guys like Drew Butera, Rene Rivera, Matt Tolbert, Phil Dumatrait and others, who are trying their best to show that they should be kept around for next season aren’t trying? Tsuyoshi Nishioka was also shut down for the season and Justin Morneau will not play again this year. There is still a chance we could see Denard Span in a few games. But again, those are injuries. That’s not lack of heart. Although Mauer has always made things look so easy, it does not mean that he is not giving effort. And now that he’s experienced a frustrating season, filled with injury and illness, it’s unfortunate that apparently many Twins ‘fans’ have turned on him. It’s just wrong!

I sound like a Mauer apologist. As I said before, I was tougher on him in previous years and was bashed for it. This was a frustrating year, and of course we all wanted more from the catcher. I was frustrated by his defense. I was frustrated by all the 4-3 ground outs. I get frustrated by the slow trot down the first base line. I was also frustrated by the fact that he couldn’t play more games this year. In reality though, he probably should have played a lot less than he did.

It’s been a rough season all around. Some people seem to want to rehash the same negativity. People want heads to be chopped. I have never seen anything like the 2011 Twins season, and it is going to be an incredibly interesting offseason for our favorite team. And hey, that’s when we’ll have a lot more analysis. The Twins have free agents to make decisions about, arbitration-eligibles to consider, several players with less than three years of experience will be evaluated, 40 man roster decisions will need to be made. It’s going to be a fun-filled offseason. Enjoy it and get ready for 2012! 2011 has been over for a long time. I know we are reminded of it every day with a new game and generally, speaking, another loss. At some point, don’t you have to chalk it up to a bad season and move forward?

And remember, on Saturday (Sept. 24) during Game 1 of the Twins double header at Cleveland, the TwinsCentric guys will be hanging out at Manitou Station in White Bear Lake. Show up about 11:30 and stay through the game. It should be a lot of fun, and good to meet people!  

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

Rough Night for the Twins

15 Apr

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

A lot of Twins fans a feeling a little big down these days. The team came into Thursday’s game against the Rays with a 4-7 record and having just lost a 10-5 decision with their ‘best’ pitcher. Twins fans are starting to realize just how important defense is when you don’t have any, and specifically you don’t have any range. That’s not the fault of the players. Their speed is what it is.

Twins fans are frustrated. Likely, the Twins are very frustrated.

And then came the lineup for Thursday’s game in Tampa against righty James Shields. A day after getting the day game after a night game off, Joe Mauer was not in the lineup for a second straight game. Was it just because Carl Pavano was on the mound and Drew Butera is his catcher? Was he hurt? Was he just being wimpy. Soon after, Gardy told reporters that he was “sore” and that was “all they needed to know.” For me, that made me think that he was fed up with Mauer. We have heard too many reports of Gardenhire’s frustration with Mauer’s subtle hints that he shouldn’t play. I couldn’t help but wonder if he was just sitting him again, benching him to some degree, because of that.

During the game, Drew Butera came through with an RBI single that gave the Twins a 2-0 lead. The Twins had 12 hits, and four of them were doubles, but again scored just two runs. Joe Nathan came in for the bottom of the 9th, to protect a two run lead. With one out, Felipe Lopez had a long at bat the ended with a double. Nathan then walked Ben Zobrist. On a 3-1 count, Joe Maddon sent the runners and Matt Joyce lined a ball to the gap which scored both runs and tied up the game. Nathan was able to get out of the 9th with the game tied. Nathan has been good. All closer’s blow saves, so that doesn’t worry me in the least. Plus, he held on so the Twins still had a chance in extra innings.

With two outs in the top of the 10th, Matt Tolbert singled and advanced to 2B on a passed ball. Danny Valencia came up big again with an RBI single to give the Twins a 3-2 lead.

Then Matt Capps came in to protect the one-run lead. He got the first out, but then Super Sam Fuld singled and Johnny Damon hit a walk-off home run to end the game. Again, Capps has been tremendous this season. So I’m not worried about him. But what are the odds that both of the Twins closers (who have both been good) would blow a save in the same game? The unfortunate thing, besides another loss and the record dropping to 4-8, was that Carl Pavano’s eight shutout innings were essentially wasted. Some may question the decision to take him out of the game. However, with 104 pitches, that’s just the way the game is played. And, had Nathan been able to close out the game, not one would even mention it.

But then following the game, the news came out that Joe Mauer was going to be put on the Disabled List with “bilateral leg weakness.” Whatever that is. From Livestrong.com:

Bilateral weakness in the leg muscles can be as mild as a generalized feeling of fatigue in your legs or as extreme as complete paralysis. Bilateral weakness indicates a problem in your central nervous system — in your brain, spinal cord or nerves. Many disease processes or trauma can cause bilateral weakness in your legs.

Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/352012-bilateral-weakness-in-the-leg-muscles/#ixzz1JaSO0PWw

Please go here to read a lot more about bilateral leg weakness, the symptoms, causes, treatments and more. Now I know that sometimes players get put on the DL and an injury is needed to be called out. Sometimes what it is called is not exactly what it is. Even if it is bilateral leg weakness, as you can see, there are many levels of severity. Hopefully some rest, rehab and restrengthening will be in line and it won’t be long before he is back.

So, the Twins called up 31-year-old, minor league veteran Steve Holm from Rochester. He will likely get plenty of playing time while Mauer is out. He has played in 53 games in 2008 and 2009 for the San Francisco Giants, the organization that drafted him in 2001. That summer, he got to catch a 17-year-old Francisco Liriano. He spent a couple of summers catching Matt Cain. He has caught Tim Lincecum in the minor leagues, and Sergio Romo and many other big league pitchers. He is a defense-first catcher, but he can put together a solid at bat at times too. Rene Rivera and Danny Lehmann were likely also considered. None of the three were on the Twins 40-man-roster, so Holm had to be added. The Twins are now at 39 on their 40 man roster.

So, two weeks into the season, things could not be going much worse for the Twins. The one thing they thought they could count on, the offense, is not hitting or scoring runs. Delmon Young has returned to swinging at everything. Several of the Twins key hitters got off to a very slow start. Tsuyoshi Nishioka fractured his fibula and is going to be about six to eight weeks which really highlighted the Twins lack of middle infield quality and depth. That is accentuated by Alexi Casilla being really bad both offensively and defensively. Luke Hughes has been called up and held his own, but now Michael Cuddyer is getting time at 2B against right-handed pitchers which allows the Twins to get Jason Kubel and Jim Thome into the lineup, but it also really weakens and already weak defense. The Twins best pitcher’s work ethic was (Again) called into question this spring and he has been awful in his first three starts. Joe Nathan, Matt Capps, Jose Mijares and (surprise surprise) Glen Perkins have been very good so far, but the back of the bullpen, where there were some concerns, have had some struggles.

And another concern in the offseason was what the backup plan was if (or when) Joe Mauer would go on the Disabled List. The answer, for me, was that if Joe Mauer gets hurt, it doesn’t matter who becomes the starter, it will be a big step down. At least the Twins do have very good defensive catchers that will work well with the pitching staff. They can bat 8th or 9th and any offense from them should be considered a bonus. Everyone knows that I was probably higher on Wilson Ramos than anyone, frequently discussing my plan for how he and Joe Mauer could split time between catcher and DH for years to come. However, he’s gone, he’s been gone since July, and Twins fans need to move on. Secondly, Matt Capps has been tremendous since coming to the Twins. (Doesn’t mean I think it was a good move long-term, but means that at least the Twins have had a great return in Capps) Others are upset that Jose Morales was traded in the offseason too. Again, he was out of options. He was not going to beat out Drew Butera. Getting anything out of him was what needed to be done. Obviously right now it would be nice to have Jose Morales around, but that doesn’t make the trade the wrong thing to do.

What more could go wrong at the start of this season? I hate to ask the question because, as we all know, things can always get worse. There are 150 games to go. It annoys me when people think that it can’t get better. But as I wrote yesterday, it seems that the more that the Twins have going against them, the more they come through, and the better they play. The Twins have played without Mauer before and done alright. The Twins played last year without Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan and won 94 games. I’m not intimating that the Twins are better off losing its star players, but what I am saying is don’t jump off the bandwagon now. Now is when they need the support, not the complaining.

Thursday Night’s Twins Minor League Weekly Podcast– Travis had a previous commitment. I was a little worried about how I would fill 30 minutes, but somehow, someway, I found plenty to talk about and could have gone longer. I discussed how the teams are doing and who is off to a fast start, but I also mentioned the names of some guys who are really struggling through the season’s first week. I also went much more in-depth with the injury discussion and the catching carousel.

Catching Carousel: Joe Mauer to the Disabled List, Steve Holm promoted to the Twins, Danny Lehmann promoted to Rochester, Dan Rohlfing promoted to New Britain.

MINOR LEAGUE UPDATES

SethSpeaks.net Minor League Hitter of the DayRene Tosoni, Rochester Red Wings.

Seth Speaks.net Minor League Pitcher of the DayLogan Darnell, Beloit Snappers

Red Wings Ramblings

Thursday – Game 1 – Red Wings 3, Lehigh Valley 1 – Eric Hacker started the first game and was excellent. The threw six shutout innings, giving up just two hits. He walked none and struck out five. Phil Dumatrait came in for the 7th, but a hit and two walks later, the bases were loaded with a 1-0 lead. Jim Hoey came in. He struck out the first batter he faced, but he hit the second to allow the game-tying run. He struckout the next batter. In the bottom of the 7th, Rene Tosoni hit a two-run, walk-off home run to end the game. The Red Wings managed just four hits. Ben Revere had a double. Dustin Martin hit his first home run of the year to give the Red Wings their 1-0 lead earlier in the game.

Thursday – Game 2 – Red Wings 3, Lehigh Valley 5 (8 innings) – Kyle Gibson got the nod in the second game. He gave up two runs on five hits in five innings. He walked two and struck out three. Carlos Gutierrez pitched a scoreless inning. Chuck James then threw a scoreless 7th inning. He started the 8th inning and gave up one run. He left with two runners on base. Kyle Waldrop came in and gave up a hit that scored both runners, but he got the final two outs. Matt Brown was 2-3. Dustin Martin hit his second home run of the day, and of the season. Rene Tosoni tied the game up at three with a two-run double.  

Injury Notes – Trevor Plouffe suffered some whiplash and a slight concussion on Wednesday. He did not play on Thursday. Ben Revere bruised his knee on a stolen base attempt in the second game. Anthony Slama  was activated from the Disabled List. Ryan Mullins was also activated from the DL, but he was optioned to Ft. Myers.

Rock Cats Report

Thursday – Rock Cats 6, Portland 2 – The Rock Cats finally got to play their home opener. Bobby Lanigan went the first six innings. He gave up two runs (1 earned) on five hits. He walks two and struck out four. Cole DeVries did a great job out of the ‘pen again. He threw three innings of one-hit ball to record the three inning save. Joe Benson hit his third and fourth doubles in four at bats. Ray Chang launched his first home run. Chris Parmelee hit his fourth double.

Miracle Matters

Thursday – Miracle 7, Bradenton 8 – The Miracle found themselves down 7-0 after two innings, and 8-2 after three innings. They made a big comeback, but it came up just short. It was a rough start for Tom Stuifbergen, to say the least. He gave up eight runs (7 earned) on nine hits and a walk in three innings. Ryan Mullins came in and threw three shutout innings. Blake Martin then threw two scoreless innings.  Jhonathan Goncalves went 3-5. Nate Hanson was 2-4 with a double. Steve Liddle went 2-5 with a double. James Beresford was 2-4 with a walk.

Injury Notes – Paul Kelly will again miss some significant time. He had a blood clot in his right shoulder. As I wrote the other day, He left the game earlier this week because his right arm was numb. He has already had surgery to remove the clots, but they still don’t know how long he’ll be out. Miguel Munoz appears to be headed toward Tommy John surgery. I was told that the ligament did not tear, but it actually came off of the bone (which just sounds painful, doesn’t it?). And Tom Stuifbergen had a rough start last night, but more worrisome, he left the game with shoulder pain. It will be evaluated, but hopefully it is nothing serious.

Snappers Bites

Thursday – Snappers 0, Clinton 2 (13 innings) – A day after getting just one hit in a 1-0 win over Clinton, it was another pitcher’s duel between the two teams. This one had no scoring until Clinton batted in the 13th inning. Logan Darnell started and went eight shutout innings. He allowed just two hits, walked none and struck out six. Blayne Weller gave up two hits and a walk in 1.2 innings, but did not allow a run. He struck out four. Clinton Dempster went 2.1 scoreless innings, but he gave up two runs in the top of the 13th before Matt Hauser got the final two outs.  

Feel free to leave your thoughts, questions or comments.

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.

Should Twins Fans Worry about Aaron Hicks?

18 Feb

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

It is always strange to me when I hear Twins fans and some minor league baseball fans talking about how disappointing Aaron Hicks has been in Beloit. I think part of it is because many, myself included, thought he would end the 2010 season in Ft. Myers. I realize everyone from fans to players to front office personnel are eagerly awaiting his breakout year when his incredible tools become skills and he puts up some terrific numbers. But I wanted to take a look at how his numbers at Beloit compare to other Twins players and their numbers in the Midwest League.

Let’s start by reviewing the numbers that Aaron Hicks has put up the last two years in Beloit:

Player Age Year Team BA/OBP/SLG (OPS) 2B/3B/HR/RBI BB/K
Aaron Hicks 19 2009 Beloit .251/.353/.382 (735) 15/3/4/29 40/55
Aaron Hicks 20 2010 Beloit .279/.401/.428 (829) 27/6/8/49 88/112

Here are some current and former Twins players and how they did in the Midwest League (Note – Delmon Young’s A-ball numbers from the Sally League):

Player Age Year Team BA/OBP/SLG (OPS) 2B/3B/HR/RBI BB/K
Torii Hunter 18 1994 Ft. Wayne .293/.358/.439 (797) 17/1/10/50 25/80
Michael Cuddyer 19 1998 Ft. Wayne .276/.364/.451 (815) 37/7/12/81 61/107
Justin Morneau 20 2001 Quad Cities .356/.420/.597 (1017) 17/2/12/53 26/38
Joe Mauer 19 2002 Quad Cities .302/.393/.392 (785) 23/1/4/62 61/42
Jason Kubel 20 2002 Quad Cities .321/.380/.521 (901) 26/4/17/69 41/48
Denard Span 20 2004 Quad Cities .267/.363/.308 (671) 4/3/0/14 34/49
Delmon Young 18 2004 Charleston .320/.386/.536 (922) 26/5/25/115 53/120
Alexi Casilla 20 2005 Cedar Rapids .325/.392/.409 (801) 11/3/3/17 29/31

Here are a few notes:

  • Everyone talks about how Torii Hunter didn’t put up great numbers in the Midwest League. Well, he did, and he did it at the age of 18. He was already showing some of that power.
  • Michael Cuddyer put up some incredible minor league numbers all the way up the ladder, and it started as a 19 year old in 1998. Look at all those extra base hits.
  • Justin Morneau didn’t get to the Midwest League until he was 20, and he only spent a half season there because he completely dominated the level.
  • Joe Mauer’s OPS isn’t exciting, but we did get a glimpse of the player he has become too. Many more walks than strikeouts, a few doubles, and a good batting average.
  • How fun would it have been to see Quad Cities play in 2002 with Mauer and Jason Kubel? You can see why so many people back then saw Kubel as a mix between Morneau and Mauer.
  • Denard Span didn’t exactly put up monster numbers, and he did miss quite a bit of time with injury. The take-away from those numbers is that he had a very nice Isolated Discipline already even though he was, like Hicks, very raw at the time.
  • Delmon Young was a beast after being taken with the 1st overall pick in the 2003 draft. Ever wonder why people still think he’ll develop a lot of power, check out those numbers!
  • Alexi Casilla was with the Angels organization, but what he did for Cedar Rapids made him the guy they wanted in a trade of JC Romero the next offseason.
  • I included international players and high school drafted players in this group. Danny Valencia hit .302/.374/.500 (874) with 15 doubles and 11 homers in a half-season with the Snappers, but he was 22 years old after spending three years playing Division I baseball. Matt Tolbert played four years at the University of Mississippi, so the Twins had him skip the Midwest League and go right to Ft. Myers.

Can we take anything away from these numbers? With Hicks, you have to love his Isolated Discipline and On-Base skills from both years. The strikeouts increased some in 2010, but he has shown some extra base power. Delmon Young, Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel put up really tremendous numbers in the Midwest League, and that has translated to the big leagues eventually. Cuddyer was an extra base machine as a 19 year old in Beloit, and yet his OPS was lower than Hicks’ was in 2010, as a 20 year old. Joe Mauer has always had a terrific eye, and yet Hicks has produced significantly better IsoD while producing more extra base hits.

Of course, we don’t know what will happen. We know that all players develop differently, but I think that this quick, cursory glance at Hicks’ numbers compared to current big leaguers gives us no reason to believe he won’t continue developing and become a very good big league player.

Let’s also take a look at the Midwest League numbers of some of the other Twins hitting prospects to see how they compare:

Player Age Year Team BA/OBP/SLG (OPS) 2B/3B/HR/RBI BB/K
Trevor Plouffe 19 2005 Beloit .223/.300/.345 (645) 18/0/13/60 50/78
Chris Parmelee 19 2007 Beloit .239/.313/.414 (727) 23/5/15/70 46/137
Chris Parmelee 20 2008 Beloit .239/.385/.496 (881) 10/3/14/49 52/83
Joe Benson 19 2007 Beloit .255/.347/.368 (715) 18/8/5/38 49/124
Joe Benson 20 2008 Beloit .248/.326/.382 (708) 16/3/4/27 24/73
Ben Revere 20 2008 Beloit .379/.433/.497 (930) 17/10/1/43 27/31
Angel Morales 19 2009 Beloit .266/.329/.455 (784) 22/5/13/62 30/104
Angel Morales 20 2010 Beloit .289/.381/.474 (855) 13/7/4/36 24/65
James Beresford 20 2009 Beloit .289/.342/.313 (655) 11/0/0/38 34/70
James Beresford 21 2010 Beloit .297/.349/.363 (712) 19/5/1/59 34/56
Danny Rams 20 2009 Beloit .229/.308/.429 (737) 14/0/7/23 18/77
Danny Rams 21 2010 Beloit .243/.310/.450 (760) 28/4/16/68 31/145
Anderson Hidalgo 21 2010 Beloit .316/.375/.443 (818) 25/1/3/28 24/50
  • Trevor Plouffe put up those numbers only because he played much better in the 2nd half of the season. Good power numbers, but he could have used another year with the Snappers.
  • Both Joe Benson and Chris Parmelee struggled in their first seasons in the Midwest League. Then both got hurt halfway through their second season with the team. However, in the second year, you can see why people are excited about his patience and power potential.
  • Looking at Revere’s Beloit numbers, what a year he had. Very much batting average based, of course. But if we were to only look at OPS, his is right up there with anyone (except Morneau). And he stole 44 bases that year too.
  • Angel Morales… how/why is he so overlooked in many prospect rankings?
  • James Beresford showed good improvement from 2009 and 2010. Reports are that he has gained some weight this offseason. If he can add any semblance of power to his game, he could jump up prospect rankings quickly!
  • Danny Rams has so much power potential, but he just needs to put the ball in play more. His 77 strikeouts in 2009 came in just 175 at bats. He struck out 145 times in 407 at bats in 2010. Yet, his power numbers still make him intriguing.
  • Anderson Hidalgo may be the least known, or maybe underrated, prospect in the organization. He had another solid year in 2010.

What is the summary? There really isn’t one. There is no science to prospect rankings and we don’t know how things will turn out, but if nothing else, I believe this data shows that Twins fans should continue to be very excited about the future of Aaron Hicks.

Any thoughts? Feel free to leave your comments here. Also, for more links to Twins articles and thoughts throughout the weekend, be sure to follow me on Twitter where I like to retweet Twins-related articles and post thoughts frequently. Have a great weekend!