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Over/Under: The Bullpen

28 Oct

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If you pick up a copy of the TwinsCentric 2010-11 Offseason GM Handbook, you’ll note that one area with a lot of quality free agent options is in the bullpen. When the World Series comes to an end, several members of the Twins bullpen will file for free agency. They are Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch, Brian Fuentes, Randy Flores, Ron Mahay and Clay Condrey. How many of them will be back? How many would you want back?  I am confident that Pat Neshek will come back with a vengeance in 2010. But what will Joe Nathan be capable of? How much will Matt Capps cost? Despite several ups and downs, I am a big believer in Jose Mijares. I believe in Alex Burnett and Anthony Slama, Kyle Waldrop and Rob Delaney. Where do Glen Perkins, Jeff Manship and other your arms fit into the equation? I’ve already spent a lot of words this offseason discussing the bullpen. It is going to be a lot of fun to watch it evolve over the offseason.

Today, I want to look at the Twins free agent bullpen arms and play a game of Over/Under. Hopefully many of your will head to the comments and put your guesses out there. I’ll put the name of the pitcher, a couple of thoughts, and then the contract I expect them to get this offseason, from someone… And what I’d like you to do is tell me if you think that the contract is too high or too low. That could be too many years, or too many dollars per year. Here we go:

Jesse Crain – 3 years, $11 million. He’s still young. He throws hard. That slider and curveball combination took off after a slow start. He could be a dominant set up guy and some team could see him as a closer.

Matt Guerrier – 1 year, $2.5 million – I think the fact that he’s a Type A Free Agent actually hurts him. I can’t imagine a team willing to give up a pick in the bottom half of the first round for a non-strikeout reliever. Maybe a team that is going to pick up a couple more Type A free agents could, and it would cost them a 2nd or 3rd round pick? So I think that the Twins have some room to work here.

Jon Rauch – 1 year, $3 million – He has more closing experience. Outside of the time from the All Star break until after the trade deadline, Rauch was pretty solid. But it’s hard for me to imagine any team’s GM thinking that Rauch should get a closer’s contract.

Brian Fuentes – 1 year, $6 million – Fuentes has a lot of closer experience and he absolutely dominates left-handers. He has a ton of value to a team either as a closer or as a set up man. He seems to be in some strange middle ground place now. At his age, he may not be paid quite like a closer, and yet, his closer experience could get him paid more than even the top free agent closers. He’s also already in his upper 30s.

Ron Mahay – Minor League Deal – $850,000 if in big leagues – This is basically what he got this year from the Twins when he signed in spring training. He is a veteran. He is left-handed. His numbers were significantly better than the level of confidence most Twins had in him.

Randy Flores – Minor League Deal – $800,000 if in big leagues – Yeah, he was pretty bad for the Twins, but his numbers in Colorado were solid when they put him on waivers. He’ll get a shot somewhere.

Clay Condrey – Minor League Deal – $800,000 if in big leagues – Condrey’s 2010 season was lost due to injury and set back and more injury. But I think that it could make sense to bring in a veteran ground ball machine on a minor league deal. There is almost no risk in such a deal, and they could keep him in the minor leagues early in the season if appropriate. I would have no problem if the Twins brought him into spring training.

So there you go. Obviously the primary discussion players would be Crain, Guerrier, Rauch and Fuentes. Would you go with the Over or the Under compared with my projections? What would you do with those players? Feel free to Discuss and Comment here.


Twins Bullpen Blitz

14 Oct

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It will be another offseason full of difficult decisions for the Minnesota Twins front office. There are double-figure free agents. They have two contracts with 2011 options that they need to determine if they should be picked up. There could be as many as nine arbitration situations. Although the Twins have a fairly solid core of players under contract for 2011, it will be interesting to see how those players are complemented.

One area that could experience the most turnover is in the bullpen. Over the last decade, Twins fans have seen how important a strong bullpen can be as well as how much it can hurt if the bullpen struggles. Even with Joe Nathan out for the entire 2010 season, the Twins went into the playoffs with what was believed to be solid, deep bullpen.

However, that group in the bullpen was comprised of several players who may not be in a Twins uniform in 2011 for various reasons. Here is what we know today:

Joe Nathan – We know that the Twins will be paying the veteran closer $11.25 million for the 2011 season even if we can’t confidently predict how good and how healthy he will be.

Matt Capps – He has a year of arbitration left. Looking historically at closers in their final arbitration year, it is likely that Capps could demand somewhere between $7 and $9 million in 2011. He was solid in 2010, and he would provide insurance should Nathan not be ready. He is prone to allowing plenty of base runners.

Jesse Crain – Despite the hanging slider to Mark Teixeira in Game 1, Crain proved himself to be one of baseball’s better relievers through most of the 2010 season. He is a Type B free agent. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he accepted, he could make $3 to $3.5 million in 2011. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he declines it, the Twins would get a supplemental 1st round draft pick when he signs elsewhere. After his season, it is likely that Crain could command a three or four year contract at an average of $3.5 to 4 million a season.

Jon Rauch – He was solid as the Twins closer through most of the season’s first half. Very hittable, but he racked up good save totals. He was also so bad late in the first half and early in the second half that the Twins had to trade their most big-league ready prospect for Capps. He also would be a Type B free agent. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he accepted, he could earn as much as $4 million in 2011. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he declines, the Twins would get a supplemental 1st round draft pick when he signs elsewhere. He could likely get a two year contract in the neighborhood of $5 million.

Matt Guerrier – Guerrier has racked up the relief appearances over the last four years. He has remained remarkably durable. He has also pitched at a very good level, well enough that he would be a Type A free agent. If the Twins offer him arbitration, and he accepted, he could earn $4 million in 2011. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he declines, the Twins would get the signing team’s first round pick next summer (unless the signing team owns one of the first 15 picks in draft, in which case, the Twins would receive their 2nd round pick) and a supplemental first round pick. Because he isn’t a strikeout pitcher, Guerrier could struggle to find a team willing to give up and early draft pick to sign him. If the Twins do not offer him arbitration, Guerrier could probably sign a two year deal worth between $6 and 7 million total.

Brian Fuentes – The Twins got a good one when they acquired Fuentes from the Angels. The 35 year old southpaw was amazing against left-handed bats. He led the league in Saves in 2009 and recorded 25 saves with the Angels in 2010 before the trade. He made $9 million in 2010. He becomes a Type B free agent because his 2011 option would only vest with 55 games finished (he finished 35 total in 2010). If the Twins offer him arbitration and he accepts, the Twins would likely pay him between $9 and 10 million in 2011. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he declines, the Twins would gain a supplemental 1st round pick next summer. If the Twins do not offer arbitration, he could sign with a team needing a closer and get two years and $14-15 million. Or, if all teams see him as an 8th inning lefty type, he could still get two years and $8-9 million.

Clay Condrey, Randy Flores, Ron Mahay – We have to assume that these free agents will not be back with the Twins in 2011, and if so, it would be like Mahay’s minor league deal signed late in spring training.

Pat Neshek – He made $650,000 in 2010, his first arbitration year. If he is offered arbitration, he likely would be in the $650,000 to $750,000 range. If not, he would become a free agent.

Glen Perkins – Perkins got enough time in 2010 with the Twins to make himself arbitration-eliglble this offseason, a year later than he wanted. He would probably make $750,000 in arbitration, if offered.

Jose Mijares, Alex Burnett, Jeff Manship, Anthony Slama, Rob Delaney, Kyle Waldrop, Anthony Swarzak, Jose Lugo – These pitchers all have less major league service time than required to be arbitration eligible, so they would make about the league minimum, around $420,000. Mijares would likely be closer to $450,000-500,000.

More to Consider:

  • The Twins bullpen generally consists of six and sometimes seven relievers, including the closer.
  • Joe Nathan is pretty much untradable right now. Until he proves he is healthy, the assumption must be that he will be paid by the Twins.
  • There are free agent bullpen options left and right, many of whom will be available and looking for a job as spring training approaches. So your bullpen does not completely need to be filled by the above players.
  • It cost top prospect Wilson Ramos to acquire Matt Capps from the Nationals. There is no way that the Twins would non-tender Capps. But think about this; would you rather have Matt Capps at $8 million, or bring back Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier at a combined $7 million? Would you rather pay Capps $8 million. Could the Twins trade Capps before arbitration to bring back more young talent?
  • How much money should the Twins tie up in the bullpen? Potentially $20 million is locked up between Nathan and Capps. If we assume a $110 or even $120 million payroll, how many dollars should the bullpen cost?
  • With that in mind, would you rather have Capps at $8 million or JJ Hardy $6 million and a veteran, right-handed bench bat who could spell Justin Morneau at 1B for $2 million?
  • If the Twins bring back Carl Pavano and pay him $9 million in 2010, there could be a starter or two who would pitch out of the bullpen. Francisco Liriano and Brian Duensing will be in the rotation. Scott Baker will get a big pay raise in 2011, so he should start. Nick Blackburn’s salary jumps up to $3 million in 2011. Kevin Slowey could get $2 million or so in his first year of arbitration. Without a trade, there are six starters right there, and one would likely get pushed to the bullpen.
  • And that doesn’t even take into account a couple of pretty strong starting pitching prospects in Kyle Gibson and David Bromberg, both of which could be ready by June for the big leagues. It also doesn’t factor in a couple of very hard-throwing bullpen arms who could be ready soon like Carlos Gutierrez or Billy Bullock.

So, if you’re the GM, and you have to worry about a payroll, and you alone have the final call on the Twins roster, what does it look like? Which free agents do you offer arbitration? Which do you want back? Which young pitchers do you want to be on the big league roster? How do you make it all work?

The TwinsCentric Offseason Handbook is now available for pre-order at just $4.95 for the first 500 copies sold THIS WEEK. To learn more about the entire Twins roster, all the questions they have to ask, and the options that they may have, this is a must-have electronic book. We will look at the 40 man roster decisions, outline the entire Organizational Depth chart, review the cases for and against the many Twins players eligible for arbitration, look at the Twins players who can become free agents, look at other players around the league who will be available via free agency as well as potential trade targets. This book is as comprehensive as it gets. If you’re not convinced, you can get last year’s version for FREE as a sample of what you will be getting.

PODCASTS – Last night, the Twins Geek and I were both on Fanatic Jack’s podcast and we talked about all of the Twins free agents and arbitration-eligibles and some possible trade candidates. It was a lot of fun and if you have a chance, please listen to it here. Of course, if you missed my podcast on Tuesday night, you can to that here.


Arizona Fall League

The AFL is back in swing now and the Twins prospects are playing for the Peoria Saguaros. In their first game, on Tuesday night, Chris Parmelee went 1-4 with a double. Joe Benson was 0-2. Ben Revere was 0-1. Tyler Robertson gave up one run on a hit and three walks in his first inning. Kyle Waldrop gave up two runs in his two innings. Last night, Ben Revere went 1-4 with an RBI. Chris Parmelee was 2-4. Joe Benson went 1-3 with a run scored. Carlos Gutierrez struck out two in a scoreless inning. The one Twins prospect that has not played in their first two games is David Bromberg. The righty will start for the team on Friday.

Lots of things covered above, please Leave your comments here.

Moving Day

30 Jul

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Before we get started, I want to let people in the Twin Cities know that I will be on Fox 9’s Primetime show tonight at about 10:15 for a few minutes to discuss the Twins and the trade deadline. If you have a chance to watch it, please let me know what you think. If anyone can send it to me, or youtube it, cool!

Wilson Ramos is packing and moving today. So is Joe Testa. Matt Capps is moving, and I am moving. The two Twins minor leaguers were traded late on Thursday night for the Nationals All Star closer. Me? After three years of living in the Twin Cities, I am packing up and moving back up to Warroad today and throughout this weekend. (in other words, I don’t know if I will be able to post any updates here, but I will be on Twitter a lot, so as I hear anything, I’ll post some quick thoughts there. So, follow me at  

But to the important stuff, the Twins acquired a bullpen arm, but at what cost? I have to be honest, my thoughts on the deal have kind of gone back and forth in the last couple of hours since the deal was made official. When I first read the reports that Wilson Ramos had been pulled from the Rochester Red Wings lineup and there was speculation that the Twins were close on Capps, I didn’t think that the Twins would give up that much.

When I heard that the deal was official, and complete, I was in awe, shocked that the Twins would give up their most expendable trade prospect for a reliever that, frankly, isn’t any better than current closer Jon Rauch.

I know I’m not a good blogger in that I tend to look at everything from various angles, players, front office, fans and more. So, as I was driving home, my mind was all over the place on why this trade might make sense from the Twins perspective. Over the last few hours, I have had several conversations with people who have asked, “why does this move make sense for the Twins?” I have had to come up with answers, but in the end, my general opinion of the trade does not change.

So, why is this trade good for the Twins?

To get an established All-Star reliever for a minor leaguer makes the 2010 Twins bullpen and roster stronger. Specifically, he will be replacing Jon Rauch as the team’s closer and has been a little bit better than Rauch in 2010. So, the 2010 roster is better. Many Twins fans, and even players such as Torii Hunter and Johan Santana frequently complained and wondered aloud when this “future” would come, when would the future be now/ From that perspective, the Twins did make themselves a better team in 2010 by this move. This is that kind of move where they are giving up part of the future to help win now.

Secondly, he is just 26 years old. Most of these prospect-for-veteran deals involve someone in his 30s, or even on his last wind. Capps is Young and theoretically has room for improvement.

Following the 2010 season, Rauch, Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain will become free agents. Capps still has one more year of arbitration remaining, so he will be around in 2011 as well. This provides some additional insurance for the Twins bullpen next year, specifically if Joe Nathan is unable to pitch right away.

Finally, there are a lot of similarities between Jon Rauch and Matt Capps. Rauch is a solid bullpen arm, so adding another solid bullpen arm is a good thing. Capps is slightly better than Rauch, but that’s not a ringing endorsement. 

So, why is this trade questionable for the Twins?

For this, I will start with the same answer I gave for my final reason this is a good trade; there are a lot of similarities between Capps and Rauch. 

Capps 46.0 51 9 38 5 26/30 1.30 2.84 .279
Rauch 38.1 43 9 27 3 21/25 1.36 3.05 .283

Most of these numbers and rates are very similar with a slight edge going to Capps. So Capps is an improvement over Rauch, but how much?

Yes, he will be under Twins control for 2011, but after making $3.5 million in 2010, he could make upwards of $6-7 million in 2011. That is one thing if Capps is the Twins closer, but if Joe Nathan does come back, do we really want a Rauch-esque 8th inning guy making that kind of money? This likely means that the Twins will not keep at least two (and possibly three) of the current bullpen of Guerrier/Rauch/Crain.

As decent as Capps has been in 2010, he was non-tendered by the Pittsburgh Pirates after a 2009 season in which he had an ERA of 5.80 and a WHIP of 1.66. With 45 innings pitched this year, he is less than ten innings from exceeding his number of innings pitched each of the last two years. That is probably not a concern, but it is worth noting.

Capps is quite hittable, but he has struck out more than Rauch does. It allows Rauch to move back to the 8th inning and Crain and Guerrier and Mijares and the rest of the bullpen to fill in starting earlier in the game. But Capps will keep ninth innings as nerve-racking as Rauch did. Rauch will make us equally nervous in the 8th inning. Guerrier has been having us nervous for awhile. So, the bullpen has more decent options, but I don’t know that I will have a lot more confidence in it.

But trading Ramos?

Listen, I fully understand that Ramos was expendable. With Joe Mauer signed for most of the next decade, Ramos was not necessary, even if I have illustrated a way that they could co-exist on the same time. Despite his struggles in Rochester (hitting about .240), he remains a Top 5 prospect. He is a good defensive catcher with a strong arm. We believe that he can hit for average and that he has tremendous power potential. In spring training, Gardy and nearly all of the Twins players wanted Ramos to be on the team’s Opening Day roster. Ramos was hitting some of the longest, most impressive home runs. And yet, Ramos has never posted an OPS of .800 in the minor leagues. Of course, I believe that is due to development of that power and that the still-just-22 year old will develop a lot of power. He doesn’t walk and have particularly good plate discipline, something that could make reaching that potential less likely.

But he is a very good prospect, to be sure. We know that the Twins and Mariners did have a deal in the works for Cliff Lee that centered around Ramos. Some teams seem to think highly of Ramos. So, it makes it hard to believe that a future good defense/good offense catcher is only worth one of the worst closers in baseball. We are not talking about Joakim Soria here. Again, this is not a knock on Capps as much as just being incredibly surprised or disappointed that the Twins used their top trade chip and didn’t get more.

As I’ve alluded to a couple of times, the difference between Matt Capps and Jon Rauch is not very large. Last August, the Twins acquired Rauch for Kevin Mulvey, a pitcher who began the season last year as a bottom-of-the-Top-10 Twins prospect. By the time that he was dealt in August, he was probably not even a Top 20 prospect of the team. Two months ago, a Twins fan could have made an argument that Ramos was the Twins #1 prospect (I wouldn’t have, but it could have been made). Even with his struggles, he was still easily a Twins Top 5 prospect. It is just my opinion that the Twins could have received much more for such a prospect.   

The Nationals also receive left-handed reliever Joe Testa in the deal. It has been a tough year for Testa. After dominating at Beloit and Ft. Myers in 2009, he began 2010 in AA New Britain. He struggled with control and eventually was sent back to Ft. Myers. This is a great opportunity for him, and he is excited about the opportunity.


Matt Capps makes the 2010 Minnesota Twins a little bit better. How much better? I don’t think he is a difference-maker, by any means. I think Wilson Ramos is a very good prospect and that he was expendable for the Twins. I just think they could have received something more for him. But maybe they really couldn’t and this was the best they could actually get for him. If that is true, I personally think they should have kept him. The Nationals signed Capps to a one year deal after he was non-tendered by the Pirates in the offseason and were able to turn him into a great young catching prospect who could be a key contributor to their club for the next decade.

If you have any thoughts on the trade and its affect on the Twins, feel free to leave them here. If there are other deals around baseball over the weekend, please feel free to discuss them here as well. I will likely not have internet access until Monday up north.

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

Red Wings Report   

Jacque Jones had two hits including his 20th double and drove in four runs, but it wasn’t enough in the Red Wings 13-6 loss to Gwinnett. David Bromberg started and gave up three runs on seven hits and a walk in five innings. Brad Hennessey then gave up three runs and got just one out. Tim Lahey got the final two outs of the 6th inning but not before he gave up two more runs. Jose Lugo got one out, but he gave up five more runs. Pat Neshek got the last two outs of the seventh inning. Then Rob Delaney pitched a scoreless inning during which he struck out two (which means that he has struck out eight of the last nine batters that he has faced).

New Britain Notes

A three run lead going into the ninth inning was not enough and New Britain lost 8-7 to Bowie. Bobby Lanigan started and gave up four runs on eight hits in five innings. Cole DeVries then got four outs without allowing a run. Carlos Gutierrez went the next 1.2 innings without giving up a run. But he started the ninth inning and gave up four runs in the ninth. He left the game with the based loaded, and Chris Province came in and gave up two hits and a walk to blow the save and give Gutierrez the loss. Chris Parmelee remains white hot. He was 3-4 with his 17th double. Joe Benson had two hits including his 16th AA home run (and his 20th overall). Steve Singleton was 2-4 with his third triple and three RBI. Ben Revere was 2-5. Erik Lis was 2-4 with his seventh AA homer and three RBI.

Miracle Matters

 Bruce Pugh is back! The righty recorded his fifth win of the year (in the Miracle’s 3-2 win) with nine innings of two-run ball. He gave up just two hits, walked none and struck out eight. He left after nine innings in a 2-2 game. But Chris Hermann drove in a run on a single in the 10th, and Dakota Watts pitched a scoreless bottom of the 10th for the save. Brian Dozier and Nick Romero each went 3-5. Romero added his 13th double. Angel Morales hit his second triple.

Snappers Snippets

Beloit had a nice, easy 13-1 win over Burlington. Danny Rams was 3-5 with his 19th double and his 11th home run. Derek McCallum was 2-5 with his 11th double. Lance Ray was 2-4. Edgar Ibarra picks up the win. He gave up just one run on four hits in seven innings. The lefty walked one and struck out six. Nelvin Fuentes struck out five in two scoreless innings.

E-Twins Talkers

Elizabethton beat Johnson City 12-2. Oswaldo Arcia went 2-5 with his 11th home run, one of three home runs for the E-Twins. Daniel Santana hit his 6th double and second home run in five at bats. Brian Burke was 3-5 with his seventh double, first triple and fourth home run. Nate Roberts was 4-5 with his third double and first triple. Jamaal Hawkins and Andy Leer were each 2-4. Martire Garcia improved to 5-0 with 5.1 strong innings. He gave up a run on five hits and two walks. He struck out ten. Michael Tonkin came in and gave up a run on two hits in 2.2 innings. He did not allow a walk and struck out six. Logan Darnell pitched a scoreless ninth.

GCL Twins Topics

The GCL Twins won 7-2 over the Rays. Justin Parker gave up one run on six hits and a walk in five innings. Steve Hirschfeld struck out two in a perfect inning in his second rehab game. Matt Schuld gave up a run on three hits in two innings. Nick Alloway struck out two in a one-hit inning. Matt Parker was 2-3 with a walk and a double. JaDamion Williams went 2-4 with his second double. Rory Rhodes went 2-5.

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

Twins Podcast Live at 9!

16 May

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I took a four day weekend, and ended up having some allergies kick my butt, so it should be entertaining, but tonight at 9, I will be hosting the Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast. It’s been a while since I blogged, so I’ll be sure to get you caught up on lots of baseball/Twins topics. The Twins lost two in New York before winning in most unlikely of fashions on Sunday when Jason Kubel hit a grand slam off of Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. Jon Rauch then showed a lot when, after giving up singles to the 8 and 9 hitters, he struck out Derek Jeter, Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira to close out his 10th save of the year. We will definitely be sure to talk Twins/Yankees, and we will do so with Topper Anton from Curve for a Strike. Topper is a Bloomington native who now lives and works in the Big Apple. He braved Yankees Stadium in a Twins jersey for all three games, so it’ll be great to discuss the series with him.

But we’ll also be sure to talk Twins minor leagues as well. There were some impressive performances. Danny Valencia had a great weekend, and now has a 20 game hitting streak and is hitting .305 on the season. Trevor Plouffe is hitting .300, despite some struggles in the field. Kyle Gibson was very impressive in his New Britain Debut. His Miracle roommate, Bruce Pugh had a tremendous outing this weekend. BJ Hermsen made his first start for Beloit. It was a big day on Sunday for the Kubel family as Jason was not the only family member to impress. His brother-in-law, Michael Tonkin threw seven shutout innings in just his second Beloit start. And there will be much more to talk about.

So, again, I’ve got another day of vacation. Dentist visit… it’s going to be fun! So, I probably won’t be blogging again tonight, so be sure to check out tonight’s podcast for all updates. Be sure to participate in the chat room or by calling in at 347-202-0548. 

2010 Roster Projections: Minnesota Twins

21 Mar

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Alright, Opening Day is just two weeks away. The minor league seasons will begin in about 2 ½ weeks. It’s late time for me to post my roster projections. I know a lot of people in the cities of the Twins affiliates appreciate this, having an idea of who they may be able to see in their home stadium this year. Today I will be posting my projected Twins roster. Tomorrow I’ll post my projection on the Rochester Roster and so on through the week until I post my projected Beloit roster on Friday.

So here we go, starting with, the Minnesota Twins:

The Hitters

C Joe Mauer
1B Justin Morneau
2B Orlando Hudson
3B Brendan Harris
SS JJ Hardy
LF Delmon Young
CF Denard Span
RF Michael Cuddyer
DH Jason Kubel
Bu C Drew Butera
Bu IF Nick Punto
Bu IF,OF Alexi Casilla
Bench Jim Thome
DL (Jose Morales)

 Analysis: I guess there really aren’t any surprises here. Yes, Nick Punto will likely start at 3B just as much as Brendan Harris. I think as long as he isn’t traded, Alexi Casilla will make the roster because he is out of options and they don’t want to lose him for nothing. And, I think I’ve been fairly clear on my thoughts that Wilson Ramos needs at bats and time behind the plate, so being a backup, even for a short time, makes no sense. Mauer, Morneau, Hudson, Hardy, Young, Span, Cuddyer, Kubel, Thome. This is a pretty exciting lineup that is going to score a lot of runs.

The Pitchers 

SP Scott Baker
SP Nick Blackburn
SP Kevin Slowey
SP Carl Pavano
SP Francisco Liriano
CL Matt Guerrier
8L Jose Mijares
8R Jon Rauch
BP Jesse Crain
BP Pat Neshek
BP Anthony Slama
BP Clay Condrey
DL (Joe Nathan)

Analysis: Starting Five looks set and looks really good. We’ve spent the last couple of months trying to convince ourselves that Francisco Liriano could turn things around, and so far, so good. The other four are just very solid, if not underrated. I put Matt Guerrier in the closer’s role, just because he did such a good job in the 8th inning (often against the other team’s best hitters), that there is no reason to think he can’t do it in the 9th inning. If not, Jon Rauch, Jesse Crain or even Pat Neshek can get the job done. My thoughts on Neshek’s return have changed somewhat. He appears to be back and continues to get better and stronger. I now believe that he will make this roster, and who knows, by midseason, he could be closing too. Clay Condrey hasn’t been very good in spring, but he was solid for the Phillies the last three years, so I trust that over six or seven innings in March. Finally, the final bullpen spot may be determined by how much Gardy wants a second left-hander. If he is insistent upon it, then Brian Duensing is the guy. If he’s looking for the best relief pitcher, then Anthony Slama is the guy. Slama hasn’t pitched much this spring, but when he has, he has done well. It will be good to see him facing some big league hitters the next couple of weeks.

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

A Look Back: 2009

31 Dec

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If you’re one of the handful of people working today in the office (or if you’re just sitting at home, relaxing on a day off), you’ll want to check out a couple of podcasts from last night. First, I was on the Travis Talks Minnesota Sports podcast, talking Twins, Vikings, Gophers and more. But after that show, I listened to Fanatic Jack’s Twins Talk podcast and it was a great Year in Review, so I definitely recommend listening to it as well.

As we sit here on New Years Eve, we really have two things to do. First, it is important to look back at the year 2009. Second, you have to look forward to 2010. So, my first blog of the day will be a look back at the past 365 days. Later in the day, I will post something looking forward to 2010, so be sure to check back.

Looking back one year, the Twins were coming off of a tough 1-0 loss in Game 163 against the Twins, but the offseason was a pretty quiet one. For the first time in quite some time, the Twins did not go out and sign a veteran starter. Instead, we were all excited about the starting five of Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, Francisco Liriano and Glen Perkins all performed well enough in 2008 for the team to feel confident going into 2009 with the five youngsters. The bullpen had its struggles in 2008, and the Twins countered by signing Luis Ayala. They also offered arbitration to Matt Guerrier despite his rough final two months in 2008. Names like Eric Gagne, Joe Nelson, Russ Springer and Juan Cruz were discussed ad nauseum. The lineup was pretty solid. The team resigned Nick Punto to a two year, $8.5 million contract following a solid 2008 season. That created plenty of discussion, but I was of the opinion that it was a fair-market signing. There was a lot of discussion about Joe Crede. His agent, Scott Boras, wanted to get his agent $7 million base salary plus incentives. Well, Bill Smith wisely did not give in, and in the end, he beat Scott Boras. Crede signed late for a $2.5 million base with incentives.

In early April, the Twins opened their season without Joe Mauer. He had an injury that was mis-diagnosed, so he missed all of spring training and all of April. When he came back on May 1st, he homered on his first swing and then doubles on his second swing. He just continued to hit the entire season. As you all know, he led the league in batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage. He won his third batting title, his third silver slugger, his second gold glove and his very first American League MVP. As much adoration and adulation as Mauer deserves, he was not the only story for the Twins in 2009.

Justin Morneau was a legitimate MVP candidate through the first half of the season. Power, batting average, driving runs in. In reality, he was just being Justin Morneau. But he struggled the last six weeks of the season, and in mid-September he was shut down when it was determined that he had a stress fracture in his back. On that day, Michael Cuddyer moved in to first base, and he dominated over the season’s final three weeks. He provided power, clutch hits and solid defense and really catapulted the Twins into the playoffs. He hit 32 homers and came up just shy of 100 RBI. Jason Kubel hit two three run home runs in Game 162 for the Twins and ended the season by hitting .300 with 102 RBI and finally showed all of his potential. Denard Span proved that 2009 was not a fluke at all. He hit .315 and got on base nearly 39% of the time.

Scott Baker missed his first start of the season and really struggled at the start of the season. Some were worried that he let his big contract affect is play. But he came on great after the first six weeks and won 15 games. Nick Blackburn was an All-Star candidate and the team’s top pitcher the first half of the season. After a bad start to the second half, he came on again in September with big start after big start. Kevin Slowey was the first pitcher in the Major Leagues to ten wins before bone chips in his wrist had to be surgically removed. Francisco Liriano and Glen Perkins had their struggles, but the Twins were able to replace that over time. Joe Nathan had another amazing season and set the Twins record for Saves in a season. Matt Guerrier was as good as any set up man in baseball. But the bullpen really struggled in the middle of the season.

But the Twins front office came through with some very good deals. Of course, there was also the failed signing of Mark Grudzielanek, but that was just a minor league deal, so no big loss. At the July 31st deadline, the team acquired SS Orlando Cabrera in exchange for minor league SS Tyler Ladendorf. Cabrera got off to a good start with the Twins, then was horrible offensively and defensively, but he came up big down the stretch. A few days later, the team acquired RHP Carl Pavano for a Player to be Named Later. The player ended up being Yohan Pino. Pavano was big in all but two or three of his starts with the Twins and pitched great in the Game 3 loss to the Yankees. Late in August, Bill Smith bolstered the bullpen by adding Jon Rauch for a PTBNL that turned out to be Kevin Mulvey, who the Diamondbacks claimed from the Twins who knew that Arizona was the first team able to claim him. They also added lefty Ron Mahay who had been released by the Royals a couple of weeks earlier.

When Justin Morneau went down in mid-September, the Twins were down a bunch, and Twins fans were ready to throw in the towel. There were several more times that Twins fans threw in the towel. And yet somehow, some way, the Twins found a way to tie the Tigers after 161 games. Both teams won on the final Sunday to end their regular regular seasons tied. The Twins celebrated their final game in the Metrodome with an incredible program, introducing the current Twins roster and many former players including players from the 1987 and 1991 World Series teams.  Of course, it wasn’t the final game after all. The Twins won the season series against the Tigers which gave them the home field advantage in Game 163 (after MLB learned the previous year that a coin flip is not the best, most fair home field determinant).  Game 163 had enough ups and downs and one of the great games. The Twins would lose to the eventual World Series champion New York Yankees in three games, but it was really another terrific season for the Twins.

There were plenty of other stories from the 2009 year for the Twins that are worth mentioning.

Kyle Gibson fell to the Twins with the 22nd overall pick because of concerns about his forearm. Negotiations went right up until the 11 ½ hour. But the two sides agreed to a $1.85 million signing bonus. That was way over MLB’s slot recommendation. The team’s first four picks were college pitchers, something the Twins have had success drafting this decade. They then selected Gophers 2B Derek McCallum in the 4th round. The next two picks were college catchers. The Twins have had terrific success drafting high school bats and college arms in the last dozen years.

Bill Smith also told TwinsCentric that the organization has been working for the last decade on developing their international scouting department. 2009 was a huge year for the Twins in that market. In July, they signed “the best prospect ever to come out of Europe,” Max Kepler to a $775,000 signing bonus. Kepler is very raw, but has a ton of tools. Jorge Polanco has a very good glove at shortstop. He was ranked by Baseball America as the #23 player from Latin America. And of course, the big news was the late September signing of Dominican shortstop Miguel Angel Sano to a $3.15 million signing bonus. The 6-foot-3, 190 pound shortstop is compared physically to Hanley Ramirez, with quick hands and a bat like Albert Pujols. Of course, he is 16-years-old with a long way to go, but the bigger story here is that the Twins now have a strong presence in the Dominican Republic. They have gained strong credibility. They have created in-roads around the globe, in Europe, in Australia, in the Far East and everywhere in between. This bodes well for the future.

The Twins had a strong presence in both the World Baseball Classic and the World Cup following the season. In the WBC, Tom Stuifbergen became a big name when he threw four shutout innings for The Netherlands in the elimination game against the Dominican Republic. Justin Morneau and Jesse Crain played for Canada. Nick Punto played for Italy. James Beresford and Luke Hughes were key contributors for Australia. Trevor Plouffe was the starting shortstop and second hitter for Team USA in the World Cup tournament in Europe after the season. Plouffe was a key contributor in the USA’s gold medal performance. Stuifbergen was one of the best pitchers in the tournament. Luke Hughes and Canada’s Rene Tosoni were two of the top hitters. Speaking of Tosoni, he also represented the Twins and Canada on the World Team of the Futures Game. Tosoni was named the game’s MVP.

Following the World Series, the Twins traded their fourth outfielder, Carlos Gomez, to the Milwaukee Brewers for JJ Hardy, who will hopefully be their shortstop for the next couple of years.

2009 was a very interesting and exciting year for the Minnesota Twins and their fans. Another very good baseball season, and signs that the Twins may be willing to spend more as they enter their new ballpark in 2010. As a fan, that’s really all you can ask for when you aren’t the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets or Angels!

Thank you very much to everyone for making one of your daily (or weekly) stops. As I’ve mentioned before, it is the reader comments and interaction that make it all worthwhile.  Hopefully on at least a few of those days it was worth your time to stop here!

I want to also thank all of the other Twins bloggers. I need to thank the TwinsCentric crew (John Bonnes, Nick Nelson, Parker Hageman) for all the work and fun that it has been to put those books together and the projects that we have in the works. But the Twins blogosphere is pretty special and great to be a part of. We are all very supportive of each other and that makes it a lot of fun.

I will be back either later tonight or tomorrow morning with a look ahead to 2010, so be sure to stop by if you have a minute.

I wish you all a very happy New Year. Be safe! Don’t drink and drive!

If you have any questions or comments, Please feel free to discuss here.

Twins Cut Tigers Lead to Two

25 Sep

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Friday night was a big night for the Twins, and hopefully the momentum continues into Saturday! If you want to see the NFL “Expert” Pick Panelists’ picks for Week 3, click here. NIGHTLY Minnesota Twins podcast

  • On Friday night’s podcast, Seth and Travis Aune discussed the White Sox 2-0 win over the Tigers, the World Cup and the Twins minor leaguers who have played such a big role for their teams in it. And halfway through the game, the Twins finalized their 9-4 win over the Royals. There was a lot of excellent discussion on a bunch of topics. I think it has been one of the better shows, so please be sure to take a listen.
  • Again tonight, I will be hosting another new episode at 10:00 central time.

Twins 9, Royals 4 | Tigers 0, White Sox 2

  • The Twins got a big win over the Royals, and they got help from the White Sox who beat the Tigers 2-0. The combination means that the Twins have cut the Tigers lead to just two games.
  • Carl Pavano gave up four runs in six innings. The runs were all thanks to the bat of Billy Butler who was 4-5 with his 20th and 21st home run and all four RBI. Pavano again bent, but didn’t break too much.
  • Robinson Tejeda has been incredible in September, but he was more than a little wild in this game. He gave up six runs (5 earned) on just two hits in 4.1 innings. However, he walked seven Twins batters.
  • Michael Cuddyer gave the Twins the 2-1 lead in the fourth inning with a solo home run. It was his 30th home run, and he now has 88 RBI on the season. He was 2-4 in the game.
  • In the fourth inning is when Tejeda really lost his control. Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel and Cuddyer each walked in a run. For Mauer and Kubel, it was each of their 90th RBI of the season.
  • Delmon Young continued his hot hitting since he has been in the daily lineup. He was 2-5 with an RBI triple to the left centerfield gap. Later he hit a very long home run to left field for his 9th home run of the season.
  • Good to see Denard Span back in the lineup after missing two games after being hit in the head by White Sox lefty Randy Williams. He got out the first two times he came to the plate. Then he got on base the next three times, which is great to see because we all know the value he brings at the top of the order.
  • Joe Mauer walked his first three plate appearances, and you can’t help but assume that will be a trend for the final nine games. Hopefully he will accept those walks, and have confidence in teammates Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer to come through.
  • Saturday, it will be Scott Baker going to the mound opposite lefty Lenny DiNardo.
  • On the South Side of Chicago, the White Sox got a terrific start from Jake Peavy. He gave up six hits, but no walks, in seven shutout innings. He struck out eight.
  • With Bobby Jenks out for the season, Matt Thornton will apparently be getting many/most save opportunities. He got his second save of the year last night with a scoreless ninth.
  • Eddie Bonine gave the Tigers as much as they could have realistically hoped for. In 6.2 innings, he gave up just two runs, both unearned.
  • The White Sox had just two hits in the entire game. But one of those hits was the difference in the game. Rookie Gordon Beckham hit his 14th home run of the season, a two run shot that provided all of the game’s runs. Beckham was 1-2 with two walks in the game.
  • On Saturday, Nate Robertson will pitch for Detroit against Freddy Garcia of the White Sox.

World Cup Update

  • Team USA beat The Netherlands 8-2. For the first time in the tournament, Trevor Plouffe and Terry Tiffee were not in the lineup. They will both be in the lineup on Sunday!
  • Puerto Rico beat Australia 4-2. Nelvin Fuentes got the one batter he faced out. For Australia, Brad Tippett gave up no runs on two hits and a walk in two innings. Matt Williams gave up a hit and a walk in his inning, but no runs. Luke Hughes and James Beresford were each 0-3 with a walk.
  • Venezuela beat Chinese Taipei 6-4.
  • Cuba beat Canada 5-1. Rene Tosoni went 0-3 with a walk.

If you have any opinions, comments or updates, please leave them in the Comments section.