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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!

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Guess Who’s Back? Twins Notes

19 Dec

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

It started out with all good intentions. I had been extremely busy with work for a couple of weeks. We had been putting together nightly Twins podcasts during the Winter Meetings. I took a day off of work and had a fun weekend in the Cities with my daughter and my sister. On Friday night, I enjoyed being a guest on the Gleeman and the Geek podcast. That was a ton of fun! Then on Saturday we went to the Como Zoo which was a blast as always. After some time at the mall, it was a lot of fun to hang out with Parker Hageman, Nick Nelson, Aaron Gleeman, Cody Christie, Howard Sinker, Darren “Doogie” Wolfson, Rhett Bollinger, Judd Zulgad, and Phil Mackey on Saturday night. I got to enjoy the role of DD yet again! It was a great weekend. The only concern was how tired I would be making the drive back up to Warroad, a good seven hour drive.

However, that’s where all the positivity ended for the past week. Around 3:30 Sunday morning, I woke up not quite feeling right. But about 6:30, I had figured out what my problem was. It was a problem I had twice previously, five and six years ago. I had a kidney stone. You don’t want all the details. This is probably more than enough, but a trip to the doctor on Monday was followed by a ‘passed stone’ on Wednesday morning. I thought that was it. Nope! Increased pain Wednesday night meant a trip to the hospital which turned into a trip to Fargo and a Saturday surgery that frankly didn’t rid the remaining stone. However, enough was done to alleviate the pain until I can have another surgery next week sometime to finish.

I apologize for being away from my computer completely for over a week. I read some of the comments on my phone that talked about how I ‘used to’ blog all the time about the Twins. OK, not going to apologize. I literally could not look at my computer screen for more than a minute at a time without getting nauseous.

But, I do need to thank my parents who were great, helpful all week and were there the whole time. My siblings were constantly asking questions. And there are a ton of you who sent messages and notes and well wishes. I just needed to say thank you to everyone and there’s no easy way to do that. So, here I’ll just blog it. Thank you!

Unfortunately, in the one week where I literally had to stay away from the computer, the Twins were quite busy. So, without going into too much detail, I thought I’d post my thoughts on several of the topics in an attempt to catch up.

CUDDYER FOR WILLINGHAM

OK, it wasn’t a trade, of course, but in essence, the Twins ‘traded’ Michael Cuddyer for Josh Willingham. As you know by now, Cuddyer inked a three year, $31.5 million deal with the Colorado Rockies. I hate to see Cuddyer leave. He had been with the Twins and in the organization since he was drafted in the first round of the 1997 draft. Although he certainly had his ups and downs, he was a very popular, major contributor to the Twins success for nearly a decade. And yes, part of that is his good-guy attitude, his willingness to talk to the media all the time, his work in the community, and to some demographics, there were the dimples.

Willingham is the same age as Cuddyer and has been equal, if not a little better, offensive player. The Twins got a very similar player for the same three year tenure but for $10.5 million less. The Twins also will get two draft picks for losing Cuddyer. I’ve liked Willingham for a long time. I named him as a Top 20 Rookie Hitters for 2006 because of his power and Isolated Discipline. That is what makes him. He won’t hit for a high average, and like Cuddyer, he won’t play great defense, but he can be a force in the Twins lineup.  

So, although I will miss Cuddyer and his presence on the roster and in the city, at the end of the day, the Twins got the same player for less money and added two draft picks.  As I’ve written previously, Michael Cuddyer will always be a Minnesota Twin. I am curious where he would rank among the all-time best Twins players. Off the top of my head, he has to easily be in the Top 20.    

INTERESTED IN KUBEL?

I keep hearing and reading that the Twins are now targeting Jason Kubel, even after bringing in Willingham. Like Cuddyer, Kubel has been in the Twins organization since being drafted in the previous millennium. I think Kubel is an impact free agent who will really help whatever team that he signs with. Its’ pretty clear that he doesn’t want to return to Target Field. And with Ben Revere, Denard Span, Trevor Plouffe, Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit on the roster and the likes of Rene Tosoni and Joe Benson on the horizon, I just don’t think that the Twins really need to spend $5-7 million for a year or two on Kubel. That is especially the case if the Twins have a lower payroll. They need to add another pitcher. I would love to see Edwin Jackson in a Twins uniform, but if I had to put money on which free agent pitcher the Twins will sign, I’d have to say Paul Maholm. I know that the Twins have been linked more to Jeff Francis and Joel Pineiro, but I can’t get past Maholm as the right option.

HOEY AND FLORIMON DESIGNATED

The Twins designated two players off of their 40 man roster. RHP Jim Hoey was claimed by the Toronto Blue Jays. The hard-thrower just could not get his straight fastball by big league (or often AAA) hitters because he never did find a secondary pitch. The Twins have added several players who throw hard and struggle with their control.

SS Pedro Floriman, who the Twins claimed a week earlier, as also DFAd, but he was able to clear waivers and will remain in the Twins organization. He still has an option remaining, so this is great news for the Twins.

TWINS NON-TENDER MIJARES

In a somewhat surprising move, the Twins did not tender a contract for 2012 to LHP Jose Mijares. It isn’t that he has pitched well the last couple of years (He Hasn’t), but he is still young and does have really good stuff when he’s on. Because of how he has pitched the last couple of years, he would likely have made around $750,000, just over $250,000 over the league minimum. That said, it also is a clear indication that the Twins will be moving Brian Duensing to the bullpen where he’ll join Glen Perkins. Not a huge loss, although I will not be at all surprised when Mijares resurfaces elsewhere and becomes a dominant reliever again.

INTERNATIONAL DRAFT

Imagine if there was an international draft in place today? The Twins would have the second overall pick. Even though that probably means that Yu Darvish would not have made himself available, the Twins could have been left with either Yoenis Cespedes or Jorge Soler, both incredibly talented outfielders from Cuba.

TWINS SIGN MORE MINOR LEAGUE FREE AGENTS

I thought the Twins had already signed a bunch of minor league free agents, but they signed a few more pretty impressive names.

  • Sean Burroughs – the former Little League World Series hero hasn’t done much in the big leagues, but is a very solid AAA player who did some pinch hitting in 2011 with the Diamondbacks. With a big league invitation, is it at all possible the team could be signing him as competition for Danny Valencia?
  • Rene Rivera – We saw what the catcher could do in 2011. Decent behind the plate. Horrifying offensively.
  • PJ Walters – The RHP is 26 years old and pitched in five big league games in 2011 between the Cardinals and the Blue Jays. In 24 AAA starts, he went 8-7 with a 5.17 ERA between Memphis and Las Vegas (AAA). He went 7-4 with a 4.27 ERA in 17 starts in the International League before heading to the PCL where he posted a 8+ ERA. Looks like a solid AAA starter.
  • JR Towles – The former Astros backstop used to be a pretty good prospect, the guy in line to take over for Brad Ausmus years ago. In parts of four years in the big leagues, he has hit .187.
  • Steve Pearce – In 2007, Pearce hit a combined .333/.394/.622 with 40 doubles and 31 home runs between High-A, AA and AAA. He became a Top 100 prospect, and although he has continued to hit well in the minor leagues since, it hasn’t transferred to the big leagues. In parts of five big league seasons, he has hit .232/.302/.366 with 29 doubles and nine homers in 521 plate appearances. No surprise that the Twins drafted Pearce out of high school in the 45th round.
  • Daryl Thompson – He made one appearance with the Reds in 2011 and in three innings, he gave up five runs on six hits and five walks. Not so good. Last year, between AA and AAA, the 25-year-old went 4-8 with a 4.26 ERA. In 137.1 innings, he walked 40 and struck out 123.

 BILL SMITH RETURNS TO TWINS FRONT OFFICE

It is no surprise to hear that Bill Smith will be back with the Twins as a special assistant to the president and GM. Hey, the guy did a ton of great things for the organization for the 25 years prior to him becoming the Twins GM, back when no one knew his name. So, I think it’s great news that Smith will return to the organization in his new role.

So, did I miss anything? Am I all caught up? Feel free to comment.