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Twins Infield Situation

5 Jan

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

The locker room in Ft. Myers will be full when spring training begins in February, and there will be a lot of infielders. Of course, that doesn’t meant that there aren’t still a lot of question marks. Here’s a look at the Twins infield positions as they stand now:

  • First Base – Justin Morneau, Ryan Doumit, Luke Hughes, Joe Mauer, Aaron Bates, Chris Parmelee, Steve Pearce
  • Second Base – Alexi Casilla, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Jamey Carroll, Pedro Florimon, Brian Dozier, Michael Hollimon
  • Third Base – Danny Valencia, Luke Hughes, Sean Burroughs, Michael Hollimon, Ray Chang
  • Shortstop – Jamey Carroll, Alexi Casilla, Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon, Ray Chang

First Base

If Justin Morneau is right and healthy and able to play 150 games, he is an MVP candidate. Therein lies the issue. What can be expected from Justin Morneau in 2012? And, unfortunately, the answer at this time is that we don’t know. It’s not a question of effort, as I often hear. His long-term well-being is far more important than its effects on the Twins. But if he can be back, the Twins have a chance. Joe Mauer showed last year that he can handle the position, if needed, and to keep him in the lineup more. Ryan Doumit can also play the position. Did you know that Aaron Bates hit .316 last year in Rochester with an On-Base Percentage over .400? He can play multiple positions too. He played in the big leagues for the Red Sox in 2009 after being their 3rd round pick in 2006. We saw Chris Parmelee in September and what we saw tells us that if needed, he can contribute. Steve Pearce is nice depth as well and has long been a big hitter in AAA.

Second Base

Alexi Casilla goes into the season as the starter at 2B, but which Casilla will show up, and will he be able to stay healthy for a full season? Luke Hughes was solid at second base and provides some power as a starter or off the bench. Tsuyoshi Nishioka will likely be in a utility role and spend time at both middle infield positions. Jamey Carroll may end up at second base at some point. I think we can assume that Brian Dozier will be plenty of time at second base in the minor leagues and could be ready at some point in 2012. Pedro FLorimon, Michael Hollimon and Ray Chang also provide depth.

Third Base

Danny Valencia remains the starting third baseman. The numbers from 2011 didn’t match his rookie season of 2010, but if he continues to hit line drives like he did in 2011, the hits will fall in. Luke Hughes can spend some time there as well. Knowing how Ron Gardenhire works, I would not be at all surprised if we hear him talking about Sean Burroughs as competition for Valencia. That would, of course, be crazy, but Burroughs has definitely hit at the AAA level and can be a decent bench option for the Twins at some point this season. Michael Hollimon and Ray Chang provide depth. And Deibinson Romero had a solid season in AA and remains in the system.

Shortstop

Jamey Carroll isn’t young, and may not have a ton of range, but he will make all the plays that he gets to and he is an on-base machine who will fit nicely into the #2 spot in the lineup as well. Nishioka and Alexi Casilla can give him a day off occasionally. As we know, Brian Dozier is waiting in the wings. Will he start the season in New Britain or with Rochester? We shall see. Pedro Florimon is a flashy defender who debuted last September with the Orioles. I believe that we would have seen Ray Chang with the Twins at some point last year if not for his broken fibula.

Free Agents

The one free agent that is intriguing is Derrek Lee. He’d be a nice right-handed bat who could play 1B and also DH. Of course, he would likely cost more than the Twins are willing to spend.

Other infield free agents include: Wilson Betemit, Brooks Conrad, Craig Counsell, Miguel Tejada, Orlando Cabrera, Ronny Cedeno, Alex Cora, Adam Everett, Aaron Miles, Will Rhymes, Omar Vizquel, Jack Wilson, Russell Branyan, Jorge Cantu, Carlos Guillen, Brad Hawpe, Dan Johnson, Casey Kotchman and Xavier Nady.

Frankly, none of those names are all that intriguing. Some were good several years ago. Some are solid utility guys. The Twins have a lot of question marks, but none of these options would do anything toward helping the Twins compete in 2012. The Twins chose to invest in Nishioka, enough to give him a second chance after a season that quickly came to a halt just six games into the season. He had a lot to overcome, and maybe in a less stressful role, we can see what he is really capable (good or bad!). The Twins have solid, unspectacular starters, and Morneau is a difference-maker if only he can be healthy. There is depth at Rochester and on the bench. And, Brian Dozier is probably pretty close to big-league ready.

What would you do? Feel free to leave comments in the Comments section.

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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.

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  • 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.

Twins Notes (Live Twins Chat Tonight at 7)

2 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

First things first, it was 14 degrees BELOW ZERO on my drive to work today. It just reminds me that, in six days, I will be in Ft. Myers!! And, to commemorate that (or just because), there will be a 5% discount the rest of this week on the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook – 2011. From what I’m told, the handbook is a great help for those that go to Ft. Myers, for people in the cities of the Twins minor league affiliates and for Twins fans anywhere who are looking for information on the Twins system.

Also, as of yesterday, the Maple Street Press Twins Annual 2011 should now be available on newsstands throughout Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota and in Ft. Myers. Let people know where they can get them in the comments. I know there are Twins fans all over the globe, so if you can’t find them locally or if you live elsewhere, you can still get a copy directly from Maple Street Press.  

Finally, at 7:00 tonight, I will again be hosting a SethSpeaks.net Live Twins Chat. I will answer your Twins (or other) questions until 9:00 when I would encourage people to try to listen to Fanatic Jack’s Twins Talk podcast at 612sports.net. To sign up for an e-mail reminder, to participate in the chat or to read the transcipt later, Click Here.

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After a long, drawn out Yankees-related blog yesterday, I feel the need to just post a bunch of quick Twins thoughts today. I know several people were not happy with me writing about the Yankees prospects or somehow perpetuating the Francisco Liriano to the Yankees rumors. So when Ken Rosenthal wrote an article last night talking about how the Twins are holding strong that they would need Manny Banuelos in a trade for Liriano, it kind of validated the time I put into the article. Brian Cashman, and Terry Ryan, insist there is nothing going on. OK!

Here are a few more Twins notes:

  • The biggest story on Thursday was that Joe Nathan returned to the mound in a game for the first time in a year. He pitched a scoreless fourth inning, only allowing a walk. His fastball was in the 86-90 range. In my mind, that didn’t matter. Simply getting back on the mound was a big thing. To get that out of the way is huge for his confidence, and a good stepping stone to the rest of spring. He said later that he felt like “a kid in a candy store.”
  • The Twins mentioned that Francisco Liriano will pitch in the “B” game on a back field on Friday rather than pitch for the Twins in a Major League game. This happens all the time, so no need to make much out of it.
  • Justin Morneau saw a Doctor in Pittsburgh yesterday, but he was not cleared to play in games. I’m not certain how to take that. I’m sure they did some tests and talked to him about how things are going. However, he is practicing daily, live batting practice, fielding ground balls. Games may actually be even easier on him. The one area I would have concern about is if he is on first base and wants to break up a double play. Hopefully he’ll have another visit in a week and get that clearance.
  • On Tuesday, Michael Cuddyer had his wart removed by a doctor in Minneapolis. He is expected to miss a week or two. The feet are obviously a very important part of the human body if they affect things like, you know, walking. So, it’s great that he got it done now. The question I have is why he had to go to Minneapolis to get the wart removed. Are doctors in Ft. Myers not capable of wart removals?
  • The missed time by Morneau and Cuddyer has opened up an opportunity for additional playing time for Joe Benson, Chris Parmelee and Rene Tosoni this spring, as this News-Press article tells us.
  • For those interested, and I know many aren’t, here is #MyIdolBallot – 1. James, 2. Casey, 3. Paul, 4. Stefano, 5. Brett, 6. Clint, 7. Scotty, 8. Tim, 9. Jacob, 10. Jovany, 11. Robbie, 12. Jordan.
  • Kyle Gibson, Carlos Gutierrez and David Bromberg each made their spring debuts yesterday afternoon. Two pitches into Gibson’s outing, he had given up a double, a single and a run. He struck out Mike Cameron on a slider before walking The Greek God of Walks (Kevin Youklis). Then he caught a line drive back to him and doubled a runner off of first base to end the inning. Gutierrez gave up a hit in a scoreless inning, although he threw a lot of balls. Bromberg got the first two batters he faced, but then gave up two runs on three hits before getting the final out. Gibson discussed his first outing, Blaine Gabbert and much, much more with Paul Allen in the 9:00 hour of the show today. Check out the podcast here.
  • The Twins managed just four hits on the day against the Red Sox pitchers. Danny Valencia was 2-2. Danny Rams launched a long, opposite field double, and Chase Lambin hit a hard single.
  • On Wednesday, the Twins travel to Bradenton to play the Pittsburgh Pirates.
  • Minnesota native and former Twins minor leaguer Mark Hamburger, who was traded to the Rangers in the Eddie Guardado trade a few years ago, made his big league spring training debut yesterday. He and his upper-90s fastball threw eight pitches (7 strikes) in a 1-2-3 seventh inning.
  • Nick Nelson wrote a tremendous article on the TwinsCore Four.”
  • Twins fans interested in the AL Central should follow AL Central in Focus. Here is a prospect profile on Ben Revere. Or a prospect profile on Liam Hendriks, who is now on Twitter.
  • Aaron Gleeman continued his Top 40 Twins series with #25, a player Twins fans from 1991 will remember well.
  • Knuckleballs did a great service for Twins fans around the state by posting the Twins Radio Affiliates, including a map!
  • North Dakota Twins Fan asks if spring success leads to regular season success. I most agree with Conclusion #5!
  • Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau hanging out with Tim Kirkjan and John Kruk (photo from MN Twins). Baseball Tonight’s Twins preview today at 2:30.

Please feel free to comment in the comments section.

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!

Twins Fest Weekend: Part 2 (Chat with Bill Smith)

2 Feb

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

I will be breaking up my Twins Fest Weekend into several blog postings. In Part 1, I wrote about Friday night at the Ballpark Tours Hot Stove Banquet. The next few blogs will be various topics from the two days I spent at Twins Fest.

On Saturday, the gates opened at 9:00 a.m., and I got there about 9:45 or so. Even at that time, I had to park in the Overflow parking lot. It was cold, so fortunately there was a shuttle bus going frequently to the Blaine National Sports Center, so it wasn’t too bad. I walked in, and as I was walking down the hallway, someone came walking toward me saying, “There he is, it’s Seth Stohs.” I looked, and it was Fanatic Jack. He was standing where he was, on his phone, on the Dez Tobin Saturday morning Twins podcast. I didn’t bother him too much, although I did tweet that I was listening.

I walked around and saw Mike Radcliff (Twins Director of Player Personnel) over by the Down on the Farm area, so I went up and talked with him for a few minutes. It seems that I see him just once a year, at Twins Fest, and try to get five minutes with him. He’s very nice and happy to answer questions. He commented that the spring competitions would be for the extra infielder and obviously in the bullpen.

After a few minutes, I went to a concession area that didn’t have a long line. I noticed that 1500espn’s Darren “Doogie” Wolfson grabbing something to eat. I went up to him and asked where his security was. It was nice catching up with Doogie again, and he was on his way to the 1500espn area where he was on air with KSTP’s Joe Schmit from 12-2.

By this point, I had also run into Andrew Bryz-Gornia, who worked Twins Fest on Friday night and Saturday and then went as a fan on Sunday. Also, the North Dakota Twins Fan was there with Mrs. North Dakota Twins Fan, and it was good to hang out with the two of them at various times throughout the day.

I met Fanatic Jack and we were just chatting in the middle of a walk way when Bill Smith walked by. Fanatic Jack went up to Mr. Smith, which of course made me a little nervous, but he mentioned he was a season ticket holder and we all shook hands. Jack was really complementary, and frankly, I was in awe at Jack being so nice. Suddenly, he started asking questions:

Justin Morneau

I know I said I wouldn’t discuss the Justin Morneau situation anymore until spring training, but I will briefly here because Jack asked Bill Smith a question about it. And, as he had said the night before at the Diamond Awards, they have “April 1st circled on their calendar.” That’s when they want him ready. March 1st would be great, but they want him ready by Opening Day. At that point, I was happy with that answer…

Unfortunately, he continued by saying that they don’t want him to go back and forth from playing to the Disabled List and back. If they means they wait until May 1st or June 1st or even July 1st, they will wait. He talked about how he is now a father, and they want him to be able to live a long and healthy life with his family.

So, now I’m back at WHO KNOWS? And I’m back to not talking about it because I do know that I don’t know. I’m no doctor, so I guess we will have to see.

Francisco Liriano

Next, Jack asked if the team had any plans to discuss a multi-year contract with Francisco Liriano. Again, I expected Mr. Smith to say something like, “Well, we will think about that and if something happens, we’ll let you know.”

Nope!

Bill Smith instantly said, “No, we are going to go year-to-year with Liriano, at least for one more year. We definitely recognize the risk in doing that and if he has another big year, it will cost us some money.”

What is the financial risk? Well, if you read the Offseason GM Handbook or my Locking Up Liriano blog from last fall, I compared what Liriano could get this offseason to what Zach Greinke and Josh Johnson got at the same point in their careers. Like Liriano, both were risks at the time of the signing and although they had experienced success were not quite at the level they are today. They were both in their second year of arbitration, as is Liriano. Zach Greinke got four years and $38 million. Josh Johnson got four years and $39 million. I think that it would cost the Twins four years and $40 million to lock up Liriano for 2011 through 2014 if they did it this spring. If Liriano were to have another very good year, I could see him getting a five year, $72 million type of contract after 2011. That extends the risk a couple of years, but it keeps him around a little longer, and a big chunk of that $72 million is paid in the final two years. However, the amount paid from 2011 through 2014 would only be $3-5 million more than signing him now. (see guestimated chart below) Obviously with Liriano there are injury risks that can’t just be ignored (however, that is also true of any pitcher).

  Yr-2-Yr 4/40 now Long-Term Next Yr
2011 $ 4.5M $ 4M $ 4.5M
2012 $ 9M $ 8M $ 9M
2013 F/A $ 14M $ 15M
2014 F/A $ 14M $ 16M
2015 F/A F/A $ 18M
2016 F/A F/A $ 19M

So, I would be in favor of locking up Liriano now for four years, but I certainly can also understand that a lot of the risk in signing Liriano this year is on the Twins part. The five year, $72 million deal in a year is my guess if Liriano has another great year. Obviously we all believe he can and hope he does, but we don’t know.

But back to the Twins Fest/Bill Smith discussion, I was quite surprised that he was as upfront about not negotiating long-term with Liriano.

MORE MOVES COMING?

One of Jack’s other questions was whether or not the team would consider adding another player, bullpen or other, before spring training. Smith said, “We currently are at 59 players that we have invited to training camp, and ironically, we have 59 lockers in Ft. Myers.” That created a chuckle. Obviously it doesn’t mean that they couldn’t add another player.

He did stress that they have brought in a lot of pitchers to compete for some spots. He named James Hoey, and he mentioned Dusty Hughes. He mentioned Jeff Manship and Scott Diamond. He was talking about another pitcher they had added, and I said, “Eric Hacker?” He said, “Yes.”

I completely agree with this philosophy of building the bullpen with internal options which would include one of the six starting pitchers. They have plenty of arms. It might take training camp and a month or so to figure out what the best combination is, and what roles some in the back end of the bullpen will fill, but there are plenty of good arms.

It was pretty cool conversing, and watching Fanatic Jack converse with, Bill Smith. I wasn’t sure how it would go, but in the end, Jack could not get over what an affable man Smith was.

If you have any thoughts on this posting, please feel free to e-mail me or leave comments below.

Is Parmelee Prepared to Play?

17 Nov

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Since the Twins announced that Justin Morneau would not play in the playoffs, we have heard very little about his status. Last week, we heard that there has been little change… and that he didn’t like hitting at Target Field. The concussion that Morneau sustained on July 7th in Toronto ended his season. It was his second concussion during his Major League career. Who knows how many he had sustained previously? Some place blame on Morneau for not playing through it. Some blame the Twins medical staff for not being able to provide a timeline for return, although there is no way they could have known an exact time table for Morneau’s return.

The general thought is that Morneau will be able to rest during the offseason and in doing so, the concussion symptoms will go away and he will be at 100% in spring training. We certainly hope that is the case since he is one of the best players in baseball. At the time of his injury in 2010, he was a leading candidate for his second AL MVP. Who knows how the Twins playoff run would have gone with a healthy Morneau?

But there is also a scary potential outcome, one that we hopefully will not need to worry about. What is Morneau is never fully recovered? What if the headaches and the fogginess do not go away? Consider the case of Corey Koskie. Like Morneau, Koskie’s concussion happened on a play that didn’t look too bad. He dove backwards for a foul pop-up, and the whiplash effect and head to ground contact effectively ended Koskie’s career. He tried to come back a few times and was unable to. He finally called it a career in spring training of 2009 while trying out for the Cubs.

What would happen if Justin Morneau is unable to come back in 2011? There are a lot of free agent 1B on the market. Maybe the Twins could wait until January or February and see if there is a right-handed hitting 1B option still available that would be insurance for Morneau at 1B, and also a DH and pinch-hitting option. Obviously at that point, we are not talking about Paul Konerko or Derrek Lee, but maybe one of the group of Jorge Cantu, Troy Glaus, or Xavier Nady could be available for a one year contract for $1-2 million.

\However, I think another option emerged as the 2010 season went along, and particularly over the past month. 2006 first-round draft pick Chris Parmelee put together a terrific second half of the season at Double-A New Britain. Has he done enough to be ready to take over the Twins 1B position should Morneau not be ready? Could he fill in short-term? Could he be the answer for all of 2011 and beyond?

On May 16, Parmelee was hitting just .186 (19/102), and he was sent back to Ft. Myers. Sometime clicked while working with Miracle hitting coach Jim Dwyer and he hit .338/.430/.463 in 93 plate appearances. On June 9th, he returned to the Rockcats and from that point forward, he hit .282 in June. He hit .343 in July, and he hit .303 in August. One need look no further than his walk and strikeout rates to see where a lot of the improvement lies.

Month BB% K%
April 4.6% 27.7%
May 6.4% 23.4%
June 4.9% 8.5%
July 10.7% 12.3%
August 14.9% 11.6%
September 7.7% 19.2%

Just a quick analysis of these numbers says that contact was an issue early, and he was likely getting behind in the count and not putting the ball in play. In the shortened June time frame, it would appear that he was likely just swinging early and not being patient at all in an attempt to not strike out. That’s not usually a good strategy either. But when he returned from his one-month sabbatical in Ft. Myers, the walk rate was higher and the strikeout rate was greatly decreased. The improvement shown, and the adjustment that Parmelee made are the types of things that coaches and scouts should be excited about. (note – September was just 26 plate appearances).

Do I think that Chris Parmelee is necessarily ready to contribute to the Twins early in 2011? It’s hard to say. There are things that he still needs to work on. The walk rate/strikeout rate improvement is huge. Despite hitting great in the second half, Parmelee did not show the power yet that he clearly will. Parmelee has incredible power potential that will just need more time to develop. But no matter when he is promoted, the power will likely take time to develop anyway. Defensively, Parmelee is greatly improved at 1B but still needs more reps and more time to get to where he can be. He will not be on the same level as Justin Morneau. Then again, Morneau was not a great 1B when he first came up to the Twins either.

When the season begins, Parmelee will be 23 years old. The left-handed hitter is a certainty to be added to the 40 man roster later this week, so he will go to big league spring training for the first time in February. I found it interesting that the Twins decided to send Parmelee to the Arizona Fall League for the second straight year. They typically don’t do that. Then he went out and hit .340/.398/.476 with 10 doubles and two triples. When I saw that he was heading to the Fall League, it was the first time I started wondering about the possibility of him being needed with the Twins already in 2011. That said, it is not the Twins Way to promote a player from Double-A. It doesn’t happen terribly often. Brad Radke. Joe Mauer. Can you think of any other players promoted from Double-A to start a season over the last 15-20 years?

Obviously this is a difficult discussion because clearly Option Number One is for Morneau to be back at 100% mentally and physically. The MVP certainly makes the Twins better. Also, Parmelee would be able to continue his progression and development on a more ideal schedule. I will say this, Parmelee is close. Probably closer to big-league ready that many might think.

With that in mind, I was able to ask Chris Parmelee three questions last night and he was gracious enough to answer:

SethSpeaks: How much can playing in the AFL help you as you prepare to advance to the big leagues?

Chris Parmelee: The Arizona Fall League is a fantastic league and I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to play in ’09 and ’10. It’s a challenging league with tons of talent, you see guys from high A to some that have big league experience and getting those AB’s off the guys that have big league time under there belt helps out. All the AB’s count because the more AB’s you get the more knowledgeable you become of your own swing and the strike zone.

SethSpeaks: As you head into the offseason, and likely are added to the 40 man roster, what is your mind set looking to 2011?

Chris Parmelee: Heading into the off season I’ll be working hard in the weight room and increasing my foot work. The 2011 season I’m excited for, I’m excited for Spring Training and wherever the Twins place me is where I’ll start.

SethSpeaks: If Justin Morneau is unable to play at the start of the 2011 season, do you think that you are ready to contribute at the big league level for the Twins, offensively and defensively?

Chris Parmelee: Yes, I feel that if the Twins called upon me for that role that I would be prepared.

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  • On last night’s SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins Podcast, I was joined by Steve Buffum from the Cleveland blog The B-List Indians Blog and Craig Brown from Royals Authority to talk about the offseasons of those two teams. The rest of the show was filled with Twins topics such as the Arizona Fall League, the Australian Winter League, and the winter leagues in the Caribbean. I also discussed the Twins 40 man roster addition options, which should become official on Friday.
  • Danny Valencia told me that he will be a guest on my podcast next week. He is on a cruise at the moment and was unable to call in last night from South America. However, yesterday he was in Honduras and still a guest on 1500 ESPN with Patrick Reusse and Phil Mackey. You can listen to it here.
  • Ron Gardenhire should be named the AL Manager of the Year today, although Ron Washington could make Gardy a runner-up for the fifth time in his career.
  • Yes, I absolutely think that the Twins should bid on Tsuyoshi Nishioka who is expected to be posted by Chiba Lotte in the coming days. It is expected that the winning bid will be in the neighborhood of $15-20 million. And that goes to the team in Japan just for the right to negotiate with Nishioka. The middle infielder is still young and can play either position. Acquiring him would certainly make JJ Hardy expendable. Hopefully they could find a take for him via trade.

Any thoughts? Feel free to e-mail me or Comment Here.

It’s Friday!

16 Jul

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net (which is where any updates will be posted):

Good morning! Well, I went to the Twins/White Sox game last night. Not much good to say about the game. It was approximately a month long, I think. As Kevin Slowey’s pitch count rose in the first and second inning, and as the Gordon Beckham home run was landing in the left field second deck, I immediately realized that I was wrong. Anthony Slama would not be coming up, but Jeff Manship would need to instead. After the game, Justin Morneau was put on the Disabled List and Manship was called up. It was an easy decision. With Slowey having a short start, and the concerns about Blackburn, and the “never-know” factor, they need someone who can eat up more than two innings when the starter can’t. That’s Manship. I know his AAA numbers are not very good, but first, they’re better than the other starters, and second, for some reason, he’s found a way to pitch better with the Twins than he has in Rochester. Hopefully that can continue. It happened with Brian Duensing. He was a so-so pitcher in AAA and he has really done a tremendous job out of the Twins bullpen.

John Danks gave up six runs in the second inning, yet still found a way to finish six innings. To me, that’s impressive. Whereas when the Twins starters struggle early, they can’t find a way to get it going at all, and generally don’t get out of the second or third inning.

For those of you trying to find out who the Twins should send down or release to make room for Anthony Slama, here are some numbers from the guys that we most frequently hear should be gone:

  • Ron Mahay has given up just two runs since June 1st, both have been on solo home runs. That is a stretch of 15.1 innings and 15 appearances.
  • Jesse Crain has not given up an earned run since June 5th when he gave up two runs in 0.2 innings. Before that, he had not given up an earned run since May 20th. So, since May 20th, Crain has given up two earned runs in 20.1 innings covering 21 outings. He has 19 strikeouts to seven walks in that time frame. That May 20th appearance dropped his ERA from 7.31 to 6.88, and it is now down to 3.72 for the season.
  • Alex Burnett showed early this season what he can do and what he can be, but the about-to-be 23-year-old has certainly struggled of late. In 6.2 July innings, he has given up seven runs in 6.2 innings (9.45 ERA). He has given up multiple runs in three of his six appearances. He also gave up multiple runs in two of his final five June games. That doesn’t include his June 27th game when he gave up two hits and a walk in 1/3 of an inning and somehow didn’t give up a run. I do think he is a guy who could be demoted to Rochester. The team already used up his 2010 option early in the season, and it might be a good thing for him. Like I said, he has shown just how good he can be, and how important he will be in coming years for the Twins.

Be sure to read LaVelle’s Twins Insider blog from yesterday. He’s got good stuff on Anthony Slama and several more minor league updates including injury updates on Aaron Hicks and Spencer Steedley, and another international signing.  

I must get to work this morning, but hopefully I can spend some time adding more Twins notes at lunch.