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Twins Organizational Depth Chart: The Outfielders

1 Feb

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

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

At this point, we have reviewed the infielders and catchers throughout the Twins organization. Today, we will jump to the outfield. This information, of course, could be completely altered by an unexpected free agent signing or a trade. This exercise is not so much an attempt to perfectly predict where all of these players will wind up. In reality, there will be changes. Several players will be released. Some will be placed a level higher (or lower) than I would guess. This is just giving readers a reminder of who remains in the Twins system from last year, and who are the new players brought in this year. That said, I try to think about where these guys will

I need to reiterate that these are my thoughts. I have no insider information to know where players will be playing for certain in 2012. Obviously after spring training, some of these players will be let go. There will be Disabled List players, extended spring training and more.

Minnesota Twins  

Ben Revere (LF), Denard Span (CF), Josh Willingham (RF), Trevor Plouffe, Ryan Doumit

A lot of people seem to wonder why Willingham would be the right fielder. To me, that’s an easy choice. At Target Field, left field, centerfield and the gaps are pretty huge. I want Span and Revere covering the ground. Willingham isn’t a good left fielder. As far as playing the strange bounces off of the right field wall, anyone can have difficulties and will have to adjust to hit. Willingham will walk a lot and hit a bunch of home runs. I was chatting with Jamie Ogden at Twins Fest, and the comment that we agreed upon was the he will have the ability to take advantage of a pitcher’s mistakes and hit them a long way. It’s nice to have a guy like that in the middle of the lineup. As for Revere, I think it’s much better for him to play 3B. Simply, the throw from LF to 3B is much shorter than it is from CF. Also, the throw to home from CF is longer. Span doesn’t have a rocket for an arm, but he can throw. Span, when healthy, is a good on-base guy with speed and some extra base pop. Revere should be much improved, at least in terms of OBP, in 2012. He said that his goal is to steal 100 bases on 2012. He dropped that number to 80, but he plans on going whenever he gets a chance. Even though he didn’t play great in 2011, he made the Twins fun to watch and he made things happen. Imagine what he can make happen when he actually gets on base at a good clip! Trevor Plouffe should get plenty of time in left field, but he could also DH. He can hit lefties, and it will be interesting to see how he does in left field now that he doesn’t have the infielder’s glove. Ryan Doumit could get some time in right field as well.

Rochester Red Wings

Wilkin Ramirez (LF), Joe Benson (CF), Matt Carson (RF), Rene Tosoni, Mark Dolenc, Dustin Martin

Ramirez and Carson were minor league free agents brought in by the Twins. Carson is a power hitter. Ramirez is an all-around player who was a top prospect with the Tigers just a couple of years ago. Joe Benson has spent the past two years at New Britain, so he is ready for the challenges of AAA. He could move up to the Twins as necessary throughout the year, at least after the June Super 2 timeline. The same can be said of Rene Tosoni who will likely play nearly every day between the three outfield spots as well as DHing.  Benson could be a star if everything comes together. He could be a 30/30 guy with plus-defense in time. Tosoni is a guy who I think could fill a role as a platoon player and bench bat and occasional DH. He showed at times the power the he possesses. Dolenc has spent the past two years in New Britain and will likely need to advance to Rochester in 2012. He has averaged 439 plate appearances over the past four years and had a career-high 467 plate appearances in 2011. He has terrific tools, can play all three positions, gets on base, has very good speed, and plays really good defense with a strong arm. Dustin Martin put together his best year at Rochester (in his third season there).

New Britain Rock Cats

Angel Morales (LF), Aaron Hicks (CF), Evan Bigley (RF), Steve Liddle, Michael Hollimon

Aaron Hicks had a frustrating and inconsistent season in 2011 in Ft. Myers. He was tremendous in June and then struggled for a couple of months. He definitely represented himself well in the Arizona Fall League. His defense and arm are certainly ready for advancement. It is a big year for Hicks. He will be added to the 40 man roster following the season, but he will have to continue to show improvement on the field, in his approach at the plate and show consistency. What he does in 2012 may determine whether he remains a switch-hitter as well. Evan Bigley spent all of 2011 in New Britain and showed that he could be a candidate for a midseason promotion. Angel Morales is younger than Hicks (something many seem to forget). 2011 was a lost year for him. He missed three months with his elbow injury. He had arthroscopic surgery and came back at the end of the season. He has good speed and a vastly improved approach at the plate. Although he hasn’t hit as many home runs the last couple of seasons, no one seems to be worried about his power. Liddle really struggled last season in Ft. Myers, and he had shoulder surgery following the year. The Vanderbilt product is the nephew of Twins 3B coach Steve Liddle. Hollimon can play all around the infield and can also play around the outfield. He could be the guy to go back and forth between New Britain and Rochester regardless of where the need is.   

Ft. Myers Miracle

Lance Ray (LF), Nate Roberts (CF), Oswaldo Arcia (RF), Wang-Wei Lin, Danny Rams, Dan Rohlfing

I was surprised when the Twins sent Arcia to Ft. Myers following rehab of his elbow. I would be surprised if he jumps up to New Britain to start the season, but not completely. If he has one thing to work on, it is cutting down on the strikeouts. I think he can end the year with the Rock Cats. Lance Ray can hit, even if his 2011 Beloit numbers didn’t strongly indicate that. He has a very fluid swing and good power. Nate Roberts was the 5th round pick a couple of years ago. He missed a lot of time on the DL with a knee injury. He is an on-base machine, taking walks and always willing to get hit. Wang-Wei Lin has steadily improved over his time, and after two years in Beloit, he will need to play in Ft. Myers. He has a good, line drive swing but the Taiwan native still has plenty to improve. Dan Rohlfing impressed behind the plate and will go to big league spring training in that role, but he can also play the outfield. At Instructs, Rams was moved to the outfield, although he will continue to catch some. The goal is to let him really focus on his swing and his bat.  

Beloit Snappers

Danny Ortiz (LF), JD Williams (CF), Tyler Koelling (RF), Drew Leachman, Matej Hejma, Jhonatan Goncalves

Ortiz was my choice for player of the month last April in Beloit, but it was a struggle through most of his season. He could start with the Snappers and spend a couple of months there (he already played in the Midwest League All-Star game last year). Tyler Koelling and Drew Leachman are two college outfielders who should advance to Beloit. JD Williams had an incredible season in Elizabethton in 2011, yet it went almost unnoticed thanks to Rosario and Sano. Baseball America just called him the fastest player in the Twins farm system, and he has the ability to bunt for hits from both sides of the plate. He played RF usually for the E-Twins because Eddie Rosario was in center. Matej Hejma is from the Czech Republic. Although he didn’t play a lot, or that well, in Elizabethton, he has to move up to Beloit because he has already played three seasons in the short season leagues. Goncalves is an interesting case. He has played most of the past two seasons in Ft. Myers, but he ended last year in Beloit which is probably where he should have been all along.  

Extended Spring Training/Short-Season

Max Kepler (CF), Candido Pimentel, Romy Jimenez, Kelvin Mention, Kelvin Ortiz, Dereck Rodriguez

Like Niko Goodrum, I suspect that Kepler will begin the season at Extended Spring Training. Like Goodrum, I suspect that Kepler will not return to Elizabethton but will instead advance to Beloit before the short season begins. He has so much talent but is still very raw. Pimentel is similar to Otis Nixon, very thin and very fast. Romy Jimenez (formerly known as Romy Trinidad) missed most of last year with an injury in his first year in the States. Kelvin Mention did miss all of 2011 with injury. Kelvin Ortiz came to the States and really struggled. He should go back to the GCL. And Dereck Rodriguez (the son of Ivan Rodriguez) will certainly spend another season in the GCL.  

TOP THREE (OR SO…) PROSPECTS

1.)    Oswaldo Arcia, 2.) Aaron Hicks, 3.) Joe Benson, 4.) Angel Morales, 5.) Max Kepler, 6.) JD Williams, 7.) Lance Ray, 8.) Danny Ortiz

SUMMARY

Barring injury, the Twins starting outfield should be solid despite the losses of Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel (And to a lesser extent, Jason Repko). Benson and Tosoni are fairly close to being ready to contribute on a regular basis. Beyond that, there is a lot of talent but a lot of question marks. Can Aaron Hicks take that next step? Will Angel Morales return in 2012 with some added power? How quickly will the Twins advance Oswaldo Arcia? The ceilings of JD Williams and Max Kepler are very high, and there are so college draft picks (Roberts, Ray, etc.) who could advance fairly quickly. Of course, Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano also remain in the future outfield situation as well which provide even more depth over time. Outfield is a position of strength for the Twins system. 2012 will be a big year for many of them! 

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

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SethSpeaks.net Twins Minor League July Hitters/Pitchers of the Month

2 Aug

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

It is hard to believe that we are now into August and four months of the baseball season is already complete. The minor league seasons will be complete right around Labor Day, so we are about three-quarters of the way through the season. Today, it is time for me to again consider the top performers in the Twins minor league system for July.

Real quickly, here are the top players from the season’s first three months:

Hitters: 

  • April: Daniel Ortiz – Beloit Snappers
  • May: Brian Dozier – Ft. Myers Miracle
  • June: Aaron Hicks – Ft. Myers Miracle

Relief Pitchers:

  • April: Cole DeVries – New Britain Rock Cats
  • May: Chuck James – Rochester Red Wings
  • June: Andrew Albers – Ft. Myers Miracle

Starting Pitchers:

  • April: Steve Hirschfeld – New Britain Rock Cats
  • May: Steve Hirschfeld – New Britain Rock Cats
  • June: Tom Stuifbergen – Ft. Myers Miracle

So, who are the choices for July? Below, I will post the stats for my choices for #5, #4, #3, and #2 before announcing the choice for the #1. I will write a little about the winner while giving stats for #2-5. For more on the runners-up, and more honorable mentions, go to SethSpeaks.net over the next couple of days.

HITTER of JULY

  • #5 – Jeff Bailey – Rochester Red Wings (.314/.402/.614 with 6 doubles, 3 triples, 4 home runs and 21 RBI)
  • #4 – Deibinson Romero – New Britain Rock Cats (.308/.360/615 with 7 doubles, 7 home runs and 16 RBI)
  • #3 – Chris Parmelee – New Britain Rock Cats (.305/.397/.559 with 8 doubles, 2 triples, 6 home runs and 26 RBI)
  • #2 – Lance Ray – Beloit Snappers (.312/389/.602 with 12 doubles, 5 home runs and 22 RBI)

And the July Twins Minor League Hitter of the Month is… Jairo Perez, Beloit Snappers.

The Twins signed Perez out of Venezuela in July of 2006. He had a pretty non-descript career coming into this season. In fact, he missed the entire 2010 season after having Tommy John surgery. He did not play in 2011 until mid-June. But since his return, he has done nothing but hit, and hit for power. On the season, he has hit .351/.427/.613 with 11 doubles, 11 home runs and 46 RBI in just 45 games. In July, he hit .320/.393/.610 with eight doubles, seven home runs and 30 RBI. With the Snappers, he is primarily playing 3B but also getting some playing time at 2B. At just 5-10 and 160 pounds, the 23 year old takes a mammoth swing and does hit the ball very hard. It will be interesting to see if he advances to Ft. Myers by the end of the season.

RELIEF PITCHER of JULY

  • #4 – Madison Boer – Elizabethton Twins – 1-1, 5 Saves, 3.75 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 12 IP, 2 BB, 21 K, .239 BAA.
     
  • #3 – Matt Summers – Elizabethton Twins – 1-1, 3 Saves, 1.50 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 12 IP, 3 BB, 21 K, .186 BAA
  • #2 – Matt Hauser – Ft. Myers Miracle – 0-2, 1.72 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 15.2 IP, 6 BB, 16 K, .167 BA

And the July Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month is… Kyle Waldrop, Rochester Red Wings.

We keep reading that the Twins don’t have anyone in Rochester who could help out the Twins bullpen. If you look at Waldrop’s season stats (4.20 ERA, 1.32 WHIP), it is hard to believe that he is ready to contribute, but in July, he was terrific! He went 2-0 with a 1.37 ERA and a 0.76 WHIP. In 13 games, he threw 19.2 innings. He gave up just 12 hits, walked three and struck out 14. What is most impressive is his 11.67 ground balls per fly balls. He has always been a major ground ball pitcher, but those numbers are incredible. One of the Twins first-round picks in 2004, he could have become a 6-year minor league free agent last offseason. Instead, he signed back with the Twins quickly. He did a great job in spring training again, and looks to an opportunity to make his big league debut with the Twins.

STARTING PITCHER of JULY

  • #5 – Hung-yi Chen – GCL Twins – 0-2, 2.00 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 18 IP, 4 BB, 19 K, .246 BAA
  • #4 – Angel Mata – GCL Twins – 0-0, 0.56 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, 16 IP, 4 BB, 12 K, .135 BAA
  • #3 – Pedro Guerra – Elizabethton Twins – 2-1, 3.41 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 29 IP, 4 BB, 30 K, .154 BAA
  • #2 – Liam Hendriks – New Britain Rock Cats & Rochester Red Wings, 3-0, 3.38 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 26.2 IP, 2 BB, 17 K. 
    •  BONUS INFO (because Twins fans need to start getting to know Liam Hendriks!) – July was a busy month for Hendriks, the one person who has been in the Top 5 all three months previously this year. He began the month in New Britain where he made just one start. He went seven innings and gave up just two runs on four hits and a walk. He then pitched an inning in the Futures Game, representing the Twins and his home of Australia. He then went and played in the Double A Eastern League All Star game. He was then promoted to Triple-A Rochester, where he has gone 2-0 with a 3.66 ERA in three starts. He has given up eight runs on 22 hits and a walk in 19.2 innings. Hendriks began the 2010 season in Beloit before moving up to Ft. Myers for the remainder of the season. This year, he began in New Britain and now is toiling in Rochester. Don’t be surprised if Hendriks earns a September call-up to the Twins because he has to be added to the 40 man roster following the season anyway.

And the July Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month is… BJ Hermsen, Beloit Snappers

After spending some time in Beloit in 2010, Hermsen is having a terrific first full season with the Snappers. He is 11-7 with a 3.08 ERA on the year. In 117 innings, he has given up 124 hits and walked just 30. He isn’t a strikeout pitcher (just 75). At 6-5 and 235 pounds, the 21 year old from Iowa was the team’s 6th round pick in 2008. In July, Hermsen went 5-1 with a 1.89 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. In 38 innings, he walked nine and struck out 25. Opponents hit just .227 against him. Hermsen teams with Adrian Salcedo for a very strong 1-2 punch for the Snappers. 

So there you have it. Congratulations to the July players of the month – Hitter: Jairo Perez (Beloit), Reliever: Kyle Waldrop (Rochester) and Starting Pitcher: BJ Hermsen (Beloit). There were a lot of good hitting and pitching performances in July.

——————–

Please feel free to discuss and ask questions.

Live from Beloit: Game 2 (and, another Twins minor league no-hitter)

17 Jul

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Seriously, it may just be me. Maybe I am bad luck for the Snappers? Is it possible? I have now been to four Snappers games in the past two years and the team has gone 0-4 when I am there after last night’s 5-2 loss at the hands of the West Michigan White Caps.

This game was really about one bad inning, and a play that is rarely seen. Manuel Soliman started for the Snappers and really pitched well through four innings. He gave up a game-starting single but had no problems in the first inning. He pitched a perfect second inning. He got a double-play to end the third inning with just three batters faced. In the fourth inning, he gave up only a two-out single. He looked great. He was throwing hard. He was throwing strikes. He got a couple of great plays behind him. And then came the fifth inning. It started with a double and was followed by a run-scoring single. Then Danny Santana mis-played a ball at shortstop to set up a situation with runners on 1st and 2nd and nobody out. The Snappers set up the bunt defense. The batter bunted it back at Soliman, who fielded it, turned and fired a strike to 3B. Unfortunately, 3B Adam Bryant had charged in on the bunt and no one was covering 3B. The ball rolled all the way down the 3B line to the wall where Reggie Williams fielded it and got it in. However, the two base runners had scored and the batter got to 3B. Clearly flustered, Soliman stopped his delivery on the next pitch for a balk to score that runner. Catcher Jhonatan Arias did all he could to help calm Soliman. Afte a flyout, he gave up two weak singles before getting the final two outs on a weak grounder to 1B and a strikeout. Amazingly, Soliman went back out for the 6th inning. He gave up a home run on the first pitch of the sixth frame, but he followed with a strikeout and two easy outs.

Sam Spangler came in for his second appearance with the Snappers and he got all six batters that he faced out including striking out the side in the 8th inning. Michael Tonkin came in for the 9th and looks like a different pitcher than he did a year ago when he was starting. He struck out three in the inning with a single in between. The Snappers managed just four hits and a walk in the game. Danny Ortiz had two of them.

Most of the hitters that started on Friday night started on Saturday night as well. The changes were that Jhonatan Arias replaced Tobias Streich behind the plate and Reggie Williams started in left field in place of Derek McCallum. But there were several changes. On Friday night, Jairo Perez played 3B, Adam Bryant played SS and Danny Santana played 2B. On Saturday night, Perez played 2B, Bryant played 3B and Santana played shortstop. Also, on Friday night, Danny Ortiz played right field, Lance Ray played at 1B and Michael Gonzales was the DH. On Saturday night, Ray moved out to right field, Gonzales played 1B and Ortiz was the DH.

So, although I wrote notes on many of these players yesterday, here are my thoughts following the second game of those that played:

  • Wang-Wei Lin – He was 1-4, and the hit was a two-out bloop single to give the Twins their first run. He does take solid at bats and has a good, line drive swing. However, I really think that he is a solid defensive centerfielder. He gets really good jumps on the ball and covers a lot of ground. In BP, he actually showed some power.
  • Adam Bryant – Bryant has really impressed me. Without knowing the background, I do have to wonder why he was still around in the 9th round of this year’s draft. In this game, he grounded out to short and struck out looking twice. He also worked the only walk on the game, although that was a four-pitch walk. He did a nice job at 3B. He definitely fits that Twins mold. In the 7th or 8th inning, he dove for a soft liner in the 3B coach’s box that he had no chance to catch. He must have done something to a finger because he kept the glove off of his hand except literally when the pitch was being delivered. But, he stayed in the game. He has good speed and range at both of those infield spots. In batting practice, it is line drive after line drive from gap to gap.
  • Jairo Perez – 0-4 with two groundouts to short and two strikeouts, but man, he is fun to watch. He takes a big swing at all times. He can catch up to fastballs, but clearly struggles on breaking pitches. That said, just visually it appears that he can adjust. He did alright at 2B, although I don’t think he’d be a gold-glover. One bouncer, he should have either sat bat for a big hop or charged it for a short hop. He got a middle hop and played it like a 3B, just knocked-it-down, picked it up and threw out the runner by a ½ step. But he made most of the plays. Definitely looks like a 3B though.
  • Michael Gonzales – He was also 0-4. He had a deep fly to center field in his first at bat. In his second bat, he hit a high, towering shot that the right fielder caught at the fence. He grounded into a 3-6-3 double play, but although he isn’t fast by any means, he is no longer plodding along. Defensively, he did a nice job at 1B. He had to pick a couple of short-hops, and his 6-6 height allowed him to make a very nice jumping catch down the line. Could he move up to Ft. Myers? Probably. But I also think it’s good that he just stay in Beloit and (hopefully) continue to succeed rather than get pushed too much.
  • Lance Ray – Ray was 1-3 with a double. The double was absolutely crushed off the base of the wall in right field. The guy just has a great swing. He’s not big but he has big power. He can impress in batting practice, but he doesn’t consider himself any type of hitter. Travis and I talked to him before the game, and he said he knows he has some power but doesn’t consider himself a power hitter. He does hit line drives from gap to gap and sometimes he’ll get one. (Note – again, he may be just humble too because he did crush that opposite field bomb the night before.) He played right field in this game and did a solid job out there. But again, not a lot of opportunities.
  • Daniel Ortiz – Ortiz DHd in this game, so I nothing more to report on his defense. But he can hit. He went 2-3. In the fourth inning, he hit a double one pitch after Ray’s double. Like Ray, he crushed it and it hit the base of the wall in right field nearly exactly to the same spot as Ray’s. He added another solid single through the right side of the infield. He has had some base running issues. On Friday night, he was doubled up at 1B on a fly out to center field. On Saturday after reaching second base late in the game, he was picked off (easily). He’s not slow, but he also isn’t real fast.
  • Reggie Williams – In Williams first game back with the Snappers, he was 0-3. He made the plays he could in left field, although he didn’t have any difficult ones. His first at bat ended with a fly-out to right, but it was after an eight-pitch at bat. He popped up to first base and struck out in his other at bat. He works hard. He’s taken extra swings each day. Everyone loves the guy, so you hope that he can adjust and turn that work into some line drives in the box score. He’s willing to play anywhere in the field.
  • Jhonatan Arias – Arias was 0-3 with two strikeouts, but he can hit a very impressive long foul ball too! He has a nice swing. Defensively, he does a nice job catching. He has a good, but not great arm, and he clearly is still working on the throwing portion of the game.
  • Danny Santana – Speed. Speed and more speed. It is easy to see that Santana has some serious upside. In the second inning, he went far to his left on a ground ball up the middle. He fielded it in short center field, spun and threw a rocket to 1B for an out. Two innings, later, he couldn’t decide whether to stay back or charge a ground ball (with a runner on 1B, he probably should have charged) and ended up booting it. So defensively, we’ve seen the great and the not at all great. But he does have a very strong arm and good range. In his first at bat, he hit a line drive past a diving 2B and turned it into an easy double. He struck out in his next two at bats. One wasn’t so bad, and the other one was ugly.
  • Manuel Soliman – Take away the bad bunt play mentioned above, and I was very impressed with Soliman. He does throw hard. He didn’t walk anyone. He was mainly a fastball pitcher. He occasionally threw a changeup, and a couple were good, but that pitch will need to improve. He threw very few sliders, and a couple of them were really, really good. But again, it is a work-in-progress. Basically, it appears that he is succeeding at this level with one really good pitch, solid control and two pitches that have a long way to go. That’s the reality of now, but it’s exciting because if he can add those two pitches, he could be really, really good.
  • Sam Spangler – Left-hander, threw hard, and had a good breaking ball. In his first inning of work, he got a soft liner to 1B, a line out to right field, and a weak ground ball. Then he struck out the side in the 8th inning. One of them came on a very impressive slider that Arias knocked down and threw to first base for the out. The others came on a very good strikeout.
  • Michael Tonkin – Last year, he threw an OK fastball and a good curveball as a starter when I saw him. This year, he is in the bullpen, and it looks like he is throwing harder. He also gets more movement in it. He struck out the three batters he got out and made a couple look silly. The single that he gave up was on a fastball that was tailing away from a left handed hitter who just put it into play and hit it softly into left field.

Travis and I got to the ball park at about 3:15 for the 7:00 game. We went in and were able to watch the Snappers work, and wow, did they work! The bullpen pitchers were running and playing some catch. Adrian Salcedo and BJ Hermsen were playing a lot of long toss. Friday’s starter Ryan O’Rourke and today’starter AJ Achter just threw a little from close range. When that was done, they all went and did the stretchy bands and other agility drills. The catchers were working really hard on footwork and on quick releases. They then went on the infield and used that training on throws to 2B. The infielders and outfielders stretched, ran some, threw, used stretchy bands and agility work. Then, I watched one of the most extensive rounds of PFP with bunts, ground balls, pickoff plays and so much more. It was really quite an impressively run thing. At that point, the Snappers took their normal batting practice. Again, Paul Molitor, Joel Lepel, Bill Springman and Erik Rasmussen were all there and working hard with the various groups. Meanwhile Terry Ryan sat in the bleachers jotting notes and observing. There were quite a few scouts in attendance on this night and many of them took time to spend a minute with Ryan.

Following batting practice, we were able to get five minutes or so with some of the Twins players. First, we spent time with Ben Tootle, the hard-throwing reliever who had surgery on his rotator cuff last year. He was terrific and was happy to discuss his rehab and where he is and where he wants to get and more. Next, we talked to Lance Ray about his time at Kentucky, his slow start and how he turned it around and the goals for the rest of the season. Finally, BJ Hermsen answered our questions about his pitches, being back in the Midwest League after spending about six weeks there last year, and what he continues to look to improve. Hermsen’s work-ethic has been very evident these past two days, so I asked some questions about that as well. Following one of the innings, Manuel Soliman was walking toward the clubhouse, but he came over to me and shook my hand and said hi and thanks for coming. So, that was very neat.

Reggie Williams was sent back to Beloit from Ft. Myers. He went to a batting cage under the LF line bleachers and did some tee-work. I watched a bit and then we talked for awhile. Before getting too far into the discussion, he asked me if I was still doing my shows and the blog and all that. People rave about what a tremendous person that Williams is. He wasn’t getting at bats in Ft. Myers, so the move to Beloit makes sense. He’ll likely play all over the field, but maybe mostly splitting time in LF with Derek McCallum.

Before the game, we headed out to our section. We were located in the All-You-Can-Eat section. What an absolutely amazing deal for fans! For $30 ($25 if you order ahead), you can sit down the right field line in a picnic table area, and you can eat, as you would guess, all you want. There were hot dogs, brats and hamburgers. There were chips, peanuts and much, much more. You could drink pop, water or even more adult beverages. It is an incredible deal for anyone, but especially for groups of any number.

Following the game, the Snappers promotion was a second straight night with a fireworks display. The shows are really incredible compared to other fireworks shows I’ve been at. It’s a great promotion and I do believe that a lot of fans are there for that reason.

As we were leaving, there were still autograph hounds waiting for players from both teams to leave the clubhouse. I saw Ryan O’Rourke and introduced myself. Remember yesterday when I wrote about his incredible intensity when he is pitching? Well, in person on a day he didn’t pitch, he is just the opposite. Very cordial, very friendly and it was a nice five minute discussion about his outing and his pitches and such.

Travis and I will be at Pohlman Field for the Snappers/West Michigan game at 2:00. There are heat warnings so it should be interesting. Following the game, we will take off and head to the Twin Cities. It will be a late night, so I can’t promise a blog on Monday. However, on Sunday night at ten, there will be an episode of the SethSpeaks.net Sunday Night Twins podcast in some form. Then Travis and I will host another Twins Minor League Weekly on Monday night at 10 and likely discuss the trip and the Snappers much more. So be sure to listen to those shows.

Finally, a huge thank you again to Jeff Vohs, the GM of the Snappers and Justin Waters in media relations for being incredibly friendly and hospitable to us while we’ve been here. We will try but really can’t put into great words just how cool the fan experience is at Pohlman Field and also watching the Snappers. These guys work incredible hard and deserve a ton of credit. And again, I do encourage Twins fans to head to Beloit for a couple of games if you are able to. It’s well worth it.

Here is the Saturday Minor League Scoreboard, starting with the second combined no-hitter in the Twins system in the last few weeks:

Elizabethton beat Greeneville 6-0 last night, and the story completely is the pitching. Tim Shibuya started and went seven no-hit, no run, no walk innings. He struck out six. Garrett Jewell pitched a scoreless inning. Steven Gruver then pitched a hitless inning including two strikeouts to complete the no hitter. The three pitchers also did not walk a single batter. It was not a perfect game because the E-Twins had three errors (two catcher’s interference, and a Miguel Sano error), and also hit one batter. Sano went 2-4 with his fifth triple. Eddie Rosario hit his fourth triple. Niko Goodrum, Kennys Vargas and Matej Hejma each hit a double. Shibuya improves to 4-0 with a 2.57 ERA for the E-Twins.

The Rochester Red Wings beat Buffalo 4-2. Dustin Martin went 3-4 with his third triple and ninth home run. Andy Baldwin gave up one run on five hits in six innings. Dusty Hughes pitched a scoreless inning. Kyle Waldrop gave up a run on two hits in his inning. He struckout two. Jim Hoey picked up his fourth save with a 1-2-3 ninth. Carlos Gutierrez and Jeff Manship both have sore arms. Gutierrez was put on the Disabled List. Also, yes, I did here that Steve Singleton has been freed by the Twins. He was released by the team and I think it is completely unfortunate, of course. It actually tells me quite a bit, but hopefully Singleton will be able to find another team to give him a real chance. Maybe this will be a blessing in disguise in some way. Obviously you know I wish Steve nothing but the best!

New Britain beat Portland 5-4. Dennis Suarez gave up four runs on five hits in 6.2 innings. Spencer Steedley struck out two in 1.1 scoreless innings. Then Matt Schuld came in to protect the one-run lead. He struckout three (and walked one) to earn his first save. Nate Hanson went 2-5 with his seventh double. Evan Bigley was 2-5 with his 23rd double and his fifth stolen base. Mark Dolenc was 2-4 with his 14th steal. The Rock Cats had six stolen bases in the game.

Ft. Myers lost 7-4 to Daytona. Jhon Garcia gave up five runs (4 earned) on ten hits and two walks in 6.2 innings. Clinton Dempster gave up two runs on five hits in 2.1 innings. Steve Liddle went 2-4 with a home run. Nick Romero went 2-4 with his 14th double and third stolen base.

The GCL Twins lost 5-3 to the GCL Red Sox. Bobby O’Neill gave up three runs (2 earned) on four hits in three innings. He struck out three times. Mark Trau got one out and walked one before Marcus Limon came in and gave up two runs over the next 2.2 innings. He gave up two hits, walked one and struck out four. Cole Johnson struckout three in two scoreless innings. The GCL Twins managed just four hits. Aderlin Mejia went 1-3 with a walk.

Any other questions on the Twins minor leagues? E-mail me, or leave some Comments.

Live from Beloit: Game 1

16 Jul

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

You may have heard that Travis Aune, my co-host on Twins Minor League Weekly and the blogger at Travis Twins Talk, and I were heading to Beloit, Wisconsin, this weekend to see three games of the Beloit Snappers, the Twins Low Class A affiliate. A year ago, I was able to make the trek with Josh Johnson of Josh’s Thoughts and really enjoyed it, so I am totally looking forward to this trip as well. Sure, BJ Hermsen threw great again on Wednesday, and Adrian Salcedo pitched well on Thursday, so we won’t see them, but that doesn’t mean that there is no one here to watch. There is still plenty of talent, and you never know which of these guys will be competing for a spot with the Twins in coming years. Since I write the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook, co-host two episodes each week of Twins Minor League Weekly and generally focus on the Twins minor leagues, it’s great for me to get to Beloit and see these guys play.

If you’re a Twins fan and understand their philosophy of building from within, or even if you just have seen how many transactions that Twins have made between Minnesota and Rochester, you can fully understand the fun I find and the value in knowing the Twins farm system. As I can attest, box scores, stats and scouting reports are wonderful, but there is nothing like actually watching the players in person.

The Twins Triple-A affiliate is in Rochester, New York. The Double-A affiliate is in New Britain, Connecticut. The High Class A affiliate is in Ft. Myers, Florida, where they also have their GCL Twins team. Their advanced rookie league team is in Elizabethton, Tennessee. So, if you want to make a trip and spend a weekend watching Twins minor leaguers develop, make the short drive to Beloit, Wisconsin. A year ago when Josh and I went, we got to see Aaron Hicks and Angel Morales, Brian Dozier, Daniel Santana and several other prospects. Not only that, but Angels’ 19-year-old outfielder Mike Trout played for Cedar Rapids, the team the Snappers were playing. Watching him, he was head and shoulders the best player on the field. The 2011 Snappers team may not have the big name, like Hicks, this year, but they do have some talent, and later in this blog, and in subsequent blogs, I will be writing more and more about them.

I left work at noon on Thursday, and left Warroad at about 2:30. I picked up Travis in Perham at about 6:45, and we headed down to Chanhassen. We arrived there at about 10:00 and met the Twins Geek, John Bonnes, at Buffalo Wild Wings for a little bit. On Friday morning, we left Chanhassen and beat rush hour traffic. We took 94 east and basically took that to 39 south to Beloit. We arrived in Beloit by about 1:15. That was a 6 hour drive that included a stop at Perkins in Menomonie, and a Rest Area stop. So again, if you’re from the Twin Cities, it is only about a 5 ½ hour drive.

We checked into the hotel we had reservations for, the same hotel that the West Michigan team will be staying in during the upcoming series. Around 3:30, we made the short trek over to Pohlman Field, the Snappers home ballpark. There, we were introduced to the GM of the Snappers, Jeff Vohs, on the field. He was kind enough to spend a good 20 minutes talking to us, answering all out questions. As the GM of the Snappers, he wears many hats. Obviously there is the business side of things, the concession stands, the payroll, making sure everything is up and running, etc. However, he also has to do things like play meteorologist before games to help determine rainouts, or determine if a dry field should have the tarp put in it in case of rain before the next day. He helps the grounds crew during the game to drag the infield, and before the game, he’s on the tractor making sure the infield dirt is smooth as can be. He arranges for the special promotions including last night’s and tonight’s fireworks displays, and then has to be out by the fireworks when they are shot off. We joked that during his offseason, when he’s doing sales and promotions and speaking engagements and such, he’s only working 50 hours as opposed to the 80 hours he works each week during the season. At that point, we were corrected, he likely works much more than 80 hours each work during the season.

But as you know, I enjoy watching batting practice. While we are in town this weekend, minor league pitching coordinator Erik Rasmussen is also in Beloit. So is minor league hitting coordinator Bill Springman. Paul Molitor was on the field hitting ground balls, watching BP and talking to players and then he was in uniform and in the Snappers dugout during the game. Terry Ryan was also there, sitting in the stands observing all that was going on. During the game, he sat behind home plate with several other scouts, including White Sox scout Jerry Krause (who you may remember for his role in putting together those Bulls championship teams).

Last night, the Twins lost the third and final game of their three game set against South Bend by a score of 10-2. Hermsen and Salcedo had won the two previous games. Saturday through Monday, the Snappers will play three games against West Michigan. Here is the quick highlight/summary of the game we watched:

Ryan O’Rourke started and gave up four runs (3 earned) on three hits in four innings. He walked five and struckout four. Nelvin Fuentes came in and gave up two runs on four hits and a walk in two innings. He struck out two. Ben Tootle gave up one run on one hit and one walk in one inning. Bart Carter came in and the lefty gave up three runs on four hits in his innings. Finally Jose Gonzalez pitched a 1-2-3 ninth frame. Lance Ray led the offense. He was 2-4 with his 22nd double and ninth home run. Danny Ortiz and Daniel Santana each went 2-4.

That’s the high level, now what you really want to read, my thoughts and notes:

Ryan O’Rourke – he was a little bit more wild in this game than he has been all year. He entered the game with a miniscule 1.98 ERA, and watching him on the mound, I can understand why. First, watching him come out onto the field before the game to prepare, you can see how intense and competitive he is. When he is on the mound, he works very fast. He catches the ball from the pitcher, takes the sign and delivers. Of his five walks, one was intentional and three of them were to South Bend’s leadoff hitter, a lefty that stood right on top of home plate. He has a good fastball, and worked both sides of the plate. However, left-handed batters had absolutely no chance against O’Rourke’s slider. As I watched him, I could only think that he could almost already be a bullpen lefty up at higher levels just because of that pitch. He has a good to better-than-good fastball, and a great slider. He also threw a few changeups, but that was a pitch that needs work. If he can gain control of that change up, he can continue forward as a starter. If not, he could still have a great career as a lefty bullpen arm with two very good pitches!

Nelvin Fuentes – Completely the opposite of O’Rourke in terms of pace of the game. He walked around, took his time delivering, and looking at the fielders around him, he kind of lost them a little. He has good stuff, decent fastball, OK breaking ball, and what appeared to almost be a screw ball. He struggled though. He almost worked out of O’Rourke’s 5th inning mess, but a pitch around (or just below) the knees was called a ball. The next pitch was lined to center for a base hit and an inherited runner scored. The next batter drilled a double to the gap to score another. In his next inning, he gave up monstrous home run before getting the next two batters out. A single and another hard-hit double later, but he stranded them with a strikeout of the nine hitter. He’s had a lot of success, so I’m chalking this up to ‘one of those games’ but the pace did make it more difficult to watch.

Ben Tootle got an inning and he was all over the place. He has a high leg kick, to go with the high socks, and a motion that looks like it would be hard to know where the elbow is, where the shoulder goes and where the release point is. He didn’t have much control, but he does throw hard. He’s not a big guy. I didn’t see a breaking ball for a strike, although not many fastballs were either. He gave up a single, a walk, then got a line out before a sacrifice fly. Clearly if he can gain any control, he has a future in the bullpen.

Bart Carter – The lefty was pitching his second game for the Snappers after being promoted from E-Town where he walked two and struckout 24 in 12.2 innings. Decent fastball, rolling curveball that a couple of times broke quite sharply. If you look at his box score line (1 IP, 4 H, 3 ER), you would assume he got drilled. Not at all the case. The leadoff hitter blooped a single just over a leaping Danny Santana. The second batter reached on a rolling single that Santana went far to his left to just miss. The third batter hit a hard hopper down the 3B line that Jairo Perez made a very good play on, but had no chance at an out at any of the bases. The cleanup hitter came up and hit a bouncer hard off of the dirt in front of home plate and it bounced over the 1B head and into right field for a two run single. He then got a 1-6-3 double play and ended with a strikeout. Not a good line, but he didn’t pitch poorly at all.

Finally, Jose Gonzalez came in. Reports I got last year and wrote in the Prospect Handbook were that he was a shorter version of Jose Mijares. He is not tall. He has a little gut about him. But he is left-handed and throws hard. He throws across his body just enough to probably keep hitters uncomfortable, and he does throw pretty hard.

Wang-Wei Lin led off and I thought he looked comfortable at the plate. He took some good at bats and worked in a walk. He twice stayed back nicely and grounded out to the shortstop who also made a very nice play up the middle on one of them. One the first grounder to short, instead of running through the bag, he watched the play occur. Defensively, he is very solid in CF. He showed good range. Has a strong and accurate arm, and he’s not afraid to get his uniform dirty.

Adam Bryant batted second. He was the Twins 9th round pick just this June and did a nice job. He isn’t flashy at all, but he made the plays at shortstop and has an arm to play that position. In his second at bat, he lined a shot over the right fielder and showed very good speed racing into third for a triple. With runners on second and third in the 5th, he hit a fairly deep fly ball to right-center. Tobias Streich was on 3B and Danny Santana was on 2B. Both tagged. The CF made the catch and a perfect throw to 3B to get Santana out before Streich could touch home plate. Not really Santana’s fault for going. Took a perfect throw. Not Streich’s fault, he went hard to try to score. It didn’t turn out well, turned into a strange double play, but it was a good piece of situational hitting.

Jairo Perez played 3B and batted third. He is not a big guy, yet he has 8 home runs in his first full month with the Snappers after missing all of 2010 and the first two months of 2011 after Tommy John surgery. He walked his first plate appearance before grounding out to short the second time. He then hit a hard ground ball/line drive down the 3B line for a double. In his final at bat, he got a pitch at the letters and tomahawked the ball high into the night sky. It was caught on the warning track in very deep left field. When it left the bat, I was sure it was gone.

Michael Gonzales is still a big man. However, it is very clear that reports that he lost 30+ pounds in the offseason were accurate. He looked a little more mobile at 1B, and his swing does look vastly improved, much, much quicker than it did one year ago. In batting practice, he hit some balls a long way, and he hit a lot of line drives. He also struggled on some pitches up and popped them up which made me think that he still has some room for improvement in the bat-speed category. But it’s great to see that he’s putting up good numbers across the board. In the game, he had just one hit, a first inning line drive single to right in which he pulled a good fastball. In his third at bat, he straight down on a ball on the outer part of the plate and hit what we all assumed was a gapper to left center, but the left fielder covered a ton of ground and made a spectacular catch to rob him of an RBI double. He then walked in his final plate appearance.

Lance Ray was very impressive. He is not real big, but he has a very strong, smooth, left-handed swing. In his second at bat, he drilled a double over the right fielder’s head. In his third at bat, he took a pitch away and hit a long home run to the opposite field that hit off of the new scoreboard. That was truly impressive! In his final at bat, he hit a ball to right field that we thought was long gone, but it was caught on the warning track. He had a very impressive night at the plate. He played 1B in this game, with Gonzales DHing and looked pretty smooth over there. He also plays a lot of outfield.

Danny Ortiz, as I have mentioned many times, packs a big punch in a small body. He is not big, but he is very strong and can hit the ball a long way. In the game, he had two ground ball singles between first and second. He played right field and showed a strong arm. He looked natural out in right field, very comfortable, which is to say that he is a solid outfielder but we didn’t exactly see him have to do anything too difficult.

Derek McCallum was recently demoted from Ft. Myers. He was drafted as a 2B, but has been playing primarily outfield this year. He looked OK out in left field. Offensviely, he has a good approach at the plate. In his first at bat, he lined a shot that the left fielder caught. In his final at bat, he hit a semi-deep fly ball to center. In between, a strikeout and a pop up to 3B.

Tobias Streich is known for his defense abilities behind the plate, but most reports I’ve read said he had an average arm. He does a great job behind the plate. Nothing got by him and that included some sharp sliders in the dirt. Very impressed by his glove. However, South Bend was 5-5 on stolen base attempts in this game. That said, obviously the pitchers have something to do with that. However, the South Bend second run came when a runner stole third and Streich’s throw sailed into left field. But again, he did a great job behind the plate and seemed to really work well with the pitchers. His trips to the mound seemed very well timed.  

Danny Santana is really, really fast. He also looks very solid at second base. He has a lot of range and he has a cannon for an arm and he seems to like showing it off. With a 2-4 night last night, he got his OBP over .300 again. In his first at bat, he laid down a perfect drag bunt down the first base line. He was caught stealing soon after, but the catcher’s throw was right on the bag and it was still close. He was another who was robbed by the South Bend left fielder (Chris Jarrett) on a liner. His last at bat, he grounded out to 2B and it was a close play. Santana has a ton of tools. He definitely is taking better at bats than when I saw him play his first game with the Snappers last year and he swung at everything.

So there you have it. Some pretty detailed game notes and things that I noticed. Again, I don’t claim to be a scout by any means, but it is pretty neat to be able to make your own evaluation of these players that we see in box scores.

The post-game fireworks display was very impressive! It may be worth the 5 ½ hour from the Twin Cities for just that. Tonight’s game is at 7:00 and we will get to see Manuel Soliman, which I am very excited about! On Sunday at 2, the Snappers will start AJ Achter against West Michigan. Come on over! There’s also a noon game on Monday!!

If you have any questions or comments on the Beloit trip, the team, etc., please feel free to e-mail me or leave Comments.

Here is the rest of the Friday night Minor League Scoreboard:

The Rochester Red Wings lost 8-4 to Buffalo. Kevin Slowey started and gave up three runs on six hits and a walk in 4.2 innings. Dusty Hughes came in and got the final out of the fifth, but not before giving up two more earned runs on two hits and a walk. Cole DeVries gave up three runs on five hits in two innings. Jake Stevens pitched a scoreless ninth. Jeff Bailey went 3-5 with his 14th double and fifth stolen base. Rene Tosoni went 3-5 and threw out a runner at third base from right field. Chase Lambin was 2-5 with his 14th double. Toby Gardenhire went 2-4 with his 11th double.

The New Britain Rock Cats lost 10-6 to Portland. Brett Jacobson gave up two runs on two hits in 3.1 innings. He walked one and struck out two. Blake Martin threw 3.1 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and four walks. Deolis Guerra got just two outs, and he gave up four runs on one hit, two walks and a hit batter. Tyler Robertson got the final two outs but not before giving up four more runs on three hits and a walk. Deibinson Romero was 2-4 with his sixth homer. Chris Cates was 2-4 with his sixth double. Evan Bigley notched his 22nd double, and Chris Parmelee hit his 18th double. Chris Herrmann went 1-3 with two walks and his fourth home run.

Ft. Myers needed a Miracle, and they got it in their 5-4 win over Daytona. Logan Darnell started and gave up three runs on seven hits. In 6.2 innings, he walked none and struck out seven. Brad Stillings came in and gave up one run on two hits and two walks before getting the final out of the 7th. Ricky Bowen came into the 8th inning with the bases loaded and no out, and he got a double play and a strikeout to get out of the jam. He pitched a quick ninth inning for the save. James Beresford went 2-4 with a walk, his seventh double and first stolen base. Steve Liddle went 2-4. Aaron Hicks hit his fourth homer.

Elizabethton topped Greeneville 7-0. David Hurlbut started and threw seven shutout innings. He gave up three hits, walked none and struck out five. Nick Alloway threw two scoreless innings in relief and gave up one hit and walked two. Miguel Sano went 2-5 with his fourth triple and third stolen base. Nick Lockwood went 2-4 with his eighth double. Max Kepler went 2-4 with a walk. Eddie Rosario hit his third triple.

The GCL Twins lost 7-4 to the GCL Rays. Jorge Polanco went 3-5 with his third double and first triple. Drew Leachman went 3-4. Dereck Rodriguez was 2-4 with his third double. Hein Robb started and went 3.2 innings. He gave up four runs (3 earned) on four hits and a walk while striking out five. Nick Cicio gave up two earned runs on four hits in 1.1 innings. Mark Trau struckout three in two scoreless innings. Gonzalo gave up one run on two hits in two innings. He struckout two.

Any other questions on the Twins minor leagues? E-mail me, or leave some Comments.

Roster Projection: Beloit Snappers

31 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

  • Step 1: Finalize 2011 Minnesota Twins roster – Check.
  • Step 2: Find a way to keep Scott Diamond in the organization – Check.
  • Step 3: Configure the 2011 Triple-A Rochester Red Wings 24-man roster – In progress.
  • Step 4: Configure the 2011 Double-A New Britain Rock Cats 24-man roster – In progress.
  • Step 5: Configure the 2011 Hi-A Ft. Myers Miracle 25-man roster – In progress.
  • Step 6: Configure the 2011 Low-A Beloit Snappers 25-man roster – In progress.

As I am hearing it, more roster moves and decisions are happening this morning. I know that there have been two more players released, and people are continuing to find out where they will be going. There are a few injuries that are mounting up, and likely will affect opening day rosters too.   

With all that in mind, I present to you my thoughts on a projected roster for the Twins High-A affiliate, the Ft. Myers Miracle. (the below roster is my opinion and my guesses, and nothing official.)

Catchers: Tobias Strech (40 man – No) – Kyle Knudson (40 man – No) – C/DH Josmil Pinto (40 man – No) 

Streich may not be able to hit at all, but his defense is there with Butera and Lehmann in the eyes of many in the organization. Pinto isn’t much of a catcher, but he’ll get some time there and also DH in his return to Beloit. Former Gopher and 2010 draft pick Knudson could get some playing time here as well.

Infielders: 1B – Michael Gonzales (40 man – No), 2B – Derek McCallum (40 man – No), 3B – Reggie Williams (40 man – No), SS – Daniel Santana (40 man – No), Utility – Andy Leer (40 man – No),

Gonzales has a ton of power, but he needs to quicken his swing to have a chance to advance. When he makes contact, it goes a long way. McCallum missed most of the 2010 season, so this is a second opportunity for a first full season. Reggie Williams split time with Anderson Hidalgo last year and should get more time this year. Santana split time between Elizabethton and Beloit. He struggled with the Snappers, but he should show improvement this year. Very solid bat with surprising pop. Good defense. Andy Leer was drafted a year ago out of the University of Mary in Bismarck and he played well at Elizabethton. He will get some playing time.

Outfielders: LF – Lance Ray (40 man – No), CF – Oswaldo Arcia (40 man – No), RF – Danny Ortiz (40 man – No), 4th outfielder – Wang-Wei Lin (40 man – No), DL – Nate Roberts (40 man – No)

After saying that I was surprised to hear that Lance Ray would start the season in Ft. Myers, I found out that he was indeed going to go back to Beloit. Oswaldo Arcia has had a sore elbow throughout the spring and has continued to crush baseballs all over the field. Danny Ortiz was my choice for breakout minor leaguer of the year for 2011, and he’ll be doing so with the Snappers. Wang-Wei Lin likely returns to the Snappers and will play around the outfield. Nate Roberts can flat-out hit. The 2010 draft pick will start with the Snappers although he has had some knee issues this spring.

Starting Pitchers: RHP BJ Hermsen (40 man – No), RHP Adrian Salcedo (40 man – No), RHP Manuel Soliman (40 man – No), LHP Logan Darnell (40 man – No), LHP Andrei Lobanov (40 man – No), DL – LHP Pat Dean (40 man – No)

Hermsen is set to be the Snappers’ opening night starter, and he is looking to build on a solid 2010 season in which he pitched for the Snappers for four or five weeks before the Elizabethton season started. Adrian Salcedo’s pre-E-town stint was with the Ft. Myers Miracle, so going to Beloit will be a good thing for him this year. Manuel Soliman will start the season in the Snappers rotation after a terrific 2010 season in Elizabethton where the converted 3B threw one no-hitter and took another into the 7th inning. 2010 pick Logan Darnell will start for the Snappers. Andrei Lobanov, who has put up amazing numbers in the bullpen the last two years, will get an opportunity to start, at least for awhile, as Pat Dean, who is still experiencing some shoulder soreness.

Bullpen: LHP Jose Gonzalez (40 man – No), LHP Martire Garcia (40 man – No), RHP Michael Tonkin (40 man – No), RHP Blayne Weller (40 man – No), LHP Justin Parker (40 man – No), RHP Pedro Guerra (40 man – No), LHP Clinton Dempster (40 man – No), RHP Matt Hauser (40 man – No)

Gonzalez and Garcia are complete opposites physically, but both are very good left-handed pitchers. Pedro Guerra, Michael Tonkin and Blayne Weller may be starters again down the line but should do well out of the bullpen as well. 2010 picks Dempster and Hauser are bullpen guys that should get the job done as well. Sam Spangler and Justin Parker could each pitch with the Snappers, and possibly return to Elizabethton to start at that time.   

Overall: This should be a very solid team. They have a some really impressive young bats to complement a few guys who should be better in their second year in the Midwest League. There are some really good starting pitchers in the opening day rotation, with the likes of Garcia, Tonkin, Weller and Guerra also capable of starting. Those in the Twin Cities should definitely consider making a trip or three down to Beloit to see the Snappers!

As you can see, there are a lot of names that I have not included on the Beloit roster. Those players will most likely stay in Extended Spring Training and be ready if needed in the Midwest League. Names like Miguel Sano and Max Kepler. Guys like Niko Goodrum and Rory Rhodes. Dean will be rehabbing there with the likes of Dallas Gallant, Brad Tippett, Matt Bashore and Ben Tootle. Opening Day rosters are fun to project, but there will, as always, be a ton of transactions, and we’ll be following them here.

If you have any thoughts or questions, please feel free to comment or ask.

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  • TWINS MINOR LEAGUE WEEKLY PODCAST TONIGHT – If you are interested in the Twins minor league system, Twins Minor League Weekly podcast will begin tonight at 10:00. Travis Aune and I will host the 10:00 p.m. podcast each Thursday throughout the season. We will talk about what’s going on with each Twins affiliate, how the teams are doing, who is hot, who is not, transactions, and much more.

Roster Projection: Ft. Myers Miracle

31 Mar

also avaialble at www.SethSpeaks.net

  • Step 1: Finalize 2011 Minnesota Twins roster – Check.
  • Step 2: Find a way to keep Scott Diamond in the organization – Check.
  • Step 3: Configure the 2011 Triple-A Rochester Red Wings 24-man roster – In progress.
  • Step 4: Configure the 2011 Double-A New Britain Rock Cats 24-man roster – In progress.
  • Step 5: Configure the 2011 Hi-A Ft. Myers Miracle 25-man roster – In progress.

It may have been easier to project these rosters if I would have done them a week ago. By waiting until now, I am getting reports of which players are going where, so my projections continue to be updated. I can’t verify, but I have been told that Brian Dozier will start the season at New Britain. I hadn’t included him yesterday, and now I won’t include him today, which is why I needed to write about it. Not only does that confuse my Ft. Myers projection, but now consider the infield options in New Britain. Between the three positions, Deibinson Romero, Estarlin de Los Santos, Brian Dozier, Steve Singleton, Ray Chang and Chris Cates, not to mention Toby Gardenhire. I continue to hear about some minor injuries that either mean a season will be started on the Disabled List or at a lower level to work back.

With all that in mind, I present to you my thoughts on a projected roster for the Twins High-A affiliate, the Ft. Myers Miracle. (the below roster is my opinion and my guesses, and nothing official.)

Catchers: Danny Rams (40 man – No) – Dan Rohlfing (40 man – No) 

Danny Rams made a strong impression on the Twins this spring. After two years in Beloit, he will move up to the Miracle. He continues to be a work in progress behind the plate, but he does continue to improve. He will also get time at DH and at 1B. Rohlfing skipped Beloit last year and held his own until a couple of freak injuries cost him much of the second half to his season. There was some talk that he would go to Beloit to start the season so he could get even more playing time. Also, don’t forget that Chris Herrmann was a non-roster invitee to big league spring training as a catcher and he will get plenty of time behind the plate.  

Infielders: 1B – Nate Hanson (40 man – No), 2B – Nick Romero (40 man – No), 3B – Anderson Hidalgo (40 man – No), SS – James Beresford (40 man – No), Utility – Paul Kelly (40 man – No),

Nate Hanson had a very good 2010 season with the Miracle. However, assuming Chris Parmelee returns to New Britain (as he will), he won’t be platooned, so Hanson will likely return to Ft. Myers. Anderson Hidalgo missed time last year and it wouldn’t surprise me if he drops back to Beloit, but I will put him here. Nick Romero, James Beresford and Paul Kelly will be the three players to man the middle infield spots, and Romero and Kelly can also play 3B while Beresford is a solid 2B.  

Outfielders: LF – Chris Herrmann (40 man – No), CF – Aaron Hicks (40 man – No), RF – Lance Ray (40 man – No), 4th outfielder – Jonathan Goncalves (40 man – No), 1B/OF/DH – Steven Liddle (40 man – No), DL – Angel Morales (40 man – No)

Angel Morales is fighting some elbow soreness and will likely start the season on the Disabled List. He told me last night that it is feeling better, so it should not cost him too much time. Aaron Hicks tweeted the other day that he will play for the Miracle this season which likely surprises no one. Chris Herrmann was called the best defensive left fielder in the Florida State League, but he will also get time behind the plate. Steve Liddle will get time in left field, first base and DH. Jonathan Goncalves will likely return to the Miracle outfield where he did a nice job last year, especially defensively. Finally, at least while Morales is out, Ray will get a lot of playing time with the Miracle. One person told me that Ray is the team’s best pure hitter right now.  

Starting Pitchers: RHP Kane Holbrooks (40 man – No), RHP Tom Stuifbergen (40 man – No), RHP Alex Wimmers (40 man – No), Miguel Munoz (40 man – No), Brad Stillings (40 man – No)

Holbrooks is scheduled to make the Opening Day start for the Miracle. He was terrific at Beloit, in the bullpen the first half of last year, and did a very good job for the Miracle as a starter. He ended the season with one start in New Britain. Alex Wimmers signed late and impressed in 15 innings with the Miracle in August. It will be interesting to see if he stays with the Miracle through the season’s first half. Stuifbergen and his changeup have people in Ft. Myers talking. He is a smart, young pitcher with very good stuff who just needs to stay healthy. Brad Stillings has a terrific changeup and has pitched in the bullpen and rotation in his two seasons with the organization. Miguel Munoz throws hard, but sometimes he thinks too much on the mound. He does have really good stuff though.  

Bullpen: RHP Bruce Pugh (40 man – No), RHP Shooter Hunt (40 man – No), RHP Jhon Garcia (40 man – No), LHP Blake Martin (40 man – No), RHP Brad Tippett (40 man – No), RHP Edgar Ibarra (40 man – No), LHP Tony Davis (40 man – No), LHP Nelvin Fuentes (40 man – No)

Bruce Pugh ended last season with a couple of starts in New Britain. He has been experiencing some back problems this spring, so the hard thrower will return to the Miracle and work out of the bullpen to start the season. It was surprising to hear that, after spending the 2nd half of 2010 in New Britain, Tony Davis returns to the Miracle. Hopefully he will find his control. Speaking of, Shooter Hunt returns to the Miracle in hopes of improving up his 2010 season. Brad Tippett has been a terrific pitcher for the Twins, whatever role he finds himself in, but last year was a wasted year thanks to some arm injuries. He is throwing well this spring though. Jhon Garcia actually got better and better as the season went along, and e pitched quite well in the Miracle bullpen at the end of 2010. Edgar Ibarra impressed me in a start I watched last year in Beloit. He has four pitches and is left-handed and throws hard. He and lefty Nelvin Fuentes will really make it difficult for left-handed hitters.  

Overall: Hicks is obviously the biggest name on this roster, but he is not alone. Alex Wimmers and Tom Stuifbergen are exciting pitchers. Angel Morales has tremendous upside. Danny Rams, Anderson Hidalgo, James Beresford and Miguel Munoz are all solid prospects who will try to improve in their jump to the Miracle. And, if Twins fans are looking for someone to cheer loudly for this year in the Twins farm system, look no further than Paul Kelly. Pat Dean will start the season in Extended Spring with some shoulder discomfort, but he could move up quickly to the Miracle. Matt Bashore and Ben Tootle will also be starting at EST, but could be moved up to the Miracle, if not first in Beloit.

Later today, I will post my roster projection for the Low-A Beloit Snappers.

If you have any thoughts or questions, please feel free to comment or ask.

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  • TWINS MINOR LEAGUE WEEKLY PODCAST TONIGHT – If you are interested in the Twins minor league system, Twins Minor League Weekly podcast will begin on Thursday night at 10:00. Travis Aune and Seth will host the 10:00 p.m. podcast each Thursday throughout the season. We will talk about what’s going on with each Twins affiliate, how the teams are doing, who is hot, who is not, transactions, and much more.

Minnesota Twins Top Prospects (Part 1: 26-50)

13 Jan

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Interview – Did an interview for Bullpen Banter regarding the 2010 Twins and many Twins minor leaguers. Check it out here.

Before we jump into Part 1 of a two-part prospect ranking, I need to point out a terrific article in today’s Ft. Myers News-Press. Remember last week when Bert Blyleven got into the Hall of Fame? (You’re Twins fans… you remember!) He, and many others, gave a lot of credit to BaseballAnalysts.com’s Rich Lederer for pushing Blyleven’s case. It should have been an easy case for baseball’s writers, but obviously it took 14 attempts to get it right. Lederer and Blyleven had spoken several times on the phone in the past with Blyleven frequently crediting Lederer for his help and efforts. On Tuesday night, the two met and embraced. The Twins surprised Blyleven by inviting Lederer to their fantasy camp. Lederer’s answer to their request was easy. Blyleven’s response to Lederer being there was priceless. Just a great story by the News-Press’s David Dorsey; a must read.

SethSpeaks.net Minnesota Twins Top 50 Prospects List 2011

As you know, I have been working on the 2011 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook for months. After of research and writing, a conclusion is finally in sight. In the next week, I will provide more information on the book, and how you can order or pre-order.

One thing that the book includes is my Top 30 prospects and a reminder of my previous Top 30s, going back to 2005. The book will include top 10 lists from many of your favorite bloggers.

I did something a little bit different in compiling my Top 50 list. I took the entire list of Twins minor league prospects from the GCL through Rochester, and in an Excel spreadsheet, I put each name in the first column and each name in the first row. Then I went through and compared every prospect to every other prospect, picking which of the two I thought was the better prospect. My ‘vote’ on each was based on a ton of research, stats, scouting reports and more. I considered which of the two players I would trade if a team said that I could pick which prospect to send in a potential deal. I compared Aaron Hicks to Kyle Gibson and Miguel Sano, and also against Matt Schuld and Matt Trau. I compared Manuel Soliman to Dan Osterbrock, Joe Benson and Dallas Gallant. After doing that for every player (which took WAY too long), I added up the total number of times I selected each player. The player that I chose above all players obviously ended up with the most points at the end of the day. The one with the second most votes would be the #2 prospect. And so on. Of course, there were ties, sometimes three-way ties, which I broke by my head-to-head results, so to speak. The results were interesting, at least in the middle of the list, but really throughout. Today I will post my choices for Twins Prospects #26 through 50 with a brief description. As you would expect, there was a tie at 50, so in fact, here are prospects 26-51. As always, your thoughts and opinions are welcome.

#50 (Tie) – Kyle Waldrop – RHP – Rochester

The Rochester relief pitcher has a terrific 2010 season and will head to spring training with the Twins again in 2011. Throws strikes and gets ground balls.

#50 (Tie) – Dan Osterbrock – LHP – Ft. Myers

Based on the season he had in 2010, he should be way up this list. A no-hitter in Beloit and sub-3 ERAs in Beloit and Ft. Myers. The soft-tossing strike thrower is intriguing. It will be interesting to see how he does when he gets to New Britain

#49 – Rory Rhodes – 3B – GCL Twins

                The 6-7 infielder from Australia had a solid season in the GCL. I have mentioned him as a 2011 breakout candidate.

#48 – Cesar Ciurcina – RHP – GCL Twins

                The righty came to the States and held his own in 2010 after putting up very good numbers in the Dominican in 2009. A long way to go, but plenty of potential.

#47 – Daniel Santana – SS – Beloit

                Split time between E-Town and Beloit. Little guy who struggled some in Beloit, but played well in E-Town, including showing some decent power numbers.

#46 – Evan Bigley – OF – New Britain

                The outfielder struggled to start the season back in Ft. Myers, but heated up in June. Played very well following a promotion to New Britain.

#45 – Anderson Hidalgo – 3B – Beloit

                Lone Snappers hitter to hit over .300 in 2010. Has good doubles power already. Missed some time with injury again.

#44 – Lance Ray – OF/1B – Beloit

                Twins 8th round pick in 2010 out of Kentucky, he quickly moved up from Elizabethton and played very well in Beloit. Good power.

#43 – Brian Dozier – SS – Ft. Myers

                Just one of those solid, solid players. Hit about .280 at both Beloit and Ft. Myers. Good defense. OK speed. No power. Surprise non-roster invitee to big league camp.

#42 – Edgar Ibarra – LHP – Beloit

                Experienced ups and downs throughout the season, but the lefty has four good pitches, just needs to be more consistent with them.

#41 – Dakota Watts – RHP – New Britain

                2009 pick pitched at three levels in 2010. Some control issues, but the guy throws consistently in the upper 90s and hit 99 in Ft. Myers.

#40 – Logan Darnell – LHP – Elizabethton

                Twins 6th round pick from Kentucky (yes, he teamed with Lance Ray and non-drafted free agent Gunner Glad there), the lefty had a nice debut with the E-Twins. Three good pitches.

#39 – Kane Holbrooks – RHP – New Britain

                Began the season by dominating in the Beloit bullpen, then made a couple of starts before being promoted to Ft. Myers where he pitched even better. Ended season with a start in AA.

#38 – Nate Roberts – OF – Elizabethton

                Twins 5th round pick in 2010 from High Point University put up some of the best numbers of an Elizabethton Twins player over the last quarter-century.

#37 – Chris Herrmann – OF – Ft. Myers

                The 2009 pick skipped Beloit and held his own (including an All Star appearance) with the bat. Tremendous defensive LF but will also catch, including in big league training camp.

#36 – Michael Tonkin – RHP – Beloit

                It was surprising when he was the first starting pitcher promoted from Extended Spring Training, but he pitched well in Beloit before going back to Elizabethton.

#35 – Luke Hughes – IF/OF/DH/PH – Minnesota

                Homered in first big league at bat. OK at Rochester, but again was injured and didn’t play after June 6. Two surgeries (knee and groin). Potential big league super utility bat and pinch hitter.

#34 – Danny Rams – C/1B – Beloit

                Returned to the Snappers in 2010. Tremendous power. Improving catcher. If he can learn to hit a breaking ball, he could fly up this list. Time will tell.

(NOTE  – I just realized that I neglected to include Anthony Slama in my analysis/rankings. I will put the right-handed reliever with the tremendous K-Rate who should be in the Twins bullpen throughout 2011 right here at #33.5)

#33 – James Beresford – SS – Beloit

                Also returned to Beloit for second straight year, and was the team’s MVP for the second straight year. Amazing defensive middle infielder who just needs to get bigger to be a real big time prospect.

#32 – Rene Tosoni – OF – New Britain

                He’s been a top 10 guy for me in previous years. He was OK last year in New Britain before his season-ending shoulder surgery. Just a solid all-around player. If healthy, he will move up quickly.

#31 – Miguel Munoz – RHP – Beloit

                Hard-throwing right-hander did a nice job as a starter early in the Snappers season. Tired late, and did alright in the Snappers bullpen. Has great stuff.

#30 – Tom Stuifbergen – RHP – Beloit

                Another guy who will move up this list if he is healthy in 2010. He was top pitcher in Beloit after Hendriks and Osterbrock promoted, when healthy. Good stuff, and a very smart pitcher.

#29 – Martire Garcia – LHP – Elizabethton

                Garcia struggled in E-Town in 2009 after strong ’08 in GCL. Returned to E-Town in ’10 and started 6-0 before promotion to Beloit. Throws hard, good movement. Young.

#28 – Scott Diamond – LHP – Gwinnett

                Pitched well in Braves organization since signing as undrafted free agent after 2008 college season. He’ll give up some hits, but he gets a lot of ground balls. Twins Rule 5 pick has legitimate shot to make Twins roster.

#27 – Steve Singleton – 2B – New Britain

                After bad April, Singleton played well for Rock Cats the rest of the season. Led organization with 43 doubles (2 behind Doug Mientkiewicz’s New Britain record). 54 extra base hits. Just 57 strikeouts. Not sure why the Twins don’t seem to like him more.

#26 – Niko Goodrum – IF/OF – GCL

                Don’t worry about the numbers that he put up in the GCL. Goodrum is as good of an athlete as Hicks, Torii Hunter, Joe Benson, any other great athlete in the Twins system. He’s just very raw and has a long way to go, but the sky is the limit.

So there you have it, my choices for Twins Prospects 26-50. What do you think? Any surprises? Remember that the top 25 prospects are yet to come. If I’m able, I will separate them, maybe posting 11-15 later tonight and my top ten around noon on Friday. Check back when you are able to. Feel free to e-mail me or leave your comments here.