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Organizational Depth Chart: Middle Infielders

31 Jan

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.

 Last week, I started looking at the depth throughout the Twins system. I reviewed the catchers, first basemen and third basemen. After a weekend at Twins Fest (which I’ll write about very soon), I thought it would be good to get back into the Organizational Depth Chart series. Today, I am going to write about the Middle Infielders. I decided to put the shortstops and second basemen together because so many of these players can and will play both positions. As I’ve said before, the purpose of this series is two-fold (if not more). First, it’s a look at the depth at or near the big leagues. Second, it’s a glance at the depth at the position throughout the system. You can find out who might be coming up to the Twins if there is a need, and you can find out who the prospects to watch might be.

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

Minnesota Twins  

Jamey Carroll (SS), Alexi Casilla (2B), Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Luke Hughes

About the time spring training starts, Carroll will turn 38 years old. Most consider him a utility player, and he probably is because he plays multiple positions. He has accumulated more than 350 plate appearances five of the last six years. The last two years, he has combined for 924 plate appearances. He played 129 games at second base, and another 135 and shortstop. The Twins are bringing him in for the next two seasons to be their starting shortstop. He’s an on-base machine, perfect for the #2 spot in the lineup. Alexi Casilla has proven himself to be a solid utility infielder but has often shown that he can’t handle an every day job. I thought last year was his last chance to prove that, but he’s getting another opportunity in 2012. I’m not going to say Luke Hughes is the answer, but Casilla has received so many opportunities, I’d rather Hughes get a shot at the regular, daily second base job with Casilla as a role player. We don’t know if Hughes will hit, but he does have some pop in his bat. We know that Casilla won’t do much. I’m understanding that Nishioka needs and deserves to start 2012 with an empty slate. 2011 was an awful year for him. He was adjusting to so many things on and off the field, and then he was hurt within the first week and never fully recovered. The best thing would have been for him to get a lot of time in the minors last year. Maybe that can happen in 2012.  

Rochester Red Wings

Brian Dozier (SS), Pedro Florimon (2B), Ray Chang, Brian Dinkelman

Brian Dozier was the minor league player of the year in 2011 and hopes to build upon that starting in spring training in 2012. There is little chance he’ll open with the Twins. In fact, there’s a better chance he returns to New Britain and based on the past, I would not be shocked if he did start the season with the Rock Cats. But he’s ready for AAA, and nearly ready for the big leagues. Part of why I would like to see Hughes get the starting gig with the Twins, is because by June, he could move to the bench with Carroll shifting to second base and Dozier jumping to the Twins. But, let’s see how he starts the 2012 season before counting any eggs, or something like that. The Twins claimed Florimon from the Orioles in December, but nearly immediately placed him on waivers. He cleared and was outrighted to Rochester. He jumped from AA to the big leagues with a September call-up. He will certainly get plenty of time at shortstop with Dozier moving to second. Chang will play all around the infield. He was the Red Wings starting shortstop while he was with the team last year, before his broken leg. Dinkelman finally got his chance with the Twins last year and hit .301. He struggled in Rochester. He can play second base but can also play the corner outfield positions.

New Britain Rock Cats

James Beresford (SS), Estarlin de Los Santos (2B), Chris Cates

James Beresford is tremendous with the glove. He is a smooth fielder with soft hands and a strong arm. He can play both middle infield positions well and is a leader on the infield. His play in international competition has really been impressive. He has hit for average in his minor league career. He takes really good, quality at bats. But because he is almost exclusively a singles hitter, he will not be walked often. He also doesn’t strike out much. He works very hard to gain weight, and hopefully that will happen soon to give the opponents a little concern for extra base hits. De Los Santos was once considered a quality prospect in the Twins system. He was added to the 40 man roster, but that lasted just a year. 2011 was a lost year for him. He spent most of the season on the Disabled List, rehabbed quite a bit in the GCL. He got a little time at Ft. Myers, played second base before he finally ended his season with elbow surgery. Although he could have become a free agent at the end of the season, he signed quickly to remain with the Twins. Cates is a strong defender at both middle infield positions. He also has a very strong arm.

Ft. Myers Miracle

Tyler Grimes (SS), Danny Santana (2B), Reggie Williams, Adam Bryant

Grimes was the Twins 5th round pick just last year out of college baseball power house Wichita State. He missed a little bit of time after signing with the Twins and reporting to Beloit. He can hit. He’s another on-base percentage guy with some pop in his bat. He has good speed and plays solid defense. Santana primarily played shortstop in Beloit, but he will likely get time at second base and in centerfield as well in 2011. He has great range, soft hands and a very strong arm. He does have pop in his bat although his 2011 numbers don’t necessarily show it. He has a immense talent and all the tools, but he will need to start putting it together. Reggie Williams was a fourth round pick in 2007 out of high school. He is a terrific athlete, and he will play all around the diamond in 2012. He can play four infield positions and probably all three outfield positions. He primarily plays 2B, 3B and LF, but who knows, we may even see him behind the plate this year.

Beloit Snappers

Levi Michael (SS), Eddie Rosario (2B), AJ Pettersen, Stephen Wickens, Nick Lockwood

One question we’ve been hearing all offseason is Where will Levi Michael start his 2012 season? The Twins have had top college pitchers jump straight to Ft. Myers. All indications are the Michael will begin the season with the Beloit Snappers. Making me want to get to Beloit early in the season is an infield that should include Michael, Rosario and Miguel Sano. I would also expect that Michael would get no more than a half-season in Beloit before being promoted. Rosario was the Appy League co-MVP last year when he hit .337 with 38 extra base hits, including 21 home runs in 67 games. He also is a tremendous center fielder. During Instructional League, he was moved to second base. It will be interesting to see how that plays out. I would assume he will continue to get some time in the outfield as well. Sano will likely see some time at shortstop. Minnetonka native and former Gopher and last year’s 25th round pick AJ Pettersen said he is willing to play anywhere, but he is a natural shortstop who started there for the Gophers four years. Wickens is a Canadian who is a four year college shortstop as well with very good on-base skills. I would expect that Michael will be promoted in mid-June with Niko Goodrum moving up to take his spot. Nick Lockwood is a tremendous defensive second baseman. Although he didn’t hit much at E-town last year, he has a strong, line drive swing and uses the whole field.

Extended Spring Training/Short-Season

Niko Goodrum (SS), Jorge Polanco (SS), Wander Guillen (2B)

Goodrum had a very strong season with the Elizabethton Twins, even if it was lost behind the big seasons of Sano and Rosario. He is a tremendous athlete who will take a while to develop. That’s why I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts the season at Extended Spring Training. I would, however, be surprised if he spends any more time with Elizabethton. I would expect him to be promoted to Beloit whenever there is a need, or whenever Michael is promoted. Polanco signed with the Twins for over $750,000 two years ago. He and Miguel Sano split 2010 between the DSL and GCL. Polanco returned to the GCL in 2011 and didn’t do much with the bat. Touted for his terrific defense at shortstop, he played 19 games there in 2011, 14 at third base and 11 at second base. He also played all three outfield positions. He will spend 2012 in Elizabethton. Wander Guillen is a third baseman, but with Travis Harrison around, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Guillen play more at second base, where he has played a little the past two seasons. He also should advance to E-Town in 2012 after splitting 2011 between the DSL and GCL.

TOP THREE PROSPECTS

1.)    Eddie Rosario, 2.) Brian Dozier, 3.) Levi Michael, 4.) Niko Goodrum, 5.) Danny Santana, 6.) James Beresford, 7.) Tyler Grimes, 8.) Jorge Polanco

SUMMARY

After what Twins fans saw at the shortstop position in 2011, it was pretty clear that the Twins needed a change in 2012! Alexi Casilla started the season as the shortstop and through five weeks was hitting about .150. Trevor Plouffe got a couple of games. Tsuyoshi Nishioka was given an opportunity. It wasn’t pretty all season. Jamey Carroll should bring consistency to the position. He may not have a ton of range, but he will make most of the routine plays and it winds up that trait is pretty important. Cailla and Hughes may be a solid platoon and the Twins should see again what they have in Nishioka, if anything. Brian Dozier is on the cusp and we should (or at least could) see him by July. The lower levels of the system actually provide a bunch of solid prospects to at least be excited about. Rosario is intriguing as a second baseman. Scouts love Levi Michael and he could move fairly quickly. He was one of five college shortstops the Twins drafted in 2011 (Michael-1, Grimes-5, Bryant-9, Pettersen-25, Wickens-33), each of which should get a lot of playing time in 2012. Accumulating a lot of talent in the lower levels is great, and hopefully a couple of them will continue to progress through the system.  

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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Twins Organizational Depth Chart: Third Basemen

25 Jan

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

We have looked at the catchers and the first basemen in the Twins organization the past two days. Today, I’ll be looking at the third basemen. Again, the purpose of this series is two-fold (if not more). First, it’s a look at the depth at or near the big leagues. Second, it’s a glance at the depth at the position throughout the system. You can find out who might be coming up to the Twins if there is a need, and you can find out who the prospects to watch might be.

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  

Danny Valencia (Luke Hughes, Jamey Carroll)

2011 was a difficult year for Valencia. In the first half, his numbers struggled thanks to a lot of at-‘em balls. His high BABIP in his rookie season was evened up by his low BABIP in his sophomore season. He can hit, and hitting in the bottom third of the lineup, he will succeed. His defense wasn’t as good in 2011 as 2010 either. More disturbing, he was the player blamed most by the manager, which makes no sense. I expect a solid season out of Valencia in 2012, maybe somewhere along the lines of .280/.340/.450 with 30+ doubles and 12-15 home runs. As I’ve pointed out before, I won’t be even a little surprised if Ron Gardenhire says that Sean Burroughs is competition for a starting job. Burroughs will get plenty of at bats in spring training though. And Luke Hughes, who is out of options, should again receive plenty of at bats and time in the field at three infield positions including 3B. Jamey Carroll is really a middle infielder, but some seem to think he might be a 3B option as well. I can’t see that.  

Rochester Red Wings

Sean Burroughs. Ray Chang

Burroughs was once one of baseball’s top prospects, then struggled, then got into drugs and alcohol. But he had a nice comeback season last year that saw him reach the big leagues for the first time since 2006. He did a nice job as a pinch hitter for Arizona. He is known as a very good defensive third baseman, which bodes well for him. He has also shown the ability to hit for average. I really believe that although he likely isn’t in direct competition with Valencia for a starting job, he is likely going to be battling Luke Hughes and maybe Tsuyoshi Nishioka for the final bench spots. With Trevor Plouffe also likely on the bench many nights, Gardy may find it important to have a left-handed bench bat.

Ray Chang made a very good impression last year in spring training. He went to New Britain and played well. He was promoted to Rochester where he played even better, hitting 3rd many games for them. Unfortunately, he broke his fibula and missed almost two months. He will likely get time at 3B and at SS for the Red Wings.

New Britain Rock Cats

Deibinson Romero, Michael Hollimon

Romero was once considered a very good, high ceiling prospect. Following a injury-riddled season in Beloit, the Twins added him to the 40-man-roster. He struggled and was removed from the 40-man-roster a year later. Many questioned his work ethic, but he responded in 2011 with a solid year in AA. He could have become a free agent after the 2011 season, but he quickly resigned with the Twins.

Likewise, the Twins and Hollimon quickly agreed that he would return to the Twins rather than enter free agency. Between New Britain (97 games) and Rochester (29 games), he hit 19 doubles and 18 home runs. He primarily played 2B and LF but also go some time at the hot corner. The Twins drafted him in the 49th round in 2003 but he didn’t sign. In 2008, he got 25 plate appearances with the Tigers. He had six hits, including two doubles, a triple and a home run.

Ft. Myers Miracle

Anderson Hidalgo, Jairo Perez

Hidalgo has been in the organization since 2006. He has moved up one level each year and was with the Miracle last year. His .274 batting average was the lowest of his career. In 2010, he was the only Beloit Snappers player to hit over .300 (.316). He has an unorthodox swing at the plate that many wonder if it will adapt as he moves up the ladder. Defensively, he’s a little below average.

Jairo Perez seemingly came out of nowhere last year. He spent the first two months of the year in Extended Spring Training, but after joining the Snappers in mid June, he hit .337/.413/.580 with 20 doubles and 15 home runs. He had missed all of 2010 with Tommy John surgery. He primarily played 3B but also played a few games at 2B. He is a little guy who takes a monstrous swing. He is not fast and his range is limited, so 3B is a better option.

Beloit Snappers

Miguel Sano, Roy Larson, Adam Bryant

I think most Twins fans have heard pretty much everything about Miguel Sano. He is the consensus top prospect in the Twins farm system. He got the big signing bonus. He draws comparisons to Miguel Cabrera and other great power bats in the game. He had a lot of errors last year in Elizabethton at both shortstop and third base, but he can flat-out hit. He hit .292/.352/.627 with 18 doubles, seven triples and 20 home runs in 66 games for the E-Twins. His power potential is off charts. The Twins are typically patient with their young prospects’ development. The same should be true of Sano. As much as his offensive game is advanced, there are more aspects of the game that he needs to work on. He needs to make more contact. He needs to run the bases better. And he needs to play better defense and just mature, in general. I would expect him to spend the whole season at Beloit.

Adam Bryant was the team’s 9th round pick just last year, and as a four-year college senior, he signed quickly and was sent to Beloit where he held his own. He played all three infield positions and was solid with the bat. He’s a solid, all-around player who will likely advance as a utility player. The Twins signed Larson out of the University of St. Thomas. He’s 6-6 and struggled in E-Town, but he has very quick hands and bat speed. He can play both corner infield spots. Due to his age (he’s 24), he’ll likely have to advance through the lower levels quickly.

Extended Spring Training/Short-Season

Travis Harrison, Javier Pimentel

It will be interesting to see where Harrison and Pimentel will play in 2012. The assumption is that both will go to Extended Spring Training. Harrison was the team’s supplemental first-round pick in 2011 out of high school in California. He has a bunch of power potential and some believe that he could also become an all-around hitter. Pimentel was signed in 2010 out of the Dominican Republic for about a $700,000 signing bonus. He split the 2011 season between the Dominican Summer League and the GCL. I think he would likely head to the GCL again, but he has very good potential as well. Signed as a shortstop, he already spent most of his time at third base in 2011.

TOP THREE PROSPECTS

1.)    Miguel Sano, 2.) Travis Harrison, 3.) Jairo Perez

SUMMARY

Third base is Danny Valencia’s for the near-term. Sean Burroughs provides some quality depth. This would be a position where the Twins are quite strong at the lower levels (with Sano, Harrison and Pimentel), but there is not much help above Beloit for 2012, at least not anyone that would have any long-term potential. We’ll need to wait until at least 2014 to see Sano (and that’s only if he advances on the Joe Mauer path), and Harrison and Pimentel are likely 2016 arrivals. Will Sano be able to stick at 3B? How will Valencia fare through his pre-arbitration and arbitration years? 

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!

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.

Early Observations

22 Sep

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Don’t Forget – The TwinsCentric Viewing Party will be on Saturday at Manitou Station in White Bear Lake during Game 1 of the Twins/Cleveland double header. Get there between 11:30 and 12:00, and stay through the game. 

Another quick posting today. I fell asleep writing early again last night. I’ve got about 20 minutes to write  before I run in to work, so I thought I would jot down some quick, early observations of some of the younger players on the Twins roster. To be fair, small sample means very little, whether the sample is positive or negative. Obviously a positive sample is much more memorable and fun than a negative small sample, but what happens over 50-60 plate appearances this September means little when it comes to long-term success.

It’s been hard to write of late. In fact, I was telling someone last night that I’ve enjoyed just sitting back and watching the young guys play, seeing what they do, seeing what they still need to work on. It doesn’t need to be analytical or statistical at this point, and that’s good. But here are some of the things that I have seen so far.

Chris Parmelee – He has made a terrific first impression on everyone. In my Twins Prospect Handbook, release last January, I ranked Parmelee as my #12 Twins prospect, and many predicted that he would have his breakout season in the Twins minor leagues this year. My reason for optimism was that I believe something clicked with him when he was demoted last May to Ft. Myers from New Britain. He figured out something. He cut down on the strikeouts and became a better all-around hitter. Some of the power he had shown early dropped, but if he could use the whole field more and not strikeout as much, that was a great start. The power is still there. I saw him play in the Arizona Fall League two years ago, and he was a big guy. He has lost more than the 15 pounds that people talk about. What I have seen so far with the Twins is a guy who knows the strike zone. He is willing to be patient at the plate, but when he takes a swing, it is not a singles swing at all. He swings hard. We’ve seen the two home runs, but he has hit a lot of line drives. He uses the whole field. He makes contact. (in other words, even if he was hitting .150, I would be impressed by the approach.) He ended this minor league season as my #10 Twins prospect, but he has made a strong impression. Again, it’s not the high batting average that has been impressive, although that is nice. It’s his impressive approach at the plate that is equal parts patience, contact, and willingness to swing out of his shoes. The defense at 1B has been shaky at times, as expected, but that’s an area he can improve. I think that he will begin the 2011 season in Rochester, and that he definitely should. But when he has done this September is show that if needed next season, he could come up and not just fill in, but be a good contributor.

Joe Benson – Benson was my #4 Twins prospect, and to this point, all of the reports about him appear to be true. He is a tremendous athlete, very strong, great arm, good power, tremendous speed. He also is one to strike out a lot, and his aggressiveness on the base paths and in the field have been on display, both positive and negative. He has shown some patience at the plate, but he has also seemingly fallen behind 0-2 many times because of it. The 4-4 night with two doubles and a triple shows the kind of potential that Benson has. 15 strikeouts and two walks in 50 plate appearances tells us that he still has some work to do, although that strikeout rate is only minimally higher than it was in New Britain. Benson will also start the 2012 season in Rochester, and it will be a good challenge for him. He will need to continue to work on contact, something he has worked hard on in the past as well. However, I think that the biggest observation in my mind is that reports of his talent and his potential have not at all been overblown. He has the ability to be an all-star. And, he has the ability to be a fan favorite because of his hustle and aggressiveness.

Brian Dinkelman – Singles Machine! Dinkelman was not in my Top 30 Twins prospects this year, and probably would not have been in the Top 50. That’s why I frequently remind people that just because I don’t rank a guy highly on a prospect list does not mean that he can not be a major league contributor. I love following prospects like this, guys who are not going to be super stars, but they just work their way up the system and get an opportunity. In all reality, Dinkelman came up after Labor Day because the Twins needed a body. He was going to be DFAd following the season, and no one would have claimed him, and he would have spent the 2012 season in Rochester (where he hit about .230 this year, by the way). However, at this point, would anyone really have a problem with Dinkelman maintaining his 40 man roster spot through the offseason (in place of Tolbert and if it doesn’t make a prospect get exposed to the Rule 5 draft)? If the Twins take him off the 40 man roster, I still don’t think anyone would claim him. However, he has the 20 singles, pretty much all through the 3.5 hole. He has been solid at 2B, and played most of the last two years in LF or RF. Not a bad utility type.

Rene Tosoni – In the last two years, I have consistently ranked Tosoni between my #9 and #12 prospect in the Twins system. After he missed more than half of the 2010 season with shoulder surgery while playing at AA, I mistakenly dropped him in my rankings. To my surprise, he began the 2011 season in Rochester, and he played very well. That is why, when the Twins first needed an outfielder this season, it was Tosoni that they turned to, not Ben Revere. He had just 19 games of AA under his belt, but he was in the big leagues. Now, I think it is fair to say that Tosoni has struggled to this point in the big leagues. He is a very patient hitter at the plate, and I think that he has found himself if a lot of bad counts. He has 40 strikeouts in just over 160 plate appearances. That’s actually not a terrible rate. He has shown power with three doubles and three home runs, long home runs. That’s the kind of thing that makes me very excited about Tosoni. I think far too many people have written off Tosoni at this point. I still believe that he can be a very good big leaguer. I always called him Kubel-lite, meaning I think his potential can be about a .280 hitter with 15-18 home runs in a full season. He is a very solid outfielder with a good arm. Like Kubel, Tosoni’s one weakness in the minor leagues was hitting left-handers. I think Tosoni would be a great platoon option in the outfield. I think he needs a little more time. The time he has received with the Twins has been valuable for him, but we have not yet seen what he can do.

Ben Revere – He has played a lot more, and the Twins love him. The Twins media (written and spoken) love him. Most Twins fans love him. And why not? He is exciting. He plays hard. He hustles down the line, and he makes some pretty incredible catches out in center field. I believe that he is going to be a solid big league player, but I think expecting anything more than a Juan Pierre-like career would be way too optimistic. In fact, if Revere posts Pierre-like numbers in his career, I will be impressed and a little surprised. He has been better of late, but his offensive game has been pretty horrible this year. His recent hot streak has elevated his on-base percentage to .310. His slugging percentage is just .297. We kept hearing that at some point, he would show power.  No, that’ won’t happen. Outfielders play in so far against him that he could get some gappers or occasionally hit one over their heads. Then we get to watch him run. He almost had an inside the park home run this year. Defensively, he has made some incredible catches, and his range is remarkable. His terrific speed has helped make up for taking some bad angles on baseballs. People always accuse me of not liking Revere. I ranked him as my #8 Twins prospect before the season, and that’s probably fair. He is what he is as a player. Batting average will be his money-maker. If he can hit .300 (as he did throughout the minors), he could post a .350 on base percentage. If he does that, he could steal 75 bases a year. He has stolen 33 bases (in 42 attempts) in 109 games this year with a .310 OBP. Again, I think that the reports on Revere have proven very accurate. He is very exciting, and he is going to get better. In fact, what he has done over the last 3 weeks shows why getting this playing time and experience in the big leagues is so important for all of these guys.

Liam Hendriks – Hendriks came to the Twins, already well over his innings pitched count from last year. He impressed in his debut, and he had a rough game against the Royals in his second start. His most recent start is probably a good indication of where Hendriks is right now. He gave up two runs in the first inning before recording an out, but he worked out of that and got through five innings having allowed just those two runs. He was one pitch away from completing six innings with two runs, but he threw a bad pitch and Alex Liddi tied up the game at four with a long home run. Again, he began this season at AA and pitched great, and then did well at AAA at times. He is up with the Twins because of all the numbers. If he wasn’t, he would most likely be getting ready to join Allan de San Miguel, James Beresford and Todd Van Steensel on the Australian Team at the World Cup in Panama. Hendriks was my #6 Twins prospect after he was selected (by me) as the Twins minor league pitcher of the year last year. He was the repeat choice for me this year. So, what have I seen? Reports of a fastball with movement that is 89-91 is accurate. He has even touched 93, which is good. His changeup can be very good. I like the break on his curveball. In reality, I have seen him pitch well, but consistency with all of those pitches needs to be a little better. We have seen batters where he throws three straight pitches right on the outside corner. We have seen sharp sliders off the outside corner. We have seen him get called strike threes on pitches on the inside corner. But we have also seen him hurt when he (like any pitcher) misses his spots. Hendriks needs another half-season at Rochester, I think. But I have seen more than enough to tell me that he can fit into the back of the Twins rotation as early as next year, and of all the pitchers that have been compared to Brad Radke in recent years, he might be the one that I think most closely resembles him as a pitcher.

Luke Hughes – He’s out of options, and I have no problem with him being a utility infielder and a right-handed bat off the bench. He can adequately play 3B, 2B and 1B, and he has shown good pop in his bat. I think we’ve seen that he probably isn’t a regular at any position, but he can contribute to the team and should play fairly frequently.

Trevor Plouffe – Like Hughes, Plouffe will be out of options next season, so he will have to make the team. He has certainly had his struggles at SS at times, but he’s also gone through semi-long stretches of adequacy there. I think he can be a well below defensive SS and an average to slightly above average offensive SS. I don’t think he’ll get that opportunity with the Twins. Like Hughes, I think he can adequately play the infield positions, and even some in the corner outfield positions. Like JJ Hardy, he is really non-fast. I think he can hit in the big leagues, despite his struggles in September. Again, probably not a big league regular, at least not with the Twins, but he should have his bat in the lineup quite a bit!     

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

Twins From Down Under

28 Jun

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

As Trent Oeltjen and the LA Dodgers knocked around Twins pitching last night, it became clear what the subject of my TwinsCentric blog should be. We all know that the Twins have signed a lot of players from Australia, but I think when you look at the caliber of some of the prospects and how many big leaguers the Twins have produced from Down Under, it really is impressive.

Remember in 2005 when infielder Glenn Williams finally got a big league opportunity? He played in 13 games for the Twins and had at least one hit in each of those games. He was 17-40 (.425) when he dove back into first base and jarred his shoulder. The injury kept him out the rest of the season, and he never appeared in the big leagues again.

Williams was a high-profile prospect, signed to a huge bonus as an 18-year-old. The Twins had other Australians in their system, and several of them reached the big leagues.

  • Remember side-winding Michael Nakamura? In 2003, he walked just two batters and struck out 14 in 12.2 innings for the Twins. Of course, he gave up twenty hits, including four home runs, and posted a 7.82 ERA.
  • Brad Thomas was a solid reliever for the Tigers in 2010, and he is still in their bullpen this year. Did you remember that he debuted with the Twins as a 23-year-old in 2001 and pitched in 23.1 big innings over parts of three seasons from 2001 through 2004?
  • Justin Huber was a huge prospect in the Royals system but never got an opportunity with them. He came to the Twins in 2009 and after a strong AAA campaign got a September call-up to the Twins. He went 1-2 before an oblique injury cost him the rest of that season.
  • Grant Balfour debuted with the Twins in 2001 as a 23-year-old. He came back in 2003 and again in 2004. He impressed with a big fastball but was often hurt. He missed all of 2005 and 2006 after a few arm surgeries, including Tommy John surgery. His career took off in 2008 with the Rays, and became one of the league’s top setup men. He was a Type A free agent this past offseason and signed a big contract with the Oakland A’s, where he is currently 4-1 with a 2.48 ERA in 32.2 innings.
  • Ryan Rowland-Smith was the Twins Rule 5 selection from the Mariners after the 2004 season. He was returned to the Mariners late in Spring Training 2005. He pitched for the Mariners the last four years. He signed with the Houston Astros before this season.
  • Trent Oeltjen signed with the Twins in 2001 and moved all the way up to AAA Rochester where he spent the 2007 season. He was generally one of the better players on his teams. I had the chance to do a Q&A with Oeltjen following the 2006 season, which was fun. In my June of 2007 Top 50 Twins Prospect Rankings, I had Oeltjen at #10. He peaked in my rankings at #9 following the 2006 season. Oeltjen got into 24 games in 2009 with the Diamondbacks, and has now played in 24 games for the Dodgers over the past two years. By the way, his numbers in Albuquerque before the Dodgers called him up? .339/.429/.583 with 14 doubles, three triples and eight home runs in 180 at bats.  

Luke Hughes is the only current Twins player from Australia in the big leagues. He debuted in style in 2010 when he homered in his first big league at bat, against the Tigers’ Max Scherzer. He was one of the big stories of spring training again in 2011 but was the last cut. Of course, he has spent all but a couple of weeks in the big leagues this season and hit .246/.308/.313 with six doubles and a home run while playing 1B, 2B and 3B.  Hughes is followed by several very good prospects:

  • Allan de San Miguel is in his seventh season in the Twins minor league system yet is still just 24 years old. The 5-9, 200 pound catcher is currently rehabbing an elbow injury in Ft. Myers. He has a career hitting line of .202/.321/.290, playing at every level of the Twins farm system. In an organization with several very good defensive catchers, De San Miguel is among the most respected behind the plate.
  • Liam Hendriks is a Top 5 Twins prospect, and may still be underrated. The 22 year old was recently named to this year’s Futures Game in Phoenix. He was named to the team a year ago too, but he suffered an emergency appendectomy and missed a month. This year with Double-A New Britain, Hendriks is 7-2 with a 2.81 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP.
  • James Beresford is a 22 year old middle infielder for the Ft. Myers Miracle. He is hitting .251/.297/.259 with five doubles. He was the MVP of the Beloit Snappers the last two years. He is 6-2 but weighs barely 165 pounds. The most frequent saying around Beresford is that if he can add some weight, he will be really good. He is already a solid player and a tremendous glove and a leader.
  • Todd Van Steensel signed with the Twins late last year. The 20 year old was the Opening Night starter for the Elizabethton Twins. He has made two starts and has three walks and 14 strikeouts in 10 innings.
  • Also at Elizabethton is Rory Rhodes. The 19 year old third baseman stands 6-7 and weighs 200 pounds. Though seventeen at bats, he is hitting .353/.421/.706. Of his six hits, he has three doubles and a home run.
  • Tim Atherton was in the Twins system a few years ago and recently resigned with the team. The 21-year-old has two walks and nine strikeouts in six innings with the GCL Twins.
  • Mark Trau is a right-handed pitcher who just turned twenty. He has made just one appearance with the GCL Twins this year and pitched a scoreless inning.
  • First baseman Josh Hendricks is 19 years old and 6-3, 217 pounds. He is currently 0-16 with the GCL Twins.
  • Jacob Younis is a 17 year old infielder with the GCL Twins. At 5-9 and 180 pounds, he is now 5-12 (.417/.533/.417).

Hendriks is far and away the best prospect, but Rhodes has a chance to fly up prospect rankings this year. The Twins continue to have a very strong presence in Australia and the pipeline continues to grow. Any other thoughts or questions on the Twins minor leaguers from Australia or elsewhere? Feel free to comment here or here.

How the Twins won 8 out of 10

12 Jun

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Before we start, a quick reminder:

World Series Contest

I am going to be holding some contests here and on Twitter and Facebook over the next week or two thanks to A&E who has now come out with “A&E Minnesota Twins Vintage World Series Films DVD.”  It includes both the 1987 and 1991 teams! The ’87 team beat the St. Louis Cardinals in 7 games. The ’91 World Series was the first that had two worst-to-first teams as the Twins and the Atlanta Braves played one of the greatest seven-game series ever, including Jack Morris’s amazing Game 7. So be sure to look here and other places for some contests for a free copy.

On Saturday afternoon, the Twins scored five first inning runs and Scott Baker threw a complete game as the Twins won for the eighth time in ten games. First, it was a four-game sweep in Kansas City. Then they won two out of three in Cleveland against the division leaders. With the win on Saturday, the Twins have won two of the first three games of this four-game series against arguably the best team in the American League, the Texas Rangers.

After playing horrible baseball through the first 54 games of the season, the Twins have found a way to play great baseball over the past ten games. They have managed to do that without Joe Mauer, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Jim Thome, Jason Kubel and in recent days without Denard Span or Justin Morneau.

Do I believe that this type of success is sustainable? With the current roster? No. But as those aforementioned players come back, along with Glen Perkins, the team is certainly moving back in the right direction.

So, how did a team that was playing so poorly suddenly run off eight wins in ten games? I went to the numbers and it has been a combination of good starting pitching, great bullpen work and very strong offense. Here are some of the numbers for you to consider:

  • Over those ten games, the starting pitchers have thrown 65.1 innings. They have given up 70 hits, walked 11 and struck out 41. That’s a 2.62 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP. They have given up eight unearned runs, four of them came on Friday night in Brian Duensing’s seven run second inning. Scott Baker and Carl Pavano each threw a complete game during that time frame and seven innings in their other start. Brian Duensing threw eight shutout innings in one of his starts. Anthony Swarzak picked up his first career win to start this run. Francisco Liriano returned with five shutout innings.
  • As good as the starters have been, the bullpen has been even better. There may be a direct correlation there as well. Starters go longer and pitch better, maybe it’s easier to come in and perform. But they have come through in some tough situations. In those ten games, the bullpen has a 1.09 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP in 24.2 innings. They have given up just 16 hits, walked eight and struckout 12.
  • Ben Revere made the comment in his Fox interview following Saturday’s win that he likes being a leader and getting the team going. I assume that he meant that he enjoys being a leadoff hitter and setting the table for the game. Revere has been a catalyst, but he has not been the only offensive performer over the past ten days. Here’s proof that a lot of people are contributing:
    • Revere has gone 13-44 (.295) with two walks and a double. He has scored seven runs, driven in four runs. He also has three stolen bases.
    • Alexi Casilla has gone 14-42 (.333) with four walks and three doubles. He has four stolen bases, has scored six runs and driven in four runs.
    • Michael Cuddyer has gone 12-38 (.316) with four walks. He has four doubles, three home runs, six runs scored and ten RBI.
    • Delmon Young has gone 14-40 (.350) with a walk, three doubles and a long home run. He has scored seven runs and driven in six.
    • Matt Tolbert has gone 10-33 (.303) with a walk, three doubles, five runs scored and six RBI.
    • Luke Hughes has gone 9-25 (.360) with a walk, three doubles and seven runs scored.
    • Drew Butera has gone 8-20 (.400) with a walk, three doubles, six runs scored and six RBI.
    • Before his concussion, Denard Span went 4-14 (.286) with a double, a triple, a run scored and three RBI.
    • Jason Repko was 3-12 (.250) with a double, a run and three RBI. He played a huge role in one of the wins in Kansas City.
  • Before missing a couple of days lately, Justin Morneau had gone 2-24 (.083). Danny Valencia has gone 5-35 (.143) with four walks, a double, two runs and two RBI. Rene Rivera has gone 3-16 (.188) with a walk, a double, two runs and an RBI.

So again, in order to go on a nice ten-game run like the Twins have, it takes a whole team. The Twins have been able to get strong starting pitching and bullpen work. They have received offensive contributions from some unlikely sources, some young players and some of the veterans that much had been expected earlier. Ben Revere has been a catalyst, and Michael Cuddyer has been an incredible run producer.

And, as a fan, the best thing is that the Twins have been fun to watch again. Not just because of the wins, but primarily because the brand of baseball is just much better.

Of course, as we are now down to 98 more games, the Twins will need to play very well for the next nine or ten ten-game stretches. Are they capable? As those injured players return, how will they impact the Twins team? Are you surprised to see any of the above numbers? Feel free to comment here.

Roster Projections: Rochester Red Wings

29 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 that 2011 Triple-A Rochester Red Wings 24-man roster – In progress.

Now that the Twins have set their own roster, what does it mean for the Triple-A team? After the Red Wings lost nearly 100 games last year, the Twins went out and acquired a lot of minor league veterans. They did this for a few reasons, but the primary one had to be to win more games and keep the Rochester fan base happy. Secondly, it does allow the Twins to be more patient with actual prospects so that they can play and develop at the proper pace. So, let’s take a look at a projected Red Wings roster. These are the guys who could be called up at any time to play for the Twins if needed. I will include whether or not they are on the Twins 40 man roster because if they are not, they will need to be added before being called up.)

(the below roster is my opinion and my guesses, and nothing official.)

Catchers: Rene Rivera (40 man – No) – Steve Holm (40 man – No) 

With Wilson Ramos with the Nationals and Jose Morales with the Rockies, the Twins went out and acquired two minor league veterans, each with Major League service time and many years of AAA experience. Danny Lehmann impressed in spring training and although I believe he will start at AA New Britain, he is also an option for a call up should Drew Butera be hurt.

Infielders: 1B – Jeff Bailey (40 man – No), 2B – Luke Hughes (40 man – Yes), 3B – Chase Lambin (40 man – No), SS – Trevor Plouffe (40 man – Yes), Utility – Michael Hollimon (40 man – No), 1B/DH – Erik Lis – (40 man – No)

Bailey and Lambin were the first two minor league free agents that they signed. Bailey got some playing time and displayed power with the Red Sox in parts of three season. He and Lambin both have a lot of experience. Lambin was an International League All-Star last year. Luke Hughes showed his power in spring training. He will just need to stay healthy in 2011 (something he hasn’t been able to do in recent years) and he will be with the Twins at some point. So will Trevor Plouffe, despite a tough spring. Bailey can play some right field. The other four infielders listed should move around the infield, including 1B, because their role with the Twins would likely be off the bench. Yes, it is possible that Toby Gardenhire is on the roster, although my guess is that he will be on the “Disabled List.” Steve Singleton and his organization-leading 43 doubles will likely begin the season back in New Britain due to the veterans brought in. Matt Brown and Ray Chang, who each got a Non-Roster Invite to spring training, are also possibilities for the Red Wings roster. Justin Huber, who was another Non-Roster invite, was recently released which likely means that Erik Lis could get a lot of at bats as the Designated Hitter. It is possible Chris Parmelee will end the season with the Red Wings.

Outfielders: LF – Dustin Martin (40 man – No), CF – Ben Revere (40 man – Yes), RF – Brian Dinkelman (40 man – No), 4th outfielder – Brandon Roberts (40 man – No).

Martin will return for his third season with the Red Wings. Dinkelman will be there for his second full season. Both should have better seasons in 2011. Brandon Roberts has missed so much time the last few years with leg injuries. When he was healthy last year, he played really well, and in 153 at bats with the Red Wings at the end of 2010, he hit .333. He has primarily played CF in his career. As mentioned above, Bailey can play right field. Ben Revere will be making his Triple-A debut in 2011, even though he made his major league debut in 2010. Some believe he is ready for the big leagues. I believe he is close, but getting a year at AAA can only help him. He will likely be the one promoted to the Twins if there is a need. Joe Benson and Rene Tosoni impressed in spring training, and Tosoni could be the first promoted to AAA, if needed.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Eric Hacker (40 man – Yes), LHP Scott Diamond (40 man – No), RHP Kyle Gibson (40 man – No), Chuck James (40 man – No), Anthony Swarzak (40 man – Yes)

Obviously Gibson is the guy that everyone is going to be anxiously waiting for, but it will be good for him to get at least another 12-15 starts in Rochester. Triple-A hitters frequently have some big league time, and it is a good transition for pitchers to get to see hitters who are usually much more patient. Swarzak lost a lot of weight and he has regained some of the velocity he showed two years ago. Hopefully he can regain some of the effectiveness. The Twins gave up a lot (Billy Bullock) to retain the services of Scott Diamond. Hopefully it will be a good move. Diamond has put up terrific numbers throughout his minor league career, never posting an ERA above 3.52 at any level and striking out 7.3 per nine innings. Chuck James has 24 big league wins, and went 10-1 between AA and AAA last year with the Nationals organization in his return from surgery. Hacker went 16-8 with a league-average 4.51 ERA last year in the Pacific Coast League. He didn’t have a strong showing in big league camp, but he can provide Rochester with a solid season. The surprise omission here is David Bromberg. He made nine starts with the Red Wings last year and pitched well. He was added to the 40 man roster after the season, and he is a very good prospect, but it could be a positive in the long run for him to get a few more starts in AA and use what he learned in AAA late last year and in spring training this year.

Bullpen: RHP Alex Burnett (40 man – Yes), RHP Kyle Waldrop (40 man – No), RHP Jim Hoey (40 man – Yes), LHP Phil Dumatrait (40 man – No), RHP Chris Province (40 man – No), Yorman Bazardo (40 man – No), Andy Baldwin (40 man – No) RHP Anthony Slama (40 man – Yes)

I assume based on his arm issues during spring training that Anthony Slama could start the season on the Disabled List. Jim Hoey was the last guy with a chance to make the team to be sent down. He and his fastball could be promoted soon if he shows any semblance of control. Kyle Waldrop made another very strong impression this spring, and with the open 40 man roster spots, he could be added if needed. Alex Burnett was on the Twins opening day roster one year ago without any time in Rochester. He was sent back down in July before a September call-up. He will get more opportunities with the Twins. Phil Dumatrait is a former first-round pick who has quite a bit of big league time. He was the #4 lefty on a roster that kept three lefties in the bullpen. Chris Province came to the Twins last year from the Red Sox in exchange for Boof Bonser. He pitched mainly in New Britain last year. He did make a couple of starts for the Red Wings late in 2010, but he is a bullpen arm. Bazardo pitched well for the Tigres de Aragua this winter in Venezuela and got a minor league deal with the Twins. Low strikeout numbers, but he could be a long reliever. Baldwin is a Minnesota native who has spent the last three seasons pitching in AAA for the Mariners organization. You likely noticed that I did not include Carlos Gutierrez on this roster which may be a surprise to you. It was also somewhat of a surprise to me as well because he ended 2010 with two games for the Red Wings. I just think that with the minor league veterans, it would be good for him to begin the season pitching as the closer in New Britain. Remember, he has been doing a lot of starting in his pro career. It will be good for him to get some development time in the late innings for the Rockcats.He will get to AAA quickly. Additionally, Ryan Mullins and Minnesota-native Cole Devries remain options for the Red Wings bullpen.

Overall: This is a very veteran team which should mean a lot more wins in Rochester in 2011. I do believe that it is best for most of the prospects in the system in the long run, but there are not many prospects to watch in Rochester this year. Ben Revere and Kyle Gibson are the two that would be deemed top prospects. Plouffe is still just 24 and a prospect, but he is now in his fourth season with the Red Wings. Hughes and Waldrop made great impressions in spring training again, and we could see both of them this year.. Hoey and Burnett are exciting, but no longer “prospects” due to their time in the big leagues.

Due to the minor league free agents, AA New Britain should be filled with several exciting prospects such as Joe Benson, David Bromberg, Chris Parmelee, Carlos Gutierrez, Dakota Watts, Steve Singleton and more.

The minor league rosters should be announced later this week as their seasons get started next week. It will be very interesting to see where some of the team’s top prospects end up. There were more releases in the last couple of days, a couple that surprised me, and there will likely need to be more in the coming days to bring the rosters down to the appropriate level.

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

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