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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.

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Twins Set Opening Day Roster

28 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

On Sunday morning, the Twins decided to option Anthony Slama, Jim Hoey and Luke Hughes to Rochester. In doing so, the 25 man roster is set. Jeff Manship and Matt Tolbert make the Opening Day roster. The only thing to determine yet is whether or not Scott Diamond will be sent back to the Braves or if the teams can work out a trade. Of course, it is also possible that he could be claimed by another team.

Minnesota Twins Opening Day Roster

Starting Pitchers: Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Brian Duensing

Relief Pitchers: Joe Nathan, Matt Capps, Jose Mijares, Dusty Hughes, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins and Jeff Manship.

Catchers: Joe Mauer, Drew Butera

Infielders: Justin Morneau, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Alexi Casilla, Danny Valencia, Matt Tolbert

Outfielders: Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, Delmon Young, Jason Repko

Designated Hitters: Jason Kubel, Jim Thome

That’s it! That is the Twins Opening Day roster barring any injury. It looks like a pretty solid roster to me.  

Anthony Slama has been hurt most of spring training, so it is no surprise that he is being sent to Rochester to start the season. I believe, if healthy, he would likely be on the Opening Day roster. However, it will be good for him to ease back into pitching before he is ready to contribute for the Twins. Manship showed ups and downs this spring, but there is no doubt that he has enough stuff to be a quality major league reliever. He has been a starter throughout his minor league career, but between a 92 mph fastball, a terrific changeup and an excellent curveball, the comparisons to Matt Guerrier certainly make sense. It will, however, be a different role for him. Instead of getting ready to start every fifth day, he will likely be used in the 7th inning. The Twins likely won’t throw him into the more high-leverage, late-inning situations. That’s what Matt Capps and Jose Mijares are for. But Manship will need to get outs in the 7th, sometimes in big situations. Hoey throws hard, no question. He walked a bunch early in spring, but he had just one walk in his final five outings.

Bullpen Analysis: The Twins really like Manship and see a high deal of potential with him in the role. There are a lot of question marks in the back end of the bullpen due to lack of big league time or bullpen experience. However, they have a lot of arms, a lot of arms with great stuff. Glen Perkins is out of options. There are currently three left-handers. Kevin Slowey provides a guy who can give innings. What is exciting is that if anyone really struggles, there are options in Rochester. Slama could be ready soon, and Hoey may be the first guy to be promoted. Kyle Waldrop is not on the roster, but clearly the Twins really like him. Likewise, Carlos Gutierrez isn’t on the 40 man roster, but he has incredible upside in the bullpen and will likely have a big impact in the season’s second half. And too many people are forgetting about Alex Burnett who is still young and has very good stuff.

The big talker among Twins fans has been who will be the Twins utility infielder. Would it be Matt Tolbert or Luke Hughes? Matt Tolbert is a line drive hitter with little power who generally takes good at bats and plays some good defense at all four infield positions. Luke Hughes led the Twins in home runs and RBI this spring, but also in at bats. In the end, Hughes made the decision very easy for Ron Gardenhire. Had the decision been made two weeks ago, there was a shot that Hughes could have made the roster, but he has really struggled with the bat the last week to ten days. He had just three hits in his last 30 at bats (although two of them were home runs). Hitting is his thing, and specifically, he provides power from the right side of the plate. Note that he struck out 17 times this spring with just two walks and an OPS well below the .300 mark. He could play four infield positions, and Gardy even gave him opportunities at shortstop.

I am not a big Matt Tolbert backer at all. He is not great defensively at any of those four positions, although he is solid. He is so rigid and uptight, and he probably would be better if he just relaxed. But I do think that this the right decision for the team. I would love to see Luke Hughes on this roster because his right-handed power is terrific.

Infield Analysis: Had Justin Morneau not been able to start the season on the active list, Hughes probably makes the roster. However, there are question marks and guys getting opportunities around the rest of the infield. Danny Valencia had a huge impact in the second half of the Twins and it will be interesting to see how the league adjusts to him, and more importantly, how he adjusts back to the rest of the league. Alexi Casilla is very talented, and he is being given another opportunity as a starter. Maybe his last opportunity. Tsuyoshi Nishioka showed in spring training that he can be very solid, but the regular season will create new challenges. However, to be fair, each of them should get at least six to eight weeks of playing nearly every day to see where they are at. That means less playing time for the utility guy, and that suits Tolbert better in that he is a little better with the glove than Hughes. Hughes can go back to Rochester and play nearly every day. Hopefully he stays healthy.

Spring Training Analysis: I say frequently that spring training play means very little to who makes the opening day roster. We saw it last year in the Wilson Ramos/Drew Butera decision. This year, it is clear that Tolbert and Manship were the guys that had the first opportunity to make the roster. It would have taken a lot to beat either of them out of a spot. Hughes was terrific through the first two weeks, but his late struggles meant that Tolbert would get the utility job to start the season. Manship wasn’t great in the spring, but none of the other options stood out enough to move ahead of him. That doesn’t mean that spring training means nothing. Heading into spring, the assumption was that Trevor Plouffe might have an outside shot at the utility infield job. He struggled and Hughes showed off him power. If the Twins have a need early in the season, Hughes’ spring impression likely means he is the first player to be promoted. Likewise, there are still several questions at the back of the Twins bullpen. Hoey showed a lot, but so did Kyle Waldrop. An open 40 man roster spot, so it would not be surprising if he Waldrop debuts with the Twins early in the season. What Carlos Gutierrez did this spring has to have the Twins brass excited for what he can do. Now he needs to work out the final kinks in Rochester.

The Twins play at noon today against the Pirates. After the game, the team will fly to Atlanta and play the Braves in two exhibition games. On Thursday, the team will travel to Toronto, and on Friday, Opening Night will be here!

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Last night, I hosted the SethSpeaks.net Sunday Night Twins podcast with guest Dan Wade (of TwinsMVB.com). It was a fun discussion of the Twins entire roster and many of the decisions that have been made.

If you like, please feel free to comment.

Early Impressions

22 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

There are a lot of clichés surrounding spring training. Some say statistics don’t matter at all. I would fully agree with that as it relates to the players with sure roster spots. The Twins have 21 or 22 spots on their roster that are already determined. The statistics of those players are essentially meaningless. There is little, if any, correlation between spring statistics (good or bad) and regular season success.

Spring stats matter to those who are fighting for a roster spot. As I wrote yesterday, this probably indicates that spring performance matters to Dusty Hughes, Jim Hoey, Kyle Waldrop, Jeff Manship, Matt Tolbert, Luke Hughes and Jeff Bailey.

Another adage that many baseball people say frequently is that spring numbers and performance do not matter until the final two weeks of spring leading up to Opening Day. At that point, many players have been sent to minor league camp. Hitters are getting three or four at bats most games and they are against pitchers who are likely to be on a big league roster at some point in 2011.

If that is true, and we have one more week of spring training, then the stats from the past week matter a little bit, right? The Twins had an off day last Tuesday, so below are the stats for many of the Twins players over the last week, starting with the hitters:

  • Denard Span has a hit in all five games he has played in this past week.
  • Tsuyoshi Nishioka has also played in five games and gone 6-15 (.400).
  • Delmon Young has played in six games and gone 6-18 (.333).
  • Danny Valencia is 1-13 in his last four games.
  • Luke Hughes, the guy everyone seems to think should be given the Twins utility infield spot, has played in six games and is 2-21 (.095), including going 0-13 in his past four games.
  • Matt Tolbert has started twice in the last week and gone 5-8 in those two games, including a home run.
  • Jeff Bailey is 4-11 in his past three games. He is the one player who has played in all seven games.

Here are the numbers over the past week for a few of the Twins pitchers:

  • Jim Hoey, who was hit hard early in camp and walked quite a few, pitched three times in the last week. In three innings, he has not given up a run. He has given up just one hit, walked none and struck out four.
  • Glen Perkins has pitched twice. In his two innings, he has not allowed a run.
  • Carlos Gutierrez has got three innings and not allowed a run despite four hits and three walks.
  • Dusty Hughes, who many (including me) are calling a given at this point, pitched in three games in the past week. He has thrown four scoreless innings, but he has given up four hits and walked five batters. Those are the types of numbers that Scott Diamond put up in his first two outings that got him called “disappointing” by Twins brass.

What does all this mean? Maybe nothing. Maybe it will matter as the final roster spots are chosen. I think looking at stats from the entire spring, Luke Hughes and Dusty Hughes would be favorites for roster spots with the Twins. However, if stats from the past week are to mean more, then maybe we need to take a second look at guys like Jim Hoey, Matt Tolbert and Jeff Bailey.

You all know how I feel about small sample sizes, good or bad. We all acknowledge that we don’t see what happens outside of box scores. We all understand that there are intangibles that go beyond those box scores as well.

If you like, please feel free to comment.

The Final Spots

18 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

For the most part, spring training is a formality. Of the 25 man roster, likely 21 or 22 of those positions were set. Joe Mauer doesn’t need to win a job in spring training. Neither does Justin Morneau or Michael Cuddyer. Joe Nathan had to prove that he was healthy, but if he did, he isn’t fighting for a roster spot. Who were the givens coming into spring training?

Hitters: Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Alexi Casilla, Danny Valencia, Delmon Young, Denard Span, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Jason Repko, Jim Thome, Drew Butera (12)

Pitchers: Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Joe Nathan, Matt Capps, Jose Mijares (9)

Coming into spring training, the Twins’ brass talked about a bullpen spot or two being up for grabs and the utility infield spot, and based on the above, that is clearly true. The Twins need a utility infielder and three pitchers. There was no shortage of options coming into spring training for those spots either.

For the utility infielder spot: Matt Tolbert, Trevor Plouffe, Luke Hughes, Chase Lambin

For the three bullpen spots: Jeff Manship, Pat Neshek, Jim Hoey, Glen Perkins, Scott Diamond, Dusty Hughes, Chuck James, Phil Dumatrait, Anthony Swarzak, Kyle Waldrop, Alex Burnett, Yorman Bazardo, Eric Hacker, Anthony Slama

Backup Infielder:

Going into spring training, most of us believed that the “competition” was more in name than in reality. Matt Tolbert is a “Gardy Guy.” He can play all three infield positions defensively. He has some speed. Not much of a hitter, but he has shown an ability to hit at times over the last few seasons. Trevor Plouffe has played shortstop and second base, and even logged some innings at first base, but he has struggled this spring with the bat and with the glove.

Meanwhile, Luke Hughes has again shown up to spring training and shown that he can flat-out hit. He is 14-40 (.350) with three doubles and five home runs. We will ignore the 12 strikeouts in 43 plate appearances. He has played adequate defense at 3B, 2B, 1B and even a couple of innings at SS. In his minor league past, he has played all three outfield positions as well. Gardy has been making quotes about defense not being the only thing that matters in the utility infield spot which certainly bodes well for Hughes.

Remember that the utility infielder will hopefully play about once a week, although Hughes would also be a good right-handed bat off the bench to compliment lefty Jim Thome. He may have to play ten to twelve innings of defense a week. How will he adapt to a role position? Can he stay healthy?

Tolbert and Plouffe each are in their final option year. Hughes has two options left. So, options do not need to factor into this decision, which is good.

Gardy’s Decision: Will come down to defense versus offense. Will he want Hughes’ right-handed bat off the bench, or will he want Tolbert’s defense at the three positions?

If the season started today: Hughes would be the man, no question. I think that when spring training started, it was Matt Tolbert’s job to lose. Instead, Luke Hughes has come to spring training likely made such a strong impression that he may have pushed his way onto the Opening Day roster.

Bullpen:

Anthony Swarzak, Yorman Bazardo and Eric Hacker have already been demoted to minor league camp. Chuck James and Phil Dumatrait haven’t done enough to put themselves into Opening Day consideration. Anthony Slama was my choice before camp started, but he has been unable to pitch due to an elbow injury. Alex Burnett will be a big part of the Twins bullpen for years to come, but I don’t think he’s in the competition for an opening day spot right now. Kyle Waldrop probably would be a strong candidate if he was on the 40 man roster. I believe he will be a Twins pitcher, but not by Opening Day. Same with Carlos Gutierrez. So that leaves six pitchers for three spots, and at least one of them (And maybe two) should be left-handed).

Jeff Manship: He has given up five runs on nine hits and three walks in nine innings. He has just two strikeouts. The organization compares his stuff to Matt Guerrier, and it’s hard to argue with that comparison. They both have good fastballs, though not overpowering. They have good control. They both have very good curveballs and changeups. The comparison is fair, but Manship has done little pitching out of the bullpen in his career. He has the stuff to do it well.

Pat Neshek: People talk about Neshek and his velocity. It is seemingly the biggest story. On Thursday, he hit 89. He also has a good changeup and slider. To me, it’s more about pitch movement and mixing up speeds. He has given up three runs on six hits and a walk in 6.1 innings. Of the six hits, three have been home runs. If Neshek makes the team and is given the opportunity to continue to gain strength by pitching in low-leverage situations, he can play a big role in the Twins bullpen as he has in the past.

Jim Hoey: Hoey came over from the Orioles in the JJ Hardy trade. He throws hard, touching 99 mph. As we know, it’s all about throwing strikes for him. If he can harn the velocity, he can be dominant. That is yet to be seen. He has given up five runs on seven hits and four walks in 6.2 innings.

Glen Perkins: Perkins is out of options. He’s left-handed and can’t get left-handed batters out. He really struggled last year. The year before, he got off to a great start and then was hurt most of the season. The year before that, he was a double-digit winner for the Twins. Clearly the Minnesota native has some stuff. He’s left-handed, throws hard, has a good slider and he is breathing. Did I mention that he is out of options? That may be the biggest factor at the end of the day. However, for what it is worth, this spring he has given up two runs on seven hits and two walks in seven innings.

Scott Diamond: He was the Twins Rule 5 pick in December which means that he has to stay on the Twins roster throughout the 2011 season or be offered back to the Braves. Although he has given up just one run on six hits in six innings, he has also walked six batters. Twins brass talks about how slowly he has worked, which is something they have not seen in their years of scouting him.

Dusty Hughes: Inexplicably, the Royals designated the southpaw for assignment and the Twins happily claimed him and added him to the 40 man roster. They speak of his four-pitch mix. He has certainly made a strong impression during spring. In eight shutout innings, he has allowed just three hits. He has walked three also, but all three came in his Thursday outing.

Gardy’s Decision: The coaching staff seems quite high on Manship, and everyone is saying great things about Glen Perkins. Hughes has pitched great this spring, but the team needs to determine what happens with Perkins and Diamond before they determine what they will do with Hughes.

If the season started today: Pat Neshek, Glen Perkins, Dusty Hughes

The Big Picture:

How good can the Twins be if the roster decisions at this point are for the 12th hitter and 11th and 12th pitchers? That isn’t to minimize their roles at all. Each of the 25 players can help the team win games at any time. How large does a small sample need to be (good or bad) to be large enough to mean something? I mean, Dusty Hughes has been amazing through eight innings, but what if he gives up five runs without getting a batter out in his next outing? Luke Hughes has shown great power from the right-side, but what if he strikes out in his next 14 at bats against big league pitchers and commits two errors a day all around the field? The Twins have been disappointed with Scott Diamond and the pace he has shown on the mound this spring. In an interview on 1500espn on Sunday, assistant GM said that it was something they hadn’t seen in their years of scouting him. That scouting led them to love Diamond, so are they really going to let six innings in spring training completely negate what he had done for three minor league seasons before?

What if the Twins keep Dusty Hughes and let Glen Perkins and Scott Diamond go? If Hughes then struggles, two options are gone.

In the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook, I included Luke Hughes on my 2011 roster blueprint, as a right-handed bench bat because of his power. He had a great spring last year and was the first non-catching hitter called up. If not for injuries last year, we would likely have seen much more of him. What he has done this spring with the bat is likely taken a job that going into spring training, he was third on the depth chart. Again, he’s crushed it in spring for a role on the Twins bench that may get him six or seven at bats a week, but I do like the bat.

Sprint Training is always fun and interesting, and there are always great stories. To this point in spring, the Hughes Brothers (who of course are not brothers) have both put together strong springs that probably put them on the big league roster. With two weeks to go, what are the other stories of spring to follow? Are any other jobs up for grabs? What are your thoughts?

Here are some other notes and blogs to peruse:

That’s it for today! Have a great weekend! If you like, please feel free to comment, ask questions.

Should Twins Fans Worry about Aaron Hicks?

18 Feb

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

It is always strange to me when I hear Twins fans and some minor league baseball fans talking about how disappointing Aaron Hicks has been in Beloit. I think part of it is because many, myself included, thought he would end the 2010 season in Ft. Myers. I realize everyone from fans to players to front office personnel are eagerly awaiting his breakout year when his incredible tools become skills and he puts up some terrific numbers. But I wanted to take a look at how his numbers at Beloit compare to other Twins players and their numbers in the Midwest League.

Let’s start by reviewing the numbers that Aaron Hicks has put up the last two years in Beloit:

Player Age Year Team BA/OBP/SLG (OPS) 2B/3B/HR/RBI BB/K
Aaron Hicks 19 2009 Beloit .251/.353/.382 (735) 15/3/4/29 40/55
Aaron Hicks 20 2010 Beloit .279/.401/.428 (829) 27/6/8/49 88/112

Here are some current and former Twins players and how they did in the Midwest League (Note – Delmon Young’s A-ball numbers from the Sally League):

Player Age Year Team BA/OBP/SLG (OPS) 2B/3B/HR/RBI BB/K
Torii Hunter 18 1994 Ft. Wayne .293/.358/.439 (797) 17/1/10/50 25/80
Michael Cuddyer 19 1998 Ft. Wayne .276/.364/.451 (815) 37/7/12/81 61/107
Justin Morneau 20 2001 Quad Cities .356/.420/.597 (1017) 17/2/12/53 26/38
Joe Mauer 19 2002 Quad Cities .302/.393/.392 (785) 23/1/4/62 61/42
Jason Kubel 20 2002 Quad Cities .321/.380/.521 (901) 26/4/17/69 41/48
Denard Span 20 2004 Quad Cities .267/.363/.308 (671) 4/3/0/14 34/49
Delmon Young 18 2004 Charleston .320/.386/.536 (922) 26/5/25/115 53/120
Alexi Casilla 20 2005 Cedar Rapids .325/.392/.409 (801) 11/3/3/17 29/31

Here are a few notes:

  • Everyone talks about how Torii Hunter didn’t put up great numbers in the Midwest League. Well, he did, and he did it at the age of 18. He was already showing some of that power.
  • Michael Cuddyer put up some incredible minor league numbers all the way up the ladder, and it started as a 19 year old in 1998. Look at all those extra base hits.
  • Justin Morneau didn’t get to the Midwest League until he was 20, and he only spent a half season there because he completely dominated the level.
  • Joe Mauer’s OPS isn’t exciting, but we did get a glimpse of the player he has become too. Many more walks than strikeouts, a few doubles, and a good batting average.
  • How fun would it have been to see Quad Cities play in 2002 with Mauer and Jason Kubel? You can see why so many people back then saw Kubel as a mix between Morneau and Mauer.
  • Denard Span didn’t exactly put up monster numbers, and he did miss quite a bit of time with injury. The take-away from those numbers is that he had a very nice Isolated Discipline already even though he was, like Hicks, very raw at the time.
  • Delmon Young was a beast after being taken with the 1st overall pick in the 2003 draft. Ever wonder why people still think he’ll develop a lot of power, check out those numbers!
  • Alexi Casilla was with the Angels organization, but what he did for Cedar Rapids made him the guy they wanted in a trade of JC Romero the next offseason.
  • I included international players and high school drafted players in this group. Danny Valencia hit .302/.374/.500 (874) with 15 doubles and 11 homers in a half-season with the Snappers, but he was 22 years old after spending three years playing Division I baseball. Matt Tolbert played four years at the University of Mississippi, so the Twins had him skip the Midwest League and go right to Ft. Myers.

Can we take anything away from these numbers? With Hicks, you have to love his Isolated Discipline and On-Base skills from both years. The strikeouts increased some in 2010, but he has shown some extra base power. Delmon Young, Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel put up really tremendous numbers in the Midwest League, and that has translated to the big leagues eventually. Cuddyer was an extra base machine as a 19 year old in Beloit, and yet his OPS was lower than Hicks’ was in 2010, as a 20 year old. Joe Mauer has always had a terrific eye, and yet Hicks has produced significantly better IsoD while producing more extra base hits.

Of course, we don’t know what will happen. We know that all players develop differently, but I think that this quick, cursory glance at Hicks’ numbers compared to current big leaguers gives us no reason to believe he won’t continue developing and become a very good big league player.

Let’s also take a look at the Midwest League numbers of some of the other Twins hitting prospects to see how they compare:

Player Age Year Team BA/OBP/SLG (OPS) 2B/3B/HR/RBI BB/K
Trevor Plouffe 19 2005 Beloit .223/.300/.345 (645) 18/0/13/60 50/78
Chris Parmelee 19 2007 Beloit .239/.313/.414 (727) 23/5/15/70 46/137
Chris Parmelee 20 2008 Beloit .239/.385/.496 (881) 10/3/14/49 52/83
Joe Benson 19 2007 Beloit .255/.347/.368 (715) 18/8/5/38 49/124
Joe Benson 20 2008 Beloit .248/.326/.382 (708) 16/3/4/27 24/73
Ben Revere 20 2008 Beloit .379/.433/.497 (930) 17/10/1/43 27/31
Angel Morales 19 2009 Beloit .266/.329/.455 (784) 22/5/13/62 30/104
Angel Morales 20 2010 Beloit .289/.381/.474 (855) 13/7/4/36 24/65
James Beresford 20 2009 Beloit .289/.342/.313 (655) 11/0/0/38 34/70
James Beresford 21 2010 Beloit .297/.349/.363 (712) 19/5/1/59 34/56
Danny Rams 20 2009 Beloit .229/.308/.429 (737) 14/0/7/23 18/77
Danny Rams 21 2010 Beloit .243/.310/.450 (760) 28/4/16/68 31/145
Anderson Hidalgo 21 2010 Beloit .316/.375/.443 (818) 25/1/3/28 24/50
  • Trevor Plouffe put up those numbers only because he played much better in the 2nd half of the season. Good power numbers, but he could have used another year with the Snappers.
  • Both Joe Benson and Chris Parmelee struggled in their first seasons in the Midwest League. Then both got hurt halfway through their second season with the team. However, in the second year, you can see why people are excited about his patience and power potential.
  • Looking at Revere’s Beloit numbers, what a year he had. Very much batting average based, of course. But if we were to only look at OPS, his is right up there with anyone (except Morneau). And he stole 44 bases that year too.
  • Angel Morales… how/why is he so overlooked in many prospect rankings?
  • James Beresford showed good improvement from 2009 and 2010. Reports are that he has gained some weight this offseason. If he can add any semblance of power to his game, he could jump up prospect rankings quickly!
  • Danny Rams has so much power potential, but he just needs to put the ball in play more. His 77 strikeouts in 2009 came in just 175 at bats. He struck out 145 times in 407 at bats in 2010. Yet, his power numbers still make him intriguing.
  • Anderson Hidalgo may be the least known, or maybe underrated, prospect in the organization. He had another solid year in 2010.

What is the summary? There really isn’t one. There is no science to prospect rankings and we don’t know how things will turn out, but if nothing else, I believe this data shows that Twins fans should continue to be very excited about the future of Aaron Hicks.

Any thoughts? Feel free to leave your comments here. Also, for more links to Twins articles and thoughts throughout the weekend, be sure to follow me on Twitter where I like to retweet Twins-related articles and post thoughts frequently. Have a great weekend!

A Look Back: Twins Draft Picks

11 May

Please check out my StarTribune.com TwinsCentric blog for this week. I looked back at the Twins last 15 years of draft picks to find the hits and misses. It’s hard to believe that the 2010 draft is less than a month away. So take A Look Back at the Twins drafts in recent years.

Also, be sure to join Travis Aune and myself tonight at 10:00 central time for this week’s Twins Minor League Weekly. Each week, Travis and I dive headfirst into the Twins minor league farm system. This week, there will be plenty of transactions to discuss, for sure. But we will also talk about who has been playing well, and upcoming roster decisions. It’s a fun hour of discussion and we certainly welcome your comments and feedback.  

SethSpeaks Monday Minor League Hitter of the Day – Steve Liddle – Beloit Snappers

SethSpeaks Monday Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Kyle Gibson – Ft. Myers Miracle

  • While you’re reading my Strib article this morning, be sure to check out LaVelle E. Neal’s morning blog. In it, he mentions that Matt Tolbert is on his way to the Twin Cities in case JJ Hardy, who is seeing a hand specialist, needs to be put on the Disabled List. I’ve said several times that I expected that Tolbert would get the promotion if needed just because Gardy absolutely loves the already-28 year old utility guy. I just think this would have been the perfect time to call up Trevor Plouffe, who has played very well this spring at Rochester, and give him a two week tryout. Plouffe earned it on and off the field. The other option would have been to go with Danny Valencia, let him play 3B for two weeks with Nick Punto shifting back to SS. Valencia is hitting over .270 after his slow start and is currently on a 14 game hitting streak. Retreading Tolbert in this situation makes absolutely no sense. Instead, we’ll probably see a lot of Brendan Harris and Alexi Casilla at SS.
  • I’ve been trying to keep you updated here over the last 2-3 days on all the transactions in the minor leagues, but LaVelle posted a couple that I wasn’t aware of yet. Loek Van Mil has been activated from the Disabled List and will pitch, at least temporarily, for Ft. Myers. Andrei Lobanov, who had 1 walk and 35 strikeouts at the GCL last year, is also pitching for Ft. Myers. Again, that is likely only temporary and he will probably pitch in Elizabethton later this summer.
  • After a horrible two inning outing on Friday, Yoslan Herrera asked for, and was granted his release from the Twins. That is the nice way of saying, he quit. Yesterday, New Britain reliever Henry Arias did the same thing. The Twins put him on the suspended list (so he is not a free agent), and he won’t return to the team.    

Red Wings Report   

Monday – Rochester 2, Indianapolis 7 Glen Perkins had what appears to have been another rough start. He gave up seven runs on six hits and three walks in 5.1 innings. However, he actually pitched very well through the first four innings. (Baby steps, right?) Jose Lugo went 2.2 shutout innings in relief, much needed for him and the team. Dustin Martin had two doubles in four at bats. Luke Hughes was 2-4 with his second stolen base.  

New Britain Notes

Monday – New Britain 2, Trenton 8David Bromberg had his first rough outing in AA. The Twins pitching prospect gave up eight earned runs on 11 hits and four walks in 4.2 innings of work. Michael Allen made a nice AA debut. He threw 2.1 scoreless innings with no walks and three strikeouts. Santos Arias and Matt Williams each threw a scoreless inning. Alexander Soto went 3-4 with his third double. Steve Singleton went 2-5 with his sixth double.  

Miracle Matters

Monday – Ft. Myers 4, Tampa 1 – There is a lot of talk about Kyle Gibson being promoted to AA very soon, maybe even today, but Gibson put that beyond him and pitched another very good game. He went 6.2 innings and gave up one run on five hits. He walked three and struck out a career-high eight batters. He improved to 4-1 with a 1.87 ERA. There were a couple more good stories from this game. Shooter Hunt got his second save with 2.1 shutout innings. He didn’t give up a run or even a hit. He walked one and struck out six. Brandon Roberts went 2-4 with two more stolen bases in his rehab work. Yangervis Solarte went 1-3 with two RBI and his third stolen base. The other great bit of news is that Paul Kelly was back in the Miracle lineup, batting second and playing SS. He went 0-3.

SIDENOTE – I get a lot of questions from people asking what I think they should do with Shooter Hunt. After a rough 2009 season, he is pitching great in the Ft. Myers bullpen. Many want him to be promoted to AA. More want him to move into the Ft. Myers starting rotation. My personal opinion is that they need to just leave him where he is for right now. Let him keep pitching in this role of one to three innings in relief. Let him experience this success and gain more and more confidence. This is one of the truly great people in the organization, and rather than push, push, push, they need to remain cautious. Let’s not forget that he does not need to be added to the 40 man roster until after the 2011 season, and from there, he has three option years. There is absolutely no rush with Shooter Hunt, and I hope the Twins continue with him on this path. Hunt is currently 1-1 with a 4.34 ERA on the season. He has nine walks and 29 strikeouts in 18.2 innings. If you take out his first outing of the year, he is 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA. He has six walks and 29 strikeouts in 18.2 innings. Even better, in his last seven games, he has two walks and 24 strikeouts in 15.1 innings.    

Snappers Snippets

Monday – Beloit 8, Burlington 7 (10) – The Snappers scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game and then won it in the 10th. Down three runs in the 8th inning, Angel Morales came to bat with the bases loaded. He drilled a two run single to left field, and a throwing error scored the third run on the same play. Advance to the bottom of the 10th inning, Josmil Pinto came to the plate with the bases loaded. He was hit by a pitch for the walk off run! Pinto was 2-4 with his fourth double in the game. Angel Morales was 2-4 with his tenth stolen base. Brian Dozier was 2-5 with a walk. Steve Liddle went 2-3 with three walks. Edgar Ibarra started and gave up three runs on two hits and four walks in four innings. He struck out three. Dakota Watts came in and gave up four runs on three hits and two walks in 2.1 innings. Matt Tone entered and threw 1.2 scoreless innings in relief. Kane Holbrooks struck out two in the 9th inning. Eliecer Cardenas struck out two in a scoreless tenth frame to record his first win.  

Any questions? Leave your comments here.

2010 Rochester Red Wings Preview

7 Apr

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

The 2010 Twins minor league roster previews are brought to you by the Minnesota Twins 2010 Prospect Handbook. Get your copy here!

Second, I will be on KFAN at 10:30 central time with Paul Allen. If you can get it on the radio, great. If not, head over to KFAN.com and listen live.

And, by the way, if you’re able to, be sure to join me and the rest of TwinsCentric at Majors Sports Café in Blaine on Saturday from 11:30 a.m. until the end of the Twins/White Sox game. Drink and appetizer specials. Lots of prizes to give away. Lots of talk with Twins fans. It’d be fun to meet you!

On Thursday night, Anthony Swarzak will take the mound for the Rochester Red Wings against Boof Bonser and Pawtucket. Tom Nieto will be the Red Wings manager in 2010 after leading the New Britain Rockcats a year ago. Floyd Rayford will be the hitting coach while Bobby Cuellar is the pitching coach. Let’s take a look at players on the Red Wings roster to start the 2010 season (note – prospect ranking for my choices for Top 30 Twins prospects as updated in the Minnesota Twins 2010 Prospect Handbook):

The Starting Pitchers

Anthony Swarzak, Jeff Manship (16), Glen Perkins, Mike Maroth, Yoslan Herrera.

As far as upside, I think most would agree that Glen Perkins could be the most talented pitcher in this group. Does that mean he’s the best pitcher? Probably not. Manship and Swarzak both profile as back of the rotation starters. Both showed in 2009, in short stints with the Twins, that they are capable big league pitchers, but they also both showed that they have more to learn. Having talked with Manship several times, I know that he’ll take a lot from what he learned at the big league level and incorporate it into his game. I like to assume the same for Swarzak. Mike Maroth is a veteran. He was the last 20 game loser in the big leagues. I had so much respect for him during his Tigers days for being strong enough mentally to keep pitching, and he wasn’t as bad as that win-loss record indicated. Of course, a couple of years later, he was that bad and out of baseball. This spring, he was given a chance by the Twins and had a solid camp, so he can be a veteran in the AAA rotation. Herrera signed a four year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates after defecting from Cuba. Those four years are up. He became a free agent and signed with the Twins. At 28, he’s not a prospect, but he has been solid enough in the minor leagues that this is a worthy risk to take. I also believe that Matt Fox and Ryan Mullins will each get an opportunity to start at some point during the season.

The Bullpen Arms

Anthony Slama (23), Rob Delaney, Jose Lugo, Kyle Waldrop, Tim Lahey, Matt Fox, Ryan Mullins, Ron Mahay.

The back-end of the Twins bullpen is incredibly talented and should be a strength of this roster. Anthony Slama has done nothing but dominate since signing in early 2007. Rob Delaney has been just about as good, although he struggled more in his time in AAA than did Slama. Jose Lugo is pretty similar to Jose Mijares. Occasional lapses and loss of control, but has tremendous stuff, especially against lefties. Kyle Waldrop was a pleasant surprise in camp this spring. The non-roster invitee was one of the Twins first-round picks in 2004 out of his Tennessee high school. He missed all of 2008 with surgery in his shoulder. He stayed healthy in 2009 and should be strong in 2010. Fellow 2004 first round pick Matt Fox and 2005 3rd round pick will be the righty and lefty (respectively) to pitch out of the bullpen, and as I said earlier, both could get opportunities to start. Tim Lahey was drafted as a catcher, and soon the Twins made him a reliever. He quickly worked through the system and last year he really struggled. But he lost nearly 30 pounds in the offseason and looked strong in camp, so it will be a very big year for the right-hander. And remember, in all likelihood, Alex Burnett will be optioned to Rochester, a place he has not yet played. But he could be the best relief pitching prospect in the Twins system too. Ron Mahay will start the season in Rochester, but he is expected to be up with the Twins relatively soon. Big league veteran, Brad Hennessey, who had a couple of very good years with the San Francisco Giants, missed last year and will spend the first couple of months this year. But this was a nice

The Catchers

Wilson Ramos (2), Allan de San Miguel.

When it came to on-field, baseball decisions, Wilson Ramos was probably the story of spring training. Ramos did not lose the battle to Drew Butera, but Butera was – rightfully – given the Twins backup catcher duties until the return of Jose Morales. Ramos is an incredible prospect. I ranked him the team’s #2 prospect this winter. He has displayed an ability to hit for both average and power, and play a very solid catcher defensively. The incredible thing is that he isn’t even the top prospect in the International League this year. Both Jesus Montero of the Yankees and Carlos Santana of the Indians will also be playing in the league.

De San Miguel has been in the Twins farm system for a long time and yet he is still just 23 years old. He knows and understands that his future with the Twins is as a backup catcher, and he has embraced the role. Offensively, he hasn’t hit for average or power, but he has really improved his ability to get on base. But again, that’s all secondary to what he provides for the pitching staff. Jose Morales would likely rehab in Rochester at some point, and when he returns to the Twins, Drew Butera would likely come back to Rochester to back up Ramos.

The Infielders

Brock Peterson, Luke Hughes (27), Trevor Plouffe (21), Danny Valencia (7), Erik Lis, Matt Tolbert, (Matt Macri)

Peterson became a free agent this past offseason, but the Twins were happily able to bring him back. He was the Red Wings top hitter in the second half of 2009. Plus, it’s fun to cheer for a former 49th round draft pick! Erik Lis likely will not play much first base and will get plenty of at bats as the team’s designated hitter. This is a big year for Trevor Plouffe. He’s still just 23, but now in his third year at Rochester. With the acquisition of JJ Hardy, Plouffe may need to play other positions as well. Danny Valencia is immensely talented, and there are questions at 3B with the Twins. There could be a scenario in which he is up with the Twins by June, but most of that depends as much on the performances of Nick Punto and Brendan Harris, along with his own performance. Matt Tolbert, simply, is not very good, but he can play all around the infield and on opening night, he will actually be the Red Wings leadoff hitter and center fielder. Ron Gardenhire loves him, so he likely remains in the plans. Matt Macri begins the season on the Disabled List.

The Outfielders

Brian Dinkelman, Jason Repko, Jacque Jones, Dustin Martin, (Brandon Roberts)

Jacque Jones was one of the great Twins stories of spring training. Brought back for camp, almost as a courtesy for all he did at the beginning of last decade for the team, Jones was not going to make the big league roster. But he almost did, and now he will head to Rochester. If a need arises in the outfield for the Twins, Jones might be the first promoted. On Monday, the Twins signed Jason Repko, a centerfielder who had spent time with the Los Angeles Dodgers four of the past five seasons. Not a great hitter, he is right-handed and probably the best option to play center field. Dustin Martin had a very good 2008, a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League, and a nice showing in spring training 2009. And then the season started, and Martin didn’t even get an invite to big league training camp this year. Brian Dinkelman was a second baseman throughout his career, until Steve Singleton was promoted to New Britain last year. Then Dinkelman started playing in the outfield, and he performed fairly well. A good contact hitter who finds ways to get on base, I think he will be hitting near the top of the Red Wings order throughout the year. Finally, Brandon Roberts spent most of the past two years in New Britain, on their Disabled List, and that’s where he will begin the 2010 season with the Red Wings.

SUMMARY

Overall, I think this is a very solid roster. For AAA, it is a good mix of veteran players, with decent AAAA types of players and a good number of prospects who will likely contribute to some degree, some significantly, in the next couple of seasons. On Opening Night, Danny Valencia will be batting 8th with Brian Dinkelman betting 9th. I’m not saying agree with that, but if that is the case, this should be a very strong lineup. As I mentioned before, the back end of the bullpen should be very strong, so the starters can hopefully provide at least six good innings each night. The fans in Rochester should get to see some quality baseball this season. Hopefully they can not only develop players for the Twins to use as necessary, but also compete for a playoff spot in the International League.  

If you have any questions or comments on this preview of the roster, please feel free to ask… Leave your questions or comments.