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Twins Minor League Hitter of the Year

6 Sep

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Note – Listen to last night’s final episode of Twins Minor League Weekly where Travis Aune and I talked about everything throughout the Twins minor league season. We discussed our choices as top players for each team and in the organization, how each team did, and much, much more. Check it out here!

As games finished on Labor Day in the Twins minor league system, the Twins minor league season came to an end. New Britain had an opportunity to make the playoffs had Reading lost and the Rock Cats won. Unfortunately, the R-Phillies won their game. The Elizabethton Twins were the lone playoff team in the organization, although they lost in the first round. It was a disappointing season in the Twins farm system. However, there are a lot of guys who had very good seasons. Today, I’ll present for you my choices for the Twins Minor League Hitter, Starting Pitcher and Relief Pitcher of the Year in three separate blog entries. We will start with the Relief Pitchers. Feel free to debate them, or ask any questions you may have in the Comments section:

Starting Pitcher of the Year

There were a lot more good hitters up for Hitter of the Year consideration, or at least mention, than there were pitchers this year. There will be more of a countdown.

#10 – Aaron Bates – Rochester Red Wings (.316/.408/.439, with 23 doubles, 7 HR, 37 RBI)

Didn’t even sign with the Red Wings until May, but played well throughout the season.

#9 – Oswaldo Arcia – Beloit Snappers/Ft. Myers Miracle (.291/.335/.531, with 23 doubles, 4 triples, 13 HR, 51 RBI)

Missed a month with elbow surgery, but came back and moved up to Ft. Myers. Great power to all fields. Very quick bat.

#8 – Michael Gonzales – Beloit Snappers (.289/.371/.468, with 27 doubles, 1 triple, 15 HR, 76 RBI)

Consistent performance in his second season with Snappers. Lost 30+ pounds, and his bat speed was much improved.

#7 – Chris Parmelee – New Britain Rock Cats (.287/.366/.436, with 30 doubles, 5 triples, 13 HR, 83 RBI)

2006 top pick finally gets that big league promotion today. He had a very solid, consistent season with the Rock Cats. He also improved his defense at 1B while still occasionally playing in RF.

#6 – Yangervis Solarte – New Britain Rock Cats (.329/.367/.466, with 36 doubles, 3 triples, 7 HR, 49 RBI)

The 24-year-old Venezuelan hit .300 or higher every month of the season. He also led the organization with 36 doubles.  

#5 – Miguel Sano – Elizabethton Twins (.292/.352/.637, with 18 doubles, 7 triples, 20 HR, 59 RBI)

He had just 290 plate appearances, yet I just couldn’t put him any lower on the list. Sano’s 20 home runs is third-most in Elizabethton history. His 45 extra base hits led the team. At just 18 years old, it was a remarkable season for one of the team’s brightest future stars.  

#4 – Jairo Perez – Beloit Snappers (.337/.413/.580, with 20 doubles, 1 triple, 15 HR, 60 RBI)

Perez missed the entire 2010 season because of Tommy John surgery. His 2011 season didn’t start until June, and yet when he was activated by the Snappers, he did nothing but hit the rest of the summer. Not a large man, Perez takes a huge swing and as you can see, he made a lot of contact in 2011.

#3 – Joe Benson – New Britain Rock Cats (.285/.388/.495, with 28 doubles, 4 triples, 16 HR, 67 RBI, 13 SB)

The Twins 2010 Minor League Hitter of the Year is certainly a candidate to repeat again in 2011 despite missing 4-5 weeks because of knee surgery. Benson is a remarkable athlete with tremendous power and speed. He had great range in the outfield and a very strong arm. The weak point in his game is his contact rate, which did improve significantly from 2010 to 2011. He was also promoted to the Twins and will be flying to Minneapolis on Tuesday. It would be great for him to be able to make his big league debut against his home town White Sox. Benson will be a key for the Twins in the next year or so.

#2 – Eddie Rosario – Elizabethton Twins (.337/.397/.670, with 9 doubles, 9 triples, 21 HR, 60 RBI, 17 SB)

It is hard to put a player from one of the short-season teams up this high on the list, but Rosario was the Appalachian League MVP this year and posted incredible numbers. His 21 home runs were just one shy of Paul Russo’s E-Town single-season record. He also hits for average. He has great speed. Plays very good centerfield and has a canon for an arm. The Puerto Rico high school product drafted in the 4th round just one year ago will soon turn 20. After five homers in June and six homers in July, Rosario hit ten home runs in August. It will be interesting to see how his game translates to the full season.  

Hitter of the Year – Brian Dozier – Ft. Myers Miracle (.320/.399/.491, with 33 doubles, 12 triples, 9 HR, 56 RBI, 24 SB)

Dozier was drafted as a senior out of the University of Southern Mississippi after leading his team to the College World Series. After signing, he hit .353/.417/.431 in Elizabethton. Last year, he started the season by hitting .278/.347/.338 in 39 games in Beloit. He was promoted to Ft. Myers where he hit .274/.352/.354 with 11 doubles and his first five pro home runs. It was surprising when he received an invitation to big league spring training but he made a strong showing. He returned to Ft. Myers and hit .322/.423/.472 with 11 doubles, five triples and two home runs in 49 games. He then moved up to New Britain and hit .318/.384/.502 with 22 doubles, seven triples and seven home runs in 78 games. His .885 OPS led the Rock Cats (Benson was at .883). Dozier is not the fastest runner, but he stole 24 bases. He is said to have average range and an average arm, but pitchers I have talked to that have had Dozier playing behind him, love it. Dozier will be representing the Twins in the Arizona Fall League. He will likely receive another invitation to big league camp next year, and depending upon what other moves that Twins make in the offseason, he could make his debut with the Twins any time in 2012!

Feel free to discuss in the Comments section.

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

17 Jul

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live from Beloit: Game 1

16 Jul

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SethSpeaks.net June Twins Minor League Hitters of the Month

3 Jul

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

It is hard to believe that the third month of the season is now complete and it is already July. It is again time to take a look at June and determine the SethSpeaks.net June Minor League Hitter and Pitchers of the Month. As always, there are some really good options which is why I do a Top 5 for hitters and starting pitchers and the top three relievers.

Today, I’ll be posting my choice for the June Hitter of the Month. In April, the winner was Danny Ortiz of the Beloit Snappers. Last month, the selection was Ft. Myers shortstop Brian Dozier. Soon after the calendar changed from May to June, Dozier was promoted to Double-A New Britain where he got off to a fast start before being hit in the face with a pitch. He returned to action after missing less than two weeks and has been playing even better. He missed too much time to qualify for the June player of the month, but check out these number. He went 16-48, and hit .333/.418/.500 with four doubles and two triples.

Also, the Twins short-season affiliates started late in June. There were some quick starts, but with less than 45 at bats, none of the players had enough playing time to get considered for more than mention.

Before getting to the Top 5, here are some guys who just missed the subjective list:

  • New Britain – Chris Parmelee (32-99) .278/.388/.412 with three doubles, two triples, two home runs and 14 RBI.
  • Ft. Myers – Anderson Hidalgo (24-81) .296/.345/.457 with nine doubles, two homers and 9 RBI.
  • Beloit – Lance Ray (25-81) .309/.398/.407 with eight doubles, and eight RBI
  • Elizabethton – Eddie Rosario (.357/.421/.720) with two doubles, a triple, five home runs and 13 RBI.

Number 5 – Beloit – Michael Gonzales – 1B (33-101) .327/.361/.525 with 6 doubles, a triple, four home runs and 19 RBI.

Gonzales gets the #5 spot for the second straight month. He had a nearly identical OPS as he did in May, however, he went about it a different way. In May, he was a walk-machine. In June, he didn’t walk as much, but he had a terrific slugging percentage. Gonzales started in the Midwest League All Star Game. At 6-6, Gonzales had a ton of power potential, but a long, slow swing in 2010. He lost 30 pounds in the offseason and has a much quicker swing and the numbers are showing. I can’t help but wonder if he should be promoted to Ft. Myers, but we forget that the 23-year-old spent just one year in junior college before the Twins drafted him in the 9th round of the 2008 draft. It will be good to see if he can continue to put up numbers throughout the second half.   

Number 4 – Rochester – Dustin Martin – OF (34-105) .324/.408/.533 with eight doubles, a triple, four homers and 14 RBI.

In 2009, Martin posted a .670 OPS in his first season in Rochester. Last year, he improved that number to .733. Through half of 2011, the 27-year-old is posting a .780 OPS for the Red Wings. Martin was the 26th round pick of the New York Mets in 2006. A year later, he and Drew Butera came to the Twins in exchange for Luis Castillo. After hitting .195 in May, Martin was a force in the middle of the Red Wings lineup in June.   

Number 3 – Beloit – Jairo Perez – IF (27-68) .397/.475/.618 with three doubles, four homers and 16 RBI.

Perez signed with the Twins way back in 2006, but it would not be surprising if most Twins fans had never heard of him until this month. He spent two years in the Dominican Summer League, and then hit .217 in 2009 in the GCL. Then, he missed all of 2010 with Tommy John surgery. His rehab contributed to him missing the first two months of the 2011 season. He was promoted to Beloit and debuted with a 2-4 effort on June 8th. He has continued to rake ever since. He had multi-hit games in eight of his 20 games played. He walked a lot, hit for power and drove in a ton of runs. He has a .414 BABIP to this point, so it may not be maintainable, but he certain started out well for his new team.

Number 2 – Rochester – Trevor Plouffe – IF/OF (22-71) .310/.388/.648 with five doubles, two triples, five home runs and 13 RBI.

Of course, when Trevor Plouffe was Jairo Perez’s age, he was in his second season in Triple-A Rochester. Unfortunately, the 25 year old is still in Rochester. When Plouffe was sent down (And bashed by the organization) early in June, he could have sulked. Especially when he had to miss a week of games with a bad finger. Instead, he just continued to do what he had done all year, and that is destroy the baseball. He leads the organization with 15 total home runs this season. Plouffe is now playing all around the field for the Red Wings in an attempt to make him more of a utility player, a role many in the organization envisioned for him the last few years.

The SethSpeaks Minnesota Twins Minor League Hitter of the Month of June is…

Ft. Myers OF Aaron Hicks (23-83) .337/.466/.530 with eleven doubles, one triple, one home run and eight RBI.

The team’s #1 prospect is also the choice for the team’s #1 minor league hitter of the month in June. Hicks has been playing very well now for the last two months, showing that he is taking his incredible tools, and they are now becoming skills. One of the reasons that he has been so highly touted, by me and others, is his ability at such a young age to take walks. He walked 20 times in June alone. In June, he knocked a lot of doubles. A perfect illustration of the type of player he is and hopefully will become was the extra innings game this month in which he went 3-3 with three walks and three doubles. Will the home run power come? I think so. He is very strong. His defense is already there. He has recorded many outfield assists this month because of his great arm. Now the key for Hicks, and for many top prospects, will be to become more and more consistent. In his first month in Hi-A Ft. Myers, he posted a .593 OPS. In May, he increased that number to .830. In June, his OPS was 996. Like his OPS, Hicks’ prospect stock continues to rise.

June was another difficult month for most hitters in the Twins system, but there were many that do deserve recognition for great play, many beyond the above list. Wait until tomorrow I post my choices for the June Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Month. There are a lot of very strong options and many were considered!

Please feel free to discuss and ask questions.

SethSpeaks.net May Twins Minor League Hitters of the Month

1 Jun

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

It doesn’t seem like long ago that I was handing out the SethSpeaks.net Hitter and Pitchers of the Month for April, and here we are on June 1 and it is time to hand out the awards for May. As always, there have been some good performances and some bad performances, but you know what I am going to choose to look at.

In April, our top two players of the month came from the Beloit Snappers. Number Two, Oswaldo Arcia, went on the Disabled List on May 1 and had elbow surgery and is likely out for a couple of months. Danny Ortiz was the choice for Hitter of the Month in April when he hit .377/.429/.768 with seven doubles, a triple and six home runs in 69 at bats. In May, he hit .236/.267/.364 with eleven doubles and one home run in 110 at bats.

Today, I will post my top 5 choices for Twins minor league hitter of the month. Tomorrow, I will point out the top 5 Twins starting pitchers for May as well as well as the top 3 relievers that deserve recognition.

Before getting to the Top 5, here are some guys who just missed the subjective list:

  • Rochester – Brian Dinkelman (35-103) .340/.400/.476 with nine doubles, a triple, one home run and ten RBI.
  • Rochester – Ray Chang (28-87) .322/.375/.448 with five doubles, two home runs and nine RBI.
  • Rochester – Aaron Bates (20-63) .317/.434/.476 with four doubles, two home runs and five RBI.
  • New Britain – Yangervis Solarte (32-99) .323/.374/.455 with six doubles, two triples, one home run and 10 RBI.
  • Ft. Myers – Aaron Hicks (24-84) .286/.390/.440 with seven doubles, two homers and 12 RBI.
  • Beloit – Wang-Wei Lin (32-101) .317/.439/.512 with eight doubles, and nine RBI.

Number 5 – Beloit – Michael Gonzales – 1B (31-104) .298/.412/.433 with five doubles, three home runs and 24 RBI.

Gonzales stands out on the Beloit Snappers roster. Part of that is because he stands at 6-6 and 270 pounds. He was the Twins 9th round pick in the 2008 draft out of Diablo Valley College. Last year at Beloit, he hit .236/.322/.439 with 27 doubles and 13 home runs. He walked 36 times and struck out 107 times, about one in three at bats. He had 52 RBI, so the fact that he drove in 24 runs in 32 May games certainly stands out. On the season, Gonzales is hitting .288/.400/.466 with five doubles and seven home runs. When I saw him play in Beloit last year about this time, he had a very slow bat, a very long swing, so the strikeouts are understandable. He also has a ton of power. He had little range at 1B a year ago, but I am told that he has greatly improved his defense over the past year. Gonzales will turn 23 on June 16 and is a candidate for a call up to Ft. Myers later in the season. To this point, he has 38 strikeouts in 175 plate appearances.  

Number 4 – New Britain – Joe Benson – OF (30-101) .297/.398/.485 with eight doubles, a triple, three home runs and 14 RBI.

Benson was honorable mention in April, and only because he really struggled the final week of April. Those struggles continued the first couple of weeks of May, but he has been terrific of late. In his last 10 games, he has hit .484/.579/.774 (15-31) with four doubles, a triple and a home run. In other words, he went 15 for his first 70 in May (.214) and ended the season strong. During his struggles, Benson’s strikeout rate was very poor. On the season, he has 49 strikeouts in 198 plate appearances. Again, this is the key number for Benson as we look at him each month. He isn’t hitting for quite the same power as he did a year ago when he hit a combined 31 doubles, eight triples and 27 home runs in 459 at bats. This year, in 179 at bats, he has 16 doubles, two triples and five home runs. The team’s 2006 second round pick is playing well overall. The reason I think he should remain in Double-A is to try to help him become more consistent.

Number 3 – Beloit – Nate Roberts – OF (29-96) .302/.456/.396 with seven doubles, a triple, and 12 RBI.

The day that Oswaldo Arcia was put on the Disabled List (May 1), Roberts was summoned from Beloit where he had been rehabbing. The 22 year old was the Twins fifth round pick a year ago out of High Point University. After hitting .336/.444/.547 in 128 at bats at Elizabethton last year after signing, he has shown that it was not a fluke. The reason he is this high on the list is because he got on base 45.6% of the time for the month. That is hard to do! He struck out 13 times while walking 16 times. The highlight of his month likely came on May 27 when he went 3-3 with a walk and three doubles. He

Number 2 – Ft. Myers – Evan Bigley – OF (31-103) .301/.363/.544 with ten doubles, three triples, three home runs and 18 RBI.

The Twins drafted Bigley with their 10th round pick in the 2008 draft out of Lew Ford’s alma mater, Dallas Baptist University. Bigley was tremendous for the Rock Cats, especially in the first half of the month. In five games from May 3 to May 7, Bigley had five multi-hit games. Of his 11 hits, he had four doubles, two triples and a home run. He had an 0-2, and then came back with a 2-4 game with another double. Since May 12, he has gone 3-31 (.097) with ten strikeouts. The overall numbers are still good enough for the #2 spot.

The SethSpeaks Minnesota Twins Minor League Hitter of the Month of May is…

Ft. Myers SS Brian Dozier (33-98) .337/.426/.469 with seven doubles, three triple, and 11 RBI.

Brian Dozier celebrated his 24th birthday on May 15th and really hit great after that point. Although, it’s hard to notice because one of the great attributes of Dozier since the Twins used their 8th round pick on the Southern Mississippi shortstop has been his consistency. In April he hit .299 with and OPS of .863. In May, he hit .337 with an OPS of .895. Both months, he walked more than he struck out. On the season, he has 27 walks to go with 20 strikeouts. He is now hitting .320/.430/.464 with 11 doubles, five triples and one home run. He has 13 steals in 17 attempts. And, he plays very good defense. All that said, I expect that his tenure with the Miracle will last until the FSL Western Division first-half title is determined.

For the most part, May was a rough month for hitters throughout the Twins minor league system, but that is not to say there weren’t some really solid performances. Congratulations to Brian Dozier on being the top hitter of the month of May, but also to the others discussed and even those receiving honorable mention.  

Please feel free to discuss and ask questions.

Roster Projection: Beloit Snappers

31 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday Notes

5 Aug

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

On Thursday at 9:20 a.m., I’ll again be joining Paul Allen on KFAN, its affiliates and www.KFAN.com. Talking Twins is always fun! Also, check out my newest TwinsCentric blog at StarTribune.com. It takes a look ahead at the Twins 40 man roster decisions.

The Twins won an ugly 2-1 game against the Tampa Bay Rays in 13 innings last night, and if you listen to some Twins fans, you would think it means nothing. There were some missed opportunities. Delmon Young and Denard Span took turns looking really bad defensively. Span and Michael Cuddyer each went 0-6 in the game. There were several situations with a runner on third base and less than two outs where all you need is a medium deep fly ball and the team didn’t come through. Matt Capps blew a save. 

If you want to think all negative after a game like that, that’s your prerogative… you can do what you want to do. 

But here is how I choose to look at it. The Twins played an imperfect game, on the road, against (arguably, but in my opinion) the best team in baseball, without Justin Morneau and Orlando Hudson, with Joe Mauer only able to DH, against one of the best, young left-handed pitchers in baseball (meaning no Jason Kubel or Jim Thome too) and they still were able to win.

Most important to note is the impressive pitching performance by Scott Baker. Following two, two-run losses to the Rays, the Twins needed a big game from Baker, and he came through. He has not looked that good all year. The fastball was popping a little, and moving a lot. The curveball was as sharp as I’ve seen it. He had good control, and was very impressive. Eight innings. He gave up just three hits and one walk against a good Rays lineup. Despite a couple of bad plays (or non-plays) behind him, he was able to pick up his defense and make big pitches and get big outs. He deserved a “Win” even if I don’t care about that statistic for a starting pitcher in today’s game.

Matt Capps blew the save, so a lot of people thought the sky was falling down. But in reality, if Delmon Young catches that first lazy fly ball, Capps likely saves a 1-0 win for the Twins. But, that didn’t happen. Again, I am not a big fan of Capps, but he did not look bad last night. He does make the 2010 Twins bullpen better, regardless of a blown save. So, we really should not make too much out of that. Also, yes, Young should have caught that ball. No question about that. But in reviewing the tape, he did start out playing very deep. Teams always do that to (ironically) take away doubles. Young hesitated briefly, but not much, and he went a long way to get to that ball. It hit off the tip of his glove, and really, it just looked rather awkward. Should have been caught, but not as easy a play as many are thinking.

But the beauty of baseball is that there is a new game every day, and each at bat and appearance are new. Players and tames have the opportunity to redeem themselves quickly. Young had the play in the 9th inning, and he was 0-5 when he came to the plate with runners on 1st and 3rd in the 13th. He came through with what proved to be the game-winning hit.

On Tuesday night, Matt Guerrier played the role of goat after an awful performance in which he walked two before throwing BJ Upton a 2-0 fastball right down the middle that I think I could have hit out of the park! On Wednesday night, he pitched the 12th and 13th innings and was tremendous.

When asked before this series what I thought the Twins needed to do in this four game series against Tampa, I thought they needed to win one game, and that two wins would have been terrific. Anything more than that would have been pie in the sky. This morning (11 a.m. start time), the Twins can earn a split of the four game series.

Here is a quick glance at what happened on Wednesday in the Twins minor league system:

Red Wings Report   

No game scheduled for the Red Wings on Wednesday.

New Britain Notes

The Rockcats beat Erie 13-6. Bobby Lanigan improved to 2-0. The righty gave up three runs (2 earned) on seven hits in 5.2 innings. He walked one and struck out five. Mike McCardell came out of the bullpen and gave up two runs on four hits in 2.1 innings. He did not issue a walk and struck out four. Cole DeVries gave up a run on two hits and a walk in his inning. Juan Portes went 4-5 with his third triple and fifth home run. Erik Lis went 4-5 with his 12th double. Jeff Howell went 3-4 with a walk and his first Rockcats double and home run. Joe Benson was 2-5 with his 17th double. Estarlin de Los Santos went 2-5 with his first triple. It was announced as well that Ben Revere will miss the rest of the season after being hit in the eye, and breaking his eye socket, on Tuesday night.

Miracle Matters

The Ft. Myers Miracle lost 5-2 to Clearwater. Nick Romero went 2-3. Santos Arias gave up one run on five hits and three walks in five innings. Jhon Garcia gave up one run on two hits in three innings.

Snappers Snippets

Tom Stuifbergen improved to 5-0 in the Snappers 7-2 win over Burlington. The Dutch right-hander gave up two runs on six hits in 6.1 innings. He walked none, hit two batters and struck out five. Andrei Lobanov struck out three in 2.2 scoreless innings. Michael Gonzales has been on fire of late. In this game, he was 2-3 with a walk, his 20th double and his 12th home run. Danny Rams was 3-4 with his fourth triple. Reggie Williams went 2-4.

Brad Stillings, Anderson Hidalgo and Peter Kennelly were put on the Disabled List. Who will replace them?  Check out the E-Twins Talkers for my thoughts.

E-Twins Talkers

Elizabethton did not play on Wednesday. So, who will be heading up to Beloit? I would say that it would make a lot of sense for the Twins to promote Adrian Salcedo, Martire Garcia and Oswaldo Arcia. All three have performed great for the E-Twins and are likely very ready for a promotion. But I don’t think that is what will actually happen. The E-Twins are going to win their division and advance to the league’s playoffs where they have a strong opportunity to win another Appalachian League title. Those three players will be a big part of that. So, I expect that the Twins will not send their primary players to the Snappers. I could be wrong, but I think they will let the Elizabethton team and fans win again. It is likely that all three will end the season at Beloit, following their playoff run for a few games. According to LaVelle, Pat Dean has been promoted to Elizabethton. It will be interesting to see if he starts, or just continues to throw an inning at a time in the bullpen.

GCL Twins Topics

It was a long day for the Twins Gulf Coast League team. They were able to drive north to Tampa (St. Petersburg) to watch the Twins and the Rays. They got to see 13 innings of that game.  They played early in the day and worked a little overtime to beat the Orioles team 6-4 in 11 innings. Max Kepler went 3-4. Matej Hejman was 2-5 with his third double, first home run and three RBI. Eddie Rosario went 2-5 with his ninth double. Justin Parker gave up four runs (just 1 earned) on four hits and a walk in five innings. Derek Christensen threw two scoreless innings. Matt Schuld struck out four in three scoreless innings. Nick Alloway got his second save with a scoreless inning.

On his way to Tampa, LaVelle E. Neal made a quick stop in Ft. Myers and observed the GCL Twins. Here are his notes on several of the players.

Any thoughts on the Twins or the minor league system? Feel free to leave your questions and comments here.