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Organizational Depth Chart – Catchers

22 Jan

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

For the most part, the Twins spring training rosters are pretty well set. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is another reliever brought in, and there could be some more minor league signings. I thought it would be late enough in the offseason to start taking a look at the Twins organizational depth. So, over the next two weeks, I’ll go position by position and name the players throughout the farm system with a few thoughts. In doing so, I’ll be trying to figure out what the Twins minor league rosters will look like.

I’m going to start with the catcher position and work through all of the positions. First and foremost, I need to point out that these are my thoughts. I have no insider information to know where players will be. Obviously after spring training, some of these players will be let go. There will be Disabled List players, extended spring training and more.

Minnesota Twins  

Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit, Drew Butera

Maybe it’s hopeful optimism, but I’m not worried about Joe Mauer in 2012. 2011 started out with injury, a bad diagnosis made public, and a not-so-subtle hint of confusion surrounding his health, his toughness and how even his teammates and managers didn’t always understand what the situation was either. If Mauer is healthy, he’s one of the best catchers in baseball, offensively and defensively. Ideally, he could again catch 110-120 games and if he does so, we know that he will likely hit .320/.390/.490 or so with 35 or more doubles and potentially a dozen home runs.

Doumit was a tremendous signing early in the offseason. His career numbers in the NL show that he has posted an OPS very similar to Jason Kubel’s. Offensively, I expect the same type of hitter as Kubel. That’s probably a little optimistic. I think Doumit (along with Trevor Plouffe and Luke Hughes) will be the primary DHs, unless Justin Morneau can’t play 1B and they have him DH. Doumit can also catch 30-40 games a season to give Mauer a day off from behind the plate. He’s not too good back there.

Butera is the opposite. He has no chance offensively, particularly when overexposed as he was last year. Butera is the actual backup catcher, in my mind, since Doumit should be starting every day. As a true backup catcher, he’s fine, plays good defense, does a good job against the running game, and works well with pitchers. When he has to play most days and gets 400 plate appearances, that isn’t the design. In reality, the Twins have a bunch of versatility on their major league roster, so I might prefer to have Butera in Rochester. If Mauer or Doumit is hurt one game, the other could catch the rest of that game, and Butera could be up the next day. Of course, that would assume the Twins utilized the DL well, something they did very poorly the last couple of years.

Rochester Red Wings

Rene Rivera, JR Towles

We saw in 2011 what Rivera could do, and it was pretty much just as bad offensively as Butera. He just swung more crazy and more often. Defensively, he is obviously quite solid.

JR Towles comes over from the Astros where he was once a top prospect in baseball. He never really hit with the Astros, although he never really got much consistent playing time. There may be some hope here for some optimism.

New Britain Rock Cats

Danny Lehmann, Chris Herrmann

Butera, Rivera and Towles are pretty much the same. I may be wrong, but everything I’ve seen, read and heard from players throughout the system, Lehmann is the best of that group. He won’t hit a lot, but no worse than Rivera and Butera did, and his defense is just as good, if not better. I’ve talked to a lot of pitchers in the Twins system the last couple of years and all agree that they love throwing to Lehmann.

Chris Herrmann is the Twins top catching prospect, and it isn’t terribly close. He made a very strong impression in 2011 at Ft. Myers and in New Britain. He didn’t hit for average, but he gets on base a lot. He also hits a lot of doubles with a smooth left-handed swing. He runs very well for a catcher. Part of his value is his versatility. In college, he played mostly in the infield. Early in his Twins career, he played mainly in the outfield and played well there. Pitchers say that his defense behind the plate has improved, and he now throws out a solid percentage of would-be base stealers. He could be a versatile backup player with the Twins by September, and he is also good enough to be the primary backstop for the team as well should they move the $184-million-dollar man to another position at some point.

Ft. Myers Miracle

Danny Rams, Dan Rohlfing, Josmil Pinto

Rams made a good impression last year at big league spring training and was very good in April. At that point, he got hurt and played through it, but his numbers were not what he and organization would have wanted. Defensively, he has a strong arm, but isn’t touted as a great defender. It’s just a gut feeling, but Rams is very talented, and I think once he gets to New Britain, we’ll start seeing some of his power potential turn into some power numbers.

Rohlfing played infield in high school and the Twins moved him to catcher. After awhile, he was moved to the outfield. Last year, he was pushed to New Britain where he held his own as a backup catcher. When he was sent back to Ft. Myers, he was in the lineup most every day, either behind the plate or in the outfield and he played well. He was invited to spring training this year because he has made an impression on the right people.

Josmil Pinto put up huge numbers in E-town a couple of seasons ago, but he really struggled in 2010 in Beloit. He returned to Beloit and did alright before being moved up to Ft. Myers. He has a strong arm, but it’s likely he’s a DH because he does struggle behind the plate.

Beloit Snappers

Andy Leer, Philip Chapman, Matt Koch, Matt Parker, Jairo Rodriguez, Kyle Knudson

This is where you start realizing that not all of these players will remain in the organization beyond spring training. There will likely be some injuries and others also added to the Disabled List for depth.

Andy Leer is from North Dakota and went to college at the University of Mary. He was an infielder with the Snappers in 2011, and at Instructional League, he was moved behind the plate. Philip Chapman and Matt Koch were both drafted in 2011. Chapman hit well, but he was a college guy playing in the GCL. Koch signed late and played in a dozen or so games in Elizabethton. Both are old enough that they should move up to Beloit, but based on numbers, one could stay in Extended Spring Training. Matt Parker was a non-drafted free agent singing a couple of years ago. He’s a defensive guy. Knudson played with Beloit in 2011, but he missed most of the second half of the season with a groin injury. He’s one that they will need to keep because he is solid defensively and has some offensive potential. Jairo Rodriguez is a strong-armed backstop without much offensive upside. 

Elizabethton Twins

Kelly Cross, Michael Quesada

Cross was drafted out of high school in 2010 and signed late. He got into just a couple of games. He really struggled last year with the GCL Twins, but he’s a guy that they’re going to have to push quickly because he’s only got one more season that he can play in the short seasons. 

Quesada was one of the better hitters with the GCL Twins last year and showed good power. Some scouts really like his potential. 

The Twins typically draft a couple of college catchers in the first ten rounds or so, and they go to Elizabethton as well. So, it’s really impossible to predict who will play any position in Elizabethton or the GCL.

TOP THREE PROSPECTS

1.)    Chris Herrmann, 2.) Danny Rams, 3.) Dan Rohlfing

SUMMARY

Joe Mauer is an All Star, an MVP, a Gold Glove winner, a Silver Slugger winner, and he’s paid like it. A couple more big seasons and he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But, he has to stay healthy. Chris Herrmann is likely a year away from being ready for the big leagues. He is likely the one player in the minor leagues that has the chance to be a starting catcher. There are several terrific defensive catchers whose ceiling is backup catcher, not that that is a bad thing! 

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

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Plouffe is on Fire!

6 Jul

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

When the Twins went out of their way to denigrate Trevor Plouffe at the end of May and demoted him to Rochester, Plouffe could have sulked. He could have folded. Coupled with the media and the Twins manager’s efforts to call him out, Plouffe had an injured finger and missed about a week or game action before playing for the Red Wings. And since then, there has not be a better player anywhere in the Twins system, if not in all of minor league baseball. And frankly, I do not fully understand how he, and specifically his bat, is still in Rochester and not with the Twins.

In early May, Alexi Casilla was really struggling at shortstop. Defensively, he was adequate, but he wasn’t hitting close to .200 and time for change was imminent. Plouffe was hitting well for the Red Wings after a slow start. Plouffe was finally promoted to the big leagues. In his first plate appearance, he hit a home run over the Green Monster at Fenway Park against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Plouffe would play in 18 games and hit .200 (12-60). However, of those 12 hits, two were doubles and three were home runs. Defensively, he looked more comfortable, until that one bad game. The first bad throw came on a play that Plouffe went deep into the shortstop hole, dove and made a great play, got up and threw too tall for the first baseman. It was a great play unfortunately capped by a bad throw. Soon after, there was a slow roller, and instead of setting and throwing, Plouffe threw on the run. He didn’t get a good grip on the ball and the ball fluttered to 1B too late. I thought that he needed to throw on the run, he just didn’t get anything on it. Some thought he was showboating, which I guarantee was not the case. Soon after, a hard hit, one hopper bounded a way from him. Just one error, but the manager felt the need to call Plouffe out loudly. And then again. And again.

No wonder Plouffe was struggling. Few could play under those circumstances. Plouffe was benched for three games, played another and then back on the bench. There were words between the manager and the media about Plouffe. Plouffe was upset that Gardenhire made it so public. It wasn’t pretty and soon Plouffe was headed back to Rochester. Sure, Luis Rivas and Alexi Casilla got 4-5 years worth of opportunities. Plouffe got 12 starts. Does anyone think that the manager will ever play Plouffe on a regular basis at SS? Of course not.

Again, Plouffe could have sulked and been frustrated when he went back to Triple-A. He missed some games with the finger injury. However, since he started playing, he has been incredible. In 18 June games, he hit .310/.388/.648 with five doubles, two triples and five home runs. In six games so far in July, he has hit .400/520/.1.000 with four home runs. Plouffe has hit 15 home runs in Rochester now to go with the three he hit with the Twins. In 2010, Plouffe had 15 home runs with the Red Wings and two homers for the Twins, all season. He already has a combined 18 homers this year and it is through July 5!

Since Plouffe’s return, he has played all over the field. Yes, he has played some at shortstop. He has played 2B. He has played right field and left field. We know he can play 3B, and in Game 2 on Tuesday night, he played 1B. Clearly the Twins now plan for him to be a super utility player, which is not a bad thing.

Regardless, there is no question that Trevor Plouffe’s bat needs to be on the Twins roster and most days in the Twins lineup. So, how do we get him there? Well, do the Twins really need a third catcher? That is kind of redundant and ridiculous. Matt Tolbert can play four infield positions, but can’t hit. He could go down. Luke Hughes hasn’t exactly been lighting the world on fire at 1B, so Plouffe could take his spot. For me, that is the order in which I would send guys down to get Plouffe up here. Maybe they’re waiting for him to get a little more comfortable at a few more positions.

Trevor Plouffe could then play all four infield positions. He can also play both corner outfield positions. Worried about his outfield defense? As Josh Johnson tweeted on Tuesday night, Delmon Young has played a lot of LF, how much worse can Plouffe be out there? Who knows? Plouffe could probably even pitch if necessary! Remember when the Twins used their first pick in the 2004 draft to take Plouffe as a shortstop. Many teams considered drafting him as a pitcher.

Hey, even if none of us expects Plouffe to maintain an OPS north of 1.000 in the big leagues, he has earned another opportunity for a big league job!

Any thoughts?

Rochester Red Wings

As you may have noticed, Trevor Plouffe was the star of this double header. In the two games, he went 3-4 with four walks and three home runs. So what happened besides Plouffe?

In the first game, the Red Wings beat the Paw Sox 13-3. Former Twins pitcher Matt Fox started for the Paw Sox. He gave up 11 runs on ten hits and two walks in just 2.2 innings. Kevin Slowey started for the Red Wings. He gave up two runs on four hits and four hit batters in 2.2 innings. Chuck James gave up one run on two hits and two walks in 2.1 innings. Dusty Hughes recorded two strikeouts in 1.1 scoreless innings. Kyle Waldrop struck out two in one perfect inning. The Red Wings hit six home runs in the game. Plouffe hit two. Dustin Martin went 2-4 with his eighth homer. Brandon Roberts went 2-4 with his first homer. Delmon Young was 2-4 and hit the first pitch that he saw on the day out for a home run. Danny Lehmann hit his second homer and drove in three. Toby Gardenhire went 1-2 with two walks and his tenth double.

In the second game, the Red Wings lost 4-2. Brandon Roberts and Trevor Plouffe each homers. Jeff Bailey had two hits. Delmon Young went 0-3. Cole DeVries made his first start of the year. He gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks in 2.2 innings. Thomas Diamond threw 2.2 scoreless innings, despite allowing four hits and three walks. Jim Hoey went 1.2 scoreless innings.

New Britain Rock Cats

The Rock Cats lost 7-2 to New Hampshire. Brett Jacobson gave up seven runs on ten hits and two walks in five innings. He struck out six. Deolis Guerra struck out two in two scoreless innings. Tyler Robertson gave up one hit in a scoreless inning. Joe Benson returned to the Rock Cats lineup. He went 1-2 with a double. He hit a sacrifice fly and was hit by a pitch. He even threw out a runner at home. Chris Parmelee went 1-2 with two walks and his seventh home run.

Ft. Myers Miracle

Ft. Myers lost 9-2 to St. Lucie. The Miracle managed just four hits. Steve Liddle hit his tenth double. Oswaldo Arcia went 1-2  and is hitting .313 (he went 4-5 the day before). Kane Holbrooks started and gave up two runs on nine hits in five innings. Ricky Bowen gave up two runs on two hits and a walk in his inning. Matt Tone gave up five runs on five hits and a walk in just 0.2 innings. Bruce Pugh got the final four outs, two via the strikeout.

Beloit Snappers

Beloit lost to Wisconsin 8-3. Manuel Soliman gave up six runs (5 earned) on seven hits and a walk. He struck out three in his 4.1 innings. Blayne Weller then gave up two runs on four hits and two walks in two innings. Andrei Lobanov was perfect for 1.2 innings. Ben Tootle struck out two in a scoreless inning. Tyler Grimes went 2-3 with his first pro home run. Adam Bryant went 2-4 with his fourth double. Michael Gonzales hit his 14th double.  

Elizabethton Twins

A sacrifice fly by Jairo Rodriguez and a Niko Goodrum RBI single gave the E-Twins a 6-4 lead in the top of the 9th, a lead they would hold for the win. Tim Shibuya started and gave up four runs on six hits and two walks in four innings. Derek Christensen threw two scoreless innings. Pedro Guerra threw a shutout frame. Madison Boer struckout two in a scoreless eighth inning for the win. Matt Summers struck out two in a scoreless inning for the save. (Summers now has two innings pitched with the E-Twins and five strikeouts. Goodrum went 2-4. Nick Lockwood hit a triple. Miguel Sano hit his third home run.

GCL Twins

The GCL Twins beat the GCL Rays 8-3. Hein Robb threw three hitless innings to start. Matthew Tomshaw gave up two runs (1 earned) on one hit in two innings. He struck out two. Mark Trau came in and gave up one run on one hit and three walks without recording an out. Marcus Limon came in and struckout three in three scoreless innings. Markus Solbach threw a scoreless inning. Phillip Chapman was 2-4 with two doubles. Michael Quesada was 2-3 with two three-run home runs. Josh Hendricks went 3-5 with a double. Hendricks began the season by going 0-16. Since then, he is 10-15 and is now hitting .323.  

Any other thoughts or questions on the Twins minor leaguers? Feel free to comment here.