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Organizational Depth Chart: Middle Infielders

31 Jan

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

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

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

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

Minnesota Twins  

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

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

Rochester Red Wings

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

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

New Britain Rock Cats

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

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

Ft. Myers Miracle

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

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

Beloit Snappers

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

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

Extended Spring Training/Short-Season

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

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

TOP THREE PROSPECTS

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

SUMMARY

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

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

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Saturday Minor League Scoreboard

31 Jul

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

As Denard Span to the Nationsls’ rumors continued to swirl, he was not in the Red Wings Saturday lineup. Officially, the Twins said it was because of the travel from Louisville to Rochester… I am not certain I believe that. Today if the trade deadline and after a rough loss by the Twins last night, it will be a very interesting day, to be sure. Saturday was very interesting. First, the Tigers acquired starting pitcher Doug Fister and reliever David Pauley from Seattle. Later, Cleveland gave up Alex White and Drew Pomeranz and two other prospects for Ubaldo Jimenez. Cleveland then dealt Orlando Cabrera to the Giants.

So, what will today bring? Will the Twins get Drew Storen, Steve Lombardozzi and Roger Bernadina from the Nationals for Span. Will Jason Kubel remain a Twin? How about Jim Thome, Michael Cuddyer and others? How will Kevin Slowey’s performance for the Red Wings on Saturday affect his trade prospects today, or is it possible he remains with the Twins?

To see how Slowey and the rest of the Twins minor leaguers did on Saturday, see below:  

Rochester Red Wings

Rochester 6, Scranton/Wilkes Barre – Amid all the trade discussions surrounding him, Kevin Slowey put together his best start in his time with the Red Wings. The righty went eight innings and allowed only an unearned run. He gave up just five hits, walked none and struck out eight. Kyle Waldrop gave up only a run on two hits in his inning. Aaron Bates went 3-5. Michael Hollimon, promoted due to the Luke Hughes promotion, went 2-4. Jeff Bailey and Toby Gardenhire were also 2-. Rene Rivera celebrated his 27th birthday just a little early with his fourth home run with the Red Wings.  

New Britain Rock Cats

New Britain 0, Bowie 1 – Joe Benson went 2-2 with two walks and two stolen bases in this game. Those were the only two hits and two of the three walks that the Rock Cats managed in this game. Blake Martin started and gave up one run on five hits. He walked three and struck out three in 5.2 innings. Spencer Steedley threw two scoreless innings, and Dakota Watts got the final four outs.   

Ft. Myers Miracle

Ft. Myers 9, Lakeland 2 – The Miracle ended its losing streak at nine games with a big win on Saturday night. James Beresford went 3-5 with his ninth double. Anderson Hidalgo went 2-4 with a fourth-inning grand slam. It was his fifth home run of the year. Oswaldo Arcia hit his sixth double, and Danny Rams went 1-2 with a walk. Logan Darnell improves to 8-2 with the Miracle. The lefty went the first seven innings and gave up one run on four hits. He walked two and struck out six. Ricky Bowen gave up an unearned run in two innings with three strikeouts.

Beloit Snappers

Beloit 10, Cedar Rapids 5 – BJ Hermsen improved to 11-7 with a Quality Start in front of friends and family in Cedar Rapids. The righty went the first six innings and gave up three runs on eight hits and a walk. Blayne Weller then gave up two hits and a walk in two innings ,but no runs. Ben Tootle came in and gave up two unearned runs in the 9th on two hits and a walk. Reggie Williams went 4-5. Tobias Streich went 3-4. Lance Ray was 2-3 with two walks and his 30th double. He also stole his ninth base. Jairo Perez went 2-5.Michael Gonzales doubled for the 21st time. Danny Ortiz hit his ninth home run.   

Elizabethton Twins

Elizabethton 2, Danville 3 – The E-Twins recorded ten hits, but just two runs, in this loss. Eddie Rosario went 2-4 with his sixth double. Niko Goodrum also had two hits. Rosario also stole his ninth base. David Hurlbut started and gave up three runs on seven hits and two walks in 5.2 innings. Derek Christensen got the next four outs. Steve Evans and Madison Boer each pitched a scoreless inning.  

GCL Twins

GCL Twins 2, GCL Red Sox 4 – The Twins managed just four hits in this game and Jacob Younis had two of them. Josh Hendricks hit his fifth double and drove in both runs. Hung-yi Chen went the first three innings and gave up two hits and a walk and struck out three. Ricardo Arevalo went the next 1.1 innings and gave up two runs (1 earned) on one hit. He walked four and struck out one. JR Krogstad came in and gave up just one hit in 1.2 innings, striking out two. Tyler Herr gave up a run on three hits and a walk in two innings. Luis Nunez pitched a scoreless inning.

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

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.

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.

SethSpeaks.net Top 50 Minnesota Twins Prospects

4 Jun

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

In the past, I have tried to do my Top 50 Twins prospect reports right before the June draft and then shortly following the completion of the minor league seasons which is generally in mid-September. This past year has been so much more busy than ever before on so many fronts, so this year, I am still going to update my Top 50 list and do some of my other pre-draft blogs, they will just have to be a bit condensed. With that, today I will be posting my updated Top 50 Twins prospect list. I would love to hear your thoughts or comments on any of the rankings. You don’t have to agree with me. So ask questions and present your Top 10, 20, 50 list for discussion too.

#1 – Kyle Gibson – RHP – New Britain Rockcats – Prospect lists are a combination of potential with likelihood to reach potential. Gibson can be a top of the order, #2 type of pitcher, and there is a very good chance that it will happen.

#2 – Aaron Hicks – OF – Beloit Snappers – Hicks has all of the tools, including the 6th tool (plate discipline). The Midwest League is not an easy place to play, but 2010 has been a very streaky season. His strong streak told us just how good he can be.

#3 – Miguel Sano – SS – DSL Twins – All of the potential in the world, but still a long way to go. He wants to be up in the big leagues by 19. The Twins will be wise to note let that happen.

#4 – Wilson Ramos – C – Rochester Red Wings – Strong spring training. Horrible start at Rochester. Seven hits in his first two big league games. Reality set in. Ramos is immensely talented, both offensively and potentially defensively when he puts in the effort. Will be interesting to see if he’s still with the organization in August.

#5 – Adrian Salcedo – RHP – Ft. Myers Miracle – 19 years old. Throws hard. Working on the breaking pitches, but he has been impressive in his short stint at Ft. Myers so far, even though he should probably be waiting for the Elizabethton season. Very high ceiling.

#6 – Angel Morales – OF – Beloit Snappers – It’s been a disappointing 2010 so far for Morales. He hasn’t hit for as much power, but the tools are all there. It would be nice for him to have a strong second half. He is one of the better base stealers in the organization.

#7 – Joe Benson – OF – Ft. Myers Miracle – Speaking of all the tools, Benson’s ability to hit for power and get on base very well have him high on this list. The ability to put the ball in play seems to be the one thing that he needs to improve most, which is likely why he is back in Ft. Myers.

#8 – Davis Bromberg – RHP – New Britain Rockcats – It’s been an up and down season for Bromberg, but he has four or five pitches, and he’s quite young. He also has great confidence and will work through any struggles. I expect that he will have a strong second half.

#9 – Ben Revere – OF – New Britain Rockcats – Comparing Revere to Hicks, Morales and Benson isn’t really fair. The other three are all much better and have much higher potential in terms of power and defense and arm. But Revere is a great singles hitter with tremendous speed and his base stealing has continued to improve. His likelihood to be a solid big league player is higher than the other three OF prospects.

#10 – Danny Valencia – 3B – Minnesota Twins – Valencia is currently with the Twins with Michael Cuddyer out. Everywhere he has played, he has hit for average. He has never hit below .282. He doesn’t like to walk too much, but an IsoD of over .050 is at least adequate. He is yet to homer this year, but his minor league track record indicates that he can hit for some power. And his defense has continued to improve.

 

#11 – Deolis Guerra – RHP – Rochester Red Wings – Is he ready for AAA? Probably not. But he’s holding his own and continues to learn. Best changeup in the organization, and his incredible improved control is very impressive.

#12 – Alex Burnett – RHP – Minnesota Twins – Burnett was a surprise when he made the team out of spring training, but he has proven that he is ready and has pitched very well for the Twins. He always had good control, even as a starter. He throws hard and has three very good pitches. He’s still young, but he is a guy who could be a future closer.

#13 – Trevor Plouffe – SS – Rochester Red Wings – Plouffe has seemingly put things together in 2010, and it’s hard to believe that he is still just 23 years old. He has the ability to be an everyday Major League shortstop, which alone should probably move him even higher up this list.

#14 – Liam Hendriks – RHP – Ft. Myers Miracle – I don’t know if Hendriks’ terrific start this season is a surprise, but it certainly has been noticed. He was the organization’s pitcher of the month in April which earned him an early promotion to Ft. Myers where he has continued to be very good. His stuff is very good, and he understands how to get hitters out.

#15 – BJ Hermsen – RHP – Beloit Snappers – Hermsen started the year at EST, but when needed, he was promoted to Beloit. He has been good at times, and at other times shown that he might be best served by pitching at E-town. But he has good stuff, good size and very good control, and the Twins love that.

#16 – Carlos Gutierrez – RHP – New Britain Rockcats – I still believe that Gutierrez will be a big league relief pitcher, and a very good one. It’s important to remember that he is working on adding pitches while in AA. He gets a ton of ground balls. He throws 95 with sink. Just has to trust his stuff and he can dominate.

#17 – Rene Tosoni – OF – New Britain Rockcats – How much has the shoulder injury hurt Tosoni in 2010? He is still hitting around .280, but to this point, the power hasn’t shown up the way it did last year. Tosoni is very good, so this ranking doesn’t feel right. I think he should be higher, but right now, today, I just can’t do it.

#18 – Bruce Pugh – RHP – Ft. Myers Miracle – Although he was called a sleeper this offseason, Pugh was also a very pleasant surprise this year… until an elbow injury which has sidelined him for a few weeks already. Hopefully he will be alright because he throws hard and has a couple of improving secondary pitches that make him potentially dominant.

#19 – Jeff Manship – RHP – Rochester Red Wings – Again, a guy who is the big league club’s sixth start, and gave up two runs in six innings for the Twins shouldn’t be ranked this low. Manship can pitch in the big leagues, although his time in AAA this year will be valuable as well. He can help the Twins already when needed, but he can still continue to get better.

#20 – Chris Parmelee – 1B – Ft. Myers Miracle – Parmelee has a ton of potential as well, but he was overmatched in AA. Getting sent back to Ft. Myers was the best thing that could happen. He can now work on his game without being overwhelmed. The contact rate is always the question with Parmelee, but hopefully with the Miracle, he can regain his ability to take walks and to hit for power.

 

#21 – Max Kepler – OF – Extended Spring Training – All the talent in the world, but it will be very interesting to see how Max Kepler is able to put it together. Very good speed. Solid already defensively. Needs work on the offensive part of the game. But he’s just 17, and the Twins will be very patient with him. I’d expect him to spend two years with the GCL Twins before advancing.

#22 – Tom Stuifbergen – RHP – Beloit Snappers – Hopefully his elbow issues and his upcoming MRI reveal nothing and that Stuifbergen can rest and come back strong soon. He is another guy who just knows how to get hitters out. He has very good stuff, but he knows how to pitch, and that’s important too.

#23 – Blayne Weller – RHP – Extended Spring Training – I’m surprised and curious as to why Weller has not been promoted from EST to a full-season team, and yet, it is in his best interest to pitch for the E-Twins this year. He’s got good stuff and great control. Just a notch behind Hermsen.

#24 – Luke Hughes – 2B – Rochester Red Wings – How cool was it to see Hughes hit a home run in his first at bat with the Twins? Again, this feels like a low ranking, and yet, as good as Hughes has shown he can be, he just keeps getting hurt and isn’t able to sustain the success very long. If he could stay healthy, he can help the Twins, maybe as a pinch hitter. I also think he could compete for the starting 2B job next year.

#25 – Chris Herrmann – C/OF – Ft. Myers Miracle – Herrmann has done a very good job adjusting to the catcher position. He’s quick and has a strong arm. But he is also an excellent defensive left fielder. He is also a solid hitter. The Twins typically do not have players skip levels, but Herrmann was pushed from Elizabethton last year to Ft. Myers this year and hasn’t been completely over his head. He’s got a chance to be a solid all-around player.

#26 – Bobby Lanigan – RHP – Ft. Myers Miracle – Gibson got all the notice, but Lanigan was even better in April. Unfortunately, he has only pitched once since then. He has a good fastball and a very good slider, so hopefully he can get back soon.

#27 – Steve Singleton – 2B – New Britain Rockcats – Another guy who should be much higher on this list probably.  

#28 – Billy Bullock – RHP – Ft. Myers Miracle – The 2009 second round pick from Florida can throw hard. He can dominate and gets a lot of strikeouts, but he should continue to get better and better. He is a future closer option.

#29 – Tyler Robertson – LHP – New Britain Rockcats – Robertson has really struggled in 2010 at AA, allowing hitters to bat about .330 against him so far this year. The lefty does have decent stuff and a high baseball IQ, but he’s still so young for the level, even after spending two years at Ft. Myers. Hopefully his arm strength will continue to increase and he can move up this list. Remember, he was my choice for the Twins #1 prospect after the 2007 season.

#30 – Anthony Slama – RHP – Rochester Red Wings – Again, I know most won’t like this ranking, but it’s clear that there must be some reason that Slama has not been promoted, and I think a big part of that is the number of walks, which would likely increase more in the big leagues. But his ability to get strikeouts is pretty impressive, and he needs to get a shot soon. I mean, he’s already 26!

 

#31 – Michael Tonkin – RHP – Beloit Snappers – Tonkin was pitching best at EST when Beloit had a need, so he was the first promoted. He has actually done better than I would have thought. He’s got good control. He has a decent fastball and an improving curveball. He has a long way to go.

#32 – Yangervis Solarte – IF/OF – New Britain Rockcats – Like Hughes, Solarte can play a lot of places. His most natural position is 2B, but he can play basically all of the infield and outfield positions adequately. His biggest asset, however, has been his bat. Not sure how confident I am that he will sustain it, but he certainly could, and I’m comfortable with this ranking.

#33 – Danny Rams – C/1B – Beloit Snappers – Rams hit two home runs last night. I really, really hope that he can find a way to put the ball in play more because when he makes contact, he hits the ball so hard and can hit the ball a long way!

#34 – Shooter Hunt – RHP – Ft. Myers Miracle – It is good to see the improvements that Hunt has made this year. But he has a long way to go before we can feel confident in his future. But the potential is so high, he has to be on the list. He’ll be making another start today.

#35 – Jorge Polanco – SS – DSL Twins – When Baseball America named Polanco the top defensive infielder in the Twins organization, I wasn’t sure how to take that. It means he is very good, but it could also be an indictment of the rest of the system’s infielders. Polanco will have to show some bat to move his way up the list. I don’t expect him to hit much for a couple of years.

#36 – Edgar Ibarra – LHP – Beloit Snappers – I may be biased because I saw him pitch in Beloit, but I was very impressed with the high-side of his four pitches. Good fastball, worked both sides of the plate. Very good slider. Devastating changeup. Now, he wasn’t consistent with any of those pitches, and hasn’t been all year, but the pitches are there, and his potential is high.

#37 – Kyle Waldrop – RHP – Rochester Red Wings – Waldrop has impressed this entire year. 2009 was about staying healthy. 2010 has been about ground balls, throwing hard, getting a ton of movement on his pitches, and great success. There is a good chance that Waldrop, even with his lack of strikeouts, gets promoted before Anthony Slama.

#38 – Miguel Munoz – RHP – Beloit Snappers – The numbers haven’t been there in Beloit, but the stuff is incredible. Munoz throws quite hard and has good stuff. He just needs to throw more strikes and be more consistent.

#39 – Santos Arias – RHP – New Britain Rockcats – Arias fell a bit on this list, but even with his horrible performance in late innings for the Rockcats, his ERA isn’t bad. He still has good stuff. He has been healthy. He’s got a very good fastball, and a very good changeup. I’m not giving up on him at all.

#40 – James Beresford – SS/2B – Beloit Snappers – he was the player in Beloit that I was most impressed with. He will have to get bigger to make it to the next level. I assume that will happen, so he could move up this list very quickly. He got off to a very tough start in April, and is still hitting just .240, but he could very well be a big leaguer.

 

#41 – Anderson Hidalgo – 3B – Beloit Snappers – Hidalgo has been a doubles machine. He doesn’t play every day and splits some time with Reggie Williams at 3B, but he just hits. He’s the one hitter at Beloit that is actually putting up numbers, and not just singles. He doesn’t like to walk, and he doesn’t have much range, but he can continue to improve, and definitely is worth watching.

#42 – Michael McCardell – RHP – New Britain Rockcats – It’s been a tough season for McCardell in terms of wins and losses, but he hasn’t pitched terribly at all. He is a solid starter, probably a future bottom of the rotation guy, or even a long reliever. He has good stuff and is mentally strong, so he will be fine.

#43 – Brian Dinkelman – OF – Rochester Red Wings – This is probably a case of Age-ism. Dinkelman has done nothing but play well since the Twins drafted him in 2006. He is playing in AAA this year, and continues to walk more than strikeout, get extra base hits, hit for average and “do the little things.” He has also transitioned to the outfield pretty flawlessly.

#44 – Brad Tippett – RHP – Ft. Myers Miracle – Tippett is back on the DL with forearm issues. He just has not been able to get going. He has never thrown hard, but he’s got good size, so if he can continue to gain strength, he can add a few mph. And again, the Australian knows how to pitch.

#45 – Oswaldo Arcia – OF – Extended Spring Training – Arcia is young and did a nice job last year in the GCL. Has all kinds of tools.

#46 – Andrei Lobanov – LHP – Ft. Myers Miracle – One walk and 35 strikeouts in 22 innings in the GCL last year. He likely will go to E-town, but he has done quite well with the Miracle.

#47 – Steve Liddle – OF – Beloit Snappers – I thought he would do more this year with the Snappers. He has shown good power at times, but you would hope for more from a college hitter.

#48 – Rob Delaney – RHP – Rochester Red Wings – This is way too low, but Delaney has been hittable in Rochester after dominating all the way up to that level. That said, he still is walking very few and striking out about a batter an inning. He is ready.

#49 – Josmil Pinto – C – Beloit Snappers – The guy can hit a bit. Seems adequate behind the plate. No speed whatsoever.

#50 – Reggie Williams – IF – Beloit Snappers – Lots of talent. Getting a chance to play this year. He doesn’t seem to be a 3B, but should be a 2B. He has also played in the OF. Takes decent at bats and has doubles power.

There you have it. There is my Top 50 Twins Prospects list as of June 4, 2010. Let me know what you think, agree or disagree, and feel free to post your comments and questions in the Comments section.

See. Wuh. Ha. Happened.

29 Apr

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Before jumping into today’s blog entry, I wanted to mention that I will be on KFAN (and KFAN.com) with Paul Allen again today during the 11:00 hour. Be sure to tune in, listen live or podcast it after the fact.

So, the Twins scored two runs in the top of the first inning on a two-run homer by Jim Thome. Then Luke Hughes hit a home run in the top of the 3rd inning, in his very first at bat. Then they scored three more runs. It was 6-1. It was the fourth inning. But then Scott Baker was the definition of non-clutch in the bottom of the fourth, giving up four runs which cut the lead to 6-5. A double into the bottom of the 5th inning and Baker was gone. Alex Burnett came in and did very well to get out of that mess. Then came the sixth. Burnett gave up a base runner, so he was taken out of the game. Ron Mahay came in to face Johnny Damon and got him to fly out on a great catch by Denard Span, who seemingly outran the ball to the left center field gap. After the catch, Span took two or three steps, spun to throw and the ball fell from his glove. The umpire inexplicably calls it a drop. Ron Gardenhire captured his first ejection of the year, and rightfully so. Pat Neshek came in with runners on 2nd and 3rd and just one out. He walked Magglio Ordonez before hitting Miguel Cabrera in the arm to allow a run. Then Jesse Crain came in and two swings of the bat later, the game was over, for all intents and purposes. Here are some of my thoughts:

  • If you read many Twins fans on Twitter, you might think that this is the worst 14-7 team in baseball history!
  • Did you know? That it is a 162 game season, and that each team will lose from time to time. In fact, the Twins may, at some point, maybe as early as today, lose (gasp) two games in a row.  Sorry, but a little bit of perspective is needed here. Every team will lose 60 games. Every team will win 60 games. Of those 60+ losses, some of them won’t be pretty or fun-filled losses. Games like this happen. That said…
  • At the end of the year, Scott Baker is going to have some very good numbers. I think my projections had him winning about 16 games, and finishing with an ERA in the upper threes. However, I have always agreed that the moniker “Big Spot Scott” has never been earned. In big games, you can count on him not being very good. Most of the time his calm demeanor is beneficial, but there is a difference between calm and cool, and calm and shaking on the inside. This was anything but a big game, but with a 6-1 lead, it would be nice to see just a little toughness. Again, he has never claimed to be an ace. He signed the long-term, very fair contract a year ago, and the dollars were very fair for a young #3 pitcher with #2, Brad Radke like upside. Personally, I think that he can be a better pitcher than Radke. But the point doesn’t change, Baker is not a big game pitcher.
  • Jim Thome needs to play more. I think we all agree with that. But Jason Kubel needs to play most every day. Delmon Young needs to play most every day. Michael Cuddyer needs to play every day. This is a great problem to have, but it is tough and will create plenty of second guessing, no matter which player does not start.
  • I have been Jesse Crain’s biggest supporter. I always say, he has a fastball at 96 (which actually moved at times earlier in the season), slider at 88 and that slow curve at 76. I definitely thought it was the right decision to give Crain another year. I much prefer working with the guys you’ve got with upside, than sign free agents. Crain was rocked when he came in with the bases loaded. I don’t blame the manager for bringing him in with the bases loaded in the 6th. I mean, Pat Neshek had come in and walked a guy and hit another guy. I would bet that he would not call it his best performance and probably would have taken himself out. He was fooling nobody. It is also important to note that he also pitched the 7th and 8th innings, when he could start the inning himself, and he was dominant. That said, another few weeks of this from Crain, and even I will be supporting the need for a Change of Scenery for Crain. He is out of options, so he can’t be sent to Rochester. Plenty of teams would claim him, and he would be lost. At that stage, I probably will be able to be convinced that that would be just fine. I would like to see him go to Colorado or somewhere in the NL because I still believe that he can be very good. The other side of this discussion remains… Anthony Slama is more than ready and has earned the opportunity.
    • Some may call out the Twins front office for signing Crain after offering him arbitration this offseason. I 100% agreed with that decision. Like I said, I am getting to the point where I am going to fully admit that I was wrong, and should they decide to let him go, they will be admitting it as well. But it is hard to be too disappointed in the Twins front office. Of course, there are misses, as there are with every team. But I again have to ask the readers here a few questions. Raise your hand if you thought that the Twins should have signed Juan Cruz to that 2 year $8 million deal a year ago. In doing so, they would have given up their 2009 #1 pick which turned out to be Kyle Gibson. I thought the price was fair for Cruz. I was wrong. How many of you wanted the Twins to trade for Freddy Sanchez last July and keep him around for 2010? How would that look right now? How many were disappointed when the Twins didn’t sign Eric Gagne a year ago? My point here isn’t to say that the Twins front office is a bunch of geniuses who never get one wrong. They wouldn’t say that. It’s more to say that if we ran things, we would have hits and misses too. I like admitting when I’m wrong. I prefer to be wrong, like I was wrong on Denard Span a couple of years ago.
  • In his post-game press conference, Ron Gardenhire said that the umpires told him that Denard Span ‘caught the ball’ and when he spun to throw, they didn’t see what happened. They were blocked somehow. Clearly as he was turning to throw and reached into his glove, the ball popped out. It was ruled an error, and manager Ron Gardenhire, after hearing the pathetic excuse, was finally ejected. I rarely agree with Gardy getting ejected, but this one was worth it. But that call is not why the Twins lost. Who knows what would have happened after that play. Maybe there would have been another quick groundout and the game is still 6-5 Twins. But very soon, the Twins were down 11-6.
  • Personally, I thought there was a little bit of over-managing in the 6th inning. Alex Burnett had done well. When Johnny Damon came up, you could understand Gardy going to the lefty, Ron Mahay. However, with Ordonez and Cabrera coming up, you knew another pitching change would be required. It’s easy in hindsight to say that maybe keeping Burnett in would have meant more, but with Burnett, his development is important as well. Would Gardy and Rick Anderson have wanted Burnett pitching to Ordonez and Cabrera anyway? With his stuff, I think I would have taken that chance. But who knows? That wasn’t what caused the loss.
  • It was good to see Jason Kubel get three hits and raise his batting average another .035 to .212. 
  • With Justin Morneau out, Ron Gardenhire’s lineup remained the same with the exception that Jim Thome was slotted into the Number Four spot in the lineup. No real argument with that. However, it does make me wonder about this whole idea of (and I haven’t heard this anywhere, but it may come into play) Michael Cuddyer is comfortable hitting fifth, and Jason Kubel is comfortable batting 6th. I think that it is annoying to think that the bullpen pitchers can feel better pitching in the 8th inning than the 6th or in the 7th instead of the 9th. A reliever’s job is to come into whatever situation, in whatever inning they are called upon and get hitters out. Likewise, if you are batting anywhere from #3 to #8 in a lineup, your job each at bat does not change. In other words, if the #4 hitter comes up with a runner on 2B, his job is to have a good at bat and ideally drive in the runner from second. Likewise, if a #5 hitter comes up with a runner on 2B, his job is to have a good at bat, and ideally drive in the runner from 2B. If a #7 hitter comes up with a runner on 2B, his job is to take a good at bat and preferably drive that runner in from second. In fact, whatever the lineup position, the job of the hitter is to put together a quality at bat, look for a pitch that he can hit hard, and if he doesn’t get strikes, take the walk and get on base. The only possible exception would be the leadoff hitter in the first at bat or two each game when, they should take a couple of extra pitches just to give the rest of the lineup an idea of what the pitcher may throw, but even the goal of the leadoff hitter is to have a good at bat, and get on base, and if there are runners on base, if he gets a pitch, drive them in.
  • Admittedly, I just made too big of a statement on the value of lineup construction and roles for someone who doesn’t believe that it makes too big of a deal. The only possible exception would be the leadoff hitter in the first at bat or two each game when, they should take a couple of extra pitches just to give the rest of the lineup an idea of what the pitcher may throw, but even the goal of the leadoff hitter is to have a good at bat, and get on base, and if there are runners on base, if he gets a pitch, drive them in.
    • Admittedly, I just made too big of a statement on the value of lineup construction and roles for someone who doesn’t believe that it makes too big of a deal. Yes, I want on-base guys in the #1 and #2 spots, I want the best hitter batting third. Then I want to line up as many good hitters as I can throughout the rest of the lineup. Like I said, I don’t know if Ron Gardenhire made the comment that he prefers to keep Cuddyer in the #5 spot, or anything like that, but I happen to think that Cuddyer could handle hitting 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th.
  • I feel that with more activity  and more people in social media, that I have had to utter the phrase “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” a lot. It’s amazing to me that people somehow forget that there is a 162 game season, not a one game series or a best two out of three series. The big picture is the 162 game season. I think it is becoming clear that several Twins players need a day off. In my mind, Orlando Hudson is at the top of that list. Watching JJ Hardy run to 2B on a double made it very clear that his knee or quad or calf or something is not right. He may need a day or two off. Giving Justin Morneau these days off may be a blessing in disguise. And yes, Joe Mauer needs to get days off from time to time. The key point being that the results of the 162 game season is far more important than the results of any one game. And, please, that does not minimize the value of every game. The last two seasons, each ending with a Game 163, have proven that.
  • It is hard to believe, but with a 14-7 record, the season is almost 1/8th complete already. It is amazing how quickly it goes.

SethSpeaks Wednesday Minor League Hitter of the Day – Reggie Williams – Beloit Snappers, Jason Repko – Rochester Red Wings

SethSpeaks Wednesday Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Bruce Pugh – Ft. Myers Miracle

Red Wings Report   

Wednesday – Rochester 5, Lehigh Valley 4 Allan de San Miguel had never caught a knuckleball pitcher. He told me after the game, “I thought it would be a lot harder. I was really happy with how it went.” Charlie Zink made his first start for the Red Wings. He went five innings and gave up two runs on four hits. In strange stat of the night, Zink walked six batters and struck out none. Jose Lugo came in and gave up two runs on two hits in two innings. Rob Delaney came in and gave up two hits, but no runs in two innings. He also struck out four. Jason Repko had a big game. He went 3-4 with a walk, a double and his second home run. Brian Dinkelman went 2-4 with a walk. Danny Valencia hit a game winning double in the 8th inning.

New Britain Notes

Wednesday – New Britain 3, Richmond 5 – Another day, another blown save and another loss for the Rockcats. Santos Arias entered the game in the 8th inning with a one run lead. He pitched a scoreless eighth inning, but gave up three runs in the ninth for the loss, his fourth. Cole DeVries made his first start of the season. He gave up two runs on five hits and a walk in just four innings. He struck out three. Spencer Steedley came in and continued to pitch great. He threw three shutout innings, giving up just one hit and walking one. The Rockcats again managed just five hits in the game. Joe Benson was 1-3 with a walk and his third double. Estarlin de Los Santos had a two run double.

Miracle Matters

Wednesday – Ft. Myers 0, Jupiter 3 – Bruce Pugh has incredible potential. He throws 94 and is working on other pitches. Tonight, his stuff really came together. The right-hander threw seven shutout innings. He gave up just four hits, walked one and struck out 12 opponent batters. Tony Davis came in and pitched a perfect eighth inning. Billy Bullock came in for the ninth inning and recorded his third save. He gave up no runs on one hit and struck out two. The Miracle bats again managed just five hits. Drew Thompson was 1-3 with a walk and a double. Deibinson Romero and Evan Bigley were each 1-3 with a walk.    

Snappers Snippets

Wednesday – Beloit 11, Burlington 1Tom Stuifbergen continues to impress. The Dutch right-hander gave up one run on five hits. He walked three (high for him) and struck out five. Kane Holbrooks and Dakota Watts each pitched a scoreless inning. Reggie Williams had a big game. He went 3-4 with a home run and a stolen base. The incredible streak of Aaron Hicks continued. He was 2-4 with a walk, his third home run, four runs scored and his fifth stolen base. James Beresford was 2-3 with a walk and his third stolen base. Steve Liddle hit his third homer.  

Do you have any thoughts on the 14-7 Minnesota Twins, or their minor league system? Leave your comments here.

Friday Night Notes

24 Apr

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

On Friday night the Twins improved to12-5 with an 8-3 win in Kansas City against the Royals. As you would expect, it all started with the starting pitching. Just five days after he lost to the Royals, Carl Pavano gave up just two runs on four hits in seven innings. He walked none and struck out five. Matt Guerrier had his first bad outing of the year (spring training included). He gave up one run on one hit and one walk, but clearly he was not himself. After the Twins scored two runs in the top of the 9th, Brian Duensing came in and pitched a scoreless ninth frame. The Twins jumped out to an early lead thanks to some sketchy pitching by Gil Meche. In just 3.1 innings, Meche threw just 43 strikes. He gave up four runs on four hits and five walks. In other words, it could have been even worse. The Twins worked seven more walks in this game. The ability to work counts and take walks is so important, and something Twins fans haven’t seen in a long time, not until sometime in 2009 really. It is a trait that most good teams have, and another reason why the Twins are a good team. Orlando Hudson had three hits and a walk in the game. Jim Thome was making his second straight start, and he hit a solo home runs and a two-run double in the game. Justin Morneau was 1-3 and added two more walks to his AL-leading walk total. JJ Hardy hit his third home run.

The big news of Friday was that Nick Punto was heading to the Disabled List. After missing six games, it was decided to be cautious and put him on the Disabled List. The Twins also recalled Luke Hughes who will be in Kansas City on Saturday. Now I have been asked about Hughes and why he was the one promoted instead of Matt Tolbert or Danny Valencia. I’ll start with the latter. Valencia is struggling early and Brendan Harris has been playing adequately. The Twins want Valencia to continue to play most days, and right now, they are going with Harris at 3B. Hardy is the shortstop and Hudson is the 2B, so The promoted player would be a bench player. Hughes provides good power from the right side for the Twins bench, something they really don’t have most days. As for why Hughes over Tolbert? Well, Tolbert is a replication of Casilla and wouldn’t play at all. He has zero purpose as a bench option with Casilla already able to play all three infield spots. And again, Hughes can actually hit a little bit. So, this is certainly the right move right now. I do think that if Orlando Hudson needs a day off, and I think it would be good, that Hughes should get a start at 2B.  In a corresponding move, the Rochester Red Wings activated Matt Macri from their Disabled List.

Please feel free to leave your comments here.

SethSpeaks Friday Minor League Hitter of the Day – Reggie Williams – Beloit Snappers

SethSpeaks Friday Minor League Pitcher of the Day – David Bromberg – New Britain Rockcats

Red Wings Report   

Friday – Rochester 3, Syracuse 8 Mike Maroth started for the Red Wings. He gave up four runs (2 earned) on five hits. He walked none and struck out four. Tim Lahey gave up three runs on four hits and three walks in 2.1 innings. Matt Fox gave up only an unearned run in 1.2 innings. Brian Dinkelman went 2-4. Trevor Plouffe hit a two-run triple. But the Red Wings managed just four hits. Dustin Martin had two fielding errors in the outfield.  

New Britain Notes

Friday – New Britain 1, Harrisburg 2David Bromberg started his third game and pitched his third gem. In seven innings he gave up just one run on four hits and a walk. He struck out nine. Santos Arias fell to 0-3 as he gave up a run on three hits over two innings. The Rockcats managed just four hits. Rene Tosoni went 2-3 with a walk and the lone RBI. Estarlin de Los Santos was 1-2 with a walk.  

Miracle Matters

Friday – Ft. Myers 1, Bradenton 3 – Bruce Pugh recorded his first Quality Start of the season. He gave up three runs on seven hits and three walks in six innings. He struck out three. Shooter Hunt came in and struck out three in two perfect innings. Like the Red Wings and the Rockcats, the Miracle had just four hits in this game. Chris Herrmann and Dan Rohlfing each hit a double. Brandon Roberts was on a rehab assignment from Rochester. He was 1-3 with a walk and a stolen base.

Snappers Snippets

Friday – Beloit 7, Wisconsin 1Liam Hendriks actually gave up a run in this game, but he also picked up his first win of the year. In five innings, he gave up just the one run on one hit. He walked one and struck out six. Ben Tootle gave up one run on two hits and a walk while striking out two. Kane Holbrooks threw two shutout innings, and he struck out two. Reggie Williams went 2-3 with a double and four RBI. Steve Liddle was 1-4 with a walk and an RBI double. Aaron Hicks was 1-3 with two walks and his third stolen base.  

Any thoughts on the Twins or their minor league system? Leave your comments here.