Archive | Scott Diamond RSS feed for this section

Twins Organizational Depth Chart: Starting Pitchers

6 Feb

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.

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve pointed out the organizational depth charts for the Twins hitters. We’ve looked at catchers, 3B, 1B, Middle Infielders and Outfielders. Today, I’ll take a look at the starting pitchers. Now, especially as I move to the lower levels, I won’t pretend to know which players will move to the bullpen. Often, due to innings limits, some ‘starters’ will begin the season in the bullpen. Others will begin the season as starters and get moved to the bullpen later due to innings. Frankly, most of the pitchers in the lowest levels have been starters their whole lives and some will be given at least some opportunity. As we saw with Carlos Gutierrez, even guys destined for the bullpen can be given an opportunity to start to work on pitches and gain arm strength.  

That’s OK, though, because the biggest purpose of this was to provide the organization’s depth. I need to reiterate that these are just my thoughts. I have no insider information to know where players will be playing for certain in 2012. Obviously after spring training, some of these players will be let go. There will be Disabled List players, extended spring training and more.

Minnesota Twins  

Carl Pavano (RHP), Francisco Liriano (LHP), Scott Baker (RHP), Jason Marquis (RHP), Nick Blackburn (RHP)

Gardy has announced Pavano as his Opening Day starter, an obvious choice based on last season. He’s been solid in his 2 ½ seasons with the Twins, most important he has provided a ton of innings despite an alarmingly low strikeout rate. There’s no question that Francisco Liriano has the best stuff of anyone on the staff, but if he can’t find control of his fastball, it will be another frustrating season. It is a contract season for Liriano, so the goal has to be for him to have a strong season. In 2011, Scott Baker was easily the Twins top starting pitcher. He was pitching the best he had in his career, until elbow problems curtailed his season. Nick Blackburn averaged 200 innings pitched his first two seasons while posting solid ERAs. He’s been pretty bad ever since getting the long-term contract. Unfortunately, the contract has given him many opportunities and likely will continue to do so. He misses very few bats, so we can just hope that a lot of baseballs get hit right at a defender. Many Twins fans are down on the Jason Marquis signing, and although I’m not a bit fan of the contract, he has actually had a pretty solid big league career.

Rochester Red Wings

Liam Hendriks (RHP), Scott Diamond (LHP), Aaron Thompson (LHP), Jeff Manship (RHP), Deinys Suarez (RHP)

We saw Hendriks and Diamond late in the 2011 season. Hendriks was the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year and likely needs another half-season. Diamond had his moments, but overall 2011 was the first year in his career that he really struggled. He says he has made some adjustments, so we’ll see how it goes. Manship came up with the Twins and his first major league victory came on the final weekend of the 2009 season, when the Twins needed to sweep the Royals. He was supposed to be in the Twins bullpen last season, but he was hurt the entire season. He likely will pitch in the Twins bullpen, but they may have him start in Rochester first. Aaron Thompson is intriguing, at least. He will turn 25 years old later this month. He debuted with the Pirates last season, but in 7.2 innings, he gave up 13 hits, walked six and struck out just one. He has just six AAA games under his belt, and his AA career numbers are 15-37 with a 5.03 ERA in 96 games (80 starts). Deinys Suarez signed with the Twins last spring. The Cuban defector split time between New Britain and Rochester, not pitching particularly well either place.

New Britain Rock Cats

David Bromberg (RHP), Logan Darnell (LHP), Tom Stuifbergen (RHP), Marty Popham (RHP), Dan Osterbrock (LHP), Bobby Lanigan (RHP)

Bromberg’s 2011 season was unfortunately a lost season. He began the season in Twins spring training, but he went back to New Britain, had a line drive break his arm, spent a lot of time rehabbing, came back too quickly, shut it down, worked hard and then found out the Twins had removed him from the 40 man roster. However, he will be just 24 years old throughout the 2012 season, so don’t forget about him. Logan Darnell was a 2010 draft pick who started last year in Beloit and got all the way to New Britain. Stuifbergen had a solid season in Ft. Myers, had a terrific one-start showing in Rochester, and then was the pitcher of the year in the World Cup tournament that his Netherlands team won. He was then knighted in his homeland. Sir Tom Stuifbergen should spent this season with the Rock Cats. Dan Osterbrock missed most of last season with shoulder problems which was unfortunate because he was coming off of a very good season in 2010. Bobby Lanigan was in the Rock Cats rotation all throughout the 2011 season. Some think his stuff (specifically his slider) will play very well out of the bullpen, and we may see some of that this year too. Marty Popham was selected by the Twins in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. He has pitched in Hi-A, AA and AAA each of the past two seasons. He should spend this season in AA.

Ft. Myers Miracle

BJ Hermsen (RHP), Pat Dean (LHP), Adrian Salcedo (RHP), Alex Wimmers (RHP), Manuel Soliman (RHP), Ryan O’Rourke (LHP), AJ Achter (RHP)

This is certainly an intriguing group of pitching prospects. If not for Liam Hendriks’ terrific 2011 season, my starting pitcher of the year choice would have been BJ Hermsen who pitched very well in Beloit and followed it up with a solid performance in Ft. Myers (minus a rough final start). Alex Wimmers had a rough 2011 season too in Ft. Myers, but it ended with the seven inning no hitter. Assuming he has his control issues under control, he could move quickly. Adrian Salcedo has long been a top ten Twins prospect, and he’ll move up to the Miracle. Manuel Soliman was the innings-eater for the Snappers last year despite only having pitched now for three years. He is an intriguing prospect, but for him to remain a starter, he will need to improve his secondary pitches. Pat Dean is definitely a solid prospect  but like so many others, he missed a lot of time with injury in 2011. His season started about six weeks late, but he still pitched for three teams (including a late-season spot start in New Britain). Ryan O’Rourke is a tough, competitive left-hander with a nasty slider. When I saw him pitch in Beloit last summer, my comment was that I didn’t think big league left-handed hitters could hit that slider. He was successful as a starter, but he could also become a very good relief pitcher, so it will be interesting to see how his career progresses. The game I saw AJ Achter start last year, he was tremendous. He touches 90-91 with the fastball, but he has a terrific changeup and a curveball that had good bite.

Beloit Snappers

Tim Shibuya (RHP), Madison Boer (RHP), Matt Summers (LHP), Matt Bashore (LHP), Tim Atherton (RHP), Matt Tomshaw (LHP), Derek Christensen (RHP) 

Tim Shibuya was the Appy League Pitcher of the Year and threw seven innings of a no-hitter for the E-Twins. A smart pitcher with a full mix of pitches, he should adapt well to the Midwest League. Madison Boer and Matt Summers both began their pro careers in the E-Town bullpen. Each unsurprisingly dominated. Boer struggled upon his promotion to Beloit. It is likely the Twins will have each start. I believe Boer will move to the bullpen, but I think Summers can stick as a starter. Matt Bashore was a first-round pick in 2009 and has pitched very little since. However, reports indicate that in Instructs last fall, he was looking really good and throwing as high as 93 mph again. He could be one to watch in 2012. Matt Tomshaw was the Twins 43rd round pick just last year. Like many, he was given a shot with the Ft. Myers Miracle after a couple appearances with the GCL Twins. Like few, he was very successful for the Miracle. My guess, however, is that he will step back to Beloit and start. Derek Christensen had a terrific season as a starter with the E-Twins. The side-winder may eventually move to the bullpen but his combination of deception, fastball and slider make him a very intriguing prospect. Tim Atherton was with the Twins organization a few years ago as an infielder. The team let him go, but he came back in 2011 as a pitcher, and he pitched very well. He has all the pitches, but all will need to further develop.

Elizabethton Twins

Tyler Jones (RHP), Corey Kimes (LHP), Brett Lee (LHP), Chris Mazza (RHP), Angel Mata (RHP), Hung-yi Chen (RHP)

There are plenty of pitchers from the 2011 draft and from last year’s GCL team that will not be heading to Beloit to start the season. Tyler Jones was the 11th round pick a year ago out of LSU. He’s got great upside, throws hard, good breaking pitches. Kimes is a four year college guy who should probably be up in Beloit due to age, but he got hurt last year shortly after signing. Brett Lee and Chris Mazza both signed very near the deadline and didn’t pitch in 2011. Angel Mata and Hung-yi Chen were the two most intriguing pitching prospects from last year’s GCL team. Both have good stuff and are young.

GCL Twins

Hudson Boyd (RHP), Trent Higginbotham (RHP), Kuo-hua Lo (RHP), Austin Malinowski (LHP)

Boyd and Higginbotham are two very high ceiling high school picks from last year. The Twins had to go over-slot to sign their second supplemental first round pick from Ft. Myers. He touched 96-97 at times last year. Higginbotham was a late-round pick but the Twins went way over slot to sign him as well. He touches 94-95, and some believe he can be a top of the rotation starter or a dominant closer. Time will tell for both of them. Lo signed last year from Taiwan, and he’s fairly advanced for his very young age. He also has hit 94 mph on a radar gun. He debuted in Instructional League last year, and will likely be with the GCL Twins in 2012. Malinowski was the Twins 16th round pick out of Centennial High School (MN). He gave up a scholarship to Arizona to sign at the last minute with the Twins.   

TOP THREE (OR SO…) PROSPECTS 

1.)    Liam Hendriks, 2.) Kyle Gibson, 3.) Alex Wimmers, 4.) Adrian Salcedo, 5.) Tom Stuifbergen, 6.) Manuel Soliman, 7.) Hudson Boyd, 8.) BJ Hermsen, 9.) Pat Dean, 10.) Matt Summers 

SUMMARY  

The Twins starting pitching was really bad last year. That was a combination of struggles, injury and poor defense. For the Twins to be successful, Carl Pavano needs to throw 220 innings with a league-average ERA and WHIP. Francisco Liriano will have to pull his regain control of his fastball and show a little bit of self-confidence. Scott Baker needs to pitch like he did the six weeks before he got hurt. All three need to stay healthy. I personally think Jason Marquis will be just fine. He’s not going to post a sub-3 or sub-4 ERA, but I think he can do what Pavano did in 2011. Blackburn needs to pitch like he did his first two seasons… or so badly that Liam Hendriks gets called up. Frankly, there’s not much else waiting in the wings, ready to contribute right away as a starter. Manship can be solid, but I think the team has moved him to the bullpen in their minds. Diamond will have had to improved quite a bit to say he’s ready (which is possible).

That doesn’t mean the cupboard is bare though. There are some solid pitching prospects throughout the minors. Kyle Gibson should be back in 2013 (if not late in 2012). Alex Wimmers could move very quickly as well. There are several pitchers that have the potential to be a decent #3 pitcher, if all goes well on the way up. The Twins have been successful with “Twins-like” pitchers. Guys like Hermsen, Salcedo, Stuifbergen and Shibuya fit that mold. The Twins have added some power arms in the last draft or two, especially in 2011’s draft with Boyd, Higginbotham, Jones, Boer, Summers, Corey Williams and others. It will be interesting to see how they develop. 

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!

Advertisements

Twins Top Moments of 2011

27 Dec

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

99 losses. Confusing injuries and rehabilitation stories. Players traded, and players lost via free agency. 2011 was a really tough season for the Twins organization. However, there were a few positive moments during the season as well.

Blyleven to the Hall of Fame

  • Early in January, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced that Bert Blyleven was finally to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. The Twins had some special nights for him, and in August he was inducted.

20 Year Anniversary of the 1991 World Series

  • Also in August, the Twins celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the greatest World Series of all-time, that 1991 thriller against the Atlanta Braves. Many of the Twins players from that roster were in attendance for the reunion. It’s always great to see so many of those players coming back.

No-Hitters

  • On May 4 in Chicago, Francisco Liriano was wild, and yet he completed a no-hitter against the White Sox. The final out came on a line drive to Matt Tolbert off the bat of Adam Dunn. Liriano was pitching to stay in the rotation at the time, and despite all the walks, the no-hitter continued to show how good his stuff can be.
  • On July 6, Jeff Manship made his first start for the Rochester Red Wings. Due to injury, it was his first appearance in seven weeks. Manship threw four no-hit innings. He was followed by Jake Stevens who threw three no-hit innings. Kyle Waldrop gave up no hits in the 8th innings, and Jim Hoey finished the job with no hits in the 9th inning.
  • On July 16, Tim Shibuya, the Twins 23rd round pick a month earlier, started for the Elizabethton Twins. The right-hander threw seven no-hit innings. He was followed by 31st round pick, RHP Garrett Jewell, who threw a no-hit 8th inning. 7th round pick, lefty Steven Gruver, struck out two in a scoreless ninth inning to preserve the no-hitter.
  • September 3, Alex Wimmers tossed a seven-inning no hitter for the Ft. Myers Miracle. His season started with a six batter faced, six walk outing. He was shut down for a couple of months and brought back slowly. But to end the season in such fashion was a nice way to end a rough season.

Major League Debuts

  • April 1 – Tsuyoshi Nishioka went 1-4 on Opening Day against the Blue Jays.
  • April 28 – Rene Tosoni went 2-4 with an RBI in his debut against the Rays.
  • June 4 – Brian Dinkelman went 1-3 with a walk. In his first plate appearance, he was hit by a pitch. His walk was intentional. The Twins beat the Royals 7-2.
  • July 18 – Scott Diamond was called up for a spot start in the second game of a double header against Cleveland. He gave up four runs (3 earned) on seven hits and two walks in 6.1 innings.
  • September 5 – Kyle Waldrop gave up two runs on three hits and a walk in 1.2 innings against the White Sox. The first inning he pitched was scoreless.
  • September 6 – Joe Benson led off for the Twins and went 0-3 after walking in his first plate appearance in a 3-0 loss to the White Sox.
  • September 6 – Chris Parmelee batted fifth and went 2-4 in the same game.
  • September 6 – Liam Hendriks made the start for the Twins in this game. He gave up three runs on four hits and three walks in seven innings.

The Killebrew Tribute

  • Obviously one of the saddest moments during the 2011 season was the death of legendary Twins great Harmon Killebrew. However, listening and reading the stories of what a great man he was made us almost forget what a great baseball player he was. The Twins had a tribute for Killebrew on May 26. It was great to see so many former players there. Mudcat Grant was again amazing with his rendition of What a Wonderful World. However, the highlight had to be the speech of Nita Killebrew. Her poise and strength in that moment were amazing. Her words were inspirational. It was a great tribute to a great man.

Nathan Sets Twins Saves Mark

  • On August 10, Joe Nathan set the Twins all-time saves record by recording his 255th save. He surpassed Rick Aguilera’s mark of 254.

Thome Hits 600th Home Run

  • On August 15, the Twins traded Delmon Young to the Tigers in the afternoon. That was fairly big news that day, but fortunately, there was much bigger news coming later that night. Through his first two at bats, Jim Thome was 1-2 with a single. In the 6th inning, he hit home run #599 against the Tigers in Detroit. For many, it takes awhile to hit that 600th home run. Thome’s came just one inning later with two runners on against lefty Daniel Schlereth.

Draft Picks Sign

  • Within the final hour before the deadline for teams to sign their draft picks, the Twins signed all three of their first round picks. Levi Michael was the 30th overall pick and signed for $1.175 million (about $86,000 over slot). Supplemental first-rounder, Hudson Boyd, the 55th overall pick, signed for a $1 million bonus (about $350,000 over slot). Travis Harrison, the 50th overall pick in the draft, signed for $1.05 million (about $350,000 over slot). The Twins signed several other players with big potential on that final day, including Minnesota’s top high school player in 2011, LHP Austin Malinowski (the team’s 16th round pick).

Award Winners

  • Brian Dozier and Liam Hendriks were named the Twins minor league hitter and pitcher of the year, respectively.
  • Eddie Rosario was named the player of the year in the Appalachian League after putting up monstrous numbers including 21 home runs, one better than teammate Miguel Sano. Teammate Tim Shibuya was the pitcher of the year in the Appalachian League.

Terry Ryan Reclaims the GM Role

  • On November 7, the Twins announced the Bill Smith was being relieved of his duties as GM of the Twins and that former GM Terry Ryan would resume the duties in an interim role. The question is how long “interim” might be.

It was a tough year, and when trying to come up with positives from 2011, it was quite difficult to make it even this lengthy. I’m certain I missed some things. Were there any other positives from the 2011 Twins season that you can think of? Help me out here!!

TwinsCentric Notes

Help Coming?

23 Aug

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

We hear so often that the Twins minor league system is bad, that there are not players ready to come up to the big leagues and contribute to the team. I think most Twins fans understand that the Twins have done a lot in the last two or three years to really improve the overall value and talent level of the minor league system. However, most of that high-end talent is in High-A Ft. Myers or lower levels. Names like Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks, Angel Morales, Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano will pop up in Top Prospect lists very soon. But the Twins also have some very good talent in the upper levels as well.

I am often asked if there are any players in the Twins minor league system that can come up and contribute in 2012. The answer is absolutely Yes, but there are several angles to answering that question.

ALREADY THERE

In 2010, the Twins came into the season with a very veteran lineup. Not one rookie was in the everyday lineup to start the season. Alex Burnett was a surprise in the Opening Day bullpen despite zero innings pitched above Double-A. Danny Valencia came up in June and became a regular in July. Because he was the only rookie playing, there was little pressure on him and he went out and contributed mightily for the Twins down the stretch. In 2011, because of all of the injuries, Valencia has frequently been joined in the starting lineup for three or four players with less than a year of big league service time. That puts a lot of pressure on everyone in the lineup to do more than what they may be ready for. That isn’t good for the team and we have seen those struggles. Consider the current Twins roster. Here are the players with less than two years of big league service time: Valencia, Burnett, Drew Butera, Ben Revere, Trevor Plouffe, Luke Hughes, Rene Tosoni, Anthony Swarzak and now Lester Oliveros. We have seen already that Valencia can put up some numbers, including some power. We have seen the value of Ben Revere’s speed on the base paths and in the field. Trevor Plouffe has struggled with the glove, but he leads the organization in home runs this season. Luke Hughes was the story of spring training and has contributed a couple of home runs while playing 1B and 2B. Tosoni has shown patience at the plate and good power potential. Swarzak has been very important as the Twins long reliever and spot starter. Butera’s defense has proven to be as good as advertised. Burnett has shown signs of how good he can be out of the Twins bullpen. And, at this point, we don’t know anything about Lester Oliveros, other than that he throws hard, walks and strikes out a lot and is still just 23 years old. Again, that is a lot of players expected to contribute despite such little time. They have certainly struggled at times this year. However, most of these players have also shown that they can contribute to the Twins over the coming years. Valencia, Plouffe, Swarzak and Tosoni are guys who have been Top 10 Twins prospects and have the talent to contribute for years to come.

RETREADS AT ROCHESTER

The Twins went out of their way to appease the Rochester masses and brought in a ton of minor league veterans. After losing 95 games in 2010, the Twins wanted to give Rochester a more competitive team. It didn’t work. The Red Wings are currently 48-82 this season. Sure, guys like Phil Dumatrait and Chuck James have pitched for the Twins, but those veterans were not really brought in to help the Twins. They were brought in to help the Red Wings. Guys like Jeff Bailey and Chase Lambin really struggled early in the season. However, the real purpose in bringing in the veterans was so that the real prospects who were not ready for AAA were able to stay in New Britain and develop appropriately. The best players of the Red Wings were the prospects. Unfortunately for the Red Wings, all those injuries meant that the Red Wings carousel was continuous again throughout the season. The Twins again called to Rochester frequently, taking the pitchers and top hitters from the Red Wings. Plouffe was one of the International League’s best hitters. Revere, Hughes, and Tosoni were also all in the opening day lineup for the Red Wings.

There are prospects in Rochester, but at this point, there are question marks with them.

  • Scott Diamond – His best start of the season may have been his Major League debut when he went 6.1 innings and gave up three runs. It has been a real struggle for the lefty with the Red Wings. The 25-year-old has gone 4-14 with a 5.88 ERA. It will be very interesting to see how he responds with the team in 2012 because coming into the season, he had never posted an ERA above 3.52 at any stop along his trek up the Braves minor league system. That includes a 3.30 ERA in ten 2010 starts with Gwinnett, Atlanta’s AAA affiliate in the International League.
  • Kyle Gibson – He came into the season as the Twins top prospect and rightfully so. The Twins top pick in 2009 made his minor league debut in 2010 and advanced from Ft. Myers to Rochester. He began the 2011 season with the Red Wings and went 3-3 with a 3.60 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP in the season’s first two months. He walked very few, got a ton of ground balls and even struck out a batter an inning. He was definitely on pace to debut with the Twins in 2011. Unfortunately, in his final eight starts, he went 0-5 with a 6.47 ERA and a 1.88 WHIP. Clearly something wasn’t right, and he is currently in Florida rehabbing an elbow injury, hoping to avoid Tommy John surgery that would cost him his 2012 season. However, this does not make him a lesser prospect. It will just be 2013 before he is able to contribute to the Twins.
  • Carlos Gutierrez – The Twins second first-round pick in 2008 has been a starting pitcher to start each of his previous seasons in the minors. This season he finally went full-time into the bullpen. He has had his ups and downs with the Red Wings. His overall numbers are not impressive. He is 2-3 with a 4.88 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP. He almost made the Twins roster out of spring training. Control continues to be his problem at times. However, he also missed most of July with an arm injury and has struggled since his return. But again, in terms of ‘stuff,’ Gutierrez definitely has it. He throws hard and gets a lot of ground balls due to his sinker. He will play a role with the Twins at some point in 2012.
  • Liam Hendriks – The Twins pushed Hendriks to AA New Britain to start the 2011 season and he pitched great. The Australian went 8-2 with a 2.70 ERA. Because of the need for pitching in Rochester, he was promoted after pitching in the Futures Game and in the Eastern League All-Star Game. He began his AAA tenure with three very good starts before two clunkers. His last two starts have again been solid. The 22-year-old has walked 21 and struck out 100 batters in 125.1 innings this year overall. Hendriks needs to be added to the 40 man roster following the season, so it is possible that he could get a September call-up.
  • Kyle Waldrop – Another reliever who impressed in Spring Training (For the second straight year), Waldrop struggled in the first half this season. However, since the All-Star break, he has been wonderful. His big sinker ball has been in full effect for the last month and he should be given a September opportunity. If so, he will be another important possibility in the Twins bullpen in 2012.

PLAYOFFS FOR PROSPECTS

The New Britain Rock Cats are 64-64 this season, but they remain in contention for a spot in the Eastern League playoffs. Since the Twins and Red Wings (and Ft. Myers Miracle) are out of contention for the playoffs, there are some terrific prospects who are staying with the Rock Cats in an attempt to make the playoffs. Many believe that being on a winning team, and playing for the team, is an important part of the development process. I would say that it can’t hurt. But the Rock Cats also have several players who could contribute to the Twins in 2012. A couple could be in contention for an opening day spot while each of them could be seen at some point in the 2012 season. Here is a look at the top prospects:

  • Joe Benson – The Twins Minor League Hitter of 2010, Benson has been a much better all-around player in 2011. He is hitting .284/.379.499 with 26 doubles, three triples and 14 home runs. He also has 13 stolen bases. All that, despite missing five weeks after knee surgery. Benson is an incredible athlete with tremendous power who is also probably the second fastest player in the organization after Ben Revere. Benson is also a terrific outfielder with great range and a rocket for an arm. His biggest area for needed improvement was his strikeout rate. In 2010, he struck out every 3.5 plate appearances. This year, that number is about four. Depending upon which outfielders the Twins bring back next year, Benson could play a very big role for the Twins starting in 2012.
  • Chris Parmelee – Benson was the team’s second round pick in 2006. Parmelee was the team’s first round pick, and he backed up a very good 2010 with an even stronger 2011. The left-handed hitting first baseman is hitting .291.371/.451 with 27 doubles, five triples and 13 home runs. He does struggle against left-handed pitching. He has more power potential. It isn’t fair to expect him to be Justin Morneau offensively or defensively, but he can be a very solid big leaguer at 1B, maybe in the Lyle Overbay mold. He has a terrific approach at the plate, and if the Twins have a need at 1B in 2012, Parmelee will be ready to step in. He could also DH against right-handed pitching. He also can play a little bit of right field if needed.
  • Brian Dozier – I would argue that no Twins minor leaguer has made a stronger impression in 2011 than Brian Dozier. The Twins surprised a lot of people when they invited Dozier to big league camp this spring. But he has come through with a tremendous season. It began in Ft. Myers and hit .322/.423/.472 in 49 games. In 64 games with the Rock Cats, he has hit .317/.384/.500. Overall, he has 30 doubles, 11 triples and seven home runs. He also has 24 stolen bases. As a top of the order hitter, he has 50 walks and 60 strikeouts. He profiles as a good #2 hitter. Twins minor league pitchers love when Dozier is playing shortstop behind them. With the struggles of Tsuyoshi Nishioka, the 24 year old Dozier should go to spring training with a legitimate opportunity to be the Twins starting shortstop.
  • Yangervis Solarte – Solarte broke out in 2010 when he hit at Ft. Myers and got an opportunity with New Britain, but he got hurt and missed a couple of months. He began this season with the Rock Cats and he has hit the entire time. He hit .300 or higher in April, May, June and July. Overall, he has hit .320/.361/.441 with 30 doubles, three triples and four home runs. He doesn’t walk a lot, but he also strikes out only about once every 13 plate appearances. The only question with Solarte is if there is a position that he can play adequately. That will be the thing that will determine how big his future role with the Twins will be. The 24 year old has played primarily at second base and can also play both corner outfield positions, but not really well.
  • Deolis Guerra – This may be a surprise name to many, especially if you look at his overall numbers in 2011, but Guerra has been terrific. Overall, he is 7-7 with a 5.83 ERA on the season. He began the year with ten starts. He went 3-5 with a 9.00 ERA. In 43 innings, he gave up 66 hits, walked 15 and struck out 30. Opponents hit .357. Then he was moved to the bullpen, and he has been great since. In 24 relief appearances,e he is 4-2 with a 2.80 ERA. In 45 innings, he has given up 33 hits, walked 11 and struck out 55. Opponents have hit just .198 against him. The still-just-22 year old right-hander has a good fastball and a great changeup. It’s remarkable how the role change has improved his control, but his strikeout rate is very improved. He still has an option year in 2012, so hopefully he continues to make improvements and plays a role with the Twins as early as mid-2012.
  • David Bromberg – Twins fans should not forget Bromberg. He was an easy choice to add to the 40-man roster after last season. He has consistently moved up the Twins farm system, three times leading his league in strikeouts. He began this season in New Britain, but in late April, he was hit in the forearm by a line drive and he missed three months of the season. He returned recently, but probably too quickly. It’s important to note that his injury was not to his elbow or shoulder, it was a fluke injury. In other words, there’s no reason to believe that he can’t regain his form which means he will compete for a job with the Twins in 2012.

There are others on that Rock Cats roster who could find themselves with the Twins in time. Evan Bigley is an outfielder in the Chad Allen mode. Danny Lehmann is the most respected catcher by pitchers in the Twins minor leagues. His defense is on par with Drew Butera’s, with probably a little better offense. Andrew Albers has had a tremendous season with the Miracle and the Rock Cats. The lefty could continue to work his way up. Dakota Watts and Bruce Pugh are two pitchers who can throw into the upper-90s and are potential bullpen arms. Brett Jacobson has had an up and down season, but he has a chance. Bobby Lanigan has struggled some as a starter, but he profiles well as a future reliever because of a good fastball and a very good slider. Steve Hirschfeld was my choice for Twins minor league pitcher of the month in April and May. Finally, lefty Logan Darnell began the season in Beloit and is now with the Rock Cats.

ONE MORE

Although it is a rarity for a player to jump from Ft. Myers to the big leagues in one season, I would encourage people to keep an eye on Oswaldo Arcia. The 20-year-old outfielder was the Appalachian League Player of the Year last year for Elizabethton. He spent a month at Beloit this year, posting an OPS over 1.000. He then missed six weeks due to arthroscopic elbow surgery. Instead of going back to Beloit, Arcia went to Ft. Myers where he has continued to hit well. I believe his bat is legit. I posted on Twitter a couple of days ago that I think Arcia may be the best hitting prospect that the Twins have had since Jason Kubel in 2005. He seems to be a natural hitter. It might be a little aggressive to consider Arcia as a possibility for the Twins in 2012, but if there is a hitting prospect for Twins fans to really get excited about, it is Arcia.

Twins Keep Diamond, Deal Bullock

28 Mar

The Twins were able to retain the services of lefty Scott Diamond. He cleared waivers and the Twins were able to work out a trade with the Braves to keep Diamond and be able to send him to AAA Rochester. Unfortunately, it cost the Twins arguably their top relief pitching prospect, Billy Bullock (arguably because many – myself included – have Carlos Gutierrez ahead of him).

I don’t understand the move. Diamond is viewed as a back-of-the-rotation starter, at best (not that that is a bad thing). At the absolute best, he could be another Brian Duensing. If that’s the case, then the price is probably acceptable.

That’s not to say Bullock was untradable or a perfect prospect. Despite a fastball in the upper-90s, the 2009 Twins 2nd round pick from Florida  walked over six batters per nine innings in his half-season at New Britain last year. He also struck out more than 13 per nine.

I don’t get this trade at all. I don’t like it. These are just initial thoughts upon hearing the deal. Maybe someone can explain it to me.

I’ll leave you with this, a terrific tweet from Steve Adams (who writes at MLB Trade Rumors):

Let’s get this straight. #Twins trade Hardy for Hoey/Jacobsen because they need power arms. Now trade Bullock for finesse LHP?

Exactly!

A Diamonds’ Value

24 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

We know that the Twins have been quite high on left-hander Scott Diamond for a few years, back to the days he was pitching at Binghampton University in New York. The Braves signed him and he has become a solid starting pitching prospect for the Braves. However, following the 2010 season, Atlanta made the decision not to protect him on the 40 man roster. They left Billy Wagner on their 40 man roster, and they protected just 39 on their 40 man roster.

The Twins, who drafted late in the Rule 5 draft, had him as the top player on their wish list. They were shocked that Diamond was available to them with their selection.

The Twins like his four-pitch mix, his presence on the mound, how he works quickly, etc. He has just ten games at Triple-A and another half-season or more in the minor leagues would be beneficial for him. However, the rules of the Rule 5 draft dictate that the Twins have to keep him on their 25 man roster all season or offer him back to the Braves.

Diamond has struggled at times this spring. The coaching staff expressed disappointment in him control and in his slow pace on the mound. They said that it was not the Diamond that they had been scouting for years. Clearly the Twins will trust what their scouting reports over the past several years over what they saw in spring training’s first week or two of games.

Diamond is still with the Twins, and he is still a candidate for one of three bullpen spots believed to be remaining. Dusty Hughes appears to all but have one. Glen Perkins is out of options and pitching well again this spring. Diamond likely would not make the Twins 25 man roster, so reports indicate that the Twins will attempt to work out a trade with the Braves in order to keep him.

Oddly enough, next week the Twins will play two exhibition games in Atlanta against the Braves. This situation could go right up to that series. At the end of those two games, Diamond could pack up his stuff and head back to Gwinnett to play for the Braves Triple-A affiliate again. He could pack up his bags and make the trip to his native Canada, joining the Twins in Toronto for Opening Day. The other option is that the Twins and Braves work out a trade and he goes back to Ft. Myers before heading up to Rochester and joining the Red Wings.

The question I often get is “What would the Braves need to get back in return for Diamond?” or “What would be a fair deal to keep Diamond?” The general feeling on Diamond is that his ceiling is probably a #4 starter and his fall-back would be a bullpen spot.

I assume that the Braves will ask for too much. Bill Smith will wisely say no. The two teams will go back and forth. For some reason, I assume that the Braves woujld prefer to get a non-40-man roster player.                                                                                            

If the Braves would require a Top 10 type of prospect for Diamond, well, he will be going back to the Braves. In my Twins Prospect Handbook, I rank Scott Diamond as the Twins #28 prospect. According to the Baseball America Prospect Handbook, they rank Diamond as the Twins #29 prospect. I wanted to look at which Twins prospects Baseball America and myself ranked in that 26-30 range to determine fair return..

Seth’s Rankings: 26.) Niko Goodrum, IF, 27.) Steve Singleton, IF, 28.) Diamond, LHP, 29.) Martire Garcia, LHP, 30.) Tom Stuifbergen, RHP.

Baseball America’s Rankings: 26.) Bruce Pugh, RHP, 27.) Tom Stuifbergen, 28.) Anthony Slama, RHP, 29.) Diamond, 30.) Brian Dozier, SS.

John Sickels is another well-respected minor league evaluator. In his The Baseball Prospect Book 2011, he gives Diamond a grade of C+. Other Twins with that same ranking include: Joe Benson, David Bromberg, Pat Dean, Carlos Gutierrez, BJ Hermsen, Angel Morales, Nate Roberts, Eddie Rosario, Manuel Soliman, Tom Stuifbergen.

Again, the Twins aren’t going to trade Benson, Bromberg, Gutierrez, Hermsen, or Morales for Diamond. 2010 draft picks (Goodrum, Dean, Rosario, Roberts) can’t be traded until July (1 year after they sign). I would have a hard time trading Bruce Pugh and Martire Garcia because the Twins don’t havce a lot of guys that would classify as ‘hard-throwers.’

There is one name that appears on all three of these lists, Tom Stuifbergen. The 22 year old went 6-4 with a 2.98 ERA last year in Beloit. He struck out 88 in 93.2 innings on the season. Unfortunately, he had a couple of stints on the Disabled List with arm issues. If he can stay healthy, he can jump quickly up these rankings. We all remember what he did in his 2009 WBC start against the Dominican Republic team. He is very smart and knows how to pitch. I have heard rumblings on a couple of occasions that Stuifbergen’s name has appeared in trade discussions this spring, so it would not surprise me if a Diamond-for-Stuifbergen deal went down. I would be disappointed, but it would be a very fair trade.

The other name that jumps out to me is Steve Singleton. He spent the entire 2010 season in New Britain and led the organization in doubles. He has played a lot of second base, but also is solid at SS and 3B. The fact that the Twins loaded up on minor league veteran middle infielders makes me think he could be a trade candidate. It might be a great thing for him to get an opportunity with another organization.

If the Braves are fair and are asking for a ‘fair’ return for Diamond, you’ve seen some names here that might make sense. Of course, it is also possible that it would take two minor leaguers to get the job done. It’s possible that the Twins would not want a pitcher. Maybe they would want a middle infielder and names like Brian Dozier and James Beresford would be in this range.

It would be great to be a fly on the wall of the discussions between the Twins and the Braves. Hopefully this helps people understand what would be fair return for Diamond.

—————————————–

Sometime on Wednesday morning, the Maple Street Press Twins 2011 Annual will be updating its price to just $9.99 PLUS free shipping in the U.S. It’s really a very good deal for the 128 page, full-color, ad-free magazine full of terrific Twins content.

Congratulations to the Perham Boys Basketball team for their 57-40 win against Virginia in the first-round of the state tournament. One Big Clap, Zach Gabbard surprised his teammates by being at Williams Arena for the game! They advance to play Waterville-Elysian-Morristown on Friday night.

If you like, please feel free to comment.

The Final Spots

18 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

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

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

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

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

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

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

Backup Infielder:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bullpen:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Big Picture:

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

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

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

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

Here are some other notes and blogs to peruse:

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

Twins 2011 Impact Prospects

15 Feb

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

As you have seen, Danny Valencia graces the cover of my Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2011. Under his picture reads, “Danny Valencia arrived in 2010 and held the Twins to the A. L. Central Title.” Under four pictures of Twins minor leaguers, the question is asked, “Which Prospect(s) will help the Twins in 2011?”

Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2011

Now, as you know, there are over 160 profiles of Twins minor leaguers in the book. How many of them could we see in Minnesota, and under what circumstance would we see them? Here are some names (alphabetically) to keep in the back of your mind heading into spring training.

Let’s start with the prospects that we have already seen play for the Twins.

Luke Hughes – We didn’t get to see a lot of Hughes in 2010, but what we saw was positive. I mean, he became the first Twins player since 1984 to hit a home run in his first at bat. Hughes struggles defensively, but at least he can play multiple positions, and most important, he is right-handed and has a lot of power in his bat. His role with the Twins could be a right-handed bench bat and designated hitter who can fill in from time to time around the field.

Trevor Plouffe – Plouffe was back and forth between Rochester and the Twins throughout last summer. He struggled late in the Triple-A season, but he displayed power and improved his defense. I think he’ll compete with Alexi Casilla for the starting shortstop job. As this is his final option season, I would anticipate that he will play at 3B and 2B in 2011 than he did in 2010 as he could potentially be a utility infielder as well.

Ben Revere – We got a glimpse of Revere in September and I think that is the role we will see him fill in 2011 as well. If Denard Span is hurt, Revere could replace him for a couple of weeks in centerfield and in the leadoff spot. Some think he should be a fourth outfielder already, but he is just 22, hasn’t spent a day in AAA, and despite hitting .300 yet again and having game-changing speed, he still has parts of his game that need to improve, specifically defense.

Next, there are two guys that we haven’t seen yet, but we know we will hear a lot about this spring:

Scott Diamond – The Twins Rule 5 pick from the Atlanta Braves organization has to spend the season with the Twins or go through waivers and be offered back to the Braves. It is likely he would be claimed or the Braves would take him back, so the Twins will likely give the left-hander every opportunity to make the team.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka – The Twins made big news last Thanksgiving when they won the bid to negotiate exclusively with Nishioka. The two sides agreed to a three year contract with an option for a fourth year. It’s almost a given that Nishioka will be with the Twins and playing at 2B, although he will also see time at shortstop in spring.

The following are Twins minor leaguers that I think have at least some chance of debuting with the Twins in 2011:

Joe Benson – The Twins Minor League Hitter of the Year hit 31 doubles and 27 home runs in 2010. He is an excellent defender with Revere-like speed, and a Cuddyer-like arm. He has work to do before he’s ready for a full-time big league job. It woudl be great if he could spend the year at Double-A.  He has to work on putting the ball in play more consistently, but if he does, he could get a September call-up.

David Bromberg – After leading three minor league levels in strikeouts from 2007 to 2009, his strikeout rate was down at Double-A last year. However, he ended the season with nine starts and AAA where he struck out just over eight per nine innings. He will start the season in the Rochester rotation, and if the Twins have a need for a starter and Bromberg is pitching well, he very easily could be the one promoted for a spot start, or even possibly a long-relief role.

Billy Bullock – Bullock throws gas. The 2nd round pick from 2009 consistently throws around 95 mph with a very good slider. He began the 2010 season by striking out 45 in 37.1 innings at Ft. Myers. After being promoted to Double-A, he struck out and incredible 60 batters in 36.2 innings. Of course, he also walked 24. If he can display any semblance of control in 2010 in the upper levels of the minor leagues, he becomes very intriguing for the Twins in the second half of the season.

Tony Davis – Bullock’s college teammate is a left-hander who also pitched well in his first full season. He began the season by posting a 2.87 ERA in Ft. Myers and followed it up with a 2.64 ERA in New Britain. Again, control is his issue. He walked 46 batters and struck out 45 batters in 2010. The Twins added some left-handed veterans this offseason, so it would take a lot of control and some breaks for Davis to debut in 2011.

Kyle Gibson – The 2009 top pick is clearly the Twins top pitching prospect. He moved from Ft. Myers to New Britain and ended the season with three starts at Rochester. Gibson is clearly going to be a starter for the Twins at some point. The question is whether it is in June, August, or if they can wait for him to debut until 2012. If he pitches well early in the 2011 season, he should be starting for the Twins by June. If he’s pitching well later in the season, but the Twins starters are doing their part, there is some opportunity for him to debut later in the summer in the bullpen.

Carlos Gutierrez – The Twins second first round pick in 2008 throws hard and induces a lot of ground balls because he gets a lot of sink on his pitches. He has struggled as a starter, and he thrives in the bullpen. He has a chance to contribute to the Twins in the second half of the 2011 season if he is pitching well.

Chris Parmelee – The Twins 2006 first-round pick had always shown an ability to take a walk and hit for some power. In 2010, he made major strides in putting the ball in play and hitting for average. Hopefully in 2011, he can put it all together and become a big-time, all-around hitting prospect. It would be great if he could spend the full season in AA, but if he’s hitting well and (the worst-case scenario occurs and) Justin Morneau needs to miss extended time, Parmelee becomes an option for the big league club.

Chris Province – Province came to the Twins last year in spring training from the Red Sox in exchange for Boof Bonser. He is a reliever, although he made several starts a year ago between Double-A and Triple-A. A lot would need to happen for him to debut with the Twins, but he has a fastball that darts in on a right-hander’s hands. If he’s pitching well at a given time when there is a need, he has an outside shot.

Brandon Roberts – Roberts has generally played well throughout the four years he has been in the Twins organization. The problem is that he has been hurt so much. Last year, he finally remained healthy enough to work up to AAA where the CF hit over .300. He has had some knee problems, but speed is his game. Again, there is a smaller chance, but if he stays healthy and produces like he did last year, you never know.

Steve Singleton – After a slow start in 2010, he came on well late in the season. He led the organization with 43 doubles, and had 54 extra base hits on the year. He puts the ball in play and plays solid defense at 2B and has also played 3B and shortstop. He has a lot of pop for a second baseman, and if he can continue to play well, if there is an injury, he deserves an opportunity.

Rene Tosoni – Tosoni is just a solid all-around player. The only weak part of his game has been an inability to hit left-handed pitching. He tried to play in 2010, but his shoulder was experiencing just too much pain, so his season ended with surgery. He profiles similarly to Jason Kubel in terms of hitter. He is a little better defensively, has a little bit more speed, and has a strong arm. It will be interesting to see how he returns from missing so much time last year.

Kyle Waldrop – He had an absolutely incredible first-half of the season a year ago. It started with a great spring training before being sent to Rochester. Prior to the AAA All-Star game, he had posted both an ERA and a WHIP of under 1.00. He struggled some in the second half. He is not a strikeout pitcher, but he gets a lot of movement and sink on the fastball and could be a groundball reliever option sometime this season.

Dakota Watts – Maybe the biggest long-shot on the list, the Twins 16th round pick in 2009 pitched at Beloit, Ft. Myers and New Britain in 2010. He was clocked at 99 mph while in Ft. Myers. That along makes him worth watching. He can get a strikeout, probably walks too many, but is at least worth watching, and maybe he would be a long-shot September call-up.

Finally, there are some more veteran minor leaguers that the Twins brought in for the 2010 season that are worth noting:

Justin Huber is back after a year in Japan. Consider the day that Michael Cuddyer took over at 1B for an injured Justin Morneau in September of 2009, Huber was initially supposed to play 1B, but an oblique injury took him out of the lineup the rest of the season. Jeff Bailey spent parts of three seasons with the Red Sox from 2007 to 2009 and showed some power.  He can play 1B and the corner outfield positions. Chase Lambin was an International League All Star a year ago. He can play 3B, 2B and 1B. Matt Brown has spent a little bit of time in the big leagues and can play the four infield positions and spent time in the OF last year. Ray Chang is an option at 3B and 2B. Rene Rivera and Steve Holm are backup catcher options with big league service time.

Yorman Bazardo has always pitched well in the minor leagues, but still just 26, it hasn’t transferred to success in the big leagues. He pitched well in Venezuela this winter. Chuck James pitched well for the Braves for a couple of years before he was injured. The lefty went 10-1 between AA and AAA with the Nationals organization. Phil Dumatrait is a lefty-reliever option with big league time. Eric Hacker had a decent 2010 with the Giants AAA team and got a 40 man roster spot for it.

In a typical year, the Twins will promote between 12 and 18 players from Rochester throughout a season . Sometimes it is a straight promotion. Sometimes it is an injury-fill. There are various reasons. I mentioned 18 names above before discussing the minor league veterans that the organization added.

How many of these guys will come up and contribute in some way? Who will be surprise candidates? Can any of them have an impact in 2011 the way that Danny Valencia did in 2010? That is the fun part about following prospects. We can guess, but once the season gets started, you never know how it will play out.

—————————————————————————————–

John and the TwinsCentric guys helped put together the Maple Street Press Twins Annual 2011, and it has been quite the project. However, the results are tremendous. The magazine is 128 pages of Twins content, with no advertisements. Just pure Twins talk. The TwinsCentric crew wrote player profiles on the Twins roster, and we each wrote an additional article or two.

I wrote one article on the success that the Twins Advanced-Rookie League team in Elizabethton, Tennessee, has had over the last 25 years and the role that consistency has played in that. Their manager, Ray Smith, signed with the Twins as a non-drafted free agent in 1978 and debuted with the Twins in the strike-shortened 1981 season. He spent parts of three years with the Twins. When his playing career ended, he became the Elizabethton Twins manager, in 1987. 25 years later, he has won a lot of games and a lot of championships, but more important, he has helped a lot of young men and young ball players begin their path up the Twins system. His pitching coach, Jim Shellenbeck, and his hitting coach, Jeff Reed, have ton of playing and coaching experience. It was a really fun article to research and write, and I think it turned out very well.

The other article I wrote was essentially an organizational depth chart. In the article, as I did last year, I broke out the Twins prospects into Infielders, Outfielders, Catchers, Starting Pitchers and Relief Pitchers, and gave my top five prospects in each category along with a Sleeper and One to Watch. There are also charts with 2011 roster projections.

Minnesota Twins Organizational Depth Chart Article

There is a lot of Twins information in the magazine. There is information on the current roster, Target Field, the minor leagues, several historical articles and much, much more.

The magazine is now available for pre-order at the Maple Street Press website. The magazine will be available on news stands around Minnesota starting March 1. However, if you pre-order, the magazines are set to ship out on February 17, so you can get it before it hits the news stands. For those of you outside the Minnesota areas, it will not be available in your market, so ordering online is the way to go if you are interested.

Maple Street Press Twins Annual 2011