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Twins From Down Under

28 Jun

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As Trent Oeltjen and the LA Dodgers knocked around Twins pitching last night, it became clear what the subject of my TwinsCentric blog should be. We all know that the Twins have signed a lot of players from Australia, but I think when you look at the caliber of some of the prospects and how many big leaguers the Twins have produced from Down Under, it really is impressive.

Remember in 2005 when infielder Glenn Williams finally got a big league opportunity? He played in 13 games for the Twins and had at least one hit in each of those games. He was 17-40 (.425) when he dove back into first base and jarred his shoulder. The injury kept him out the rest of the season, and he never appeared in the big leagues again.

Williams was a high-profile prospect, signed to a huge bonus as an 18-year-old. The Twins had other Australians in their system, and several of them reached the big leagues.

  • Remember side-winding Michael Nakamura? In 2003, he walked just two batters and struck out 14 in 12.2 innings for the Twins. Of course, he gave up twenty hits, including four home runs, and posted a 7.82 ERA.
  • Brad Thomas was a solid reliever for the Tigers in 2010, and he is still in their bullpen this year. Did you remember that he debuted with the Twins as a 23-year-old in 2001 and pitched in 23.1 big innings over parts of three seasons from 2001 through 2004?
  • Justin Huber was a huge prospect in the Royals system but never got an opportunity with them. He came to the Twins in 2009 and after a strong AAA campaign got a September call-up to the Twins. He went 1-2 before an oblique injury cost him the rest of that season.
  • Grant Balfour debuted with the Twins in 2001 as a 23-year-old. He came back in 2003 and again in 2004. He impressed with a big fastball but was often hurt. He missed all of 2005 and 2006 after a few arm surgeries, including Tommy John surgery. His career took off in 2008 with the Rays, and became one of the league’s top setup men. He was a Type A free agent this past offseason and signed a big contract with the Oakland A’s, where he is currently 4-1 with a 2.48 ERA in 32.2 innings.
  • Ryan Rowland-Smith was the Twins Rule 5 selection from the Mariners after the 2004 season. He was returned to the Mariners late in Spring Training 2005. He pitched for the Mariners the last four years. He signed with the Houston Astros before this season.
  • Trent Oeltjen signed with the Twins in 2001 and moved all the way up to AAA Rochester where he spent the 2007 season. He was generally one of the better players on his teams. I had the chance to do a Q&A with Oeltjen following the 2006 season, which was fun. In my June of 2007 Top 50 Twins Prospect Rankings, I had Oeltjen at #10. He peaked in my rankings at #9 following the 2006 season. Oeltjen got into 24 games in 2009 with the Diamondbacks, and has now played in 24 games for the Dodgers over the past two years. By the way, his numbers in Albuquerque before the Dodgers called him up? .339/.429/.583 with 14 doubles, three triples and eight home runs in 180 at bats.  

Luke Hughes is the only current Twins player from Australia in the big leagues. He debuted in style in 2010 when he homered in his first big league at bat, against the Tigers’ Max Scherzer. He was one of the big stories of spring training again in 2011 but was the last cut. Of course, he has spent all but a couple of weeks in the big leagues this season and hit .246/.308/.313 with six doubles and a home run while playing 1B, 2B and 3B.  Hughes is followed by several very good prospects:

  • Allan de San Miguel is in his seventh season in the Twins minor league system yet is still just 24 years old. The 5-9, 200 pound catcher is currently rehabbing an elbow injury in Ft. Myers. He has a career hitting line of .202/.321/.290, playing at every level of the Twins farm system. In an organization with several very good defensive catchers, De San Miguel is among the most respected behind the plate.
  • Liam Hendriks is a Top 5 Twins prospect, and may still be underrated. The 22 year old was recently named to this year’s Futures Game in Phoenix. He was named to the team a year ago too, but he suffered an emergency appendectomy and missed a month. This year with Double-A New Britain, Hendriks is 7-2 with a 2.81 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP.
  • James Beresford is a 22 year old middle infielder for the Ft. Myers Miracle. He is hitting .251/.297/.259 with five doubles. He was the MVP of the Beloit Snappers the last two years. He is 6-2 but weighs barely 165 pounds. The most frequent saying around Beresford is that if he can add some weight, he will be really good. He is already a solid player and a tremendous glove and a leader.
  • Todd Van Steensel signed with the Twins late last year. The 20 year old was the Opening Night starter for the Elizabethton Twins. He has made two starts and has three walks and 14 strikeouts in 10 innings.
  • Also at Elizabethton is Rory Rhodes. The 19 year old third baseman stands 6-7 and weighs 200 pounds. Though seventeen at bats, he is hitting .353/.421/.706. Of his six hits, he has three doubles and a home run.
  • Tim Atherton was in the Twins system a few years ago and recently resigned with the team. The 21-year-old has two walks and nine strikeouts in six innings with the GCL Twins.
  • Mark Trau is a right-handed pitcher who just turned twenty. He has made just one appearance with the GCL Twins this year and pitched a scoreless inning.
  • First baseman Josh Hendricks is 19 years old and 6-3, 217 pounds. He is currently 0-16 with the GCL Twins.
  • Jacob Younis is a 17 year old infielder with the GCL Twins. At 5-9 and 180 pounds, he is now 5-12 (.417/.533/.417).

Hendriks is far and away the best prospect, but Rhodes has a chance to fly up prospect rankings this year. The Twins continue to have a very strong presence in Australia and the pipeline continues to grow. Any other thoughts or questions on the Twins minor leaguers from Australia or elsewhere? Feel free to comment here or here.


Thursday Night Blogging

5 Nov

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Hey everyone, I am going to be updating this blog throughout the night. I happened to be in a hotel room that did not provide me with internet access the last three nights, so I am certain I have fallen somewhat behind. So, I’ll be updating throughout the night with any news, relative to the Twins or just interesting. I’ll start with a few, but be sure to check back throughout the night:

  • First of all, you may have noticed last night that the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook is now available in a print version. If you would like a copy, you can order it here.
  • The Elias Rankings are officially out now.
    • To no one’s surprise, Orlando Cabrera is a Type A free agent. As we know, that means that the Twins can’t offer him arbitration. It does not mean that they won’t sign him though, and too many reports are indicating that the Twins are very interested in bringing him back. Again, he was a nice spark down the stretch. He is a veteran. He showed some leadership skills. But his offense does not warrant more than $4 million a year, and his defense should only drop that number down!
    • Although not really surprising, it was great to see that Carl Pavano officially is a Type B free agent. If the Twins can work a fair deal to bring back the 31 year old, OK. If not, offer him arbitration and get a free draft pick. If he accepts arbitration, you’re only out one year, and that’s bearable. If you trade Yohan Pino for 2 months of Carl Pavano and a first round pick, you have to be absolutely thrilled.
    • Mike Redmond, Joe Crede and Ron Mahay are not Type A’s or Type B’s, so they would bring back no compensation.  
  • Two former Twins minor leaguers, Alex Romero and Trent Oeltjen, were taken off of the Arizona Diamondbacks roster. Now, not big news of course, but I have to admit that I would be very happy if the Twins were able to bring back Oeltjen on a minor league contract. In fact, if it meant taking Jason Pridie off of the 40 man roster to put Oeltjen on it, I would much prefer that. Oeltjen is fast, can play all three outfield positions well, and can hit to his skills, meaning but for hits, beat the ball into the ground and run and a lot of triples. To me, that is a guy that I would really like to have as a fourth outfielder. Now, Romero has the right to become a free agent. Oeltjen does not, but again, I would happily give up Jason Pridie or Brandon Roberts, and a Type D prospect for Oeltjen.  
  • In an AL Central move, the Kansas City Royals traded Mark Teahen to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Josh Fields and Chris Getz. It is an interesting move. Fields had asked to be traded late in the 2009 season. Getz had lost playing time at 2B. But both of them have solid potential. Just two years ago, Fields hit 27 home runs. Teahen is a good, but certainly not great, player. You know what you’re getting with him. He can play RF, 3B, 2B, and probably wherever you put him. But if you’re a Royals fan, you have to be very happy with this deal.
  • The Angels signed Bobby Abreu to a two year, $19 million contract extension. He will get $9 million in 2010 and $2011 with a $9 million option for 2012, with a $1 million buyout. What does this have to do with the Twins? Very little, and yet, a lot. Think about it. As good as Michael Cuddyer was in 2006, 2007 and 2009, Bobby Abreu has been excellent for a long time. He’s older than Cuddyer, but does have more history. Defensively, as bad as Cuddyer was in RF in 2009, he is still better out there than Abreu. The Twins have to decide in the next few days whether to pick up the 2011 option on Michael Cuddyer’s contract. Although it seems obvious that the Twins should pick up the option, last week, I wrote that the Twins could decide to decline it and work on a contract extension. Maybe Cuddyer and the Twins could work out an extension at the same dollar value as Abreu. So, after making $8.5 million in 2010, he could make $9 million in 2011 and 2012, and they could still give him an option for 2013. Cuddyer comes out fine. The Twins aren’t overpaying at all. And, I’m almost always in favor of adding an option yet.

Alright, be sure to continue to check back at throughout the night for more updates. If you have any questions, comments, or topics or rumors that you think are important, send me an e-mail or leave some comments.