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Wilson Ramos is Safe!!

11 Nov

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

 

Wilson Ramos was found, and now he is safe. Obviously more and more details will be coming out in coming hours and days, but it’s great that the 24 year old catcher is now out of harm’s way. He was found in a mountainous region. He has now been able to speak to his family. The news is good in Venezuela tonight.

On Wednesday night, Ramos was hanging out with his dad and his brother at their home when he was taken at gunpoint in a van. There were not a lot of details in between, but people all around baseball came together with their support, hope and prayers for Ramos. It is great that just over 48 hours later, he is safe.

Feel free to comment.

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TwinsCentric: Twins Notes

11 Nov

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

First things first, Happy Veterans Day! Thank you so much to all who have served this country and helped preserve the freedoms that we all enjoy every day!

Today, several Twins related topics for you to peruse and enjoy.

11/11/11

We have been able to ‘celebrate’ these occurrences the last ten years. Last year, it happened on October 10th. In 2009, it occurred on September 9th. Next December 12th, we’ll certainly be celebrating 12/12/12. But then, it will be 89 years before we can again celebrate this phenomena on January 1st, 2101. With that enlightening, incredibly informative information as the background, I thought it would be fun to note all of the players who have worn the #11 in Minnesota Twins history. In 51 seasons, 20 Twins players have worn #11. It is an interesting list of names!

  • Chuck Knoblauch wore #11 from his Rookie of the Year season and World Series run in 1991 until he was traded following the 1997 season.
  • No one wore #11 in 1998, but then Jacque Jones wore it well from 1999 until he left via free agency after the 2005 season.
  • Many who watch Ben Revere mentioned he and his mannerisms look similar to those of Jones. After wearing #37 during his September debut in 2010, he switched to #11 in 2011.
  • Frank Quilici played for the Twins from 1965 through 1970. He then managed the Twins from 1972 to 1975 to a record of 280-287. He wore #43 as a coach and manager. He wore #7 from 1966 through 1970. However, in that World Series season of 1965, he debuted with the #11.
  • You remember Minnesota native Greg Olson as the Braves catcher in that 1991 World Series against the Twins. He wore #10 for the Braves, but he wore the #11 in his three games with the Twins in 1989.
  • Another catcher wore #11 for the Twins in 1987 and 1988. His name was Tom Nieto, and of course he was in the news last month when he was fired as the Rochester Red Wings manager.
  • Another catcher with current-Twins ties wore the #11 from 1980-1982 for the Twins. Sal Butera hit .233/.303/.274 with 15 doubles, 1 triple and 1 home run in parts of four seasons with the Twins (553 PA). His son Drew Butera has hit .178/.220/.261 with 15 doubles, 2 triples and four home runs the past two seasons with the Twins (409 PA).
  • Tim Teufel wore #11 as a Twins infielder from 1983 through 1985 before being traded to the Mets in a deal that brought Billy Beane to the Twins. He was recently promoted to the Mets big league coaching staff after managing in the minor leagues for several years.
  • Jason Pridie wore the #11 in his brief Twins stints in 2008 and 2009. Yesterday, he was outrighted by the Mets after playing 101 games for them in 2011.
  • Others who wore the #11 for the Twins: Ron Henry (1961), George Banks (1962-1964), Frank Kostro (1964-1965), Bernie Allen (1966), Ted Uehlander (1967-1968), Brant Alyea (1970-1971), Steve Brye (1972-1976), Terry Bulling (1977), Rusty Kuntz (1983), Al Woods (1986), and Josh Rabe (2006-2007).

Ramos Kidnapped

At about 7:00 central time on Wednesday night, it came out that former Twins prospect Wilson Ramos had been kidnapped from his home in Venezuela. To be completely honest, even with all the disturbing news coming out of Penn State, I can’t stop thinking about this. Ramos is just 24. He was just hanging out at home with his dad and his brother when armed gunmen came up and abducted him. It is an incredibly scary situation and has people discussing. Should MLB do more to secure the safety of their players in other countries? Should US players even go to Venezuela? All of those discussions should be had. However, they can happen later. At this point, finding a way to bring Ramos back safely is all that matters. That’s the scary part!

As much as we hear about kidnappings being regular occurrences in Venezuela, every instance is different. Experts tell us that when there is a ransom involved, the kidnapped person is generally returned safely. However, as this situation crosses past the 24 hour mark, there is yet to be contact between the kidnappers and the Ramos family. Some speculate that it could take as much as $20 million ransom to have Ramos returned. The reality is that we don’t know how this situation will end, and until we know that Ramos is safe, we just won’t know.

Twins Send Letter to Season-Ticket Holders

In a letter dated November 8th, David St. Peter (President of the Twins) addressed the changes in the Twins front office, the transition from Bill Smith back to Terry Ryan.  NoDak Twins Fan shared the letter with his readers:

“With this week’s announcement behind us, the weeks and months to come promise to be exciting as our roster takes shape for the 2012 season. There is no question that key decisions await and opportunities are on the horizon. Rest assured, we are working harder than ever to return to postseason play with the hopes of bringing you a third World Championship.”

Mesa on MLB Network

Tonight at 7:00 central time, the Mesa Solar Sox will be playing on MLB Network. Of course, Mesa is the team that the Twins seven prospects are playing for.  Here is a quick update of how the Twins are doing:

  • Brian Dozier started at 2B in last Saturday’s Rising Stars game. He homered in his first at bat of that game. On Thursday, he went 3-4 with a walk, a double and a game-winning home run. He is now hitting .319/.368/.489 with seven doubles and three home runs.
  • Chris Herrmann is hitting .359/.444/.564 with five doubles and a home run in 39 at bats.
  • Aaron Hicks is hitting .235/.337/.494 with five doubles, four triples and three home runs. People are always asking me about his lefty-righty splits. They are significant, even in the limited sample size of the AFL. In 57 at bats against right-handers, he is hitting .193/.313/.439 (752) with three doubles, four triples and a home run. Against southpaws, he is hitting .321/.387/.607 (.994) with two doubles and two home runs.
  • Minnesotan Cole DeVries has been terrific. The righty has made seven starts and is 2-0 with a 2.74 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP. In 23 innings, he has walked just three and struck out 16.
  • Brett Jacobson is 1-2 with a 3.97 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP. In 11.1 innings, he has walked eight and struck out 11. Dakota Watts is 0-1 with two saves, a 6.57 ERA and a 1.86 WHIP. In 12.1 innings pitched, he has walked 10 and struck out eight. Bruce Pugh is 0-1 with a 12.34 ERA and a 3.17 WHIP. In 11.2 innings, he has walked 15 and struck out 11.

Dinkelman Stays

After the Twins outrighted Brian Dinkelman to Rochester for the second time this year, he had the right to become a free agent. Yesterday, the Twins were able to re-sign him. He hit .301/.346/.315 with a double in 73 at bats with the Twins while playing the corner outfield positions and some 2B. He hit just .243/.316/.324 with 27 doubles, a triple and three home runs in 127 games in Triple-A Rochester. Dinkelman turned 28 years old yesterday. Here is a list of 12 players that the Twins allowed to become six-year minor league free agents.

Scouting Japan Again

It is comical to me when I read or hear some people say or write that the Twins would be crazy to sign someone from Japan after the 2011 season that Tsuyoshi Nishioka said. That kind of thinking makes no sense to me. If there are players that scouts believe have the stuff to help a team win, they should absolutely be interested. If Terry Ryan is willing to give Nishioka a mulligan to his injury-filled, disappointing first season in America, so am I. This week, it came out that the Twins may be interested and have been scouting a couple of pitchers from Japan, Hisashi Iwakuma and Tsuyoshi Wada.

No surprise that the Twins may have interest in Iwakuma. They acknowledged last year that they big high on the right-hander when he had to be posted. This year, Iwakuma is a free agent, so they can negotiate directly with him, but so can everyone else. He had a tough year this year in Japan, in large part due to shoulder and back issues. He didn’t pitch from May 17 until July 27. In 2011, his average fastball was 87-91 mph. He threw a cutter between 86-90 mph. He has a slider that sits between 77 and 81 and a curveball which he throws between 69 and 74 mph.  In previous years, he threw a little faster, touching 93 at times. If healthy, he can be a solid #3 or #4 starter.

In 2010, the Twins became the first team to have two Rene’s in the same lineup. Is it possible that in 2011, the Twins could have two Tsuyoshi’s? The left-handed Tsuyoshi Wada has average stuff and very good control. His fastball is thrown at 86-88 mph. He throws a slider between 78 and 81 mph. He has a good changeup in the 76-80 mph range, and also throws a forkball in that same range. He throws a slow curve in the low 70s. He would profile as a back of the rotation starter, long reliever of LOOGY.

TwinsCentric Notes

Feel free to comment.

Wilson Ramos Kidnapped

9 Nov

Also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

News came out within the past hour that former Twins catching prospect and current Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos has been kidnapped from his home in Venezuela. According to reports, he was approached by four gunmen. His family has not yet heard from Ramos, having only talked to the police.

Obviously this is a scary situation. The Twins have a great relationship with Aragua in the Venezuelan Winter League. However, the organization made a decision a few years ago to remove themselves from the Venezuelan Summer League due to the violence that is frequent in the country. Sadly, this is not an unusual occurrence. I have a friend who was in Venezuela several years ago and he was robbed at gunpoint twice in a year. Ramos is not the first Twin or former Twins player to be robbed at gun point this offseason. It is a scary situation.

In fact, if I was the Twins brass, I would bring every player from the Venezuelan Winter League. See if they can play in Puerto Rico. Anywhere but Venezuela. The sad thing is that Ramos is from Venezuela. He lives there. His family lives there. That is his home and not even he is safe there. It’s a sad situation.

But for now, the attention has to be on Wilson Ramos and getting him back to safety. Baseball simply isn’t all that important, is it? I’m certain more and more details will come up, but thoughts and prayers certainly go out to Ramos, his family and his baseball family!

Feel free to comment.

A Look Back: The Capps/Ramos Trade

27 Apr

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Be sure to check out last night’s SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast here.

At the end of July last year, it was clear to Twins fans that Jon Rauch was really struggling in the closer’s role. One two game stretch pushed his season ERA from 2.38 to 3.31. He was throwing a ton of pitches and walking more than he was striking out. The outs he was getting were hit really hard. The Twins felt the need to improve their overall bullpen by going out and acquiring a “proven closer.”

I was in the process of packing up and moving myself when I heard a rumor that Wilson Ramos had been removed from the Rochester Red Wings lineup. Soon after, there was a rumor that said the Twins had dealt Ramos to Washington for Matt Capps. I thought that was just crazy. Trade a top prospect, and a top catching prospect at that, for one of the league’s least intimidating closers, a guy whose numbers were not much different than Rauch’s? Unfortunately, it was not long before the rumors were confirmed. The Twins had traded Wilson Ramos and Joe Testa (left-handed reliever) for Matt Capps. I sunk. How disappointing! I wrote, “I was in awe, shocked that the Twins would give up their most expendable trade prospect for a reliever that, frankly, isn’t any better than current closer Jon Rauch.”

I did acknowledge that adding Capps made the Twins better in 2010. Torii Hunter and Johan Santana always whined about how the Twins always were looking to the future, but when would they go for it and stop worrying about prospects. This move did that, for sure. The Twins gave up Ramos, a top 4 Twins prospect, for a solid relief pitcher.

I don’t think anyone was or is any higher on Wilson Ramos than me. I ranked him as the Twins #2 prospect before the 2010 season. I saw him as a good defensive catcher who could hit for average and future power. There were several times that I outlined a scenario for Ramos and Joe Mauer to co-exist. Since Mauer will be around for most of the next decade, it is understandable that Ramos was expendable. However, I proposed a scenario where Joe Mauer caught 100 games a year and then DHed another 50-55 games. Wilson Ramos would catch 50-60 games and then DH 80-100 games a year. The Twins don’t have a ton of right-handed power in their lineup, and Ramos could have been that. In that scenario, you have your starting catcher and DH, and could still have a 3rd catcher to be there for emergency.

Instead, without Ramos, the Twins are left with a lot of great-defense, little-bat options at catcher in the minor leagues. Guys like Steve Holm, Rene Rivera and Danny Lehmann can be solid big league backup catchers. Chris Herrmann is a great athlete who can catch but primarily plays in the outfield. Danny Rams is a terrific prospect with power potential, but he is still playing in A ball. Jose Morales was traded because he was out of options and would not have made the team and would have been claimed and lost for nothing.

Losing Ramos is a huge loss, no matter how the Twins want to spin it. In his previous four games, he was just 2-16, but after his 3-4 game last night which included two home runs, he is now hitting .378/.440/.578 for the Nationals. His OPS is 1.018. Of course, by season’s end, his OPS will most likely be shy of .800, but he could be a very good player.

However, to say that it was a horrible trade is 100% wrong. And it is wrong on several levels. First, Matt Capps is still just 27 years old. He throws a good fastball. He throws a couple of pitches. He has good control, gets the occasional strikeout. He definitely can make things interesting at times, like most closers. However, the Twins wanted him to solidify their 2010 bullpen, and he definitely did that. He posted a 2.00 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in 27 innings over 27 games in helping the Twins to the playoffs. He saved 16 games. Another reason that the Twins wanted Capps was because he would remain with the team for 2011 and serve as insurance for Joe Nathan in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Well, it is just a couple of weeks into the season, and Capps is clearly the Twins best reliever and has taken over the closer’s role from Nathan. He has a 3.75 ERA, but his WHIP is just 0.83. Yes, it’s hard to believe he has just five strikeouts.

So, since the Twins acquired Capps, he has pitched in 38 games. He has gone 3-1 with a 2.54 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. He has recorded 20 saves. He also has all of those intangibles that the Twins and the players really appreciate.  

This isn’t Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio. It’s not even Larry Anderson for Jeff Bagwell. Frankly, this isn’t Casey Blake for Carlos Santana.

Did I like the trade at the time? Not at all. Do I like the trade in retrospect? Not really, I still don’t like it. But Matt Capps has been tremendous and everything that the Twins and Twins fans could have hoped for and more. In fact, would anyone be surprised if the Twins locked him up for the next 3-4 years to be their closer through the rest of his 20s? I wouldn’t. And I don’t think it would be a terrible thing at all. Forget the dollars. $7 million is not outrageous for what he has done for the Twins and in his career. Take away that 2009 season, and he has had a terrific career, and there is no reason to believe that he can’t remain very good. In a bullpen with so many question marks and so much uncertainty, Capps has been valuable for the Twins.

Ramos’s fast start this season, and the Joe Mauer early-season Disabled List visit certainly bring the trade back to the forefront. Those things are hard to ignore, but don’t ignore the impact that Capps has had for the Twins.

Note – The Nationals kept the left-handed Testa in Extended Spring Training and are asking him to work on throwing side-arm to maximize movement on his pitches.

Any thoughts?

Minor League Report

SethSpeaks.net Minor League Hitter of the DayOswaldo Arcia, Beloit Snappers 

SethSpeaks.net Minor League Pitcher of the DayKyle Gibson, Rochester Red Wings

Red Wings Ramblings

Tuesday – Red Wings 0, Buffalo 5 – Kyle Gibson put together his second straight quality start. In six innings, he gave up one run on four hits. He walked two and struck out eight. Jeff Manship came in and gave up three runs on four hits (including two home runs). Chuck James got the final four outs and gave up a run on two hits (including a homer). Brian Dinkelman and Rene Tosoni each went 2-4. Jeff Bailey went 0-3 and is now 0-26 in his past nine games.  

Rock Cats Report

Tuesday – Rock Cats 5, New Hampshire 6 (10) – David Bromberg put together his best start of the year, and unfortunately, he wasn’t able to see it through. In 5.1 innings, he gave up one run on five hits. He walked one and struck out seven. He got 6 groundball outs and no fly outs. He was on top of his game. Until, that is, a line drive came right back toward his face. He raised his hand up to protect his face, and broke his ulna bone. He is likely to be out at least the next four weeks. Obviously we wish him the best and a speedy recovery!

Spencer Steedley came in and gave up a run on two hits in 1.1 innings. He struck out two. Tyler Robertson came in and gave up three runs on four hits and a walk in 2.1 innings. Jake Stevens got the final out, but he gave up a run on a hit and a walk.

Sidenote – in the comments section yesterday, someone asked why Tyler Robertson would pitch a third inning, and not just one inning at a time. It is a fair question and a very good question. I would say this. In the minor leagues, players are prepared for the big leagues. Tyler Robertson is likely not going to be a one-inning, 8th or 9th inning guy in the big leagues. He may be a LOOGY. He may be a long reliever. So although he has recorded a couple of saves for the Rock Cats already, there is no negative in stretching him out a little bit too. Should they have gone to Jake Stevens sooner? Based on the results of the game, that case could be made. But again, the minor leagues are (and should be) first and foremost, about development.

Steve Singleton remains hot. He had two more hits. Yangervis Solarte hit his 7th double. Joe Benson hit his 8th double.  

Miracle Matters

Tuesday – Miracle 12, Charlotte 10 – It was all about the big inning for the Miracle in this high-scoring affair. The team scored six runs in the fifth inning, and then scored five runs in the 7th inning. Chris Herrmann led the way. He was 2-3 with two walks. James Beresford also had two hits. Anderson Hidalgo drove in two with a double. Brian Dozier added a triple and a walk. Brad Stillings started and gave up six runs on 10 hits and a walk in five innings. Blake Martin gave up one run on a hit and three walks in his inning. Jhon Garcia gave up three runs on six hits in two innings. Dakota Watts pitched a scoreless ninth for his fourth save of the year.  

Snappers Bites

Tuesday – Snappers 6, Burlington 4 – Oswaldo Arcia can flat-out hit! In this game, he went 4-4 with his sixth double and his second and third home runs of the season. He drove in three runs. The Snappers managed just six hits in the game. Danny Ortiz drove his sixth double as well. Manuel Soliman started and gave up three runs on four hits and three walks in 4.2 innings. He struck out seven. Blayne Weller threw 2.1 scoreless innings. Matt Hauser gave up a run on a hit and three walks in 1.2 innings, but Jose Gonzalez came in and struck out the lone batter he faced for his third save.  

Feel free to leave your thoughts, questions or comments.

SethSpeaks.net Top 10 Twins Highlights of 2010

30 Sep

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

At 9:20 on Thursday morning, I will be on KFAN and KFAN.com to talk about the Twins. PA is away, so I’ll be talking with Judd Zulgad which should be a lot of fun!

Earlier in the week, we took a look at the Twins MVP candidates, Pitcher of the Year and their Rookie of the Year. With just four games remaining in the regular season, and the playoffs beginning in less than a week, it’s time to take a look back at the 2010 regular season and recap some of the highlights that stood out at the top of my mind. I’m certain I missed some moments, and I’m sure for each of you have some memories that stand out as highlights to you, maybe even some personal stories and highlights. So, after looking at my list, but sure to discuss your favorite moments from the 2010 Twins season in the comments section.

#10 – Butera Homers in Philadelphia

We held a monthly TwinsCentric Viewing Party. On this particular day, it was held at Park Tavern in St. Louis Park. It was a great opportunity to talk to a lot of the Twins fans and bloggers that were there because the Twins fell way behind early against the Philadelphia Phillies. But slowly the team came back. Late in the game, Joe Mauer hit a home run and somehow the Twins were tied. However, with a pitcher due up, there was only one pinch hitting option on the bench, Drew Butera. I recall Andrew Bryz-Gornia yelling, “Why is Butera batting?” One pitch later, Butera gave the Twins a lead by drilling a long, solo home run into the left field bleachers. Jon Rauch gave back the lead in the bottom of the inning, but the Twins went on to win one of the more exciting games of the season.

#9 – Ramos Makes Great First Impression

So he’s no longer with the organization… The debut of Wilson Ramos on May 2nd in Cleveland was quite impressive. In his first game with the Twins, he went 4-5, putting his name with Kirby Puckett as the only Twins with four hits in their big league debut. In an attempt to prove that he was more than just a one-game wonder, Ramos had three more hits in his second game. Sure, he really struggled following those two games and had a very disappointing 2010 AAA season before being dealt to the Nationals in the Matt Capps deal.

#8 – Welcome Back, Jacque

The Twins came to Target Field for two exhibition games against the St. Louis Cardinals in early April in preparation for the inaugural season at the new stadium. It was a great evening that saw Denard Span get a triple and a home run. But the highlight of those two games was the incredible, amazing and emotional standing ovation given both days to Jacque Jones. It was a tremendous gesture of gratitude by the fans to a member of the Twins family who was such a big part of the Twins return to prominence at the turn of the century. Jones was clearly embarrassed and moved by the moment. I know I had goose bumps.

#7 – Have a (Souvenir) Ball!

Maybe it’s the minor league follower that I am, but there are few things in baseball that I find greater than the first big league hit for players. When you think of the amount of work that the player put in during their amateur careers and then the journey through the minor league ranks, getting that first big league hit kind of makes it all real, official. This year, the Twins had first big league hits from six players. On April 22nd, Drew Butera singled to left field off of Cleveland’s Mitch Talbot. On May 2nd, Wilson Ramos singled to left against Cleveland’s David Huff. On May 21, Trevor Plouffe singled in his first at bat, driving in a run against Dave Bush of the Brewers. On June 3rd, Danny Valencia hit an infield single off of Felix Hernandez. On September 19th, Ben Revere singled up the middle off of Oakland’s Bobby Cramer.

#6 – Hughes Homers in First At Bat

You were probably wondering if I had forgotten that first Major League hit for infielder Luke Hughes. He was called up to the Twins in late April, primarily as a right-handed bat off the bench. On April 28th, he was given his first start in a game against the Detroit Tigers. His first plate appearance ended prematurely when Delmon Young was caught stealing. So, Hughes led off the 3rd inning and hit a long opposite field home run off of Max Scherzer. He became just the fifth Minnesota Twins player to hit a home run in his first at bat.

#5 – Speaking of First Home Runs

Danny Valencia started the 2010 season in Rochester. He had no home runs when he was promoted to the Twins in the first days of June. He remained homerless on the season until July 26th when, in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals, he hit a grand slam off of reigning Cy Young Award winner Zach Greinke. He became the first Twins player in team history to hit a grand slam for his first home run. Since that time, Valencia has added six more home runs and maintains a batting average well over .320 on the season.

#4 – Crain Closes Case in Chicago

Two weeks ago, the Twins went into Chicago for a three game series with a six game lead in the AL Central. Popular belief was that the White Sox needed to sweep the series if they were to have any shot at catching the Twins. In the first game of the series, the Twins were holding on to a slim one-run lead. In the 7th inning, Matt Guerrier let the first two batters on. Jesse Crain was summoned from the bullpen. He recorded the first out on a sacrifice bunt. After a walk to load the bases, Crain shut the door by striking out the Sox best hitter Paul Konerko, and their big-name acquisition Manny Ramirez. The Twins held on to win that game and swept the White Sox, leaving Chicago with a nine game lead. Maybe it is overstating it to say that that performance by Crain ended the Sox season. We don’t know what might have happened later in the game if Crain had given up a run or two. We don’t know what would have happened in subsequent days. We do know that after those strikeouts, the Sox quit and it was easy to see on the field. That’s why this is such a highlight for me.

#3 – Kubel Grand Slam Tops Yankees

The Yankees have had the Twins number in recent years. I don’t think anyone can deny that. When the Twins went to Yankees Stadium in mid-May, they lost the first two games to the Yankees. Nick Blackburn pitched well in the third game of the series, but found his team losing 3-1. But in the 8th inning, the Twins loaded the bases against Joba Chamberlain. Joe Girardi went to Mariano Rivera looking for a four-out save. Rivera walked Jim Thome to bring in a run and cut the lead to 3-2. Jason Kubel came to the plate and hit a line drive down the right field line that found itself landing just over the fence for a grand slam. The Twins held on for the win. Does it mean that the Twins had overcome whatever ailed them against the Yankees and in New York? I don’t know about that, but that was as exciting as it gets!!

#2 – Opening Day at Target Field

The Twins won their first game at Target Field 5-2 over the Boston Red Sox. The game seemed to be almost an afterthought. It was an incredible event. FSN started broadcasting before 6:00 in the morning. They told a bunch of stories. They showed batting practice. The pregame festivities were terrific. There was a fly over. Sure, Marco Scutaro tallied the first hit in Target Field history. Orlando Hudson had the first Twins hit. Michael Cuddyer drove in Denard Span for the first run in the stadium. Joe Mauer recorded the first extra base hit, a double. And Jason Kubel made a lot of people right when he was the first player to hit a home run at Target Field. It was just a tremendous day to be a Twins fan, the history coming together with the present, looking to an exciting future.

#1 – Thome Walks Off Against the White Sox

On August 17th, the Twins jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the first inning. By the fourth inning, Scott Baker had given the lead back. In the fifth inning, Delmon Young hit a solo homer to give the Twins a 5-4 lead, a lead they would hold until the top of the 9th. Matt Capps came in and gave up a solo home run to Alexei Ramirez. In the top of the 10th, Ramirez singled in another run to give the Sox a 6-5 lead. It had the potential to be a very difficult loss for the team at the time. Matt Thornton came out to pitch the 10th for the White Sox. He had already recorded four outs for the team. Young led off with a single which brought up Thome. On the first pitch, Thornton threw a slider that Thome missed by a foot. One the next pitch, he tried to sneak a fastball past his former teammate, and Thome didn’t miss it. Thome drilled a long blast well beyond the right field wall. A major celebration ensued. I was there, and I got a high-five from Khalid El-Amin. It was one of the most exciting games I have ever been at.

Just Missed The List:

Being at the first exhibition game and making my FSN debut, eating some nachos as Bert Blyleven noted that I was “stuffing my face.” That was terrific. The Long-Awaited Debut of Anthony Slama finally happened and he struck out two in his first inning. The night the Twins clinched the division was pretty cool too. It would have been better if the Twins would have been able to celebrate after their own win as opposed to waiting for the White Sox to lose (again) to the A’s in Oakland just a few minutes before midnight. But champagne celebrations certainly seem fun! Even if it is just celebrating being the best out of five teams.

And I’m certain that there are many more memories from the 2010 regular season that you will remind me of in the comment section. And hopefully, there will be plenty more playoff memories coming as well.

Share your favorite memories here.

Moving Day

30 Jul

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Before we get started, I want to let people in the Twin Cities know that I will be on Fox 9’s Primetime show tonight at about 10:15 for a few minutes to discuss the Twins and the trade deadline. If you have a chance to watch it, please let me know what you think. If anyone can send it to me, or youtube it, cool!

Wilson Ramos is packing and moving today. So is Joe Testa. Matt Capps is moving, and I am moving. The two Twins minor leaguers were traded late on Thursday night for the Nationals All Star closer. Me? After three years of living in the Twin Cities, I am packing up and moving back up to Warroad today and throughout this weekend. (in other words, I don’t know if I will be able to post any updates here, but I will be on Twitter a lot, so as I hear anything, I’ll post some quick thoughts there. So, follow me at www.Twitter.com/SethTweets.  

But to the important stuff, the Twins acquired a bullpen arm, but at what cost? I have to be honest, my thoughts on the deal have kind of gone back and forth in the last couple of hours since the deal was made official. When I first read the reports that Wilson Ramos had been pulled from the Rochester Red Wings lineup and there was speculation that the Twins were close on Capps, I didn’t think that the Twins would give up that much.

When I heard that the deal was official, and complete, I was in awe, shocked that the Twins would give up their most expendable trade prospect for a reliever that, frankly, isn’t any better than current closer Jon Rauch.

I know I’m not a good blogger in that I tend to look at everything from various angles, players, front office, fans and more. So, as I was driving home, my mind was all over the place on why this trade might make sense from the Twins perspective. Over the last few hours, I have had several conversations with people who have asked, “why does this move make sense for the Twins?” I have had to come up with answers, but in the end, my general opinion of the trade does not change.

So, why is this trade good for the Twins?

To get an established All-Star reliever for a minor leaguer makes the 2010 Twins bullpen and roster stronger. Specifically, he will be replacing Jon Rauch as the team’s closer and has been a little bit better than Rauch in 2010. So, the 2010 roster is better. Many Twins fans, and even players such as Torii Hunter and Johan Santana frequently complained and wondered aloud when this “future” would come, when would the future be now/ From that perspective, the Twins did make themselves a better team in 2010 by this move. This is that kind of move where they are giving up part of the future to help win now.

Secondly, he is just 26 years old. Most of these prospect-for-veteran deals involve someone in his 30s, or even on his last wind. Capps is Young and theoretically has room for improvement.

Following the 2010 season, Rauch, Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain will become free agents. Capps still has one more year of arbitration remaining, so he will be around in 2011 as well. This provides some additional insurance for the Twins bullpen next year, specifically if Joe Nathan is unable to pitch right away.

Finally, there are a lot of similarities between Jon Rauch and Matt Capps. Rauch is a solid bullpen arm, so adding another solid bullpen arm is a good thing. Capps is slightly better than Rauch, but that’s not a ringing endorsement. 

So, why is this trade questionable for the Twins?

For this, I will start with the same answer I gave for my final reason this is a good trade; there are a lot of similarities between Capps and Rauch. 

  IP Hits BB K3 HR Sv/Opp WHIP ERA BAA
Capps 46.0 51 9 38 5 26/30 1.30 2.84 .279
Rauch 38.1 43 9 27 3 21/25 1.36 3.05 .283

Most of these numbers and rates are very similar with a slight edge going to Capps. So Capps is an improvement over Rauch, but how much?

Yes, he will be under Twins control for 2011, but after making $3.5 million in 2010, he could make upwards of $6-7 million in 2011. That is one thing if Capps is the Twins closer, but if Joe Nathan does come back, do we really want a Rauch-esque 8th inning guy making that kind of money? This likely means that the Twins will not keep at least two (and possibly three) of the current bullpen of Guerrier/Rauch/Crain.

As decent as Capps has been in 2010, he was non-tendered by the Pittsburgh Pirates after a 2009 season in which he had an ERA of 5.80 and a WHIP of 1.66. With 45 innings pitched this year, he is less than ten innings from exceeding his number of innings pitched each of the last two years. That is probably not a concern, but it is worth noting.

Capps is quite hittable, but he has struck out more than Rauch does. It allows Rauch to move back to the 8th inning and Crain and Guerrier and Mijares and the rest of the bullpen to fill in starting earlier in the game. But Capps will keep ninth innings as nerve-racking as Rauch did. Rauch will make us equally nervous in the 8th inning. Guerrier has been having us nervous for awhile. So, the bullpen has more decent options, but I don’t know that I will have a lot more confidence in it.

But trading Ramos?

Listen, I fully understand that Ramos was expendable. With Joe Mauer signed for most of the next decade, Ramos was not necessary, even if I have illustrated a way that they could co-exist on the same time. Despite his struggles in Rochester (hitting about .240), he remains a Top 5 prospect. He is a good defensive catcher with a strong arm. We believe that he can hit for average and that he has tremendous power potential. In spring training, Gardy and nearly all of the Twins players wanted Ramos to be on the team’s Opening Day roster. Ramos was hitting some of the longest, most impressive home runs. And yet, Ramos has never posted an OPS of .800 in the minor leagues. Of course, I believe that is due to development of that power and that the still-just-22 year old will develop a lot of power. He doesn’t walk and have particularly good plate discipline, something that could make reaching that potential less likely.

But he is a very good prospect, to be sure. We know that the Twins and Mariners did have a deal in the works for Cliff Lee that centered around Ramos. Some teams seem to think highly of Ramos. So, it makes it hard to believe that a future good defense/good offense catcher is only worth one of the worst closers in baseball. We are not talking about Joakim Soria here. Again, this is not a knock on Capps as much as just being incredibly surprised or disappointed that the Twins used their top trade chip and didn’t get more.

As I’ve alluded to a couple of times, the difference between Matt Capps and Jon Rauch is not very large. Last August, the Twins acquired Rauch for Kevin Mulvey, a pitcher who began the season last year as a bottom-of-the-Top-10 Twins prospect. By the time that he was dealt in August, he was probably not even a Top 20 prospect of the team. Two months ago, a Twins fan could have made an argument that Ramos was the Twins #1 prospect (I wouldn’t have, but it could have been made). Even with his struggles, he was still easily a Twins Top 5 prospect. It is just my opinion that the Twins could have received much more for such a prospect.   

The Nationals also receive left-handed reliever Joe Testa in the deal. It has been a tough year for Testa. After dominating at Beloit and Ft. Myers in 2009, he began 2010 in AA New Britain. He struggled with control and eventually was sent back to Ft. Myers. This is a great opportunity for him, and he is excited about the opportunity.

SUMMARY

Matt Capps makes the 2010 Minnesota Twins a little bit better. How much better? I don’t think he is a difference-maker, by any means. I think Wilson Ramos is a very good prospect and that he was expendable for the Twins. I just think they could have received something more for him. But maybe they really couldn’t and this was the best they could actually get for him. If that is true, I personally think they should have kept him. The Nationals signed Capps to a one year deal after he was non-tendered by the Pirates in the offseason and were able to turn him into a great young catching prospect who could be a key contributor to their club for the next decade.

If you have any thoughts on the trade and its affect on the Twins, feel free to leave them here. If there are other deals around baseball over the weekend, please feel free to discuss them here as well. I will likely not have internet access until Monday up north.

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

Red Wings Report   

Jacque Jones had two hits including his 20th double and drove in four runs, but it wasn’t enough in the Red Wings 13-6 loss to Gwinnett. David Bromberg started and gave up three runs on seven hits and a walk in five innings. Brad Hennessey then gave up three runs and got just one out. Tim Lahey got the final two outs of the 6th inning but not before he gave up two more runs. Jose Lugo got one out, but he gave up five more runs. Pat Neshek got the last two outs of the seventh inning. Then Rob Delaney pitched a scoreless inning during which he struck out two (which means that he has struck out eight of the last nine batters that he has faced).

New Britain Notes

A three run lead going into the ninth inning was not enough and New Britain lost 8-7 to Bowie. Bobby Lanigan started and gave up four runs on eight hits in five innings. Cole DeVries then got four outs without allowing a run. Carlos Gutierrez went the next 1.2 innings without giving up a run. But he started the ninth inning and gave up four runs in the ninth. He left the game with the based loaded, and Chris Province came in and gave up two hits and a walk to blow the save and give Gutierrez the loss. Chris Parmelee remains white hot. He was 3-4 with his 17th double. Joe Benson had two hits including his 16th AA home run (and his 20th overall). Steve Singleton was 2-4 with his third triple and three RBI. Ben Revere was 2-5. Erik Lis was 2-4 with his seventh AA homer and three RBI.

Miracle Matters

 Bruce Pugh is back! The righty recorded his fifth win of the year (in the Miracle’s 3-2 win) with nine innings of two-run ball. He gave up just two hits, walked none and struck out eight. He left after nine innings in a 2-2 game. But Chris Hermann drove in a run on a single in the 10th, and Dakota Watts pitched a scoreless bottom of the 10th for the save. Brian Dozier and Nick Romero each went 3-5. Romero added his 13th double. Angel Morales hit his second triple.

Snappers Snippets

Beloit had a nice, easy 13-1 win over Burlington. Danny Rams was 3-5 with his 19th double and his 11th home run. Derek McCallum was 2-5 with his 11th double. Lance Ray was 2-4. Edgar Ibarra picks up the win. He gave up just one run on four hits in seven innings. The lefty walked one and struck out six. Nelvin Fuentes struck out five in two scoreless innings.

E-Twins Talkers

Elizabethton beat Johnson City 12-2. Oswaldo Arcia went 2-5 with his 11th home run, one of three home runs for the E-Twins. Daniel Santana hit his 6th double and second home run in five at bats. Brian Burke was 3-5 with his seventh double, first triple and fourth home run. Nate Roberts was 4-5 with his third double and first triple. Jamaal Hawkins and Andy Leer were each 2-4. Martire Garcia improved to 5-0 with 5.1 strong innings. He gave up a run on five hits and two walks. He struck out ten. Michael Tonkin came in and gave up a run on two hits in 2.2 innings. He did not allow a walk and struck out six. Logan Darnell pitched a scoreless ninth.

GCL Twins Topics

The GCL Twins won 7-2 over the Rays. Justin Parker gave up one run on six hits and a walk in five innings. Steve Hirschfeld struck out two in a perfect inning in his second rehab game. Matt Schuld gave up a run on three hits in two innings. Nick Alloway struck out two in a one-hit inning. Matt Parker was 2-3 with a walk and a double. JaDamion Williams went 2-4 with his second double. Rory Rhodes went 2-5.

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

Twins Minor League Weekly: Midseason Awards Show

14 Jul

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Last night, Travis Aune and I hosted Twins Minor League Weekly, our weekly review of the goings on throughout the Twins farm system. Last night was a special show. We spent the first half hour discussing the Twins affiliates and their seasons. The second half of the season, we ‘presented’ our Midseason Awards. For the awards, we enlisted some extra help. Travis and I voted, but so did six others who know something about the Twins minor leaguers. They are: LaVelle E. Neal from the Star Tribune, Josh Johnson from Josh’s Thoughts, Roger Dehring from Twinkie Town, Andrew Kneeland from Twins Target, Dez Tobin of Dez Says, and Steve Lien from Gear up for Twins Baseball.

Each voter voted for their top three in five categories; Best Hitter, Best Relief Pitcher, Best Starting Pitcher, Biggest Surprise, and Biggest Disappointment. They each then sent me their current Top 5 Twins Prospects. The results were very interesting. I’m going to ask that you listen to the podcast for the final results, but below, I will give you the top three finishers in each category, in alphabetical order, for you to consider.

Best Hitter: Joe Benson, Anderson Hidalgo, Ben Revere

Best Relief Pitcher: Kane Holbrooks, Anthony Slama, Kyle Waldrop

Best Starting Pitcher: Kyle Gibson, Liam Hendriks, Dan Osterbrock

Biggest Surprise: Joe Benson, Jonathan Goncalves, Liam Hendriks

Biggest Disappointment: Wilson Ramos, Tyler Robertson, Anthony Swarzak

Top 6 Twins Prospects: Joe Benson, Kyle Gibson, Aaron Hicks, Wilson Ramos, Ben Revere, Miguel Sano

Again, the lists above are in alphabetical order. To hear who the ‘winners’ were in each category, or who ranked first through sixth in the Top Prospect list, click here to listen to last night’s Twins Minor League Weekly.

A couple more notes:

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them here.