April 17, 2008

Pair of pitchers shine for the Twins farm teams

Last night, the Twins beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 6-5. It wasn't a great game by Livan Hernandez, as he gave up 5 runs (3 earned) on 8 hits in just 6 innings. He gave up 3 solo home runs in the game, he fell behind pitchers often, and reached over 103 pitches before being pulled. It's by far his worse start as a Twin, but when I watched the game, I didn't think he was pitching that bad. The Rays just made him pay when he left the ball out over the middle of the plate.

The Twins bullpen finally came through as Dennys Reyes, Juan Rincon, and Joe Nathan combined for 3 scoreless innings of relief. It's definitely a sigh of relief after the last two games were lost at the expense of our bullpen. Carlos Gomez broke out of his 1-18 skid with a 2-hit game. He also swiped two bases to bring his season total up to 9. Jason Kubel and Brendan Harris both went 2-4 with an RBI. Delmon Young and Justin Morneau both had one hit apiece and each scored as well.

Tonight, the Twins will send out Boof Bonser to face Jason Hammel of the Rays. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10.

Game Ball
Joe Mauer - Catcher
Line: 3-4, 2 runs, 1 RBI

I'm going to do a similar post like I did yesterday. And that's taking a look at a player (or in this case, two) minor league players who are shining right now.

Yesterday, two of the Twins top pitching prospects took the mound. Anthony Swarzak started for the New Britain Rock Cats, while Deolis Guerra started for the Ft. Myers Miracle. Both pitchers, needless to say, pitched lights out.

Swarzak went 6 very strong innings and struck out 10 batters while only surrendering 3 hits. Listening to the game, the announcers praised his ability to work the corners with great control and not be afraid to attack the hitters. Swarzak issued zero walks in the game, en route to his second win of the season for the Rock Cats. He also lowered his ERA on the season to 0.56 and now has 18 strikeouts in 16 innings this season.

I have been very high on Swarzak since he's been in the organization, in fact, I ranked him the third top prospect in the Twins Organization. And before the Johan Santana trade, I considered him the top prospect in the entire organization. Here's what I had to say about Swarzak before the season:
Anthony Swarzak was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2004 draft. His 2007 season definitely got off to a horrendous start. After pitching quite possibly the worse ball of his life, he found out in April that he had tested positive for a "drug of abuse", which isn't a steroid, and was at that point suspended for 50 games. Upon his arrival back in New Britain, he made several starts with the Ft. Myers Miracle and from that point on he was "lights out." Swarzak went 5-4 with a 3.23 ERA in '07. He also collected 76 strikeouts in his 86+ innings of work. He went 5-2 with a 2.69 ERA and 69 strikeouts after he returned. With the surplus of arms that will likely be in Rochester, he may be forced to start in New Britain to start the season.
Like I mentioned, it was likely that he'd have to start in New Britain again this season, due to a surplus of pitchers in Rochester. However, as I said yesterday with Chris Parmelee, the Twins seem to have changed their philosophy on their prospects a little bit, and have in many cases held back prospects in the same league that they played in the previous season, which looks to be working out quite well for a few prospects.

The same goes for Deolis Guerra. Guerra came over the Twins in the Johan Santana trade during the off-season, and was one of the key pieces to the package. At just 19-years old (in fact, today's his birthday), Guerra is pitching in the Florida State League for the second season already, and looks to have a legitimate shot of reaching Double-A before he turns 20-years-old.

Guerra instantly became the Twins top prospect when the trade became final, and ranked "2nd" on my Top prospect list, however Carlos Gomez is "technically" not a prospect (which I knew when making the list) so "technically" the top prospect (according to my rankings). Here's what I had to say about Guerra:
Deolis Guerra was also recently acquired in the Johan Santana trade. He was the second main piece to the package the Twins received. At just 18 years old, he held his own in the very tough FSL with the St. Lucie Mets. In 89.2 innings, he had a 4.01 ERA and 66 strikeouts. He already has 23 career starts in the FSL, but he'll probably start there in 2008 as well. That's not necessarily a bad thing for him either. At 19, he'll still be one of the youngest players in the league, and I also think that it'd be good to have him in a strong rotation that is likely to include Tyler Robertson, Cole Devries and Alex Burnett among others.
Like I mentioned, he held his own as an 18-year-old in the FSL last season, and is on a tare already this season. Guerra is now 1-0 with a 0.60 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 15 innings. He has walked 7 batters already, but he'll gain better control as he progresses. He's going to make it interesting for the Twins if the Rock Cats need another arm or two this season. The Twins would probably like to keep him in Ft. Myers all season, but if he continues to shut out opponents like he did last night, in which he went 5 innings of 1-run ball, then Guerra may force the Twins to promote him.

It's great seeing two of the Twins top pitching prospects having so much success early on this off-season. Hopefully they can keep it up and continue to progress through the system.