April 10, 2008

Where does Tolbert fit in long term?

The Twins opened the season with Adam Everett starting at shortstop, but as we expected when we signed him, his bat is definitely a cause for concern in our lineup. The team felt that with the upgrades (offensively) at second base, third base and left field, they'd be able to handle one player that failed to produce. Unfortunately, the rest of the offense is not producing which makes it hard to keep Everett in the lineup on a consistent basis.

Matt Tolbert surprisingly made the roster out of spring training and has had his fair share of at bats so far this season. He's currently hitting .500 (7-14) with a 1.134 OPS. Now, I'm not going to get all excited for the way he's hit through just a little over a dozen at bats, but I have to say that I've been greatly impressed with him so far and it's not only on offense. Defensively, he's made some very good plays with his strong arm and has even made a couple nice grabs up the middle. Unfortunately, his Zone Rating ranks in the lower half of the league and his bat just does not seem strong enough to warrant his below average zone rating at shortstop. It's surprising because as a base runner, Tolbert is pretty fast and has been used as a pinch runner a few times this season, but defensively it's a little bit different. So in short, his defense doesn't seem to be good enough to keep him at shortstop for a long period of time.

However, at second base, his zone rating would likely be above average and his bat could make him a respectable player at that position. As for an optimistic player comparison, I think he could be a poor man's version of Dustin Pedroia or Ryan Theriot offensively. Both are light-hitting infielders and both have exceptional speed. I doubt that Tolbert ever makes the kind of impact as a player like Pedroia has, but if Tolbert could get a full-season worth of at bats, I think his numbers could be fairly similar to his, but likely with half of the home runs. I'm not advocating that he'll ever be this good, but if I look at Tolbert's ability and what he could bring to the table based on his numbers in the minors (especially in '07 before his slump in the second half), I think that he could some day be a solid second baseman for some team in the majors.

Unfortunately for Tolbert, Brendan Harris figures to be the starting second baseman at least for the foreseeable future. He has not played well enough yet to fully deserve that praise, but his offense does figure to be much better than anyone else's in the system at second base. His defense is also skeptical, which was apparent in last nights game when he committed his 2nd and 3rd errors in the first 9 games, but his offense is good enough to keep him in the lineup on a consistent basis. Unless Harris' 2007 numbers are just a mirage as to what will happen in the future, I don't think that Tolbert will crack the lineup at second base other than just taking over for Harris on days he needs off.

Tolbert has played a little third base, including last night, and although he looks comfortable there on defense, his light bat likely would not make him an appealing option long-term at that position.

Tolbert likely fits in as a bench utility player, like Nick Punto does right now, however I think that Tolbert will have a much better career than Punto will have. Tolbert certainly has raised many eyebrows early this season, but his incredibly strong play won't last (meaning I don't see him hitting anywhere near .500 for any length of time this season), but when he comes back to reality, it will be interesting to see where he lands.

Twins crush the Sox

The Twins came to hit last night as the bats collected 13 hits and 7 walks to help propel them to a 12-5 victory.

Jason Kubel broke the game open with a 6th inning grandslam which put the Twins up 11-3. Kubel finished the game going 2-4 with 6 RBI's. Brendan Harris went 3-4 with 3 runs scored, however he committed two errors to bring his season total to 3. Mike Lamb also committed an error, but he too had a strong day at the plate for the second straight game going 2-4 with two RBI's before leaving the game in the top of the 9th after fouling a ball off of his right shin. Nick Punto replaced him in the field.

Joe Mauer also had a strong day at the plate, going 2-5 with 2 runs scored. Delmon Young, Carlos Gomez, Justin Morneau and Craig Monroe all had one hit apiece. Monroe and Young had one batted in apiece while Gomez drove in two with a two-run double with the bases loaded. He also made a diving catch that will definitely be seen later on Baseball Tonights "Web Gems" Adam Everett was the only starter who failed to get a hit as he went 0-5 at the plate.

Scott Baker had a very good game, except for the fact that he left the ball up a few times and the White Sox made him pay with three solo home runs. It was Baker's second win of the season and he also struck out 7 batters to bring his season total to 9 K's. Brian Bass came on to pitch the final four innings, giving up 2 runs (1 earned) to pick up his first career save. He had a streak of 7 straight ground ball outs and shut down 9 consecutive batters.

The Twins will face the White Sox tonight. Livan Hernandez will take the hill against Jose Contreras. The forecast looks like there will be rain and it sounds like there is a good chance that the game will be postponed. But anything can change in Chicago, especially the weather.

Game Ball
Jason Kubel - Right Field

Line: 2-4, 1 HR, 6 RBI

Down on the Farm

Rochester Red Wings Norfolk Tides, 7-2.

Brian Duensing gave up 6 runs in his 6 innings of work, however just one of them were earned. There were 4 errors in his 6 innings; he committed one of them, Chris Basak committed two and Tommy Watkins committed another. Carmen Cali went the next two innings and gave up one run while striking out 4.

Brian Buscher scored the runs on a two-run home run in the 7th inning. It was his 2nd home run of the season. Garrett Jones went 1-3 with a double and a walk. Randy Ruiz and Jason Pridie were the other Red Wings to pick up hits.

Today: The Red Wings face the Tides at 12:15 PM (Eastern Time). RHP Philip Humber (0-1, 6.75) will start for Rochester and RHP Jon Leicester (0-0, 2.70) will start for Norfolk.

New Britain Rock Cats beat the New Hamshire River Cats, 4-3.

Ryan Mullins had another great start for the Rock Cats, going 6 strong innings allowing 2 runs (1 earned) while striking out 5 batters. The earned run came on a home run in the 2nd inning. The unearned run was due to an error by Steven Tolleson which should have ended the inning on a double play ball, instead the inning continued and the River Cats later scored. Yohan Pino threw two more scoreless innings in relief and also struck out 2. Ben Julianel gave up a run in the 9th inning while still picking up his first save of the season.

Dustin Martin had a great game. He went 3-4 on offense with an RBI double. He also threw a runner out at home plate in the same inning that Tolleson gave up an error while Mullins was pitching. Brock Peterson went 1-3 with his first home run of the season. Brandon Roberts went 1-1 with an RBI single. The other run was on a pickoff attempt which resulted in an error by the River Cats pitcher, A.J. Wideman.

Next: The Rock Cats have a day off today before they begin a streak of 17 games in 17 nights.

Ft. Myers Miracle Clearwater Threshers, 9-3.

Jeff Manship lasted 5 innings and gave up 3 runs (2 earned) while striking out 4. Jose Lugo came in for two innings and struck out 1 while walking 1. Aaron Craig walked two batters without getting an out before Anthony Slama came out to pitch out of that jam and the pitch the final two innings without giving up a hit or a run while striking out 3.

Chris Woodard and Juan Portes both had 3 hits and 2 RBI's apiece. Danny Santiesteban finally contributed by going 2-5 with 2 more RBI's. Brian Dinkelman also went 2-5. Danny Valencia reached base 3 out of 5 times, including two walks while scoring twice. Whit Robbins reached base a total of 4 times including 3 walks and he too scored twice. Rene Tosoni went 1-4 while scoring twice as well.

Tonight: RHP Deolis Guerra (0-0, 1.80) looks to help the Miracle's complete the sweep while the Threshers will send out RHP Carlos Monasterios (1-0, 2.84) to stop the Miracle.

Game 1: Beloit Snappers Peoria Chiefs, 1-0.

The Snappers sent Steven Hirschfield for the first game of the double header and he went 5 scoreless innings, allowing just 3 hits. 7'1'' Loek Van Mil came on to strike out 3 over the course of the next two innings to get his 1st save of the season.

Garrett Olson provide the only run of the game, going deep for the second time this season. Chris Parmelee was the only other Snapper's hitter to get an extra-base hit. DJ Romero and Joe Benson were the only Snapper's hitters to not get a hit or a walk.

Game 2: Beloit Snappers Peoria Chiefs, 1-4.

David Bromberg got the start in the second game and did not have nearly as good of a game as Hirschfield did earlier in the evening. Bromberg went 3 1/3 innings and gave up 4 runs on four hits. Spencer Steedley came on to pitch the final 2 2/3 innings and struck out 7 of the 10 batters he faced.

The Snappers collected just 4 hits in the game. DJ Romero had two of them including his 2nd double of the season. Ben Petsch and Steven Singleton were the other players to pick up hits. Petsch drove in Romero from third base. Joe Benson drew the only walk for the Snappers.