June 5, 2008

"Free _____", Draft predictions

There has been another "Free ____ " campaign already this season, and it looks like there is another player deserving of the campaign as well. Well, actually there are a few. And to be completely honest, none of them are even on the Major League roster. Yes, I'm talking about prospects that should be promoted, but are being forced to stay on their current teams at least for the time being. Here is my list of a few players that I feel have made a good enough case for themselves to be promoted:
Luke Hughes, 3rd Base/2nd Base/Outfield, New Britain Rock Cats
Jeff Manship, Starting Pitcher, Ft. Myers Miracle
Danny Valencia, 3rd Base, Ft. Myers Miracle
Rob Delaney, Relief Pitcher, Ft. Myers Miracle
Anthony Slama, Relief Pitcher, Ft. Myers Miracle
Those 5 players, all deserve promotions and given their ages (all are 23 years old, except Slama is 24) they should not be handled with such care especially when they've all been on there respected teams for almost a year (some more, again besides Slama). Everyone besides Hughes also played college ball, which is the reason for my disliking to how the Twins are handling quite a few of their prospects lately. The reason to draft a college player is that they are easier to handle and and can go through the system quicker since they have much more experience at a higher level than High School players do. However in this case, the team is treating these guys like High School players instead of a college players.

I don't mind the organizations patient approach to such prospects like Joe Benson and Chris Parmelee who I did not see be ready for the next level at the beginning of the season, but I do disagree with the way they handle college players.

Take a look at Manship for instance. On Tuesday night, he pitched a complete game 4-hit shutout to lower his season ERA to 2.72 and is now tied with Jordan Smith of the Reds with 7 victories. He's shown that he has great control and has yet to give up a home run this season, despite throwing 72 2/3 innings now. Those are great numbers, and yet he still hasn't been promoted despite having solid numbers in the same league through 13 starts there in '07.

Take a look at a comparison of Manship with another college pitcher who went through the organization a few years ago. These comparisons are of the two pitchers through the same levels:
Jeff Manship: 44 G/40 GS, 22-8, 2.45 ERA, 218/57 K/BB ratio (3.82)
Matt Garza: 22 G/GS, 9-5, 2.77 ERA, 142/32 K/BB ratio (4.43)
How could a team be so fast to promote Garza while Manship's posted similar numbers, but in twice as many starts? Manship pitched well at Notre Dame and has pitched well since he's been drafted. I just see a little difference between the two. Manship uses all of his pitches to get hitters out and has been known to have a great fastball, curveball and changeup while he's also been said to have a good slider. Garza used primarily just his fastball throughout the system. Garza also clashed with multiple coaches throughout his tenure in the system, when to my knowledge Manship is a class act and is very mature despite the way the organization has handled him.

I know that my rant is a little ridiculous when most of these guys will likely get promotions within the next few weeks, but I bring this up because I don't think this trend is going to change. After a few weeks, these guys will likely play on their new teams for the remainder of the season. That's fine, but if they continue to be overly cautious with these players, Manship and the others will be lucky to reach the majors before they turn 25.

I don't have a problem with players not making the majors until they turn 25, but it's because they turn it "on" later in their careers. Well, these guys are performing well right now and they should be awarded for doing so. With the holes this team has at the major league level such as relief pitchers, infield depth and also good bats, you'd think that they would not hesitate to promote any of these players as they all basically fill needs.

I know, I know, that people are going to tell me "be patient", but I really think that this organization is handling these college players right. Hughes' story is a little different. He's had mediocre (at best) numbers throughout the minor leagues, but he has really turned it on this season which is a fine cause for the team waiting on him. However, the team continues to have guys like Tommy Watkins, Garrett Jones, Sergio Santos, and Chris Basak who provide veteran presence, but no future to this organization. The primary objective of the minor league system is to develop players and then win.

I am appalled at how a guy like Chris Basak is continuing to start everyday in Rochester, when he offers really nothing to that team or the organization. However, there are guys in New Britain who are tearing the cover off the ball, but they won't be considered yet.

There will be moves in the next few weeks after the draft (which is today), as many teams (not just the Twins) wait until then to move a lot of their players around. However, many teams do not career minor leaguers block their up and coming prospects either. I'm not a fan at how quickly some teams like the Mets promote their players, however if the player has the hot bat/arm, you need to keep the bus moving. Especially when the player was selected out of college and really does not have a lot to benefit from staying on that team much longer. I don't want to say that Danny Valencia has nothing to learn from being in the pitching tough FSL, but I think he's proven to everyone that he has the talent to be promoted and keeping him there really is hurting him just as much as it is helping him.

These players are human too, and every human wants to be rewarded for doing something good. However, the Twins are treating these guys like they are children and they won't give the kid a lollipop until he brings home 100 A+'s opposed to 50. I know many disagree with me on being more aggressive with some prospects opposed to others, but I guess I'm just impatient and would like to see these make an impact in the majors sooner rather than later.

Sorry for the rant, it's just something I've felt strongly about for a while and I think the way this team has handled college players is ludicrous.

As I mentioned, the MLB draft is today and last week I mentioned a few players that really intrigued me in the draft. I got a few emails and responses from people telling me basically that I'm "high" if I think that guys like Smoak, Beckham or Crow would be available for the Twins. And so I want to clear something up I guess. I know the Twins are very unlikely to end up with those players, I am just intrigued by a few players (which just so happens to be those three) so much that I thought I'd give my thoughts on them despite knowing that the Twins likely won't end up with any of them.

Right now, this is how I predict the first 5 rounds of the Twins draft:
First Round
14. Brett Lawrie, INF, High School (Canada)
27. Jemile Weeks, 2B, College (Miami)

Compensatory Round A Picks
31. Destin Hood, SS/OF, High School (St. Paul's Academy, Alabama)

Second Round
60. Brad Hand, LHP, High School (Chaska High School, Minnesota)

Third Round
92. Harold Martinez, 3B/SS, High School (Braddock High School, Florida)

Fourth Round
126. Jake Thompson, RHP, College (Virginia)

Fifth Round
156. Trey Haley, RHP, High School (Central Heights High School, Texas)
I mentioned Hood, Martinez and Hand as players that intrigue me, and I think they intrigue the Twins as well.

We'll start out with Lawrie... He's a Canadian catcher who many feel will switch to third base as a pro. He's athletic and has a great bat. He has a lot of raw power, which last years draftee (and also a catcher) Danny Rams has as well. He's a High School hitter, which this team has gone after early in many of their past drafts.

Weeks is a college hitter who is the brother of Rickie Weeks of the Brewers. This weeks has power, but likely is more so of a gap hitter than a home run hitter as he's just 5'9'' and a buck 80. He's good defensively and scouts think he'll move quickly through any system.

This is what I had to say about Hood, Hand, and Martinez last week:
Hood is not a guy that has been projected to go high in the draft, but that's mainly because of his signability. He's currently committed to going to Alabama to play wide receiver, which may bring the Twins deja vu all over again, which is something that was the same with a former draftee Jared Mitchel who now is a wide receiver for the LSU Tigers. Hood has fantastic power potential and is a very "toolsy" player, but the team that drafts him will need to make sure they can sign him if they want to take him high. With the amount of money the Twins recently freed up with shedding Torii Hunter, Carlos Silva and Johan Santana's salaries, Hood is the kind of player the team should not be afraid to draft. I think picking him in the 2nd round would be perfect.

Hand is a Minnesota native from Chaska, throws in the mid-90's and is a left-handed pitcher. There's plenty of reasons why the Twins would be interested in Hand. Not only does he have a mid 90's fastball, he also possesses one of the best curve balls in the high school ranks and could be a very good pitcher with some work on his mechanics. I think he's worthy of being chosen in the first 5 rounds of the draft, but if the Twins want him, I think they'll take him early.

Martinez has quite possibly the most potential in this draft, but he has not been living up to expectations his senior year in High School. He also projects as a tough player to sign as he's set to go to the University of Miami, and is from Miami himself. He has a great athletic body, and certainly looks as if he has major league baseball all over him, but he does have some risk as he is raw and needs to work on every aspect of his game.
Thompson is a 6'6'' right-hander from the University of Virginia who posses three quality pitches in a fastball, curveball, and changeup repertoire. He is a ground ball pitcher who's sinking fastball reaches into the low 90's.

Haley is a 6'4'' High School right-hander from Texas. He's committed to play at Rice, which is why he will slip in the draft, but his fastball reaches in the mid-90's and he has great movement on his pitches. Haley could be a gem in this draft.

Tuesday's Game Ball
Joe Mauer - Catcher

2-3, RBI double, BB
Box Score

Wednesday's Game Ball
Joe Mauer - Catcher
2-3, home run, 3 RBI
Box Score