June 6, 2008

Meet Aaron Hicks

The Minnesota Twins selected a prep star with their first, first-round pick in the draft yesterday. The team chose Aaron Hicks who is a right-handed pitcher as well as an outfielder from Long Beach, California. The Twins drafted him to play outfield, despite the fact that he has a mid-90's fastball and one of the best curveballs in the draft.

Hicks' record on the mound this season is 8-2 with a 1.16 ERA and has 112 strikeouts in just over 72 innings this season. At the plate, he is hitting .473 with 21-extra-base hits and 37 steals in 34 games.

Hicks is considered one of the most athletic players in the draft, and a legitimate 5-tool prospect who scouts have compared to as a young, switch-hitting version of Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles and ex-Twin Torii Hunter. He is 6'2'' and a 170 lbs. He has a great arm, and outstanding speed. I suspect that the Twins will likely start him in center field, but even with his speed, it would not surprise me to see him moved to right field down the line.

Hicks immediately becomes one of the highest potential players in the system, but like those other players, he is a long ways from helping the Twins out. Some feel that since he does have so much potential at the plate, that he can progress quickly, but I believe the Twins will go incredibly slow with him as he needs help on every aspect of his game. He has a smooth swing and is more of a gap-hitter right now, but he's been said to have enough potential to be a legitimate 30-30 guy at the major league level. That's a lot of pressure being put on him, but if he does have that kind of raw potential hopefully it doesn't take him too long to develop it.

Hicks' signability likely won't be like that of Ben Revere's from a year ago, which was a quick and easy process, but I don't see the Twins taking too long before they get him in uniform.

I originally was against the Twins picking Hicks, as I feel that they have a bigger need at infield depth, but I can't disagree with them picking him. He is a natural at the plate and even though the Twins have two starting outfielders at the age of 22 right now, Hicks likely won't be ready to make his debut in the majors for a good 5 years or so, which means that he could replace one of those two at that time if the Twins decide to go a different way. I also believe that every team needs depth in the outfield, and with Hicks now in the system, I think the Twins have depth throughout the minor leagues. He will likely head to the GCL Twins after he signs, and will likely follow the same path that Ben Revere did this season which means he'll likely start next year in Extended Spring Training, but I'm probably getting ahead of myself already.

The Twins are going to have a lot of high-potential, but very raw prospects in the Rookie leagues this season with Reggie Williams, Danny Rams, and Angel Morales all set to play for either the GCL Twins or the Elizabethton Twins.

Yesterday, the Twins also selected:

Pick 27: Carlos Guitierrez - He's a right-handed relief pitcher for the Miami Hurricanes. He missed the 2007 season due to Tommy John Surgery and was the "surprise pick" of the first round. But before start getting upset remember, the "surprise pick" of last year's first round was Ben Revere and I think we can all (so far) sit back and laugh at all of those who despised the pick. The Twins are drafting him in hopes to turn him into a starter, but with him just having one-pitch, he might take a little longer than expected to progress. However, if he does learn another couple pitches, it won't be long after before he's making his way through the system.

Pick 31: Steven "Shooter" Hunt - First thing's first, great name! Shooter is a perfect name for a pitcher. Hunt is one of the most highly-touted pitchers in the draft, but he hasn't been great at Tulane this spring and he's fallen quite a bit. Scouts believe that the Twins got a great value pick with this pick and he could be one of the best pitchers in the draft. He has good control on his mid-90's fastball and has a good curveball. He has a good frame and should be able to move through the system quickly. I was told that he reminds the Twins of Scott Baker.

Pick 60: Tyler Ladendorf - Landendorf is a 20-year-old junior college shortstop with good power and good defense. He has above average speed despite having a 6'2'' 210 lbs. frame. He has been drafted in each of the last two drafts, but both were in the 34th round so being taken in the 2nd round it will probably be enough for him to sign. He has a strong enough arm and the bat to possibly switch to third base someday. He lead all JC players with a .542 average and a 1.060 SLG%. He hit one home run as a freshman and 16 as a sophomore. He had 82 RBI's and 31 stolen bases (in 32 attempts) as a sophomore as well.

Pick 92: Bobby Lanigan - Lanigan is a 21-year-old Right-Handed starter from Adelphi University. He is 6'5'' and has 93-mph fastball with a great slider. He is a DII pitcher, which is probably his only downside. He certainly fits into the Twins model for pitching, and I think he'll have a good career in the system. He is the first player drafted from Adelphi University in 15 years.

Pick 126: Danny Ortiz - Ortiz was the second player chosen out of Puerto Rico in the draft, and it was the second straight season that the Twins chose a Puerto Rican outfielder within the first 4 rounds (last year the team chose Angel Morales in the 3rd round). Ortiz is just 5'11'' but has great speed and a very quick bat which helps him get surprising power. He doesn't have as much potential as Morales does, but the Twins definitely filled up their outfield depth with great speed on the corners as well in center in the Rookie Leagues.

Pick 156: Nick Romero - Romero is a 20-year-old junior from San Diego State University. He is a switch-hitting third baseman with a good bat. He doesn't project to be a great power hitter, but don't tell him that. He hit 12 home runs this past season, but he has questions on his bat speed. He is a switch hitter with a good eye at the plate and a good approach. He's a former shortstop with a solid glove. He could progress quickly through the system.

Here's a video of Romero at San Diego State. He hit a home run off of the 4th pick of the MLB draft, Brian Matusz. He was drafted by the Orioles.

Pick 186: B.J. Hermsen - Hermsen is a two-sport athlete from West Delaware High School in Manchester, Iowa. He's a 6'7'', 240 lbs. right-handed pitcher with a low-90's fastball, great slider and curveball and an occasional changeup. The 18-year-old broke his left collarbone in football this past year and his stock fell because of it. But recently he showed off a 92 mph fastball and impressed scouts with his breaking balls. He's a "close to home prospect" that the team missed out on in James Hand from Chaska who was chosen by the Marlins with the 52nd pick in the draft. Hermsen is a very intelligent pitcher with a scholarship to Oregon State which some feel may be cause a problem to the Twins trying to sign him.

The rest of the draft will conclude today. The remaining 44 rounds will start at 10:30 am. Make sure to go to MLB.com to check on who the Twins select.

The Twins lost yesterday's game and the series to the Orioles. Scott Baker returned from the disabled list and threw 5 innings and gave up just two runs on 5 hits and 99 pitches. He gave up a two-run home run to Nick Markakis, but otherwise was very effective. It was definitely an encouraging start considering the plan was for him to throw 85-90 pitches. Probably the most encouraging stat was that he threw 72% of his pitches for strikes, which is a very good number, yet he did it while coming off of the D.L. That has to sit well with the Twins coaching staff.

Brian Bass continued to struggle on the mound, giving up the go-ahead run in the 7th inning on an Adam Jones home run which proved to be the game winner. It was Bass' second loss of the season. After an O.K. April, Bass was absolutely terrible in May and isn't off to a great start in June. The Twins may end up taking their chances on placing him through waivers to clear up a space on the roster. I don't see it happening right now, but certainly within the next few weeks. Especially if he continues to struggle. Jesse Crain and Craig Breslow combined for two no-hit innings, but it was too late.

Alexi Casilla continues to just be outstanding both offensively and defensively since his callup. He went 3-5 with a run, a double and an RBI single. He is now hitting .343 through 70 at bats this season, and he looks to have a starting gig and the #2 spot in the order on lock right now. Mike Redmond also had a 3-hit game while filling in at catcher for the resting Joe Mauer. He got the Twins on the board early in the first inning with an RBI double which scored Casilla.

Nick Punto had a 2-3 game, with two doubles and a walk, but again after he has a good offensive game, he is forced to miss a couple of weeks. More on that in a little bit.

Game Ball
Alexi Casilla - Second Base

3-5, run, double, RBI
Box Score

As I mentioned, Nick Punto is going to miss a couple weeks after re-aggravated his left-hamstring which forced him to miss 24 days in May. He injured it last weekend against the Yankees, and with the Twins now carrying just 3 bench players, he's been forced to play with the pain.

The Twins sent Matt Macri back to Rochester to make room for Baker, and the Twins caught Macri before his flight to New York to rejoin the Rochester Red Wings, so he's now with the team as they head to Chicago.

It's unknown what this will do to the Twins lineup. The club inserted Punto into the starting shortstop gig after Brendan Harris' troubles on defense, but now with Punto injured again, it looks like Harris will be the starter yet again. The Twins have tried taking Harris out of the starting lineup a couple times now this season, only to have his replacement get injured. With three infielders now on the D.L., and with the Twins carrying 13 pitchers, a move may need to be made. One thing is for sure, the All-Star break cannot come soon enough for these guys. They are definitely beat up right now.

Yesterday, Francisco Liriano got off to a rough start in Buffalo. He walked the first batter, hit the second batter, got the next two hitters out before giving up a 3-run shot to put the Wings down 3-0 in the 1st inning. Liriano settled down after that and induced 8 ground ball outs and struck out 6 more batters over the next 5 1/3 innings. He threw 96 pitches through his 6 innings, but his control was erratic at times and he threw just 53 for strikes. However, thanks to good games by the Red Wings hitters and Ricky Barrett for preserving the lead with 3 perfect innings of relief, the Wings gave Liriano his first win of the season.

Steven Tolleson hit his 5th home run of the season last night to help give the Rock Cats a 4-2 victory over the Altoona Curve. It was a three-run shot for Tolleson who started in center field. Errol Simonitsch held the Curve to just 1 run through 6 innings of work to pick up his first win of the season. Unfortunately, it looks like Simonitsch's days may be numbers in New Britain's rotation as Jeff Manship will likely replace him within the next few weeks.

Wilson Ramos helped the Miracle improve to 40 wins last night with a 3-4 game with 3 RBI's. He had a two-run single in the third inning and backed it up with an RBI single in his next at bat in the fifth. The 20-year-old catcher is hitting .310 with two doubles, a home run and 11 RBI's over his last 42 at bats. Yancarlos Ortiz, Whit Robbins and Ed Ovalle added RBI's of their own. Robbins' RBI came on a bases-loaded walk. Alex Burnett gave up 4 runs in 6 innings, but his terrific bullpen combination of Anthony Slama and Rob Delaney threw 3 scoreless innings of relief. Slama was not "on" giving up a few walks and throwing a wild pitch while allowing 3/4 runners to steal bases.

Chris Parmelee powered the Snappers to an 8-6 victory over the Kane County Cougars. Parmelee hit his 9th and 10th home run of the season and drove in 4 RBI's. He added a single to give himself a three-hit game. The Snappers won giving Michael McCardell his 2nd win of the season. McCardell struggled, but he is too good of a pitcher to continue giving up 4+ runs in a game, I have confidence that he will turn it around soon.

On a sad note, and surprisingly Danny Vais has decided to call it quits despite having a great season thus far. The 23-year-old reliever was 4-0 with a 2.76 ERA through 29 1/3 innings in the Ft. Myers bullpen.

Have a great weekend and as always... GO TWINS!