June 10, 2008

Miracle clinch first-half title, promotions on the horizon?

This weekend, Twins Director of the Minor Leagues Jim Rantz said in regards to promoting players, "we'll move them now if we can clinch the first half." Well, last night with Rantz in attendance, the Ft. Myers Miracle beat the Vero Beach Devil Rays 6-4 to clinch the first half title and a playoff berth.

It now seems likely that as early as today we'll be hearing about our first big names being promoted throughout the organization, and it could drastically change the fate of a few teams. Although the Twins would prefer to wait until next Saturday's FSL All-Star Game to promote a few of their players, the time is right to get them on with their careers.

Danny Valencia in my opinion is the first player that should be promoted. With the injury to Luke Hughes, New Britain has been forced to start Toby Gardenhire at third base in place of the injured Hughes, although he has been an adequate fill-in. Still, Gardenhire is best suited as a role-player and not a starter. So with the injury to Hughes, I think that Valencia's name will come up early in terms of being promoted.

Valencia is 23-years-old and was drafted in the 19th round of the 2006 draft and has showcased a fantastic back thus far through the system. He's a career .309 hitter who can spray the ball to all parts of the field. He is the Twins best third base prospect, and if he gets off to a great start in New Britain, hopefully he can get a taste of AAA before the end of the season. Although I'm aware that may be a little much. Still with the "black hole" at third base in the major leagues, hopefully the Twins move him along if he adjusts to the Eastern League. To make room for Valencia, Felix Molina could be a player that gets the boot.

(Left to Right): Valencia, Delaney, and Manship should all be in New Britain shortly

Next, I see Rob Delaney being promoted with Jay Sawatski being released. Delaney emerged last season as a potential top prospect after posting a 1.02 ERA and converting 35 saves with an 83/16 K/BB ratio in Beloit and Ft. Myers. He was still behind Eduardo Morlan in terms of potential for future closers, but with Morlan gone, Delaney looks to be the next best option down the road. This season, he is 1-2, with a 1.42 ERA and a 34/4 K/BB ratio to go along with his 13 saves. Delaney and fellow bullpen member Anthony Slama are off to a tremendous start in Ft. Myers this season, and both of them deserve a promotion.

Jay Sawatski is off to a terrible start this season. The 26-year-old southpaw has an 8.55 ERA through 33 2/3 innings this season. And with 5 southpaw's on the active roster, the Rock Cats could get by without Sawatski.

Jeff Manship should be called up to help out the mediocre Rock Cats rotation. The Rock Cats rank 9th (out of 12) in ERA, and part of that is because of Jay Rainville's 7.58 ERA , Oswaldo Sosa's 6.32 ERA and Errol Simonitsch's 9.39 ERA. All of them have started this season, and for the most part all have been terrible.

Manship through 26 starts at Ft. Myers is 15-8 with a 3.00 ERA and a 122/45 K/BB ratio in 150 innings. He clearly has earned his promotion to New Britain and could make a start or two in Rochester later in the season if he does well early off.

Other players to keep an eye on:
  • Brian Dinkelman, Second Baseman (.297/.399/.419, 18 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 19 RBI, 229 AB)
  • Anthony Slama, Relief Pitcher (2-0, 0.54 ERA, 11 saves, 33 1/3 innings, 55/11 K/BB ratio)
  • Juan Portes, Infielder/Outfielder (.288/.336/.400, 12 2B, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 215 AB)
And don't think that players will just be moved from Ft. Myers to New Britain. Other players such as second baseman Steve Singleton and relief pitcher Matthew Williams will probably move from Beloit to Ft. Myers. There are many players that could be promoted/demoted/released, and I believe that we will figure it out in the next week or so, since the Short-Season Rookie Leagues start play a week from today. And with that, the signing of many '08 draft picks will precede the start of the season.

The Twins lost yesterday, which means yes they were swept by the division leading White Sox in 4 games. The starting pitching was certainly better. Glen Perkins pitched 5 1/3 innings, but was pulled from the game after walking Jim Thome in the 6th inning. Two batters later, Jesse Crain gave up a beach ball over the center of the plate for Nick Swisher who put it into the right-field seats. And after that, it was all downhill for the Twins.

Matt Guerrier took the loss after he gave up a double, single, RBI fielder's choice, home run, walk, single and another walk in the 7th. Brian Bass came in, but it was too late, the White Sox scored 3 in that inning to put themselves up 7-5 for good.

Guerrier was terrible, and took the loss which was his second of the season. His ERA went from 2.83-3.57 and gave up his first runs in over 9 innings of relief. Bass threw 1 2/3 innings of 1-hit relief and struck out 2 after he replaced Guerrier.

Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel drove in all 5 of the runs, while Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau scored twice. Cuddyer lead the way, going 2-3 with 3 RBI's and a walk. Mauer went 1-4 with a walk. Jason Kubel went 1-4 with two RBI's. And Justin Morneau went 3-5 with his 11th double of the season.

Carlos Gomez went 1-4 with a double and a walk, but was caught stealing for the 8th time this season. He definitely has not been as effective on the base paths as he was earlier this season. After he stole 11 bases compared to being caught just once, he's now 6 for 13 in steal attempts since then. And he has zero in his last four attempts. Although he has been almost dead on the base paths, he does have a 10-game hit streak.

Craig Monroe started at DH and went 0-3 against John Danks and is now 0-13 in his career against the southpaw. Monroe also struck out in his last at bat against Scott Linebrink.

Alexi Casilla returned to the lineup after missing Sunday with a sore lower back and went 1-5 but was apart of 2 doubles plays. He now has a hitting streak of 11 games. There should have been 3 double plays, but Matt Macri threw a ball a little off of his target at second base and they didn't end up getting any out. Macri went 1-4 at the plate but had that error which proved to not be costly.

Game Ball
Michael Cuddyer - Right Field

2-3, 2-run double, RBI single, 1 run scored, walk