February 29, 2008

Twins lose opener & Tidbits

Hello everyone. Yesterday afternoon, the Twins lost their first Spring Training game of the season against the Cincinnati Reds, 6-1. Glen Perkins and Rickey Barrett both gave up 3 runs apiece as the offense was nearly non-existent in the first game of the Grapefruit League Season. Scott Baker pitched 2 scoreless innings and Matt Guerrier, Pat Neshek, Casey Daigle and Julio DePaula all added a scoreless inning of relief of their own.

Besides the pitching being fairly strong besides two appearances, the offense was "dead" for pretty much the entire game. Joe Mauer chipped in with a single, as did 4 other players. Carlos Gomez went 0-2 in his debut for the Twins. However, he did make a diving catch from center field on a short fly ball by Ryan Freel of the Reds. Gomez covered a lot of ground on that play and he definitely showed his speed/range is as good as advertised. Jason Pridie came in later in the game and went 0-2 as well.

Tonight, the Twins play their first game back in Ft. Myers against Diasuke Matsuzaka and the Boston Red Sox. I'm sure there will be a horde of media outlets at the game, so we'll see how some of our young players handle the attention (which won't necessarily be on them). Boof Bonser is set to start for the Twins. Besides that, I'm not sure who else is scheduled to play. I'm expecting to see a little bit of a mix from yesterday's lineup with guys like Justin Morneau, Delmon Young, Adam Everett, Nick Punto, Mike Redmond and Denard Span, but your guess is as good as mine.

Peter Gammons who I generally am not enthused about reading, mainly because of his bias of being a Red Sox fan and his love for larger market teams, and despite his connection to the Red Sox, he had a good piece on Torii Hunter in his blog yesterday. One part of the article that I particularly liked was:
A "bad" contract to a good and generous man is worth a great deal more than a "good" contract to a mediocre and selfish man.
Hunter has been known as being an outspoken player who plays with a lot of heart and energy. And it's good to hear about all the good things he does for people who aren't as privileged as some of us are. I also like Hunter's response of "I say, 'Do something'" in response to players complaints of only 8 percent of the Major League's players being African American.

I don't always agree with Hunter on the things he says, and the way he does things, but he truly is a good guy and I think there should be more players like him in the league.

Make sure to check out the new Twins-Territory.com! I got the privilege of checking it out a couple days ago and they truly did a great job with the new site. I recommend everyone checking it out.

February 28, 2008

First Game

The Twins face the Cincinnati Reds this afternoon in their first Grapefruit League action this season. The Twins will send out a young lineup, where Carlos Gomez gets the first shot of taking center field, unless of course you include their game against the Concordia on Tuesday.

Here's the lineup:

1. Carlos Gomez, CF.
2. Brendan Harris, 2B.
3. Joe Mauer, C.
4. Michael Cuddyer, RF.
5. Jason Kubel, LF.
6.Craig Monroe, DH.
7. Mike Lamb, 3B.
8. Garrett Jones, 1B.
9. Alexi Casilla, SS.

A little 'head scratcher' in the lineup probably comes at shortstop, where the 23-year-old Alexi Casilla has been dubbed the future second baseman of the organization. Yet, Ron Gardenhire said :
"I'm going to move him around and have him play some short and play some second as we go along here," Gardenhire said. "As we start breaking things down, we'll probably use him a lot more at second base on a rotation basis. But I've got to move everybody around right now; I just have too many infielders."
He also praised Casilla for being better in drills this season, which should give some optimism as he was in Gardy's doghouse last season for not delivering on routine plays.

And the pitchers are scheduled to be:

Scott Baker (Starter)
Glen Perkins
Matt Guerrier
Pat Neshek
Casey Daigle
Rickey Barrett
and Julio DePaula

I'm excited to see how Baker, and the rest of the starters, do in spring training. Our rotation competition is one of the most intriguing story's in baseball this spring, at least to me (probably because I'm a Twins fan). But reason being, is that none of the pitchers are really "locked" for the rotation. There are a few such as Baker, Boof Bonser and Livan Hernandez who have probably earned to have the mentality of "it's my job to lose" compared to the many other pitchers who are trying to push them out of a spot with a mentality of, "I have to prove myself to them." That's not to say that Baker and the others don't need to prove themselves, because they do, but they don't have to prove themselves as much as a say a guy like Nick Blackburn or Philip Humber who haven't proven themselves to be even an asset to a major league ball club yet. It should be interesting to see who makes the rotation, and who doesn't. I think we can all make our best guesses, but without guys like Johan Santana who are definite locks, then it makes the competition that much more interesting.

I'm excited to see how the Twins do this afternoon, in our first "official" spring training game of the season.

February 27, 2008

Too soon to look at 2009?

Hello everyone.

Last night I was shuffling through some different sites, reading up on some baseball news (as I always do) and I when I went to MLBTradeRumors.com, I saw a post that I saw a few months ago, but it got me thinking again. The post was a list of players who are scheduled to hit the free agency market in 2009. Now, before I go any further, I don't want anyone to get the impression that I am throwing in the towel already on 2008 and that I don't think we have a chance, because on the contrary I do still hold a slight ray of optimism that we'll be challenging the rest of the American League Central for the Divisional Title.

But I did have to think about where we could be next year at this time, and what players were available to perhaps improve our team. The hard part of looking at this list is that anything can happen in 2008. Nick Punto could explode back onto the scene, making people look at him locking down second base for the next 5 years, Mike Lamb could self destruct and we may have to look for a new third baseman, or we could have a very ineffective bullpen that ranks near the bottom in the league. Are these likely? Probably not, but it does make predicting something like how players will do, a lot harder.

I have to imagine that the Twins will likely be looking for a relief pitcher (not necessarily a closer) and a short stop next winter. Besides that, your guess is as good as mine. It'd probably be nice to think about an upgrade at third base, but we haven't seen Lamb play yet and he's signed for 2 years of guaranteed money. So I find it hard to imagine that the Twins would cut him or put him on the bench.

Here are a few of the noticable free agents that are set to hit the market next winter:
  • Adam Dunn
  • Carl Crawford (option)
  • Carlos Delgado (option)
  • C.C. Sabathia
  • Manny Ramirez (option)
  • Mark Teixeira
  • John Lackey (option)
  • Francisco Rodriguez
  • Vladimir Guerrero (option)
  • Chipper Jones (option)
  • Pedro Martinez
  • Ben Sheets
Obviously, it's probably unlikely that the guys with the "option" tag next to their name will even hit the market (except for maybe Ramirez & Delgado), but there is a chance. And also too, it's fairly obvious that there is a good group of players who could turn a franchise around that could possibly be available.

I think that Adam Dunn will be the main attraction, as will Sabathia, Teixeira and Rodriguez probably will follow those two. Dunn, as much as it'd be nice to see the Twins add (another) legit 40 home run threat to the lineup, but I think his price tag will be too much. Also, he plays left field and the Twins hope to have left field locked up for the next 10+ years with Delmon Young. Designated Hitter is a possibility, but his contract demands could break the bank (as could Teixeira). Neither I view as likely fits for the Twins.

Like I said before, shortstop will likely be a position that the Twins explore in free agency. Here are a few shortstop's that could be intriguing additions:
  • Orlando Cabrera
  • Rafael Furcal
  • Edgar Renteria (option)
I'm not sure if the Twins would be looking at acquiring a long-term fix at shortstop as Trevor Plouffe is expected to be starting for the Twins by the time they open the new stadium, but I think that if the team has the money (which looks likely), they'd be smart to at least consider these options as they're definitely game changers at their respected positions. I think Furcal will likely seek a deal that will give him an annual salary of over $10 million. I think that giving him a deal that large would be an irresponsible thing to do, especially since he'll likely be looking at receiving a 4-5 year deal at the same time.

Renteria could be a possible buyout, but after one of his best career year in 2007, he could be in Detroit for longer than just one year. But if he does regress, I wouldn't mind throwing a 2-year deal at him worth somewhere around $16 million.

Renteria or Cabrera would be great additions to add to our young lineup. Both are normally #2 hitters and this season, many think that Ron Gardenhire will stick Joe Mauer in the #2 spot. And I think that if he does that, and Mauer succeeds, he'll likely stay there for the foreseeable future. But both of these shortstop options would be great additions to the 7-9 spots of the lineup as well.

Of course, I may be thinking wishfully as the Twins are more likely to add a player such as David Eckstein or merely just re-sign Adam Everett. But you can't blame me for dreaming.

I think we could all agree that it'd be great to see a lineup like:

CF - Gomez
C - Mauer
LF - Young
1B - Morneau
RF - Cuddyer
DH - Kubel
SS - Renteria
3B - Lamb
2B - Casilla

Again, I don't want to jump the boat on 2007, and all of my predictions are very arguable. For all we know, Trevor Plouffe could erupt this season and be ready by the end of the season to start full-time. Anything is possible, I am just looking into the future the best way that I can.

Sorry for the rambling.

February 25, 2008

A little of this, a little of that

Hello everyone. Hope your weekend went well.

The Twins are set for their first set of action today as they face the University of St. Paul Concordia. According to Phil Miller, the Twins will send out a lineup where Denard Span will lead-off, followed by Matt Tolbert, Brian Buscher and Garrett Jones, with Drew Butera rounding out the lineup while calling the game from behind the plate.

Miller also mentioned that Delmon Young will be moving from right field to left field, which means that Michael Cuddyer will man the other corner. I'm sure if Cuddyer needs a break, Young will be used if Monroe or Kubel play left.

Kevin Slowey may have a bit more velocity, after his great live-batter session on Sunday he had batters shaking their head and impressed batters such as Cuddyer, Young and Denard Span who said:

"I couldn't figure out his arm motion. I didn't even see that changeup."

Slowey was a bit modest of his performance and claimed that batters were just used to facing coaches and are not used to facing pitchers just yet.

I'm very excited about Slowey this season. I think that his success in the minors is not just based on his off-speed pitches and that he'll be a great major league pitcher. He locates his pitches as well as anyone his age and if his velocity truly is improving, then that's even better.

Joe Christensen reported what Ron Gardenhire had to say about the middle of the lineup this season:

“I would like to have him in that 4-spot,” Gardy said. “I think that’s where he belongs.”

“No, I wouldn’t assume that,” Gardy said. “I think that sounds really good, but don’t assume that. I like that. I think [Mauer’s] an on-base percentage guy, and I’d like to have a righthanded bat in between them. … So it makes sense, if we can find a leadoff guy, and if we can find a third hitter, all those things.”

“Anything’s possible,” Gardenhire said. “You better have somebody behind [Morneau] who can hit a little bit. Or they’ll pitch around him all day long, and then he expands, and that’s no good. So there’s all kinds of things we can think about with this lineup.”

This would make it fairly sensible to assume that he'd be penciling Joe Mauer in the #2 hole, while separating he and Morneau with either Delmon Young or Michael Cuddyer. It looks like Cuddyer would likely start the season after Mauer while Young bats #5 behind Morneau.

I like this lineup to a degree, and I guess that it probably is the most sensible as Mauer is probably the most logical option in the #2 hole, but I'm very intrigued to what Jason Kubel could do if he had 200-300 at bats batting before Mauer in the order. Last season, Kubel hit .328/.409/.586 with 3 home runs and 11 RBI's in 58 at bats while hitting in the 2-spot. If we could expand that to a full season of at bats, I think he could realistically hit .315/.390/.550 with 25 home runs and 75 RBI's. I truly believe that Kubel will explode this season, but I think a lot of it will have to do with where he's batting in the order.

If Kubel does not bat before Mauer, I just hope that Gardenhire doesn't bat him before Everett who is likely going to be hitting in the last spot of the lineup. Kubel's numbers were dreadful in the bottom of the order last season and his numbers weren't horrible while batting 6th. I think that batting him ahead of either Mike Lamb or Brendan Harris would be a good decision by the club, of course unless they choose to stick him in the #2 spot.

I personally think that out of all the batters on this team, both Kubel and Delmon Young are the two guys who I see as potential #3 hitters, with Mauer a #2, Morneau a #4, and Cuddyer a #5. Of course, I don't think that Gardenhire will allow 3 left-handers bat lead-off, which may mean that Kubel's spot in the lineup could depend on who wins the center field competition as both Denard Span and Jason Pridie are left-handers. Gomez on the other-hand is a right-hander.

Francisco Liriano is not expected to report to camp until Wednesday, but according to La Velle E. Neal III (via Twins officials) he recently threw 97 mph (twice) and consistently hit in the 92-95 mph range in a recent bullpen session down in the Dominican Republic.

The report makes me assume that 1 of his 5 points on his checklist can be crossed off right now in Liriano's progress to make it back to the rotation. The other 4?
  1. Is his velocity back?
  2. Is he mentally ready?
  3. Is his arm durable enough to start a game?
  4. Is his command there?
  5. And possibly the most important, is his arm 100% recovered?
We likely won't discover #5 until well into the season, but I do think that any reports of "no irritation" or "no soreness" will definitely be encouraging. It's going to be interesting to hear what Twins coaches have to say about Liriano after he reports. We should hopefully know where his command is sometime soon, after he throws in front of manager Ron Gardenhire and coach Rick Anderson.

And finally, for those of you who have been wondering what the Twins did to make room for Livan Hernandez, well Seth Stohs reported on Sunday that the Twins outrighted Darnell McDonald to Triple-A Rochester which opened up room on the 40-man roster. McDonald is still at camp.

February 22, 2008

Competition: Starting Pitcher

Hello again everyone. Like I mentioned earlier this week, I'm going to be gone this weekend (going to Milwaukee) so unfortunately (or fortunately, whichever way you see it) there won't be any posts this weekend.

Yesterday I gave my thoughts on the center field competition, and to my surprise (alright, not really surprised) I got a couple e-mails saying how wrong I am about Carlos Gomez and that Jason Pridie should be the starting center fielder, and should be given the job. I didn't choose to reply to the emails, as they didn't just rip on the post, but also the site, so here's my response as I didn't feel like getting into a jarring through e-mails. Besides the fact that it's all speculation and I don't really see a right or wrong answer, I do think it's wrong for a team to just hand over a position to a prospect without them having to earn the spot. I don't know how anyone can justify just handing the position over to a player without them deserving it, at least to one that has not proven himself at this level. Both Gomez and Span would probably benefit from at least another 1/2 season of AB's in AAA, but it's not going to stunt their development if they don't. Pridie is not that much farther along than either of the other two players competing for the spot. I think it's a joke to hand the position over to one player, and not just Pridie, but Span and Gomez as well.

Now, back to today's post. This off-season, the Twins completely turned this franchise around as they lost key players such as Carlos Silva, Torii Hunter, and Johan Santana, they gained a few guys who will definitely help this team out not only this year, but for the future. Those players include Delmon Young, Brendan Harris, and Carlos Gomez. And as you can tell, the Twins lost their two best pitchers from a year ago, making a fairly strong rotation, into a weak one. The team has one starting pitcher over the age of 26 and he (Livan Hernandez) has never even pitched in the American League before.

So without further ado, here's this years candidates for the starting rotation:

Livan Hernandez

Livan Hernandez is the Twins "annual" veteran pitcher signing that should provide veteran leadership to our young rotation, while holding down one of the other 4 options down from making the team. I don't mean to be critical of the signing, as I do like it to a degree, but I just wish we signed him, not at the expense of holding another pitcher back from claiming a spot. He should give the Twins over 200 innings, as he's topped 200 innings for the last 8 years. And in fact, if you'd like to think about it as well, he was only 1/3 of an inning away in 1999 from making it 10 straight season of over 200 innings. And in fact, his lowest season besides 1999 was in '07 when he pitched 'just' 204 innings for the Arizona Diamondbacks. The one big downside of the signing (besides holding down another player) is that he's never pitched in the American League and as we all know, the American League lineups are better than the National League, and he'll definitely have a hard time proving himself in the A.L. this season. He's a very emotional pitcher who (in that aspect) could remind Twins fans a lot of Carlos Silva. Unfortunately for Hernandez, he's never had a high strikeout rate and always had problems with his control. That is one big reason big reason that his .278 career batting average against may balloon this season, especially when it was a career high .308 in 2007. I think that he'll provide veteran leadership, but if he doesn't produce, hopefully he keeps his cool and continues to be the mentor that this team brought him in to be.

Boof Bonser

He had a disappointing 2007 season after a promising '06 season. The Twins stuck with him for most of the season in the rotation, but after his demotion to the bullpen late in the season, the Twins management determined what may be the problem. The 6 foot 4, 260 pitcher may have lost his "second wind" during the 5th and 6th innings in which he was shelled by apposing batters. In fact, he started looking a lot like the David Wells, and that's not meant to be a good thing.

The problem was his weight, and the Twins set up an off-season goal for him to lose 25 pounds. He's reportedly lost around 30 pounds since the end of last season. He hired a nutritionist, and he just maintained a healthy diet. It was apparent as he was seen eating an apple before he signed autographs at Twins fest. Hopefully he doesn't just stop at 30 pounds and continues to be a "workout warrior" as I think the better shape he's in, the better he'll pitch. The season could potentially be make or break year for the 26-year-old Bonser as the Twins have some great, young arms close to reaching the majors. I am excited to see what he has this season and hopefully he'll put up some good numbers and eat up some innings. It's unclear whether he'll start in the Twins rotation, the Twins bullpen, or in Rochester's rotation. A lot will depend on how strong his arm is in Spring Training.

Scott Baker

The Twins got some great numbers from Baker in just 143.2 innings last season. He started out strong for the Twins, nearly pitching a complete game shutout in his first start of the season against the Milwaukee Brewers. After that, he hit a big road block after giving up 20 runs over his next 4 starts or 18.2 innings. He regained his true form in August (although had a few good streaks in between) and was great the rest of the season. 2008 will also probably be a make or break year for Baker as well and I am optimistic that he too will have a good season for the Twins, however I also think that if he fails again, he'll be gone by the trading deadline in July.

Nick Blackburn

He exploded in 2007 to be one of the best pitchers in the Twins organization. After a sub-par career, he won 10 games and compiled a 2.54 ERA in 148.2 innings between New Britain and Rochester. He struggled with the Twins, however in 11.2 innings, he really was shelled in 3 of the innings which made his ERA look horrid. But he did show a bit of promise, however I think he'll need a great Spring Training to crack the rotation. But the Twins may keep him on the roster to help with long-reliever duties and spot-starts.

Brian Duensing

He's the only pitcher on the list that's not on the 40-man roster, and he's the only one who has not had any major league appearance. He's a solid pitcher, although he doesn't project more than a back-end starter in a rotation. Of course, I do want to see him pitch before I make a proper assessment on him, as I'm just going off of written reports of him (although I did see him on FSN this season when they had the "Red Wings Rewind" although it was just clips of him pitching). He's got the lowest chance of making the rotation.

Kevin Slowey

Slowey has had a great career in the minor leagues posting a career 1.93 ERA in 354.1 innings. He also has compiled a very good 8.7 K/9 ratio, which is good considering he's considered more of a control pitcher. He struggled in the majors in 66+ innings this season, although he showed a lot of potential and I think the Twins have something special in Slowey. He's been compared to the likes of Greg Maddux for his great control and at the age of 23, that's a very high praise. I hope that he continues to progress as I see him being a potential top-of-the-order starter at some point in his career.

Francisco Liriano

Liriano's a guy the Twins wish they knew what they were getting in as he returns from Tommy John Surgery that he underwent last fall. If he was healthy, it would've made the Twins decision to trade Johan Santana a lot more easier as he's a potential ace, but his injury brings concern to the Twins front office of whether if he'll ever come back to the same form as he had in 2006 when he was probably the best pitcher in the league before he went down with the injury. All the reports of his progress through rehab have been very promising and Twins fans should feel optimistic about his return, but they shouldn't be naive as well. There are a lot of things working against Liriano in his return to greatness and they have to understand that it may take a year or two for him to regain his full form, if he ever does at all. Of course another thing to be optimistic about his return is the fact that his rubber ligament that he had implanted in his left elbow should allow him to pitcher pain-free and may even give him more velocity on his fastball which before his injury topped out at about 98 MPH.

Here's what Ron Gardenhire had to say (just yesterday) on Liriano and his velocity:
"He's letting it fly," Gardenhire said. "He threw two innings at the [Twins' Dominican] academy and they said he was averaging 93 and throwing it up to 96. Free and easy."
If that doesn't make a Twins fan feel good, then I don't know what will. Besides a championship, obviously.

Philip Humber

Philip Humber (pronounced umber), was acquired along with Gomez, Deolis Guerra, and Kevin Mulvey in the Johan Santana trade a few weeks ago. He is another pitcher who recently has gone through Tommy John Surgery, however he's already one step ahead of Liriano, he's had a healthy season since then. Humber's numbers in AAA last season were not magnificent by any means, but he was effective and generally speaking, the first season returning from that particular surgery is usually considered a wash. He did strike out a lot of batters, which is a positive as that's what he's best known for and before the surgery he was also reaching the mid-upper 90's with his fastball. Right now, his velocity is improving and last season he reportedly was averaging a 93 mph fastball last year which touched 96 a few times. But besides the amazing ability to put gas behind his fastball, Humber's been known to possess (one of) the best curveball in the minor leagues which makes batters look silly at times.

Nick Nelson believes that Humber could thrive in the bullpen.

Glen Perkins

Perkins is a hometown favorite, with solid numbers throughout the last 5 seasons, going back all the way to his days at the University of Minnesota. Primarily a starter, he's been used as a middle reliever for the Twins in limited time the past 2 seasons. His major league numbers are great, however the Twins would like to work his arm into the rotation as he possesses middle-of-the-rotation potential. He may open the season in the Twins bullpen, but I hope they start him in Rochester's rotation and work him into the Twins rotation at some point during the season.

Other guys we'd have to at least consider, but I see having little chances of making the club: Brian Bass, Zach Day, Randy Keisler, and Casey Daigle. I don't think that Kevin Mulvey is ready, as he has only pitched 6 innings in AAA, but I know someone will mention him if I didn't, so I guess he's a consideration.

My Thoughts

I think that there's really going to be no surprises as far as who is in the rotation. I don't see guys like Brian Duensing or Nick Blackburn making it over someone such as Kevin Slowey or Francisco Liriano. Here's my prediction as of right now:

1) Livan Hernandez - Workhorse, Twins will like having him at the top of the order, but how will he handle the American League?.

2) Scott Baker - Needs to prove more if he wants to keep himself in the Twins long-term plans in terms of pitching.

3) Boof Bonser - Make or break year, he's going to need to show that he can last into the 6th or 7th innings every 5th day to help the wear and tear on our bullpen.

4) Kevin Slowey - He's young, but he can't rely on good run support to get wins this season in the majors, I have high hopes for him this season.

5) Francisco Liriano - I think that Liriano will ultimately win a rotation spots, the Twins don't want him in the bullpen and it's not an ideal situation to send him to Rochester where he'll be battling with bad weather for the first month or two.

And what about the staff as a whole?

But just because one of the other guys such as Glen Perkins or Nick Blackburn don't make the rotation, that doesn't mean they won't be on the roster. Gardenhire also shared his plans to go with a 12-man pitching staff when the season opens:
"We're going to take the best 12, and if it gets down to two lefties, great," he said. "We just want to get one lefty here Reyes] and go from there."
And with that, one would have to assume that 11 of the spots are already 'locked down', barring injuries.

Dennys Reyes
Juan Rincon
Jesse Crain
Pat Neshek
Matt Guerrier
Joe Nathan

Who could that "???" be? There's a few options listed above that may handle the position. Glen Perkins is a possibility as he's already experienced success in the bullpen and is also a lefty. Nick Blackburn could also help the team in the bullpen as he'd be able to handle long relief. The same can be said for Humber. Other guys such as Julio DePaula and Bobby Korecky could aslo make a run for the spot. But a "dark horse" candidate that should be considered is Jason Miller. Miller had a brief call-up with the Twins last season, and in 3.2 innings of work he did quite a good job, before he was shelled for 8 runs in 1/3 of an inning in his last appearance with the team. He's been used as both a starter and as a reliever in the minors and has faired quite well. He has a career 3.41 ERA with 544 strikeouts in 593 innings. He's also a left-hander which makes him have more of a chance to break spring training with the club. The only thing that's really against him is that he's currently not on the Twins 40-man roster and the team would need to make some sort of roster move to make room for him.

What are your thoughts on the Twins 2008 rotation and bullpen? Have a great weekend!

February 21, 2008

Competition: Center Field

Hey everyone, well on Tuesday, I shared my thoughts on the second base competition in my first of three posts of different competitions in Spring Training. Today, I will be sharing my thoughts on the center field competition.

Denard Span

Denard Span likely is viewed as being a long shot of winning the position, but I do think that he's going to give the other two a run for their money. He knows that this might be his last shot of starting with the Twins as they have a strong group of outfielders both competing with him, and in the wings that perhaps provide more to the team than he does. I think he's going to be a great competitor this spring and I think he's going to surprise many doubters. He has good speed and a strong glove. He doesn't utilize his speed effectively on offense, but can cover quite a bit of ground on defense. He feels his base stealing is his weakness and if he can improve his instincts and can continue to develop gap power, he could be a fine outfielder.

If you'd like some of his thoughts on Spring Training, make sure to check out his short interview at Twins Territory in which he says:
"I'm ready to compete with whomever, whether it be Pridie or Gomez. I expect it to be a war in spring training because I gotta believe that they are just as hungry as I am. I know for a fact that I have a bigger chip on my shoulder because neither of those guys have been disrespected or slapped in the face like I've been by others and the Twins this off season."
I expect this to be a great competition. Hopefully they all come out and give it their all.

Carlos Gomez

Carlos Gomez was the centerpiece of the Johan Santana trade and is viewed as the future center fielder for the Twins. At just 21 years old in 2007, injuries forced him to have a short stay in AAA which was not what the Mets had planned. And as he struggled in his first trip to the majors, many think he could start the season back in AAA to help his development. However, I think that Gomez is the kind of player who will benefit more from seasoning in the majors. He reminds me a lot of Carl Crawford a lot and I think he'll likely progress the same way Crawford did as the Rays gave him more and more seasoning in the majors, despite the fact that he may not have been ready at first. Something else that may make you take another look at just how close Crawford and Gomez truly are, their minor league stats are very close:

Crawford: .295/.336/.400, 17 home runs, 27 triples, 134 stolen bases
Gomez: .278/.339/.399, 18 home runs, 20 triples, 141 stolen bases
Scouts rave about Gomez's defense and speed. He has gold glove potential and may steal 50+ bases per season. The one critical thing that scouts are unsure about is his bat. Despite the fact that he's 6'4'' and has a solid 200 lbs. frame, he does possess great power, at least not yet. Phil Miller explains that his bat speed is what has truly impressed him is not just his speed while covering the outfield and running the bases, but his great bat speed at the plate. The thing the team wants to work on him with is improving his on base percentage while getting more extra base hits. He's a very exciting player who could some day make people (at least somewhat) forget about Johan Santana.

Jason Pridie

Jason Pridie is another newly acquired outfielder who came along with Delmon Young and Brendan Harris in the Matt Garza trade early this off-season. He was actually drafted by the Twins in the 2005/2006 Rule V Draft but was returned to the Rays after he failed to make the Twins roster out of Spring Training. Upon his arrival back the the Rays, he struggled mightily in 2006 in AA. But 2007 he broke out and put together a great season where he hit .303/.352/.487 with 32 doubles, 11 triples, 14 home runs and 66 RBI in 524 at bats between stays in AA and AAA. He's viewed as being the most ready to take on the load of being an everyday player in the majors and could be the front runner as Spring Training begins.

My Thoughts

Like I said, I think it's going to be a great battle with hopefully everyone deserving of the job. I personally think that the Twins will be so impressed with Carlos Gomez's potential and the fact that he's so exciting to watch, that they will choose him to start the season as the starter. If he starts, I think that Pridie makes the roster as well as he doesn't really have anything left to prove in AAA and would be a very good bench player.

But honestly, as long as it's a good competition, I really don't care who wins as long as the one who shows the most, wins the job.


At Twinkie Town, there's a poll wondering who will become the Twins new clubhouse leader. I chose Michael Cuddyer, who did you choose?

Josh Taylor gives us his Pre-Pre Season Predictions for the AL Central. I think that they are pretty accurate, but of course I'd love to see a different outcome.

Seth Stohs is asking for readers to ask him questions, and he'll be answering them as the week goes on. He also proposes a re-alignment in the divisions.

La Velle E. Neal III gives us some interesting bits of information on a few players.

And yesterday, I told readers to make sure to check out both Neal's and Joe Christensen's blogs while I totally bypassed telling readers to make sure to check out Phil Miller's blog as well.

Speaking of Christensen's blog, he posted a part of an article from the St. Petersburg Times which has Carl Crawford calling out ex-teamates Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes. I think he's right in some of his accusations and I don't think that they are all bad things. I too believe Young will mature more and become a better player now that he's out of Tampa Bay.

February 20, 2008

Site Update

I was planning on posting my post on the competition in center field for Wednesday, however I didn't manage my time well enough and am studying for an exam. I'll make sure that the post is up on Thursday morning with the starting pitching competition coming Friday.

In the mean time, make sure to check out both Joe Christensen and La Velle E. Neal III's blogs for live updates from spring training.

Also make sure to check out one of Christensen's posts which he gets quotes from Ron Gardenhire on the Joe Nathan contract situation:
“I think we’re going to sign him,” Gardenhire said. “… I think we’re close, and I think there have been some good offers out there, and good offers on the table, and I’m not even thinking about him not being here. Call it naive, call it what you want, but I refuse to go there.”
He sounds a lot more optimistic than Nathan as he said that he hasn't had any contact with the Twins about a contract extension within the last "12 or 13 days."

It makes one think that Gardenhire might know something that Nathan doesn't as he said "I think we're close." Gardenhire does not normally comment on issues such as these, so him being optimistic and saying what he did must make Nathan feel at least a little optimistic.

February 19, 2008

Competition: 2nd Base

Nick Punto

Punto has been a favorite of Ron Gardenhire's since the moment he was acquired by the Twins in the Eric Milton trade in 2004 (which also brought Carlos Silva). He's a steady defender and plays hard on every play. Unfortunately, hard work doesn't always pay off and he had a dreadful 2007 campaign in which he flirted with the 'Mendoza Line' for the majority of the year. Given the fact that he's played in the Metrodome for 4 seasons, and the fact that he is a favorite of Ron Gardenhire's, it looks like he may have an edge on the others in the three-way competition. Out of the three players that look to be competing for the starting job, Punto's bat is by far inferior to both of the other players, however he does have the best defense.

I think that Punto's best asset to this team is that he can play many positions while staying strong defensively. I think he's a much better role player on the bench than a starter, and I hope that the Twins have a short leash with him if he struggles, as he has two other players that would start on the majority of the other teams in the league.

Alexi Casilla

Alexi Casilla is a very exciting player to watch as he possesses plus,plus speed. However, from what I saw of him last season, both his glove and his bat need a little more work before he is ready to step onto the field as an everyday player for the Twins. On defense, he made some great plays, many of which left people scratching his head and say, "How did he do that?". A lot of his plays that he makes are because of his great speed which makes himself have a wide range for which he can cover. One play comes to mind when he was playing second base, he got a late start to a foul ball and when he realized that neither Justin Morneau nor Michael Cuddyer could get to it, he turned on his 'jets' and raced to the wall to make a last-second catch. He also made a few nice diving and jumping stops as well. Unfortunately he made a lot of bone-head moves while playing as well and made a lot of routine ground balls look very challenging which actually set off Ron Gardenhire later in the season.

For Casilla, he has many physical tools, he'll likely become a better defender with more time and his offense will likely start improving as well. But the majority of the problems with Casilla don't stem from the fact that he doesn't have the tools or that he won't ever show them, it's because he's mentally not prepared to start right now, and it looks like he's trying to prove himself on every play. I'm not saying it's a horrible thing he's doing, he should go out and try to give it his all on every play, but he needs to clear his mind and go out there and just play ball. I hope that he improved during Winter Ball and will really impress fans and coaches this spring, but I think it's more likely that he starts the season in Rochester and forces management to call him up.

Brendan Harris

Harris is one of the Twins' newest players as he was acquired along with Delmon Young and Jason Pridie in a trade earlier in the off-season. Harris' best attribute over these other players is that he has a good bat and it's likely that it'll only get better. Defensively, he's probably the weakest of this group, but as a former shortstop, he should be ready to make an easier transition over to second base. Right now, I'd have to put him as the front runner, as it looks like the Twins are trying to be better offensively this season, and Harris would definitely be the best option.

My Thoughts

Personally, I think that Harris will ultimately win the job. Based on offensive skills, he blows Nick Punto and Alexi Casilla out of the water and he's not that bad defensively. He'd be a great addition to an already improved lineup.

February 18, 2008

Baseball Is Back!

Hey everyone, sorry about the short hiatus on posting. I've had quite a few things to keep me busy (mostly work and school) and next weekend I won't be able to post either, as I'll be leaving for Milwaukee to look at a couple schools.

Anyways, baseball if back and it feels so good to say that. We can start forgetting about the cold (haha yeah right), well at least start focusing our attention on the 2008 baseball season. This off-season was thought to have a lot of changes under its sleeve, and it certainly did not disappoint in that area. The Twins lost several important pieces to their franchises success such as Johan Santana, Torii Hunter, and Carlos Silva. The team did not take that big of a setback though, and signed/traded for a few players that are going to help us a lot not only this season, but for possibly the better part of the next decade. Those players include Delmon Young, Carlos Gomez, and Brendan Harris.

The Twins offense looks drastically different from 2007, and I have to say that it definitely made a change for the better. Besides the additions of Young and Harris, the team also added third baseman Mike Lamb and designated hitter/outfielder Craig Monroe. Everyone knows that third base and DH were the teams 'weak' spots in '07, so adding better hitters to those two positions is going to help out a lot. And when I say 'better' I mean, way better.

Here's a look at what the Twins opening day roster may look like if the season started today:

CFCarlos Gomez
DHJason Kubel
CJoe Mauer
LFDelmon Young
1BJustin Morneau
RFMichael Cuddyer
3BMike Lamb
2BBrendan Harris
SSAdam Everet
OFCraig Monroe
INFNick Punto
CMike Redmond
OFJason Pridie
INFMatt Tolbert
1Scott Baker
2Boof Bonser
3Livan Hernandez
4Francisco Liriano
5Kevin Slowey
LRMatt Guerrier
LRJuan Rincon
MRJesse Crain
MRDennys Reyes
SUPat Neshek
CLJoe Nathan

Obviously, my projections are all arguable and there will likely be a small change in the exact roster by the time the season opens up.

Some of those changes could be based on some 'competitions' that we're going to be having in Spring Training, and that's where most of this weeks posts will look at. Tomorrow, I'm going to be looking at the competition at second base, Wednesday I'm going to be looking at the competition at center field, and Thursday I'll be looking at the competition in the rotation. So make sure to come back and check those out.

February 14, 2008

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!

Yesterday if you didn't see or at least hear about any of the Clemens-McNamee battle, then you must just be getting back to earth. How was outer space? Were there any Martians? Or any 'dead' celebrities hanging out on a 'private' space rock? No? Just let me know.

Anyways, I was proposed the question after watching this by a friend:
Right now, would you vote for Roger Clemens or any of the other steroid-linked players to the hall of fame? In particular, Barry Bonds?
Ummmm no! I'd hold off on voting them in until Bert Blyleven was in.

Alright joking aside, I'd wait until the entire process is over for both Bonds and Clemens before voting them in. If they're found not guilty, they'd be on my list 100%, no questions asked. But until then, I'd hold my vote so I don't potentially regret it later. If I had to choose "vote now, or never"... I'd vote them both in now, and if I could, I'd vote Pete Rose in as well.

Do I want to believe both Bonds & Clemens? Yes.

Do I believe Bonds & Clemens? No.

With this particular case, I can see significant flaws on both sides of the issue. The biggest thing against Roger Clemens right now is not particularly what Brian McNamee is doing, but it's what Andy Pettitte is doing. He (as well as Chuck Knoblauch) is siding with McNamee and Pettitte has been known as a very trustworthy guy and is a close friend to Clemens (despite how they've been downplaying their relationship through the media as of late, they're very close), and Clemens has admitted how great of a guy he is. Why would Andy Pettitte lie? Could he have misheard the conversation a few years back? Absolutely! But I just think that is Clemens only fall back for the issue.

And with McNamee, Dan Burton (R-Indiana) ripped into him about his credibility as he's been a known liar in the past to law enforcement officials. And he was exactly right. How do we know he's not lying right now? The thing he's got going for himself is a few players (one of which is very respectable) backing him up. And unfortunately for Clemens, he's got Jose Canseco on his side. Canseco is a kook, however he hasn't been afraid of throwing anyone under the bus, so why would he hold back with Roger? Is Canseco telling the truth? He could be, as big of a weeny he is (or should I say "little weeny"), he could very well be telling the truth from everything in his "Juiced" book series. But as far as respecting a player, he couldn't carry Pettitte's jock strap.

I don't like people saying, "well before so-and-so started taking them, they were a sure-fire Hall of Famer". And I think it's obvious why I don't like that. Performance Enhancers have been around in baseball for (what's known at least) about 20 years. Who's to say that these guys weren't shooting it up in the minor leagues before getting to the majors?

Sure Barry Bonds looks significantly different from the time he reached the majors until just last year, but then again, most people's bodies change between the ages of 20-40 (or in Bonds' case, 21-41). I guess you could say that is a plus for Clemens, as Representative Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina) showed a picture display of Roger Clemens since he's come into the league and showed pictures of him in 4 different uniforms.

The thing I can see happening now is Clemens saying, "I never knowingly took HGH. And if he injected me with something else that I wasn't aware of, then that's not entirely my fault." Or the whole "cream and clear" statement by Bonds for his "arthritis."

We'll see. Right now, I don't like Clemens outcome, but anything is possible I guess.

I guess, I'm probably the wrong person to ask as I have of my bias. At least in these particular cases as I'm a fan of both Bonds & Clemens and I'm probably more compelled to believe the player before the court of law, mostly because I'm still a little naive to the fact that someone who so many have looked up to, would lie to me or the rest of the world. If Roger (as well as Barry) is found guilty, then they should be punished. But until then, I will keep my opinion that they will be innocent until proven guilty.

February 12, 2008

Twins add starting pitcher

According to Fox Sports baseball analysis, Ken Rosenthal, the Twins have agreed to a 1-year contract with Livan Hernandez worth somewhere between $5-6 million (but based on incentives may rise to $7 million).

I'm not ecstatic about this signing, however if the Twins were going to dip into the free agency market to add a veteran starter, I would've wanted it to be Hernandez who they took the chance on.

He has a career record of 134-128 with a 4.25 ERA. When healthy, he's a very consistent pitcher who'll give his team at least 200 innings per season. He's considered a workhorse, but he does allow batters to hit a very high .278 career against him. In 2007, he had a down season after his successful early arrival to the Diamondbacks in '06. In '07, he was 11-11 with a 4.95 ERA and a horrid 90/79 K/BB ratio.

He may challenge for the number one starting spot in the rotation, although I'll be surprised if he beats out some of our in-house candidates for the position. I think this deal is what is best for him as he wasn't getting the long-term deal he wanted with other clubs, so he will probably only be here to raise his value and then hit the free agency market again next season.

Perhaps this was a move to have him bat, as a pitcher, he's a career .232 hitter with 9 home runs in 789 AB's. Watch out Nick Punto, you may be the guy on the chopping block (I'm kidding).

I just can't help but wonder what that means for guys like Phil Humber and Glen Perkins who I don't think have any options left (if they do, I'm betting it's just one) so if they don't make the roster, they'll have to go through waivers.

Imagine 1 of the 4 players acquired for Santana being taken by another team before he even has a chance to prove himself with the team.

We'll see what happens. If I'm not mistaken, team is going to have to open up a spot on the 40-man roster for him, which could mean that we'll be seeing another Twins-related bit of news later this morning/afternoon.

What to do with Nathan?

Good morning. The Twins currently sit around $20 million under the projected payroll for the 2008 season, which some thought would reach close to $80 million. And just think, the $20 million may grow significantly larger (or smaller) as the Twins decide what to do with Joe Nathan. Nathan is set to become a free agent next fall and is going to be making a very low $6 million this season.

The team let three different players slip away with Torii Hunter, Carlos Silva and Johan Santana, and many thought Nathan was going to be the one to go first. On the contrary, he's the only player (on that group) left on the Twins. The team has a few options that they are going to have to choose from with Nathan.

Trade him

Right now, the value for closer's is nothing compared to what it will be come late July as the trade deadline creeps up on teams looking to make a late season surge to help rejuvenate their beat-up bullpen for the playoffs. It's hard to predict who will need a closer at the deadline, or what the Twins would be able to get in return for quite possibly the best closer in the game.

The Chicago Cubs are going into the season with a few players vying for closer role; Kerry Wood, Carlos Marmol, and Bob Howry all figure to be the ideal candidates for the job, but Ryan Dempster may not have a spot in the rotation, which could make the teams closer from 2007 their closer for 2008. If Dempster is the closer this season, I have a hunch that they'll likely be looking to add a closer at the deadline. The Cubs have a few players that may interest the Twins including Marmol, Ronny Cedeno, Sean Gallagher, Tyler Colvin, Felix Pie, Donald Veal and Josh Vitters. Vitters is not allowed to be traded right now anyways, as he was just drafted last June. Even so, I think that it's safe to say that the Cubs won't trade him now or in the near future.

Besides the Cubs, the Diamondbacks, Indians, and Dodgers may all be looking for closers come July. But again, that list will likely chance multiple times.

Re-sign him

In my opinion, the most likely of options with Nathan is to re-sign him. However despite the amount of money the Twins may be under their projected payroll, the team is not going to spend money unwisely. Giving a closer excess of $10 million is a big risk if you ask me, and the amount of money that Nathan could likely get on the open market is well over $10 million, probably closer to $16 million. And the problem with that, is Nathan knows his value and he's said that he's not going to give the Twins (at least a large) discount. I think that if he's serious about staying in Minnesota and if he wants a 4-5 year deal, he's going to have to leave a lot of money on the table that he'd likely get elsewhere.

I think the Twins will likely throw a 3-year deal at him, and he'll likely decline. However the Twins are not as set with their bullpen as they are with their rotation which means that they'd likely be more compelled to work with Nathan more than they seemed to with Santana. I think he'll eventually be signed to a 4-year $50 million deal with a 5th year option worth $15 million.

Let him walk

Quite possibly the last thing the fans of the Twins want to see is a great player like Joe Nathan walk away while receiving draft compensation for him. The Twins have a few higher draft picks in this seasons draft, and if Nathan leaves, they likely will next year as well. I personally don't like the thought of him leaving, however if the deal isn't there and the team has even the slightest chance of contending this season, they would probably be best to keep him and letting him walk. The last thing they want to do is have another tirade by a few of the teams most popular players speaking out in the media about their opinions on the loss of a key player such as Nathan. This happened last season when the Twins traded Luis Castillo at the deadline, and players such as Johan Santana, Joe Nathan and Torii Hunter spoke out about the trade and none of them had a good thing to say about it, and all took shot at the front office.

I think they'll try to avoid that this time.

The team has a decision to make with Nathan, and I expect us to know a lot about this situation as the team goes through spring training.

If I made the decisions, if the team is not in contention come July, I'd definitely look into trading him. The Twins have a great building block that they are going to be looking at while we open the new stadium in 2010, so adding another player or two to an already very young core, that would likely be ideal. But again, I do see us re-signing him to a new deal by the end of training camp.

February 11, 2008

This and That

Hey everyone. Hopefully you had a good weekend. In case you missed any of it, I released my top 55 Twins Prospects for 2008 last week. I made a link for it on the left side of the site.

Joe Christensen gave us a great read on one of our newest Twins, Delmon Young. This is a 'must read' for any Twins fan. If that article doesn't get you pumped for the season, and optimistic for the future of the organization, then I don't know what will.

Make sure to check out Johan Santana's Sunday Conversation.

Jim Caple gives us a comical story of his experience at the Twins Fantasy Camp.

Kelsie Smith lets fans know that we're got over $20 million to burn.

Seth Stohs has a good Q&A with Kyle Waldrop.

Onto a couple non-baseball tidbits...

Adrian Peterson won the MVP of the Pro Bowl on Sunday. Nice game by him, boring game overall.

Exciting weekend in Nascar already. Kurt Busch & Tony Stewart get into a scuffle. Jr. wins for the first time as a member of Hendrick Motorsports. And Jimmy Johnson wins the pole for next Sunday's Daytona 500.

Sorry, not a lot to talk about today. Have a great day.

February 8, 2008

Josh's Thoughts: Top Twins Prospects 2008 (1-10)

Josh's Thoughts: Top 55 Twins Prospects for 2008

* 1. Carlos Gomez | Outfielder | Born: 12/4/85 | Throws: Right | Bats: Right | Height: 6'4'' | Weight: 185 lbs.
Carlos Gomez was recently acquired in the Johan Santana trade from the Mets. Gomez is in my opinion without a doubt the team's top prospect. The Twins didn't make him the centerpiece of the Santana trade for nothing. He is a very raw player at the plate, and I know there will be "growing pains" while he learns to hit major league pitches, but the rest of his game is very exciting nonetheless. Despite being 6'4'' he is one of the league's fastest players and should be able to swipe at least 40 bases per year, and I'm probably be conservative with that number. He also plays very good defense and you can imagine the type of ground he can cover in center field with his speed. I originally compared him to a young Carlos Beltran, but with his questionable power potential, I think a more suitable comparison is a right-handed Carl Crawford. If the Twins can get the type of production that would be even remotely close to that of Crawford, I think the Twins will feel pretty good about their decision to trade for Gomez while giving up a possible future hall of fame pitcher.
.....ETA: 2008

2. Deolis Guerra | Pitcher | Born: 4/17/89 | Throws: Right | Bats: Right | Height: 6'5'' | Weight: 200 lbs.
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.
.....ETA: 2010

3. Anthony Swarzak | Pitcher | Born: 9/10/85 | Throws: Right | Bats: Right | Height: 6'3'' | Weight: 195 lbs.
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.
.....ETA: 2009

4. Tyler Robertson | Pitcher | Born: 12/23/87 | Throws: Left | Bats: Left | Height: 6'5'' | Weight: 225 lbs.
Tyler Robertson was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2006 draft. After a good season in the GCL in '06 Robertson turned the corner in '07 into one of the Twins top young prospects. He was simply amazing with the Snappers in the Midwest League last season, posting a 2.29 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP to go along with his 10.8 K/9 through 102.1 innings. He throws a low 90's fastball with a good, hard slider and a solid curveball. The one thing that raises concern is that his delivery is considered "stiff" which makes him more susceptible to arm problems down the road. Nonetheless he's still one of the minor leagues best, young left-handed pitchers.
.....ETA: 2011

5. Kevin Mulvey | Pitcher | Born: 5/26/85 | Throws: Right | Bats: Right | Height: 6'1'' | Weight: 170 lbs.
Kevin Mulvey was also acquired by the Twins in the Johan Santana trade with the Mets. He was very successful in Double-A as he posted a 3.18 ERA to go along with his 120 strikeouts through 164 innings. He has four pitches to his repertoire; a fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. His fastball sits comfortably in the low 90's, but he's been known to reach the mid-90's on occasion. He throws all of his breaking balls for strikes and the fact that he has 4, solid pitches as a 22-year-old is one of the reasons scouts rave about him. He should be in Rochester to begin this season, but some feel he's a "dark horse" candidate to win a spot in the Twins rotation out of spring training.
.....ETA: 2008

6. Jeff Manship | Pitcher | Born: 1/16/85 | Throws: Right | Bats: Right | Height: 6'0'' | Weight: 165 lbs.
Jeff Manship was drafted by the Twins in the 14th round of the 2006 draft. After a very successful career at Notre Dame, the Twins were fortunate enough to get one of the '06 drafts top pitchers in a mid-teens round. One of the reasons scouts were 'turned off' by Jeff was because he underwent Tommy John Surgery before his freshman season at Notre Dame, despite having great seasons both his sophomore and junior year. He has made a tremendous recovery and was one of the organizations top pitchers in 2007. He started the season in Beloit, and after completely dominating the Midwest League through 13 starts, Jeff was promoted to Ft. Myers where he'd continue to succeed in his next 13 starts in the Florida State League. His 2007 numbers look very promising, in 26 starts between both stops he posted a 15-6 record to go along with his 2.30 ERA and 136 strikeouts in 149 innings pitched. Jeff is a promising pitcher who possesses middle-of-the-rotation 'stuff' and has a very good chance of succeeding in the big leagues. It's been said that he throws one of the best curveballs in the minors and his 4-1 K/BB ratio in '07 shows that while he has the ability to strikeout a batter, he does it while keeping the command of his pitches. Jeff should be in New Britain this season, and it shouldn't be too long before more and more Twins fans start hearing about him as he gets closer to the majors. Jeff was nice enough to do a Q&A for the site last August. Make sure to check it out.
.....ETA: 2009

7. Ben Revere |Outfielder | Born: 5/3/88 | Throws: Right | Bats: Left | Height: 5'9'' | Weight: 165 lbs.
Ben Revere was taken by the Twins in the first round of the 2007 draft. Many people were skeptical of the pick, as many thought there were definitely better players available and that the Twins shouldn't be adding more speedy outfielders with low power potential. However, Ben shut a lot of those critics up(at least for the time being) and now many think (at least, so far) that it may have been a great pick for the Twins. Of course, it's really too soon to tell. In 191 AB's, Ben hit .325/.388/.461 with zero home runs. That's right, a .461 slugging percentage without a home run. The reason for this is that Ben possesses amazing speed which allowed him to hit 16 extra-base hits, 10 of which were triples. He also stole 21 bases in 50 games and displayed solid plate discipline as well. He projects as a potentially great left-handed lead-off hitter with great defense. Right now, again it's probably too soon to compare him, but I'd say he's a potential Jacoby Ellsbury clone. Ben should be in Beloit this season, and will likely spend the entire season there, sink or swim.
.....ETA: 2012

8. Trevor Plouffe | Shortstop | Born: 6/15/86 | Throws: Right | Bats: Right | Height: 6'1'' | Weight: 175 lbs.
Trevor Plouffe was drafted in the first round of the 2004 draft. After 3 disappointing seasons in the organization, Trevor turned the corner in '07 and delivered his best season as a pro. In 497 at bats with the New Britain Rock Cats, he hit .274/.326/.410 with 48 extra-base hits and 50 RBI. Obviously, those numbers don't look amazing, but he definitely made a lot of people optimistic again about his future as he finally delivered with a solid season. He also has gotten his defense (somewhat) under wraps, however it's still something he needs to work on as he gets closer to the big leagues. With the stockpile of middle-infielders in Rochester, Trevor may be forced to start the season in New Britatin, but still as a 21-year-old, he'll still be one of the leagues younger players, despite it possibly being his second go around.
.....ETA: 2009

9. Phil Humber | Pitcher |Born: 12/21/82 | Throws: Right | Bats: Right | Height: 6'4'' | Weight: 210 lbs.
Phil Humber was the fourth player acquired in the Johan Santana Mets trade last week. A former first rounder, who had a solid 2007 season after missing the entire '06 campaign recovering from Tommy John Surgery. In 25 starts in Triple-A, he had a 4.27 ERA with 120 strikeouts through 139 innings. Of course, those numbers aren't great, especially for a 24-year-old, but you must remember that a pitcher generally struggles his first year back from TJ surgery and his second year is usually much better. Well, if he can improve his ERA while continuing to strikeout nearly 8 batters per game as his velocity increases, I think he should be able to have a successful career with the Twins. I expect Humber to claim a rotation spot out of Spring Training, but if he doesn't, he'll likely go to Rochester where he can continue to start every 5th day.
.....ETA: 2008

* 10. Glen Perkins | Pitcher | Born: 3/2/83 | Throws: Left | Bats: Left | Height: 5'11'' | Weight: 190 lbs.
Glen Perkins was taken in the first round of the 2004 draft. Moved quickly through the Twins system, Perkins hit a snag in his development in 2007 when he missed almost 3 1/2 months due to a strained muscle in his left shoulder. He was 0-0 with a 3.14 ERA and 20 K's in 28 innings as a reliever last season. He pitched 5 scoreless innings in September to end the season on a high note. He will compete for a roster spot out of spring training, but it's not sure whether it'd be as a reliever or starter. The team still views him as a starter, but his arm strength may not be there and they already know he's been successful as a reliever. I'd like to see him claim a spot in the rotation so we can all see what he's got in the rotation.
ETA: 2008

(* - This indicates that the player is no longer considered an "official prospect", however I wanted to stay consistent with other prospect lists such as Baseball America's and John Sickel's who also include these players. The criteria the league uses to indicate who's still a prospect is this. 45 days of MLB service, 130 at bats, or 50 innings pitched. A lot of people disregard the 45 days of MLB service and focus primarily on the 130/50 criteria. That's what I do as well. Hopefully that explains it well enough.)

February 7, 2008

Josh's Thoughts: Top Twins Prospects 2008 (11-20)

Hey everyone. Hopefully you've enjoyed my Top Twins Prospects list so far. Today I'll be displaying my 11-20 prospects. Which means, yes, my top 10 will come tomorrow (which is my birthday as well!!!!). Anyways, hopefully you'll enjoy this segment of the list, and as always, feel free to share your opinion.

11. Brian Duensing | Pitcher | Born: 2/22/83 | Throws: Right | Bats: Right | Height: 5'11'' | Weight: 195 lbs.
Brian Duensing was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2005 draft. He's progressed fast through the Twins organization, and is a candidate to land a spot in the rotation, although he's viewed as a long shot. He started 2007 in New Britain, and after 9 successful starts, he moved up to Rochester where he continued his success. Through both levels last year he went 15-6 with a 3.02 ERA and 124 K's in 167.1 innings pitched. I got to see Duensing pitch in a few FSN specials last year when they showed Rochester Red Wings games, and I liked what I saw. He seems like a crafty left-hander who I think will be able to hold his own in the majors, even if it's this season.
.....ETA: 2008

12. Joe Benson | Outfielder | Born: 3/5/88 | Throws: Right | Bats: Right | Height: 6'2'' | Weight: 210 lbs.
Joe Benson was drafted by the Twins in the 2nd round of the 2006 draft. He had a promising season in Beloit last year as he continued to get better as the season progressed after hitting just .175 with a .460 OPS in April. He is still pretty raw and if he can cut down on his K rate while polishing his skills, he should be considered as a high-potential prospect. He is a possible 5-tool player, and with time and hard work, I think he'll develop them all. He might start '08 in Beloit, but Ft. Myers seems likely.
.....ETA: 2011

13. Wilson Ramos | Catcher | Born: 8/10/87 | Throws: Right | Bats: Right | Height: 6'0'' | Weight: 178 lbs.
Wilson Ramos was signed as a non-drafted free agent on July 7th, 2004. He's one of the systems most intriguing prospects. He hit .291/.345/.438 with 8 home runs and 42 RBI in just 292 at bats. He's been labeled as a young Ivan Rodriguez, which is quite the honor considering he has less than 500 at bats in the minors. His defense has been thought as strong enough to make the Twins consider moving Joe Mauer to another position, if he continues to progress through the system. I'm cautiously optimistic with him. I'd like to think he possesses those tools, but at the same time he still has a lot to do before he makes the majors. He should be calling games from behind the plate for the Ft. Myers Miracle this season.
.....ETA: 2011

14. Jason Pridie | Outfielder | Born: 10/9/83 | Throws: Right | Bats: Left | Height: 6'1'' | Weight: 195 lbs.
The Twins drafted Jason Pridie before the 2006 season in the Rule V Draft. He later returned to the Devil Rays, and in a trade with the Twins this fall, the Twins re-acquired him. 2007 was a great year for Pridie. He started out in Double-A and after he was promoted to Triple-A, he broke out with the Durham Bulls. In just 245 at bats, he belted 10 home runs, 16 doubles, 4 triples and hit .318/.375/.539. Many weren't enthused about the Twins acquiring him, but I think that he has the tools to be an adequate outfielder in the majors. He has good speed and should be able to handle center field just fine this season. Of course, he'll have some competition though, so hopefully he can adapt to (somewhat of) a new organization and play well.
.....ETA: 2008

15. Chris Parmelee | Outfielder | Born: 2/24/88 | Throws: Left | Bats: Left | Height: 6'1'' | Weight: 205 lbs.
Chris Parmelee was taken in the first round of the 2006 draft. He had mixed results in 2007. Although his power and RBI numbers were high, he struck out 137 times which as a result lowered his OPS. He possesses a lot of power, but unless he can cut down on his strikeouts, his average and OBP will likely remain low. 2008 will be a very tough test for Chris in the very hard FSL, but I think that he'll handle himself well and I hope he can continue to progress and move back up the prospect rankings.
.....ETA: 2011

16. Danny Valencia | Third Base | Born: 9/19/84 | Throws: Right | Bats: Right | Height: 6'2'' | Weight: 200 lbs.
Danny Valencia was drafted by the Twins in the 19th round of the 2006 draft. He was one of the reasons why the Beloit Snappers finished first in the Midwest League in the first half of the season. Danny hit an impressive .302/.374/.500 with 11 home runs and 15 doubles in 242 at bats. He was promoted to Ft. Myers and continued his success in the very tough Florida State League by hitting .291/.332/.422 with 6 home runs in 230 at bats. Obviously his OPS took a large dip, but he really helped turn the Miracle offense around the second half of the season. I expect him to be in New Britain this season and if a spot opens up, it shouldn't be long before he's in Rochester.
.....ETA: 2009

17. Oswaldo Sosa | Pitcher | Born: 9/19/85 | Throws: Right | Bats: Right | Height: 6'2'' | Weight: 180 lbs.
Oswaldo Sosa was signed as a non-drafted free agent on July 4, 2002. After a very successful year and a half at Ft. Myers where Sosa went 9-6 with a 2.13 ERA and 109 k's in 139.2 innings. In July, the Twins finally promoted Sosa to New Britain and what he's always done so well - keeping the ball inside the ballpark - hurt him a bit, but I'm sure he'll be fine this season. I expect him to be in New Britain to begin the season, and he'll probably remain there until a spot in Rochester's rotation opens up.
.....ETA: 2010

19. Erik Lis | First Base/Outfield | Born: 3/8/84 | Throws: Left | Bats: Left | Height: 6'1'' | Weight: 220 lbs.
Erik Lis was taken in the 9th round of the 2005 draft. After a very successful career at the University of Evansville, he has continued his success with the Twins. He has hit 44 home runs in 1071 at bats and has hit .301/.364/.516 in his 286 minor league games. That's very good as he was the 285th overall pick in the '05 draft. Before 2007, he has been used primarily as a first baseman, but last year he spent most of his time in the corner outfield and that has helped his ranking quite a bit. I'm still not sold that he'll be able to maintain playing the outfield, but regardless would likely end up as a designated hitter with the Twins anyways. He should be with the New Britain Rock Cats next season. The Twins have always handled their prospects carefully, something I sometimes don't agree with, which Lis would be one of those instances, because if he were in another teams organization, I think he'd probably already be competing for a spot on the roster. Now, I know most players benefit from having full seasons at one stop, but I think that should more so pertain to high school prospects and not necessarily college, especially when they've played as well as Erik. Unfortunately for Lis, he'll just have to continue to impress and wait until he gets his opportunity.
.....ETA: 2009

19. Jay Rainville | Pitcher | Born: 10/16/85 | Throws: Right | Bats: Right | Height: 6'3'' | Weight: 230 lbs.
Jay Rainville was drafted by the Twins in the first round of the 2004 draft. He was very successful in the minors up until 2006 when he missed the entire season recovering from shoulder surgery to repair a nerve problem. He has been compared to Roger Clemens, with his short arm delivery and body frame. He came back in 2007 with something to prove, and he was successful as he posted a 9-11 record with a 3.29 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 142.1 innings pitched. He should be ready for New Britain this season, and with another successful season, Rainville should probably be considered a top 5-10 prospect as we head into 2009.
.....ETA: 2010

20. Nick Blackburn | Pitcher | Born: 2/24/82 | Throws: Right | Bats: Right | Height: 6'4'' | Weight: 230 lbs.
Nick Blackburn was drafted by the Twins in the 29th round of the 2001 draft, but he didn't sign until the following May. Before 2007, he had been mediocre throughout his stops in the organization. But something happened last year and he just burst onto the scene. Through 148.2 innings between Double-A & Triple-A he was completely sensational. He went 10-4 with a 2.36 ERA and had a WHIP of just 1.02. When he was first promoted to Rochester, Blackburn went to throw 44 consecutive scoreless innings. He was promoted to the majors, and he didn't pitch too bad, despite what his 7.71 ERA suggests. He was roughed up in his final two appearances which were against two of the best lineups in baseball, the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox. He has great command of his fastball, but I don't see him duplicating his 2007 form in the majors, and in fact, I don't see him being anything more than a back-end starter. To be completely honest, I think that he'd be a fine long-reliever. The Twins seem set on using Matt Guerrier in the set-up role more so than in long-relief, so I think Blackburn would fill Guerreir's shoes just fine.
.....ETA: 2008

Have a great day!

February 6, 2008

Josh's Thoughts: Top Twins Prospects 2008 (21-30)

Hey everyone, here's #21-30 in my Top Twins Prospects series, make sure to check out #31-40 and #41-55.

Make sure to check back on Thursday and Friday for my top 20 prospects.

21. Alex Burnett | Pitcher | Born: 7/26/87 | Throws: Right | Bats: Right | Height: 6'0'' | Weight: 190 lbs.
Alex Burnett was drafted by the Twins in the 12th round of the 2005 draft. After two unspectacular seasons in Rookie-Ball, Burnett became the staff ace in Beloit and played a major role in their successful season. He won 9 games and displayed a 3/1 K/BB ratio while the opposition batted just .239 against him. He wasn't the most talented pitcher on his team, but he definitely was the leader of the rotation and should help hold a strong rotation together in Ft. Myers this season.
.....ETA: 2011

22. Denard Span | Outfielder | Born: 2/27/84 | Throws: Left | Bats: Left | Height: 6'1'' | Weight: 180 lbs.
Denard Span was the Twins first round pick in the 2002 draft. Most thought he'd be the heir apparent of Torii Hunter and take over for him after he left the organization. Many now believe otherwise as he struggled in New Britain and half a season in Rochester. However, his numbers in Rochester are really skewed as he got off to a bad start in April and May hitting .214 & .212 before hitting .301 with 11 doubles, 5 triples, 3 home runs and 39 RBI the rest of the season. He possess a great glove on defense and once he learns how to utilize his speed better on offense, he'll improve immensely. I think that he'll surprise many in Spring Training this season, and I think he'll be a fine outfielder someday. He's a great guy and I wish him the best of luck. And for those who are interested, Denard was gracious enough to do a Q&A for the site back in October. Make sure to check that out.
.....ETA: 2008

23. Jose Morales | Catcher | Born: 2/20/83 | Throws: Right | Bats: Both | Height: 5'11'' | Weight: 170 lbs.
Jose Morales was drafted by the Twins in the 3rd round of the 2001 draft. Originally a middle infielder, Morales has been focusing on catching since 2003. He broke out in 2007 with the Rochester Red Wings by hitting .311 through 376 at bats. He also played in one game with the Twins and went 3-3 with a double before an ankle injury ended his season. He doesn't have the power someone would like, and his defense isn't great either, but he makes good contact with the ball and should be a great backup or a serviceable starting catcher in his career. With Mike Redmond already penciled in as the backup catcher to Joe Mauer, Morales will likely need to wait in Rochester until a spot opens up. There's a possibility that Ron Gardenhire goes with 3 catchers on the roster, but I think that's unlikely.
.....ETA: 2008

24. Deibinson Romero | Third Base | Born: 9/24/86 | Throws: Right | Bats: Right | Height: 6'1'' | Weight: 170 lbs.
Deibinson Romero was signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2004. Romero struggled mightily at the plate while he played with the Twins DSL team in 2005. He had a great 2006 with the GCL Twins where he hit .313/.365/.460 in 176 at bats. As a 20-year-old he hit 316/.406/.506 with 16 doubles, 9 HR, and 52 RBI’s for the Elizabethton Twins. He was called up by the Beloit Snappers late in the season, but only got a handful of at bats in. He should be in Beloit to begin the 2008 season and many feel that he'll be a legitimate offensive prospect as he goes through the Twins system. If he produces, I think he'll go through the system fairly quickly and should be ready by late 2010 to take over the hot corner.
.....ETA: 2010

25. David Winfree | Third Base | Born: 8/5/85 | Throws: Right | Bats: Right | Height: 6'3'' | Weight: 210 lbs.
David Winfree was drafted in the 13th round of the 2003 draft. After a successful year with the Beloit Snappers in 2005, Winfree continued to progress with a good year in '06 with the Miracle. He played all of 2007 with the New Britain Rock Cats and regressed quite a bit. His power numbers are still there, but his horrendously low OBP that is factored with his terrible plate discipline, he's beginning to fall on many prospect lists. He would probably benefit from another half season in Double-A before being promoted to New Britain, however he will likely need to move to first base full time with Danny Valencia slated to take over the hot corner for the Rock Cats. I still see quite a bit of upside with him, so if he can cut down on his K/BB ratio which will ultimately improve his OBP, he should be fine.
.....ETA: 2009

26. David Bromberg | Pitcher | Born: | 9/14/87 | Throws: Right | Bats: Left | Height: 6'5'' | Weight: 225 lbs.
David Bromberg was selected in the 32nd round of the 2005 draft. He spent all of 2006 with the GCL Twins in rookie ball, before repeating rookie ball with the Elizabethton Twins. Both years he was very productive. In '07 he completely dominated his opponents with a 12.5 K/9 ratio to go along with his 9-0 record and the Appy League Pitcher of the Year award. He will start '08 in Beloit and should help an expectingly strong rotation be even stronger.
.....ETA: 2011

27. Ozzie Lewis | Outfielder | Born: 3/21/86 | Throws: Right | Bats: Right | Height: 6'5'' | Weight: 210 lbs.
Talk about a surprise. When the Twins drafted Ozzie Lewis in the 21st round of the 2007 draft, I don't think they were expecting to get the kind of production out of him as they've seen. Lewis was assigned to the Elizabethton Twins after he left Fresno State. In 235 at bats, he hi .323/.375/.523 with 9 home runs and 50 RBI. His K/BB ratio is alarming, but he's young and will likely improve in that area. He should probably start the season in Beloit, but if there are too many players in the outfield, the organization may consider being aggressive with him and move him to Ft. Myers. I won't justify having a player skip a level, however it does intrigue me to see what a player such as Lewis could do if he were to be challenged in that kind of way.
.....ETA: 2010

28. Brock Peterson | First Base | Born: 11/20/83 | Throws: Right | Bats: Right | Height: 6'3'' | Weight: 220 lbs.
Brock Peterson was drafted by the Twins in the 49th round of the 2002 draft. Once considered a third baseman, Peterson now spends his time at first base or designated hitter. He showed his great power potential in 2007 as he belted 15 home runs in 389 at bats, but he also struck out 90 times. If he can cut down on the strikeouts, I think Peterson will be able to have a fairly successful career in the big leagues. My justification for his lower rating is because of his position. He's viewed as a future DH, and unless he is hitting 20+ home runs while displaying good plate discipline, I can't justify rating him any higher. He should be ready for a start in Rochester, and may be a late-season call-up.
.....ETA: 2009

29. Mike McCardell | Pitcher | Born: 4/13/85 | Throws: Right | Bats: Right | Height: 6'5'' | Weight: 220 lbs.
Mike McCardell was drafted by the Twins in the 6th round of the 2007 draft. A college pitcher who first started his pro career with the GCL Twins, but later moved to the Elizabethton Twins to anchor their already strong rotation. He has a low-mid 90's fastball and he shows great control as he had a 95/8 K/BB ratio. That's insane, regardless of what level you're playing at. McCardell is definitely a guy to watch out for this season. He may be close to making the big leagues and should impress many as he gets there. I've thought of him as the Twins version of Ian Kennedy, but is that a ridiculous comparison? Both are college pitchers and have good control with their pitches. We'll have to wait and see, but he's definitely a player to keep an eye on.
.....ETA: 2010

30. Rene Tosoni | Outfielder | Born: 7/2/86 | Throws: Right | Bats: Right | Height: 6'0'' | Weight: 205 lbs.
Rene Tosoni was actually drafted by the Twins twice. Once in 2004 in the 34th round, and then again in 2005 in the 36th round. He decided to attend a junior college instead of play with the Twins and later signed with the Twins in 2006. Tosoni definitely proved he was worth all the 'trouble' in 2007 as he starred for the Elizabethton Twins in route to an Appalachian League Championship. He hit .301/.407/.428 with 3 home runs, 4 triples and 13 doubles. He was later promoted to Beloit where he played just an couple games. He should be in Beloit to start the season, but many predict that he'll fly through the Twins system and should make it to the Big Leagues in no time. Some think that if there's a logjam of outfielders in Beloit, that it may be a consideration to start him in Ft. Myers. But again, I won't justify having a player skip a level. My 2010 prediction is fairly conservative. I expect him to make at least the jump to Ft. Myers this season, if not New Britain. His polished tools will help him adapt to each level better than most players.
.....ETA: 2010