May 2, 2009

Minor League Report: April

The Minor Leagues have always been one of my favorite aspects of baseball. The game is all about development. There are so many things that a player has to do right in order to be successful, which is why seeing players develop through a team's system is something I love to pay attention to.

Throughout the season, I will be taking a look at the minor leagues at least once per month. Obviously many know I am really interested in the Minor Leagues with some of the prospect lists and posts that I have compiled since the start of the site, but for some reason (with really no answer) I've gone back from posting regular Minor League reports. Anyways, I had computer problems on Thursday/Friday this week which prevented me from seeing writing a lot of what I had intended to write about, so instead I will be taking a look at a few minor leaguer's. But in the coming months, I will try to be a little more team-specific and provide better analysis.

Although I am aware that most of these players have played a game in May, I am only using stats as of April 30, 2009.
The Hot List
(In no particular order)

Anthony Swarzak - 23 - Right-Handed Pitcher : Rochester Red Wings

Anthony Swarzak has been one of the biggest head-scratchers since the Twins drafted him in the second round of the 2004 draft. In 2007, he missed 50 games due to failing a drug test. Upon return, he finished the season off strongly in Double-A New Britain. Then in 2008, Swarzak headed back to New Britain where he struggled through 20 starts with a 5.67 ERA before undeservingly being promoted to Triple-A Rochester. But to the surprise of many, Swarzak dominated Triple-A hitters upon his arrival which has carried into this season. Through 10 Triple-A starts, Swarzak is now 5-3 with a 1.74 ERA. Three of those starts have come this season, unfortunately so has all three of those loses. Through 17 innings pitched the offense has only mustered up two runs of support which is evident by the loses when his ERA on the season is at 1.59.

Swarzak ranked 9th on my 2009 Top 50 Twins Prospect list.

Anthony Slama - 25 - Right-Handed Pitcher : New Britain Rock Cats

The Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year is following up a phenomenal 2008 campaign with yet another stellar season. Despite having no Double-A experience, Slama has taken on the primary closer role in New Britatin this season. He has given up one run through 10 2/3 innings while striking out 19 batters opposed to six walks. The 5.1 BB/9 ratio is quite high, but his 16.0 K/9 ratio is too. Hopefully he keeps up the fantastic k-rate while gaining better control. He shouldn't require a lot of time in Double-A before heading to Triple-A, but that's what we thought last year before he ended up spending the entire season in the Florida State League at 24-years-old.

* Slama ranked 17th on my 2009 Top 50 Twins Prospect list.

Rene Leveret - 23 - First Base : Ft. Myers Miracle

Two years ago, Rene Leveret emerged as a hot-hitting prospect with the Elizabethton Twins. But bad work ethic to go along with an immature attitude put Leveret in the back seat last season, forcing the Saint Maartin native to turn things around. So far, it looks as if he has as he's been great thus far for the Miracle. He has a .313 average and a .913 OPS through 57 at-bats this season while playing an acceptional first base. Leveret is not project to be much more than a back-up in the Major Leagues, but to some, performance outweighs physical attributes which could make Leveret a player worth keeping tabs on. He has a .303/.390/.441 line through 519 career at-bats. He has a good approach to go with a good bat which could move him quickly through the system. If he can keep both his weight andattitude in check, he should be fine.

* Leveret did not rank on my 2009 Top 50 Twins Prospect list.

Carlos Gutierrez - 22 - Right-Handed Pitcher : Ft. Myers Miracle

The Twins drafted Carlos Gutierrez despite the fact that he hasn't started a game since 2006. Tommy John Surgery whipped out his 2007 season and was ousted to the bullpen upon his arrival in 2008. The Twins received plenty of grief for drafting him with the 27th overall pick, but so far they may be right yet again. Gutierrez's transitioning from reliever to starter was expected to be a tough process with many ups and downs, but after four starts (five total games) this season, he has only allowed two runs through 23 innings while compiling a 0.54 WHIP and 13/5 K/BB ratio. He has a great fastball which shouldn't surpise why he's dominating hitters, but so far it has been the development of his curveball which has caught many off-guard.

* Gutierrez ranked 18th on my 2009 Top 50 Twins Prospect list.

Ramon Santana - 23 - Second Base : Beloit Snappers

Ramon Santana has seeminlgy come out of nowhere this season and has emerged as a top prospect candidate, much like Luke Hughes did a year ago. Santana has been in Single-A Beloit since the end of the 2007 season, but has yet to have an OPS above .720 while playing mediocre defense. Thus far this season, although his defense has still been shaky, Santana's bat has opened the eyes of many with a .393/.493/.643 hitting line with 8 extra base hits including 3 home runs through 56 at-bats in 16 games. The most impressive part of Santana's success is the power he generates in his 5'9'' 152 lbs. frame. Signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela, Santana could be a player worth watching over the next month or two. Unfortunately a sprain ankle has haulted his hot start. Hopefully he picks up where he left off upon his return.

*Santana was not ranked in my 2009 Top 50 Twins Prospect list.

Five others worth mentioning (In no particular order): Brian Dinkelman (2B, New Britain), Matt Moses (OF, New Britain), Sean Henn (LHP, Rochester), Rob Delaney (RHP, New Britain), Steven Hirschfeld (RHP, Ft. Myers).

That's it for tonight. Hopefully my computer will hold up enough for me to post the Cold list tomorrow.