June 2, 2009

Rob Delaney (finally) promoted to Triple-A Rochester, who's next?

After months of scrutiny and grief from the fans, the Minnesota Twins finally moved one of their top relief prospects up a level after Mike Gosling 'took advantage of an out clause.' Rob Delaney has waited his turn after many thought he'd begin the season in Rochester. Instead, the Twins sent him back to Double-A New Britain where he dominated for half the year in 2008. Delaney was 1-1 with a 2.15 ERA in 34 innings this season. The most important part was that Delaney has maintained impeccable control throughout his career, and that didn't stop in Double-A. Through 68 1/3 innings in Double-A (2008-2009), Delaney struck out 74 batters opposed to walking just 13. He has a high-80's, low-90's fastball and also features a slider and a great change-up.

The move to promote Delaney is just one of many that fans feel should be done. Obviously we likely have no (or little) say in what goes on, at least in the Minor Leagues, but Delaney is not the only player fans are calling for to be moved up.

Danny Valencia has been said to be 'the complete package' and the likely future third baseman of the Minnesota Twins. Unfortunately, that same bid of confidence has put Valencia's development on the back burner to Luke Hughes who's experiment at third base has been a disaster up to this point. Valencia is hitting .317/.420/.559 with six home runs, 24 RBI and has displayed great plate discipline with a 26/27 BB/K ratio. Last year, hit .289/.334/.485 with ten home runs but displayed a poor approach at the plate with an 18/70 BB/K ratio. Many people, including myself, didn't mind Valencia starting the season in Double-A, but after two months of making Eastern League pitchers look silly, the time has come for Valencia to attempt Triple-A pitching.

Hughes has displayed little promise as a third baseman and should really be relegated to the outfield. The Red Wings outfielders all have potential, but none of them are performing at a very high level. Although Hughes isn't either, he's certainly a better option as an outfielder at this point than he is as a third baseman.

Valencia's teammate Brian Dinkelman is another player who although should have started the season in Double-A, is also ready for Triple-A action. Dinkelman is playing second base for the New Britain Rock Cats while hitting second in the order. He's hitting .337/.425/.482 with 16 extra-base hits and has 23 walks opposed to just 21 strikeouts. Dinkleman's future with the Twins seems to get brighter by the day. The Twins don't have an influx of ML-caliber middle-infielders in the Minor Leagues and with their season-long struggles at second base, Dinkelman could one day claim that as his own.

The reason many fans are voicing their opinions now more than ever is because as they become more aware of the Minor League system, which seems to be the case league-wide (that fans are becoming more and more interested in their team's minor league affiliates), the fans with the Twins don't see many options that the Twins could call-upon in case of an injury, at least not in the bullpen or position player area. The Twins have a good foundation of players at the Major League level but they still aren't a Championship team. Although nobody is saying that any of these prospects will give them that boost, it certainly won't hurt the team's chances at competing.

So while Delaney is the first 'big prospect' to get a promotion, he won't be the last. With the MLB draft and short-season leagues starting within the next few weeks, look for other players to be on the move.

This post can also be read at BaseballDigest.com