July 2, 2009

Minor League Month in Review: June

First, to take a look at May's Minor League Month in Review, click here.

The short-season leagues started this month, which caused quite a bit of player movement throughout the Minor League system. Another reason for a lot of player movement in June is due to a few Minor League All-Star Games that were played, in which the Twins enjoy seeing their players participate in (if elected). For that reason, players that were voted into All-Star Games likely won't be promoted until afterward.

But the most important time of year for the Minor League system was also in June, which is the key determinant for player movement in June. The MLB Draft was in June, which gives an organization an idea of where their strongest positions are in terms of depth, which plays a big part in player movement.

For instance, Aaron Hicks was promoted to Single-A Beloit following the draft. The Twins opted against drafting any outfielders in the first 9 rounds and with the Snappers offense in need of a real boost, Hicks' time in Extended Spring Training ended shortly before he was scheduled to report to Elizabethton, Tennessee where he would have seen his second batch of Rookie-ball competition.

The six affiliates combined for a 62-59 record while scoring 518 runs and giving up 501. The 51% win percentage is down from a 55% win percentage the four full-season leagues combined for in May, but teams did manage to cut the average number of runs allowed by .7%. Unfortunately, while the average runs allowed were cut down, so was the average runs scored. In May, the teams combined to score 4.9 runs per game. In June, that number was 4.3 runs per game.

The first two months showed something some of the affiliates aren't used to seeing, good run production. While the Twins have always been viewed as a "pitcher's paradise" for their ability to develop good pitchers, the offense really was the talk around the system. That changed in June when many of the pitchers started finding their so-called "groove" and finally started having more success.

Rochester Red Wings (37-40, 5th in International League North)

The Red Wings reverted back to the "April ways" while playing sub-par offense mixed with terrible pitching. The offense averaged 4.2 runs per game, but the reason for their 13-16 record really had a lot to do with their pitching staff giving up an average of 5.1 runs per game.
Hitter of the Month

Signed before the season to add some 'pop' to a young Red Wings lineup, Justin Huber was injured in April before putting up solid numbers in May. Finally, fully healthy, Huber showed why the Twins signed him in February. The Aussie slugger has never made great contact with the ball, but in June, he was one of the Red Wings best run producers. His tri-slash line of .264/.333/.500 may not be that impressive, but seven home runs and 20 runs driven in accounted for a lot of the Red Wings runs. Alexi Casilla and Danny Valencia both played incredibly well, but combined, they had 65% of the at-bats Huber had. Steven Tolleson also played great, but Huber's run production can't be ignored.

Honorable Mention: Brock Peterson (Brock Peterson .352/.410/.479, 71 AB, 3 Doubles, 2 HR, 11 RBI)

Pitcher of the Month

After posting solid numbers with the Twins, Anthony Swarzak arrived back to Rochester and picked up right where he left off with the Red Wings. Although he started in just three games for the Red Wings in June, his presence was certainly felt. The 23-year-old right-hander went 1-0 with a 2.53 ERA in 21 1/3 innings pitched. He induced 29 ground ball outs opposed to giving up just 22 flyball outs. He knows the only reason he's in Triple-A is because of there being no room for him in the Twins' rotation, so that bit of confidence should continue to help him have success against Triple-A hitters.

Honorable Mention: Bobby Keppel (2-2, 2.22 ERA, 24 1/3 IP, 4 games, 3 starts, 1 BB, 14 K)

New Britain Rock Cats (39-36, 2nd in Eastern League Northern)

New Britain, for the second month in a row, had a winning record thanks in part to an outstanding offense and improved pitching staff. The Rock Cats averaged almost a run more per game than they allowed, but still only managed to have a 14-12 record. They scored as many runs as the Red Wings did (note: they played three less games), but they also gave up 51 less runs than the Red Wings. For that reason, the Rock Cats only sit 3.5 games behind the league leading Connecticut Defenders.
Hitter of the Month

After a slow start to the season, Rene Tosoni has put together two outstanding months in a row for the Rock Cats. Tosoni hit .304/.439/.494 with 10 extra-base hits including two home runs. He also managed to drive in a team-leading 17 RBI while showing an improved approach at the plate. He walked 15 times while striking out just 13 times. His efforts this season haven't gone unnoticed as he was recently named to both the Eastern League All-Star Game and the MLB Futures Game where the native of Ontario will play for the World Team. On a side note, today is Tosoni's 23rd Birthday.

Honorable Mention: Wilson Ramos (.400/.415/.675, 5 Doubles, 2 HR, 8 RBI)

Pitcher of the Month

Much like in May, Cole Devries and Matt Fox both lead the Rock Cats rotation. The two are now responsible for 11 wins on the season.

In June, Devries was 2-2 with a 2.70 ERA in five starts. He has been extremely consistent all season but continues to fly under most people's radars. The former Golden Gopher doesn't figure to have a ton of potential as a starter, but he could be an effective reliever for the Twins. But still, that logic is moot at this point as he continues to pitch great as a starter. Fox has also been extremely consistent this season. The former first round pick was 2-0 with a 2.86 ERA in five June starts. Together, they've been a great one-two punch for the Rock Cats.

Honorable Mention: Yohan Pino (2-0, 0.00 ERA, 8 Games, 2 hits, 0 runs, 2 BB, 10 K)

Ft. Myers Miracle (55-29 overall, 2-3 in 2nd Half, T-2nd in Florida State League South)

The Miracle took a step back from an outstanding May. The offense scored nearly one run less per game (3.7) and gave up nearly one run more per game (4.2). All in all, the Miracle won the first-half, ensuring another FSL playoff appearance. Through five games in the second-half, the team sits tied for second place with a 2-3 record. Hopefully in July, they'll get back to playing the way they did in May.
Hitter of the Month

For the second month in a row, Chris Parmelee continued to show a lot of improvement at the plate as he tries to erase a painfully-awful month of April. He hit .303/.394/.438 with two home runs and 16 RBI in May before hitting .293/.386/.547 with four home runs and 15 RBI in June. After spending two years in the Midwest League, Parmelee is fairing very well in the pitching-tough Florida State League and is so far set to start the 2010 season in New Britain. Now, if only Joe Benson (Parmelee's 2006 draft-day partner) didn't punch that wall, he may be right with Parmelee in that same assessment. Unfortunately, his feeble-minded decision could cost him a chance at opening the 2010 season in Double-A.

Honorable Mention: Deibinson Romero (.322/.386/.494, 4 Doubles, Triple, 3 HR, 15 RBI)

Pitcher of the Month

Spencer Steedley has been sensational out of the pen this season and is now his name is starting to come up in speculation for mid-season promotions. Steedley went 1-0 with a 1.26 ERA in 10 June appearances. In those 14 1/3 innings he threw, Steedley walked 7 but struck out 13. While his peripherals were far worse from May, he remained very effective. The former UNC-Charlotte southpaw is gaining momentum and turning heads as the season goes on. Hopefully he'll be in New Britain at some point this month.

Honorable Mention: Loek Van Mil (0-0, 0.69 ERA, 7 Games, 13 IP, 5 hits, 1 run, 8 BB, 9 K)

Beloit Snappers (29-47 overall, 2-4 in 2nd half, 7th in Midwest League West)

The first-half did not go as planned for the Beloit Snappers, but with just six games down of 65 in the second-half, the Snappers are hoping to forget everything that has happened and focus on the future. Hopefully the arrival of Aaron Hicks will help in that cause. The Snappers offense took drastic turn-for-the-worse in June, averaging just 3.1 runs per game. In May, they averaged 4.9 runs per game. But with that, thankfully, the pitching staff turned a corner for the better averaging 2 runs less per game (3.8) than they did in May.
Hitter of the Month

It's hard to give any of the Snappers hitters any sort of praise. But fortunately, Ozzie Lewis stood out among the rest last season, which should really tell readers about the state of the Snappers offense. Lewis was the Snappers best hitter with a tri-slash line of .303/.313/.474. He also hit seven extra-base hits, including three home runs, while driving in 12 runs. His plate discipline was non-existant in June which was the main factor for his low on-base percentage (and OPS). Hopefully Lewis will continue to hit well. For those of us still 'stuck' back in 2007 when Lewis absolutely pulvarized Appalachian League pitching, I'm glad to see him finally start to hit better in a tougher league.

Honorable Mention: Drew Thompson (.233/.352/.367, 6 Doubles, Triple, 6 RBI, 11 BB)

Pitcher of the Month

Michael Tarsi's season got off to a rocky start. After spending the first month-and-a-half on the disabled list, Tarsi didn't throw well at all in May. Although he was pitching out of the bullpen, he never gained command of his pitches until he was moved to the rotation. In June, Tarsi went 3-0 with a 1.20 ERA in six games (four starts). In the four starts, Tarsi was 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA and 4:23 BB:K ratio. The 6'8'' former U-Conn Husky gives the Twins a lot to like. As I mentioned, he's 6'8'' and weighs 202 lbs. He also throws left-handed and has good command with a low-90's fastball. The soon-to-be 23-year-old could be a fast riser through the system, and given his projectability, he could be someone to keep an eye on.

Honorable Mentions: Bobby Lanigan (2-1, 1.73 ERA, 26 IP, 5 starts, 4 BB, 21 K) & Dan Osterbrock (2-0, 2.28 ERA, 27 2/3 IP, 5 starts, 2 BB, 23 K)

Elizabethton Twins (8-1, 1st in Appalachian League West)
The Elizabethton Twins have remained a powerhouse in the Appalachian League and are off to another great season with an 8-1 record (they were 7-1 in June). They have averaged 8.4 runs per contest while surrendering under half that number (4.1). Their team is stacked with potential, including many picks from this years draft. And what's scary for opponents is that if/when first-round pick Kyle Gibson signs, he'll likely be heading to Elizabethton.
Hitter of the "Month" (Week)

The E-Town Twins had two players jump off to outstanding starts. But the more impressive of the two (in my own opinion) was Danny Rams. Rams hit well in a short-stint in the FSL, and wasted no time getting going in Elizabethton. The 2007 second-round pick hit .423/.531/1.115 in 26 June at-bats. While that those numbers on their own are great, when you add the fact that he also belted four home runs and drove in 15 RBI in that span is all the more impressive. Out of 11 hits, nine went for extra-base hits. Rams has been viewed as a catcher/first baseman tweener who has skills behind the plate, but with fear that he'll outgrow the position (he's listed at 6'2'' and 215 lbs.), the Twins have played him exclusively at first base as well.

Honorable Mention: Tyler Ladendorf (.407/.541/.704, 2 Doubles, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 8 BB... He's already making his case for the "Award" for July)

Pitcher of the "Month" (Week)

After having a great stint in the World Baseball Classic, many expected Tom Stuifbergen to make the make the jump to a full-season league this year. But after missing all of the 2008 season with shoulder surgery, Stuifbergen found himself anchoring a talented group of pitchers in the Appy League. In two June starts, the 6'3'' right-hander from the Netherlands was 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA. He gave up four earned runs on ten hits, but what was most impressive was that he struck out 14 while only walking one. Stuifbergen was 'beat up' in his last start, but three of the runs came off of home runs, so a few bad pitches seperated him from dominating his opponents.

Honorable Mention: Kyle Carr (0-0, 1.50 ERA, 3 games, 6 innings pitched, 3 hits, 1 run, 0 BB, 8 K)

GCL Twins (4-1, 1st in Gulf Coast League South)

The GCL Twins got off to a tremendous 4-1 start on the season. What was so tremendous is that that the loss wasn't necessarily the other team playing better, as the Twins just merely played sloppy baseball. The Twins have scored 27 runs in their first five games, an average of 5.4 runs per game. What's more impressive is the mere 11 runs they've allowed, an average of 2.2 runs per contest. The GCL Twins have a lot of players Twins fans may be unfamiliar with, but they sure aren't any less talented.
Hitter of the "Month" (Week)

After spending the past two years playing sporadically in the GCL (primarily due to numerous injuries), Wang-Wei Lin is finally looking to establish himself within the Twins organization and is off to a good start. The six-foot, 185 lbs. outfielder from Taiwan is hitting .375/.423/.542 through 24 at-bats this season. He has a double and a home run to go along with six runs batted in. He just recently turned 21-years-old, so he's older than most in the league, but after missing nearly two full years, a fast start is a great sign.

Honorable Mention: Kennys Vargas (.308/.357/.615, Double, Home Run, 4 RBI)

Pitcher of the "Month" (Week)

This is really just a crap shoot, but one player that really impressed me is Adrian Salcedo. Although Salcedo is just one of five pitchers (of 15) with a run charged against them, he has been very impressive thus far despite being only 18-years-old. He pitched great last season on the Twins' Dominican Summer League team. The (then) 17-year-old was 4-4 with a 1.65 ERA in 12 starts. Most impressive was his command as he threw 50 strikeouts opposed to walking just 8. That has carried over to this season as he has a 1.00 ERA through 9 innings but has yet to walk a batter while striking out 10. He has a projectable size and good command of his pitches. He could open a lot of eyes before the end of Summer.

Honorable Mention: B.J. Hermsen (1-0, 0.00, 6 innings pitched, 0 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 3 K)

Have a great day, Twins fans!