August 9, 2009

Sunday's Minor League Short Hops

Snappers outfielder Aaron Hicks snapped a 10-game hitting streak in game one of yesterday's double-header against Cedar Rapids. During that period, Hicks hit .349 with three doubles, a triple, home runs and drove in six RBI. He also walked five times and struck out six. And speaking of, while Hicks' hit streak was snapped, he's now reached base safely (hit or walk) in 13 straight games. Hicks' tri-slash line of .247/.355/.370 doesn't look great considering the type of hype Hicks has had since he was drafted. But something that is worth noting is his 26 walks to 31 strikeouts. That kind of plate discipline is great from any 19-year-old and it could give the Twins a reason to promote him after the season, despite only having three months in the Midwest League, but seeing as how the Twins have been reluctant to promote other players over the years, Hicks will probably have to wait until mid-season in 2009 to see the Florida State League.

Andrey Lobanov who premiered on my Top 50 Prospect list at no. 50 this winter has put up some great numbers in the Gulf Coast League this season. In 12 games (18 innings), the lanky southpaw has a .67 WHIP and a good ground ball out percentage of 68. But the most impressive stat that the 19-year-old Russian has posted is a 30/0 K/BB ratio. He only throws in the mid-80's but his fastball is very deceptive and has gained quite a bit of movement on it. He'll likely end up back in Rookie Ball in 2010 with the Elizabethton Twins.

Another player on the GCL Twins that is opening some eyes is Hyeong-rok Choi. Choi is a middle infielder from South Korea who has been impressive in his second go-around in the GCL. Through 18 games, he's hitting .305/.388/.475 with two doubles, a triple and two home runs. Hyun-wook Choi, (the other) Choi's classmate from Gunsan Commercial High School in South Korea is also playing for the GCL Twins. The outfielder is having less success in his second season with the GCL Twins but is considered a fleet-footed outfielder with a good arm/glove.

GCL Twins ace B.J. Hermsen hasn't allowed an earned run in his last 19 innings pitched. He last gave up an earned run on July 15th. He did give up three unearned runs in his last start, but they weren't charged to Hermsen because Jairo Perez botched a ground ball at third base which opened the flood gates for the GCL Reds in the fourth inning. Hermsen has been spectacular in his first season of pro ball and despite not having any experience in the Appalachian League, he's making a case for himself to move him up to Single-A Beloit in 2010. The Twins surely aren't regretting the $650,000 signing bonus it took to lure Hermsen out of a scholarship to Oregon State.

Yesterday, Wilson Ramos played in his second game with the GCL Twins since partially tearing his hamstring in early June. It was the last of several injuries the very soon-to-be (how soon? tomorrow soon) 22-year-old has had this season. He's only played in a total of 38 games this season due to the injuries but has been impressive in his limited time. He hit .308/.327/.444 with 12 extra-base hits in 36 games with the New Britain Rock Cats. He struck out 15 times opposed to only three walks, but both would be cutbacks from last year in the Florida State League. Ramos is 3 for 9 on his rehab assignment with two home runs and a double. The Twins are hoping he'll be able to return to the Rock Cats lineup sometime in the next week. Ramos is one of the Twins' top prospects but will surely be back in New Britain next season.

Another player rehabbing is Alejandro Machado. Machado has been injured throughout his career with the Twins after they selected him in the 2006 Rule V Draft. He missed all of the 2007 season and part of 2008 with a torn labrum and has had knee problems throughout this season. He has played a total of 25 games this season, only 18 of which have been with the Rochester Red Wings. The fragile 27-year-old has the ability to hit, which was proven last year when he hit .338/.376/.472 with 20 extra-base hits in 54 games with the Red Wings, but injuries continue to derail his career. He is three for 13 with a double and five walks in four rehab games with the Ft. Myers Miracle.

Mark Grudzielanek continues his way back to the Major Leagues but is now two for his last 12 lowering his average to .257 through seven games with the New Britain Rock Cats. In that span, he's struck out five times opposed to walking just once and hasn't yet recorded an extra-base hit. Grudzielanek is a career .290 hitter with a solid OPS+ of 90. He will definitely start hitting eventually, but if John Bonnes is right, he'll need to start making progress sooner rather than later as he's on a 25-day contract. Grudzielanek is an upgrade offensively over both Alexi Casilla and Nick Punto and the Twins seem willing to lose a little defensively to gain a lot offensively. But at this point, he's not showing to be an upgrade offensively either. But he hasn't played in nearly a year, so he has some rust to knock off.

Miracle starter, David Bromberg won his fourth consecutive start on Friday, limiting the Charlotte Stone Crabs to just three hits in the second complete game shutout of his career. Bromberg didn't face more than four batters in a single inning and the only Stone Crab to reach second base was Shawn O'Malley who stole second base after a lead-off walk in the first inning. Bromberg fanned nine to bring his season total to 113. Through 22 games (21 starts), the 21-year-old right-hander is 11-1 on the year with a 2.44 ERA.

Here's a great article on Miracle pitching coach Steve Mintz. He's had a lot of success with the Miracle pitching staff this season and has been a great replacement for Eric Rasmussen.

Finally here's another great article, this one is about Jake Mauer and his experience in managing a culturally diverse GCL Twins team..