August 21, 2009

Blog Update

Hey readers. Sorry for my lack of posting this week. I'm getting things ready for school. Next week I am pretty certain nothing will be posted so make sure to check out the links on the side of the page for your daily Twins fixation. about that Joe Mauer, eh? He's pretty good. Anyways, from the words of Conan O'Brien, "keep cool my babies!"


- Josh

August 17, 2009

Answering a few questions...

Over the weekend, I was e-mailed a few questions from long-time reader, Peter Bourgeois. But instead of e-mailing him back the questions, we both thought it'd be a fine idea to just let me answer them here, since they are all fairly 'hot topics' regarding the Twins.

So that's what I'll do. And just note, these are my opinion but I do encourage people to disagree with me.


What should be done with the rotation?

Right now, I think that both Nick Blackburn and Anthony Swarzak need to be taken out of the rotation in favor of Jeff Manship and Brian Duensing. And I also think that Francisco Liriano's spot is also in limbo, but I have no idea who should replace him. Kevin Mulvey? Armando Gabino? I have no idea. I just know that both Blackburn and Swarzak need to be replaced immediately.

Blackburn has been getting annihilated out there lately and Swarzak is definitely showing his rookie stripes. While I don't know either Manship or Duensing being long term answers to the rotational woes, I just think that it's gotten to the point (if not past it) that something needs to be done and I really don't see how either Duensing or Manship will be worse than either Swarzak or Blackburn right now. Both have been terrible as of late.

There are players going through waivers. Should the Twins take a chance at a guy like Aaron Harang? I think so, but only if we pull within reach of the division. If not, while I like him, his salary doesn't make much sense to the Twins.


What's the latest with Kyle Gibson? Should they even waste their time with him?

Kyle Gibson remains unsigned and the Twins have until 11:00 PM (CST) tonight to get a deal done otherwise he'll likely be returning to the University of Missouri for his senior season. He'd then reenter the draft next June. By all accounts, it sounds like both sides want a deal to get done, but it's also being reported that they remained about $1 million apart. Gibson is looking for something around $2.5 million, double of what the Twins could be doubling if they try to adhere to the suggested slot-suggestion of $1.287 million.

Parker Hageman wrote a good post last week regarding Gibson and thinks the Twins should stick to their guns with their proposal as Gibson still has some worrisome mechanical flaws that stem beyond his fractured forearm. While it's easy to agree with him, I personally would still like to see the Twins sign him. He's a high-upside pitcher and with the current state of the Twins' rotation, I think the Twins need a top prospect like Gibson.

I also think the Twins should have been prepared for this to happen when drafting him and if they weren't prepared then quite frankly I'm a little disappointed. As soon as his arm was healthy and he began throwing, the Twins should have known that he'd be asking for above what MLB recommends at the 22nd pick. The Twins probably tried signing him immediately but I'm sure Gibson wanted to wait. The Twins probably should have been prepared for that when drafting him.

But honestly, I don't entirely blame either side if a deal doesn't get done. If he's signed for $2.5 million, that'd be tied for the third largest signing bonus in Twins history. But the Twins have gone above the recommendations before and I'd like to see them get a deal done. But I do think that $2.5 is a bit high and if that's what he's demanding - and not backing down from - then I won't be upset if the Twins don't sign him.

I know many will whine about them failing to sign a Type-A free agent last off-season, like Orlando Cabrera or Orlando Hudson, and that they should reward fans with signing the player they drafted, but I don't think that's that big of a deal. The Twins took a chance but if the player's demands are outrageous, which I think Gibson's could be considered borderline, then you can't fault them for not meeting them.

We'll see what happens. While I'd like to see a deal get worked out, I can't say I'm entirely optimistic and I also would like to see the Twins and Gibson meet in the middle.

Also, make sure to check out Alex Halsted's interview with Gibson that he posted last week at his brand new blog, A Voice From Twins Territory.


Who should the Twins target this off-season? Both in free agency and/or via trades.

Peter, you must know how much I love to speculate. I will have to take longer to think about this but expect something up this week. But be advised, I'll be speculating on this from about the middle of September through December/January so you'll definitely get a lot of 'who should the Twins go after' talk in the next few months. And really, it's one of my favorite things to do. I know the possibility of any of it happening is minimal (if even that's an understatement), but it's still fun to be GM in your own mind.


When will you be doing your next Top 50 Twins Prospects list?

This winter. I'd like to do them multiple times a year but I think at that point they're just power rankings (which I guess the same case could be made for any prospect list, and) which are always fun to read but it takes too much time and I like that 'element of surprise' as to who my top prospect is going to be. But mostly just because I don't have enough time to do them.


Is Joe Mauer the MVP?

Up to this point, absolutely. But for more on this, I'd just advise you to read these three columns:

Mauer Power - By Joe Posnanski
Has Tex locked up MVP already? - By Rob Neyer
Dear AL East Fans: Don't Kid Yourselves, Joe Mauer is the AL MVP - By Dan Wade

All three of these pieces basically describe exactly how I feel about it.


Speaking of Mauer, will the Twins re-sign him this this off-season?

I'd like to think so. The Twins know his value and know that if they wait until next year to try and re-sign him right before he's about to test free agency, the 'big fish' (Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Dodgers, Cubs, etc.) will definitely contend with whatever offer the Twins try to give him. And really, I wouldn't blame him if he chose to go to a team that is more committed to winning than what the Twins might be. The Twins seem committed to winning, but I don't know if they're fully committed to winning a championship. I know some would think, "that's ridiculous to say" which may be true, but I've yet to be proven otherwise. The team knew heading into this season that they had a great foundation and were close to making the playoffs the previous season, but they made little improvements and the ball club ultimately took a step back. I'm not blaming the front office for the team (in short) sucking this year, but I don't think they really were committed to winning a championship with what they did last off-season.

It'll cost a lot, but the Twins need to re-sign Mauer. And that should be the most important thing on their agenda this off-season. I think that re-signing Mauer will immediately make the off-season a success. I just hope they get it done early and don't give the fans yet another excuse to why they don't go out and make a big acquisition. But I'm sure that's what will happen.


Finally, (the million dollar question) are the Twins done?


That's a tough question for some. Is there a possibility? Absolutely. But will they? Now, before I answer that, I want to stress that I'm pretty optimistic by default and always try to see things from both sides of the fence. I've learned over the years that baseball can take many unprecedented twists and turns throughout the season and anything can happen. But like Aaron Gleeman said today on his blog, it's really hard to envision the Twins doing anything (regardless of past success and an easy schedule) with the way this team is playing right now. The pitching sucks, really bad right now and there's really not enough in-house options to right the ship at this point. The offense has been about the same as last year (averaging around 5 runs per game) but if the offense and pitching aren't in sync, it's hard to believe they'll be able to make up six games right now. So to answer your question, I believe that they are done.

I know the players still want the organization to do anything/everything possible to let them win this season, but if you've seen this team in the last month, do you really envision them as a playoff team let alone as a World Series contender? I don't see them as either and I woudn't mind seeing them play some of their September call-ups more than usual to prepare for next season (i.e. Danny Valencia).

I will note, one bright spot about finishing low in the standings is that if they're in the bottom 15, they won't have to give up their top pick in next year's draft to sign a Type-A free agent. Right now, the Twins would have the 12th pick in the draft . And if they are within the protected top 15 picks, they really have no reason to not sign anyone they want this off-season.


I want to thank Peter for sending me these questions and I'd also like to encourage readers to send in questions at any time. I might not dedicate an entire post to them, but sometimes they'll spark interest and could give me an idea on what to write about as the dog days of August and a frustrating team are certainly making it hard to write constructive posts every day.

August 14, 2009

Twins Rundown: August 14, 2009

As we all know, the Twins fell to the Royals this week 1-2 and are now 5 games back in the season. I'm not optimistic that the ball club is going to win this division as I still personally believe that the White Sox are a much better team. But, I'm not going to throw in the towel just yet. There's still a lot of baseball left and a sweep can bring us right back in it. And don't forget, we still have 13 games against the White Sox and Tigers including a four game series from Sept. 28-Oct. 1. It obviously doesn't look good, but I still haven't been able to find it within me to pull the plug on the season. I don't care what anyone thinks, I just can't do it yet.

As if you haven't heard, the Twins made a ton of moves on Wednesday. The most exciting to me is obviously the Jeff Manship promotion. Manship will be taking over for Glen Perkins in the bullpen and will likely remain in the long-relief role for the immediate future. He's one of the better pitching prospects in the organization and can hopefully be a reliable arm that can give the Twins multiple innings per appearance. With the way our bullpen has been this season, we really need it.

This move was just the beginning of an entire chain of moves throughout the Minor Leagues. Most notably, Anthony Slama finally got the promotion Twins fans have been calling for all season. He's taking Manship's spot on the Red Wings pitching staff. Slama lead the Eastern league in both appearances and saves prior to the promotion. But at 25-years-old, the reluctance to promote him both this season and last season has made Twins fans go crazy and I personally don't blame them for voicing their displeasure on this one. I usually don't question many of the organizations philosophies, and I understand that they want a player to go through the ups and downs at each stop, but it's almost as though they've completely neglecting the fact that he went to college. They moved him quickly at first and slammed on the breaks when he got in Ft. Myers where he posted nearly identical numbers that he posted in Beloit where he only spent about a 1/3 of the time.

Taking Slama's spot on the Rock Cats roster is Loek Van Mil. Yes, the 7'1'' Van Mil. He needs to be added to the 40-man roster this off-season to protect him from the Rule V Draft and the Twins probably wanted to see him get a few innings in Double-A to justify their decision. Van Mil definitely deserved this promotion. He's posted solid numbers throughout his Minor League career but struggles with his control quite a bit. He's still considered a 'work in progress' but he's definitely got potential. Hopefully he continues to put up good numbers while cutting back on the walks.

With an open roster spot on the Miracle roster, Bobby Lanigan got the promotion to Ft. Myers. Lanigan has been very inconsistent this season but has good control and gets a lot of ground ball outs. I think this is a good promotion, but a case could certainly have been made for Brad Tippett who has been the best pitcher for the Snappers all season, which isn't saying much but at the same time it still is.

And the Twins weren't done. Brad Stillings took Lanigan's roster spot in Beloit and both Kelvin Mota and Jhon Garcia were promoted from the Gulf Coast League to the Appalachian League.

Aaron Gleeman posted a video of Nick Nelson rapping to 'Swee Home Alabama' like Eminem did in '8 Mile'. One word, priceless. And for those wondering, yes, bloggers are that cool.

Seth Stohs posted his updated Top 50 Twins Prospects list. It's awesome looking at prospect lists and Seth's has a lot of interesting names. Most notably, a guy most Twins fans still haven't heard of is Adrian Salcedo who cracked his top 10.

Brian Pietrzak wrote a great book review for Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain by Marty Appel. The book sounds great and it's now on my list of books that I'll be looking to read this fall. But tops on that list is still Joe Posnanski's The Machine: A Hot Team, a Legendary Season, and a Heart-stoppping World Series: The Story of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds.

And make sure to head over to A Voice From Twins Territory to read a great interview with Kyle Gibson.

And for more on Gibson, make sure to read the Star-Tribune's article by Joe Christensen. Stohs also updates us on a few other unsigned players. He also informs us that former first round pick Jay Rainville has decided to retire from professional baseball. Sad news.

Finally, here's my Quote of the Day:

"Was that catching or missing? He's the third catcher. He says he can do it, and I believe him because he'd be faster running back and picking it up at the backstop than anybody else."

- - Twins manager Ron Gardenhire on Carlos Gomez catching for Jesse Crain and Jose Mijares in the bullpen.

August 12, 2009

Perkins hits the shelf, but who takes his place?

Update 9:00 AM: According to Seth Stohs, Jeff Manship is indeed being called up and will be in at the Metrodome in time for tonight's game. That's great news! For those interested, Jeff did a Q&A for this site a while back (has it already been two years?! wow).

The Twins announced after their embarrassing loss to the Royals on Tuesday night that Glen Perkins has been placed on the 15-day Disabled List due to something along the lines of a sore shoulder. Perkins had an MRI prior to the game on Tuesday and although nothing was seen in the results, Perkins said that something's not right and the Twins ultimately decided to take a deeper look at it.

With Perkins gone and the Twins using up four relievers to finish off Tuesday's game, including both Brian Duensing and Bobby Keppel, the Twins need to make a move to bring in a pitcher prior to Francisco Liriano's start tonight. Liriano has averaged just 5 2/3 innings per start this season and if either of his last two starts are any indication, they'll need to have a pitcher ready to throw at least 2 innings of relief to give some relief (pun intended) to the bullpen.

Last week, I wrote about how Juan Morillo should be recalled by the Twins. And although I still believe that, it's not to say that I'm not laboring for anyone else to not be called up. Because really, I believe four or five guys could be realistic options for a recall. And Morillo is certainly just one of them. But as Seth Stohs points out, Morillo just threw 2+ innings last night (33 pitches total) and would probably be of no use for the Twins tonight.

And while we can only dream of Anthony Slama being promoted, to me it comes down to two guys:
  • Rob Delaney threw 2 2/3 innings on Monday but should be ready to throw one or two if needed tonight. And have I mentioned he's been lights out? Since the All-Star Break, he's 1-2 with a 1.84 ERA and 13/3 K/BB ratio. On the season, he's 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA for the Red Wings after posting a 2.00 ERA in as many games (26) with the Rock Cats.
  • Jeff Manship is another person who could also be an option. La Velle E. Neal III and Stohs also believe Manship could be the guy and it's hard to disagree. He's scheduled to start for the Red Wings tonight and should be able to throw as many innings as needed. He's had problems with walks this season and in eight starts with the Red Wings he's thrown four quality starts.

I know some believe Armando Gabino should be recalled because he's already on the 40-man roster, but the Twins have yet to transfer Kevin Slowey onto the 60-day disabled list which would open a stop on the 40-man. Also, Gabino just started on Monday and threw 90 pitches through 6 2/3 innings. I just don't see him being the fit either. Yohan Pino's name hasn't really been mentioned, but he just threw 8 innings on Sunday...

Right now, I'm pulling for Manship to get the recall but my gut feeling is that Delaney is the choice. But we'll see.

August 11, 2009

That can't be good...

Warning, this is very 'out in left field' post. And not to mention scatter-brained.

For those that either read this site or know me, you already know that I rarely say anything nice about the White Sox. Honestly, it's nothing personal. I just don't like them. They're the Twins' biggest rivals and since they were the last A.L. Central team to hoist the Commissioner's Trophy, I have a reason to dislike them, don't I? But right now, I'm finding it hard to find anything bad to say about the White Sox, which is something that has never happened to me. The franchise is in a great position to be very good for a long time, which is something that should frighten Twins fans.

Most Twins fans are about to enjoy the best year of Twins baseball yet. The ball club has arguably the best player in the world, another player that is a former MVP, one of the best lead-off hitters in the game, a rarely-talked about DH that is putting up All-Star numbers and a brand new stadium that will host its first game next spring. Obviously, it's an exciting time to be a Twins fan.

But the White Sox are doing their best to piss on the Twins' parade by loading up on players that will certainly make them the favorites to win the A.L. Central not only this season but in 2010 also. And no, it is not only because they got Alex Rios yesterday for... nothing.

With an already talented roster, the White Sox didn't have to surrender any players to acquire a good outfielder in Rios. Rios was claimed by the White Sox off of waivers by the Blue Jays who were looking to dump salary. The problem is, although he's making a lot of money, the Blue Jays basically gave away a 28-year-old with great potential and who is still not making a disgusting amount. He's set to make around $60 million between now and 2014. But to me, the contract shouldn't pose a problem.

Rios will be 33-years-old in his last year of his contract. In other words, he'll likely have already hit his peak and will be on the slight decline. But if Rios plays to his potential with the White Sox, he'll make that $12 million look like nothing.

Rios is moving into U.S. Cellular which has about the same dimensions as his former home in the Rogers Centre. The two ballparks are very similar, in fact, the Rogers Centre averages 2.37 home runs per game while U.S. Cellular averages 2.35.

Rios is a developed version of what the Twins' Carlos Gomez could be. He's a toolsy outfielder who plays good defense. His bat is light-years ahead of Gomez's, but many believe Gomez should be able to put up similar offensive numbers to Rios as well, perhaps with a little less 'pop' and a little more base running. But nonetheless, the White Sox acquired a very talented outfielder, for again, nothing.

Even with the addition of Jake Peavy and his large contract and Rios now on board, the White Sox are still in a very good place financially. "How?" you may ask. Well, this off-season the White Sox could have almost $50 million coming off the payroll.
  • Jim Thome - $13 Million
  • Jermaine Dye - (Mutual Option - $12 Million/$1 Million buyout)
  • Jose Contreras - $10 Million
  • Octavio Dotel - $6 Million
  • Ramon Castro - $2.5 Million
  • Mark Kotsay - $1.5 Million
  • Matt Thornton - (Club Option - $2.25 Million/$250,000 buyout)
  • Bartolo Colon - $1 Million
That's a lot of money that could come off of their hands this off-season. And remember, they play in the third largest market in baseball. And the other team that is in their same market is spending nearly $40 million more this season. Obviously that doesn't mean that the White Sox could/should spend that much more, but they certainly could up their payroll if needed.

Both Thome and Dye are integral parts to their offense and they'd certainly miss both. But that leaves the ball club open to going out and acquiring a few serious free agents. Although the list of 'top' free agents is limited, they'll be aggressive and will likely land at least one high-impact free agent.

My early prediction: Matt Holliday

Why? Because even though Carlos Quentin is 'locked' in left field, he's terrible there defensively (career -8.7 UZR/150 in LF) and with his reoccurring foot problems, he'll benefit offensively from a move to DH where he'd fill Thome's spot just fine. Holliday is an upgrade defensively (career 6.6 UZR/150 in LF).

Many believe the Cardinals will lock up Holliday long-term, but he's a Scott Boras client and I'll be surprised if he doesn't test the free agency market. And if he does hit the market, I expect the White Sox to be one of his likely suitors.

And if that fails, the White Sox have always been very aggressive in acquiring players via trade and reports are running rampant that Carl Crawford could be dealt this off-season. A player the White Sox have been connected to in the past.

The White Sox don't have a lot of depth in their farm system. But even though they've traded away A LOT of their top prospects in the past couple years, they still have a few valuable chips in their system. Most notably: Tyler Flowers, Jordan Danks, Dayan Viciedo and Dan Hudson. The White Sox probably wouldn't trade Flowers with A.J. Pierzynski coming off the books in 2011. Viciedo is probably too expensive for the Rays liking. With Rios being the only outfielder (at least in my mind) who is a lock to stay in the outfield, they might also want to hold onto Danks. But Hudson will surely entice the Rays and would be a good centerpiece for a Crawford trade. Obviously, Jared Mitchell should also be mentioned, but he's not allowed to be traded until next summer.

Either Crawford or Holliday are certainly realistic possibilities for the White Sox for the outfield.

And then there's the rotation. With Peavy, Mark Buehrle, John Danks and Gavin Floyd, the White Sox now have one of the best 1-4 in the American League. And with Jose Contreras leaving after the season, that leaves the White Sox with the possibility to add an impact pitcher like Rich Harden or John Lackey.

Now, just about everything from the middle of this post-on is purely speculative and basically moot to my overall meaning of this post. So what is my meaning? In case you haven't figured it out yet...

The White Sox have a great shot of winning this season and with a lot of financial flexibility, they have a lot that they can do not only this off-season, but in 2011 when guys like Pierzynski and Paul Konerko come off the books as well. They've dealt many of their top prospects but they still have a couple good players in their system that should help within the next couple years.

That should worry the Twins who are currently three games under .500 and don't look to have what it takes to win this season, and maybe not next either. Obviously we can all say, "the payroll should go up when we move into Target Field." And while that should definitely be the case, I don't think anyone should get their hopes up of it taking a drastic turn north from the get-go. Obviously it'll spike if they do re-sign Mauer, but I don't see them going on a spending spree in free agency and I also don't see them acquiring an impact player via trade. The Twins do play in a larger market than the St. Louis Cardinals who are spending roughly $33 million more than the Twins. That's not to say the Twins need to spend that much, but it's more so of a reference of where I someday see the Twins payroll peaking.

I can't stand the White Sox, but it's hard not to be impressed with the way Kenny Williams and Jerry Reinsdorf have built that franchise. As a Twins fan, I'm envious to not have a GM like Williams who is as aggressive as it gets, yet he has a great grasp on the finances. And Reinsdord is a reason enough that Twins fans should be envious of the White Sox.

Now Twins fans just need to hope that the White Sox fail to live up to the billing like the Tigers did in 2008.

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..

August 8, 2009

Pavano should provide the Twins with some much-needed stability

After a tough series in Cleveland, the Twins finally acquired a pitcher which should have happened a week earlier. While it's tough to fault the Twins for not making a second move at the trade deadline, we can all agree that another move was necessary. The Twins left Cleveland and immediately acquired 33-year-old right-hander Carl Pavano from the Indians. Pavano may not be the pitcher most fans were hoping for, but he should help nonetheless.

Pavano - in spite of his 5.37 ERA - has had a pretty good season. He struggled early in the season, especially in his first outing where he gave up nine runs in just one inning of work, but since the start of May he's 9-5 with a 4.68 ERA. He was an All-Star back in 2004 with the Florida Marlins but has struggled to stay healthy since.

Much like Francisco Liriano, he has a good slider and set of secondary pitches, but his fastball hasn't been very effective. But unlike Liriano, his control has been good this season, walking an average of only 1.6 batters per nine innings pitched. Hitters have hit .299 against him this season but gets nearly half of his outs via the groundball. Pavano's xFIP is a very solid 4.15, which as Aaron Gleeman points out would lead the Twins' rotation.

The most valuable asset Pavano provides to the Twins is his successful track record against other American League Central opponents. With 36 of the team's remaining 53 games against other A.L. Central teams, Pavano's 8-5 record and 4.03 ERA against those teams should come in handy. Those aren't dominating numbers, by any means, but if you take out his struggles against the Royals, he's 7-2 with a 2.29 ERA. Meaning he's looked great against both the White Sox and Tigers throughout his career. But unfortunately for Pavano, the Twins are set to face the Royals 12 more times this season, more than any other opponent.

To make room for him on the 25-man roster, the Twins optioned knuckleball reliever R.A. Dickey to Triple-A Rochester where he'll join a struggling Red Wings rotation. I've discussed Dickey's struggles on this site recently, but I have to be honest that I'm a little surprised the Twins didn't opt to send fellow reliever Bobby Keppel down instead. Either way, one of them had to go and if it was Dickey now it may be Keppel later. To make room for him on the 60-man roster, the Twins transferred Boof Bonser to the 60-day Disabled List.

Pavano's a free agent after the season and is only due around $500,000 of his $1.5 million for the rest of the season, so if he fails, the Twins could choose to cut bait early. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire didn't dismiss the possibility of the Twins adding another pitcher saying:
“There’s no telling how many more guys we’re negotiating with right now,” Gardenhire said. “I mean there could be a ton. I think, just talking to a couple guys in the office, we’ve talked to a lot of people.”

It's great to see that the Twins are showing serious efforts towards winning. And hopefully everything works out.

Pavano makes his first start for the Twins tonight against Tigers ace Justin Verlander. Pavano, for the time being, has taken Glen Perkins' rotation spot but that may only be temporary. Especially with Liriano currently away from the team for a family matter.

August 6, 2009

It all starts with the fastball

A year ago, almost to the date, Francisco Liriano was returning from an extended stay in Triple-A Rochester where he worked on getting his arm back to where it was prior to his Tommy John surgery. Liriano finished off the season with a 3.01 ERA between 11 August/September starts in which he went 6-1 in that span.

Liriano finished his first season back from surgery with great success and was primed to take the next step in 2009. But over the winter, Liriano lost everything he worked on in '08 and has been one of the worst starters in the Majors this season. He 'tries to do too much' which is what has hurt him this season. Problem is, that's what made him so successful in the first place. He added just a little something extra than what was needed and it worked for him. He's now having a hard time finding a way of getting guys out without just merely throwing it at the catcher.

On one hand, that may be a little misleading. Liriano threw very hard back in 2006, we all know that. But he also displayed outstanding control on all of his pitches. His slider was the best in baseball and while his fastball wasn't outstanding, it played a big part in his success. The saying has always been that the fastball sets up the ______. Almost every pitch in baseball requires a good fastball to make it effective.

Liriano still has an good slider. While it's not nearly as dominating as it was back in 2006, it's still considered a plus pitch. He has also made his changeup a good pitch as well, which is probably the pitch that relies most on the fastball. The problem is, Liriano's fastball has been one of the most ineffective pitches in all of baseball this season.

Parker Hageman, one of the best writers around, did a great analysis on trying to identify Liriano's problems this season. He concludes that although many people (especially Liriano and the coaching staff) believe that he's mentally doing something different against certain batters or in certain situations, it's more than likely something physical that he's doing wrong.

I know from observations that he stands on the first base side of the pitching rubber against left-handed batters opposed to the third base side against right-handed batters. Obviously, that's fairly standard among most left-handed pitchers, but a move to the first base side of the rubber might be helpful. How? I don't know, but it wouldn't hurt to try. It has helped Kyle Lohse and many other players and it could help Liriano. But I'm sure that the Twins have already thought of this and have tried this in Spring Training.

His fastball has been so bad this season that everything should be considered. The Twins are in a position to contend and having both Liriano and Perkins pitching ineffectively will definitely hurt their chances of making the playoffs. Now Liriano's in the position of losing his rotation spot while being pushed to the bullpen. While we can all say 'it's about time' the problem then would become 'who replaces him?'

August 3, 2009

Fixing a gas leak

After an absolutely horrid start to the season, the bullpen looked to be turning things around in May and June. But at such an inconvenient time, when the starting pitching started taking a nose-dive, the bullpen followed suit. Now the bullpen ranks 22nd in MLB with a 4.22 ERA and have given up the sixth most home runs. In 16 games since the All-Star Break, the team is 7-9 but the bullpen has accounted for four of those losses. In the 56 innings the bullpen has been needed since the All-Star break, they have a accumulated a 7.47 ERA with 41/29 K/BB ratio. Many of the runs have come in bulk, but the bullpen has still allowed runs in 10 of the 16 games.

While the bright stars of the gloomy group shine bright, the black holes of that same group seem to get more and more alarming. Joe Nathan and Matt Guerrier can only do so much, which means the rest of the group needs to step it up and do their jobs.

Between May and June, R.A. Dickey looked to be a great signing. In fact, he may have been our most reliable reliever having a combined 1.36 ERA in 33 innings of work. And in eight of his 17 appearances, he threw 2+ innings. Having someone who can throw multiple innings in each appearance will help a bullpen immensely. But as soon as interleague play wraped up Dickey - as Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven would say, "lost the feel of the knuckle ball" and - looked to have 'hit a wall.' He was getting clobbered in almost every appearance. In fact in 11 appearances since July 1st, he's posted a 7.59 ERA. In that time frame, only four of his 11 appearances have come without a run as he's seen his ERA skyrocket nearly two whole points. At one point, he looked to be a viable 7th inning if not 8th inning option for the Twins. Now, his days on the roster may be wearing thin.

The other biggest hole is Bobby Keppel. Keppel, when first called-up, got blown off by a lot of people. But the 27-year-old reliever quickly began quieting all doubters when he gave up just one run in his first 16 innings of work. And while he never had a strong grasp for the strike zone to begin with, Keppel lost it completely and since given up 11 runs in his last 6 1/3 innings to bring his ERA up to 4.84 on the season.

Like Keppel, Dickey also began walking more and more runners since July as well. The two have combined for 21 walks and 19 strikeouts in their last 36 1/3 innings. While they may eat up innings for us, not being able to rely on them in close games does make things a lot more strenuous on the rest of the bullpen. We can't have two mop-up guys when only two guys are reliable in the first place.

One problem both Dickey and Keppel have is that they don't fool hitters. Everyone knows Dickey has a knuckle ball that can be effective, but if he doesn't have a 'feel' for it, his secondary pitches are just about worthless to him. Keppel too doesn't fool hitters. He throws his fastball - which as it turns out is his most unsuccessful pitch - nearly 70% of the time. He can crank it up around 94 mph, but he doesn't have the velocity to warrant such putrid command problems. Keppel is a ground ball pitcher and we all know what happens to a ground ball pitcher if he can't locate his pitches.

My fix is not a permanent one, and it may not even work, but at this time anything needs to be considered before the team runs completely out of fuel. Juan Morillo should be called up right now to help aid our bullpen. I know, I know, he has his control problems as well. But if the Twins are going to continue to allow guys like Dickey and Keppel go up and attempt to blindly find the strike zone, at least let a guy who throws in the upper-90's have a chance too.

Morillo was claimed off of waivers by the Twins back in April after they decided they had enough of watching Philip Humber at the Major League level. At the time, the Twins gave him three chances to prove his worth and he failed miserably. He gave up five runs in just two innings of work while walking three. To his credit, he was facing the Red Sox and Rays, two of the best offense's in baseball. But three walks is not acceptable against any offense and Morillo was rightfully shipped off to the Minor Leagues to work on his control.

He's made progress on his command and has also shapened up his slider so that it is now considered a 'nasty' pitch. Obviously, he has pitching coach Bobby Cuellar to thank for that. Cuellar has played a huge roll in both of the careers of Francisco Liriano and Johan Santana. He helped Liriano sharpen his knee-buckling slider while helping Santana perfect his circle change. With a fastball around 100 mph and a nasty slider, Morillo has gotten hitters to swing and miss on an average of 12.3 times per nine innings, the best of his career.

Although he's struggled as of late, he should still be given a shot. Both Keppel and Dickey have become completely unreliable and unfortunately, they're not the only pitchers in the bullpen struggling.

Brian Duensing hasn't been very effective either, even though some of us are all still in the 'what if' phase of him being a starting pitcher. He threw a great game against the Chicago White Sox in his first-ever start last week, but it was just to fill in for Liriano who gave the Twins a medical scare. Jesse Crain has been off or on since his return to the bullpen, but he does give me little hope. And Jose Mijares has also struggled as of late giving up five runs in his last 6 2/3 innings.

These guys fortunately don't scare me nearly as much as Keppel or Dickey. And while Morillo is far from a perfect fix, he's still a good option in a time of crisis. I haven't even mentioned the fact that Rob Delaney has been lights-out over the last month in Rochester or that Armando Gabino has been the best Red Wings pitcher all season. Or even that Anthony Slama is still in New Britain for absolutely no reason. The Twins certainly have options to fix this bullpen and they need to act now before things get even more out of hand. With an off-day today, it's the perfect time to start moving in the right direction.

Both Delaney and Gabino are good options and should be considered. With just one reliever (not counting Nathan) averaging over 93 mph on their fastball, I would like to see the Twins add some gas to help fix their leak. And if the gas can sustain the leak long enough, hopefully they'll find another pitcher to help patch it up.

August 1, 2009

Twins Minor League Month in Review: July

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

The short-season leagues finally had a full month under their belts, but both teams remain at the top of their divisions. Many draft picks have signed and some have even moved up levels while other draftees still have until August 15th to sign with the Twins. Although first-round pick Kyle Gibson is still unsigned, the Twins and Gibson are confident a deal will be reached, despite Gibson asking for more money than where his slot suggests.

Several key players have been hit with an injury bug, the latest seems to be Ben Revere who hasn't played in almost two weeks due to the staff having to drain fluid from his banged-up left knee. Revere has had problems with his knee for parts of his career, but nobody would guess after he's now stolen 98 bases in 222 career games.

Aaron Hicks finally had a full month under his sleeve in Beloit, and while many people think he's struggling, I personally think he's doing just fine. Remember, Hicks is just 19-years-old and although a .223 average and .690 OPS don't look good, make sure that you take a look at his plate discipline, which is fantastic. He has struck out 25 times but has walked 23. He has great speed and power and the bat will turn around. As long as he can continue to have quality at bats, everything else will work itself out eventually.

The six affiliates combined for an 81-85 record while scoring 729 runs but gave up 741 runs. The 49% winning percentage is down 6% from June. The teams did combine for more runs scored per game at 4.4 which is down from the 4.9 in May but up from the 4.3 in June. The teams also combined to give up 4.5 runs per game.

Many teams had trouble finding consistency in July which has really been the theme all season.

Rochester Red Wings (50-54, Tied-3rd in International League North)

Despite scoring 26 more runs than they gave up, the Red Wings still had a losing month in July with a 13-14 record. The offense averaged 4.9 runs per game, up from the 4.2 runs per game in June. The pitching also gave up just 3.93 runs per game, the lowest of the season, but sloppy defense and untimely hitting cost the Red Wings from turning in a successful month. They currently sit tied for third place in the International League North, but with the Yankees continuing to control the division, the Red Wings will need a miracle if they want to catch them in August.
Hitter of the Month

After an abysmal start to the season, Jason Pridie finally broke loose in July hitting .288/.330/.481 with 12 extra-base hits including three home runs. Pridie drove in 17 runs while hitting at the top of the Red Wings order which lead the team for the month of July. Pridie also walked six times in July, bringing his season total to 15. While he still has potential as a fourth outfielder, his eye-at-the-plate will probably limit his chances in the Major Leagues.

Honorable Mention: Justin Huber (.386/.3.81/.536, 84 AB, 9 Doubles, 4 HR, 14 RBI)

Pitcher of the Month

With no signs of turning around, it looked as though Reid Santos' time with the Red Wings could be coming to an end if he didn't turn things around after a terrible month of June. But the 26-year-old right-hander came through in July, stepping up as the staff ace while going 1-1 with a 1.74 ERA in six games (five starts). He also struck out 18 in the 31 innings he pitched. Santos is not a ground ball pitcher and a .265 average and 1.26 WHIP suggest that he had guys on base quit a bit. But he managed to control the situation and forced teams to leave a lot of men on base.

Honorable Mention: Jeff Manship (3-1, 2.59 ERA, 31 1/3 IP, 5 starts, 14 BB, 15 K)

New Britain Rock Cats (51-54, Tied-3rd in Eastern League Northern)

New Britain, has looked like a completely different team without Danny Valencia in the lineup. The offensive production has plummeted and the rest of their 'bash bros' that were left in New Britain have started looking a lot more mashed as the season goes on. The offense averaged just 3.4 runs per game while the pitching staff also took a step back, allowing 4.9 runs per game. They will be getting some help when Mark Grudzielanek joins the lineup. Hopefully he can help the Rock Cats finish the season off strong after a 12-18 July.
Hitter of the Month

Despite not having a 'home' defensively, many still thought Erik Lis would start the season in Rochester after posting marginally good numbers in New Britain the year before. The Twins felt differently and Lis headed back to New Britain for another year of feasting on Eastern League pitching. Lis got off to somewhat of a disappointing start. While his numbers were fine, they were very reminiscent of his '08 numbers which were good, but they weren't what people were expecting from this big left-hander. But since the start of June has been one of the best hitters in the Eastern League. In July, he hit .305/.377/.552 with 12 extra-base hits including seven home runs. He also drew 12 walks and swiped his first base of the season. Lis performs much better when he is the Designated Hitter than when he's playing first base, so with Brock Peterson and the Red Wings infield in somewhat of a logjam, it's unlikely Lis gets an opportunity to play in the International League this season.

Honorable Mention: Steve Singleton (.385/.429/.538, 6 Doubles, 1 Triple, 4 RBI)

Pitcher of the Month

It sure didn't look good for Ryan Mullins at the beginning of the 2009 season. Despite spending most of the 2007 season and all of the 2008 season with the Rock Cats, Mullins looked clueless on the mound against Eastern League hitters. All of that changed in July when Mullins threw an eight inning gem against the Trenton Thunder on July 5th. That start set Mullins up for his best month of the season. The 25-year-old southpaw went 1-2 with a 3.47 ERA in four starts. The most impressive stat of the month for Mullins was his K/BB ratio. Heading into July, Mullins posted a 2.92 K/BB ratio. But in July, he had a 8.33 K/BB ratio thanks to walking just three batters while striking out 25. The Rock Cats need him to keep it up, especially with the offense performing poorly.

Honorable Mention: Alex Burnett (1-0, 1.42 ERA, 15 innings, 10 BB, 16 K, 1.00 WHIP)

Ft. Myers Miracle (70-44 overall, 17-18 in 2nd Half, 2nd in Florida State League South)

The Miracle rebounded nicely after a poor June. The team scored more runs (4.01) per game than they allowed (4.93) but they still had a .500 record for the month. Even though they lost their best player in Ben Revere to injury, the team rallied to go 8-2 in his absence. Good pitching and improving hitters should help the Miracle in August.
Hitter of the Month

After missing two months with a broken hand, Joe Benson picked up where he left off with the Ft. Myers Miracle which is getting on base at an astonishing rate. While he only picked up three extra-base hits through 64 at-bats in July, Benson walked 15 times while only striking out 16 times. Benson came into the season wanting to improve his approach at the plate, and he's certainly done so. His .421 OBP is the best of his career and (if he qualified) would be the second highest in the Florida State League. Benson broke his hand by punching a cement wall after a frustrating at bat, so perhaps that was a driving force for him. He's having great at-bats all season, but he looked like a completely new guy in July. Now the test is to see if he can repeat it in August.

Honorable Mention: Rene Leverett (.309/.356/.441, 4 Doubles, 1 Triple, 1 HR, 8 RBI)

Pitcher of the Month

Steven Hirschfeld has quietly put up great numbers this season and has become the 2009 version of Cole Devries for the Miracle. Like Devries, many haven't talked much about Hirschfeld this season despite being one of the most consistent pitchers on the staff. Also like Devries, Hirschfeld has been used out of the bullpen as well as the rotation and has been effective in both situations. In July, Hirschfeld was finally put into the rotation full time and delivered with 2.03 ERA in six starts. He was 2-3 but did have a 0.91 WHIP. Hirschfeld (like Devries) is likely viewed as a reliever in the long run, but it's great to see him be successful under both circumstances.

Honorable Mention: Santos Arias (1-1, 1.13 ERA, 9 Games, 3 Starts, 24 IP, 6 BB, 20 K)

Beloit Snappers (39-64 overall, 12-21 in 2nd half, 8th in Midwest League West)

The Snappers continue to plummet this season and are just waiting for the season to be over. The team was 10-17 in July thanks to a struggling pitching staff that gave up 5.63 runs per game. The offense is finding ways to score runs, but the pitching staff isn't giving them a fighting chance.
Hitter of the Month

Angel Morales has had a roller coaster season so far in 2009. After an abysmal April, he put up good numbers in May. He followed May up with an abysmal June before putting up great numbers again in July. But considering he's only 19-years-old, I'm not really disappointed in him at all. Although he's likely to wind back up in Beloit again next season, hopefully he can continue to work on his plate discipline which has improved since last season, but is still unacceptable. But on a plus, he did strikeout for a season low 12 times in July. So any improvement is still improvement, right? Morales hit .361/.375/.541 with eight extra-base hits and 11 RBI. Hopefully he'll break the 'curse' and will finish the season up with strong back-to-back months.

Honorable Mention: Ramon Santana (.293/.354/.444, 6 Doubles, Triple, 2 Home Runs, 20 RBI, 2 BB)

Pitcher of the Month

Another Twins pitching prospect who is quietly putting up great numbers this season is Brad Tippett. The 21-year-old Aussie has an 8-4 record with a 2.46 ERA on a team with a collective ERA of 4.52. While he's not Kevin Slowey, Tippett has been said to have the best control on the farm system. Tippett didn't 'wow' anyone in the Midwest League as a reliever last season but the Twins have stuck with him as a starter this season and it has paid off. In July, he was 3-1 with a 1.57 ERA in five starts. He was hit hard in his last start, but he was 3-0 with a 0.91 ERA in his first four starts in July.

Honorable Mention: Liam Hendriks (1-2, 3.33 ERA, 24 1/3 IP, 4 starts, 4 BB, 23 K)

Elizabethton Twins (26-9, 1st in Appalachian League West)
The Elizabethton Twins continue to lead the way in the Appalachian League and could be en route to another Championship appearance. The Twins pitching staff gave up 4.8 runs per game but when the offense continues to crush the opposition for an average of 6.9 runs per game, that 2+ point differential is the reason the Twins went 18-8 in July. Nobody really stands out in the lineup, but as a team they're a real force.
Hitter of the Month

Josmil Pinto finished off a great season in 2008 with the Gulf Coast League Twins, hitting .385/.429/.667 in August while wrapping up a fantastic professional debut. And he's been on a tear already this season posting a 1.069 OPS through 25 games. In July, the 20-year-old Venezuelan native hit .368/.414/.671 with seven doubles, two triples and four home runs. With the loss of Danny Rams and Tyler Ladendorf, Pinto has filled in nicely as the team's top bat.

Honorable Mention: Michael Gonzalez (.294/.365/.553, 5 Doubles, Triple, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 10 BB)

Pitcher of the Month

For the second straight month, Tom Stuifbergen takes home the honors of being Elizabethton's top pitcher. The 20-year-old Dutch has been one of the best pitchers in the Appalachian League this season and is gearing up for a full-season stint in Beloit for next season. Stuifbergen went 3-0 with a 2.79 ERA in six July starts, striking out 34 while walking just four in 38+ innings. He's shooting up the 'Top Prospect' ranks and has been a great success all year. Remember, he played an integral part to the Netherlands 'Cinderella Story' in the World Baseball Classic.

Honorable Mention: Matt Tone (2-1, 2.12 ERA, 8 games, 17 innings pitched, 1.72 BAA, 14 BB, 22 K)

GCL Twins (17-14, Tied-1st in Gulf Coast League South)

The GCL Twins didn't have the July everyone was hoping for, but at 13-13 on the month they still sit towards the top of the division. The offense was horrid, averaging just over 3 runs per contest but the pitching staff has been impeccable, averaging just 3.77 runs allowed per game. While the pitching staff continues to blossom, the offense needs to start being more productive. Out of 26 games, the offense scored one or less runs in nine of them. The fact that they won even two of them should speak volume of the pitching staff.
Hitter of the Month

With such a horrid offense, you'd think it might be hard to pick a player that stood out as the best hitter. But it's actually not that hard, while he didn't rip the cover off the ball, Jairo Perez was the Twins' best hitter in July. The 21-year-old Venezuelan native hit .265/.354/.368 with four doubles and a home run. He drove in five but did manage to have a great 8/6 BB/K ratio. He's small at 5'10'' and 160 lbs. and doesn't have a ton of potential, but he should continue to lead the way for the GCL Twins in August.

Honorable Mention: Kennys Vargas (.245/.355/.396, 5 Doubles, Home Run, 8 RBI)

Pitcher of the Month

There were three guys I felt deserved this award and I couldn't pick just one...

B.J. Hermsen has been a great pick by the Twins thus far. Selected in the 6th round of the 2008 draft, nobody expected him to sign as he had a scholarship to Oregon State that stood in the way. But the Twins convinced the 6'6'' Iowa native that professional baseball was the right choice and he's backing that decision up this season. In July, Hermsen was 4-1 with a 1.27 ERA in five starts. He walked just three and struck out 18 in 28+ innings. He is climbing up the 'Top Prospect' charts this season and could be considered one of the Twins' top pitching prospects heading into 2010.

Adrian Salcedo had a great season on the Twins' Dominican Summer League last year and is turning heads again this year. He has a great frame at 6'4'' and 175 lbs. and at just 18-years-old, he is quickly becoming one of the better young pitching prospects in the Twins' system. In July, Salcedo was 1-1 with a 1.57 ERA in four starts. He struck out 24 batters in 23 innings and walked just 2. He's an extreme ground ball pitcher getting nearly 60% of his outs via the ground ball. His age, frame and early success could make him a guy to keep an eye on.

Andrei Lobanov, if you don't remember, cracked my Top 50 Twins Prospects list last winter at no. 50. He's a lanky southpaw witih impeccable countrol and despite throwing in the mid-upper 80's, he makes hitters swing and miss due to him being able to throw the any of his pitches wherever/whenever he wants. In 13 July innings, Lobanov allowed just two earned runs and had an insane 71.9 GB%. But the most impressive stat was the fact that the 19-year-old didn't walk a single batter whild striking out 19. He is another player that Twins fans will need to keep an eye on.

Honorable Mention: Jhon Garcia (2-2, 1.96 ERA, 4 GS, 23 innings pitched, 0.91 WHIP, 3 BB, 19 K)