May 24, 2010

Angel Morales video

As both Seth Stohs and I mentioned, we went to Beloit over the weekend to watch the Snappers. I don't have a lot of time to post my thoughts right now, but here is a video I took of Angel Morales getting hit in the head by a fastball.

Looks pretty bad, but hopefully he'll be back soon (he was out of the lineup on Sunday).

May 20, 2010

Minor League News and Notes

While I was about to write a Twins news/notes piece, I saw that Aaron Gleeman was working on his. I haven't been writing a lot recently, so I didn't want my "return" to be more meaningless than it already would be, so I figured I would go with a Minor League News and Notes. Hopefully you enjoy!

When the Twins drafted Chris Herrmann (No. 41) they knew he was versatile enough to play in both the outfield and behind the plate. And so far this season, he's played in 30 games: 10 at catcher, 10 games in center field, nine games in left field, and one at DH. He has two errors, one in left field and one behind the plate, as well as a passed ball. All-around, he's been solid defensively.

Here are how his offensive numbers look (based on the position he is playing):
DH: 1-for-4 (.250/.250/.250) with a strikeout (no walks).
C: 7-for-39 (.179/.220/.256) with a home run and 10 strikeouts (no walks).
CF: 11-for-39 (.282/.317/.385) with four doubles, nine strikeouts and two walks.
LF: 11-for-31 (.355/.400/.516) with five doubles, six strikeouts and three walks (with a sac-fly)

I'm not sure exactly where I'm going with this, but I figured it was interesting to note. Another thing that is hard to ignore are his home/road splits.
Home: 20-for-56 (.357/.413/.518) with six doubles, a home run, 12/5 K/BB ratio and two stolen bases.
Away: 10-for-57 (.175/.230/.228) with three doubles, 13/3 K/BB ratio and a caught stealing.

When talking with Herrmann, he makes it clear that he doesn't care where he plays, despite acknowledging that there is a big offensive difference.

Third baseman Danny Valencia (No. 7) recently ended a 20-game hit streak for the Rochester Red Wings. Over the streak he hit (33/85) .388/.409/.518 with 11 doubles. Why was his on-base percentage only .409? Because he walked just two times over that stretch. To put it in perspective, over 500 at-bats, that would be about 12 walks.

Right-handed starter Adrian Salcedo (No. 10) was called up from Extended Spring Training to take Bruce Pugh's place in the Ft. Myers Miracle rotation. He made his first start on Wednesday and gave up five runs on six hits over four innings. However, taking into perspective that he's 19-years-old (the average age for pitchers in the Florida State League is 23) and that he threw 43 of his 57 pitches for strikes (75%), it's very impressive. Salcedo has a mid-90's fastball that he threw a lot. He also has a very good change-up that he has good command of. His curveball and slider still need work, but both have good break.

Speaking of Pugh, he was placed on the seven day disabled list with an elbow injury (sorry, that's as much as I've heard). It's not considered serious and according to Alex Margulies (the Miracle radio announcer), he will likely miss two or three starts before returning. All of this is coming after Pugh was named the Florida State League Pitcher of the Week from May 10-16. In his lone start over that time, Pugh threw seven innings of one-hit ball against the Bradenton Marauders. He walked one and struck out 10 in the no-decision.

Since returning to the FSL, outfielder Joe Benson (No. 11) has three hits in three game, two of which went for extra-bases. He also has walked twice and stolen two bases. Like so many others, I'm very confused as to why he was demoted.

The Rochester Red Wings have had the unlucky task of facing the two most hyped minor league pitchers of year. Last Friday, Aroldis Chapman and the Louisville Bats came to Rochester to face the Red Wings, who had just lost six of their last seven contests. The Red Wings were ready and a three-run home run by Trevor Plouffe (No. 24) knocked Chapman out of the game in the fourth inning. His final line was 3 1/3 innings, 9 hits, 8 runs, 3 walks and 5 strikeouts.

Then yesterday, Stephen Strasburg brought his 0.00 ERA (through two starts) to Rochester. Unfortunately, things didn't go as well this time and the Syracuse Chiefs beat the Red Wings 5-1. Strasburg went six innings and extended his scoreless inning streak to 21 2/3 innings between Triple-A and Double-A.

Regardless, both of these starts helped put a lot more fans in the seats, which was great for the city of Rochester and the Red Wings.

After a very strong finish to the month of April, outfielder Aaron Hicks (No. 1) has been ice cold in the month of May. Over his last 16 games, Hicks is hitting .196/.282/.213 with one double and a 23/8 K/BB ratio. Overall, Hicks is batting .259/.380/.378 with seven doubles, three home runs and 27 walks in 135 at-bats.

During their most recent Twins Minor League Weekly podcast, Seth Stohs and Travis Aune discussed their Top Five Twins Prospects up to this point of the season. For those of you that have read this site over the last couple of years, it's no secret that I love ranking Minor League prospects. So I figured I'd give mine:

1. Aaron Hicks, OF
2. Kyle Gibson, RHP
3. Wilson Ramos, C
4. Miguel Sano, SS
5. Angel Morales, OF

Make sure to listen to the show to see who Seth and Travis in their top five.

Make sure to check out Seth Stohs latest latest Weekly Minnesota Twins Podcast. Topper Anton of Curve For A Strike and Jason Collette of Dock of the Rays are on before me. Make sure to check that out. WARNING: Save yourself some brain cells and turn it off at the 58 minute mark. That is when the wheels fall off and I start blabbing about things that don't make sense. And sorry for mumbling. Part of it is my phone, but I do mumble when I speak.

And speaking of Seth, he and I are hoping to go to Beloit this weekend to check out the Snappers as they face the Cedar Rapids Kernals. The Kernals trail the Snappers by 1.5 games in the Midwest League - Western Division.

And finally, the Twins Centric crew hosted their latest viewing party last Saturday. I was fortunate enough to go and it was a blast. I got to meet a few people and converse with those I've already met. I'd list names, but I'm sure that I'd miss a few so I won't even begin. But all-in-all, it's a great experience and I hope you consider going to the next one. And for a little more persuasion, check out what Eric Johnson had to say.

May 12, 2010

Delmon Young Day - - Staying away from numbers

Three months ago, Andrew Kneeland of Twins Target proposed that Twins bloggers take part in "Nick Punto Day." It was a day that turned into a big success, with a countless number of bloggers writing their thoughts on Nick Punto. So now, three months later, we have another day designated to another controversial player.

So without further adieu, here are my thoughts on Delmon Young:

(Warning: Most (ok, all) of what you're about to read is is scatterbrained.)

When the Twins acquired Young, I was ecstatic. On top of having enormous potential, he was one of my favorite players in baseball. Before going ahead, I'll explain why I liked him so much. You see, I have a personal vendetta against all umpires and when he did this, I couldn't help but fall in love with him:

I'm kidding of course. In all honesty, the (then) Devil Rays were my second favorite team in baseball. Was it due to their propensity for being one of the worst teams in baseball? A little. Who doesn't like the underdog? But it mostly stemmed from my love of Minor Leagues Baseball. The Rays were then (and now) known for an excellent farm system, so naturally, I followed them very closely.

Young was drafted with the first pick in the 2003 draft out of Camarillo High School (CA). He was immediately compared to the likes of Albert Belle and Gary Sheffield, so when he flew the Rays farm system, those comparisons looked began looking legitimate.

But besides enormous talent, what do both Belle and Sheffield have in common? They both have attitudes and are often seen as angry men. And unfortunately, neither of those were lost in Young. He was upset when he wasn't called-up to the Majors as a 19-year-old in 2005. And as it turns out, he was even more upset that he spent most of the 2006 season in the Minor Leagues (thanks in most part to his bat-throwing incident).

He was an undisciplined, immature kid both on and off the field, which the Rays had no answer for. They allowed him to walk all over the organization, letting him spout off to teammates and management whenever he felt like it. But what were they to do? He was the future of their team. But I can't fault the organization for giving up on him, instead I fault Young.

We all live and learn and I'm sure Young (if he could) would change a lot of things about his past. He knows he messed up, but all he can do now is try and move forward. But unfortunately, he hasn't been able to get over the hump.

While breezing through the Minor Leagues, Young didn't learn a lot of the fundamentals that makes a good baseball player. He was fed a heavy-dose of fastballs, and never learned how to hit a breaking ball. He's since had to learn how to hit sliders and curveballs at the highest level. This has been an ongoing struggle for Young, but he has made steady improvements in both areas. He also had to learn how to be a professional off the field, which has been perhaps his biggest challenge throughout his career.

He has always had problems fitting in with members of the clubhouse, but that looks to be changing. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said in Spring Training that some of Young's past struggles have helped make him into a great teammate. He put in a lot of work in the off-season and lost almost 30 pounds. I'm sure that has done a great deal of good to his self-esteem.

I still like Young. In fact, I probably like him more than most people. I admire the fact that he's been through a lot and that he's putting in the effort to try and ensure that his future is brighter than his past. But he still has a lot of work to do and unfortunately, he may never reach the potential he once had. But that's alright. Although we sometimes act like it's more, baseball is only a game and if Young continues to improve as a human, he'll be a winner.

May 11, 2010


I've been trying to post more on Twitter, so if you just can't get enough of me, you can find me there. I should be back tomorrow for Delmon Young Day, so check back soon.

May 1, 2010

Minor League Month in Review: Rochester Red Wings - April

Rochester Red Wings (9-13, tied for last in the Florida State League - North)

             Team Leaders - Hitters                  Team Leaders - Pitchers    
             Hits: Brian Dinkelman - 24              Wins: Rob Delaney - 3
Avg: Jason Repko - .345 ERA: Jeff Manship - 3.48
OPS: Dustin Martin - 1.004 IP: Ryan Mullins - 26.33
HR: Dustin Martin - 4 K: Ryan Mullins/Anthony Slama - 19
RBI: Dustin Martin - 17 Saves: Anthony Slama - 5
SB: 3 - tied with 2 WHIP: Ryan Mullins - 1.18

A lot of excitement surrounded the Rochester Red Wings, but like in past years, the potential and the production haven't matched. The Red Wings have seven players that appeared in my top 50 prospect list including two players in the top seven. Unfortunately, a mixture of poor pitching and a lack of offensive production have the Red Wings at the bottom of the division.

The rotation was supposed to be anchored by a fleet of pitchers with Major League experience including Glen Perkins, Anthony Swarzak, Mike Maroth and Jeff Manship (#21). Swarzak made only two starts before breaking his foot and Perkins has managed to lose the little value he had left by struggling in each of his four starts. Together, Swarzak and Perkins have an ERA of 8.25. Maroth looked okay in his three starts, but he too was hit by the injury bug with an inflamed left elbow. Manship has been left to lead the rotation and has a 3.48 ERA in four starts.

Thankfully, other players have stepped up in the absence of these guys and have managed to keep the Red Wings in games. Ryan Mullins hasn't seen the International League since he was destroyed in four starts there in 2007. He's back and has been great since joining the rotation. He is 2-0 with a 2.74 ERA in four starts. He gave up six runs in three innings as a reliever, which is why he isn't leading the Red Wings in ERA. The Red Wings signed Charlie Zink who took Maroth's place on the roster. Zink, a knuckleball pitcher, made one start for Rochester. He only gave up two runs over five innings, but his six walks are very alarming and it's something to keep an eye on. Cuban-native Yoslan Herrerra has been fairly consistent over his first four starts for the Red Wings, but he hasn't pitched into the sixth inning yet.

The bullpen consists of four highly thought-after pitchers in Matt Fox, Kyle Waldrop, Anthony Slama (#17) and Rob Delaney (#26). Together, these four have combined for a very good, reliable bullpen. This quad has combined for a 2.28 ERA in 44 appearances. They also have a 58/22 K/BB ratio. Slama continues to show that he's ready for the Major Leagues, but he's not on the 40-man roster and the Twins aren't prepared to clear room for him yet, which has caused a lot of Twins fans to become frustrated.

Granted these guys are young, but the offense was relying on the success of Wilson Ramos (#2) and Danny Valencia (#7), who have both struggled. Many criticized the front office for not bringing Ramos to Minnesota, but he is hitting below the "Mendoza Line" through 67 at-bats. Valencia might be "clicking" after getting off to a poor start. He is hitting .406 with five doubles and five RBI in his last seven contests.

But the Red Wings have a good mix of veteran players as well, lead by Jason Repko, Jacque Jones and Dustin Martin have all played well in April. Perhaps the best option the Twins have at center field (besides Denard Span, of course) is Repko. The Red Wings signed him two days before the season started, and he's rewarded them by hitting .345/.448/.527 at the top of the Red Wings lineup. Jones has been slowed by a strained left quad, has hit .300/.382/.500 in 30 at-bats.

Martin struggled in 2009, but he's off to a great stat in 2010. Through 65 at-bats, Martin is hitting .338/.419/.585 with seven extra-base hits and 17 RBI. He has been more patient at the plate and is driving the ball as well as he has throughout his career.

Brian Dinkelman (#36) is getting his first taste of Triple-A and is off to a great start. He's played all over the field, but his offense has remained consistent with his career numbers. On the other hand, Trevor Plouffe (#24) is in his third season with the Red Wings but is finally looking better at the plate. Plouffe, who is three years younger than Dinkelman, is hitting .280/.362/.463 with eight extra-base hits and eight walks in 82 at-bats. I mention his eight walks because it is one more than the times he's struck out, which for Plouffe is a big thing. As his career 459/237 K/BB ratio shows, Plouffe has had a hard time with his plate discipline, which means we might finally see the Plouffe play to his potential. That is something that hasn't happened since he was drafted in the 1st round in 2004.

What's Next?: The Nationals have promoted phenom Stephen Strasburg to Triple-A Syracuse, which is a relief for the New Britain Rock Cats, but now a problem for the Rochester Red Wings. Rochester plays host to the Syracus Chiefs from May 18-21. The Red Wings face the Durham Bulls and Syracus Chiefs (division leaders) 12 times. But they also play the Norfolk Tides and Louisville Bats (last place teams) 13 times.

Minor League Month in Review: Ft. Myers Miracle - April

Ft. Myers Miracle (8-13, tied-5th (last) in the Florida State League - South)

             Team Leaders - Hitters                  Team Leaders - Pitchers    
             Hits: Yangervis Solarte - 20            Wins: Kyle Gibson - 2
Avg: Yangervis Solarte - .317 ERA: Bobby Lanigan - 0.81
OPS: Yangervis Solarte - .783 IP: Kyle Gibson - 30.67
HR: 5 - tied with 1 K: Kyle Gibson - 28
RBI: Drew Thompson - 7 Saves: Billy Bullock - 3
SB: Chris Cates - 2 WHIP: Bobby Lanigan - 0.90

The Ft. Myers Miracle won the South division in both the first and second half in 2009, but they were ousted by the Charlotte Stone Crabs in the semifinals. Manager Jeff Smith has been promoted to New Britain, which means that Jake Mauer will have to try and fill the shoes the man that has brought two different teams to the playoffs in each of the past three years. Unfortunately, a punch-less roster makes it unlikely that Mauer will be leading the Miracle to another division title.

The Florida State League is a pitcher-friendly environment. That's no secret. But it's also no secret that the Miracle lineup is the weakest it's been in years. But despite scoring a lead-worst 60 runs, the Miracle still managed to win eight games in April.

Not enough can be said about the success of both Kyle Gibson (#5) and Bobby Lanigan. The two-headed monster has a 3-3 record and a 1.33 ERA in nine starts. Gibson was roughed up in his first start, giving up three runs (five total) in 3 2/3 innings. But since that start, the Twins 2009 first round pick is 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA in four starts. He has a ground-ball/fly-ball ratio of 7.3 (51/7) thanks to inducing 16 ground-ball outs on two separate occasions. In his last start, Gibson threw a one hit, complete game shutout against the Jupiter Hammerheads. As Seth Stohs notes, Gibson was very close to hurling a no-hitter.

Without Lanigan and Gibson, the rotation would have a 4.05 ERA. While still respectable, it would rank 2nd to last in the FSL. But it's important to note that it is improving, which is the good thing. Both Mike Tarsi, Bruce Pugh and Brad Tippett (#43) have all had recent success. In three starts since joining the rotation, Tippett has a 2.51 ERA. Pugh struck out over seven scoreless innings in his last start. And Tarsi has a 3.27 ERA in his last two starts (but he's given up five unearned runs in that same span).

The bullpen has struggled, but since the season opener (when it gave up 13 runs), the bullpen has had a 3.87 ERA. The biggest improvement comes from Shooter Hunt (#48). Hunt gave up five runs in the opener, but since has a 2.02 ERA in 13 1/3 innings. He also has a 5/1 K/BB ratio over that span, which is probably the most important thing to note. 2009 2nd round pick Billy Bullock (#20) has been roughed up in two different outings, but he still leads the team with three saves.

The offense has averaged 2.9 runs/game, but when opponents are scoring an average of 4.9 runs/game, it's hard to believe that they've won any games so far.

Yangervis Solarte is at the top (or near the top) of nearly every single offensive category for the Miracle. Solarte made a couple impressive defensive plays in Spring Training, but I'm willing to bet that he's probably an unknown amongst most Twins fans. He has played second base, shortstop, third base and left field already this season, which is probably the main reason why he has four errors on the season (three of which came in one game).

Two oft-injured infielders, Paul Kelly and Drew Thompson have also made contributions on offense. Thompson is hitting .269/.324/.403 with six doubles and a home run. Kelly had a six-game hitting streak halted by an ankle injury he sustained on April 20th. He hasn't played since, but it's important to note that it is an ankle injury and not a knee injury (which is what has derailed his career up to this point).

Three players that the Miracle lineup is centered around are Evan Bigley, Chris Herrmann and Ramon Santana. But the are hitting a combined .226 (43 for 190) and have driven in only 15 of the team's 60 runs. All three are good hitters, so I'd expect them to "click" at some point, but until then, this offense will continue to flounder.

What's Next?: Aaron Hicks (#1), Angel Morales (#6) and Liam Hendriks (#42) may all be with the Miracle shortly, which should provide a big spark to both the offense and rotation. But with promotions, roster moves need to be made, which will likely mean the end of Gibson's stay in the Florida State League. They have a fairly easy schedule in May. They play both division leaders a combined nine times, but overall, their May opponents have a .488 win percentage.

Minor League Month in Review: Beloit Snappers - April

Beloit Snappers (12-8, 3rd in Midwest League Western Division)

             Team Leaders - Hitters                     Team Leaders - Pitchers    
             Hits: Brian Dozier - 23                    Wins: Tom Stuifbergen - 3
Avg: Brian Dozier - .319 ERA: Liam Hendriks - 0.41
OPS: Aaron Hicks - .890 IP: Tom Stuifbergen - 26
HR: 4 - tied with 3 K: Liam Hendriks - 26
RBI: Angel Morales/Steven Liddle - 11 Saves: Steven Blevins - 5
SB: Angel Morales - 8 WHIP: Liam Hendriks - 0.41

2009 is a season that the Beloit Snappers would like to forget. They finished the season with a 57-83 record, the 2nd worst record in the Midwest League. And on top of that, they finished second worst in attendance, accounting for only 2.3% of the 3,629,038 people that attended Midwest League games.

Nine players have returned from last year's roster to help turn get the team off on the right foot. And so far, they're doing just that. Through 20 games, the Snappers have the fifth best record in the Midwest League and finished off the month of April with nine wins in their last 12 games. The team's success has hinged on the pitching staff. The starters have a collective 2.38 ERA in 102 innings of work. They also have a 93/30 K/BB ratio and a 113/82 ground-ball/fly-ball ratio.

Liam Hendriks (#42) has been astonishing thus far. The 21-year-old Aussie started 11 games for the Snappers last season and is off to a hot start in 2010. Through four starts, Hendriks is 1-0 with a 0.41 ERA. He has a 13-1 K/BB ratio and has induced 24 ground-ball outs. The only run he surrendered came in his last start. He gave up a lead-off double to Sean Halton of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and he scored on a ground-ball later in the inning. He won the "Midwest Pitcher of the Week" on April 19.

Another player off to a grat start is Tom Stuifbergen (#29). The 21-year-old Dutch has a 1.38 ERA through 26 innings. He has made four starts, and has thrown at least six innings in each of them (he also made a relief appearance in the season opener). He has a ground-ball/fly-ball ratio of 33/17 and a K/BB ratio of 23/7.

Miguel Munoz struggled in has last two starts, but he still has a 2.75 ERA on the season. Dan Osterbrock, on the other hand, has been great over his last two starts. He has a 3.10 ERA on the season and was named the "Midwest Pitcher of the Week" for the week of April 19-25. He was 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA in two starts.

Having four of the five starting pitchers with an ERA of 3.10 (or under) are a main reason that the Snappers are second in the Midwest League with a 3.01 ERA. But the bullpen has been great as well. The group has an ERA of 3.84 in 77 1/3 innings pitched.

Kane Holbroooks has not allowed a run in 12 1/3 innings out of the pen while Steven Blevins has converted five saves in as many opportunities. Edgar Ibarra gave up four runs in his first outing of the season, but has not allowed a run over his last 9 2/3 innings pitched. Over that same span, Ibarra has walked just one batter while striking out 12.

The biggest struggle has come from 2009 3rd round pick Ben Tootle (#32). Tootle has given up 10 runs in 9 2/3 innings and has struggled with his control. He has given up three runs in an appearance on three different occasions. He can throw in the upper 90's, but with no sense of control, he will not make it very far. He has a team lead four wild pitches, despite pitching in the second fewest innings.

The offense, unfortunately has been a cause for concern for the Snappers. It averaged only 1.7 runs per game through the first six games, but since has averaged 5.4 runs over the last 14.

And it's no surprise that consensus top prospect Aaron Hicks (#1) has been the reason for this offensive turnaround. Since starting the season 1-31, Hicks has hit .528 (19 for 36) with three home runs, six RBI and five stolen bases since April 17th. I was able to ask Aaron what has changed and he said, "I'm just trying to stay on the ball more and watch it as long as possible."

He now how has a team high .890 OPS and has walked six times more than anyone else on the team. He began the season hitting third, but has since been moved to the top of the order, which the Twins Minor League direct Jim Rantz says is another reason for his turnaround. Hicks remains versatile in the outfield, starting 11 games in center field and five games in right field. He has two of the team's six outfield assists, both of which came in the first two games of the season.

Like Hicks, Angel Morales (#6) is also back with the Snappers and is also off to a great start. He is tied for the team lead in home runs, RBI, outfield assists and leads the team in stolen bases and slugging. He and Steven Liddle join Hicks in the outfield and the three of them have done a tremendous job so far. Liddle is also tied with Morales in each of the three categories mentioned above.

But Liddle isn't the only 2009 draftee that has been a surprise for the Snappers offense. 9th round pick Brian Dozier (#44) is the team leader in hits and batting average (.319).

What's Next?: Before heading out on a grueling 13 game road trip on May 25th, the Snappers have a very favorable schedule, with no team above .500. They play state rivals the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers nine times this month, which bodes well for the Snappers since they've won five straight against them (dating back to last September). Watch out for the promotions of Hicks, Morales and Hendriks. All three are in their second season with the Snappers and all could be in the Florida State League sometime in the next 45 days. This will pose a problem for the Snappers who will have a hard time trying to fill the void of these three.

Minor League Month in Review: New Britain Rock Cats - April

New Britain Rock Cats (4-16, 6th (last) in Eastern League Eastern Division)

               Team Leaders - Hitters                   Team Leaders - Pitchers    
               Hits: Rene Tosoni - 24                   Wins: 4 - tied with 1
Avg: Rene Tosoni - .338 ERA: David Bromberg - 1.13
OPS: Rene Tosoni - .878 IP: David Bromberg - 24
HR: Juan Portes/Chris Parmelee - 2 K: David Bromberg - 19
RBI: 3 - tied with 7 Saves: Chris Province - 2
SB: Ben Revere - 5 WHIP: Spencer Steedley - 0.75

On paper, the New Britain Rock Cats might have the best team in the entire Eastern League. But so far, they've been the worst. By a lot. The team finished April with a dismal 4-16 record, which is the worst record throughout all of baseball (in both the Major and Minor Leagues). The team certainly has great potential, having 13 players that appeared on my Top 50 Prospect list, the most out of any Twins affiliate. But a mixture of poor offensive production and disappointing pitching has resulted in winning percentage of .200.

The offense, lead by four top 13 prospects, has managed to score only 54 runs this season (or 2.7 runs/game). The only hitter that deserves praise thus far is Rene Tosoni (#9). Tosoni is hitting .338/.385/.493 with seven extra-base hits (all of which lead the team) in 19 games thus far. His OPS of .878 is 168 points higher than Mark Delonc's OPS, which is the second highest on the team. But even worse than that is the fact that Delonc doesn't have enough at-bats to qualify amongst the leagues leaders, which then puts Ben Revere's (#4).668 OPS the next highest on the team. Tosoni has cut his strikeouts down from last year, but he still has struck out nearly four times for every walk. Overall, Tosoni is a more mature player than he was last season.

Fun fact: Tosoni has started 16 of his 19 games at DH, but he leads the team with three outfield assists.

Revere, the highest-rated prospect on the Rock Cats has five of the team's 15 stolen bases this season. He has also displayed a good arm strength in center field, something he has struggled with in the past, by throwing out two runners at home plate. He has displayed good plate discipline and his average is heading north, but he will need to improve his hitting on the road as the season gets going.

The bullpen, as hard as it may be to believe it, is probably worse off than the offense for the Rock Cats. The bullpen appeared in all but one game in
April, and out of those 19 appearances, the bullpen surrendered a run in 15 of them. The bullpen has a collective ERA of 6.04 with a 1.73 WHIP and 54/40 K/BB ratio.

The only reliever to New Britain return in 2010 was Spencer Steedley (Cole DeVries was a starter in 2009), so it's no surprise that he's been the most reliable member of the Rock Cats bullpen. In 14 2/3 innings, Steedley has struck out 17 batters while allowing only two runs (both of which came in the same game). But sadly, the rest of the bullpen has struggled, a lot.

Joe Testa (#49) has appeared in seven games, but he's only been untouched in one of those appearances. He has an 0-3 record and has allowed 12 earned runs (15 total) in 7 1/3 innings for a 14.73 ERA. Chris Province, who the Twins acquired from the Boston Red Sox over the Winter in exchange for Boof Bonser has appeared in a team-high nine games, but his 10.03 ERA and 11 walks allowed are team highs. As a matter of fact, his 11 walks are the most amongst any reliever in the Eastern League.

But not all is bad in "The Hardware City." In fact, the starting rotation has been very good so far. The starters have a 3.61 ERA, but only have only factored into the decision seven times (including two victories). The starters have induced a 1.15 ground-ball/fly-ball ratio and have allowed the second-fewest home runs in the Eastern League.

David Bromberg
(#8), the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year in both 2008 and 2009, is already starting to make his case for himself in 2010 by allowing only three runs in four April starts for a 1.13 ERA (fourth best in the Eastern League). But the same pitcher who lead the minor leagues with 177 strikeouts two years ago has seen his K/9 ratio fall this season. It's still very early, but his K/9 in 2010 is 7.13, which is down from 8.7 in 2009, 10.6 in 2008, and 12.5 in 2009. But while his strikeout numbers have declined, he has managed to cut down on his walks this season and has a 2.25 BB/9 ratio. Again, it's very early, but this trend is noticeable. Bromberg just knows how to pitch. As he's matured, he has worried more about movement and location than velocity. I'm sure that he'll take a sub-2.00 ERA over being the strikeout leader any day.

Tyler Robertson and Michael McCardell have also pitched well, but not without their flaws. Robertson has only pitched into the sixth inning once, and he was pulled after recording one out. McCardell has given up 31 fly-ball outs, which is by far the highest on the team (yes, I am nitpicking). Both have sub-4.00 ERA's and have been reliable starters, which can't be said for Carlos Gutierrez (#14). The first round pick in 2008 continues to struggle against Eastern League hitters, and his time in the rotation may be numbered.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for the Rock Cats in this young season has been the strong play from Deolis Guerra (#16). The only remaining player from the Johan Santana trade put up strong numbers through three April starts. He has gotten significantly better in each of his three starts and has not surrendered a run in the 18 innings he's pitched. Obviously, two great starts is (way) too small of a sample size to get giddy over, but the fact that Guerra is only 21-years-old and has great potential makes it hard to not feel good about it.

What's Next?: Seven of the team's nine series in May are against .500 (or better) clubs. They will face the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (the Eastern League - Eastern Division leader) eight times. With no offensive help in Fort Myers, the hitters will need to give themselves a kick start. Pitching help isn't far away, but it's unlikely that either Kyle Gibson or Bobby Lanigan are promoted before the Florida State League All-Star Break, which is June 11-13 (although with the way both are pitching, I may be eating my words very shortly). Hopefully for the Rock Cats (and my fantasy baseball team) sake, Stephen Strasburg will be promoted before the next time they'd have to face him (which if the Harrisburg Senators keep the same rotation schedule, will be May 13th). EDIT: The Nationals have announced that Strasburg will be promoted to Triple-A Syracuse. Nice break for the Rock Cats.