December 31, 2009

Josh's Thoughts Top 50 Twins Prospects: Explanation

Here was my explanation from last year, I think it's still fitting:
With the Twins currently not making any headlines these days, I've decided to start posting my top 50 prospect list. It's taken me a long time to do it, and although I will admit I am not completely 100% of the way done with it, I feel I am far enough along to begin posting it. The reason I wanted to get a jump start on posting it is because of the fact that (A) there's nothing to talk about these days and (B) it will take 50 days to complete.

This is not to say I will not be posting anything else, because if the Twins do make any headlines, I will give my thoughts. I'm just saying that each day, expect a new player to be listed.

If you find an error, please let me know. I'm sure many of you know, I make my fair share of mistakes, so if you could be kind enough to let me know of any false information, I will greatly appreciate it. Also, if you find anything that would be useful to add (such as a picture, video or information regarding the player) please feel free to email me at

Like all top prospect lists, these are all done really to just give people a better understanding of how fellow fans feel about their beloved prospects. I would like to explain that this list is nowhere near perfect and I do appreciate any constructional criticism you may have. After all, it's all for fun.

This list I feel is different than many others, and for that I am really proud of it. It is in fact a list, but instead of posting a brief paragraph on each player and posting a 5-10 player list per day, I am actually posting an individual profile report on each player, which is why it will take 50 days to complete (one per day).

So with that, the posting will begin tomorrow. Thanks for another great year.

Also, here's a new Twins blog to check out. It's called Twins #1 Fan. Hope you enjoy!

December 28, 2009

What's going on?

Happy Holidays! I decided that with not a whole lot going on last week to hold off on writing until today, even though there's still nothing going on with the Twins. I also wanted to mention that I have switched to the old commenting system (the blogger default) in the wake of HaloScan switching to ECHO (thanks to Aaron Gleeman for the heads-up). I may sometime choose to use ECHO, but at this time it just makes more sense to use the default commenting system.

On the 14th, the Twins sent two scouts to Houston to monitor Aroldis Chapman while he put together a bullpen session for potential buyers. Chapman, a 21-year-old southpaw who defected from Cuba last summer, is considered the year's best international free agent and one of the best remaining pitchers on the open market. He began drawing attention last Spring, hitting 100 mph on the radar gun, while pitching for the Cuban national team in the World Baseball Classic.

(Paul Spinelli/WBCI/MLB Photos/Getty Images)

Generally, this wouldn't be worth mentioning. In years past, the Twins have remained dormant while other teams have assertively hit the international market with force. This year, the Twins have been one of the year's biggest buyers in the international market and signing Chapman may not be out of the question.

Twins GM Bill Smith, like always, wouldn't give people much to dwell on when commenting on Chapman, "This is one of any number of these workouts we attend each year. It's as much information gathering as anything else. We've seen this guy a number of times. We've seen him in the WBC and in a number of tournaments."

It's likely that any deal for Chapman will be more than the $15.1 million deal that Stephen Strasburg, the number one overall pick in last June's draft, received from the Washington Nationals. The Red Sox have reportedly offered Chapman a contract worth around $15.5 million. If the Twins are serious about signing Chapman, which I hope that they are, they'll have to dig deep into their pockets to pick up any loose change they might have lying around. Unfortunately, I doubt they have the funds to pull off such a deal, even though I agree with Parker Hageman in thinking that it may be a very reasonable contract, if the Twins believe that all of the hype surrounding him is justified.

Mark DeRosa, who the Twins have had interest in before, may leaning toward signing with the San Francisco Giants. The deal is reportedly worth $12 million over two years, which is significantly lower than the three-year $27 million deal he was supposedly looking for heading into free agency. Despite the lowered salary, I'm still more inclined to see the Twins sign either Orlando Hudson or Felipe Lopez, who are both still available and (at least on the surface) don't seem to have a ton of interest at this time.

The Twins look as though they'll stick with their status quo of waiting for the market to thin out before striking a deal. But I'm fine with that. The Twins have watched players such as Pedro Feliz, Garrett Atkins and Troy Glaus go to other teams, but that's not a bad thing. Clubs are filling their vacancies at second base or third base and players like Lopez, Hudson, Adrian Beltre and Miguel Tejada sit around with no contract in hand. It does seem that the longer the Twins wait, the cheaper their options will be. Just have to hope that they strike before it's too late.

Finally, here's a new blog to check out. It's called The Willard's Twins Blog. Hope you enjoy!

December 15, 2009


It's finals time again at St. Cloud State and that's obviously prohibited me from writing or even thinking for that matter, about the Twins and baseball. I am done at the end of this week and should be back to my "normal" schedule sometime next week. If the Twins do sign someone or trade for someone, I'll surely try to post on it, but I'm doubting anything happens in the next couple of days. I'll soon be posting my 2010 Top 50 Twins Prospects list and my 2010 Top 50 MiLB Prospects list. I can't say for sure when either list will be posted, but I'm figuring sometime around Christmas.

December 11, 2009

Twins looking at Mark DeRosa, again

The Twins have been interested in acquiring Mark DeRosa quite a few times in recent years. He possess a lot of qualities that the Twins look for in players. He also plays a position that the Twins are trying to fill. So it really comes to no surprise that the Twins met with DeRosa's agent at this week's Winter Meetings in Indianapolis.

With holes at both second and third base, the Twins are expected to find a replacement for at least one of them by Spring Training. Other than DeRosa, the Twins have been linked to Adrian Beltre, Joe Crede, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Placido Polanco, Juan Uribe and Pedro Feliz. Both Polanco and Feliz have signed with other clubs, but there is enough depth in the free agent pool of infielders to make the Twins feel comfortable enough to let the market unfold around them.

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

For DeRosa, I understand why the Twins are interested in him. He's a good clubhouse presence, plays hard and has played multiple positions throughout his career. Last year, the Twins were drawn to Casey Blake not only because of the position he plays, but also because he's a veteran leader. The Twins field one of the youngest teams in Major League Baseball and some of the players seem to show improvements from having a veteran player to look up to.

On top of finding a second or third baseman, the Twins also need to find a player that is capable of hitting in the two hole. If the season started today, JJ Hardy would likely be that guy, but the Twins would be better off finding someone with a higher on-base percentage to put between Denard Span and Joe Mauer. DeRosa, in comparison to the other players being linked to the team or that the Twins already have, is a good choice to hit second. But be advised, that's not saying a lot as the players previously mentioned all have terrible on-base skills. DeRosa's bat is capable of being great at times and does have a fair amount of power, but he's coming off a terrible half-season in St. Louis where he hit .228/.291/.405 in 68 games. That line is far lower than what he's done over the course of his career, or even in recent years, but he's going to be 35-years-old next season, so it's worth noting.

DeRosa has always been known as being "durable" and has played every position - except for pitcher, catcher and center field - on the field. But it's one thing to say someone is durable and actually being durable. To me, being durable is having the ability to play several positions well. DeRosa does not have that ability. At second and third base, the positions he's spent the majority of his time playing, he hurts his team by playing poor defense. His career URZ/150 at second base is -7.5 runs and his UZR/150 at third base is -6.5 runs. He's much better in the outfield, posting a URZ/150 of +21.6 runs through 1,600 innings. Admittedly, it's hard to really make a great assessment of his defensive abilities since he's never spent an entire season at one position, but at least it's somewhat accurate. DeRosa's been labeled "durable" throughout his career, but I find that misleading. Does he play several positions? Yes. Does he play them well? No. But I guess each person has their own interpretation of what they being "durable" is.

The Twins do have two positions they need to fill, but Nick Punto does figure to have a chance at grabbing one of the positions. If the Twins were to sign DeRosa, he'd most certainly be signed as the third baseman, which would leave second base to Punto. Danny Valencia is thought to be the third baseman of the future, but the Twins seem uncertain on whether he's close to being ready for the Majors. Valencia seems to have the skills to be at least a league average third baseman on both sides of the ball, but like with any prospect, it's a risk to put any stock into him before he's reached the Majors. That's why the Twins are looking at adding a third baseman right now.

Regardless of whether or not he'd be blocking Valencia from reaching the Majors, the problem I'm having most with adding DeRosa is his cost. DeRosa is reportedly looking for a three-year $27 million deal. $9 million per season annually is far too much for a player like DeRosa and if the Twins come close to matching it, I'd be very disappointed. At that price, I'd much rather run the risk of having Valencia being our opening day third baseman or see Crede back.

December 9, 2009

What else could the Twins possibly have up their sleeves?

Bob Nightingale of USA Today reported that the Twins and Padres have discussed a trade that would send Glen Perkins to San Diego in exchange for Kevin Kouzmanoff. In the same report, Nightingale said that the Twins would need to include more to complete a deal. How much more remains to be the question.

Perkins is believed to be expendable with Carl Pavano returning to the rotation, and given that the organization and Perkins haven't exactly seen eye-to-eye in recent months, it makes sense that the Twins would look into trading him. As for Kouzmanoff, the Padres are looking to trim payroll any way that they can. Kouzmanoff plays a good third base, but Chase Headley is still believed to be the third baseman of the future and is much cheaper. Kouzmanoff is heading into his first year of arbitration, where he'll could receive upwards of $3 million.

(Getty Images)

Personally, I wouldn't mind the trade as long as the "more" that Nightingale mentioned wasn't in the form of a top prospect. As many know, I'm a big supporter of Danny Valencia, who would be affected most by this move. The Twins seem pretty apprehensive about handing the reigns of third base to Valencia, but at the same time, they still make it known that he's likely the future third baseman.

Kouzmanoff is under team control through 2012, which is great, but not for Valencia. I personally think that Valencia could be every bit as good as Kouzmanoff if given the opportunity, but like every prospect, there's always the risk factor. But blocking Valencia isn't why I think this deal won't get done. Instead, it's something that Twins fans have had to put up with for years, and that they probably won't be willing to pay his salary. But at least this time, it's much more understandable.

The Twins, at this moment, have a projected payroll of just under $90 million for 2010, according to Joe Christensen. And lets not forget that Joe Mauer still hasn't been re-signed, which could easily add an additional $8-10 million to the payroll alone. As Nick Nelson of Nick's Twins Blog points out, the Twins payroll is already up around $25 million since Opening Day 2009, which is pretty remarkable.

Unless the Twins are looking to have a payroll of over $100 million, which would surprise...well... just about everyone, there's probably not much more that they'll do. The only logical salary-dump player would be Jesse Crain who may get close to $3 million through arbitration. If the Twins intend on keeping Crain on the roster, they'll likely be looking at either going with Brendan Harris at third base, as Ron Gardenhire mentioned yesterday, or signing someone like Joe Crede, who won't break the bank by any means.

The Twins could trade either Joe Nathan or Michael Cuddyer to free up cap space, but at this time, that doesn't appear to be likely. Nathan is due $35 million over the next three years and would fetch a good return if he is traded. Cuddyer is due $19 million over the next two seasons but probably won't give the Twins much more than another high salary player.

So as it stands, I'm not sure what else the Twins will be doing this off-season. Obviously I expect them to do something, but I really have no clue as to what direction they'll go. It appears that they're looking at adding a third baseman, but I just don't know how they'll do so with the payroll already near $90 million. Unless the Twins are willing to allow their payroll to exceed $100 million, I don't see how they can do much more.

Forgive me for being a bit skeptical of the Twins trading for a player like Kouzmanoff or adding any second-tier free agents for that matter. I would love to see the Twins look into adding either Orlando Hudson or Felipe Lopez to play second base, but both of those players seem very unlikely at this point. I just don't see how them going above $100 million next season which obviously would limit any moves from here on out. But as I said, they'll do something, I just don't have the slightest clue what.

December 8, 2009

Boof Bonser DFA'd

Last night, I predicted that Boof Bonser wouldn't be with the Twins next season. And this afternoon, the Twins made that a likely possibility by designating him for assignment. The move is related to Carl Pavano accepting arbitration. Minnesota's 40-man roster was full, which meant that in order to add Pavano, someone had to go.

(Mike Carlson/Associated Press)

Most people are irritated that the Twins would designate Bonser for assignment before guys like Bobby Keppel or Drew Butera, but this move was most likely driven by salary. Bonser is arbitration eligable and missed all of the 2009 seaseon after undergoing shoulder surgery. Bonser could command seven-figures in arbitration, which the Twins felt that it was too big of a risk for a player in Bonser's shoes. Keppel will probably be the next player taken off if the Twins add another free agent.

The Twins acquired Bonser from the Giants over six years ago. The Twins sent catcher A.J. Pierzynski to San Francisco in exchange for Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Bonser. Bonser had a successful Minor League career but couldn't stay consistent in the Majors. Bonser appeared in 96 games (including 60 starts) over three seasons and posted an 18-25 record with a 5.12 ERA. Many believe that Bosner is best-suited for a job in the bullpen, but unless he accepts an assignment to Triple-A, he'll be trying to prove that on another team.

December 7, 2009

Pavano officially accepts arbitration

It's official. Carl Pavano has accepted the Twins' offer of arbitration, meaning he will be with the Twins for at least one more season. The Twins and Pavano may try to continue working on a two-year contract, but it's more likely that Pavano will be go in with the Twins next season before testing the market again next winter. Pavano must not have been able to generate much interest of a multi-year deal from other teams, which is the most likely reasoning for accepting the offer.

The Twins already had a plethora of arms that will be competing for the last spot in the rotation (and the bullpen), but this is great news. Right now, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn and Pavano are locks for the rotation. Kevin Slowey will be a lock if he returns healthy, which nothing up to this point has made me think otherwise. That means that the Twins could have up to six in-house players competing for the last spot in the rotation.

Glen Perkins and Brian Duensing are both vying for the last spot in the rotation, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Perkins traded at some point during the off-season. The bullpen is already packed, and Perkins might not be in Minnesota's long-term plans, which could give the Twins an incentive to trade him. That would leave Duensing as the odds-on-favorite to claim the fifth spot in the rotation. I'd be fine with that, but I'd still like to see the Twins sign a low risk, high reward starter. I also expect to see Boof Bonser non-tendered, which should help give a better assessment as to where the rotation/bullpen stand heading into next season.

At this time, the Twins can at least move their attention strictly to improving second base or third base (of course, besides re-signing Joe Mauer). There are plenty of options available and the Twins should be able to find the deal they want. I'd personally like to see the Twins sign either Felipe Lopez or Orlando Hudson, leaving third base to Nick Punto. In that scenario, Punto would be holding down third base until the Twins deem Danny Valencia ready. And it'd also fulfill my dream (ok, hope) of also signing Joe Crede (or perhaps Adrian Beltre or Pedro Feliz) to a one-year contract at some point (probably a month or so) before Spring Training, thus relegating Punto to the bench.

But we'll just take it one step at a time...

6:00 PM:
Neal is now reporting that Pavano will in fact accept arbitration from the Twins.

1:00 PM:
According to Ken Rosenthal of, it appears more and more likely that Twins starter Carl Pavano will accept arbitration, keeping him in Minnesota for at least one more season (thoughts below).

11:00 AM: La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that Twins General Manager Bill Smith and Pavano's agent, Tom O'Connell, last night and have until 11 PM tonight to decide whether or not to accept the Twins' offer of arbitration. Pavano's camp wants at least a two-year deal and at this moment, it doesn't seem like there's any team willing to give that to him.

As I've said in the past, Pavano alone likely won't give the Twins a great rotation, but he'll definitely add some stability. At this point, only Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn are set as "locks" for next year's rotation. Both Kevin Slowey and Brian Duensing will also have good opportunities in Spring Training to claim a spot, but hopefully the Twins can find at least one or two additional pickups to fill out the starting five. Slowey will be returning from wrist surgery, but should be ready to go, likely making him another "lock."

If Pavano is one of them, I'd still like to see the team go after guys like Erik Bedard, Ben Sheets or Rich Harden. The three of them (among others) are looking to prove themselves and are likely be receiving one or two year contracts, which is just what the Twins need.

Stay tuned. We'll find out sometime today/tonight what Pavano's decision is.

Winter Meetings

One of the best times during the off-season is the Winter Meetings. Every year, each team sends representatives (owners, front office members, coaches, etc.). During the week-long meetings, there is generally more rumors and speculation than at any other point during the season. So obviously, this is my favorite point during the off-season.

But unfortunately, my finals are right around the corner and it just happens to be "hell week" for me due to presentations, projects and papers all needing to be done. But rest assure, if the Twins do make noise with a move, I will write about it. I will also try to discuss some of the rumors that come up. So make sure to check back throughout the week.

Also feel free to follow me on Twitter, where I'll likely be discussing rumors as well. But for more Twins news, check out the links on the side of the page.

December 2, 2009

Twins offer Pavano arbitration

The deadline to offer potential free agents arbitration was last night and as expected, the Twins offered arbitration to Carl Pavano. Pavano gained Type-B status which, if he signs with another team, means that he'll fetch the Twins a second round draft pick in next June's draft. There has been interest from both Pavano's camp and the Twins' front office to keep Pavano in Minnesota. I've mentioned here that while he's not my first choice, I certainly wouldn't mind seeing him come back.

Twins shortstop Orlando Cabrera cannot be offered arbitration due to it being written in his contract. Cabrera qualified as a Type-A free agent, but since the Twins cannot offer him arbitration, any team looking to sign him won't have to surrender their first round pick to the Twins. There have been rumblings about bringing Cabrera back as a second baseman, but that's about all there's been.

Several players the Twins may show interest in this off-season weren't offered arbitration. Second basemen Orlando Hudson and Placido Polanco are two players the Twins will likely discuss bringing to Minnesota and neither were offered arbitration by their former teams. Both players would fit into Minnesota's lineup well.

Other players that weren't offered arbitration and which the Twins could target:
  • Randy Wolf
  • Ronnie Beliard
  • Erik Bedard
  • Felipe Lopez
  • Rich Harden
  • Jon Garland
  • Miguel Tejada
  • Melvin Mora
All of these players could be discussed by the Twins and now that none will cost a draft pick, their chances of signing greatly increase.


There are reports that the Red Sox are "serious" about signing Rich Harden which could very well take the Twins out of the running to sign him. But, as with every free agent, anything can happen.

And the reports of Joe Mauer's supposed "deadline" has been refuted by, whoelse?, Joe Mauer himself. It's funny how quickly some things can be squashed.

Seth Stohs reported yesterday that Twins prospect Danny Valencia is heading to Puerto Rico to play Winter Ball. The Twins have expressed their desire for Valencia to play over the Winter in order to give himself a legitimate shot at making the Opening Day roster. While that could be true, the liklihood that Valencia will make the Opening Day roster even after playing Winter Ball is small. That's not because he's not ready, it's because the Twins will most likely find a second baseman or third baseman (making Nick Punto the other starter) by that time. If it were up to me, I'd want Valencia to rest over the Winter to prepare as well as he can for the upcoming season.

November 19, 2009

Twins Links

Here's a great article about Brendan Harris visiting a middle school. It's hard not to respect a guy like Harris after reading that. He definitely went up a few notches in my book.

A couple guys that are reportedly being linked to the Twins are Mark DeRosa and Jarrod Washburn.

The Twins unveiled their uniforms, patches, hats and logos on Monday. I personally like the changes and can't wait to buy a new away jersey. Here are some more thoughts:
Ron Gardenhire came in second to Angels manager Mike Scioscia in voting for A.L. Manager of the Year. Brian Pietrzak believes Gardenhirew was snubbed. I personally thought Rangers manager Ron Washington was snubbed or at the very least deserved more votes than he got. But I'm not surprised being that the Rangers failed to make the playoffs.

For some great pictures of Target Field, check out both the walking tour from NPR and Phil Mackey's pictures.

The Twins have until Friday to put players on their 40-man rosters which would protect them from potentially being taken in next months the Rule V Draft. The Twins have eight minor league free agents. Here's a look at who the Twins may or may not protect. Also, here's Seth Stohs thoughts on the manner.

On Stohs' latest podcast, Danny Valencia and Steve Singleton were guests and it was a great listen. Both are inteligent players with plenty of potential. It's definitely worth a listen if you're interested in Twins prospects.

Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times and author of Evaulation Baseball's Managers: A History and Analysis of Performance in the Major Leagues, 1876-2008 posted an excerpt of his book regarding former Twins manager, Billy Martin. It's a great read and that every Twins fan should check out.

As mentioned this past weekend, Justin Huber has indeed signed a contract to play in Japan next season. But Twins fans found out later that he won't be the only Rochester Red Wing heading accross the Pacific. Juan Morillo has also signed a contract with a Japanese team and will be pitching overseas next season. Tough break for the Twins and Rochester Red Wings.

And finally, here's what's going on around the Twins Blogosphere...

November 14, 2009

Bye Bye Huber?

NPB Tracker just posted a report from the The Chugoku Shimbun that Justin Huber is close to signing a contract with the Hiroshima Carp. This week, Huber was taken off of the 40-man roster and was sent outright to Triple-A. The Carp then put in a request for Huber which, according to the report, was accepted immediately.

The Twins letting Huber go doesn't make a lot of sense to me. For starters, the Rochester Red Wings were a pretty bad team last season and Huber was a fan-favorite who lead the club in home runs, RBI and batting average. And on top of winning the Red Wings' Triple Crown, Huber was named an I.L. All-Star and competed in the home run derby in which he provided the night's longest home run (438 feet). That doesn't mean he should be untouchable, but ripping a player like Huber away from the Red Wings will definitely hurt the team.

He also provides depth at both the corner outfield and first base, two positions the Twins need depth. At first thought, you'd probably disagree. But there's going to be some concern over Justin Morneau's injury and whether or not Delmon Young finally turns a leaf in left field, Huber would have been an adequate replacement. Unfortunately, the Twins didn't feel Huber was valuable enough to keep around and will probably come to an agreement of a modest dollar amount.

Hopefully the Twins find a replacement that can fill Huber's shoes down in Rochester. I know they are going to be full in the outfield and could rely heavily on David Winfree at first base (if he's re-signed), but I still think that keeping a guy like that around when there's uncertainty regarding the depth is a positive.

I've always nagged on the Twins for blocking prospects with older non-prospect players in the minor leagues, but I always took this situation as an exception. The Red Wings will likely be very young and inexperienced again next season, which could keep Rochester out of contention in the I.L. North for the second consecutive season.

November 11, 2009

Who's at second?

Since Todd Walker and Chuck Knoblauch played at the Metrodome, the Twins haven't had steady play from any of their second basemen. In fact, the team has put in little effort (at least, compared to other positions) to upgrade it at all. Surely you can mention Brett Boone or Luis Castillo, but both were well past their prime before putting on a Twins uniform. And when options like Alexi Casilla and Luis Rivas have failed, the Twins haven't been able to find a suitable replacement. And now after a decade of futility at (admittedly) a position that isn't viewed as a highly productive position, the Twins could be in a great position to finally find a productive player to put at second base.

Last week, I mentioned who I would most like to see at second base. Today, I'll give other options that could entise the Twins. And thankfully, there are quite a few.

Orlando Cabrera - The Twins traded for JJ Hardy last week which made everyone assume that the Twins would move on from Cabrera. But since the trade, there have been some rumblings over Ron Gardenhire's comments of how he'd would like to keep Cabrera with the team. As a second baseman.

I understand why Gardenhire would like to keep a person like Cabrera around, but from a player standpoint, I see little reasoning to it. Cabrera hasn't played more than a game at second base sine 1998 and he's a liability at the top of the lineup. If the Twins had an ideal number-two hitter to implant between Denard Span and Joe Mauer, I may be a little more open to it. But I would like to see someone that is better at getting on-base in that spot. Cabrera played well for the Twins down the stretch, but I'm sure that he's looking for a multi-year deal and that's not something I'd like to see the Twins offer a 35-year-old with a severely declined skill set.

Orlando Hudson - When taking in both offensive and defensive production, Hudson's been one of the most underrated second basemen in all of baseball this decade. Despite being on the wrong-side of 30, he still has proven to have a productive bat from both sides of the plate. Last season, Hudson hit .283/.357/.417 which was pretty similar to the triple-slash line that he put up as a 26-years-old in Toronto and nearly identical to his career hitting line.

The problem with Hudson these days isn't his bat, it's his defense. Yesterday, reports came out that Hudson won his fourth Gold Glove Award of his career. Although we won't know until later today if that's true, we've come to know that the award is based a lot of reputation than actual defensive standards. According to his UZR, Hudson has been considered below average defensively in both the last two seasons. But his defense was better in 2009 than it was in 2008 which could make some believe that he's on the rebound.

Hudson's injury risks and declining defense may make some want to keep away from signing him. Much like last off-season, Hudson heads into free agency with the lackluster 'Type-A' status hanging over his head, which immediately made me say, "no way, Jose!" But as John Bonnes points out, some teams may be against offering some of their players arbitration over fear of them accepting it. While I don't think the Dodgers would be distraught over Hudson accepting their arbitration proposal, they may be better advised to let him walk instead of offering him a large one-year offer. As Bonnes mentioned, Hudson was benched toward the end of last season after falling apart in September.

If the Dodgers don't offer arbitration to Hudson, I expect the Twins to make a big play for him. He's an ideal two-hole hitter and wouldn't cost a first round pick. Even with his declining defense, the Twins would be making a mistake if they didn't look into him.

Placido Polanco
- Much like the same case between the Dodgers and Hudson, the Tigers have a tough decision to make whether or not to offer Polanco arbitration. Polanco also qualified as a Type-A free agent and the 34-year-old will look at the trouble that fellow 30+ year-old infielders have had trying to ink a contract and could choose to stay in MoTown. And the Tigers aren't as prepared as the Dodgers in the event that Polanco does accept arbitration. The reason is that Scott Sizemore is slatted to start at second for the Tigers in 2010 and it probably isn't worth the risk to offer Polanco arbitration.

Despite his age, Polanco is still very valuable defensively and was awarded the second Gold Glove of his career yesterday. According to UZR, Polanco saved 11.4 runs with his glove this season, the highest in baseball. Polanco also is a pest at the plate and could be an interesting bat to have between Span and Mauer. Although he doesn't walk a ton, he's hard to strike out and makes a lot of contact. Polanco, like Hudson, should also be on the Twins' radar if he's not offered arbitration.

Brandon Phillips
- Unlike the other options, Philips would need to be acquired through a trade instead of free agency. The Reds are believed to be cutting costs this off-season which makes players such as Phillips vulnerable to be traded. He's set to make $29.75 million over the next three years but doesn't turn 30 until the middle of the 2011 season. Phillips isn't an ideal two-hole hitter, but he's a good right-handed bat with pop. He also plays very strong defense and was recognized with a Gold Glove in 2008.

Unfortunately, the Twins already have several eight-figure players on the team already and should they add Phillips, they'd be adding two more for 2011 with Michael Cuddyer's option being picked up. If the Twins planned on shedding some salary between now and then, it might make some sense, but I don't see the Twins adding a player like Phillips right now.

So there are several other players that have been discussed throughout the Twins Blogosphere. I still think that Felipe Lopez would be a good fit, but there are certainly other intriguing options that could make sense for the Twins.

November 10, 2009

Off-Season Blueprint: Letting Go (The Joe Crede Edition)

Not even a year ago, the Twins signed Joe Crede to be a one-year stopgap at third base while the organization waits for Danny Valencia to make his way up. The deal was a great opportunity for Crede to prove to other ball clubs that he was fully healed from back surgery and and worthy of a long-term contract.

Unfortunately, things didn't quite work out the way either side wanted. Valencia isn't quite ready and Crede hurt himself, eliminating any chances he had of joining another team with a multi-year deal. And although one would expect that the Twins and Crede would part ways, the contrary seems to be likely. The Twins and Crede could both use one another for yet another season.

Many believe that Valencia could probably handle the starting job right out of Spring Training, but the Twins' ultra-conservative approach with position prospects makes that a pipe dream at this point-in-time. That leaves an possibility for the Twins and Crede could be able to find a way to keep the 31-year-old in Minnesota for another year.

Any contract would likely be a one-year deal with similar incentives from his last contract. His last deal had incentives that could bring his $2.5 million salary close to $7 million based on performance and playing time.

Crede seemingly enjoyed his time with the Twins and he was a good clubhouse fit. With a team that is likely to lose veterans such as Mike Redmond and Orlando Cabrera (among others), the Twins need to keep some of the clubhouse charisma that it has. When Crede was able to play, he proved to be a very valuable defender while putting up a putrid .225/.289/.414 hitting line. But on a brighter note, he did have 16 doubles, 15 home runs and 48 RBI in 333 at-bats.

Crede underwent back surgery at the end of September and has supposedly felt very good at this point in the recovery. But when he's had three procedures on his back since 2007, it's a huge risk in any way, shape or form when dealing with a guy like him. Thankfully, he has expressed interest of staying in Minnesota and would probably accept a similar deal that brought him here in the first place.

Personally, I've always liked Crede and enjoyed him with the Twins (when he could play), but I think that the Twins would be better off going after a high on-base guy at either second base or third base and letting Nick Punto play the last infield position. With JJ Hardy at shortstop, the Twins would have a very good defensive infield if they do decide to re-sign Crede. And really, I wouldn't be outraged if they did decide to bring him back.

But it does scare me to think of another year of wasting the second spot in the lineup ahead of guys like Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.

November 6, 2009

Trade Evaluation: Carlos Gomez for JJ Hardy

Now that everyone is starting to calm down over the initial reports of dealing fan-favorite Carlos Gomez for JJ Hardy, it's time to evaluate the trade from several angles.


This trade from a Twins perspective is good. While Gomez is one of the best defensive outfielders in the league, he yielded playing time in center field to Denard Span and when Delmon Young started hitting late in the season, Gomez saw seldom playing time. The Twins clearly didn't value Gomez's defense enough to make up for his putrid offense. Which obviously made him expendable.

The Twins being able to pry Hardy from the Brewers without having to give up more than Gomez looks to be an initial 'win' for Minnesota. Hardy was once viewed as 'untouchable' with the likes of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, but poor play and the emergence of Alcides Escobar ultimately forced the Brewers hand. The Twins having gaping holes everywhere except for first base in the infield. Hardy fufills a hole at shortstop while Nick Punto likely fills another hole at either second or third base.

To add: Peter brought up a good point in the comment sections. Baseball has a lot to do with marketing and while Gomez was a fan-favorite in the Twin Cities, Hardy has been known to be a fan-favorite in Wisconsin and I'm sure (from a marketing perspective) the Twins aren't losing a ton while potentially gaining a lot of marketability in Hardy.


The Brewers, as mentioned, felt the need to trade Hardy now while he still has some value left. But had they traded him prior to the July trade deadline, the Brewers probably would have gotten quite a bit more in return. With Mat Gamel making his way to the Majors and Casey McGehee emerging as an option the Brewers thoughts of moving Hardy to third base didn't seem like a viable option anymore. With no room left for Hardy in the infield, the Brewers knew heading into the off-season that they'd have to move one of them to fill in another position of need.

Pitching seemed to be the likely position they'd target in a trade. Mike Cameron is a free agent and seemed likely to test the free agent waters, so the Brewers decided to not waste any time in findinig his replacement. They go from an older good defensive outfielder to a younger, better defensive outfielder. Unfortunately they'll miss Cameron's bat, but if Gomez can reach his potential, they'll be plenty pleased with what Gomez can bring to the table. A fine move on the Brewers behalf.

Now what?

Despite what I mentioned earlier, Bill Smith mentioned that this will mean the end of Orlando Cabrera's time in Minnesota. Smith also mentioned that Nick Punto will likely play either second base or third base which means the club could look to add one of the two. Punto can play either position adequately so the Twins have plenty of options. Right now, the lineup would likely be:

That lineup (to many) would be great, but it unfortunately makes me cringe. Why? Because the thought of Hardy batting second makes me want to puke. He has a career .323 on-base percentage and last season, he got on base 30.2% of the time, which is not good enough for the two-hole. The Twins are notorious for wasting the number two spot in the lineup and when you have guys at number one and three in the lineup that get on-base at a high clip, the two-hole shouldn't be any different.

In order to optimize the lineup we have, I think it's pretty clear that the Twins need to add a player that is a better fit in the two-hole than what Hardy is. In turn, the Twins will be able to stretch their lineup out, allowing Hardy to slide down to number seven in the lineup.

Even after this latest trade, the Twins still have several trading chips that could interest other teams. They also have a few options they can pursue via free agency. One player that would fit the role perfectly would be Chone Figgins, but acquiring him is probably not realistic. To me, the best fit would be Felipe Lopez.

After struggling to crack the lineup as a regular in Toronto, the Blue Jays traded Lopez to Cincinnati prior to the 2003 season. The Reds got similar production from Lopez in both 2003 and 2004 as he backed-up Barry Larkin. Larkin retired prior to the 2005 season and the Reds gave Lopez an opportunity to start. He finished the season hitting .291/.352/.486 with 62 extra-base hits including 23 home runs.

But Lopez was traded to the Washington Nationals in the middle of the 2006 season and he fell off the face of the earth during his two years spent in the nation's capital and the Nationals decided to trade him during the 2008 season to the St. Louis Cardinals. Something started clicking for Lopez in St. Louis and he carried it with him as a free agent in 2009 to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks were out of contention at the trade deadline and dealt him to the Milwaukee Brewers where he continued to rip the cover off of the ball.

Lopez isn't an All-Star by any means, but he's a solid defensive second baseman and can fill in at third base if needed. He also has a .392 OBP since the middle of the 2008 season which can't be ignored. Lopez signed a one-year $3.5 million deal with the Diamondbacks last off-season and is likely to receive a substantial pay raise this time around.

Lopez is still on the good side of 30, which means he'll likely be getting a multi-year contract. The Twins don't look to have anyone close to the Majors who would be threatening to take over second base anytime soon so if they wanted to explore a two or three-year deal with Lopez, it'd be a good decision. Signing Lopez to a two-years and $12 million with a third year option of $8 million would be a great move for the Twins.

It'd also give us a lineup like this:

And the best part? The Twins can do this without having to break the bank for someone like Figgins. In fact, according to the TwinsCentric GM Handbook, this would give the Twins a payroll around $87 million. Even if the Twins added $7-8 million onto Mauer's contract extension (if they do sign him to an extension), the Twins would still be within what their self-imposed salary cap would be, which is believed to be between $90-100.

And the Twins could still have a few million to work with in signing a starting pitcher. A good risk for the Twins would be to look into Ben Sheets as a free agent. He likely could be signed for under $2 million (without incentives) and could be a huge boost to this rotation.

The point I'm trying to get across is that the Twins still have a lot of options on how they want to finish off this roster and while re-signing Mauer remains the top priority, it's great to see the Twins not waste any time acquiring new players.

Breaking News: Twins trade Carlos Gomez for JJ Hardy

The Twins and Brewers have reportedly agreed to a trade that would send Carlos Gomez to Milwaukee in exchange for JJ Hardy.

This move isnt' a surprise as both players have been mentioned in rumors over the course of this last season. The surprise is that the Twins pulled the trigger on it so quickly. Although I still think that this doesn't necessarily means the end for Orlando Cabrera in Minnesota (as Hardy can play third base), this could make the next few weeks interesting as we head into free agency.

I personally would have loved to keep Gomez on the team as I still think that at this time, he's a much more valuable commodity than Delmon Young, but I understand the Twins' reasoning for getting rid of him. Unfortunately, the Twins over-value Denard Span's offense in center field and unless Young gains some speed over the off-season, I don't know how I feel about the Twins' outfield (defensively) heading into next season.

Regardless, this move is good for both teams and seeing the Twins strike early is a great thing to see. And I'm sure the ladies will love having both Hardy and Joe Mauer on the same team... oh brother.

Stay tuned...

November 5, 2009

Off-Season Blueprint: Letting Go (The Mike Redmond Edition)

After spending seven years with the Florida Marlins as a backup catcher, Mike Redmond came north to Minnesota to serve as Joe Mauer's primary backup. Redmond was already considered one of the best backups in all of baseball prior to coming to Minnesota, but he solidified that title with the Twins.

Redmond signed a two-year, $1.8 million deal with the Twins after the 2004 season. He later signed a three-year contract extension during the middle of the 2006 season. Over the last five years with Minnesota, Redmond has hit .297/.339/.359 while giving the team solid defense. But as Redmond got older, both his offense and defense declined drastically and he finished the last year of his contract hitting .237/.299/.289 while throwing out only 13% of runners, which were all career lows.

One would expect that all of these factors would be a clear-enough reason for Redmond to hang up the cleats, but think again. Redmond indicated near the end of the season that he's not yet ready to retire and plans on playing next season whether it be in Minnesota or not.

Down the stretch, Redmond yielded playing time to Jose Morales, who put up substantially better numbers. The 26-year-old Morales hit .311/.381/.361 with a 103 OPS+ in 54 games with the Twins this season. Not only is Morales better offensively, but he's becoming a better defender, which has held him back in years past.

As much of a fan-favorite Redmond has become, it'd make no sense to bring him back next season. While the Twins obviously place a lot of emphasis in veteran leadership, the Twins know that Redmond is a liability and cannot be counted on everyday. Not only that, but he stands to make twice as much as Morales while giving a fraction of the production.

As great as it'll someday be to see Redmond waving runners around third base at Target Field, the Twins need to let him finish off his career somewhere else and move on with Morales.

November 3, 2009

Off-Season Blueprint: Letting Go (The Carl Pavano Edition)

To carry-on with the discussions on who the Twins should bring back, Carl Pavano is the next to be discussed. After failing to acquire a starting pitcher at the July trade deadline, most fans grew huffy and puffy at Bill Smith who despite trading for Orlando Cabrera hadn't really done a whole lot to improve the team.

But as Twins fans found out this season, August may be more active than July. The Twins hit the waiver wire hard in August and acquired three pitchers, including Pavano. After establishing himself as a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter with the Florida Marlins, the New York Yankees handed Pavano nearly $40 million over four years. But the injury bug hit Pavano and the right-hander threw only 145 2/3 innings for the Yankees over four years.

The Yankees declined an $13 million option on Pavano heading into the 2009 season and he later latched on with the Cleveland Indians who gave him a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. He was later placed on waivers in August where the Twins claimed him. To complete the trade, the Twins had to surrender Yohan Pino, which seemed a little steep, but eventually Twins fans supported the deal and most became big Pavano supporters.

Not only did Pavano pitch well against the Detroit Tigers, he also made a great start in the playoffs against the Yankees. Pavano finally started to prove to people that he can stay healthy for an entire season and is an option to sign for more than one year. The Twins loved the influence he had on the young pitching staff and also loved the results they got from Pavano.

With Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn the only pitchers that have really established themselves as mainstays in the rotation, the Twins do have some flexibility with the rest of their rotation. The majority believe that the Twins will have a rotation compiled of both Baker and Blackburn with Kevin Slowey and Brian Duensing filling out the rest of the staff. That leaves several internal options that could take that last spot including Glen Perkins, Jeff Manship and Francisco Liriano. But the general consensus is that the Twins will look outside the rotation to fill that final spot.

That's obviously where Pavano comes into play. Should the Twins re-sign him and go forward with the same rotation that essentially got them into the playoffs?

Personally, much like in the case with Cabrera, I personally would rather see the Twins attempt to improve the rotation before settling for Pavano. While Pavano is a nice back-end starter, I fear that the Twins will move forward without seriously improving the position that held them back for much of last season.

According to estimates from our friends at, Pavano may very well get at least $6 million a season, which to me isn't the problem. The problem comes when I think of the Twins being in the same position that they were in much of last season; great offense with poor starting pitching. And when I think of that, I see Pavano being at the forefront of the problem.

Despite putting up decent numbers this season, I am not in any way very optimistic about him being the kind of pitcher the Twins need, which is a front-end (#2-type of) starter. While I'm sure Pavano has finally turned a leaf and is truly ready to be a stable starter in a rotation, I think he's still a #4 starter at this point and I think the Twins would be better suited going after a player with more upside.

I sadly don't see John Lackey as a realistic option for the Twins, but guys like Erik Bedard, Rich Harden or Ben Sheets could fit the bill. All of those guys mentioned carry a big warning sign around their neck, but all fit the bill. All three would likely accept one or two year deals as well, which is probably what the Twins are ideally looking for.

And if the Twins are serious about improving the team, maybe a guy like Lackey would be on their radar. The TwinsCentric crew estimates a four-year $56 million being what it takes to nab Lackey. But given the weakness of this year's free agent class, I'm sure several teams will be biding for Lackey's services and we could very well see him get a six year, $80 million deal from someone. But of course, it's anyone's guess at this point.

If the free agent market fails, the Twins could also target a player through a trade. Javier Vazquez's name could come up this off-season while the Braves try to add Major League hitters. Unfortunately, I'm not sure the Twins have the pieces it'd take to acquire Vazquez, at least not without going overboard. Guys like Derek Lowe and Bronson Arroyo may be more realistic. But I'm not really that giddy about either of those guys either.

But to me, the best way the Twins could improve their rotation will be through free agency. Although I'd like to see the Twins move away from Pavano, I think the Twins will make a serious effort to re-sign him and with that said, I'll be surprised to see him with a different club next season.

October 24, 2009

Off-Season Blueprint: Letting Go (The Orlando Cabrera Edition)

With the Joe Mauer situation on the back-burner, the Twins now can turn their attention to which of their internal free agents they would like to retain for the next season. With five guys slated for free agency, the Twins will obviously have to make the tough decisions on who they should bring back and who they shouldn't.

Orlando Cabrera was acquired just hours before last July's trade deadline. The Twins sent prospect Tyler Ladendorf to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for the 34-year-old shortstop. At the time, many expected a move such as this to help appease the vocal, veteran players. But Cabrera was just the beginning of what would be a very busy two week period in which the Twins would add four more players to help down the stretch.

With the Twins, Cabrera hit in the two-hole and put up a triple-slash line of .285/.309/.426 with 21 extra-base hits in 59 games. Had Cabrera put up a higher on-base percentage, I would probably be more anxious to bring him back, but someone who gets on base 31% of the time is a liability in the two-hole. Another thing that doesn't excite me about Cabrera is his quick decline in defense. Cabrera went from being one of the best defensive shortstops in the game to one of the worst. Could it have just been a down season? Perhaps. But having an off-year at 34 doesn't really suggest that he's likely to turn it around.

But with all that said, I'll be surprised if the Twins don't bring him back. The Twins love the energy and leadership he brings to the team and by all accounts, Cabrera loved his time with the Twins. Cabrera also had a positive influence on a couple of the Spanish-speaking players on the team, primarily Carlos Gomez and Alexi Casilla. Both players are underachievers and would benefit from more bonding from a mentor like Cabrera. Cabrera was hurt badly by a down economy and his Type-A status last off-season but was determined to not get hurt by it again and negotiated in his contract that if he were to gain Type-A status again, his former team wouldn't be able to offer him arbitration. And of course, Cabrera indeed looks to be a Type-A free agent which means that if he leaves, the Twins will not get any compensation in return.

Although I think Cabrera is a fine player to have at the bottom of the lineup, I can't stand the thought of the Twins wasting him between Denard Span and Mauer. Although I would be surprised if he doesn't return, I personally hope he's the Twins' backup option while they search for a younger, better player. If he does return, I won't be that upset because I do feel that he can be a valuable player. But I do want to see either shortstop or second base improve. So if he does return, I want to see an upgrade at second base.

October 13, 2009

Off-Season Blueprint: Step One

The Minnesota Twins season ended after one of the best comebacks anyone could have ever imagined. But poor plays and bad calls consumed their time in the playoffs and unfortunately were knocked out by the New York Yankees after just three games.

The Twins played great down the stretch when it mattered. And I know some argue that the Tigers just merely blew it (making the argument that they blew it more than we won it), but really it's a rhetorical question and in the end it doesn't matter. Both can be right. And although many are still mourning the early playoff exit, which is obviously understandable, they should also be prepared for what should be the most exciting next 12 months in Twins history.

Although we've all been disappointed in the lack of off-season activity before (cough, last year), all signs point to the Twins being fairly active this off-season (like we haven't heard that before). I advise many to take that with a grain of salt to save what could be a big disappointment, but if this July and August were any precursor to what this off-season could hold, then we could all be pleasantly surprised.

First and foremost, the most pressing issue is obviously getting Joe Mauer re-signed. The Twins may have been interested in re-signing him last off-season but they took the chance on his back issues lowering his value which we all know didn't happen. Although we all dream that he'll sign for a "hometown discount" because he's gone on record to say that he's not really interested in being the highest paid guy, we all need to also understand that he could merely be saying that from a PR stand point and could still very well put himself out of the Twins' price range.

Regardless of which way you look at it, I don't think anyone should feel at all comfortable about the future of Mauer's in Minnesota until he's signed. I personally don't believe he'll leave and I think a deal will get done, but I also thought the same would be true of both Torii Hunter and Johan Santana. Completely understanding that those two don't draw the same kind of ties Mauer does to Minnesota, they both went on record several times stating their desire to stay in Minnesota and for one reason or another; whether it be the front office's or the player's fault, both aren't with the Twins anymore because of money. Needless to say, I sadly can't say I'd be completely surprised if Mauer wasn't playing in Minnesota in 2011. But with that said, I also understand that the Twins understand Mauer's value and with respect to both Santana and Hunter, I think we can all agree that Mauer is a better player than either of them. Which in part is why I do feel optimistic about a deal getting done. Well... that... and the fact that I'm sure that 99% of their fan base will participate in some kind of boycott.

So what could it take? Obviously that's a question everyone wishes they could answer and I'm sure not even Mauer knows at this point. Personally, I believe it'll be something around 8-years and $165 million. In comparison, that would be the fourth largest contract in baseball history. Is that a good deal (hypothetically, obviously)? It's safe to say that he could probably get more than that on the free agent market which would obviously mean he's taking a "discount" (if you want to call $165 million a discount). So from that aspect, yes. And with some speculation of a 2010 payroll somewhere between $90 and $100 million, it looks as though the Twins will be able to afford him at this price (or even slightly more than the $165 million). But how much more might the Twins be willing to go?

If Mauer all of a sudden wakes up one morning and wants to Dream Like New York (like Tyrone Wells) and demands a contract somewhere along the lines of 8-years and $200 million, I can't say I see the Twins re-signing him. Obviously that's a bit more than my proposed deal, but that invisible 'line' that separates the two isn't really far off from either one.

Regardless if you agree with me or not regarding dollar amounts, the point of all this is that nothing else can - or should, for that matter - be decided until Mauer is extended. Last month, I wrote:'s a pretty safe assumption that nothing will get done until number seven is signed, and while I hope it gets done early, I'm unfortunately expecting it to drag on throughout the off-season which could give the front office plenty of excuses why they're not more aggressive on the market.
And sadly, I know that this is still a big probability.


Since we're on the subject of playing GM, I think this is the right time to tell everyone of an awesome product. The Twins Centric group of writers have just released an eBook called the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook. The writers of the book are fellow Twins bloggers Seth Stohs (of Seth Speaks), Parker Hageman (of Over the Baggy), John Bonnes (the Twins Geek) and Nick Nelson (of Nick's Twins Blog), so obviously you already know you're getting great content. The four of them give you an overwhelming amount of information over 137 pages in which they put you in the seat of the Twins' GM. They give you a look at potential trade targets, free agents and other hot topics that concern the Twins. It's a great way to support the Twins blogosphere and I know you won't be disappointed.

And if you get over there quick, they're giving a free preview of 1/3 of the book.

October 12, 2009

Award Predictions: MVP

Last week, I gave my picks for both the Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young awards, and today I'll finish it out by awarding my (obvious) MVP votes.

As I said, these picks are pretty obvious and therefore don't need a lot of explaining...

National League

If you're wondering who the best player in baseball is, it's without a doubt Albert Pujols. For those of you not taking advantage of watching as much of him as possible, you're truly missing out. Baring injury, Pujols may go down as one of the two or three best hitters to ever play this game, which is saying quite a bit considering he's never been connected to performance-enhancing drugs in an era littered with controversy.

This season, Pujols had one month in which he didn't have an OPS of 1.000. He didn't hit for nearly as much power in the second half of the season, but he finished the year with 47 home runs, which still lead the majors. Some were worried about Pujols' surgically-repaired elbow giving him fits heading into the season, but that obviously proved to not be the case.

Pujols has already won the MVP award twice in his career and unless something unthinkable happens, this should be his third MVP award in the last eight years.

Runner-Up: Prince Fielder - 1B - Milwaukee Brewers
Who'll Likely Win: Albert Pujols - 1B - St. Louis Cardinals
Pre-Season Pick: Manny Ramirez - LF - Los Angeles Dodgers

American League

Again, no surprise here. I'd like to say I predicted this, but I honestly can't say I did. Joe Mauer put up unreal numbers this season. Many doubted his ability to hit for power and actually heald a grudge against him for not being able to, and how did he respond? He went to the Home Run Derby for the first time in his career. And although he didn't win, he did pretty good for a guy with a career-high 13 home runs heading into the season. And just to show the type of season Mauer had, he nearly matched his career-high in home runs (13) in his first month of the season by hitting 11. He more-than doubled his career high in home runs with 28 on the season, which also helped him drive in a career high 96 RBI, despite missing the entire month of April.

What Mauer did offensively is oustanding, and when you factor in that he won his third batting title in four season, it makes it all the more impressive. Mauer flirted with .400 for much of the first half, but ultimately had to settle for a career-best .368 average.

Maybe I jumped the gun by saying that Pujols is the best player in baseball, because I don't know how much better you can get than Mauer. While Pujols may go down as one of the best hitters in the history of the game, Mauer may go down as the best catcher ever. And what's even more impressive is that Mauer has accomplished this much before even turning 27-years-old. The best of Mauer may be coming, which should scare opposing pitchers.

Runner-Up: Mark Teixeira - 1B - New York Yankees
Who'll Likely Win: Joe Mauer - C - Minnesota Twins
Pre-Season Pick: Josh Hamilton - OF - Texas Rangers

October 9, 2009

Award Predictions: Cy Young

Yesterday, I posted my choice for the Rookie of the Year for both the American and National Leagues, so today I'll keep the ball rolling with the Cy Young award.

National League

I honestly can't remember a time in which a league has three pitchers are so close to one another in the Cy Young voting. While there is one guy that likely won't win it, he does need to be mentioned. Adam Wainwright had an outstanding season in which he lead the National League with 19 wins and 233 innings pitched. He also finished in the top five in ERA, and while most years those numbers would certainly be enough, he'll likely finish third this season in Cy Young voting.

To me, it's really a coin flip between Tim Lincecum and Chris Carpenter, and a case could certainly be made for both. And I'm going to take the easy way out and say that these two are both equally deserving of this award and should share it.

I know players sharing an award is pretty lame and probably won't gain much support, but I couldn't choose one over the other. On one hand, Lincecum is the most dominant pitcher in baseball and was in the top five in wins, ERA, strikeouts, innings pitched and WHIP. After winning the award in 2008 with outstanding numbers, he improved in most of his statistical categories this season. He lowered his walks, ERA, WHIP and BAA.

As for Carpenter, what he did this season may be more impressive as he had only appeared in five games - prior to this season - since 2006. After winning the Cy Young award in 2005, he had a successful 2006 season but fell short of defending his title. After injuring his elbow on Opening Day in 2007, he took a few months off to rehab before ultimately undergoing Tommy John Surgery in the middle of the 2007 season. He returned late in 2008 and put up great numbers in limited action, but nobody expected his first season back from surgery to be this successful.

This season, Carpenter lead the National League in ERA and finished in the top five in Wins and WHIP. He only gave up more than four runs two times this season. If he could take back those two starts, he would have been 17-2 with a 1.73 ERA. That's not a reasoning to vote for him, but it does go to show just how good he was. One thing that will hurt Carpenter is having his teammate stealing away votes from him.

I don't know who'll win this one. I think that most voters will go with Carpenter because of leading the league in ERA, having more wins than Lincecum and also being on a winning team. But I think it's a really close race that will be one to pay attention to.

Runner-Up: Adam Wainwright - P - St. Louis Cardinals
Who'll Likely Win: Chris Carpenter - P - St. Louis Cardinals.
Pre-Season Pick: Rich Harden - P - Chicago Cubs

American League

Unlike the National League, this race isn't even really close. And although many people will name a few guys that should be mentioned, there is just one player that is far and away the clear winner. And it's no surprise that it's Zack Greinke.

There was no pitcher in baseball this season or even in the past couple of seasons that put up numbers like Greinke did, and had Greinke been on a team other than the Royals, his numbers would have been even more impressive. Why is that? Because while he did win 16 games, he also lost eight times. So what? Well out of those eight times, in four of those games he gave up three runs or fewer. He also had eight no decisions in which he gave up three runs or fewer. On average, he received less than four runs of support in his starts which is just attrocious.

Greinke put up remarkable numbers and it's amazing to think that in 2006, Greinke nearly walked away from the game at the age of 22. He took most of the 2006 season off for personal reasons but returned in 2007 and was ready to show-off his skills. Greinke has always had enormous potential and it's great that he's finally showcasing it. Greinke seems to be in favor of staying away from the larger markets as he's a very personal guy who doesn't like the attention, so unfortunately, his biggest opponent will likely remain his own team from now until the Royals get a better lineup.

Runner-Up: Felix Hernandez - P - Seattle Mariners
Who'll Likely Win: Zack Greinke - P - Kansas City Royals
Pre-Season Pick: Roy Halladay - P - Toronto Blue Jays

October 8, 2009

Award Predictions: Rookie of the Year

National League

The NL had a few rookies make big impacts on their teams this season. Off of memory, I can't remember a year in which a league featured so many rookies that should be mentioned for Rookie of the Year. To me, there are eight candidates that someone could make a compelling argument for.
  • Tommy Hanson - P - Atlanta Braves
  • Andrew McCutchen - OF - Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Chris Coghlan - OF - Florida Marlins
  • J.A. Happ - P - Philadelphia Phillies
  • Garrett Jones - 1B/OF - Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Casey McGehee - 2B/3B - Milwaukee Brewers
  • Randy Wells - P - Chicago Cubs
  • Dexter Fowler - OF - Colorado Rockies
But to me, one guy stood out more than any of the others. While Andrew McCutchen, J.A. Happ and Chris Coghlan seem to be the popular choices amongst most predictors, I think that one guy is being over-looked. And that is Garrett Jones of the Pittsburgh Pirates, my choice for NL Rookie of the Year.

Unlike the rest of the players (besides Casey McGehee), Jones never carried the illustrious "Top Prospect" status that these other players have at one point or another. He was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1999 and later cut after posting marginal numbers in three rookie ball seasons. He was signed a few days later by the Minnesota Twins where he spent seven years in the organization, eventually making his Major League debut in 2007. But with guys like Michael Cuddyer (RF), Jason Kubel (DH), and Justin Morneau (1B) blocking him, Jones never got an opportunity to do much of anything for the Twins. He failed to make it back to the Majors in 2008 which eventually lead to the Twins cutting him after the season. The Pirates then stepped up and the (now) 28-year-old Jones a shot.

He started this season with the Indianapolis Indians in the Independent League, the same league he's started at every year since 2005. He played well and was eventually called-up by the Pirates in late June to take the place of Nyjer Morgan who was traded to the Washington Nationals. With McCutchen, the Pirates' top prospect, handed the reigns to center field and three other players looking for playing time in the outfield, it looked as though Jones was going to have to earn his playing time.

But thankfully, the Pirates decided to start him everyday to see just what exactly they had in Jones, and he surpassed any expectations the Pirates had of him. He hit ten home runs in the month of July, earning himself NL Rookie-of-the-Month honors, before finishing off the season with 21 total home runs in just 314 at-bats. He also helped make a futile Pirates team fun to watch, which in itself is saying a lot.

In no way should any Twins fans feel upset over the Twins not holding onto this guy. While I'm sure many would have liked to see him stick around, I really can't blame the organization for cutting him, especially when we have an All-Star first baseman and (at least at the time) five outfielders competing for four spots (DH). Jones just needed the opportunity, which I'm glad the Pirates gave him. Hopefully he can become a cornerstone player for the (always) re-building Pirates.

Runner-Up: Casey McGehee - 2B/3B - Milwaukee Brewers
Who'll Likely Win: Chris Coghlan - OF - Florida Marlins
Pre-Season Pick: Cameron Maybin - OF - Florida Marlins

American League

The AL also features an octuplet of deserving rookies. Although the NL's crop of rookies may have put up more impressive numbers, this A.L. group featured more high profile prospects including five players from my pre-season Top 50 MiLB Prospects for 2009. Here are my most deserving American League rookies.
  • Rick Porcello - P - Detroit Tigers
  • Gordon Beckham - 3B - Chicago White Sox
  • Brett Anderson - P - Oakland Athletics
  • Elvis Andrus - SS - Texas Rangers
  • Matt Wieters - C - Baltimore Orioles
  • Nolan Reimold - OF - Baltimore Orioles
  • Andrew Bailey - P - Oakland Athletics
  • Jeff Niemann - P - Tampa Bay Rays
The first five of those players all appeared in the pre-season list, and all lived up to their hype in their rookie seasons. To me, there are two guys that are pretty equally deserving. One being Andrew Bailey of the Oakland Athletics and the other being Gordon Beckham of the Chicago White Sox.

To me, you couldn't go wrong with picking either. Beckham did great things for the White Sox after being recalled in June. He hit for power, drove in runs and filled a position of weakness for the White Sox. In just 378 at-bats the former Georgia Bulldog hit .270/.347/.460 with 14 home runs and 63 RBI. Had Beckham played the entire season, he likely would have finished with somewhere around 20 home runs and 100 RBI. But unfortunately for him, he didn't, which is a huge reason why Bailey to me is the most deserving.

Closing out a game is a high profile job in Major League Baseball. Generally teams will pay top dollar for a guy that comes in to throw sometimes just a handful of pitches to earn a stat that some believe is the most overrated stat in the game. But to me, it requires something special to close out games night-in and night-out and while I do think that closers are paid too much for the amount of work they put in, I do understand why teams would want to invest in a player that does it well.

Bailey stepped in early this season and surpassed 2008 standout Brad Ziegler and veteran Michael Wuertz on the depth charts. Bailey, with no MLB experience, handled the job as well as any rookie could. He blew three of his first five save opportunities, but from June on, he was 24 for 25 in save opportunities and posted a 1.58 ERA. He also struck out 91 batters in just 83 1/3 innings on the season. Bailey may not be considered an elite closer by many just yet, but he's certainly not far behind. Here is how Bailey would have ranked in many stat categories this season amongst other closers in MLB (and for the sake of the argument, I'm only counting guys who attempted at least 20 saves, which would be 29 players):
  • Saves: 20th
  • ERA: 3rd
  • WHIP: 1st
  • BAA: T-1st
  • Strikeouts: 3rd
  • Walks: T-11th
Obviously, having only 50 save opportunities as a team hurts Bailey. The average team in baseball this season had 60 save opportunities, which would put the Athletics well below the average. Had the team been closer to the top of the standings, it's obvious that more save opportunities would have been presented to Bailey. But regardless, Bailey was unbelievable this season and deserves this award.

Runner-Up: Gordon Beckham - 3B - Chicago White Sox
Who'll Likely Win: Elvis Andrus - SS - Texas Rangers
Pre-Season Pick: Matt Wieters - C - Baltimore Orioles