May 31, 2009

Sunday Twins Notes, Game Balls

Just a few interesting tidbits from the past couple days...

-> Alexi Casilla was recalled after Nick Punto's groin injury ultimately forced him onto the D.L. Casilla got off to a great start in Triple-A after his demotion before hitting .275 over his last 10 games. Overall, he hit .316/.353/.392 with a 5/12 BB/K ratio and 6/4 SB/CS ratio. He had three extra-base hits through 79 at-bats, all of which were triples. The most alarming thing to me was his continued struggles against left-handers. Prior to his demotion, he was hitting southpaws at a .120/.120/.120 clip through 25 at-bats. And then before his promotion, he was hitting southpaws with a .211/.211/.316 line through 19 at-bats. Although it's a full .91 points higher in average and .286 points in OPS, but it's still not an acceptable line.

Ironically, in his first start in 25 days with the Twins, he faced David Price, one of the best, young southpaws in baseball. He went 1-2 with an RBI against Price. He went 1-4 with an RBI in the game. One positive note, he was apart of three double plays on the afternoon and looked a lot more poised both at the plate and in the field. Hopefully his demotion to Triple-A was the 'wake-up' call he needed.

-> Francisco Liriano struggled again on Saturday en route to his seventh loss of the season. He raised his ERA to 6.60 while allowing four runners to cross through four innings. Although he forced many ground ball outs, including many that found holes in his 47-pitch third inning, he still was very hittable and lost didn't look the same after giving up a solo home run to Joe Dillon. Many of the balls hit in the third inning were left up about waist high over the middle of the plate. A defensive lapse or two could have ended the inning early, which is why he should be given some slack, but he was still visibly shaken by the home run. He did come back and threw a good fourth inning, but it was yet another bumpy start for Liriano.

Liriano doesn't have the fastball he used to, yet he's throwing it nearly 60% of the time. For reference, in 2006, Liriano threw fastballs only 44% of the time. But the Twins have the 'set up the fastball' mentality that Liriano's stuck in and is getting hit hard because of it. Something needs to change, especially after hearing something like this after the game.
"I don't know, just...I don't know, just...I don't know what to think anymore."
The Twins need to do something and they need to do it fast. Liriano's confidence is probably at an all-time low right now.

-> One pitcher who hasn't been struggling lately is reliever R.A. Dickey. After posting a 5.73 ERA in April. Dickey has a 1.86 ERA in May and now has a respectable 3.26 ERA on the season. Since May 3rd, when he gave up two earned runs in two innings of relief against the Royals, Dickey has a 1.14 ERA along with a 1.02 WHIP and a 9/4 K/BB ratio. More importantly, he's been able to eat up innings for the Twins while helping preserve the bullpen. He's thrown at least four innings in his last four appearances. Of course there's the whole 'no pressure' argument, but nonetheless, he's been proving his value as of late.

-> La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune is reporting that the Braves have a scout in Tampa Bay this weekend and they could be targeting Delmon Young in a trade. Young's value is at an all-time low and I don't see the Braves having the pieces to complete a trade. They have a couple great prospects, but I doubt they part with any of them. Kelly Johnson could be a possibility that the Twins would inquire about, but with nobody to replace him, they'd just be filling a hole while creating a new one. Also, Young is now 2-23 with 13 K's since his return and is currently hitting .236/.281/.274. The 23-year-old outfielder was away from the team for almost two weeks with the illness and later passing of his mother, Bonnie. The most alarming number is that he's hit just two extra-base hits in 106 at-bats. Two. I'm not sure why the Braves would want to acquire really the only outfielder worse than the ones that they currently have.

-> This afternoon, Nick Blackburn will face ex-Twin Matt Garza. Blackburn is coming off of four pretty good starts in a row and will try to give the Twins a chance to leave Tampa with a victory. Luckily, after the game, the Twins will get a much-needed off-day on Monday before facing the Indians at home from Tuesday through Thursday. Then they'll be on the road for ten straight games on the road.

Game Ball #48
May 27, 2009 vs. Boston Red Sox
Denard Span - Center/Left Field
Line: 4-4, 2 runs, walk, stolen base

Game Ball #49
May 28, 2009 vs. Boston Red Sox
Brendan Harris - Shortstop
Line: 2-3, double, walk

Game Ball #50
May 29, 2009 vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Joe Mauer - Catcher
Line: 3-5, double, triple, run

Game Ball #51
May 30, 2009 vs. Tampa Bay Rays
R.A. Dickey - Relief Pitcher
Line: 4 innings pitched, 3 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts

May 28, 2009

What should be done with Liriano?

The Twins got another good start from their starting pitcher last night, giving the Twins a 2-1 lead in the series and brings them to 2-3 on the series series against the Boston Red Sox. The Twins are now 6-1 in their last seven games, thanks in large part to great starting pitching. The starters ERA over that time is 2.50 through 46.2 innings. The starters have also averaged 6 2/3 innings per start. Other than Monday's start, in which Liriano gave up five runs over four innings, the starters had all given up three runs or less in each start.

Kevin Slowey improved to 7-1 while holding the Red Sox to just two runs through six innings last night. His ERA still sits above 4 (4.11 to be exact), but Slowey's been great in his last four starts. Since his rained-shortened start in Baltimore, Slowey is 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA. 19 strikeouts compared to just 3 walks have allowed him to post a 1.19 WHIP over that same span. After struggling in his first two starts, Slowey has really been impressive and continues to give the Twins a consistent effort, something only Nick Blackburn can say (among Twins starters).

Francisco Liriano has really struggled throughout the season while Scott Baker's season has been a roller coaster. Glen Perkins season started out great, but elbow irritation ultimately landed him on the disabled list, but not before giving five terrible starts which made his ERA skyrocket 3.86 points in just 23 innings. Baker has looked great at times, and horrible at others. But fortunately for Baker, he no longer has any minor league options that give the Twins the opportunity to send him to the minors, unless he is placed on the disabled list first. That is something Liriano isn't so fortunate to have.

Liriano's problems seem to be mainly mental, which is why some have suggested his demotion to the bullpen or Triple-A. Nick Nelson believes that Liriano should remain in Minnesota to work side-by-side with pitching coach Rick Anderson. While that makes sense on the surface, I do disagree. As Nick mentions, Liriano has been pitching well this season. While his command has been erratic at times, his 'stuff' is slowely regaining some form and has even looked great at times this season. But if it is confidence that Liriano lacks, which it seems to be, perhaps he needs a little time in the minor leagues to figure things out. While Anderson's pressence is certainly an advantage, Liriano has credited a lot of his success to (now) Red Wings pitching coach Bobby Cuellar. Cuellar, if you don't remember is also a key component in Johan Santana's success.

Liriano said of Cuellar, "He opened my eyes to see what I am right now. I appreciate whe he did for me." Does that mean he helped Liriano's confidence? By the way it's worded, it certainly could be. But regardless, it does seem as though Cuellar's presence could help Liriano.

Here is what Anderson said of Liriano's demotion last season: "Confidence comes with success," Anderson said. "He's got to get down there and clear his mind, and he admitted to me that he's thinking too much about what he's doing. I asked him, 'How did you feel before you were hurt?' He said, 'I didn't think think, I just threw.' He's not to that point yet. When he does get to that point, he will have success, and success breeds confidence."

To me at least, that seems a lot like the situation that Liriano is currently in. His confidence is low while he can't get Major League hitting out. He gets frazzled with any pressure and loses his composure.

While Anthony Swarzak makes his start today against another high-powered offense, he could be making a bid for Liriano's spot in the rotation, not Perkins' whose spot in the rotation is believed to be on the bubble by many. But while Perkins is out, Liriano's spot will most-likely remain safe. The Twins do have a couple minor league options in Brian Duensing and Kevin Mulvey whose recent success' could be coming at a perfect time for the Twins, but it's unlikely they'd do anything until Perkins returns. With really only two starters giving consistent efforts, the Twins could be in for a rotation mix-up at some point in the not-too-distant-future.

Gordon Edes of Yahoo! Sports believes that the Twins could be a team that is interested in Red Sox starter Brad Penny. The Red Sox of course could have pitching to trade with John Smoltz rehabbing and Clay Buchholz lighting up the mound in Triple-A. Penny is getting back to his ground ball ways, but his contract could prevent the Twins from being players for his services. But the thought of adding a starting pitcher hasn't really been discussed much. The general consensus has been that middle infield and relief help are needs, not wants. And while I wholeheartedly agree, bolstering our starting pitching could also become a need and not a want. The bullpen currently sits at 20th in baseball with a 4.69 ERA while the rotation sits at 22nd in baseball with a 4.96 ERA. That's not to say that the bullpen isn't the bigger concern, but it's to point out that the rotation is also a concern at this point as well.

(As of Wednesday) The Twins have scored the seventh most runs in baseball, while their pitchers have also given up the seventh most. That obviously needs to get better, and we'll see how the next few weeks play out.

May 26, 2009

Joe Crede, Our Savior

Before the Twins signed Joe Crede, there was an abundance of support for a platoon of Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher throughout the Twins blogosphere. Both platoon partners had strong 2008 campaigns while platooning for a chunk of the season. Although we'll never know what either could have done with regular at-bats and can only examine what they've done in just 177 combined plate appearances, it is still more than what Crede himself has had up to this point, which makes this at least somewhat interesting.

There's no doubt that Crede was signed primarily for his defense. His glove has drawn great reviews over the years, and yet it may be better now than ever. His 33.4 UZR/150 is best in the league out of any position. Nyjer Morgan of the Pittsburgh Pirates is second with a 33.2 UZR/150. Out of third basemen, Adrian Beltre is second with an 11.6 run difference from Crede. Add that with his just one error (tied for fewest in the American League) it makes people in Minnesota smile to see a capable third baseman play on the tough turf in the Metrodome. All said, Crede could be the most valuable defensive third baseman in all of baseball up to this point. That alone has made his $2.5 million that he signed shortly after Spring Training began seem like robbery.

His offense hasn't been terrible either. While nobody ever expected him to have a high average or get on base at a high clip, his power production or the other reason the Twins signed him are on pace for career highs. His 2009 projections (based on what he's done up to this point) are .240/.304/.488 with 31 doubles, 36 home runs, 93 RBI and a 49/89 K/BB ratio.

A .240 average and .304 on-base percentages are obviously pretty horrid, but they're really not too far off of his career average of .256 and career on-base percentage of .306. Still his overall 110 OPS+ is 17 points higher than his career average. His projected 36 home runs would be a career high. But to be fair, so would his projection of 155 games.

The reason for debating this is the lack of production both offensively and defensively from Buscher and to a point, Harris as well. Buscher's .666 OPS is .19 points higher than Harris' .647 OPS. While having a combined 32 more plate appearances than Crede, they have four less hits than Crede while chipping in five less extra-base hits than the 'All-Star'.

Harris hit .350/.372/.475 in April while he's floundered in May hitting .194/.242/.274. What's alarming is that he has hit (significantly) worse in May while receiving more playing time. He now sits at .255/.294/.353 on the season with two home runs. Thankfully, he's making up for it by playing acceptable defense from the left-side of the infield, his defense from the right side is another story that we won't dive into at this time. He has a 16.3 UZR/150 at third base this season, which if he qualified would put him at fifth best in the majors. Disclaimer: In no way am I saying that UZR/150 is the only indicatoro for evaluating defensive value, but I do think it is one of the strongest.

Buscher overall has been even worse. While his bat has a slightly better OPS, his .200 batting average and -12.6 UZR/150 are significantly worse. If you wanted to say Buscher's butchering third base, you wouldn't be far off. What's the hardest to explain has been Buscher's inability to hit right-handed pitchers this season. In the platoon, Harris would have obviously handled left-handed pitching while Buscher would have handled right-handed pitching. Harris would at least be (relatively) holding up his end of the deal as he's hitting a (better) .300/.333/.350 against right-handers opposed to .226/.269/.355 against the other. Buscher on the other hand, is not hitting right-handed pitching even at a respectable level. While he's hit a triple and a home run against a right-hander, his .170/308/.264 hitting line is completely unacceptable and really can warrant the question, is he worth keeping on the roster? If the Twins won't throw play him against southpaw's (6 at-bats this season against lefties opposed to 53 at-bats against righties), and if he's completely incapable of hitting right-handed pitching (at the time), does he warrant a demotion to Triple-A? I personally believe so, but that's a whole different story.

In retrospect, here are some numbers from a few other names (while I've left off a few) that were at one point mentioned as a possible acquisition for third base in the off-season.

Adrian Beltre - .215/.246/.322, 10 doubles, 3 home runs, 19 RBI, 7 errors, 21.8 UZR/150
Garrett Atkins - .190/.275/.296, 6 doubles, 3 home runs, 14 RBI, 4 errors, -14.6 URZ/150
Ty Wigginton - .215/.254/.326, 6 doubles, 3 home runs, 15 RBI, 1 error, -18.8 UZR/150

Although some still believe it might be a pipe dream to believe that Crede will play 155 games, he still is proving to be better than anything else the Twins would have potentially put at the hot corner up to this point. While paying him just $2.5 million and adding the fact that the Twins didn't have to trade a prospect (or three) to acquire him, it makes it all the better.

May 25, 2009

Game Balls

Game Ball #44
May 23, 2009 vs. Milwaukee Brewers
Anthony Swarzak - Starting Pitcher
Line: 7 innings pitched, 5 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts, win

Game Ball #45
May 24, 2009 vs. Milwaukee Brewers
Scott Baker - Starting Pitcher
Line: 8 1/3 innings pitched, 7 hits, 3 runs, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts, win

Game Ball #46
May 25, 2009 vs. Boston Red Sox
Joe Mauer - Pinch Hitter
Line: 1-1, 2-run home run

Game Ball #47
May 26, 2009 vs. Boston Red Sox
Justin Morneau - First Base
Line: 2-3, home run, 3 RBI, walk

May 23, 2009

Cuddyer's in the Zone

Michael Cuddyer hit for the team's third cycle in the last 380 days, what once was a considered a rare feat has suddenly become a common occurence for Twins hitters. Jason Kubel accomplished it earlier this season while Carlos Gomez did so last year. Only three Twins players have hit for the cycle since Kirby Puckett did it on August 1, 1986.

Cuddyer began the game with a three-run home run to give the Twins the early lead. In the third inning, he hit a double that bounced over the wall before hitting a run-scoring single in the fourth inning. Then in the sixth inning, with just a triple remaining, Cuddyer hit the ball down the third base line that ended up breaking his bat. The ball ended up rolling into foul territory to the outfield wall which was long enough for Cuddyer to leg out the triple. Although it wasn't as pretty as Jason Kubel's cycle, it was still a great accomplishment. According to FanGraphs, Cuddyer's .231 WPA is 2.18 times more than the rest of the lineup's combined WPA, which was .106.

In just this one game, Cuddyer raised his batting average 16 points while his OPS climed 61 points. It also marked Cuddyer's fourth home run in the last five games. At the start of that span, he was hitting .252/.350/.393 with only 11 extra-base hits (three home runs) and 18 RBI. He is now hitting .291/.376/.519 with 19 extra-base hits (seven home runs and 30 RBI. In other words, Cuddyer's in the zone.

Game Ball #43

May 22, 2009 vs. Milwaukee Brewers
Michael Cuddyer - Right Field
Line: 4-5, Cycle, 5 RBI

May 22, 2009

Bad day for the White Sox

Since I'm sure many people are still in complete shock and awe after yesterday's 20-1 blow the Twins gave to the Chicago White Sox, I'm going to switch topics a bit and discuss something that almost happened yesterday.

Many woke up yesterday to the "Breaking News" story on nearly every sports network that had the White Sox landing one of the games best pitchers. The White Sox and San Diego Padres had agreed in principle to send former N.L. Cy Young winner Jake Peavy to the southside in exchange for four prospects. The move would undoubtedly give the White Sox a huge boost and it would help anchor a talented, but struggling rotation.

The White Sox would have reportedly given up two known players, while the other two can only be speculated on at this point. Those two players are two left-handed pitchers in Clayton Richard and Aaron Poreda. Those two would be the headliners of the trade, while the other two players were being reported as two low-level prospects.

Richard is a 25-year-old sinker ball pitcher with good command. He throws strikes but projects as a #4-5 starter. Meanwhile, Poreda is a 22-year-old in Double-A whose repertoire is headlined by a blazing fastball which has hit triple digits. Poreda projects as a #2 or #3 starter.

You may be wondering, that's it? Well you wouldn't be the only one. If that is the best deal the Padres have been offered for one of the games best pitchers, it's really a sign of how this economy has effected some aspects of the game. While it still seems possible for the elite players to receive large deals (C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, etc.), players that would cost a team to mortgage any part of their future have far less value now than they did a couple years ago (again, unless they are elite). This begs the question, is Peavy elite? The simple answer must be "no."

Juan Cruz, despite being one of the best relievers on the market, was one player (of many) who couldn't land anywhere as a free agent. That had to do with the fact that his new team would have to forfeit their first round draft pick to sign him. Finally, the Royals caved and signed Cruz for well-below his predicted value at two-years and $6 million. The Padres look as if they are in the same situation with Peavy. Peavy's situation is somewhat different in that he is already signed through 2013 and is due $48 million in the next three years (not including what he's due for the rest of this season). Still $16 million for a pitcher like Peavy isn't completely unreasonable, yet in today's economy, a team is not willing to acquire both a large sum of salary while surrendering a top prospect or two, at least prospects better than Richard or Poreda.

To sum all of this up, the White Sox are one of a few teams in baseball that aren't scared by this economy and will take on a large amount of money if it improves their ball club. However, Peavy did the rest of the American League Central a favor when he declined to waive his no-trade clause. Although last year, the Detroit Tigers and Milwaukee Brewers have taught us that nothing is a guarantee (when acquiring a high-level player or two), it is great to see a defending division winner not acquire one of the better pitchers in baseball (even if he does have the "Petco Factor").

Game Ball #42

May 21, 2009 vs. Chicago White Sox
Joe Mauer - Designated Hitter
Line: 3-4, 2 runs, 2 doubles, home run, 6 RBI

* On a Twins-related note, do you think Gardenhire goes with Mauer again in the two-hole tonight or does his cutty buddy Matt Tolbert and his 3-run home run move him back in there?

May 21, 2009

Swarzak called-up, Breslow released, Ayala next?

On Monday, I dug into Joe Christensen's speculation of Luis Ayala (or another reliever) potentially being released in the near future to add another reliever. That reliever of course would come in and try to help aide the Twins disastrous bullpen. My thoughts were that Craig Breslow would make more sense to be let go, but somewhat lightened up to the thought of seeing Ayala gone.

When the Twins placed Glen Perkins on the disabled list and called up Sean Henn, the writing was on the wall for Breslow. The 28-year-old southpaw was 1-2 with a 6.28 ERA and has been having problems all season throwing strikes. He had 11 strikeouts to go along with 11 walks. He's leaving the Twins the same way he came in, through waivers. Just under a year after being claimed off of waivers by the Twins, Breslow was again claimed off of waivers yesterday by the Oakland Athletics. It was the third time in the last 14 months that Breslow has been claimed off of waivers.

Taking his place on the roster will be Anthony Swarzak. As I wrote yesterday, Swarzak has been absolutely sensational since his promotion to Triple-A last year and really deserves this chance. With Perkins out for at least the next two weeks, Swarzak should have enough opportunities to give the Twins a reason to keep him on the roster when Perkins is ready to come back. That of course could mean a couple things. A current starter could be sent to the bullpen, although that seems highly doubtful as the Twins really don't like to go that route. The more likely scenario is that Swarzak could be competing for one of the current relievers roster spots in the bullpen (yes, I am somewhat contradicting my first statement of the Twins not liking to convert starters into relievers). Other than Joe Nathan, Matt Guerrier and to a lesser extent; Jose Mijares, nobody's place in the bullpen is guaranteed (Crain could be in that mix, but I'm not sure how many more options he has remaining, if any).

Regardless, Swarzak will make his Major League debut on Saturday against the Milwaukee Brewers. He'll have his work cut out for him as the Brewers are one of baseball's hottest teams, winning 13 of thier last 16 games.

There will probably be a lot of people questioning why Ayala wasn't the one to go. After all, Breslow is cheaper, left-handed, under team control for a few more years, and has had recent success. On the other hand, Ayala hasn't been the same since undergoing Tommy John surgery in the Spring of 2006 and costs more while he isn't under team control past this season. But thankfully Ayala pitched well last night, needing just over 3 pitchers per batter to get through 10 hitters through three innings. We'll see if this can be a sign of things to come. But that's highly unlikely.

In the meantime, hopefully the Twins continue using Ayala exclusively in non-pressure situations until he's proven that he isn't a complete liability. If he doesn't turn things around, he could follow Breslow sooner rather than later.


Infielder Nick Romero has been promoted from Single-A Beloit to Advanced-A Ft. Myers despite carrying a .640 OPS and being tied with Luke Hughes and Deibinson Romero for an organizational worse with 8 errors. The Snappers have also placed pitcher Shooter Hunt on the disabled list with a strained groin muscle while releasing Henry Reyes. Taking their places on the roster, pitchers Mike Tarsi, Blake Martin and Curtis Leavitt have all been activated from the D.L. All three have been on the disabled list since the beginning of the season.

May 20, 2009

Catching up on Game Balls

Sorry about the lack of posting and the lack of updating the Game Balls. I'm still in the process of changing computers, but I'll try to update this a little more than every two weeks :)

Game Ball #29

May 7, 2009 vs. Baltimore Orioles
Joe Mauer - Catcher
Line: 3-4, RBI, walk

Game Ball #30
May 8, 2009 vs. Seattle Mariners
Scott Baker - Starting Pitcher
Line: 7 innings pitched, 5 hits, 0 runs, 5 strikeouts, win

Game Ball #31
May 9, 2009 vs. Seattle Mariners
Joe Mauer - Catcher
Line: 2-3, 2 runs, home run, double, 3 RBI, 2 walks

Game Ball #32
May 10, 2009 vs. Seattle Mariners
Nick Blackburn - Starting Pitcher
Line: 7 innings pitched, 5 hits, 0 runs, walk, 6 strikeouts, no decision

Game Ball #33
May 12, 2009 vs. Detroit Tigers

Joe Mauer - Catcher
Line: 2-3, run, home run, 2 RBI, walk

Game Ball #34
May 13, 2009 vs. Detroit Tigers
Joe Crede - Third Base
Line: 2-7, run, grand slam, 4 RBI

Game Ball #35
May 14, 2009 vs. Detroit Tigers
Jason Kubel - Left Field
Line: 3-4, run, 2 doubles, RBI

Game Ball #36
May 15, 2009 vs. New York Yankees
Justin Morneau - First Base
Line: 2-5, 2 runs, 2 home runs, 2 RBI

Game Ball #37
May 16, 2009 vs. New York Yankees
Justin Morneau - First Base
Line: 2-3, 2 runs, home run, RBI, 2 walks

Game Ball #38
May 17, 2009 vs. New York Yankees
Kevin Slowey - Starting Pitcher
Line: 7.2 innings pitched, 7 hits, 2 runs, 8 strikeouts, no decision

Game Ball #39
May 18, 2009 vs. New York Yankees
Justin Morneau - Starting Pitcher
Line: 4-5, 2 doubles, RBI

Game Ball #40
May 19, 2009 vs. Chicago White Sox
Denard Span - Left Field
Line: 2-3, walk

Game Ball #41
May 20, 2009 vs. Chicago White Sox
Luis Ayala - Relief Pitcher
Line: 3 innings pitched, 0 hits, 0 runs, walk, no decision

May 19, 2009

"Elbow Inflammation" sidlelines Perkins

The Twins placed starter Glen Perkins on the disabled list yesterday with what is being reported as "left elbow inflammation." Perkins has supposedly been dealing with some elbow soreness throughout his last few starts but either he never spoke up about it or the team just didn't think much of it. He is scheduled to have an MRI at some point today. And so far, it has been considered a "minor injury." Regardless, it will end up hurting the team who will now be without one of their starters for the foreseeable future. This unfortunately is already starting to sound like the same case that Francisco Liriano was involved in back in 2006.

Since starting 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA in 24 innings (3 starts), Perkins has gone 0-2 with a 9.39 ERA in his last 23 innings (5 starts). Perkins hasn't seen a huge loss in velocity, but his location has been scattered in his recent starts which has resulted in him giving up six home runs (he didn't give up a single home run in his first 24 innings).

Taking his spot on the roster will be Sean Henn who has been Rochester's best reliever thus far this season. Henn posted a 1.13 ERA in 24 innings (15 appearances) while serving as the Red Wings' primary closer. Henn has a fastball that reaches 95 mph and will give the Twins a third left-handed option in their bullpen.

The move to add a reliever instead of a starter may be puzzling to some, but after the bullpen combined for 14 innings through the last four games and with no off-day scheduled until June, the bullpen could use some new arms to help prevent such injuries to other valuable arms.

The Twins will make a decision later this week on who will take Perkins rotation spot. His next scheduled start is Saturday against the Milwaukee Brewers, and the most likely move that I see the Twins making is just moving R.A. Dickey into his spot. Dickey threw 4 1/3 innings yesterday, replacing Perkins in the first inning, which would put him on track to take Perkins next start without having too little or too much time off.

If the Twins choose to promote a player from Triple-A, a player will then have to be moved to do so, which has been speculated lately. But in Triple-A, Anthony Swarzak seems to be the most logical of choices to take Perkins' spot. Swarzak features a great fastball that has hit the upper-90's but generally sits around 94 mph. He also has a great curveball and change-up that compliment his fastball.

Swarzak has seen his share of ups and downs. After being drafted in the second round of the 2004 draft he was making his way through the Twins minor league ranks before being suspended for 50 games in the 2007 season for violation of the Drugs of Use and Abuse program. He then struggled in 2008 at Double-A before being promoted (which was thought to be undeserving) to Triple-A. He has again begun to quite his doubters and through 14 Triple-A starts, he has an 8-4 record to go along with a 1.81 ERA. He has also averaged 7+ innings per start.

We'll see if that's enough to warrant a look at the Major League Level. Brian Duensing pitched great yesterday and already has seen time with the Twins, he could also be a consideration. At least the Twins have a couple viable options. Although it's still not the situation the Twins wanted to see themselves in this soon into the season.

This post was originally posted at

May 18, 2009

Twins Bullpen 0, Yankees 3

Thus far in this series, the Twins starters have failed to be involved in any of the three decisions while combining for a 3.10 ERA. Meanwhile, the bullpen is 0-3 in the series with an 8.22 ERA. All three loses have come after strong pitching performances by the starters only to have the bullpen cost up either a lead or a tie to allow the Yankees to win three "shouldn't have won" games.

Thankfully, the Twins may be making a move that could change their bullpen. Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune mentioned yesterday that the Twins could be addressing their weakness (aka their bullpen) at some point in the not-too-distant future. Christensen predicted that Luis Ayala would be released while promoting southpaw Sean Henn. The 28-year-old former Yankee farmhand has a 1.13 ERA with a 32/10 K/BB ratio while serving as the primary closer for the Twins Triple-A affiliate Rochester Red Wings.

As bad as Ayala has been this season, I don't understand why the Twins wouldn't just get rid of Craig Breslow who has been equally bad. In order to cut Ayala, the Twins will have to eat the remainder of his $1.3 million deal. Gasp. While that shouldn't be a problem, the Twins have been frugal to a fault and it'd cost far less to get rid of Breslow. If Henn took Ayala's place, the Twins would then have three left-handed relievers. Thankfully, Henn has been absolutely flawless against left-handed hitters. Mijares has as well. Breslow on the other hand can't get either lefties or righties out, and really serves no purpose going out there to be the LOOGY.

If this were the scenario in place, Breslow (to me) makes the most sense to be let go. There's a fair chance that he'll clear waivers if he chooses to accept a demotion to Triple-A. But honestly, more moves need to be made, but at least getting rid of Breslow or Ayala would be a start. Whichever of the two stays put, unless they turn things around, they could follow in the others' footsteps. Jesse Crain and R.A. Dickey are two others that aren't in the 'clear' either and could also be on the outs sooner rather than later.

Whatever happens, regardless of who stays and who goes, the Twins need to move both Rob Delaney and Anthony Slama up to Triple-A. They have a combined 2.00 ERA and 64/18 K/BB ratio in just under 50 innings pitched. The fact that these two continue to be mishandled and held back in place of clearly less talented, no promise pitchers is completely absurd. The teams biggest area of concern is the bullpen, so why are they holding these two back? I know some think the Twins are doing the right thing by giving these two more experience in the Minor Leagues, but I personally don't understand the reasoning.

May 14, 2009

Ain't No Place Like Home

Last night, the Twins capped off an exciting 14-10 victory over the Detroit Tigers with a Joe Crede walk-off grand slam. The Twins hit only 1 home run in a four-game, two city road trip just last week, losing three of the four games. Well, in the first two games of this six-game home stand, and the Twins hit seven home runs. Overall, 12 home runs have been hit in the Metrodome (by the Twins) since last Friday. Coincidentally, the only game the Twins have lost since Friday was on Sunday which has been the only time they have failed to hit a home run (on this home stand).

The bullpen is continuing to implode before our eyes, which is putting more pressure on the pitchers to perform well and last as long as possible into games. That is definitely having a negative effect on some of our starters, which is putting a bigger strain on our offense to score as many runs as possible. Obviously, the offense should be doing this anyways, but in years past, the Twins have benefited from having such a strong rotation and bullpen to make up for their putrid offense. This season, the offense has been trying to carry as much of the load as possible.

So far this season, the pitching has surrendered 181 runs, which is fifth worst in the majors. Meanwhile, the offense has scored 167 runs, which is 14th most in the majors. Hopefully the pitching will turn it around, but the offense will need to continue to carry this team, which at least in the past week, hasn't been too much of a problem. Unfortunately, the Twins will be facing some of baseball's best offenses in the next few weeks, which could make for an interesting remainder of May.

After today, the Twins will play ten of their next 17 games on the road. They'll be facing the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays. Both the pitching and the offense will have its work cut out for themselves, but hopefully they can both contribute evenly, or at least more closely, so the other won't have as much pressure to perform better. If they can, they should make start seeing the other side of .500 ball.

May 13, 2009

Mauer for MVP!

Alright, may be a little misleading. This is not a post about Mauer being in the MVP race. I honestly don't see any relevance in arguing for that after ten games. But I figured I'd be the first to say it before everyone else start the 'MVP' chants.

It's pretty amazing. Ten games into his season, Joe Mauer already has four home runs. Alright, it happens. Many players seem to have spurts in which they show power over a short period of time. Take Ryan Theriot of the Chicago Cubs for example, the light-hitting infielder has never hit more than three home runs in a season, yet he hit three home runs in a span of just four games last week. Last year, Mauer hit his fourth home run on July 5th.

I don't know what it is, but Mauer is just mashing the ball right now. He certainly could be benefiting from having Justin Morneau hitting behind in the batting order. Although it has gone on now for a couple years, it seems more and more pitchers are feeding Mauer fastballs, in anticipation that he won't be hitting it out of the park. That may be changing. All four of Mauer's home runs (including his 'should-have-been' home run in the first inning of yesterday's game), have come on fastballs. What's actually impressive is that all four home runs (including the 'should-have-been') have all been hit to left field. Most of the pitches have been over the outer-half of the plate, which is really beneficial for him to just take the pitch and continue to push it, instead of trying to pull it. Delmon Young tried it last year, but his pitch recognition is horrible and trying to push a low breaking ball is a lot harder than pushing a high fastball.

Mauer has a long way to go before being considered a 'power threat', but he should be making pitchers think twice before feeding him fastballs, especially over the plate. The unfortunate part right now (for opposing pitchers, of course) is that I really don't think it would matter if you threw this guy an invisible pea, he'd probably still hit it, and hit it hard.

Mauer is locked in. It's disappointing to see the team at just .500 with him in the lineup. But hopefully they can continue beating up A.L. Central teams and get to the top of the standings.

And who knows, the way Mauer is hitting right now is it too far-fetched to think he could win the MVP? Just some food for thought, I suppose.

May 8, 2009

Top 50 MiLB Prospects 2009: #1 Matt Wieters

Top 50 MiLB Prospects 2009 | #1 | Matt Wieters | Orioles

Position | Catcher

Bats/Throws | Both/Right

Born | May 21, 1986 (Goose Creek, South Carolina)

| Georgia Tech

| 6'5''

|230 lbs.

2008 Ranking | 30

The Baltimore Orioles selected Matt Wieters in the 1st round (5th overall) in the 2007 draft. In 2008, his first year of professional baseball, he dominated both the Carolina League and Eastern League. In 2009, many thought he'd make the Orioles team out of Spring Training, but instead they chose to send him to Triple-A. He has everything a team looks for in a catcher. He handles the pitchers well and he has a great arm/glove. At the plate, he has outstanding power, makes good contact and shows impeccable discipline and pitch recognition. Many have compared him to Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins, but Wieters has the potential to lead all catchers in home runs while Mauer will likely lead in batting average. Wieters should be a #3 hitter in Baltimore, and slowly but surely the state of the Orioles franchise is starting to turn around and Wieters is the main reason why.

2008 Statistics
Level    G    PA    AVG   OBP    SLG   XBH   HR   BB
A+      69   280   .345  .448   .576    23   15   44
AA 61 250 .365 .460 .625 28 12 38

2009 Outlook

Wieters, like David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays, began the season in Triple-A. When the Orioles are in the 'clear', they will promote him.


Estimated Time of Arrival

May 7, 2009

Top 50 MiLB Prospects 2009: #2 Madison Bumgarner

Top 50 MiLB Prospects 2009 | #2 | Madison Bumgarner | Giants

Position | Pitcher

Bats/Throws | Right/Left

| August 1, 1989 (Hickory, North Carolina)

| South Caldwell High School

| 6'4''

| 215 lbs.

2008 Ranking | Not Ranked

Madison Bumgarner was selected 10th overall by the San Francisco Giants in the 2007 draft. When he was drafted, his fastball highlighted a pretty depleted repertoire but he has quickly learned a few breaking pitches which give him a great compilation of pitches that should work to his advantage while he makes his way through the Gianst system. He hits the mid-upper 90's on his fastball and has great break with both of his curveball and slider. His changeup has been a great improvement and when he throws 97 with his fastball, his change-up has helped keep hitters off balance. Here is his "Scouting Report" from The Baseball Cube:

Bumgarner has outstanding control and throws strikes a lot. If Bumgarner continues to get better (which is scary for opposing hitters to think about), the Giants could someday have the best righty-lefty combination in baseball. I know that David Price is widely considered the top pitching prospect in baseball, but I think Bumgarner has more upside, which by all accounts is not saying anything negative about Price, but should go to show how good Bumgarner could be.

2008 Statistics
Level    W    L    ERA     IP     K    BB    WHIP    FIP
A-      15    3   1.46  141.2   164    21    0.93   1.71

2009 Outlook
Bumgarner began the 2009 season with the San Jose Giants of the California League. I seriously doubt he finishes there, but the Giants won't rush him to the Majors.

Pitching Repertoire
  • Fastball
  • Curveball
  • Change-up
  • Slider


Estimated Time of Arrival
Top 50 MiLB Prospects 2009 | #3 | David Price | Tampa Bay Rays

Position | Pitcher

Bats/Throws | Left/Left

| August 26, 1985 (Nashville, Tennessee)

| Vanderbilt University

| 6'6''

| 225 lbs.

2008 Ranking | 8

David Price was the #1 overall pick in the 2007 draft. The Tampa Bay Rays took him without hesitation, and he should prove to be worth the choice. When he was drafted, many scouts felt Price could already handle the Major Leagues without having any experience of professional baseball. But Price began the 2008 season in the Florida State League but like scouts suggested, it didn't take much time for him to reach the Major Leagues which is where he finished off the 2008 season. The Rays let finances hinder into another decision regarding a top prospect (see Evan Longoria in 2007), and Price is beginning the 2009 season in Triple-A. The team has repeatedly said that it has nothing to do with saving money, but when they know they're in the clear, Price will be promoted.

2008 Statistics
Level    W    L    ERA     IP     K    BB    WHIP    FIP
A+       4    0   1.82   34.2    37     7    1.01   1.67
AA 7 0 1.89 57.0 55 16 1.02 3.92
AAA 1 1 4.50 18.0 17 9 1.72 2.81
MLB 0 0 1.93 14.0 12 4 0.93 3.42

2009 Outlook
The general consensus heading into Training Camp was that Price would join the Rays in Tampa Bay at the start of the season, but for some reason (money) they chose to send Price back to Triple-A to begin the season.

Pitching Repertoire
  • Fastball
  • Change-up
  • Slider

For starters, go here.

Estimated Time of Arrival
Top 50 MiLB Prospects 2009 | #4 | Travis Snider | Blue Jays

Position | Outfield

Bats/Throws | Left/Left

Born | February 2, 1988 (Kirkland, Washington)

| Henry County High School

| 6'0''

|235 lbs.

2008 Ranking | 25

The Toronto Blue Jays drafted Travis Snider in the 1st round (14th Overall) in the 2006 draft. He signed quickly and instantly began proving his worth in Rookie Ball. He hit .325/.412/.567 with 24 extra-base hits (11 home runs) to go along with 41 RBI in only 54 games. The next year, he hit .313 and a .902 OPS with 58 extra-base hits (16 home runs) while driving in 93 runs. In 2008, he moved up four levels on the season while playing well at each stop. Snider has an outstanding bat that makes him an ideal cleanup hitter. He is not great defensively, but the Blue Jays knew that when they drafted him. The Blue Jays already have a high-potent offense, but adding Snider could put them over the top and make them a team to lookout for in the American League East.

2008 Statistics
Level    G    PA    AVG   OBP    SLG   XBH   HR   BB
A+      17    66   .279  .333   .557     9    4    5
AA 98 423 .262 .357 .461 38 17 52
AAA 18 70 .344 .386 .516 7 2 4
MLB 24 80 .301 .338 .466 8 2 5

2009 Outlook

Snider began the 2009 season with the Toronto Blue Jays. He's had his ups and downs but I'd be surprised to see him not stay in the Major Leagues all season.


Estimated Time of Arrival
Top 50 MiLB Prospects 2009 | #5 | Rick Porcello | Tigers

Position | Pitcher

Bats/Throws | Right/Right

| December 27, 1988 (Morristown, New Jersey)

| Setan Hall Prep High School

| 6'5''

| 200 lbs.

2008 Ranking | 15

The Detroit Tigers drafted Rick Porcello in the first round of the 2007 draft. Despite having top ten talent, teams passed on him because of two driving factors: (A) He signed a letter of intent to play for the University of North Carolina; and (B) he was represented by Scott Boras. Both of those have one underlying factor, it would cost any team that drafted him a lot of money to get him. The Tigers took the risk, and after signing too late to play in 2007, he skipped both Rookie Ball and Low-A Ball and began his professional career in the Florida State League in 2008. After faring well there, the Tigers brought him into Spring Training and as a surprise to many, he made the team despite having no experience in Double-A or Triple-A. He certainly has the arm and repertoire to support a major league career (even at this age), but it was still a humdinger. He throws both of his fastballs in the mid-90's and shows acceptional control for a pitcher his age. His potential has no limits and should be at the very top of the Tigers rotation for years to come.

2008 Statistics
Level    W    L    ERA     IP     K    BB    WHIP    FIP
A+       8    6   2.66  125.0    72    33    1.19   3.83

2009 Outlook
Despite only having experience in the Florida State League, the Tigers decided to bring Porcello north to Detroit where he joined the Tigers rotation.

Pitching Repertoire
  • Fastball (Two & Four Seam)
  • Curveball
  • Change-up


Estimated Time of Arrival

Game Balls

The last Game Ball was handed out on Saturday which means I have missed the last four... Time to update what I've missed...

Thursday Twins Linkage: May 7, 2009

The Twins played a rain-shortened game last night, losing 4-1 in only 5 2/3 innings before the game was officially called. Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire voiced his opinion after the game, which was that the game should have never gotten in. Four different downpours totaling 3+ hours of delays before the game was pretty substantial and warrants the manager's displeasure. Kevin Slowey was hit hard, giving up three runs including a two-run home run to Nick Markakis. Craig Breslow gave up a slow shot to Luke Scott in the fourth inning.

A day after suggesting that Alexi Casilla should be sent to the minor leagues, the Twins made it official after arriving at Camden Yards in Baltimore. Casilla will head to Rochester infielder Matt Tolbert takes his place on the Twins roster. Tolbert was hitting .260/.324/.375 through 23 games (96 AB's) with the Red Wings.

Justin Murphy posted his "Upstate Update" which highlights what is going on with the Twins Triple-A affiliate the Rochester Red Wings. Hopefully (much like the Twins) their pitching and offense can improve enough to get over the .500 mark.

And speaking of the Rochester Red Wings, I recommend everyone to check out a new blog called 'R Red Wings.

Here are the scores throughout the Twins Minor League system from Wednesday:

  • Rochester Red Wings beat the Louisville Bats, 5-2.
  • New Britain Rock Cats beat the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, 2-0 in Game 1. And then won 5-3 in Game 2.
  • Ft. Myers Miracle lost to the Sarasota Reds, 6-5.
  • Beloit Snappers lost to the West Michigan Whitecaps, 3-0.

May 6, 2009

Twins demote Casilla, call up Tolbert

La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune mentioned last night that the Twins could be making a roster move prior to today's game in Baltimore, and Kelsie Smith of the St. Paul Pioneeer Press is reporting that the Twins have in fact demoted Alexi Casilla to Triple-A Rochester while calling-up Matt Tolbert.

We'll see how Casilla responds to the demotion. Hopefully it's the kick in the rear he needs.

Casilla on the outs?

First, I will post the Game Balls that I have missed at some point today. Also, I will be continuing with the Top 50 MiLB Prospect list to finish it off, my hope is to have them all posted by Friday. That likely means two today, two tomorrow and one on Friday.

La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Start-Tribune made note on his blog last night that he expects there to be a roster move at some point today. The move would likely involve adding an infielder to take the place of Alexi Casilla who as I noted yesterday, has struggled all season. But it could also just be Neal suggesting that Casilla will be moved to the bench in place of Brendan Harris or perhaps a minor league call-up.

The tone of the report suggests that Casilla would be in fact sent down. Yesterday he made multiple defensive misplays, one resulting in an error, while continuing to show absolutely no composure at the plate. Actually, his 1-4 effort now give him 7 hits in his last 58 at-bats (.120 average). In that time, he has struck out 15 times. He still only has two extra-base hits on the season as well.

Yesterday looks like it was the last straw for Ron Gardenhire.

Neal suggests that Matt Tolbert, who recently appeared on my "Not-So-Hot-List", may be considered for a call-up. Tolbert has hit .356 with four extra-base hits and seven RBI in his last ten games. But more importantly, he has played mistake-free defense which is really what Casilla has been scolded for the most. If Casilla was playing flawless defense (or at least better defense), he probably wouldn't be in this situation.

The Twins now have 12 relievers again, and although many have been ineffective this season, R.A. Dickey and Craig Breslow, probably the two most likely to be considered "on the bubble" combined for five strikeouts yesterday.

Whether or not this report is just a suggestion that Casilla will be benched in favor of Brendan Harris or that Casilla could be sent to the minor leagues, it is encouraging to see Gardenhire be vocal and show willingness to improve the team in some fashion.

I'm trying not to beat this issue to death, but it is something that should be noted.

May 5, 2009

What Should Be Done With Second?

Coming into the season, Alexi Casilla was one position player with a huge question mark over his head. Despite hitting a career-best .281, his performance from first-half to second-half were pretty staggering. After hitting .315/.357/.440 with 17 extra base hits. But in the second half, he hit a horrendous .243/.305/.303 with seven extra base hits in just 15 less at-bats. Obviously these dramatic splits raised the question whether or not Casilla’s first-half numbers were a fluke.

So far this season, his critics look to be right while the 25-year-old Casilla is hitting a ghastly .163/.230/.200 despite receiving the majority of the playing time at second base. His sub-par offense has lead to him having an early -8.6 VORP (Value Over Replacement Player), which was at 8.4 at the end of the 2008 season. Even his defense has been suspect thus far this season, despite having only two official errors on the season. He has had many mental lapses this season despite them not all showing up in the stat books. His Revised Zone Rating (RZR) is .828 (as of 5/3/09) which ranks 14th out of 27 eligible players throughout MLB.

All these really goes to show you is that despite putting up atrociously bad offensive numbers, his defense is truly not strong enough to continue letting him receive as many at-bats as he’s had. If the Twins had no options to replace him with, I could see them justifying a reason to continue giving him at-bats. But the team does have an option, although the two seem to be polar opposites in their respective skill sets.

Brendan Harris has found himself in manager Ron Gardenhire’s doghouse, a place Casilla has become familiar with in the past. Harris has received 31 less at-bats as Casilla has this season, despite scoring two more runs and driving in as many runners as the switch-hitting Casilla. Harris has also recorded five multi-hit games this season, something Casilla has only done twice.

Harris’ bat at least makes up for his less-desirable defense, which by all accounts is not great. Harris has played enough second base to have learned how to turn a smooth double-play, but for some reason he still has a shortstop’s mentality and needs to work on his footwork. Still, Harris’ poor defense is made up for by his bat and ability to play fundamental baseball. Another thing Casilla has shown an inability to do.

Casilla’s mental lapses haven’t just been on the defensive side of the ball, he’s hitting a horrific .083/.120/.083 from the right side of the plate (2 hits in 24 at-bats), and has also had Gardenhire speak to him about his lack of motivation and hustle on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.

Whatever is wrong with Casilla is a mystery that maybe only he himself knows, but how much longer the Twins give him to figure things out shouldn’t require such a complex answer. A trip to the Minor Leagues seems unlikely, but it could be the wakeup call he needs. He benefited from it last year and maybe that is what will fire him up again. He could land a spot on the bench, but he needs to play. However he cannot continue hurting the Twins with his lack of production and lack of concentration.

While we’re on this topic, here are a couple interesting tidbits that relate on some level. In an article posted before the season, in which the Twins Writers over at Baseball Digest made some Bold Predictions, Nick Nelson added “Alexi Casilla will lose his starting job at second base a few months into the year.” In another article titled Keys to Success, yours truly wrote “…to not be afraid to pull the plug on a player sooner rather than later.”

This post can also be read at

May 3, 2009

Minor League Report: April (pt. deux)

As I mentioned yesterday, I am going to be doing monthly Minor League reports throughout the season. However due to some things that came up, I had to change the format of the reports a bit. Instead of focusing on each team, I decided to just choose a few Minor League players who impressed me through the first month of the season. Today, I will choose a few players who disappointed me through the first month.

The Not-So-Hot List
(In no particular order)

After nearly making the roster out of Spring Training, Matt Tolbert expected his time in Rochester to be short-lived. He was expected to be the first guy the Twins would call-upon in case of an injury to any of their current infielders, but if he continues to play like he did in April, that probably won't be the case. Tolbert hit .194/.289/.284 through 69 April at-bats. On the bright side, he played good defense and showed good plate discipline, but if he wants to seperate himself from the Nick Punto-clone comparisons, he'll have to hit better than he did in April.

* Tolbert is no longer considered a prospect, therefore he did not appear anywhere on my 2009 Top 50 Twins Prospect list.

Steven Tolleson - 25 - Shortstop/Second Base : New Britain Rock Cats

After a great 2008 season in the Eastern League, a crowded infield in Triple-A Rochester forced Steven Tolleson to start the 2009 season back in New Britain. Although his poor April could be attributed to a lack of motivation, he'll need to step it up if he wants to prove the Twins wrong for making this decision. Tolleson hit .169/.234/.203 in 59 April at-bats. He also caused three errors on defense. Keep in mind, he committed just 12 errors through 93 games last season. At this pace, he's on track to commit 19 errors through 93 games already. He has been praised for playing fundamental baseball throughout his career, but he'll have to get back to that to move forward.

* Tolleson ranked 21st on my 2009 Top 50 Twins Prospect list.

Despite an injury-plagued 2008 campaign, Deibinson Romero moved up to the Florida State League where he (theoretically) should be if he wanted to keep up with the one level up per year "system." But after a strong start, Romero took a steep drop-off in the month of April and finished the month with a .655 OPS but more importantly the strong-gloved third baseman committed seven errors. Romero was once listed as the "Best Defensive Infielder" in the Twins system (according to Baseball America), but he lost that title this year and doesn't look to be making a case to win it back.

* Romero ranked 35th on my 2009 Top 50 Twins Prospect list.

Shooter Hunt - 22 - Right-Handed Pitcher : Beloit Snappers

When Shooter Hunt was drafted in the Supplemental 1st Round of the 2008 draft, his biggest flaw was his lack of control. Even The Baseball Cube showed his lack in control with a "Scouting Report" rating of 29. For reference, his K-Rating and Efficiency were both ranked in the mid-to-high 90's. Well Hunt struggled in April, with a 0-1 record to go along with a 10.80 ERA. He walked 23 batters opposed to striking out only 10. He has a few mechanical issues he needs to work on, but many people are suggesting that he should be put into the bullpen to work on his control. It's not too far-fetched to think that he could end up in Extened Spring Training or back in Elizabethton if that's what the team thinks will help him figure things out.

* Hunt ranked 8th on my 2009 Top 50 Twins Prospect list.

Angel Morales flew onto the radar during the 2008 season where he hit 15 home runs with an OPS of 1.036 through 54 games with the Elizabethon Twins. A five-tool potential outfielder, everyone was getting anxious to see how Morales would fare in a full-season league like the Midwest League. So far, it hasn't gone as planned for the 19-year-old Puerto Rican native. Through 58 April at-bats, Morales hit .172/.200/.328 with a 9/1 K/BB ratio (18/2). His OPS of .528 is .508 points lower than his OPS last year (1.036). He has also committed two errors, half as many of his 2008 total.

* Morales ranked 6th on my 2009 Top 50 Twins Prospect list.

Five others worth mentioning (in no particular order): Jeff Manship (RHP, New Britain), Daniel Osterbrock (LHP, Beloit), Reid Santos (LHP, Rochester), Michael Allen (RHP, Beloit), Ben Julianel (LHP, Rochester)

Twins 'Mariners' Themselves

If you recall, the second game of the season featured a pretty wild 9th inning from the Mariners:
Bottom 9th: Minnesota
- B. Morrow relieved D. Aardsma
- J. Crede struck out swinging
- D. Young flied out to deep center
- C. Gomez walked
- J. Kubel hit for J. Morales
- C. Gomez to second on fielder's indifference
- J. Kubel walked
- B. Buscher hit for N. Punto
- B. Harris ran for J. Kubel
- B. Buscher walked, C. Gomez to third, B. Harris to second
- M. Batista relieved B. Morrow
- D. Span singled to third, C. Gomez scored, B. Harris to third, B. Buscher to second
- A. Casilla singled to center, B. Harris and B. Buscher scored, D. Span to second
Here is what the Twins did on Saturday night:
Top 11th: Kansas City
- C. Breslow relieved M. Guerrier
- C. Crisp walked
- W. Bloomquist walked, C. Crisp to second
- B. Butler grounded into fielder's choice, C. Crisp to third, W. Bloomquist out at second
- M. Teahen hit for M. Maier
- M. Teahen walked, B. Butler to second
- R.A. Dickey relieved C. Breslow
- J. Buck walked, C. Crisp scored, B. Butler to third, M. Teahen to second
- A. Callaspo grounded into fielder's choice, B. Butler scored, M. Teahen to third, J. Buck out at second
- D. DeJesus singled to left, M. Teahen scored, A. Callaspo to second
- M. Olivo hit by pitch, A. Callaspo to third, D. DeJesus to second
- T. Pena Jr. grounded out to second
In the Mariners game, Brandon Morrow and Miguel Batista combined to throw 17 of 31 pitches for strikes (55%). Last night, Craig Breslow and R.A. Dickey combined to throw 18 of 40 pitches for strikes (45%).

Obviously 10% is a pretty substantial difference, but both cases fielded the same results. The hitters feasted on the relievers inability to find the strike zone. Unfortunately this time it cost the Twins a victory.

The Twins used all six relievers out of their depleted bullpen. Jose Mijares and Joe Nathan continued to pitch well while Matt Guerrier extended his strong outings to 7 2/3 innings without allowing a run, which by all means isn't great but it is a big thing for him. Luis Ayala continues to prove that he has been a waste of money thus far while Breslow and Dickey need to find some consistency or find the door.

I'm done 'beating the dead horse' on the issue, the Twins know they need to improve their bullpen and I just hope that the current state of Minnesota's bullpen could trigger a promotion for one (or both) of Anthony Slama or Rob Delaney to Triple-A. The Twins need to fix their bullpen and since they don't look interested in going out and finding a capable arm, unless you call scavenging on the waiver wire "going out", the team needs to start moving some arms around from within.


Game Ball #24

May 2, 2009 vs. Kansas City Royals
Delmon Young - Left Field
Line: 3-4, 2 runs, 2 RBI, SB

* Michael Cuddyer and Joe Mauer were also considerations. I just thought under the circumstances (Young replacing Kubel after he was scratched), it was a good all-around performance. Although I am aware that he benefited from a terrible throw from Coco Crisp.

May 2, 2009

Minor League Report: April

The Minor Leagues have always been one of my favorite aspects of baseball. The game is all about development. There are so many things that a player has to do right in order to be successful, which is why seeing players develop through a team's system is something I love to pay attention to.

Throughout the season, I will be taking a look at the minor leagues at least once per month. Obviously many know I am really interested in the Minor Leagues with some of the prospect lists and posts that I have compiled since the start of the site, but for some reason (with really no answer) I've gone back from posting regular Minor League reports. Anyways, I had computer problems on Thursday/Friday this week which prevented me from seeing writing a lot of what I had intended to write about, so instead I will be taking a look at a few minor leaguer's. But in the coming months, I will try to be a little more team-specific and provide better analysis.

Although I am aware that most of these players have played a game in May, I am only using stats as of April 30, 2009.
The Hot List
(In no particular order)

Anthony Swarzak - 23 - Right-Handed Pitcher : Rochester Red Wings

Anthony Swarzak has been one of the biggest head-scratchers since the Twins drafted him in the second round of the 2004 draft. In 2007, he missed 50 games due to failing a drug test. Upon return, he finished the season off strongly in Double-A New Britain. Then in 2008, Swarzak headed back to New Britain where he struggled through 20 starts with a 5.67 ERA before undeservingly being promoted to Triple-A Rochester. But to the surprise of many, Swarzak dominated Triple-A hitters upon his arrival which has carried into this season. Through 10 Triple-A starts, Swarzak is now 5-3 with a 1.74 ERA. Three of those starts have come this season, unfortunately so has all three of those loses. Through 17 innings pitched the offense has only mustered up two runs of support which is evident by the loses when his ERA on the season is at 1.59.

Swarzak ranked 9th on my 2009 Top 50 Twins Prospect list.

Anthony Slama - 25 - Right-Handed Pitcher : New Britain Rock Cats

The Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year is following up a phenomenal 2008 campaign with yet another stellar season. Despite having no Double-A experience, Slama has taken on the primary closer role in New Britatin this season. He has given up one run through 10 2/3 innings while striking out 19 batters opposed to six walks. The 5.1 BB/9 ratio is quite high, but his 16.0 K/9 ratio is too. Hopefully he keeps up the fantastic k-rate while gaining better control. He shouldn't require a lot of time in Double-A before heading to Triple-A, but that's what we thought last year before he ended up spending the entire season in the Florida State League at 24-years-old.

* Slama ranked 17th on my 2009 Top 50 Twins Prospect list.

Rene Leveret - 23 - First Base : Ft. Myers Miracle

Two years ago, Rene Leveret emerged as a hot-hitting prospect with the Elizabethton Twins. But bad work ethic to go along with an immature attitude put Leveret in the back seat last season, forcing the Saint Maartin native to turn things around. So far, it looks as if he has as he's been great thus far for the Miracle. He has a .313 average and a .913 OPS through 57 at-bats this season while playing an acceptional first base. Leveret is not project to be much more than a back-up in the Major Leagues, but to some, performance outweighs physical attributes which could make Leveret a player worth keeping tabs on. He has a .303/.390/.441 line through 519 career at-bats. He has a good approach to go with a good bat which could move him quickly through the system. If he can keep both his weight andattitude in check, he should be fine.

* Leveret did not rank on my 2009 Top 50 Twins Prospect list.

Carlos Gutierrez - 22 - Right-Handed Pitcher : Ft. Myers Miracle

The Twins drafted Carlos Gutierrez despite the fact that he hasn't started a game since 2006. Tommy John Surgery whipped out his 2007 season and was ousted to the bullpen upon his arrival in 2008. The Twins received plenty of grief for drafting him with the 27th overall pick, but so far they may be right yet again. Gutierrez's transitioning from reliever to starter was expected to be a tough process with many ups and downs, but after four starts (five total games) this season, he has only allowed two runs through 23 innings while compiling a 0.54 WHIP and 13/5 K/BB ratio. He has a great fastball which shouldn't surpise why he's dominating hitters, but so far it has been the development of his curveball which has caught many off-guard.

* Gutierrez ranked 18th on my 2009 Top 50 Twins Prospect list.

Ramon Santana - 23 - Second Base : Beloit Snappers

Ramon Santana has seeminlgy come out of nowhere this season and has emerged as a top prospect candidate, much like Luke Hughes did a year ago. Santana has been in Single-A Beloit since the end of the 2007 season, but has yet to have an OPS above .720 while playing mediocre defense. Thus far this season, although his defense has still been shaky, Santana's bat has opened the eyes of many with a .393/.493/.643 hitting line with 8 extra base hits including 3 home runs through 56 at-bats in 16 games. The most impressive part of Santana's success is the power he generates in his 5'9'' 152 lbs. frame. Signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela, Santana could be a player worth watching over the next month or two. Unfortunately a sprain ankle has haulted his hot start. Hopefully he picks up where he left off upon his return.

*Santana was not ranked in my 2009 Top 50 Twins Prospect list.

Five others worth mentioning (In no particular order): Brian Dinkelman (2B, New Britain), Matt Moses (OF, New Britain), Sean Henn (LHP, Rochester), Rob Delaney (RHP, New Britain), Steven Hirschfeld (RHP, Ft. Myers).

That's it for tonight. Hopefully my computer will hold up enough for me to post the Cold list tomorrow.