July 30, 2010

Might as well have been for bottle Capps

The Minnesota Twins made a surprising move last night when they traded away blue chip catching prospect Wilson Ramos and left-handed reliever Joe Testa to the Washington Nationals for closer Matt Capps and $500,000 in cash.

Ramos, who ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the Twins system before the season, has been less than impressive in his first season of Triple-A. Testa was ranked as the No. 49 prospect heading into the season and is back in Single-A Fort Myers after struggling in Double-A New Britain. His inclusion into the trade doesn't bother me. He is a 24-year-old with control problems who is still three stops away from the Major Leagues. Capps, on the other hand, turned a bad situation into a good one when he was released by the Pirates last winter. He signed with the Nationals and was selected to this month's All-Star game (thanks in large part to the every team must have a representative rule).

Heading into the season, Ramos was considered a can't-miss prospect who was coming off of a Venezuelan Winter League where he hit .332/.397/.582 with 12 home runs in 54 games. He was one of the last cuts Ron Gardenhire made in Spring Training, and after hitting .400/.400/.733 with two home runs over 30 at-bats, it seemed Ramos' time in Triple-A may be short-lived.

He was summoned from the minor leagues in early May and spent a week with the club, while Joe Mauer nursed a bruised heel. Ramos came out swinging and went 6-9 with three doubles in his first two games before finishing up his time in Minnesota going 1-18. From that point on, nagging injuries, attitude problems and a .241/.280/.345 slash line proved to be enough for the Twins to rid themselves of one of their best prospects.

This is what I wrote about Ramos at the beginning of the season:
Wilson Ramos was signed as a non-drafted free agent on July 7, 2004. He didn't make it to the states until 2006, but he certainly has made his presence felt since. Admittedly, I flirted with ranking Ramos as the top overall prospect.

In 2006, Ramos began the season in Extended Spring Training before joining the Gulf Coast League. With the Twins, Ramos hit .286/.339/.435 with 16 extra-base hits in 154 at-bats. In 2007, Ramos again found himself in Extended Spring Training but he eventually joined the Beloit Snappers in June with the struggles of Greg Yersich. He went on to hit .291/.345/.438 with 26 extra-base hits in 292 at-bats. After the season, Ramos ranked in as my 13th best prospect in the Twins system. In 2008, Ramos moved up to the Florida State League where he hit .288/.346/.434 with 38 extra-base hits with the Ft. Myers Miracle. In 2009, Ramos continued to move through the system, this time playing for the New Britain Rock Cats in the Eastern League. He broke his finger in May and after returning in June, he missed two months with a pulled hamstring. All together, Ramos hit .317/.339/.496 with 25 extra-base hits including seven home runs in 224 at-bats. After finding himself healthy, Ramos hit .332/.397/.582 and drove in 49 runs in the Venezuelan Winter League.

Ramos' offensive prowess is mostly what he is known for, but Ramos is also a stout defender behind the plate. Pitchers like the way he calls the game and his strong arm makes it hard for base runners to steal on him. But two things stand in the way for Ramos are his history of injuries and a guy by the name of Joe Mauer. Ramos has the potential to be one of the best offensive catchers in baseball, but THE best is already on the roster, so it doesn't seem likely that he'll play an extensive role with the Twins (at least not as a catcher). The Twins could consider using using him at DH, but that seems like it'd really be diminishing his value. Ramos needs to prove in 2010 that he can stay on the field, which may be all that is separating him from being the top prospect.

Despite being blocked by Mauer at catcher, Ramos' value was not diminished. Many believed that with Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer's time in Minnesota possibly coming to an end after 2011, Ramos could have been saved to be not only Mauer's back-up, but an everyday DH.

Ramos' offensive potential, defensive prowess and position made him a valuable trading chip; one that Twins fans were really banking on to bring back a hefty return. Before the season, Twins fans moaned and groaned over the thought of the Twins trading Ramos to San Diego for Heath Bell. That's not to take away from Bell's or even Capps' ability, it's just that trading a top prospect for a reliever is a half-baked idea.

If we're talking about Joakim Soria, Jonathan Papelbon, Jonathan Broxton or Andrew Bailey, sure. But we're not. We're talking about a guy that posted a 5.80 ERA and was then cut by the second-to-worst-place-team Pittsburgh Pirates last winter. And the same guy who is will command a hefty price in arbitration this off-season.

Like Aaron Gleeman wrote, the Twins believe they're getting an "All-Star closer" when in-reality, they're just getting someone who isn't significantly better than what they already have.

While I do have a hard time supporting this trade, I do get what the supporters are saying.

Rauch has been questionable as of late and is very inconsistent. If the Twins want to make a run into the post season, they need to make sure their bullpen is lights out. While this trade doesn't give us that, it does make the bullpen (as a whole) a helluva lot better than it was before.

While we all cringe at Ramos being the traded player, Capps could provide us with a lot of value in 2011. With Nathan coming back from Tommy John surgery, there's no telling if or when he'll be able to be relied upon to close out ballgames. He could have a setback or he may never be right again. For that, the Twins prepared themselves by acquiring a guy they obviously feel comfortable going into next season as their closer if needed.

To recap, here are the pro's that I've found for the trade:
  • The Twins added to their bullpen depth by acquiring a good, capable reliever. Albeit, he's not a shutdown closer like we need.
  • They also prepared themselves for any complications they may have with Joe Nathan as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery.
For the con's, I have to put you in the direction of John Bonnes' post entitled "8 Things I HATE About the Capps-Ramos Trade." John touches on eight different things that I believe all could give Twins fans a reason to feel discouraged.

So what now?

I originally had a post ready (can you believe it) that was going to give my thoughts on the next few days. Basically, I felt that the Twins were probably a lot more likely to go after a reliever now, and wait for a starting pitcher until August, when guys like Ted Lilly, Tom Gorzelany and Brett Meyers (among others), will undoubtedly be passed through waivers. That is of course if the Twins still need a starting pitcher.

At this point, I think the Twins will still try to acquire a starting pitcher, but I don't believe they'll actually act on anything until August (if at all).

I will share one snippet from the post, which now I find to be both amusing and completely sad:
If the Twins are serious about going after Scott Downs or any other reliever, they'd be fools to overspend and use someone like Ben Revere, Angel Morales or Wilson Ramos as bait. Trading a top flight prospect for a reliever, who isn't a shutdown closer, is more of a cardinal sin than walking a pitcher is. You just don't do it.

Meh. What do I know?

My final thoughts: Is taking a baby step back from the ledge still considered "talking somebody off of it?"

June 29, 2010

Help wanted, help needed

Put so elegantly by Aaron Gleeman, the Minnesota Twins have slumped away their lead in the A.L. Central and now, for the first time since April 5th, are not in first place. Poor offense and horrendous pitching is a baseball team's worst nightmare, and the Twins have had both. Other than a couple players, the Twins have been horrendous in a month they usually "get going."

The rumor mills have been churning and the Twins have found themselves caught up in the middle of a lot of them. Thanks to a new revenue and high expectations, the Twins have put themselves in position to be "buyers" at this July's trade deadline. But unlike in other years, the Twins have the opportunity to add a legitimate difference maker (which isn't to say the players we've added in past years didn't make a difference).

There have been three names that don't seem to be going away: Cliff Lee, Dan Haren and Roy Oswalt.

All three of these guys have something in common; they are all pitchers. And not only are they pitchers, they're great pitchers. Why not look for offense? Because good hitters are hard to come by this year, especially if you're comparing them to the quality of pitchers that are believed to be available. Or least that's the way I see it, feel free to disagree.

So looking at those pitchers, who should the Twins go after? If it were up to me, my choice is probably the most unlikely. Being a big fan of player development, I don't like the thought of acquiring a "rental" player. If the Twins don't believe they can re-sign the player they require, I don't want to see them give up a lot to acquire them. That philosophy has been the Twins M.O. for years, and it's one I completely agree with.

So do I believe Lee is the best fit? Well pitching-wise, yes. He's had success in the American League Central and fits the Twins model of pitchers who have great control.

But unlike Oswalt and Haren, Lee is a free agent at the end of the season, which means he'd likely be acquired as a "rental." Could the Twins re-sign him? Maybe, but I think that's highly doubtful with the New York Yankees already salivating about the thought of acquiring him.

How about Oswalt? He has two years remaining on his contract and he also has a history of success. But while his contract would ensure that he's here for more than three months, the salary he's receiving is probably a bit much for the Twins to absorb, especially if they're trading multiple highly-touted prospects to acquire him.

So that leaves Haren. While he's struggled this season, there's no doubt that he is one of the best pitchers in baseball. Since joining the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2008, Haren is 37-24 with a 3.51 ERA and 8.7 K/9, which includes his 4.65 ERA.

So what makes Haren so desirable? That he's under team control through 2012, with an option for 2013. And the salary? He's making $8.25 million in 2010, he'll make $12.75 in 2011 and 2012 with a $15.5 million club option in 2013. A very manageable price for a very good pitcher.

But all of this really means nothing unless you compare the packages that it'd take to acquire each player. The Twins most valuable trading chip is Wilson Ramos, a highly-touted catcher who is blocked by Joe Mauer. But while Ramos is expendable, trading him for Lee should be out of the question. Ramos' potential is too good to trade him for three months of Lee, unless you can guarantee two things: a clause which states, "If the Twins do not win the World Series, we will return Wilson Ramos to them," or a window of opportunity to work out a contract extension. Unfortunately, neither will happen. The most I trade for Lee is Nick Blackburn, Ben Revere and Anthony Slama. I'd assume another team could top that, but I do think the Mariners would accept that if they're that serious about moving him.

The Astros already have a young catcher named Jason Castro, who they selected in the first round of the 2008 draft, so Ramos probably wouldn't entice them as a centerpiece. They would probably ask for a package of young pitchers and outfielders, which the Twins definitely have. Other than Kyle Gibson, who is likely "untouchable," David Bromberg is the Twins best pitching prospect. And other than Aaron Hicks, who is also probably "untouchable," (at least in this case) the Twins have Angel Morales, Joe Benson and Revere as young outfielders.

And then there's the Diamondbacks. The hard thing about trading with Arizona is that for the most part, they have a very young team, with most of their positions "filled" for the next few years. So why would they want to trade Haren? Because for one reason or another, they're trying to free up cap space, and Haren's their highest paid player. Would Ramos entice them as a centerpiece? With Miguel Montero on the team, you wouldn't think so, but Montero is set to begin arbitration this winter, so they may look to move him to a club with catching needs. But Ramos, of course, would only be a starting piece. On top of him, I'm sure one of the three outfielders I previously mentioned would need to be included, as would a young pitcher.

So what would my offer be? Well...

Wilson Ramos
David Bromberg
Angel Morales
Anthony Slama


Dan Haren

There has been a lot of talk that some of these teams could target Kevin Slowey, Scott Baker or Nick Blackburn in a trade, but since I think the Diamondbacks are serious about saving money, I didn't include any of them in this offer. The only starter that they'd probably be interested in is Slowey, which (for me) would immediately eliminate both Bromberg and Morales from the offer.

Mentioning Slowey in trade talks amongst Twins fans is a form of sacrilege, but I have no problem saying that I'd trade him in a heartbeat, if it makes sense. However, I think the Twins would be better-off keeping all of their starting pitchers.

What are your thoughts? Should we focus on pitching? Who would you target? How much is "too much?" Feel free to send me an e-mail at jajohnson021@yahoo.com.

June 16, 2010

Is a major lineup change needed?

[Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images]

Delmon Young
is on fire. And that's probably an understatement. For those who haven't noticed, Young is now hitting .295/.333/.500 with 15 doubles, eight home runs and 41 RBI. He also has a 14-to-22 walk-to-strikeout ratio. Last year, Young had 12 walks and 92 strikeouts. It wasn't even a month ago that Young was hitting .250/.304/.438 with nine doubles, four home runs and 16 RBI. But in the last 22 games, Young has hit .368/.386/.605 with six doubles, four home runs and 25 RBI.

As someone who has never ridiculed Bill Smith for acquiring Young, and someone who has always been a big fan of his (Young), I'm excited to see him hitting with such authority. Since joining the Twins prior to the 2008 season, Young has been awful until the second-half of the season. But the fact that he's on pace to hit 44 doubles, 22 home runs and drive in 111 runners at this point of the season is very encouraging.

A lot of people have been clamoring for Young to be moved up in the lineup, but people need to be more aware of the situation than what's on the surface. It's easy to see that Michael Cuddyer, the player who would likely swap places with Young in the lineup, is struggling, but he too is having a nice past couple of weeks. In the same amount of games as Young's stretch, Cuddyer has hit .321/.394/.536 with eight doubles, two triples and two home runs. He also hasn't hit into a double play since the Twins played the Boston Red Sox on May 19th.

At least swap Young and Jason Kubel, right? Again, no. Since May 25th, Kubel is hitting .323/.389/.692 with six doubles, six home runs and 16 RBI. As someone who has had a history of struggle against left-handed pitchers, Kubel's last two home runs have come against southpaws.

The middle of the Twins lineup is running on all cylinders right now, and nothing drastic needs to be changed there. If the Twins moved Young to fifth, would it make a big difference? Him hitting seventh is not the reason the Twins are 6-7 in June. Instead, that blame can be placed on players hitting .094/.164/.151 in the two-hole since his the injury to Orlando Hudson. Well, that and Justin Morneau hitting .255/.308/.468 over the same span, but that's besides the point.

I've singled out the offense (the two-hole in particular), because as a unit, it has only scored an average of 3.8 runs per game (not including Tuesday's game) since Hudson's injury. And to just show how much the Twins rely on Hudson, the offense averaged 4.9 runs per game (in the games Hudson played) before his injury.

I know people have grown tired of others saying, "the offense will turn around eventually" but I truly believe that the Twins lineup would benefit most by being healthy. When Hudson and J.J. Hardy return from injuries, it should be enough time for the Twins to decide what they want to do before the trade deadline. With guys like Mike Lowell and Mark Reynolds thought to be available, the Twins should have enough time to get a feel for their lineup before making their playoff run.

Give it time, there's no need to make any major changes just yet.

[Image courtesy of Yahoo.com]

June 1, 2010

Twins Minor League Month in Review: Rochester Red Wings - May

Rochester Red Wings (19-32, 5th in the International League - North)

             Team Leaders - Hitters                  Team Leaders - Pitchers    
             Hits: Danny Valencia - 54               Wins: Rob Delaney - 5
Avg: Jason Repko - .310 ERA: Kyle Waldrop - 1.47
OPS: Dustin Martin - .828 IP: Ryan Mullins - 46.33
HR: Brock Peterson - 6 K: Jeff Manship - 19
RBI: Dustin Martin - 33 Saves: Anthony Slama - 10
SB: Jason Repko - 8 WHIP: Anthony Slama - 0.79

After a 10-19 May, the Red Wings continue to slide down the standings. Despite having a very talented group of hitters and pitchers, the team hasn't been able to find its rhythm yet. The offense didn't score a lot of runs and the starting pitchers have struggled keeping the team in the game.

The Red Wings starters had a 6.26 ERA in May. There were six quality starts in May, but only one before May 21st. The unit got better as the month went on, which could be a sign of things to come. Anthony Swarzak returned to the rotation after missing a-month-and-a-half with a broken foot. In just his second start, he went seven innings and gave up only one run. His return and Glen Perkins suddenly piecing together a couple respectable starts could help fuel the Red Wings in June.

Deolis Guerra (#16) was called up following the release of Yoslan Herrera, and at just 21-years-old, he's shown his inexperience. Through four starts, Guerra is 0-3 with a 6.26 ERA. He has walked just six and has struck out 16 while inducing 30 ground-ball outs. He probably belongs in Double-A, but there isn't anyone from New Britain that has earned a promotion to Rochester.

Short Hops: Matt Fox has done a good job filling in as a starter, going 2-2 with a 2.84 ERA in five May starts. He hasn't walked a runner in 15 2/3 innings but has struck out seven in that same span.

The bullpen has a group of very talented relievers, headlined by Anthony Slama (#17), Kyle Waldrop and Rob Delaney (#26). The three combined to go 3-2 with a 2.34 ERA in 36 May appearances. Waldrop was unbelievable, allowing just two earned runs in 21 1/3 innings while walking five and striking out 16. Slama remains solid, but he continues to walk to many batters. He converted five saves in May and had a 1.98 ERA. Delaney, however didn't have such a great month. While it's easy to look past the fact that he had a 4.80 ERA on the month, you can't ignore that he allowed four of his seven inherited runners to score.

Although everyone is clamoring for Slama to be the first reliever to be called up, Waldrop might be the most likely. He's pitching the best and is already on the 40-man roster.

The offense wasn't great, in fact the only players that didn't see their numbers regress are Jose Morales, Matt Tolbert and Danny Valencia (#7). Tolbert hit .269/.318/.410 with seven extra-base hits in 78 at-bats. Valencia had a 20-game hit streak in which he hit .388/.409/.518 with 11 doubles. He finished May hitting .330/.384/.408 including .353/.463/.382 over his last 10 games. He still hasn't hit a home run, but that shouldn't be a big cause for concern to anyone. He's still hit 15 doubles on the season, which is tied for seventh most in the International League. Morales didn't play in April, but he hit .309/.397/.382 with four doubles and eight walks in 55 at-bats.

Trevor Plouffe (#24), Dustin Martin and Jason Repko all lead the offense in April, but each took a step back in May. Still, they all put up respectable numbers. Each hit between .278 and .291 with an OPS between .719 and .756. Together, they had 14 doubles, five home runs and 40 RBI in May.

But perhaps the most disappointing player on the Red Wings has been Wilson Ramos (#2), who continues to play with no motivation. While his .175/.321/.407 tri-slash line probably isn't effecting his prospect status very much, it's very, very irritating to see him play so badly. There have been reports that he's just not motivated by playing in Triple-A Rochester, but the Twins aren't going to reward him if he's hitting like this. Especially with Morales getting closer and closer to returning.

What's Next?: In 20 of their 30 games in June come against either first or second place teams in the International League...Luke Hughes (#25) has been on the disabled list with a strained groin since May 11th, but he will hopefully return to the Red Wings lineup at some point this month.... June is typically a very active month when it comes to player movement, and while none of the current Triple-A guys really threaten to be "Super-2"-type players, the Twins may call up Slama or Waldrop if they find a spot open in their bullpen or Valencia or Plouffe if they find a spot open in their infield... Also, make sure to watch Ben Revere (#4) in Double-A, who could surprise people with a promotion.

Twins Minor League Month in Review: New Britain Rock Cats - May

New Britain Rock Cats (14-36, 6th (last) in Eastern League Eastern Division)

               Team Leaders - Hitters                   Team Leaders - Pitchers    
               Hits: Ben Revere - 57                    Wins: Kyle Gibson - 3
Avg: Ben Revere - .315 ERA: Kyle Gibson - 1.37
OPS: Erik Lis - .812 IP: Mike McCardell - 57.67
HR: Steve Singleton - 4 K: Carlos Gutierrez - 40
RBI: Rene Tosoni - 21 Saves: Chris Province - 4
SB: Ben Revere - 18 WHIP: M. Williams/K. Gibson - 0.95

New Britain continued to struggle in May, with little improved from April. After winning only 25% of their games in April, they finished May with a 30% win percentage. The starting pitching continued to do well while the bullpen continues to struggle. The offense, however did make a big improvement, scoring 1.5 more runs per game.

The offensive leader of the month was without doubt Ben Revere. Revere hit .274/.361/.306 through 62 at-bats in April, but hit .336/.412/.429 in 119 May at-bats. He hit eight extra-base hits, including his first Double-A home run and walked almost twice as many times as he struck out. He also stole 12 bases, giving him 18 on the season, which is good for second most in the Eastern League.

Steve Singleton also had a great month, hitting .313/.355/.509 with 14 extra-base hits in 112 at-bats. He continues to struggle against left-handed pitching and with runners on-base, but Singleton is a solid all-around player who will get everything to click eventually. He probably won't be able to follow the "trend" of being promoted mid-season, like he's done since 2008, but it won't be because of poor play.

Yangervis Solarte was promoted to New Britain on May 12th. Since his promotion, Solarte has hit .312/316/.494 with eight extra-base hits. Solarte was the only consistent hitter in Ft. Myers, so with New Britain's offensive struggles, the Miracle lost their offensive leader. The Rock Cats have won eight of 19 games since Solarte's promotion. He doesn't have a set defensive position, but his bat is too good right now to keep out of the lineup. The Rock Cats will continue to find a place for Solarte as long as he continues to hit.

After getting off to a great start, Rene Tosoni struggled a bit in May. A shoulder injury has summoned Tosoni to full time DH duties, which may be effecting him a little. Tosoni's numbers in May weren't horrible, but they were down from April. He hit eight extra-base hits and walked 17 times in May, but his OPS dropped .134 points. His shoulder injury has prevented him from being called-up to Triple-A Rochester, and until he's able to play the field, he'll remain in New Britain.

The starters, as a collective unit, wasn't as good as their numbers suggest. Yes, they had a collective 3.97 ERA. But it weren't for Kyle Gibson and Carlos Gutierrez, that 3.97 ERA becomes a 5.21 ERA.

Gibson made four starts for the Rock Cats and despite moving up a level, his numbers were even better than they were in Advanced-A. Gibson was 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA and a 42/13 GB/FB ratio. He struggled in his last start, but he still went five innings and gave up only two runs. He's one of the hottest pitchers in the Minor Leagues right now, but he probably won't be moving through the system as quickly as people would think. The Twins have made it known that they will be careful with Gibson this year, as he's just a year removed from a stress fracture in his right forearm. Gibson may be in New Britain for a while, but I still wouldn't be surprised to see him in Triple-A Rochester before the year is done.

Carlos Gutierrez had a great month, posting a 2-2 record and a 2.15 ERA. He struck out 24 batters, walked 13 and had a 2.95 GB/FB ratio. I still think Gutierrez's future is as a closer, but he'll remain in the rotation as long as he's pitching like this. He has now appeared in 32 games with New Britain (half as a starter), and he has a 4.87 ERA.

Tyler Robertson, David Bromberg and Michael McCardell all struggled in May. Robertson made six starts on the month, one of which came for Triple-A Rochester, and was 0-5 with a 5.93 ERA. On a bright note, he did have a 48/13 GB/FB ratio on the month, He has only made it through five innings two times and continues to walk too many batters. After four April starts, David Bromberg looked to be on cruise control. But when May came, Bromberg lost all control of his pitches and started becoming very hittable. He finished May 1-3 with a 6.15 ERA. McCardell, has made 10 starts on the season and still hasn't won a game. But not all of the blame cane be placed on him. In each of McCardell's five May starts, the bullpen gave up an inherited runner. Also, three of the team's seven blown saves came when McCardell had started. Still, all three of these pitchers need to turn things around quickly, which can hopefully salvage the season from being a complete embarrassment.

The Achilles Heal for the Rock Cats this season has been the bullpen. After a 6.04 ERA in April, the Rock Cats pen had a 5.44 ERA in May. The unit blew seven saves in 10 opportunities and had a 3-7 record. They have allowed 33% of their inherited runners to score, but there were only nine games in which they didn't inherit a runner in the first place.

The biggest turnaround came from Chris Province, who lowered his ERA to 6.23 after having a 10.03 ERA following April. He was 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA and two saves in 13 appearances. Joe Testa also made an improvement, but he still had a disappointing month. His 5.17 ERA in May helped lower his season ERA to 8.22.

Matt Williams and Loek Van Mil were promoted from Ft. Myers, but neither have been lights out. Williams was 1-1 with a 3.95 ERA in 10 appearances for the Rock Cats. Van Mil only appeared in two games, and hasn't pitched since May 22nd.

Spencer Steedley, the Rock Cats best reliever, went on the disabled list with a forearm strain. He has been out since May 5th and there's no timetable for his return. The Rock Cats desperately need to revamp their relief corps, and getting Steedley back soon would definitely help.

What's Next?: June is typically a very busy month for promotions, and I do expect both Joe Benson (#11) or Chris Parmelee (#13) to return to New Britain at some point...The Rock Cats don't have a terribly difficult schedule in June, but they do face the Altoona Curve six times and the Trenton Thunder four times. The Curve lead the Eastern League West and the Trenton Thunder are second in the Eastern League East.

Twins Minor League Month in Review: Ft. Myers Miracle - May

Ft. Myers Miracle (21-29, 5th in the Florida State League - South)

             Team Leaders - Hitters                  Team Leaders - Pitchers    
             Hits: Evan Bigley - 40                  Wins: Michael Tarsi - 3
Avg: Chris Parmelee - .340 ERA: Bobby Lanigan - 2.67
OPS: Joe Benson - .925 IP: Michael Tarsi - 52
HR: Joe Benson - 4 K: Bruce Pugh - 47
RBI: Deibinson Romero - 40 Saves: Billy Bullock - 8
SB: Estarlin De Los Santos - 4 WHIP: Bobby Lanigan - 0.99

After winning just 38% of their games in April, the Ft. Myers Miracle improved in May to win 45% of their games. 7% isn't a lot, but it is improvement. What changed the most? The offense. After scoring just 2.9 runs per-game in April, the Miracle lineup scored 4.07 runs per-game in May. But while the lineup finally started to hit its stride, the starting pitching started to struggle.

Consensus top pitching prospect Kyle Gibson (#5) made just one May start for the Miracle before being promoted to Double-A New Britain. The Miracle replaced Gibson with Dan Osterbrock, which was thought to be a suitable replacement. Unfortunately, Osterbrock's success in the Midwest League hasn't been duplicated in the Florida State League, as he has had problems with consistency. Through five starts, three have been successful while two have not. He's struggled when runners have been on base, but hopefully he will turn it around in June.

But while Gibson's departure has hurt the Miracle, it wasn't the biggest blow the team suffered. Bobby Lanigan, who was arguably the best pitcher in the FSL in April, suffered an injury and hasn't pitched since May 6th. He's hoping to return in early June. But his injury allowed the Miracle to call up Beloit's ace, Liam Hendriks (#42). The right-handed Aussie has continued his 2010 campaign in Ft. Myers and is 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA in four starts for the Miracle. With the exception of one start, Hendriks has been impeccable on the mound. If taking his one poor start out, Hendriks is 2-0 with a 1.39 ERA, a 19/2 K/BB ratio, a 21/14 GB/FB ratio and a .169 BAA. Hendriks has sky-rocketed up prospect charts and is someone Twins fans should become familiar with.

Bruce Pugh also went down with an elbow injury after making three May starts. He had a 1.89 ERA and 24/5 K/BB ratio in 19 innings. He will hopefully be back in early June.

Michael Tarsi, Adrian Salcedo (#10) and Blake Martin combine made 11 starts and the three accounted for six loses and a combined 6.11 ERA. Tarsi's stats are a little deceiving, considering that he's really only had two horrible starts out of his last seven. In those two starts, Tarsi has given up 12 earned runs in 10 innings, raising his season ERA to 4.85. Salcedo was promoted from Extended Spring Training to make a few spot starts before eventually heading to the Appalachian Rookie League or Midwest League. Martin has been placed back in the bullpen after giving up 12 runs in 12 1/3 innings of work.

While the starting rotation struggled, the bullpen has officially turned things around after a rough start to the season. The unit finished May with a 2.94 ERA in 104 innings. They converted 10 of 12 saves and allowed only 29% of their inherited runners to score.

Tony Davis, Andrei Lobanov (#31) and Billy Bullock (#20) were the stars of the bullpen in May. Davis gave up only four earned runs in 16 1/3 innings. After struggling with his control in April, he had a 16/7 K/BB ratio in May, giving him 19 strikeouts and 16 walks on the season. Lobanov continues to show impressive control and has walked only three batters in 11 1/3 innings. The Russian native was 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA and 10 strikeouts in May. At this pace, I wouldn't be surprised to see Lobanov extend his stay in the Florida State League, despite being only 20-years-old. Between April and May, Bullock looked like a completely different pitcher. The 2009 2nd round pick gave up only one run in 16 May innings, striking out 23 and recording five saves over that same span. Bullock's turnaround caught the eye of the Florida State League and he was one of four Miracle players selected to the FSL All-Star Game.

As noted above, the offense also turned things around in May. The return of 2009 Miracle mashers Joe Benson (#11) and Chris Parmelee (#13) has helped the Miracle score an average of 4.29 runs per game since their return.

Benson's demotion to Ft. Myers caused an uproar throughout Twins Territory, but the 22-year-old Benson is not going to finish the season in the Florida State League, so Twins fans need to remain patient. Since his demotion, Benson is hitting .263/.364/.561 with four home runs and four stolen bases. Benson now has nine home runs on the season, which leads the Twins Minor League system.

Parmelee's demotion was more warranted (than Benson's), but he's making more of his demotion than his teammate is. A 1st round pick in 2006, Parmelee has always shown outstanding power with a lack of knowledge of the strikezone. But in his demotion, Parmelee has struck out as many times as he's walked, all while having a .491 slugging percentage. If Parmelee continues to hit the way he is, he'll be back in New Britain sooner rather than later.

Shortstop Estarlin De Los Santos (#40) joined Benson and Parmelee in Ft. Myers following his demotion, but got off to a very slow start. The defensively-gifted De Los Santos committed 10 errors in New Britain and has committed four in Ft. Myers. His glove has never been a question, however his arm has been subpar to say the least. He's continually bounced balls to first base and, which has resulted in three throwing errors for the Miracle.

Brian Dozier (#44) was called up after Ramon Santana (#39) landed on the disabled list, and he's handled the promotion well. Through 30 at-bats, Dozier has nine hits (two doubles) and a 9/5 BB/K ratio.

Chris Herrmann (#41) and Evan Bigley (#47) continue to struggle, but the two took part in 28% of the runs scored, by either being the runs scored or driving in the run. Both have potential to be solid players, so hopefully they'll turn things on in June.

What's Next?: Shooter Hunt (#48) made his first start of the season on May 30th. The Miracle have been trying to ease him back into a starting pitcher, but he may be best suited as a reliever right now... The Miracle have an extremely difficult schedule in June. They will play host to both division leaders, both of the second place teams and a third place team.... Aaron Hicks (#1) and Angel Morales (#2) aren't knocking the stuffing out of the ball in Beloit, but if Benson and Parmelee get promoted to New Britain, I'd expect both of Hicks and Morales to take their place in Ft. Myers....Twins reliever Pat Neshek will begin a rehab assignment in Ft. Myers beginning June 2nd.

Twins Minor League Month in Review: Beloit Snappers - May

Beloit Snappers (26-25, 5th in Midwest League Western Division)

             Team Leaders - Hitters                      Team Leaders - Pitchers    
             Hits: Aaron Hicks - 44                      Wins: Tom Stuifbergen - 4
Avg: Anderson Hidalgo - .316 ERA: Tom Stuifbergen - 1.09
OPS: Aaron Hicks - .793 IP: Miguel Munoz - 49.67
HR: Michael Gonzalez/Steven Liddle - 5 K: Miguel Munoz - 43
RBI: Angel Morales - 23 Saves: S. Blevins/K. Holbrooks - 6
SB: Angel Morales - 14 WHIP: Liam Hendriks - 1.06

(These stats are based on players being on the active roster only)

After getting off to a great start to the season, the Snappers found themselves at the top of the standings in the Midwest League Western Division. They were off to a 13-8 record and they were really playing well until a few promotions left the Snappers with a makeshift rotation. The thriving 2010 Beloit Snappers quickly turned back into the embarrassing 2009 Beloit Snappers, a team which finished with the second worst record in the Midwest League.

Upon first glance, it's easy to point fingers at the offense. After all, the Snappers offense ranks last in the Midwest League West in runs scored with 96 (an average of 3.84 runs per game). That number didn't change much as Beloit averaged 3.45 runs through the 31 games the team played in May. But what did change was that the pitching staff was giving up a lot more runs.

After giving up only 2.38 runs per game in April, the starters gave up 4.33 runs per game in May. Allowing two runs more per game will cripple any team, especially with this offense. Dan Osterbrock and Liam Hendriks (#42), the Snappers two best pitchers, were both promoted to Advanced-A Fort Myers in early May. Neither of their spots in the rotation have been adequately replaced, despite the promotions of top prospects Michael Tonkin (#30) and B.J. Hermsen (#12)

The 13-foot, 1-inch Tower of Tonkin and Hermsen has struggled to find consistency. Each has made four starts, one of which was good. Both Tonkin and Hermsen had 7 innings gems in which they didn't allow a run or a walk. But taking in account that both of these pitchers are a year younger than the league average, their combined 4.09 ERA in 40 innings looks pretty darn good. Their height gives them an advantage on the mound, and that advantage is that they're able to induce a good amount of ground-ball outs. The two have a combined 1.45 GB/FB ratio.

One player the Snappers expected were counting on was Michael Munoz. The 6'2'' right-hander from Venezuela was 0-0 with a 2.75 in four April starts. But in May, Munoz was 1-4 with a 6.30 ERA in six starts. Another player the Snappers were counting on was Tom Stuifbergen (#29). Stuifbergen was 4-0 with a 1.09 ERA in six appearances (five starts) until he strained his elbow after making just one start in May. He missed the remainder of the month, but thankfully he is now set to return after making an appearance as a reliever on May 27th. Stuifbergen is the Snappers best bet at replacing Hendriks.

While the rotation tries to find itself again, the bullpen continues to remain consistent. The bullpen had a 3.55 ERA through 109 May innings, lowering the units' season ERA to 3.67.

Eliecer Cardenas was recalled from Extended Spring Training on May 7th, and the 22-year-old right-hander has done a great job in his first month in the MWL. He is 2-0 with a 2.30 ERA in 15 2/3 innings. He has a "live arm" with a lot of movement on all of his pitches, so it's not surprise that he's walked eight batters. But on the plus side of that, he's struck out 18.

After not allowing a run in April, Kane Holbrooks started turning the heads of many Minor League fans. And he continued his consistency in May, posting a 2.16 ERA in 16 2/3 innings. Holbrooks allowed four runs, three of which came off of two home runs. He struck out 27 batters while only walking four, to give him a 41/7 K/BB ratio on the season. He also has been able to induce a lot of ground-ball outs thanks to a great repertoire consisting of a fastball, slider and change-up. He has only been pitching since 2008, so he's still a work in progress. But so far, so good.

Offensively, the Snappers saw a lot of slumping hitters in the month of May. With the exception of a couple batters, everyone saw their offensive production drop significantly.

The offense relies heavily on Aaron Hicks (#1), and unfortunately, May was a month he'd like to forget. The 2008 first-round pick hit .214/.321/.313 in 112 at-bats. The one-time patient Hicks struck out twice as many times as he walked, putting him on pace for 138 strikeouts through 450 at-bats. At the same time, he'd also walk 83 times in that span. In April, Hicks hit three home runs in half as many at-bats that it took him to hit one in May. His 2009 stats and 2010 stats are eerily similar, so hopefully Hicks takes a step forward in June.

The only consistent offensive player the Snappers have had this season is Anderson Hidalgo. Hidalgo isn't a player a lot of Twins fans may not know, but he might be someone worth paying attention to. Since signing as an undrafted free agent in 2006, Hidalgo has hit consistently at each level he has played, and 2010 is no exception. Hidalgo hit .317/.349/.475 in May with 14 extra-base hits. With 13 doubles in May, he is now one behind the league lead of 16.

Short Hops: Since getting hit on the head on May 22nd, Angel Morales (#6) is hitting .296/.367/.556 with a double and three triples.

James Beresford isn't considered an offensively-gifted player, most of his value comes from his outstanding defense and other intangibles that don't show up on stat sheets. However in May, Beresford hit .291/.345/.345 with five extra-base hits. Those numbers aren't anything to write home about, but it speaks volumes of how bad the Snappers offense actually was in May.

Since I went to Beloit, I figured it'd be appropriate that I provided some kind of recap/thoughts from my trip (NOTE: Remember, I only saw two games, so a lot of this is based on knee-jerk reactions. But with that said, I feel very comfortable with everything I'm about to say. But take it however you'd like):

  • I feel Seth Stohs summed up Beloit (as a city) pretty well here and here, so I won't really add anything else to that except that Chicago is only a couple hours away, so maybe try to get there (or even Milwaukee) during a long downtime. While Beloit's not a podunk town, it's not titillating either.
  • Seth and I share the same opinions on a lot of players, however I feel I should emphasize some of the things he said in case you didn't read it.
  • Aaron Hicks is very quick and has a great arm, those things are immediately clear to anyone. He stands over the plate and has a very quick swing, which he shows in this video:

  • He took a few bad routes to balls, but he looks to be able to handle both center and right field effectively. He needs to improve on his base-stealing ability. Overall, I was impressed with him, but he has a lot of work to do.
  • Angel Morales has a very nice swing and just missed on a few breaking pitches. He also is fast out of the box and has a good arm. Despite having a problem with strikeouts over his career, he didn't look inept against breaking pitches. As mentioned, he fouled a few of them off and just missed on several.
  • Danny Rams' (#22) power impressed me, especially his opposite field power. He took a few pitches to right field, and the balls kept carrying. Even on Saturday when the wind was blowing to left center. Against breaking pitches though, unfortunately he looked absolutely lost. In his last at-bat that I saw, he struck out on a slider that bounced in the left-handed batters box.
  • Reggie Williams (#46) looks pretty raw both offensively and defensively, but there's clearly potential. He made a few nice plays at third plays and a few plays that made me uneasy, but overall he held his ground. I'd think that his best defensive positions would either be second base or left field. He doesn't throw very hard, but he does have accuracy from third to first. He also has a very quick swing and he drove the ball several times.
  • As Seth mentioned, James Beresford was the most impressive player, hands down. He has a good approach at the plate and takes a lot of pitches. He hit the ball hard, but it doesn't travel very far, and he'd probably benefit from a two-handed follow-through. Defensively, there's no question about his ability. If the ball is hit to him, he will get to it. He also is a leader on the field and was apart of every pitcher-catcher conference on the mound. His intangibles are impeccable and I think that he's more than ready for a promotion.
  • Michael Tonkin threw his fastball a lot, and he left a lot of his pitches up. Surprisingly, he doesn't look 6'7'' on the mound, but off of it, there's no question (not sure if that means anything, just something I observed. Could be because signs in the background). He has a lot of things to work on.
  • Edgar Ibarra was probably the most impressive pitcher I saw. It might be because I didn't have high expectations before seeing him play, but he certainly knows how to pitch. He has good control of his pitches, despite (surprisingly) walking a lot of batters, and his delivery is very smooth. His stat line for the game looked bad, but Eliecer Cardenas gave up three inherited runners when he came into the game. He doesn't overpower anyone, but he has good movement on his pitches.
  • Short Hops: Daniel Santana doesn't belong in the MWL, but he does have a rocket arm. He's also my size, when I was in 7th grade.
  • Short Hops: Brian Dozier (#44) is a singles-hitter who looks like J.J. Hardy on the basepaths.
  • Short Hops: Michael Gonzalez has a very, very long swing. Which is why he's an all or nothing hitter.
  • Short Hops: Dakota Watts throws gas.
  • Short Hops: Eliecer Cardenas has a lot of movement on all of his pitches.
  • Short Hops: Tobias Streich is frustrating to watch at the plate and doesn't have a strong throwing arm.
  • Short Hops: Josmil Pinto (#27) can sting the ball.
  • As for the field? It's pretty bad. I wasn't expecting much, but the infield was very bouncy and balls took a lot of weird hops. The complex as a whole is alright, but they definitely need a new field.

What's Next?: The Snappers will play four series against the Midwest League East before facing the Midwest League Western division leaders Cedar Rapids in the middle of the month. They will then play six games against the Clinton LumberKings (separated by the MWL All-Star Game) before heading home to face the Cedar Rapids Kernals again....Tom Stuifbergen will make his return to the Snappers rotation on June 1st against Lake County....With the short-season Rookie Leagues starting this month, several players may be sent to either Elizabethton, TN to play in the Appalachian Rookie League or to Fort Myers, FL to play in the Gulf Coast League.

May 24, 2010

Angel Morales video

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

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

May 20, 2010

Minor League News and Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 12, 2010

Delmon Young Day - - Staying away from numbers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 11, 2010


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

May 1, 2010

Minor League Month in Review: Rochester Red Wings - April

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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