Friday, December 18, 2009

2010 Projected Rochester Roster

The Twins may not be adding any six-year free agents this year. That is hard to believe, but those deals have usually gotten done by now and the Twins have a lot of their own organization players who need spots to play. So where does that leave Rochester if they don't add any veterans to fill out the roster? Obviously some of those decisions will depend on who wins jobs at the major league level. The other issue, aside from the players themselves, is moving up to New Britain from Fort Myers. This assumes that Morales and Pridie are on the major league roster. It also assumes Tolbert, Harris and Casilla are either on the roster or elsewhere if the Twins add another infielder.

Butera/ Lehman
Ramos could by move up to Rochester, but I think they will want both he and Butera to play regularly. Lehman is an organization guy.

First Base
Erik Lis and Whitney Robbins will move up from New Britain, in part because Parmelee and Leveret are both ready to move up to New Britain.

Second Base

Trevor Plouffe

Third Base
Danny Valencia


Macri (ss, 2b, 3b)
Hughes (3b, of, dh)
Portes (of,3b)

The pitching staff will likely be decided by playing musical chairs in spring training. The losers of that competition at the major league level will fill out the roster in Rochester. This assumes that Liriano is the fifth starter and that Nesheck, Keppel and/or Perkins take the last two spots in the bullpen.



Thursday, December 17, 2009

Santana versus Halladay

Some Twins fans are looking longingly at the haul Toronto got for Roy Halladay compared to the Twins haul from Johan Santana. There are some differences in the two pitchers and the development cycle of the two teams, but lets ignore those and just look at the differences in what each team got in return.

There are two ways to look at such deals. One is to evaluate them at the time of the trade, the other is to look back and ask who ended up coming out ahead. In this case, we can look back on the Twins deal and see some actual outcomes, as well as future projections, but we are comparing them entirely to projected outcomes for Toronto. The Jays got three prospects in return for Halladay - Kyle Drabek, Travis d'Arnaud and Michael Taylor. It appears that Taylor will be moved to Oakland in a pre-arranged deal for Brett Wallace.

The Twins got Carlos Gomez, Mulvey, Phil Humber and Delios Guerra. They have since dealt Gomez for JD Hardy and Mulvey for Jon Rauch. So Guerra is the only player in the trade still with the Twins. Humber and Mulvey did not produce much before being moved. At the time of the trade, Gomez was the center fielder of the future and he did contribute some over the last couple years. But the emergence of Denard Span made him superfluous by the end of last season.  

So the way things stand now, the Twins got Hardy/Gomez, Rauch and Guerra versus the Jays Drabek, Wallace and d'Arnaud.

Guerra and Drabek both reached AA this year after starting the year in A-ball  Drabek pitched considerably better at that level, but he is also a couple years older. This is a pure projection issue. Guerra is 6'5 and projects as a potential ace, Drabek is 6' tall and projects as a number two starter at best.  Drabek looks like he is further along in the development curve, but my guess is neither team would make a deal straight up for these two guys,

Wallace and Hardy are interesting comparisons. If Hardy returns to his form of two years ago, this is hands down a winner for the Twins. He was a major league quality defensive shortstop with pop in his bat. Lets hope that wasn't one of those performance enhanced illusions. Hardy never had great range and there are reports that he may have lost a step last year.  If true, he may end up at third base where his arm and range would be a plus. Wallace, by contrast, will have to live by his bat. He projects as a challenged third baseman and will likely end up playing first or DH'ing. His bat may be good enough to carry him.

Comparing the third pieces remaining is much harder. d'Arnaud is a young A-ball catching prospect whose defensive tools are there but their development is still pretty raw.  He is still a project, who is going to need to develop both offensively and defensively to play at the major league level. Rauch is an established major league reliever who played a key role for the Twins last fall and will likely be an important piece of the bullpen next year. It is almost easier to compare d'Arnaud to Mulvey and d'Araud wns that comparison hands down. If you assume Mulvey is equivalent to Rauch, then d'Arnaud is a better deal.

Right now it looks like the Jays got a better deal. But with three prospects who have yet to put on a major league uniform, it is plausible that the Jays will end up empty handed. By contrast the Twins have already had the benefits of two years from Gomez, a few innings from Humber and Mulvey and a guy who made the difference in whether they reached the playoffs last year in Rauch. That is not a lot, but its more than nothing. If Hardy and Guerra play up to their potential the Twins will not be worrying about comparisons to the Jays, regardless of how well those three prospects do.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Estarlin de los Santos

A lot of people, including me, were surprised by the Twins decision to add Estarlin de los Santos to the major league roster. From the description, de los Santos is a slick fielding shorstop with some bat. His numbers at Fort Myers certainly indicate that. He hit .290/.330/.397 with 11 SB and 4 CS in 262 at bats. That may not sound impressive, but that gave him the second highest batting average on the team after Ben Revere and 24th in the FSL. He is no Revere with the bat, but if he is a plus major league shortstop defensively, his bat looks like it will also be a plus at shortstop.

Of course de los Santos hasn't played above A-ball so he has a long way to go. He hit better than Steve Singleton at Fort Myers despited being a couple years younger. Singleton was promoted to New Britain during the 2009 season in order to make room for de los Santos at Fort Myers. Singleton's  offensive production there caught the attention of a lot of folks in the blogsphere, but apparently not the major league scouts as he was left unprotected and unclaimed in December Rule 5 draft.

Here is a link to an article in the New Britain paper with Jim Rantz discussing the players New Britain will see in 2010, including de los Santos.

New Britain 2010 Preview

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Second or Third?

The Twins appear to have two openings in the infield and are likely to fill one while letting Nick Punto take the other. At least it looks that way to a lot of fans, bloggers and other sports writers.  But if there is a choice, which should have priority, a second baseman or a third baseman. The decision depends on two factors, who is available outside the organization and who is available for each position internally. Here are the internal candidates:

Second Base:
Punto, Casilla, Tolbert, Harris, Tolleson?

Third Base:
Punto, Tolbert, Harris, Valencia?, Plouffe?

I think Punto is probably a better second baseman than at third. His bat certainly fits there better at second, but that isn't really relevant since he will be hitting in the same spot in the batting order in either case. On defense, it probably doesn't make much difference.

Gardy obviously doesn't think Harris is a second baseman, and I think the same thing is probably true of Tolbert who has limited experience turning the double play. Given a choice, Harris and Tolbert are probably going to be at third.

That leaves the prospects, suspects etc. The real question may be who is more likely to contribute to the Twins this year, Valencia or Casilla. A lot of people have given up on Casilla, but I doubt the Twins have from the comments made by Bill Smith that Casilla is a better player than he showed this year.  One thing that is a pattern is that fans, bloggers and sports writers all get excited about young players much too early and then give up on them just as quickly when they don't produce immediately. I question whether Valencia will ever be a major league regular, but it is highly doubtful he will take the third base job out of spring training. On the other hand, it's not impossible that Casilla will finally be ready to put all that talent to use this year.

If the choice is third or second, I think the Twins ought to be looking at adding a third baseman. While it is not at all certain Casilla will come through, I don't think its time to give up on him by signing a veteran player to a long term contract at second. Especially with Punto set to play there unless Casilla develops to the point that he takes the job away from him.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Twins 25 Player Roster

The Twins just finished setting their 40 player roster. But only 25 players can make the club out of spring training. While the winter is hardly over, it is still interesting to look at who would be on the roster if it was made today. If nothing else it gives us some idea of who might not have a place to play next March.

Rotation (5)
(Likely Competition: Acquired veteran, Duensing, Manship, Swarzak)

Bullpen (7)
(Likely competition: Keppel, losers in starting pitching competition, Delaney)

Catchers (2)
(Competition: Butera)

Infield (6)
(Competition: Acquisition, Plouffe, Valencia, Hughes, Tolleson )

Outfield (5)
(Competition: Acquisition,  Martin, Roberts, Tosoni)

I think both Pridie and Casilla are out of options so they will likely be lost if they aren't on the roster. But unless the Twins pick up another player, they don't really have much competition for a spot on the roster anyway. The starting rotation is a mess and the bullpen becomes very crowded if Liriano or Perkins end up there. 

Mauer's Durability

A couple years ago Patrick Reusse pointed out that, despite the difference in talent, AJ Pierzynski had produced as much for his teams as Joe Mauer since the Twins traded AJ to San Francisco to make room for Mauer as the Twins big league catcher. He quoted Bud Grant that "durability is as important as ability". Strangely, since he missed the first month of the season with an injury, Joe Mauer proved Reusse right when he claimed the MVP award this week. After his missed April, Mauer played almost every day the rest of the way, mostly at catcher. His gaudy MVP numbers reflect that durability. Justin Morneau's MVP season was a similar testament to durability and had he stayed healthy he might have challenged Mauer for the MVP this year.

Several bloggers have made a point that the Twins had a lot of players, including Mauer, who had good years last season. But they ignore the fact that their two MVP's, Mauer and Morneau, each missed a month of the season. A healthy, durable Morneau and Mauer playing a full season next year will make the team better regardless of any off-season acquisitions or emergence of young players like Delmon Young. But durability remains the key - you can't use your talent if you can't stay in the lineup.

Conclusions from Roster Decisions

It is difficult for fans to evaluate minor league players. We get to see very few of them play and when we do most of the players on the field are not major league quality. We can look at their statistics and get some idea of their abilities, but adjusting that for their age and the quality of the opponents often make those numbers only vague indicators of their major league potential. For Twins fans its the Appy League syndrome. Every year some player comes out of the Appy league with gaudy statistics that have inexperienced fans excited. Usually they are out of the system in a couple years. That's what happened to Ozzie Lewis this year. He won the MVP in the Appy League a couple years ago was released after this season. Often the age of a player at a certain level tells us more than the results they get. A 21 or 22 year old playing at AAA is usually an indication of a someone with a lot of talent regardless of their numbers. Otherwise the team wouldn't have them playing their at all.

How a team moves a player should be one of the first indicators for fans of how good he is. When Steve Singleton was left off the 40 player roster it was a clear sign that he is not a major league quality defensive shortstop and likely never will be.  If he were, he would have been protected given his success with the bat at AA and in the AFL. Instead the Twins reached down into A ball to protect Estarling de Los Santos, a slick fielding shorstop who has struggled to stay healthy. Singleton may still be a prospect, but if he is limited to second base his bat is not anything special. 

Clearly the Twins are not completely discouraged by Danny Valencia's season at AAA. His high number of errors and poor hitting over the last half of the season seemed to indicate that he had hit a wall once he faced competition his own age. It will be interesting to see how he does next year. But it will also be interesting to see whether the Twins make a move to shore up third base during the off-season. That will probably tell us more than Valencia's spot on the roster. Otherwise they go into spring training with a competition between Tolbert, Harris, Valencia and Hughes for third base. If the Twins add a second baseman, Punto becomes part of that mix. If the Twins think Valencia is close to being ready, then they may be willing to let Tolbert or Harris keep the seat warm. Otherwise third base looks like a place where there is an opportunity to improve, even if that means resigning Joe Crede.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

40 Player Roster Predictions

The Twins need to set their 40 player roster by Friday in preparation for the winter meetings and the Rule 5 draft. I did an evaluation of players who are eligible for the rule 5 draft here:

Since then, I have learned that neither Tosoni nor Slama are eligible since they were draft and follows and, as noted, Ramos is already on the roster.

The Twins currently have 35 players on the roster, so they have five openings. Here are the players I think they should protect:

Guerra, Burnett, Waldrop, Van Mil, Singleton

I think these five players have the most upside as major league players. I may be over-valuing Singleton if his defense isn't up to snuff, but the reports I have seen say he is a solid defensive player with enough range to at least play second base in the big leagues. His bat looks like it will be major league as well.

To be clear, I don't think these are the players the Twins will protect. My guess is that Valencia will be protected. The Twins seem to be high on him despite his struggles at AAA last year. Delaney is another possibility. Both of them are closer to the big leagues than any of the players on my list. There may also be some surprises from the lower minor leagues, but usually those guys don't stick even if they are taken in the Rule 5 draft. Of course, there are exceptions like Johan Santana and Roberto Clemente. You don't want to the GM who lets a future Hall-of-Famer get away.

The other thing to remember is that the Twins can still open up roster spots by releasing players after they have set their roster. That is what happened with David Ortiz. They released him to open a spot prior to the Rule 5 draft after not being able to find anyone willing to trade for him. They can wait until they see who is available in the Rule 5 draft to decide if there is someone they like better than their own guys who are on the roster. 

Monday, November 09, 2009

Legacies - Trades that Keep on Giving

If you look at the Johan Santana trade, the Twins have now received Jon Rauch, JJ Hardy and Delios Guerra for Santana. I thought it would be interesting to see what other players the Twins have in their system that are the legacies of earlier players.

Nick Punto - Punto was part of the Eric Milton trade. Milton in turn was part of the deal that sent Chuck Knoblauch to New York.
Delmon Young, Brendan Harris, Jason Pridie - Received in trade that included Jason Bartlett, who in turn was received for Brian Buchanan who in turn was part of the deal that sent Chuck Knoblauch to New York
Brian Duensing - 2005 Draft pick from Nationals for Cristian Guzman who in turn was part of the deal that sent Chuck Knoblauch to New York.

Alexi Casilla - Trade for JC Romero
Joe Nathan, Boof Bonser, Francisco Liriano - AJ Pierzynski
Glen Perkins - 2004 Draft pick from Mariners for Eddie Guardado

Of course there are still other minor league players that were received as compensation draft picks.  But I think the list above gives a pretty good idea of how long a trade can resonate through an organization. Last spring the Twind released minor league pitcher Zach Ward, who by one measure was the last legacy of the Frank Viola deal in the 1980's. He came to the Twins in trade for Rick Aguilera (although Aguilera had been signed as a free agent after being traded to Boston.) We can hope the Santana deal resonates as long.

Friday, November 06, 2009

What's Wrong with UZR?

The Twins just made a deal trading Carlos Gomez to Milwaukee for JJ Hardy. UZR is being sited by all sides of the discussion of whether this was a good deal for the Twins. The proponents of the trade point to Hardy's UZR as evidence that scouting reports that his defense is declining are wrong. People concerned about the trade point to the Twins outfielders low UZR's as evidence that, without Gomez, the Twins pitchers are going to struggle because of poor outfield defense.

So what is UZR and how is it calculated. At its most basic UZR measures how many batted balls a player turns into outs compared to other players at his position. This is done by dividing the field into zones and then recording each ball hit to each zone.  Players are then rated based on more calculations of how many runs the result represents based on how many runs are scored on average after that outcome. I am not going to go into the accuracy of this last calculation because whatever innaccuracies it introduces probably have little or no impact on the relative scores of players at the same position.

Lets look at the general idea. That you can determine a players range by where balls are hit and how often he turns them into outs. In essence, a bouncing groundball up the middle is the same as a line shot. A lazy fly ball caught at the wall is the same as Willie May's catch. The fact is, UZR ignores the most important factor in whether a fielder catches the ball which is how hard it was hit. And, as anyone who has followed the Twins ought to know, the nature of the field surface is also important. Balls hit on long grass are going to move much slower, than balls hit on the old Metrodome surface. And UZR gives no credit for cutting off a hard hit ball and holding a player to a single.

In short, UZR is all but useless in evaluating player's defense. It ignores the most important factor in whether a ball is a hit, how hard the batter hit it.


Monday, November 02, 2009

Top Ten Prospects of 2000 - 10 years later

The year is 1999 and the Twins have just finished their worst season since 1982 with a record of 63-97. Rather than wait til next year - the attitude of a lot of fans is wait for the new millennium. As it turned out, that turned out to be true when the first season of the next century found the Twins in the heat of a pennant race. But the end of the 1999 season was not a time of real hope or optimism. Still people looked forward to the prospects in the Twins system that they hoped would bring another day. So who were those prospects. Here is a list of players who played with the Twins minor league teams that year and later appeared in the big leagues ( this is from Baseball Reference and there seem to be a some problems with their database):

Justin Morneau
Rob Bowen
Tommy Watkins
Luis Maza
Travis Bowyer
Kevin Frederick
Brian Wolfe

Willie Eyre

Quad Cities
Bobby Kielty (22)
Mike Restovich (20)
Luis Rodriguez (19)
Grant Balfour (21)
Juan Rincon (20)
Saul Rivera (21)

Fort Myers

Micheal Cuddyer (20)
Mike Ryan (21)
Brad Thomas (21)
Juan Padilla (22)
MIchael Nakamura (22)
Danny Mota (23)
Ryan Mills (21)

New Britain
Luis Rivas (19)
John Barnes (23)
Cleatus Davidson (22)
Chad Moeller (24)
Kyle Lohse (20)
Jack Cressend (24)
Gus Gandarillas (27)
Matt Kinney (22)
Jason Ryan (23)

Salt Lake City
Matt LeCroy (23)
Brian Buchanan (25)
Chris Latham (26)
AJ Pierzynski (22)
Mike Moriarity (25)
Tony Fiore (27)
Jeff Harris (24)
Dan Perkins (24)
Mike Redman (25)
Kevin Ohme (28)
JC Romero

Based on actual performance here is how I would rank the Twins Top Ten prospects in retrospect

Justin Morneau
Michael Cuddyer
AJ Pierzynski
Juan Rincon
Kyle Lohse
Mike Redman
Matt LeCroy
Luis Rivas
Chad Moeller
Grant Balfour

Others to consider: Bobby Kielty,  Rob Bowen, JC Romero

This is a hard group to judge. None of the players after LeCroy would be considered unqualified successes.  Morneau, Cuddyer and Pierzynski are the only real stars.

Here is Baseball America's Top Ten for 2000:
1.Michael Cuddyer, 3B
2.Michael Restovich, OF
3.Matthew LeCroy, C
4.B.J. Garbe, OF
5.Luis Rivas, SS
6.J.C. Romero, LHP
7.Kyle Lohse, RHP
8.Johan Santana, LHP
9.Juan Rincon, RHP
10.Ryan Mills, LHP

Missing: Morneau, Pierzynski, Redman, Moeller, Balfour
Misses: Restovich, Garbe, Mills
Santana was taken in the 1999 Rule 5 draft so I did not rank him. 

For Twins, Doing Nothing is a Great Option

Over at a group of bloggers has created a handbook for amateur GM's to use in their hot stove league discussions. They also have a contest for people to put together a roster to start next season. The blogs are alive with the argument that the Twins have to DO SOMETHING in order to be competitive next year. 

"Doing nothing" is never really an option in the off-season because there are players' contracts to negotiate, options to be picked up, free agents to re-sign and other decisions to make. But the SOMETHING demanded by bloggers and fans is usually a trade, free agent signing or other action that will result in significant changes to the Twins roster for next year. But this year, just avoiding significant  changes would leave the Twins a very strong contender. The Twins roster at the end of the season was very solid, as they demonstrated with their winning streak even with several key players injured. It is hard to see how they improve on that roster if all their injured players are healthy.

Of course just "standing pat" is going to require some activity. Pavano, Cabrera and Crede are all free agents and probably hoping to get a multi-year contract from someone. With a solid core of young players, I don't think the Twins should hand out a lot of multi-year contracts to players in the downside of their career. But the Twins ought to do their best to sign any, or all, of that trio for the 2010 season.

With those three signed you have, a bevy of potential starters competing for one or two open spots in the rotation with others filling out an already deep bullpen. In the infield, you have several players competing for time at second base and providing depth for the inevitable injuries elsewhere. And the outfield returns with the same mixture as last year. In short, you have a team that is much stronger than the team that is starting the year much stronger than the team that won the division last year.

The Twins off-season ought to be focused on keeping what they have,  including getting a long term deal done with Joe Mauer.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ranking the Rule 5 Eligible Twins Prospects

I decided to rank the minor league players who are Rule 5 eligible and might be candidates to be added to the Twins 40 player major league roster. Roughly, these are college players drafted in 2006 and earlier and high school players taken in 2005 and earlier, as well as free agents signed at the same time. If they aren't on the roster, they can be taken by any other team in the rule 5 draft for $50,000. The hitch is that they would have to stay on that team's active roster for the full season or be returned to the Twins for $25,000. 

The list of all possibilities is long, but here are the players who will at least get some serious consideration

High school players from 2005:
Alex Burnett
Rene Tosoni
Ryan Mullins (correction Mullins was a college player when drafted)

College players from 2006:
Danny Valencia
Anthony Slama
Steven Singleton

Juan Morillo (Waiver Claim)
Rob Delaney (FA)

New Britain
Wilson Ramos (FA)
Kyle Waldrop (2004 HS)
Deolis Guerra (Santana Trade)
Matt Fox (2004 College)
Ludovicus VanMil (FA)

Here is how I would rate that list:

Certain to be protected: 
Wilson Ramos - (correction Ramos is already on the roster)  
Rene Tosoni
Delios Guerra

Those three are all top prospects who may be ready to play in the major leagues next year. Given their potential, a team would carry them on their roster for a year even if they aren't quite yet ready.

The remaining candidates in order of how likely they are to be taken in the Rule 5 draft:
Van Mil

I place a premium on pitching because pitchers are most tempting to teams since there is more flexibility in letting a pitcher develop at the major league level than a position player. Waldrop was a high draft choice coming back from injury, which will put him on other teams' radars. Burnett looks like he could be a closer candidate. I may be overrating Van Mil, but his height and his fastball make him a tempting target. Mullins is a lefty who looks like he may just about be ready to help at the major league level. Morillo is one of the hardest throwers in baseball. If he ever harnesses that talent he will be special.

Singleton and Valencia are both college position players. Neither one has a huge upside, but both may be close enough to major league ready to hold a roster spot on a team that is building for the future.  I suspect that the Twins will protect Valencia since they have a hole at third base to fill. 

Fox, Slama and Delaney are all longshots to be protected.  Fox is the most interesting. A high draft choice who has come back from injury, he has been a consistent performer. The question is whether he has enough upside. Slama and Delaney have performed well as older players pitching against younger competition. The question is whether they can make the leap to the big leagues. My guess is not, but there may be teams that will take the risk.

After all their free agents leave, the Twins will have only two openings on the 40 player roster. So one consideration is going to be who the Twins are willing to give up to provide room for even the top three players on this list. That is a topic for another day.(see correction - with Ramos already on the Twins roster, there are only two players on the certain to be protected list.) 

* Morillo may be a 6 year minor league free agent if he isn't added to the roster.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Every year at this time people start coming out with top ten or top 50 lists of Twins prospects. Here is a list of players who are definite sleepers. Most at one time were considered top talent, but have fallen off the lists do to injury or poor play. Others were afterthoughts whose skills have grown to where they may get a chance.  They are almost all long shots to appear in a Twins uniform, but so are most of the players on a top 50 list. Here are my ten sleepers whose progress is still worth noting:

Andrew Thompson
Paul Kelly
Both Kelly and Thompson have been plagued by injuries. But if they can stay healthy for a few years and polish their skills, they have the tools to be major league players. But time is running out.

Toby Gardenhire
Nepotism. Pure and simple. But Gardenhire has shown he is a versatile minor league player and his family background and comfort around a major league clubhouse may give him a shot as a AAAA player who provides depth in the system.

Juan Portes
Portes was on a list of exciting prospects at some point. He has continued to develop, but not as fast as people would have liked. He was 23 at AA last year and did just fine. His bat will probably be major league quality, but he doesn't really have a defensive position.

Matthew Fox
Fox was a high draft choice before his injury. He has worked his way back and may yet make it to the big leagues. He was a starter at New Britain last year, but his major league role is probably as a middle reliever.

Steve Waldrop
Like Fox, Waldrop was highly touted when drafted and then got hurt. He was moved to the bullpen when he came back. Its not clear if that switch to the bullpen is permanent, but he certainly projects an upside of at least a decent middle reliever.

Brian Kirwan
Kirwan was considered a tough sign when drafted. He has moved slowly in the system and is not likely to ever be a star. More a middle reliever or back of the rotation starter. And still at least a couple years away from that.

Drew Butera
Butera is a major league defensive catcher. His bat is not.  But catching is a defensive position and Butera projects as a catch and throw backup. He may even win the Twins backup spot next year.

Ryan Mullins
Mullins has struggled but he is still a lefty with a good arm. If he can harness that he will at least get a shot as LOOGY in the big leagues.

Allan de San Miguel
See Drew Butera, only younger with even less bat. But if they gave Gold Gloves for fielding, he would have a shot at being a gold glove major league catcher.

Bobby Lanigan
I think Lanigan has yet to attract much attention because he is from a small college and he didn't do particularly well as a starter at Beloit this year. But he  projects as a fastball/slider reliever with a chance to start if he can develop his changeup.

You could also add some older "failed" prospects to this list like Juan Morillo, Jason Pridie and Jason Jones but its not clear if they are even still in the Twins plans. All three will likely see the major leagues again, but maybe not for the Twins.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Top Ten Twins Prospects

This is a top ten list for 2009-2010.

Once again, they are in no particular order, but simply the players I think are likely to contribute the most at the major league level at some point in the next 8 years. Like last year, I am not considering players drafted this summer for the list. I am also leaving off the international signings from this year.

As I said last year, I look out 8 years, because most players have reached their peak by the time they are 27. While talented young players sometimes get to the major leagues quickly, it also sometimes takes several more years before they show their full talent.

Ben Revere (OF)
Last year, I said the question was whether Revere will develop the power the Twins saw when they drafted him. That is still a question. But even if the home run power never shows up. his speed and gap power will allow him to contribute at the major league level.

Angel Morales (OF)
Morales has outstanding speed and power, this is a guy who could be as a superstar or a super bust. The question last year was whether he will make enough contact at higher levels to make use of either one. Again, this season didn't answer that question. But that is a good thing. The first half of the season it looked like the answer was no. He still strikes out a lot, but he improved dramatically the second half of the season. That is a good sign.

Deolis Guerra (P)

Guerra was a touted part of the Santana deal but the Twins turned him into a project, working to improve his delivery. He has made progress this year, finishing the year at AA. Next year he will likely start the season at AA again. But if he develops as expected, he will likely have the opportunity to show his stuff in the major leagues at sometime next year..

Wilson Ramos (C)
A power hitting catcher with a plus arm and defensive skills. You can't get much better than that. I am just repeating what I said last year. If he can stay healthy for a full season, this kid has star written all over him.

Rene Tosoni (OF)
Tosoni is in the Arizona League. was injured this year. He hits for both average and with enough power to take a corner outfield spot. He is almost ready to contribute at the major league level. The question is how the Twins find a spot for him.

Tyler Robertson (P)

Robertson remains one of the Twins top young prospects. He is still a couple years away but he has the potential to be a top of the rotation starter.

Trevor Plouffe (SS)
Last year, I said Plouffe is probably still a year away from taking over as the Twins shortstop. That still may be true, but he came on the second half of the season at AAA. His errors remain a worry, but it is apparent his bat is just about ready. He will get a chance to win the shortstop position in spring training, but is likely to end up back at AAA.

Aaron Hicks

Hicks has shown himself to be exactly what the Twins expected, a highly athletic outfielder whose bat is also going to be special. He may develop more slowly than Revere. But like the tortoise and the hare, Hicks is likely to surpass Revere at the major league level, if not before.

Carlos Gutierrez

Gutierrez is may still be on track to be a starter, but he wore down after begin promoted to New Britain this summer. He looks to be a middle of rotation starter or a late inning bullpen option as early as next year.

Chris Parmelee

Parmelee lead the FSL in home runs and most of the other competition were a lot older than him. Parmelee projects to have tremendous power but, like Morales, he will need to make enough contact to make use of that power. He has been playing the outfield, but he may end up at first base.

Dropped out of top ten - what I said last year with comment:

Anthony Swarzak (P)
Swarzak struggled some at AA but did better once promoted. He is probably still at least one full year away from the major leagues. Like Robertson, he has the stuff to take a spot toward the top of the rotation. He also has a curve ball that would work well out of the bullpen.

Comment: If Swarzak were still a rookie (I assume he isn't - but I didn't check) he would probably still be part of the top ten. Despite his struggles this year, its likely he will eventually be a solid major league starter.

Jose Mijares (P)
Mijares almost had a wasted season last year that he turned to his advantage. He recovered from an auto accident and then showed enough to get a late season callup. Better yet, he showed that he is probably ready to be a key part of a major league bullpen.

Comment: Has been a key member of this year's bullpen and looks to hold that role for a while.

Phillip Humber (P)
Humber started out struggling at AAA. But he came back the last half of the season. He is out of options, so he is very likely going to on a major league roster next year. He has potential as a starter, but is blocked on the Twins. It may take him another year, but if he doesn't win a place in the rotation, he will likely end up an 8th inning guy.

Comment: Humber is not ready for the big leagues, but he may leave as a minor league free agent after this year. He still has talent, but he may never have enough control of the strike zone to dominate.

Kevin Mulvey (P) Mulvey is younger than Humber and will likely get another year at AAA. He is probably a notch below Robertson and Swarzak in terms of his potential at the major league level. But he has all the tools to be a solid major league starter.

Comment: Mulvey was essentially traded for Jon Rauch. He still projects as a middle of the rotation starter, but it may be a couple years before he settles into that role in the big leagues.

As I said above, I left recent Twins draft choices off the list just as I did last year. Shooter Hunt gave a good demonstration of why. Sometimes players just don't make the transition to the professional game. So I won't consider

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Its NOT Cheating

There are some people who are accusing Joe Mauer of "cheating" by stealing signs and signaling the information to Twins batter. But there is no rule against stealing signs. (There was recent direction from Sandy Alderson that using electronic devices to get an advantage of any kind is prohibited. That rules out a clubhouse guy sitting in the stands and radioing signs to the dugout, which it is rumored to have happened during the Twins 1987 season.) Players and coaches are supposed to try to steal signs - that is why signs are used in the first place. If the catcher had caught on to what Mauer was doing by stealing HIS signs to the batter, he would have used that information to cross up the hitter with an unexpected pitch If there is a runner on second and the catcher is not switching his signs, he deservers to have them stolen.. Its all part of the game.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Reviewing Top Ten Prospects

Last November I posted a list  of top ten prospects. My list actually had eleven players and with the minor league season over now is a good time to review that list. I am not going to create an alternative list just yet, but simply evaluate how the 11 players on my list last year progressed.

Major Leagues

Jose Mijares progressed as expected, taking a key role in the Twins bullpen after some struggles in spring training had him sent to Rochester.

Phil Humber failed in a couple chances with the Twins and is probably gone as a free agent after the season. He still has the talent to be a productive major league pitcher, but he has yet to harness his control and the Twins have a lot of competition from younger pitchers who are in similar spots.

Anthony Swarzak had some moments as a big league pitcher, but he still needs work on his control. Nothing he did this year changed the outlook for him to be either in the rotation or a key part of the bullpen in the future.

Kevin Mulvey actually moved faster than expected. But that was more desperation on the Twins part than him being ready. He got shipped off at the end of the season for Jon Rauch.


Trevor Plouffe struggled to start the year and then progressed, hitting over .300 in August and being named to the World Cup team. He looks ready to make a run at the Twins starting shortstop position next spring, but his errors are still a concern.


Given his youth, Wilson Ramos assignment to AA was a surprise. He got hurt and saw limited play. But he also showed he has the bat and glove to be a starting catcher with star potential at the major league level. Of course there is a large roadblock named Joe Mauer at that position right now.

Delios Guerra started the year at Fort Myers and was promoted to AA. He struggled and then improved. He continues to look like he has the potential for stardom, but he is probably still a couple years away from the big leagues.

Rene Tosoni was another surprise assignment to AA. He showed it was not a mistake batting over .300 in May and June after a slow April start. That won him a position on the Futures Game world team. But his performance slipped post allstar break. He is now playing in the World Cup. It may be he ends up back at New Britain, but more likely he will start next year at Rochester. Given the Twins outfield surplus, he probably is at least a year away from being ready to take a major league spot.

A Ball

Ben Revere demonstrated again that the angst over his first round selection appears to be ill-founded. He finished second in hitting in the FSL with more walks than strikeouts and 45 stolen bases. He will advance to New Britain next year.

Tyler Robertson stayed on track. Fort Myers is a pitchers park in a pitchers league, but Robertson showed he is ready to move up to the next level.

Angel Morales started out struggling, but he ended the year showing the same combination of average, speed and power that makes him an exciting player. He also continued to strike out a lot. He is now playing in the playoffs for New Britain, but it is likely he will start next year at Fort Myers.

As I said when I created this list, I did not consider any of the players from the 2008 draft. Gutierrez and Hicks progressed and are clearly top prospects at this point.  Hunt has showed he definitely isn't.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Next Season

There are a bunch of people who are writing off the Twins a month early. But this post is not about the Twins, its about the Twins minor league prospects. Rochester, Beloit, Elizabethton and the Gulf Coast teams have finished up their seasons. New Britain and Fort Myers are in the playoffs. But it is time to review the progress of prospects this year and look at where they might start next year. This list is limited to players who are "real" prospects. That is players who project to play in the big leagues. There are other players in the system who may develop into regular major league players, but they are all long shots even by the usual standards of prospects' chances. I also did not include players coming out of the Dominican Summer League or the youngest undrafted players in the GCL. Most of these players will start next season in the rookie leagues.

2009 Draft:
Kyle Gibson, Matt Bashore, Williams Bullock, Ben Tootle

Its hard to say that we have learned anything about the 2009 draftees based on performance in the short season leagues. Of course, this year the Twins first round choice, Kyle Gibson, didn't play at all. Matt Bashore, the supplemental choice from the loss of Dennis Reyes, and Ben Tootle, the 101st overall pick in the draft, threw only a few  innings at Elizabethton. The other high draft choice, William Bullock, pitched well at Beloit, Elizabethton seems to produce a few "false starts" every year with outstanding performances by college players playing against younger competition. This always produces excitement in the blogsphere which is followed by disappointment as players fail to develop any further.

Looking ahead, you would expect all four of these pitchers to start next year at either Beloit or Fort Myers. My guess is that Gibson starts at Fort Myers unless he seriously disappoints. Where the other three start probably depends on their performances in instructional league and spring training.

2008 Draft:
Aaron Hicks, Shooter Hunt, Carlos Gutierrez, Tyler Ladendorf, Bobby Lanigan, BJ Hermsen

Carlos Gutierrez is the most advanced of all the  players drafted in 2008. He  hit a wall for a while when he got to New Britain. But after being moved from the rotation to the bullpen he seemed to right himself and finish the season strong. He will likely start next year at New Britain, but may be ready for the major leagues by the end of the season. Aaron Hicks struggled a bit at Beloit, not really a surprise for a young player. He remains an exciting player and will likely start next year back at Beloit with a promotion to Fort Myers possible based on spring training. Ladendorf was traded for Cabrera after a somewhat disappointing start. He may turn out to be a loss, but probably not. Shooter Hunt looks like he is done, unable to find the plate at all. There are not a lot of examples of recovery from Steve Blass disease. Bobby Lanigan pitched decently and looks to start next year at Fort Myers.

BJ Hermsen looks like the best find in the lower rounds of the 2008 draft right now. He was a guy who may have dropped because of signability issues and his performance in the Gulf Coast League was encouraging. But, like the college kids at Elizabethton, he may just have been more polished than the competition.

2007 Draft

Ben Revere, Daniel Rams, Angel Morales

Revere is showing why the Twins were excited when they drafted him in the first round as he finished second in battinf in the Florida State League. He will start next year at New Britain and could be ready for the big leagues by the end of the season. Given the Twins crowded outfield, it is doubtful he will get the opportunity to show his skills at that level until at least 2011. Danny Rams started the year back at Elizabethton and moved up to Beloit where he has struggled. He will likely be back at Beloit to start the season. Angel Morales spent the year at Beloit. He struggled to start and improved as the year went along, hitting .317 post allstar break. He will likely start next year at Fort Myers.

Several college pitchers from this draft did well at Fort Myers, but they are all a little old for their level pitching in the pitchers park in a pitchers league.

2006 Draft

Jeff Manship started the year at New Britain and is ending it in the Twins rotation. Whether he can hold down a roster spot next year will depend on spring training performances. It looks like there will be a stiff competition for any pitching spot next spring with five established starters and a full bullpen.

Chris Parmelee still strikes out too much, but his power display was impressive for the Florida State League. He will start next year at New Britain.  Joe (William) Benson is probably a step behind Ben Revere, although they are the same age. Like Revere, he will likely start 2010 at New Britain. Tyler Robertson spent his second season at Fort Myers, he will also start next year in New Britain. All three of these guys look like future major league players. Parmelee will like develop more slowly than the other two, but his outstanding power could make him a bigger factor at the major league level once he arrives.

Two lower draftees stand out at this point. Steve Singleton started at Fort Myers but his bat caught fire when he moved up to New Britain. If his defense stands up to playing the middle infield, he is someone to watch. He will likely start next year back at New Britain but he could move up quickly if the continues to hit the way he has.  Danny Valencia started the year at New Britain and moved to Rochester. Because he would fill the Twins need at third base, he got a lot of attention. Unfortunately, after a hot start, he struggled at AAA and his defense continues to be a work in progress with a large number of errors. He may get a look in spring training, but he is likely to start the year back at Rochester. Valencia, at least, appears to be a likely addition to the major league roster this winter. Anthony Slama ended the year at Rochester. He may be added to the major league roster, but his success is tempored by his age at each level.

Robert Delaney signed as a free agent in 2006. He will likely start next year at Rochester where he finished this year. Like Slama, he has a shot at being added to the roster this winter, but will face a crowded competition for a bullpen spot at the major league level.

2005 Draft 

Matt Garza, Kevin Slowey and Brian Duensing have all reached the major leagues. Its likely they will all be there again next year.

Henry Sanchez,  Andrew Thompson and Paul Kelly all have been fighting injuries that look like they will cut their careers short. Sanchez is now out of the system.

Rene Tosoni is the best of the lower draft choices. He spent the year at New Britain and should move up to Rochester next year. If not for the Twins crowded outfield, he would have a shot at the major league roster next year. Dave Bromberg was named the top pitcher in the Florida State League by Baseball America. He will move up to New Britain next year where he will have to show he can match the better competition.  Both are likely to be added to the major league roster this winter. Alex Burnett also has a shot at a roster spot after making it to New Britain.

Steve Tolleson was on the roster last winter. He started the season well at Rochester, but his defense is questionable and he hit only .244 over the second half of the season. He will likely be back at AAA next season. He  may even lose his roster spot as the Twins are loaded with guys who need to be protected this winter.

2005 Free Agents
Loek Van Mil started at Fort Myers and moved up to New Britain. His height has made him somewhat of a celebrity, but his pitching also stands out. He will likely start next year at New Britain and if he can harness his control he has a shot at a major leagues in 2011.

2004 Draft

Trevor Plouffe, Glen Perkins, Kyle Waldrop, Matt Fox, Jay Rainville, Alan Swarzak, Eduardo Morlan

Perkins and Tolbert have been on the big league roster. Both will likely play similar roles next year depending on their performance at the major league level.

Trevor Plouffe started the year at Rochester and improved throughout the year. His errors remain a concern, but he should be ready to help at the major league level next year. He will likely be given the chance to claim the shortstop position in spring training, but will likely start the year back at Rochester. He will almost certainly be added to the major league roster this winter. Steven Waldrop is coming back from injury and made it to New Britain in the bullpen. He will likely start next year back at New Britain. He may be added to the roster as well. Matt Fox was in the rotation at New Britain. He will compete for a rotation roster spot at Rochester next year. He is someone a team may take a flyer on in the Rule 5 draft. Alan Swarzak made it to the major league rotation this year, he will compete in spring training for a major league roster spot. Rainville retires and Morlan was part of the Young-Garza trade.

2004 Free Agents

Wilson Ramos played at New Britain. He may be the Twins top prospect and will likely be promoted to Rochester next year assuming there is room for him to catch regularly. He has an outside chance at winning the backup catcher spot in spring training.  Deibinson Romero was added to the roster last year. He struggled at Fort Myers and may end up back there.

2003 Draft

Scott Baker is in the Twins major league rotation. Matt Moses will likely leave the organization after struggling again at New Britain.

David Winfree reached Rochester and hit well. He faces tough competition for an outfield spot and will likely be back at Rochester next year if the Twins add him to the roster. Otherwise, he will probably try to hook up with an organization with more opportunities.

2002 Free Agent

Luke Hughes struggled at Rochester, got hurt. They sent him back to New Britain where he continued to struggle. He may keep his major league roster spot, but even that is a bit doubtful.

2001 Draft

Joe Mauer is in the big leagues to stay. Nick Blackburn is ikely to keep his rotation spot next year.

Jose Morales will compete for the backup catcher postion at the major league level. He is out of options, so he will likely catch on with another team if he fails to make the Twins.

Phil Humber is likely gone as a six-year free agent.  Drew Butera will compete for the backup catcher spot and end up at Rochester if not successul. Jason Pridie has a shot at a fourth outfield spot or will likely be claimed by some other team on waivers.  Deolis Guerra made it to New Britain. He will likely be back there to start next year. He has the talent that when he is ready, they will make room for him in the major league rotation.

Waivers/Rule 5
Justin Jones and Juan Morillo are both players who don't appear ready to help at the major league level. It is doubtful the Twins will be able to hang onto them, although Morillo's arm may win him a roster spot and one more shot at being part of the major league bullpen.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Valencia or Plouffe at Third Next Year?

There has been a lot of excitement in the Twins blogsphere about Danny Valencia. Valencia has hit well at every level and has provided hope that he could fill the hole the Twins have had at third base since Corey Koskie left. That excitement only grew when he landed at AAA and went on a tear.

By contrast Trevor Plouffe's name usually comes up in the context of "failed" Twins draft choices. He has moved rapidly through the system despite lack of outstanding numbers at any level. He is in his second year at AAA and he started the season by hitting under .225 in April and May and was still under .250 at the allstar break.

The result is that Valencia is hitting .296 .317 .457 at AAA while Plouffe is hitting .259 .310 .402. It seems clear that Valencia is more ready than Plouffe to contribute at the major league level.

Unfortunately, those numbers are highly misleading. Afterall, the minor leagues are about development - its how a player ends the season, not how they start it, that determines how successful a year they had. And when you compare Valencia to Plouffe post allstar break, Plouffe has been doing much better.

Valencia's second half numbers are .265 .291 .400 - nowhere near what you would like to see from a guy you are ready to hand third base to, even if it were against major league pitching. Valencia had a bad slump in there, but he has not been tearing up the league even since that slump ended. It looks like his AAA numbers are inflated by a hot start.

Plouffe, by contrast, has been much better offensively in the second half. His numbers are .286 .333 .466. since the allstar break. And in August he is .309 .370 .543. Those August results are probably a little misleading due to the small sample size that allows them to be skewed by one recent game where he went 4 for 4. But he has hit over .270 every month since May.

Plouffe, who is two years younger than Valencia, looks like he has stepped up this year. Valencia looks like he may have hit a wall at AAA. Of course, that is based on half a season. Valencia may still be able to adjust and step up into a major league role. But, right now, Plouffe has given a lot more evidence his bat is almost ready for the major leagues.

There is still the question of whether Plouffe's glove is ready to let him play shortstop which is a defensive position. Plouffe has made a lot of errors while mostly playing shortstop. But he has also had time at third base in his career. Valencia is strictly a third baseman. So its hard to know which would be the better defender at third. But if you were going to roll the dice with a young player at third next year, Plouffe looks to be ahead of Valencia at this point.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Media Myth - Whining about the Twins Farms System

I would put a link here, but no one should be encouraged to read the STRIB baseball coverage if anyone other than Pat Reusse is writing - and then only half of his stuff. Jim Souhan has an article today where he laments that lack of help the Twins have got from their minor leagues this season. He goes even further to suggest that the Twins are struggling because of poor first round draft choices 10 to 12 years ago. He further laments their trades. You might wonder how they have built a pennant contender with one of the younger rosters in the league.

The first problem with a discussion based on first round draft choices is that less than half the players taken in the first round of the major league draft ever appear in the big leagues. Let me be clear, that is not that they aren't very successful as major league players, but that no major league team is even willing to give them an opportunity during the regular season. If you go back 12 years, Ryan Mills and BJ Garbe are really the only first round choices by the Twins for whom this is true. Matt Moses looks like a likely addition to that list since he is still struggling to hit at AA six years after he was drafted. There are also four players picked between 2006-2009, Chris Parmelee, Ben Revere, Hicks and Gibson who no reasonable person would expect to be in the big leagues. The first three are all high school kids and not even Joe Mauer moved through the system that fast. Four of the remaining five players the Twins took in those 12 years have played in the big leagues, Adam Johnson, Matt Garza, Joe Mauer and Denard Span. The remaining first round draft choice in those 12 years was Trevor Plouffe, another high school kid who is at AAA this year.

Major Leagues

BJ Garbe
Ryan Mills

Possible Failures



At worst, the Twins success with their initial first round choices has been average and that is only true in the very unlikely event that Plouffe never plays in the big leagues. Of course the Twins have had some other first round choices - Perkins and Waldrop in 2004 and Gutierrez last year which would add a success (Perkins), an unknown (Gutierez) and a possible failure (Waldrop).

In addition, during that same period the Twins drafted and developed several players that have played roles in their success the last few years Morneau, Kubel, Blackburn, Slowey and Crain - all after the first round.

Of course Souhan is just following the whining narrative that has become the hallmark of the STRIB's Twins coverage. Whether its in the comments or the columns or the news, they twist the facts to fit that narrative.

Take the claim the Twins have got no help from the minor leagues this year. There is a short answer to that is Jose Mijares, without whom the Twins would likely be out of the pennant race. There is a long answer - that adds Mulvey, Duensing, Keppel, Swarzak, Morales and , most recently, Gabino to that list. Not all of those players have performed well. But four of those seven made their first appearances in the big leagues this year. The real problem is that the Twins did not have enough pitching to replace three starters (Slowey, Liriano and Perkins), two injured setup guys (Bonser and Neshek) and two failures (Ayala and Breslow). You can put guys like Humber, Keppel, Morillo, Dickey and Henn anywhere you want in that mix, there still is no case that the problem was a lack of depth in the minor leagues. The other problem is that they lacked infield prospects beyond Tolbert and Casilla who were already on the roster and struggling.

But the whine is not just about the lack of middle infield help this year. The whine is that this is somehow indicative of some long term failure (note the draft choices from 12 years ago on the list of complaints). But, far from lacking young prospects, last year the Twins added three virtual rookie starters (Slowey, Blackburn, Perkins), two virtual rookie outfielders (Span, Gomez) and a virtual rookie second baseman (Casilla). Not to mention Bonser in the bullpen and Buscher at third base.

Then there is the "bad trade" whine. Increasingly the Garza for Young trade looks like a mistake. The Twins pitching is struggling and Young's bat is not setting the world on fire. If either weren't true, it would be a lot less glaring a problem. But the whining about the Santana trade is a different issue. Obviously the Twins made a deal of the present for the future. Complaining about that trade now makes no more sense than a Mets fan complaining about it because Santana is having minor elbow surgery. No one was about to give the Twins immediate help that was the equivalent of Santana. The ultimate success of that trade will depend on how the young players obtained develop.

In short, the Twins are in the pennant race because of their player development, they have a lot of talent in their system and it will always get here too slowly providing apparent support for the STRIB (and other bloggers) whine.

Note: Names for Souhan and Moses were corrected

Twins in the Arizona Fall League

The Twins announced seven players will play in the Arizona Fall League. This is a development league for top prospects giving players a chance to test themselves against better competition. Those assigned are not always a teams best prospects since playing time is limited and many players, pitchers in particular, may take the fall off after instructional league. In general, the league is a hitters league with teams not willing to risk their best pitchers with some other organization's manager and/or pitching coach.

Here are the Twins players with their age:

Rene Tosoni - 23
Chris Parmelee - 21
Steve Singleton - 24

Steve Hirschfield - 24
Mike McCardell - 24
Alex Burnett - 22
Spencer Steedley -24

My first reaction, without looking at their ages,  was that this was a younger group than the Twins normally send. But looking at the Mesa Solar Sox roster the Twins players are not really young for the league. Singleton is the oldest player on the Solar Sox, Tosoni is the third oldest and  there are a half-dozen position players younger than Parmelee. On the pitching side Alex Burnett is the second youngest pitcher on the team by only a month, but Hirschfield, McCardell and Steedley are all average age or older.

So what looks like a young crew based on the levels they played at this year, on closer inspection of their ages looks about normal . This appears to be an effort to jump-start some players who have not moved that quickly through the Twins system. That is not to suggest that these guys are old for their level, but for "top prospects" they aren't all that advanced either.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Twins September Call-ups

Major league rosters expand September 1st. This means the Twins can activate anyone on the 40 player roster on September 1st.  In the past the Twins have usually waited until the minor league seasons are finished to call up players they just want to take a look at but they will add players immediately if they think can help in the pennant race. So who are the likely call-ups:

Catcher - Morales is the most likely guy here. My bet is they call him up September 1 so that they can DH Mauer without worrying about losing the DH.  They might give Butera a callup later given his defensive skills.

Infield - I think Tolbert and Buscher are probably givens. Buscher may even be added August 31st to put him on the playoff roster.  Plouffe and Tolleson are both on the roster, but its not clear either one can help in a pennant race. My guess is these guys get call-ups only if the Twins are all but finished when the Rochester season ends.

Outfield - The Twins have a surplus in the outfield already. But they may take one more look at Jason Pridie. Pridie would provide a pinch runner and more flexilbility in how Young and Gomez are used.

Pitching - I think the Twins will add enough pitching so that the bullpen is overstocked.  Dickey, Swarzak, Mulvey are already on the 40 player roster and likely to be added for the September run. Given the pitching struggles, any of those three could find themselves on the playoff roster if they get hot in September.

There are a lot of players who are not on the roster that might warrant a look. But there does not appear to be any players on the 40 player roster that the Twins are likely to release in order to provide room for them. Pridie or Dickey would be possibilities if they are ready to give up on them. Deibinson Romero is a young A-ball player who might pass through waivers. Luke Hughes would be the other player they might be ready to give up on. I think all of those are doubtful The most likely scenario is that they wait until the season is over and guys like Crede, Redmond and Cabrera leave as free agents to start promoting players. That means this year September call-ups are going to be limited to the players already on the major league roster.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Playoff Roster - Getting Ready for the World Series

As we approach the end of the month, the Twins will need to make decisions about the makeup of their playoff roster. In theory, the 25 players on the roster on September 1st make up the roster for the playoffs. But, like many major league "rules" this one has a some nuances. Players on the DL September 1st are also eligible for the post season roster and they can be replaced with another player if they are still injured when the playoffs start. A pitcher can only be replaced with another pitcher and a fielder with another fielder. So the decision on how many pitchers to carry on their playoff roster has to be made before September 1st.

The Twins have 12 pitchers and 13 position players right now, but I would expect they would add another position player to the playoff roster. They can get by in the playoffs with four starters. Given the weaknesses in their rotation, finding four, much less five, quality starters is going to be a challenge. Its possible that will lead them to carry an additional reliever, but if their bullpen is getting that much work during the playoffs they probably are in trouble in any case.

The Twins have three pitchers on the DL, but no everyday players. This means that they can decide which pitchers to carry later, but once they set the roster on September 1st they will have to go through the playoffs with the everyday players on that roster, barring any injuries. Here are the current players on the roster:


So who would you add to that list or change. What seems to be missing on the current roster is a left handed bat off the bench. The only hitters you would likely pinch hit for are Casilla, Harris and Punto. But, once you get to the World Series you are also going to have to pinch hit for pitchers. So, odd as it may seem, the Twins will be setting their roster September 1st wtih one eye on the World Series.

One candidate for the 14 player is Jose Morales. He provides a switch hitter off the bench. They already have Redmond on the bench as a  backup catcher and Mauer is going to start every game in the playoffs. Morales is probably a better hitter than Redmond, but he has less major league experience and the Twins are unlikely to remove Redmond from the playoff roster.

Another candidate is Brian Buscher. Gardenhire has already said he expects Buscher to be called up in September. Buscher has not been hitting that well at Rochester., but he does give Gardy an experienced left handed bat on the bench.

Tolbert would also be a candidate. He will also be a September callup, but his role is as a pinch runner and infield backup. I don't think that really fits the need very well with Punto and Harris filling the infield need and Gomez likely being available on the bench during the World Series.

My guess is they will go with Brian Buscher. Of course its possible they will try to grab a veteran bat off waivers.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Perkins, Liriano are Twins Last Hope

For the Twins to remain in the pennant race, or get back into it, will depend on their pitching getting back on track. Is there any chance of that happening? I think there is. Right now the Twins have two starting pitchers who will give them a chance to win when they are on the mound - Baker and Pavano. The remaining healthy potential starters are not promising with Blackburn, Swarzak, Duensing, Humber and Manship all struggling with some basic flaws in their ability to get major league hitters out. The next couple weeks will see all of them get a chance to pitch either as starters or in relief of one another.

There are also two guys on the DL, Liriano and Perkins, who have shown the ability to pitch effectively in a pennant race.  And RA DIckey just put up a decent outing at AAA. His success depends on his knuckleball and if he has it working again there is no reason he can't be just as effective at the major league level. So there are three guys who  are not currently on the 25 player roster who could step in by Labor Day. 

Of that first bunch, the most likely to step up is Blackburn. He has been effective in the past, but there are plenty of doubts about his ability to continue that success. Of course there were always doubts about his ability to be successful and he silenced the doubters with his performance. If he is going to hold his position in the rotation, he needs to turn things around soon. Last night was a good start. Once Perkins and Liriano return, the Twins are far more likely to experiment with prospects than give starts to a struggling Blackburn.

Of the prospects, Swarzak has the best stuff but major league hitters have caught up to him. He probably has at least one more start to adjust. Not because he deserves it, but because there are not a lot of other options. Duensing is next in line. He has the advantage that hitters are seeing him for the first time. But any success he has now will likely  be tested when they repeatedly play Central Division teams in September. Humber was called up to give them a live arm in the bullpen. He may get a start, but only if the others fail. Same with Manship.

You can add Gabino, a young pitcher who is on the 40 player roster and has been doing well at AAA, to the list of potential experiments but he probably won't get any opportunities to start until the Twins are out of the race. In fact, even that is unlikely. While he has recently had some starts at AAA, he has always been seen as more a reliever at the major league level.

So the Twins success the rest of the way really depends on Perkins and Liriano coming off the DL and pitching effectively. If that happens, the Twins will make a race of it. If it doesn't, well there is always next year.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Can Mauer still hit .400?

As a starting point, lets just say that anyone, even Joe Mauer, hitting over .400 is highly unlikely. So when we ask the question, the obvious, simple, answer is no. But we aren't really talking about something that is likely. We are asking a question about whether the highly improbable is still possible.

If we assume that Mauer gets 500 at bats he will need 200 hits to hit .400. He currently has 139 hits in 363 at bats. so he would have to hit 61 for 137 (.446) to make the 200 for 500 mark and hit .400.  So far this year, Mauer has yet to sustain anything like that number for a full calendar month. He hit .414 when he came back in May. On the other hand, he is hitting .485 so far this month (as of August 19th). So while the idea remains highly improbable, he probably is closer to it than he was back in June when people were already talking about it with four months still to go in the season. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Anyone Notice the Twins Offense?

The collapse of the Twins starters has obscured the fact that the Twins offense is in overdrive. They scored 6 runs in last night's game and that is about average for the month of August.  They have now scored 103 runs in 17 games this month. That is almost a full run higher than their season average. For the season, the Twins lead the Central Division in scoring, just ahead of the Cleveland Indians. Which makes even clearer that the real struggles of this team are caused by pitching failures, in case anyone doubted it.  But if the pitching can get on track, the Twins offense may still be able to carry the team into the playoffs.

What is Wrong with the Twins Pitching

In truth, we should have expected this. The Twins started the year with five young pitchers in the rotation. None of them had more than one full season of major league success. And there were really no pitchers ready immediately behind them. We saw that when R.A. Dickey stepped up to take a start early in the year. But while some setbacks were expected, three of the "young five" are now on the DL and the performance of the rotation does a lot to explain the Twins struggles to stay in the pennant race. Its been a lot worse than we should have expected.

So is there a reason? I think its possible that in an effort to save the bullpen, starters have been left in the game too long. That has an immediate impact when they stop getting hitters out, but it also has a cumulative impact as the workload starts to wear them down.  Ironically, the result is even more pressure on the bullpen making it in turn even less reliable.

Here is a comparison of the 2008 and 2009 season for the "young five", Baker, Liriano, Perkins, Slowey and Balckburn

2008 the five made 128 starts and threw over 100 pitches in 39 games.

2009 the five have made 93 starts and already have thrown over 100 pitches in 38 games.

Perkins is the only one of the "young five" whose highest pitch count this year has not exceeded last year's top count and his equaled last season.

In short, the "young five" have been asked to do much more this year. It is not unlikely, it was too much. And that may explain the current state of the rotation.

Sunday, August 02, 2009


"They can't stick with this rotation — Blackburn, Swarzak, Perkins, Baker, Liriano — and expect the sort of consistency it takes to make the playoffs."

That quote from Joe Christiansen's blog is a great example of how "serious" baseball fans can still completely misunderstand the nature of the game. Would replacing Swarzak in the rotation with  Washburn, much less Jon Garland,  suddenly make Blackburn Baker, Perkins and Liriano more consistent? You can replace Liriano instead, but that does nothing on the days, like yesterday, when Swarzak pitches.

Some people take this even further, arguing the Twins should make a priority of replacing Keppel, Duensing or Dickey with a better mopup pitcher.  The problem the Twins have with pitching is not going to be fixed with a single trade, the bottom line is they guys they have are going to have to get better and more consistent. 

There is no doubt that adding a veteran ace would help the pitching staff, including the bullpen. But adding a mediocre, inconsistent veteran isn't going to change anything. 

Of course, Joe Christiansen is just trying to keep the media's "the Twins need to make a trade" narrative going. The formula of every blogger: stir pot, watch traffic increase.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Where Twins were Drafted

When you look at where players on the Twins current roster were drafted it gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect from players drafted in the second day of the draft. The Twins roster has 15 players taken in the top 200 (12 of them in the top 100) and 6 taken during the remainder of the draft. The rest of the roster is made up of players who were signed as free agents, including Mike Redmond who fell through the entire draft. Even among the top 100 the vast majority of players never appear in the major leagues, but after that the odds after 200 are literally less than one in a hundred if the Twins' roster is representative.

Top 100:










Now in minors or released:

Top 100:


Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Draft

The baseball draft is this week and the blogs are lighted up with discussion of who the hometown team will choose. Before people get too excited there are several things to keep in mind about the baseball draft:

1) If a draft produces one above average major league regular, it was a success. Even if taken in the first round, the majority of players taken in the draft will likely never appear in the major leagues, not even for a brief stint.  On the other hand, the first round is going to produce most of the real stars. After about the first 100 players drafted, the odds are very low a player will ever make it to the major leagues. But the odds they will be an everyday player are even lower. The likelihood they will be a star are minimal. Take a look at the Twins lineup and you have Span, Mauer, Morneau and Cuddyer who were all taken in the top 100. As were Perkins, Baker and Slowey. Its obviously not impossible to find a top player later in the draft, Joe Nathan being an example. The Twins did that with Brad Radke and it looks like they may have done it again with Jason Kubel and maybe even Nick Blackburn. But those are rarities, if you find one of those it is a huge bonus.

There will be close to 1500 players drafted. About 200 players will make their major league debut each year and some of those 200 didn't go through the draft.  Many of them only get a brief September callup as a reward for minor league service.

2) We don't really know how much impact the quality of a teams minor league development determines their success compared to the quality of their pre-draft scouting. Its perfectly possible that if two teams both chose the same player, one would end up with an all-star and the other with a failure. So you can point to the success of a player like Brad Radke who was chosen later in the draft but its not clear how much his success depended on having the right coaching in the Twins minor leagues.

3) It will be five years before the players drafted this week are likely to provide significant major league value. And it will be 10 years before we will have a clear idea about how successful a draft was in terms of the major league careers that resulted. Michael Cuddyer is a good case in point. In 2007, 9 years after he was drafted, he finally established himself as a major league regular. Its now 11 years later, and people are still pondering how good a major league player he will ultimately become. You could say the same thing for Jason Kubel, next year will be ten years from his draft. 

Five years is usually just the starting point for contributions. From the 2004 draft Glen Perkins and Matt Tolbert had made the major leagues at the start of the season. Anthony Swarzak can be added to that list now. But there are a lot of players taken in 2004, like Trevor Plouffe and Rene Tosoni, in the minor leagues who are still seen as future major leaguers. The 2005 draft has already produced Matt Garza and Kevin Slowey. But aside from Brian Duensing's brief stint this year, those are the only players the Twins have taken since 2004 who have produced at the major league level. 

4) While we tend to focus on the expectation that a draft will produce stars, or at least a major league regular, many players are taken because they have one plus major league tool that may allow them to develop into a role player. And many players don't have even that. They are taken as "organizational" players to fill out minor league rosters. Occasionally one of those guys matures into a major league player. but usually they hit a plateau end up being sent home at some point when younger players, who still have a chance to get better, come along. 

In short, every draft is going to have a lot of failures and only a very few successes. That is true, despite the fact that 30 teams have invested in heavily vetting every young player drafted. Its fun to look at Baseball America or John Sickels predictions, but its important to remember they are basically amateurs with one opinion who are rewarded by fans being interesting. The draft itself is the collective wisdom of 30 teams of experienced baseball people who are evaluated based on their success.

Monday, May 04, 2009

The Twins Bullpen

There seems to be a lot of angst about the Twins bullpen out there right now. And maybe there is some reason for that since they have already sent two guys to the minor leagues. But its not like the bullpen has been blowing a lot of games. They have taken only two losses, all the rest have been lost by the starters. Part of the reason for the disparity between perception and reality is that they have allowed some inherited runners to score, leaving the starter holding the bag. That is part of what happened with Baker the other night. But the numbers don't lie. It hasn't been the bullpen that has been responsible for the Twins losses - its been the starters.

With the addition of Crain and Mijares whatever problems there have been in the bullpen may be in the past. Guerrier appears to be settling in as well. It seems that it always takes a month or so before the bullpen roles get defined.  Those roles are becoming clearer. Dickey is the mop-up guy and his knuckleball is really ideal for that rubber armed role. Breslow is back to being a second left hander. Last year he exceeded expectations, but the role of LOOGY may be a more appropriate. Ayala is really the only guy whose role is still wide open. He was seen as an 8th inning buy, but unless he can get his sinker to sink, he may turn out to be this year's free agent failure. That will probably depend on the development of some alternatives at AAA. Right now no one is pounding on the door ready to take a job.

Which is the real problem we need to be concerned about. For all the talk about the Twins system's wealth of pitching, right now they are very thin behind both their starters and their bullpen. They need to keep the major league players healthy at least until some of the young guys show they are ready to step up later in the year.  Otherwise it could be a long year.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Twins Weaknesses

Going into Monday's openers most commentators seem to think the Twins bullpen is its primary weakness. There is some truth in that, but not as much as you might think. The Twins have one of the best closers in baseball in Nathan and three proven setup guys in Crain, Guerrier and Ayala. What none of those three are is a dominant 8th inning guy. They also have a solid lefty in Breslow. While not as strong as it has been in some past years, the bullpen is really unlikely to be a major weakness.

I think there are couple places where the Twins may not be as good as they appear in the many preseason evaluations - including my own:

The Outfield
All four of the regular outfielders, Cuddyer, Span, Gomez and Young have question marks about what can be expected from them. I like all four of these guys individually, but I think it is very unlikely all the answers will be positive. My guess is that the Twins will lose a few games before they sort that out.

Second Base
Casilla is still young and he struggled toward the end of last year. To some extent, I think we should expect that to continue. I don't think he is going to lose his job, although that is possible, but more likely that he will not be a huge plus as a number two hitter and people will start complaining about fielding miscues again.

Mauer will come back, but he is not going to be fully ready when he does. And having Redmond play every day at the start of the season is going to leave him worn out. The result, at the end of the year, is going to be much less offense from the catchers than the past couple years.

Starting Pitching
The expectations here are just too high. Baker going on the DL ought to be a wakeup call. Its likely at least one of the top 5 starters will fail or get injured. Another one will likely be just barely adequate for a large part of the season. The Twins pitching will still be good, but it is not likely to be one of the best rotations in baseball, as some fans and sports writers seem to believe.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Twins 2009

So the season is about to start and, as usual, injuries are making their impact on all the projections during the hot stove league. Lets review where the Twins are going into the opener.


Mike Redmond - Redmond has been a solid backup for the last couple years. But he is not getting any younger, to say the least, and there is serious questions about his ability to perform at that same level if he is catching every day. Both his batting average and the physical side of his defense may suffer. He remains a solid catcher who will provide leadership to a young and experienced pitching staff.

Jose Morales - Morales strength is his offense. His defense needs work. But as a guy who was converted to catching after turning pro, there is a lot or room for him to improve with playing time. Given Redmond's age, he needs to be good enough to catch more than once every 5 days. If Mauer is out for an extended period, Morales play may become critical. If too much weight falls on Redmond, things are going to unravel. Morales needs to be able to work with the young pitching staff. If he can do that, his bat will be "good enough".

Joe Mauer - There is nothing to say here except that the Twins may actually be able to survive for a period without him. That would not have been true last year. But if the bats that showed up in spring training were real, they are a lot less dependent on Joe for offense.

First Base

Even if Morneau doesn't repeat last year, he will continue to be a major threat in the middle of the order. But, with a better supporting cast behind him, he may be even better. He is going to see a lot better pitches if Young, Cuddyer and Crede are hammering the ball. A guy who is already a perennial MVP candidate could be even better. Morneau is really a guy the Twins can't replace.

Second Base

No one really wants to hear it, but this is one of the Twins question marks. Casilla has the potential to be a star, but his career so far has been hot and cold. He needs to show some consistency and that may not happen immediately. If he is on his game, he provides good defense, great range and a spark-plug at the top of the order.


Punto is going to be an improvement on last year. Whether he can hold up playing every day over a full season remains a question. He will never be a real offensive threat. But his glove is solid and he is actually not a bad hitter for a non-juiced shortstop. Remember all those stories about the "new" kind of shortstop who hits for power - Tejada and Rodriguez? It turns out that new kind of shortstop may have been just a regular shortstop on steroids.

Third Base

Crede is a huge improvement both in the field and at the plate over guys like Mike Lamb or the Buscher/Harris platoon. The question is whether he can stay healthy playing on turf. That is why he was available.

Infield Depth

Buscher and Harris are likely to start the season with Tolbert as a possibility. All three are likely to see some playing time. That depth is one of the Twins strengths that make having guys with injury histories, like Punto and Crede. in the lineup less of a risk than if they had no one to step in. I am not sure either Tolbert or Harris are everyday players at shortstop. If Punto is on the DL for an extended period, we may see Trevor Plouffe given a chance.


Crowded. That is the obvious word to describe the current situation. The starting point has all four outfielders rotating pretty much equally with Young in left, Gomez in center, Cuddyer in right and Span playing all three spots. Chances are the pecking order will sort itself out differently as the season progresses. If Young and Gomez play to their potential, they are going to be in the lineup almost every day. That will mean less playing time for Span and/or Cuddyer.

If Span continues his spring struggles with the bat, he could easily end up the 4th outfielder rather than one of four. What will keep him in the lineup is his glove and his value as the Twins best lead off hitter.


Kubel looks poised for a breakout and the Twins really need for him to step up as a replacement to Joe Mauer in the number three spot in the batting order.

Starting Pitching

The Twins have five solid young starters. But very few teams get through a season with five starters and injuries have already started to have an impact on the Twins with Baker starting the season on the DL.

Liriano is by far the young starter with the most potential. He is really the only one that looks as if he has the potential to be a perennial Cy Young candidate. Baker, Slowey and Perkins are all guys who have good stuff and know how to use it. should give their teams a chance to win. Blackburn may be the weak link in terms of upside, but he has shown the ability to get major league hitters out.

Dickey looks like he is in line to start the season as the 6th starter, taking Baker's place. He will live or die on his knuckleball. While he has been great in spring training, the knuckleball is a notoriously fickle pitch. If he can keep throwing it for strikes he will be valuable both out of the bullpen and as a spot starter.

The other candidate for the job if Humber, but it is not clear he is ready to pitch at the major league level. And there is no one at AAA who has shown they are ready to step up as a sixth starter either. The one redeaming thing is that there are many candidates who might do that before the end of this season. But right now the Twins starting pitching depth for the major league team is questionable. As long as the starters stay mostly healthy, this will be a team strength. But if they lose a couple guys and have to start experimenting with guys from AAA again they could lose a lot of games before they land on someone who can do the job.


Closer? Check. Nathan is one of the best

Setup guy? Maybe. They have a couple guys capable of taking this role, but no one who has proven they own it. Guerrier, Ayala and Crain are the guys who look most likely to step up.

Breslow and Duensing are the bullpen's lefties. Breslow looked like he established himself last year, but its important to remember he was a waiver claim. That means he needs to prove it wasn't just a good few months for him last year. Duensing won a spot in spring training and will no doubt have a learning curve once major league hitters have seen him enough.

Humber is the long reliever. He has the talent to be a setup guy. But he has not really shown he is even ready to pitch at the big league level yet. How long he will get the opportunity to prove himself is still an open question.

Batting Order

To start the season:

I think when Cuddyer and Young are both in the lineup they will be together in the order with everyone else moving down and Gomez will move to the leadoff spot when Span sits out a game. At least that is they way things look now.

With Mauer in the lineup:

Its also possible Crede will bat lower in the order if Cuddyer or Young step up. But I think Gardy will avoid having the outfield "musical chairs" play out in the heart of the order.

Are the Twins the favorite? Probably. But a lot will depend on how healthy they stay. On the other hand, they actually have a fair amount of depth across the board. They can absorb some hits and stay competitive. They are certainly the deepest Twins club in a very long time. It should be an interesting year.

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