Saturday, September 18, 2010

Twins Playoff Roster

So Twins are past the point of no return and are now into discussions of the playoff roster. I am going to leave Morneau out of the discussion, because I don't really expect him to be back this year. 

Position Players (14 spots)

There are nine starters that are guaranteed barring injuries.  


The candidates for five backup spots are:

Catcher: Morales, Butera

Infield: Punto, Tolbert, Casilla

Outfield: Repko

Not likely: Plouffe, Revere

Pitchers(11 spots)

Starting rotation: (4 spots)

Two starters are set:

The other four are competing for what should be two spots:

Bullpen  (7 spots)

Six are set:

Competing for at most one spot along with the two extra starters:
Flores, Perkins, Manship, Bunett

Not likely:
Neshek, Delaney, Slama ( the Twins web site shows the last two no longer on the active roster - but I missed the move if they have been taken off) 


The starting lineup is set. I think the nine guys listed will start every game unless something goes seriously haywire. Given that the backups are there as pinch runners, pinch hitters, late defensive replacements and in case of injuries. That makes their role pretty limited. The main roles will be pinch running for Thome and late inning defensive replacement for Kubel. Repko is the only fourth outfielder available so he is set. It seems to me that  Butera is the odd man out if the Twins go with five bench players. The backup catcher is not going to play and Morales gives them a switch hitter on the bench. That said, do you really need three utility infielders? I don't know if that makes sense or not. We haven't seen much of Nick Punto recently and he may be the odd man out if the Twins go with 12 pitchers. Tolbert and Casilla have some of his flexibility and both are probably now faster than Punto. Punto's advantage is experience and his defense.

In terms of the starters, I think Duensing has all but locked up one of the spots in the rotation unless something happens over the last couple weeks to change that. I think Baker ought to be the other starter if he is healthy. While Blackburn has done well since returning, he has some experience in the bullpen and his sinker ought to work well there. Even if the Twins go with five starters, I think Slowey is the odd man out. 

The ideal thing would be for the Twins to have another lefty in the bullpen who can get lefties out. That would be Flores, but he has not pitched that well. Despite being a lefty, Perkins does not really do that well against left handed hitters. I don't think any of the other candidates for a spot in the bullpen are better than either Blackburn or Slowey. I would go with Blackburn as the seventh guy in the bullpen. 

My own take would be to go with five starters and seven relievers, which would put both Slowey and Blackburn on the roster. That means going with four players on the bench - Morales, Repko, Casilla and Tolbert. There are several reasons for that. One is that I don't think the Twins have a "big game" starter on their staff that you would definitely want out there twice in a five game series. Liriano is closest to that, but he hasn't really shown that he can step up under pressure. If Liriano starts game one, he will be available in the bullpen for games three four and five. I don't know that you want to use him that way, but it gives you another option. 

Another reason, is I just don't see much of a role for three extra infielders. While they might make a late inning defensive replacement for Hardy or Valentine, I don't think it is really necessary. And that is the only role Punto has. 

To be clear, this is what I think the Twins should do. My guess is that Punto will be on the roster and Slowey won't be. Its also possible Gardy will go with three catchers. Butera has been with the team the entire year, removing him for the playoffs is the kind of thing the Twins usually don't do. He may not have much of a role, but he belongs in the dugout. Morales is the only one of the reserves who really fits a pinch hitter role. I think he will be a bat on the bench regardless of the decision about Butera. 

Of course, we are still a couple weeks away from having any decisions made. Its possible one of the starters will pitch themselves out of a job. And, of course, Morneau may come back. Or that Hardy's arm will still be sore and the extra infielders will be needed to give him a rest. S I am jumping the gun, but thats what we fans can do. The Twins still need to nail this down and then they have some decisions to make. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Are the Sox finished?

The short answer is of whether the sox are finished is no. But you have to identify which "sox" you are talking about. 

The Yankees are now in second place in the East, six games ahead of the Red Sox, who they play six times before the end of the season. In short, the Red Sox still have their fate in their own hands. They just need to sweep the Yankees in those six games to reach the playoffs as the wildcard. Not likely. But in addition to the Red Sox, the Yankees also have four games against Tampa and three against Toronto. And they aren't exactly hot, having gone 2-8 in their last ten games If they continue to struggle like that in the next ten games, they could put themselves within hunting distance when they face the Red Sox in the season's final series.. 

Which brings us to the other "sox", the White Sox. They are 8.5 games behind the Yankees for the wild card spot. They are only 8 games behind the Twins. But the Twins are not playing the remainder of their schedule against the likes of Tampa and the Red Sox. They could take advantage of a Yankee collapse with a hot streak of their own. A Yankee collapse would leave three teams vying for the wild card spot and the White Sox could sneak in while the "giants" in the east beat each other up.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Top Ten Twins Prospects

This is a top ten list for 2010-2011.

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. I look out 8 years in terms of expected contributions, 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. That time frame even may be a little longer this year for some of the international signings who will still be in their mid-20's eight years from now. 

I don't rank prospects because frankly just choosing the "best" prospects is at best a rough guess. Deciding whether Max Kepler or Miguel Sano will produce more at the major league level between now and 2018 is way beyond what is reasonable with the information available to the average fan like me. It is probably way beyond the ability of professional scouts who get paid to do this and have both the opportunity and experience to evaluate them first hand.   

As always, I am not considering players drafted this summer for the list. I also leave off the international signings from this year.

Ben Revere (OF)
The last couple years, I have said the question was whether Revere will develop the power the Twins saw when they drafted him. It appears the answer is no.  Even without home run power, he has speed and  high batting average that will allow him to contribute at the major league level. Perhaps even next year. 

Kyle Gibson

Gibson ran through three levels in his first professional season. He struggled a bit to start at both AA and AAA, but then settled in and pitched very well. He looks like he will be ready to join the rotation next season if there is an opening. 

Aaron Hicks

Nothing much changed with Hicks this year. He has shown himself to be exactly what the Twins expected, a highly athletic outfielder whose bat is also going to be special. He showed some progress with a good finish at Beloit. He may develop later than Revere. He is likely going up the ladder one level at a time, so he is still several years away.  But like the tortoise and the hare, Hicks is likely to surpass Revere at the major league level. 

Carlos Gutierrez

Gutierrez lacks the secondary pitches to still be on track to be a starter. It appears the Twins are ready to  settle for the late inning bullpen role many projected for Gutierrez when he was drafted. He will pitch in the AFL this fall and may compete for a bullpen spot next spring. He will likely start next year at AAA. 

Chris Parmelee

Parmelee was demoted from AA to Fort Myers, but then had a second half breakout after returning to AA. His bat started to display the potential the Twins saw when he was drafted. The power still hasn't fully developed, but that is a matter of time if he continues to hit like he did the last half at New Britain. He will play in the AFL again this fall.  He has been playing the outfield, but he may end up at first base.

David Bromberg

I have been a skeptic on  Bromberg. But he pitched well this year at Rochester after a mis-season promotion from New Britain. He is only 22 and clearly held his own against the older competition. He projects as a mid-rotation starter or setup guy in the major leagues. Despite being at AAA, he is likely a ways away from being ready to pitch in the big leagues. Gibson, Gutierez and Bullock are all ahead of him

Billy Bullock

Bullock struck out 105 batters in 74 innings at two levels in his first full year in professional ball. He actually got more strike outs after being promoted to New Britain. Unfortunately, he also walked 43 hitters. If he can refine his control, he looks like a guy who will be a major factor in the Twins future bullpen. That could happen next year, but he is probably a couple years away.

Miguel Sano

Sano was a highly touted international signing. At 17, he showed why in his professional debut. He already hits for average and power. He played a little shortstop, but his future is probably at third base. His bat will play there if it develops as projected.

Max Kepler-Rozycki

Like Sano, Kepler was a highly touted international prospect, but from baseball poor Europe rather than the baseball rich Dominican. Kepler did not show Sano's power, but he has a solid bat combined with speed. Because he plays the outfield, he is probably not in Sano's class. But  he showed why some people saw him as the best prospect to ever come out of Europe even if that is a pretty low bar. 

Angel Morales (OF)

Morales still has outstanding speed and power, although his power numbers were down at Fort Myers. This is a guy who could be as a superstar or a super bust. Morales continued problems making contact are a bad sign but he is still very young. He will likely play winter ball so we should see continued improvement next spring. It will be interesting to see whether he moves up to AA to start next season.

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

Trevor Plouffe (SS)

Last year: "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"

Of course, once the Hardy trade was made, Plouffe's chance was gone. Its important to remember Plouffe remains a young player. He did not look like he has star potential in his major league debut. He could still be the Twins shortstop if and when Hardy leaves. But he is looking a bit like Brendan Harris, enough bat and glove to play in the big leagues, but not enough of either to be a major contributor. 

Deolis Guerra (P)

Last year: "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."

Guerra faded at AA as the season progressed. His inability to keep up with the league is a bad sign.  

Wilson Ramos (C)

Last year: "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."

Ramos was traded. He still has the tools to be a major league regular catcher, but there were some comments indicating the Twins had questions about his weight. Even if his weight problems reduce his mobility behind the plate, his bat and arm should still keep him in the major leagues. But it might be more as a backup catcher, DH and bat off the bench, rather than an allstar.

Rene Tosoni (OF)

Last year: "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."

Tosoni was injured most of this year. He still has potential, but its not clear that he will stay healthy long enough to ever develop that potential. And he didn't show much at AA before he was hurt.

Tyler Robertson (P)

Last year: "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"

Robertson remains a prospect. But he really struggled at New Britain this year. He will pitch in the Arizona Fall League and that may determine whether he is protected on the roster.  He has the potential to be a top of the rotation starter but he is looking more like a bust right now. And he is likely at least a couple years away.

As I said above, I left last summer's Twins draft choices off the list just as I did last year. Shooter Hunt continued to give a good demonstration of why waiting for players to get a full year as a professional under their belt is a good idea. Sometimes players just don't make the transition to the professional game. Alex Wimmer may be great, but it would be a good idea to see how he does pitching every five days before making any decisions beyond what we knew when he was drafted. I have yet to see a first round choice who would not project as a top ten prospect in the fall after they were drafted, so you can just stick him on the end of this list if you are so inclined.

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