Monday, October 31, 2011

Something for Nothing

There has been a lot of criticism of Twin GM Bill Smith for the returns from trading JJ Hardy and Delmon Young. We may see some similar reactions if the Twins are able to deal some of their arbitration eligible players, like Kevin Slowey, this fall.

Of course, no one criticizes the David Ortiz trade that sent him to Boston, because there was no trade. The Twins tried to trade Ortiz and couldn't find anyone to take him. In fact, Ortiz was released only after being passed over by every major league team who could have had him for the waiver price if they were willing to offer him arbitration. Ortiz ended up signed by Boston for considerably less than he would have received if they had claimed him on waivers. But the other 29 teams clearly made a mistake, since it turned out Ortiz was well worth what he would have been paid. The point here, however, is the Twins ended up getting nothing for Ortiz.

Compare that to the JJ Hardy deal. The Twins got a couple of live arms, albeit with control issues. In addition they got rid of Brendan Harris's salary. Since, like Ortiz, the Twins had decided they weren't going to offer Hardy arbitration. This was a "something for nothing deal."

The same is true of Delmon Young. The Twins were not going to get anything for him if they non-tendered him. The decision to trade him to Detroit was another case of getting something for nothing.

Its important to remember that a players ability is only one factor in their trade value. Even when they still have value, it may not match their performance very well. When Johan Santana was traded, it wasn't "something for nothing", but it wasn't really a "Cy Young award winner" for prospects either. The Twins were only giving up Santana's last year with the team and a couple draft choices. The players they got in return had many season's ahead of them that the Twins controlled.

We may see some other deals this fall where the baseball value of the players traded doesn't seem to match. But you need to look at their value through the eyes of a GM. Sometimes trades are made to get something for nothing.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pitching is Key to Twins Contending Next Year

The obvious thing that needs to happen for the Twins to contend next year is for Mauer, Morneau and Span to get and stay healthy. But that is beyond anyone's control. While their staying relatively healthy is necessary for the Twins to contend, it is not sufficient.

There has been a lot of discussion about the Twins need for another options at shortstop and better offense from their backup catcher. But the real issue for the Twins, as always, is their pitching staff. Regardless of what else happens next year, without better performances from their pitching staff the Twins are not going to be competitive.

One of the difficulties with evaluating a team's pitching is that it is more than the sum of its parts. The outs a team will need over the course of a season is relatively fixed around 1450 innings pitched (more if the team win a lot on the road, fewer if they lose a lot). That means the fewer outs a team's starters get, the more outs will have to come from the bullpen.

While there are exceptions, in general the more a pitcher pitches, the worse their performance will be. This is true for individual games and, for relievers, over periods of games. Whether it is true over the course of a season is a little more questionable, but it appears to have at least some effect on the bullpen. What that means is when starters pitch only a few innings in a game, the bullpen performance will start to suffer. There is a flip side to that effect that I think we saw happen with the Twins this year. When the bullpen is unreliable, the manager tends to leave starters in longer.

Overall, compared to 2010, in 2011 the Twins pitchers faced more batters and used more pitches for each batter they faced. The result was that they threw more pitches over the course of the season. The Twins starters threw 100+ pitches 68 times in 2011 compared to 61 times in 2010. In short, by almost every measure the work load on the Twins pitching staff was higher last year than the year before. That extra work was likely done by tired pitchers on the downside of their performance curve.

The point of all that is that, like a lot of things in baseball, the relationship between pitching ability and results is non-linear. Bad pitching tends to snowball into worse pitching. So what needs to happen to avoid the same problems next season? Where do the Twins get those 1450 innings pitched without relying on worn out pitchers?

The Twins have two starters set. Carl Pavano and Scott Baker both performed about as expected this year. Pavano has pitched over 200 innings the last two years and can probably be counted on to do the same again next season. Baker pitched well last season until he got hurt. Baker has pitched 200 innings only once in his career. He may do that next year, but I wouldn't count on it. Lets say 180 IP is a reasonably optimistic performance. It appears the Twins will go into spring training expecting Francisco Liriano to be in the rotation, although he could pitch his way out of that role. He can probably be counted on for 180 IP if he stays healthy and is reasonably effective. The fourth starter is probably a competition between Blackburn and Slowey (if the Twins decide to offer Slowey arbitration). Either one could pitch 160 innings even if they struggle, 180 if they are effective.

It sounds like the Twins plan to add another top starter - a guy you would project to give you 200+ innings. With that move, their starters would be projected to give them 940 innings. Diamond, Hendricks, Swarzak and Duensing are also possibilities. But it appears Duensing is going to end up in the bullpen and I don't the others are likely to win a starting spot unless someone else falls on their face. We can expect some combination of those guys to get a few spot starts for maybe 30 IP in 6 starts, many more if any of the starters are injured.

Those 970 innings from starters (that's about 6 IP per start) leave the bullpen to get somewhere around 480 innings pitched. To call the Twins bullpen "thin" right now is an understatement. Glen Perkins is the only reliable reliever returning. Mijares (who, like Slowey, is rumored a possible non-tender) and Alex Burnett are the only other two relievers who were significant parts of the 2011 bullpen. There is a possibility that Nathan will be back or, perhaps even Capps if Nathan goes elsewhere. Duensing, Swarzak, Diamond and Blackburn are all starters who may fall into the bullpen. They also have a handful of minor league arms that could fill in. But after Perkins, there is no one you would have any real confidence in.

In summary, the Twins need an established starter, a closer and at least one setup guy. Those are all much higher priorities than another shortstop, catcher or right fielder.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Can the Twins Contend Next Year?

Can the Twins contend, no matter what management does in the offseason? I think Twins management has answered that with a tentative yes. But part of what makes this offseason difficult is that the season raised more questions than it provided answers.

Nonetheless, there are a lot of things that management has no control over and would help make the Twins a contender. In fact, most of them will probably have to happen no matter what else is done:

The obvious one is that the Twins need to get and stay healthy. If Mauer, Morneau and Span can't start in over a quarter of the games, the Twins are going to have a hard time being in contention. You can add Alexi Casilla to that list as well. The Twins lack of infield depth makes Casilla a critical component. He not only needs to stay healthy, he needs to settle in as a consistent presence in both the infield and the lineup.

They also need Baker to give them 180 IP, minimum and Pavano to approach 200. Some of the other Twins starters need to step up their game. Liriano, Blackburn, Duensing and Slowey are all candidates if they are still on the roster. Although it sounds like they may non-tender Slowey and move Duensing to the bullpen.

They need Ben Revere to hit a little and they need Danny Valencia to hit a lot more. They also need Valencia to improve in the field. Unless they are thinking about moving Plouffe to third, they really don't have any alternatives to Valencia. Revere is set as one of the three outfielders. His defense will be fine, but he needs to hit enough for his speed to be an offensive threat.

They need Glen Perkins to repeat his performance. And they need one or more of those hard throwers they have added to the bullpen to discover how to find the plate consistently.

The Twins might not need every single one of those things to happen. But they will need most of them to be competitive, regardless of the moves management makes. Of course management has a long to-do list as well.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

An Interesting Case for Being Careful with Statistics

One of the difficulties with working with baseball statistics is that sometimes the devil is in the details. Failing to carefully consider how a statistic is computed can lead to misinterpreting its meaning. I have discussed this before in the mis-use of "innings pitched" to measure opportunity rather than a measure of outs.

The example below is more complicated, but probably even more pernicious because the problem is less obvious. Let me give an example to start the converstion with a question. Which of the following two players would you rather have come to bat with runners in scoring position given these career "slash" numbers with runners in scoring position*, AVG/OPB/SLG:

Player 1- .322/.383/.496
Player 2- .310/.527/.594

I think most of us would quickly choose Player 2 based on his superior power and OBP. In fact, it isn't really very close based on those numbers. But let me add these two non-standard stats:

Hits/Plate Appearances
Player 1- .278
Player 2- .200

Player 2 gets a hit 1 in 5 times he comes to the plate with runners in scoring position and Player 1 gets a hit over 1 in 4 times. And a similar thing happens when you look at total bases:

Total Bases/Plate Appearances
Player 1- .429
Player 2- .384

So which one would you rather have heading to the plate with runners in scoring position now? I think its Player 1 and not particularly close. What is happening is pretty obvious, Player 2 is walking a lot. Those walks reduce his at bats so that his AVG and SLG are both very high. Certainly an argument can be made that all those walks have value, even with runners on base. But I think what you are really looking for in that situation is a hit, not a walk.

BTW, Player 1 is Kirby Puckett and Player 2 is Barry Bonds. To some extents they are extreme examples. Bonds is way over the top in terms of walks and Puckett swung at, and could hit, almost any pitch anywhere near the plate. But if someone tells you batting average measures "how often" a batter gets a hit, that isn't really true. And if someone suggests that AVG does not reflect walks, that isn't really true either. The impact is indirect, but it is sometimes significant.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Aging Players

There has been some discussion of aging current and former Twins players recently. The question is at what point does age really start to become a factor in predicting future success.

The generally accepted development curve suggests that players are likely to peak around 27 or 28. If you look at players with 300 or more at bats the largest number of players are age 27 followed by 28. About 1 in 3 of the players who got 300 at bats at age 28 will match that number at age 32. The other two thirds of players will get less than 300 at bats, because they are playing less, hurt or out of baseball.

What this means is that the General Manager of a veteran team is going to be running in place just to keep up with his teams natural tendency to get worse each year. If a team signs most of its best players to long term contracts when they are 28 or 29, they will likely find themselves saddled with a lot of underperformers before those players are 32 or 33.

This, I suspect, is one reason the Twins got rid of JD Hardy. Based on his performance in 2010 he did not look like a good gamble for the future. But it also raises serious questions about the Twin wish to sign "one or both" of Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer. Cuddyer is already 32 and Kubel will be past that point before any long term contract expires.

Baseball Reference has a formula for judging teams age weighted for how much players play. By their measure the Twins everyday players were the second youngest in the American League last year. Only the Royals put younger players on the field.

The Twins pitching staff, by contrast, was older than average. The pitching formula looks at starts, games and saves. Which means it may be putting too much weight on Nathan and Pavano. But if you look at the Twins rotation, Blackburn and Baker were 29, Duensing was 28, Liriano and Slowey were 27 . Those guys are moving into the downside of their careers or soon will be. None of them look like guys you want to extend long term contracts to - although they already have Blackburn and Baker under contract.

The key thing here is as I said in an earlier post, the Twins success depends on them replacing older players with younger players. There is always a risk in that. One reason teams prefer veteran players is that projecting their performance is a lot less volatile. But the price for that lack of volatility is almost certain decline.

Mauer and Morneau are both heading into decline. But they probably have a several productive years ahead of them if they can stay healthy. They may still be the core of the team. But the team isn't going to get better because they improve. That is going to have to come from young players taking other positions on the team. That means they shouldn't be adding a lot of veterans on long term contracts or resigning a bunch of their own free agents to long term contracts.

Friday, October 14, 2011

New Roster Moves

The STRIB is reporting that the Twins have removed four players from their roster. These include Matt Tolbert, Anthony Slama, Jason Repko and Rene Rivera. I discussed the 40 player roster decisions earlier.

The only surprise here is Matt Tolbert and it probably shouldn't have been. The Twins have several younger players in the middle infield who share Tolbert's ability to play multiple positions adequately.

The Twins now have 38 players on their roster. With Cuddyer, Kubel and Capps becoming free agents they will have 35 players left on the roster before considering which minor league players they need to protect from the rule 5 draft. There is also a possibility Nathan will become a free agent.

Of course the Twins apparently have targeted several positions for upgrades that might require roster spots. And they have said they plan to try to sign one or both of Cuddyer and Kubel. So not all five of those spots will necessarily be filled by prospects.

Update: Twins have also removed Dinkelman and Dutrait from the roster

What Happened with Nishioka?

Its interesting to read all the bloggers who continue to criticize Twins GM Bill Smith for his trades. Those complaints focus on Matt Capps, Delmon Young, Johan Santana and JD Hardy. As I have pointed out here, those trades, on balance, worked out by contributing to two division championships.

But there has been relative silence on the biggest disaster under Smith's leadership, the decision to sign Tsuyoshi Nishioka. They paid $5 million for the negotiating rights and then guaranteed him $3 million per year for three years.

Nishioka was a Japanese League batting champion and gold glove winner. He was expected to solidify the Twins middle infield playing at either shortstop or second base. In fact, he looked over-matched both in the field and at the plate. In fact, he looked worse than over-matched. And, of course, he spent a good portion of the season on the DL.

The DL issue was not really predictable, but there is still the question of what he was doing on a major league field in the first place. How did that happen? Did the Twins not scout him? Did they underestimate the differences in the game? Was Nishioka intimidated by the cultural transition. Is there a better player there that still might surface?

That last question will no doubt get answered over the remaining two years on Nishioka's contract. But if what we saw this year is what we get, Bill Smith needs to be asking some hard questions of the people who endorsed this move. Because the flaws in Nishioka's game seem to be manifestly obvious. They go well beyond the problems with young prospects like Trevor Plouffe, who struggle to make the transition from AAA.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Twins Need to Keep Getting Younger

One of the things the Twins organization has done better than other organizations is staying young while continuing to be competitive. Over the past decade, they have largely avoided the ups and downs that go with keeping a core of veteran players until they go into decline and then rebuilding with young players who struggle to play at a major league level.

If you look at the 2002 Twins, there are no players left in the organization from that core group. Michael Cuddyer got a few at bats that year, but he is the only player on the current Twins left from that era. Many of the core players however are still in baseball. That includes players like AJ Pierzynski, Torii Hunter, Kyle Lohse, David Ortiz and Johan Santana.

Of course part of that success is that the transition to young players included Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. It helps when you add players who turn into superstars. But there have been a lot of young players who contributed who were anything but superstars. Some like Nick Punto, Matt Guerrier and Carlos Silva came over in trades for major league regulars. Others, like Jason Bartlett and Alexi Casilla were developed by the organization after aging major league role players were traded for low level prospects. And, of course, some were prospects from the draft.

There were also a lot of failures. Young players who were given a chance to win a job and didn't quite do it. In some cases, the Twins were able to trade those players for someone useful. But there is a long list of young players auditioned for jobs who only contributed briefly, if at all.

In some cases, the Twins let veterans go and then had young replacements fail. Michael Cuddyer is actually one of those. He was originally slotted to replace Corey Koskie at third base.

Of course, some of what forced the Twins to stay young was their status as a low budget team. They were constantly forced to replace players as they got expensive with younger, cheaper versions. The new stadium has not eliminated budget constraints, but it has made them a lot less a factor.

Nonetheless, last winter the Twins let a number of veterans leave, while looking to younger replacements. JD Hardy, Orlando Hudson, Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier and Jon Rauch all left during the offseason with the idea that they would be replaced with younger players.

What we have to hope is that this season's disaster is not taken as a lesson that was a mistake. The Twins need to continue to make room for young players and take the risk of giving them opportunities to play. One of the silver linings in the Twins late season collapse is that it gave them a chance to see a lot of young players. Now they need to decide which ones deserve extended auditions next year.

Its understandable the Twins want to keep Michael Cuddyer. But it would be a poor move to give him a three year contract that commits them to playing him at age 35 instead of giving their promising young outfielders an opportunity.

The Twins were forced by budget constraints into discovering a successful strategy for ongoing success. They ought to stick with that strategy. They need to get continuously younger.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Twins 40 Player Roster Decisions

Here is list of players who might be added to the Twins 40 player roster this fall. I may have missed someone, but I don't think so. ( I did miss someone - see update below) Most of this years candidates were already added during the season.

2006 Draft - Tyler Robertson was eligible last year, I don't see much reason to think he is more likely to be taken in the rule 5 draft this year.

Here are the players eligible for the first time this year:

2007 Draft - Danny Rams, Angel Morales
2008 Draft - Carlos Gutierrez, Bruce Pugh
2007 FA - Oswaldo Arcia

There will be three roster spots open when the following players become free agents: Cuddyer, Kubel, Capps

A fourth spot will be opened if the Twins don't picky up Nathan's option.

There are two players currently on the 60 day DL who don't count toward the current 40 players but will have to be added: Casilla and Blackburn.

That leaves the Twins with one or two open roster spots and 5 or 6 candidates to be added to the roster. There are a number of players who might be taken off the roster and assigned to Rochester. They would need to pass through waivers first. Here is a list of more or less likely possibilities with a comment on each:

Manship - He was hurt this year and was not that good when he was healthy last year. He might pass through waivers.

Slama - See Manship

Dumatrait - He is a mediocre lefty. That is a reason both to let him go and to keep him.

Waldrop - Waldrop might be able to pass through waivers.

Rivera - The Twins are talking about finding an offense oriented catcher. That isn't Rivera, who is really a duplicate of Butera only not as good.

Nishioka - The Twins have Nishioka signed for 3 years. It is very doubtful any team is going to claim him on waivers and take on that contract.

Dinkelman - He passed through waivers once already this year. Its not hard to see him doing it again.

Repko - With Revere on the roster and able to back up Span, its not clear Repko fits as the Twins 4th outfielder any more. Pinch hitting skills might be a more important priority.

Twins waive one or more of the above players and add Gutierrez, Arcia and Morales to the roster.
Update 1: The Twins removed Tolbert, Rivera, Repko and Slama from the roster.
Update 2: Brett Jacobson who came from Baltimore in the Hardy trade is also eligible for the rule 5 draft this year. He seems like a likely addition to the roster.
Update 3(10/20/2011): Twins removed Dinkelman and Dumatrait from their roster

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Durability Trumps Ability

"Durability trumps ability." That is a quote attributed to former Viking head coach Bud Grant. He was talking about football, but it applies elsewhere. And not just to sports. There are plenty of managers who have expressed frustration with an employee who is a good worker when there, but often not there.

In fact, as the Twins discovered this year, the better someone is at their job, the more difficulties they create when absent. The more they contribute, the more you have to spend to have someone else who has the skills to do their job available when they aren't there.

For the Twins, that's the situation now with Joe Mauer. They are going to have to find a backup catcher they are comfortable with as a starter if Mauer is hurt. That means you have a relatively valuable asset sitting on the bench when Mauer is playing. If the Twins didn't have Morneau at first, it might make more sense to think of Mauer as the second catcher and go find someone who is going to start 120 games.

In addition, Mauer is not just the Twins catcher, he is also the Twins number three hitter. With Delmon Young gone, the Twins don't really have any good alternatives with the potential to take the three spot in the lineup when Mauer is hurt either.

I am not one of the folks who is critical of Mauer. But the Twins need to think through the question of whether they can rely on him to fill his current roles. That is not just a question of a better backup catcher. It means finding an alternate starting catcher and an alternate number three hitter. They don't have to be the same person, but they need both.

Morneau and Span, in addition to Mauer, have durability issues going into next year. Those are probably the Twins three best players. Span can be replaced in center field by Revere, but Revere did not look ready to be a leadoff hitter on a championship team. Morneau can be replaced at first by Mauer or someone else. But the Twins do not have anyone else who is a legitimate cleanup hitter.

In short, the Twins need to look at next year and ask themselves whether durability trumps ability. If they build a team around Span, Mauer and Morneau, they may find they came up with the wrong answer. But worse would be a decision to straddle the issue. Unless they address the backup issues for leadoff, number three and cleanup hitters, they aren't going to win with better backups at catcher, first base and in the outfield.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Reading Smith's Tea Leaves

There have been some reports on Twin's GM Bill Smith's comments to season ticket holders. Here are a few things that seem to come out of that and a discussion of their apparent implications

Bullpen - Smith mentioned that the Twins were interested in moving a couple of starters into the bullpen. Gardy raised that possibility for Duensing and Blackburn. Smith also said the Twins wanted to bring Nathan back.

With those moves, the Twins apparently would have four spots in the bullpen set. There would be a competition for the final three spots between Swarzak, Burnett, Mijares, Dumatrait and whatever AAA players and prospects you want to add to that list. While I can't say I am excited about that solution, it has a chance to work.

- The Twins still have the same six starters they started last year with. But if Duensing and Blackburn are moved to the bullpen there are, tentatively, four left - Pavano, Liriano, Baker and Slowey. They have Swarzak and Diamond as candidates for the 5th spot. But under this scenario, its likely the Twins would be looking to pick up a quality starter either in trade or as a free agent.

Infield - Smith mentioned the Twins have three possible shortstops, Plouffe, Nishioka and Casilla. He also said they needed someone with enough range to help Valencia at third base. Smith seemed to suggest Nishioka and Plouffe would have he chance to win playing time. If they bring in a quality veteran at shortstop, there is no room for competition. So they may be thinking adding a slick fielding guy to the competition.

Catcher - Smith said they couldn't have their backup catcher's hit .150 if they were playing 100 games per year. With the questions about Mauer's health it appears they are going to be looking for an offense oriented catcher. One suggestion was a guy who could DH when not catching. They might also end up with a DH who can catch and carry three catchers on the roster, at least until they know how much Mauer can play there.

First base - Smith sounded like he was worried about health issues with both Morneau and Mauer. He mentioned that if Morneau had to move to DH, they might move Mauer to first base. That just adds to the idea of a DH/C as a target in the off-season.

Outfield - It sounds like they really want to bring Cuddyer back.


This sounds like Smith's current off-season priorities:

Catcher/DH who can allow Mauer and Morneau to play first or DH according to their health needs.

A starting pitcher to allow existing starters to be moved to the bullpen

A shortstop with plus range to add to the shortstop mix.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Free Agents

We have reached the off-season where every free agent will become a potential target for the Twins to sign. But free agents are only rarely good investments. There are several problems with most evaluations of this option.

Quality free agents are looking for a multi-year contract. Many fans think in terms of annual payroll, but smart general managers evaluate contract costs based on the total amount guaranteed.

A couple examples from current Twins players make this clear. Carl Pavano is notorious in New York for how little value the Yankees got from his multi-year contract. They paid him over $40 million to compile 145 IP. The Twins paid Joe Nathan $47 million to compile a total of 180 IP.

By contrast, the Twins paid Pavano $7 million in 2010, based on arbitration, for 221 IP. Re-signed as a free agent, he has produced 221 innings so far on his contract worth $16.5 million with one season to go. Even if he is hit by a car in the off-season and never pitches again, the Twins have got more value from him than the Yankees did at a much lower cost.

The second problem with signing free agents on the open market is you are almost guaranteed to overpay. If the only thing you have to offer a player is more money, then you are paying more than any other team in baseball is willing to offer. Chances are actually pretty good that you are overvaluing the player unless your circumstances are VERY unique.

If you look at the winners in the free agent market it is usually guys like David Ortiz who are undervalued because of injuries or poor performance. They are players with very few suitors and are looking for opportunity more than money.

So when people criticize the Twins for grabbing players in the bargain bin of free agents, realize that those are usually the players who will bring the greatest value at the lowest risk. That is a "moneyball" strategy.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Twins Prospects in the Arizona Fall League

The Arizona Fall League (AFL) season begins tomorrow. For anyone unfamiliar with it, the AFL is a league of six teams made up of prospects from all 30 major league organizations. These are often some of a team's best prospects and it is an opportunity for them to play against other top prospects. The Twins, at least, usually send a mixture of top prospects and borderline prospects they want to see more of against better competition. In general, teams do not send their top pitching prospects to the AFL and it tends to be a hitters league.

This year the Twins have seven players assigned to the Mesa Solar Sox. Here is a brief review of each of them:


Dakota Watts is a 24 year old who was drafted in the 19th round in 2009. He caught people's attention with his strike outs in 2010, but he was not able to repeat those numbers while splitting his 2011 season between A and AA.

Cole Devries is a native of Minnesota and former Gopher pitcher the Twins signed in 2006 as a free agent. He is now 26 years old and split his season between AA and AAA. He has been used as a swing man in the minor leagues.

Brett Jacobsen came to the Twins from the Orioles in the JJ Hardy trade. He was drafted in the 4th round in 2008 by Detroit before being traded to the Orioles. He is now 25 and was used as both a reliever and starter at AA in 2011. He struggled mightily in July, but was very effective after a bad outing on August 4th.

Bruce Pugh was drafted by the Twins in the 19th round in 2008. At 23, he is the youngest of the Twins' pitchers in the AFL and split the 2011 season between A and AA. He missed the entire month of August.

None of these pitchers project as a top prospect. In fact, Jacobsen is the only one who is at all likely to contribute much at the major league level. The other three probably top out as AAAA players providing bullpen depth at AAA. This is a chance for them to test themselves against players who have major league tools.


Chris Herrmann (c,of) Its not clear whether Herrmann will catch in the AFL, play the outfield or both. Since being selected by the Twins in the 6th round of the 2009 draft, Herrmann has split time between the two positions. He is 24 and split his 2011 season between A and AA. His bat does not project as anything special as an outfielder but may be good enough to play there in the big leagues. His offense would be a plus behind the plate. Where he plays in the AFL may be an indication of how the Twins see his future.

Brian Dozier (inf) was drafted by the Twins in the 8th round of the 2009 draft. He was invited to spring training in 2011 at age 24 despite having never played above A ball. That is an indication the Twins see a future for him in the big leagues. He rewarded the Twins confidence in him with an outstanding offensive season split between A and AA. Like many minor league shortstops, he will likely end up at second base in the major leagues. Again, it will be interesting to see where he plays in the AFL.

Aaron Hicks (of) was the Twins first round draft choice in 2008. He has been at or near the top of most Twins prospect lists ever since. He is an outstanding defensive center fielder with great range and a plus arm. His bat and power also project as having outstanding major league potential. You will notice "project" and "potential". Hicks was a raw prospect when drafted and his slow development has frustrated some fans (and probably the Twins and Hicks himself as well.) At 22, he is the second youngest player on the Mesa roster, although there are several players effectively the same age.

All three of these players are true prospects. Hicks is clearly the best of the bunch, with Dozier being the closest to contributing at the major league level. The AFL is always fun to follow, especially this year when the Twins are out of the playoffs. Its important not to get too excited about the results. Its a short season and there is an imbalance of good hitting compared to the pitching. And sometimes individual players are worn out from a long minor league season.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Projecting the 2012 Twins Roster

Its helpful when talking about the Twins off-season to have a starting point. What would the Twins roster look like if everyone was healthy and they made no moves in the off-season? Here is a projection:

Batting order:
8 - Span
4 - Casilla
2- Mauer
3 - Morneau
5 - Valencia
6 - Plouffe
9 - Tosoni
DH - Hughes
7 - Revere

The order of Valencia, Plouffe, Tosoni and Hughes is probably arguable. Its also possible Revere and Casilla would flip spots.

C - Butera
Utility - Nishioka, Tolbert
OF - Repko




You could easily flip Duensing and Blackburn or Swarzak between the rotation and the bullpen. I think players with major league experience would have priority, but there are also a few players that I am projecting at AAA. but would have a chance to take a spot in spring training.

AAA Reserves:
Rivera, Parmelee, Dinkelman, Benson


Waldrop, Oliveros, Diamond, Hendricks, Slama, Gutierrez, Guerra

Of course, this isn't how the lineup will really look. It assumes that everyone eligible is offered arbitration and the Twins make no trades and sign none of their own free agents. But I think it gives a clearer idea of where the Twins are starting from.

My take is after the first four batters, the lineup is very weak. The bench lacks any offense. The starting rotation is mostly question marks. And the bullpen may be less question marks than bad answers. As it stands, this is not a very good team and it isn't one or two players away from becoming one. Not only do the Twins need to stay healthy, but they need some of their young players to really step up their games.

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