Friday, December 14, 2012

Which Twins Pitchers "Gave their team a chance to Win" in 1012

One of the cliches that you will hear from the Twins is about wanting starters who will "give their team a chance to win" each time they take the mound.   Obviously the pitcher is only one part of winning and losing.  But I thought it would be interesting to look at last year's starters through the prism of whether the Twins won. Here they are in order of team winning percentage:

Sam Deduno 8-7
Scott Diamond 14-13
Cole De Vries 8-8
PJ Walters 6-6
Nick Blackburn 8-11
Carl Pavano 4-7
Francisco Liriano 6-11
Esmerling Vasquez 2-4
Liam Hendricks 5-11
Jason Marquis 2-5
Brian Duensing 3-8
Anthony Swarzak 0-5

There has been talk of putting either Duensing or Swarzak into the rotation. But, as you can see, the Twins lost a lot of games last year with those two starting. A higher percentage than with any of the other starters. Likewise there are a lot of complaints about Nick Blackburn, but the Twins actually won a higher percentage of games when he was starting than with most of their other starters.

I think what this really shows is that no matter who was on the mound, the Twins weren't winning often enough to be in the pennant race. Terry Ryan has said that while pitching was clearly a big problem, it wasn't the only problem. This may just confirm that. But it clearly means that simply finding five Scott Diamonds isn't going to make them competitive.

Perhaps Vance Worley is better than any of the guys the Twins put out there last year. Its also possible that some of the other players above, including Diamond, will be better next season.

The Twins had a combined record of 25-45 with the pitchers who started the year in the rotation,  Blackburn, Pavano, Liriano, Hendricks and Marquis.  Next year's group can't do much worse.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Kevin Correa = Scott Diamond

You can make what you want of this, but last year Kevin Correia and Scott Diamond had remarkably similar results.

In terms of innings pitched, Diamond ranked 80th and Correia 81st among major league pitchers.

Diamond faced 714 batters and got 173 innings pitched. Correia faced 728 batters and got 171 innings pitched.

Diamond gave up 184 hits, Correia 176.

Diamond struck out 90 and Correia 89.

The only large differences are that Correia walks a lot more batters,  46 compared to 31 for Diamond. And, probably at least partially as a result, Diamond gave up fewer earned runs, 68 compared to Correia's 80.

To be blunt, none of those differences are really very meaningful The obvious advantage Diamond has is that he is young and therefore likely to improve. The advantage Correia has is that he has a longer track record and last year was not far from his career norms. But, based solely on their performance last year, these two can be expected to produce at about the same level.

As I said at the beginning, you can make what you want of that. I think it ought to temper any certainty you have about Diamond or doubts you might have about Correia.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Twins Pitching Takes Shape

From their reaction, some Twins fans have been in denial about the real state of the Twins starting pitching. The idea seems to be that the Twins need to sign a high quality free agent and then fill out the rotation around them with guys from their system. But that isn't really true. The Twins went into the off-season needing at least two and probably three starters from outside the organization.

So far they have added two starters Vance Worley and Kevin Correia. I haven't heard that they are done and they still have a roster spot open. But whether they like it or not they may not be able to sign another pitcher. Given the demand for pitching, the high prices teams are willing to pay and the fact that the Twins are not a particularly desirable landing place for a free agent, they may not have any good options.

I did an analysis of the Twins pitching earlier. But here is what Twins rotation looks like this:

Scott Diamond
Vance Worley
Kevin Correia

Failing to add another starter means filling out the rotation with two of the following:

Cole De Vries
Liam Hendriks
Kyle Gibson
Trevor May
Pedro Hernandez

Bullpen Conversions:
Brian Duensing
Anthony Swarzak

Sam Deduno
Emiliano Vazquez
PJ Walters
Nick Blackburn

That long list includes only three pitchers who have not had past opportunities and failed, Gibson, May and Hernandez. I think Gibson is the only one of those three with any realistic chance to be in the rotation out of spring training and he is a long shot.

You can make the argument that De Vries and Deduno did not really "fail" their opportunities so much as looking like not very inspiring solutions. As a 5th starter, one of them might be acceptable. As the only two candidates for the 4th and 5th starter slots they really aren't.

Of course you can project one of those other guys stepping up to take a spot. But it isn't really realistic to rely on pitchers who have had a hard time getting five innings per start in their brief major league careers. What's more realistic is that, in desperation, they rush a prospect (Gibson) or step into the bullpen to pull out Duensing or Swarzak for another shot as a starter. Thus weakening the bullpen and/or sacrificing the future, while giving the rotation just another weak spot.

If you want to understand the signing of Correia understand just how thin the options are at the end of the list even after he was signed. The Twins really need one more starter so that Deduno and De Vries are fall back options for the 5th spot instead guys who are penciled into the rotation unless someone unseats them in spring training. Correia may not be the answer, but he is certainly a better option as the third or fourth starter than Deduno and De Vries.

They probably paid too much for him. But I suspect that goes with the Twins territory these days. Money is about all they have to offer. Moreover, Correia signed for about 1/15th the money Greinke got. He may have been a bargain in this market.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Center Field Candidates Offense

Terry Ryan named three candidates for center field next year. They include Darin Mastroianni, Aaron Hicks and Joe Benson. Ryan points out that all three have the defensive skills need for center field. The question, he said, is whether they can handle the offense.

That raises an interesting question about the Twins offense. Because not only did they trade away two center fielders, they also traded away the top two hitters in the batting order and lot of team speed.  Their current batting order looks like this:


If you look at those three question marks you see the problem. There is not really an answer at leadoff hitter in the bunch. Carroll can bat second. You can plug the shortstop into the number nine spot. But the center fielder really also needs to be the leadoff hitter. As a leadoff hitter Mastroianni probably has the advantage right now because of both his experience and his base stealing ability. Hicks was fine at AA, but he is a long shot to step into the major leagues at the top of the order. Benson is probably the least likely of the three to fit in that spot.

As I pointed out elsewhere, if Mastroianni wins the center field spot the Twins really lack a fourth outfielder who can play center field. Its possible they will bring in someone else to compete for the center field position who can take that role. If not, then either Hicks or Benson have to be on the roster to provide a backup in center field. I think Benson is the likely choice in that scenario. His strikeouts may keep him from playing regularly, but his power and defense would make him a decent fourth outfielder.

Is Torii Hunter still looking for a job?

Span vs Revere and Winter Meetings

There is a meme out there that the Twins got more for Ben Revere than they did for Denard Span. I don't think that is necessarily true.

Here are the arguments in favor of the Revere Trade:

They got two pitchers compared to one pitcher and two is better than one.

One of th pitchers they got has major league experience. The jump to the major leagues is the biggest jump and Vance Worsley has made that jump. The other two guys haven't.

Here are the arguments in favor of the Span trade:

The pitching prospect the Twins got for Span, Alex Meyer, is a potential dominating ace. There aren't many pitching prospects in the minor leagues who really have that kind of talent. He dominated two levels of A ball in his first professional season.

Trevor May, while pitching at a higher level than Meyer, struggled at AA last year. He headed in the wrong direction with his walks and hits going up and his outs down.

Vance Worsley, while a potential major league starter, has yet to stay healthy and productive enough to get 150 IP over a full season in the big leagues. He had a 1.511 WHIP last year and elbow surgery to remove bone chips this fall.


There is one other thing to keep in mind. Both pitchers in the Revere trade had to be added to the roster. Meyer did not. At first blush this may not seem important. But it means the Phillies will be able to keep a player they wouldn't otherwise, a gain for them. And the Twins will not have roster space for a player they might otherwise have been able to sign. 

With the Nationals the opposite was true. Since Meyer did not have to be added to the roster, trading Span opened a spot on the Twins for another player. Likely a free agent starting pitcher or their Rule 5 pick. And the Nationals used a roster spot for Span that could have been filled by someone else.

On a related note, this also means Meyer is going to be under the Twins control longer than the pitchers obtained from Philadelphia. Trevor May is on the options timeclock, he needs to develop before his options run out. Meyer is on a timeclock too, but he has more seasons before he needs to be kept on the 25 player roster. 

This is also an issue with the relative value of Span and Revere. Obviously Span will need to be paid more immediately. But he will also become a free agent when his contract ends. Revere, by contrast, has 5 more years before he can become a free agent and a couple years before he is arbitration eligible. In short, the Phillies are going to get several more seasons from Revere than the Nationals are from Span.

All of these effect the value both teams got in the trade.

The real test of which trade is better will be how well these players do when or if they have big league careers. The Twins in the past have been pretty good at grabbing players off other teams.

I think if  Meyer becomes a dominating ace, the Span trade easily wins the contest. If he turns out to be another Francisco Liriano, then it was a loser. If he ends up somewhere in between it will depend on how the guys they got for Revere do. The projections for May and Worsley are probably more in the Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn or Boof Bonser range.

What these trades do is open a spot for Aaron Hicks either now or in the near future. The Twins are obviously comfortable with Darin Mastroianni in center if Hicks isn't quite ready. And Terry Ryan suggested they would give Joe Benson a shot at the job as well. If Mastroianni is the center fielder, you have to wonder who the 4th outfielder is. They certainly aren't going to have Willingham, Parmelee or Doumit playing center field. At least I hope not.

Other Winter Meeting News

In other news the Twins took a couple guys in the Rule 5 draft without losing anyone. The Twins took Ryan Pressly in the Rule 5 draft. Pressly was shifted from starter to reliever during last season and pitched very well in AA and then even better in the Arizona Fall League last fall. Apparently he looks like a hard thrower with a sharp breaking ball who has had control problems. He didn't show the control problems in the AFL. If he can harness his stuff and be consistent he could be a good addition to the bullpen.

The other player taken was third baseman Mark Sobolewski. He was taken in the minor league portion of the draft so the Twins can leave him in the minor leagues. He may or may not be given an invite to spring training, but Terry Ryan said they were trying to create competition at third so that sounds like he will be given a shot. Apparently he is an above average fielder who just started showing some pop in his bat. He's the same age as Trevor Plouffe.

Obviously the Twins still need more pitching. But that will have to wait until the teams finish bidding on the top free agents and the rest of the market opens up. There are also rumors that they offered a minor league contract to third baseman Jack Hanahan, a St. Paul native. He may go somewhere else if he can get a major league contract, but he would be more competition for Plouffe.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Rule 5 Draft

While the rumor mills are churning out new material on the hour from the winter meetings, I thought I would talk about something that will actually happen this week. The Rule 5 draft.

Just briefly. The rule 5 draft allows teams to select players not protected on a team's rosters. There are actually three drafts.  The one we usually think of is the draft for players not protected on the major league roster. But there is also a AAA draft for players not protected on the AAA roster and a AA draft for players left off the AA roster. The new player agreement extended the years players are exempt from the draft to 3 or 4 seasons depending on their age when signed.

Any player taken in the major league phase must be kept on the 25 player roster for the full year or offered back to the team they were drafted from. That does not apply to players taken in the minor league drafts. They can be assigned anywhere. Teams can also arrange a trade, but the player must first pass through waivers with every other team getting a chance to claim them. The claiming team would also have to keep them on the 25 player roster.

To see how this works here are three examples from the Twins. Johan Santana was claimed in the rule 5 draft. He spent the entire season pitching for the Twins as a starter and in the bullpen. He spent the next season in the bullpen and then was sent to the minor leagues to transition to starting. The rest was history. Scott Diamond was taken by the Twins. They decided he wasn't ready to play in the major leagues but they arranged a trade with the Braves to keep him. He spent 2011 in the minors and started 2012 there. Now he is the only starter the Twins have penciled in for next spring. Brian Buscher is an example of the minor league draft. He was selected, played at New Britain and then blossomed enough to claim a spot on the major league roster. That is really pretty rare. Even Terry Ryan admitted to surprise.

The Twins have the fourth pick in this year's draft. They are obviously going to look at pitching. This will be true of every team. Every team nees pitching and its a lot easier to carry someone as the 12th or 13th pitcher than it is a position player. In addition, the Twins have lots of opportunities in their rotation. So pitching seems the most likely spot.

In addition to pitching, the Twins have openings for a shortstop and backup middle infielder. Its easy to carry a guy who is a slick fielder and undeveloped bat as a backup in the middle infield. Those are also players that are sometimes left unprotected if a team doubts their bat will never come around. The fact that they let Tommy Field go after the rosters were set may indicate they saw someone they liked who was left off a roster.

Finally they are looking for competition for Trevor Plouffe at third base. Its highly unlikely anyone left a guy capable of competing for a third base job off their roster. But I think the Twins would jump if that should happen.

I am not going to try to guess who gets taken. For one thing, if it was obvious the player wouldn't be available at all. That means this is a scouting exercise.  Twins have shown some success with that, but anyone taken is a long shot to ever help at the major league level. Of course there is Johan Santana ...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Terry Ryan is Headed in Right Direction

Some of Terry Ryan's public statements about the Twins direction raised some of my fears that we were going to see the Terry Ryan of the mid-90's. That Terry Ryan kept looking for quick fixes by grabbing mediocre vets and fading stars. The Terry Ryan we all remember only emerged after the Pohlad's pulled the plug on that strategy by cutting off the money.

The decision to trade Denard Span for a top pitching prospect has qwelled  those fears.  The fear was that the Twins would trade span for some proven major league pitching that would plug a couple gaps in the rotation, but provide no future improvement. Instead Ryan bit the bullet and traded Span for a top flight pitching prospect. It may turn out he chose the wrong guy, but it is the right approach.

Which is what Ryan has been trying to say all fall with the "its not about money" mantra. The problem last year was not the budget. The problem was bad choices. Signing Jason Marquis was the right strategy, it was a poor choice.  And you can make bad choices even with a larger budget as many teams have proved.

The Twins still need to fill out next year's rotation. That probably means signing a couple guys like Francisco Liriano and Brett Meyers. It probably does not mean trading for a proven major league starter. I am thankful for that and thankful that wasn't what they got in return for Span. Ryan is making deals with one eye on the future. That is the way you build a championship team.

If they decide to move Justin Morneau or Josh Willingham at the trading deadline next summer, I hope they follow the same path as they did with Span. Getting prospects that can become the core of a future world series club, not filling projected gaps in the major league roster.

Span Trade and Twins Pitching

The Twins have traded Denard Span to the Nationals for pitching prospect Alex Meyer. This sounds like a Terry Ryan kind of deal. He is looking to the future and Meyer looks like a potential ace. Still, he hasn't pitched above AA so it may not provide any immediate value. Meyer was not on the National's 40 player roster. The Twins also lost Tommy Field on waivers yesterday. So they now have two open spots on the roster going into the winter meetings and the rule 5 draft. Assuming they don't make any more moves before then.

While I am sure the Twins hope Meyer will win a job in spring training, I don't think they are counting on it. So they still have only one starter, Scott Diamond,  and need find four more by the end of spring training. While Terry Ryan insists he intends to fill out the rotation, it is not realistic to think that the Twins are going to add four quality major league starters. So lets look at the options that are open.

To start with the Twins have a handful of young players who will be given the chance to win a spot. In addition to Meyer, Kyle Gibson and Liam Hendricks fit into that category.  Gibson may or may not be ready after recovering from Tommy John surgery. He is probably healthy enough, but I suspect the Twins will want to start him at AAA unless he really is dominating in spring training.  Meyer probably fits into that same category. Those two look to be cornerstones of a future Twins rotation, but I don't think the Twins will rush them. Hendricks needs to show he can get major league hitters out. He hasn't so far.

In addition to those three, there are a couple pitchers who had starting jobs last year and will get another shot at the rotation this spring. Cole De Vries is on the roster. He pitches all right last summer and would be a candidate for the fifth spot next year. Sam Deduno signed after he cleared waivers and will be in spring training. If he suddenly shows he can control his fastball, he could be a mid-rotation starter. More likely  both those guys end up as AAA pitching depth. Same with PJ Walters who, like Deduno, was taken off the roster and signed a minor league contract with a spring training invitation.

Pedro Hernandez and BJ Hermsen are two other young prospects on the 40 player roster who are further away. They both have outside shots, but would have to surprise people in spring training.

The other possible starters that the Twins have already in the system are Brian Duensing and Anthony Swarzak.  Both have got chances as starters in the past and haven't taken them. They are more likely to end up in the bullpen, but may be given a chance depending on who else the Twins bring in.

So there are nine pitchers already in the organization, almost all longshots, who might be able to fill a spot in the rotation out of spring training. My guess is at most two of them will be in the rotation. That leaves at least two more pitchers who will need to come from outside the current roster.

I would expect the Twins to pick up at least one potential starter in the rule 5 draft. They might even grab a couple guys. These will be longshots. Scott Diamond came out of the rule 5 process, but only after spending a year in the minor leagues. Likewise Johan Santana was  a rule 5 claim and he also spent some time in the minor leagues before becoming a permanent fixture in the rotation. This is another longshot for immediate rotation help.

That leaves the Twins needing to sign at least two free agents. Its possible one of those will be a quality major league starter. But the rumors about Twins interest in Francisco Liriano and Brett Myers sound like guys in the target range. They might be able to get Myers on a one year deal with option. But Liriano is probably going to demand a multi-year contract. The Twins are unlikely to take on more than one of those.

In short, the Twins are going to have to gamble next year on the future being now with Gibson a Meyer. Those two, along with Scott Diamond, could provide a pretty solid rotation by the end of the summer if the Twins can just catch lightning with one or two other guys.


I missed a couple guys here. Nick Blackburn and Esmerling Vasquez. Blackburn is only around because the Twins have to pay him regardless. But he has been successful in the past and could come to spring training and claim a job. Vasquez is AAA depth, same as this year. But again, the 5th starter is likely to be the "AAA depth" that shows the best in spring.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

BBA Top Ten Prospects for 2003 - Ten Years Later

Every year Baseball America publishes there list of top ten prospects.  Here is their top ten for 2003 and an alternative version based on player's performance.

Baseball America's Top Ten for 2003
1. Joe Mauer
2. Justin Morneau
3. Michael Cuddyer
4. Michael Restovich
5. Denard Span
6. Scott Tyler
7. J.D. Durbin
8. Jason Kubel
9. Lew Ford
10. Adam Johnson

An alternative version based on actual performance:

1. Mauer
2. Morneau
3. Cuddyer
4. Span
5. Kubel
6. Jesse Crain
7. Jason Bartlett
8. Garret Jones
9. Nick Blackburn
10. Grant Balfour

Misses: Tyler, Ford, Johnson, Durbin, Restovich
Missed: Crain, Bartlett, Jones, Blackburn, Balfour

Summarizing that, Baseball America had five guys who didn't belong on the list in  retrospect. The only one of those players that provided any value at the major league level was Lew Ford. The five players they missed have all provided considerably more value and you could argue Bowen, Rodriguez, Neshek and Morales from the list below would make the list ahead of Ford as well.

Here are players that were considered:

Grant Balfour

New Britain
Luis Rodriguez

Fort Myers
Jason Bartlett
Rob Bowen
Luis Maza
Terry Tiffee
Brian Wolfe

Quad Cities
Garrett Jones
Jesse Crain

Nick Blackburn
Pat Neshek

Gulf Coast Twins
Jose Morales
Alex Romero

Here is the 2002 Top Ten Evaluation for comparison.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Evaluating Next Year's Twins - Part II

Yesterday did an analysis of Twins starting pitching last year and its prospects for improvement next season if nothing is done over the off-season. While starting pitching was the Twins' biggest weakness last year, their position players' performance was also not really championship quality either. The first step to correcting that is to look at the players they have and whether there is room for internal improvement.


Joe Mauer started 72 games at catcher, Ryan Doumit 56 and Drew Butera 32. Mauer was clearly the best hitter in that group and his defense is more than adequate. Doumit is a below average defensive catcher who made up for that with his offense. Butera continued to be an offensively challenged player, who has to make up for it with his defense.  If Mauer can sustain his offensive production and stay healthy while catching over 100 games next year,  it would be a clear improvement on 2012.  Butera is eligible for arbitration and the Twins will need to decide how much they are willing to pay him as a third catcher.

First Base

Justin Morneau started 99 games at first, Chris Parmelee 31 and Joe Mauer 30.  Morneau started out slow as he worked past lingering effects from his concussion. He was playing regularly in the last half of the season and his production was getting back to what we had come to expect. If he starts more games and his production goes back to the MVP levels he showed before his concussion it would be a huge boost to the Twins offense. A better performance from Morneau is probably the Twins biggest opportunity for improvement next year.

Second Base

Alexi Casilla started 83 game at second, Jamey Carroll 64. Carroll's offense fell off a notch last year. He is 38 and there is probably not much reason to think he will improve. Casilla is harder to judge. It seems like he has been around forever, but he was still only 27 last year and had a down year offensively. Casilla is very good defensively. Like Butera, Casilla is eligible for arbitration and may or may not be back.  If he is back, Casilla could improve offensively and hold down the job as an everyday second baseman. That would make the Twins better offensively and defensively. 


Brian Dozier started 81 games at shortstop, Pedro Florimon started 42 and Jamey Carroll 36. Carroll did not really have the range to play shortstop. Dozier struggled both offensively and defensively. Pedro Florimon was by far the best defender, but his bat is suspect. While its hard to see the Twins being much worse at shortstop next year. If Florimon gets most of the starts, it will be an improvement on Dozier's defense and his offense won't likely be much worse than Dozier's was. Dozier could also hold the job by improving on both offense and defense. 

The Twins also picked up Eduardo Escobar as part of the Liriano trade. Its not clear where he fits into the middle infield picture or what he brings to the table. Its possible he could step up the Twins game at either second or shortstop if other players don't improve.

Third base

Trevor Plouffe started 93 games at third, Danny Valencia started 33 and Jamey Carroll started 30. Carroll is solid defensivelly, but his bat really doesn't product enough for third base. Valencia was terrible offensively and defensively. Plouffe needs to show he can be at least adequate defensively. Its not clear the Twins thought he had reached that level by the end of last season.  If he can win the job and comes close to the offensive production he showed as a regular last year the Twins will be much better at third base.  

Left Field

Josh Willingham started 118 games in left, Ryan Doumit 16 and Darin Mastoianni 10. Neither Willingham nor Doumit will win any gold gloves. But Willingham was the Twins MVP last year based on his offense. Its hard to see real opportunities for improvement here except defensively. And that would depend on Willingham and Doumit getting their at bats elsewhere.  Its doubtful Willingham will be as productive next year, so this is the one position where some decline might be expected from 2012.

Center Field

Denard Span started 122 games in center field and Ben Revere 34. Span's offense dropped off a bit last year and he played fewer games than usual. Revere was a solid replacement, but Span playing everyday at his previous levels would be at least a slight improvement.

Right Field

Ben Revere started 79 games, Darin Mastroianni 27 and Chris Parmelee 16. There are several possible places for improvement here. Revere is a young player who should show some improvement as he gets more experience. Even at last year's levels, if he plays more games in right field there will be some improvement over Mastroianni and Parmelee.  Parmelee could also break through at the major league level. He is defensively challenged in right field, but his bat has the potential to be special. If he does get starts in right, he should be more productive than last year. This is a position where the Twins have every right to expect improvement.

Designated Hitter

Doumit, Mauer, Morneau and Willingham had most of the at bats at DH last year. They will likely share the at bats next year with only the percentages changing. Chris Parmelee could take some at bats. But that is likely to happen only when one of those other four is out of the lineup. There aren't really many opportunities for improvement here.

From those descriptions, you can see why the Twins are looking to add some options in the middle infield. Terry Ryan has said he is also looking for competition for Trevor Plouffe at third base. And the Twins will need to make some decisions on Casilla and Butera. Even if they refuse them arbitration, they need to decide whether to try to re-sign them as free agents.

This analysis shows potential for improvement at most positions and very few where you would anticipate them being worse next year. The Twins "auditioned" a lot of players at different positions last year. By the end of the season they seemed to have found some answers. Applying those answers for a full season can be expected to bring some significant improvement regardless of what moves they make in the off-season.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Evaluating Next Year's Twins

Everyone, including Terry Ryan, seems to agree that pitching, particularly the starting rotation, was the Twins most glaring weakness. But simply fixing the pitching may or may not be enough to put the Twins in contention next season. To decide what is needed to put the Twins in contention, one first needs to evaluate what happened last year and what might be expected next year if there are no changes over the winter. Lets start that process with the Twins rotation in order of number of starts:

Scott Diamond had 27 starts last year after beginning the season at AAA. He was clearly the Twins most productive starter and many people are inking him into the rotation next season. That means he is likely to get another 8 starts and if he produces like last season that will bring some overall improvement to the Twins starting pitching. Diamond got to the major leagues last year by pitching better than he ever had before. If that improvement was permanent, his additional starts next year will make the Twins rotation better.  But its possible that was a career effort that he can't sustain.

Nick Blackburn got 19 starts last year and was terrible. While its possible he will win a spot in the rotation, he won't get 19 starts with the kind of performance he had last year. Its likely whoever takes those starts, even if its himself, will do much better.

Francisco Liriano got 17 starts.  He was exactly the same inconsistent starter we have come to expect. He had performances that ranged from lights out to terrible. While his replacements may not shut teams down the way Liriano did when on his game, its likely they will provide a better return for the Twins. Liriano only won three games and it wasn't really for lack of run support.

Cole Devries and Liam Hendriks each started 16 games. Devries was probably the Twins second most effective starter after Diamond.  His only major flaw has been the long ball and its possible he can eliminate some of those mistakes and actually do better.  Even absent improvement, if he pitches that way for a full year he will help the Twins rotation. Of course, like Diamond, he lacks a track record and its perfectly possible he won't be able to repeat even last year's performance.

Hendricks is a bit different. He has had outstanding success, but has failed to translate it to the big leagues. Its doubtful he will get 16 starts again next year if he doesn't show more than he has at the big league level. Even a below average replacement taking those starts will improve the Twins pitching. There is still some hope Hendricks might give the Twins more than that.

Sam Deduno got 15 starts. He was probably the third most productive starter. He has a fastball with tremendous movement. This makes him difficult to hit and produces some strikeouts. It also results in way too many walks. Like Devries, a full season of starts like last year would be an improvement for the Twins. But whether he can continue to have success given his walks is a big question mark.

PJ Walters got 12 starts. They were not very good. Its possible the Twins will give 12 starts to someone who pitches like Walters next year, but it is not going to be hard to find a replacement who does at least ast well. Walters was re-signed as a minor league free agent, but he will have to improve to get many starts next year.

Carl Pavano got 11 starts. Pavano was hurt, struggled and then spent the rest of the year on the disabled list. His overall performance was similar to Walters and should be easily replaced. He is a free agent and its possible the Twins will resign him, but at his age I doubt he gets 11 starts like last year before he pitches himself out of a job. He will have to do much better than that. This is an opportunity for improvement.

Brian Duensing also got 11 starts. He bounced back and forth between the rotation and bullpen, doing much better out of the pen. Its not likely he will get 11 starts unless he improves. Another opportunity for the Twins to do better.

Jason Marquis got 7 starts and was a disaster. The Twins should do better, but its not really that unlikely that they will audition someone else for 7 starts who does about as bad.

Esmerling Vasquez got 6 starts in a September callup and didn't do well. Again, the Twins can improve if they can avoid these kinds of unsuccessful auditions.

Anthony Swarzak got 5 starts. These were all spot starts, he was never really in the rotation. His results in spot starts were pretty terrible overall, but it would not be a surprise if he reprised that role next year with better results. Its unlikely he will be given the chance the results aren't better.

So there were 92 starts where we might expect opportunities for improvement (Blackburn, Liriano, Hendricks, Walters, Pavano, Duensing, Vasquez). 

There were 13 starts which we can expect similarly poor results (Swarzak and Marquis) from pitchers in similar roles.

There were 58 starts (Diamond, Devries and Deduno) where we can expect similar results and the potential for those three pitchers to pitch around 100 starts next year at those same levels. That is not to suggest that Diamond, Devries and Deduno are going to start 100 games next year with the same results as this year. The Twins have said they are looking for three starters, so clearly they are not counting on a scenario where that happens. 

What I think this list does show is that the bar for those three starters is pretty low. It will not take much to produce better results than last year. There are a LOT of opportunities for players to do better even with mediocre results. Of course, mediocre results won't get the Twins into the playoffs. That is a further discussion.

Evaluating Next Year's Twins Part II

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Silly Season Is Here

With the end of the World Series, the baseball season is over and the silly season has started. Every media outlet needs to find stories to keep its audience interested.  There are a couple of things I hope folks will do:

Take ourselves seriously. The fact that something can be imagined does not mean it is worth considering. When I was a kid I used to get into this thing with my older brother "What if ... But what if ..." Eventually this ended with me getting slugged in the shoulder and told to "STOP IT".  I feel that way sometimes when reading some of the stuff in the Twins blogsphere. The Twins are not going to go after Alex Rodriguez. Speculating about it just makes you look silly.

Don't take ourselves too seriously. Lets be clear, we are fans. Even the guys who get paid to follow the team are amateurs when it comes to almost every task performed in a professional baseball organization except public relations. We can question Terry Ryan's decision,  but we have no business seriously believing that we know better than he does. If we think a move is "stupid", the problem is probably our thinking more than the move. It doesn't mean we are wrong. It just means we ought to go with Terry Ryan's judgment over our own.

Don't treat rumors as facts. The Twins are very closed mouth. Those who are in the know aren't talking and those who are talking aren't in the know. Understand that neither teams, nor managers, nor players, nor agents, nor anyone else in baseball is required to tell us the truth if it isn't in their interest. And sometimes it isn't.

I remember the "humorous" story a chief of staff for a political leader related about their boss:

Boss:  "Rumor has it ..."

Knowing staff:  "Where did you hear that rumor Boss?"

Boss:  "I just started it."

Later the aid heard the rumor repeated by one of the people who heard this exchange. And later still had the rumor passed as back to them as insider gossip. Baseball rumors work the same way.

There are agents, back office folks, players and other teams who all engage in inventing rumors. Not to mention sports writers and bloggers. We shouldn't treat any rumor as being true until it happens. Its unlikely the Red Sox ever offered the Twins all their best young prospects in exchange for Johan Santana, no matter how often that rumor was repeated.

So over the next few months I intend to write when I have something to say. But you probably won't hear much gossip here. You also probably won't see much wild speculation. I may raise concerns about Terry Ryan's choices. But I won't imagine my concerns weren't given their proper weight in the decision.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Twins Top Ten Prospects 2012-2013

Here are the top ten Twins prospects following the 2012 season. Players taken in this year's amateur draft are NOT included in this list. They simply haven't played a full professional season and until they do we are relying on a very small sample size against suspect competition, both as amateurs and as pros. Guys like taken this season like Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios will likely be on this list next year.

This list is in no particular order - although it isn't really random either.  I just don't have enough information to make fine distinctions. The better guys are toward the top and the lesser prospects toward the bottom. In other words, Hicks is a better prospect than Gutierrez, but there isn't much to choose between Hicks and Sano.

Aaron Hicks

Hicks is finally showing why he has been a highly touted prospect since he was drafted in 2008. He is one of a crew of athletic outfielders the Twins have drafted that includes this year's first choice Buxton and Twins outfielder Ben Revere.

Miguel Sano

Sano's power makes him special, but he is still raw and strikes out a lot. He also lacks a clear defensive position. If he can learn to play third base well he will be in the big leagues in a hurry. But even if he ends up at first base, his bat will play anywhere.

Kyle Gibson

Gibson is coming of Tommy John surgery. The reports are that he is throwing harder than he was before he went down last year. He is projected as a number two starter and could be in the rotation next spring. He will pitch this fall in the Arizona League.

Oswaldo Arcia

Arcia showed the bat at AA that makes him an exciting prospect. He was New Britain's best hitter, ahead of Aaron Hicks, and its youngest player. He lacks Hicks speed but he has the arm to play right field, but he got most of his at bats as a DH at New Britain.

Travis Harrison

Harrison was the 50th player taken in the 2011 draft. Playing in the Appalachian league he showed good average with decent power for a 19 year old.  He will likely need to stay at third base to have a real impact at the big league level. His bat may play at first, but not the way it does at third.

Eddie Rosario

Rosario got moved from the outfield to second base this season. Like Harrison, his major league future depends on being able to stick as an infielder. As an outfielder his bat may not be enough for a corner spot and his defense may not hold up in center, although he played there some this year.

Max Kepler

Kepler showed even more power than Harrison at Elizabethton and is the same age. He has the range and arm to play center field.

Jorge Palanco

Palanco was signed at the same time as Sano, but projected as a slick fielding shortstop rather than a big bat. This was a break out year with the bat for him at Elizabethton. A year younger than his teammates Harrison and Kepler he hit just as well and his defense projects as a plus at either shortstop or second base.

Hudson Boyd

Boyd was the 55th player taken in the draft last year. He pitched well at Elizabethton in his professional debut. He is still a long way from the big leagues, but projects as a number 2 starter.

Carlos Gutierrez

Gutierrez has an outstanding sinker but lacks other pitches and has yet to reach his potential. He projects as a late inning reliever or closer.  He was on the minor league DL for most of the year after struggling at the start of the season. If he can stay healthy and harness his fastball he could be a future closer. But this time is running out.

Others considered: Madison Boer, Niko Goodrum, Lester Oliveros, Joe Benson, BJ Hermsen, Chris Hermann, Alex Wimmers

Looking at those ten prospects it is striking how many of them are in the lower half of the system. Gutierrez and Gibson are the only ones who have even reached AAA. Hicks and Arcia are at AA. And four guys were in rookie ball at Elizabethton this year and two in low A ball.

Of course part of that is the Twins have pulled up a lot of the talent in the top levels of the system the last couple years. Guys like Plouffe, Revere, Parmelee and Diamond are no longer prospects. You can add Hendricks and Dozier to that list. The best talent at the top of the system is past the prospect stage to trying to prove themselves at the major league level.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Evaluating the Twins Draft

The Twins had five picks in the first 100 places this year. As I pointed out earlier, after the first 100 picks the draft really is a crapshoot. There will be players who make the big leagues but they will be few and far between. In the 130th spot in the draft, three players have made it to the big leagues from the last 20 years. Two of those had three at bats between them. Only Eric Byrnes contributed anything at the big league level.

After taking Byron Buxton in the first round, the Twins seem to have focused on hard throwing pitchers who will move through the system quickly. Even the high school kid, Jose Berrios, taken with the 32nd pick looks like he is pretty polished for a high school pitcher. The three college kids  taken with the next three picks, Luke Bard, Mason Melotakis, and JT Chargois,  all project as relief pitchers with some closer potential on the upside. Chargois, who mostly played first base in college as well as closing, may not develop as quickly as the others.

Its likely the Twins will give some of these guys a chance to develop the pitches to be starters the same way they did Carlos Gutierrez, a first round pick fin 2008. Guttierez is now a reliever at AAA who has had some injury issues this year, but still projects as a solid bullpen contributor with a great sinking fastball. I would expect the pitchers taken in this draft to end up in that same spot.

The last kid the Twins took with their top 100 picks was Adam Walker, a high school hitter with tremendous power. He lacks a defensive position. He has the speed to play a corner outfield spot, but a below average arm.  And there are doubts that he will make enough contact to make use of all that power. He is the kind of high risk - high reward player that makes sense this late in the draft.

In fact, you could say the same of all these guys except Buxton. This was projected as a weak draft and it appears the Twins have gone after players with plus major league skills, rather than load up on guys with at best average major league potential.

The rest of the draft isn't meaningless, but any evaluation of it is. The simple truth is no one taken beyond the first 100 picks is at all likely to provide much benefit at the major league level. They all have that potential, or they wouldn't be drafted,  but picking out the ones that will defy that rule is a fools game.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Those Twins Draft Picks

We will be hearing a lot of angst about the Twins' first choice of Byron Buxton, a high school outfielder, in the Twins blogsphere for the next four or five years. There will no doubt be one or more college pitchers who will be contributing at the major league level while Buxton develops. It could well be 2020 before Buxton establishes himself as a major leaguer.

The Twins later choices are the kinds of players you expect at that point. Both look to have the stuff to be solid bullpen arms with some potential to develop into starters. Luke Bard, the college pitcher, is a fastball/slider guy who could move through the system like Jesse Crain. Orlando Berrios is a high school pitcher reported to have a good fastball and solid curve.  He is a small right hander, which generally models as a bullpen pitcher, but he apparently has a changeup that could develop into a third pitch as a starter.

The difference between these last two picks and the next few picks tomorrow are pretty marginal. Most of them will not contribute much, if anything, at the major league level. But with several picks, the Twins will hope to get lucky on at least one them. After Buxton, its really a numbers game. You take a lot of guys and hope you find a Morneau, Radke or Blackburn in the mix.

Draft Day! Justin Verlander or Adam Johnson?

Today is the first day of the major league draft. There are several things to remember about the major league draft that makes it a little different.

The first thing to realize is that it will likely be about 8 years before we can fully evaluate the results of today's draft. Tom Kelly used to say that it takes 1000 major league at bats before you know what kind of player you have. Torii Hunter, Denard Span and Michael Cuddyer all hit that 1000 at bat point about eight years after they were drafted. Joe Mauer is an exception who did better than that. Those were all high school players and college players will develop a little quicker than that. Todd Walker hit the 1000 at bat point 5 years after he was drafted and the Twins jettisoned him the next year.

The Twins 2004 draft gives you a pretty good perspective on what to expect. The Twins had three first round draft choices that year. There were two college players from that draft where we can make a pretty good estimate of the results, Glen Perkins and Matt Tolbert. There were also three high school players Trevor Plouffe, Anthony Swarzak and Kyle Waldrop who are still trying to establish themselves. That is pretty typical of most drafts. Some players will move quickly, but there will be others that will move much more slowly.

The second thing to understand is that the round a player was chosen is only a rough indicator of how likely they are to be successful major league players. Jacque Jones was a second round choice, but the 37th player chosen in the draft in 1996. Matt LeCroy, taken two years later in 1998, was a first round choice but the 50th player taken in the draft that year. Much has been made this year of the Twins 3 choices in the first round. Those choices are 2, 32 and 42. While they are all first round choices, that number two choice is dramatically different from the other two. To put that in perspective, look at the outcomes of each choice from ten years 1994-2003:

42: Marlon Anderson is the only player taken who reached 1000 major league at bats. Only four players even appeared in the big leagues. Since 2003, Clay Bucholz and Chris Perez have had some success.

32: No players taken 32 in those ten years reached 1000 major league at bats. Only six players appeared in the big leagues.

2: Six players have over 1000 major league at bats, five with over 3000 at bats. The other four players taken were pitchers Mark Prior, Josh Beckett, Mark Mulder and Adam Johnson. Every player taken appeared in the big leagues and only Adam Johnson would be considered a complete washout (although Ben Grieve and Ben Davis were not exactly huge successes).

So you have nine players taken with the second choice who had some success and only one player from 20 players taken in the other two positions the Twins will draft who even matched the worst of those nine players. It is that second round choice that makes this draft special for the Twins. They haven't drafted anywhere near that high since Joe Mauer was taken with the first choice in 2001. The only other time the Twins drafted higher than number 20 since then was 2008 when they took Aaron Hicks.

Here is how that 14th position played out from 1994-2003:

14: One player taken from 1994-2003 got more than 1000 at bats. Jason Snider and Billy Butler were chosen more recently and have reached 1000 at bats. Jeff Weaver and Ryan Wagner were the only pitchers taken from 1994-2003. Seven players total reached the majors.

If you think the Twins move players slowly, only four players taken with the 20th pick in the last ten years have made it to the major leagues. Three of them are Denard Span, Trevor Plouffe and Chris Parmelee.

Here are the overall results of the 20th spot from 1994-2003

20: Two players with 1000 at bats, including Denard Span. Eric Milton and CC Sabathia were successful pitchers taken number 20. 8 of the ten players reached the big leagues.

To say the baseball draft is a bit of a crap shoot is an understatement. But it is not really true of the first few choices where the Twins are drafting this year. While success is never guaranteed, a second round choice should be expected to contribute at the major league level. When you get beyond the 20th choice, where the Twins have been drafting recently, any real major league success is a pleasant surprise.

Of course the Twins had several high draft choices at the turn of the century and they mostly washed out before they took Joe Mauer. Guys like Adam Johnson, Ryan Mills and BJ Garbe were all among the top ten players taken and none of them produced. Lets hope this year the Twins take a Justin Verlander (the number 2 choice in 2004) not another Adam Johnson, their last number 2 pick in 2000. Either way, the real fun is following these guys progress through the system and then seeing them emerge in the major leagues. And somtimes its the surprises that are the most interesting, like Justin Morneau, rather than the guys talked about on draft day.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Twins Stink!

As one fan put it, "Opening Day! We're going to win 162 games this year!" That fan was mocking themselves, unfortunately the media isn't.

If you read the local media, including the blogsphere, you would think that the Twins had never lost two games before or looked bad doing it. But its funny how bad looking games often turn into losses and vice versa. What have we learned from the first two games of the season? Nothing. And its simply silly to pretend we have.

Of course, some people may have had unrealistic expectations based on spring training. Those are the folks who are alarmed at Francisco Liriano's performance yesterday. They imagined Liriano as a dominant ace and Cy Young candidate. What we saw yesterday was, instead, a typical Liriano. We also have seen the Twins suspect defense at work. Valencia may be a better fielder, but he isn't a gold glove candidate. He is going to miss balls. Same with Willingham out in left field. They didn't sign him for his defense. We haven't yet seen the offense at the level we expected or will need to compete. But we have watched only two games against two pitchers.

We have also seen a typical Gardy move. He started Revere in right field after he put Doumit there for the opener and got burned. Doumit turned a fly ball into a triple. If that ball was caught, the game would likely have been at worst tied. If you were keeping track of games lost by weak defense, the opener was a good start. Despite the defensive misplays yesterday, that game wouldn't be on the list. The defense was worse, but it didn't explain the loss. Instead, Liriano had a signature game.

Fortunately, this is baseball. Liriano will have good days where he looks like "Franchise". He always does. And the Twins will have good days. Every baseball team does. We need to watch a lot more games to have any better idea of the balance between the two than we had three days ago.

There are still 160 games to play. Lets try not to turn each of them into a new defining event for what kind of team the Twins have this year. Oh, wait. Expecting that from the media is the same as expecting Liriano to be consistent. Its wishful thinking.

The roller coaster is the most popular ride in most amusement parks and sports writers are, after all, in the entertainment business. They get paid to attract an audience.

Hang on to your hats! Because if Swarzak pitches well today, there will be calls for him to replace Liriano in the rotation tomorrow. That ought to get someone a few more page hits.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Opening Day - Can the Twins Win the Division?

Its opening day when all fans are optimists about their home team. But is there really a realistic chance for the Twins to win the division? The answer is certainly yes. There are two barriers to them being a contender. But both could be overcome.

The first is the Detroit Tigers. It is very unlikely, even with the best of outcomes, the Twins could beat the team Detroit has on paper. On paper, the Tigers are by far the best team in the division. Its hard to imagine the Twins being able to beat them if the Tigers stay healthy and play up to their ability. But, as we should have learned as Twins fans last year, teams don't always do either of those things. The Twins need to Tigers to stumble to have a shot, but there is nothing unrealistic about that happening.

In addition to the Tigers stumbling, the Twins will need to have some breaks. That includes their core players staying healthy and playing up to their ability. The mantra around Mauer and Morneau being the key to the Twins success remains true. You can add Span to that list. But the Twin offense looks like it can produce some runs and the starting pitching, while hardly outstanding, has five guys who have shown they can keep their team in the game. That combination can win a lot of games.

Is it likely the Twins will win the division? No. Is it realistically possible? Yes. That's why they play the games.

Parmelee Batting 8th

Ron Gardenhire made a point about his offense by pointing out that Chris Parmelee was going to be batting 8th. Parmelee forced his way onto the roster with this bat last fall and this spring. In Gardenhire's view, that he is batting at the bottom of the order is an indication of how strong his lineup is. I thought it would be interesting to compare today's opening day lineup to last years.

Here is the 2011 lineup:

The opening day lineup in 2010 looked like this:

The differences:

Carroll vs Nishioka
I am not sure I have higher hopes for Carroll than I did for Nishioka last year. But he will almost certainly, absent injury, produce better results. This will be a definite improvement.

Young vs Willingham
Again, the expectations for Young were much higher than his actual performance. Willingham will likely be an improvement.

Doumit vs. Cuddyer
Doumit has the advantage of being a switch hitter. He doesn't have Cuddyer's power, but he will hit for a slightly better average. Overall, last year's lineup with Cuddyer was stronger. The Twins will be very pleased if they get that kind of production here.

Valencia vs Kubel
Kubel was a much better hitter than Valencia. Its unlikely Valencia will match even Kubel's injury limited season.

Parmelee vs Valencia
This is hard to judge, given Parmelee has limited major league experience. If his bat really warrants his promotion to the big leagues, he should be more productive than Valencia last year. But that isn't guaranteed.

The folks that are coming back in the same spot are Span, Mauer, Morneau and Casilla. If any of them stay healthy, they will be more productive than last year.

In addition to improvements from those four, the Twins can expect better output from Carroll, Willingham and perhaps Parmelee. They will likely get worse production from Valencia and Doumit. Overall, its clear the key to offensive improvement from last year's isn't the off-season acquisitions or the development of young players. Its staying healthy. Big surprise.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Fort Myers Lineup

The Fort Myers Miracle A ball team gave the major league Twins a battle in yesterdays final spring training game. Like Rochester and New Britain, Fort Myers has a lot of players who have previous experience at this level.

Levi Michael isn't one of them. As the Twins first round choice last year, he headlines the roster at Fort Myers. The last time the Twins took a college middle infielder with their first pick was Chuck Knoblauch in 1989. Knoblauch started the 1989 season at low A and then was moved to high A as a shorstop. In 1990 he stared the year at second base in AA and the next year he helped the Twins win the World Series as a rookie.

Michael is not likely on that kind of fast track. But he is starting in high A ball and could easily end the season at AA. Like Knoblauch there is a chance he will end up at second base in the big leagues, but he will start out at shortstop for Fort Myers.

The Fort Myers starting staff looks like it will be Pat Dean, Adrian Salcedo, Manuel Solimon, BJ Hermsen and Marty Popham. Dean is a 2010 third round choice, Salcedo has been a highly touted prospect and is still only the third youngest player on the Fort Myers roster. Solimon is a former third baseman who throws very, very hard. Hermsen is in his second year at Fort Myers. Popham is an older guy who was a minor league rule 5 choice.

The bullpen includes Ricky Bowen, Tony Davis, Jhon Garcia, Jose Gonzalez, Matt Hauser, Edgar Ibarra, Bruce Pugh, and Caleb Thielbar. I don't think any of these guys are top prospects, but that is typical of A ball. With a few exceptions, talented pitchers are used as starters to give them innings and the opportunity to develop all their pitches.

That catchers are Josmil Pinto, Dan Rohlfing and Danny Rams. Rams was a second round choice in 2007. He still projects to have major league power, but he will be playing the outfield and first base in addition to catching. Rohlfing and Pinto appear to the organization guys.

The starting infield looks to be Michael Gonzales, Danny Santana, Michael and Jairo Perez.
Andy Leer and Anderson Hidalgo are the backups, with Danny Rams playing some at 1b. Aside from Michael and Rams, the rest of the infield doesn't have any top prospects.

The outfield looks like it will have Angel Morales in center, with Orlando Arcia and Lance Ray at the corners. Ryde Rodriguez is the fourth outfielder. Arcia is a top prospect who was added to the major league roster and spent time in the big league camp. Morales has been seen as a top prospect with above average speed and power, but has had injury issues slow his development. Ray was an 8th round pick in 2010. Danny Rams will also play in the outfield corners.

If you were ranking the prospects here it would be Michaels, Arcia, Morales, Salcedo, Rams, Dean, Solimon. That doesn't mean the other players have no chance. They are far enough from the big leagues that they will have a lot of opportunities to develop.

It appears Fort Myers is going to start with a veteran team with a lot of guys capable of putting up big numbers. With little apparent room at New Britain and Rochester, it will be interesting to see how that works if they show they need a bigger challenge.

Here is how the lineup was set up for the game with the Twins:

2B Santana
3B Perez
RF Arcia
C Rohlfing
LF Ray
CF Morales
DH Rams
1B Gonzales
SS Michael

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

First Rounders Hicks, Wimmers Start Season in AA at New Britain

Two of the Twins top prospects and a number of players who were competing for jobs in the major league camp will start the year at New Britain. The Twins signed a lot of players in the off-season and now need to find them places to play. You don't want young players you have plans for sitting on the bench at AAA. And given the experience last year where they lacked major league ready players at AAA, they probably aren't interested in letting anyone who might help this year go just to make room for someone on the AAA roster.

Alex Wimmers, the Twins 2010 first round draft choice, leads the starting rotation. I am not sure who the other starters will be. The likely candidates are Dave Bromberg, who was hobbled by injuries is back at AA for a second straight season. Bobby Lanigan, who was a third round choice in 2008, Steve Hirschfield, a ninth round choice in 2007, Logan Darnell, a sixth round choice in 2010 and Luke French, who made appearances in 2009 and 2010.

The bullpen has Delios Guerra, the last guy from the Santana trade, returning. Lester Oliveros, the young pitcher the Twins got from Detroit for Delmon Young. Daniel Turpen, the pitcher they got in return for Kevin Slowey. Andrew Albers, a guy they picked up last year from an indy league. Luis Perdomo, who was signed as a six year free agent.

The catchers are Chris Herrmann and Daniel Lehman. Lehman is a good defender who has bounced around the organization. Herrmann, who can also play the outfield, was in the AFL last fall and the Twins are high on his offense.

The middle infield looks to be shared by Pedro Florimon, who was in camp as a potential major league utility guy, Estarling de los Santos, who was on the roster a couple years ago and James Beresford. I think all three are still prospects as defensive players. Nate Hanson looks like the first baseman with Debinson Romero back at New Britain at third.

The outield will feature Aaron Hicks in center. Hicks is a top Twins prospect with plus skills across the board. He is outstanding defensively in center field. He continues to struggle from the left side as a switch hitter. Darin Mastroianni, claimed on waivers this winter, will play somewhere in the outfield while backing up Hicks in center field. Evan Bigley and Mark Dolenc are both sluggers back for their third season at AA. They will likely take corner outfield spots and DH.

If you were ranking the top ten prospects here they would be Hicks, Wimmers, Herrmann, Guerra, Oliveros, Florimon, Lanigan, Turpen, Bromberg, Mastroianni. All those guys have a legitimate shot at the big leagues. With several other players who are long shots as major league players, this team is loaded with potential. With the exception of the two first round choices, Wimmers and Hicks, almost everyone on the roster has played at this level before. The question is how well they build on that past experience. Its not impossible several of these players will be in the big leagues before the end of the year if they develop.

UPATE: Baseball America is reporting that both Bromberg and Lanigan will start the year in the bullpen and Albers will be in the rotation.

Last Year's Twins vs This Year's Twins - The Position Players

A year ago I predicted the Twins, if everything went right, might have one of their best team's ever and win 110+ games. Obviously a lot went wrong and the Twins ended up with their worst record in over a decade.

Since last spring there has been a large turnover on the roster. In fact, less than half the current Twins were on the opening day roster last year. I thought it would be interesting to compare how this year's team projects compared to how I saw things last year. To be clear, I am comparing my projection of the team on opening day last year to this year's opening day lineup. I am not comparing the reality of last year to my projections this year.


Last year, I thought Joe Mauer was a solid number three hitter with the potential to be an MVP and gold glove. There were questions about his power. That projection hasn't changed, but the upside seems a lot less likely after a year of injuries and low performance. Last year's backup, Drew Butera, was a solid defensive catcher whose bat was a big question mark. This year's backup, Ryan Doumit, is a solid hitter whose defense is a big question mark. Overall, the catching position projects slightly lower than last year on opening day.

First Base:

Last year, I thought Justin Morneau was another potential MVP. This year he is at DH and Chris Parmelee will take his place, likely batting 8th. Parmelee is a rookie, but he turned heads in his callup last fall and then again this spring. His career projection is a good hitter for average with moderate power, but he probably won't hit .300 or 20 home runs this year. His defense still needs work. The projection for first base this year is a lot lower than last year. Parmelee just doesn't compare to Morneau.

Second Base:

Tsyoshi Nishioka was the second basemen last year and batting second in the order. Here is what I said about him then "Nishoka looks like a solid number two hitter. He will hit for average, can play little ball and is the fastest runner in the system. And he knows how to use that speed to steal bases." He wasn't close to that description, but it probably isn't far off from the projection for this year's second baseman Alexi Casilla. The major difference is that Casilla will likely be batting 9th. I don't think Casilla has the optimistic upside I saw in Nishioka, but he has most of the same tools I thought Nishioka was bringing to the table. I am slightly less optimistic that Casilla will harness them and my projection for second base is slightly lower than last year.


Last year, Alexi Casilla was the shortstop and his projection was much the same as this year at second base. The difference was that his defense was less certain at shortstop. This year Jamie Carroll is the shortstop with a different skill set. He is expected to be an adequate shortstop, with adequate range and arm. His defense doesn't project as well as Casilla's, but he projects more reliably there than Casilla did. As a number two hitter, he is expected to get on base and can steal occasionally but, again, doesn't have the potential upside I saw in Casilla. Overall my projection for shortstop is slightly lower than last year.

Third base:

My projections for Danny Valencia haven't changed much. We got about what I expected last year with perhaps more problems on defense than I projected. His actual performance will have to improve only slightly to match my expectations last year. So my projection for third base is unchanged.

Left Field:

Last year, I saw Delmon Young as the third potential MVP in the Twins lineup. It looked like he had broken out in 2010 and was poised to reach the potential projected for him when he was the first player taken in the draft. My projection for Willingham doesn't approach that level. He looks like a solid bat with some pop in the middle of the lineup, but he isn't going to be a star. My projection for production out of left field this year is a lot less optimistic.

Center Field:

Here is what I said about Span last year: "Span has the potential to hit .300, will take a lot of pitches and is a good baserunner who can steal when called on." Nothing has changed about that projection.

Right Field:

Last year, Michael Cuddyer projected to be a solid middle of the order hitter who would produce 20+ home runs while playing adequately in the field. Ryan Doumit, who I think will get most of the playing time here, projects a lot like Cuddyer as a hitter. But his defense is going to be severely challenged. There has been at least a slight decline in my expectations from right field.


Last year, Jason Kubel was the DH. He projected as a solid left-handed hitter who could hit .300 with 20+ home run power. That is about what Justin Morneau projects as this year, albeit a slightly better version all round. Morneau's upside is an MVP quality bat, which Kubel's was not. Morneau's injuries leave some big questions about how productive he will be. I still expect more out of him than I projected for Kubel last year.

Bench: Last year the bench had Jim Thome, Matt Tolbert and Jason Repko. This year's bench is Luke Hughes, Trevor Plouffe, Ben Revere and Sean Burroughs. There is no bat on this year's bench to compare to what we thought we were going to get from Jim Thome. But Tolbert and Repko projected as defensive replacements and neither one projected to match the offense any of the players on this year's bench. This year's infield bench is mostly defensively challenged with the exception of Sean Burroughs at third base. Revere projects as a better defender than Repko in the outfield. Plouffe isn't as good on defense as Repko, but is a much better bat. Overall the bench projects as much deeper this year. But the infield defense isn't there and no one projects to step up and carry the offense like Jim Thome. Overall, I think that makes the bench look a bit weaker than I thought it was last year.


If you look at those evaluations the Twins offense look much worse at two positions (3,7), slightly worse at two positions (4,6), three positions are unchanged (5,8,9) and two positions have a slight improvement in offense (2, DH). The bench is about the same, with better depth this year compensating for Thome last year. Remember this is comparing my projections last year to this year's projection, not actual performance. The Twins are almost certainly going to be a better offensive team than last year's actual performance. But they leave spring training with, deservedly, a lot lower expectations.


The Twins defense is much worse at two positions (3,9), slightly worse at two (2,7) and unchanged at four positions (4,5,6,7). The bench is much worse overall.


Last year, the Twins started the season with six experienced major league starters. The bullpen had two closers in Capps and Nathan. And I thought the spring training competition had surfaced a bunch of effective bullpen arms with several backups at Rochester. Remember we are comparing projections, not reality.

The Twins have shifted Brian Duensing to the bullpen and installed Jason Marquis as the 5th starter. I am not as optimistic about Marquis as I was about Duensing. I am not sure I would change my projections for any of the returning pitchers. Pavano will be consistent, Liriano will be inconsistent. Baker and Blackburn will likely be solid starters. Liam Hendricks doesn't project to be the pitcher Kyle Gibson did, but it looks like he will get an earlier shot at winning a spot.

Overall, this year the Twins starting staff appears to be less deep without a Slowey. They have some guys like Swarzak and Maloney who are in long relief roles that may be able to step in if needed. But neither one has proven themselves as major league starters the way Slowey had. Scott Diamond is again at AAA, ready to help if needed.

It again looks like the Twins have surfaced a bunch of effective bullpen arms in spring training and with several backups at Rochester. But the only closer is Capps. Perkins and Duensing add a couple more arms that have proven reliable in the past, but neither one compares to Nathan.

Overall the both the starting staff and the bullpen look slightly weaker than they did last year at this time. Combined with the weaker defense in the field, I would project the Twins to give up more runs than I projected they would last year at this time.

So its not just the bad taste in our mouths from the last season's August and September collapse. The Twins have changed since last spring and not for the better. Even if everything goes right, "on paper" this team is likely going to have to overachieve to make the playoffs. But they play the games on the field, not on paper.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Twins Farm System - Rochester Roster

The AAA roster is really a major league reserve roster. While there are prospects at AAA, players really prove themselves at AA. Players at AAA may still be developing, but the roster is loaded with older "AAAA" players who are waiting for a chance to fill in at the major league level. The Rochester Redwings roster this year is no exception.

The Rochester team has struggled the last few years and there are rumours they are looking to change their affiliation if the Twins don't give them a competitive team. That may be why the Twins have stocked this year's team with a lot of experienced players.

There are only six players without any major league experience, Cole Devries, Carlos Gutierrez, Tyler Robertson, Brendan Wise, Ray Chang and Brian Dozier. Dozier is the only player on the team who has not played above AA in the past.

The starting rotation includes Scott Diamond, Cole Devries, Sam Deduno, PJ Walters and Daryl Thompson. Diamond was the Twins Rule 5 pick last year and made some major league starts. Devries is from Eden Prairie, MN and a former MN Gopher. He started a couple games at Rochester last year, but has been mostly a reliever since reaching AA a couple years ago. The other three were all off-season free agent signings.

The bullpen includes Jeff Manship, Anthony Slama, Tyler Robertson, Carlos Gutierrez, Brendan Wise, Casey Fien and Esmerling Vazquez. Manship pitched for the Twins a couple years ago but spent most of last year in the minor leagues on the DL. Slama has been effective in the past, but again was hurt last year. Carlos Gutierrez is a former Twins first round choice who has a devastating sinker, but lacks other pitches. Tyler Robertson has been a top prospect for the Twins in the past and was added to the 40 player roster last fall. The last three are off-season free agent signings. Fien and Wise were among the last pitchers sent out in the major league bullpen competition.

Catching is crowded with former big league backup Drew Butera, Rene Rivera and JR Towles sharing duties. Towles is the best hitter of the bunch, Butera is the best defensive catcher. If the Twins go to a third catcher at some point, Butera is the one most likely to get the call.

The infield has slugger Aaron Bates at first, former Japanese batting champ Tsyuoshi Nishioka at second, Brian Dozier at short and Ray Chang at third. Mike Hollimon appears to be the utility infielder, but there will be a lot of players moved around during the season to keep them flexible depending on what roles are needed by the big league team. Matt Rizzoti will likely platoon some at first base when he isn't DH'ing.

The outfield has Joe Benson in center, flanked by Rene Tosoni and Matt Carson. Brian Dinkelman will likely get turns at the corner outfield spots, as well as playing some infield and DH'ing.

The starting rotation is worrisome. I am sure the Twins expected Liam Hendricks to be part of the rotation and that may still happen. Otherwise, Diamond is the only one you would call a potential major league starter. If the Twins need starters, there isn't much to choose from there.

The bullpen, by contrast, looks very solid with a number of guys who did well in spring training and appear ready to step in at the major league level. Of course, the same thing was true last year and spring training performances proved an illusion in several cases.

The offense has some questions, but could be very good. But there are also players who are real question marks like Nishioka. If he hits AAA pitching like he did in Japan, he's an offensive threat. If he struggles the way he did last year in the majors he could be real liability. Tosoni was a promising prospect rushed to the big leagues. He could break out this year. Benson needs to cut down his strikeouts, but when he makes contact he is going to hit some home runs. Bates and Rizzoti add power to the lineup.

Its almost opening day and the world always looks hopeful. But this Rochester team looks like it could end the string of losing seasons. Its not loaded with future stars, but it has a lot of solid, experienced players.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Are Ryan and Gardenhire on the Same Page?

According to Gardenhire, Plouffe is a "super-utility" player who will backup at second and shortstop in addition to playing the outfield. According to Rhett Bollinger at "I told him super-utility everywhere," Gardenhire said. "Shortstop, second, everywhere." Two weeks ago, Bollinger reported "GM Terry Ryan says that Trevor Plouffe will remain in OF and will only be used at SS in emergency situations." Ryan has been repeatedly saying Plouffe was moving to the outfield, yet it appears he has at least one and maybe two guys ahead of him for playing time with Doumit playing a corner outfield spot and Revere as the fourth outfielder.

This isn't the only example. During the off-season we heard about the Twins wanting more speed in their offense and getting back to the basics on defense. But the batting order now is loaded with station-to-station hitters from Mauer through Parmelee. Casilla, Span and Carroll are the only players in the everyday lineup with above average speed. And, as I have mentioned before, the defense is questionable almost everywhere with the exception of Span in center field and catcher when Mauer is behind the plate. Casilla is really the only other player with the tools to be an above average defender and he has been an inconsistent defender.

Then there is the discussion of Dozier where Gardy says he is ready, and Ryan clearly doesn't think he is. That may be just nuance, but it sounds like more than that. I don't remember hearing this kind of disjunction before between what was coming out of the GM office and the manager. I wonder if the two of them are headed for some conflicts. Smith, no doubt, had to defer to Gardy's judgment about players. Ryan doesn't. That may take some getting used to.

Cherry Picking Stats to Prove a Point about Joe Nathan

The professional "Twins Fan" at the STRIB had this great stat in a story about Joe Nathan today:

"From 2006-09, Nathan picked 36 spring training innings and yielded only six earned runs."

Nathan has given up 8 runs in 7 games this year in spring training with the Texas Rangers. The statistic above was supposed to show that this was unprecedented and was evidence that Nathan might fail as the Ranger's closer.

You will notice however, "Twins Fan" chose four seasons, ending three years ago, for his comparison. I don't know what his spring training numbers were before 2006, but if you include numbers after 2009, in 2011 Nathan had pitched 8.1 innings in spring training and given up 10 runs. That would kind of change the message And that is about what you would expect from a veteran sports writer posing as a fan. The skill in massaging the facts to fit the story narrative are well-honed by experience.

Perhaps more to the point, spring training numbers are irrelevant. Veterans are getting themselves in shape and preparing for the season. While Nathan's age and injuries certainly make him a candidate to fall off a cliff. His spring training performance doesn't mean much of anything.

Rating the Beat Writers

Spring training is almost over. In addition to learning something from spring training about the Twins players, we also can learn something about where to get information and commentary about what is happening. As Twins fans, our major source of information about the team and its players are three beat writers. There are a handful of other sports writers/ talk radio personalities who also throw in their two cents worth, but the primary burden falls on Lavelle Neal of the STRIB, John Shipley from the Pioneer-Press and Rhett Bolinger from Here are my rankings and comments:

Rhett Bollinger:

Bollinger reports seem to be based on talking to Twins officials and reporting what they say. The result is that we often get quotes from Twins officials we might not hear elsewhere. But, more importantly, the information we get isn't infiltrated with his own opinions. The result is a much clearer idea of what the guys making decisions think and plan, rather than press-box chatter and speculation. Because he is posting to the web, his reports on the the Twins web site often provide the most complete and timely coverage of events, in addition to regular twitter updates with links to his stories. There is no paywall around any of his content. If you get your news online, this is the place to start.

John Shipley:

Shipley does a pretty good job of getting the story and filling it out with a lot of details. He has a regular twitter feed that he updates often and interacts with fans. Press-box chatter sometimes leaks into stories, but he obviously spends a lot of time talking to Twins players and management. He occasionally has quotes you won't see elsewhere.

LaVelle Neal:

I used to think Neal was the best beat guy out there. But its been a long time since that was the case. He writes for the biggest circulation paper and, as such, he has the highest profile. But mostly he seems to have a hard time reporting without injecting his own story. Some people like that, but it makes it hard to know when you are getting the Twins management's plans and when you are hearing Neal and the other press corps' own ideas. If you like gonzo journalism, where the reporter is the story, Neal's your guy. His stories are behind the STRIB paywall.

There are some other regular contributors from spring training this year. Joe Christenson, the other STRIB reporter, is the most prominent. He isn't the "personality" that Neal is, but he provides similar coverage. Again, his offerings are behind the STRIB paywall.

Talk radio personalities also took Florida vacations and reported on spring training. Since I don't listen, I don't know what they had to say. From the tweets and occasional online stuff, it seemed like the usual banter of opinion and posturing designed to attract listeners rather than be informative. I'd take it all with a grain of salt. Which is probably why I never listen...

One of those radio personalities, Pat Reusse, did a few pieces in his role as STRIB columnist. They were the usual mix of knowledgeable baseball commentary, while sustaining the hyper-critical media persona he adopted as the apparent successor to Don Riley in that role when he started at the St. Paul newspapers. Reusse is probably the most knowledgeable of any of the folks. His years of covering the Twins give him a perspective on a lot of the hype that goes on that is useful, if you can separate it from all the chaff self-conciously designed to sustain his media image. Like all the STRIB content, his commentaries are behind its paywall.

There are a number of bloggers who provided first hand accounts from spring training. But for those fans and bloggers stuck in the frozen (or thawing) northland, the beat writers provide the kind of access to the Twins management and details of spring training even the bloggers and fans on the ground in Fort Myers don't really have.

Twins Projected Opening Day Lineup

Here is my projected Twins opening day lineup:

Span - 8
Carroll - 6
Mauer - 2
Morneau - DH
Willingham - 7
Doumit - 9
Valencia - 5
Parmelee - 3
Casilla - 4

Pavano - 1

Its definitely a hitters lineup. Although Mauer and Morneau are the only real standouts, there aren't any really weak bats in the bunch either. Defensively, Mauer, Casilla and Span are the only ones who are going to add much. The rest are barely adequate to mediocre defensively, with Doumit the weakest link. This is not a team that is going to save its pitchers a lot with its defense.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Bullpen Competition Extended

With Baker on the DL and Marquis likely on bereavement leave the bullpen competition is over for the moment with the Twins going with four starters:

and eight relievers:

Casey Fien was the odd man out.

The Twins will need to add a fifth starter by the 9th game of the season. Which means there is still competition for the last bullpen spot. Burnett is the only one of the relievers in that competition that has options left. It is likely he will be the odd man out.

The other wrinkle here is that Terry Ryan suggested that if Hendricks pitches well, he could claim a permanent spot in the rotation. That would mean moving a starter to the bullpen, pushing a second reliever out. So while spring training is over, the competition for spots on the roster really isn't.

The Ilusion of Intellectual Advantages

The New York Times has an article that relies on the modern media narrative that intellectual innovation is the key to competition. There is actually little evidence this is true in major league baseball.

For instance, the claims that Oakland's use of "moneyball" techniques made it successful are largely contradicted by the facts. Instead, Oakland became successful the old fashioned way. They drafted and signed players like Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez, Tim Hudson, Barry Zito and Mark Muldur. They complemented that core or homegrown stars with relatively cheap veterans. Almost none of these decisions had anything to do with statistical analysis, nor with finding market niches others were ignoring. Since they adopted those "innovative" techniques under Billy Beane, Oakland has not been noticeably successful. Certainly not when compared to the "tradition bound" Twins.

Instead of innovation, teams that have success rely on better execution of established methods. They have better scouts, who do a better job of evaluating a player. They have farm systems that do a better job of developing players skills. They spend money on good players and don't tie up payroll in over-priced failures. They avoid mistakes. Of course if they are the Yankees, they can afford more mistakes than normal markets, but even the Yankees can struggle when they make too many bad choices.

The New York Times focuses on the things of interest to fans. Team budgets and evaluating the players on the field. But the team success may have more to do with how teams are managed. Do they put the best scouts in the field? Do they have a minor league staff that brings out the best in players and trains them to play the game right? Do they have a development philosophy and values that run throughout the whole organization?

There may be some "big ideas" that will help make a difference in getting those results right. But mostly it will depend on the baseball abilities of the top management, attracting the right baseball people and the willingness of the owners to let the baseball people run the organization. Innovative ideas are the least of what is important.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Marquis, Hendricks, Swarzak or Maloney?

There were several developments recently that have put the Twins starting rotation into a state of flux.

Jason Marguis has been gone for an extended period because his daughter fell of her bike and was seriously injured. Apparently he has been pitching with some high school kids to keep his arm in shape, but unless he returns soon its not likely he will be ready to pitch the first week of the season.

Scott Baker was put on the DL today. This is not all that significant, but it guarantees he will not pitch the home opener. Since the Twins have a day off after their first four games, they won't need a fifth starter until the second time through the rotation. Baker will be eligible to come off the DL before then.

Liam Hendricks had another good outing yesterday, giving up one hit in five innings. And today Anthony Swarzak, who is being stretched out to make him available to start, went six innings and gave up only one run. Earlier this week Matt Maloney, also being stretched out, had a solid outing Thursday but only went three innings.

Its likely Nick Blackburn will take Baker's place for the home opener. The need for Hendricks, Swarzak or Maloney to start depends on whether Marquis is ready to pitch a week from tomorrow in the final game of the Baltimore series. If not the Twins will at least need a spot starter for that game. If Marquis is ready, then it won't be until Sunday April 15th that would need a starter if Baker isn't ready by then.

It seemed likely that Hendricks would take the spot start on Sunday the 8th in Baltimore. But Swarzak's outing today might change that. It might depend on how likely it is that Baker and Marsuis are both going to be available the second time through the rotation. As I said wrote inyesterday's post on the bullpen competition, the decision to keep Hendricks on the roster means one less spot for bullpen candidates.

Twins Bench Competition Over?

Butera was sent to AAA today along with Hollimon. This all but ends the competition for bench spots, unless the Twins go outside the organization for a utility infielder. Dinkelman and Towles are still in the major league camp, but its not likely either one will make the team. The Twins reportedly told Butera they were going with two catchers.

This almost certainly means that Morneau is going to start the year as DH, leaving Doumit playing in the field where he will still be available to backup Mauer. With Morneau at DH, Mauer will also likely have to play some first base and/or outfield if they want to keep his bat in the lineup on days he doesn't catch. So the roster looks like this:

Mauer c/1b/of
Doumit c/1b/of
Morneau DH/1b
Parmelee 1b/of
Casilla 2b/ss
Carroll ss
Valencia 3b
Plouffe rf,lf,1b,2b?
Willingham lf
Span cf
Revere cf, rf, lf
Hughes 2b, 1b, 3b
Burroughs 3b, 1b

Plouffe was supposed to be moved to the outfield, but he is at second base in today's game. So it looks like they may be looking to have him play some infield. I said above that Dinkelman had no chance of making the roster, but Gardy could still surprise us by keeping him as the fourth outfielder/infielder instead of Burroughs or Revere. That seems very doubtful though. The more likely upset of the apple cart would be a legitimate shortstop from outside the organization to use as a utility infielder.

Update: I forgot to mention Brian Dozier. A decision to install him as the regular at shortstop would be another option. I don't think that is likely, but it would leave Carroll and Casilla to share second base and the utility role.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Ranking the Twins Drafts

The Twins will draft second in the June draft, the highest spot they have had since they took Joe Mauer as the number one choice in 2001. I thought it would useful to evaluate the drafts from 1994-2003. I will rank more recent drafts separately since, for the most part, its too early to really evaluate their overall success. Players in parenthesis were taken after the top 100 players.

2001 - Mauer, Morales, (Blackburn)
1999 - Bowen, Morneau
1994 - Walker, Pierzynski, (Koskie)
2002 - Span, Crain, (Neshek)
1997 - Cuddyer, LeCroy, (Romero)
2003 - Baker
1996 - Jones, Allen, (Ryan, Moeller, Lincoln)
2000 - (Kubel)
1995 - Redman, (Mientkiewicz)
1998 -

If you look at the 2004 draft below, you understand why its too early to evaluate recent drafts. The only "proven" players on the list are Tolbert and Perkins. That is assuming last year was proof for Perkins and Tolbert contributed enough to prove anything.

The rankings here, not surprisingly, are almost entirely in chronological order. And its not impossible the 2004 draft will move ahead of the 2005 draft. The players in parenthesis are players who are now recognized as significant prospects but were taken after the first 100 picks.

2005 - Garza, Slowey, Duensing, (Burnett, Tosoni)
2004 - Plouffe, Perkins, Swarzak, Waldrop, (Tolbert)
2006 - Parmelee, Benson, Robertson, (Dinkelman, Manship, Valencia)
2007 - Revere, Rams
2008 - Hicks, Guttierez, Lanigan
2009 - Gibson, (Herrmann, Dozier)
2010 - Wimmers, Goodrum
2011 - Michael, Harrison, Boyd, Boer

If you compare the two lists, the biggest difference is the presence of two MVP's, Mauer and Morneau, on the first list. Hicks is probably the only player on the second list who looks to have that kind of potential. Of course, Morneau didn't look likely to play at that level either shortly after he was drafted.

The real point of this is that the Twins have done a pretty good job with past drafts and it may be as late as 2020 before we can fully evaluate this summer's draft.

Baker and Marquis Scramble Bullpen Competition

The last couple days haven't really sorted anything out. The most important development was that Kyle Waldrop has a sore elbow. It may not be serious, but they are shutting him down and he probably has lost his immediate chance to make the roster.

The other important development was not in the bullpen, but will likely effect decisions there. Both Baker and Marquis now in question for opening day. Baker could start the year on the DL and Marquis on the bereavement list. That would open up two roster spots and Terry Ryan has said they will have 12 pitchers on the roster regardless. One of those could by Liam Hendricks, if they decide they need a starter immediately. But at least one roster spot would go to one of the bullpen candidates.

Maloney was stretched out today and went three innings, giving up a run on 4 hits and a walk. Burton followed him with two innings, giving up one run on a hit and walk. Fien also went two innings, giving up a run on 2 hits, while striking out 3. Burnett went one inning and gave up one unearned run on two hits. This was Burnett's second outing in a row, he gave up a home run and a walk in one inning on Wednesday.

Its possible the bullpen competition is over. If neither Baker nor Marquis are on the opening day roster, there is temporarily room for Gray, Burnett and Fien. But its more likely that Hendricks will take a spot as a starter, so the competition is for one permanent spot and one temporary.

There are a couple other considerations for the temporary spots. Maloney, Gray and Burnett are on the roster. Burton and Fien aren't, but the Twins have room for them. Burnett still has options, I don't believe the others do.

What that means is that Maloney and Gray would need to pass through waivers to be sent to the minors. That is also likely true for Burton and Fien once they are added to the roster. So its unlikely either of those two would win a temporary spot that would expose them to waivers when Baker and Marquis returned. If Burton and Fien make the roster, its likely with the idea they will stay in the majors when Baker and Marquis return. Gray will need to pass through waivers whether now or in the future. And Burnett can be optioned to the minors at any time.

Here is how I think things stand now:





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