Your place for Minnesota Twins and New Britain Rock Cats coverage, analysis and opinion.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Time to Get Down to Business

After losing 2 lefties in 1 day, the Yankees would seem to
be a logical desitnation for Francisco Liriano
After I not-so-closely followed yesterday's Twins debacle on my computer, I realized that this game was the turning point for me. There's no sense trying to compete for the next 3 months to win what's shaping up to be a weak AL Central, when instead the Twins should be focusing on trading several players to legitimately competitive teams. I still love the team as much as I always do, but it's time to pack it in and focus on the future.

Although the position players have generally remained healthy, the pitching staff has been decimated. It says something when, if the season ended right now and the Twins somehow were in the playoffs, your 1-2 starting pitching combination would be Scott Diamond and Nick Blackburn. There have been (and will continue to be) many spot starts by AAA or AAAA (at best) players, some of whom will rack up several thousand frequent flyer miles on the Rochseter-Minneapolis shuttle. We're watching Brian Dozier go through a protracted rookie slump, both at the plate and on defense. For the record, I'm OK with that. I still maintain that his upside is worth the hiccups now, but it's clear that he has work do to. We're trying to figure out Justin Morneau's future, as well as the intertwined future of Chris Parmelee. I think the organization needs to decide what Alexi Casilla's future is. We're giving auditions to some new bullpen guys like Tyler Robertson. We're seeing if Ben Revere can hit .300 on a consistent basis. In short, there's a lot of stuff up in the air, which does not bode well for a team that is not quite halfway through the season. This isn't to suggest that the Twins can't be better than they were last year -- they should be -- it's to suggest that 2012 is not going to be their year, and that I'm officially declaring that right now. And I think the Twins need to declare that right now, as well.

That being said, it's time to make tough decisions. The Twins should not be desparate -- they have some tradeable assets that should yield several offers. And they have more than 4 weeks of working the phones left before the trade deadline. So here's what I think they need to do: I would trade Denard Span. I would trade Francisco Liriano. In fact, given the Yankees' recent injuries to CC Sabathia and Andy Pettite (though the Yanks said they would likely handle the vacancies internally), I would probably be on the phone with Brian Cashman this morning. I would listen on Josh Willingham. I would trade Carl Pavano, assuming he establishes his health. I would declare Ben Revere the center fielder of the future (like until 2014). I would give September call-ups to Chris Herrmann (if he is batting around .270), and possibly Oswaldo Arcia, assuming he plays well in July and August for New Britain. I want to see what those guys have. I still keep Justin Morneau, unless a foolish team comes calling with a crazy offer. I think the return on him would be very low, and if the Twins do deal him, it should be next year, when he is in his walk year and is owed less money.

Those are just some ideas, and they of course are not unique, nor are they my ideas. The point here is simply that the time has come to officially look toward 2013 and beyond. Well beyond. The worst action this summer is inaction.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Rock Cats: Day Game Away from a 4-Game Sweep

Evan Bigley says, "Do not take my
playing time, Oswaldo Arcia."
The Rock Cats finish up their four game series, as well as their week-long road trip, in a noon game today against the Richmond Flying Squirrels, but the series has already been a success. The Rock Cats won the first three games, and go for the sweep in today's finale.

Friday night was an offensive showing for both teams, but New Britain prevailed, 9-8. Evan Bigley had 4 hits, including his 9th home run, and Chris Colabello had 2 hits, including a double, and 2 RBIs. Catcher Chris Herrmann also notched 2 hits and a double. Starter B.J. Hermsen actually pitched pretty well, but wasn't aided by his defense. Though he only was charged with 2 earned runs in 6 and 1/3 innings, 6 runs scored thanks to errors.

Saturday New Britain won 6-1. Blake Martin, traditionally a reliever, started and went 4 innings. Luis Perdomo threw the other 5 innings and gave up only 1 run, striking out 6. Chris Colabello had a double and a home run, and Evan Bigley hit his 15th double of the season. Oswaldo Arcia also had a hit, and Minnesota's own Nathan Hanson hit his second home run of the season.

On Sunday, the Rock Cats won 7-3. Logan Darnell turned in a quality start for the Rock Cats, pitching 6 innings and giving up 3 runs. He struck out 3 and walked 2, but gave up 2 home runs. Daniel Turpen was excellent out of the bullpen, throwing 3 innings, allowing 2 hits and striking out 2. Chris Colabello, again, had a big game. He notched 3 hits, including his 12th home run, in 5 at-bats, and scored twice. Evan Bigley was 3-for-4 with his 16th double and drove in 2 runs, and Matt Rizzotti was 2-for-3 with 2 RBIs. Oswaldo Arcia was 1-for-5 and is batting .174 in a very, very small AA sample size.

These are just very short summaries, but I think it's important to note who is carrying this team lately when it wins. It's not necessarily Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia or Chris Herrmann (although Hicks and Herrmann certainly have been productive at various points this season). Right now, it's unquestionably Chris Colabello, the 28 year old journeyman, 25 year old Evan Bigley, who recently was told that with Arcia's promotion, he would lose playing time, and 25 year old Nathan Hanson, who has played various positions and has found more playing time as a result of his hot bat. I'm not sure if any of these guys are destined for major league careers, but it's nice to see veteran players getting the job done at AA -- a level at which they need to excel.

Let's look at the last 10 games: Evan Bigley is hitting at a .400/.415/.700 clip, and has 4 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR and 10 RBIs. The 25 year old is now hitting a respectable .265 on the season. Chris Colabello is hitting .293/.326/.488 2 2B, 2 HR and 8 RBIs. He's still leading the entire Eastern League in RBIs with 52, and his 12 home runs are good for 3rd in the Eastern League. Guess who's in second place in the Eastern League RBI race? Evan Bigley, with 48. Finally, there's Nathan Hanson. In his last 10 games, he's hitting .343/.378/.629 with 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR and 4 RBIs. After starting the season off slow, Hanson is batting an even .270 on the season.

The finale of the Rock Cats-Flying Squirrels series is noon (eastern time). The Rock Cats are still 3 games back in the standings, and are hoping to gain a little more ground today. All season long, this has been a streaky team, so hopefully they will continue to ride this current streak.

[Update: All my positive mentions of Bigley were not in vain. He took home Eastern League player of the week honors for this past week.]

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Strange Jersey Sighting at Citi Field

Darin Mastroianni: The Pride of Bedford, NY
I attended a work outing last night, the Mets-Orioles game at Citi Field. It was 94 degrees at game time and a little bit uncomfortable, but the game ended up being good. Citi Field is a nice, new stadium. I prefer Target Field and Camden Yards to Citi Field, but make no mistake -- it's a great place to watch a game. They have plenty of food offerings, a nice open concourse, and -- especially important last night to escape the heat -- a bunch of small clubs inside the stadium.

Our group had upper deck seats behind home plate, and surprisingly these seats allowed admission into the Promenade Club. It's not as nice as the Metropolitan Club, but it had air conditioning and water. I spent the last couple innings of the game there, sitting in comfort and watching essentially on TV. As we were leaving, I walked past a guy in a light colored pinstriped jersey. Of course, I assumed it was a Johan Santana or David Wright or Gary Carter jersey. But I was wrong: this stranger was sporting an authentic, game quality Darin Mastroianni #19 Twins jersey. It turns out this Mets fan was Darin's cousin. Darin is originally from Bedford, NY, and still has family in the area. It was definitely strange to see. I haven't been to Target Field this season yet, but I can't imagine that Mastroianni jerseys have become big sellers! So to see one at Citi Field was shocking enough to prompt me to talk to the guy.

Every now and then you get a reminder of just how small the world really is.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Rock Cats' June Swoon

Rocky the Rock Cat: Proud to be
an American
The New Britain Rock Cats find themselves in the middle of a tough stretch of baseball. They lost last night, 8-1, to the Altoona Curve, and only tallied 6 hits all evening -- 3 from Evan Bigley, which is good for him -- but that leaves much to be desired. Here's what I wrote for the TwinsDaily Tuesday Minor League Recap:

"The Rock Cats continued their slide in the Eastern League standings, getting hammered tonight. Logan Darnell was charged with the loss, throwing 5 innings, and allowing 4 earned runs (6 total) on 10 hits. He struck out 1. Daniel Sattler (recent St. Paul Saints signing) made his AA debut tonight. In 2 innings of work, he gave up 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 2. Blake Martin allowed 1 run in 1 inning of work, allowing no hits, but walking 3 and striking out 2.

"Like the [AAA Rochester] Red Wings, the Rock Cats only got 6 hits all evening. Top prospect Oswaldo Arcia had a debut he would probably like to forget. He was 0-for-4 with 3 strikeouts. Oh well; he'll be back tomorrow and probably much better. Evan Bigley was the best offensive player tonight, going 3-for-3 with a double and an RBI. Bigley is likely to lose playing time to Arcia, so he is probably feeling motivated to play well when he gets the opportunity. Aaron Hicks returned to the lineup after being out about a week with an ankle sprain. He was 1-for-4. Deibinson Romero and James Beresford each singled for New Britain. Romero also had the only walk of the evening for the Rock Cats."

You can read the rest of the report here (if you are at all interested in the Twins minor league system, I highly recommend checking this report out each morning on TwinsDaily -- in just 2-3 minutes of time you can have a good overview of what's happening in the entire organization).

Now, let's take a look more specifically at what has happened in June to New Britain. In 16 games this month, the Rock Cats are 4-12. Twice they have lost six games in a row, including the current streak they are riding. In these most recent six games, New Britain has scored 10 total runs (1.66 runs per game), while allowing 28 runs (4.66 runs per game). In the earlier stretch of 6 straight losses, the numbers were somewhat similar: 18 runs scored (3 per game), and 33 allowed (5.5 per game). It doesn't take a math genius to realize that it's tough to win when you are scoring, on average, about 3 runs less than you are allowing.
Additionally, in the most recent 6-game skid, the Rock Cats have achieved double digits in hits only once, and that was in a game that took 12 innings to decide. In this same stretch, they have hit only 1 home run (Nathan Hanson), 7 doubles, and 2 triples. When this team was winning in April and May, it never lived and died by the home run, but more power would be nice. Hopefully, with the return of Aaron Hicks to the lineup after being out one week with a sprained ankle, and with the recent promotion of top prospect Oswaldo Arcia to the team, the Rock Cats will be injected with some new life.

This appears to be a stretch where both the offense and the pitching is to blame -- it's not as if New Britain is scoring 10 runs a game and losing, or as if the pitching staff is tossing 2-hitters and simply is not getting any run support. The baseball season is so long that every team is bound to have these stretches of games where the guys simply aren't getting it done on both sides.

As of today, the Rock Cats are in third place -- 5 games out of first place -- and currently are two games above .500, at 35-33. The Trenton Thunder, at 40-28, are in first place, and they come to New Britain next week (Tuesday through Friday)  for a 4-game series that represents a good chance for the Rock Cats to make up some ground that they have lost in June.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ben Revere: Placeholder?

If Ben Revere's legacy with the Twins is as a speedy outfielder who
was a placeholder until better players developed, that's just fine
If you read this blog with any regularity, it's no secret that I'm a Ben Revere supporter. Despite his shortcomings (bad arm and no power to speak of), I still, and probably always will, maintain that Revere can be a useful and productive player for the Twins. It's important to recognize that, since returning to the Twins after a stint at AAA Rochester, Revere has been pretty darn good. As of today, here's his slash line: .328/.353/.397. He has 5 doubles, 2 triples and 9 RBIs in 131 at-bats; he has stolen 11 bases and has been caught only twice. Last year, in 450 at-bats, he had 9 doubles -- so we are seeing slightly more power (also evidenced by the .309 slugging percentage in 2011 compared with the .397 slugging percentage thus far in 2012). Incidentally, if you really want to rag on him for his lack of power, please note that his OPS in 2012 is 5th best on the team (just behind Justin Morneau, and just ahead of Denard Span). As others have mentioned, though, there still is not much power to speak of, and Revere has only drawn 4 walks -- so his on-base percentage is largely dependent on his batting average, which right now is very good. I'll also add to the equation that he has made probably a half-dozen highlight reel catches in this time frame, and that he just turned 24, which means that he will be entering what should be his athletic prime over the next 2-4 seasons.

Today, though, I'm thinking about Revere's role in the future of this team. Many people list Revere's shortcomings, especially the facts that his arm is below-average and that he will never hit for power, and suggest that he probably cannot be a long-term starter for a major league team. I admit that there's merit to that. But I pose a different, and more relevant question: can he be a relatively low-cost starter for this team for the next few years? And I think the answer to that question is a resounding "yes." I'm firmly of the belief that the Twins will not be a playoff-caliber team until 2014 at the very, very earliest. Yes, 2012 will probably be better than 2011; and I expect 2013 to be better than 2012. But there is still a long road to travel. If the Twins can trade Denard Span this summer -- which they should if they can get a good package -- the door is open for Revere to establish himself as the Twins' center fielder.

Maybe the Twins will get lucky -- perhaps Joe Benson or Aaron Hicks will prove themselves ready for Target Field and will play Revere out of his starting job -- but that's certainly speculative. Hicks, in my opinion, is at least another season out; and who knows how Benson will perform once he overcomes the wrist injury that is currently sidelining him. For now, and perhaps for the foreseeable future, Revere might be the Twins' best option.

Very rarely does a player come along with the complete package. And no one would suggest that Revere is such a player. But, if you agree with me that the Twins are traversing down a road to recovery that could take 3-4 years, what difference does it make if Revere is lacking in a few tools? The real focus should be on the Twins improving each year as prospects mature, and if Ben Revere is nothing more than a placeholder for 2 years -- at a total cost of under $2 million -- until Hicks or Benson plays him out of a job, I'd be fine with that, especially if the Twins can get a good return for Span in order to facilitate this move. I'm not really treading any new ground today, except for noting -- primarily for the benefit of the Revere detractors -- that it really doesn't matter if Revere is an All-Star caliber outfielder in 2012 or 2013. He's by no means a bad player, and for the Twins right now -- and in the short-term future -- that just might be good enough.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Top Prospect Oswaldo Arcia Promoted to New Britain

New Rock Cats outfielder Oswaldo Arcia
It was announced this morning that Oswaldo Arcia, an outfielder in the Twins organization, has been promoted from the Ft. Myers miracle to the Rock Cats. I haven't written too much about Arcia, mainly because I haven't seen him play at all in person, but he is generally considered a top 5 prospect in the Twins system -- a player to be excited about. Here's something else to be excited about: he just turned 21 this May, making him almost a year-and-a-half younger than Aaron Hicks, who will turn 23 in October -- an age that is generally regarded as young from AA level baseball. As I mentioned earlier today, the Rock Cats could use some more offense, and Arcia might be just what they need.

The Twins signed Arcia, a native of Venezuela, in 2008, and he has quickly accelerated through the minor league system. He was batting .352/.420/.704 in Low-A Beloit last season before being promoted to the Ft. Myers Miracle mid-season. In 2 months of action this season in Ft. Myers, Arcia's batting line was .309/.376/.517. In 207 at-bats for the Miracle, he had 7 home runs, 3 triples and 16 doubles, as well as 31 RBIs. Taking a look back, in 2011, after his mid-season promotion to Ft. Myers, he logged an almost identical number of at-bats -- 213, to be precise. In that partial season, his slash line was .263/.300/.460, with 8 home runs, 2 triples, 14 doubles and 32 RBIs. It was nice to see the batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage all increase in 2012.

I think some interesting things are going to happen in New Britain over the coming weeks. There is a glut of outfielders (or guys that can play in the outfield) in New Britain. There's Hicks, who is still considered a top prospect but has not exceeded expectations this season; there's Rene Tosoni, who has major league experience but isn't playing very well down here; there's Joe Benson, recovering from wrist surgery and needing to find his swing again; there's Evan Bigley, who is 25 and in his second full (third partial) season with New Britain, and has not put up numbers to justify a AAA call-up; and there's Mark Dolenc, 27 and struggling through his third full AA season. Even Nathan Hanson -- swinging a great bat lately -- has played 6 games in left field this season.

There are just too many outfielders on this team to give everyone playing time, especially considering that Hicks, Arcia and Benson are all considered "top level" Twins prospects that will command playing time -- and I might add Chris Herrmann into this conversation because he has to be added to the 40 man roster after this season and has shown himself capable of playing left field on days when he is not catching. In other words, there are too many outfielders for the number of available positions and innings. Arcia has played right field exclusively this season at Ft. Myers. Hicks and Benson are pure center fielders. So, when healthy, the 3 can co-exist in the same outfield (it just means that one of Hicks or Benson would have to play left field). But it seems inevitable that at least one other outfielder will have to be demoted, and this isn't even factoring in other additions that may be made to the Rock Cats roster (including today's addition of former St. Paul Saints pitcher Daniel Sattler to the New Britain roster).

Congratulations to Oswaldo Arcia, and we look forward to seeing you in action soon!

[UPDATE: Shortly after publishing this article, I was informed that Mark Dolenc was released by the Twins. This partially solves some of the playing time issues, and is also tough news for Dolenc, who I have heard is nothing but a professional and an extremely nice guy. I hope he catches on somewhere else.]

AA and AAA: Where is the Offense??

The look of a displaced man who will
never again see Target Field

For purposes of this post, I need to start of with 2 limitations: First, I'm thinking about players in the upper levels of the minor leagues that have yet to "make it" with the Twins in any real sense of that phrase. I'll exclude from this discussion Brian Dozier, Chris Parmelee and Darin Mastroianni, because they are all playing for the Twins right now, and Sean Burroughs, because he is too old to be a legitimate prospect. Second, for simplicity, I'm just going to look at batting average. I have linked to each player's stats, so you can explore in greater depth their production this season. Although I recognize that things like on-base percentage and OPS are also great measurements -- perhaps even better indicators of batting prowess -- I'm just focusing today on these position players' ability to hit for average. With those caveats . . . where is the offense in the upper levels of the Twins minor league system?

Let's start in Rochester. Right now, the Red Wings' highest batting average comes from Matt Carson, who is going to turn 31 in less than a month and is batting .296. It's a pretty steep drop after that. Ray Chang (turning 29 in August) and Pedro Florimon (25 years old) are batting .248. Wilkin Ramirez, 26 and with major league experience, is hitting .242. And possibly the worst stats come from two players Twins fans wish they could be counting on in 2012: Danny Valencia is hitting .238, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka is batting .223. Finally, remember Brian Dinkelman? Hitting .186. Based on the player age and level of experience, it might be a safe bet to call Pedro Florimon our best hitting "prospect" at AAA right now.

The circumstances in New Britain are better, but not by leaps and bounds. James Beresford, 23 years old and teetering around .300 last week, is hitting a respectable and solid .286. Nathan Hanson, 25, is hitting .279. Both players have been very hot the past couple weeks, raising their averages by 20 points or so. Catcher Chris Herrmann, 24, has been streaky this year, and is currently at an even .260. Deibinson Romero, 25, has shown power, and is batting .250. Aaron Hicks, only 22, is hitting .244 and is currently sidelined with an ankle injury. Finally, Evan Bigley, 25, is hitting .234. In terms of legitimate prospects and batting production, I might order the top few AA players Herrmann, Hicks, Beresford and Romero -- based on what they have done this season.

I have omitted some players, but none that have impressive offensive stats or are young enough to be considered legitimate major league prospects. The bottom line is that, midway through the 2012 season, there isn't a AA or AAA player batting .300 (incidentally, the highest OPS at AA is Romero's .769; at AAA it is Carson's .825). This post isn't intended to be an indictment on the Twins' farm system as much as it is a quick evaluation of where our best hitters are. And the answer to that question appears to be the lower levels of the minors. Just today, Oswaldo Arcia was promoted to New Britain. Hopefully he can inject some life into the recently sputtering Rock Cats offense. I'm hoping his .309/.376/.517 line at Ft. Myers can carry over into central Connecticut.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Beyond the Box Score II: Anatomy of a Rock Cats Loss

The Battery: Brett Jacobson and
Chris Herrmann going over
details before the game
  I stayed for all 12 innings of last night's 3-2 loss to the Akron Aeros. It was a picture-perfect night for baseball, but by hour 4 of baseball, the crowd was probably only 100 in number. If there's one takeaway from this game -- one reason New Britain lost -- it's simply a result of an almost complete failure to drive in runners in scoring position. Despite the fact that the Rock Cats tallied 14 hits in the contest, they scored only 2 runs, and most glaringly, they were 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position. Yes, there were some hard line drives that were caught, and some smashed grounders that just failed to make it past the Akron infielders, but mostly this team just couldn't get a base hit when it mattered.

Brett Jacobson had a solid start. He allowed 2 runs in 5 and 1/3 innings. His control was very good up until he tired. Notably, Jacobson struck out 6, including the side in the second inning. He had walked only one going into the 6th inning, but then quickly unraveled after recording one out in the 6th. After he walked two consecutive batters, that was it for him. He must have been on a pretty short leash. In all honesty, though, after looking fine in the 5th, he looked gassed in the 6th. The stadium radar gun had his fastball around 92, and I saw it register at 93 a couple times. His curveball was effective tonight, as well. Bobby Lanigan was good out of the bullpen, allowing no hits in 2 and 2/3 innings. Bruce Pugh was wild, walking 2 in 2 innings, but he didn't allow a run. Although he didn't pitch badly, Luis Perdomo took a tough loss: a single, stolen base, and another single scored what would turn out to be the winning run for Akron in the top of inning 12.

Player of the Game: Minnesota's Own
Nathan Hanson, who dramatically
raised his batting average last night
The Rock Cats' offense was a mixed bag. Let's start out with the star performer last night, Minnesotan Nathan Hanson. He was 5-for-6, and was a home run away from the cycle. Hanson is now batting a respectable .274 on the year. In the bottom of the 10th, with one out, Hanson hit a long fly ball to left field. In many ballparks this might have been a home run. At New Britain Stadium, though, where the wall is approximately 15 feet high all the way around, this resulted in a triple after it hit about 10 feet high on the wall. Hanson was at third, and represented the winning run, with only one out. Unfortunately, Chris Colabello -- who actually is leading the entire Eastern League in RBIs -- grounded out to the pitcher, and after Chris Herrmann was intentionally walked, Mark Dolenc took a called third strike to end the threat.

The other "problem" -- if you can call it that, is that, aside from Hanson's double and triple, there were no extra base hits. The Rock Cats have several players capable of hitting home runs and doubles at any given time, but the team couldn't get big hits, especially hits that would have cleared the bases, when it counted. Deibinson Romero did have 2 hits, as did Rene Tosoni. Tosoni, however, is only batting .210 thus far on the season for New Britain. Australian prospect James Beresford had a single in 5 trips, and is batting .286 on the year.
James Beresford bats in the 2nd inning

The Rock Cats finish up a week-long homestand this weekend, playing a series against the Erie Seawolves, the Tigers' affiliate. After losing 2 of 3 to the Aeros, who own the best record in the Eastern League, the Rock Cats are in 3rd place, but are just 2 games back of the Trenton Thunder, who currently sit atop the division. This would be a good weekend for New Britain to pick up some ground at home, before the team hits the road again. The weather is supposed to be great this weekend, so I would expect big crowds at the ballpark.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

One Reason Why the Twins Shouldn't Trade Josh Willingham

Josh Willingham: Trade Bait?
 Over the past few weeks, I have enjoyed reading various posts from other bloggers concerning the Twins' potential trade chips. Names like Denard Span, Matt Capps and Francisco Liriano keep coming up. If nothing else, the speculation is interesting, but, like others, I do think it's a little early to be sending players away; if the Twins do become sellers, ideally I'd like to see them wait until a contending team is very desperate for help, and then begin negotiations from that starting point.

There's another name that I keep reading as a possible trade chip: Josh Willingham. Willingham has been nothing short of fantastic for the Twins this season, and his offense has essentially made up for his below-average defense (hey, we hired the bat, knowing that the glove came with it, right?). After last night's game, Willingham leads the Twins in runs (37), home runs (13), RBIs (44), and is batting .290 and getting on base at a .405 clip. Here's his ESPN stat sheet if you want more info. He has replaced Michael Cuddyer as the Twins' right-handed power bat, and then some. As the weather heats up, and June becomes July, Terry Ryan almost certainly will get phone calls from organizations looking for a power bat down the stretch. Willingham has made Target Field look small; imagine what he could do in a hitters' park? I have no doubt that Willingham could be a key acquisition for a team looking to stock up for a summer run.

But when he gets those phone calls, Ryan should hang up the phone, and here's just one reason why: trading Willingham in the first half of his first season as a Twin would send the wrong message to future free agents that the Twins will need to acquire down the road. Willingham's 3-year, $21 million contract is the largest ever free agent contract handed out by the Twins. Simply stated, signing (relatively) expensive free agents that came up in other organizations is not the way the Twins do business. Willingham's contract was an aberration to the Twins' traditional business model.

Unfortunately, though, that model probably is going to have to change. With payroll set to come off the books for 2013, and with many vacancies in the pitching rotation -- and few current, reliable in-house options -- Terry Ryan is going to have to sign at least one legitimate free agent starting pitcher to help anchor the rotation in 2013 and beyond. And that's just one area of need.

If the Twins trade Willingham this summer for anything less than a Matt Capps-for-Wilson Ramos haul, it sends the message to future free agent acquisitions that the Twins will deal you in a heartbeat if things go south. Yes, we all hoped the Twins would be much better in 2012 than they were in 2011, and that hasn't exactly been the case. But if I am the agent for a player set to become a free agent after this season, and I am fielding calls from the Twins, who recently traded away Willingham after only 1/6 of his contract, my first question to Terry Ryan is "what kind of security can you provide for my client?" In short, my worry is that the Twins will create reputation that could complicate future deals, simply because they do not have an established track record with longer-term free agent contracts with players from other organizations.

Yes, I know that baseball is a business -- often a dirty business behind closed doors. Fans see the green grass, the chalk lines, the uniforms, and that's about it. They don't see the negotiations, the holdouts, and the underpaid minor leaguers living 6 in an apartment with 1 Foreman grill between them. The point here is that the Twins don't exactly have an established history of handing out multi-year, multi-million dollar free agent contracts, and a short tenure for Willingham in Minnesota could spell trouble for future deals. If I'm that free agent pitcher deciding between clubs, I either need more money from Minnesota, knowing that they might dump me in my first season, or protection in the form of a no-trade clause, in order for a deal to happen. This isn't about hurt feelings from players being dealt; it's about business and security -- and players care about those things.

This all might be a moot point, anyway. I simply don't see the Twins dealing Willingham this season. The organization is very fond of players of Willingham's ilk. And just think of what the team's record would be right now without The Hammer?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Night We Almost Spilled Beer on the Big Canadian (2012 Justin Morneau Casino Night)

For the second consecutive year, my wife and I made the flight to Minnesota for Justin Morneau's Casino Night. It's a charity event for the Arthritis Foundation -- specifically, juvenile arthritis (Justin's niece suffers from juvenile arthritis). It's part of the Twins week of hope. Instead of hitting up a couple games at Target Field this year, we opted for this event instead, held at International Market Square, just a few blocks from Target Field. The Twins might not be very good this year, or even next year, but if there is one thing this organization does well, it is being active in the community and using celebrity to raise awareness and money for worthy causes. Yes, all sports teams do this stuff.

Justin Morneau appears unscathed despite narrowly
avoiding an Amstel Light

But, as I have mentioned before, good luck meeting Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez for under $1,000 per person, and good luck having a beer with David Ortiz in Boston for under $500. The Twins are accessible and in the community. In my mind, this event costs about as much as good seats to 2 Twins games, and quite frankly, I'd rather have a guaranteed good time at Casino Night.

This picture with Morneau was taken about 20 seconds after my wife accidentally knocked a full beer off the card table and onto the ground, just next to Morneau's feet. He was a good sport, mentioning that he'll forget about the the fact that his tux smells like beer until next June when he pulls it out of the plastic bag again.

2011 Rock Cat, 2012 Twin, Brian Dozier
This year, I've been doing a lot of Rock Cats stuff, and was looking forward to meeting Brian Dozier, whom I had watched several times last season but had never met. Yes, he's been up and down this season with respect to his defensive and offensive performances, and yes, there are going to be bumps and bruises along the way, but I do believe that he's the Twins' shortstop of the future. Also, he's an exceedingly nice human being. From speaking to loyal Rock Cats fans, I can tell you that he has not, and likely will not, forget where he came from.

I opted NOT to ask Joe Mauer about his engagement,
unlike the 10 people before me

Joe Mauer was a pretty big draw. Women, especially, wanted to congratulate him on his engagement. This was the first time that I met him in person, and I'm still shocked he doesn't hit for more power: the guy is huge -- even compared to the other players there. As you have probably read 1,000 times, Mauer was extremely nice to EVERYONE that wanted to talk to him. We spoke for about 5 minutes, and he asked me for an update on Alex Wimmers' progress after I told him where I lived and that I followed the Rock Cats players pretty closely.

It was a really fun night. The food was good, the silent and live auction items were great, the beer and wine were flowing, and most of the Twins players -- the ones you would want to meet, anyway -- were there. Here are a couple other snapshots from the night.

You know you've made it when someone designs
a logo for you

The Big Canadian giving a keynote address
Future politician?

My wife, 5 feet 2 inches (in heels admittedly),
was not dwarfed by Ben Revere

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rock Cats Starting to Rebound

B.J. Hermsen, perhaps
the MVP for the
Rock Cats this
past month
After winning 2 of 3 on the road at Erie over the weekend, the Rock Cats earned a much needed day off, though much of it was probably spent on the team bus headed back to Connecticut. Beginning tonight, the team is home for 6 games, before another week on the road. As I like to do once a week or so, I'll take a look at the team's performance, including a couple players that are currently standing out.

Importantly, the offense came back alive over the weekend. After scoring a combined 7 runs in 3 games against the Akron Aeros, the Rock Cats tallied 19 runs in their 3 games against Erie. Currently, New Britain is just 1 game back in their division, sitting in a tie with the Reading Phillies for second place.

Here are a few players that have been getting the job done this past week.

First, James Beresford: .296/.362/.340, 3 2B, 2 3B, 14 RBIs. Check out James' stats for the last 10 games: .417/.462/.556. 3 of his 5 extra base hits this season have come in these past 10 games. He's leading the Rock Cats in batting average far and away, and has been on a hot streak lately. Let's hope he can continue this recent success as we get into summer! It would be great to have one of the every-day players hitting above .300.

Evan Bigley: .243/.287/.410, 12 2B, 3 3B, 7 HR, 37 RBIs. Admittedly, I haven't written much about Bigley this season. For me, he has sort of flown under the radar. The 25 year old Texas native is an outfielder for New Britain, in his second full season with the team. His power stroke has been showing in the past 10 games: .317/.333/.634, 4 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBIs. Hopefully Evan will continue to knock the ball around.

B.J. Hermsen: 4-2, 2.59 ERA, 42 K, 11 BB, 55 and 2/3 innings. Hermsen has been nothing short of excellent for New Britain. This team has lost its most dependable pitchers, including Lucas French, to promotion, and that's part of the reason why the Rock Cats' record has stagnated to a degree. That's minor league baseball for you. The fact that Hermsen, 22, has been able to step up and can be counted on to pitch deep into games has been great for New Britain. His shortest start of the season for the Rock Cats is 5 innings; in 8 total starts, he has pitched 7 or more innings 6 times; 7 of his 8 starts have been quality starts. In fact, since he joined the Rock Cats on May 1, I might argue that Hermsen has been their most valuable player -- certainly their most valuable pitcher.

Up ahead: I'll be at either Wednesday's or Thursday's Rock Cats game, so expect a report, analysis and pictures from that. And tomorrow morning expect a recap and pictures from Justin Morneau's Casino Night, with a Rock Cats twist.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Rock Cats Lose 4th Straight

Thanks, Google Image search!
Every Wednesday evening, I write a recap of all the Twins minor league action, which you can find at TwinsDaily. Take a look if you haven't already. Here's what I wrote about last night's Rock Cats game:

Starter Brett Jacobson allowed too many hits tonight -- 10 in 4 and 1/3 innings. He gave up 5 runs, striking out 1 and walking 1. Out of the bullpen, Daniel Turpen pitched 1 and 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out 1. Bruce Pugh struck out 2 in an inning of relief. Luis Perdomo gave up 1 run in the 8th inning, striking out 2, walking 2, and giving up a single.
The Rock Cats scattered 9 hits tonight. James Beresford had 2 singles, Rene Tosoni had a solo home run (his first of the season at AA), Chris Herrmann had 2 hits, and Matt Rizzotti, Deibinson Romero, Shawn Roof and Evan Bigley each had singles, as well. Beresford, Tosoni, Bigley, and Minnesota's own Nathan Hanson had RBIs tonight. The Rock Cats did walk 6 times in this game, so at least that was encouraging.

Here's the link to the box score.

A couple additional things I didn't mention in that write-up. First, as I noted yesterday morning, infielder James Beresford is leading the team in batting average. After 2 hits last night -- line drives to center field and left field -- he's up to .282. It's nice to see at least one player on the team inching closer to .300.

Second, the Rock Cats had the bases loaded with only 1 out in the 5th inning, but were unable to plate a run (reminds me a little of recent Twins teams). Evan Bigley struck out and Matt Rizzotti popped out to end the threat. That ended up being their best chance all night.

Third, with last night's loss, the Rock Cats fell into a tie for second place, 1 game behind the Trenton Thunder (Yankees affiliate).

Finally, there have been some suggestions, mostly on TwinsDaily, that first round pick and top Twins prospect Aaron Hicks should be converted to a pitcher. Hicks is 22, is in his first season at AA (being one of the younger players is the Eastern League), and is doing all right. Defensively, he could play center field for the Twins tonight and not be out of his element. Offensively, he's not there yet. But I don't think we should start the crazy talk of converting a speedy outfielder with raw power into pitcher. Most professional baseball players -- especially outfielders -- can probably throw a baseball 90 miles per hour. And yes, Hicks did pitch in high school. If you're a high school baseball coach, and one of your players has the ability to throw 90, you have to have him pitch: high school athletes can't hit a good fastball. But to suggest to Hicks that he should become a pitcher, after not having pitched in 4 years, seems insane to me. Let me reiterate: he's 22 years old. That is still very young for where he is. Don't let Bryce Harper and Mike Trout fool you -- most players don't make the major leagues until their mid-20s, even first round draft picks (heck, something like 40 percent of first round picks never play in a single major league game). Hicks needs a chance to develop as an offensive threat, not a complete re-shifting of his professional career.

New Britain is back in action tonight, as they try to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Aeros.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wednesday's Rock Cats Report

Quietly, and with many, many singles,
Rock Cats infielder James Beresford is leading
the team in batting average
Last night, the Rock Cats lost to the Akron Aeros 6-2. Starter B.J. Hermsen took a tough loss, giving up 3 runs (only 1 earned) in 5 innings, but he wasn't aided much by his defense, which committed 2 errors while he was on the mound. Hermsen is 3-2 on the season with an ERA of 2.96. Very solid. He has walked 5 and struck out 25 in his 7 starts (48 and 2/3 innings) as a Rock Cat. Deibinson Romero and Evan Bigley provided the offense, both hitting solo home runs for New Britain. For more, here's a great summary of the game by Nodak Twins Fan.

The Rock Cats lost another player to promotion to AAA Rochester. Starting pitcher Steve Hirschfeld was promoted earlier this week. He was 4-4 on the season with a 3.2 ERA. In 64 and 2/3 innings this season for New Britain, he gave up 73 hits, walked 16 and struck out 44, for a WHIP of 1.38. Good luck, Steve! As noted in the Hartford Courant this week, Hirschfeld is the 8th player promoted from New Britain this season. Aside from Wilkin Ramirez, Darin Mastroianni and Pedro Florimon, the bulk of the promoted players have been pitchers, including Lucas French, Deolis Guerra, Lester Oliveros and David Bromberg (I guess you can also count Jason Marquis, but that hardly worked out well for anyone). This, as I have mentioned before, is the tough part about minor league baseball: your best talent rarely stays for too long. In return, New Britain has received players such as Hermsen, Caleb Thielbar and Bruce Pugh, who all saw success at A-level Ft. Myers. Hopefully, they can continue their success in the Eastern League.

Although they have lost 3 consecutive games, as of this morning, the Rock Cats are in a tie for first place in their division. Both the Trenton Thunder (suddenly very hot) and New Britain are 32-24, good for a .571 winning percentage. The Rock Cats continue their series against the Aeros tonight. Incidentally, I heard that it was a 10-hour bus ride to Akron.

Finally, as I try to do every week or so, I'll take a look at a few prospects and highlight how they are doing on the season, and in recent days.

Aaron Hicks: .246/.341/.396, 8 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 28 RBIs, 15 stolen bases (caught 4 times).
In his last 10 games, Hicks is hitting .233/.333/.410 with a home run, 3 RBIs and 9 walks. I have been getting a few questions lately about Hicks and a promotion. As Seth Stohs noted recently, Hicks needs to be added to the 40 man roster after this season. In my opinion, though, Hicks is playing this season where he needs to play. Defensively, he's ready for the majors, but significant work needs to be done at the plate, including a determination of whether he will continue to switch hit. Twins fans, Aaron Hicks is 22 years old -- still a young prospect who the Twins took out of high school. There's no point in sending him to AAA when he's not even batting .250 in the Eastern League. I have confidence that he will materialize, but it might take a little more time than some want.

Chris Herrmann: .250/.313/.401, 14 2B, 5 HR, 19 RBIs.
In his last 10 games, Herrmann is struggling, batting .125/.300/.219 with a home run, 3 RBIs and 8 walks. If you happened to miss it, I recently interviewed Herrmann. Take a look. My opinion is that, like Hicks, Herrmann is where he needs to be right now. Hicks and Herrmann are not similar prospects, though. Hicks, as a 22 year old first round outfield prospect drafted out of high school, needs to be developed slowly and carefully, especially considering that the Twins have good outfield talent in their system. Herrmann, a 24 year old catcher with D-1 college experience, is already second on my depth chart for catchers in the entire organization. If Herrmann can get that average up to around .270, and demonstrate more plate discipline, I'd like to see him promoted this season. The interesting question is should he go to Rochester or Minnesota? Ordinarily, you think about a guy working his way through the minors and going up the ladder one step at a time. What about a catcher, though? If the expectation in Minnesota is that Herrmann will be Joe Mauer's back-up sooner rather than later, does it make more sense to send him directly to Minnesota this September to learn how to catch the different pitchers on the Twins roster? Or, is it better for his development to catch AAA-level pitchers (many of which he already caught in New Britain) and work on hitting at that level? It's an interesting question.

James Beresford: .273/.346/.302., 2 2B, 1 3B, 11 RBIs.
In his last 10 games, the Australian Beresford is hitting .294/.333/.353. Very quietly, Beresford is leading the Rock Cats in batting average, and although he generally flies under the radar, it's important to give mention when it is due. The problem with Beresford's stats, though, is that they are barren when it comes to power. Of his 38 hits this season, 2 were doubles and 1 was a triple. And for a middle infielder, he apparently is not very fast (or is not a good base-stealer), going 0-for-3 in stolen base attempts. But perhaps just as importantly, the defense has been solid: he has only 1 error in 202 chances between second base and shortstop. I don't realistically think of Beresford as the Twins second baseman of the future, but he's only 23 years old, and there is still time for development.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Revisiting Jose Mijares

Jose Mijares doesn't look much thinner in 2012,
but he has been much more effective.
I was somewhat surprised last winter when the Twins declined to offer portly lefty reliever Jose Mijares a contract for 2012. Joe Christensen of the Star Tribune guessed that the Twins would have ended up paying Mijares around $700,000 this season through the arbitration process. On the one hand, $700,000 isn't even 1 percent of the Twins' 2012 payroll; but on the other hand, Mijares was downright bad last season. And it wasn't just last season, either: every season since 2008 -- the year that Mijares debuted with Minnesota -- his ERA has increased (0.87; 2.34; 3.31; 4.59 in 2008-2011, respectively).

Additionally, there were other off-the-field issues with Mijares. He was never in very good shape. He reported late to Spring Training in 2010 when he was detained for suspicious hair gel in his luggage, and had missed TwinsFest that same year due to visa issues. In 2009, as the Twins were completing a historic comeback in September to win the Central division, Mijares and teammate Delmon Young almost got into a fight when Young was hit in the knee by a Detroit Tigers pitcher in retaliation for Mijares throwing a fastball behind Adam Everett. Stated Young after the incident: "I knew somebody was going to have to wear it. You can't throw behind one of their players . . . and expect nothing to happen. [Mijares] needs to pay attention to how baseball's played." Finally, in 2011, there was the incident in Milwaukee, where Mijares served up a game-winning, 2 run double to Prince Fielder, then later faulted Joe Mauer for calling for nothing but fastballs in the at-bat. In response, Mauer stated that he "didn't call for it down the middle." This last incident prompted a team meeting.

The point here isn't to go through all the negative things Mijares allegedly did in his time as a Minnesota Twin but, rather, to underscore the fact that both on-the-field and off-the-field things likely contributed to the Twins' decision to let Mijares walk. For me, aside from Mijares' 2011 ERA of 4.59, the worst thing he did was walk batters last season. In fact, he walked 30 batters in 49 innings pitched, and his WHIP was 1.694 in 2011. That's unacceptable, especially for a guy who the Twins should have been able to count on in high-leverage situations. Instead, it was Glen Perkins that assumed that role.

But if you've watched Mijares this season (like last night, for instance), playing for the Kansas City Royals, he looks more like the Mijares of 2009. I thought he was pretty darn good last night against the Twins. In 1 and 1/3 innings, he struck out 3, walked none and allowed no hits. Back on April 27 in his other outing against the Twins, Mijares picked up the win, throwing a scoreless inning and allowing one hit. After last night's outing, here are Mijares' stats for 2012: 24 innings pitched; 2.25 ERA; 22 hits; 6 earned runs; 2 home runs allowed; 5 walks; 20 strikeouts; 1.13 WHIP. ESPN states that the Royals are paying Mijares $925,000 for his services this season.

It's clear that Mijares wore out his welcome in Minnesota. He got progressively worse each season, and lost the ability to consistently throw strikes. There were personality issues, and concerns over the way that Mijares took care of his body. In short, it wasn't shocking that the Twins decided to sever the relationship. But look at how Mijares is pitching now! I'm not sure what changed; possibly it was just as simple as having a fresh start. The Twins' 2012 bullpen has been better than the starting rotation, but there's still room for improvement. As we move closer to the trade deadline, closer Matt Capps could be sought after by teams looking for late-inning bullpen help. If the Twins are in the cellar of the AL Central, it's a move I wouldn't be at all surprised to see. In that event, Glen Perkins would almost certainly take over as closer. And if that scenario takes place (I think there's a good chance of it happening), the Twins certainly could use a lefty arm out of the bullpen.

After watching Mijares have 2 good performances against his former team, and looking at his 2012 stats, which are reminiscent of the good work he did in the beginning of his Twins career, I'm wondering how the Minnesota front office feels about their decision. Again, it's tough to fault them based on Mijares' body of work over the past couple seasons, and we know that it's incredibly easy (and fun!) to cull statistics and play Monday Morning Quarterback. But it's not as if Mijares was set to make $4 million this season, or was on the cusp of free agency. So although I certainly didn't foresee that Mijares would come out of the gates in 2012 and be a reliable reliever, I still think that the abrupt parting of ways last December was a bit premature. For Mijares, my guess is that the change of scenery did him a world of good.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Interview with Twins' Catching Prospect Chris Herrmann

Chris Herrmann (courtesy of Tia Ann Chapman, Hartford Courant)
The Minnesota Twins used their sixth round selection in 2009 to draft Chris Herrmann, a native of Tomball, Texas. Herrmann transferred from Alvin Community College to the University of Miami. He had been drafted in the tenth round of the 2008 draft by the Baltimore Orioles, but did not sign. Herrmann is in his fourth season in the Twins' minor league system, currently playing for the Rock Cats. He is the team's starting catcher, but also plays left field and serves as designated hitter.

His ascension through the minor league system has been steady. He played 59 games for Elizabethton in 2009, played the entire 2010 season in Ft. Myers, and started 2011 in Ft. Myers but quickly was promoted to the Rock Cats. Last season, Herrmann batted .258/.380/.392 for New Britain, with 14 doubles and 7 home runs. So far in 2012, Herrmann is hitting .253/.309/.405 with 14 doubles and 5 home runs. As you can see, although the on-base percentage is lower, Herrmann is hitting for more power this season (the exchange of more power for fewer walks is interesting to note). He has thrown out 36 percent of base-stealers this season, and has yet to commit an error. This is notable because he has played 33 games at catcher, 11 in left field, and 1 at third base.

As I have recently mentioned, I believe that Herrmann is a candidate for promotion this season. Aside from the pitchers that the Rock Cats have sent up to Rochester this season, there haven't been many standout position players worthy of promotion. My guess is that Herrmann will probably be the first. If he can get that batting average and on-base percentage up just a little bit, I would not be at all surprised to see him in a Twins uniform this September. He's 24, he is hitting for more power this season, and he is a good catcher. Also -- and just as importantly -- there's not much depth behind Joe Mauer. Drew Butera, Rene Rivera and J.R. Towles certainly should not stand in Herrmann's way. In the best case scenario, I believe that Herrmann can take the place of Ryan Doumit next season, for about 15 percent of Doumit's salary, and make a positive difference for the Twins. Herrmann's emergence in Minnesota next season also would solve the Drew Butera problem. Finally, Herrmann is also useful because he has the ability to play the outfield when necessary, and is not a defensive liability in left field. Yes, he's not a perfect prospect, but looking at the Twins' catching depth chart, he might already be second in the entire organization. Herrmann would be a very good part-time catcher in 2013, and it's not tough to think that he could be a good full-time catcher in a couple years if Mauer makes a move to another position in order to save his knees. Before Saturday's game, Herrmann was kind enough to sit down and chat with me for a few minutes in the New Britain Stadium dugout.

Q: You're from Texas originally, so who did you watch growing up -- what were your favorite teams and players?

A: I'm from the Houston area, so growing up I always just watched the Houston Astros play, caught a few games. Got to watch them live, so that was fun. Also was a Rangers fan, liked them a lot too. Now I am Twins [fan], so that's the main team I'm focusing on and watching all the time.

I definitely looked up to [Ivan] Pudge Rodriguez a lot, especially when he was with the Rangers. I just grew up watching him -- always had his mitts. He was kind of my idol growing up.

Q: If you had to use one word to describe life in the minor leagues, what would it be?

A: Tough.

You know, we don't get paid a whole lot, our living situations aren't always great, you know it's just something you have to battle. It's hard when you have 3 or 4 roommates, you don't really get much personal time. So, it's fun, but it's tough at the same time.

Q: How do you like being in the Twins organization?

A: It's great. Everybody in the staff are good guys, and they treat you good, and I'm having a lot of fun here right now.

Q: Have you been to Minnesota?

A: Yea, my first time was Twinsfest this year, so I got to check out the Metrodome and saw a little bit of Target Field. But other than that it was cold, which I'm not really used to being from Texas. Overall it was a good experience.

Q: Last week you had consecutive games with 4 hits. Was that a first for you as a professional? [Note: in those 2 games, Herrmann was 8-for-9 with 2 doubles]

A: There's been a few times where I've gotten 4 hits in a game, but there's never been a time where I got 4 hits in back-to-back games. [Laughs.] You don't ever really see that coming.

Q: Did you feel more dialed-in, or do you think it was just a mix of making good contact and the usual luck that goes along with hitting?

A: I was definitely dialed in, and I had a few balls that I got lucky on, so that helped!

Q: Is it ever tough to focus on the day-to-day stuff. You're 1 or 2 steps away from getting the call. I can imagine you have to focus on the day-to-day stuff to get your job done, but how much do you look to the future?

A: Yea, when things are going good you tend to look to the future a little bit. I really don't like to do that too much, cause, like you said, we have to focus on our day-to-day stuff. I'm here right now so that's what I need to focus on to get to the next level.

Q: I know you've been in big league camp at Spring Training Have you talked to any of the Twins players like Joe Mauer or Justin Morneau?

A: In big league camp I got to spend a little time talking to Joe about catching stuff. He's a nice guy -- kind of keeps to himself. I talked to some other guys, too. They all treat you like you're part of the team, which is great. I hear that some organizations aren't really like that.

Q: How do you like living in Connecticut?

A: Ahh . . . it's ok. The weather's not too great. There's been a lot of rain. I feel like we had a lot better weather last year. With the rain, it's tough --- we can't get much [work] done before the game.

Q: Last question: when you close your eyes and think about it, where do you see yourself in 2 years?

A: Hopefully I'll be in the bigs by then. Obviously I gotta keep working hard. Nothing's going to get handed to me, so I have to prove myself ready for the big leagues in 2 years. That's my main goal -- keep working hard and proving to the staff and the managers that I'll be ready to go by then.

Herrmann was extremely kind, very down-to-earth, and just seemed like a nice guy. Easy to root for. I'm hoping to interview a couple other players before the season is over. I want to thank the Rock Cats, especially Jeff Dooley and Patrick O'Sullivan, for arranging this for me, and of course Chris himself, for taking a little time during what is a really busy pre-game schedule that the players are kept on.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Coming Soon at Twins Fan From Afar

Since March, I have been providing Rock Cats content on this blog, whether it's game reports from contests I have attended, player stats, the latest on the potential change in affiliation, or recounts of events I have attended, like the pre-season welcome home dinner. I'm no expert on baseball -- or the Twins minor league system -- but my geographic proximity, Minnesota heritage, and Twins fandom has kind placed me in a nice position. This morning, I'm happy to announce that in the coming days I will be interviewing a current Rock Cats player for the blog.

To maintain the element of surprise, I'm not going to disclose the identity of this player, and am not going to give any hits as to who he is. There are definitely a few questions that I want to ask this player about life in the minor leagues, and the trip through the Twins system, that are not necessarily player-specific. And I have a few questions ready that are specific to this individual. 

The reason I'm writing about this now is that I want to invite any of you who read this blog to submit a question/topic for me to ask about. I'm only going to have a short window of time to talk to this player, but I'd be happy to consider any questions or topics you would like me to discuss. So please, leave a comment and let me know what you're interested in finding out about the Rock Cats, the Twins minor league system from the standpoint of a prospect, life as a minor leaguer, or whatever else comes to mind.