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

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Looking Ahead: Future Pitching Rotations and a "Forgotten" Prospect

Alex Wimmers: Let's Not Forget About Him

EDIT: The Twins have traded Ben Revere to the Phillies in exchange for starter Vance Worley and a pitching prospect, Trevor May. Worley is generally considered a #3 starter, and is also going to be under team control. May, 23, was rated Baseball America's 69th best prospect pre-2012. So already my post is obsolete. Add both of these guys to the mix, and congratulate Terry Ryan on a job well done (in my opinion).

It's no secret now that the Twins are essentially punting in 2013. It's disappointing. I felt it coming months ago (as did many of you). Make no mistake -- I'm not fine with it by any means. But I more or less accept it (or I'm just mentally tired of being angry about it), provided that this organization is willing to spend next season at this time to bring this team back into contention. Honestly, it's simply too draining to continue yelling at the organization to spend more money where there is not much hope of it happening.

It's also no secret that pitching seems to win championships, or at the very least, goes a long way toward getting a team into the playoffs. And of course, it's starting pitching that the Twins lack now. The Denard Span for Alex Meyer trade is -- potentially -- a big step toward helping shore up a future rotation. With that in mind, I want to take a quick look at who could comprise the Twins' rotation in 2014 or 2015, and what will be left to purchase on the open market.

Scott Diamond. Let's hope he continues to prove that he can be a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher. Let's hope that he can improve with more experience. He would be affordable and under team control in 2014 and 2015.

Liam Hendriks/Sam Deduno: I hope one of these two players pans out as a #4 or #5 type starter. Something a little better than an "innings-eater." For the sake of this post, I'm just going to guess that one, but not both, will become a permanent starter. Again, both will be under team control and inexpensive in 2014 and 2015.

Alex Meyer: The Twins would not have made the Span trade if they did not believe that Meyer was a top-shelf prospect. I've read that he projects as a #2 or #3 pitcher. That's great. He can also throw 100 miles per hour. Accordingly, he becomes the organization's best pitching prospect. If he can stay healthy and successful and reach the majors in 2014, that is excellent. He, too, will be cheap for the next several years.

Kyle Gibson: What will 2013 bring for Gibson? In my view, a spot in the Twins' rotation is his to lose. Expectations should be low in 2013. So what if he has a little trouble adjusting to the majors? Let him get it out of his system in 2013, so that he's a better, more experienced pitcher in subsequent years, when wins will matter. Gibson is also cheap in 2014 and 2015.

And the player about whom not to forget: Alex Wimmers. I'm disappointed that he's apparently being written off by some Twins fans. Yes, he has had his share of mental (control) and physical (Tommy John) issues. So what? None of that really matters if he now has the ability to stay mentally and physically healthy. He also profiled as (probably) a #3 starter, maybe a #2 at his ceiling. He is older -- just having turned 24 last month -- so as long as he is healthy and dominant, the Twins will have no reason to hold him back in terms of development and advancement (but, of course, they would be prudent to limit his innings in his first season back after surgery). Even though Wimmers' anticipated debut was significantly delayed as a result of his surgery, he still could join the Twins' some time in 2014.

As I see it -- trying to be somewhat optimistic, but also realistic -- this organization has a few #3-type pitchers, a #2 pitcher in Meyer, and the possibility of #4 and #5 starters, all of whom could make close to league minimum in 2014 and 2015. Given these possibilities, acquiring an "ace" type pitcher for 2014, or even 2 very dominant and experienced pitchers, is absolutely doable, and affordable. And let's not forget J.R. Berrios. Because he is so new to the system, and to professional baseball, I didn't even mention him in this post as an option for 2014 or 2015. But he was successful in his first half-season of pro ball, so let's hope that he keeps it up and pushes for a spot -- whether he sticks as a starter or becomes a dominant reliever -- sooner, rather than later!

Yes, anything can happen. Diamond could prove to be a flash in the pan. Hendricks may never establish himself as a viable starter, and Deduno may never be able to sufficiently control that fastball. But for as much bad luck as the Twins have had the last couple years, just having 1 of those 3 pitchers turn into a reliable starter, and having Meyer and Wimmers reach close to their potential -- as they should be expected to -- and the 2014 or 2015 Twins' rotation, primarily composed of homegrown pitchers with hopefully a couple expensive studs, doesn't look too bad.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

2012 Rock Cats Memories: Throwing a Ceremonial First Pitch; Meeting Terry Ryan

Steely Determination
 This past spring, when I attended the Rock Cats' annual welcome home dinner, where I was seated with (a pre-Tommy John) Alex Wimmers, I purchased $5 worth of raffle tickets and won the opportunity to throw a ceremonial first pitch before a Rock Cats game. I was pretty happy with the prize -- certainly better, and more unique, than a signed team ball or free game tickets.

I scheduled my pitch for a game in August for which I already had purchased tickets. When the day arrived, I have to admit that I was a little nervous. I have played in a softball league for a couple years now, but throwing a baseball is different, of course. I pitched in high school, too, but that was half a lifetime ago for me. Mostly, I was worried about two things: bouncing the ball and possibly causing injury to the player catching it; and throwing it wildly to the backstop.

You probably won't be surprised to hear that there are about 5-10 first pitches before a game now. Between charitable partners, season ticket holders, and drawing winners like me, there was quite a line that night. One nice thing -- the stadium was only about half full due to a late-arriving crowd. When my turn came (I was last in line, I believe, and was slightly intimidated follow a 10 year old kid who hurled a perfect strike), I decided to go with accuracy over velocity. After they called my name, I stepped up to the mound and, with a two-seam grip, was able to "fire" a strike to the catcher (who, I believe, is usually the most recent AA call-up). Just like that, it was over. No embarrassment; no Rock Cats player writhing on the ground; no popped shoulder joint. With these pictures, I'm hoping that TwinsDaily's Parker Hageman can analyze my arm action and recommend some areas for improvement (thanks in advance, Parker!).

Look at the follow-through

That same evening, Terry Ryan happened to be in town. This was a couple weeks before the end of the Rock Cats' season, and the possibility of September call-ups. Make no mistake -- Ryan was hard at work, closely charting pitchers all night while conversing with either a member of his own staff, or someone from the Rock Cats. On my way out of the stadium, I decided to say hi to Ryan. He couldn't have been nicer, especially after learning that I am a Minnesota native. We talked briefly about a few players, most notably Chris Herrmann, of whom Ryan stated, "he has plenty of bat to be a major league catcher." Oswaldo Arcia and Aaron Hicks also came up. Of course I didn't want to take up much of Ryan's time, but he was kind and courteous all evening with fans coming up to say hi, ask for an autograph, or give advice to a MLB general manager. Yet another unique aspect of Twins' minor league baseball.

Thanks to my friend, and Rock Cats season ticket holder, Sean, for the images and the company at New Britain Stadium!

Terry Ryan, pictured here trying to sign me to a MiLB
contract after watching me throw a ceremonial first pitch
strike. "Sweet Lord, we need arms," he said.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Chad Allen Joins (Rejoins?) the Rock Cats

Chad Allen, flying through the air at the Dome
 Chad Allen. There's a blast from the past. He played for the Twins from 1999-2001, and thereafter with the Indians, Marlins and Rangers until 2005. In his career, he posted a .269/.321/.389 slash line and manned all outfield positions, though was primarily a corner outfielder. He was also named in the Mitchell Report.

Coming up through the Twins' system, Allen played 30 games for the Rock Cats in 1997, and a full season of 137 games in 1998, batting .252 and .262, respectively. Allen rejoins the Rock Cats for the 2013 season as their new hitting coach. Here's the press release. It was somewhat interesting to me that this is Allen's first job in the Twins' organization, and his first season as a hitting coach, anywhere.

I'm very interested in the 2013 Rock Cats roster. Will one of Oswaldo Arcia or Aaron Hicks start in AA, or will they both be promoted (keep in mind that, although Arcia dominated, he's only played 69 games at the AA level)? Will Alex Meyer start the season at AA, or do the Twins feel more comfortable with his development if he gets in a couple months at High-A? Finally, there's Chris Colabello. He is deserving of a promotion and an opportunity to hit against AAA pitching. Will he get that chance, or will he never be considered more than AA depth?

In any event, congratulations to Allen on the beginning of a coaching career. He was never a great player, and was never a great hitter, which is interesting given his new job. But then again, many of the best coaches were marginal full-timers or off-the-bench guys. As the saying goes, "those who can, do, and those who can't, teach."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Getting Left Behind

Bleak: The outlook for the weather, and probably
for the Twins in 2013
 I've had a tough time posting lately. There is no real Rock Cats news, and quite frankly, it's difficult to be optimistic about the 2013 Twins. Instead of generating negative Twins content, I had decided to just keep my mouth shut for a while. That proved a difficult task when, in back-to-back days, Scott Baker left for the Cubs and a little extra money, and the Marlins and Blue Jays completed a blockbuster trade the likes of which many Twins fans can only dream about.

Although I have been quiet on the posting front, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading JC at Knuckleballs lately. In fact, I am in such agreement with his content that it seemed unnecessary to write on those topics that he so wonderfully covered. But today, I want to piggyback on his piece from Monday opining about the Twins, their management, the payroll, and the fact that money can help solve problems. I commented on his blog about the Twins' perceived success at developing MLB outfielders, but their comparative failures at developing pitching and middle infielders, and how the success in the one area should be utilized -- one way or the other -- to fill the holes in the other. 

Over the past several years, we’ve been blessed (more or less) with the ability to field a competitive outfield without having to pay a guy $20 million/year to play center field. Kirby, Torii, Denard, and even Ben Revere have done well in that position and never completely broke the bank. And when a guy like Hunter reached free agency and decided to leave for greener pastures, there was at least someone ready to take his place, even if there was a dropoff in talent. In other words, we haven’t had to grossly overpay for outfielders, and by and large, they have been good and affordable ballplayers. And it’s a trend that I think will continue in coming years with guys like Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks, (hopefully) Joe Benson, and perhaps Miguel Sano if he is unable to make it at third base. It's something that makes comparatively expensive players like Denard Span and Josh Willingham unnecessary at some point in 2013 or 2014. Make no mistake: our outfield "problem" is a nice problem to have.

But what do you do when you consistently cannot develop MLB average or above-average talent at a position? You have to pay market price, whatever that currently is, or you have to trade away prospects that you highly value in order to make up that deficit — if you want to be competitive, that is.
With the Twins, of course, it’s the inability to develop starting pitchers that is extremely problematic (and middle infielders, too, but to a somewhat lesser extent). It hurts as a Twins fan to think that we could have a cost-controlled outfield for the next few years, but that ownership is seemingly unwilling to spend some of that financial surplus on starting pitching.

Yes, we’re hardly into the offseason, and I hope that I’m wrong. But I am a little nervous that Joe Blanton is going to be our prized starting pitching pick-up this winter. It hurt to see Scott Baker walk away over an extra million (or so) and a 2014 option upon which the Twins were insisting -- even if, as many believe, the contract was too much guaranteed money for a guy coming off of Tommy John surgery. It hurt to see the Blue Jays trade away a few good prospects for some major leaguers that instantly made that Toronto club an AL East contender. It hurts that, if the season started today, Kyle Gibson would be our #2 starter. It hurts that this team needs 3 starting pitchers who can miss bats, and it hurts that I believe that we wouldn't even enter a free agency hunt for a guy like Zack Greinke, who would help this team both immediately and for years to come. It hurts that the Twins haven't publicly stated that they need to be more aggressive on the free agent pitching market than they ever have been. Finally, it hurts that Twins fans are likely going to have to deal with another season, or two or three, of losing baseball, while management is unable to admit that either: 1) a more complete rebuild is necessary and prudent; or 2) tens of millions of dollars need to be sunk into the pitching staff and the middle infield this winter in order to field an AL Central competitor.

Again: Yes, it's early in the off-season. The Twins don't play their first Spring Training game until the end of February. There is plenty of time for deals to be made to make this team more competitive for 2013 -- and more importantly -- competitive for 2014 and beyond. But right now I can't help but feeling that the Twins, and their fans, are on the verge of getting left behind.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bobby V. and the Red Sox

March, 2012: The exact moment that I suspected there could be
trouble in paradise.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The End is Here: Things I'm Going to Miss

The fact that the Twins were awful for a second straight season admittedly diminished the amount of baseball that I watched this year, and I found it somewhat difficult to write about the Twins as the season dragged on, which is probably one of the reasons why I enjoyed covering the Rock Cats -- a winning baseball team. Still, though, it's always disappointing when the season comes to an end. Here is a little list of things that I will miss, or already do miss, about Twins-related baseball.

1. Checking for the lineups to come out each afternoon.

2. Getaway day games that make life at the office just a little bit better.

3. Checking Joe Mauer's batting average against the leaderboard.

4. Going to Rock Cats games and sitting 1 row above the home dugout for $12 or so.

5. Following Twins prospects coming up with the Red Wings, Rock Cats, Miracle, Snappers, E-Town, and other teams.

6. Watching Ben Revere highlights and arguing with people that still think that he can't be a serviceable major league center fielder.

7. Checking the overall baseball standings to find out where the Twins will draft in 2013 (4th overall).

8. Getting to know a few of the Rock Cats players through events at the ballpark and in the community.

9. The feeling that, regardless of what else is going on in life, and regardless of whether the Twins are in first place or last, they are a great distraction.

10. Listening to the radio broadcast and being taken back to a time when I was 10 years old, laying in my childhood bed, quietly listening to John Gordon or Herb Carneal on 830 before I fell asleep.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

New Britain Rock Cats: Moments & Anecdotes from 2012

Emerging prospect Oswaldo Arcia batting
late in the 2012 season
For the second consecutive season, the Rock Cats made it to the final game with a chance to make the playoffs. For the second consecutive season, they fell just short. They ended the season with a respectable record of 75-67, winning each of their last 6 games in a push for the playoffs. Playoffs in the minor leagues are interesting. On the one hand, the guys are competitors and want to earn a ring -- and we, as fans, want them to win, even in the minor leagues, where the focus should be predominately on player development. On the other hand, there's no significant financial incentive to play more games, and we're talking about young men that have been away from home for half a year, living out of suitcases and traveling almost exclusively on buses. So it's an interesting dichotomy. On that topic, here's a minor league anecdote for you: Most of the Rockcats' players leases were set to expire on the last day of the regular season. I was talking to a few of them, and here's what their schedule was like for 1 particular 24 hour period --- day game after a night game; go back to apartment, pack and clean it out so that landlord can conduct walk-through; sleep somewhere; play final game of season (which, if they won, they would have had to immediately board a bus to Reading, PA). Moreso than the slash lines, gym time, and bullpen sessions, that is the life of a minor leaguer. For every Aaron Hicks who has received a sizable signing bonus, there are dozens of Nathan Hansons and Chris Colabellos -- guys fighting, paycheck to paycheck, to defy the odds and keep advancing through the minor leagues. That's minor league baseball.

It was a very solid season for New Britain. Two players in particular -- Oswaldo Arcia and Aaron Hicks -- surpassed expectations, and will each rank somewhere in the top 5 on my list of Twins prospects going into 2013. Chris Herrmann demonstrated to me that he can handle the job of back-up catcher at least as well as Drew Butera. Chris Colabello -- a 28 year old depth signing -- set the franchise record for RBIs. Even Deibinson Romero, too old to be a legitimate prospect, hit 19 home runs and was named a season-ending All-Star. You'll notice that I'm not focusing too much on pitching. As I've written before, most pitchers with even decent stats were sent very quickly to AAA. Additionally, aside from B.J. Hermsen (who had a very solid season, going 11-6 with a 3.22 ERA and a 1-to-3 walk-to-strikeout ratio), I didn't see too much from the starters that really registered with me. Bruce Pugh, out of the bullpen, throws pretty hard, so that is encouraging. If you follow the Twins, though, it won't be surprising for you to hear that there is a dearth of top shelf pitching talent at this level of the minors.

There were some very memorable moments this season, as well. My "season" covering the Rock Cats actually started in January, well before Spring Training, when I attended the team's Hot Stove Luncheon, where former GM Bill Smith was the keynote speaker. Probably most important happening, for me personally this season, was when the Twins and the Rock Cats announced that they had extended their player development contract through the 2014 season, so I will have Twins-related baseball to follow, just down the road, for at least another couple years. With respect to on-the-field action, there was plenty. Arcia hit a walk-off home run shortly after being promoted. Colabello did the same -- his was a majestic opposite-field shot that glanced off a light tower. On several occasions this team came back in the final innings -- one time plating multiple runs when they were down to their final out -- to win outright, or at the very least, to push the contest to extra innings. Herrmann had 4 hits in consecutive games. Arcia had multiple hits in each of his last 8 games this season, and looked darn close to a major league hitter in my opinion. He was twice named Eastern League player of the week, and was the Eastern League player of the month in July. Hicks had 5 hits in a game, and has excellent speed. In fact, Hicks' ascension up the Twins prospect rankings might make an off-season trade of either Denard Span or Ben Revere more probable.

On a personal level, this was a fun year to follow the team. I had a tough time keeping up with the blog part of this summer, as work and life got in the way just a little, so I apologize for that. That being said, it's incredibly easy to get involved with team events and to meet the players. I probably went to 15 or so games, and blogged about most of them. I got to know a lot of the season ticket holders, who are all fantastic people -- and Twins fans! I attended a preseason team dinner, where I sat with Alex Wimmers for a few hours. Unfortunately, Wimmers made only one start for New Britain before an arm injury, which eventually required Tommy John surgery, sidelined him for the season. I purchased a game-worn and signed Oswaldo Arcia "Irish Pride Night" jersey to support the Rock Cats charitable foundation (and met Arcia). Not regretting that purchase at all. I went to another charity event at a local bar/grill, where Chris Herrmann, whom I previously had interviewed, was my waiter, and where I talked to Aaron Hicks -- one of the nicest athletes I have ever met -- for a good half hour. I was a guest of infielder James Beresford's family, who had traveled from Australia to watch their son play for a few weeks. A couple weeks ago, Terry Ryan was in attendance, so I introduced myself and tried to talk up Herrmann to him. Finally, I threw out a first pitch a few weeks ago, and am happy to report that, although the velocity is significantly down, the accuracy is still there -- in other words, I fit the Twins mold.

I'm already looking forward to next year. Although I've almost certainly seen the last of Hicks and Herrmann, and probably Arcia, I'm excited for the next wave of talent coming up -- perhaps not at the beginning of the season, but by next summer.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Twins Fan From Afar's 2012 Rock Cats MVP: Aaron Hicks

To think, just 5 months ago, I questioned whether Aaron Hicks had earned his promotion to AA. Of course, at that time, I was basing my concern on Hicks' less-than-impressive High-A slash line of .242/.354/.368 in 2011. Importantly, Hicks was repeating High-A that season, so I had reason to be suspicious.

Boy, was I wrong. Hicks unquestionably had a breakout season in 2012 that, at least for me, firmly places him in the top 5 of Twins prospects going into 2013. Let's look at his numbers from this past season: .286/.384/.460; 21 2B; 11 3B; 13 HR; 61 RBIs (he served as leadoff hitter the last half of the season); 79 BB; 116 K; 32 SB; 11 CS. He accumulated 472 at-bats and scored in even 100 runs.

Hicks led the Rock Cats in several offensive categories. Instead of focusing on that, however, I want to examine Hicks compared to Eastern League batting leaders. After all, he profiles as a future major league regular, so we should be comparing him to the best players in his division, not just on his team. His .286 average is good for 15th in the league. The 11 triples are tied for first in the league, and the 100 runs are solidly in first place in the entire league. Hicks tied for first in walks, was third in stolen bases, and eighth in on-base percentage. All of these numbers boil down to this: an incredibly solid season.

I was a little disappointed that Hicks did not receive a September call-up. Yes, I understand that the outfield is relatively full with Ben Revere, Josh Willingham, Chris Parmelee and Darin Mastroianni. I get it -- Hicks would not have received regular playing time, and it would cost the Twins money to have him sitting on the bench making major league minimum salary. But September call-ups can serve another function aside from helping to ensure that a team has enough healthy bodies at the end of the season: they can be a reward. And Hicks certainly was deserving of a reward. For the record, I also believe that at least one of Chris Colabello (fantastic story and hit the cover off of the ball), Oswaldo Arcia (professional hitter), or Chris Herrmann (catching depth) could have been selected for an extended look at Target Field this final month of the season. But Hicks, above all others, looked like he had earned a call-up in 2012.

One other thing about Hicks -- he is one of the most polite and well-spoken professional athletes that I have ever met. I spoke to him just a couple nights ago, and am not sure that I recall meeting an athlete as humble. I'm certain, of course, that I have seen the last of Hicks in New Britain. I suspect he'll open 2013 in Rochester as their every day center fielder, and will be in position for a call-up next season at this time, if not a little sooner (especially if either Denard Span or Revere is traded). Congratulations, Aaron, on a fantastic season, and good luck in the future.

Friday, August 24, 2012

3 Rock Cats Selected as Season-Ending All-Stars

Chris Colabello: 28, journeyman ballplayer.
Now, Eastern League All-Star
Congratulations to Deibinson Romero, Aaron Hicks and Chris Colabello of the Rock Cats for being selected as Eastern League Season-Ending All-Stars! Over this season, I've written rather extensively about Colabello and Hicks, and have talked a little about Romero. It's nice to see all three get recognized for solid seasons.

It's no secret that I think that Colabello's journey to AA baseball is probably the best Twins-related story this season. The fact that he has received independent recognition for his accomplishments is very impressive. With a solid .286 batting average, 18 home runs and 92, RBIs, Colabello is closing in on an impressive 20 HR and 100 RBI season.

Romero, too, has hit for a lot of power. He also has 18 home runs, 74 RBIs, and a .261 batting average. I haven't been overly impressed with Romero's defense, which I would describe as not great. It's worth noting, however (according to the press release), that Romero leads Eastern League third basemen with a .946 fielding percentage.

Finally, Hicks. This has been the breakout season we all have been waiting for. He's hitting .283, and leads the Eastern League in runs scored (88), is second in triples (8), second in walks (77), fifth in stolen bases (29), fifth in outfield assists (10), and seventh in on-base percentage (.380). Hicks, at 22, has made a solid case for a September call-up.

Congratulations to these three players. Here's the link for the press release.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wednesday's Twins Minor League Daily

Time for my weekly update of all that happened in the Twins' farm system last night. I was at the Rock Cats game last. It wasn't a great game for New Britain -- not nearly enough offense, and our pitchers had some trouble keeping the ball down. Terry Ryan was in attendance. I spoke to him for a few minutes, and it sounds like he plans to follow the team through its upcoming weekend series in New Hampshire, as we get closer to the date when a few players on this team might get a call-up to Minnesota (or, if the Rock Cats make the playoffs, after their playoff stint ends). Ryan was scoring the game and taking furious notes, but he was very nice in person and willing to chat between innings. Here's a rundown of tonight's minor league action:

Nick Blackburn (hey, remember him?) started for Rochester tonight, and went 7 innings. He gave up 1 run on 7 hits, striking out 2 and walking 2. Anthony Slama had a solid performance, going 2 scoreless innings, striking out 3 and walking 1.
The Red Wings mustered only 4 hits all night. Evan Bigley had 2 singles in 3 at-bats, and Chris Parmelee and Wilkin Ramirez also singled.

Here's the link to the box score.

I went to tonight's game. The Rock Cats didn't look very good. Lucas French started, and gave up 4 runs on 9 hits in 6 innings. He struck out 2 and walked 1. He didn't miss many bats tonight. Blake Martin tossed 1 inning, and gave up 3 runs on 3 hits. He struck out 1 and walked 1. Aaron Thompson was effective, tossing 2 scoreless innings and allowing 3 hits.

In addition to the shaky starting pitching, New Britain didn't get nearly enough offense. I liked what I saw from Josmil Pinto -- he hit a no-doubt homer to left field in the 4th inning, after walking in his first AA plate appearance. Oswaldo Arcia had a nice line drive double down the right field line, and also struck out and walked. Chris Colabello, Deibinson Romero and Rene Tosoni also singled.

Here's the link to the box score.

Tom Stuifbergen took a tough, tough loss tonight. He tossed a complete game, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits, striking out 3.

As with the Rock Cats, there wasn't enough Mircale offense to get the job done tonight. Daniel Ortiz was 2-for-3 with a double, Daniel Santana had 2 singles, and Daniel Rams and Kyle Knudson each singled.

Here's the link to the box score.

This game went 12 innings, until Peoria scored 3 runs in the top half to take what proved to be the final lead of the game. Tyler Jones went 5 innings in his start, giving up 3 runs on 3 hits and 3 walks, but he did strike out 8. Corey Kimes tossed 2 and 1/3 innings, and also gave up 3 runs on 3 hits. Kimes walked 3 and struck out 1. Taylor Rogers was very effective in relief, going 2 and 2/3 innings and allowing 2 hits, striking out 2. Tim Atherton worked 1 and 2/3 innings out of the pen, giving up 3 runs on 4 hits and 3 walks. Corey Williams worked a scoreless 1/3 of an inning, walking 1 and striking out 1. Snappers pitchers walked 10 hitters this evening.

Wang-Wei Lin was 2-for-7, JaDamion Williams was 2-for-5 with a walk and 3 Ks, Eddie Rosario had a single and 3 Ks in 6 at-bats, Kennys Vargas was 1-for-3 with a double, a walk, an RBI and a K, and Drew Leachman, Matthew Koch, and TwinsDaily's own Adam Pettersen all singled. Rosario, Pettersen, and Stephen Wickens all stole bases tonight, as well.

Here's the link to the box score.

Angel Mata went 4 and 1/3 innings in his start today, giving up 4 runs on 3 hits. He struck out 3, walked 5, and allowed 2 home runs. Joshua Burris went 2 and 2/3 innings, and allowed only 1 hit while striking out 5. Great performance from him. Tyler Herr tossed 2 scoreless frames, striking out 3 and walking 1.

Byron Buxton had a great day, going 3-for-5 with a triple and a stolen base. Candido Pimentel and Max Kepler each doubled (Kepler with an RBI), and DJ Hicks, Romy Jimenez and Travis Harrison all singled.

Here's the link to the box score.

Andre Martin got the start, and went 4 innings. He allowed only 3 hits, struck out 5 and walked 1. Sam Gibbons also tossed 4 innings, giving up only 1 hit, striking out 1 and walking 1. Felix Jorge tossed the final frame, striking out 1, as well.

Joel Licon had the big hit today, a 2-run homer that accounted for all of the Twins' runs. John Murphy doubled, and Aderlin Mejia and Bryan Harr both singled.

Here's the link to the box score.
Players of the Day for Wednesday, August 22

Pitcher of the Day: Tom Stuifbergen

Hitter of the Day: Byron Buxton

Schedule for Thursday, August 23

Rochester vs. Lehigh Valley --- RHP Shairon Martis
New Britain @ New Hampshire --- RHP Steven Hirschfeld
Ft. Myers vs. Bradenton --- LHP Pat Dean
Beliot vs. Peoria --- ???
Elizabethton @ Pulaski --- RHP Jose Berrios
GCL Twins vs. GCL Orioles --- ???

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fans: Would You Give up Memories from the 2010 Season in Exchange for Bryce Harper?

Twins fans, can you picture
Bryce Harper wearing the TC logo?

**Full disclosure: this post is full of hypotheticals, and is not grounded in reality**

The 2010 season produced some great memories for Twins fans. Jim Thome proved that you could be old (in baseball terms) and still destroy a baseball. Joe Mauer had a solid season. Justin Morneau played the first half of the season at an MVP pace. Even Delmon Young had a career-best season and, honestly, led the Twins in offense down the stretch. The Twins cruised to an easy AL Central title, and it almost felt like 2010 was going to be different than all the other seasons. Yes, we were playing the Yankees again, but this team was better than the 2009 version -- it had more confidence, better talent, and was playing in a brand new, shiny stadium. Yea, it almost felt different (cut to graphic of Charlie Brown believing that, this time, Lucy is indeed going to hold the football in place while he kicks it).

Of course, that's not how it played out. The Twins lost 3 in a row to the Yankees, the first 2 at Target Field, and that was it for the playoffs. The Twins haven't been remotely close to a .500 team since then, and there is very little to indicate that next year will be considerably better, unless major moves are made to acquire starting pitching.

But let's imagine, just for a second, that 2010 didn't go nearly as well. We'll say, for instance, that it basically went like 2011 did: Mauer injured, half the Rochester Red Wings on daily shuttles to the MSP airport; Jim Thome not as impressive; and a rash of other injuries that made the Twins simply awful. Let's say, in fact, that the Twins finished with the worst record in baseball in 2010. That would have given them the #1 pick in MLB's 2011 amateur draft. The Nationals, of course, selected Bryce Harper, and he has been a mainstay in their major league lineup for a few months now. Yes, he has struggled recently, but there is every indication to believe that Harper -- who could have a 20-year career -- will live up to his potential.

So here is my question for the day: What's "just another" division title worth to you? What if, instead of having a great 2010 and fading yet again in the playoffs, the Twins could have drafted Harper in 2011 by absolutely tanking the 2010 season? Or, perhaps, Stephen Strasburg in 2009? Would you, as a fan, rather have that extra pennant hanging at Target Field, or would you be willing to exchange all those great 2010 memories for a Harper or Strasburg level of talent?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Oswaldo Arcia and RBIs

I do understand that RBIs are, to a large extent, a team statistic. Mark Teixeira, for instance, always racks up tons of RBIs for the Yankees, even though he is not a fantastic hitter. He has the benefit of batting in a stacked lineup with tons of guys in scoring position, over the course of the year, when he comes to the plate. So yes, RBIs are a very imperfect statistic. That being said . . .

Twins fans should take note of this statistic (that I tweeted last night): Chris Colabello of the Rock Cats leads the entire Eastern League in RBIs with 87. He has driven in those runs in 416 at-bats. Oswaldo Arcia, owner of an impressive .330/.404/.551 AA slash line, has racked up 47 RBIs . . . and he's done it in 176 at-bats. In other words, he has just over half the RBIs of the league leader, and he as accumulated those RBIs in only 42 percent of the at-bats that Colabello has. Though RBIs are an imperfect measure of production, the fact that Arcia has been so good (.414 average) with runners in scoring position is noteworthy.

This afternoon, the Rock Cats go for a big series win over the Reading Phillies, hoping to expand their lead for the last playoff spot to 2.5 games. Hopefully, Arcia will continue to show Twins fans that he deserves a September call-up!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Rock Cats Lose Tough One, Fall Out of Playoff Picture (For the Moment)

This picture will accompany all Rock Cats
posts until the team reclaims the second
playoff spot.
After a tough 6-4 loss to the Reading Phillies last night, the Rock Cats fell 1/2 of a game behind Reading for the second, and final, playoff spot in their division. The good news for New Britain is that the teams play Saturday and Sunday, so if the Rock Cats can win the final two games of the series, they will regain possession of that second playoff spot. The other good news is that, in the coming weeks, the Rock Cats play 10 consecutive games against the Portland Sea Dogs and the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, who have the worst records in the Eastern League Eastern division. That stretch of games -- August 17 through August 26 -- will be a good opportunity, hopefully, to expand a lead for that final playoff spot.

A note about last night's game. Top prospect Oswaldo Arcia was 1-for-2 last night with a double (13 of the season), a walk, and an RBI (43rd of the season). His AA batting average is an impressive .320. If there was one knock on Arcia (which is almost ridiculous, considering his young age and quick ascension through the Twins' system thus far), it was that he walks to little and strikes out too much. His AA numbers -- 17 walks and 42 strikeouts -- do suggest that there's work to be done in that area. In the last 10 games, though, Arcia has drawn 6 walks and struck out 7 times, so there's at least some recent data to suggest that he's beginning to be more selective at the plate.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Wednesday's Twins Minor League Update

At least 2, possibly 3, Rock Cats
players deserve a Sept. call-up
to Minnesota
As you probably are aware, every Wednesday night I write an update for TwinsDaily on all the happenings in the minor league system. Before I get to that, I've been getting some questions on Twitter lately about the Rock Cats and September call-ups to Minnesota. There are at least two deserving players from the Rock Cats to whom the Twins should give consideration: Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia (I would also throw Chris Herrmann in that mix just to see what he can do against major league pitching). Arcia, especially, has been absolutely impressive in his couple months in Connecticut, posting a .317/.386/.521 line with 12 doubles, 2 triples, 6 home runs and 42 RBIs in only 167 AA at-bats. If the Twins were going to give a call-up to either Hicks or Arcia, my vote would be for Arcia. Hicks has had an excellent season, as well, but I like the PR message of having the confidence to send a guy who is only 21 years and 3 months old to the big leagues, at least for a month (not to imply that Hicks is old by any means). For the second year now, the Twins are awful, but demonstrating to the fan base that there is indeed very young talent on the way could, perhaps, alleviate a little of the pain caused by the past couple seasons. In fact, Arcia has been so impressive that, if he keeps his pace, I think a compelling argument can be made for him to rank as the second best Twins prospect.

One more note before the update. Chris Colabello, arguably the best human interest story for the Twins, continues to crush Eastern League pitching. His .286/.349/.502 line is solid; his 18 home runs are good for 4th in the Eastern League; his 32 doubles are tied for first; and his 84 RBIs are first in the league by a wide margin -- 12. Most impressive to me, though, is that he has increased his batting average in each month from June to August. So what should the Twins do with him? Justin Morneau is blocking Chris Parmelee at first base, relegating Parmelee to AAA. Correspondingly, it would seem that Parmelee is blocking Colabello, who in my opinion is deserving of a promotion. Colabello is 28, so if the Twins have any plans for him beyond minor league depth, they might want to act sooner than later. Now, the update.

Yesterday's Twins game was disappointing on several fronts. The Twins lost a chance for a sweep, Ben Revere failed to extend his impressive hit streak, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka continued to look ... confused at second base. Oh well. Let's take a look at the action down on the farm.

Shairon Martis turned in a quality start, tossing 7 innings and giving up 2 runs on 5 hits. He struck out 4 and walked 2, but did allow 2 home runs. Deolis Guerra had a tough outing. In 1 inning of work he allowed 2 runs on 3 hits, striking out 1. Kyle Waldrop lasted only 2/3 of an inning, giving up 3 runs on 3 hits and a walk. Lucas French threw the remaining 1/3 of an inning.
Chris Parmelee was 2-for-4 with a double, and is batting .354 at AAA. Matt Carson (12) and Clete Thomas (11) both homered for the Red Wings. Eduardo Escobar and Brian Dinkelman singled.

Here's the link to the box score.

It seems like most of the quality arms have left New Britain. Tonight, Aaron Thompson got the nod, and lasted 5 and 2/3 innings. He gave up 6 runs on 5 hits and 5 walks, and struck out 3. Marty Popham allowed 2 runs in 1 and 1/3 innings on 3 hits. Finally, Edgar Ibarra tossed a scoreless frame, striking out 2.

Chris Colabello continues to impress. He was 2-for-4 tonight with his 18th home run and his 84th RBI. Oswaldo Arcia was 1-for-2 with his 12th double. He also struck out, walked, and had a sac fly. Aaron Hicks hit his 7th triple and walked. Chris Herrmann and Nathan Hanson also had singles.

Here's the link to the box score.

In this rain-shortened game (7 innings), Pat Dean picked up his 7th win of the season tonight, going 6 solid innings. He allowed 2 runs on 7 hits, striking out 3 and walking 2. Clint Dempster threw a scoreless 7th inning, allowing 2 hits.

Daniel Santana was 2-for-4 with 2 doubles, Daniel Rams had 2 singles in 4 at-bats, and 2 RBIs. Lance Ray was 2-for-3 with a triple, and Levi Michael, Josmil Pinto, Michael Gonzales, Andy Leer and Angel Morales all singled. Leer's single drove in 2 runs, as well.

Here's the link to the box score.

Matt Tomshaw picked up his 4th win of the season, turning in a great start. He went 7 and 2/3 innings and gave up 1 unearned run, allowing 6 hits and striking out 4. No free passes. Dallas Gallant earned the save, throwing 1 and 1/3 innings, allowing no hits and striking out 1.

JaDamion Williams hit his 5th home run of the season tonight, a solo shot. Jairo Rodriguez was 2-for-4 with a double. Drew Leachman had 2 singles and a walk in 3 at-bats, and Eddie Rosario, Miguel Sano and Stephen Wickens all singled. Sano (38) and Rosario (14) also had errors this evening.

Here's the link to the box score.

Brett Lee got the start and went 4 innings, giving up 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 7! Kaleb Merck tossed a scoreless 5th, allowing 2 hits and striking out 1. Tyler Duffey threw 2 scoreless innings, striking out 2. J.T. Chargois allowed 1 run on 2 hits in an inning of work, striking out 1. Luke Bard tossed a perfect 9th.

Max Kepler had a huge day. He was 4-for-4 with 2 singles, a double (10) and a home run (8). He drove in 2 runs, as well. Adam Walker hit 2 solo home runs in 4 at-bats, giving him 11 on the season. Byron Buxton was 2-for-4 in his E-Town debut, and Candido Pimentel and Niko Goodrum both singled.

Here's the link to the box score.

GCL Twins 6, GCL Orioles 7
Felix Jorge started for the Twins today, and went 4 innings, giving up 1 unearned run on 2 hits, striking out 4 and walking 1. Gerardo Ramirez worked 1 inning and gave up 2 runs on 4 hits and a walk. Thereafter, Trent Higginbotham gave up 2 runs in 1 inning of work, surrendering 3 hits. Alexander Muren tossed 2 scoreless innings, striking out 1 and walking 1. Anthony Slama, rehabbing an injury, threw 1 perfect inning, and Hung Yi Chen allowed 2 runs in 1 inning of work on 2 hits.

Catcher Jorge Fernandez was 4-for-5 with 3 RBIs and a run. Great game for him. Joel Licon tripled and walked twice, and the following players all singled: Jeremias Pineda; Jose Ramirez; Dereck Rodriguez; Kelvin Ortiz; John Murphy; Javier Pimentel; and Logan Wade.

Here's the link to the box score.

Players of the Day for Wednesday, August 8
Hitter of the Day: Max Kepler

Pitcher of the Day: Matt Tomshaw (This is how he would look if he showed up at your door to take your daughter to prom. Have her back by 11, Matt. No funny business.)

Schedule for Thursday, August 9

Rochester vs. Scranton/WB --- RHP P.J. Walters
New Britain @ Binghamton --- LHP Logan Darnell
Ft. Myers vs. Jupiter --- RHP Matthew Summers
Beloit @ Quad Cities --- LHP Jason Wheeler
Elizabethton @ Johnson City --- RHP Ricardo Arevalo
GCL Twins @ GCL Orioles --- ???

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Twins' 2014 Outfield

Oswaldo Arcia: Twins' right fielder as early as 2014??
For regular readers -- especially those that read for the Rock Cats content -- I should apologize. It's been a busy month of the real job, so I've had a tough time updating the blog. With that said, let's talk about the #futuretwins for a little while.

I've had the good fortune of watching a pretty exciting outfield lately in New Britain, consisting mainly of Aaron Hicks in center field and Oswaldo Arcia in right. Joe Benson has also played some left field -- though we know he's a center fielder, and even Chris Herrmann has done pretty well in left field. But today I want to focus on Arcia and Hicks, and their role in the future of this franchise. I'm certainly not ready to cast Benson off as washed up, but unquestionably, this is more or less a lost season for him in terms of development.

I'm here to tell you that, after watching Hicks progress this season, and after watching Arcia exceed expectations over the past couple months, I firmly believe that both have a legitimate chance to be starting for the Twins in 2014. I fully expect that the Twins will trade Josh Willingham, perhaps this off-season, or during the 2013 season, assuming his trade value is still very high then. I also expect that, one of these months, a team is going to overwhelm Terry Ryan with an offer for Denard Span. Denard is one of my favorite Twins, and Willingham certainly has been a fantastic signing, and by all accounts is a great guy.

That being said, it is -- or will be in the near future -- time for changes: my dream outfield for 2014 is Ben Revere in center field; Hicks in left field; and Arcia in right. We're talking about a lot of speed, and good arm strength in the corner positions. We're also talking about a right fielder that should have 25 HR power, a left fielder with explosive speed and good on-base skills, and a center fielder with phenomenal speed and the ability to reach base at a high rate. We're also talking about a very, very inexpensive outfield -- like under $3 million, total.

Yes, Hicks and Arcia have work to do. I'd still like to see Hicks hit the ball with more authority from the left side of the plate (although it's very, very encouraging that his splits have more or less evened out, at least with respect to batting average). And Arcia needs to strike out less and walk more, but he's only 21 years and 2 months old! What I'm suggesting is that, in just 2 years, we could have a young, and very exciting outfield. Revere has met my expectations -- and then some -- this season. Sure, he certainly can improve, and hopefully will. But if there's one are Twins fans should be excited about, it's the fact that the team could have an extremely talented outfield as early as September of 2013, that is well equipped to compete at the major league level. When we talking about signing expensive free agent pitchers that cost $15-$20 million per season, how great is it to think that our outfield, at least for a couple seasons, could be little more than 10 percent of Joe Mauer's annual contact?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Aaron Hicks' Career Day, and His Future

Photo credit: Richard Messina, Hartford Courant
If you haven't heard it by now, I should tell you: Aaron Hicks had undoubtedly his best game as a professional baseball player yesterday. He went 5-for-6 with a home run (his 10th), 2 doubles (14th and 15th), 2 RBIs (44 and 45), and 10 total bases. Here's what's also impressive about Hicks' performance yesterday -- he got 3 hits off of New York Mets top prospect Zack Wheeler, and 1 hit off of real Mets closer Frank Francisco, who is rehabbing in AA at the moment. So it's not as if Hicks' big day came against has-beens, or never-will-be major league player types.

Finally (it seems funny to say finally, because Hicks is still only 22 years old -- young for AA), Hicks seems to have put it together. Here's his AA line for the year: .284/.379/.456. Importantly, he seems to have figured out the switch-hitting, too, as he's batting .299 versus lefties, and .278 versus righties. It was only back in May that Hicks seemed to really struggle against righties.

So what happens now? A couple people have asked whether I think that Hicks should move up to AAA before the end of this season. My gut response is "no," for a few reasons. Before I explain my reasons, let me preface them by stating that I am aware that the Twins usually don't "rush" prospects, and that, sometimes, I would like to see them move prospects along faster. Hicks, however, is a different case.

First, Hicks is now playing well on all sides of the ball, and is starting to resemble the prospect that Twins fans hoped he would become. I'm not sure that one month in Rochester will do anything other than change a routine that clearly has been working lately for Hicks. Second, Rochester is a bad team. With the Rock Cats, Hicks is on a winning team right now. I firmly believe that there is something to be said for playing on winning teams, even in the minor leagues. Rochester has been a disaster lately, and quite frankly, I'd prefer to see Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia playing together in the same outfield, on a good team, and learning to become comfortable with one another. After all, if things pan out, there is a good chance that Hicks and Arcia could comprise two-thirds of the 2014 Twins outfield. Finally, this doesn't mean that Hicks should not get a September call-up to Minnesota, if he continues his solid season. And I'm certainly not suggesting that Hicks should start 2013 in AA, either. Hicks is unique -- a first-round pick who, aside from his Gulf Coast League numbers, had never really put together an impressive season at any level. If you view Hicks -- best case scenario -- as the Twins center fielder of the future, and taking into account the fact that he has struggled in the minors until this season, I'm not sure what one month in AAA does for Hicks. The last thing Hicks needs right now is a bad end to an otherwise good season.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Another Solid Weekend for the Rock Cats

The Rock Cats had a successful road trip to Harrisburg over the weekend, taking 3 of 4 from the Senators. The offense showed up in all of the wins, scoring 13, 5, and 8 runs. New Britain was shut out, 5-0, in the loss. New Britain is still 2.5 games back of the Trenton Thunder in their division, but if the season ended today, they would make the playoffs. As I've mentioned recently, most impact pitchers have already been promoted to AAA by this point in the season, so for the Rock Cats to continue to win during this final month or so of the season, it's going to be up to the offense.

Luckily, offense hasn't been in short supply. Let's take a look at how some of the players are doing.

Oswaldo Arcia (in 113 AA at-bats): .319/.381/.540, 6 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 32 RBIs, 10 BB, 29K. In just over a month, Arcia has probably moved up a couple spots on my Twins top 10 prospect list. About the only negative thing you can say about him is that he is striking out too often. But, then again, he's also only 21 years old, and is basically tearing up AA. He hit a walk-off home run last week, and his stock is on the rise.

Aaron Hicks: .276/.372/.436, 12 2B, 6 3B, 9 HR, 43 RBIs, 51 BB, 85 K, 22 SB (9 CS). Hicks, the "forgotten" top prospect going into 2012, has put together a very solid season. Defensively, there's no question that he is ready for the major leagues, and offensively he has increasingly become a catalyst for this team. At the beginning of the season, Hicks was often batting 5th in the order, but he has become the leadoff hitter since Arcia's promotion. This move seems to make sense -- Hicks draws a lot of walks, and has great speed. The fact that he hits for some power is a bonus.

Chris Herrmann: .269/.344/.394, 21 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 38 RBIs, 41 BB, 63 K. Herrmann's average isn't quite where I'd like to see it, but he, too, has been solid and has shown some pop in the bat. He is good behind the plate, and can play a decent left field, as well. Has he done enough, right now, for a promotion (forget for the sake of this discussion that Danny Lehmann was recently promoted to AAA for some crazy reason)? I'm not sure. I'd like to see Herrmann get a September call-up, and he has to be added to the 40-man roster after this season.

Chris Colabello: .276/.339/.480, 29 2B, 1 3B, 13 HR, 70 RBIs, 26 BB, 63 K. Colabello has been nothing if not a pleasant surprise. Initially signed to provide what might be characterized as "minor league depth," he has done that, and then some. He currently leads the Eastern League in both doubles and RBIs, and has really picked things up after a slump a couple months ago saw his average down close to .220. I'm not sure what the future holds for Colabello. Certainly, he's behind Justin Morneau and Chris Parmelee on the Twins' first base depth chart, but it's almost crazy to think that I'd be writing about Colabello being deserving of a promotion to AAA when, just a few months ago, he seemed likely to be nothing more than a roster-filler for New Britain.

The Rock Cats are back home tonight for 3 games against the Binghamton Mets, then hit the road for a stretch against the Reading Phillies and the Bowie Baysox. Be sure to check back here for updates!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Rock Cats to Stay in New Britain Through 2014; This Blogger is Happy

It's no secret, if you read this blog with any frequency, that at least half of what I write is about the New Britain Rock Cats. Earlier this season, there were rumors floating around that the new Rock Cats ownership group was interested in aligning with the Mets organization, and thus severing ties with the Twins after the parties' contract was set to terminate. There were legitimate reasons why such a switch might have made sense for the Rock Cats. I wrote about it here and here. In the end, though, the Twins and the Rock Cats have just agreed to extend their business relationship through the 2014 season. The press release isn't out on the Rock Cats' website yet, but it has been confirmed by several sources, including John Shipley of the Pioneer Press. So in the end, it sounds like those creative promotions -- like the meet and greets with Mets or Yankees farmhands -- were just that: ways to get more people in the door.

As a Twins fan living in Connecticut, I'm glad the parties are continuing to work together. The current AA roster is pretty stacked when it comes to offensive prospects: Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia, Joe Benson and Chris Herrmann all currently call New Britain home. This has been a fun team to watch and cover, and I'm sure that the Twins will continue to make sure that their best prospects spend ample time here.

I've had a couple busy work weeks, which has resulted in fewer blog posts. But rest assured that I'll continue to cover the team down the home stretch of the season. As it stands today, they just took 3 of 4 from the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, and begin a 4-game weekend series at Harrisburg. The Rock Cats are in second place in their division, with a 54-43 record, and trail division-leading Trenton Thunder by 3.5 games. This very well could -- and should -- be a playoff-bound team, as long as the pitching can hold up (anyone with a pulse has already been sent to AAA Rochester, it seems). This offense won't get shut out very often, and is capable of putting runs on the board in a hurry. In addition to the names I just mentioned, Chris Colabello has been arguably the most productive player for this team, and he's not even a legitimate prospect!

So stay tuned, not just this season, but through 2014, for continued Rock Cats coverage.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Twins Fans: Who Are the "99 Percent?"

Who are "the 99 percent" when it
comes to Twins Territory?
If you made your way to this blog, you're not an average Twins fan. Did you find it from my Twitter account (where I tweet almost exclusively about the Twins and Rock Cats)? Do you subscribe to my blog and read or peruse most every post? Or are you reading this at, where I double-post a lot of my articles just to reach a different, more diverse fan base? Regardless of how you got here, you're not normal. You probably know the geographic location of at least one of the Twins minor league affiliates. Maybe you even recognize names like Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. I bet you can match some of the Twins' retired numbers with the correct player names. And you probably watch enough Twins baseball on FSN that you tire of Dick & Bert, and occasionally mute the TV, turn on AM 1500, and follow along that way.

The purpose of this post is to tell you that, if some of these above-referenced descriptions apply to you, you are not a normal Twins fan. In fact, you might be in the "exclusive" 1 percent of Twins fans. I love discussing Twins baseball, reading about it online, and writing about it. If I could go back and re-do life, I'd probably try to be a sports writer. And many of the people -- Twins fans -- that I come into contact with on the internet (or even the die-hard season ticket holders at Rock Cats games) are the same way. A lot of us, myself included, are quick to react to trades, contract extensions, and personnel moves, and we closely track the development of top prospects. Some of the most dedicated do our own research and come up with suggested trades of our own. It's a fun game, really. And being a Twins fan to this extent is a great hobby.

I think, though, that it's important to step back and think about the who the Twins do business for: the masses, the other 99 percent. The 99 percent go to maybe 1 or 2 Twins games a year, and to them Target Field might very well still have a newness factor that, on its own, is enough to get them out to the ballpark. The TV or radio broadcasts are often background, or ancillary, to other activities are going on in the house. The 99 percent often tune in for bits and pieces of the game before bedtime. They'll read some of the Star Tribune or Pioneer Press coverage, but certainly not everything that is written about the Twins. Sure, they love a winner, but a bad Twins season doesn't keep them awake at night (in fact, they probably go to those same 1-2 games a year even if the team stinks). It might not cross their minds that the Twins, after 2 awful seasons, might make a managerial change. These people are the 99 percent.

There's nothing at all wrong with the 99 percent of Twins fans, and this post isn't intended to disparage them in any way. I'm just suggesting that certain moves that bloggers and serious fans might advocate (just say, for example, replacing Ron Gardenhire after this season) likely are viewed through at least 2 different lenses by the Twins' front office: the winning-on-the-field lense, and the business-PR lens. We hope that the winning-on-the-field perspective trumps the PR perspective, but the Twins, as a profit-making entity, are bound to consider every move they make in terms of how it affects the financial bottom line. With the overwhelming majority of Twins fans likely self-describing as "casual," it's clear that we -- those reading this post -- are a vocal minority.

As we think about the Twins at the trading deadline this year, I'm reminded of the Twins' failure to move players such as Michael Cuddyer, Joe Nathan and Jason Kubel last season. Perhaps last season is the perfect example of the dichotomy between the baseball side, and the business side, of Twins baseball. It certainly would have made baseball sense to deal at least one of two of those players, but the Twins were still drawing well at Target Field, despite an awful record. Was there a fear in the organization that having a fire sale would substantially dwindle attendance and hamper 2012 season ticket sales? Perhaps. In the end, of course, the team failed to trade any of these players, and lost all via free agency. So what made sense to me -- dealing Cuddyer for whatever you could get for him since he was aging, expensive and shouldn't have been re-signed -- might not have been as clear-cut a decision for the organization. Still, though, when it comes down to it, you would like the organization to make moves designed to help the team win games, not just fill the ballpark. And that's where the Twins scare me a little bit.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wednesday's Twins Minor League Daily

Chris Herrmann, one of three Rock Cats
players to see action in the AA
All-Star game last night
I'm back in action after a hiatus that took me, by car, halfway across the country to the beautiful Twin Cities, then up to Lake Superior, just south of the Canadian border, to parts of Minnesota that I had never seen. What a fantastically beautiful part of the state!

3 Rock Cats players appeared in the Eastern League All-Star Game last night: catcher Chris Herrmann, who I interviewed last month, and pitchers B.J. Hermsen and Daniel Turpen. Herrmann was hitless in 2 appearances, Hermsen gave up 1 run in an inning of work, and Daniel Turpen got the win, getting the final out of the game. Andrew Albers was also named to the team, but did not play. Congratulations to those guys on their achievements this season!

Each Wednesday evening I write a recap of what happened in the Twins' minor league system for TwinsDaily. Even though the major league teams are still resting in preparation for the second half of the season, there were plenty of minor league games last night, so let's take a look at that action.

Tom Stuifbergen got the start for the Miracle tonight, and went 4 innings. He gave up only 1 hit, and struck out 4. Twins fans, take note: Matt Capps threw tonight, on his rehab assignment, after Stuifbergen. Capps tossed 1 inning, allowed 1 hit and no walks, but did surrender an unearned run. Thereafter, Adrian Salcedo tossed 3 innings, allowing 4 runs on 6 hits, striking out 1 and walking 1. Michael Tonkin picked up the save, his first of the season, throwing a perfect 9th.

On offense, Andy Leer and Anderson Hidalgo both homered. Daniel Santana had 2 hits, including a double. Joe Benson (yes, the Joe Benson that is still a top prospect rehabbing a wrist injury) had a double in 5 at-bats, as did Michael Gonzales in 3 trips to the plate. Kyle Knudson and Daniel Rams also singled.

Here's the link to the box score.

Tyler Jones started for the Snappers tonight, and lasted 3 and 1/3 innings. He gave up 8 hits and 5 runs (4 earned), striking out 3 and walking 2. The bullpen was better: Cole Johnson threw 2 and 1/3 scoreless innings and allowed only 1 hit; Dallas Gallant tossed 1 and 1/3 scoreless, striking out 1; and Corey Williams threw 1 inning, allowing 1 run on 1 hit, striking out 2 and walking 1.

On offense, let's start with the big guy, Miguel Sano. He was 2-for-3 with a triple, his third of the season. He had 2 RBIs, a walk and a strikeout (also he committed 0 errors). Stephen Wickens, Drew Leachman, Steven Liddle, Jonathan Goncalves and Jairo Rodriguez all singled.

Here's the link to the box score.

Ricardo Arevalo got the start for the E-Town Twins tonight, going 4 innings. He gave up 6 runs on 5 hits, striking out 4 and walking 1. Brett Lee threw 2 scoreless innings, giving up 3 hits and striking out 2. J.T. Chargois was also effective, tossing 1 perfect inning and striking out 1. Tyler Duffey threw the 8th inning, giving up 1 run on 2 hits, striking out 1.

E-Town had ample offense, just not enough runs. Jhonatan Arias, catcher, had 3 singles in 4 at-bats, Jorge Polanco and Niko Goodrum each had 2 hits, Joshua Henkricks had a double, and Max Kepler, Adam Walker and Travis Harrison each singled.

Here's the link to the box score.

GCL TWINS 5, GCL ORIOLES 2 (7 inning game)
Felix Jorge tossed 4 scoreless innings, giving up only 2 hits and striking out 4. Alexander Muren threw 2 scoreless innings, striking out 1, and Gonzalo Sanudo was the only Twins pitcher to get into trouble, giving up 2 runs on 3 hits, compiling 1 strikeout along the way.

Center fielder John Murphy and Joel Licon each had 2 hits, Murphy with 1 double and Licon with 2 RBIs. Aderlin Mejia and Javier Pimental each singled.

Here's the link to the box score.

Jouse Montanez was very effective, going 5 innings and allowing only 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 5 and issuing 0 free passes. Jose Berrios earned the save, tossing 2 perfect, scoreless innings and striking out 3.

Rene Tosoni had 2 hits tonight, both doubles, and 2 RBIs. Second baseman Jose Ramirez had a double, and Joel Licon, Bryan Haar and John Murphy all singled. Mejia, Haar and Murphy also had RBIs.

Here's the link to the box score.
I'm hitting up tonight's Rock Cats game, so be sure to check back tomorrow for a "beyond the box score" report and hopefully a few pictures.

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.]