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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Rock Cats: Mid-Season Candidates for Promotion

Logan Darnell, New Britain's most consistent pitcher this season.
Image: Kevin Pataky,
It's been a fast 40 percent of the New Britain season. The team has played all right -- about what I expected, given difficulty of replacing guys like Aaron Hicks, Chris Herrmann, Oswaldo Arcia and Chris Colabello, who were the mainstays of the 2012 team, and who have all gone on to varying degrees of success in 2013 -- not only with the AAA Red Wings, but with the Twins. One of the most exciting things about following the Rock Cats is that I have realized how quick the path from central Connecticut to Minneapolis can be.

A comment about minor league baseball: it's not very helpful to focus on a minor league team's win-loss record. Sure, it's great to watch the Ft. Myers Miracle and the Cedar Rapids Kernels win most of their games (and it bodes well for the Twins' future), but those teams are temporarily fortunate to have clusters of great talent on the same roster. Rather, for me, Rock Cats baseball is mostly about following individual performances. With nearly half the season in the books, let's take a look at a few of the players that I think deserve a call-up from AA New Britain to AAA Rochester in the near future.

James Beresford. I'm not sure what else he needs to do. Beresford has played over 150 games for New Britain. His glove is great at both second base and shortstop -- that's never been an issue. He's third in the Eastern League in batting. Yes, there's little power. But so what? A middle infielder with a good glove that can hit .300 and reach base 40% of the time has value. Beresford deserves a long look in AAA to see how he can hit the pitching there. This is his second full season in New Britain, and I've seen enough. Also factoring into my recommendation to promote Beresford is Eddie Rosario. Unlike Miguel Sano, who undoubtedly will be promoted to the Rock Cats after the High-A All-Star Game, there's no immediate rush to promote Rosario, who is still learning second base, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Rosario come up to AA for the last month of 2013. Clearing Beresford's spot makes Rosario's path easier, and ensures that Rosario will get the reps he needs at second base.

Nate Hanson -- Great organizational guy. Plays all positions, but especially third base. Hanson has played over 180 games for the Rock Cats, and is hitting a solid .284 this season at AA.He had an abbreviated look at AAA Rochester last month, but needs a dedicated chance to succeed at that level. 64 at-bats -- what he received at Rochester -- is simply insufficient to judge any player. Reportedly, he hit the ball hard, but hit into some outs. If you only have 60 or so at-bats, a few hard outs, which could easily have been hits, makes a big difference. Additionally, Miguel Sano needs to move to New Britain the day after the High-A All-Star Game and play the remainder of 2013 at third base for the Rock Cats. Hanson to AAA makes sense all around.

Logan Darnell: Like Beresford, this is Darnell's second full season in AA, and he is showing improvement. In fact, he's been New Britain's most consistent starting pitcher. How consistent? 7 of his last 10 starts have met the definition of a quality start (not a great statistic, but worth something). Darnell has posted a 2.76 ERA, a 60/20 K/BB rate, and has allowed only 3 home runs in 75 innings pitched. I'm not sure what Darnell's future will be, but I am certain that the 24 year-old needs to pitch against more experienced hitters to so that the Twins' front office can get a better picture of what his ceiling is.

If you're a fan of the Twins' Top 10 organizational prospects, you might not like what I'm about to write now:

Alex Meyer isn't ready to be promoted. Yes, there are many, many more positives than negatives. One big positive is that he's second in the Eastern League in strikeouts, with 73. That's why we traded a good player, Denard Span, for him. But if I'm a member of the Twins' front office, I need to see more consistency from Meyer. By comparison to Darnell's 7 quality starts in his past 10, Meyer has 4. He also has yet to pitch into the 7th inning in any game he's started for the Rock Cats. Let that sink in for a second. If there's one thing the Twins need -- and expect -- it's that their best starters go deep into games. Meyer, who regularly throws over 100 pitches -- hasn't reached the 7th frame nearly halfway into his 2013 season. Meyer's season is somewhat similar to Kyle Gibson's in AAA -- a couple good starts followed by a clunker. Not that I expect 10 Ks and 1 earned run every single outing (which occurred in Meyer's most recent, and best, start), but in my opinion, there are composure and consistency issues that needs to be resolved -- or at least mitigated -- before I think it makes sense to send Meyer north to Rochester.

So in short, I'm ready to say goodbye to 3 mainstays. Beresford, Hanson and Darnell have put in their AA time. I don't like to think of "sink-or-swim" situations, but I think it's clear that each needs a solid couple months in Rochester to see how their games fare against better competition. But I'm not ready to let Meyer leave yet. There's no reason to rush him to AAA (especially considering how quickly the Twins are willing to pull "ready" players from Rochester after they arrive) before he is ready.

One final note: The Rock Cats host the Eastern League All-Star Game on July 10. I'm not sure how, if at all, personnel decisions may factor into this. On the one hand, it would be a nice reward for a guy like Beresford to be named to the All-Star Game held in his own park, but on the other hand, it would also be a nice reward to get bumped up to AAA before July 10.

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