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

Monday, April 14, 2014

Rock Cats Report 2014.1

Nate Hanson celebrating a home run.
Courtesy of McClelland Miscellanea.
As of this writing, the New Britain Rock Cats sit at 4-6. It's important before reading this piece -- or really any piece related to baseball -- that we all realize that we're only 10 games (or so) into the season. Everything anyone says should be couched with the "small sample size" caveat. Still, though, it is worthwhile to start to look at how Twins' prospects are beginning to perform against what we, the fans, expect to see this season.

The Rock Cats seem ... serviceable. But something is missing this spring. I've been fortunate, since I began closely following this team in 2012, to have had at least 1 Top 10 Twins prospect on this team at pretty much all times. Aaron Hicks; Oswaldo Arcia; Trevor May; Alex Meyer; Miguel Sano; Eddie Rosario. Take a look for a second at Baseball America's 2014 Twins Top 10 Prospects List. The talent on that list is all above AA, below AA, injured (Sano & Buxton), or just elsewhere (Rosario). This will change, for sure. Once Buxton's wrist heals and he gets back into playing shape, he'll likely spend the rest of 2014 in New Britain. And that's just what this team needs: a game-changer. Eddie Rosario will also be back in New Britain later this season, I hope. And Miguel Sano will log another stint in Connecticut on his way back up.

For now, though, New Britain needs to make do with their current roster. Indeed, there are bright spots, including some MiLB veterans who have been performing well. Offensively, New Britain veteran (really, a super-veteran) Nate Hanson has been leading the offense, hitting .350/.372/.475 with 5 doubles and 7 RBIs in 10 games. He's hit safely in 8 of the 10 games. Aderlin Mejia, shortstop, has a line of .375/.464/.417, but also has 4 errors in 8 games. Let's not forget emerging prospect Kennys Vargas. He only has a .216/.302/.405 line, but has 2 of the Rock Cats' 3 home runs, a double, and 6 RBIs. Additionally, after starting out 2-for-20, Vargas is 6 for his last 17 (which includes both homers and the double).

Pitching results have been mixed. Pat Dean has had the most success of the starters, going 2-0 with a 4.76 ERA. He's struck out 12 and walked only 2 in 11 1/3 innings. DJ Baxendale, a really nice guy, hasn't had as much luck. After 2 starts, he has a 5.91 ERA. He's simply given up too many hits -- 14 in 10 2/3 innings. Atlanta Braves pick-up Sean Gilmartin had 1 good, and 1 bad start. Out of the bullpen, AJ Achter is already gone to Rochester (where he should have started in the first place). BJ Hermsen was recently reassigned to extended spring training, and former Twins reliever Matt Guerrier is now a member of the Rock Cats. Kind of interesting, to say the least. Adrian Salcedo, who I was looking forward to watching, has had a rough start, giving up runs in 2 of his 4 outings, including a 6 run 1/3-of-an-inning performance that will really skew your stat line. Ryan O'Rourke has been another bright spot in relief, giving up only 1 run in 4 appearances (3 2/3 innings).

One of the things Rock Cats manager Jeff Smith stressed at the Annual Welcome Home Dinner was that he believed the 2014 Rock Cats would play as a team, as opposed to some minor league teams comprised of a few talented individuals who care more about individual stats. It's a nice thing to say, of course, but I do see what he was getting at. Let's not forget -- Smith doesn't choose his roster; he gets who he gets. This current team -- composed largely of MiLB vets and AA first-timers, with no Top Prospects -- will have to learn to play as a team.

Plan to hear more from me next Tuesday -- if not before. The Rock Cats are wrapping up a road trip, and I should get to the ballpark over the weekend. A few things to watch for in the meantime: does Kennys Vargas continue to warm up to AA; how do the starting pitchers fare as their pitch limit increases (most are at a 75-85 pitch limit this early in the spring); and who steps up offensively and defensively while the Twins (and their fans) wait for Buxton to come back?

One final note: I spent a lot of time covering/following Trevor May, James Beresford and Alex Meyer the last couple seasons. They are all off to strong starts at AAA. Christopher Fee is doing a great job covering the Red Wings for TwinsDaily, so be sure to check out his stuff. I wouldn't be surprised if all three ended up with the Twins in 2014.


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