Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ranking the AL Central (Starting Rotation)

1)Chicago White Sox
Before Chicago had a great collection of young up and comers and veterans. Add a true ace and former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy to the mix and you have one of the 5 best rotations in MLB. Peavy showed a glimpse of what he is capable dominating the Tigers twice to close out 2009. Mark Buerhle threw a perfect game last year and is one of the most under rated left handers in the game. Jake Peavy said that Gavid Floyd has potential to be a special pitcher. If John Danks can master the strike zone he can look as good as he did in 2008 Game 163. Toss up for the 5th spot between the veteran Freddy Garcia and rookie Daniel Hudson. Ozzie might go with the experience to start the season.

Player to Watch: Jake Peavy was a Cy Young 2 years ago. He still has ace stuff that can go head to head with any pitcher in all of baseball.

2) Detroit Tigers
Detroit is filled with young POWER arms. Average fastball for the projected starting 5 could be over 93 MPH. The Tigers inked up ace Justin Verlander for 5 more years and was contending for the Cy Young in 2009. His huge strikeout numbers shall continue. 21 year old Rick Porcello stepped up in game 163 in 2009, showing he does have strikeout pitches and will have the leash loosened this year as he steps into that number 2 role. Mad Max Scherzer was part of the Edwin Jackson trade but has very very electric stuff. The 4 spot will be given to Jeremy Bonderman. He has shown more velocity and health this off season so hopes are high as of now. And Dontrelle Willis is trying to overcome a load of issues. He may not be their for long as Armando Galarraga wants to be back in the starting role.

Player to Watch: Rick Porcello will have more weight on his shoulders then he did last year. He proved he can get outs with his plus sinker. Now he is going to have to show he can dominate with question marks in the 4 and 5 holes of the rotation.

3) Minnesota Twins
The strike throwing crop of guys the Twins put together every year has kept them beyond competitive. Opening Day starter Scott Baker was not as bad as he was in 2009 but not as good as he was in 2008. Expect his ERA to still be in high 3's. Nick Blackburn had identical years 2008 and 2009 and that earned him a 4 year deal. He should lead the team in innings again. Carl Pavano is the veteran who came up big down the stretch. He will not be great but his high BABIP in 2009 shows that his ERA should be in the low 4's not over 5 like it was. Kevin Slowey now has 2 screws in his wrist but still has arguably the best control of any pitcher in baseball. If he repeats what he did in 2008 then it just adds to the Twins depth. Fransisco Liriano has been named to the 5th spot but after dominating winter ball and showing flashes of brilliance in spring training; the Liriano of old may be back.

Player to Watch: Fransisco Liriano may never be able to repeat 2006. But from what we have seen so far this spring (20 innings, 2.70 ERA, 30K and 5BB), if he is something in between 2006 and 2008, that is not a number 5 guy. That is a top of the rotation starter.

4) Kansas City Royals
The best pitcher in the game may not be enough. Zack Grienke put it all together last year and won the Cy Young on the worst team in the AL. Gil Meche is still a solid number 2 guy. Luke Hochevar, Brian Bannister, Kyle Davies, Ruben Tejada and even Kyle Farnsworth are all fighting for the last three spots. And yes, I said Kyle Farnsworth. All of the three will do little this year and just keep the spots warm for the evenual 2011 and 2012 rotation guys, Mike Motgomrey and Aaron Crow. Here is an idea that the Royals should have embraced 2 years ago. Keep Leo Nunez and Ramon Ramirez, covert one of them into a closer and move Jokaim Soria to the rotation. He has 4 plus pitches and could have been great along side Grienke.

Player to Watch: Former number 1 overall pick Luke Hochevar has never been solid. But he had some starts in 2009 that still make people think he can be a full time starter.

5) Cleveland Indians
After trading Cy Young winners CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee and extending mysteries Fausto Carmona and Jake Westbrook, you can see why Cleveland is where they are. Optimism points to Westbrook and Carmona who have had really good springs and possibly returning to form. Carmona can be great when he is on. Justin Masterson was one of the centerpieces in the Victor Martinez trade. The big bodied sinker baller may end up being better suited for the bullpen and eventually the Indians closer. Their are 3 guys fighting for 2 spots with David Huff, Carlos Carrasco and Mike Talbot. Huff is a decent guy and Carrasco has been really good in the minors. But they both have a lot of work to do to be effective in the majors.

Player to Watch: The reason why Cleveland extended Fausto Carmona was because they knew they could not keep CC Sabathia. Carmona in 2007 was fantastic. Extending him then looked genius at the time as he is still under team control for possibly 4 more years. He is having a dominant spring with a 0.45 ERA in 20 innings and only 2 walks. If he keeps it up his sinker is one of the best in the game.

Top 10 Pitchers in Division
1) Zach Grienke KC
2) Justin Verlander DET
3) Jake Peavy DET
4) Mark Buehrle CHW
5) Scott Baker MIN
6) Rick Porcello DET
7) Max Scherzer DET
8) Jake Westbrook CLE
9) Kevin Slowey MIN
10)Gavin Floyd CHW

Prospect #4 Wilson Ramos

Signed as International Free Agent in 2004, Venezuela
Levels Played in 2009: AA New Britain
Opening Day Age: 22

Wilson Ramos is a premium prospect. As one of those type of players that was plucked from South America at the age of 16, his development has been slow. But it has developed into a high caliber major league catcher. Ramos has all the tools to be successful and do even more.

The past three years, Wilson Ramos has moved quickly through low A ball all the way to AA and gave Drew Butera a run to make the major league roster this spring. Hampered by injuries, Ramos only played 54 games in AA New Britain. And playing only 54 games, some scouts still have Ramos rated as high as number 2 in the organization and top 40 in all of Major League Baseball. Ramos hit .317/.341/.454 in New Britain. At the age of 20 in 2008 he hit 13 home runs and drove in 78 in 126 games in a very tough Florida State League. Remember we are talking about a catcher here.

To get games in, Ramos headed back home to participate in the Venezuelan and Caribbean World Series this winter. Ramos raked up the league hitting .332/.397/.582. In 54 games he hit 12 home runs and drove in 54. To put in perspective if you translate to a full season we are talking about a 30+ home run guy.

Speaking of catching, Ramos is a plus defender. He threw out 42% of base runners in 2009. From behind the plate, he can save anywhere from 4 to 9 runs per season. He has some kinks to work out, when it comes to calling games. In spring training Ron Gardenhire pointed out that Ramos likes to call too many breaking balls. It happened on 2 occasions with Fransisco Liriano and Joe Nathan calling to many sliders to get strikeouts. Gardenhire told Ramos that this is strike throwing club. It is more important to locate a fastball and put the ball in play then go for the strikeout.

Offensivley Ramos is special. He has light tower power and again we are talking about a catcher here. He only had 30 at bats this spring but he made the most of them hitting .400 with and OPS of 1.133. He hit 2 monster home runs including one of former Twin Johan Santana. In the long run he will be able to hit for great power, and hit .280-.300 yearly. The only issue with his bat is his walk rate. In 5 years at the minors Ramos only has a league average OBP of .338. His strikeout to walk rate is more then 2 to 1. A lot of Twins scouts have gone out and said that this is not to much of a concern because the rest of his game is that good, but at some point getting on base is more important then making hard contact.

Ramos will begin the year in AAA Rochester after being sent down this morning. He will not be there for long as he is going into his 3rd year on the 40 man roster. I expect him to be a September call up and challenge to make the playoff roster as Mauer's backup and a huge right handed hitter of the bench.

In the long run it has been spoken of that Ramos was going to be insurance for Joe Mauer. I am not sure if everyone has heard but Joe did sign a contract extension that will keep him in a Twins uniform for the next 9 years (2018). So unless Wilson plans on changing positions, their is no room for him on the Twins. Which chip! I personally don't think the Twins should trade him this year unless a unique situation comes up. And when I say unique, I mean a front line starting pitcher who is better then all 5 of the guys the Twins currently have. I think Ramos is too good to be traded for a closer, especially with the crop of outfielders the Twins can use for a trade like that. Again this is a good situation to have. The Twins have a great team and one of the best farms systems they have had in the decade. Ramos will get his at bats in Rochester and do very well. I also want to state that Minnesota should not sit on Ramos for too long. The last team that had a catcher surplus was Texas with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Max Ramirez and Taylor Teagarden. The Rangers did not trade any of them, they all lost some value and now are stuck.

ETA: September 2010
Projection: Power hitting catcher (25-30HR) with very good defense.
MLB Comparison: Behind the plate he will resemble any of the Molina brothers (Yadier, Jose, and Benjie). His bat will be Geovanny Soto.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Prospect #5 Ben Revere

Center Field, Left Field, Right Field
Drafted 1st round, 2007 (28th overall) Lexington, Kentucky
Levels Played in 2009: A+ Fort Myers
Opening Day Age: 21 (Turns 22 on May 3rd)

Ben Revere is the Percy Harvin of the Twins organization. Every time he plays, something dynamic and exciting is bound to happen. Ben Revere was a questionable pick by the Twins in 2007. The Gatorade player of the year in Kentucky was projected to go somewhere in the 3rd or 4th round, but the Twins surprised the baseball world by selecting the speedy outfielder at the end of round 1, one pick after Tigers selected pitcher Rick Porcello. To put in perspective of the 2 picks, Porcello signed for a then record bonus for Detroit ($3.5 million), the Twins got Revere for a well below slot value of $750,000 (second lowest in MLB for the decade). It makes me wonder if Porcello where to have dropped to Minnesota at 28, would they have still taken Revere?

When Revere was drafted, he was looked at by scouts by a prototypical lead off hitter who would steal a ton of bases. In a short career Revere has been much more then that. He was seen to have a below average bat, and was pull happy. In 3 years Revere has hit .337, including a .379/.433/.497 stint in the Midwest League that earned him the league MVP as a 20 year old. Revere has been an All Star at all 3 levels, GCL, Midwest League, Florida State League that is in addition to his 2 Twins organizational player of the year awards. He shows his bat can be MLB ready sooner rather then later. He has stolen 110 bases in his 3 short years. He stole 21 bags in 50 games at rookie ball, 44 steals in 83 games in the Midwest League, and 45 steals in 121 games in the Florida State League. The final stat that jumps out is his K to BB ratio. As of yet Revere has not been over powered. In 2007 he struck out 20 times to 13 walks. 2008 he struck out 31 times to 27 walks, and last year he struck out 34 times to 40 walks. His patience is better then scouts give him credit for.

Revere is undersized. He stands 5 feet 9, 175 pounds. Just to put in perspective he is the same size as Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox (2008 AL MVP). Revere has 3 plus, plus tools. He can hit for very good average, he can cover a ton of ground in the outfield and he is lightning quick on the base paths. His other 2 tools come out to well below average.

Revere has no power to speak of as of yet. He can leg out doubles and triples however in 254 minor league games he has only 3 home runs. Not to say that this is a bad thing. He is batting lead off. Most teams, including the Twins could care less how many home runs their lead off guys hit. The whole object of a lead off hitter is to get on base and disrupt the pitcher for the rest of the order. The plus side to that is some scouts say that Revere does have some power and could possibly develop into a 10 to 12 HR guy in the future. I personally think that is a stretch but if he does it makes him a very special player. His other below average tool is his throwing arm. When drafted, Revere had a very bad arm. He has worked on that over the past 2 off seasons and may be up to average by now. Their were thoughts saying that Revere should be the Twins right fielder in 2011 and trade Michael Cuddyer. I simply just do not agree with that. Right field is a position to hide a guy who can not cover a lot of ground, but has a very strong arm. Revere is the complete opposite of that. He needs to be in center long term so that his speed can be displayed in all parts of the game.

Moving forward, Revere is a very liked player among the Twins staff and fans. He was kept in big league camp up until last week. Ron Gardenhire expressed greatly how much he enjoyed having Revere around. Revere is not currently on the 40 man roster and will begin the year in AA New Britain. But do not be surprised if some strings are pulled and he is up in September. Unlike other organizations, Minnesota does not reach deep into the system for players but it has happened on 3 occasions with Brad Radke, Joe Mauer and Jose Mijares. Revere's bat and speed definitely have value at the Major League level and because the Twins do not have Carlos Gomez any more, Revere might be a guy who could be put on a playoff roster to back up Denard Span or to be a pinch runner for Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer, and Jason Kubel.

Of course long term their are questions with Revere. Denard Span is now locked up for the next 5 years, Micheal Cuddyer and Jason Kubel are not a free agents until after 2011 and Delmon Young is still only 24 years old. Their are also a lot of left handed hitters at the top of the order with Span, Mauer, Morneau and Kubel. May be difficult to start off a game with 4 or 5 lefties in a row. From the looks of it Revere may be blocked. Their are also rumors of him being a trade chip to bring in a Joe Nathan replacement. For the time being it is too early to discuss any of this. Revere still does not turn 22 for another month. Let the kid play and worry about the rest later.

ETA: Do not be surprised if it's in September. Long term though he will be up in 2011.
Projection: Great lead off hitter. Hit well over .300 with 50+ steals and 100+ runs scored.
MLB Comparison: The Kirby Puckett comps are like 1 in 10,000. He is also a lot better then Juan Pierre. His offensive ability is similar to Chone Figgins. He defense is that of Kenny Loften (with less throwing arm). If he develops some power like some scouts believe (8-12 HR) he could be Jacoby Ellsbury.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ranking the AL Central (Lineup)

1.) Minnesota Twins
On paper the Twins have the best line up they have ever had. In addition to the 2 MVP award winners hitting 3-4 (Mauer and Morneau), the Twins have a great collection of hitters. Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer can mash with the best of them after combining for 60 home runs in 2009. Denard Span is already one of the best lead off hitter in the division and he has potential to only get better. Orlando Hudson has experience and switch hitting ability will be able to get on base and move runners along for the M&M boys. The wild cards are hitting 7 and 8. If Delmon Young and JJ Hardy are right, the Twins could not only be the best in the division, but one of the best in the American League.

Player to Watch: Danny Valencia might be called up mid season. The only thing he would be asked to do is turn over the lineup batting 9th. Valencia has solid power and can be very valuable for an already dynamic line up.

2.) Cleveland Indians
I may be making a stretch, but if Cleveland is going to show any signs of life this year, they will have to mash. They have moved their best player Grady Sizemore, from lead off to the 2 hole. Personally I think he should be batting 3rd. Asdrubal Cabrera now hitting lead off is one of the most under rated players in all of baseball. Shin Soo Choo is an all star and Johnny Peralta can be great when hes right. Big question mark are injuries. Right now history has gone against what could be their 4, 5, 6 guys in Travis Hafner, Russel Braynon and Matt LaPorta. These three have potential to combine for 75 to 80 home runs, but again I am being very optimistic.

Player to Watch: Carlos Santana is one of the top 10 prospects in all of baseball. His bat is major league ready; Cleveland is just waiting to put all his catching tools together. He should be called up sometime in May and his switch hitting ability resembles former Indians star Victor Martinez to a tee.

3.) Detroit Tigers
The Tigers really did not lose as much as people believe. They still have one of the 5 best players in all of baseball in Miguel Cabrera who has reported in better shape and has quit drinking. This may be the year where he lives up to PECOTA's projections of 40 home runs and 140 RBI. After trades and free agency, Detroit lost Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco but they will be replacing those bats with Johnny Damon and Austin Jackson at the top of the order. Jackson has had a great spring and Damon is a lot more consistent at the plate then Granderson. Question marks will still be is how long can Adam Everett survive not hitting and will Brandon Inge produce the same way he did in the first half of 2009? Also how will Carlos Guillen react to being a permanent DH this year and Scott Sizemore do being an everyday player.

Player to Watch: Their was a lot of feuding going along with the Tigers and Maglio Ordonez on whether he would hit his incentives that paid him $18 million dollars. Maglio did hit that mark and now that it is in the past; he could get back to the level he played in 2007 where he was MVP caliber.

4.) Chicago White Sox
The South Siders may be taking the Twins old approach to hitting this year. They have replaced some of their base cloggers like Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye with guys like Juan Pierre and Alex Rios. Gordon Beckham may be as good as it gets this year at 2nd base. If Konerko and Carlos Quinton are healthy they can provide the power. However the White Sox do have more question marks then guarantees. How much longer can Alexi Ramirez last with out walking. Adruw Jones looks to be on the downward tilt of his career. He tried to bounce back from the collapse he was experiencing the last 2 years but its a long shot he returns to a productive form. Juan Pierre moving to the AL scares me. Mark Teahen was never able to be a full time player on the Royals. How can you expect him to just be good. And how much longer will it be before someone really tries to kill AJ Pierzynski.

Player to Watch: Gordon Beckham may be no surprise but moving him to 2B makes his bat that much more valuable. Let the Chase Utley comparisons begin.

5.)Kansas City Royals
The Royals last year traded really good pitchers for 1 year of really bad bats. They turned Leo Nunez and Ramon Ramirez into Mike Jacobs and Coco Crisp and now they have none of the 4 players going into 2010. Just validating why the Royals suck. Outside of Billy Butler, their is not one keeper among this group. The next guy is Alberto Callapso, but because of his sketchy defense, he is in a position battle with Chris Getz. It may be time to give up on Alex Gordon after experiencing another injury this spring. Yuni Betancourt may be the only player in baseball that nobody wants. Jose Guillen does not want to be there. Posednick, Ankiel, and DeJesus are all out there for their defense. Ankiel would be lucky to repeat what he did in 2008 by hitting 25 home runs. Safe to say that last place should be locked up for Kansas City.

Player to Watch: 2012 may be the day to look forward to as a Royals fan. If former top draft picks, (3B) Mike Moustakas, (1B) Eric Hosmer and (C) Will Myers all pan out they could have a nice young lineup. But again, that is in 2012.

10 Best Players in AL Central
1) Joe Mauer MIN
2) Miguel Cabrera DET
3) Grady Sizemore CLE
4) Justin Morneau MIN
5) Billy Butler KC
6) Gordon Beckham CHW
7) Denard Span MIN
8) Johnny Damon DET
9) Shin Soo Choo CLE
10) Jason Kubel MIN

Prospect #6 Danny Valencia

3rd Base
Drafted 2006, 19th round University of Miami
Levels Played in 2009: AA New Britain, AAA Rochester
Opening Day Age: 25

When evaluating an organization's player development, you have to look further then what a team does in the first round. When looking at the Twins major league club, you should expect guys like Joe Mauer, Denard Span and Michael Cuddyer to be good baseball players (1st rounders). But it is what the team does after that is where a really good major league franchise can be built from within. Danny Valencia is an excellent example of this. A guy who was selected late in the 2006 draft and has played very well at every level, now on the brink of making his major league debut.

Of course third base has been a hole for the Twins since Corey Koskie left 6 years ago. Valencia has been a player, Twins fans have kept an eye for 3 years now. In 5 levels Valencia has hit .299/.354/.480. 2009, Valencia got off to a good start in New Britain playing in 57 games and had a .373 OBP. He hit 14 doubles and 7 home runs which earned a promotion in AAA. What seems to happen to Valencia is as he has been promoted each year, he gets a little swing happy. His isolated discipline was 0.055 in Rochester. With each promotion to a new team, Valencia will hit the ball hard, have a little success and forget what got him there. For him to be successful in the future, consistency at the plate and in the field is going to be necessary.

Danny Valencia does not possess one plus tool. However, he does not do anything poorly either. He has good patience at the plate and possesses some above average power. His swing will generate a lot of doubles and possibly 20+ home runs. His defense is average. He does not have better lateral movement then the current Twins platoon of Nick Punto and Brendan Harris, but he does have a better arm then both of them. However it is the potential with the bat that will get him to play every day in Minnesota. Twins fans need to remember, although Valencia is already 25, he still has some parts of his game to work on.

If and when he gets to the majors there will be little pressure put on him. In this lineup he is going to be hitting 9th. He is playing with 2 very good defensive infielders in JJ Hardy and Orlando Hudson. Maturity and humility will be keys for him to get to Minnesota sooner rather then later. A Baseball America scout referred to him as brash and cocky. That will not float with Ron Gardenhire. Luckily the Twins have a great clubhouse filled with guys who should keep Valencia in the right mind.

ETA: Sometime around the All Star Break this year.
Projection: Everyday 3rd baseman, who can hit .270-.290 with some pretty good power. Defense will be average at best.
MLB Comparison: Garrett Atkins and Aaron Boone.

Prospect #7 David Bromberg

Starting RHP
Drafted : 32nd Round 2005 from Santa Anna College, California
Levels Played in 2009: A+ Fort Myers
Opening Day Age: 22

I still do not know whether to think that David Bromberg is an over rated or under rated prospect. The big right hander has definitely had enough success at the professional level to think that he should be raising a few more eyebrows then just the ones in Minnesota but that has been the case so far.

Why is David Bromberg under rated? Well as you can see above David Bromberg was selected as a draft and follow with the 975th pick overall! And in addition to that he was inked up for just $40,000 dollars. It is already a win-win deal for the Twins because they have already gotten every penny out of Bromberg in his short career. In 4 years at 4 levels Bromberg has been great. He has held 3 league strikeout titles in the Appalachian League, Midwest League and Florida State League. He was an All Star in those three leagues as well. He was named pitcher of the year in the Appalachian League as a 19 year old and also in the Florida State League as a 21 year old. In 2009 the Twins named him the organization's Minor League pitcher of the year. In 4 years Bromberg has been a horse pitching a total of 412 innings with a 3.34 ERA. Bromberg has a very respectable career BAA of .237 as well as 437 strikeouts (9.55 K/9). From looking at that, what is their not to like.

Why is David Bromberg over rated? Scouts are definitely smarter then we give them credit for. Bromberg has never appeared on any top 100 prospect list to my knowledge. With all of Bromberg's success he still has shown some struggles. Bromberg does have an issue to not be able to repeat his delivery which gives him high walk totals at times. His command is shaky at times which gives him the following walk totals over the past 4 years; 2006 (3.9 BB/9) 2007 (4.96 BB/9) 2008 (3.24 BB/9) 2009 (3.70 BB/9). Although Bromberg has been the number 1 starter at every level he has been at, most scouts still consider him a back of the rotation guy. This is due to he does not have 1 true plus pitch.

I personally think a little more highly of David Bromberg then others do. The best part of it is that he can improve. Right now Bromberg is 6 feet 5 and 241 pounds. He throws 2 different fastballs, a 2 seamer that is 90 to 92 MPH with good movement and a 4 seam that he can run 94 to 95. He also has an at times plus curve ball. But because he sometimes has trouble repeating his delivery is appears to slurve at times. He also has a show me change up to keep batters off pace. Bromberg is a big kid, but not a great athlete. Moving forward he will have to get in better shape to repeat his delivery and last for 200 innings. He is close to that now, after back to back seasons of 150+ innings. Bromberg will begin 2010 as either the number 1 or 2 starter for AA New Britain. With another great year he could possibly compete for the opening day rotation in 2011.

ETA: I personally think he and Kyle Gibson will compete for the 5 spot in 2011.
Projection: Bulldog in the middle of the rotation.
MLB Comparison: Kevin Millwood

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Prospect #8 Carlos Gutierrez

Starting and Reliever RHP
Drafted 2008, 1st round (27th overall), University of Miami
Levels Played in 2009: A+ Fort Myers and AA New Britain
Opening Day Age: 23

Carlos Gutierrez was the second of 2 first round picks for the Twins in 2008 (Aaron Hicks). At the University of Miami he was a closer after Tommy John surgery ended his bid as a starter Freshman Year. The Twins selected Gutierrez not only for his sign-ability but for also his incredible ground ball rate. After signing Gutierrez was quickly sent to Fort Myers to work out of the bullpen and did quite well. In 26 innings pitched he had a 2.10 ERA.

Gutierrez began the 2009 season as a member of team Puerto Rico for the World Baseball Classic. He worked 1 scoreless inning of relief before reporting to the Twins for spring training. As the season began the Twins decided to move forward with their project and converting the tall righty back to being a starter. The Twins felt that his big body and plus sinker would be good enough to for a starters role (ex. Nick Blackburn). The season started out great for Gutierrez as he over powered hitters with his fastball sinker combination. He maintained a ground ball rate over 70% the entire year. In 55 innings pitched he had a .192 BAA, 1.32 ERA and only 1 home run given up. At the midway point of the season Baseball America ranked him as the 14th best prospect to come out of the 2008 draft. If their were 2 things to complain about it was his walk total. His sinker had so much movement that he walked 22 batters compared to 33 strikeouts in those 55 innings. The other stat to recogonize was that although he had a low ERA Gutierrez gave up a lot of unearned runs. 20 runs given up. Only 8 were earned.

Either way Gutierrez was still having a great year and did earn his promotion to AA New Britain. In a career filled with short outings, fatigue began to catch up to Carlos. He started to get knocked around, and was not able to locate his fastball. In AA he finished with a 6.19 ERA and gave up 6 home runs in 52 innings. Towards the end of the season the Twins recognized the fatigue and moved him back to the bullpen. In total Gutierrez pitched 107 innings with a very respectable 3.70 ERA. Low points were his low K numbers 65 and his high walk total 46.

Moving forward the Twins still have options with Gutierrez. It still seems likely that Minnesota will continue with the experiment of moving him to a starter. If he does not show stamina at the end of the year the Twins may just entertain the idea of making his the closer of the future. It is not that Gutierrez does not have stuff because he does. Gutierrez works with a power fastball in the 92 to 94 MPH range in addition to his power sinker. Baseball America says he has the best fastball in the system. As a reliever he could be able to gain more velocity. When Joe Mauer began his rehab stint in Fort Myers last year he mentioned that Gutierrez had the best sinker he has ever caught. At 6 foot 3 and 205 pounds he has the body to be either a starter or reliever. He will start the 2010 season in the AA rotation but may be kept on a short leash and moved back to the bullpen if their are struggles. Either way Gutierrez has a bright future ahead of him.

ETA: 2011
Projection: Either back of rotation starter with worm killing ground ball rates. Or the Twins closer of the future.
MLB Comparison: Fausto Carmona pre-location issues. Derrick Lowe, Chien-Meng Wang.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Prospect #9 Angel Morales

Center Field and Right Field
Drafted 3rd Round, 2007, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy High School
Levels Played in 2009: A Beloit
Opening Day Age: 20

The Twins have grown accustom to acquiring high upside, toolsy outfielders over the years and Angel Morales is no exception to that. Morales burst on the scene in 2008 when he demonstrated his huge raw power potential hitting 15 home runs and slugging over .623 in the Appalachian League. Only 18 at the time Morales was seen as a steal in the 3rd round after finishing the year batting .301/.413/.623. The only down side to Morales' game was his swing and miss rate which would come back to him in 2009.

Morales would debut in full season ball in 2009 as a 19 year old. His raw swing and poor plate discipline came back to haunt him in the first half of the season as he was only hitting .215 come June. Morales was able to bounce back in the second half in a big way by hitting over .350 the final two months of the season to finish his season averages at .266/.329/.455. When looking at it quickly it is not entirely terrible for a 19 year old in his first season playing over 100 games. However, there is no getting around his strikeout rate. In 207 career games at 3 levels Angel Morales has struck out 220 times in comparison to just 68 walks. It is obvious that there is a hole in his swing and it will need to be corrected if he is going to continue to develop.

Morales has a lot of raw power generated from a relatively small frame. 6 feet 1, 185 pounds. As a 5 tool talent, Morales does everything average to above average. His power and defensive arm rank as his best 2 tools indicating there could be a permanent move to right field down the line. However, the Twins are starting to make it apparent they want all their outfielders to be experienced with all three positions so they do not have to learn on the job at the major league level. Denard Span had to do this in 2009 and it may have held him back from being even better then he was.

Morales does have a lot of talent. However in this day and age if there was one thing that can hold a player back from being a major leaguer it is striking out too much. Morales needs to work hard for the next 2 to 3 years to correct that in order to be able to be a Twins some day. He should begin the year in A+ Fort Myers as a 20 year old where the average age is over 22. It will be a great challenge for Morales to go against the better pitchers, bigger parks and the damp Florida air.

ETA: 2013
Projection: Morales is still very raw in all aspects of the game. But he can still be a plus defensive right fielder with 25 to 30 home runs and maybe 15-20 steals a season.
MLB Comparison: Right handed Curtis Granderson or Chris Young of the Diamondbacks.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Prospect #10 Adrian Salcedo

Starting RHP
Signed as International Free Agent 2007, Dominican Republic
Levels Played in 2009: Rookie Gulf Coast League
Opening Day Age: 18 (turns 19 on April 24th)

Adrian Salcedo is what I like to call a mystery. Their are no public scouting video or even photos of him to date. However, Salcedo has not disappointed in his short stint with the Twins organization. After spending his age 17 in the Dominican Academy, he was sent to the Twins GCL for 2009. Salcedo was part of the best rotation in the league teaming with fellow teenagers BJ Hermsen and Blayne Weller.

He was always know for great control and he continued to show that in 62 innings only walking 3! In Addition to that he struck out 58 with a 1.46 ERA. Salcedo is as projectable as projectable gets. He already has above average to plus stuf, he stands 6 feet 4 and a thin 175 pounds and has very fluid mechanics and excellent control of the strike zone for a kid his age.

Last year Salcedo was armed with a low 90 to 92 MPH fastball with a power breaking pitch. Some scouts have not been able to decide whether his mid 80's spike curve ball is a slider. Either way it is already a plus pitch and can develop into a plus plus. In Twins camp this season, scouts have been able to get a glimpse of the young hurler for the first time. It is reported that his mechanics are top notch and he has added some velocity too. He is now sitting around 93 to 94. His fastball has good sink which allows him to have a ground ball to fly ball ratio of more then 2 to 1.

Salcedo already has a world of talent. If he continues to impress in camp he could contend to be in full season ball already as a 19 year old. I expect him to possibly be held back in extended spring training and possibly pitch at rookie ball and then be promoted to Beloit if he continues to over power lower level hitters. I read where a scout said that from what he saw this spring, Adrian Salcedo is a more impressive pitcher then Braves teenage pitching prospect Julio Teheran who has been ranked as high as 41 on some MLB top prospect lists. Salcedo is a guy to keep an eye on this year and could be the top pitching prospect in the system as soon as next year.

ETA: Late 2012 (he could be put on fast track as he gets to full season ball)
Projection: The off season improvements in velocity in addition to great mechanics indicate that Salcedo can be a top of the rotation starter.
MLB Comparison: He is to young and I have never seen him pitch. But just guessing according to his body type could resemble Jair Jurrjens.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Prospect #11 Max Kepler

Center Field
Signed as International Free Agent from Germany (2009)
Levels Played in 2009: Not Available
Opening Day Age: 17

With the new revenues generated from Target Field, the Twins not only have been able to spend more money of major league roster but they also have been able to be a major player in the international markets. Max Kepler is a prime example of this. Still only 17, Kepler has future star written all over him. He was given the highest signing bonus ever ($800,000) for a player acquired out of Europe.

Kepler is a super athlete. His parents were both ballet dancers, which gives him his grace when manning the outfield. When Kepler signed with the Twins his parents quickly moved from Germany to Fort Myers, Florida and enrolled him in a local high school as a junior. The feeling was the development process was going to be slow considering that high school hours run into playing professional baseball. That quickly changed when it was discovered that Kepler received his GED in the off season.

Kepler is a physical specimen and a work out machine. When he signed is was a 6 foot 3 and a lean 175 pounds. Now, entering camp he is now over 200 pounds. Kepler is a 5 tool shed. He already has line drive power, incredible speed, and shows great athleticism when playing defense. Although not playing a professional game yet, it is possible that Kepler might develop into a better prospect down the road then Aaron Hicks.

Kepler is going to begin 2010 season in extended spring training and will head the the Gulf Coast League with what could be a potentially loaded lineup as he will be joining fellow 2009 signees Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco as well as Dominican League standout Wander Guillen. Kepler's development will be closely watched as he could be ready for full season ball sooner rather then later posing the question if he might make his major league debut before his 21st birthday.

ETA: 2014-2015
Projection: All star caliber CF with 30/30 potential. Will definitely be a fan favorite.
MLB Comparison: I read a comparison by Phil Rogers that said Mickey Mantle. I could not help but smile but its a little drastic. However, I will say he definitely fits the mold of a Matt Kemp.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Prospect #12 Joe Benson

Left Field, Center Field, Right Field
Drafted 2006, 2nd Round (64th overall) Joliet, Illinois
Levels Played in 2009: A+ Fort Myers
Opening Day Age: 22

Going into this season Joe Benson should be a sleeper prospect to breakout. It may be questioned that how can a top 12 prospect still be considered a sleeper. Well Joe Benson only tapped into the high level potential he has in 2009. He was ranked as high as number 2 on Baseball America in 2007 behind Nick Blackburn. After two years of injuries and set backs, Benson finally showed his potential that made him a second round pick.

Benson played only 80 games at Fort Myers in 2009 after suffering a broken hand when he lost a fight with a concrete wall. He hit .285/.414/.403. Benson still has very raw power, but his size and strength should be able to start lifting the ball. The issue with him is still learning pitch recognition. Although he had 46 walks in 2009 through 80 games, he still struck out 74 times. To improve this it is all a matter of staying healthy. Benson has suffered some bad injuries included a broken vertebrate in 2008.

Joe Benson's potential is an exciting 5 tool player. He is one of the most athletic guys in the Twins system. He is a very fast base runner and covers a lot of ground in all three outfield positions. At 6 feet 2 and 210 pounds he is a special kid. For a guy who got on base over 41% of the time there is still a lot of room for improvement and that is a scary thing. He could eventually become a guy who literally can hit anywhere in the order. He had a good instructional league and is seeing time in big league camp, which could hint he could be sent to AA New Britain after only 80 games last year is Fort Myers. Either way Benson just needs to play a full season to further develop his potential 5 tool set.

ETA: September call up 2011, Challenge for opening day outfielder in 2012.
Projection: 5 tool player. Great defense, good OBP, solid batting average, home runs could be anywhere from 10 to 25 and an easy 25+ stolen bases.
MLB Comparison: Dexter Fowler and Alex Rios

Monday, March 22, 2010

Prospect #13 Rene Tosoni

Right Field and Center Field
Drafted 2005, 36th round Chipola College, British Columbia
Levels Played in 2009: AA New Britain
Opening Day Age: 23

Rene Tosoni is one of those prospects that have already outperformed their draft status and now are close enough to make an impact at the major league level. Tosoni has been able to play through some of the issues that have taken away from his career. In 2006, he could not come to the States because of visa issues. In 2007 he played well in rookie ball and was promoted to Beloit but suffered an injury that cut his season short at 2 games. The Twins decided to start moving him along quickly in 2008 by letting him go straight to Fort Myers where he played pretty well (.300/.408/.414). The Twins believed that 42 games was enough for Tosoni to be ready for AA in 2009.

Tosoni was what of the Twins minor league top performers in 2009. He began do develop some power hitting 15 home runs while driving in 71 runs. This was in addition to 25 doubles. Tosoni's bat was recognized by being and Eastern League All Star, the MVP of the Futures Game and an invitation to the Arizona Fall League. .

Tosoni is not a big guy. He stands 6 feet tall and weighs a shade under 200 pounds. It might be safe to say that he does not have much more power to develop. As a right fielder, Tosoni does not have what some of the other outfielders have in the Twins system and that is a 4th and 5th tool. He is not the athlete of a Ben Revere or an Aaron Hicks. However, what he does have is success as higher levels.

Tosoni will begin the year in AAA Rochester as their right fielder. He should be one the first guy to look to call up in the minors if their any injuries to the Twins outfielders minus Denard Span. Tosoni has the ability to play all outfield positions but their are many who think that if Span were to ever to go down, that Ben Revere will be pulled from wherever he is.

ETA: 2009 or 2010
Projection: Everyday right or left fielder. Brings solid average, high OBP and average power (15-20 home runs)
MLB Comparison: Solid Comparison: Melkey Cabrera

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Joe Mauer is staying!!!!

Joe Mauer has inked a 8 year 184 million dollar deal that will keep him with the Twins through the 2018 season (age 34). The 2009 AL MVP is expected to make $23 million dollars per year which is half a million more then Mark Texiera.

Great day to be a Twins fan especially in the wake of Joe Nathan announcing this morning that he will undergo Tommy John surgery. The news came after the Twins beat up on the Tampa Bay Rays 12 to 3. The Twins showed potential of what their lineup can do this season. Mauer went 2 for 4 today upping his spring batting average to .471.

Prospect #14 Tyler Robertson

Starting LHP
Drafted: 3rd round, 2006 Fair Oaks, California
Levels Played in 2009: A+ Fort Myers
Opening Day Age: 22

Tyler Robertson quickly made a name for himself in 2007 by dominating the Midwest League as a 19 year old. In 102 innings he had a 2.29 ERA and 123 strikeouts (10.8K/9 innings). The only pitcher to have a better strikeout rate in the Midwest league in 2007 was another 19 year old lefty, Clayton Kershaw. Their were high hopes for Tyler Robertson in 2008. He pitched well however a mid season arm injury cut his campaign short 83 innings. Most say the injury was caused by Robertson's corky mechanics that seem painful to watch. Robertson's motion has a lot of moving parts, and a big arm whip action from a 3/4 arm action nearly passing for side arm delivery. Although, not what you are supposed to teach to any pithcer, it does create a lot of deception which allows him to get his outs.

2009 might not have gone the way Robertson wanted. He was sent back to A+ ball. Although successful he was not as dominant as he once showed in 2007. He did pitch a career high 143 innings but only struck out 103 and his BAA went up from .226 to .247 in 2008 to .259 in 2009.

The reason why Robertson was so successful previously in his career was because he normally worked with a fastball in the 90-92 range. In 2009 he dropped into the mid 80's. Baseball America had a great report on him, saying some of his lost velocity may have been due to lack of long toss programs used throughout the season. It has been said that the Twins minor leaguers are to increase their long toss programs throughout the season to maybe get more stretched out and gain a little more velocity. Their is optimism that it will be able to work out for Roberson considering he is 6 feet 5 and over 220 pounds. In addition to his hidden fastball, Robertson has 3 above average to plus pitches starting with some call the best curve-ball in the system, and plus slider and a change up which is average to above average. Scouts say that if Robertson can better his fastball it will make is change up that much better just with velocity separation.

If Robertson is able to regain some of his lost velocity and make sure to stay healthy with his violent delivery, he could be making his major league debut sometime next year. The Twins really only have 2 solid left handed starters in the minors in addition to the 3 with major league experience (Liriano, Perkins, Duenseng). Robertson will begin 2010 in AA with a deep rotation. It is expected that Robertson will team up with David Bromberg, Deolis Guerra, Mike McCardell and Carlos Gutierrez.

ETA: Mid to late 2011
Projection: Middle of the rotation lefty with 4 pitches.
MLB Comparison: Nobody has mechanics resembling Robertson. But he has secondary pitches similar to Erik Bedard. Hopefully he can remain more healthy.

Joe Nathan: What Does the Future Hold?

This morning The Twins and All Star closer Joe Nathan announced that Saturday's throw session did not go well and he will opt to have Tommy John surgery in the next week or two. This is sad news for Twins fans but expected. Up until yesterday I was about 80% sure that he was going to need to go this route. It was more of the fan side of me thinking he would be able to pitch through the pain. But that was not the case. Finally, moving forward their is a spot open now on the team. And one of the current guys in the pen looks to be getting a big promotion the the 9th inning barring a trade. I think there are good (+) and bad (-) things about that and I will run through them.

1. (-) With Papelbon and Rivera, Joe Nathan is one of the top 3 closers in baseball and his value of 47 saves in 2009 will be missed.

2. (+) Open spot may allow Anthony Slama break camp with the team. He has been a pleasure to have striking out 8 in 4 scoreless spring innings.

3. (-) If Pat Neskek is not ready to go, and a trade is not made, Glen Perkins might also break camp with the Twins.

4. (+) The Twins have some very talented long term closer options who are close to the majors. Carlos Gutierrez looks like he is going to take over that role in AA. Alex Burnett should be a late reliever in AAA. And 2009 draftees Billy Bullock and Ben Tootle are on a fast track to the majors with electric stuff.

5. (-) Matt Gurrier, Jesse Crain, and John Rauch are all ready to be free agents after the season. If anyone of the three take over the roll and are successful they might want to go on the open market and be a full time closer if Nathan returns next year.

6. (+) Type A compensation might be possible if Guerrier or Rauch have a great year in a walk year. And the Twins can collect a first round draft pick.

7. (+/-) If the Twins internal options do not work out then they might have to go out and make a deal. It is said that Heath Bell has a substantial price tag. But if it does not include any of Hicks, Gibson or Sano; then the Twins should negotiate.

8. (+/-) If Twins get Heath Bell and Nathan comes back next year, their could be an issue in 2011. They will both be free agents in 2012 with Nathan having a club option.

Leave comments if you think any of these scenarios are wrong or if their are any I left out.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Prospect #15 Billy Bullock

Relief RHP
Drafted 2nd round, 2009 University of Florida
Levels Played in 2009: Elizabethton Twins Appalachian League, A Beloit
Opening Day Age: 22

The third of three consecutive relievers on this list has a world of talent. The Twins had a very successful draft in 2009. They were able to re-tool their farm system by selecting 4 college arms with their first 4 picks. Billy Bullock was the third one taken but he might have the most upside. ESPN's Keith Law said he was the best college closer in the 2009 draft. Bullock is a big power reliever, with a hard fastball and sharp breaking ball. U of Florida tried for a couple years to make him into a front line starter but he could never put it all together. He was bit wild, never had a third pitch and seemed to get over tired.

The Gators coach was a former minor league Twins pitching coach, Kevin O'Sullivan. He decided to turn Bullock into a closer and it panned out very well. In his Junior year he pitched a total of 47.2 innings, with a 2.64 ERA, 50 strikeouts, and 11 saves.

His transition to professional ball went quite smoothly as he dominated rookie ball throwing 7 more innings giving up 1 run, striking out 10 and only allowing 4 base runners. The Twins quickly decided that Bullock was ready for full season ball and was moved up to Beloit for the end of the season. Bullock stepped in right away as the Snappers closer and racked up 8 saves in 26 innings. He had a 2.73 ERA and struck out 35 batters (12.1 K/9). He some command issues with 12 walks, but his stuff was so good that he was able to overwhelm Midwest League hitters.

Billy Bullock arguably has the best fastball in the system. He works with an explosive fastball that ranges 94 to 97 MPH. He has been able to run it up to as high as 98 on the gun. He pairs that with a power slider to form a perfect combination for a dominant closer. Bullock stands at 6 feet 6 and weighs 225 pounds. He will have to fine tune his command issues because he is known for giving up a few walks and home runs. But his stuff is defintiely legit and he is in the place to be to learn some control. Bullock will most likely begin the year in Fort Myers. Depending on what the Twins do with former first rounder Carlos Gutierrez, he could get an early promotion to New Britain.

ETA: Late 2011, early 2012
Projection: He has closer stuff. He has closer makeup. He can be a closer.
MLB Comparison: Best case scenario he could be Jonathan Broxton.
Worse case maybe Grant Balfour.

Prospect #16 Alex Burnett

Relief RHP
Drafted 12 round in 2005, Huntington, California
Levels Played in 2009: A+ Fort Myers and AA New Britain
Opening Day Age: 22

Alex Burnett was originally drafted by the Twins as a starter. He made his major league debut at age 17 and held his own in rookie ball for 2 years. 2007 and 2008, Burett demonstrated he was a bulldog pitcher, throwing a combined 299 innings in Beloit and Fort Myers. Alex Burnett was a solid starter pitcher, generally working with a fastball 91 MPH and a couple good secondary pitches.

2009 the Twins decided to make a move transitioning Burnett from a number 4 or 5 type starter to a power reliever. And it worked great. Burnett arguably had the best year of any Twins releiver at any level other then Joe Nathan in 2009. In two levels 78 innings, he gave up 50 hits, and ERA of 1.85 and 78 strikeouts. When Anthony Slama was promoted to Rochester, Burnett took over as the full time closer in New Britain. Burnett's success at the age of 21 earned him a invitation to the Arizona Fall League where he did not disappoint. He pitched 10 innings with a 3.38 ERA and struck out 11. He did struggle a bit with command with 10 walks but made up for it for how he handled left handers. Who went 1 for 18 against him.

Burnett worked with a low 90's fastball as a starter. As a reliever he hits 94-95 MPH consistently on the gun. He throws that with a straight change up, sluvry breaking ball and a big curve. The last 3 pitchers are said to need a little bit improvement but they do not need much fine tuning. Alex Burnett was rewarded for his work in 2009 by being put on the 40 man roster. labels Burnett being on AAA Rochester Red Wings for this season. If this is the case he will defintiely be a September call up this year. And if their are struggles with anyone in the pen, expect him to be one of the first ones called up with Anthony Slama and Rob Delany.

ETA: Mid to late 2010
Projection: Big league reliever with 3 above average to plus pitches. Only 22 now, will definitely get an opportunity to be closer in his career.
Major League Comparison: Their are a ton of guys to compare Burnett to. You could say Heath Bell all the way to Tom "Flash" Gordon.

News, Notes and Thoughts 3/19

Good morning Twins Territory. There are a couple things I want to go over before the weekend.

To start, Joe Nathan will play catch either Saturday or Sunday. This will probably be the end of his season because I do not see how he can be superman and strengthen the muscles around his elbow in just a week and a half. There was a report in USA today that Nathan had a 90% tear in his UCL which could not be more false. If he had that big of a tear he would not be able to pick up a spoon with out being in pain. The truth is it is in the range of 25% to 35% tear. That is why he think he will be able to throw. I just want to go out and say I have no problem with Joe Nathan giving this a chance. He has been one of the 3 best closers in all of baseball with Jonathan Papelbon and Mariano Rivera since he arrived in Minnesota. He has earned the right to play catch. Two weeks does not make a difference in the Twins plans. They are obviously preparing for the worst since they got the news. But I am not confident it will go well so I am hopeful the Twins make a move to be the closer. I am not ready for Matt Guerrier or John Rauch to be that guy.

Jack Steal of was told by a source that the Twins had interest in acquiring LHP George Sherrill from the Dodgers for a package that would include Alexi Casilla and Glen Perkins. It that is the case I hope the Twins get it done. If there is something I learned from last year, it is you can never have too much pitching. And if that means we go into the season with 3 closer, (Sherrill, Nathan and Bell) I do not care. That will just make the Twins look so that better. Hah!

Speaking of Heath Bell there is another report coming from USA Today this morning that the Twins have been extensively scouting a trade with San Diego for All Star closer Heath Bell. I just want to put it out there that I really like Heath Bell. I do not care that he is 32 years old. He was ready to be the closer for 2 or 3 years waiting behind Trevor Hoffman. Finally when he got the chance he was great. He posted 42 saves and an ERA 2.71. He K/9 ratio is 10.2. He is durable after throwing 69.2 innings in 2009. Speaking of a pitcher this good, you would have to expect to give up a good prospect in return. And they should. I have already said before that there are only 3, maybe 4 untouchables in the Twins system. Those being Miguel Sano, Aaron Hicks and Kyle Gibson. The only wild card that I am iffy about is catcher Wilson Ramos due to Mauer really pissing me off as of late.

You might question why I have not said Ben Revere. That is because I would trade Ben Revere to San Diego for Heath Bell. ESPECIALLY if they took Glen Perkins too. If any team in the majors is dumb enough to take Glen off our hands we have to reward them. You have to give up stuff to get stuff and Ben Revere who is 18 months or 2 years away from the majors is defintiely worth an All Star closer to give the Twins a chance to win a playoff series.

I will be posting 2 prospects today because I will not be around Saturday.

Be sure to check out DW the Greats Blog

And our Podcast that is Saturday Mornings 10 AM Central, 11 AM Eastern.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Prospect #17 Anthony Slama

Relief RHP
Draft: 2006, 39th round
Levels played in 2009: AA New Britain and AAA Rochester
Opening Day Age: 26

It might be safe to say that Anthony Slama has been the best relief pitcher in the entire minor leagues since he debuted in 2007. Over the past 3 years, Slama has pitched in 5 levels with the following stat line.

140 appearances, 184 innings
1.86 ERA
68 Saves
.183 BAA
271 strikeouts. 13.2 K/9 and a 3.66 K/BB ratio

For lack of a better word he is dominant. In 2009 he was finally promoted to New Britain and then earned a mid season promotion to Rochester. Anthony Slama has been the closer right out of the gate at each level he has pitched. The question is if he has major league closer stuff. When looking at the stat line it is surprising to know that Slama works generally with a fastball that is 89 to 92 MPH. He also has a slider/change up pitch that mows down right handers. If there is something Slama does struggle with it is getting lefties out who his .292 off him in 2009.

Slama hides the ball extremely well against right handed hitters. His delivery allows his fastball to be sneaky fast and his slider look like a fall off the table pitch. He is able to keep the ball down in the zone to avoid the long ball. He has only allowed 5 home runs in his professional career, although all 5 of those came in his stint in New Britain.

With the injury to Joe Nathan their is a spot open in the bullpen. Also it has been made pretty clear that the Twins want to move Pat Neskek along rather slowly. Slama is still currently in big league camp and has impressed the coaching staff. He pitched 3 innings and has not given up a hit and has struck out 6. I would not be surprised if he broke camp with the Twins. But if he is sent back to Rochester it might now be for long. He definitely has the stuff to be a great situational righty out of the pen. And personally I can not wait for the nick name possibilities for him. My first one is Anthony Slama-Jama. And the other is Antony Slamas the door shut on the opposition.

ETA: He either breaks camp with Twins or is up in May or June
Projection: A late inning reliever who might get a shot to be a closer at some point in his career.
MLB Comparison: Not the same motion at all, but Slama has a delivery that is still hard to pick up and he gets strikeouts the same way Pat Neskek has in the past.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Prospect # 18 Chris Parmelee

First Base, Right Field, Designated Hitter
Drafted 2006, 1st round (20th overall) Chino Hills, California
Levels Played in 2009: A+ Fort Myers
Opening Day Age: 22

The first position player on this prospect list is Chris Parmelee. Parmelee was considered the most polished high school bat in the 2006 draft. It has been somewhat of a slow process in his development but he took big steps forward in 2009, ranking as one of the top sluggers in the Florida State League. In a very pitcher heavy league, Parmelee ranked third in home runs (16), second in RBI (73) and first in walks (65). After struggling in more then 200 games in Beloit, Parmelee made some changes in shortening his swing which helped his contact rate a little bit more. Although Parmelee only hit .258 in 2009, it was a career high for him in full season ball.

Chris Parmelee was an all star in the Florida State League. He was the league's home run derby champion, he was rated as the 17th best prospect overall in the league by Baseball America and he was also invited to the Arizona Fall League. Overall it was a step in the right direction.

Parmelee was drafted for his bat. At the time Minnesota was a team notoriously known for not having many power hitters in their lineup. For this instance the Twins seemed to step away from drafting college pitchers and toolsy high school position players to draft a potential middle of the lineup guy who could either play RF or 1B. So far the Twins have tried hard to keep Parmelee in the outfield but his 230 pound frame has made it difficult for him to do so. It is a shame because Parmelee has a plus arm. It the long run he will most likely end up a first baseman. Which is not a bad thing either. At this point in my opinion, I think it is time that the Twins just plant Parmelee at first base so he can continue to develop his bat.

It is expected Chris will be added to the 40 man roster after the 2010 season. Parmelee will be promoted in 2010 to AA New Britain. Finally stepping away from the Florida big parks, Parmelee has a chance to hit 20 plus home runs. If he does that and ups his average to the .270 mark he will be a player to keep an eye on for the future.

Just to put in perspective. Parmelee hit .258/.359/.441 in 2009. If he were to get more contact raising his average 10-15 points it makes him a more feared hitter, which means he will draw more walks and his OBP could hover around .385 to .400 and then we go from talking about a guy who barley cracks .800 OPS to a guy who will flirt with .875 to .900. It is a lot to ask but he raised his average in 2007 and 2008 from the low .230s to the high .250s in 2009. If he even makes half the improvements he did last year we could start talking about a exciting prospect again.

ETA: September call up in 2011 or Early 2012
Projection: Middle of the order power 1B. Lots of walks. Lots of strikeouts.
MLB Comparison: Bat will resemble Jack Cust or Chris Davis. If he hits the 90th percentiles (which is a stretch) then he could be Mark Reynolds, Carlos Pena or Adam Dunn.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Prospect #19 Deolis Guerra

Starting RHP
Acquired 2008 the Johan Santana trade from New York Mets.
Levels played in 2009: A+ Fort Myers and AA New Britain.
Opening Day Age: 20, (turns 21 on April 17th)

It is very hard for me to write about Deolis Guerra. I do not know whether to portray him negatively and call him a bust or still be optimistic and say he does not turn 21 for another month. The fact is both cases are true so I will try and explain both parts of the Guerra argument. Deolis Guerra was supposed to be the hidden gem of the Johan Santana trade 2 years ago. He was the reason why Minnesota did not go after Mike Pelfrey or Fernado Martinez. At the time he was an 18 years old and just finished up a full season in A+ Florida State League. In addition he represented the Mets in the Futures Game. Guerra was so highly coveted because he was 6 feet 5, and flashed a fastball that sat in the low 90's, touching 95. To go along with that he had a devastating change up that is still considered the best in the Twins system the past three years.

So what happened? Did the Twins play around with his mechanics? Was he really even that good with the Mets? I still do not know. All I know is that Guerra has had a rough 2 years in the Twins organization, 2008 being the worst. Although he won 11 games, Guerra had an ERA of 5.47 in 130 innings and a dreadful K/BB of 71 to 71. Guerra was 19 at the time and took major steps back and was expected to repeat the Florida State League for a third time in 2009. The low to mid 90's fastball was barley cracking 90. He was just a mess. The only positive thing Baseball Prospectus could say about the young righty was that he was still quite tall.

Although still nothing great Guerra had huge improvements with his location in 2009. And finally got a change of scenery with a promotion to New Britain. He increased his innings from 130 to 149. He cut his walks from 71 to 42. He raised his strikeouts from 71 to 106. In the FSL he lowered his ERA from 5.47 to 4.69. These numbers are not great but the improvements are. Guerra's BABIP in 2009 was well over .300. Basically meaning he had poor defense behind him or there were a lot of lucky drops. Baseball Prospectus has a new stat known as SIERA which adjusts a pitchers ERA according to league average defense, park size among other things. It calculates that Guerra's ERA could have been somewhere between 3.96 and 4.41. Something to build upon.

Guerra definitely had some outings where he got rocked. But he definitely had some outings where he looked like an ace. Whether that be when he threw 7 innings of no hit ball or the 7 innings, 12 strikeout performance, Guerra has shown that he is not a complete dud yet. In 2009 his fastball sat comfortably 88-91. His change up is still a plus, plus pitch. He is still very durable by increasing his innings substantially for the past 2 years. He is still 21 years old in AA where the average age of pitchers is 24. He is on the 40 man roster. The Twins still have confidence that he will be a major league pitcher someday. I still think he has the makeup to do that too. Maybe not the ace in the hole we all once thought. But definitely a middle of the rotation type guy.

ETA: 2011 if he breaks out. He will be 22. 2012 if he stays at this pace.
Projection: A middle of the rotation type starter. With maybe one breakout All Star campaign.
MLB Comparison: Freddy Garcia from 1999 to 2005 might be something to look at.

News, Notes and Thoughts 3/16

Few topics I want to briefly cover today before the Twins face Baltimore at noon. First being Joe Nathan, second is the two prospects still in big league camp, third is Frasisco Liriano and finally how can you not have a blog post with out mentioning Joe Mauer.

To start. Their was a twitter post by a very respected writer today Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus speaking about the injury to Joe Nathan. Just to quote the tweet "@injuryexpert: Told that Joe Nathan has an incomplete tear of his UCL -- "25%, maybe a bit more, not in the worst location." #twins". If this is the case for Nathan it could mean either false hope or a chance that he will be able to pitch in 2010. I am still on the bandwagon that he will no pitch this year, but if he does you have to expect he would at least still begin the year on the DL to build up the muscles around the elbow and when he does come back he will be on a strict pitch count. No closing on back to back nights, and he will probably not exceed 60% to 65% of the 70 innings he threw in 2009.

Topic 2 revolves around 2 of the Twins prospects who have made it through first round of demotions and still remain with the big club. Those being catcher, Wilson Ramos and center fielder, Ben Revere. Both have shown why they are so highly regarded among the Twins system and why they will be in the majors sooner rather then later. But the ideas floating around to bring them to Minnesota out of camp are nuts. I understand the logic, people want to have the best 25 players possible on the roster. However in a modern MLB with arbitration and trading that simply is just not possible. Remember Wilson Ramos only played 60 games in AA New Britain last year and Revere was only in A+ Fort Myers. These "kids" still have a good amount to learn about the game and they NEED to play every day. Not be backups to Joe Mauer and Denard Span.

Topic 3 is Fransisco Liriano. Liriano had a mixed outing yesterday against the Florida Marlins. He went 3 innings, gave up 4 hits and 3 runs including a mammoth shot to number 3 prospect in all of baseball Mike Stanton. He also did not walk a batter and struck out 6 making some of the Marlins look silly. So far this spring the Twins are doing the right thing getting Liriano stretched out and keeping him in competition for the rotation because that is where he belongs. The rumor or Fransisco Liriano being the closer is just a fabrication the media created because they want to build up a stir. From what I have heard Liriano and the closer role has not been mentioned directly as a solution for the Twins, rather just an idea to was thrown around. I am sure it was the same way every relief pitcher is the system's name has been thrown around as well. The fact is no one knows who the Twins closer will be. Fransisco Liriano is a starter and he will be a starter. 2006 and 2008 are 2 prime reasons why he should be a starter. There is not one good reason someone can give me for him to close other then he has electric stuff. He has worked very hard for the past 5 months to get back into the starting rotation and help this team win a championship. Let him do it. So far this spring he has thrown a total of 7 innings. He has a respectable 3.86 ERA with 1 walk and 12 strikeouts.

Final topic no surprise is Joe Mauer Contract Distraction as Jack Steal puts it. There is more reason to believe that a deal is closer then we think. Mauer's eventual contract will be unique in the sense that it is the second time a team will try to give close to $200 million dollars to a player without having one of the top payrolls in baseball. The Texas Rangers tried this and failed miserably so Bill Smith and management are being very careful in how they allocate their costs to make sure that the team remains competitive for the future. A good sign of this is the contract extensions to Nick Blackburn and Denard Span. Both of these players are now locked up for the next 4 and 5 years respectfully with club options. Standard forecast models are used to predict what a principles situation will be like in the future. The best way to help get a true forecast model is to limit the variables possible in the formula. Bill Smith wants to know exactly what the year by year allocation of money to his team will be able to fully commit $20 million dollars per year to Joe Mauer. And locking up guys like Justin Morneau, Denard Span, Scott Baker and Nick Blacburn who are all big names on this team help Bill Smith get a better understanding of how his model will read and if it will be feasible.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Prospect #20 Matt Bashore

Starting LHP
Drafted: Supplemental 1st Rd 2009 (46th overall), Indiana University
Levels Played in 2009: Elizabethton Twins, Rookie Appalachian League
Opening Day Age: 22

Going into the 2009 college season, Matt Bashore was seen as one of the more polished college lefties among the 2009 MLB draft class. Bashore just finished up a Sophmore campaign where he went 7-3 with a 3.59 ERA and struck out 86 batters in 82.2 innings. Bashore's breakout season earned him First Team all Big Ten honors and projections to go mid to late first round in the draft.

2009 did not go as planned. Although Bashore was a horse for the Hoosiers he finished with a 7-5 record and a 4.08 ERA. Bashore struck out 108 batters which was one back of the single season record at Indiana. Heading into the draft, Bashore's regression in ERA and allowed teammate Eric Arnett to jump ahead of him on draft boards. Arnett was the 26th pick by the Brewers when he came out of nowhere in 2009 showing off a mid 90's fastball to go along with his 6'6", 220 pound build.

The reason why Bashore was so highly regarded was because he flashed a low to mid 90's fastball from the left side as a sophomore. In 2009 he took a major step back, usually working in the high 80's ti low 90's. It was not until late in the 2009 season where his fastball began to show life again. Bashore is not a big kid, standing 6 feet 2 at around 200 pounds resembling another Big Ten pitching star in the Twins system (Glen Perkins).

After signing for slot money, Bashore pitched just 2 inning in the Appalachian League before being shut down with arm troubles. There has been no news yet whether Bashore will be ready to pitch in 2010. Their is reason to believe that surgery could be the best long term solution for him to prolong his professional career and make him the most effective pitcher possible. If he comes into camp healthy, signs point to him being held back in extended spring training to build his arm strength back up and then send him to low A Beloit. If everything works out Matt Bashore could be the best left hander in the entire Twins system and could move fast. If not he could miss all of 2010 trying to recover from TJ.

ETA: Late 2012 to early 2013
Projection: A solid #3 type left handed pitcher with solid to above average stuff.
MLB Comparisons: Best Case Scenario- John Danks
Worst Case Scenario- Glen Perkins

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Prospect #21 B.J. Hermsen

Starting RHP
Drafted: 2008 6th Round, Manchester, Iowa
Levels Played in 2009: Rookie GCL Twins
Opening Day Age: 20

The Twins organization is beyond known for coveting strike throwing machines over power arm projects. B.J. Hermsen falls right in line with the type of pitcher the Twins love. What makes Hermsen unique is his physical stature and surprising athletic ability. Hermsen stands at 6 foot 6 and weighs over 230 pounds. The big right hander passed on a full scholarship to play quarterback for Oregon State to pursue a career in major league baseball. A $650,000 signing bonus had a little to do with that.

Hermsen was sent to GCL Twins in 2009 where he showed that he was more of a pitcher then a thrower. Hermsen's ability to repeat a smooth and easy delivery at his size makes the Twins very excited about his projection. After staying back in extended spring training, Hermsen through 53 innings for the GCL Twins and dominated. He was 6-2 with a 1.35 ERA and a 42 to 4 K/BB ratio.

Those numbers and that size can speak volumes but their are some question marks. When you hear a 6 foot 6 pitcher dominating the way he does, you would assume that he is a Roy Halladay type power pitcher. However that is not the case with Hermsen. He usually has a fastball in the range of 87-89 consistently and topping out 90-91. When pitching he is more focused on pounding the bottom of the strike zone and working quickly to get outs as fast as possible. Which is a great thing to know for a young pitcher. He also has a slider and a change up but uses then to induce early contact rather then getting swings and misses.

BJ Hermsen definitely has a bright future. I expect him to put an extra 2 or 3 MPH on his fastball as he gets more and more comfortable with his delivery over the years and should be a true innings eater. The is a question whether he will return to extended spring training and then off to Elizabethtown or put right in full season ball. His body is definitely ready for lots of innings now, but the Twins are known for moving their high school pitchers along rather slowly. I expect him to be held back a little in camp and then off to Beloit similar to what they did with Tyler Robertson. He will probably have a total inning count around 100.

ETA: 2013
Projection: Number 3 of 4 type starter who gets quick outs and goes deep into games.
MLB Comparison: Brad Penny, Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Twins extend Denard Span

Saturday morning, the Minnesota Twins announced that they have extended CF Denard Span to a 5 year deal with a 6 year club option. This deal will buy up all of Denard's arbitration years for about $16.5 million dollars and first year of free agency for possibly $9 million dollars.

The way the deal breaks down goes like this:

2010: $750,000

2011: $1 million

2012: $3 million

2013: $4.75 million

2014: $6.5 million

2015: Club option for $9 million ($500,000 buyout)

Span has established himself as one of the better lead off hitters and center fielders in the American League. After being drafted 20th overall in 2002, Span has had the 2 best years of his career in 2008 and 2009 at the major league level. He just turned 26 in February and will be under contract as he enters his prime. In 2009 Span was great with a .311/.392/.411 line along with 23 stolen bases and an AL leading 10 triples.

Since the approval to break ground on Target Field, the Twins have been able to lock up now 6 of their core players including 2006 AL MVP Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Joe Nathan, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn and this morning Denard Span. Of the six names 5 of these guys were drafted by the Twins and 4 of them in the first three rounds.

Again he Twins are showing over and over throughout this off season that they are committed to winning by locking up internal stars (Blackburn and Span), making trades (Hardy), free agent signings (Condrey, Thome and Hudson) and the eventual resigning of all world catcher Joe Mauer.

Saturday Morning 3/13 10 AM Central

Want to here some Twins talk before the first televised game of the year? Listen to my radio show from 10AM-11AM this morning. CoHosted by myself and DW The Great of Guests will include Jeffery Schwenn of, TJ DeSantis, who produces The Show with Seth Stohs , Fanatic Jack of and Andrew Kneeland of

Call-in Number: 1(646) 727-1345

I was also on Fanatic Jack's podcast last night. If you are interested you can check it out here:

The first Twins game that is televised is today. Tune at 12 Noon on FSNorth.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Outlook on 2010 Season

The Twins are looking to build upon their 2009 campaign which ended with a win in game 163 to clinch the American League Central Division. A beat up and inexperienced team was no match for the eventual World Series Champion New York Yankees even though their were 2 games where Minnesota should have won (game 2 and 3).

Right as the off season began, Bill Smith got right back to work trading super toolsy center fielder Carlos Gomez for former All Star shortstop JJ Hardy. During the off season Minnesota made other moves such as picking up Michael Cuddyer's 2011 option, signing reliever; Clay Condrey, future Hall of Famer; Jim Thome and Gold Glover' Orlando Hudson. All that remains was an extension for defending American League MVP; Joe Mauer.

As the Twins arrived in Fort Myers for spring training all seemed to be going smoothly. The team was getting along. Justin Morneau, Kevin Slowey and Pat Neshek all seemed to recovered well from their off season surgeries and rehabs, and potential stars Delmon Young and Fransisco Liriano came into camp in the best shape of their lives and were both ready to take the next step towards stardom.

Then came last Saturday's spring game. After 20 pitches All Star closer Joe Nathan had to exit the game after experiencing what was called soreness and stiffness in his pitching elbow. All indications were that the move was strictly precautionary. On Sunday, Nathan was then sent back to Minneapolis to have CT scans in MRI's done on the elbow. Again, strictly precautionary. Tuesday, those precautionary, trips and scans indicated that arguably the best pitcher on the Twins staff has a significant tear in his UCL and could miss not only the 2010 season but the rest of his career. The season that looked so promising, started to go down the tubes. What was the curse of Minnesota sports which struck again in January when the Tracy Porter picked off Brett Favre to cap off a fumble fest in the NFC Championship seemed to strike one of the nicest most impressive guys the Twins had.

However, this is not the end! Although this is a hit to the season this is still too good of a team to be eliminated for title contention already and here is why.

Reason 1: They are going to slug. This is the best Twins lineup I have ever seen. CHONE projects them to average around 5.80 runs per game. In 2009 the Twins were 4th in the American League in runs scored behind the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels and Boston Red Sox (who lost Jason Bay). When you look top to bottom the only hole in the line up is coming from the 9 hole where the first couple months is expected to be platooned by Nick Punto and Brendan Harris. The best part of this is the only thing these guys have to do is mainaing a .330+ OBP to be able to turn over the line up where Span, Hudson, Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Kubel, Young and Hardy can do their damage. And if Danny Valencia can play well in AAA and take that over to the big team in June or July, that is a scary thought.

Reason 2: They actually have a bench. When the Twins when on their stretch run in September they relied on everyday players to be Carlos Gomez in CF, Jose Morales at DH, Nick Punto at 2B, Matt Tolbert at 3B, and Micheal Cuddyer at 1B. After trades and signings, we now know Gomez will never make a crucial mistake in a Twins unifrom. Jose Morales will only see playing time if Joe Mauer needs a day off or if it is the 19th innings of an exhausting division game. Matt Tolbert will have to impress in spring to even make the 25 man roster. Nick Punto will go back to his super utility role by the time June rolls around. And Michael Cuddyer will park back in RF with the return of 2006 MVP Justin Morenau. Oh yeah and did I mention that Minnesota has a future Hall of Famer Jim Thome now as their big bat off the bench. Look out Bobby Jenks.

Reason 3: The rotation will and has to improve. After a very successful 2008, the young 5some of Baker, Liriano, Slowey, Perkins and Blackburn fell apart in 2009, with Nick Blackburn being the only one to not land on the DL. Causing the team to have to trade for Carl Pavano (which was a great deal) and rely on young guys like Brian Duenseng and Jeff Manship. In 2010 Scott Baker will start opening day and may not be as good as he was in 2008 with a 3.45 ERA but definitely not as bad as he was in 2009 with a 4.27 ERA. The new $14 million dollar man Nick Blackburn should take on the number 2 role with his bulldog mentality and ability to eat inning. 2008 and 2009 were identical for Captain Blackbeard and there is reason to believe he can continue on in the future. The number 3 spot will be taken on by Carl Pavano which should be able to take steps forward in 2010. He had a BABIP right around .330 with an ERA of over 5.00. Basically meaning he either had terrible defense behind him or lucky spots balls would drop. In 2010 Pavano will have a strong defense up the middle lead by Mauer, Hudson, Hardy and Span. His ERA should be somewhere in the low 4.00's, maybe high 3's if he has a great year. The 4 spot will be taken by Kevin Slowey. Unfortunately this is the guy I am most worried about in 2010. He is coming off major wrist surgery that left 2 screws permanently left in his wrist. Now Kevin is not a stuff guy by any means. He works with a 2 seam fastball that is about 87-90 MPH. Slowey gets by with painting the black and not walking ANYBODY. With a guy who has such a good feel for the plate it is interesting to see how he reacts to his wrists feeling different for the fist time in his life. So far this spring he has seemed to prove me wrong by not giving up a run. The wild card on every one's lists in Fransisco Liriano. Liriano right now is the favorite for the 5th spot in the rotation barring any retardation by Twins management to move him to the closers role. Since the end of 2009, everything done by the former phenom has been positive. He had an incredible showing in the Dominican Winter League finishing off as the game 9 winner with a line of 5 innings, 1 hit, 0BB and 10K. Radar guns although sometimes skewed had his fastball ranging from 93 to 96 and his slider 86-90. I admit I was pumped when I was watching this on ESPN 360. Liriano showed up in camp excited and mind clear for the season. Manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Andreson said the ball is exploding out of his hand and his slider has looked as good as when they first saw it in 2006. Liriano's first 2 spring starts have showed a lot. In 2 games he has a total of 4 innings, 2 hits, 1BB and 6K. His fastball has been clocked as high as 93 but is expected to get higher as spring goes along when he starts to put more and more effort into his outings. Liriano is literally an ace in the hole. If he can do what we all think he can if gives the Twins a face to their pitching staff that can match up to the likes of Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander and Jake Peavy.

Reason 4: Deep Bullpen. Joe Nathan is gone. Possibly forever and he was only a handful of saves from setting the all time Twins mark. It is a sad and unfortunate situation for Nathan and the Twins but it is not the end. Out of a possible 1548 innings in a 162 game season Joe Nathan usually pitches anywhere from 65 to 70 innings. That is right around 5% of the time. To say that 5% of a teams season can decide whether they make the playoffs is ludicrous. The Twins have a very deep bullpen. And they have at least 3 arms in the minor leagues who can be willing to take new open spot (Rob Delany, Anthony Slama, Alex Burnett.) As for who the closer will be I have no clue. I expect the player to not be named until the end of March. The obvious favorite for it it Matt Guerrier. Next in line would probably be John Rauch. Both are worthy options. My wild card for it is Jesse Crain. Crain's first half of the season was atrocious (ERA=8.15). It was so bad that Crain pitched nearly double the innings in the second half and could only lower his ERA to 4.70 for the season. However his post All Star break numbers were really great. He regained his mid 90's fastball which made his breaking pitches look a lot better. Crain threw 17 innings in the first half to get his ERA over 8 but threw 34 more innings after the break with a 2.91 ERA with 30K, 0HR and a .217 BAA.

All in all the season is definitely still going to be a positive. The loss of Joe Nathan is big however the Twins have a top 10 minor league organization a surplus of outfielders and pitchers at all levels. It could be enough to lure over a Jason Frasor or Heath Bell at the right price. My pick for the division crown will still go to Minnesota, however it will be a little closer race now with Nathan gone. Chicago and Detroit both have good teams and will make the season competitive.