Friday, April 30, 2010

End of April

April is over. The Twins are in first place 14-8. They finally lost their first series to the Tigers this weekend to what was really an ugly series. To be honest I do not even want to talk about it. Scott Baker's mechanics are off and you can tell he is leaving the ball up the same way he was last April. The bullpen finally imploded and the offense finally got shut out for the first time. Credit that Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer were out of the lineup that game.

Twins Up:
Fransisco Liriano: I think it is safe to say he has arrived. Liriano is in a stretch of 23 consecutive innings without giving up a run. Liriano looked spectacular out dueling Tiger ace Justin Verlander. Liriano went 8 innings walked 2 and struck out 10 (double digits for first time since 2006). I am still waiting for him to have a rough start where he needs to battle. He did that in his first start against Chicago, but that was opening day and it was under 40 degrees so I just want to give that a wash.

Side Note: congrats to Luke Hughes. In his first major league at bat, Hughes went yard on national tv (ESPN). Tigers fans kindly threw the ball to Maglio Ordonez who threw the ball to the Twins dugout. He has also played some very good defense and looks like he belongs. Twins might be looking for Hughes to be a better long term option at 2B over Alexi Casilla or Matt Tolbert.

Twins Down:
Health: Joe Nathan, Nick Punto, JJ Hardy, Orlando Hudson, Justin Morneau, Jose Mijares, Pat Neshek have all has some sort of injury during this course of this season. I really do not want this to be a season where we say for months, "lets just wait until they are full strength". Might not happen.

After April I just want to clarify what I have right so far from my preseason predictions.
1)Fransisco Liriano is clear cut comeback player of the year.
2)Twins are still on pace for over 90 wins
3)Twins are on pace to be better then the AL West Champ who I still think will be LA
4)Twins are better then Red Sox and Angels
5)Denard Span is on pace for 30 steals even though he is hitting well below .250
6)John Rauch will easily clear 20 saves
7)Pat Neshek will definitely have 0 saves
8)Carlos Gutierrez is still a toss up as starter or closer.
9)I said Liriano will be under 4.00 ERA. Right now he is under 1.00
10)Twins did reach out to San Diego for Heath Bell but conversations died in March
11)I still think a package will include either Ben Revere or Angel Morales who are both hitting well.
12)Twins look like they will have 3 guys go 200 innings right now. I initially thought Blackburn was going to be one of them but I did not specify in my predictions so suck it.
13)Twins Minor League pitcher of the year right now is Kyle Gibson. Liam Hendricks is making a run but Gibson's complete game 1 hit shutout gave him the edge so far.

Up Next:
Twins are off to Cleveland for 3 game series with the Indians to close their 9 game road trip. Nick Blackburn was scratched for game 1 which will go to Kevin Slowey. Slowey went 8 great innings last week against the Indians with 9 strikeouts.

Friday: Kevin Slowey vs Fausto Carmona
Saturday: ? vs Justin Masterson
Sunday: Fransico Liriano vs David Huff

Twins do not know whether Blackburn will be ready for Saturday. Chance of Brian Duenseng making a spot start or Blackburn being put on DL with elbow discomfort and possibly Jeff Manship getting the call up.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

6th Straigh Series Win, but 3rd Straight Blown Sweep

The Twins were able to take 2 of 3 from the Kansas City Royals to continue the Twins streak of series wins which now stands at 6. The Twins who are now 13-6, though have missed out on their 3rd straight opportunity to finish off their opponent with a sweep. In Game 1 Carl Pavano was able to bounce back from a really rough start at Target Field against Kansas City to pitch 7 strong innings and rack up his 3rd win of the season. The Twins bats caught fire in an 8 to 3 win. Game 2 was a war that needed extra innings. A game that was delayed by heavy rain ended up going extras after Jon Rauch blew his first save on the young 2010 season. Rauch gave up a couple hits in the bottom of the 11th to tie the game but came back out for the 12th to finish off the Royals and give the Twins a 9 to 7 win. Game 3 seemed like it was a definite win as Kevin Slowey, who has never lost to the Royals was on the mound for the Twins. Slowey struggled to locate the ball and the lineup failed to deliver with the bases loaded in the 8th inning.

My take on this series is still positive. I personally thought that the Twins were not going to take this series. Lets face it, they are off to an incredible start. And on top of that they are not playing their best baseball while doing it. Basically what I think happens is when a team is playing the way they are, their is usually a rough patch in the season instead of seeing them start to click on all cylinders. The Royals are arguably the worst team in the entire American League. They have a terrible defensive infield, as you saw with a number of errors made this weekend, their bullpen is easily the worst in the entire Major Leagues, and most of the hitters and pitchers on the current roster are just stop gap guys for the Minor League talent on its way. The Twins were still able to pull out another series win and are off to face a Detroit Tigers team who should have won the division last year and still has a ton of talent aboard.

Twins Up:
Joe Mauer: I tan becry not to mention Mauer as much as I cause he is an All World player and does not need the extra sucking up. But he had a really good series. He went 8 for 16 over the weekend including a 5 hit night in the 12 inning battle. After catching 12 innings, Mauer stepped up on Sunday afternoon and said he would catch a day game after a night game, because he is that much of a competitor and probable wanted the sweep to going into an off day.

Carl Pavano: was rocked by the same Royals lineup less then a week ago. He was able to bounce back and come into their park and pitch a great game with 7 innings, 2ER, 0BB and 5 strikeouts.

Twins Down:
Nick Blackburn: Their must be something wrong with Blackburn. At least I just hope their is something wrong. Becauase if this is what the Twins thought they were giving $14 million dollars to in spring they would have said no thankyou. Twins were still able to win inspite of Blackburn's poor performance but on the season now, he has pitched with the following line;
23.2 innings, 33 hits, 18ER (6.85 ERA), 6HR, 7BB and 6 strikeouts. Boy is that ugly
He needs to either fix or might be heading to the DL. Look for maybe Jeff Manship or Brian Duenseng to take over the spot if he does not get it together.

Denard Span: It was not only grounding out with the bases loaded in the rubber match, but Span did not play well all weekend. He went 2 for 16 over the weekend, dropping his average .028 points. Span's splits might be the source of his struggles. He is currently hitting .333 of right handers and .216 of lefties. He also might just feel more comfortable at Target Field (and who wouldn't) as he is hitting .367 at home and .154 on the road.

Up Next:
The Twins head to Detroit (10-9) to take on the second place Tigers. This is the first meeting with Detroit since Game 163. Some very interesting pitching match ups and maybe project some days off for some Twins stars. Expect to see Michael Cuddyer move around this series. He could play some center field if and when Denard Span looks for his first day off of 2010 and maybe first base for when Justin Morneau will get his first day off. Game 1 will be match up of aces as Fransisco Liriano will look to continue his hot start against Justin Verlander. Game 2 will be the Twins first ever look at Max Scherzer who came over in the Edwin Jackson, Curtis Granderson trade and game 3 Carl Pavano will look to continue to dominate the Tigers (4-1 3.00 ERA in 2009 vs DET) will face Dontrelle Willis who has pitched a total of 5.2 innings against Minnesota in the past 3 years. In those 5 innings the Twins are hitting .409 against Willis.

Tuesday: Fransisco Liriano (2-0 1.29 ERA) vs Justin Verlander (1-1 6.95 ERA)
Wendesday: Scott Baker (2-2 4.81 ERA) vs Max Scherzer (1-1 2.63 ERA)
Thursday: Carl Pavano (3-1 4.24 ERA) vs Dontrelle Willis (0-1 5.00 ERA)

Friday, April 23, 2010

NFL Draft and Vikings Thoughts

The NFL Draft is over. Some interesting things happened for the Vikings and the NFL for that matter. I will not talk anymore about Tim Tebow because I do not think he is worth mentioning. On the day of the draft, mocks had the Vikings taking a number of players at the number 30 pick. They ended up trading it to the Detroit Lions and moving back 4 spots to 34th overall (round 2). What does that mean?

Number 1: With Jimmy Clausen still on the board at 30 and the Vikings not taking him, Minnesota is very confident that 40 year old Brett Favre will return for the final year of his contract.

Number 2: Rick Spielman and Brad Childress though that Tavaris Jackson was a better long term fit for the Vikings then Clausen

Number 3: The Vikings may think that the 2011 QB crop has better talent then Clausen and Colt McCoy.

Number 4: Their guy was Patrick Robinson, CB from Florida State. He was swiped up at 32 by the Saints. We can say the Saints got the best of Minnesota again.

At 34: The following guys will be on the board, of course Clausen, All American Safety Taylor Mays from USC, Virginia stand out CB Chris Cook, Texas linebacker Sergio Kindle, and Texas QB Colt McCoy. Vikings said they are spotting 4 guys right now for the 34th pick, I can guarantee and Mays and Cook are 2 of them. But with some teams now salivating that they can get Jimmy Clausen in the second round, some teams might be willing to overpay to move up to 33 and 34. I think the Vikings are playing it well, not saying anything. Maybe some team like Buffalo or Kansas City will come up tonight and offer their second rounder this year and another solid pick and the Vikings can continue to add depth to their team through the draft.

Last night I wanted Clausen. If they took Clausen tonight I will be happy. If they do not take him, I will not be angry because this team is in a better position to win in 2010 with Favre then 2011 with Clausen. So lets keep building up a super team to compete with New Orleans, Dallas, Indianapolis, and the NY Jets who all got better yesterday.

If I am the Vikings I trade back again. Their guy should be the corner back from Virginia by the name of Chris Cook. Cook is 6 feet 2 and 210 pounds. He ran the second fastest time at the combine for a corner back at 4.44 seconds. The Vikings have major question marks in the secondary with Cedric Griffin probably missing the first month or 2 recovering from knee surgery and Antoine Winfield continuing to age. The picked up former pro bowl corner Lito Sheopard. I love this move. If they take Cook, they will have a guy who had first round talent. Academic and injury problems kept Cook off the field his first couple years at school but when he played he was special. If it does not work out for Cook, he also has the skills to move to safety.

By acquiring some more picks, the Vikings will be able to move up from their additional second round pick, which I believe is 62nd overall. If they move up from their they could be in position to take a running back which will be the eventual replacement for Chester Taylor. This is a 2 back league now, Adrian Peterson needs help so he can prolong his career and not end up like Ladanian Tomlinson who was only good for 7 years. Peterson is going into his 4th. The two guys who would be perfect fits are Dexter McCluster of Ole Miss and Joe McNight of USC. Both are great pass catchers and dynamic talents on the field. McCluster might end up being a better version of Darren Sproles and McNight was always refereed to as Reggie Bush Jr.

If the Vikings can leave day 2 of the draft, where the Vikings have 3 picks as of now, with either a safety, running back, and a corner then the draft will be a success.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Twins Take Series From Tribe, now 11-5

After the 2008 season, three young pitchers stepped forward for the Twins to start the healing process after the departure of Johan Santana. Scott Baker then 26 finished the year 11-4 with a 3.45 ERA, 24 year old Kevin Slowey went 12-11 with a 3.99 ERA and Fransisco Liriano returned from Tommy John surgery to throw 76 innings with a 3.91 ERA at the majors. Going into 2009, these three were set to front the new brand of Twins pitching to take to the post season. It did not go as planned. Baker (who was slotted for opening day) began the year on the DL with shoulder pain and proceeded to have a terrible April. He was able to bounce back by pitching 200 innings and had 15 wins but still had a 4.27 ERA. Kevin Slowey started hot going 10-3 but was struck by a ball in the wrist and lost velocity and control and would eventually be placed on the DL for the year. After 90 innings Slowey had a 4.86 ERA and his record seemed to hide how bad he really was. As for Liriano he was down right terrible. 5-13 with a 5.80 ERA. In spite of these three the Twins still some how won the division. However none of the 3 started in the playoffs. Baker started game 163 to get in the playoffs, Liriano was demoted to the pen and Slowey was recovering from wrist surgery.

2010 was new beginnings for these three and they have made the most of it. The Twins took 2 of 3 games from Indians this week, giving them an 11-5 record and the best start in franchise history. First time the Twins have won the first 5 series to start a season. Pitching is what won the series for the Twins. Kevin Slowey dominated game 1 going 8 innings giving up 1 run and striking out 9. Fransisco Liriano also went 8 innings shutting out the Tribe and racking up 6 K. Scott Baker had a solid 5 innings but got shelled in the 6th by Cleveland giving up 10 hits and 6 runs in 5.2 innings. This was kind of expected considering that Cleveland was held to just 1 run in the previous 18 innings against Twins pitching. The Twins missed out on their third opportunity to sweep a division opponent however it is still the fact that they have taken 5 straight series.

Twins Up:
Kevin Slowey and Fransisco Liriano: as mentioned, combined for 16 innings they gave up 1 run walked 2 and combined to strikeout 15 guys. Kevin Slowey was so good that I did not even notice his stat line until the 5th inning because he was working so fast. Liriano never threw more then 15 pitching in an inning and the one time he got in trouble he forced an inning ending double play with the bases loaded.

Twins Down:
Jason Kubel: needs a hug and day off. Kubel went 0 for the series with 7 strikeouts and is now hitting below .200 on the year. This is not a lefty/righty split thing. He is hitting left handed hitters .300 and right handers .176. Basically means he is just slumping and needs to get out of it.

Scott Baker: gave up a 3 fluke doubles to start game that literally hit the chalk to start the game. But the 6th inning was no fluke. He got hit hard, and a final stat line of 10 hits and 6 runs ran his ERA from 3.38 to 4.81 on the season. Just a few positive notes, Baker's ERA was close to 10 through 4 starts last year. He did not have 2 wins until May 24th. He did not get his ERA below 5 until June 30th. He has done all those things set on April 22nd. So it could be worse.

Hitting: The Twins offense may be in somewhat of a slump, even though they are getting on base at a better pace then the Yankees, but Thursday was no slump. Mitch Talbot looked extremely good. To be honest he is a prototypical Rick Anderson type pitcher. He pounded the strike zone early and even pitched well with 3 ball counts. His change up was very good and I was very impressed. The only hard hit ball off Talbot was a Justin Morneau RBI double, that may should not have been because Andy Marte dropped a lazy fly out that should have never gave Morneau and opportunity to hit in the inning.

Whats next: The Twins end their first Target Field home stand with a 6-3 record and now head to Kansas City, Detroit and these same Indians. Carl Pavano will look to bounce back from a dreadful start against the Royals. Nick Blackburn was pushed back a day because of forearm and elbow pain. He has not looked good at all in 2010 giving up 6 home runs already. Luckily the Twins will not have to see Zack Grienke. But the game to look forward to next week will be Tuesday night as Fransisco Liriano will get his big test against Justin Verlander.

Friday 7:10 CT: Carl Pavano (2-1, 4.96 ERA) vs Gil Meche (0-1 11.57 ERA)
Saturday 6:10 CT: Nick Blackburn (1-1 6.05 ERA) vs Luke Hochevar (1-1, 2.89 ERA)
Sunday: 12:10 CT: Kevin Slowey (2-1, 2.45 ERA) vs Brian Bannister (0-1 4.58 ERA)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

2010 NFL Mock Draft

Draft is Thursday, Vikings are picking 30th so lets just get into it.

1.) St. Louis Rams: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma.
The pick was obvious after the National Championship by being Ndamukong Suh. Then it was obvious after the Super Bowl by being Gerald McCoy. After the combine and pro days, Bradford jumped up the board showing he is healthy and bigger. He has put on 25 pounds of muscle since his Sophomore year. He draws a lot of comarisons to Phillip Rivers with his size and arm motion. I think any team will take that.

2.) Detroit Lions: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska.
Suh put up unheard of numbers as a defensive tackle at Nebraska. He is a guy the Lions should be drooling over. Their is debate over him and McCoy, however I do not see it. Suh dominated any and all offensive lineman in his way in 2009 and should transition well to the NFL.

3.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma.
Not a bad conselation prize. Especially because McCoy is the Bucs guy. Draws a lot of comparisons to future Hall of Fame Buc, Warren Sapp. The Bucs are going to go back to that Tampa 2 defense and McCoy is going to be the center piece of that defense.

4.) Washington Redskins: Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State.
The Redskins made big splash by trading a 2nd round pick to get Donavan McNabb. Now they have to protect him. If you want to rate Okung as a prospect in comparisons to when they took Chris Samuels when he was drafted 3rd in 2000, it is not that close. Okung is the safest pick of the tackles in this draft, however he will not be a guy who goes All Pro. However the needs is so big in Washington that is almost seems as a no brainier because he is the best one on the board. Redskins could consider trading out because this is the only pick they have in the top 100. So maybe dropping down and getting some more picks later on.

5.) Kansas City Chiefs: Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma
If this goes down, Oklahoma could have 3 of the top 5 picks and the state of Oklahoma could have 4 of the top 5. Williams has upside to be a very good tackle Very good size at 6-4, 315 pounds. The Chiefs need a true left tackle because Brandon Allen is better suited for the right side of the line. Their is a chance KC could trade out because the draft is deep with offensive lineman if Williams caliber. They could also take Eric Berry who could be a super star saftey.

6.) Seattle Seahawks: CJ Spiller, RB, Clemson.
Pete Carrol era is going to begin Thursday. He has 2 picks in the top 14. Spiller is definitely high on the Seahawks board and could translate very well to that offense. However, Carroll would ideally like to get Spiller at 14, but the toolsy running back is moving up on a lot draft boards, primarily Jacksonville, so they may not want to risk it and get their guy here. Their are a needs at defensive end, safety and offensive tackle. Wild Card pick could be Jimmy Clausen as the QB of the future.

7.) Cleveland Browns: Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
Mike Homgren sent Dereck Anderson and Brady Quinn out of town and has the 7th pick in the draft. Might seem like a no brainier if Clausen is there but not so fast. Old school Brown teams had great defenses, the AFC North has arguably the 2 best safteys in the NFL in Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Berry can be a clone of them.

8.) Oakland Raider: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida
Al Davis is running this team into the ground. This will be his last first round pick until 2012. He does not have a real QB, or a real coach. It is just a mess there. They need help on the offensive line. But Davis loves the work out freaks as he took Heyward-Bay over Crabtree last year. He could take Derrick Morgan who is the top defensive end in the draft but Davis will love Pierre-Paul's upside and go this route.

9.) Buffalo Bills: Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame.
This is a key pick in the draft. If the Bills go O-Line, then trade madness could happen to try and trade up. The Bills however do not have a franchise QB, and have not had one since Jim Kelly. They tried with JP Lausman and Trent Edwards, but they are not the answer.

10.) Jacksonville Jaguars: Earl Thomas, S, Texas.
The Jags have taken DE over the years. Not many have panned out. They still have a need there but they could have possibly filled part of the void by signing Aaron Kampman. Jacksonville is not pleased with Reggie Nelson so far in his career. Jacksonville has an array of needs. They have a desired pick. They really really like Tim Tebow. I can almost Garnette Jacksonville will trade down, possibly with San Fransisco.

11.) Denver Broncos: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech.
It will be a shock if Morgan falls here. But if he does, Denver will be given a tough decision. They have a surplus of picks, and needs at WR, QB, LB and OL. But, Dez Bryant has some issues, and that is why they traded Brandon Marshall. Morgan edges out Ronaldo McClain because he can take over a game and harrass guys like Phillip Rivers and Matt Cassell.

12.) Miami Dolphins: Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama.
The Dolphins made a big splash by getting Brandon Marshall. If we look at this pick, Miami would love a safety but the top 2 are off the board. The top linebacker is still there. McClain is a brilliant linebacker. If you watch any of his games, he calls plays at the line the same way Peyton Manning does. Very smart guy, will be a team captain for years.

13.) San Fransisco 49ers: Brian Bulaga, OT, Iowa.
Joe Haden the top CB in the draft will be there, but he has had very poor workouts, and Bulaga might be the best fit. He can play 3 or 4 OL positions. He is not a great athlete to be a LT but he is still very consistent. Joe Staley and Bulaga could form a nice duo to protect Alex Smith who showed signs of life last year.

14.) Seattle Seahawks: Brandon Graham, DE/OLB, Michigan.
Patrick Kerney retired and Darrell Tapp is no longer in town. Graham showed a lot in the Senior Bowl and combine. His upside is huge with size, speed and strength.

15.) New York Giants: Joe Haden, CB, Florida.
New York would love to get McClain but, unless they move up, maybe to where Jacksonville is picking, I do not see it happening. Their are needs all over the defense for New York, but Haden is the best CB on the board and I am one who always thinks if you have the opportunity to take a guy who is the best player at their position, then you take him.

16.) Tennessee Titans: Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee.
The Titans lost Albert Haynesworth last year via free agency. Dan Williams has rose up on boards and now looks like a high end prospect. He is a hometown guy, like Hayensorth, coming from Tennessee, and could be a great fit.

17.) San Fransisco 49ers: Mike Iupati, G, Idaho.
If the 49ers can go into the draft and walk out with a top 5 tackle and the top guard, that could be the best draft of any team this year. The 49ers being able to solidify that line with the talented skill players (Gore, David, Crabtree) should give Alex Smith no excuse to take that next step and take the 49ers to the play offs.

18.) Pittsburgh Steelers: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida.
Steelers are a mess. If you look they possibly will start the year without the 3 best players from their Super Bowl year (Rothlisberger will be suspended, Parker in in Washington and Holmes is in New York). With the news happening with Big Ben, the Steelers might want to trade up. It could be possible that the Steelers swap Rothlisberger for the 8th pick and they select Jimmy Clausen. What a deal that that would be. A 2 time Super Bowl champ at age 28 for a 21 year old kid who finished his college career with a 16-21 record at Norte Dame .

19.) Atlanta Falcons: Sergio Kindle, OLB, Texas.
Atlanta desperately needs a DE, but they are all pretty much gone here. Kindle is an all around athlete and solid player here. Other picks being considered could be on the O-line and wide reciever.

20.) Houston Texans: Kareem Jackson, CB, Alabama.
The Texans have never had franchise running back. Ryan Matthews could be a solid fit, but Houston lost Dunta Robinson and now needs to fill that hole especially being in the same division as the Colts.

21.) Cincinnati Bengals: Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma.
The Bengals struggled the most scoring points the last 2 games of the year. They signed Antionio Bryant from Tampa and now will take Gresham to give Carson Palmer more targets along with Chad Ochocino.

22.) New England Patriots: Demaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech.
With Dez Bryant still on the board you may be surprised that he does not go there. However, their have been reports that he could be a clone to Charles Rogers and Mike Williams which scares teams off. You have not seen Thomas play, this is why I think he is going to be special. He never got big stats at Tech, but because they ran the option offense and only threw the ball 5 to 10 times a game, Thomas never go big numbers. But he made some big time plays and showed a lot of potential. Its no secret the Pats want help on the WR with Welker out for more then half the year and Randy Moss in the last year of his contract.

23.) Green Bay Packers: Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State.
If the Packers did struggle at some point last year it was their pass defense. Most notably Brett Favre torching the Pack as well as Kurt Warner in the Wild Card playoff round. Al Harris and Charles Woodson, both older veterans and some youth for the future is what Green Bay needs.

24.) Philadelphia Eagles: Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers.
The Eagles struggled to keep Donavan McNabb off his back. Epsecially in the playoffs. Now they are turning to Kevin Kolb who will need all the protection he can get. With the loss of Brian Westbrook another great pick here would be Jahvid Best of California who is a very very similar type back.

25.) Baltimore Ravens: Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State.
Bryant falling all the way to 25 sounds crazy but that is what may happen. He definitely has talent. But a team like Denver does not want the issues that he brings. Baltimore has 2 guys who will play in front of him to start, with Anquan Boldin among others, but Dez could develop into a special talent.

26.) Arizona Cardinals: Sean Weatherspoon, OLB, Missouri
The Cardinals lost Carlos Dansby, who won the Wild Card game for them against Green Bay. But more importantly they lost Kurt Warner and will not finally turn the team over to Matt Leinart. The defense will need to be improved.

27.) Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Robinson, CB, Florida State.
The Cowboys really do not have too many needs, however Robinson has the same kind of upside as Antonio Cromartie did a few years back.

28.) San Diego Chargers: Jahvid Best, CB, California.
Ryan Williams does have the better body suited to be an every day back to replace LT. However, the Chargers are now a passing offense and they want their backs to be able to catch the ball. Williams can not do that to well, which means Best might be the pick.

29.) New York Jets: Jared Odrick, DE, Penn State.
What do the Jets really needs. They have three stud WR, a Hall of Fame RB and a 2nd year up and comer, a solid to above average O line, the number 1 defense in the NFL, a great coach and a QB who will be 23 this year. This is a franchise that is going in the right direction. All they want is depth and Odrick will fit well in the Rex Ryan scheme.

30.) MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Taylor Mays, S, USC.
The Vikings picking at 30 may not be a lock. I could see them moving out to get more picks or moving up if Jimmy Clausen falls. Their are needs at left guard on offense but can find that later on. It seems like they are liking Tavaris Jackson again as the QB of the future, but I do not care as long as Brett Favre is coming back. The defense has some holes due to injury and age. I am not sure if and when EJ Henderson is coming back from that horrific leg injury. Cedric Griffin tore his ACL in the NFC Championship, meaning the rehab might go into the season. Pat Williams is approaching 40 years old and is probably playing his last season in 2010. Antione Winfield struggled last year when healthy but was not healthy much of last year with a broken foot. They are a very good defense even without these guys but can be great with them. I think a big hole was at safety and corner. Devin McCourty might be a good pick from Rutgers but Mays can be a guy who will tell opposing players to not come over the middle. He would replace Tyrelle Johnson. If they stay here they will go secondary, but I really think that the Vikings will trade out to a team who is looking at Tim Tebow or Colt McCoy.

31.) Indianapolis Colts: Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers.
The Colts lost some guys to free agency and injury. They could use a safety especially with the constant inures of Bob Sanders. But they will just take best player available here which is McCourty.

32.) New Orleans Saints: Jerry Huhges, OLB, TCU.
The defending Super Bowl champs will try and get younger at linebacker. The Vikings really exposed the middle of their defense in the NFC title game, and had to get a lucky array of turnovers to get into the Super Bowl so Hughes will be the pick here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Twins Take Series From KC But End On Sour Note

The Minnesota Twins have opened the 2010 season taking the first 4 series of the season from the LA Angels of Anaheim, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals. The Twins are 9-4 and have taken the first 4 series for the first time in franchise history. The Twins are second in the AL in runs scored and 5th in team ERA.

Even with the hot start there have been rumblings from a specific group that this team is still not good enough. The Twins have not knocked in the big run, yet. However that should not be a sign to point to negativity. Minnesota is 3 for 19 with runners in scoring position. Well with even with that the Twins are projected to score 860 runs this year. So when watch out for when the weather gets warm and Mauer, Morneau and Kubel start hitting home runs. We should be more excited about other pitchers dealing with our line up then worrying about our pitchers dealing with the rest of the AL.

Their is no reason to be negative though. I would rather go the route the Twins are going then pitching and defense. If we look at the teams that have decided to go the route of pitching and defense this year, we can see that they clearly suck at it. The Red Sox and White Sox have been getting blown out of the water, because they decided to bring guys like Mike Cameron, Adrian Beltre, Juan Pierre and Mark Teahen in, with anticipation that guys like Alex Rios and David Ortiz are going to produce. They have not. And efficiency wise the Twins have better defense then them anyways. What I am trying to say is, pitching and defense helps you in the playoffs. Offense is what gets you there. And once you get to the playoffs, the pitchers kick it into another gear that we never see. (ex Pavano and Blackburn last year)

So what happened this weekend. The Twins overwhelmed Zach Grienke in route to a 10-3 win. Scott Baker looked great again. Game 2, the Twins offense got rolling again, but Nick Blackburn struggled and Orlando Hudson had to mash a bomb to left field that hit the facing of the deck. I have yet to see a ball hit there and I have already ruled it the most impressive home run hit in Target Field to date. Game 3 was a mess. The Twins had multiple opportunities to blow the game open early. But Carl Pavano had a horrific 2nd inning giving up 6 earned runs. They were able to make a comeback and cut the lead to 7-5 but Jesse Crain gave up a bomb to Alberto Callapso that busted it open.

Twins Up:
Scott Baker: continues to pitch well at home. He went 7 strong innings giving up 2 runs and not walking a batter while striking out 6. He will make his next start against Cleveland.

Micheal Cuddyer: might be made for Target Field. He is hitting .375 with 2HR and 9RBI so far in the 6 game home stand.

Denard Span: got off to such a bad start on the road that he has hit .381/.552/.524 at in 6 games to just run his average up to .245. Span is getting on base now at record pace. When you can say you can get on base over half of the time in the past 6 games, that is what I call a table setter.

Twins Down:
Nick Blackburn: has been getting roughed up lately. The Twins have given up 13 home runs this year and 6 of them belong to Captain Blackbeard. He needs to really get the ball down in the zone. I am still jumping back and forth whether the $14 million dollars dealt to him will look like a mistake. Especially with the Twins deep farm system (Gibson, Gutierrez, Bromberg all a year away from the majors). Blackburn's ERA is over 6 right now.

Carl Pavano: came back down to earth Sunday. He gave up 7 runs and 11 hits in 3.1 innings which shot his ERA from 1.2 to 4.96. This is what we get from Pavano. Remember this guy had a season ERA over 5 last year and 4.6 with the Twins. Games like this will happen. He is the number 5 starter who just happens to pitch 3rd in the rotation. That will be made apparent as the season goes along.

Jesse Crain: is making me nervous. But I hate when people call him Crain Wreck. When he pitches with the lead he thrives. When he is pitching from behind, he has given up 6 runs in less then 2 innings. Needs to start limiting those base runners after giving up 5 hits and 2BB in his last 2 outings.

Up Next: The Twins host the Cleveland Indians (6-6) tonight for a 3 game set. The Indians have been hitting very well after sweeping the White Sox. I said at the begining of the year that if they were going to win they would have to rake. And so far they have with help from pitchers David Huff and Mitch Talbot (who?) who already have thrown back to back complete games. When looking at the pitching names the series favors the Twins but the three guys going for Cleveland have done very well to start 2010.

Tuesday at 8:10 ET: Justin Masterson vs Kevin Slowey
Wednesday at 8:10 ET: David Huff vs Fransisco Liriano
Thursday at 1:10 ET: Mitch Talbot vs Scott Baker

Side Note:
NFL Draft is Thursday Night. I have been to 2 NFL Drafts in my time and have to say it is a blast, especially because it is free to go as long as you stand in line in front of Radio City Music Hall from 2AM to 7AM. I do not like how they are trying to take it to prime time. It is already one of the most watched sporting events every year with out really having sports involved.

The Vikings have the 30th pick. The past 4 years I have loved the picks Minnesota has made. Chad Greeway, Adrian Peterson, trading for Jared Allen, Sidney Rice, and Percy Harvin are all Pro Bowl talents. This is a unique year. The Vikings should have won the Super Bowl because they dominated New Orleans but somehow had 6 turnovers and lost in OT. Vikings have a list of needs. I think Brett Favre is coming back, but I would welcome Jimmy Clausen if the Vikings wanted to trade up. If they traded down to to take Colt McCoy or Tim Tebow, I would not mind that either. However they have some work to do on defense. Most likley situation would be if they take either a corner of a safety. I personally love Taylor Mays. He reminds me a lot of the late Sean Taylor. But with injuries to EJ Henderson, Cedric Griffin that might tap into the season and the age of Pat Williams and Antione Winfield, the Vikes have some work to do.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Twins Roll To Take Series from Sox

The Twins were able to win their first ever game and series in Target Field over the Boston Red Sox. Game 1 was started by Carl Pavano and he picked up his second win of the year going 6 great innings. Game 2 was the the first time the Twins played a home game with rain in over 29 years. Kevin Slowey was on the hill and struggled in a 6 to 3 loss. Game 3 was today on a beautiful afternoon. Fransisco Liriano looked as good as he has since late August 2008. Twins bats came alive to beat up Tim Wakefield as the Twins open up the first 10 games of the year at a 7-3 record. The line up is showing glimpses of their potential but are still 0 for the season with the bases loaded so far. Scary to think they can be much better because Span is still only hitting under .200 and Orlando Hudson has a 7 game hit streak going but is hitting .227. If these guys start to get on base for Mauer and Morneau we will start to see big things.

Twins Up:
Carl Pavano: Has had a great start to his season. He is mixing his pitches well and that 2 seem fastball he throws has been frustrating left handed hitters. On the year he is 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA. In 13 innings he has given up 10 hits with a 10/1 K/BB ratio.

Fransisco Liriano: In his second consecutive quality start, Liriano was fantastic. After battling through 4 base runners in the first 2 innings Liriano bounced back to retire 10 in a row and finish his day with 7 innings 4 hits 2BB and 8 strikeouts. His fastball was 92 to 94 all day and looked very composed on the mound. The Twins need to be excited from what the have seen so far from the lefty as his controll improved from his opening start against Chicago.

Twins Down:
Kevin Slowey: Slowey struggled in his first start against the Angels but looked worse against the Red Sox. He did not deal well with the elements as the mound became very muddy and he had to scrape his cleats repeatedly. Nonetheless Slowey only went 5 innings and gave up 3 earned runs. The strike zone was expanded for the game by an extra 5 inches by home plate umpire Mark Wegner and Slowey could still not find the strike zone as he walked 4 batters.

The bullpen was up last week but showed some struggles this series. Jesse Crain came in on Wednesday with the Twins trailing 3-2 and proceeded to load this bases and give up a bases clearing double to Jeremy Hermida. I was on the bandwagon that Gardenhire should of had a lefty in there but Duenseng was not available due to a stomach ailment and Mijares has not been great in general this year. Jose Mijares did not look too good Thursday, but was in the game on mop up duty. He loaded the bases, was very wild and got a lucky double play to end the inning. Twins recalled Ron Mahay and sent down Alex Burnett. With Mijares struggles continuing, and Brian Duenseng suffering from the flu, we will see more of Mahay in the future. He did strikeout 2 in a 123 inning.

Up Next: Twins will host the Kansas City Royals. The Royals have arguably the worst bullpen in the entire MLB. Their best starting pitchers thus fur have been of course Zach Grienke and former number 1 overall pick Luke Hochevar who is 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in 12+ innings. Minnesota will see both of them this week. The first night game will ever be played at Target Field tomorrow night when the 2009 Cy Young winner opposes Scott Baker.

Friday: Zack Grienke vs Scott Baker
Saturday: Gil Meche vs Nick Blackburn
Sunday: Luck Hochevar vs Carl Pavano

Monday, April 12, 2010

Twins Fair Well on Road Before Opening Target Field

The Minnesota Twins will open up brand spanking new Target Field later this afternoon against the Boston Red Sox. But before getting into that the Twins did finish up their 7 game road trip to open this season. After taking the final three games from the Angels the Twins took on the Chicago White Sox in a three game set. The first 2 went to the Twins, and Minnesota was beating the Sox at their own new game which was pitching and defense. The first game was an 11 inning war that ended with a JJ Hardy single drove in Joe Mauer. In game 2, Scott Baker pitched great going 7 strong innings and Jason Kubel hit a 2 run home run to give the Twins a 2 to 1 victory. Game 3 got off to a good start as the Twins scored early in the 1st and 3rd innings. Although Nick Blackburn pitched into the 8th innings he gave up 5 earned runs, and 3 HR. The game ended when Jim Thome mashed a hard hit ball of the wall in the 9th but JJ Hardy was unable to score from 1st base and the game ended.

Twins Up:
Twins bull pen: Their is no other way to put it. The Twins bullpen has been fantastic. In Chicago Matt Gurrier and Brian Duenseng both threw 2 big innings each in the 11 inning game. Jon Rauch recorded 2 more saves giving him a Major League Leading 4 on the season. He looked shaky in both outings but has not folded. At the beginning of the year I said Rauch would get at least 20 saves. So far so good. Also Jesse Crain has easily looked like the best guy out of the pen so far this year.

Scott Baker: After a disappointing first start on Opening Day, Scott Baker pitched great against the White Sox. He went 7 strong innings, only allowed 6 base runners and give up just 1 run. Baker is the key for Minnesota getting off to a good start after a dismal April the past few years.

Twins Down:
The combination of Fransisco Liriano and Drew Butera: Scanning quickly it was a positive that Liriano got a quality start (6 innings and 3ER) and kept the Twins in a game that they would eventually win in extra innings. But this duo was not functioning well at all (5BB and wild pitch). To me Liriano's stuff looked very good. His fastball was 92 to 95 with late movement in all 6 innings. His slider and change up were good but not great. They were not great because they were being thrown too often. In my opinion, Liriano's secondary offerings are not used to be thrown for strikes. They should be used to get strikeouts. As the game went along, Butera called a lot of first pitch off speed pitches that Liriano was not able to locate. Again it was Butera's major league debut and I also understand that a good amount signals come from the coaches, but at some point Liriano and Butera had to know that they were turning away from the fastball and shouldn't of.

Aaron Hicks: I am reaching down in the minors to my number 1 prospect has made me look rather unintelligent. Hicks has started the year off 1 for 14 with 8 strikeouts. Reports have said he has looked rather ugly doing it, but hopefully this is just an early season slump due to cool weather on Beloit.

Next Up: The long awaited opening Target Field has arrived. The Twins will take of AL East contender Boston Red Sox (3-3). After today's game both teams will get a day off Tuesday (much needed for Twins) and will finish off series Wednesday and Thursday which means Joe Mauer will likley catch all 3 games. Pitching Match ups will go as followed:
Today: John Lester vs Carl Pavano
Tuesday: Off
Wednesday: John Lackey vs Kevin Slowey
Thursday: Tim Wakefield vs Fransisco Liriano

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Is the "Franchise" on his way back?

Going into 2010 their were 3 games that got me the most excited. Obviously the first 2 were Opening Day and then the first regular season game played at Target Field. The third was the first start for Fransico Liriano. Last night Liriano made his 2010 debut and pitched quality 6 innings and 3 earned runs. Throwing 92 pitches Liriano only gave up 4 hits but walked 5 batters and had a wild pitch. Liriano's location issues may have been due to Drew Butera not calling enough first pitch fastballs. At some points the tandem seemed to turn away from it. What is more important that although Liriano struggled with his location, he still kept him team in position to win by delivering a quality start. Liriano had the best velocity we have seen from him since 2006 by running it up to 95 MPH.

Going into 2006 Liriano was one of the top 5 prospects in all of baseball according to Baseball America. He joined the Twins as part of a trade that included All Star catcher Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser sending away catcher AJ Pierzynski. In 2006 Liriano overwhelmed the the Major Leagues as a rookie not seen since Dwight Gooden in 1984. He baffled American League hitters with a 94 to 96 MPH fastball and a slider that was untouchable. In 121 innings he went 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA and 10.7 K/9. Liriano was given the nickname "Franchise" by then Twins ace and 2006 Cy Young award winner Johan Santana. An elbow injury at the end of the season cut his campaign for rookie of the year short which caused him to miss the Twins playoff series against Oakland, and more importantly the 2007 season.

Liriano would work hard to try to come back in 2008. Liriano was called up at the beginning of 2008 for a spot start but did not have his pitches all together. He would spend the majority of 2008 trying to gain back his control and more importantly the confidence to let loose. To try and relieve stress on his arm, Liriano learned a third pitch which was a circle change up. It was a plus pitch as he did quite well in AAA Rochester through out the year. In 123 total minor league innings Liriano had a 3.42 ERA and struck out 131 batters. He earned a promotion at the end of the year back to Minnesota. Liriano dominated in August posting a 1.23 ERA in 6 starts and 36 innings (record 4-0). In total Liriano had thrown over 170 innings by September 1st and tired arm had begun to set in. He was solid but not great in September going 2-1 with a 4.66 ERA in 29 innings. Optomism pointed to 2009 for Liriano has he was able to pitch a total of 199 innings in the minors and majors one year coming off Tommy John surgery.

After an shoulder stiffness plagued Scott Baker in spring training Liriano was picked to start Opening Day for the Twins. That was the high point. Liriano was not able to put any stretch together during the season to make his confidence grow. Physically he was just not able to locate his pitches. In addition to that he had lost some velocity in his fastball. A guy who was know to throw mid 90's in 2006 was barley cracking 90 throughout the season. He was also turning away from his slider and going to his change up in fear of another injury. At the end of the season Liriano was dropped from the rotation for Brian Duenseng. He pitched 136 innings in 2009 with a 5-13 record and a 5.80 ERA. Statistically he might have been the worst pitcher in the American League in 2009. His K/BB ratio was 122/65 and also gave up 21 home runs.

After trade rumors in the off season, reports came out that Liriano would participate in the Dominican Winter League World Series. Liriano began to be all over Twins news as he lead his team into the playoffs. In 7 playoff starts Liriano pitched 37 innings with a 0.49 ERA and a 47 to 5 K/BB ratio. Better yet Liriano had his stuff back. Game 9 of the DWL World Series was on ESPN 360. From what I watched he looked to be in good shape and was flaunting a 93-96 MPH fastball and was baffling hitters with the slider that was known as untouchable in 2006. In game 9 Liriano threw 5 innings gave up 1 hit and struck out 10 to win it for Leones del Escogido.

Hopes again were set high in spring for Liriano. As pitchers and catcher reported everything again was positive. He was set the with task that he would be competing with fellow left handers Brian Duenseng and Glen Perkins for the final spot in the rotation. He was throwing hard and had a new attitude that Rick Anderson and Ron Gardenhire loved. After Joe Nathan lost his season to Tommy John, rumors began to swirl that Liriano would be named the closer because he was showing such great stuff. In the end Liriano earned the last spot in the rotation. He pitched 20 innings and had a 2.70 ERA with 30Ks and only 5 walks. His stuff seemed to be back as he was showing a plus fastball with life (91-95) and the plus plus slider that gave him the name "Franchise".

Which brings us to last night. Liriano had good stuff. His fastball was 93 to 95 with a lot of late movement. His slider was really good and he threw some good change ups except the last one he threw to Alex Rios on a 1-2 count. Location is the next step in the process. He showed good command over spring which gives reason to believe that he can bounce back. His next start will be in Target Field against the Boston Red Sox, a very patient line up. Remember Liriano is still only 26 years old. He has the best stuff of any pitcher on the Twins staff. We have seen in the past when he is on that he can be an All Star. Of course their are questions about him because of how bad 2009 went. However, it is hard to over look how good he has been since last season ended. He wants to be a great starting pitcher. He can be a great starter. And if he does that takes the Twins from contender in the division to contender to the American League. If the Twins have a Fransisco Liriano that we saw in 2006 and late 2008, they have a left handed ace that can go up against guys like Jake Peavy, Justin Verlander and Zack Grienke inning for inning, pitch for pitch.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Twins Take 3 of 4 from Angels

When the schedule first came out, we all knew we were going to know what the Twins were made of early on in the season, as their first 10 games were against teams that have made the playoffs in at least one of the last 2 years. The Twins were able to bounce back from opening day rough up to take three in a row from AL West Champ the LAA Angels most notably last night a 10-1 romping behind 3 home runs from Brendan Harris, Jim Thome and Delmon Young. Twins won their first series in LA since 2002. Through 4 games, the starting pitching had looked solid, but could improve. Scott Baker was very shaky in his first outing only going 4.2 innings and Kevin Slowey was hit pretty hard last night although he was able to control damage in the 5.1 innings he pitched and only gave up 1 run.

Twins Up:
Carl Pavno: Seemed to pick up right where he left off against the Yankees in the post season. Pavano went 7 strong innings giving up 1 run, and striking out 6 in route to his first win of the year. Pavano scattered 6 hits and did not walk a batter.

Jesse Crain: Crain pitched 2.1 innings in the 4 game set. He only gave up 1 hit and struck out 4. His fastball was 92-95 with last movement and his breaking pitches baffled batters last night as he struck out Kendry Morales, Juan Rivera, and Howie Kendrick to retire the side.

Delmon Young: Delmon did not have 2 home runs until June 29th in 2008 and June 20th in 2009. He got 2 this year on April 8th. Delmon also has 4 hits in 12 at bats. He has not taken a walk yet which leaves him with one of those rare occurrences of when a batting average is higher then his OBP. But he has driven in 6 runs already, scored 3 himself, stole a base and only struck out once.

JJ Hardy: Hardy may have found his stroke back. He cracked 2 home runs this series. In addition to going 5 for 16, Hardy was great with his glove at shortstop and has a cannon for an arm.

Alex Burnett: Burnett made his major league debut last night as a 22 year old in his hometown of Anaheim. His stuff looked good in his 1,2,3 innings throwing 90-92 with a good change up and potential for a plus breaking ball. Burnett made a case that he may be ready for some more high pressure situations.

Twins Down:
Orlando Hudson: Hudson hit .176 to start out year. He played a pretty good 2nd base although their were 2 instances where he could have made great plays but just misjudged flight of the ball. Hudson got hurt on a couple instances, when he was struck in the knee cap by a pitch in game 1 and then last night seemed to either got a stinger in his neck or possibly a concussion sliding into second base and hitting his head on Howie Kenrick's knee.

Scott Baker: Baker just never got going in his start on opening day. He threw 31 pitches and gave up 2 runs in the first inning. He gave up a long home run to a guy who is a .192 career hitter against righties (Jeff Mathis). Baker walked 3 and struck out 3 in his 4.2 innings of work and never seemed comfortable.

Denard Span: Lets just say he has looked ugly. Span who had a fantastic spring is only hitting .063. Ron Gardenhire had not helped the cause by taking the bat out of his hands on a few instances forcing him to lay down sac bunts.

John Rauch recorded his first 2 saves of the year. He gave up a run in the 9th when the Twins were up 4 to 1 to cut the lead to 2 but did not fold.
Jose Mijares got rocked on opening day giving up HR to Morales and Matsui. But bounced back in game 4 as his stuff looked nasty.

Up Next:
The Twins head to the South Side. Number 5 starter, Fransisco Liriano will make his long awaited return to the mound. A few months have felt longer then when he came back from Tommy John in 2008. Liriano will be opposed by John Danks of the White Sox. This game is a huge test for the 26 year old lefty (Liriano). He has dazzled in winter and spring ball. Now its time to put it all together for Minnesota.

Liriano is career 0-3 with a 7.52 ERA against Chicago
Danks is career 4-5 with 5.42 ERA against Twins

Other Notes: Joe Mauer will get tonight off after a long flight and 4 games caught. Orlando Hudson might get the day off as well. With a left on the mound in Danks, Brendan Harris might get start at 3rd and Nick Punto will start at 2nd. If that happens interesting to see who will hit second tonight.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

About Last Night (Put one on the Board)

Twins got their first win over the Angels last night 5 to 3.

Nick Blackburn had a quality start going 6 and 2/3 innings giving up 3 runs. He walked 4 and struck out another 4. Blackburn got off to a rocky start similar to Scott Baker on Monday, walking his first 2 batters but then go Torii Hunter to ground into a double play to the pitcher and then striking out Hideki Matsui. Blackburn was able to work through runners on all night allowing a total of 12 base runners.

Twins bullpen was a bright spot. Brian Duenseng came in the bottom of the 7th and got a pop out. Matt Gurrrier got 3 fly outs in the 8th. And the moment we all waited for, John Rauch got the save. He had a nice 1,2,3 inning with 2 strikeouts of Brandon Wood and Erik Aybar. He only faced the 8,9 and 1 hitters, but the first save was going to be the hardest and Rauch seemed to have no trouble.

Twins displayed their power at the plate. The M and M boys both cranked home runs, as well as new comer JJ Hardy. Michael Cuddyer went 3 for 4 but had some silly mistakes as he was picked off 2nd base. Instant replay indicated he was safe but he was called out because the throw got their so early. JJ Hardy also grounded into 2 double plays.

Seth Stohs and Travis Aune had a great podcast last night talking Twins minor league rosters. A few interesting moves, hold backs and promotions. The number by the players name is where they are ranked on my prospect list.

Rookie ball: the big three pitchers from the GCL, BJ Hermsen (21), Adrian Salcedo (10) and Blayne Weller will be held back in extended spring training. Based on performance 1 to all of them can make their way to Beloit this year. My number (20) Matt Bashore is reported to be healthy after arm stiffness from last season but will be held back as well.

Beloit: Aaron Hicks (1), Angel Morales (9) and James Berseford were all held back. Understandable because none of them really flourished in the league. But they all will move to Fort Myers at some point this year. Power arm Ben Tootle is expected to be the closer.

Fort Myers: Catcher Chris Hermann will skip 2 levels to be part of the catching platoon for the Miracle. He is a great athlete and can play 4 or 5 positions. Number (2) prospect Kyle Gibson will get the opening day call for the Miracle but will be put on the fast track. Shooter Hunt is also going to Fort Myers. Hunt has had control problems that are even hard to explain last year. But if he can show signs of improvement he could jump back into the conversation of prospect. I believe I heard that Paul Kelly was going to start the year in Fort Myers. Kelly always had prospect status as a good hitting short stop but has terrible knees and never stayed on the field. Still only 22 years old, Kelly still has a chance.

New Britain: This team is loaded with players from last years Miracle team that was one of the best in FSL. Opening Night starter Carlos Gutierrez (8) is throwing a 92 to 95 MPH sinker. Although he is starting now, Gutierrez could be the Twins closer of the future. David Bromberg (7) will be number 2 on the rotation. He has 3 strikout titles to his record and a FSL and Twins pitcher of the year. Deolis Guerra (19) is back in New Britain. Upside is still their, just waiting on performance. Tyler Robertson (14) has a high pitcher IQ but if he returns to his form of 2007 he could get a promotion. The outfield is loaded with tools. Ben Revere (5) Joe Benson (12) and Rene Tosoni (13) will form a speedy outfield and all have great bats. They could hit 1,2,3 in the order. Chris Parmelee (18) will play 1B and provide the power.

Rochester: is a veteran team. Danny Valencia (6) and Wilson Ramos (4) are the big names and will be in Minnesota as some point. Big things are expected of them. The back end of the bullpen seems like it is to be lights out. Anthony Slama (17), Rob Delany, Jose Lugo, Kyle Waldrop and eventually Alex Burnett (16) will all form a strong group. Burnett is already with the Twins due to an injury to Clay Condrey but may be back with Rochester in a week or 2. Again the Rochester team has a lot of veterans that may be granted their release at point during the season (Mike Maroth, Jaque Jones, Glen Perkins, and Jason Repko). This team could look very different in August or September.

Tonight Minnesota and LA will play the 3rd of 4 games to start off the season.
Carlo Pavano and Ervin Santana will make their first starts of the year. Both starters have near identical numbers against opposition.
Carl Pavano is 2-1 with a 5.13 ERA against Angels
Ervin Santana is 2-2 with a 5.13 ERA against Twins

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Opening Day Thoughts

Just a quick set of thoughts from Opening Day.

Denard Span and Joe Mauer went a combine 1 for 9 with 4 strikeouts. (they both got contract extensions this spring) frustrating but what can you do.

Opening Day Starter Scott Baker threw 31 pitches in the first inning and gave up 2 runs. He then gave up a home run to a guy who is a career .192 hitter of rightys. At the beginning of the year I said Baker was not as bad as he was last year but not as good as he was in 2008. What can you do.

When Delmon Young took a pitch on the inside half of the plate I was shocked that the one pitch Delmon has taken in his life was one he could crank. 2 pitches later Jered Weaver threw a fastball in the same spot and Delmon jacked it for a 2 run home run. In 4 at bats he got 2 hits and also stole a base. I am optimistic but in those 4 at bats he saw a total of 9 pitches.

Jesse Crain got 5 outs to keep the team in the game. He was throwing a fastball that was low to mid 90's paired with a good slider. My issues was that from what I saw you knew when he was going to throw his curveball.

Orlando Hudson was hit in the knee by a pitch and my stomach was in knots when he fell to the ground. Luckily he got up, chatted it up and played great defense all night. Interesting sequence when he hit a double over friend Torii Hunter's head and then proceeded to talk about it to Hunter, when he was standing on 2nd, Jered Weaver took offense to that and made it clear to Hunter how he felt. Of course no one can really be mad at Torii Hunter and Orlando Hudson because they are just to cool of guys.

The Twins left 14 men on base, including 2 situations where Delmon Young and Justin Morneau had the bases loaded with 2 outs. Again baseball statistics say base runners lead to runs. The odds of the Twins going 0 for the season with runners in scoring positions close and late is less then Jose Mijares weighting 250 pounds by September.

Speaking of Mijares, he left 2 meatball, breaking balls up in the zone for Matsui and Morales. Those two pitches were crushed. I know its the first game, but its the second year he has showed up to camp out of shape and late, and he has had "vision problems" during the spring. Not saying they are related to not giving up batting practice to the Angels, but what I am saying is it is something to pay attention to.

Tonight, Nick Blackburn will take the hill for Minnesota against Joe Saunders.
Blackburn is career 0-3 with a 5.72 ERA against the Angels
Saunders is career 3-1 with 4.10 ERA against Twins
Again its a new season, but these numbers were similar to last nights starters Scott Baker and Jered Weaver and we saw how that played out.

Keys to winning for Twins are always, throw strikes, don't walk anybody and keep the ball down in the strike zone.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

2010 Season Predictions and Twins Predictions

Happy Easter Twins Territory. And Happy Opening Night. We are less the 36 hours from first pitch for Twins-Angels so this is what is up. It is time to make predictions because that is what we do!

AL East: New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Oriels, Toronto Blue Jays
AL West: LA Angels, Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners, Oakland Athletics
AL Central: Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals
AL Wild Card: Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners

AL MVP: Derek Jeter (writers feel bad that he still does not have one)
AL Cy Young: John Lester Red Sox
AL Rookie of the Year: Neftali Feliz Rangers (as a starting pitcher)
Manager of the Year: Ron Gardenhire Twins
Comeback Player of the Year: Fausto Carmona Indians and Fransisco Liriano Twins

NL East: Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Florida Marlins, Washington Nationals, New York Mets
NL Central: St Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates
NL West: Colorado Rockies, LA Dodgers, San Fransisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres
NL Wild Card: Atlanta Braves, LA Dodgers, Florida Marlins, San Fransisco Giants

NL MVP: Ryan Braun Brewers
NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay Phillies (over under for Halladay wins will be set at 22)
NL Rookie of the Year: Jason Heyward Braves (edges out Stephen Strasburg Nationals)
NL Manager of the Year: Bobby Cox Braves (go out into the sunset)
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Manny Ramirez Dodgers (also go out into the sunset lol)

Twins beat Red Sox 3-2
Yankees beat Angels 3-1
Cardinals beat Braves 3-1
Phillies beat Rockies 3-2
Yankees beat Twins 4-2, MVP CC Sabathia
Phillies beat Cardinals 4-3, MVP Chase Utley
World Series
Phillies beat Yankees 4-2, MVP Roy Halladay

Other Twins predictions
90+ wins will be enough to win AL Central
93+ wins will be enough to not have to play New York in ALDS
Twins have just as good of team as the Red Sox or the Angels
Joe Mauer will not have a decrease in power this year 25+ home runs is a lock.
Denard Span will steal 30 bases
Delmon Young will play at least 140 games and set career highs in HR and steals
John Rauch will have at least 20 saves.
Pat Neshek will have 0 saves.
The Twins Closer of the future is not on the opening day roster
The Twins closer of the future in not on the Twins AAA team
the Twins closer of the future is on the AA team.
Brett Favre will announce he will not play for the Twins but return to the Vikings for 1 more year
Jim Thome will have at least 1 walk off home run this year
Fransisco Liriano will have an ERA under 4.00 and will make 30 starts
Twins will make a hard run at Heath Bell with trying to use one of two packages
package 1 will include Ben Revere or
package 2 will include Angel Morales
Wilson Ramos will be called up in September and will make the playoff roster
Twins will have 3 starters pitch 200 innings
Their will be 0 snow outs at Target Field until October
If Danny Valencia is called up, Alexi Casilla might be DFA
Twins minor league player of the year will be Wilson Ramos
Twins minor league pitcher of the year will be Kyle Gibson
Twins MVP will be Denard Span

If are their are any other prediction let loose.

#1 Prospect Aaron Hicks

Center Field
Drafted 1st round, 14th overall in 2008, Long Beach California
Levels Played in 2009: A Beloit
Opening Day Age: 20

In a system that has a world of talent, Aaron Hicks has the most tools. As a high school star center fielder, he was also a starting pitcher that can run his fastball up to 97 miles per hour. In addition to his talents on the baseball diamond, Hicks was also a highly recruited golfer. Going into the 2008 draft most teams were split on where they wanted Aaron Hicks to play. Whether that be pitcher or the outfield, Hicks definitely has a potential to be a major league baseball player. The Twins selected him at 14 and decided to keep him in the outfield. In addition to his power arm, Hicks had what some thought was the most athleticism of any high school player in the draft not to mention the ability to switch hit.

After being drafted in 2008, Hicks was sent to the Rookie Gulf Coast League and quickly made a name for himself. He played in 45 games and in addition to playing a great center field hicks hit .318/.409/.491. Hicks showed amazing plate discipline for an 18 year old walking 28 times compared to 32 strikeouts. Hicks demonstrated raw power from both sides of the plate hitting 4 home runs, 4 triples and 10 doubles. Hicks rookie year campaign earned his a GCL All Star award as well as Baseball America rookie all star vote.

The Twins decided to start a 19 year old Hicks in extended spring training in 2009. It was expected that he would go back to rookie ball, but he was surprisingly sent to Beloit. Although Hicks did not hit for great average, he put some of his raw tools on display. During the season a Baseball Prospectus writer and a scout attended a Beloit game and only needed 20 minutes to see Hicks hit a towering home run and make a web gem play in center field to know that Hicks was the real deal. Again he showed great plate discipline walking 40 times to 55 strikeouts in 67 games. After only playing those 57 games and only hitting .251/.353/.382 Baseball America still thought that Hicks was the number 1 prospect in the Midwest League.

Going into 2010, Hicks will play over 100 games for the first time in his career. He will most likley begin the year back in Beloit with his outfield partner Angel Morales. If he plays well he will definitely earn 1, possibly 2 promotions throughout the course of the 2010 season.

Aaron Hicks has put on a little muscle since being drafted at a 6 feet 2, 170 pound high school kid. He will eventually be a guy who can hit for average from both sides of the plate. He has raw power and if it develops fully he will have the ability to hit anywhere in a major league lineup. His defense is already fantastic paired with excellent athletic ability to chase down fly balls as well as the best throwing arm in the system. Hicks raw talent is still in the process of being turned into production. When it does we are looking at a guy who is not only the top prospect in the system, but one of the top guys in all of baseball.

ETA: Late 2011 call up, early 2012
Projection: 5 tool spectacle. Gold Glove defense. Hit for average and raw power. 25+ stolen bases.
MLB Comparison: Carlos Beltran

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Ranking the AL Central (Farm Systems)

1) Cleveland Indians
After huge trades the past 2 years, bringing guys who will set the foundation of the future. They have a great system headed by Carlos Santana but is also 15 to 20 players deep with value. Carlos Santana was brought in the Casey Blake deal and is the best guy in the system. Micheal Brantley was part of the Sabathia deal and has a ton of potential in the OF. Nick Hagadone was acquired in the Victor Martinez trade and could be a front line starter from the left side. The Cliff Lee deal brought in Carlos Carrasco as well as Jason Knapp who could be above average to plus starters. Other guys worth noting are 3B of the future Lonnie Chisenhall and power hitting outfielder Nick Weglarz. Finally, 2009 first rounder Alex White could be a quick jump to majors as a closer or a starter. Cleveland has a bright future.

Who will make 2010 impact?
Carlos Santana will be called up at some point this year. Some speculate that the only reason why he was not going to break camp with the team was to avoid some extra arbitration dollars. But he will hit for average and power this year and will allow fans to cope with the loss of Victor Martinez.

2) Minnesota Twins
The Twins have spent some money over seas as well as the draft the past year. They brought in 3 plus prospects who are all 16 years old (Miguel Sano, Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco). The Twins are loaded with OF prospects most notably Aaron Hicks, Ben Revere, Angel Morales and Joe Benson. Pitching has some guys to look at now and in the future with Kyle Gibson, David Bromberg, Carlos Gutierrez and Adrian Salcedo. The guy who might have the most potential is catcher Wilson Ramos who now blocked by Joe Mauer my be a star in the league for someone else.

Who will make 2010 impact?
Danny Valencia is the obvious choice. At 25 he has done all their is to do at the minor league level. He should do well in Minnesota, especially because he will be hitting 9th and will have little pressure to live up to (thanks Nick Punto).

3) Kansas City Royals
The Royals have had some great drafts. 2009 might be the best bringing his high ceiling catcher Will Myers who might end up being Bryce Harper before Harper gets the chance. Former 1st rounders Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer have bright futures with their bats but both struggled in 2009. A team that never had pitching now has three guys who will have impact at MLB level in coming years (Mike Motgomrey, Aaron Crow and Tim Melville). The Royals have had an unfortunate situation where top 10 LHP prospect Danny Duffy just picked up and left the team for personal reasons. Duffy is 21 and participated in the futures game in 2009.

Who will make 2010 impact?
Aaron Crow is a 2 time first round pick, going 9th in 2008 to the Nationals and 12 in 2009 with Kansas City. Crow has a year of independent league ball under his belt so their is reason to believe that the right hander is on the fast track to the majors.

4) Detroit Tigers
Detroit traded a big load of players to bring in Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Former top prospect Rick Porcello is a 21 year old MLB pitcher. But Austin Jackson and Scott Sizmore are going to be everyday rookies this year with high upside. Daniel Shlereth has great stuff for a back end bullpen guy. Top prospects though are the righty, lefty combo of Jacob Turner and Casey Crosby; a couple power pitchers who can project to be front of a rotation arms.

Who will make impact in 2010?
Austin Jackson is now the full time center fielder. At some point he will be looked at the bat lead off guy but for now he is going to be valued for his defense and athletic ability. If he puts it together he could be a Curtis Granderson clone.

5) Chicago White Sox
The White Sox are another aggressive team that loves to trade all their players to bring in MLB ready talent. Ken Williams gave up 5 guys to get Jake Peavy. The system is now rather weak. Top prospect Jared Mitchell is out for year with torn achilles. Tyler Flowers is expected to take over the catcher role in 2011. The best pitching prospect left is Daniel Hudson who sped to the majors last year and should compete for the 5 spot this year. John Danks younger brother Jordan has some high upside in the outfield and should start year in AAA.

Who will make 2010 impact?
Daniel Hudson flew through 5 levels in 2009 and was able to finish with a 3.38 ERA in 19 major league innings. Chicago might hold him back in 2010 and let him get his feet wet in AAA but when he is called up he could put the icing on the cake for what could be the best rotation in baseball.

Top Prospects in AL Central
1) Carlos Santana, Catcher, Cleveland ETA 2010
2) Aaron Hicks, Outfield, Minnesota ETA 2012
3) Jacob Turner, RHP, Detroit ETA 2012
4) Lonnie Chisenhall, 3b, Cleveland ETA 2010
5) Mike Motgomrey LHP, Kansas City ETA 2011
6) Kyle Gibson, RHP, Minnesota ETA 2011
7) Aaron Crow, RHP Kansas City ETA 2010
8) Casey Crosby, LHP, Detroit ETA 2011
9) Miguel Sano, SS Minnesota ETA 2013
10)Wilson Ramos, C, Minnesota ETA 2010
11)Austin Jackson, OF, Detroit ETA 2010
12)Daniel Hudson, RHP, Chicago ETA 2010
13)Micheal Brantley, OF, Cleveland ETA 2010
14)Ben Revere, OF, Minnesota ETA 2011
15)Nick Hagadone, LHP, Cleveland ETA 2011

Friday, April 2, 2010

#2 Prospect Kyle Gibson

Starting RHP
Drafted 1st round (22nd overall) 2009, University of Missouri
Levels Played in 2009: Not available
Opening Day Age: 22

Kyle Gibson was third in line of number 1 starters taken from Mizzou,(Max Scherzer and Aaron Crow in the previous years.) Gibson may now have the overpowering fastball as Scherzer or Crow but he has front line mentality and is a strike thrower. He goes right after hitters and takes control over situations. Going into the 2009 draft Gibson was seen as the second best college pitcher (Stephen Strasburg was 1) and 4th overall prospect among draft prospects. An undefined arm injury hindered him down the stretch and most scouts thought that be big right hander would need Tommy John surgery. Luckily their was no damage in the elbow however Gibson had a stress fracture in his forearm. The problem was corrected in the off season and the Twins feel they go a steal at pick 22.

Gibson was still in his rehab stage after being drafted, so he did not pitch for a Twins organization in 2009. However his numbers at Missouri are something to look at. His freshman year, he was used primarily as a reliever. As a sophomore, he finished the year with a 9-4 record in 86 innings as a starter. He also had 96 strikeouts and a 3.84 ERA. In 2009, Gibson was the number 1 starter for the Tigers and dominated the Big 12. He finished 11-3 with a 3.21 ERA in 106 innings. He also showed impeccable control with 131 strikeouts and only 19 walks.

Gibson has also played for Team USA in the World Cup. He threw 17 innings and allowed on 2 earned runs. He struck out 25 batters to only 4 basses on balls. He knows what it takes to succeed. Going into his junior year he put on 30 pounds to be able to take on the work load of the front line pitcher at Missouri.

Gibson may not have the stuff of a Justin Verlander, but it is still very good. What scouts were seeing at the end of 2009 was an injured pitcher throwing threw pain and still getting by. Even though his fastball was topping out at 86, he was still pretty effective. When healthy Kyle Gibson works with a low 90 to 92 MPH 2 seem fastball that has a ton of movement and sink, a 4 seem fastball that he can run 93-94 MPH, a plus, plus slider that Baseball America ranks as the best in the system as well as a developing change up that could be a plus pitch. What the Twins love most about Gibson is his incredible control. In 2009 his K/9 rate was 11.1 and his BB/9 was 1.6.

In a short term since being with the Twins, Gibson has already shown signs that he will be put on the fast track. He showed in instructional league during the winter that he was fully healthy and gained most of his velocity back. In spring training he was overwhelming hitters with the incredible moment on his pitches. In a inter squad game, Jason Kubel went up to Ron Gardenhire and said he no longer wanted to hit against Gibson because he was getting "carved up".

Gibson has a very projectable frame, he is 6 feet 6 and 210 pounds. His mechanics have drawn mixed reviews. Some scouts believe that he has good mechanics and others believe that he does not put enough leg power behind his pitches which may have caused the arm injury. He fits the mold of a Twins pitchers. He pounds the strike zone, does not walk hitters and keeps the ball in the ballpark. Kyle Gibson will begin the year in A+ Fort Myers, but could be on the fast track. His time in the minors could resemble former top draft picks Kevin Slowey and Matt Garza. I expect him to compete for the 5th spot in the rotation in 2011 if the Twins decide to not bring back Carl Pavano. If he excels at the rate he has in the past we are talking about a guy who could start opening day in 2012 or 2013.

ETA: 2011
Projection: Not a true ace in terms of stuff, but could be the number 1 starter in Minnesota by the time he is 25 years old.
MLB Comparison: Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Scott Baker, John Lackey.

Ranking the AL Central (Bullpen)

1) Chicago White Sox
The Sox have three good guys in the back end. Bobby Jenks has lost a ton of weight and quit drinking. Might be able to pull out a few more 2 inning saves. Matt Thorton is their big lefty with the power breaking pitches. If JJ Putz can be healthy, he can close. Being the 8th inning guy throwing mid to upper 90's will help Chicago.

2) Detroit Tigers
The Tigers have power power arms all across the board. Their new closer Jose Valverde is an upgrade from Fernando Rodney. If Joel Zumaya if healthy (unlikely) can still throw over 100 MPH. Ryan Perry is another power arm. Phil Coke is their new lefty. Bobby Seay is a huge loss for them. I still like the Tigers pen overall.

3) Minnesota Twins
How much does Joe Nathan mean to the Twins. If he were here the Twins would have the best bullpen in the division no question. Pat Nasty Neshek will bounce back from 2 years of recovery. Jesse Crain's second half of 2009 is what he is really capable of. Jose Mijares has a ton of talent from left side but does he have the mental aspect to get out of Gardenhire's dog house. My pick for who should close is John Rauch. He has done it before and is the best internal option. Matt Gurrier was great last year but is not as good as his stats indicate in 2009.

4) Cleveland Indians
Kerry Wood is out the first 2 months. It hurts the Tribe more then just in the bullpen. It makes him less valuable in a deadline trade. Chris Perez, Jensen Lewis and Rafeal Perez all have a lot of talent but got roughed up and were set back in 2009. Location issues are the main component to the Indians success. Joe Smith and Tony Sipp might both be guys to take big steps forward in 2010.

5) Kansas City Royals
The best reliever in the division is Joakim Soria. But getting to him is rather difficult. Again I say that the Royals screwed up trading Leo Nunez and Ramon Ramirez for Coco Crisp and Mike Jacobs. Kyle Farsnworth can throw upper 90's but it goes straight. Robinson Tejada is very solid and should be Soria's setup man if he does not start. Juan Cruz was great in 2007 and 2008 but got shelled in 2009. He should be able to get back to form.

Top Relievers in Division

1) Joakim Soria (CL)KC
2) Bobby Jenks (CL)CHW
3) Jose Valverde (CL) DET
4) Kerry Wood (CL)CLE
5) JJ Putz CHW
6) Pat Neskek MIN
7) Matt Thorton CHW
8) Jose Mijares MIN
9) Matt Gurrier MIN
10)Ryan Perry DET

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ranking the AL Central (Defense)

1) Minnesota Twins
They still play the game the right way. Ron Gardenhire is one of the few managers in baseball that still makes his team take in field everyday. The Twins added 2 great defensive guys in JJ Hardy and 4 time Gold Glover Orlando Hudson up the middle. Third base will be solid with the Punto/Harris platoon. Denard Span is a better CF then people give him credit for. Delmon Young has gained back some speed after losing 30 pounds. And oh yeah. Joe Mauer is the best all around catcher in the game.

Player to Watch: Jason Kubel might see some more of the outfield this year with the departure of Carlos Gomez. He has never been able to move well in the past, but he has made it a point that he does not want to be a full time DH.

2)Detroit Tigers
The infield is very solid even with the loss of Placido Polanco. Brandon Inge is a great 3rd baseman and Adam Everett has always had a great glove (except in Minnesota). Scott Sizemore has a big challenge infront of him and Miguel Cabrera was still above average at 1st base saving 3 runs in 2009. Maglio Ordonez can cover the ground he once could. Johnny Damon can cover ground but will he be able to get the ball back to the infield in Comerca Park. Austin Jackson is arguably the best athlete on the team and should be able to bail his outfield mates out a lot of jams. Gerald Laird is usually in there to play defense because his .225 batting average is not worth keeping.

Player to Watch: Austin Jackson is a fantastic athlete. He will cover a lot of ground and make all the same plays Curtis Granderson used to.

3) Chicago White Sox
The White Sox have jumped on the approach of pitching and playing defense. Juan Pierre, and Alex Rios will cover a lot of ground in the outfield. Mark Teahen's natural position is 3rd. Not many guys can call a better game then AJ Pierzynski. Gordon Beckham's natural position is shortstop. After playing 2009 at 3rd, he will play 2010 at 2nd.

Player to Watch: Juan Peirre is going to hit lead off but more importantly he is going to move Carlos Quinton over to RF out of the way from fly balls. Peirre improves the Sox defense instantly.

4) Cleveland Indians
The Tribe has some great athletes at the major league level. Grady Sizmore is just fun to watch when healthy. Johnny Peralta is a natural short stop but plays a pretty good 3rd base. I am a huge Asdrubal Cabrera fan. If the Indians decide to go with Michael Brantley instead of Matt Laporta in left, they will be above average in the outfield. Opening Day catcher Lou Marson is a good game caller behind the plate and has solid throwing arm. If and when Carlos Santana is called up, he will be able to gun down a lot of base stealers.

Player to Watch: Grady Sizeore if healthy is gold glove caliber. He has had shoulder injuries the past couple years. If he can play everyday he has 2 plus defensive tools.

5) Kansas City Royals
I like the Royals outfield. Rick Ankiel, David DeJesus and Scott Posednick are all veterans who go all out. I hate the Royals infield. Yuni Betancourt is 11 runs worse the an average short stop. Alex Gordon is projection that will never pan out. Chris Getz does have a better glove then Alberto Callapso but hit bat should not be in over Callapso. Jason Kendall began to lose some of his defensive prowless in 2009 but can still cal a decent game. It is hard to hide Billy Butler at first base. He really should be a DH.

Player to Watch: Rick Ankeil is has made some great catches in his career. He is a very good athlete and still has a cannon in what was a former pitching arm.

All Defense Team in the AL Central

Catcher: Joe Mauer MIN
First Base: Justin Morneau MIN
Second Base: Orlando Hudson: MIN
Shortstop: Asdrubal Cabrera CLE
Third Base: Brandon Inge DET
Three Outfielders: Grady Sizemore CLE, Denard Span MIN, Austin Jackson DET

#3 Prospect Miguel Angel Sano

Shortstop, 3rd Base
Signed as International Free Agent in 2009, Dominican Republic
Levels Played in 2009: Not Available
Opening Day Age: 16 (Turns 17 on May 11th)

The Minnesota Twins had a fantastic off season. They made some great signings with Jim Thome and Orlando Hudson, they traded for all start short stop JJ Hardy, they extended Nick Blackburn and Denard Span and they were able to give the 4th largest contract in MLB history to all world catcher Joe Mauer. But the move that might be overlooked for the next couple years was the $3.15 million dollars dished out to a 16 year old boy in the Dominican Republic. The signing of Miguel Angel Sano will pay dividends off for the Twins for years to come.

Sano was looked at as the best international prospect to ever come out. He was given the largest signing bonus for a international position player ($3.15m). Only Michael Ynoa received a larger bonus overall in 2008 from the Oakland Athletics. The Twins were in what was a 3 team race to get Sano last year. The other suitors for Sano were the Baltimore Oriels and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Sano was said to be looking for a bonus somewhere in the $3.5 million dollar range. Early on, although Minnesota said they were really interested it seemed unlikely that the Twins would be willing to dish out that kind of money to a kid would probably be a sophomore in high school if he lives in the states.

The process was prolonged when MLB had to run a background check on Sano to prove he was really 16. For months it seemed like the Pirates were the front runner to get Sano as they kept in contact with him and his family on a weekly basis. Surprisingly, Sano went behind the Pirates back and chose Minnesota out of the blue. The $3.15 million dollar signing bonus was the second largest given out in Twins history only to Joe Mauer's number 1 overall draft pick bonus in 2001. That just puts in perspective how good the Twins think this kid can be. After that the Twins requested that a physical be taken, a bone graphs to validate Sano's age. Everything panned out. He was given a work visa and is now currently in Twins spring training camp.

Sano is a special talent. At 16 he is huge standing at 6 foot 3 and weighing a lean 200 pounds. He has never trained a day in his life and already holds great power. A scout said that Sano has thunder in his forearms. He has a very smooth swing from the right side and surprising plate discipline for again at 16 year old. Sano's determination to be great is already prevalent. He claims he wants to get to the major leagues in 2 years. By that time he would probably be 19. The Twins may move Sano slow early on. Because the Twins have not developed too many of their own international guys of this caliber it is somewhat of a unique situation. The closest scenario was Wilson Ramos who is going into his 6th season with the organization.

Sano has a very bright future. He is expected to begin his career in the rookie GCL sometime this summer rather then going back to the Dominican to play in the DSL academy. Sano in a very short stint in spring training has already looked impressive. At his size and age he will probably grow out of his current position short stop. Expect Sano to play 3rd in the next couple years. Sano will push to get to the majors as fast as possible. I fully expect him to make his debut before his 21st birthday.

ETA: 2013
Projection: All Star, MVP, Hall of Fame. Am I getting ahead of myself?
MLB Comparison: Hanley Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Evan Longoria