Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Looking Back

In an unlike Twins fashion of the past few season, Minnesota was able to lock up the AL Central title without playing 163 games. This team has had its fair share of ups and downs but are now in position to try and get healthy and set up the rotation for the playoffs. We can see how much this actually means after last season Minnesota won game 163 in a 5 hour marathon then the next night had to face CC Sabathia in game 1 of the playoffs.

We all have preseason predictions and I just want to see what I got right.

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

I got New York and Minnesota right. But right after the first month I felt dumb giving to much into the recent history of Boston and LAA as neither team did what they set out to do.

AL MVP: Derek Jeter (writers feel bad that he still does not have one)
I picked Jeter because writers feel bad for him. Josh Hamilton will win this.
AL Cy Young: John Lester Red Sox
Lester had a solid year but Felix is the best pitcher in baseball and CC sadly will win the Cy.
AL Rookie of the Year: Neftali Feliz Rangers (as a starting pitcher) RIGHT? Closer.
Manager of the Year: Ron Gardenhire Twins RIGHT!
Comeback Player of the Year: Fausto Carmona Indians and Fransisco Liriano Twins
Both definitely had comeback years but what Liriano is doing is award worthy.

NL East: Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Florida Marlins, Washington Nationals, New York Mets; solid battle out in the NL East but the Phillies have taken over.
NL Central: St Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates (Cardinals might be the biggest bust of 2010 with that pitching and that lineup. But good for the Reds)
NL West: Colorado Rockies, LA Dodgers, San Fransisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres (The Rockies are still in it in what is the funnest division race but my last place team San Diego has played terrific in 2010.)
NL Wild Card: Atlanta Braves, LA Dodgers, Florida Marlins, San Fransisco Giants RIGHT!

NL MVP: Ryan Braun Brewers (Will go to Joey Votto)
NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay Phillies (over under for Halladay wins will be set at 22)RIGTH and Halladay has 20 wins with 2 starts left.
NL Rookie of the Year: Jason Heyward Braves (edges out Stephen Strasburg Nationals)Strasburg had it until that terrible injury, but Heyward will be in a dog race with Jamie Garcia. If you are wondering as I was, Mat Latos did not qualify because he had 50.2 innings last year. 2 effing outs away. Sheesh.
NL Manager of the Year: Bobby Cox Braves (go out into the sunset) Sorda right but it will go to Padres manager Bud Black for making something out of nothing.
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Manny Ramirez Dodgers (also go out into the sunset lol) More of a joke on me for thinking this. Award will go to idk?

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 (all TBD but lets hope its different)

Other Twins predictions
90+ wins will be enough to win AL Central (RIGHT and counting)
93+ wins will be enough to not have to play New York in ALDS (RIGHT because we will host Tampa)
Twins have just as good of team as the Red Sox or the Angels (They were better)
Joe Mauer will not have a decrease in power this year 25+ home runs is a lock. (Target Field is fucking HUGE! So I was bloody wrong)
Denard Span will steal 30 bases (currently at 23 projected for 25 so wrong)
Delmon Young will play at least 140 games and set career highs in HR and steals (career year with HR slugging and RBI)
John Rauch will have at least 20 saves. RIGHT
Pat Neshek will have 0 saves. RIGHT
The Twins Closer of the future is not on the opening day roster (RIGHT sorda)
The Twins closer of the future in not on the Twins AAA team (RIGHT)
the Twins closer of the future is on the AA team. (Bullock is in AA now)
Brett Favre will announce he will not play for the Twins but return to the Vikings for 1 more year (Given and RIGHT)
Jim Thome will have at least 1 walk off home run this year (Matt Thorton wishes it was not true and I was RIGHT)
Fransisco Liriano will have an ERA under 4.00 and will make 30 starts (RIGTH)
Twins will make a hard run at Heath Bell with trying to use one of two packages
package 1 will include Ben Revere or (wrong but they discussed it)
package 2 will include Angel Morales (same goes but wrong)
Wilson Ramos will be called up in September and will make the playoff roster (called up before and traded)
Twins will have 3 starters pitch 200 innings (very wrong, with only Carl Pavano. I though Baker and Blackburn would do the same. Was not the case as they sucked)
Their will be 0 snow outs at Target Field until October (so far so good)
If Danny Valencia is called up, Alexi Casilla might be DFA (Not true)
Twins minor league player of the year will be Wilson Ramos (False this goes to Joe Benson)
Twins minor league pitcher of the year will be Kyle Gibson (TRUE)
Twins MVP will be Denard Span (so very wrong. This could go to many different guys like Delmon, Liriano or Mauer but I think it should go to Jim Thome)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gardy for Manager of the Year!

As fans we tend to over criticize. And for a group of people who feel passionately about one certain thing, they tend to start making rash opinions based on certain observations. As Twins fans its hard not to admit that our opinions constantly change about manager Ron Gardenhire. The man; whether we think so or not is pretty damn good at what he does and the 2010 season is a perfect example why.

I am only doing this because a couple weeks ago I asked the simple question to ESPN's Howard Bryant why he though Texas Rangers' manager Ron Washington deserved the Manager of the Year award over Gardy. He literally laughed the question and now with 2 weeks left in the season he is the one looking more like a joke.

It is a legitimate question. What has Ron Washington done this year that Ron Gardenhire hasn't? Sure he has taken a team that has not been to the playoffs since 1996 but then again he is managing a superbly talented team (Cliff Lee, Josh Hamilton, etc) in a division where every other team is below .500. So I ask again. What did Washington do? The answer is what he is supposed to do. He managed what was already a talented team from 2nd place in 2009 to 1st in 2010 while the other 3 teams in the division got progressively worse. The Angels lost a ton of talent from 2010 and were expected to fall, and the Mariners were a complete bust and are now the worst team in all of baseball and A's have not tried to win a division title since they had their big three together. Texas has mastered this division but has been sitting on the chance to seal up the division for the past 2 weeks and it has caused them to now put the season on cruise control.

What Ron Gardenhire has done is take a team just as talented in a more competitive division and dominated. The Twins have absolutely smothered the AL Central in route to an 11 game lead with less then 2 weeks left in the year. The Twins have played so well that they are within one game of the best record in all of baseball. This after the Twins were 3 back of Chicago at the All Star Break. After ending the first half of the season 46-42. Minnesota has bulldozed at a 44-18 pace to eclipse the 90 win mark.

What about injuries? Yes Washington has dealt with some blows this season. All Star 2nd baseman Ian Kinsler has been on and off the shelf and MVP candidate Josh Hamilton looks like he will be scratched for the remaining of the season with broken ribs to prepare for October. But is this worse then what Gardy has gone through? Lets see it all started in March remember? When one of the top 2 closers in baseball (Joe Nathan) had his season ended with Tommy John. Then came Joe Mauer's heel bruise that landed him on the DL. And oh fuckin yeah; first half MVP Justin Morneau has not played since before the All Star break with a concussion, not to mention he was having the best season of his career. Then came a slew of other injures that has not allowed this team to play a full healthy game together since what seems like May. Gardy has been able to work with what he has and when I say work with I mean guys like Jeff Manship, Matt Tolbert, Alexi Casilla, Jason Repko, among others to come up in big spots for the team to win. And doing it with the 2nd best record in baseball.

What about head to head? The Twins went undefeated at home against Texas this year while racking up a 7-3 record overall against the eventual AL West champs. That has put Texas in a hole which will allow Minnesota to open the playoffs at home against what is most likley Wild Card; Tampa Bay, while Texas will have to travel to defending champion; New York.

So... you can tell me what Ron Washington has done well enough this year to be on conversation to win Manager of the Year, but really? What has he done that should put him ahead of Ron Gardenhire? The answer is nothing and if Gardy does not win this award in a landslide I will give up on writers because most of them obviously don't give a damn about baseball. They are too busy criticizing Brett Favre, LeBron James and Roger Clemens.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Prospect Round Up; Top 5

5.) Ben Revere, 22, AA Eastern League, MLB:
As I predicted Ben Revere would be a September call up. But it did not come at a price for the 22 year old. Revere went through a number of injuries most notably broken facial bones when he was struck in the orbital by a 95 MPH fastball. Brings back memories to the end of Kirby Puckett's career. Revere did what he always does by hitting .305 and stealing 36 bases. Still remains to be seen what the Twins will do with the 2007 first round pick but it will be exciting to see what he will do in the Arizona Fall League against other top competition.

4.) Wilson Ramos, 23, AAA International League, MLB:
Wilson Ramos had an incredible streak while taking Joe Mauer's place racking up hits in bunches. But his stay in AAA Rochester was a gloomy one where he failed to produce. The Twins later as expected used Ramos to bring in an arm to help with their post season run. Initially the trade (for Matt Capps) seemed poor for the Twins but in my opinion this trade can not be judged until we see how the season ends. If Minnesota wins then the trade is a success. If not then we will have to wait and see what Wilson Ramos becomes. If he is what some scouts think and that is a plus defensive catcher with .300, 20+ home run hitting ability then yes it is bad for Minnesota. If he is just another solid big league guy then it will be looked at as an even swap. Ramos should put up good long term numbers in the National League but it remains to be seen if he will ever be an All Star.

3.) Miguel Sano, 17, Rookie Gulf Coast League;
I called Miguel Sano the most hyped player in the GCL since Miguel Cabrera. I believe in his talent so much that I would say that he may be a better long term player then 1st overall pick Bryce Harper. He showed glimpses of his raw and rare talent this year in the DSL and GCL hitting 7 home runs while batting .307 in just 61 games. Sano struck out at more then a 2 to 1 ratio but nothing too drastic especially for a 17 year old. I still believe in Sano as a future MVP and you have to love the goals he set out for himself. He wants to be in the Majors in 3 years. If you calculate that it will be sometime in 2012. We know the Twins won't let that happen but if Sano dominates the way I think he can, management will have no choice but to continue to promote him. Performance should be rewarded. Sano will perform.

2.) Kyle Gibson, 22, A+ Florida State League, AA Eastern League, AAA International League;
Say hello to what will be the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Gibson did exactly what I thought he was going to do and that was make it to AAA while baffling hitters. He ended this season hitting very good marks of 152 innings, 2.96 ERA, 11 wins, and got more then double ground outs to fly outs. Gibson drew comparisons from Carl Pavano all the way to Brandon Webb throughout the season. His low 90's sinker and knockout slider will be good enough for number 3 type starter stuff and long term he should be the Twins number 2 guy behind Fransisco Liriano. He will start 2011 in AAA Rochester but will not be there for long. To avoid super 2 status expect a June call up at the earliest.

1.) Aaron Hicks, 20, A Midwest League:
When you hit .279/.401/.428 and are said to have a disappointing season, you can understand why scouts love Aaron Hicks so much. Hicks spent the whole year in Beloit while watching he fellow OF mate Angel Morales get promoted. He still has the best set of pure tools in the system. Hicks got off to a horrific start by going 1 for 31 in April but hit .298 from there on out. We have still yet to see the best from Hicks and when it gets put together we are looking at a special outfielder. Guys like Matt Kemp, Carlos Gonzalez, Adam Jones and Andrew McCutchen are going to be guys who you can compare Hicks to. He will start 2011 in Fort Myers as a 21 year old and hopefully will start to turn some of those tools into performance this upcoming season. I have said it before and I will say it again. Unlike other outfielders in this system, Aaron Hicks is the only one who is NOT blocked and will have room made for.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Prospect Round Up 10-6

10.) Adrian Salcedo, 19, A+ Florida State League, Rookie Appalachian League
It is obvious by the leagues he pitched in that Adrian Salcedo was slightly mishandled this year. But a mass of injuries in in all 4 of Minnesota's full season clubs forced the Twins to have to plug some guys into holes before they were ready. Salcedo did no fare well against FSL hitters but reports about his stuff were legit which was a low to mid 90's fastball that he could locate very well along with a spike curve ball and a solid change up. Salcedo when being sent back to rookie ball showed the same dominance he did last season with a 3.16 ERA as a starter and a ridiculous 55K to 6BB in 56 innings. Salcedo has been relieving to end the year to limit innings and should top out somewhere near 100 compared to the 61 he threw last year. Its obvious the Twins will take it slow with Salcedo so either he will start full season ball last next year or be shut down early. But expect a total inning count of around 130 in 2011 mixed between Beloit and if he performs Fort Myers as well. Salcedo might have the best raw stuff in the system as a teenager so you could understand why the Twins want to be careful.

9.) Angel Morales, 20, A Midwest League, A+ Flordia State League.
Another toolsy kid who started to put some things together this year. Morales his over .290 for Beloit which earned him a promotion to Fort Myers. On the season his power from the past has since disappeared now turning into more of a free swinging singles guy. Morales only tallied up 5 home runs and 24 doubles this year. But he did show some crazy speed with 10 triples and 29 steals which are both career highs. I like Morales' tools overall. As I said before he strikes out way too much and will be exposed in higher leagues. Twins let Morales play nearly 170 games in low A ball before a true call up so don't be surprised to see Morales return to the Miracle next season to start. He will most likley be reunited with Aaron Hicks.

8.) Carlos Gutierrez, 23, AA Eastern League, AAA International League.
We had some questions answered about the 2008 first round pick. His long term role will in fact be in the bullpen. Gutierrez simply does not have the secondary pitches or the stamina to go deep into games or a season. But that is not a bad thing. Because his stuff may be better suited for the pen anyway. We know he brings that bowling ball sinker clocked anywhere from 93 to 97 and now that he has limited innings to throw it it could be clocked more often then not to the top of that scale. Gutierrez was promoted to AAA Rochester because the MLB team is decimated by injuries, but Carlos should start next year in Rochester anyway. I need to see what Gutierrez can do as a full time bullpen arm before I make a projection of what he can do because at this moment I beleive Billy Bullock is the closer of the future just because of his ability to rack up strikeouts.

7.) David Bromberg, 22, AA Eastern League, AAA International League.
Bromberg may have took a step back from what he did in 2009 as the organizations best pitcher but that does not mean that he did not have a solid year. He is showing durability by cracking the 150 inning mark for the 3rd straight season and still has a season ERA of 3.75 (3.98 in AAA). What seemed to be the problem for Bromberg this year was the thing that I wanted him to improve on from last year and that was control. His strikeouts have dropped from 177 to 148 now to 112 since 2008 and his walks were up while he was in AA. He has seemed to harness that since the promotion to AAA but he is leaving more pitches of the plate. Bromberg has given up twice as many homeruns in Rochester as he did in New Britain but with half the innings. Bromberg still has potential to be a back of the rotation starter. But my Kevin Millwood suggestion may be quite off. I still might think because of his size and stuff he could resemble Tommy Hunter.

6.) Danny Valencia, 25, AAA International League, MLB.
It is safe to say the Danny Valencia has locked up the full time 3B job for the Twins. I was a little nervous when he was called up that he would not get much playing time but the kid has started the past 26 games and for lack of a better word has raked. Valencia's power does not translate well to Target Field but neither does Joe Mauer's. What we have seen is a patient hitter who stings the ball to all fields and is not afraid of Major League pitching (.343/.382/.454). He in my opinion has also played very good defense showing off that cannon arm (which Nick Punto does not have). Valencia has been up since June 2 and may be under consideration for AL Rookie of the Year surprisingly. When looking around the league the award might go to either him, Austin Jackson, Brendan Boesh, Wade Davis or my preseason pick Neftali Feliz.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Prospect Round Up 15-11

15.) Billy Bullock, 22, A+ Florida State League, AA Eastern League
Kyle Gibson is obviously the crown jewel from the 2009 draft. But Billy Bullock (2nd round) might be a more dominant force for the Twins in the near future. Bullock has been able to use his mid to upper 90s fastball with a power slider to post up fantastic strikeouts rates (102K in 72 innings). For all of you keeping track that is almost 13K per 9 innings. He will begin next year in AAA Rochester and should be contending for a September call up in 2011.

14.) Tyler Robertson, 22, AA Eastern League
It has been a disappointing year from all of the pitchers in New Britain and Robertson headed the bunch with a 4-13 record and a 5.39 ERA. There is no getting around what the issue was. Since his arm injury a couple years ago the stuff has simply vanished. And since he has moved up into a tougher league, AA hitters will not fall for change ups, slow curves and a high 80's fastball. Robertson will probably return to AA next year and could be stuck for a long time if he does not decide to change up his mechanics.

13.) Rene Tosoni, 24, AA Eastern League
I was kind of puzzled when the Twins decided to keep Tosoni back. But in the long run it never really hurt because Tosoni was never going to get through the first couple months anyway. Tosoni's had season ending shoulder surgery that limited him to only DHing while playing. The surgery was the right move. But has I said before, Tosoni is a guy with limited tools in a system loaded with talented outfielders. And he is much older then the others. He may be a guy who disappears over time.

12.) Joe Benson, 22, A+ Florida State League, AA Eastern League.
Joe Benson's tools seemed to catch up with him finally. Benson has always been known as a big bodied, athletic specimen and he put together a lot of his tools this year. Minus the one that actually gets you to the big leagues. Benson set a career high with 23 home runs and counting on the season which lead the organization. The power is legit but the bat is behind again. He only hit .240 in AA ball while striking out more then once a game. The kid plays great defense at all 3 positions and has a cannon arm. His speed is good enough to steal 20 bags in a 162 game schedule. He has the major league set of tools but unless his bat can make consistent contact he will be another Carlos Gomez.

11.) Max Kepler, 17, Rookie Gulf Coast League
I am a huge Kepler fan. Although he is only 17 and has a ton to learn about the game and American society, Max Kepler has the look of a future All Star. He showed glimpses of it this year in the GCL .286/.346/.343. The numbers may indicate that the power is not there but it will come. Remember this kid is just 17 years old! And he stands a very thin 6 feet 4, 180 pounds. Let him grow into his body and we will be looking at a very exciting player.