TwinsCentric was formed by Twins super-bloggers Seth Stohs, Nick Nelson, Parker Hageman and John Bonnes. Together they publish at TwinsDaily.com and have authored books, e-books and magazines that provide independent and in-depth coverage of the Minnesota Twins from a fan's perspective. You can contact them at TwinsCentric@gmail.com.
Aaron Hicks is the most talked about Twins prospect these days as he is making the strong case that he should be the Minnesota Twins Opening Day leadoff hitter and centerfielder. Hicks was the Twins first 1st round draft pick that year. Some of the other the other top picks didn’t pan out, but there are still ten in the organization.
Let’s take a look:
Aaron Hicks was taken with the 14th overall pick. He slowly worked through the lower levels of the Twins minor league system, but after filling out the stat line thoroughly at AA New Britain in 2012, he looks to be the favorite for the Twins centerfield job. When he was drafted, many believed that he would be better as a starting pitcher due to a mid-90s fastball. However, Hicks said he wanted to hit, and the Twins believed he could become a five-tool talent. In 2013, the team will find out how many of those tools are going to show in the big leagues. On defense, Hicks has very good range and a strong arm. On offense, he has the ability to get on base at a good clip with his patient approach. He may never hit 30 home runs, but the switch-hitter could hit as many as 20 homers. His strikeout totals may keep him from ever hitting for a real high average, but with the way he progressed in 2013, it is very possible he will continue to improve upon that. He also stole a career-high 31 bases last year for the Rock Cats. No question, Hicks is in a good position to be the Twins centerfielder for many years.
Carlos Gutierrez (27th overall) and Shooter Hunt (31st overall) were two college pitchers, expected to move fast, that the Twins acquired as compensation for having lost Torii Hunter via free agency. The Twins decided to give Gutierrez an opportunity to start. The thinking was that he would be more valuable as a starter, and if it didn’t work out, he could always move to the bullpen. In the end, he was a one-pitch pitcher who couldn’t throw strikes. The other part of starting was that he would have more innings to work on the secondary pitches, but it just didn’t help. He was taken off of the 40 man roster after the 2012 season and claimed by the Cubs. The Cubs took him off of their 40 man roster and he went unclaimed.
Shooter Hunt was the type of pitching prospect that screamed top of the rotation. He threw hard and had a tremendous, sharp breaking pitch. In his junior year at Tulane, he walked more than he had previously, but not enough to become alarming. However, in 2009, he completely lost any semblance of control. He could not throw strikes. The Twins tried everything from moving him to the bullpen, to putting him on the DL. Nothing worked. He was claimed by the Cardinals in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft, but he never pitched in a regular game in the organization.
Often people like to look back and see which players were drafted after picks that didn’t work out. To the point, there has been little minor league success for the players taken between Gutierrez at 27 and Conor Gillaspie at 37:
ALSO ON THE 40 MAN ROSTER
High school players selected in the 2008 draft (and college players taken in 2007 had to be protected for the Rule 5 draft or potentially be lost. Along with Hicks, these two players were added:
BJ Hermsen was taken in the 6th round from West Delaware High School in Manchester, Iowa. He had accepted a scholarship to pitch at Oregon State, but then the Twins went well over slot, he signed. He has pitched well ever since then. In 2011, between Beloit and Ft. Myers, he went 13-8 with a 3.33 ERA. In 2012, he was the Twins minor league pitcher of the year. He made four starts in Ft. Myers before moving up to New Britain for 22 starts. Combined, he went 12-6 with a 2.88 ERA. Hermsen doesn’t throw hard and relies on impeccable control and good movement.
Michael Tonkin was drafted out of his California high school in the 30th round. He received a $230,000 bonus to convince him to sign. He pitched in Beloit in 2010, 2011 and that’s where he started in 2012. It proved to be a great decision as he finally figured things out. He also developed from being an average fastball, slow curve type of pitcher into a guy with a mid-90s fastball and a devastating slider. After a slow rise to this point, he is ready to move quickly. It may not be long before people refer to Jason Kubel as his brother-in-law.
Bobby Lanigan (3-92) was drafted out of Adelphi University in New York. He moved fairly quickly early in his career as a starting pitcher, reaching AA for the second half of the 2010 season. He remained with the Rock Cats until the second half of the 2012 season when he was promoted to Rochester. When drafted, many believed that he had a great slider that could be an asset out of the bullpen. In 2012, he was finally moved to the bullpen where he experienced some success in the new role. He will likely pitch with the Red Wings in 2013.
Daniel Ortiz (4-126) is a native of Puerto Rico. This winter, he played on the same team as Eddie Rosario and Kennys Vargas, and it was Ortiz that hit in the third spot. The outfielder can play all three positions well. Not blessed with great size, he can still pack a punch. He missed the entire 2009 season due to a knee injury. He played well in the 2nd half of the 2010 season in Elizabethton. He got off to a great start in Beloit in 2011, but he really struggled in the season’s final four months. He returned to the Snappers to start the 2012 season, but he moved up to Ft. Myers after just a month and played much better. With the Miracle, he hit .269/.313/.424 with 24 doubles, five triples and eight home runs, re-establishing himself as a prospect.
Michael Gonzales (9-276) is a big (6-6, 250), powerful first baseman who was drafted out of Diablo Valley College. He moved up one level a year until 2011 when he repeated at Beloit. But he did use that year to make some big improvements in his game, speeding up his swing and losing weight to become a much better first baseman. He struggled in Ft. Myers in 2012 thanks in part to a condition with dehydration. He was unable to play nine innings or often in back-to-back games. He could head to New Britain in 2013.
Evan Bigley (10-306) was drafted from Lew Ford’s alma mater, Dallas Baptist. He moved quickly up to AA New Britain late in the 2010 season. He then stayed with the Rock Cats through the first half of the 2012 season when he moved up to Rochester. He played in the Arizona Fall League following the 2012 season and will likely return to Rochester in 2013.
Blake Martin (17-516) was drafted out of LSU. He is a good example of a left-hander who is breathing continuing to get opportunities. He has certainly shown signs of being good at times. He split 2012 between the bullpen and the starting rotation and struckout 73 in 77 innings. He could return to New Britain, where he has pitched in at least parts of the past three seasons.
Bruce Pugh (19-576) was drafted after one year of junior college. In 2010, 2011 and 2012, Pugh pitched in both Ft. Myers and in New Britain. However, something clicked for him in 2012. He posted a 2.60 ERA in 27.2 innings in Ft. Myers. Then, he posted a 1.50 ERA in 42 innings in New Britain. He struckout 48. If he can throw strikes, he can have dominant stuff, including a mid-90s fastball.
Nate Hanson (28-846) went to high school in Eden Prairie and then played at the University of Minnesota. When the hometown Twins drafted him, he signed quickly and has gradually moved up the farm system since. He spent all of 2012 in New Britain where he started the season in a utility role, but he really took off when he moved to second base full time. If he were to make the big league roster, it would likely be in utility role.
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY
With their 16th round pick, the Twins took a high school second baseman named Kolten Wong out of his high school in Hawaii. Wong chose to play for the University of Hawaii, and it proved to be a good decision. In 2011, he was the 22nd overall pick, by the St. Louis Cardinals. Baseball America ranked him as the #84 prospect in baseball.
THE ONE THEY TRADED AWAY
In the 2nd round, the Twins took a very athletic shortstop named Tyler Ladendorf out of Howard College. He was playing well in 2009 at Elizabethton and promoted to Beloit where he played in just 15 games. You see, at the July trade deadline, he was sent to the Oakland A’s in exchange for shortstop Orlando Cabrera. Cabrera helped lead the Twins to an unlikely and thrilling run to the playoffs. Ladendorf has slowly progressed through the A’s system. He played in High-A ball in 2010 (and four games in AAA). In 2011, he hit .225/.308/.319 in AA (And had four more games in AAA). Last year at AA, he hit .240/.324/.358 with 20 doubles, a triple and nine home runs.
The success of the Twins 2008 draft is largely dependent upon how Aaron Hicks adapts to the big leagues and how good he becomes. That is generally the expectation for a pick from the first half of the first round. It doesn’t always come to fruition. The other high-impact pick in this group could be Michael Tonkin. He will likely start the season in New Britain and could rise quickly. He could be a strong, dominant late-game bullpen arm for many years. And if he continues to pitch well, Hermsen has a chance to be a back-of-the-rotation type of starter.
Others may find themselves getting an opportunity and that’s always a good thing. For there to still be ten players drafted in 2008 in the organization is unusual. Here is a quick look at how many players drafted by the Twins are still in the organization since the 2004 draft:
I think this is a good illustration of how difficult the draft can be. However, if any draft gives you one key starter and a possible starting pitcher and a potentially dominant reliever, the draft is a tremendous success. We still won’t know the success of the Twins 2008 draft for a few years, but right now, it looks pretty successful.
On Tuesday, I began my look at the Twins organizational depth chart by looking at all of the outfielders in the system. Today, we jump back into the Twins system by looking at the infielders. Compared to the outfielders, I’d say it’s more than fair to say that the Twins have not had as much success grooming infielders. Could that trend be changing? Read below and decide for yourself.
In the following, we will consider which players may fill the rosters of the Twins minor league affiliates. Of course, this is all just my educated guess. As I’ve said, any of this could be altered by an unexpected free agent signing or a trade. Sadly, not all of these players will remain in the organization beyond spring training. Some may wind up on the Disabled List. Hopefully this list will remind you of which players are in the organization.
So let’s get to it. Here are the Infielders in the Minnesota Twins organization:
Justin Morneau (1B), Brian Dozier (2B), Trevor Plouffe (3B), Pedro Florimon (SS), Jamey Carroll, Eduardo Escobar
Morneau is the most healthy he’s been since spring of 2010 when he put up MVP caliber numbers until he suffered a concussion. The 2006 MVP is still just 31 years old and entering his contract year. It is also a big year for Trevor Plouffe in 2013. The Twins are banking on him hitting similarly to what he did for those six weeks that he crushed the ball, rather than the .150 hitter he was early in the season. He is healthy and will get every opportunity. Brian Dozier struggled immensely as a rookie in 2012, but the organization believes in him and he is being given every opportunity to be the team’s second baseman. He’ll team up the middle with Pedro Florimon, the great-glove, no-hit shortstop. Those guys will get the chance, but having the solid veteran Jamey Carroll around will certainly help provide some stability. Eduardo Escobar is a terrific glove who will do well in a utility role. In my opinion, Escobar will be starting at shortstop by mid-June.
Rochester Red Wings
Chris Colabello (1B), James Beresford (2B), Mark Sobolewski (3B), Ray Olmedo (SS), Jeff Clement, Nate Hanson, Reynaldo Rodriguez
Chris Colabello was the story of the Twins minor league system in 2012 when, as a 28-year-old, he spent his first season in affiliated baseball and had a terrific season. It earned him an invitation to Twins big league spring training, and he also will be representing Italy in the WBC. Colabello lived in Italy for several years of his youth and played for Italy in several international competitions. He has an outside shot to be a bench bat with the Twins if they go that direction. Beresford’s 2013 WBC experience is already over. He was the leadoff hitter and shortstop for Australia, but he’ll likely be playing a lot at second base as well. Ray Olmedo spent time in the big leagues in the middle of last decade, but after a few years away, he returned to the big leagues with the White Sox in 2012 after they traded Eduardo Escobar to the Twins. Olmedo and Beresford won’t hit a lot, but they will play tremendous defense. Mark Sobolewski was a Twins minor league Rule 5 selection in December from the Blue Jays organization. The cancer-survivor hit 20 home runs last year between AA and AAA. The Twins seem to really like his defense. The Twins drafted Clement in 2002 out of his Iowa high school, but he decided to go to college. It was the right choice for him as three years later, he was the #3 overall pick in the draft by the Mariners. Things haven’t happened for him in the big leagues to this point, and he’s back with the Twins on a minor league deal, playing some 1B and wanting to show he can be an emergency catcher option. Nate Hanson really stepped up his game in 2012 when he was moved to second base after playing mostly first base the year before. He was drafted as a third baseman, where he will get some time again this spring, but the former Gopher’s path to the big leagues will involve using several different gloves. Rodriguez is a veteran first baseman, looking to keep a job.
New Britain Rock Cats
Steve Liddle (1B), Levi Michael (2B), Deibinson Romero (3B), Danny Santana (SS), Harold Garcia, Jason Christian, Doug Bernier, Michael Gonzales
2012 was a frustrating year for Liddle, the nephew of the former Twins coach. He began the season hurt, and he ended up going back to Beloit for a month before settling in with the Miracle. The former Vanderbilt standout will primarily play first base, although he has played some in the outfield in his career. Deibinson Romero had a very good season in 2012 with the Rock Cats. He was invited to big league spring training (For the first time since he was on the 40 man roster in 2009), but visa issues mean he is still back home in the Dominican. That may also mean that he will have to head back to the Rock Cats and wait for an opening in Rochester. Danny Santana really stepped up his performance in 2012 with the Miracle. At the end of the year, he was placed on the Twins 40 man roster and has shown his talent along with his weaknesses so far in camp. Levi Michael’s professional debut last year in Ft. Myers certainly got off to a rough start. He was young for his draft class, but his struggled in the Florida State League were disappointing. He has been hurt since signing with the Twins but played all of the 2012 season. He could go back to Ft. Myers for a spell to start the season, but he should get to the Rock Cats quickly. Harold Garcia, Jason Christian and Doug Bernier are long-timer minor league veterans who at this points in their careers are just happy with an opportunity to continue their careers. Michael Gonzales was alright in 2012 in Ft. Myers. He just is not able to play very long or very often in the humidity of the Florida State League. He has a condition in which he really suffers from dehydration so he is often not able to play full games or many back-to-back. He could stay in Ft. Myers, but they may move him up for an opportunity to play more.
Ft. Myers Miracle
Kennys Vargas (1B), Eddie Rosario (2B), Miguel Sano (3B), AJ Pettersen (SS), Andy Leer, Adam Bryant, Steven Wickens
This is a pretty impressive infield, at least when they have bats in their hands. Miguel Sano hit 30 home runs in the Midwest League in 2012 and is generally considered the team’s top prospect. Rosario will play for Puerto Rico in the WBC, but he impressed during his stint with the Twins before reporting. He will begin his second season at second base, and his defensive improvements will likely dictate how quickly he moves up to New Britain. Likewise for Sano. Kenny Vargas returned to a game lineup later last summer after finishing out his 50-game suspension on the Elizabethon roster. He came back and immediately showed the power that he possesses. For him to move up, he will have to improve several parts of his game, but his power is pretty legit. AJ Pettersen, Adam Bryant, Stephen Wickens and Andy Leer will all play around the infield and give guys days off. Pettersen and Bryant each played several positions in 2012 in Beloit. Wickens came up later in the year and played up the middle defense and did a nice job with the bat. Leer played all over the field for the Miracle a year ago. Pettersen is a former Gopher who writes for Twins Daily and for Baseball America. Leer is from North Dakota.
Cedar Rapids Kernels
DJ Hicks (1B), Jorge Polanco (2B), Niko Goodrum (SS), Travis Harrison (3B), Candido Pimentel, Rory Rhodes
Rhodes began the 2012 season in Beloit, but he really struggled before being sent back down to Elizabethton where he split time with DJ Hicks. Rhodes is Australian. Hicks was the Twins 17th round draft pick in 2012 from Central Florida. His walk-off grand slam gave the Elizabethton Twins the 2013 Appalachian League championship. Former 2nd round pick Niko Goodrum spent his second season in Elizabethton a year ago. He did improve his shortstop defense. His batting average went down but his walk numbers and his slugging increased. Jorge Polanco was part of the international signing year that saw the Twins ink deals with Miguel Sano and Max Kepler as well. Touted for his defense and his ability to play shortstop, he has primarily played second base in the minor leagues. In 2012, his bat even came to life as he hit over .300 with the E-Twins. Travis Harrison, a Twins supplemental 1st round pick in 2011, made his pro debut in 2012 with the E-Twins. He hit for average, but most believe that his power will also develop. His error total rivaled that of Miguel Sano and will have to improve a lot if he wants to stay at third base. Pimentel was the Appy League MVP in 2012 when he was the team’s leadoff hitter. He was an outfielder, but he was moved to second base and will get some time there as well in 2013.
Extended Spring Training/Short-Season
Aderlin Mejia, Bryan Haar, Joel Licon, Javier Pimentel, Logan Wade, Jose Ramirez, Will Hurt
Aderlin Mejia was the one player on the GCL Twins team to be named all-league. For his efforts, he was asked to play a few games with the Ft. Myers Miracle at the end of their season. Haar was the team’s 34th round pick a year ago from San Diego. He played 45 games for the GCL Twins and hit .250/.319/.345. Javier Pimentel signed for about $700,000 in 2010 and has struggled offensively since signing. Will Hurt gave up a scholarship to Coastal Carolina to sign as the Twins 16th round pick last year. He really struggled with the bat, but he has premiere speed. Licon was the Twins 25th round pick, and like Hurt, most people thought he would be a tough sign, but he did come to terms with the team. Wade is a 21-year-old Australian who signed just a year ago. He spent the winter playing in the Australian Baseball League. After spending two years in the DSL, Jose Ramirez spent 2012 in the GCL where he hit .234.
1.) Miguel Sano, 2.) Eddie Rosario, 3.) Danny Santana, 4.) Jorge Polanco, 5.) Travis Harrison, 6.) Travis Harrison, 7.) Niko Goodrum, 8.) Levi Michael.
This prospect list isn’t so bad. Sano and Rosario could be future stars. There are five middle infielders on this list that have the potential to be a big league middle infielder if things play out right. Now, most of this talent is in the lower levels of the minor leagues. That’s why it will be important for Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon and Eduardo Escobar will have to be able to man the positions for a couple of years.
There are questions, to be sure, in the Twins big league middle infield. Then again, it’s also a big year for Trevor Plouffe. It’s also a contract year for Justin Morneau so it will be curious to see if a big year means a contract extension or a July trade to a contender? The Twins do have several very good minor league infield prospects, so it will be fun to watch how they develop throughout the 2013 season. Offense is what we tend to notice. Managers, coaches, and especially pitchers will also notice the infielders’ defense. Which players will be receiving the most notice as the season progresses?
If you have any further questions, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the Comments Section!
When you're done reading all of the great Star Tribune content, come on over to Twins Daily where we have lots of new, daily content and a great place to talk about all of it.
Age: 19 (DOB: 12/18/93)
Rookie: .248/.344/.429, 5 HR, 20 RBI, 33 R, 11/14 SB
Yesterday, when writing about Minnesota Twins #3 prospect Aaron Hicks, Nick wrote “When it comes to physical tools, Aaron Hicks is tough to top.” If there is anyone in the Twins organization that could, it will be fellow outfielder Byron Buxton.
At 6-2 and 180 pounds, Buxton is a tremendous five-tool athlete. Although he was a prospect on a national stage throughout his high school career, he made a name for himself when he put on a batting practice display at the 2011 Under Armour All-America game. As a senior, he hit .545/.649/.852 with 35 stolen bases in 36 attempts. While Hicks was taken with the 14th overall pick in 2008, Buxton was the second overall pick in the 2012 draft. Deemed the best player available in the draft, he signed fairly quickly to a $6 million signing bonus ($200K under slot), the highest signing bonus of the year.
When the Twins drafted him with the second pick, he was sent to Ft. Myers to prepare to start his professional career. A couple of weeks later, he debuted with the GCL Twins. He missed time with a hamstring strain, but in 27 games, he hit .216/.324/.466 (.789). He hit four doubles, three triples and four home runs. On August 6th, he and fellow 2012 1st round pick and Twins Daily #8 prospect JO Berrios were promoted to Elizabethton. With the E-Twins, he hit .286/.368/.429 with six doubles, a triple and a home run. He also stole seven bases in seven attempts and patrolled centerfield for the Appalachian League champions. Following the season, Baseball America named him the top prospect in both the Gulf Coast League and the Appalachian League.
Knowing how important the #2 overall pick was to the future of the organization, VP of Player Personnel, Mike Radcliff, was heavily involved in the scouting and the draft. Regarding Buxton, Radcliff said, “He has high-end physical tools, and the ceiling to impact the game in all phases.
Regarding Buxton’s first go-‘round in professional baseball, Radcliff called it “successful” and added, “For a young prospect, he handled the rigors of pro baseball and established himself in the development process.”
Twins Director of Minor League Operations Brad Steil added, “Byron showed his impressive athletic ability and tools. He got off to a slow start in the GCL, but he handled himself well and made adjustments to pro ball, and that’s really what the first year is all about.”
Byron Buxton has all of the tools. He can hit, and despite his slender frame, he has a ton of power potential. He can run. In fact, according to Jeremy Nygaard’s profile in the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2013, “his speed is eye-popping too as one scout measured him at 3.89 seconds from home to first base. That time matched Bo Jackson for the fastest out of the batter’s box for a right-handed hitter.” He once tagged up and scored from second base on a routine fly ball to right field.His speed also can be demonstrated in centerfield where he gets to balls that most wouldn’t. He has a very strong arm which is illustrated by a 98-mph fastball that he used to strikeout 18 batters in seven innings in the Georgia AA state championship game in 2012. Unlike Hicks, who was clocked with a 97-mph fastball in high school and was scouted by most pro teams as a pitching prospect, Buxton has been viewed solely as an outfielder.
What are his best tools?
Steil says, “His speed and arm strength are easy to see. You can also see that he’s a professional kid and a good worker.”
According to Radcliff, “His bat’s speed is unique. He is a top-of-the-scale runner. His arm and defensive skills are special.”
Along with his great tools, scouts were just as impressed with his competitiveness, his makeup and his great family.
The toughest part about toolsy high school draft picks is that it often takes time and patience for those tools to turn into skills. A FanGraphs article warned Twins fans from thinking that Buxton will move up terribly quickly. It used fellow-toolsy outfield pick Aaron Hicks as the comparison.
Most scouts tend to believe that the “hit” tool is the one that Buxton will struggle with most. In 189 rookie-league plate appearances, Buxton struckout 41 times. Over 600 plate appearances, that would equate to 130 strikeouts.
As Steil noted, “As with most high school drafts, learning how to take professional at bats and make adjustments will be the biggest challenge, but he did show a pretty good feel for the strike zone for and 18-year-old."
Radcliff agreed, “As is the case with any young prospect, the development of his hit approach will dictate his advancement and ultimate performance ceiling.”
It’s impossible to know how an 18-year-old with a ton of talent, athleticism and tools will turn out as a big leaguer. There is the fact that baseball is not exactly an easy game.
Radcliff added, “Buck’s challenge for 2013 is to continue to develop his skills and realize that importance of maintaining his body and respect the game.”
The Bottom Line
Byron Buxton fits the long line of high Twins draft picks who are immensely talented and athletic. As has been the case with most of them, patience will be a virtue for the player, the organization and for the Twins’ fans. There is a chance that he will spend the 2013 season in the Twins’ new Midwest League affiliate, the Cedar Rapids Kernels, though that is not a given.
According to Steil, “I think Cedar Rapids is realistic to start the season. We’ll see how spring training goes and we’ll do what we think is best for Byron’s development.
As the FanGraphs article concluded, “For all of the questions surrounding the development of Aaron Hicks, it now appears the Twins were correct to move him slowly. Buxton may need to be treated with the same kid gloves. This leaves Minnesota as the perfect landing spot for the teenage phenom.”
When asked how good Buxton can be, most believe that his floor is BJ Upton. Yes, the same BJ Upton who just signed a 5 year, $75.25 million free agent contract with the Atlanta Braves. When asked about his ceiling, many say that he has the ability to be as good as guys like Justin Upton ad Matt Kemp while the name of Andrew McCutchen continues to pop up.
Radcliff remarked, “At this stage of his development, there are no limits. Our organizational hallmarks of patience and attention to detail will all him to dictate his own advancement.”
Steil added, “He certainly has the tools to be a very good defensive centerfielder and an impact type of player in the Major Leagues. Keep in mind that he’s only entering his first full professional season, so the focus will be on skill development and helping him learn the game.”
The Twins wanted to be sure about that #2 pick. In fact, the Twins sent 11 scouts to see Buxton play at Appling County High School, a small town with incredible humidity in outstate Georgia. However, fans of the high school baseball team showed up to watch Buxton and his teammates.
In conclusion, Mr. Radcliff pointed out, “Our scouts had the conviction in their projections to believe he can be a franchise player."
[TD’s Top Ten Prospects: #10: Max Kepler]
[TD’s Top Ten Prospects: #9: Trevor May]
[TD's Top Ten Prospects: #8: J. O. Berrios]
[TD's Top Ten Prospects: #7 Eddie Rosario]
[TD's Top Ten Prospects: #6 Kyle Gibson]
[TD's Top Ten Prospects: #5 Alex Meyer]
[TD's Top Ten Prospects: #4 Oswaldo Arcia]
[TD’s Top Ten Prospects: #3 Aaron Hicks]
After checking out the great content from Ft. Myers from the Star Tribune's Phil Miller and La Velle E. Neal, head on over to TwinsDaily and join the conversation.
On Wednesday, the Detroit Tigers signed former Twins outfielder Torii Hunter to a two-year, $26 million contract. On the surface, the Tigers paid a ton for his charisma, leadership and veteran status. Although he had a terrific 2012 season, including the first .300+ batting average season of his career, there is a lot of risk in signing an outfielder who will be 39 years old when the contract ends.
That said, my first thought when I heard the news was that it cemented in my mind the need for the Twins to build for 2014 or even 2015. The comment was met with mixed emotions and plenty of comments on both sides.
Was the signing of Torii Hunter that big for the Tigers? No. The Tigers were head-and-shoulders the favorite in the AL Central even before the acquisition of the former Gold Glover. Adding Hunter got me thinking about the Tigers roster again. I think it is safe to say that Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are really good hitters. Austin Jackson and Hunter will comprise two-thirds of the outfield with Andy Dirks, Brennan Boesch, and young Avisail Garcia. Alex Avila, Jhonny Peralta, and Danny Worth will round out a very strong lineup. Then there is the starting rotation of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Rick Porcello is a pretty good starting point. Will they bring back Anibal Sanchez? Their bullpen is stacked even when they let closer Jose Valverde leave via free agency. Will they hand a starting job to Drew Smyly or the closer role to Bruce Rondon?
Sure, the wild card could come from the AL Central, but considering the A’s, Angels and Rangers in the AL West, and the five strong teams in the AL East, it seems unlikely. (Yes, about as unlikely as the A’s and O’s being playoff teams in 2012.)
So, what does “build for 2015” mean to me? To some, it could be a fire sale like the Marlins did. It doesn’t have to though. Here are some of the things it means for me:
I completely agree with Terry Ryan that building via free agency is not the best way. That isn’t to say that free agency isn’t important. Of course it is. However, if I’m looking to being a contender in 2015, there is little need to spend a ton of money on older, expensive pitchers like Ryan Dempster.
It can mean using the free agent market to acquire two types of players. First, the Twins can sign decent players who can fill a short-term role. If they do it well, they can be traded at the July deadline for more talent. Terry Ryan had success with this strategy in his previous time as GM. He traded signed Dave Hollins to be his primary 3B in 1996, and in August, he traded him to Seattle for David Ortiz. Roberto Kelly was turned into Joe Mays. JC Romero became Alexi Casilla.
I also think that the Twins can still build for 2015 by making a big splash in free agency this season. (Not that I think they will, just that they could.) They could go after a big name, top of the rotation starter and give him four or five years. The name? Anibal Sanchez. Why? He is looking for a long-term deal, and he is just 28 years old. Most free agents are 31-32 years old. The best of those get three year deals. As he is just 28, maybe a six year deal would be OK. The risk is certainly higher, but it would be a way of telling the fan base that there is a plan, and Anibal Sanchez is going to help us get there. Of course, Twins fans also have to acknowledge that it takes two sides to make a deal. The Twins can go after Sanchez, but Sanchez would have to be willing to sign with a team that has lost 95 or more games each of the past two seasons. How much would the Twins have to overpay to acquire an impact pitcher like Sanchez?
Beyond the trades mentioned above which generally will bring back low-level prospects, if the Twins are trying to build for 2015, they will likely need to trade some players. In order to bring back the best return, it is important to trade players at peak value rather than holding on to them for too long.
The Twins have a few guys that they could consider trading this offseason. It’s hard because they are players that Twins fans know, and they would be traded for players that many fans do not know much about. When the Twins traded Chuck Knoblauch, few Twins fans know much about Eric Milton or Cristian Guzman. When All Star catcher AJ Pierzynski to the Giants, Joe Nathan had one good year as a reliever under his belt, Boof Bonser was a decent prospect, and Francisco Liriano was an injury-prone pitcher in Low A ball.
Josh Willingham is coming off of the best season of his career. He could bring back a couple of quality players. Seeing that Torii Hunter got $13 million a year for two years, the market for outfielders is clearly a bit crazy. Willingham’s two years and $14 million (Total) has to look very attractive to teams looking for right-handed power.
The same can be said for Denard Span whose contract, when compared to what teams are likely to shell out for Michael Bourn, Shane Victorino and Angel Pagan, is very team-friendly.
What has been encouraging is reading rumors about the Twins interest in trading for young pitchers like Trevor Bauer (Diamondbacks), Danny Hultzen (Mariners) and some of the Braves young pitchers like Mike Minor, Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran. The pitchers all have high ceilings and only Minor has anywhere near a full year of big league service time. Those are exactly the types of pitchers the Twins should be feverishly attempting to acquire.
This is the most important piece to building a team that can compete for years to come. The Twins did a terrific job of player development from about 1999 through about 2007. It was a system that started with several young players coming up together and then a player or two coming up and contributing each year. It started with the Hunter, Jones, Mientkiewicz, Koskie, Guzman, Pierzynski group that we enjoyed so much. Johan Santana came to the team in 2000. They were joined by Michael Cuddyer in 2002, Justin Morneau in 2003, and Joe Mauer and Jesse Crain debuted in 2004. Jason Kubel debuted in 2004 as well, but his knee injury meant that he missed 2005. Scott Baker came up in 2005, and Francisco Liriano came up late that season. Matt Garza and Pat Neshek came up in 2006.
The Twins minor league pipeline seemed to have an unending supply of impact players. For whatever reason, that has not been the case in recent years, but there are some players working their way up the Twins system that we can be excited about. Some will be up in 2013, some more in 2014 and guys like Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario could be up in 2015. The entire goal is to develop and find out which players can be counted on for the second half of 2014 and 2015. It isn’t to rush them to the big leagues, but it is to make sure when they come up, they are ready.
The Twins have to find out what they have in Chris Parmelee. They still need to find out what Trevor Plouffe can be. Can Brian Dozier play shortstop, or will he move to second base? Can Pedro Florimon hit at all? Can Chris Herrmann fill the same role for the Twins in the future that Ryan Doumit filled in 2012? Scott Diamond, Liam Hendriks and Kyle Gibson all need to get innings in 2013 to see if they factor into the 2014/2015 planning. Could lefty Pedro Hernandez be this year’s Scott Diamond? Getting Adrian Salcedo and Alex Wimmers healthy for 2014 is important. Does Eduardo Escobar have the tool set to be the Twins utility player for the next half-decade? Those can be answered starting in 2013 and into 2014.
In 2014, we should hear about names such as BJ Hermsen, Logan Darnell and maybe Levi Michael. If uber-prospect Miguel Sano were to be exactly on the Joe Mauer path, we would see him in 2014, although 2015 makes more sense for him, Eddie Rosario, and some of those hard-throwing relievers drafted in 2012. Maybe we’ll even see Byron Buxton and J.O. Berrios. In 2016, Max Kepler, Niko Goodrum, Hudson Boyd, Travis Harrison and other names we aren’t even aware of will start appearing. That’s how you build a long-term contender. They have to hit (and get lucky) on their high draft picks, and they have to sign well in the international market as well.
If you’re going to rebuild it, they need to do it right. That doesn’t have to mean completely blow it up. It does mean being smart in free agency and in making trades, keeping an eye on the future as much as the present. It is always remembering that player acquisition through the draft and through international signings ill always be crucial, and then it is necessary for those players to develop their potential.
I’m a Twins fan, first and foremost. They could lose 100 games in 2013 and I will be right back and cheering for them again in 2014. I would like to understand the thought-process and the plan. That said, the front office shouldn’t be expected to say, “We’re trying to compete in 2015.” They should make some moves and hope they get a little bit lucky and give Twins fans some good baseball in 2013. If I’ve learned anything from the last two seasons, it’s much more fun watching a competitive team all regular season than watching a team that is out of contention by Memorial Day. That said, I also have to be realistic after two such poor seasons. I want hope for the future. I’d like to see improvement in 2013. I’d like to see a team that starts to really play well and come together as a young unit in 2014. And I want to see a team that is contending for the AL Central title in 2015, and 2016, and 2017, and, and… you get my point.
Head on over to Twins Daily where Nick asks whether production or character should matter more? There are plenty of forum comments on the Tigers signing of Torii Hunter, and Parker asks if the Tigers really have much more money available to them than the Twins do. Meanwhile, Jim Crikket thinks the Twins should be bold like the Blue Jays.
The Twins organization is filled with players from all over the globe. They scout the entire country, Canada and Puerto Rico for the draft. They’ve done a nice job signing international players in recent years. The Twins do a great job in Australia. They have players from Europe and talent from Taiwan. They have players from Central and South America, but also from South Africa.
The last couple of seasons, the Twins have gone in a direction that is likely most rare. In the last two seasons, the Twins have signed four players out of the independent leagues. To this point, none of them have made it to the big leagues, and often, these players are not signed to get to the big leagues. They are signed to fill a role with one of the team’s affiliates. When the Baltimore Orioles signed OF Lew Ford out of the independent ranks, they basically came out and said he would likely not play in the big leagues. But once in a while, there is a success story. Ford played so well in AAA that the O’s called him up which was a great story.
Here is a little bit about each of the four players the Twins signed from the independent leagues:
Andrew Albers – LHP – 26
Albers pitched for four years at the University of Kentucky before being drafted in the 10th round of the 2008 draft by the Padres. He pitched in the rookie leagues for them that summer, but injured his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery. He missed the entire 2009 season, and when he went to spring training with the team in 2010, he was still not 100% He was released, and in 2010 he pitched for Quebec in the CanAm League. He went 3-0 with 17 saves and a 1.40 ERA. In 57.2 innings, he gave up 41 hits, walked 16 and struck out 59.
The next spring, he was trying to work out tryouts with big league clubs, looking for an opportunity for another shot with an affiliation. A couple of those opportunities didn’t pan out. To make a short story long, he called the Twins and said that he would drive from Arizona to Ft. Myers for a tryout. IF they liked him, they could reimburse his travel. If not, he would drive back home, to Saskatchewan, and call it a career. The Twins liked what they saw and signed him. He was my choice for Twins minor league relief pitcher of the year in 2011 when he went 4-1 with a 1.55 ERA in Ft. Myers and then 4-1 with a 2.91 ERA in New Britain.
He has been a starter this season for the New Britain Rock Cats. He is 4-3 with a 3.61 ERA in 17 games (15 starts). He is an aggressive, strike-thrower, walking just 11 in 87.1 innings. He has been on the disabled list twice.
Caleb Thielbar – LHP – 25
Thielbar is from the town of Randolph, Minnesota. He pitched at South Dakota State. In 2009, he went 5-8 with a 5.44 ERA for the Jackrabbits yet was drafted in the 18th round that year by the Milwaukee Brewers. He made it up to Low A Wisconsin of the Midwest League where he pitched in 30 games in 2010. In 2011, he pitched in 43 games for the St. Paul Saints and went 3-3 with a 2.54 ERA. In 49.2 innings, he gave up 41 hits, walked 15 and struckout 62. The Twins signed him in August, and he pitched in three games for the Ft. Myers Miracle. He did well, but the assumption by many was that he was just helping fill out the roster and may not make it to the 2012 season.
Instead, he went to minor league spring training with the Twins and has been one of the fast-risers in the system. The left-hander started the season with the Miracle. He pitched in seven games and 12.1 innings. He gave up four hits, walked two and struckout 16. He was quickly promoted to New Britain where he pitched in 16 games. In 25 innings, he gave up 18 hits, walked just three and struck out 26. He earned a mid-June promotion to AAA Rochester. He has leveled off some, but in 23 games and 34 innings, he has given up 37 hits, walked 13 and struck out 26. Overall, he is 6-2 with a 2.14 ERA.
Chris Colabello – 1B – 28
Colabello had a solid, four-year career at Assumption College, a small Division II school in Worcester, Massechusetts. However, he was not drafted. Since that time, 2005, he has played independent baseball, primarily for Worcester, which is also in the CanAm League. He has hit over .300 in six of those seven seasons. He was a league All-Star in 2008 and again in 2011 when he had a terrific season. The first baseman hit .348/.410/.600 (1.010) with 32 doubles, 20 homers and 79 RBI). He was named the CanAm League player of the year, and also Baseball America named him the Independent League player of the year.
The Twins felt they had a need for a bat and a first baseman at AA New Britain, so they gave Colabello his first opportunity with an affiliated team at the age of 28. To say that he has proven he belongs would be an understatement. He has hit in the middle of the Rock Cats lineup and hit .285/.354/.488 (.842) with 35 doubles, 18 homers and 91 RBI. For a guy who came into the season likely wondering if he would fit in and how he would do. At this point, the assumption is that he should be back and playing in Rochester in 2013. Can he be a right-handed bench bat for the Twins? We will find out.
Dan Sattler – RHP – 28
Sattler pitched in the Big 10, for Purdue, from 2004 through 2007. In that time, he went 12-18 with a 4.39 ERA. He was drafted by the Rangers in the 33th round in 2006 but went back for his senior season. He went undrafted but signed with the Rangers. He pitched in the Texas organization in 2007 and 2008. In 2009, he pitched for independent league Kansas City, but late in the season, he signed with the A’s and pitched in their system through the 2010 season. In 2011, he was with the Angels organization. He signed with the St. Paul Saints early this year, but the Twins signed him after he pitched in just five games. He was 1-0 with three saves.
Blessed with a fastball in the upper 90s, Sattler signed and reported to Ft. Myers. He pitched in three games for the Miracle. On June 19, he was promoted to New Britain where he pitched in five games. On July 6, he was promoted to Rochester where he pitched in seven games. All told, he was 2-0 with a 2.12 ERA. In 29.2 innings, he gave up 18 hits, walked ten and struck out 20. Opponents hit just .173 against him. Unfortunately, he went on the disabled list with elbow problems and needed Tommy John surgery.
Generally, when teams sign players from independent leagues, it is to fill a minor league roster. However, there are always exceptions. I was fortunate to play ball in college with Chris Coste who spent several years with the independent Fargo/Moorhead Redhawks before getting an opportunity in affiliated ball. It took a few years, but you may recall that he became The 33-Year-Old Rookie and won a World Series ring with the Philadelphia Phillies. The beauty is that you just never know. Of these four players, it is possible none of them will see time with the Twins. It’s also possible that any of them could fill a role of some sort with the big league club. We shall see.
Once you’re done here, head over to Twins Daily.
Since the start of the 2011 season, the Twins have a record of 103-157. Only the Houston Astros have a worse record in that time (90-170).
As the trade deadline approaches, it is striking how active the Astros have been in making trades while the Twins have been pretty quiet to this point.
Since the beginning of July 2011, the Twins have made the following moves:
Traded Delmon Young to Detroit forRHP Lester Oliveros and LHP Cole Nelson.
Traded Jim Thome to Cleveland for cash.
Traded Kevin Slowey to Colorado for RHP Daniel Turpen
In contrast, here are the trades made by the Astros in that same time:
Traded Hunter Pence to Philadelphiafor 1B Jonathan Singleton, RHP Jarred Cosart, RHP Josh Zeid, and OF Domingo Santana
Traded Jeff Keppinger to SanFrancisco for RHP Henry Sosa and RHP Jason Stoffel
Traded Michael Bourn to Atlanta for OF Jordan Schafer, RHP Juan Abreu, RHP Paul Clemens and LHP Brett Oberholtzen
Traded Justin Ruggiano to Miami for C Jobduan Morales
Traded Carlos Lee to Miami for 3B Matt Dominguez and LHP Rob Rasmussen
Traded Brandon Lyon, JA Happ and David Carpenter to Toronto for Francisco Cordero, Ben Francisco, RHP JoeMusgrove, RHP Asher Wojciechowski, LHP David Rollins, C Carlos Perez, and a Player to be Named Later.
Traded Brett Myers to Chicago (White Sox) for RHP Matt Heidenreich and LHP Blair Walters
Traded Wandy Rodriguez to Pittsburgh for OF Robbie Grossman, LHP Randy Owens, LHP Colton Cain
The Twins have used their high waiver spot to claim the likes of Pedro Florimon, Clete Thomas and Erik Komatsu. The Astros have usedtheir waiver spot to claim players like Fernando Martinez and Mark Hamburger.
The Astros masterfully handled the draft. Instead of taking the “easy” pick, Mark Appel, they took the top high school bat (according to many) in Carlos Correa and signed him for well below the suggested slot for the top pick. That allowed them to sign Lance McCullers, who fell to them in the supplemental first round.
The Astros have pretty much blown up their roster and started from scratch. Of the players who were on the Astros Opening Day roster,Jed Lowrie is the player remaining who has the largest contract, at $1.15 million.
It’s hard to imagine the Twins completely blowing things up,but should they? What is the right thing to do? With needs at many positions at the big league level and throughout the minor league system, would it be best to start over and accumulate as much talent as possible?
Does it need to happen at the July trade deadline? For Francisco Liriano, the answer would seemingly be Yes. However, since Josh Willingham and Denard Span are signed long term, if Terry Ryan doesn’t feel he is getting maximum return, he can keep them and try again this offseason.
So what do you think? Will the Twins or the Astros contend in their division first?
|Vikings (14)||Bears (4)|
|NFC (1)||NFL draft (1)|
|Super Bowl (3)||Vikings fans (1)|
|Off the field (12)||On the road (24)|
|Quarterbacks (1)||Rookies (11)|
|Roster moves (3)||The draft (42)|
|Trade talk (3)||Twins fans (2)|
|Adrian Peterson (4)||Brad Childress (3)|
|Brett Favre (3)||Leslie Frazier (1)|
|Percy Harvin (1)||Brad Childress (3)|
|Leslie Frazier (1)||Twins Players (1)|
|Delmon Young (1)||Joe Nathan (1)|
|Nick Blackburn (1)||Twins (4)|