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.

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TwinsCentric: Dose of reality for Pelfrey

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: February 26, 2013 - 11:13 PM

 

Spring is an exciting time for baseball. Players are happy to be back in camp doing what they love. Coaches are pumped to reacquaint with returning team members and welcome new ones. Fans are giddy at the sound of gloves popping under the sun.

It’s easy for reporters on hand to get caught up in the flurry of good vibes. This year’s prime example is Mike Pelfrey, who wowed everyone present during his early workouts, less than 10 months removed from Tommy John surgery. Pelfrey spoke about how great he felt, assured people he’d be fully ready for the start of the season and drew rave reviews from coaches and trainers as he fired off the mound in bullpen sessions with his imposing 6’5” frame. The media reports glowed, and it's not hard to see why.

Yesterday, after he made his first Grapefruit League appearance, the tone changed just a little bit. Pelfrey got knocked around, coughing up three runs on five hits over 1 2/3 innings while clocking in at 87-89 MPH with his fastball. That’s a noticeable drop-off from his pre-surgery velocity, which averaged close to 93.

Now, to be clear, I’m not saying this is a setback for Pelfrey. Results in a pitcher’s first spring training start are meaningless, and he’s likely to add ticks to his fastball in the coming weeks. But it serves as yet another reminder that he’s attempting a historically speedy return from one of the game’s most drastic arm surgeries, and despite all the optimism surrounding him, a healthy dose of skepticism is warranted.

For his part, Pelfrey downplayed the decreased fastball speed, pointing out that last year in spring training he was at 82-84 MPH in his first start and was touching the upper 90s by the end of camp.

Then again, many will recall seeing the exact same type of quotes from Joe Nathan when he showed up at spring training throwing in the mid 80s following his own Tommy John procedure. In that case, Nathan did indeed gradually ramp up his velocity, and he eventually returned close to his previous level of effectiveness, though it took him until a couple months into the season. And Nathan was a month further along in his rehab compared to Pelfrey.

As everyone knows, it’s not all about pitch speed. It’s about endurance. It’s about command. It’s about movement – especially for a guy like Pelf who generally relies on inducing weak contact rather than missing bats. These are all traditional obstacles for pitchers with reconstructed elbows, and ones that Pelfrey is looking to overcome in an extraordinarily short period of time.

I'm not saying he can't do it. But shaky outings like Tuesday's should be the expectation. If Pelfrey is actually able to pitch in the Twins' opening series, as seems to be the plan, it would be (as far as I could tell after researching a little) the shortest length of time between a pitcher's Tommy John surgery and his next MLB start. Ever.

To do that and also be effective right away? It wouldn't quite be an Adrian Peterson caliber feat, but it would be perhaps the greatest success story for a TJ rehabber since the surgery's inception.

To me, it's extremely impressive that Pelfrey is already out on the mound. The fact that he's even hitting the high 80s in game action right now is dazzling, all things considered. But no one should be surprised that he struggled in his exhibition debut, nor if he continues to do so as he attempts an unprecedented comeback.

TwinsCentric: Will Mike Pelfrey be ready by opening day?

Posted by: Parker Hageman Updated: February 15, 2013 - 11:47 AM

 Mike Pelfrey, or “the Big Pelf’ as he is called, towers at six feet, seven inches tall.

Because of his substantial stature, it is likely that when Pelfrey starts saying that he will be ready to pitch by April this year, there is nary a person around to tell him otherwise. Even the Minnesota Twins figure that Pelfrey, who had Tommy John surgery in May 2012, will be ready by the opener, less than a year after the procedure.

“If the season started tomorrow, I would have worked up to be ready at this point,” Pelfrey told MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger. “Realistically, after 7 ½ months, I threw 90 pitches to hitters, so I could pitch [now]. They told me the other day, ‘No restrictions. You’re on the schedule with everybody else.’ That’s what I wanted.”

He has reportedly thrown 40 mound sessions since the surgery and has zero setbacks thus far. There is no question that he is doing everything possible to be ready by April 1. An interesting comparison to Pelfrey’s development will be to monitor how the Chicago Cubs prepare for former Twin Scott Baker’s return from the same injury.  

When Baker was signed the past November, the Cubs raved about his progress. They were teeming with optimism that Baker would be a key component of the team’s success right away, mostly based on his rehabilitation.

“There are no certainties with rehabs, but we spent quite a lot of time on the medical (evaluation) and (looking into) his rehab,” said Chicago team president Theo Epstein. “It was described by our medical staff as an ideal Tommy John’s rehab, so far. Knock on wood. Everything has gone perfectly so far. He’s really attacked it in an ideal manner.”

Fast forward to yesterday and Chicago’s field staff communicated a different message. Manager Dale Sveum said that the team was planning on “babying” him through spring training and that Baker had an “above-average” chance of missing the start of the regular season.

What does Scott Baker’s timeline have to do with Mike Pelfrey?

Baker had his Tommy John surgery almost two week prior to Pelfrey. Like Pelfrey, Baker’s rehab was thought to be going exceptionally well. He was throwing off of flat ground by August 8 and was throwing from more than 120 feet in September. In November, following his signing, the Cubs officials expressed adulation of his progress.   

During the time Baker began throwing again last August, Pelfrey was in Wichita where he played college ball. There, he helped coach an 18-year-old local team who was heading to a national tournament. Pelfrey took the opportunity to tell reporters that the medical staff and Mets’ organization had advised him to shoot for a May 2012 return based on the 12-month timeline post-surgery, but his own personal goal would be to be ready by opening day.

By the middle of August last year, reports emerged that Pelfrey would be throwing on flat ground “soon.” Already he was few weeks behind Baker’s timeline but it appeared to be slipping further off target. When the Twins signed him in December, Pelfrey told reporters that he was confident that he would be 100% by opening day.

"I'm on track for Jan. 15. So everything is going well," Pelfrey told ESPN.com’s Adam Rubin. "Tim Hudson came back in seven months (from Tommy John surgery)…I'll definitely be ready when spring training rolls around."

True, Hudson came back quickly, but his actual recovery time was a bit longer than what Pelfrey relayed to the press. While he did return to pitch in the minors for a brief spell 10 months after his 2008 Tommy John surgery day, it wasn’t until 12 months after his surgery date that Hudson was throwing in the majors again – and even that was September work with the off-season ahead of him to rest. Essentially, Hudson jumped into the marathon near the end of the finish line whereas Pelfrey is expecting to run up to the starting line of the race and toss 180-plus innings.

Locally, fans will remember Joe Nathan’s slow return to form in 2011. Nathan received the gift of a new UCL in March 2010 and busted his butt to get back on the hill by the start of the 2011 season. Nathan said all the right things, just like Pelfrey: I don’t want to be babied, I feel great, etc. After a clean spring training, Nathan was brought to Minnesota in what turned out to be a premature decision. It took the Twins nearly two months of the season, three home runs, two blown saves and a 7.63 ERA, to realize that Nathan was not ready. He was sent to Rochester to break up some scar tissue and came back effective for the second-half of the season.

This week, Baker reportedly threw 40 pitches at 70 percent effort in response to the Cubs’ babying program. Meanwhile, early dispatches from Fort Myers suggest the new Twin one-upped the former Twin and has overtaken him in the race for the return. In his first bullpen session of the year, Pelfrey threw 50 pitches.

There are plenty of reasons why Pelfrey may actually come back quicker than expected. His size suggests that he can take pressure off his arm. His relatively low injury history may mean he is less injury prone in general. He may have X-Men DNA and heal freakishly fast like Adrian Peterson. This is to say, every individual repairs themselves differently and at different intervals. Still, research tells us that the time to return to form from Tommy John surgery is 12-to-18 months. Hard work and great genes may help Pelfrey target May – closer to the one-year anniversary of his new elbow – but anything earlier than that could be risking a setback (like Joe Nathan).

The Twins may be supportive to the public of Pelfrey’s return but, at the same time, gathering insurance quietly such as signing left-hander Rafael Perez, someone assistant GM Rob Antony believes can be stretched out into a starter, to a minor league contract. Perez -- along with Rich Harden and in-house candidates like Liam Hendriks, Cole DeVries and Sam Deduno -- may be the safety net the front office is preparing in the event Pelfrey is not ready by April.

At his age and his relatively low injury-risk in general, Mike Pelfrey is almost certain to rebound. Never say never but, if history has any indication, the likelihood of him pitching effectively in April appears low. 


More at TwinsDaily.com:

Nick Nelson reveals our number one prospects in the Top Ten Twins prospect series.

Seth Stohs provides his roster projections for the 2013 season. 

Twins top ten prospect review

Posted by: Seth Stohs Updated: June 14, 2011 - 11:04 AM
I thought it would be fun to take a look at my pre-season Top 10 Twins prospect list and see how they are doing through just over two months of the season. Some have impressed. Some have disappointed. And, seemingly to keep up with the big league club, there have been a bunch of injuries. This list was compiled and presented in the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook -2011, after looking at a ton of stats and reading a bunch of scouting reports. It is a great example of how, with prospects, you just never know. Let’s get started:
 
1.       Kyle Gibson – RHP – Last night, Gibson gave up two runs in six innings, but fell to 3-6. However, he has a 3.79 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. In 71.1 innings, he has given up 71 hits, 17 walks and struck out 74. Many fans want the 23 year old to be pitching in the big leagues today. Honestly, I believe that if the Twins really needed a starting pitcher today, he could come up and fill in adequately. It’s exciting to see him striking out more than a batter per inning while still exhibiting tremendous control. He will likely be with the Twins this year, maybe even around the All Star break.
2.       Miguel Sano – 3B – Sano has been in Ft. Myers working out with the Extended Spring Training. He will likely soon be reporting to Elizabethton. After hitting .291/.338/.446 with the GCL Twins. Sano recently turned 18 years old. He is listed at 6-3 and 195 pounds, but he is bigger than that. He has huge legs and a hand shake that I have to assume rivals that of Adrian Peterson. Again, I know a lot of people want this Dominican Bonus Baby to be playing at a higher level, but there is no rush. Last year in the GCL, he struck out 43 times in 148 at bats with just 10 walks. This guy’s ceiling is up there with the likes of Miguel Cabrera, but let’s have some patience and let that power develop.
3.       Aaron Hicks – OF –  To look at Aaron Hicks’ .268 batting average this season in Ft. Myers only tells a small part of the story. Since May 1st, he is hitting .305 with 11 doubles and two homers. His season on base percentage is an impressive .375. Aaron Hicks has amazing tools. He has made some great catches in centerfield for the Ft. Myers Miracle this season, and has several assists due to a very strong and accurate arm. While he continues to walk, his strikeout rate has dropped some as well. To understand fully how much talent and athleticism he has requires actually seeing him practice and play. He is going to be a very good big leaguer. Keep the faith, and keep the patience.
4.       Joe Benson – OF – Benson got off to a very fast start this year in New Britain and then struggled from late April until mid-May. At that time, Benson went on a run that saw him hit .484/.556/.774 between May 24 and June 2. And then Twins doctors found something in his knee, so he had it scoped and will likely miss three weeks of action. Benson is ready defensively. He is a very good outfielder with great range and a big arm. In terms of speed, only Ben Revere is probably faster than him in the organization. Although he is not on pace to match his 27 home runs from 2010, his slugging percentage is better. Strikeouts continue to be what he needs to watch. After striking out every third plate appearance a year ago, he is striking out in one of four plate appearances so far this year.
5.       Alex Wimmers – RHP – After signing with the Twins last year in August, the two-time Big 10 Pitcher of the Year went 2-0 with a 0-57 ERA in 15.2 innings for the Miracle. He gave up just six hits, walked five and struck out 23. He returned to the Miracle to start this season, and it took him just five batters to walk as many as he walked last year, and a sixth batter to surpass it. And he hasn’t pitched for the Miracle since. The team immediately sent him to Extended Spring Training where he continues to work. He entered spring training with a hamstring injury. My hope is that the leg injury affected his mechanics and that he can get it back. That was two months ago, and he still isn’t back. So, hopefully he can get it back soon.
6.       Liam Hendriks – RHP – I wrote last week that Hendriks is now in the discussion, for me, of top Twins prospects. Still just 22 years old and with only 12 starts last year in Ft. Myers, the Twins decided that Hendriks was ready for Double-A. He has responded so far by going 6-2 with a 2.63 ERA. In 65 innings, he has allowed 58 hits, walked 14 and struck out 61. The Australian has thrown a Quality Start in eight of his last nine starts. In his last three outings, he has given up just two runs in 20 innings. He is a very smart pitcher, very competitive and I think has a chance to be very good.
7.       Angel Morales – OF – The Twins drafted Morales in the 3rd round in the 2007 draft out of high school in Puerto Rico, and he is still just 21 years old. Last year between Beloit and Ft. Myers, he hit .280/.362/.405 with 24 doubles, ten triples and five home runs. He also stole 29 bases. He is a very good outfielder with a strong arm. However, it is his arm that has caused him to miss all of the 2011 season. He fought elbow pain in spring, and they shut him down and had him rehab. He had a setback two weeks ago, and there was thought that he would need Tommy John surgery. When he got to the surgery, it was determined that they would just clean his elbow with arthroscopic surgery. This is obviously great news. I talked to GCL Twins coach and former big leaguer Milt Cuyler this spring training. We were watching Morales stand in the batter’s box against some bullpen pitching. He raved about Morales’s balance and approach. No one in the organization questions his power. Hopefully he can rehab and play some winter league ball in preparation for spring training.
8.       Ben Revere – OF – Twins fans have definitely already seen the best of Ben Revere. He can be a catalyst at the top of the lineup. He can hit a ton of singles and steal second at will. His range in centerfield is tremendous and he has shown the glove to play all three outfield spots. In 81 big league at bats, he his hit .272 and has just a .306 batting average with a .284 slugging percentage. In 132 at bats in AAA Rochester, he hit .303/.338/.364 with five extra base hits. We’ve also seen proof of the arm that we’ve heard so much about. We have seen the value and the excitement that the speed of Ben Revere brings to the table. We have also seen signs of why I may not have been crazy to have him as the Twins 8th prospect (many thought it was too low).
9.       Adrian Salcedo – RHP – Seeing Adrian Salcedo throw in the bullpen, it is easy to see why scouts would be excited about his potential. He is long (6-4) and lean (175… if that). He has long arms and tremendous delivery. He is a terrific athlete as well, having seen him basically sprint the mile run. Still just 20 years old, Salcedo has been the Snappers most consistent start this season. Overall, he is 5-3 with a 3.10 ERA. In 72.2 innings, he has given up 68 hits, walked 18 and struck out 51. He has work to do, to be sure, but he is a very exciting prospect.
10.    Oswaldo Arcia – OF – You always have to be a little cautious of the numbers that hitters put up when they play at Elizabethton. In 2010, Arcia was the Appalachian League Player of the Year after he hit .375/.424/.672 with 21 doubles, seven triples and 14 home runs for the E-Twins. He moved up to Beloit this spring and put on an offensive display in April. He hit .352/.420/.704 with eight doubles and five home runs in just 71 at bats. However, he went on the Disabled List on May 1 with a sore elbow. A week later, he had arthroscopic surgery on his elbow and is expected to miss two months. To watch him take batting practice in spring training was impressive. Everything he hit was solid. Line drives and home runs to all parts of the field. Of course, every time he came out of the cage, he would grab his left elbow. Arcia is compactly built and very strong. Hopefully he can get back to the Snappers and continue to mash.
 
To see my choices for 11-50, check out SethSpeaks.net, and for much, much more on these prospects and over 100 more Twins prospects, pick up a copy of the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook – 2011.
Here are a couple more minor league notes:
 
  • LHP Pat Dean, the team’s 3rd round pick a year ago out of Boston College, missed the first six weeks of the season. He was named the Midwest League Pitcher of the Week last week. On June 6, he threw six shutout innings. Then on June 11, he left the game with two outs in the 7th inning, having not yet allowed a hit in the game. He had issued two walks and struck out nine. So, for that week, he went 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA. In 12.2 innings, he gave up six hits, walked three and struck out 18. Not too shabby.
  • There are several Minnesotan in the Twins minor leagues including 25th round pick last week, AJ Petterson, the former Gopher SS. Here are the others:
    • Derek McCallum hit just .196/.276/.262 in 107 at bats in Beloit, but he was recently promoted to Ft. Myers. There, he has hit .241 in 29 at bats.
    • Nate Hanson was hitting .267/.327/.383 with 12 doubles and four home runs in Ft. Myers. Last week, he was promoted to AA New Britain where he has just one hit in 10 at bats. The hit was a double.
    • Matt Schuld is from Plymouth and pitched at St. Thomas. He is now 3-1 with a 4.40 ERA in 59.1 innings for the Ft. Myers Miracle.
    • Schuld’s former college teammate, 3B Roy Larson, is working in Extended Spring Training this season and will most likely report to Elizabethton.
    • Mark Dolenc went to Minnesota State- Mankato. He is in his second year at Double-A new Britain. He is hitting .257/.313/.337 with seven doubles, two triples and a home run in 175 at bats. He also has nine stolen bases.
    • Cole DeVries had a rough 2010 season between New Britain and Rochester. He began this season in New Britain where he went 0-0 with nine saves and a 2.28 ERA. In 27.2 innings, he gave up just 17 hits, walked five and struck out 33. He was promoted to Rochester where he has continued to pitch well. In six games (9.1 innings), he has give up just eight hits, walked four and struck out 12.
    • Andy Baldwin is 28 years old and spent the last three seasons with Tacoma, the Mariners’ AAA affiliate. The Duluth native has made ten starts for the Rochester Red Wings and is 3-5 with a 4.97 ERA. In 58 innings, he has 13 walks and 44 strikeouts.
  • The Twins signed 27 year old Cuban defector Dennis Suarez. He made an appearance in an Extended Spring Training game. Now he is starting for the New Britain Rock Cats. In his two starts, he has gone 0-1 with a 3.27 ERA. In his most recent start, he took the loss despite allowing just one run in seven innings. It will be interesting to see how he responds to Double-A and if he gets pushed forward.
  • A year ago, 2B Steve Singleton led the Twins organization with 43 doubles, all in New Britain. He began this season with the Rock Cats again and has had two stints with the Rochester Red Wings. He has 17 AA doubles, and now has seven more AAA doubles meaning he is currently on pace to eclipse 50 doubles this year.
  • Brian Dozier was my choice for Twins minor league hitter of the month of May. He was remarkably consistent through the first two months and in early June was finally summoned to play in Double-A New Britain. He went 3-8 in his first three games with the Rock Cats. Unfortunately in that third game, he was also hit in the face with a pitch. He had a fractured sinus bone. After seeing a specialist, it was determined that surgery was not needed. The doctor said that he could play as soon as the swelling goes down. He hopes within the next week.
  • Tom Stuifbergen first made a name for himself when he threw four shutout innings for Team Netherlands in the WBC a couple years ago. He is currently 2-4 with a 3.74 ERA in nine starts with the Ft. Myers Miracle. However, after coming back slowly from some shoulder discomfort, Stuifbergen has been terrific. In his past four starts, he has given up two runs in 24.2 innings. He is now consistently hitting 92 and 93 mph with his fastball, touching 94-95 at times. He has a four-pitch mix, but his changeup is tremendous.
  • For much more on the Twins minor leagues, check out Twins Minor League Weekly, hosted by Seth and Travis Aune. On last night's show, we discussed the affiliates, who is playing well, and how the teams are doing in their division.
  • Finally, Beloit is just a 5 to 5 1/2 hour drive from the Twin Cities. Starting June 24th, the Snappers will be hosting "Minnesota Twins Weekend" at Pohlman Field. TC Bear will be there. Tony Oliva will make an appearance and sign autographs. The Snappers will be wearing Twins-themed jerseys. There will be a benefit breakfast on Saturday morning with proceeds going to Big Brothers Big Sisters. Oliva will speak at the event, as will people from the Snappers organization. There will be a silent auction and the jerseys that the player wear will also be auctioned off. The Twins are playing that weekend just down the road in Milwaukee, so make a trip out of it! Call the Snappers Ticket Office and tell them Seth sent you!

Any other thoughts or questions on the Twins minor leaguers?

Observations from the Fort - Minor League Notes

Posted by: Seth Stohs Updated: March 15, 2011 - 11:27 AM

For those who have not been to Ft. Myers for spring training, I wanted to post some notes on my observations from the minor league side of the Lee County facilities. To try to paint the picture, Hammond Stadium is the crown jewel of the area. Next to it is a regular sized field where pitchers do Pitchers Fielding Practice and they take batting practice. But as you walk out toward left field of that second field, down a sidewalk, you walk through a gate. Once past the gate, you are in the minor league facilities. There are three full-size fields and an infield-only field. There was a big bullpen area with 10 mounds to throw from. Beyond the mini-field is the minor league clubhouse and training facilities with weight room and batting cage. In the center of the facility is a tall, canopied deck where Twins personnel can sit and oversee the entire minor league facility. It is really a nice facility and a lot happens there.

The minor leaguers had to report on Thursday. On Friday, they took their physicals and all had to run a mile. The goal was to finish in 6:30, and most were right in that neighborhood. Those that finished well better than that included Shooter Hunt, Brad Tippett, Matt Tone, Tony Davis and the incredibly fast, lanky, athletic-looking Adrian Salcedo.

On Saturday, their first official workout took place and I was there for the entire thing. If I write about minor leaguers, it only makes sense for me to see each of them in person, even if just for one day.

When we got to the stadium on Saturday morning, we walked to the big league batting practice field and saw Jim Thome, Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel taking batting practice. I watched for a minute before saying, "I am probably the only one in the world that would say, I can watch those guys all season, I'm going to minor league camp." And I did. I wish I would have waited long enough to notice that Joe Benson was hitting with that group.

When I got to the minor league side of the parking lot and walked through the gates, I saw a LOT of minor leaguers, probably close to 150. They were dispersing over the four fields. As I walked further, I was really, really glad that they were in uniforms with the players' names on them! Having written so much about most of those players, it was great to be able to see them in person. Of course, walking to the first field I passed, the mini-field, the first pitcher I noticed had the name of "Von Stessel" on his back. How is it possible that the first player I see, I do not know anything about. (I later found out that he is from Australia. He had played in the Phillies organization for a couple of years before leaving the game due to some family issues. He got himself back in shape and the Twins are giving him a second chance.)

In the early sessions, there was a lot of pitcher work. They broke into AAA, AA, Hi-A, Low-A, etc., and went to stations at the various fields. On the mini-field, they worked with infielders on pick off plays. On the next field, the worked on taking ground balls and throwing to second base, and they covered first base on grounders to the right side. On the other field, they fielded bunts and fake-threw to 1B. Then in the bullpen a group of pitchers would work with a catcher and pitch for 10 minutes before a second group of pitchers would do the same. They would then switch stations. Switching between stations every 20 minutes or so covered a lot of the morning. During that time, there was a group of infielders working with Paul Molitor and others taking ground balls on the other field. Outfielders were on one field working on covering ground balls, fielding them and making good throws. On other field, outfielders were working on instinct skills.

Later in the day, the pitchers had to run two 300-yard shuttle runs. That didn't look like much fun at all. At that time, the hitters broke into groups again. On the three full fields, they took batting practice in two groups in two ten-minute sessions. I would watch two or three rounds on one field and then go to the next, and went around for about eight sessoins worth of hitters. I do believe that I saw at least two rounds from every hitter in the organization.

To be honest, all of this going on was a little (or a lot!) overwhelming at first, but as the day went on, I developed a bit of a plan and strategy.

Here are some brief observations on various players that stood out:

I get a lot of grief, fair or not, about writing about the high-profile prospects more sometimes than others. I really try not to, but I have to say that there is often a reason for talking about those guys, and that is very true about two of the Twins top prospects.

Aaron Hicks - I saw him around the ballpark throughout the week and he was there early and working out on the back fields. The first thing I noticed was that he was significantly bigger than a year ago when I saw him in Beloit. His arms are huge. He is still really, really fast. Most impressively though is that the strength shows in his swing. Everything he hit was on a line to the gaps. He showed terrific power, and did a nice job in centerfield. He was the most impressive prospect that I saw and I feel more strongly about the Twins being wise in keeping him rather than dealing him.

Miguel Sano - He may not have great speed. He may or may not have a position to play defensively. He certainly couldn't bunt. But the ball comes off of his bat different. It makes that 'different sound' that we hear about. He was able to do those "little things" like the hit-and-run swings and such, but when he let loose, he hit the ball really, really hard. He hit some balls a long, long way. He has big legs and is very strong. I shook his hand at one point, and it was Adrian Peterson-like (no, I've never shaken AP's hand, but I hear so much about it). Sano has the world of potential.

A lot of other guys stood out too, even from just one day of practice watching. Please note that it is just one day, and obviously what players are able to do in game situations over the course of the season matters more, but it was a terrific opportunity to get a first glance. Here are some comments:

  • Nick Lockwood - took ground balls at both 2B and SS, and even at 3B, but will likely end up at 2B. He's not a big guy, but everything he hit was hit with authority, on a line and from gap to gap. He even hit a couple of balls out of the park.
  • Jose Gonzalez - He does have the Mijares-like gut, but he can flat-out throw the baseball. He's not very tall either (listed at 5-9), but he has good secondary pitches, and quickness off the mound. His minor league numbers are incredible, and I think he throws a little harder than touted.
  • Martire Garcia - Very little guy, also not tall, but he throws hard and left handed. Control and consistency has been his problem, but clearly he has some stuff.
  • Ben Tootle and Matt Bashore - the key note here is that both were pitching off of the mound on Day 1. Tootle has a crazy leg kick in his delivery that is fun to watch, but he does throw hard. Bashore was throwing fastballs at probably 90% and he was not throwing the curveball hard. Really just spinning them. Both have a bunch of potential as high picks, but it was good to see that both were throwing.
  • It was great to see Paul Kelly taking ground balls at shortstop. I believe that he would be the Twins regular shortstop today if injuries had not derailed the majority of the last four years of his career. He's tall and lanky, smooth fielder and a good, line drive swing. I would just like to see him stay healthy for a full season.
  • 2010 late-round pick Derek Christensen was throwing a bullpen session. He throws from just below a 3/4 delivery, and his fastball tails in on a right-handed batter. Even more impressive was a slider that was sharp and broke well over a foot.
  • Dakota Watts, who was clocked at 99 mph last year in Ft. Myers, definitely throws hard. Steve Blevins, who has never been touted as a real hard thrower, was also throwing very hard, but he also had a very sharp slider.
  • Shooter Hunt - The guy throws hard. He's got a decent changeup, and his curveball is as good as it is touted. It is sharp and moves a lot. He did throw one pitch that went over the fence behind his catcher, and bounced on the dugout of a connecting field. Man, it would be huge if he could overcome his control issues because there is so much talent there.
  • Daniel Ortiz has great power potential. After missing all of the 2009 season with a knee injury, he hit 11 homers last year in Elizabethton including eight of them in August. He has amazing power despite being really tiny. The ball just jumps off of his bat.
  • Oswaldo Arcia, who was the Appalachian League MVP a year ago, was hitting balls all over the field and over the fence both ways. Incredible power!
  • I was talking with GCL coach and former big leaguer Milt Cuyler was very nice and talked to me for awhile. While pitchers were throwing in the bullpen, he had his outfielders standing in against them. He was explaining to them that how they take pitches is important in how they take pitches and swing during games. Specifically he was talking about balance and weight shift. It was interesting and he used Angel Morales as a 'perfect example' of what a hitter should do. Max Kepler did it a little different and yet Cuyler says it is also a good approach. There was another player whose weight was shifting strange and his hip had pulled out that was an example of the opposite. Very interesting conversation.
  • Roy Larson signed as a non-drafted free agent following last season out of the University of St. Thomas. He did a nice job at 3B. He is tall and has very quick hands through the zone.
  • Former Gopher and Minnesotan Nate Hanson put on a power display during his round of batting practice!

There were a lot more players that stood out to me in my one day. I fully acknowledge that guys can have good days, or that there are some guys who look great in batting practice or the bullpen and it doesn't carry over into games. There are other guys who don't Wow you in practice and just consistently get the job done in games. If you have any questions about players, please feel free to ask. I will also be hosting a Live Twins chat on Wednesday night for people to ask questions as well.

      

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