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: Stauffer a candidate for fifth starter spot

Posted by: Seth Stohs Updated: February 9, 2015 - 10:08 PM

Last week, we looked at a couple of the Twins fifth starter candidates, Mike Pelfrey and Alex Meyer. This week we will continue to look at the Twins fifth starter candidates. Today, we will take a look at one of the newest pitchers in the Twins organization, Tim Stauffer.

The Background

Just before the holidays, the Twins signed 32-year-old, right-handed pitcher Tim Stauffer to a one-year contract worth $2.2 million. Though he has worked out of the San Diego Padres’ bullpen the past two seasons, he was told that he would be given an opportunity to start. Was that just something he was told by the Twins to get him to sign with them, or will he really be given a shot to leave Ft. Myers as the team’s fifth starter? Well, fortunately pitchers and catchers report in less than two weeks, so we’ll find out what kind of opportunity he really gets.

Stauffer was the first-round pick of the Padres in 2003. He was the fourth overall pick out of the University of Richmond. During his first professional season (2004), he started in High-A and pitched at three levels. By mid-May of 2005, he had made his major league debut with San Diego. He pitched mostly in AAA in 2006 and 2007.

Unfortunately, he had shoulder surgery and missed the entire 2008 season and almost half of the 2009 season. He returned to the Padres and made 14 starts that year. In 2010, he posted a 1.85 ERA, mostly out of the Padres bullpen. That led to his best seasons, 2011, when he made 31 starts. He went 9-12 with a 3.73 ERA in 185.2 innings. He was set to be the 2012 Opening Day starter, but instead he had surgery on his flexor tendon and made just one appearance all year. And that brings us to the 2013 season and he’s been a pretty solid bullpen performer the last two years. He combined to go 9-3 with a 3.63 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP. He’s also struck out 131 batters in 134 innings.

What is he?

Stauffer is a typical, standard, middle-of-the-road, back-of-a-rotation starting pitcher in terms of his stuff. He has a good mix of pitches. His average fastball sits between 90 and 91 mph, and he throws it a little over half the time. He has added a cutter in the mid-80s which helps him get a lot of ground balls. His change-up sits around 80 mph, so it’s a good velocity difference from the fastball. He also has a slow curveball in the low-70s that he doesn’t throw a ton. Parker went into great details on what Stauffer is and what he throws in December. Be sure to read that here.

He needs to have very good control, and his career walks per nine average is at 3.0, which is really average. His career strikeout rate is 6.8 per nine, which again, is very average.

In other words, if he were to be the Twins 5th starter, and last the whole year, he would probably be... OK.

Stauffer Percentage

The hope, if Stauffer were named fifth starter, would be that he could work 185 innings like he did in 2011. Well, that may not actually be the goal. Stauffer, or others mentioned in this fifth starter debate, would presumably be just a stop gap. The bigger goal may be to have Trevor May or Alex Meyer fully ready for the role before midseason. Stauffer would then fall back into the Anthony Swarzak role. He’d be capable of pitching in long relief or 7th inning situations.

If I were to guess the odds that Tim Stauffer begins the season as the Twins fifth starter, I would probably put the odds at less than 1%.


Previous 5th starter candidate stories:

Mike Pelfrey 
Alex Meyer

Then head over to Twins DailyVikings Journal and Wild Xtra for more on your favorite Minnesota teams. 

Gleeman and the Geek, Ep 180: Pitching, Fatherhood and Drunken Rappers

Posted by: John Bonnes under Lions Updated: February 8, 2015 - 8:52 PM

Aaron and John talk about the projection of the Twins' rotation and bullpen, Parker Hageman fathering another human, whether the Twins could have and/or should have signed James Shields, getting razors delivered from Harrys.com, burning cars, betting millions on Tommy Milone, baby-making and baby-sleeping, and almost getting into a fight with a drunk guy next to them (who later fell asleep and was kicked out). You can listen by downloading us from iTunesStitcher or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com. Or just click the Play button below.

http://traffic.libsyn.com/gleemangeek/Pitching_Fatherhood_and_Drunken_Rappers.mp3

Over at TwinsDaily.com, we're looking both back and forward:

TwinsCentric: 25 Best GMs: Extra - Calvin Griffith

Posted by: John Bonnes under Lions Updated: February 5, 2015 - 10:34 PM

If you've been stopping by Twins Daily this offseason, you've been reading a series in which Mark Armour and Dan Levitt count down the 25 best GMs in history, crossposting from their blog. Along with their countdown of the greatest 25 GMs in history, they are also writing  about some who did not make the list.  (For an explanation, please see this post.) To read more about the history of baseball operations and the GM, please check out their book In Pursuit of Pennants–Baseball Operations from Deadball to Moneyball via the publisher or at your favorite on-line store.

This is by Dan Levitt, a Minneapolis-based writer. 

When Calvin Griffith formally took over the Washington Senators in late 1955 after the death of his uncle Clark, he became the last of the family owners to act as his own general manager.  After more than half a century, many writers have a tendency to wax nostalgic on these owner-operators.  In fact, these men, who had no outside source of income, often ran their clubs on a shoestring budget and spent much less on scouting and minor league operations than the wealthier franchises.  By the early 1950s some of these teams were spectacularly unsuccessful.  Somewhat astonishingly, Griffith proved an exception—at least for a while.  During the 1960s the Twins were one of the American League’s best clubs and led the league in attendance over the decade.

The organization that Calvin inherited evolved into an extended family operation. Brothers Sherry, Jimmy and Billy Robertson and brother-in-law Joe Haynes all held down key executive positions within the system.  And all had grown up around baseball and were competent at their jobs.

But Griffith was very much in charge and immersed himself in all aspects of the team.  Until the travel got to be too much, he personally saw in action nearly all the players receiving large amateur bonuses or acquired by trade. When he felt his managers were not being aggressive enough getting his young phenoms into the lineup, he forced the issue with future stars such as Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, and Rod Carew.  Another time, when he thought the coaching was subpar, he kept his manager but revamped his on-field staff with expensive, big-name coaches.  Because Griffith spent most of his energy concentrating on the baseball side of the operation, he neglected expanding or pursuing additional revenue sources, a shortcoming that exacerbated his lack of non-baseball resources.

Griffith was a unique blend of bluster, naiveté, and baseball smarts.  Before formally joining the Senator organization in 1942, he had honed his craft working in the minors as both a manager and front office executive, and by the early 1950s was helping his aging uncle run the team.  During his long apprenticeship Griffith had learned the baseball business but could never generalize beyond the lessons of the time and place in which he learned them.  Once the environment changed, Griffith was lost. He also remained surprisingly unpolished, which caused further difficulties in the 1970s and 1980s as he was forced to deal with increasingly sophisticated fellow owners, players, agents, and press.

By the late 1950s Washington was finishing last in American League attendance every year, usually by quite a distance.  When Minnesota's Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul came calling to entice a move, Griffith was more than ready to listen, and the Senators moved to Minnesota for the 1961 season, causing the AL to put a new expansion team in Washington

The Twins had jumped to fifth in 1960 after three consecutive last place finishes, and the franchise Griffith brought to Minnesota was laden with talent.  Many of the players had been signed as amateurs: Harmon Killebrew as a bonus baby (1954), Bob Allison (1955), Jimmie Hall, Jim Kaat (1957), and Rich Rollins (1960). The Senators organization was also at the forefront of signing Latin American--particularly Cuban-- players, a talent source that was especially attractive to the Griffiths because it was inexpensive.  Legendary scout Joe Cambria helped deliver several extremely talented Cuban ballplayers to the franchise, including Camilo Pascual, Pedro Ramos, Zoilo Versalles, and Tony Oliva.

Just before the start of the 1960 season, Griffith made a great trade with Bill Veeck and the White Sox.  He dealt 32-year-old Roy Sievers for two young players, Earl Battey and Don Mincher, plus $150,000.  Over the next five years, as the youngsters matured Griffith shrewdly reinforced his team.  He traded for key pitchers Jim Perry and Jim “Mudcat” Grant (forking over about $25,000 in the latter deal) and purchased two veteran relievers, Al Worthington and Johnny Klippstein. Griffith wouldn’t spend beyond his relatively meager means to build a winner, but he wasn’t looking to pull money out of the franchise—he wanted to win and would do everything he could within his financial wherewithal. 

In 1965 the Twins won 102 games and the American League pennant.  After losing a seven-game World Series to the Dodgers, the young and talented Twins appeared poised for many years of pennant contention. To Griffith’s credit, he had also assembled one of baseball’s more racially mixed teams.  Many of the team’s stars were African-Americans or dark-skinned Cubans.

Nevertheless, the Twins failed to capture a winnable American League over the next three years, principally because of a dramatic and unexpected drop-off of some of the team’s top position players.  Griffith did his best to compensate, promoting Rod Carew in 1967 and trading for Dean Chance.  The Twins won the new AL West in 1969 under manager Billy Martin, but lost to the Orioles in the ALCS.  Griffith fired the mercurial Martin, and helped by a 19-year-old Bert Blyleven, the Twins won the division title again the next year. 

As the core of the team aged, however, Griffith could not replace his stars.  And while he smartly traded for Larry Hisle in 1972 and stole Lyman Bostock as a late round amateur draft pick that same year, Griffith’s scouting and player development machine was only slowly recovering from the death of Haynes in 1967 and Sherry Robertson in 1970.

The team played roughly .500 ball over the five years from 1971 through 1975, but attendance fell off significantly—from third in the league in 1971 to last by 1974--and Griffith lost around $2 million.  When free agency came in 1976, Griffith was ill prepared to meet it, both financially and because he had a league leading 22 unsigned players. 

In the first few years of free agency the Twins lost Bill Campbell, Eric Solderholm, Larry Hisle, Lyman Bostock, and Tom Burgmeier.  Griffith was also forced to trade Blyleven and Carew before they became free agents, though he engineered a nice return for both (including $250,000 in the Blyleven deal). Griffith slashed his payroll to the league’s basement, so when the team flirted at the edges of contention in 1976 and 1977 Griffith could claim a profit. Nonetheless, Griffith had little chance of competing without outside resources, a more enlightened approach to additional revenue sources, or a rebound in attendance. 

The opening of the Metrodome in 1982 did little to help. The Twins again finished last at the gate and bottomed out on the field with a record of 60-102.  After continued financial struggles and flirting with moving the franchise, Griffith finally gave up and sold the team in 1984.  He left behind the nucleus of the 1987 world championship squad, including Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Frank Viola, Tom Brunansky, Gary Gaetti, and Greg Gagne.

In September 1978 Griffith’s legacy was marred by his appearance at the Lions Club in Waseca, Minnesota.  In what he thought were off the record comments, Griffith disparaged nearly everyone, but most incendiary were his racist comments regarding the reasons for moving the franchise to Minnesota.  Griffith may have put together an integrated team, but he was also the product of a franchise and era that for many years had segregated seating in Washington’s Griffith Stadium and was the last team to desegregate its spring training accommodations in Florida.  

In his first 15-years at the helm Griffith masterminded the turnaround of one of baseball’s most hapless franchises and oversaw one the American League’s better teams of the 1960s. When Minnesota initially proved to be the financial bonanza he had hoped for, Griffith spent the additional revenues building a pennant winner.  He purchased players, included money in trades, and paid top salaries to his stars.  But as the economics of the game changed, Griffith had little to fall back on except his baseball intelligence, which left him and the Twins constantly struggling on the field and at the gate. 

For more on the 25 Best GMs in history, check out these stories at Twins Daily (with more coming):

The Best 25 GMs in History: #8 Harry Dalton

The Best 25 GMs in History: #9 Dave Dombrowski

The Best 25 GMs in History: #10 Frank Cashen

The Best 25 GMs in History: #11 Billy Beane

The Best 25 GMs in History: #12 Sandy Alderson

The Best 25 GMs in history: #13 Al Campanis

The Best 25 GMs in History: #14 Brian Sabean

The Best 25 GMs in History: #15 Walt Jocketty

The Best 25 GMs in History: #16 Theo Epstein

The Best 25 GMs in History: #17 Dan Duquette

The Best 25 GMs in History: #18 Joe L Brown

The Best 25 GMs in History: #19 Lee MacPhail

The Best 25 GMs in History: # 20 Cedric Tallis

The Best 25 GMs in History: #21 Brian Cashman

The Best 25 GMs in History: #22 Jim Campbell

The Best 25 GMs in History: #23 John Hart

The Best 25 GMs in History: #24 John Quinn

The Best 25 GMs In History: #25 Andy MacPhail

 
 

TwinsCentric: Twins Top Prospects #11-15

Posted by: Nick Nelson under Vikings Updated: February 5, 2015 - 10:07 AM
In the past at Twins Daily, we have annually highlighted our Top 10 Twins prospects, but because the system is currently so loaded with quality talent, we decided to expand the scope of our list this year, profiling the 20 best players on Minnesota's farm.

Earlier this week, Seth ran through our choices for 16 through 20, and today I'll take a look at the players we ranked 11 through 15. These players narrowly missed out on making our Top 10, but any of them could very easily appear in that range for many other organizations throughout the league.

One-by-one individual profiles for the Top 10 Prospects will kick off next week.
 
15. Taylor Rogers - LHP
Age: 24
2014 Stats (AA): 145 IP, 11-6, 3.29 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 113/37 K/BB
ETA: 2016

You won't often see Rogers mentioned among the system's most promising young arms, because he lacks the high-end velocity and gaudy strikeout numbers of some others, but if you ask folks within the organization about pitchers who can help the Twins in the near future, his name is going to come up. The lefty was an 11th-round pick out of the University of Kentucky in 2011, and he continues to advance through the minor-league ranks while showing exceptional poise and polish on the mound. Many questioned how Rogers would perform at the higher levels, but he showed a lot in the Eastern League last year by allowing only four homers in 145 innings while boosting his K-rate. The biggest question is whether his high-80s arsenal will prove too hittable in the majors, especially against right-handed batters.

14. Adam B. Walker - OF
Age: 23
2014 Stats (A+): .246/.307/.436, 25 HR, 94 RBI, 78 R, 9/14 SB
ETA: 2016

In terms of pure power, Walker ranks with the likes of sluggers such as Miguel Sano and Kennys Vargas. He hit some legendary moonshots last year in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, and won the league's All-Star Home Run Derby contest in June. His father was an NFL running back and his mother was a star college athlete, so the muscular 6'4" Walker has the bloodlines and build that you love to see. Unfortunately, while stepping up to High-A ball, the outfielder saw drops in batting average, OBP and slugging, which many anticipated due to his poor strike zone control and high whiff rate. He'll need to become a more complete hitter in order to have a future as a big-league regular, but the pure power alone makes him worth tracking.

13. Stephen Gonsalves - LHP
Age: 20
2014 Stats (Rk/A): 65.2 IP, 4-3, 3.02 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 70/21 K/BB
ETA: 2018

In 94 professional innings, Gonsalves has struck out 109 hitters and allowed only 72 hits. It's safe to say that the big 6'5" left-hander has been overwhelming the opposition at the lower levels of the minors, and he doesn't even turn 21 until July. There's not much to quibble about with his results so far, and as a tall southpaw with improving velocity, his projectibility is off the charts. So really, all that's holding Gonsalves back at this point is his limited sample size. If he can put in a full season and maintain his performance in High-A, he'll surely vault into the Top 10 next year and maybe even the Top 5.

12. Max Kepler - OF/1B
Age: 22
2014 Stats (A+): .264/.333/.393, 5 HR, 59 RBI, 53 R, 6/8 SB
ETA: 2017

When the Twins signed the Berlin native as a 16-year-old back in 2009 with an $800,000 bonus, Kepler was considered to be perhaps the best baseball talent ever to come over from Europe. But it was always known that developing him into a big-league player was going to be a long process. Kepler needed to adapt to living and playing in the United States, and sure enough, he's had his growing pains while rising through the minors. All along, though, he has managed to post solid numbers, and 2014 was another step in the right direction. Although his production was less than dazzling, his AVG/OBP/SLG were all above the Florida State League averages (.257/.325/.371), and the overall numbers mask his second-half improvement: From July 1st through the end of the season, Kepler hit .303/.359/.442 with 19 of his 31 extra-base hits. The biggest stride for the young outfielder was his success against lefty pitchers -- after hitting .117 with a hideous .365 OPS versus southpaws in 2013, he improved to .273 and .691 last year.

11. Lewis Thorpe - LHP
Age: 19
2014 Stats (A): 71.2 IP, 3-2, 3.52 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 80/36 K/BB
ETA: 2018

Thorpe sneaked into our Top 10 last year, and based solely on performance, he would have found himself there again this time around. Thorpe had already established himself as a rare commodity with a mid-90s fastball whizzing in from the left side, and he further solidified his legitimacy last year by heading to the Midwest League -- where at 18 he was the youngest player to throw a pitch -- and piling up 80 strikeouts over 71 innings. Thorpe struggled a bit with his control, issuing 4.5 BB/9 to go along with five hit batsmen and eight wild pitches, but the bigger concern is his health. Thorpe felt some pain in his elbow late in the season, and an MRI revealed a UCL sprain. For now, the Twins are taking a "wait and hope for the best" approach, but as we all know, that doesn't always work out. If the young southpaw ends up needing Tommy John surgery, it would obviously set him back substantially.
 
~~~
 

Things have been busy at Twins DailyVikings Journal and Wild Xtra lately: 

TwinsCentric: Sizing up the White Sox

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: February 3, 2015 - 11:49 PM

"They've made a real statement with what they're doing," said an anonymous AL Central official.

"It's apparent they're better. They're a good club," said Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski

"Rarely has a team so successfully and systematically answered so many of its major questions" in an offseason, wrote Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

With the possible exception of the crosstown Cubs, no team has drawn more attention and praise for its offseason moves than the Chicago White Sox. General manager Rick Hahn's pick-ups included a front-line starter, an elite closer, an All-Star caliber outfielder and more.

How big of a leap can the revamped Sox make after finishing fourth in 2014?

2014 Record: 73-89

Runs Scored/Allowed: 660 / 758

Key Additions: Jeff Samardzija (SP), Melky Cabrera (OF), David Robertson (RP), Adam LaRoche (1B), Zach Duke (RP) 

Key Departures: Paul Konerko (1B), Marcus Semien (IF)

Why They'll Be Better

Chicago lost 89 games last year despite boasting the Rookie of the Year in its lineup and the No. 3 Cy Young finisher in its rotation. There simply wasn't enough talent surrounding Jose Abreu and Chris Sale, but the White Sox have done plenty to address that over the past few months. 

LaRoche and Cabrera should reenergize an offensive unit that had grown stagnant with Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn running out the thread. Samardzija joins Sale and Jose Quintana to form a potent trio of starters. The Sox spent a whopping $60 million to upgrade their bullpen with the additions of Robertson and Duke.

There's also a dynamic wild card in the mix here -- that being left-hander Carlos Rodon. Considered by many to be the best player in the 2014 draft, Rodon fell to Chicago at the third pick. He signed in July and was pitching in Triple-A by late August. Leaning on an absolutely filthy slider, he struck out 38 hitters in his first 24 professional innings. 

The 22-year-old was considered extremely polished coming out of North Carolina State University and could make an impact in the majors this year as a dominant arm slotting into either the bullpen or rotation.

That's a nice weapon to have on deck.

Why They'll Be Worse

It's tough to imagine the White Sox not getting better in 2015, barring a rash of bad injuries. They do have some question marks around the infield and at the back end of the rotation, and of course there's no guarantee that all (or any) of their new acquisitions will work out, but manager Rob Ventura enters this season equipped with everything he should need to field a winner.

The widespread adulation that Hahn has received is well warranted.

What To Expect

Driven by the likes of Abreu, Quintana, Adam Eaton and Avisail Garcia, the White Sox were already a young team on an upward trajectory. The bevy of substantial offseason additions will only hasten their rise, and should put them right in the thick of the division race. Unless they have major health issues, the Sox strike me as a team with a floor around .500 and a win ceiling in the 90s.

~~~

This is the third installment in a series at Twins Daily previewing the rest of the AL Central. You can read our write-ups on the Royals and Tigers, and check back in later this week for our take on the Indians.

TwinsCentric: Center field is center of attention

Posted by: Seth Stohs Updated: January 29, 2015 - 12:11 AM

At the beginning of this month, I projected the Twins Opening Day roster. When spring training begins, I’ll update that list. There are few questions marks in the roster. The fifth starter job will be up for grabs as well as a couple of bullpen spots. However, the centerfield job will certainly be one to watch.

We know that Torii Hunter will be starting in right field. Oswaldo Arcia will make the move over to left field, but centerfield remains a question.

The Twins did not address the position in the offseason, at least not in a big, obvious way. This leads me to what I believe to be Plan A.

Plan A: Third Time’s The Charm

I am of the belief that the Twins brass wants for Aaron Hicks to have a strong spring training and take the reins on the starting job. That’s what he did in 2013. In 2014, he beat out Alex Presley for the starting centerfield job. In fact, the Twins DFAd Presley near the end of spring training, meaning that there really wasn’t a backup plan for 2014. In fact, when Hicks was sent back to the minor leagues, the Twins tried Eduardo Escobar in centerfield for a game before the job was given to Danny Santana, who ran with it.

Hicks will be just 25 years old throughout the 2014 season. That isn’t necessarily young, but I wonder if some think he might be older after being given the opportunity the last two seasons. He has never been a great hitter in the minor leaguers, but in a good year, he can fill a stat sheet. He has all the tools to be good. Even in a poor 2014 season, he posted a .341 on-base percentage.

It’s possible, so the team does have to have a Plan B too.

Plan B: Fourth Outfielder Platoon

Jordan Schafer is going to be on the roster. If Aaron Hicks is the starter, Schafer is the fourth outfielder. If Aaron Hicks is sent to the minor leagues, Schafer gets a lot more playing time.

The 28 year old was DFAd last year after hitting just .163 in 80 at bats over 63 games for Atlanta. The Twins swooped in and claimed him. He was given regular playing time and showed what he could do. He hit .285/.345/.362 (.707) with seven extra base hits. The speedster combined to steal 30 bases over the course of the season.

Schafer would be the primary starter. As a left-handed hitter, there would likely be a right-hand hitting option to play centerfield against southpaws.

Who could that right-handed centerfield option be? And, what could possibly be Plans C and D? Click here to continue reading this article at Twins Daily

Things have been busy at Twins Daily, Vikings Journal and Wild Xtra lately: 

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