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.
After yesterday's prospects were revealed, we have now reached the halfway point of the Top 50 Minnesota Twins Prospect rankings. Today, I am presenting my choices for Twins prospects 21 through 25. The discussion of these rankings so far have been fun, and I would anticipate the debates growing as we roll closer to Number One.
If you want to look into some of the things that go into my personal rankings, click on the previous parts of this series at the bottom of today’s group.
Part 6: 21-25
Again today I think that there is an interesting collection of prospects. There are two relievers, one that Twins fans have already seen in the big leagues and one who could be there quickly. The other three are not yet 20 years old and have high ceilings, but a long ways to go.
#25 – Michael Tonkin – RH RP (23)
I often hear about how the Twins promote guys too slowly, and there are a couple of such instances where that may be true. However, when you consider the early stages of Tonkin’s career, you have to appreciate that sometimes patience is a very good thing. Drafted in the 30th round in 2008 out of high school, Tonkin spend parts of the 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons in Beloit (Low A). The first year, he made a dozen starts. The second year, he pitched adequately out of the bullpen, but improvement was clear. He then spent the first half of the 2012 season in Beloit before finishing the season in Ft. Myers. He began 2013 in New Britain, was promoted to Rochester fairly quickly, and arrived with the Twins in July. He struggled with Rochester, but he made his Major League debut ust 13 months after leaving Low-A. Mid-90s fastball and a slider make him a potential back-end of the bullpen guy.
#24 – Miguel Sulburan – LH SP (19)
The fact that he is just 5-10 probably creates some concern in the minds of some, but to this point in his career, Sulburan has pitched like he’s much bigger. The Twins plucked this left-hander from the Dodgers in exchange for Drew Butera at the July deadline. For the Kernels, he went 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA in four starts. Combined in 2013 in the Midwest League, he posted a 2.96 ERA in 112.2 innings and struck out 8.1 per nine innings while walking just 2.6 per nine. He has a solid four-pitch mix. His best pitch, to this point, is a devastating changeup. He’ll need to get some movement on his baseball to be successful as he moves up.
#23 – Amaurys Minier – 3B (17)
Minier was the Twins big international free agent signing in 2012 when he signed as a 16-year-old with for about $1.5 million. The third baseman has tremendous power and will likely be a good hitter, but he is very young. As you would expect, he was quite streaky in his US/GCL debut. He showed power rarely seen in the GCL with six home runs in 119 plate appearances. However, he fought injury much of the season and hit just .214/.252/.455 (.707) in the small sample in a league where the stats matter very little. His power is legit and he is one that could jump quickly up this list.
#22 – Zack Jones – RH RP (22)
Listening to several Miracle games throughout the season, it was hard not to get excited when play-by-play men Brice Zimmerman and Adam MacDonald would speak of Jones and his 96-100 mph fastball. He also has an improving slider. Jones was the Twins 4th round pick in 2012 out of college, where he also was a hitter. Very exciting is his 12.9 K/9 (70 strikeouts in 48.2 innings), but he’ll have to throw more strikes (28 walks) if he wants to move quickly.
#21 – Felix Jorge – RH SP (19)
Jorge is another very exciting young arm in the Twins farm system. To this point, he has moved up one level each year. He posted a 2.67 ERA in the DSL in 2011. In 2012 in the GCL, he posted a 2.34 ERA in 34.2 innings. With the E-Twins this year, he posted a 2.95 ERA in 61 innings (12 starts). His strikeout rate has increased each of those seasons, from 8.7 to 9.6 to 10.6 K/9. He’s 6-2 and wiry. He throws hard and has a solid breaking ball. The combination of Jorge, Landa and Rosario gave the E-Twins some great pitching, and along with a couple of guys that are a little higher on this list, they give the Twins and their fans reason to be excited for the future.
So there's Part 6 of my Top 50 Twins Prospect list. Check out Twins Daily soon with Part 7, prospects 16-20.
Part 1: 46-50
Part 2: 41-45
Part 3: 36-40
Part 4: 31-35
Part 5: 26-30
Aaron and John talk about Paul Molitor finally joining the Twins' coaching staff, Terry Ryan's interview with Twins Daily, missing the point on payroll, being invited to podcast at Cub Foods, starting a comedy club club, MLB vs. NFL television ratings, avoiding dancing at all costs, getting ready for Jason Isbell, swapping social lives, and how to deal with people not realizing you're joking with special guest Randball's Stu. You can listen by clicking below, download us from iTunes or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com.
The postseason is winding down and the offseason if revving up. Nick profiled one of the more interesting free agent pitchers on the market - who also might be leaving an AL Central competitor. Seth continues to countdown the Twins top prospects. PeanutsFromHeaven introduces a new, more fun, statistic. On the forums, I wondered if the criticism of the Twins being too insular missed the value of loyalty. Hell, we even had a love story.
This is the second in an ongoing series examining high-profile free agent starters that may be of particular interest to the Twins. You can follow the rest of the series by checking in regularly at Twins Daily.
Once upon a time, Phil Hughes was among the most highly touted pitching prospects in the game. A former first-round pick, he emerged as a dominant force in the minors, climbing to the No. 4 spot on Baseball America's list of top prospects before debuting in the majors at age 20 in 2007.
Sadly, the right-hander has never lived up to his immense promise. With a career 4.54 ERA and 1.32 WHIP, he has essentially been the definition of "average" over the course of his seven years with the Yankees. Most disturbingly, he has deteriorated as he's aged toward his physical prime. Hughes had some fairly impressive campaigns earlier in his career, including an 18-win 2010 season, but over the past three years he has posted a 4.85 ERA (86 ERA+), and fielding-independent metrics don't suggest that his results are greatly out of line with his performance.
Why Does He Fit?
Hughes offers two primary attractions: his age and the potential that he'll improve once removed from the AL East and hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium.
By virtue of his early entry into the majors, Hughes hits free agency for the first time at the uncommonly young age of 27. That means that -- unlike most veterans on the open market -- he could be signed to a long-term deal that won't necessarily take him into his mid-30s. Unfortunately, as discussed above, while ages 27-32 are generally thought to be a player's physical prime, Hughes hasn't shown the improvement you'd like to see while edging toward this window. Still, considering that he's less than a year older than Kyle Gibson, he clearly fits into the Twins' long-term timeline better than a guy over 30.
Undoubtedly, Target Field would be a better environment for him than the ballpark in the Bronx. Hughes is an extreme fly ball pitcher, and one of his most glaring issues has been proneness to the long ball. Over the past three seasons, he has coughed up 68 homers in 411 innings -- an average of 1.49 HR/9 that ranks as the fifth-highest in the majors during that span. It stands to reason that many of those deep flies would die in the spacious gaps of Target Field, and then his consistently solid K/BB ratios become a whole lot more intriguing.
The notion that a change of scenery would benefit Hughes is backed up by his home/road splits; this year, he went 1-10 with a 5.88 ERA and 17 homers allowed in 16 starts at Yankee Stadium, compared to 3-4 with a 3.88 ERA and seven home runs allowed in 13 road starts.
Why Doesn't He Fit?
The Twins are seeking a starter who is a proven producer -- a guy who has been durable and has eaten up innings. Hughes doesn't really fit that bill. He has never thrown 200 innings in a season and has averaged just 147 since becoming a full-time starter. He completed six innings in 13 of his 29 starts this season. Only as a reliever has he excelled over an extended period.
Hughes was a high-end talent while coming up through the minors and he's flashed that ability at times in the majors, but in the current climate he'll likely require a significant investment, which would mean taking a major leap of faith. That would be pretty uncharacteristic for Terry Ryan and these Twins.
What Will He Cost?
In the Offseason Handbook, we estimated Hughes' contract at three years, $30 million. That's seemingly a large amount to guarantee a guy who hasn't really produced in recent years, but the righty's youth -- in combination with his pedigree and potential -- could create a bidding war of sorts in a pitching-starved market where money is more flush than ever.
On the bright side, because of the hurler's poor performance this year -- especially down the stretch (he posted a 7.22 ERA in August and September) -- it sounds unlikely that the Yankees will extend a qualifying offer, meaning that signing him won't cost a draft pick.
Aaron and John visit a rainy Nordeast Big River Brew Fest and talk about why the Twins let David Ortiz go, finishing the Justin Morneau trade with Duke Welker, East Side Neighborhood Services, Metrodome-like attendance figures, Joe Nathan and Matt Capps going opposite directions, John Sickels Top 20 Twins' prospects, "Singles Night" at Xcel Center, podcast Hall of Famers, the White Sox spending $68 million on a Cuban import, and mailbag questions from listeners.
[Author's note: This is a series originally posted at TwinsDaily.com revisiting the 1987 postseason from the Star Tribune. On October 17, 1987, the Twins defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 10-1. Here's a look back at that game. If, however, the thought of Twins not in postseason play makes you depressed, be sure to pick up the TwinsDaily.com GM Handbook for $4.95 to find out how to fix the mess.]
With tickets and Homer Hankies sold out for days, Minnesota Twins fans were more than ready for the main event to start.
However the World Series did not start off in the Twins’ favor. Not immediately anyway.
The Cardinals clung to a one-nothing lead through the first three innings. Jim Lindeman, a former roommate of Kirby Puckett’s at Bradley University, reached on a double after his old roomie misjudged what should have been a caught popup to shallow center and later scored on an RBI groundout by Tony Pena.
Shortstop Greg Gagne, who fielded the Pena bouncer that allowed Lindeman to score, drew criticism from ABC’s analyst Tim McCarver for the play. McCarver’s analysis, as the Star Tribune’s Bob Lundegaard pointed out, was wrong -- which is surprising considering the color man’s usually spot-on takes.
“McCarver’s most questionable comment was that Gagne didn’t throw home when the Cardinals scored their only run because, unlike St. Louis shortstop Ozzie Smith, he needs to plant himself before throwing. Not so. Gagne makes more off-balance throws than most shortstops. In fact it’s probably his major weakness as a fielder.”
As it turns out, the run proved to be as harmless as a minnow bite.
Although the left-handed Joe Magrane, a former Minnesota resident himself, had kept the potent Twins hitless through the first three innings, the Twins offense came alive in the fourth inning.
Gary Gaetti, the American League Championship Series MVP, led off the bottom of the fourth with a single. Prior to the game, Gaetti had chatted with reporters in the clubhouse about the Twins’ chances of winning the Series.
“I’ve been reading about some people who have said that it’s a disgrace to have us representing the American League,” he said. “The way I figure it, we might as well go ahead and disgrace the whole game by winning it.”
After Gaetti’s single, Don Baylor did the same. Ditto for Tom Brunansky. Kent Hrbek followed suit with a chopper up the middle and drove in the team’s first two runs of the Series.
People worried about Hrbek. After all, he had gone 1-for-20 in the ALCS against Detroit. The single, even if it was just a chopper, helped reassure fans he was OK. Later, he talked about that at-bat to the Star Tribune’s Tony Moton.
“I just looked at it on the TV, and it was a high fastball away,” Hrbek said, “I was just trying to hit it to the outfield and go to the left field to get the run in.
It’s the old (Twins reserve outfielder) Randy Bush theory. You try to swing as hard as you can in case you hit it.”
When Steve Lombardozzi walked, the fifth consecutive Twins hitter to reach base, Whitey Herzog emerged to tell Magrane his night was over. Magrane exited to a chorus of “Happy Trails” by Twins fans.
Herzog called on veteran Bob Forsch. Catcher Tim Launder promptly started the singles parade again to score another run and reload the bases. That's when outfielder Dan Gladden came to the plate.
During the regular season, the mulleted Gladden had seven plate appearances with the bases loaded. He had managed just a single in those at-bats.
Earlier in the game Gladden had grounded into a fielder’s choice, eliminating Tim Laudner, who had walked in front of him, at second. With one out, Magrane decided to pay extra attention to the Twins’ outfielder, throwing over to first nine consecutive times reported one Star Tribune blurb. (Nevertheless, on the next batter, Gladden promptly stole second.)
Magrane admitted after the game he focused too much on Gladden, wrote Star Tribune staff writer Jon Roe.
“I messed around with him too much,” Magrane said. “I felt if he was going to go, it was going to be on the first pitch. I should have gone after the hitter a lot more. But I just messed around with him too much.”
Now, with the bases loaded and Magrane out of the game, Gladden launched a 1-2 Forsch offering over the left field plexiglass for the first grand slam in a World Series game since 1970 and put the Twins squarely ahead 7 to 1. The noise at the Dome registered 118 decibels -- the same as a jet taking off -- when the ball cleared the fence.
Twins shortstop Greg Gagne said afterwards that the volume of the crowd was unbelievable at that moment.
“After Gladden hit that grand slam, I was in the batters box and my ears were ringing. I asked Tony (Pena, Cardinals catcher) if his ears were ringing and he couldn’t even hear me.”
Sid Hartman later talked to then-Twins general manager Andy McPhail regarding the process of acquiring Gladden late in spring training that year.
Executive vice president Andy McPhail didn’t think Mickey Hatcher could play left field, so he was looking for an outfielder who could run and hit. But it wasn’t until spring training that the Twins made the deal with the San Francisco Giants for Gladden. “Every time I talked to (Giants general manager) Al Rosen, he asked for either (young pitchers) Jeff Bumgarner or Steve Gasser,” McPhail said. “I wasn’t going to give either one up.”
“We talked about the deal at least once every week until we made it. Atlanta and the Dodgers were very interested in Gladden. The Giants had made a deal with the Reds for Eddie Milner, and they had an abundance of outfielders. Rosen was reluctant to trade him to a team in the National League. He didn’t want Gladden to come back and hurt him.”
“Rosen finally called one day late in March and said he was going to deal Gladden that day. He said he was willing to make the trade for three of our young pitching prospects. He gave me a list of five, I took two out, and we made the trade.”
After the game Steve Lombardozzi, who would be the recipient of a Gladden punch a season later, raved about the outfielder’s contributions to reporter Dennis Brackin.
“I think we needed a little of that,” Lombardozzi said. “Danny is a tough ballplayer. He plays the game hard. … I don’t know how much more I can say about him, other than that he’s added a new dimension to our team. He’s always the first one on the top of the dugout steps yelling and shouting at the opposing players, I don’t know if we haven’t had that before, but…”
The Twins’ starting pitcher Frank Viola, who had to forgo being the best man at his brother’s wedding, was unsolvable for the majority of the game. Having a 10-1 lead didn’t hurt either. Outside of the Puckett misplay that led to the Cardinals’ only run, his results were virtually flawless. Prior to being pulled after eight innings, he retired 12 of the last 14 batters he faced and did not allow a baserunner past first from the fourth inning on. If things had gone differently and the Twins were inclined to shop Viola during the lean years, he may have been in the other dugout, wrote the Star Tribune’s Steve Aschburner.
“I’ve always like Viola,” said Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog, using the word admiration more than affection, particularly this night. “We’ve tried to get him for years.”
“He’s a premier pitcher. He knows how to pitch, he changes speeds real well. He pitched an outstanding ball game.”
The action off the field was just as intense, particularly for the wife of one Cardinal player.
Kathy Booker, wife of St. Louis Cardinals infielder Rod Booker, was knocked unconscious briefly during Saturday’s World Series game when a foul ball caromed off concrete behind her and struck her head. She was removed from the stands behind home plate on a stretcher.
Booker was also three months pregnant at the time and was deemed by the hospital to be in fair condition afterward. Her husband, Rod, was actually a former Twins draft pick who had spent three seasons in the organization, reaching AAA in 1982, but was purchased by the Cardinals shortly after the 1983 season began. Booker was left off the World Series roster in 1987.
A few sections away from Booker’s knockout, Chip and Wendy Lantz had donned a tuxedo and a white dress. The Anoka couple had wed just hours before the first pitch and found themselves with tickets to the biggest game of the year. It almost didn’t happen -- the game, not the wedding. The bride had a ticket, the groom did not. She told columnist Jim Klobuchar she was ready to go the game -- on her wedding night -- minus the new hubby. That is, until her two brothers gave them a surprise wedding gift.
“But the bride’s brothers, vendors at the Dome, extracted two tickets from a travel agency. The couple arrived shortly before the opening pitch, serenaded by the crowd in their section as they descended the steps, she in her white gown with her boat collar and lace, he in his black tails and yellow rose. It was the wrong place to drink champagne out of her slipper, so they drank beer offered by the crowd. For their wedding supper they ate bratwurst.”
The newlyweds’ good fortune finding a pair of tickets was not the norm around the area. That morning, the Twins placed 11,200 tickets for games 6 and 7 and the seats could only be ordered by phone from Dayton’s. The rush of calls overwhelmed the phone grid, Northwestern Bell’s agents told the Star Tribune’s Mary Jane Smetanka, knocking out service as far west as Bismarck, North Dakota as well as parts of South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin. While the inconvenience lasted just a few hours, it was enough to irk some residents of the state.
For Donald E. Roberts of Rochester, a sellout couldn’t come soon enough. The 24-year-old student had the same telephone number as the ticket line, though in a different area code.
He estimated several hundred calls interrupted him as he was packing to move to Florida, but he was reluctant to take the phone off the hook because he was hoping for some response to ads he placed to sell some belongings.
Saying he couldn’t care less who wins the World Series, Roberts snarled, “Baseball is 45 minutes packed into four hours.”
I'm sure watching Joe Magrane throw over to first nine times in a row to keep Dan Gladden close didn't help the pace.
Last October in this space, I predicted five outcomes that would unfold for the Minnesota Twins in the ensuing offseason. As it turned out, three proved accurate and the other two proved laughably, laughably wrong.
As we look ahead to another offseason, which some are painting as one of the most important in franchise history, here's another set of predictions -- some bold, some not -- for what I expect to see in the coming months:
1) The Twins will make a bid for Masahiro Tanaka but will come up short of the winning post.
As a 24-year-old with the ability to become a long-term asset at the top of a rotation, Tanaka seems like a logical fit for the Twins. Given their budget surplus, they are poised to place an aggressive bid on the Japanese star, who appears to be the best pitcher available on the open market this year. However, with new revenues flowing in for all 30 MLB teams, and with a number of large-market big spenders showing interest in Tanaka, I suspect that the posting fee may set a new record (beating Yu Darvish's $51 million) and there's no way I can see Terry Ryan wading into those waters.
2) A veteran catcher will be signed.
Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit both suffered concussions during the 2013 season and were held away from catching duties in the final months. It's unclear how either of those two will be handled going forward, and Josmil Pinto looks like a nice young option to step in, but with all the uncertainty going on, the Twins may see a need to add a seasoned defensive specialist to the mix. A veteran with a reputation for working well with pitchers would make a great of sense.
3) Terry Ryan will hand out the largest free agent contract in franchise history.
The bar isn't set very high. Josh Willingham's three-year, $21 million deal signed in 2011 currently holds the title, and with costs expected to rise (perhaps dramatically) across the league, that amount probably won't go very far this winter. I'm not saying they're going to be inking any nine-digit commitments, but if the Twins want to add any kind of impact talent they will need to spend at a level that is unprecedented by their own standards. They'll have more than enough money available to do so.
4) Miguel Sano will emerge as the favorite to start 2014 at third base.
Presently Sano looks like a long shot to claim a spot on the MLB roster out of spring training next year. He has spent only half a season in Double-A, and the Twins are surely gun shy about aggressive promotions for top prospects after the Aaron Hicks experiment blew up in their faces. Of course, Sano is in another category of talent entirely. He slugged .610 with 35 homers between Single-A and Double-A this season, and people within the organization have raved about his defensive progression as he nearly cut his error total in half from the previous year (42 in 2012, 23 in 2013). Over the course of the offseason, I believe we'll hear more and more buzz surrounding Sano's potential to win a spot in March; at that point, it will be up to the 20-year-old to capitalize.
5) Brian Duensing will be non-tendered.
This is a bit of a stretch because Duensing has been an effective pitcher and is well liked by the organization. But he's eligible to go to arbitration for a second time and his salary could rise above $2 million. That's a fair amount to spend on a lefty specialist out of the bullpen and, while the Twins are hardly hurting for cash, they might prefer to save a little by going with cheaper in-house options such as Caleb Thielbar and Pedro Hernandez.
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