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TwinsCentric: The aces of baseball

Posted by: Seth Stohs Updated: February 14, 2012 - 2:29 AM
Throughout the past few offseasons, the comments I hear most regarding the Twins needs involve the need to acquire an Ace. In fact, I’ve said it a few times myself. Of course, that isn’t completely true and it is never the full story. You see, for the mid-90s, the Twins had not only an Ace, but the best pitcher in baseball, and that didn’t get them to the second round of the playoffs. The 2011 Phillies boasted a starting rotation of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt and didn’t get to the World Series. That rotation has two definite Aces, a borderline ace and a former ace.
 
I’d also caution that many people, one year ago, felt that Francisco Liriano fell into the borderline ace category. That is just one example of why I believe that to be a true ace, there has to be greatness over several seasons. Another example would be Ubaldo Jimenez who was dominant for half of the 2010 season but hasn’t been great since. Like Liriano, Jimenez has a chance to return to ace-like status, but we shall see.
 
With that, I took to Twitter yesterday where I asked my ‘followers’ which current major league pitchers would or should be classified as True Aces. The response was great, and I will break this into the true aces (my opinion), and those on the borderline (my opinion).
 
True Aces:
  • Justin Verlander (Year 3 of five year, $80 million contract - $20M)
  • Clayton Kershaw (Year 1 of two year, $19 million contract - $7.5M)
  • Tim Lincecum (Year 1 of two year, $40.5 million contract - $18M)
  • CC Sabathia (Year 1 of five year, $122 million contract - $23M)
  • Felix Hernandez (Year 3 of five year, $78 million contract - $18.5M)
  • Cliff Lee (Year 2 of five year, $120 million contract - $21.5M)
  • Roy Halladay (Year 2 of three year, $60 million contract - $20M)
  • Jared Weaver (Year 1 of five year, $85 million contract - $14M)
  • Dan Haren (Year 4 of four year, $44.75 million contract - $12.75M - $15.5M club option for 2013)
  • Yovani Gallardo (Year 3 of five year, $30.1 million contract, $5.5M)
  • Matt Cain (Year 3 of three year, $27.25 million contract, $15M)
  • Chris Carpenter (Year 1 of two year, $21 million contract - $10.5M)
 
Borderline Aces:
  • Josh Johnson (Year 3 of four year, $39 million contract - $13.75M)
  • Cole Hamels (avoided arbitration, $15M)
  • Adam Wainright (Year 5 of four year, $15 million contract – Cardinals picked up $9M option for 2012 despite Tommy John surgery)
  • Zach Greinke (Year 4 of four year, $38 million contract - $13.5M)
  • Matt Garza (avoided arbitration, $9.5 M)
  • Jon Lester (Year 4 of five year, $30 million contract, $7.625M)
  • Josh Beckett (Year 2 of four year, $68 million contract - $15.75M)
  • David Price (avoided arbitration, $4.25M)
  • Ricky Romero (Year 2 of five year, $30.1 million contract, $5M)
  • Anibal Sanchez (won arbitration, 1 year, $8M)
 
Could be an Ace quickly: Matt Moore, Stephen Strasburg, Mat Latos, Yu Darvish, Michael Pineda, Jeremy Hellickson, Tommy Hanson, Julio Teheran, Gerrit Cole, Dylan Bundy.
 
So, when I hear Twins fans say, “We (meaning, the Twins) need an Ace,” I will frequently say, “I agree. How are the Twins going to get one?”
 
Not one pitcher in that top list is available. Part of the reason they are in that top list is that, so far, they have been able to stay healthy. Johan Santana used to be in that category, but now that he hasn’t pitched for over 18 months, I’m not so sure he should be there any further. In the “Borderline” category, there are some guys who have been really good for a short period of time, or there is some injury concern or some inconsistency.
 
We can argue what an Ace is, who is or who isn’t. That’s not really the point here. The point is that they are not easy to come by. These guys are not available, and after the Mat Latos trade earlier this offseason, it’s understandable to see why. Latos was traded to the Reds from the Padres in exchange for Edinson Volquez, Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal and Brad Boxberger. Part of that is because Latos is not even arbitration-eligible for another year. However, the Cubs have been trying to trade Matt Garza much of the offseason and either are not getting any interest or the asking price is beyond what anyone is willing to pay. Santana is probably a big reason why. When the Twins traded the two-time Cy Young winner to the Mets, he was baseball’s best pitcher. He was good for another year and a half and then he did what most pitchers do, he got hurt. Of course, he could still come back. We shall see. But will he ever be what he was again? Probably not.
 
More than half of the players listed above were drafted in the first half of the first round. The Twins have had one pick in the first half of the first round since 2002. The Twins have a big opportunity in the June draft when they have the 2nd overall pick. Mark Appel’s name is frequently mentioned as a possible choice. The Stanford right hander doesn’t really profile as an Ace, more like a 2 or 3 starter (like Kyle Gibson, Alex Wimmers or Liam Hendriks). Not that there is anything wrong with a 2 or 3 starter. Those are very good pitchers who will make a lot of money when they hit free agency. Lucas Giolito is another pitcher, a high school pitcher, who gets mentioned as a possible #2 pick. He profiles much more like a future Ace, but there is much more risk with a high school pitcher than with a college pitcher. Of course, by the time of the draft in June, there may be another name (pitcher or hitter) who is the best available player at that #2 spot and that’s who the Twins should take. The Twins have five picks in the top 100 picks this June.
 
Along with signing Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Javier Pimentel and other talented Dominican hitters, the Twins have also done a good job signing several top Dominican pitchers in recent years. They have signed two top young pitchers from Taiwan.
 
I completely agree with people who say that the Twins need an Ace. Frankly, the best way for that to happen is for Francisco Liriano to gain a little self-confidence, trust his stuff and become that pitcher again. He was there in 2010. It’s a contract-year for him, so it would be to his benefit if he did regain that form this year. Scott Baker was pitching as well as anyone last year before his elbow injuries. He really needs to step up too.
 
And then they just have to find a way to sign the right draft picks and international players and develop them. Frankly, I’m not as worried about getting a True Ace. That doesn’t guarantee anything. But I do think that pitching does win, and if they had more #2s and #3s that were consistent, they would be just fine.
 
Any thoughts? Please feel free to use the Comments Section!
 
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TwinsCentric: Analyzing the Twins Top 20 Prospects

Posted by: Seth Stohs Updated: January 20, 2012 - 6:09 AM
The Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2012 is now available through LuLu.com. If you order quickly, you could have it in time for Twins Fest! 22 players that are scheduled to be at Twins Fest are profiled in this book. If you are interested in order, you can Order Here.
 
 
In my very-recently released Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook, I unveiled my 2012 Twins Top 30 Prospects. I thought it would be fun to analyze the Top 20 prospects to see if any interesting notes, or even trends, emerge. I found a few, but maybe you’ll find even more. A reminder, these are my Top 20 Twins prospects. If you make a prospect list of your own, yours will likely look a little different, but most of the players will be the same with some variance.
 
Here is my Top Top Twins Prospect List:
 

Ranking
Name
How Acquired
From (Country/State)
1
Miguel Sano
Free Agent
Dominican Republic
2
Eddie Rosario
Drafted – 3rd Round 2010
Puerto Rico
3
Oswaldo Arcia
Free Agent
Venezuela
4
Aaron Hicks
Drafted – 1st Round 2008
US – California
5
Joe Benson
Drafted – 2nd Round 2006
US – Illinois
6
Liam Hendriks
Free Agent
Australia
7
Kyle Gibson
Drafted – 1st Round 2009
US – Missouri
8
Adrian Salcedo
Free Agent
Dominican Republic
9
Alex Wimmers
Drafted – 1st Round 2010
US – Ohio
10
Chris Parmelee
Drafted – 1st Round 2006
US – California
11
Brian Dozier
Drafted – 8th Round 2009
US – Mississippi
12
Travis Harrison
Drafted – supp 1st Round 2011
US – California
13
Tom Stuifbergen
Free Agent
Netherlands
14
Angel Morales
Drafted – 3rd Round 2007
Puerto Rico
15
Chris Herrmann
Drafted – 6th Round 2009
US – Texas
16
Manuel Soliman
Free Agent
Dominican Republic
17
Levi Michael
Drafted – 1st Round 2011
US – North Carolina
18
Max Kepler
Free Agent
Germany
19
Niko Goodrum
Drafted – 2nd Round 2010
US – Georgia
20
Hudson Boyd
Drafted – supp 1st Round 2011
US – Florida

Some Notes:
 
  • Nine of my Top 20 Twins prospects were 1st or 2nd round draft picks. There are two 1st round picks and two supplemental 1st round picks since 2006 that are not on this list. 2007 top pick Ben Revere is no longer a “prospect” since he has spent so much time in the big leagues. Matt Bashore was the Twins supplemental first round pick in 2009 from Indiana. He’s had a couple of arm surgeries and returned to limited action in 2011. Reports indicate that by the end of last season, he had regained most of his velocity and he may have the opportunity to move up prospect lists quickly next season.
  • Following the 2007 season, Torii Hunter chose to sign with the Angels instead of the Twins. Because of that, the Twins received the Angels first round pick in 2008 and the first supplemental first round pick of that draft. With the 27th overall pick, the Twins chose Carlos Gutierrez who does not appear on my Top 20 prospect list, but he is a good relief pitching option who throws really hard with a good sinker but needs to throw more strikes. With the 31st overall pick, the Twins chose a hard-throwing right-hander out of Tulane University names Shooter Hunt who fought Steve Blass Disease since the 2008 season. This past December, he was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft.
  • The Twins have a strong scouting presence all around the world, and that is shown in their top prospect list. Three players are from the Dominican Republic, and there is one player from Venezuela, Australia, the Netherlands and Germany. The Twins also have prospects from Cuba, South Africa, Mexico, Panama, Taiwan and the Czech Republic.
  • Of these top 20 prospects, 13 were drafted by the Twins. Of those, seven are high school hitters. The Twins have had great success drafting hitters out of high school (see Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, Joe Mauer, Denard Span, Ben Revere).Aside from Revere and Mauer, most of these players took five or six years to make their big league debuts and more importantly make a big impression in the big leagues. Joe Benson and Chris Parmelee are also examples of this. Drafted in 2006, they made their big league debuts in September of 2011. Each will likely start making a bigger impression on the Twins in 2012. That’s why I always find it funny when people are so disappointed that we haven’t seen Aaron Hicks dominate at the upper levels of the minor leagues yet. Or, although he was drafted a year earlier, Angel Morales is younger than Hicks. Niko Goodrum is one of the best athletes in the organization as well and played very well in Elizabethton last year. Travis Harrison was one of the top power hitting prospects from the high school ranks in the 2011 draft.
  • Although not drafted, Miguel Sano, Oswaldo Arcia and Max Kepler were all signed as 16 year olds and certainly fit into the high-upside young hitter mold!!
  • The other thing that the Twins have done is draft college pitchers in the first rounds of the draft. Just two college-drafted pitchers appear on this list, and each of them has some question marks. Kyle Gibson was the team’s top prospect one year ago, and pitched very well the first two months of 2011. Unfortunately, as we all know, he had to have Tommy John surgery in September and will miss most, if not all, of the 2012 season. Alex Wimmers was the two-time Big 10 Pitcher of the Year at Ohio State. He was a control pitcher that draft experts said was closest to the big leagues. Unfortunately, he had a hamstring injury in spring training last year and it led to some very disturbing control issues. However, he seemed to be a rare example of someone overcoming Steve Blass Disease as he came back late in the season and pitched much better. He ended his season by throwing a 7-inning no-hitter for Ft. Myers. I would expect to see both make starts for the Twins in 2013.
  • The Twins did have three pitchers pitch at three levels in 2011. Reliever Matt Hauser (San Diego State) is my top ranked Twins reliever prospect (#28). Pat Dean (#30) was the Twins 3rd round pick in 2010 from Boston College. Lefty Logan Darnell (#25), the 6th round pick in 2010, was the third. All three pitched briefly with Beloit before spending most of their season in Ft. Myers. Darnell spent the most time in Double-A New Britain. The Twins have a history of being willing to promote college pitchers quickly through the minors. The following players have pitched at three levels in one season with the Twins: Scott Baker, Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing, and Jesse Crain. Matt Garza actually pitched at four levels, including the Twins, in 2006.
  • The Twins hadn’t drafted a high school pitcher in the first round since 2004 when they drafted Kyle Waldrop with the 25th overall pick (Anthony Swarzak was taken in the 2nd round). The Twins used their second supplemental first round pick in 2011 on Hudson Boyd, who not only has shown good control, but he has touched 97 mph on the radar gun. He could move up quickly.
  • Here is a quick look at where these twenty players ended the season playing: Three Did Not Play (2011 draft picks), Four ended the season in Elizabethton, Two in Beloit, Four in Ft. Myers, Two in New Britain, two in Rochester and three with the Twins. You often hear that the Twins prospects are all at the lower levels of the farm system. However, Benson, Parmelee and Hendriks are all top ten prospects who made their big league debuts on September 6. Each figures into the Twins long-term future. Brian Dozier and Chris Herrmann were the high-risers among prospects and both will likely debut with the Twins in 2012 after strong seasons in New Britain and strong showings in the Arizona Fall League.
  • When Baseball America releases its Top 100 Prospects list, Miguel Sano will likely rank in the Top 25-30. It is possible that Rosario, Arcia, Benson and maybe even Gibson will appear in the Top 100 lists.
  • If you listen to Baseball America’s most recent podcast, they discussed their Top 10 rankings for AL Central teams. They clearly had the Royals as the best farm system in the division. They ranked the Twins with the second-best prospects in the division (and middle of the pack overall). They ranked the White Sox and Indians as having the two worst farm systems in all of baseball, with the Tigers very close to the bottom.  
Any other comments on these twenty prospects of the Twins farm system in general? I’ll be happy to answer them in the Comments.

TwinsCentric: Twins Top Moments of 2011

Posted by: Seth Stohs Updated: December 27, 2011 - 10:20 AM

99 losses. Confusing injuries and rehabilitation stories. Players traded, and players lost via free agency. 2011 was a really tough season for the Twins organization. However, there were a few positive moments during the season as well.

Blyleven to the Hall of Fame

  • Early in January, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced that Bert Blyleven was finally to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. The Twins had some special nights for him, and in August he was inducted.

20 Year Anniversary of the 1991 World Series

  • Also in August, the Twins celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the greatest World Series of all-time, that 1991 thriller against the Atlanta Braves. Many of the Twins players from that roster were in attendance for the reunion. It's always great to see so many of those players coming back.

No-Hitters

  • On May 4 in Chicago, Francisco Liriano was wild, and yet he completed a no-hitter against the White Sox. The final out came on a line drive to Matt Tolbert off the bat of Adam Dunn. Liriano was pitching to stay in the rotation at the time, and despite all the walks, the no-hitter continued to show how good his stuff can be.
  • On July 6, Jeff Manship made his first start for the Rochester Red Wings. Due to injury, it was his first appearance in seven weeks. Manship threw four no-hit innings. He was followed by Jake Stevens who threw three no-hit innings. Kyle Waldrop gave up no hits in the 8th innings, and Jim Hoey finished the job with no hits in the 9th inning.
  • On July 16, Tim Shibuya, the Twins 23rd round pick a month earlier, started for the Elizabethton Twins. The right-hander threw seven no-hit innings. He was followed by 31st round pick, RHP Garrett Jewell, who threw a no-hit 8th inning. 7th round pick, lefty Steven Gruver, struck out two in a scoreless ninth inning to preserve the no-hitter.
  • September 3, Alex Wimmers tossed a seven-inning no hitter for the Ft. Myers Miracle. His season started with a six batter faced, six walk outing. He was shut down for a couple of months and brought back slowly. But to end the season in such fashion was a nice way to end a rough season.

Major League Debuts

  • April 1 - Tsuyoshi Nishioka went 1-4 on Opening Day against the Blue Jays.
  • April 28 - Rene Tosoni went 2-4 with an RBI in his debut against the Rays.
  • June 4 - Brian Dinkelman went 1-3 with a walk. In his first plate appearance, he was hit by a pitch. His walk was intentional. The Twins beat the Royals 7-2.
  • July 18 - Scott Diamond was called up for a spot start in the second game of a double header against Cleveland. He gave up four runs (3 earned) on seven hits and two walks in 6.1 innings.
  • September 5 - Kyle Waldrop gave up two runs on three hits and a walk in 1.2 innings against the White Sox. The first inning he pitched was scoreless.
  • September 6 - Joe Benson led off for the Twins and went 0-3 after walking in his first plate appearance in a 3-0 loss to the White Sox.
  • September 6 - Chris Parmelee batted fifth and went 2-4 in the same game.
  • September 6 - Liam Hendriks made the start for the Twins in this game. He gave up three runs on four hits and three walks in seven innings.

The Killebrew Tribute

  • Obviously one of the saddest moments during the 2011 season was the death of legendary Twins great Harmon Killebrew. However, listening and reading the stories of what a great man he was made us almost forget what a great baseball player he was. The Twins had a tribute for Killebrew on May 26. It was great to see so many former players there. Mudcat Grant was again amazing with his rendition of What a Wonderful World. However, the highlight had to be the speech of Nita Killebrew. Her poise and strength in that moment were amazing. Her words were inspirational. It was a great tribute to a great man.

Thome Hits 600th Home Run

  • On August 15, the Twins traded Delmon Young to the Tigers in the afternoon. That was fairly big news that day, but fortunately, there was much bigger news coming later that night. Through his first two at bats, Jim Thome was 1-2 with a single. In the 6th inning, he hit home run #599 against the Tigers in Detroit. For many, it takes awhile to hit that 600th home run. Thome's came just one inning later with two runners on against lefty Daniel Schlereth.

Nathan Sets Twins Saves Mark

  • On August 10, Joe Nathan set the Twins all-time saves record by recording his 255th save. He surpassed Rick Aguilera's mark of 254.

Draft Picks Sign

  • Within the final hour before the deadline for teams to sign their draft picks, the Twins signed all three of their first round picks. Levi Michael was the 30th overall pick and signed for $1.175 million (about $86,000 over slot). Supplemental first-rounder, Hudson Boyd, the 55th overall pick, signed for a $1 million bonus (about $350,000 over slot). Travis Harrison, the 50th overall pick in the draft, signed for $1.05 million (about $350,000 over slot). The Twins signed several other players with big potential on that final day, including Minnesota's top high school player in 2011, LHP Austin Malinowski (the team's 16th round pick).

Award Winners

  • Brian Dozier and Liam Hendriks were named the Twins minor league hitter and pitcher of the year, respectively.
  • Eddie Rosario was named the player of the year in the Appalachian League after putting up monstrous numbers including 21 home runs, one better than teammate Miguel Sano. Teammate Tim Shibuya was the pitcher of the year in the Appalachian League.

Terry Ryan Reclaims the GM Role

  • On November 7, the Twins announced the Bill Smith was being relieved of his duties as GM of the Twins and that former GM Terry Ryan would resume the duties in an interim role. The question is how long "interim" might be.

It was a tough year, and when trying to come up with positives from 2011, it was quite difficult to make it even this lengthy. I'm certain I missed some things. Were there any other positives from the 2011 Twins season that you can think of? Help me out here!!

TwinsCentric Notes

TwinsCentric: Capps Comes Back

Posted by: Seth Stohs Updated: December 5, 2011 - 8:11 PM
Many blog readers refer to me as The Positive Twins blogger. That will be tested because I can’t find a single positive spin to the Twins decision to re-sign relief pitcher Matt Capps for one year, plus an option (pending physical, of course).  That is the report out of Dallas tonight, where the Winter Meetings are being held. There are so many reasons to dis-like this move, and we haven’t even heard what the dollars are yet. (UPDATE - the deal will reportedly pay Capps $4.5 million in 2012 with a $6 million option for 2013 with a $250,000 buyout. Note to self... try to remain positive!!)
 
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement gave the Twins a free first-round draft pick. There is no way that the Twins would have offered Capps arbitration. It would have ensure that he make between $6-8 million in 2012. However, the new CBA set for an agreement where Type A free agent relievers (like Capps) did not need to be offered arbitration and the team losing him would still receive a compensation pick while the team signing him would no longer have to give up a pick. In essence, the Twins were the team that gave up a supplemental first round draft pick by bringing back Capps.
 
To summarize, as I tweeted tonight when I first heard the news, “So the #Twins gave up Wilson Ramos and a 1st Rd draft pick for Matt Capps AND will endure watching him pitch for 2 1/2 years. Just WOW!
 
Now, I fully subscribe to Terry Ryan’s comments about it not being unusual for relief pitchers to have bad years and bounce back. I expect he’ll be better in 2012 than he was in 2011. I asked a month ago if the Twins should consider bringing back Matt Capps. At the time, I said, that he’s a solid pitcher, who is still young, and if he could be signed for around $2 million, I’d do it. That was before the CBA decision gave the Twins a draft pick. Listen, Capps is a solid big league relief pitcher, just in the right role.
 
We don’t yet know what the Twins will pay Capps in 2012, or what the option is, but I have to assume that it will be in the same neighborhood has pitchers who are better, like Octavio Dotel or former Twins RHP LaTroy Hawkins. And those types would not have required a lost draft pick. As many have written before, the Twins have a history of giving pitchers without closers experience a shot and them stepping up. Joe Nathan had one career save before the Twins gave him the role in 2004. Eddie Guardado was a failed starter. Rick Aguilera was a sub-par starter who the Twins put into the role. I don’t understand this value of a ‘proven closer.’
 
Not only does Matt Capps give up a ton of hits, and big hits, he lost any ability to miss bats at all in 2011. His strikeout rate was never high, but in 2011, it was alarmingly low. Couple that with the discussion of him pitching hurt and forearm pain. Forearm pain is a precursor to elbow pain which is never good. Obviously none of us know the severity of Capps pain, but it is scary.
 
It is a gutsy move for both Terry Ryan and for Matt Capps. It might make sense after a tough 2011 season to go another direction for both the Twins and for Matt Capps. With the way that many Twins fans cascaded boos in Capps’s direction in 2011 (and frequently rightfully so), he could have gone elsewhere for a fresh start. Likewise, the Twins could have just gone another direction. If nothing else, this is a gutsy move from both parties. Let’s be honest, if Bill Smith had still been GM and brought back Matt Capps, there would be an uproar. With Terry Ryan in charge, we can all say that at least he knows what he’s doing and give him the benefit of the doubt.
 
Like I said earlier, these is a good chance the Capps comes back in 2012 and pitches very well. It’s equally possible that the Twins would draft someone with the draft pick they would have received for losing Capps (likely somewhere between 45-55 overall) who wouldn’t be a huge impact player. We don’t know. It’s possible that Capps could miss half of the 2012 with injury and possible that he becomes an All-Star. We don’t know.
 
Pending the physical, the contract will be signed and the money will be spent. All we can do is hope that he pitches as he did from 2005 through 2008, or even in 2010, and hope like crazy he doesn’t pitch like he did in 2009 and 2011!
 
Capps will be one of several topics we’ll cover on tonight’s Twins Winter Meeting Podcast live at 9. We’ll also be joined by Twins 2B/OF Brian Dinkelman and Over The Baggy and TwinsCentric’s Parker Hageman.
 
In other news, the Twins claimed shortstop Pedro Florimon from the Baltimore Orioles. Florimon will turn 25 years old next week and made his big league debut in 2011 with a September call-up. He went 1-8 with a walk and six strike0uts. He spent the entire season in AA Bowie. In 133 games, he hit .267/.344/.396 with 27 doubles, four triples and eight home runs. I would not be surprised to see Florimon start the season as Rochester’s shortstop with Brian Dozier returning to New Britain for a six weeks or so.
 
Feel free to comment or send questions in for us to discuss on tonight’s show. There are plenty of Twins rumors out there for us to discuss!

TwinsCentric: Opportunity knocks again in June draft

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: November 30, 2011 - 12:57 AM

In the summer of 2004, the Twins had won back-to-back division titles and were on their way to a third straight. Despite their success, they were gifted with an opportunity to reload for an extended run that June, when -- thanks to a mass exodus of high-profile free agents the previous winter -- they held five selections in the first round of the draft.

The players taken with those picks were shortstop Trevor Plouffe and pitchers Glen Perkins, Kyle Waldrop, Matt Fox and Jay Rainville. Seven years later, only Perkins has proven himself as an impact player in the majors, and not until he was 28 years old.

It wasn't necessarily a disastrous group; I like Plouffe's chances of developing into a solid regular next year and Waldrop might get some tread. Still, to have received so little in the way of major-league contributions from five first-round picks up to this point has to be viewed as a disappointment. The man who oversaw that draft, Terry Ryan, will hope for better results when the club is placed in a similarly advantageous situation next June.

By virtue of losing more games than all but one team in 2011, the Twins will pick second in next year's draft. For reference, the second pick in that '04 draft was some guy named Justin Verlander.

Signability has tended to be an issue with the top-tier prospects reeled in at the front of the draft, but as Joe Christensen points out, the new CBA rules will do much to negate this issue. Thanks to a newly imposed cap on slot money, a player taken this high has little to gain by going unsigned and waiting a year.

That's not the only way the restructured CBA benefits the Twins. Matt Capps became a modified Type B free agent, meaning that arbitration need not be offered for a compensation pick to be issued should he land elsewhere. Michael Cuddyer remains a Type A free agent, so he would yield two high picks by signing with another team. But under the new rules, that team would not have to forfeit a pick. This increases the Twins' chances of landing an extra first-rounder, since those clubs with non-protected selections will now be more open to pursuing Cuddyer.

Throw in Jason Kubel, who like Capps would yield a supplemental pick as a Type B, and the Twins could potentially receive four additional picks in the first two rounds of next June's draft, on top of their No. 2 selection.

That's an even better situation than the one they fell into back in 2004. But, unlike that year, they're not currently in the middle of a successful run, so the stakes will be higher. With a farm system badly in need of reinforcements, the Twins will really need to hit a couple home runs.

TwinsCentric: Offseason Blueprint Contest

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: October 31, 2011 - 12:27 AM

When the World Series came to an end on Friday night, the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook officially became available. If you haven't already ordered a copy, you can purchase and download one immediately from the TwinsCentric website.

One section of the bulky 136-page e-book is called "Offseason Blueprints," wherein all four TwinsCentric writers utilize the information in the Handbook to map out our own suggestions for the Twins' front office.

We're interested in seeing your ideas, too, so we're holding a contest. Using your Handbook, or whatever tools you like, we want you to craft a blueprint of your own -- one that fills the team's needs as you see them and stays within a reasonable budget. Submit it to us at twinscentric@gmail.com, and in a few weeks we'll toss the names of all participants into a hat and draw a random winner. If you're selected, we'll set you up with a free copy of our Twins Annual in the spring, and we'll also dissect your blueprint on the TwinsCentric blog.

To get you started and generate some discussion, here's my offseason blueprint from the Handbook:

 

Hedging Your Bets

The Twins face an extremely challenging paradox this offseason. On the one hand, they are coming off a 99-loss season and their roster is filled with holes, with the majority of their best prospects still several years off. On the other hand, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are in their physical prime and are owed a combined $37 million next year. If both those players return to form, you won’t want to waste the opportunity by fielding a poor roster that can’t support them. At the same time, you don’t want to put all your eggs in the 2012 basket because, realistically, it’s just not that likely that this injury-hampered group can make a 30-game swing in the standings. The best bet is to add cheap, low-risk short-term help while maintaining flexibility down the line. Here’s my attempt:

1) Let Michael Cuddyer walk.

Losing Cuddyer will be tough. Not only is his powerful right-handed bat sorely needed in the Twins’ lineup, he’s also a major asset in the clubhouse and community. Unfortunately, while he’d help a lot in 2012, his contract would likely become a burden in the later years as he ages into his mid-30s. It may be unpopular, but unless he’s willing to take a discount, letting Cuddyer walk and taking the draft picks is the smart call.


2) Re-sign free agent reliever Joe Nathan for two years, $14 million.

Nathan struggled out of the gates and finished with an unimpressive 4.84 ERA in 2011, but by the end of the year he looked very much like the dominant reliever we remember prior to Tommy John surgery. After coming off the disabled list in June, Nathan posted a 3.38 ERA and 28-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 29 1/3 innings. He’s a reliable and familiar closer.


3) Re-sign free agent outfielder Jason Kubel for three years, $21 million.

Kubel’s value is down after an injury-plagued campaign. Once a premier designated hitter, he’s been underwhelming in each of the past two years, so the opportunity is ripe to lock him up with an affordable multi-year deal if you believe the 2010/11 numbers don’t reflect his true offensive ability.


4) Offer arbitration to Alexi Casilla ($2.5M), Jose Mijares ($700K), Kevin Slowey ($3.3M), Glen Perkins ($1.8M) and Francisco Liriano ($6M).

Perkins and Casilla are essentially no-brainers, as they offer relatively inexpensive depth at positions of need. Bringing back Liriano and Slowey might be a somewhat difficult call following frustrating 2011 campaigns, but the Twins need all the rotation help they can get and both are candidates for bounce-back years.


5) Sign free agent catcher Ryan Doumit for two years, $9 million.

With Mauer’s status hanging in the balance, the Twins need to add depth at catcher, preferably in the form of a player who could play somewhat regularly and add offensive punch to the lineup. Doumit has spent his career as a part-time guy with the Pirates, never playing in more than 124 games, but his .271/.334/.442 career hitting line is very solid for a catcher and he’s only 30. He’s not considered a strong defensive backstop, but Drew Butera can be kept around to fill that role and Doumit can also fill in at first base and in right field.


6) Sign free agent starting pitcher Rich Harden for one year, $3 million plus incentives.

Bringing aboard one of the game’s most notoriously injury-prone starters may not sound appealing to Twins fans who watched almost the entire team spend chunks of 2011 on the disabled list, but this club needs high-upside arms and only the risky types like Harden will be affordable. The 29-year-old righty was limited to 82 2/3 innings and posted an ugly 5.12 ERA, but did manage to notch 91 strikeouts. He’s struggled mightily with the long ball over the past two seasons, but Target Field should help alleviate that. To help with his durability and maximize his stuff, it might be worth trying Harden in the bullpen if he’s willing.


7) Sign free agent infielders Nick Punto (one year, $750K) and Ramon Santiago (one year $1.5M).

Neither of these players is generally viewed as a starter, but both are sure-handed, versatile veterans that can at least hold their own at the plate. Let them compete for the starting shortstop job in spring training, with the loser holding down a utility job while Tsuyoshi Nishioka opens the season in the minors.


Summary:

Ideally, you’d like to see Mauer and Morneau return to their previous roles and thrive. Given the circumstances, though, you can’t really plan around that best-case scenario. The above structure gives you some flexibility with those two. I went heavy on free agency additions because I felt the Twins had a lot of needs but don’t have much in the way of tradable assets on the big-league roster; dealing away prospects at this point is the wrong idea. The infield signings don’t add much offense but fans and coaches will welcome some steady veteran reinforcements after watching rookies kick grounders all over the place last year.

In the end, this might not be a terribly exciting blueprint but 2012 is shaping up as a transitional year, where the Twins can try out some different things on the big-league roster while letting their talented young prospects develop. It’s also not inconceivable that this group could compete in the AL Central if the rotation rebounds and the switch to less physically demanding roles rejuvenates the bats of Mauer and Morneau.

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