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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Gleeman and the Geek, Ep 147: Previewing the Draft and Saving the Offense

Posted by: John Bonnes Updated: May 25, 2014 - 8:43 PM

Aaron and John talk about Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham being ready to return, what the Twins will do with the No. 5 overall pick in the draft, how much time Aaron Hicks has left to show something, Alex Meyer and Trevor May doing well at Triple-A, biting someone's ear off, Glen Perkins' underrated excellence, Pat Neshek bouncing back in St. Louis, back-to-back Tinder dates, not having good stories any longer, and scouting college and high school players with special guest Jeremy Nygaard. You can listen by downloading us from iTunes, Stitcher or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com.

If you want more draft coverage, TwinsDaily.com has you covered with a story by John Swol on the history of the draft and the structure of it this year and an update to the national mock drafts, including a change in who the Twins will take. But we also have the upcoming homestand covered, inlcuding possibly the best pitching matchup you'll see at Target Field this year. Finally, this week's Big Switch award winner is probably someone whose contribution last week was overlooked by you.  

TwinsCentric: Twins Draft Preview. LSU pitcher Aaron Nola

Posted by: Parker Hageman Updated: May 23, 2014 - 9:19 AM

At TwinsDaily.com, we are profiling the list of potential Twins draft picks for the fifth overall selection in June. 

The six-foot-two Aaron Nola might not fire the fastest bullets among this year’s draft class but the right-handed junior out of LSU might be the most major league ready arm. But is a pitcher the organization's highest priority? 


Who is this guy?

Nola, a graduate of Catholic High School in Baton Rouge, LA (that’s French for “Red Stick”), was an intriguing enough a prospect after his senior year of high school that the Toronto Blue Jays selected him with their 22nd round pick in 2011. At that time, the six-foot-two fungo bat was wheeling 92 mile an hour fastballs in Perfect Game events. Several rounds later, the Blue Jays took Aaron’s older brother Austin, a shortstop from LSU, in hopes of getting the family discount. 

Both Nolas delayed their professional careers at that time to play together in the storied baseball program in Louisiana. The younger Nola had a terrific freshman year among the elite competition with the likes of Mike Zunino, terrorizing pitchers with aluminum bats. For his part, Aaron Nola finished the year 7-4 in 19 games and 89 strikeouts in 89.2 innings pitched. Leading the Tigers staff that season was Kevin Gausman, who would be drafted fourth overall by the Baltimore Orioles (one slot behind the ball-killing Zunino).

In his sophomore season, Nola combined with a future Twins prospect Ryan Eades to be the one-two punch for the Tigers that made it to the College World Series and finished with a 12-1 record, 1.57 ERA, and a 122-to-18 strikeouts-to-walks ratio in 17 starts. After the CWS run, LSU’s coach, Paul Mainieri, noted that 22 professional scouts were on-hand to watch one of Nola’s intrasquad fall practice starts heading into 2014. So far this season he has not wasted anyone’s scouting budget -- maybe except if your organization is drafting outside the Top 10 however. Nola has racked up a 9-1 record with a 1.42 ERA and the best strikeout rate of his career (10.62 K/9). 

Why the Twins will pick him

Nola possesses the kind of command that makes the Twins front office swoon. 

Yes, I know. Twins fans read that a pitcher has above-average command and immediately assume he pitches to contact. That’s not the case with Nola. 

Unlike the more recent pitching draft picks, Nola doesn’t have the power arm that Eades or Jose Berrios have but there is little question that his fastball is a significant weapon. With a slinging three-quarter arm slot, Nola is able to put on a lot of sink and generate plenty of missed bats while hovering at 90-92 miles an hour. The radar gun readings do not do his fastball justice however, as the sound is what makes hitters take notice. 

“It sounds like a loud whistle,” Sean McMullen, LSU’s designated hitter and outfielder, told the local media. “It’s as loud as anybody I’ve ever faced.”

In short, the fastball is legit. Just watch this:

Beyond the fastball, Nola has an above-average changeup that is considered his best secondary pitch but he also has a developing breaking ball. His stuff isn’t overpowering but his deceptive delivery (there’s some good extension at release) and pitch movement show a polished pitcher who could be MLB ready real soon, as one anonymous cross-checker told MLB.com

Why the Twins won’t pick him

There does not seem to be a real reason to not draft Nola at five if they want to target a pitcher unless one of the higher-upside arms like Brady Aiken, Carlos Rodon or Tyler Kolak somehow falls to them. And the Twins went pitcher/catcher in 2013 so there may be some gravitation towards position players like Nick Gordon or Alex Jackson (a catcher who may not remain a catcher). 

Nola has the stuff to rise quickly through the system but that might not be the Twins biggest need in 2014.

***

Other draft profiles:

Trea Turner, Shortstop


More Twins news at TwinsDaily.com:

TwinsCentric: Risers in the Twins farm system

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: May 21, 2014 - 9:47 AM

The top end of the Minnesota Twins Top 10 Prospects list has unfortunately been marred by misfortune this year.

No. 2 prospect Miguel Sano's season was over before it began, as he went under the knife for Tommy John surgery in March. The top guy, Byron Buxton, still hasn't been able to shake a nagging wrist injury that figures to cost him the first half of his season at least. Meanwhile, No. 5 prospect Eddie Rosario is finally set to return from a 50-game suspension next week.

Glancing further down the list, we find some real positive stories that should help offset some of the disappointment surrounding the club's best hitting prospects.

Today I'll take a look at the three prospects among our preseason Top 10 that have remained healthy and have improved their stock markedly over these first couple months:

Trevor May (Preseason Rank: 10)
2014 Stats (AAA): 8 GS, 43 IP, 3.35 ERA, 47/17 K/BB, 1.09 WHIP


May appears on this list rather than Alex Meyer not because he's the better prospect, or even because he's having a substantially better season. May is here because his performance has been most encouraging relative to what we've seen in the past.

The big right-hander barely slipped into the back of our list this spring. He didn't show the kind of progress last year that we wanted to see in his second turn against Eastern League hitters. Although May slightly improved in most key categories, he didn't dominate the way you'd hope a 23-year-old with his stuff would while repeating Double-A. His ERA (4.51), WHIP (1.42) and BB/9 rate (4.0) were all simply too high.

So we all wondered how he'd fare as he moved up a level to take on Triple-A for the first time. And through eight starts, May has been fantastic across the board.

He's averaging more than a strikeout per inning. His walk rate is down to 3.6 BB/9, continuing a three-year trend of improvement. He has allowed only two home runs in 43 innings. And he's holding opposing hitters to a .196 batting average.

May has completed six or more innings in four of his last six starts, including eight shutout frames in his last turn. He's already on the 40-man roster, so we could be seeing him in Minnesota sooner rather than later.

Jorge Polanco (Preseason Rank: 8)
2014 Stats (A+): .319/.400/.425, 2 HR, 22 RBI, 31 R, 5/10 SB


Last year, Polanco was the youngest qualifying second baseman in the Midwest League but still managed to dominate offensively, posting an .813 OPS while controlling the strike zone and playing strong defense.

This year, he has taken the step up to the Florida State League, a notoriously pitcher-friendly environment, and hasn't missed a beat despite once again ranking as one of the youngest players. Polanco ended a 20-game hitting streak with Ft. Myers on Tuesday night. He has shown tremendous plate discipline, with 22 walks and only 18 strikeouts in 185 plate appearances.

Here's another big development: After spending most of his time at second base last year in Cedar Rapids, Polanco has played shortstop exclusively with the Miracle.

I remain somewhat skeptical that he'll stick at short long-term, but this suggests that the Twins still have belief in his ability at the position. Obviously, if he turns out to be an adequate defensive shortstop it raises his value considerably, particularly in this organization.

J.O. Berrios (Preseason Rank: 6)
2014 Stats (A+): 8 GS, 43.1 IP, 2.70 ERA, 45/16 K/BB, 1.31 WHIP


Berrios has a lot of things working against him in his quest to become a standout major-league starting pitcher. He's undersized at 6'0" and 185 lbs. He has not, historically, been able to induce a lot of ground balls. And he doesn't have the big assortment of plus secondary pitches that are often requisite for a starter.

But this kid just continues to get results against hitters who are older and more experienced. He has managed to post the above numbers for Ft. Myers despite the fact that he doesn't turn 20 until next week. No pitcher who has thrown in the FSL this year is younger than Berrios.

And right now, the teen hurler is gaining steam. Coming off two straight shutout performances, Berrios had perhaps the best game of his career in his most recent start, fanning a career-high 10 hitters over seven innings of two-run ball.

In the past, I've held reservations about the righty's true upside, but he's pitching as well as he ever has at this point and it really looks like the sky is the limit.

Along with May and Polanco (not to mention Meyer and Kohl Stewart, who have been expectedly strong), Berrios is a reason to feel good about the farm system, despite some unsettling developments with the top names.

---


Once you're done here, swing by Twins Daily, where today you'll find:

* A profile on Trea Turner, who the Twins may be looking at with their No. 5 pick in the upcoming MLB Draft.

* A rundown of Tuesday's minor-league action, which was highlighted by strong pitching performances.

* An analysis of the affiliation between the Twins and the Class-AA New Britain Rock Cats. Will the two sides renew?

* A question worth pondering: What to do with Kurt Suzuki?

Gleeman and the Geek, Ep 146: Quarter-Season analysis, calling out Hicks and more

Posted by: John Bonnes Updated: May 18, 2014 - 10:30 PM

Aaron and John talk about the Twins' surprisingly decent first quarter of the season, management calling out Aaron Hicks through the media, Brian Dozier being one of the league's best players, Oswaldo Arcia going back to the minors, Chris Colabello turning back into a pumpkin, Kurt Suzuki proving to be a fine investment, and whether the Twins have something in Eduardo Escobar. You can listen by downloading us from iTunes, Stitcher or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com.

You can also find the beginning of our MLB Draft coverage at Twins Daily. Today, Jeremy Nygard gives his first mock draft. Check out who he thinks the Twins will take with the 5th overall pick. In addition:

TwinsCentric: How do you like Chris Parmelee now?

Posted by: Parker Hageman Updated: May 16, 2014 - 12:53 AM

With just a few days remaining before the Twins were to travel to Chicago to begin the 2014 season, Chris Parmelee got the sickening news that his services would not be needed a the major league level. Out of options, the Twins were willing to expose him to waivers and risk losing him to an organization. As an additional gut punch, all of the other organizations in baseball said “eh, no thanks”. 

Shortly after receiving the news at Hammond Stadium Parmelee had the appearance of someone who just died, the exact person whom Jake Taylor was referring to in the movie Major League. In the clubhouse that morning, he was walking in a daze, slowly packing items from his locker and trying to process what had just happened. Occasionally a player or coach would walk by and offer some platitudes. 

In front of a handful of media members in the offices at the stadium, Twins assistant GM Rob Antony remarked that Chris Colabello out-performed him and then levied a few adjustments that the team was hoping Parmelee would make if he made the decision to stay with the organization. 

“[Parmelee] needs to regroup. He hasn’t gotten the job done,” Antony explained. “He’s had opportunities. We need him to be a run-producer. He needs to be a profile guy who can play first base, play the corner outfield positions and drive in runs. And to me, he’s become way too passive at the plate, taking pitches, taking strikes, taking first-pitch fastballs down the middle. He needs to go up there with the mentality that he’s going to do some damage trying to be aggressive.”

Ultimately, with $242,200 of salary on the line to stay with the Twins, Parmelee accepted his reassignment to Rochester and went to work improving his offense. 

In regards to Antony and the Twins’ assessment of Parmelee being too passive, the numbers do not necessarily reflect that notion. In most circumstances -- taking first-pitch fastballs in the zone or taking pitches in general -- Parmelee is right around league average. In fact, last year Parmelee held an above-average swing rate in hitter's counts (48% vs the 44% league-average rate according to ESPN/TruMedia). More than likely, the Twins just wanted him to swing aggressively -- not so in which circumstance. 

Parmelee’s 2014 season, his third tour of the International League, started off with a bang. He had compiled seven home runs in 32 games, putting himself near the top of the leaderboard. Naturally, the reaction from the fan base was that this performance was nothing new -- after all, those who remember his 2012 season in Rochester will recall that he dropped 17 dingers in 64 games before posting yawn-inducing numbers in 2013. 

How was this output any different than the circumstances in 2012? Was Parmelee simply a AAAA player, one destined to wax AAA pitching but never make the jump in the major leagues? 

The biggest reason why this season is likely more comparable to the 2012 year (and provides the hope that this is finally his breakthrough) has to do with regaining the aggression in his swing. In 2013 and during spring training, Parmelee had changed his swing from the previous year. What Parmelee demonstrated last year was a more contact-oriented approach in his swing, specifically his lower-half. Parmelee implemented a toe-tap in his stride that may have reduced his ability to drive the ball: 

This approach followed him into spring training this year which the Twins evaluators took note:


Perhaps the realization that he could be jobless encouraged Parmelee to make changes. Whatever the reason, wherever the encouragement came from, Parmelee began to swing with more vigor. It was during this stretch that we see his transition from the toe-tap to the full leg-lift which led to seven home runs in 32 games: 

That method has continued upon his call up to Minnesota:

With this swing, Parmelee is able to engage his hips better and generate more power, as we have seen with his prodigious home runs. 

The Twins challenged Chris Parmelee to become more aggressive at the plate. He did. Will this power continue? Like the adaptations that Chris Colabello and Trevor Plouffe made to their swings, the real test becomes how they respond once pitchers change their approach. As has been the case with Colabello and Plouffe, pitchers have worked them away more often and that has sent them into prolonged funks. It is possible that Parmelee’s newfound aggression could be used against him -- like fewer fastballs and more off-the-plate pitches.

TwinsCentric: The Twins and Tommy John surgery

Posted by: Seth Stohs Updated: May 13, 2014 - 5:03 AM

When we heard the sad and unfortunate news on Monday afternoon that Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jose Fernandez has an elbow sprain, it made me feel awful. The assumption (true or not) is that sometime in the near future, he will have Tommy John surgery and miss the rest of this season and likely some of the 2015 season. If you’re a real, true baseball fan (and let’s face it, if you’re reading this web site, you are), you want to see the best performing. Jose Fernandez, despite being just 21 years old, is one of the best.

Fernandez is just the most recent example of what has become an epidemic over the last couple of years. “Everyone” is having Tommy John surgery. No team, including the Twins, is immune to this surgical procedure. Fifteen Major League pitchers have already had Tommy John surgery in the last two months.

IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE

The Atlanta Braves have long been touted as an organization that develops pitching talent, and they are. This year, they have had no fewer than four Tommy John surgeries including a couple of big leaguers and a top prospect. Brandon Beachy and Kyle Medlen both had their second Tommy John surgeries this spring.

Many like to tout the Tampa Bay Rays organization as the one to emulate, and they certainly do a lot of things well. They are said to have some special things that they do medically to study how to keep players healthy. Jeremy Hellickson hasn’t had Tommy John surgery, but he has missed a lot of time the last couple of seasons. Matt Moore, another one of baseball’s best young pitchers, had Tommy John surgery last month.

Baseball America’s JJ Cooper tweeted last night that from 2010 through 2012, 15 high school pitchers were drafted. If Fernandez has Tommy John Surgery, he will be the sixth in that group. Two others on currently on the DL with elbow or forearm issues, and one had hip surgery. Count Dylan Bundy and Jameson Taillon among those who have already had the surgery. The two that are on the DL right now with elbow issues are Top 50 prospects Archie Bradley and Max Fried. Max Fried’s high school teammate, Lucas Giolito, had Tommy John while still in high school and still was a first-round pick.

Two possible Top 10 2014 draft picks, Jeff Hoffmann (East Carolina) and Erick Fedde (UNLV), have or soon will have Tommy John surgery. And both still could get drafted in the first round.

TOMMY JOHN AND THE TWINS

Tommy John was a Minnesota Twins TV broadcaster from 1994 through 1996. Unfortunately, that is not the only connection to the Twins. The Twins have been affected in one way or another by Tommy John surgery over the past decade. I went back ten years of Twins and Twins minor league rosters and here is a list of guys who have had Tommy John surgery before, during or after their Twins career (This is not necessarily complete):
 

  • Brian Duensing – in College at Nebraska
  • Mike Pelfrey – with Mets before coming to Twins as free agent.
  • Kyle Gibson – in minor leagues, in September 2011
  • Lester Oliveros – in September 2012
  • Samuel Deduno – in 2008 with Rockies
  • Corey Williams – on April 1, 2014
  • Alex Wimmers – in minor leagues, in August 2012
  • JT Chargois – in minor leagues, in August 2013
  • Dallas Gallant – in minor leagues, 2011
  • Andrew Ferreria – in college at Harvard
  • Jeff Manship – in college at Notre Dame
  • Francisco Liriano – with Twins in November 2006
  • Pat Neshek – with Twins in November 2008
  • Scott Baker – with Twins in April 2012
  • Carlos Silva – with Cubs in 2012
  • Andrew Albers – with Padres in 2009
  • Joe Mays – with Twins in 2003
  • Kyle Waldrop – with Pirates in 2013
  • Matt Maloney – with Twins in July 2012
  • Carl Pavano – with Yankees in 2007
  • Joe Nathan – with Twins in March 2010
  • Bobby Korecky – in minors with Twins in 2005
  • Matt Bashore – in minors in 2010
  • Tom Stuifbergen – in minors in July 2013
  • Carlos Gutierrez – in minors in college
  • Jhon Garcia – in minors in April 2013
  • Dan Sattler – in minors in August 2012
  • Brian Kirwan – in minors in 2006


This list also does not include a couple of hitters. Remember Matt Macri? He made his Major League debut with the Twins in 2008 after coming to the team from the Rockies organization. They had drafted him in 2001 out of high school, but he went to Notre Dame. A shortstop, he had Tommy John surgery in 2004.

And, of course, the big news this spring in Ft. Myers came when the Twins announced that Miguel Sano would have Tommy John surgery and miss most, if not all, of the 2014 season.

WHY, OH WHY? 

So many fans seem to have a solution to this problem or what they would do to try to keep players from needing Tommy John surgery. That’s funny, of course, since the medical profession has not yet determined any preventative measures to avoid Tommy John surgery.

Aside from not becoming a baseball pitcher, there are several theories out there right now about why there seems to be this influx of Tommy John surgeries. However, I’m not going to pretend to know with any certainty.
 

  • I happen to agree with those who say that some pitchers do too much upper body weight lifting which creates less flexibility and more stress on the ligaments.
  • I wouldn’t be surprised if specialization in high school (playing one sport year-round rather than playing two or three sports) has some correlation too. Of course, you will find examples on both sides of this as well.
  • I don’t necessarily think pitch counts alone determines if a pitcher will eventually require Tommy John surgery.
  • We have seen pitchers with “perfect” mechanics have Tommy John surgery, and we have seen pitchers with “poor” mechanics have long careers.


TNSTAAPP – There’s No Such Thing As a Pitching Prospect. Eerily, that acronym is becoming more and more true.

I do have one overriding belief in my head at this time on pitchers and Tommy John surgery. Here’s how you can determine whether or not a pitcher will have Tommy John surgery at some point in his career: Grab a coin and flip it. If it’s heads when it lands, he might have Tommy John surgery. If it’s tails, well, he might not have Tommy John surgery. 

Head on over to Twins Daily for more Twins discussion:

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