The Twins season is nearly two-and-a-half months over. We have also been following the Rochester Red Wings (AAA), the New Britain Rock Cats (AA), the Ft. Myers Miracle (Hi-A), and the Beloit Snappers (Low-A) for almost as long. This week, minor league fans get to add two more Twins affiliates to their list of teams to follow for the next two months.
The Twins Advanced-Rookie League team, the Elizabethton (TN) Twins, play in the Appalachian League. Their manager, Ray Smith, played for the Twins in the early '80s. He was replaced on the roster in 1984 by Jeff Reed, who is now the hitting coach for the E-Twins. His pitching coach, Jim Shellenbeck, pitched very briefly for the Twins, but he has been a pitching coach throughout the system, including a year with the Minnesota Twins. This coaching staff has built the Elizabethton Twins into a powerhouse every year in the Appy League. But success in the low levels has little to do with the wins and losses. Sure, the E-Twins have been to the league championship series pretty much every year, but it is more about development of ball players and professionals. For some of these players, it is their first go-'round in pro ball. For others, it is their first chance to play in front of thousands of fans under the lights.
This year's Elizabethton roster is certainly exciting!
Pitchers: Nick Alloway, Matt Bashore, Madison Boer, Bart Carter, Derek Christensen, Cesar Ciurcina, Steven Evans, Steven Gruver, Pedro Guerra, David Hurlbut, Garrett Jewell, Corey Kimes, Justin Parker, Tim Shibuya, Sam Spangler and Todd Van Steensel.
Eden Prairie native and Twins 2nd round pick Madison Boer is probably the most recognizable name in this group. He throws hard, and will likely move up the ladder quickly. Ciurcina, Guerra and Parker are guys who have already experienced some success at the pro level. Matt Bashore was a supplemental first-round pick of the Twins in 2009 out of Indiana. However, he has had arm troubles since pitching for the E-Twins two years ago. Hopefully he is on the comeback trail now. Nick Alloway is a name to watch. He throws quite hard and has a ton of movement. Another guy to watch is Derek Christensen. He throws from somewhere between sidearm and 3/4 angle, and has a huge slider. Of course, you're also going to want to follow Australian Van Steensel, and you can do so on his blog, The Clubhouse Chronicles.
Catchers: Jhonatan Arias, Matt Parker.
Parker spent a week or so in Beloit earlier in the season. He also spent time catching Stephen Strasburg at San Diego State.
Outfielders: Matej Hejma, Brandon Henderson, Max Kepler, Tyler Koelling, Eddie Rosario, JaDamion Williams
The name here is obviously 18-year-old Kepler, the German product who is immensely talented. However, Rosario was a 4th round pick a year ago out of Puerto Rico and he had a tremendous debut last year in the GCL. JaDamion Williams was the second high school player that the Twins selected last year, in the 9th round. Hejma is 6-6 from the Czech Republic. As you can imagine, he is quite raw. Koelling was a 2010 draft pick. Henderson is a big-time speed guy who can cover ground in the outfield.
Infielders: Niko Goodrum, Roy Larson, Nick Lockwood, AJ Pettersen, Rory Rhodes, Miguel Sano, Kennys Vargas
This is an immensely talented group of players and it will be interesting to see how the playing time is split up. Sano is the big name, having signed the $3.15 million bonus as a 16-year-old from the Dominican Republic late in 2009. He has incredible power, but what position will he play? Rhodes is a from Australia. He is a 6-7 third baseman with very good power potential. Goodrum was the Twins 2nd round pick a year ago out of high school. He struggled in the GCL last year, but he is one of those typical Twins athletes that they really like to develop. He can play SS, but could move to the outfield in time. Lockwood is a line-drive hitting maching, likely best-suited for second base. Vargas is a power-hitting switch-hitter from Puerto Rico. Then there are two local ties. AJ Pettersen is from Minnetonka, and played for the Excelsior American Legion team that played in the World Series. He has spent the past four seasons with the Gophers and the Twins used their 25th round pick this year to draft him. Larson signed after last season as a non-drafted free agent out of the University of St. Thomas.
The Elizabethton team has a bunch of really solid prospects who are quite young and need time to develop. However, it should be a lot of fun to follow their box scores the next two months to see how they do, and if they can play for yet another Appalachian League championship!
The Gulf Coast League got started on Monday afternoon. The GCL Twins started with a 2-1 win over the GCL Orioles. Nothing like starting the season with a walk-off. Tied 1-1 going into the bottom of the 9th, Kelvin Silvania doubled. With two outs, 37th round draft pick Drew Leachman singled him in with the winning run. Ricardo Arevalo got the start. He went five innings and gave up an unearned run on three hits. He walked three and struck out five. Tyler Herr followed with two scoreless innings. Luis Nunez gets the win. He also threw two scoreless innings.
We don't know as much about the players in the GCL. Many are 2011 draft picks, or high school players selected a year ago. Also, there are many international players on this roster from all over the world. This is our first chance to see how good they can be, but we can't make too much out of the statistics at this level either.
Pitchers: Ricardo Arevalo (20-Venezuela), Tim Atherton (21-Australia), Hung-Yi Chen (18-Taiwan), Nick Cicio (22-USA), Nathan Fawbush (20-USA), Tyler Herr (20-USA), Cole Johnson (22-USA), John Krogstad (Crookston, MN), Marcus Limon (22-USA), Angel Mata (18-Venezuela), Luis Nunez (19-Dominican Republic), Bobby O'Neill (21-USA), Hein Robb (19-South Africa), Markus Solbach (19-Germany), Matthew Tomshaw (22-USA), Mark Trau (19-Australia), Kyle Wahl (22-USA).
Catchers: Phillip Chapman (21-USA), Kelly Cross (19-USA), Michael Quesada (21-USA), Jairo Rodriguez (22-Venezuela)
Outfielders: Drew Leachman (22-USA), Kelvin Mention (DL)(19-USA), Kelvin Ortiz (19-Dominican Republic), Candido Pimentel (19-Dominican Republic).
Infielders: Wander Guillen (18-Dominican Republic), Josh Hendricks (19-Australia), Aderlin Mejia (19-Dominican Republic), Jorge Polanco (17-Dominican Republic), Kelvin Silvania (20-Aruba), Stephen Wickens (22-USA), Jacob Younis (17-Australia)
Eight different countries are represented in the GCL roster. Polanco is the name. He is the shortstop mentioned frequently by national publications as a tremendous defensive shortstop. Like you, I will be learning a lot more about the players over the coming months.