Souhan: Look around, the face of the Twins is changing

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 23, 2014 - 7:03 AM

– The Olympic motto is “Faster, higher, stronger.” At Twins spring training camp, there is no sign of the five-ring symbol, but there are five practice fields filled with players displaying baseball’s venerated five tools.

After years of sometimes valuing players more for their refined skills than their athletic ability, the Twins this spring are turning their roster over to fit the motto “Bigger, stronger, faster.”

The first thing you notice on the back fields of the Lee County Sports Complex are a few pitchers who throw fastballs that make that strange sizzling sound, outfielders who look like sprinters and sluggers who frequently threaten the windows of the cars driving past on Plantation Avenue.

“We’re getting back to the old powder-blue Twins,” manager Ron Gardenhire said with a chuckle, remembering Twins teams of the 1980s who stretched gloriously cheesy uniforms over farmer-strong shoulders.

Size is not a requirement in baseball, but for every Dustin Pedroia or Greg Maddux who excels because of skill and not strength, there a dozen stars who look like they could play multiple sports, and probably did. After years of emphasizing skill over athletic ability, the Twins are looking for more size, power, velocity and speed.

“I think you notice it from the bottom up, too, with the younger players,” said Perry Castellano, the Twins strength and conditioning coordinator. “You notice it with Byron Buxton and Kohl Stewart and Miguel Sano. When you take them to do activities on the fields that I have them do and you watch their athleticism, it’s impressive. And it just so happens that they’re all 6-3 and bigger.

“I think baseball goes in cycles, and it’s cycling back to bigger, stronger, more athletic players. I think the Mike Trouts are the players they’re looking for now.”

Trout, the Angels’ star center fielder, is the classic five-tool player, meaning he can hit for average, hit for power, run, field and throw. Buxton, the Twins’ top prospect, is displaying Trout’s array of skills and following his career arc, while Sano looks more like a young Miguel Cabrera, perhaps the best power hitter in the game.

In free agency, the Twins signed one pitcher who is 6-5 (Phil Hughes) and another listed at 6-2, 235 pounds (Ricky Nolasco.) Seventeen of the 21 pitchers in camp who are on the big-league 40-man roster are 6-2 or taller. Buxton is 6-2 and already considered one of the fastest players in pro ball. Sano is listed as 6-3 and hilariously listed at 195 pounds, while he looks closer to 260. Top pitching prospect Alex Meyer is 6-7, throws 95 and pitches with a downward angle that frustrates hitters.

“We’ve been looking for size, we’ve been looking for athletes, and velo, probably not unlike most teams,” said Rob Antony, Twins vice president of baseball operations. “Where we might once have taken the pitcher who has better command and control, I think we’re also looking for velocity. We’re not necessarily going to take the guy who can throw hard and doesn’t know where it’s going, but a guy who has physical tools and projectability, who you think can throw harder and will throw harder, that’s more attractive to us.

“In terms of position players, Buxton was the perfect pick for us, because he’s athletic and we believe he legitimately can be a five-tool guy. When we were looking to trade Ben Revere and Denard Span for pitching, we believed Meyer and Trevor May had a high ceiling, and Vance Worley had done it in the big leagues, so we thought he could provide some immediate help. That didn’t happen last year. We hope it happens this year.”

In 2011, Liam Hendriks was the Twins’ minor league pitcher of the year. He’s an example of an undersized command-and-control pitcher who succeeded in the minors but lacked the stuff to get out big-league hitters. Since December, he’s been waived by the Twins, Cubs and Orioles.

Now Meyer and Kohl Stewart are considered the Twins’ top pitching prospects. Stewart is 6-3, and Castellano says he’s already one of the most striking athletes in the organization.

“I met with the other pitching coaches in the organization and we were all saying, ‘Look at the size of these kids,’ ” said pitching coach Rick Anderson. “They have height and downward angle on their pitches, and athletic ability. You can’t help but get excited, having big guys with stuff.”

Castellano notes that many of the Twins’ best players and prospects played multiple sports. Joe Mauer, like Paul Molitor before him, played three sports at Cretin-Derham Hall High. Buxton played three sports. Stewart played football. Aaron Hicks chose baseball over golf.

While many parents and youth coaches are demanding specialization, Castellano sees the benefits of being a well-rounded athlete.

“Playing multiple sports gives the body a chance to see something different, to become a more well-rounded athlete,” he said. “By playing soccer, or basketball or football, whether you were good or not, you expose yourself to something different, you give your body and mind a rest from doing something 12 months a year.

“If a kid plays three sports in high school and goes on to college, he’s only got maybe four or five seasons on his throwing arm. If he plays year-round baseball, he’s put 12 seasons on his arm. That might shorten his career.”

  • related content

  • Hartman: Antony asks for patience regarding Twins prospects

    Sunday February 23, 2014

    As acting Twins general manager during Terry Ryan’s absence while being treated for cancer, Rob Antony said he believes the...

  • Keep a close eye on these five Twins

    Sunday February 23, 2014

    Spring training could be particularly important for some players, even if they don’t make the final roster.

  • Notes from camp: Twins show their support for Ryan

    Saturday February 22, 2014

    Twins show their support for RyanFORT MYERS, FLA. – It was a bold statement of support for someone the Twins...

  • Perry Castellano, the Twins’ strength and conditioning coordinator, sees the athleticism in such young players as Byron Buxton, Kohl Stewart and Miguel Sano.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 17 FINAL
New England 9
Cleveland 10 FINAL
Baltimore 20
Dallas 44 FINAL
Washington 17
Indianapolis 27 FINAL
Tennessee 10
Jacksonville 17 FINAL
Houston 23
San Diego 7 FINAL
Kansas City 19
NY Jets 37 FINAL
Miami 24
Chicago 9 FINAL
Minnesota 13
Philadelphia 34 FINAL
NY Giants 26
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Tampa Bay 20
Carolina 34 FINAL
Atlanta 3
Detroit 14 4th Qtr 1:55
Green Bay 30
Oakland 14 4th Qtr 4:20
Denver 40
Arizona 17 FINAL
San Francisco 20
St. Louis 6 FINAL
Seattle 20
Cincinnati 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
TBA
TBA 1/4/15 2:00 AM
TBA
TBA 1/4/15 2:00 AM
TBA
Detroit 103 FINAL
Cleveland 80
Houston 22 1st Qtr 2:30
San Antonio 25
Oklahoma City 6:30 PM
Dallas
New York 8:00 PM
Portland
Toronto 8:00 PM
Denver
Phoenix 8:30 PM
LA Lakers
Toronto 4 3rd Prd 5:48
Florida 4
Vancouver 7:00 PM
Anaheim
Tulane 57 FINAL
St Johns 82
Central Conn St 48 FINAL
Connecticut 81
Iona 81 FINAL
Drexel 62
Concordia (MI) 42 FINAL
Eastern Mich 100
Harvard 46 FINAL
Arizona State 56
Longwood 64 FINAL
Ball State 69
Sacred Heart 76 FINAL
Brown 79
Colgate 64 FINAL
Columbia 69
MD-Eastern Shore 78 FINAL
Duquesne 69
UNC Greensboro 50 FINAL
East Carolina 71
Marist 64 FINAL
Elon 69
NJIT 71 FINAL
Lafayette 76
Cincinnati Christian 58 FINAL
Liberty 78
Morgan State 53 FINAL
Marquette 81
Campbell 56 FINAL
Samford 65
Bucknell 71 FINAL
Siena 73
Long Beach State 67 FINAL
Syracuse 85
Coppin State 80 FINAL
Evansville 85
UMKC 73 FINAL
Indiana State 70
Hofstra 88 FINAL
Long Island 62
Coast Guard 48 FINAL
Army 93
Thomas (GA) 48 FINAL
High Point 85
Texas Southern 58 FINAL
Kansas State 56
Rutgers 59 FINAL
Monmouth 58
NC Wesleyan 54 FINAL
NC A&T 58
South Dakota St 63 FINAL
Northern Iowa 74
Central Penn College 69 FINAL
Radford 119
Bowling Green 79 FINAL
South Florida 70
Harris-Stowe 66 FINAL
SE Missouri St 94
Robert Morris-IL 56 FINAL
SIU Edwardsville 104
Northland College 59 FINAL
North Dakota St 83
Milwaukee 60 FINAL
South Dakota 84
Northwestern St 92 FINAL
Arkansas 100
Saint Peters 59 FINAL
Cornell 52
St Katherine 62 FINAL
Fresno State 93
Haskell 42 FINAL
Oral Roberts 94
Wake Forest 65 FINAL
Richmond 63
Fla Gulf Coast 57 FINAL
Xavier 71
SD Christian 45 FINAL
Northern Ariz 71
Judson 46 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 80
Ill-Chicago 60 FINAL
Bradley 68
Loyola-Maryland 61 FINAL
Fairfield 59
Miss Valley St 53 FINAL
Houston 80
Lehigh 58 FINAL
UMBC 55
Delaware State 56 FINAL
Temple 66
Belmont 46 2nd Half 11:21
Butler 51
Howard 34 2nd Half 13:30
Fordham 44
NW Christian 46 2nd Half 7:48
Nevada 67
UC Davis 53 2nd Half 10:09
Washington St 68
Abilene Christian 49 2nd Half 13:04
Grand Canyon 51
UCLA 17 2nd Half
Alabama 29
Stony Brook 7:00 PM
Washington
Buffalo 7:00 PM
Wisconsin
CS-Bakersfield 9:00 PM
California
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 42 FINAL
(24) USC 45
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Florida
Toledo 1/4/15 8:00 PM
Arkansas State
Drexel 71 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 54
Holy Cross 63 FINAL
Norfolk State 62
East Carolina 62 FINAL
South Florida 69
(10) Oregon State 63 FINAL
(8) Tennessee 74
Providence 51 FINAL
Boston College 79
Florida A&M 47 FINAL
Miami-Florida 83
Oakland 69 FINAL
Central Michigan 74
Chattanooga 59 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 49
Fairfield 59 FINAL
La Salle 73
St Francis-PA 59 FINAL
Pittsburgh 97
Milwaukee 72 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 78
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Longwood 63
New Hampshire 58 FINAL
Manhattan 54
Bucknell 68 FINAL
Binghamton 57
Northeastern 70 FINAL
Albany 67
George Mason 70 FINAL
Towson 72
Richmond 59 FINAL
William & Mary 56
Tulane 60 FINAL
Cincinnati 50
North Florida 51 FINAL
Florida 63
(14) Georgia 51 FINAL
Seton Hall 70
Tennessee St 75 FINAL
(12) Kentucky 87
American Univ 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 77
Massachusetts 78 FINAL
Boston U 57
Quinnipiac 69 FINAL
Saint Josephs 67
Lafayette 49 FINAL
Saint Peters 34
Northwestern 61 FINAL
(20) Michigan State 57
Duquesne 82 FINAL
Lehigh 75
George Washington 72 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 49
(17) Rutgers 66 FINAL
Indiana 51
(24) Green Bay 66 FINAL
Dayton 72
Western Mich 55 FINAL
Stony Brook 59
Davidson 67 FINAL
Virginia 57
UNC Greensboro 61 FINAL
LSU 82
Denver 63 FINAL
North Texas 55
VA Commonwealth 63 FINAL
Coppin State 52
Huston-Tillotson 36 FINAL
Houston Baptist 86
Lamar 63 FINAL
Rice 97
Miss Valley St 40 FINAL
Alabama 71
Saint Louis 63 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 49
Middle Tennessee 98 FINAL
Tenn Tech 76
Penn State 52 FINAL
(23) Iowa 77
Purdue 62 FINAL
Illinois 55
DePaul 99 FINAL
Illinois State 62
Sam Houston St 46 FINAL
Wichita State 70
South Dakota 76 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 69
(4) Notre Dame 82 FINAL
UCLA 67
Coll of Charleston 51 FINAL
SC State 60
Alcorn State 53 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 63
Dartmouth 76 FINAL
Niagara 70
Colgate 68 FINAL
Siena 80
Michigan 53 FINAL
Wisconsin 63
Fla Gulf Coast 73 FINAL
CS-Northridge 64
Yale 51 FINAL
(25) Arizona State 69
UC Santa Barbara 34 FINAL
(16) Stanford 90
Long Island 63 FINAL
Long Beach St 71
Jackson State 37 2nd Half 11:40
Louisiana 43
Eureka 50 FINAL
Western Ill 91
Cornell 54 2nd Half 6:44
(22) Syracuse 62
Temple 7:30 PM
Memphis
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Do you like the Twins' offseason moves so far?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close