La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.

Notes from the organizational meetings and instructional league

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: October 18, 2011 - 1:47 PM

Hello everyone, long time no blog.

Getting back online here after getting some time to decompress following the end of the regular season. I've talked with a few members of the organization in recent days to try to get a sense of what went on down in Fort Myers, Fla. last week as instructional league play wrapped up and organizational meetings took place.

The Twins discussed a lot of their offseason wants, needs and hopes, They examined the free agent market, particularly for starting pitchers and shortstops. They are determined to find a reliable shortstop this offseason and players like Ramon Santiago and Alex Gonzalez could be on their radar.

The Twins are going to push hard to re-sign Michael Cuddyer, but they expect him to see what's on the free agent market before making a final decision. That's not surprising. Most players hitting the free agent market for the first time want to see what the process is like.

The big question is if the Twins can afford - or want to afford - to bring both Cuddyer and Jason Kubel.If they bring Cuddyer back they might not bring Kubel back. The Twins might want to keep the DH flexible so Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau can slide in there when needed.

The Twins are still looking at candidates to take over as manager at Class AAA Rochester. I have not heard who is being considered. Rochester also needs a hitting coach, and former Twin Tom Brunansky might be a candidate. I watched Brunansky work with Gulf Coast league players a couple years ago and his enthusiasm jumped out at me. He spent last year at Class AA New Britain and Joe Benson raves about him. He's one to watch in the coming years.

It appears that New Britain manager Jeff Smith and Class A Fort Myers manager Jake Mauer will  stay where they are at for now. That, of course, could change if the Twins need to expand their list of candidates.

Heard the Twins would like to announce their new radio play-by-play voice by the end of the holiday season. Ryan Lefebvre, who used to work with John Gordon before moving on to announce games for the Kansas City Royals,is a candidate. One outside name I've heard is Chargers radio voice Josh Lewin, but conflicts with football make him a tough fit. Ted Robinson, in my opinion, would be a good choice too, but he's become such an international man of microphones (tennis, Olympics, etc.)  that he might be unable to announce a full season.

INSTRUCTIONAL LEAGUE NOTES

The most interesting news at instructional league this year was outfielder Eddie Rosario's appearance at second base. The Twins feel they have good outfield depth in the system from Ben Revere to Joe Benson to Aaron Hicks to Angel Morales and others. They approached Rosario about giving second base a shot and he was all for it. Both scouting director Deron Johnson and veep/player personnel Mike Radcliff both said Rosario looked pretty good there during instructional league. Good enough that they will continue the experiment during spring training. If it doesn't work out he can always return to the outfield, where he was ranked the fifth best prospect in the Appalachian League this year.

As for Hicks, the Twins brought up the possibility of ending Hicks' career as a switch-hitter (look at the splits and you can see why it was brought up) but they decided to be patient. Hicks didn't have a good year but his tools remain impressive and the Twins know some prospects take longer than others.

Miguel Sano, Rosario's teammate, friend and top prospect in the Appy League this season, will continue to bounce between shortstop and third base. Many in the organization feel he will eventually wind up at third but they feel it's good for Sano's overall development for him to play short as long as he can.

First-round pick Levi Michael, a shortstop, did not play in instructional league games but was able to take part in drills. I didn't know how banged up he was at North Carolina this year. In addition to a sore ankle, he had hip and groin injuries. The Twins decided to take it easy with him and let him heal. It will be interesting to see how he plays when he's fully healthy.

Third baseman Travis Harrison, selected 50th overall in June, showed off his impressive power.

Righthander Hudson Boyd, selected 55th overall, came to instructional league a little heavy and was given a workout program to follow so he reports to spring training in good shape. Since he went to high school in Fort Myers, the Twins will be able to keep tabs on him.

Righthander Alex Wimmers' season began with an extreme case of wildness that forced the Twins to have him work on the side for several weeks. Wimmers slowly worked his way back and finished with a bang, pitching a no-hitter at Fort Myers in his final start of the season. Wimmers followed that up with an impressive showing in instructional league. ``He's got some of his swagger back,'' one Twins official said. Now the club thinks Wimmers has a chance to open next season at Class AA New Britain.

Righthanders Madison Boer and Matt Summers were used as relievers after being drafted in the second and fourth rounds, respectively. But the plan always was for them to start, and they will do that next year. Summers was impressive during instructional league. Since he was relieving he stuck with a fastball and slider. But he broke out a change up and curveball during instructs that impressed club officials.

Fifth round pick Tyler Grimes, a shortstop, is worth watching. The Twins were very pleased with what they saw during workouts and, according to reports, he's got all the tools and was a on base maven at Wichita State. 

FINISHING UP THIS LONG POST WITH ONE LINERS, EXCEPT WHERE I USE TWO LINES

  •  Catchers Tobias Streich and Jhonatan Arias are being converted  into pitchers.
  • The Twins have re-signed minor leaguers Michael Hollimon, Rey Chang and Aaron Bates. All three will be invited to spring training.
  • Anthony Slama is looking to hook up with a winter ball team.
  • The Twins are trying to re-sign infielder Yangervis Solarte, who was second in the Eastern League in hitting while at New Britain. Although Solarte is not much of a defensive player, teams will be interested in his bat.
  • You can keep up with Twins players in the Arizona Fall League here.

 

 

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