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.
Aaron and John talk about going to Twins spring training in Florida, Byron Buxton and the first batch of Twins cuts, drunken women debating the quality of their butts, Johan Santana signing with the Orioles, hanging out at Mason's Restaurant downtown, housewarming gifts, singing bartenders, the Miguel Sano aftermath, giving shoutouts, and Twitter tabs.You can listen by downloading us from iTunes, Stitcher or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com.
Over the past few days, two pitchers that the Twins have been connected to at various points ended up signing with different teams.
Darren Wolfson reported over the weekend that the Twins were interested in Joe Saunders, but the veteran left-hander agreed to terms Tuesday with the Rangers. And Johan Santana, who has of course been linked throughout the offseason to his former club, chose to sign a minor-league deal with big bonuses in Baltimore.
A few fans may have been miffed to miss out on these hurlers -- if only for past achievements and nostalgia -- but the truth is that both would have been buried by the sudden depth in Minnesota's starting corps.
Now, to be clear, I'm not saying that's necessarily great depth. There are a lot of question marks and none of them have been cleared up by a few Grapefruit League games.
But Santana and Saunders aren't exactly great options at this point either. And maybe it's that good old springtime optimism shining through, but I feel pretty decent about what the Twins have going on in the rotation right now.
Even if you consider regression to be inevitable for Kevin Correia, who sadly led last year's staff, there are some nice upward trends to be found here.
Ricky Nolasco has been average for most of his career, but is coming off one of his best years, and average ain't so bad all things considered.
Mike Pelfrey pitched pretty well in the second half of 2013 and is only getting sharper as he moves further away from Tommy John surgery.
I love getting the chance to see what a 27-year-old Phil Hughes can do outside of New York.
Samuel Deduno was electric last year and is by all accounts fully recovered from September's shoulder surgery.
And here's another guy that I'm really starting to warm up on: Vance Worley.
No one expected things to go the way they did last season for Worley -- least of all the Twins, who tabbed him as their Opening Day starter. But even looking beyond the change of scenery, he had a lot going against him. He was coming off elbow surgery, he was probably a bit heavier than he wanted to be, and for some or perhaps most of the season he was bogged down by shoulder problems.
His 2013 campaign was unbelievably bad, but Worley had a strong track record beforehand. He's still only 26, he's in much better shape, and John had very positive things to say about his first spring start.
We're all just hoping Worley can emerge as a decent fifth starter here in camp, but he's got a chance to be more than that. He has been more than that.
Looking past the veterans up front, you've got some intriguing arms ready to join the mix. Alex Meyer, Kyle Gibson, Trevor May, Sean Gilmartin and Brooks Raley are all better talents than the Twins had available to them when the high-level depth broke down last year.
Would adding Santana or Saunders to that group have really changed much? If anything, it might have taken away opportunities from younger guys who probably deserve them in a season where "figure out what you've got" is likely to be the chief objective (hopefully with more conclusive results than the last couple years).
It's true that you can never have too much pitching. But the Twins have quite a bit at this point, and I'm excited to see how it all shakes out.
Yes, excited. I'm not even down in Florida yet and already spring's getting the best of me.
As spring training games are set to begin for the Minnesota Twins, fans will finally be able to see how the players perform against other teams. As we’ve learned time after time, actual spring training statistics mean very little. Most positions are already accounted for. However, as we have documented the last two weeks at Twins Daily, there are still a few position battles that we will be watching.
Spring performance also is noteworthy for prospects and other players who just want to make an impression on the Twins coaching staff and brass.
It may not mean making the Opening Day roster, but it might mean getting a look when a need arises throughout the season. Today, I’m going to take a look at some of the prospects who are in Ft. Myers looking to make an impression.
THE BIG THREE
There’s no question that the Twins have one of the most highly rated minor league systems in all of baseball. That is largely due to the Twins Big Three. Byron Buxton was rated as baseball’s #1 prospect by every outlet. Miguel Sano is touted as the top third base prospect in large part because he is generally considered the prospect with the most power potential in the game.
For me, Alex Meyer fits into the elite prospect category as well. As great as the potential may be for Buxton and Sano, Meyer is arguably the most important prospect in the Twins farm system. Meyer represents what Twins fans (and coaches and front office personnel) have been waiting for for years, an ace. Not just a #1 starter, but a true ace. Blessed with a fastball that can hit triple-digits, Meyer also has a devastating slider and two other major league pitches.
All three of these prospects are in big league camp. It is the first go ‘round for Buxton and Sano while Meyer was invited last spring after coming to the organization from Washington. All three are non-roster invitees. (Sano and Meyer would need to be added to the 40 man roster following the 2014 season while Buxton would not need to be added until after the 2016 season.) Because they are not on the 40 man roster, it is more likely that the Twins will take a long look at them. It is also possible that all three will surface with the Twins sometime in 2014.
If a player on the 40 man roster happens to get hurt while in major league camp, he would go on the major league disabled list. Because of that, players on the 40 man roster with little (or no) chance of making the Opening Day roster are quickly sent to minor league camp. Minor Leaguers report to Ft. Myers on March 4 and their first full workout is March 6. The Twins first round of cuts will likely be soon after that. There are several players that fit within this category:
Max Kepler – The outfielder/first baseman is young (20) and very raw, but he has the world of talent. He will start the season in Ft. Myers after playing just a half-season at Cedar Rapids last year before his Arizona Fall League stint.
Jorge Polanco – The infielder is just 20 years old and played all of 2013 in Cedar Rapids. He’ll move up to Ft. Myers for 2014. His prospect status has risen quickly the past two years, so he was an easy choice to be added to the 40 man roster. He’ll also be an easy choice to send to minor league camp right away.
Kennys Vargas – If you thought that the 6-5, 250 pound Miguel Sano was a large man, wait until you see Vargas. He is 6-6 and about 275 pounds. He (specifically his batting practice prowess) has made quite an impression this spring. He had a solid season in 2013 in Ft. Myers and will begin the 2014 season in AA New Britain.
Danny Santana – Even with Pedro Florimon’s appendectomy and missed time in spring training, Santana will not be an option for Opening Day. I think he’ll start the 2014 season back in New Britain, and we could see him by season’s end. However, with Eduardo Escobar, Jason Bartlett and James Beresford in camp, I think he’ll be sent down quickly.
Logan Darnell – The left-hander pitched for New Britain and Rochester in 2013. He is likely to spend the season starting in Rochester in 2014. Due to the logjam for the 5th starter spot already, Darnell likely gets sent back to spring training pretty quickly.
There are a few prospects who are on the 40 man roster and will still get a long look this spring. Kyle Gibson, Oswaldo Arcia and Aaron Hicks would fall into this category if they still qualified as “prospects.”
Josmil Pinto has a chance to be the Twins starting catcher. That offensive talent made a strong impression last fall in his big league debut. However, he was shut down quickly from winter ball due to a sore shoulder. Upon arriving in Ft. Myers, he was delayed by a back problem too. He’ll get a chance to compete though.
Trevor May, like Darnell, is not going to make the Opening Day roster due to the crunch at the back of the Twins rotation. Also, he has only pitched in one game at AAA. The Twins will want to take a long look at him to get a better feel for whether or not he will be able to start long term.
Michael Tonkin could also be around big league camp for a little while. Though he struggled at AAA and in the big leagues, he still has a big arm and the potential to pitch in the back-end of the Twins bullpen for years.
ORGANIZATION’S NEW ARMS
In the offseason, the Twins added a few pitchers to the organization. They will likely want to see them for a little while in an attempt to see what they have.
Sean Gilmartin is not on the 40 man roster. He came to the Twins from the Atlanta Braves in the Ryan Doumit trade. A first-round pick just three years ago, he was injured in 2013 and hopes to show what he can do again when healthy.
Brooks Raley was claimed by the Twins just two weeks ago. He had appeared in games for the Chicago Cubs each of the last two seasons, but he was removed from their 40 man roster and claimed by the Twins. The left-handers has started, but he also has pitched out of the bullpen. He certainly does fit the mold of soft-tossing lefty.
Kris Johnson came to the Twins in a trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Twins sent reliever Duke Welker back to the Pirates in exchange. Recall that the Twins sent Justin Morneau to the Pirates in late August for Alex Presley and a Player to be Named Later. Shortly after the season, the teams announced that the PTBNL was reliever Welker. Then a month or so later, something happened and the Twins decided that they would send Welker back to Pittsburgh for Johnson. Though already 29, Johnson made his big league debut in 2013. He showed that he isn’t just a soft-tosser. He capable of hitting 92 on the radar.
ROAD TO RECOVERY
There are two pitchers at Twins camp who came to the organization in controversial trades. They were both on the 40 man roster at one point, but injury cost them time and a spot on the 40 man roster.
Last spring, Deolis Guerra was ready to pitch for Team Venezuela in the WBC. Unfortunately, a blood clot in his shoulder required surgery and he missed the entire season. He became a free agent following the 2013 season but chose to stay with the Twins.
The same is true of Lester Oliveros. He could have gone elsewhere but stayed with the Twins. In September of 2012, he had Tommy John surgery and rehabbed throughout the 2013 season.
Both pitchers are still 25 or younger. Guerra has a tremendous changeup while Oliveros was a hard-thrower. Both could fit into the Twins bullpen in 2014 if a need arrives.
NON-ROSTER INVITES WHO CAN IMPRESS
James Beresford put together his best offensive season in 2013, hitting over .300 while splitting time between New Britain and Rochester. The second baseman may compete (or should be allowed) for a second utility infield position.
Every spring training, teams need a lot of catchers at big league camp. The Reason? Because there are a ton of pitchers at big league camp. There are four non-roster catchers in Twins camp.
This is the fourth time that Rohlfing has been a non-roster invite to big league camp. Last year, he split his time between New Britain and Rochester. He also is a terrific athlete who split his time between catcher and the outfield. Rohlfing became a free agent after last season but signed back with the Twins.
Kyle Knudson was invited to spring training for the second time. The former Gophers star was healthy for the first time in his career last year and came through with a very solid season between Ft. Myers and New Britain.
Matt Koch spent 2013 in Ft. Myers. He’s more of an offensive catcher, though, showing good power and an ability to hit for average.
Stuart Turner was the Twins 3rd round pick just last year. He was the Johnny Bench Award winner as the nation’s top catcher. He is a guy who could move quickly.
As we’ve learned, all of the Twins home games this spring will be shown on FSN. Now when you see players wearing uniforms with numbers generally worn by Offensive Tackles and Wide Receivers, you’ll know a little bit about them. We are certain to learn even more about them throughout the 2014 season.
When the Twins signed Kurt Suzuki back in December, it looked like they were adding a veteran backup catcher to the roster. After all, Suzuki has hit like a backup over the past four years (.650 OPS), served as a backup with two different clubs last season, and is getting paid like a backup at $2.75 million.
However, folks around camp are talking about the new addition as essentially a lock to open the season as Minnesota's starter behind the plate. That's not entirely surprising, considering that his only real competition for the assignment is a rookie with raw receiving skills and only 40 games of experience above Double-A, but it does mean that if Pinto doesn't emerge as a capable replacement relatively early in the season, the catcher position could be a major offensive liability this year.
I'd like to believe that Suzuki has some upside at the plate. He was a very good hitter in college, in the minors and early on his major-league career. But since 2010 he has been consistently anemic with the bat, and at this point his flashes of solid production feel like distant memories.
Suzuki is considered an asset defensively, so he ought to hold his own on that end, but if he's the regular backstop for a prolonged period, the Twins are going to be looking at a massive offensive drop-off from the position's previous tenant.
Since improving the lineup is a high priority this year, receiving minimal output from catcher (in addition to shortstop and perhaps a couple others) would be difficult to stomach. So undoubtedly the Twins are hoping that Pinto can show enough early in the season to take over the reigns and provide some meaningful potential with the stick.
Early this month, Parker took a detailed look at Pinto's game, lauding the 24-year-old's ability to handle offspeed pitches and drive the ball to all fields. Pinto obviously won't replicate what Joe Mauer was able to do at the dish, but his strong marks in the minors over the past two years and his outstanding MLB debut last September are grounds for belief that he can be a quality contributor at catcher, where the average AL player hit just .246/.312/.396 in 2013.
It's not out of the question that Pinto could take the starting job right out of the gates if he tears it up over the next month, but I think it is far more likely the Twins will wait until they're fully confident he's ready for the task, offensively and especially defensively. Based on the signals they're sending, it sounds like they're not there yet -- maybe not close.
Pinto has been labeled by some as the "favorite" to back up Suzuki but I'm skeptical the club would take away regular at-bats from a developing player, especially one with so little experience in Triple-A. Chances are that Suzuki will be backed up by Chris Hermann (who offers some platoon appeal as a lefty) or Eric Fryer, who is considered to be one of the strongest defensive backstops in the organization. It's doubtful we'll see a third catcher since Gardy no longer must juggle part-time designated hitters at the position.
If the Twins are truly counting Suzuki as their Opening Day starter, Pinto has about five weeks to change their minds. And if he can't accomplish it in Ft. Myers, we'll all be crossing our fingers that he can do so in Rochester, because otherwise there's little reason to have confidence in the catcher position this year.
Aaron and John go on a tour of Aaron's new place in Uptown and talk about Matt Garza reportedly turning down the Twins' sizable offer, Pedro Florimon's grasp on the shortstop job, when not to use someone's bathroom, Liam Hendriks' waiver wire tour, investing in a marriage, working from coffee shops, Josh Willingham's future, our survey, mailbag questions from listeners, hanging out at Bar Abilene with Meatsauce, speed dating, and the joys of parking. You can listen by clicking below, or download us from iTunes, Stitcher or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com.
And while games don't start until next weekend, things are rolling at high gear at Twins Daily. We continue to review the spring training battles, John examines the impact and predictability of pitch framing and Jeremy takes a VERY early look at who the Twins might select in the draft this June.
Here's the GATG breakdown:
0:30 – Aaron’s new Uptown Bachelor Pad tour.
6:00 – Getting stuck in the snow
11:30 – Aaron Gleeman = Scott Seekins
13:30 – Coffee shop etiquette
16:05 – Bar Abilene
19:00 – Pedro Florimon
21:30 – Shortstop options
25:30 – Becoming Yankee fans
27:40 – Matt Garza
38:00 – Josh Willingham Wants To Stay
41:20 – Matt Guerrier delay
43:30 – Matt Capps is hurt
45:30 – CC Sabathia
48:00 – Playing basketball
51:15 - Liam Hendriks
53:30 – CenturyLink and bathroom etiquette
1:02:00 – Working from a coffee house
1:05:00 – Modern Marriage
1:17:00 – Uptown Notes
1:18:40 – Speed Dating Event
1:21:20 – Our Survey
1:23:00 – Mailbag
Over the next two weeks, Twins Daily will be writing about some of the biggest topics of the Minnesota Twins' spring training. Some of those are position battles. One such ‘battle’ fans will be playing close attention to in 2014 is one that was pretty big in 2013. Who will go into the 2014 season as the Twins starting centerfielder?
Though you will likely read about this being a three man race for the job, it is likely really just between two players. That said, the player who may get the most attention at the position is a fourth option.
Before we start thinking about 2014, let’s take a look back to one year ago. The Twins had traded Denard Span and Ben Revere. By the time of Twins Fest, the Twins' front office was touting Aaron Hicks as ready to take over. Sure, they also often said that Joe Benson, coming off micro-fracture surgery,
and Darin Mastroianni would also be competing for the job. However, there was little to no question who would open the season as the Twins starting centerfielder.
It was called a competition through spring training. Since it was called a competition there had to be a winner, and there was no question who won that challenge. Aaron Hicks hit like crazy in the very small sample size of spring training. In 73 at-bats, he hit .370/.407/.644 (1.051) with six doubles, a triple and four RBI. He also was three for three in stolen base attempts. Darin Mastroianni played pretty well too, but he entered the regular season with an ankle injury that cost him the majority of the year. Benson struggled, as was expected after missing much of the 2012 season. He hit just .151/.286/.283 (.569) with two doubles, a triple and a home run. After continued struggles, Benson was DFA'd and claimed by the Texas Rangers. He signed a minor league contract with the Miami Marlins this offseason.
Of course, what fans remember much better than the spring training stats of Hicks are the numbers he put up in the regular season. He hit just .192/.259/.338 (.597) with 11 doubles, three triples and eight home runs. He certainly flashed some talent. How about the game against the White Sox when he stole a home run with his glove and hit a home run from both sides of the plate? Or, how about the throw in Yankees Stadium to nail a runner at third base? However, for the most part, it was a disappointing season for Hicks.
In August, the Twins received Alex Presley from the Pirates in the Justin Morneau trade. He made 28 starts for the Twins to end the season and hit .283/.336/.363 (.699) with four doubles, a triple and a home run.
Presley has struggled in parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Overall, he has played in 232 games and hit .264/.304/.411 (.715). In 733 minor league games, he has hit .292/.352/.437 (.789).
LOOKING TO SPRING
Let’s start with the obvious. Wilkin Ramirez is likely not in competition for the starting centerfield job. He may be competing for the 25th man on the roster, but it’s fair to say he won’t be the Twins starter. Also, Darin Mastroianni may be involved in the competition this spring, but ultimately, he’s fighting for a fourth (or fifth) outfield job after being designated for assignment during the offseason.
The big question for Twins fans (and frankly, the front office) has to be; what does Aaron Hicks have to do this spring to win the centerfield job? Think about it. If he puts up the remarkable spring statistics he did a year ago, will he win the job? What are the intangibles that manager Ron Gardenhire will need to see for him to get the job. Hicks certainly has the potential and the tools to be a very good, all-round outfielder. He may never hit for average, but he has shown an ability to get on base. He does have extra base power. He plays tremendous defense and has a very strong arm. The Twins certainly have not given up on him.
He gained ten pounds this offseason in an attempt to get stronger. He did not play winter ball which allowed him to clear his head and rest his body. He should come to camp strong. We know he will be either the Twins starting centerfielder or the Rochester Red Wings starting centerfielder. He will not be a backup at this stage of his career. The Twins brass need to determine what is best for him, long-term.
However, the incumbent right now is Presley. Though he hasn’t shown a lot in the big leagues, his minor league career implies he could become a decent player. Specifically, he has shown an ability to get on base, and he has shown some extra- base pop. He is a solid defender, though certainly not in the class of Aaron Hicks. He probably profiles more as a fourth outfielder than a starter. That’s probably what he is with the Twins as well. He is likely the favorite for opening day starter, but at the end of the day, he is most likely a stop-gap. He is a place-holder maybe for Aaron Hicks who should come up sometime in 2014 and get another shot. He is also, in the big picture, a stop-gap till Byron Buxton arrives.
Oh, Byron Buxton… He will also be at big league spring training this year. The consensus #1 prospect in all baseball is the talk of minor league baseball. The question with him is not IF, but WHEN. When will Buxton come up to the Twins, and just how great can be become. Of course, we also need to remember he has just a half-season of High-A ball under his belt. He is likely to start the season in New Britain, but a midseason promotion to the Twins is not out of the realm of possibility. In spring training, he will be looking to make an impression on the coaching staff.
This will be an interesting competition to watch. As noted, I really believe it is a two-man race between last year’s opening day centerfielder (Aaron Hicks) and the incumbent for the job (Alex Presley). Ask yourself the question I did above: What do you think Aaron Hicks needs to do, or needs to show, to be the starting centerfielder? Presley is out of options, and he’s a solid outfielder, so he appears to be a shoo-in for the opening day roster, but should he be the starter? And, ultimately, how long will Twins fans have to wait for Byron Buxton. Buxton could force Hicks to a corner outfield spot and Presley to the role of backup outfielder again.
How do you see this position battle playing out throughout the spring?
Next, head over to Twins Daily for much more Twins-related content.
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