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.
Even before his three-hit shutout on Sunday, I felt that the time had come to promote Kyle Gibson to major leagues. The Twins seemingly positioned themselves to do so Monday when they announced the removal of Pedro Hernandez from the rotation, opening up Friday's start for the taking. But on Tuesday the club ended any such speculation by informing that Samuel Deduno will be the one to get the nod.
Even as a confirmed Gibsonite, I can't feign to be overly upset with this move. Because more than I wanted to see the top prospect get a chance, I wanted to simply see the Twins make some sort of change to their stagnating formula. Deduno qualifies in a major way; a step in the exact opposite direction.
The trademark of Minnesota's rotation was obvious before the season even began. This was a group that was going to throw the ball over the plate and allow tons of contact.
Certainly the starting corps has lived up that expectation, as they've allowed fewer walks than all but one AL team and they rank last in strikeouts by a country mile. Unsurprisingly, this makeup has yielded terrible results as Twins starters have accrued the second-worst ERA in the majors at 5.42. Last year the rotation finished with a 5.40 ERA. The bar was set incredibly low and they've still come up short.
For the first six weeks of the season, the Twins managed to stay afloat in spite of their shortcomings, thanks in large part to some timely hitting and sterling efforts from the bullpen. But recently, with other units beginning to falter, the rotation's warts have become more exposed as the season has quickly begun to spiral out of control. The Twins have lost seven straight and are in the early stage of their toughest stretch to date; 15 of 20 games on the road, including trips to Atlanta, Detroit and Washington.
Change was long overdue, and Hernandez was a logical starting point given that he probably shouldn't have been starting in the majors to begin with. While Gibson would have been my first choice, Deduno was the next one on my list.
The 29-year-old Dominican has intrigued me since last season, when he came up and enjoyed a run of success for the Twins. Since then, he has made a name for himself by helping carry his native country to an impressive title run in the World Baseball Classic.
I'll admit that perhaps I overrate the significance of this event because I was watching it live and was riveted, but Deduno's performance in that tournament's championship game earned him an extended shot in my mind. Pitching against a potent lineup, in the pouring rain, in a game that mattered immensely to him and his teammates, the erratic yet effective righty delivered five dominant innings, standing out in a 3-0 victory.
A groin injury suffered while toughing out those conditions sidelined Deduno and cost him his chance at an Opening Day roster spot with the Twins, but since returning to the field he's been back to his old tricks. In three starts at Rochester, he posted a 2.70 ERA despite issuing 10 walks in a 16 2/3 innings.
In the past I've likened Deduno, whose pitches dart to different locations seemingly at random, to knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Non-conventional pitchers with unique styles. Dickey didn't hit his stride until his mid-30s, so I like the decision to try out Deduno, who turns 30 in a month, and see if he might prove a late bloomer. Certainly there have been some positive signs to that end over the past year.
And in any case, it's nice to see the Twins take such a hard turn from their previous path. The pitchers that have comprised their rotation up to this point – Vance Worley, Mike Pelfrey, Kevin Correia, Scott Diamond, Liam Hendriks and Pedro Hernandez – have obviously enjoyed varying levels of success but have been virtually indistinguishable in approach. Change speeds, try and hit your spots, hope for the best.
Deduno couldn't be farther on the other end of the spectrum. He unleashes electric heaters and breaking balls that essentially move on their own and end up who-knows-where. The result is very many walks and very little hard contact. When he's going good, he can be nearly unhittable.
Even if that "unhittable" comes with a considerable caveat, it's still a welcome term for this starting staff.
Plenty of good new stuff on Twins Daily today, including:
* Brad Swanson's look back at the Twins' 1997 draft.
* SD Buhr's Q&A with third base prospect Travis Harrison.
* A recap of some tough recent times for Class-AA New Britain, via Twins Fan From Afar.
Today, we continue our look at players that the Minnesota Twins could consider drafting with the #4 overall pick in next month's MLB Draft. Today we check out an uber-talented prep player from a baseball hotbed!
Who Is This Guy?
It can be argued that outfielder Austin Meadows is the top-rated high school position player in the 2013 MLB draft. It can also be argued that Austin Meadows is not the top-rated high school position player in the 2013 MLB draft from Loganville, Georgia. Depending on which scout you talk to and on which day, either Meadows (from Grayson High School) or outfielder Clint Frazier (from Loganville High School) might be ranked higher.
Georgia has been a baseball hotbed for the past several years. Twenty players have been drafted out of high school in Georgia over the last six drafts. That doesn’t include several players drafted from Peach State colleges such as Georgia, Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State. The Twins used their second round pick in 2010 on Fayetteville, Georgia, shortstop Niko Goodrum. Just last year, the Twins used the second overall pick on Appling County High School (Baxley, Georgia) outfielder Byron Buxton. Among those drafted by other teams are Jason Heyward (Braves), Zach Wheeler, Tim Beckham, Delino DeShields, Jr., and Dwight Smith, Jr. At least two more Georgia prepsters will be added to that list in 2013.
Austin Meadows, a 6-3, 215 pound outfielder, is a tremendous athlete. He has all five tools. He can hit for average and power, though these skills still need to further develop. This year, he has hit .535/.655/.930 with 14 doubles, a triple and four home runs. He has very good speed, demonstrated by his 17 stolen bases this year. He has been timed at about 6.3 seconds in the 60 yard dash. He is also known as a good center fielder. He also had nearly a 2:1 K:BB ratio this year, showing a good eye at the plate. The one question I keep hearing is whether he has the arm to stay in centerfield, so he more likely profiles in left field, though he has enough power potential that his arm might not be much of an issue.
As mentioned, Meadows is a tremendous athlete. He played basketball until his freshman season. He played football through his junior season but focused on baseball for his senior year. Scouts also like to look at a player’s genetics. Meadow's dad was a three-sport athlete in high school who went to Morehead State on a full football scholarship. He also was a walk-on in baseball. He started in both sports all four years. Meadows’ mother received a fast-pitch softball scholarship to Georgia Southern.
Who Could He Be?
Meadows is very raw, but he has the potential, the upside, to hit for average and power while being a decent outfielder whose speed and arm may push him to left field. Best case scenario, he becomes a Josh Hamilton-like talent. Jay Bruce is another player who he could be compared to. Player comps seem always to be with all-star caliber players, rightly or not; when talking about what Meadows could be, the generic answer is a middle of the lineup power threat.
How Soon Could He Be Playing In Target Field?
When the Twins took Byron Buxton with the #2 pick a year ago, there was talk about him having a fairly raw hit tool. He signed quickly enough last year to spend time in both the GCL and Elizabethton. Since Meadows is not a Boras client, it is feasible that he might not wait until the deadline to sign. If so, it’s possible that he could play for both Twins' rookie league affiliates and start 2014 in Cedar Rapids.
Because he is fairly raw, the assumption should be that he would spend all of 2014 with the Kernels. If he were to proceed up the Mauer path, he would split 2015 between Ft. Myers and New Britain and jump to the Twins in 2016. That’s the absolute best case scenario. Most likely, he would not debut until later in the 2017 season.
If The Twins Draft This Guy, They Messed Up Because…
Although the Twins traded Denard Span and Ben Revere, and Josh Willingham will be a free agent following the 2014 season, the Twins organization does have some outfield depth. Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia are already in the big leagues. Joe Benson is still in the picture. Byron Buxton and Adam Walker should end the 2013 season in Ft. Myers. Max Kepler could still develop. There is frequent talk that infield prospects such as Miguel Sano and Travis Harrison could move to the outfield. Although Best Player Available is generally conceded to be the best strategy-we don’t know what the needs of an organization will be in three or four years- outfield is not a position of need at this time.
Despite the success that the Twins have had with athletic outfielders drafted out of high school in previous drafts, there is always a lot of risk when drafting 18 year olds and giving them $4 million to sign. Meadows is raw and could develop into a star, or his skills may never reach the potential that scouts see in him. That’s the nature of the draft and it is especially true with raw high school talent.
Also, from the reports that I have read and people I have talked to, Clint Frazier may have more power potential and a better arm. There is a friendly competition between the two which may force the best out of each.
If The Twins Draft This Guy, They Nailed It Because…
Whoever they Twins draft, it will be because they have a conviction that the draftee is the best player to help the organization. The front office knows the importance of getting such high picks right. If Meadows reaches that Josh Hamilton-like potential, he is a guy you make room for on a roster. Meadows' potential is to be able to hit for high average and a lot of power. An outfield of Meadows (should he meet his potential), Buxton (should he meet his potential) and Hicks (should he meet his potential), with Arcia (should he meet his potential) DH'ing, sounds like a pretty strong group, especially if Miguel Sano and Travis Harrison can stay in the infield (and meet........).
Many thought it was a mistake when the Twins didn't draft a pitcher in the 2012 draft and instead used the #2 pick to draft a raw, athletic outfielder out of Georgia. Byron Buxton has, so far, done a great job of proving the Twins right. In 2013, it might seem to be equally silly for the Twins to consider drafting another raw, athletic outfielder (also from Georgia). If the Twins are convinced that he can be a four or five tool, difference-making type of hitter, then they absolutely should draft Meadows. If they have enough questions about whether he can reach those levels though, they should absolutely go in another direction.
From my research and discussions, I’m not convinced that he is near the same level as Byron Buxton, so I think the odds of the Twins taking him with the 4th overall pick are likely pretty low.
PREVIOUS Draft Profiles:
LHP Sean Manaea - 5/20/13
John rejoins Aaron and they talk about the Minnesota Twins tumble, two AAA players that could soon join the team, Darin Mastroianni's new diagnosis, Joe Mauer's new hot streak, ballparks, baseball bars, David Ortiz's return, Aaron's Apple fetish and difference between baseball prospects and baseball prospects. To listen, you can check out:
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This Twins season is starting to slids a little, but there is still plenty of hope for the future at Twins Daily:
After finishing the month of April ranked near the bottom of the American League in most categories, the Twins’ offense has undergone a stunning turnaround here in May, where they led the league in scoring through Tuesday. Prior to Wednesday's loss to the White Sox, the Twins had averaged 6.2 runs per game this month and had crossed the plate five or more times in eight of their past nine games.
A sleeping beast awakened, indeed.
Can this unit continue to excel and help keep the team hovering around .500? That will largely be dependent on how young contributors like Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia, Brian Dozier and Chris Parmelee progress, but even more so it may be dictated by the two veterans at the heart of the order.
Justin Morneau pulled into a tie for sixth place in the American League with four RBI on Monday night, but his high ranking has more to do with opportunity than effectiveness. Morneau has started 35 of the Twins’ 36 games – 32 of them in the cleanup spot – and has routinely batted behind Joe Mauer (.426 OBP) and Josh Willingham (.377 OBP).
Entering play Wednesday, Morneau had batted with more runners on base than any player in the majors save for Prince Fielder, and while he’s done well in those situations, batting .326 with runners in scoring position (including 7-for-8 with the bases loaded), you also get the sense based on his track record that he’s been leaving plenty on the table. Morneau has uncharacteristically been limited to two home runs this season, including just one with runners on base. Although he appears healthy, he is slugging .424, which is 65 points below his career mark.
Morneau is on pace for nearly 130 RBI this season even with a mere semblance of his usual power. Imagine what that number could look like if he were flashing more pop. We may actually be starting to see that now, as the 32-year-old has been hitting the ball with increasing authority recently, having tallied five doubles (and not coincidentally 10 RBI) in his past seven games.
The man hitting in front of Morneau is another interesting case. After driving in 110 runs last year, Willingham is on pace for 72 this year. Like with Morneau, this can be attributed to decreased power – Willingham hasn’t homered in May and is well off last year’s pace despite a team-leading total of five – but the bigger culprit is a simple lack of hitting.
It’s not that Willingham has been an offensive liability; he’s contributing to Morneau’s opportunities by getting on base at a .377 clip, thanks to a career-high walk rate. But walks don’t drive in runs and the slugging outfielder is batting just .204. In 39 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, he has collected only six hits.
The Twins are relying on these two boppers to provide the brunt of the power in their lineup and produce runs. Morneau is trending up in that department and Willingham, despite his recent slump, has proven more than capable. If the heart of the lineup can start beating more steadily, this offense should be able to keep its rhythm.
Coming into the game, centerfielder Aaron Hicks had a hitting line of .137/.239/.216 (.455). He had just five extra base hits in the first 30 games. He had struggled one defense as well as with the bat.
And then came Monday night.
After popping up in his first at bat, Hicks came up to the plate to lead off the 4th inning. He launched a long home run, 416 feet to straight-away centerfield.
In the top of the 6th inning, the Twins lead had been cut to 5-3 with a runner still on base when Adam Dunn, who also came into the game with a .137 batting average, came to the plate. Dunn launched a ball to nearly the same spot as Hicks’s home run. Fortunately, Hicks raced back to the wall, leapt and then caught the ball well above the fence, robbing Dunn of a game-tying home run.
The Target Field crowd erupted as Hicks showed the ball and smiled all the way back in to the dugout. He would bat second in the bottom half of the 6th inning. After Oswaldo Arcia struck out, Hicks stepped to the plate. On the first pitch he saw from lefty Hector Santiago, Hicks made solid contact and launched a ball, 412 feet, into the bullpen behind the left field fence.
In doing so, he became the youngest Twins player to have a multi-home run game since Justin Morneau did it in 2004. Upon arriving in the dugout, the fans called for a curtain call, and Hicks obliged.
Following the game, Hicks stat line showed .152/.256/.286 (.542). It’s a good reminder of how much Hicks has struggled. It is going to take him a while to get those numbers up into the “respectable” category. However, his ability to take walks and show some power are encouraging for the long-term future.
As disappointing as the first six weeks of the season has been for Hicks, it’s important to remember why fans were right to be excited about Hicks. No, it has nothing to do with the small-sample of Spring Training, though that was certainly encouraging. Let’s take a quick look at the Aaron Hicks stat line and recall why there is so much optimism for the future of Aaron Hicks.
We won’t go all the way back to 2008 when the Twins took the California prep with the 14th overall pick. At the time, some teams ranked him higher than that, but as a pitcher. However, Hicks wanted to be a hitter, and the Twins were happy to take a guy that many believed had five-tool potential.
It certainly has not been an easy ride up the Twins farm system. In 2009, he was scheduled to play in Elizabethton, but injuries pushed him up to Beloit where he struggled. He struggled enough that he repeated in Beloit in 2010 and showed much improvement. In 2011, he moved up to Ft. Myers where he again struggled early. He was a surprise invite to the Arizona Fall League where he had a nice breakout showing.
In 2012, he moved up to AA and showed exactly what he can be as a player if he were to develop well. Hicks hit .286/.384/.460 (.844). Although I don’t believe that he will ever be a real high batting average guy, Hicks has always had a knack for getting on nearly 10% of the team via the walk. It is always great to see that trait remain as a player moves up levels.
Hicks also had 21 doubles, 11 triples and 13 home runs in 2012. This shows that Hicks is not just a guy who stands at the plate and hopes to walk. He does have plenty of extra base power. He likely won’t be a 30 homer guy, but at his peak, Hicks could hit 15-20 home runs a year. The doubles and triples show that he has very good gap power, and the triples indicate the kind of speed that Hicks has. Add in 32 stolen bases, and you know that you’ve got a very fast player.
Is he a five-tool player? Because he is one to strike out quite a bit, he may never have a great hit tool, but I think his ability to get on base makes up for that to some degree. He has good power for the position he plays. He certainly has very good speed. Although we have not seen it consistently, Aaron Hicks can be a very good outfielder with good range. And, his arm is very strong and generally quite accurate.
Is it surprising that Aaron Hicks is struggling early in the season? Not at all. Hicks has struggled early in seasons before when going to a new level. Then consider that he is actually skipping a level to go along with being in the big leagues for the first time. His struggles have been monumental, but a game like Monday night should remind us of Hicks’ immense ability. Now, it’s just a matter of how can he put together consistently quality plate appearances from game to game, or even from at bat to at bat.
Does one tremendous game mean that the tide has turned and all will be good for Hicks going forward? Of course not. What it does, for me, is remind me that the Twins need to do whatever it is that they feel is best for Hicks long-term to attempt to make him the best player he can be. Is that struggling in the big leagues, or is there a better situation for Hicks in Rochester? I can’t pretend to know the right answer to that question as it is something that would be different for every player. The variables to that question go beyond the physical and deep into the mental and psychological makeup of the player.
The Smile doesn’t show up on the stat page, and often we tend to mock the intangibles, but it was continually brought up how much Hicks was smiling following the catch, then the second home run and through the curtain call. With the struggles, it is great to see Hicks actually having fun. It’s easy to say that one is having fun, but it was clear that Hicks was relaxed enough at that point to have a blast. If he can relax, it will only help his performance on the field.
So, what do you think?
The Geek is in New York, so Aaron and special guest co-host Parker Hageman talk about whether the Minnesota Twins are a legitimately decent team or a mirage, Joe Mauer's hot streak and high strikeout rate, funneling food into your face to become a star, Kyle Gibson's timetable, Mother's Day hijinks, Vance Worley's struggles, Glen Perkins being a nerd again, the pros and cons of cursing, and updating the bar-buying plans. Here are:
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