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.

Read more about them.

Gleeman and the Geek, Episode 133: Pitchers and Catchers Report

Posted by: John Bonnes Updated: February 16, 2014 - 8:03 PM

Aaron and John visit Rye Deli on the same day the offseason ends and discuss what we want to see from the 2014 Twins, what to expect from the pitching staff and how to start their own bar with zero experience. You can listen by clicking below, or download us from iTunes,Stitcher or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com.

Here's this week's breakdown:
2:00 - Aaron’s moving update
3:30 – Brunch
4:20 – Players in the best shape of their life
8:00 – John & Aaron’s public speaking schedule
14:00 – John meeting Aaron’s Mom
17:30 – Twins claiming LHP Brooks Raley 
24:30 – Underrating and overrating Derek Jeter37:20 – Rye Deli owner David Weinstein tutors John & Aaron on how to start a restaurant/bar with no experience
44:30 – What’s important for the Twins 2014 season?
59:40 – What can we expect from the starting rotation in 2014?
1:05:00 – Valentine’s Day
1:12:00 – Mailbag
1:29:00 – The first kiss
1:31:30 – Parker’s Second Chance Video 

Celebrate the end of a lot offseason at Twins Daily!  There's always good discussion on the team in our Minnesota Twins forum.  

TwinsCentric: TD Top Prospects #2 Miguel Sano

Posted by: Seth Stohs Updated: February 13, 2014 - 7:28 AM

Miguel Sano would be the #1 prospect, arguably, in about 27 of the 30 Major League Organizations, at least according to Baseball America. In the Minnesota Twins organization, he ranks a solid #2. I bet you can guess who will be named the Twins Daily #1 Twins Prospect tomorrow. It’s been a long time since the Twins have had a prospect with the kind of power that Miguel Sano has. He has a jovial personality, and that combination means that he has a chance to be a superstar.

What’s to Like?

A lot! First and foremost is the immense power of Miguel Sano. In 2012, in Beloit, Sano hit 30 home runs. Last year, he moved up Ft. Myers where he hit 16 home runs in just 56 games before adding another 19 homers in AA New Britain… as a 20 year old! Remember that the Midwest League and especially the Florida State League are considered fairly extreme pitcher-friendly leagues.


What is his power potential? Sano is 6-4 now and weighed in at 250 pounds at his Twins Fest physical, and he may still be growing. As you recall from the interview with him at Twins Fest, when I asked his if his home run goal for 2014 was going to be 40 (after 30 and 35, respectively, in the past two seasons), he said, “Maybe 45, maybe 50. More games… Maybe 55. I’m working hard, getting good pitches. That’s it.”

That is another thing to like about Miguel Sano. Yes, he will strike out, but his strike zone judgment has greatly improved. After walking just 6.2% of the time in the GCL and 7.8% at Elizabethton, Sano walked 14.5% of the time in Beloit. Last year, he walked about 12% of the time in Ft. Myers and then 13% in New Britain. The key has been his ability to lay off of those tough sliders down and away. With more experience, his ability to get his pitch should continue to improve.

Another area of great improvement for Sano came on the defensive side of the game. 2012 was his first season where he was a full-time third baseman. He committed 42 errors and posted an 88.4% fielding percentage. Of course, I always like to point out that nearly 30 of those errors came in the first half of the season. In 2012, he committed a combined 23 errors at the hot corner and his fielding percentage jumped to 93.2% There is still work to be done, but reports say that he greatly improved his range. He is able to play a little deeper because he has such a strong arm.

He also has some of the intangibles for greatness. Sano has great confidence, and he wants to be great, not just very good. He wants to lead the league in Home Runs and RBI. It can come across as brash at times. He has always had a lot of personality. Earlier in his career, some say he lacked a maturity. Now, most say that he is becoming more of a leader. He has a lot of fun playing the game and in the clubhouse. His English has also come a long way over the last couple of years.

What’s not to like?

As mentioned above, he still has work to do at third base. He will make some great plays and then stumble on some more routine plays. Often that is more of a concentration thing. So, he needs to become more consistent.

When Miguel Sano puts the ball in play, generally good things happen because he so powerful. However, putting the ball in play is still a concern. Sano struck out 26.7% of his GCL plate appearances, and then 26.3% at Elizabethton. In Beloit in 2012, he struck out 26.0%. In his 56 games with Ft. Myers a year ago, he struck out 25.1% of the time. However, when he moved up to New Britain, he struck out 29.3% of the time. Just for a glimpse of what that means, in 2006, Brandon Wood struck out 28.5% of his plate appearances at AA. So, although Sano has put up incredible power numbers, to dismiss his strikeout rate might be a little naïve.

Remember that I put Sano’s confidence in the positive category? I believe players need to be confident, bordering on arrogant, to become a truly great player. However, there is a certain line that shouldn’t be crossed, and that is typically showing up your opponent. Sano famously took his time rounding the bases last year in New Britain after a monster home run off of former teammate Bobby Lanigan. Clearly Sano was in the wrong in that case, and Jeff Smith and the organization were right in benching him for a few games. Hopefully that is a lesson learned for the still-just-20 year old Sano.

The only other concern came early this offseason when, after playing in just two games in the Dominican Winter League, he was shut down due to a UCL strain. Immediately many were concerned about the possibility that Sano could miss most, if not all, of the 2014 season if he needed Tommy John surgery. He not only saw Twins doctors, but he went and saw Dr. James Andrews, who prescribed the plan of resting it and then starting to rehab in January. Sano is now on a throwing program and experiencing no pain in his elbow. It’s obviously something to be aware of, thought there does not appear to be much concern.

Looking Back

Some of the readers at Twins Daily may be able to think back further than I, but in the last 25 years, power prospects have been few and far between in the Twins organization. I remember when Justin Morneau made his Major League debut and received a standing ovation from Metrodome fans. I was watching at my home… standing up, and clapping. In 2002, he had 16 homers, 12 in the Midwest League (63 games) and four in 53 games in Ft. Myers. In 2003, he hit 22 minor league homers and four big league blasts. In 2004, he hit 22 homers in 72 games in Rochester and 19 home runs in 74 games with the Twins.

Michael Cuddyer had 30 home runs in a full season at New Britain in 2001. In 2002, he played at AAA Edmonton and hit 20 home runs. That was good for 5th place on the team’s roster as Michael Ryan led with 31 and Michael Restovich had 29.

I think it’s fair to say that when Miguel Sano arrives in the big leagues, he will arrive with more fan-fare than any Twins player in their history, with the possible exception of Joe Mauer. Sano signed with the Twins in October of 2009 under a cloud of controversy and intrigue. It’s been impressive that he has met, and exceeded, many of the expectations placed upon him

So… When will we see him?

I expect Miguel Sano to return to New Britain to start the 2014 season. I also have my doubts that he will spend any time in AAA Rochester.

Assuming health, I would put the odds of Sano making his big league debut in 2014 at about 99.9% But when? There will be a couple of factors that play into this. First, the strikeout rate and the defense will need to continue to improve. However, if Trevor Plouffe were to be placed on the Disabled List for an extended period of time, I have little question that the Twins would not hesitate to call up Sano, whether that be in May or June. Otherwise, the Twins could wait until June and gain a year of pre-arbitration time. They could have him play in the Futures Game at Target Field in July and then just stay with the big league club. Since he would have to be added to the 40 man roster after the 2014 season anyway, I believe he would be called up in September unless things went terribly wrong.

Like TD Prospect #3 Alex Meyer, and like TD's #1 prospect that you'll learn more about tomorrow, and like Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau and Johan Santana, Miguel Sano is a cornerstone player. He is a guy who will, or at least can, lead the Twins organization back to prominence.

http://www.twinsdaily.comFor much more Twins inofrmation and content and discussion forums, please head over to TwinsDaily.com. 

Twins Daily Top Prospects: #3 Alex Meyer

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: February 11, 2014 - 11:00 PM

The rarest and most coveted type of prospect in the Minnesota Twins' system has been the hard-throwing, dominant starting pitcher. Shortcomings in this area have been reflected in the big-league rotation, where a lack of front-end talent has been a primary downfall during the club's recent stretch of misery.

There is no greater need in this organization than a pitcher with the ability to develop into a legitimate No. 1 who can miss bats and regularly shut down opposing lineups. For that reason, I consider Alex Meyer the single most important prospect the Twins have, even if he's not necessarily the best (or second-best).

Fast

Heat is Meyer's calling card. That was evident when he was named Mr. Baseball in the state of Indiana as a senior in high school, finishing 8-0 with 108 strikeouts and a 0.95 ERA in 51 innings for Greensburg High School. Meyer achieved the outstanding results by relying on a hard fastball and a sharp spike curve that set him apart from his prep peers.

Following Meyer's senior year, the Red Sox tried to fish him away from a commitment to the University of Kentucky by offering him a massive $2 million signing bonus as a 20th-round pick, but the righty elected instead to join the Wildcats.

He improved his stock with three strong seasons at UK and was selected in the first round, with the 23rd overall pick, by the Nationals in the 2011 draft.

Faster

It's common for high draft picks out of college to move quickly when they reach pro ball, and Meyer was no exception. In his first season as a member of the Nationals system, he cruised through two levels of Single-A, finishing with a 2.86 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 139/45 K/BB ratio in 25 starts. Over 129 innings, he allowed only 97 hits, holding the overmatched opposition to a .603 OPS.

After putting together a great first season in the pros, Meyer soon found himself on the move, traded to Minnesota in exchange for Denard Span. His rapid ascent continued in the new organization as he headed straight to Double-A and continued to excel while piling up strikeouts at a phenomenal rate.

Fastest

Though his breaking ball has drawn rave reviews as a devastating secondary pitch, and his changeup is coming along, Meyer's fastball is the star of the show. Bearing down from his sky-scraping 6'9" frame, the heater routinely hurdles toward the plate in the upper-90s with natural life, and as he's aged into his mid-20s Meyer has only added velocity.

While watching him pitch in the Arizona Fall League a few months ago, ESPN.com's prospect wonk Keith Law reported that Meyer was routinely working at 98 mph with the fastball and touching 99 often. Many observers, including Law, noted that the lanky right-hander touched triple digits on multiple occasions.

That's a level of gas that the Twins haven't gotten from a starter since... ever?

Meyer was a dominant force in New Britain last year, striking out 28 percent of the batters he faced. His arsenal is almost certainly good enough to play at the highest level right now, and at 24 he has reached an age where many top prospects break into the majors if they haven't already. Let's get him up, right?

Not So Fast...

There are a few factors that will likely delay Meyer's arrival, at least a bit. The first is the logjam in the major-league rotation, created by the addition of multiple veteran free agents and the presence of three returning hurlers who are out of options.

Meyer has better stuff than anyone currently slated to be in the starting five, even by the admission of one of those five, but there's no rush to throw him in there. He hasn't pitched above Double-A and still hasn't been added to the 40-man roster, whereas there are more urgent decisions to be made on other starters in front of him.

And Meyer isn't without his own warts. He's had some command issues, though nothing too alarming.

It's fairly typical for pitchers his size to have to refine their location over time. Just look at Randy Johnson, who -- at a lanky 6'10" and 225 lbs. -- had a similar build. He had a major problem with walks early in his career before ultimately finding his release and becoming a Hall of Famer.

Meyer's control problems haven't been nearly as pronounced as those of a young Johnson, but still you get the sense that the Twins would like to see him hit his spots a little more consistently before they give him a shot.

The larger concern is health. Meyer was limited to 13 starts with the Rock Cats last year due to a shoulder injury that cost him about two months of the season. He came back and pitched well at the end of the year, carrying that over into the AFL, but shoulder soreness can be a lingering malady for many pitchers.

Meyer's durability will be a question mark until he enjoys a prolonged period of clean health, and even if he does he'll still probably be held to a strict innings limit this year after throwing only 78 frames in 2013 (about 100 if you include the AFL).

All of this means that, while Meyer is likely to make his major-league debut sometime this year, we probably won't see the full impact of his ability before 2015 at least.

Until then, the term "ace in the hole" seems more than fitting.

Previous 2014 Twins Daily Top Twins Prospects:

#10 – Trevor May
#9 – Lewis Thorpe
#8 – Jorge Polanco
#7 – Josmil Pinto
#6 – Jose Berrios
#5 – Eddie Rosario
#4 – Kohl Stewart

TwinsCentric: TD Top Prospects: #6 Jose Berrios

Posted by: Parker Hageman Updated: February 7, 2014 - 11:48 AM

We were introduced to Jose Berrios in a video of him celebrating with his friends and family after receiving the exquisite news that he was drafted by a professional baseball team. Arms in a “V”, high-fives, hugs and tears. 

For Minnesota Twins fans, the sequel is of him doing the same thing on the field following the last out of a World Series victory. That’s the dream anyway. There remains, of course, a long road from here to there. 

Still, Berrios has done much in his burgeoning career to inspire hope that he can be a part of any championship team in the coming years. After the draft, the supplemental first round pick dominated rookie ball in both the Appalachian and Gulf Coast Leagues in 2012, racking up 49 strikeouts and allowing just four walks in 30.2 innings. Baseball America said he was the team’s sixth best prospect in a system where new and elite talent was constantly being stocked. 

This past season Berrios, at the ripe age of 19, performed well in the tougher competitive challenge in the Midwest League. Mindful of his development, the Twins pulled back the reins to help insure he remains out of the infirmary, where so many of their lauded pitching prospects have gone. And, like most raw prospect talents, he also encountered some resistance as he discovered he could not always throw his speedball by you to make you look like a fool. 

Why He Might Struggle

Berrios’ stature -- generously listed at six-foot-nothing -- may be his biggest perceived weakness. While that would be an inch and change above my current height, by major league pitching standards, that is considered downright diminutive. With a three-quarters delivery, there have been occasions when he has been unable to get the ball down in the zone and when that happens...boom

According to MinorLeagueCentral.com’s depository of stats, Berrios managed just a 40% ground ball rate - a figure toward the bottom of the Midwest League’s leaderboard. As a pitcher ascends in a system that rate typically decreases. It would be nicer to see that number at 50% or higher to go along with his strikeouts but that would take a complete revamping of his repertoire and mechanics. Basically, he is what he is: a strikeout pitcher with fly ball-leaning tendencies. 

The strikeouts, however, did not come in as many bunches this past season as they did his first year in the organization. He’s got a lively fastball, a decent curve with a 1-to-7 break and a good changeup with plenty of arm-side run. During his amatuer days, Perfect Game noted that Berrios had flashed a cutter to go along with his other three pitches. His problem, he acknowledged this summer, is that he tries to throw the fastball past everyone rather than mix in the assortment. 

Why He Will Succeed

OK, so he won’t win any...umm...height contests but wowzers, that’s an impressive wing span on the young man. What is striking about Berrios is how polished his mechanics are for his age and how well he hides the ball from hitters in his windup. With three above-average pitches, it is easy to see why he can miss bats; just a little tinkering with his pitch deployment strategy could make for a very lethal pitcher. 

Beyond that, much has been made of Berrios’ work ethic. Gary Lucas, his pitching coach with Cedar Rapids last year, raved about his advanced make-up for someone as young as he is. He told Twins Daily’s Seth Stohs recently that he places a great deal of emphasis on his training. There is no reason to think that Berrios won’t do everything in his power to take his God-given talent to the next level. 

What’s Next?

Berrios is a long way from being in the Twins’ roster anytime in the near future. Realistically he may be best suited to be a late-innings reliever, someone who doesn’t have to churn through 100 bullets a night and who can stomp his cleats on hitters’ throats with his two best pitches. That said, there is no reason to write him off as a potential starter. Some refinement in his approach and filling out as he matures could propel him into a rotation spot. Either way, Berrios has some electric stuff that -- barring catastrophic injuries -- will eventually be on display at the major league level.

Read more at TwinsDaily.com:

#7: Josmil Pinto

#8: Jorge Polanco

#9: Lewis Thorpe

#10: Trevor May

Twins Daily Top Prospects: #8 Jorge Polanco

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: February 5, 2014 - 9:37 AM

Over at Twins Daily, we're running through our list of the Top 10 prospects in the Twins organization. Below you can find our writeup on #8, Jorge Polanco. Over at the the site, you can find writeups on #10 Trevor May and #9 Lewis Thorpe.

Signed in the same year and from the same Dominican academy as Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco has largely been overshadowed ever since starting his pro career.

Sano received a franchise-record $3.5 million signing bonus and has had a documentary crew exhaustively following his rise to the majors. Polanco signed for "only" $750,000 and didn't experience the type of immediate success that his uber-talented fellow countryman did.

But, with back-to-back stand-out seasons under his belt, Polanco is quickly beginning to command attention in a system where competition for it is fierce.
 

An Inauspicious Start

When Polanco came to the United States, he carried with him a sterling defensive reputation. Baseball America's prospect guru John Manuel ranked him as the best defensive infielder in Minnesota's system in January of 2010, before he had played a single game stateside.

Polanco's aptitude with the glove was never in question, but his bat was a point of uncertainty. The Twins acquired him as an undersized 16-year-old without much punch; in his first year, while splitting time between the Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League, he managed only eight extra-base hits (one homer) in 52 games, slugging .294.

Spending his second year in the GCL, Polanco once again managed only one home run and finished with a .668 OPS. But at season's end he had only been 18 for about a month.

The word "kid" is thrown around too often when referring to young baseball players and prospects, but that's what he was. And unlike Sano, who has been an imposing figure since he was about 12, Polanco looked it.

The Power Comes

Here's the thing about kids: they grow. Polanco isn't going to be confused with Sano any time soon, but he has added bulk since first joining the organization, and it shows in his numbers.

In his first two seasons, Polanco slugged .322. In 2012, he went to Elizabethton and slugged .514, racking up 22 extra-base hits in 51 games.

In 2013, he made the move to full-season ball and enjoyed another stellar campaign at Cedar Rapids. Among qualifying second basemen in the Midwest League, Polanco was the youngest, but he ranked second in batting average (.308) and second in OPS (.813).

Polanco's offensive transformation has been truly remarkable. Four years ago he could barely hit the ball out of the infield; last year he tallied 32 doubles and 10 triples as a 19-year-old in Single-A, ranking among the top 10 in the MWL in both runs scored and RBI.

A switch-hitter who's always been known for good plate discipline and very low strikeout rates, Polanco is becoming a truly potent threat at the plate now that he's driving the ball more frequently.

Where Does He Fit?

That's a good question. Polanco has split time between shortstop and second base at every level, but the majority of his recent time has come on the right side and -- considering his lack of size and arm strength -- there's almost no chance he'll play short regularly in the majors.

At second, his skills are highly lauded. But of course the Twins currently have an uncharacteristic stock of talent at that position.

With Brian Dozier and Eddie Rosario both in front of him, Polanco would appear to have plenty of time to work his way through the system.

When Will He Arrive?

Despite starting their careers at the same time, and being just months apart in age, Sano and Polanco have followed very different paths.

The former defies convention as an elite prospect and perhaps one of the greatest talents the Dominican Republic has produced. The latter is on a far more traditional progression, meaning that while Sano may be threatening for a big-league spot early this season, Polanco's ETA is much farther down the line.

Ascending one level per year would place him in the majors around 2017. Unless he flat-out dominates in Ft. Myers and/or New Britain, I think it's unlikely we'd see that timetable accelerated much.

But if he does come out raking at High-A this spring, he may join Rosario as a fast-tracked second base prospect who can drive the ball. That would put the Twins in an interesting position in a couple years, especially if Dozier doesn't falter.

Gleeman and the Geek, Episode 131: Garza or Nolasco and Buxton Dreams

Posted by: John Bonnes Updated: February 3, 2014 - 5:39 PM

Aaron and John talk about the Twins choosing Ricky Nolasco over Matt Garza, dreaming about Byron Buxton, Matt Guerrier's return, selling Andrew Albers to Korea, recapping the "Winter Meltdown" event, smoking after close, Hebrew school reunions, on-air interventions, Hammerheart's support, swapping wives, and Super Bowl parties. You can listen by clicking below, or download us from:

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT