Today, you get another installment of my Twins minor league notebook. It is a look around the Twins minor league system, a look at who is doing well, who is struggling and some interesting stories. Hopefully you enjoy and please feel free to comment or suggest other stories of note.
Quick Turn Around
The beauty of looking at April season statistics is that they essentially mean nothing. It is amazing to me how quickly the outlook on any player can change. Here are two examples:
· Aaron Hicks – His season started off really non-well. The clear choice for the Twins top prospect started the season by going 1-31 (.032). In his 32nd at bat, he hit a home run. In his past seven games (plus final three at bats of the game he homered), he has gone 16-29 (.552) with six walks, two doubles and two home runs. He is now hitting .283 and getting on base about 45% of the time.
· Danny Valencia – After an 0-3 game on Friday, Valencia was hitting just .152 (7-46). In the three games since then, he has eight hits in just 15 at bats including three doubles. He is now hitting .246. He raised his batting average nearly .100 in three games.
So again, it’s always great to get off to a fast start. Imagine if Hicks would have started the season by going 16-29. We would have been clamoring for him to be promoted to Ft. Myers. If he had gone on the 1-31 slump at that point, there would not have been much reaction. I think these two players and their numbers illustrate just how careful we have to be with making observations too early in a season.
Much Respect for the ‘Stache
When Anthony Slama recorded the final out of the Red Wings 9-6 win over Syracuse on Monday afternoon, it was more than just his fifth save. Maybe it was his chance to win a contest. In spring training when Nationals 24 year old pitching prospect Collin Balester showed up to spring training with a mustache, it became a story. In this Big League Stew article from March, we learned that Anthony Slama had lost a bet to Balester on which could keep a mustache the longest. (The two have known each other since long before Balester was the 4th round pick of the Montreal Expos in 2004) Slama shaved his mustache before Twins Fest.
The Twins relief pitching prospect told me last night that he didn’t think he should show up to his first big league camp with a mustache. Think about it for a minute, how many mustaches are active in Major League Baseball today? On Monday afternoon, Balester was the starting and losing pitcher for the Syracuse team while Slama recorded the save for the Red Wings. Maybe that’s more important than a silly old bet about a mustache. But have no fear, the mustache is still alive and well. Click here for a great look at it. Slama also told me, “they are making a comeback and we are paving the way.”
- Those of you that read minor league box scores on a daily basis like me know that Minnesotan, former Gopher and Twins 2009 fourth round pick Derek McCallum has not played since April 16th. He has a wrist injury and on Monday, he was finally put on the Disabled List of the Beloit Snappers.
- Last week, I mentioned that Miracle shortstop Paul Kelly was back and hitting well, but that he had not played in almost a week with an ankle injury. He returned to the lineup on April 19th, played two games and then tweaked the ankle again, so he will be out a few more games.
- Brandon Roberts came to the Twins organization in June of 2006. The Twins promoted Jason Bartlett and likely in an attempt to force Ron Gardenhire to play Bartlett over veteran glove man, Juan Castro, the Twins sent Castro to the Reds in exchange for the speedy outfielder. Roberts was great in 2006 in Ft. Myers. He moved up to AA New Britain in 2007 and showed some promise hitting .293 in 110 games. In 2008, he was limited to just 28 AA games before injury. His 2009 season also began late, but he ended up hitting .287 in 103 games with the Rockcats. He even added 21 stolen bases. Still just 25, Roberts began the 2010 campaign on the Rochester disabled list. He was sent to Ft. Myers to rehab with the Miracle. In his second game, he re-aggravated a groin injury and will be out a little longer.
- 7’1” Loek Van Mil is still in Ft. Myers on a rehab program and doing well. He is hoping for a mid-May return to games.
Turned the Corner?
When Deolis Guerra was acquired by the Twins, there were a lot of expectations placed upon the 18 year old pitcher. When most 18 year old pitchers in the Twins farm system were preparing themselves in the Gulf Coast League, Guerra had already spent time in the Florida State League. That is where the Twins sent him again in 2008, and it didn’t go well. He went 11-9 but posted a 5.47 ERA. Most discouraging, he walked 71 and struck out 71 in 130 innings. For 2009, his 20 year old season, Guerra split time between Ft. Myers and New Britain. He showed improvement. In 149 innings, he struck out 106 while reducing his walks to just 42. His changeup was touted the best in the organization. Guerra just turned 21 years old ten days ago, and he is back in AA New Britain continuing his development. It is just three starts and 18 innings into his 2010 season, but maybe he has turned a corner. In those 18 innings, he has 12 strikeouts, but more important, he has NO walks. Guerra is in his first option year with the Twins meaning that he does not have to stay with the big league club until the 2013 season. I would expect to see him much sooner than that.
Six out of Seven Ain’t Bad
Wang-Wei Lin is from Asia. Max Kepler and Loek Van Mil are from Europe. Jair Fernandez is from South America. The Twins have a bunch of players from Australia including the recently promoted Luke Hughes, and even more from North America (which makes sense).
Hein Robb is the team’s representative from the African continent. Hein Robb? Ask even some of the most ardent followers of the Twins minor league system, and many of them have likely not heard of Hein Robb. The left-handed pitcher will most likely be making his United States debut this summer. He is currently working out in Extended Spring Training and will likely pitch for the GCL Twins. Robb has been a representative of South Africa in the most recent international competitions, the World Cup last fall and the World Baseball Classic last spring training. He will turn 18 years old in May, so he is very young and has a ton of development to do if he will ever approach pitching for the Twins, but he is certainly a name to be watching. The Twins are known for being a player around the globe. As noted, they have signed players from six different continents, and unless they plan on signing a polar bear (something I guess I don’t envision happening), they likely won’t be signing anyone from Antarctica in the near future.
Please feel free to leave your comments on the Twins farm system below.