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I’m not going to give away my whole blueprint. You’ll need to purchase your own copy of the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook here to get all of it. However, here is Suggestion #8 from my Blueprint (also, be sure to contribute your blueprint to be entered into a drawing for a free TwinsCentric Maple Street Press Twins Annual for 2012.):
Depth and Development in AAA are both important
Rochester should have a lot of young players in 2012 ready to come up when needed.
Yet, those players should remain in Rochester, playing every day, until they are needed
for a more full-time role in Minnesota. I wish that Ben Revere could get more time in
AAA , but he is likely locked in to a big league spot. Joe Benson, Evan Bigley and
Dustin Martin are close in the OF. Chris Parmelee showed that he could come up and
Contribute at 1B. Brian Dozier should get time at both SS and 2B. Tsuyoshi Nishioka can
develop in AAA, or AA. Danny Lehmann and Drew Butera can play at AAA and
contribute in a backup role with the Twins. Liam Hendriks, David Bromberg, Carlos
Gutierrez, Lester Oliveros, Carlos Gutierrez, Deolis Guerra and other young pitchers
can develop and be ready when needed.
One generalization that many Twins fans have made about the Twins 2011 season is that it somehow proved that the Twins system was weaker than it has been. I would agree that in the upper levels there are not any Mauer, Morneau or Kubels, but there are some decent, solid baseball players. However, is it really that the system is weaker or just that because the Twins had so many injuries that anywhere from five to ten guys from the minor leagues not only came up to contribute, but to be counted on, on a daily basis. Let’s take a quick look back a few years with the Twins and see how many players came up from AAA and needed to contribute.
2010 – Danny Valencia was called up in June and became an everyday player in July. He fit in among the other regulars. Wilson Ramos came up in April to play for an injured Joe Mauer. He had seven hits in his first two games and then one more hit in his five other Twins games. Alex Burnett debuted in the bullpen. We saw other debuts but those were the only ones that received significant playing time.
2009 – Anthony Swarzak came up mid-season and made some very nice starts for the Twins. Jose Morales came up later and did some catching, some DHing and actually hit .311 in 134 at bats. Brian Duensing came up and pitched in 15 games out of the bullpen before making nine important starts at the end of the season. Jeff Manship debuted and saw some time in the bullpen and made huge starts. He recorded his first win on the final weekend in a must-win game against the Royals.
2008 – Brian Buscher came up and contributed a .294 batting average in 70 games at 3B when needed.
2007 – Kevin Slowey went 4-1 in 13 appearances for the Twins.
2006 – Jason Bartlett came up after the Juan Castro trade and one he did, things turned around. Jason Kubel was getting back to action after missing the entire 2005 season. Francisco Liriano was the best pitcher in baseball after he was called up until he hurt his elbow. Boof Bonser made 18 starts and pitched well enough late to get a postseason start. Willie Eyre pitched in 42 games out of the bullpen. Matt Garza made nine starts for the team in the second half. Pat Neshek became one of the best relief pitchers in baseball pretty much immediately after coming up for the second half.
2005 – Luis Rodriguez got over 200 plate appearances over 79 games in the infield. Bartlett debuted and played in 74 games. Dave Gassner got a big win.
2004 – Jesse Crain contributed a 2.00 ERA in 22 games after he came up. Grant Balfour came up with some big relief outings late in the season. Jason Kubel debuted and hit .300 in September. Joe Mauer debuted and did well when healthy.
2003 – Justin Morneau made his debut in June.   
So, let’s fast-forward back to 2011 when the Twins needed contributions from Rochester from: Ben Revere, Luke Hughes, Trevor Plouffe, Rene Rivera, Rene Tosoni, Brian Dinkelman, Joe Benson, Chris Parmelee, Anthony Swarzak, Phil Dumatrait, Scott Diamond, Jim Hoey, Liam Hendriks, Lester Oliveros, Chuck James, Eric Hacker and Anthony Slama. Three of them spent most of their season at Double-A. Several were brought in as an attempt to help Rochester win more games in 2012, not to come up and have to play a lot.
But unlike those previous years, where a couple of guys came up and were asked to step into more than just a small role, on any given day, as many as a dozen of these guys would play.
I’m in no way claiming that the Twins upper levels are full of high-level prospects. I am not saying that the Twins struggles during the season were solely based on the injuries (although that obviously contributed to so many players being pushed to contribute). What I am saying is that because of the injuries, many of these guys were asked to play, and along with second year guys like Danny Valencia and Drew Butera playing so much, it’s no question that they weren’t ready to compete.
So, looking to 2012, the Twins will need to make sure that they have plenty of people available at most positions in case of injuries or poor play. They need to have guys at AAA that can contribute when called upon. There are a lot of good, strong arms. Joe Benson will soon be ready in the outfield. In the infield, we could hear from Brian Dozier, Yangervis Solarte and Chris Parmelee. As I mention above, there are a lot of arms that could be called upon in 2012 in the bullpen and Liam Hendriks could make some starts.
The cupboard is not bare. However, for the Twins to contend in 2012 (if you think they can), they will need health from the majority of the regulars, and they will need a few guys who begin the season in Rochester to come up big when needed.