Thursday, April 24, 2008
Minor League Report
Anyway, just wanted to let everyone know that we’re gonna try to big back the weekly minor league report to the Sunday sports section (cue McFadden and Whitehead). Not sure what form it will be in, but keep an eye out for some sort of update on Twins prospects. We’re aware how much you crave that info, so we’re going to try to give you what you want. Somewhere, Seth Stohs is steaming…
No, I wasn't steaming, but it does appear that I'm just going to have to step up my minor league game a little bit. So, I have been trying really hard to come up with something, some topics or stories related to the Twins minor league system. I've got a few today, so hopefully you will enjoy it and still consider SethSpeaks.net a good place for minor league information. In reality, I am thrilled that the Star-Tribune has decided to bring back the minor league reports on Sunday's because I love everything about it. I eat up any information relative to the Twins minor league system, so the more the better! So, I'll just try to play a part, and I really hope that you will share any thoughts or ideas you may have for this. I have left several places for various comments, so please feel free to check them all.
AGE IS JUST A NUMBER, RIGHT?
Earlier this week, it came out that Miguel Tejada is actually two years older than he had previously claimed (and that his last name is actually Tejeda). Instead of being 31, he is actually 33. Now, this is really only a problem with players from Latin America. Most of these people have come from very poor backgrounds and are looking for any way to provide basic necessities for their families. In Tejada's case, he claimed to be two years younger and the Oakland A's signed him thinking he was 17 years old, not 19 years old. They may not have signed him had they known he was 19. There have been several cases where a player claims to be older than he actually is. If you recall Adrian Beltre claimed to be 16 so that he could sign, and several years later, it was learned that he was actually only 15 years old. He signed with the Dodgers a year earlier than he could according to the rules of International signings.
I learned yesterday from someone close to the Twins organization that Minor League Baseball had sent a memo to all minor league players stating that anyone who lied or deceived any major league club on any application regarding age, name, etc. could be banished from the league. The memo also has a provision in there for players who wish to "come clean."
(Quick Note - I have also heard from a few other people... who would know... that not every player in the organization has seen a memo yet.)
Someone with the Twins told me that he was unaware of the memo I was referring to, but wanted to note that the Twins are in the same situation as every other team. It was noted that when a team signs a player, it does as much research as possible to verify all of the information is correct. This situation was addressed by the league a few times over the last six to eight years and is much better than it used to be. We have to remember that Tejada signed about a dozen years ago, and once people believed the information was correct, there was no reason to suspect otherwise.
In general, it is difficult to know which Latin American players are the actual age they claim to be. A very unfortunate part of that is that there can be a cloud of suspicion over every Latin ball player. I have now been told by a few people, closer to the organization than I, that there are concerns about several Twins minor leaguers, some who may be older than they claim, and some that are younger than they claim. There is one player who a lot of people close to him believe is older than he is claiming. Now, what happens if this information comes out? Well, according to the memo, the Twins would have the right to release the player immediately. However, I have heard that the rumored player is considered a top prospect, so I really can't imagine that the team would just release him.
So, being inquisitive, I went through the Twins minor league rosters to see how many Latin American players are with the Twins and their full season affiliates. I don't have an official list of those who are currently in Extended Spring Training. Now, I have included players from Puerto Rico, but considering that it is a commonwealth of the United States and the players are eligible for the first year players draft, I would think that they would have to have some pretty solid paperwork. On the Twins current active roster, there are just four players from Latin America, one of who's name comes up frequently when this topic arises. There are five each in Rochester, New Britain and Beloit. There are eight Latin American players with the Ft. Myers Miracle.
I also heard a rumor that one of Baseball America's Top 100 prospects was actually as many as five years older than he was claiming. Rumor yes, but imagine the difference a prospect's status would be affected by five years.
1.) There have been many people who have said that Philip Humber is a 'max effort' pitcher. That simply means that with every pitch he makes, he is giving working hard and throwing hard. Because of that, many believe that he is best suited in the long term to be a reliever. Glen Perkins has really struggled this year with command, but he also has two or three pitches that, when controlled, are big league caliber. He showed in 2007, in the Twins bullpen, that he can pitch at the big league level. Unfortunately, he missed a lot of time due to injury. The Twins decided to give him another opportunity to show that he can be a starter, and they are building up his arm by having him start in AAA.
With both Anthony Swarzak and Ryan Mullins pitching very well at AA New Britain, I can't help but wonder how close the Twins might be to deciding that Humber and/or Perkins are moving to the bullpen so that Swarzak and/or Mullins can be promoted and put into the rotation with Brian Duensing, Kevin Mulvey and (insert the name of the Twins #6 starting pitcher).
Well, I have heard reports of people being very unimpressed with Humber to this point. Humber really hasn't shown an ability to pitch in the International League, much less the big leagues yet, and certainly not as a starter. Glen Perkins has not been good to this point in the season either, but his problem really has only been his control. When I asked someone with the Twins about moving Humber and/or Perkins to the bullpen, he said that there are currently no plans to do that any time soon. Both of them have the pitches to be a starter. Both of them have experienced success in the minor leagues as starters. Of course, he also mentioned that a need at the major league level can quickly change that. For instance, the Twins needed a left-hander in the bullpen, and Perkins was deemed the right guy for that job. But at this point, there is no reason to push Humber or Perkins from their starting spots, or to rush Swarzak or Mullins up after less than a handful of starts.
2.) Tim Lahey made a couple of appearances at Ft. Myers and then yesterday, the team moved him up to Rochester where he got all four batters he faced out, including two on strikeouts. It was also good to see that Danny Hernandez essentially took Lahey's spot on the Miracle roster and last night pitched a scoreless inning. In 2006, Hernandez was the closer for Elizabethton, where he recorded 17 saves. Last year, Hernandez pitched in just eight innings for Beloit before an injury cost him the rest of the season. The Venezuelan righty certainly has upside, and after starting the season on the Disabled List, it is nice to see him back.
3.) In a curious move, the Twins signed Danny Graves before the season started to a minor league contract. Graves was a two time All Star with the Cincinnati Reds earlier in the decade but has not been good for a couple of years. The Twins have done this before, so have other organizations. They take a chance on a guy who has been successful before for the unlikely chance that he may find a fountain of youth of sorts. He got into a few games with Ft. Myers, but he was promoted to New Britain a couple of days ago. A couple of people associated with the Twins minor league system said that Graves is sitting at about 87-88 mph with fastball, still down a little bit from where he was, but certainly higher than it has been the last couple of years. Also remember that Graves gets a lot of sink on his pitches, meaning a lot of ground balls, so velocity is of secondary importance. The Twins are just giving the guy an opportunity to see if he has anything left. He had some personal issues that stole some of his passion from the game, but apparently this opportunity with the Twins has him excited to be playing baseball again. Still just 34 years old, there are many big league pitchers who are still going strong at that age. This is a very low risk, low reward signing, but assuming he is a good guy and a good teammate, having a guy with 11 seasons in the Major Leagues in your system can't be a terrible thing.
4.) Yohan Pino is one of the more intriguing pitchers in the Twins system, in my opinion. He is very skinny. Each season in his career, he has started in the team's bullpen, then pitched great and moves into the starting rotation where he becomes one of his team's best pitchers. His career record is just incredible. The same thing happened this year. He started in the New Britain bullpen and has already moved into their rotation and done well. I learned that he began this season in the bullpen for a different reason. Pino actually did not pitch much this spring training because he suffered a broken foot this winter in Venezuela. He is very skinny, and reports are that he does not touch even 88 mph with a fastball, but he "just knows how to pitch."
5.) I can’t help but wonder if Bobby Korecky might throw 120 innings this year. Korecky would probably love to throw that much and get into any game. I frequently write about how I think that The Cliburns over-use their closer, and they have since Pat Neshek was there a few years ago. However, to this point, he is pitching very well, and I am told that he looks really good and that this is the year he will get to the big leagues. For those that don't recall, Korecky came to the Twins organization from the Phillies with Nick Punto and Carlos Silva in the Eric Milton trade.
6.) Don't be surprised if there are some changes in the Beloit starting rotation in the next week or two if things don't improve. The team has not been happy with a couple of them, and there is talk that a couple of other guys may get an opportunity if things don't change soon for them. Now I think we know how important Michael Tarsi's impressive eight inning performance the other night really was!
7.) I asked someone who has watched many of the Rochester games to compare and contrast Kevin Mulvey and Kevin Slowey. The similarities mentioned were that they both seem to know how to pitch, especially for such young pitchers. Both have very good composure and don't seem to get rattled. Through limited viewing of Mulvey so far, this would say that Mulvey changes speeds on his fastball more, but that Slowey's fastball is probably better. However, Mulvey's breaking ball is better than Slowey's. If you compare their minor league numbers, you will see that Mulvey has very good control. However, you will also see that Slowey walks about half as many as Mulvey.
1.) I have been asked a few times about why Brandon Roberts has not been in the New Britain Rockcats lineup for the last two weeks. He hasn't been put on the Disabled List, so what is going on? Well, I did find out that Roberts is dealing with a hamstring strain. Although he has missed much time, the organization does not seem to be overly concerned. However, for a guy whose game is predicated on speed, hamstrings are pretty important. Hopefully this is not a lingering problem... but that is likely why they are taking so long to get him back in the lineup. Another source told me that he is expected to play again April 25th.
2.) QUICK INJURY UPDATES - Andrew Thompson is playing pretty much every day at Extended Spring Training. Hank Sanchez has a 'minor' knee injury that is keeping him out right now. Rehab is on schedule for both Paul Kelly and Estarlin de los Santos. Kelly could play in about a month. de los Santos could be ready in a week or two.
3.) Any concern over the slow start of Wilson Ramos? From someone with the Twins, "None. It's early. No one would even notice if it were the first two weeks of July." Absolutely agree. In fact, with a 3-5 today, his average jumped from .188 to .224. A couple more good games and he'll be right where he should be.
4.) There is also no concern at all over the slow start of Deibinson Romero. I asked about the effect of playing in the really cold, April conditions in Beloit for players from southern climates. The person close to the Twins minor league system told me that it would be fair to say that several players from warm climates struggle to adjust to the weather conditions in April. It is an excuse that is legitimate, but it is just that, an excuse. The person ended it really well by saying simply, "We hope those players will learn how to adjust before they face Aprils in the new stadium!!"
5.) Hey, if we are going to say that we can't make too much about the slow starts of Ramos and Romero, should we really be making a lot out of the small sample size of Luke Hughes? Hughes is on fire. In his last ten games, he is 21-42 (.500) with three doubles, six homers and 11 RBI. He has walked six times and struck out six times. What does the future hold for him? Could he move back to 2B and be a poor man's Jeff Kent? Is he a utility player, who can play six or seven different positions? Or, is he just in a really hot streak?
6.) Randy Ruiz and Jon Knott have both been very disappointing in the early part of the season. Knott hit his first home runs last night. It is not really a surprise to see Ruiz struggling. When one looks at his career statistics and sees that he has been in eight organizations, it has to be more than just his poor play that is bothering people.
7.) Jose Morales is off to a horrific start with the Red Wings this year after losing out on the International League batting title on the last day last season. His ankle appears to be at 100%, or at least he is not using it as an excuse. Something to watch though is that he is seriously thinking about abandoning switch hitting and only batting left-handed. In fact, he has taken several at bats left-handed against left-handed pitchers. That really just means that he is probably thinking way too much and losing confidence, not a good thing.
Twins and Twins Minor League Updates
Wednesday SethSpeaks Player of the Day – Luke Hughes, New Britain Rockcats
Wednesday SethSpeaks Pitcher of the Day – Alex Burnett, Ft. Myers Miracle
Wednesday - Twins 0, Oakland 3 – The Twins got shut out and Mike Sweeney is good. Here are a few thoughts on the game and other Twins notes:
Wednesday - Red Wings 5, Lehigh Valley 3 – Just what the struggling Red Wings needed, a series with the 2-18 Lehigh Valley IronPigs! And yet, it certainly wasn't easy. The Red Wings scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth to take the lead. Kevin Mulvey started the game and went 5.2 innings. He gave up two runs (1 earned) on five hits. He walked a surprising four batters and struck out five. Julio DePaula got the two batters he was asked to. Mariano Gomez got just one out and gave up a run on two hits. Then Tim Lahey came in for his first Red Wings appearance of the year. He got all four batters he faced out, two via strikeout, and got the Win. Bobby Korecky threw a perfect ninth inning for his fifth save. Jon Knott led the offense, going 2-3 with his first homer. Alexi Casilla was 2-4 with his third double.
NEW BRITAIN NEWS
Wednesday - Rockcats 15, Reading 6 – Luke Hughes continues to lead the offense. Wait! That's the sentence that I used yesterday to start my Rockcats game update! But it is even more earned today. Hughes went 4-5 with two homer runs and five RBI. Both homers came off of the Phillies top prospect, Carlos Carrasco, a lefty. But it was a great day for all of the Rockcat hitters. Eight of the nine starters had at least two hits. The other, Steven Tolleson, went 1-3 with two walks. Trevor Plouffe was 3-6. Felix Molina had three doubles in five at bats. Brock Peterson was 2-4 with his seventh double and a walk. Erik Lis was 2-3 with two walks and his second double. Dustin Martin was 2-5 with his sixth double. Jeff Christy was 2-4 with a walk. Matt Moses was 2-6. Oswaldo Sosa, even with all this offense, could not last long enough to get the win. He gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks in just three innings. Jay Sawatski picked up his first win of the year. He gave up a run and struck out three in three innings. Then Kyle Aselton got the save by going three innings. He gave up a run on a hit and three walks.
FT MYERS MEMOS
Wednesday - Miracle 8, Tampa 1 – Alex Burnett had a very solid start. The righty gave up one run on two hits in 5.2 innings. He walked four and struck out three. Anthony Slama gave up a hit and a walk but no runs in 1.1 innings. Danny Vais pitched a perfect inning. Danny Hernandez returned with a scoreless inning in relief. Wilson Ramos led the offense with a 3-5 day. He hit his third double and drove in two runs. Brian Dinkelman went 2-5 with his eighth double and two RBI. Danny Valencia went 2-4 with his fourth double.
Wednesday - Snappers 4, West Michigan 5 (11 innings) – Brian Kirwan started and in seven innings he gave up four runs (3 earned) on eight hits. He walked none and struck out two. Matt Williams struck out three in two scoreless innings. Steve Hirschfeld threw three scoreless relief innings, allowing only a walk. And then he came back out for the bottom of the 11th and gave up a single, a walk, and two singles to give up the winning run. Garrett Olson went 3-6 and stole his third base. Chris Parmelee and Chris Cates each hit a double. Joe Benson had a walk and knocked his second homer of the year.