Thursday, May 3, 2007
Twins Minor League Reports
American Idol Thoughts
April Minor League Update
Good morning to everyone!
I hope you enjoy this and learning more about the goings on in the Twins system. Who knows, many of these names may become much more prominent over the course of the season. I mean, some may be traded for veteran players. Others may continue to rise up the organizational ladder and may get some time with the Twins. So, although many only care about the major league Minnesota Twins, I feel it is very important (and fun) to know what is happening at the lower levels. Below, you will see my person rankings of the Top 5 Hitters and then Pitchers for the month of April. I did this last year as well. I usually struggle keeping the list of pitchers to just five because there are frequently a lot of great performances. With the minor league hitters, there just haven't been as many 'top prospects' and great offensive performances with the bat. Not the case this month. I added a few Honorable Mention names in both categories with some numbers to show that there were several other players, pitchers and hitters, that deserve to be noticed.
So please, feel free to leave some comments or send me an e-mail with any thoughts that you may have. Let's get started (Note - Stats are only for April)
#5 - Jose Morales - Catcher - Rochester Red Wings
Morales was drafted by the Twins with the first pick in the 3rd round of the 2001 draft out of Academia de Providencia High School in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. It is interesting that he was drafted as a shortstop and then moved immediately to catcher since that was the same year that the Twins took Joe Mauer with the #1 overall pick. After missing most of the 2005 season with injury, Morales came back last year with New Britain and really got off to a terrible start. At the end of the year, he moved up for a few games with Rochester and was their primary catcher in the playoffs. This year, he is off to a great start. In April, he hit .408/.463/.571. He was 20-49. The only reason that he is down this far on the list is because of the lesser at bats, but he is a catcher/DH and the Red Wings missed a lot of games early in the month. He added five doubles, a homer and six RBI. You could argue that there were two or three guys that are more deserving of being ranked #5. You could also argue that he deserves to be higher up on this list. If nothing else, it appears that the Twins will have a decent backup catcher in 2009 when Mike Redmond is no longer with the team.
#4 - Garrett Jones - 1B/RF - Rochester Red Wings
Jones has massive power. That is why the Twins have been patient with a couple of years of bad batting averages and a lot of strikeouts in AAA and kept them on their roster. He had a strikeout ever 4.3 at bats last year. So, part of the reason that he makes this list this month is because in 68 at bats in April, Jones had 11 strikeouts. That is one every 6.2 at bats. Still not great, but much improved. Putting the ball in play more may help him to more months like he had in April. For the month, he hit .338/.373/.559 with six doubles, three homers and 15 RBI. A good month to build off of, and a couple more months like that and he becomes a viable bench guy for the big league club.
#3 - Trevor Plouffe - Shortstop - New Britain Rockcats
Trevor Plouffe always gets off to slow starts... right? Not this year! Although the natural progression had Plouffe moving up to New Britain to start this year, I really thought that a half-season at Ft. Myers again this year would do wonders for him. But the Twins felt he was ready for AA. He proved them right in April. He hit .310/.365/.552 (18-58) with five doubles, three homers and eight RBI. He also played some excellent defense at SS. Clearly Plouffe worked very hard last season and throughout the offseason and it has to be encouraging for it to pay dividends right away this season!
#2 - Erik Lis - Outfield - Ft. Myers Miracle
Erik Lis spent all of 2006 tearing up the Midwest League. Until he broke his hamate bone, that is. That is not an injury that is easy to come back from for a hitter. But, based on his first month in the Florida State League, his hand is just fine. In April, he hit .310/.402/.488 with nine doubles, two home runs and 17 RBI. He walked and struck out 12 times. Don't forget that he is also making the adjustment from 1B to left field, so he has a lot on his plate right now.
The SethSpeaks April Player of the Month is... (drum roll please)
# 1 - Danny Valencia - Infield - Beloit Snappers
Valencia had an excellent two years at the University of Miami yet somehow he slipped to the Twins in the 19th round of last year's draft. The 22 year old 3B/1B has started his career in style. At Elizabethton last year, he hit .311/.365/.505 with 13 doubles, 8 homers and 29 RBI in 190 at bats. He moves up to Beloit this year and has been able to get off to an excellent start. In April, he hit .303/.387/.591 (20-66). He had four doubles, a minor league-leading five home runs and 13 RBI. It will be interesting to see if he maintains his quality play for another month at Beloit if he gets a promotion to Ft. Myers. Ft. Myers could use a bat.
HONORABLE MENTION: Johnny Woodard, Beloit Snappers (.321/.424/.500, 18-56, 7-2B, 1-HR, 5-RBI, 10 BB, 18 K) - Brian Buscher, New Britain Rockcats (.311/.373/.508, 19-61, 7-2B, 1-3B, 1-HR, 9 RBI, 5 BB, 10 K) - Matt Tolbert, Rochester Red Wings (.340/.407/.553, 16-47, 2-2B, 1-3B, 2-HR, 9 RBI, 4 BB, 5 K).
#5 - Robert Delaney - Reliever - Beloit Snappers
There has to be at least one reliever in the top five, right? Although that has proven to be the case most of the time, it has not been because of a mandate. And it is no different this time. As a matter of fact, there were several relievers worthy of being on this list. Delaney is certainly not a name that Twins fans have likely heard of. The 22 year old out of St. John's signed with the Twins last season and spent some time with the GCL Twins and when their season ended, he moved up to Ft. Myers for the rest of the season. He begins this season with Beloit and had an excellent first month. In seven games and 13 innings, he went 0-0 with a 0.69 ERA. He walked two and struck out 16. His WHIP was 0.62.
#4 - Kyle Waldrop - Starter - Ft. Myers Miracle
The Twins third first round pick in 2004 out of high school, Waldrop spent a season and a half at Beloit. He moved up to Ft. Myers after the all-star break last year and did well. That is where he begins his 2007 season as well, and he is showing that he may be soon ready for AA. For April, Waldrop went 3-0 with a 3.08 ERA. In 26.1 innings, he walked four and struck out 25. His WHIP was 0.99. It is great to see the strikeouts for Waldrop and reports indicate that he is throwing harder this year. That's great, to go along with excellent control and stuff.
#3 - Scott Baker - Starter - Rochester Red Wings
Although Baker is technically no longer a prospect because he lost his Rookie status two seasons ago, he definitely still qualifies for this list. Baker made three starts in April and also finished one game. He was 2-0 with a Save and a 1.57 ERA. In 23 innings, he has just three walks and 23 strikeouts. His WHIP is 0.78. So far so good. It would be interesting to know if he is getting the ball down. I am guessing so because of the number of strikeouts. The guy deserves a shot. If he doesn't get that with the Twins, he will somewhere.
#2 - Jeff Manship - Starter - Beloit Snappers
The Twins 14th round pick in 2006, Manship should/could be #1 on this list. In most organizations, this type of performance would be #1. For April, Manship went 2-0 with a 0.84 ERA. In 32 innings, he has three walks and 36 strikeouts. His WHIP was 0.59. It is reported that Manship was thought of as a top round pick. However, he had Tommy John surgery while at Notre Dame and there were rumors that he would not sign. That is likely why he fell, but the Twins and their scouts knew something, and this is a great pick. As long as he stays at Beloit, he will be near the top of this list each month. I expect that it won't be long before he is up at Ft. Myers... and he still will be on this list.
The SethSpeaks April Pitcher of the Month is... (drum roll please)
# 1 - Kevin Slowey - Starter - Rochester Red Wings
As you know, Slowey has been a good friend of this site for quite awhile now. I believe that he was in the top five, if not the top three, each month last year. Believe me, it has nothing to do with favoritism. Slowey has been incredible his entire career! For April, he made four starts and went 3-0 with a 1.05 ERA. In 25.2 innings, he has walked two and struck out 28. He has a 0.62 WHIP. Simply incredible. The numbers are almost identical to those of Manship's, but Slowey is just a year older and just one step away from the big leagues, so that was the deciding factor. Will he get the big league call soon? I don't know, but if he keeps pitching like he has so far, it will just have to happen.
HONORABLE MENTION - Brian Duensing, New Britain Rockcats (2-0, 2.75 ERA, 4 GS, 19.2 IP, 4 BB, 14 K, 1.22 WHIP) - Jose Mijares, New Britain Rockcats (1-0, 3 Saves, 1.69 ERA, 7 G, 10.2 IP, 4 BB, 10 K, 0.84 WHIP) - Ryan Mullins, Ft. Myers Miracle (0-2, 3.47 ERA, 5 G, 4 GS, 23.1 IP, 6 BB, 27 K, 1.20 WHIP) - Eddie Morlan, Ft. Myers Miracle (1-0, 3 Saves, 0.84 ERA, 7 G, 10.2 IP, 2 BB, 9 K, 0.56 WHIP) - Angel Garcia, Ft. Myers Miracle (0-1, 1.64 ERA, 7 G, 11 IP, 5 BB, 12 K, 0.91 WHIP) - Armando Gabino, Beloit Snappers (1-0, 0.71 ERA, 6 G, 12.2 IP, 1 BB, 9 K, 0.71 WHIP).
So there you have it. The April SethSpeaks hitter and pitcher of the month along with some other very worthy candidates. Of course, I could have commented on several others too without feeling like I was hurting the list. The Twins system is solid, and very well represented in the ten names above.
The following is more notes on the Twins minor league prospects:
Tommy Watkins isn't really a prospect, but he sure is acting like one. Since his promotion to Rochester last year, he has done great. Now, for April, you may not be impressed by his .217 batting average. However, he walked 13 times and struck out 12 times. You know how much I like that. The walks gave up a .351 on-base percentage, and that is why he is the Red Wings #2 hitter.
I know I'm on my own on this one. I think that Trent Oeltjen is a better prospect than Denard Span. Maybe I'll be proven wrong, but every year, Oeltjen doesn't get the publicity and ends up producing immensely. In April, Oeltjen hit .318/.375/.409. Span hit .217/.280/.275. Who knows? In May, these numbers may flip-flop, but I am one that believes track record means something, and track record tells me that Oeltjen will again out-produce Span.
Now that Alexi Casilla is back down with Rochester, I will be very interested in seeing how the middle infield plays out. Tommy Watkins and Matt Tolbert have been alternating between 2B and SS. Casilla must play every day. In my mind, Tolbert is a true prospect and needs to play (and deserves to play), and Watkins is someone doing enough to stay in the lineup.
I keep reading people write that Mike Venafro should come up to replace Dennys Reyes. Believe me, Reyes is anything but irreplaceable. However, in 9.1 April innings, Venafro gave up 11 hits and seven walks. He struck out just five. His role with the Twins would be to get lefties out. Well, against lefties in April, he gave up five hits and walked four in four innings. That's not too great.
New Britain Infielder Felix Molina was an Eastern League All-Star in 2006. He returned to the team this year. He started the season going 2-12 (.167). Since then, he has gone 11-24 (.458) including 7 for his last 13.
After joining the Twins organization last summer in the Juan Castro trade, Brandon Roberts definitely made a strong impression on his new teammates. This spring, he is starting with New Britain and in April, he hit just .148 and got on base just 17.5% of the time. Last year, he combined for 50 stolen bases. In April... he was 0-2 in stolen base attempts.
Worst April in the Organization - Definitely Anthony Swarzak. I ranked Swarzak as my 4th Twins prospect before the season. He started with the Rockcats and was 0-2 with an 11.12 ERA. In 5.2 innings, he gave up nine hits and walked five. If that were it, it wouldn't be so bad. That 50 game suspension for a 'drug of abuse' is more than a little disappointing!
Erik Lis is the only member of the Ft. Myers Miracle that hit over .265 in April. He also had nine doubles. All while learning to play a new position, left field.
Alexander Smit and Oswaldo (Ozzie) Sosa were both added to the Twins 40 man roster after last season because they both had big breakout years at Beloit last year. In April, Smit's ERA was 5.40. Sosa's ERA was 5.59.
On April 23, I wrote an article on Chris Parmalee and Joe Benson regarding how frequently they were striking out. Parmalee had 21 strikeouts in just 47 plate appearances (1 strikeout ever 2.24 plate appearances). Benson had 16 strikeouts in 48 plate appearances (1 strikeout every 3.0 plate appearances). Since that day, Parmalee and Benson have both had 24 more plate appearances. Parmalee struck out six times, so once every four plate appearances. Benson struck out five times, so once every 4.8 plate appearances. I mention this because although that is still a lot, it is a great improvement in simply putting the ball in play. That's what the low levels of the minor leagues are for, development and making improvements.
Are there any other thoughts that I missed or should have pointed out. Feel free to send me any notes or tidbits on any of the players. Feel free to discuss below in the comments or send me an e-mail.
Man, you hate to lose a game like that. Joe Nathan is starting to remind me a lot of Eddie Guardado. Observation tells me that you can tell how Nathan's outing will go by his first batter, and really his first pitch. When Eddie was going to struggle, that first pitch fastball was high and away. Nathan did that tonight, and he did that a lot in April. He is definitely not right, and yet his fastball is still hitting 95. His slider is still at 89. Maybe he needs to throw more of his slow curve at 75 or so, just to give the hitters a different speed to have to time.
Michael Cuddyer was out of the lineup with his back problem. I don't think he will be out too long.
Boof Bonser was better. Six innings. One run. Four Walks though. That's still not good. But, a quality start.
Pat Neshek had three strikeouts in 1.2 innings.
Torii Hunter just continues to rake. 3-5 with his 6th homer. Could it be for real? We can hope!
Jason Kubel and Nick Punto each struck out looking twice. Joe Mauer did once. I would contend that all five called third strikes were strikes. I know I was always coached to protect the plate with two strikes so that the ump couldn't call you out. What happened to that philosophy! Anything close... swing! I wonder if they would argue that the pitches were inside? If they're inside but close enough to call a strike, turn on the ball and pull it!
Ron Gardenhire got thrown out of a game for no reason yet again. He was arguing on a play that the Twins thought they had a double play on. Replays showed that the ump was right. If the play is that close and could go either way, then don't argue and certainly don't get tossed. What good did it do? The Twins had the lead and were just fine. You could argue that the team played more uptight after he was thrown out! Remember, umpires make mistakes. If you don't like it, go with instant replay and mess up the pace of the game. Umps may make a couple of mistakes, but so do players, and so do coaches.
Justin Morneau and Jason Bartlett each had two hits. In his first game back, Jeff Cirillo had two hits. Good for him. He will definitely be an asset for this team!
I thought John Kruk was bad. On Baseball Tonight, Kruk and Fernando Vina were discussing their choices as the top pitchers in baseball. Kruk said Johan Santana was #1, called him the best left-handed pitcher and the best pitcher in baseball. He put Roy Halladay #2, and Roy Oswalt at #3. I concur. Who did Vina have on his list? #1 was Bartolo Colon. HUH?? #2 was Dontrelle Willis? Seriously? #3 was Josh Beckett, probably because he is 6-0 so far this year. So, Kruk wins tonight!
Do you have any thoughts on the Twins, the Devil Rays, or anything else? If so, send me an e-mail, or post some Comments below.
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE NOTES
SethSpeaks Player of the Day - Matt Tolbert, Rochester Red Wings
SethSpeaks Pitcher of the Day - Matt Garza, Rochester Red Wings
If you have any thoughts on the Twins system, please e-mail me.
Wednesday - Red Wings 7, Columbus 2 – Matt Garza made another start in front of Terry Ryan and got his first win of the year. The righty gave up two runs on six hits. In six innings, he walked one and struck out nine. Julio DePaula recorded his second save of the year. He went the final three innings. He gave up four hits and walked one, but he did not allow a run. Matt Tolbert increased his batting average to .370 with a 3-3 game. He hit his third triple and drove in two runs. Denard Span went 2-5 with two doubles and three RBI. Matt Moses was 2-4.
NEW BRITAIN NEWS
Wednesday - Rockcats 3, Binghamton 6 – Jesse Floyd gave up only three runs in four innings. I say only because he gave up three hits and EIGHT walks. That's not good! Danny Powers came in and threw three shutout innings, striking out four. Jay Sawatski then took the loss by giving up a run in the eighth inning. Jose Mijares gave up two runs on four hits in the ninth inning. Felix Molina remains on a tear. He went 2-3 with two walks and an RBI. Korey Feiner and Brandon Roberts each had a single and a walk.
FT MYERS MEMOS
Wednesday - Miracle 0, Tampa 4 – Kyle Waldrop took his first loss of the year, and really, he had his first non-good start. He did go five innings and gave up four runs (3 earned). He gave up seven hits and two walks though. He struck out five, but he had two wild pitches and committed a throwing error. Josh Hill gave up four hits and a walk in two innings, but no runs scored. David Shinskie then threw two more shutout innings. The Miracle bats are in need of a miracle. They have been cold. In this game, he had just three hits. Juan Portes had a single and walked once.
Wednesday - Snappers 3, Fort Wayne 2 – Not much offense for the Snappers, but just enough for a win. Brian Dinkelman led the way going 3-4 with an RBI and two stolen bases. Allan de San Miguel had a double. Jose Lugo started for Beloit. He went 4.2 innings and gave up two runs (1 earned) on five hits. He had three walks and three strikeouts. Dan Leatherman picked up the win. He went the next 2.2 innings and struck out five. Rob Delaney got his fifth save, striking out three in 1.2 perfect innings.
Do you have any further thoughts on any Twins prospects, minor leaguers, or these summaries? I would love any input, or ideas to make it better. Thanks! E-mail me, or also feel free to leave comments below.
AMERICAN IDOL THOUGHTS
It was a tough night on American Idol as two contestants were eliminated. First, they brought up Melinda Doolittle, Phil Stacy and Lakisha Jones were brought to the stage. Melinda was obviously safe, and in the end Phil Stacy was sent home. He then sang and was excellent. Soon after, Ryan Seacrest had Jordin Sparks, Blake Lewis and Chris Richardson stand up. He immediately told Jordin that she was safe. He did that because he said they put her through too much last week. That's true. So, in the end, it was Blake and Chris, and I know we all knew what the results would be. Chris was eliminated, sent home. At this stage, though, the voters probably have it right. The top four performers are still in the competition, although I would argue that Chris could be ranked ahead of Lakisha. The top three are the top three though, and America got that right. Any thoughts?
Let me know what you think. Send me an e-mail, or let's talk about it in the Comments here. That is it for today and for the week!
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