Friday, May 19, 2006
Twins Minor League Notes
Good morning everyone! Happy Friday to ya! Today is going to be yet another fairly small entry. Again, that is just necessity for me right now. Hopefully by Monday, you will want to come back here for a Seth-like entry. We'll see. There are just a few notes that I did want to touch on today. I have a few Twins things, and really, the main thing that made me want to post something today was the performance of a certain Twins pitching prospect in his AA debut. You'll just have to continue reading to see what else will be discussed today! Let's get it started with some Twins Thoughts before getting into the rest:
First, I am excited about this series with the Brewers. I think that the Brewers have become a contending team by using several of the principals that the Twins used to use. They have allowed both Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder to play and struggle and succeed. They have developed a lot of their talent, and kept certain stars. They are a fun team to watch. But I do think it will be a fun series to watch as well.
The Twins... well, where do we start. Yesterday, they lost for the fifth straight time. It is more than clear that this team, as it is currently made up, can not compete with the likes of the White Sox and Tigers, and yes, even the Indians despite their early season struggles. This is a fourth place team. I think that the team needs to acknowledge that and start building now with the thought that they could be competitive again in 2007, and competitive for a division title in 2008. It really just makes sense, and some moves have already started to look that way.
First was the decision to put Francisco Liriano in the starting rotation and move Carlos Silva to the bullpen. Liriano is crucial to the team's future ability to win titles and championships. Silva needs to get over his struggles before he can get back to anything resembling 2005. Is he a part of a future rotation? He could be, but it is also possible that he could do well in the bullpen. Maybe he even gets back in the rotation and does well. Then, to me, that would be the time to trade him. What he did in 2005 is likely an aberration. He is just so hittable. But, he will also be paid highly because of that year starting next season. The Twins should trade him after he gets "corrected" for hitting and/or pitching youth.
Second, Kyle Lohse was sent back to AAA Rochester with Boof Bonser coming to the big leagues. Bonser had a very solid year at Rochester last year, but there were still questions and things he needed to work on. Although his walk numbers are still a little high, overall, he has been very good again this year. He really is ready for this opportunity. Also, next spring, Bonser will be out of options, so the team needs to see what he can do. Lohse falls into the same category as JC Romero and Sam Cassell as guys who needed to be dealt, addition by subtraction. Lohse needs a change of scenery. Maybe he really can be good, but it just will not happen for the Twins. I think that he needs to be dealt to the highest bidder. Maybe the team can get another Alexi Casilla type for him.
But it should not stop there. Other moves should be obvious!
The most obvious decision should be to get Jason Bartlett to the major leagues. I mean, seriously, it is time! Juan Castro has again proven why he has been a defensive substitute for his 11 year career. He simply is not a good hitter. He is also showing that he is not the defensive wizard that so many think he is. He has no range and makes some of the same mistakes a younger player makes.
Work with Torii Hunter and his agent for the next month on a long-term contract. It would require him not That contract should be more in the 3 year, $24-26 million range. If they are not willing to work on that level of pay, then they should deal him. I don't think that they should even wait until July to do it. The Twins are in a better bargaining and negotiating frame in early to mid June than they are up against the trade deadline. They need to call the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Angels, the Dodgers and several other teams. There is an interest in Hunter's services and he is a very good player. However, he is past 30 years old and we have already seen a slight drop in his defense and his offense never was spectacular. The Yankees would have to include Philip Hughes and another prospect. The Red Sox would have to include Jon Lester. The Angels would have to include Erick Aybar and another prospect, or Brandon Wood or Howie Kendrick or Kendry Morales. Maybe the Dodgers would be willing to do a Willy Aybar and Cesar Izturis deal (which eating some of Izturis's remaining contract). In any deal, the Twins should try to include either Juan Castro or Nick Punto.
That brings me to my next point. Trade Juan Castro and Nick Punto. Gardy apparently likes both. But Castro is not good, and why Nick Punto continues to play is beyond me. Sure, he hustles, but he can't really hit much either and is only average defensively. Also, he is making $700,000 this season. He will go to arbitration again after this season ,and there should be no way the Twins justify giving him $1 million or more! For them, you take some C-Level prospect and just hope.
Activity look to deal Shannon Stewart. Again, do not just give him away because he does have value to a contending team (in their minds). But, try to get him dealt within the next four to six weeks. The same teams mentioned in the Hunter comments could be interested in Stewart. Maybe the Blue Jays would like to bring him back to replace Reed Johnson.
In any case, when Stewart is dealt, Jason Kubel should be brought up and play every day. Starting now, he should be playing more and more in left field for Rochester. As I said before the season, I think time in Rochester is good for Kubel, but there is no need to keep him down there for too long. The man can hit, and should get as many big league at bats this season as possible, again, to prepare him for 2007 and 2008.
Back in the late '90s, the Twins did a nice job of signing middle of the road free agents, and then trading them at the deadline for prospects. They signed guys like Dave Hollins and Roberto Kelly and turned them into Joe Mays and David Ortiz. There are several other examples of this. Maybe Rondell White could be traded to a contender for a AA player. Maybe Dennys Reyes will continue to do a great job out of the pen and then can get a prospect of value for a lefty reliever. Maybe there is a dumb team out there who would be interested in Tony Batista and willing to deal a Class A prospect. It is worth exploring.
Don't be afraid to gauge the interest in reliever Juan Rincon, or even Joe Nathan. There are several playoff caliber teams that need help at closer. Atlanta comes to mind. Arizona needs a closer. If Boston decides they need Jonathan Papelbon in the starting rotation, maybe they would be interested. Nathan starts getting expensive already next year and likely would not be around in 2008 anyway, so a new closer needs to be developed. Both of these relievers are guys that could fetch a very solid prospect, so although I'm not advocating dealing either, I also wouldn't run from it completely.
Along the same lines, I think that the Twins need to get some time for Pat Neshek in the big leagues soon too. I understand that the Twins currently have 12 pitchers and 12 hitters and it may be necessary with interleague play coming to add another hitter at the expense of one of the pitchers. But once it gets to that time where they are comfortable, maybe the Twins should consider getting Neshek time by switching he and Willie Eyre. What I am saying is that Eyre has now been in the big leagues for six weeks. Maybe now he gets sent to Rochester and Neshek comes up for a month. Then in a month, they switch back. And let that happen until September when both of them are up with the Twins. I know this is a little strange, but I think it could have some benefit too. I think that the team would need to be very honest with them. They would need to let both know exactly what was going to happen and that no matter if they had a 0.00 ERA or a 25.00 ERA, they would only be with the Twins for a month before being sent back down. Of course, if they actually have that 0.00 ERA, the team could also option another pitcher as well.
This move is far from obvious in my mind. However, if the Twins want to build for two years from now, I think that a new manager is absolutely necessary and that Ron Gardenhire should be dismissed. To date, with the exception of Joe Mauer, I do not like how young players are used and jerked around by Gardy. I could make a list, but you don't want to read names. He is very veteran friendly, giving way too much look to "proven" players who are not good, rather than helping to develop a younger player with the potential to be far better than the veteran, and probably already is. If there is a rebuilding effort, the Twins need to find a good teacher. Tom Kelly was a great teacher, but he was bad with young players too, so I think that having patience in the process is a vital characteristic. I'm not even going to pretend to know who that person would be. But, Joe Maddon was a great choice for Tampa Bay. I am sure there are others as well.
There are several things that the Twins simply should not do too!
Do not even consider trading Johan Santana. Right now, he is the franchise. He is the best pitcher in baseball, and even in a development phase, you want him on your team. He is young and will still be the ace when the team is good again. As I have mentioned before, Santana is one of those guys that should not count against a team's self-imposed salary cap. he should get what he needs to stay!
If Santana isn't the franchise, then Joe Mauer is. The 23 year old catcher is as good as there is in the game. Too many people worry about his power numbers and RBI. Look at the 40% on base percentage and the .300+ batting average. Also look at the percentage of runners that he throws out. And then please continue to look at his age. What the team does need to do in terms of Joe Mauer is get him signed long term!
Do not even consider trading Francisco Liriano or Scott Baker. Liriano is obvious. You don't trade a guy who has stuff that matches or exceeds the stuff of Johan Santana. And although Baker has struggled of late, he does appear to have a bright future ahead of him as well. You don't trade young pitchers with strong arms who have already had success at the big league level, not when you want to win in two years.
Do not trade or give up on Justin Morneau. He is still young, and his power and RBI numbers (I know, they mean little, but he really does rack up RBI) make him worth the low batting average. Also, I really believe that the quality of his at bats are much better in the last month. Finally, his defense at first (with the exception of the error yesterday) has really been excellent.
Do not call up Denard Span or Matt Moses before September, and don't call up Glen Perkins at all this year, not even in September. This is where I let the economics and intelligence come into the equation. I would love to see these guys play. However, it would not be wise to call them up. Why? There is absolutely no need to rush Span and Moses. Both are doing just fine in AA and like many, I believe that if a guy is succeeding in AA, he could succeed in the big leagues. But remember, the goal is to build for 2008. Span and Moses could be a big part of that. Their adjustment to the big leagues can happen in 2007 or 2008. Both need to be added to the 40 man roster before this year's Rule V draft, so it isn't a big deal if they come up in September for a cup of coffee. Perkins does not need to be added to the big league roster until the following offseason, so there is no reason to start his clock this year. Again, be patient with him in New Britain. Don't rush him up to Rochester. Just let him take his time so that when he comes up, he can succeed and stay with the club.
Finally, Do NOT take Brad Radke out of the rotation. I know, he is pitching almost as poorly as Carlos Silva and Kyle Lohse were, but Brad Radke is in his 12th season with the Twins. He deserves the respect of staying in the rotation. I don't care if he gives up ten a game. I also believe that he deserves the respect of the organization to have a nice sit-down with Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire to explain the situation. They can say that they want him to spend his whole career with the Twins, so if he plans on retiring he should retire as a Twin. If Radke requests to be traded to a contender, or to his home in Tampa Bay, the team can accommodate him. But the Twins should not try to deal him, not unless he requests it.
Stick & Ball Guy, as always, has some really amazing stuff all the time. Check out his thoughts on Rondell White and his contract, the positives of the season so far, a KG/Johan comparison, and his most recent Eight Pack!
Lew Ford is not playing as much anymore. However, in the last four games he has played, he has gone 6-11 with a double and a triple. Mike Redmond is 8-17 in his last four games with two doubles. Nick Punto has a five game hitting streak over which time, he is 6-16. Joe Mauer had a seven game hitting streak snapped when he did not get a hit in his ninth inning pinch hit at bat yesterday.
In his last eight games, Michael Cuddyer is 6-26. Luis Rodriguez is 2-17 since April 28, but his playing time is quite sporadic.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the Twins, so feel free to e-mail me, or leave comments below.
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE THOUGHTS
Remember last year when every time Francisco Liriano pitched, we all watched? Well, this year the same can be said for Matt Garza. He was really pitching great for Ft. Myers, and last night he made his first start for AA New Britain. Against New Britain, the 2005 first round pick went 7.2 innings of shutout baseball. He gave up just one hit and struck out two. He walked a very impressive 13 hitters. Now, as was pointed out in the comments here yesterday, New Hampshire does not have the strongest lineup in AA, but it was a great start for Garza nonetheless. It will be interesting to see how he handles the jump to AA. It is generally believed that a top notch college pitcher should have little problem with minor league hitting until he gets to AA. If he continues to dominate there, he could be a good one. Well, it is just one start, but Matt Garza continued to make himself noticed. It will be fun to see how well his next start goes.
The organization needs to find a way to get Kevin Slowey up to New Britain too. But the Rockcats rotation is very solid. Glen Perkins, Nick Blackburn and Errol Simonitsch all threw there in the second half of 2005. Simonitsch has been great in his last two starts and very strong in his last five starts. He may be ready for a spot in the Rochester rotation soon. Blackburn has come around a little bit, so a move up to AAA might be in his future. Glen Perkins has been too inconsistent and might as well stay at New Britain for at least half of the season. Adam Harben is new to the rotation this year, but with the exception of one start, he has been great too. So, for the near future, it appears Slowey is stuck in Ft. Myers.
Oh, and Justin Jones needs to be at New Britain too. If not for Garza's simply incredible talent, stuff and production, Jones was doing just fine at AA as well.
The current Rochester rotation consists of JD Durbin, Peter Munro, Henry Bonilla and Mike Smith, and we'll see if Kyle Lohse ever does report. In other words, there isn't a top pitching prospect in the bunch. I don't say that to disrespect any of them as they are all solid pitchers deserving to be where they are. However, I do say that to remind people that it is very possible that if any of those New Britain starters come on in the next weeks or month, a couple of those guys in Rochester could return to the bullpen (where both Bonilla and Smith started the season).
And, Brian Duensing and Kyle Waldrop are probably ready to head up to Ft. Myers whenever this shift happens. But traditionally, the Twins prefer to wait until after the draft in early June to make these types of moves.
So, what happened in the Minor League games last night, you ask?
Rochester last to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 10-5 last night. Chris Coste had a 2 RBI double for the Red Barons. Shawn Wooten went 2-4 with his third homer, and Terry Tiffee was 2-4 with a double.
New Britain got the great start from Garza and won 4-1 over New Hampshire. Scott Whitrock had two doubles in four at bats. Denard Span, Tommy Watkins and Jose Morales each had two hits. Span stole his sixth base, and Matt Moses hit his sixth home run.
Fort Myers got shelled, 17-0 by Palm Beach. Jose Mijares took the loss to fall to 0-3. However, he did not do that poorly. He gave up just two of the runs in five innings. He gave up just three hits. However, he really needs to cut down on the five walks. However, after that, Palm Beach just bashed the relievers. Kyle Geiger had two of the three Miracle hits on the game.
Beloit beat Clinton 9-4. Sounds like a blowout, but it was actually a 12 inning game. The Snappers scored five in the top of the 12th. Of course, the hitting hero was Erik Lis. He was 3-6 with a double and two RBI. Juan Portes, Eli Tintor and Steven Tolleson each had two hits. Portes was playing 3B in this game. He had his sixth error. Adam Hawes started and gave up four runs in just 2.2 innings. Maybe the most exciting part of this game was the performance of Alexander Smit. The southpaw went 3.1 innings and gave up just one hit. Most important, he walked zero! Yohan Pino struck out six in the next four innings, and Frank Mata got the win with his two shutout innings.
Welp, that is enough for today. Hopefully I will be a better blogger next week. If you have any thoughts, opinions, comments, critiques, or ideas on anything, please e-mail me, or let's get a discussion going in the Comments.|
Back to Archives Home