Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Twins Minor League Reports
State of the Twins
Good morning to everyone! Since there are about six weeks to go in the season, I thought it would be good to give a little update on where I think the Twins are at this time.
After setting home attendance records during their 10-game home stand, the Twins hit the road for some huge games. Tonight, they begin a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles have had another typical season for them. They bring in veteran (read: Old) talent and expect to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox. Meanwhile, those two teams both have far superior actual talent and end up leading the division by many games. The Blue Jays went out and spent money on some veterans too. The AJ Burnett signing was stupid, but at least he has upside yet. The BJ Ryan signing was solid. Bengie Molina is not one of my favorite players, but he is not a bad ball player. I've never been real high on Lyle Overbay, but he is just a very good hitter. I don't like Troy Glaus, but he has managed to stay healthy so far and put up his typical low average, good power number season. So, it's not about bringing in guys that are done just because they have a name. It's about bringing in the right players, and the Orioles have got to be one of the worst teams when it comes to doing that.
That makes this three game set scary. I would never go into a series expecting to sweep, but this is a series in which they really need to win two out of three at this point in the season. Things are heating up a little in the AL Central as the Tigers have allowed the Twins and White Sox to see a little opening. The Sox and Tigers are now playing a four game series, and the Twins just need to keep finding ways to win.
The "little guys" (or as Ozzie Guillen called them, 'the piranhas') are getting noticed. the 8-9-1-2 hitters of the Twins are really getting the job done. Jason Tyner is scrappy. That's a good word for him. He has zero power, but he puts together solid at bats, puts the ball in play and can run very fast. Jason Bartlett just continues to hit well. Luis Castillo had one horrendous month, but he has again been very good since. Nick Punto continues to surprise me every day! I still am not sure that he is the long term answer at 3B. That is not because I believe that a 3B needs to hit home runs. It is because I just have watched Punto be so bad in previous years that although it is entirely possible that this is the real Punto, it's hard to imagine after seeing what he was. I hope it is the real him now. Together, those four have found ways to get on base. They have not stolen bases with their speed, but they all get from 1st to 3rd on a single. They all can score from first on a double. They make things happen, and they all deserve a lot of credit.
But to hear anyone say that any of those guys are the team's MVP at this point is just ludicrous. The Twins are winning primarily because of two guy. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are the guys that have carried the team on their backs. I know that Joe Mauer is the guy mentioned as an MVP candidate by national media outlets, but in my mind, Justin Morneau is the one putting up MVP numbers. Both are hitting for average, but Morneau adds the power factor that the Twins have not had in 20 years. He is an RBI machine. I'm not sure if you saw the Twins telecast on Sunday, but after a two-out RBI hit by Michael Cuddyer, they showed a statistic saying that Justin Morneau has 46 two-out RBI and Michael Cuddyer has 43 two-out RBI. Those are the top two in the league in that category, ahead of David Ortiz's 40. Think about that. There are 89 runs produced where had the player instead made an out, they would not have them. That's clutch. That's getting the job done. So, Michael Cuddyer is another guy who is just getting his job done. I know his average is low, but he has done a great job of producing runs and is still on pace to drive in over 100 runs. So, the Twins have guys getting on base at the top of the order and at the bottom of the order, and they have their best, most productive hitters batting 3, 4 and 5.
So, that makes the number six and seven spots in the Twins lineup their question marks. The six-spot belongs to CF Torii Hunter. Now, I know that I have frequently been harsh on Hunter. I have people right me all the time to tell me what Hunter means to the team, how good he really is, etc. First, most of my angst toward Hunter has nothing to do with him as a player. He is a solid player. He is an above average offensive centerfielder despite his flaws at the plate. Yes, he swings at too many first pitches and at too many sliders down and away, but he still produces a lot of home runs. And this year, he is even taking a lot more walks than normal. Defensively, I started seeing his decline last year already, but that is still admitting that he was the best defensive centerfielder in baseball. This year, he slowed some, and since his foot injury that put him on the Disabled List in late July, he has not been good in the outfield. He clearly is not the same player on defense and I think even his most rabid fans would have to admit that. My two reasons for not being a big Hunter supporter are 1.) his contract is just ridiculous for the type of player that he is, and 2.) what he did to the team in 2005, leaving them after his injury and when he did decide to come back, he ended up getting into a fight. But with that, I fully admit that Hunter plays and important role in the Twins playoff hopes. They need him to play good defense and put together quality at bats.
That leaves the #7 spot which has primarily gone to the DH. Much of the time that has been Jason Kubel, at least against right handed pitching. But Kubel is not the same player as he was before the All-Star break, before his knees started bothering him. Since that time, he has seen his batting average drop and his power dissipate. Although he is the future and certainly has already shown that he is a big league hitter, it just is not showing right now. Josh Rabe has really done a nice job when he has been called on. Rondell White may be back and could be a spark if he could come back and put together solid at bats. Maybe this is where the discussion comes in that the Twins need that third catcher so that they can have Mike Redmond DH. I don't know that that is the answer, but it is worth considering.
Can the Twins make the playoffs? Well, Johan Santana and Brad Radke are leading the way right now. And, the bullpen has been as dominant from top to bottom as any Twins bullpen that I can recall. From Joe Nathan, to Juan Rincon, to Dennys Reyes, to Jesse Crain, to Matt Guerrier and now even Willie Eyre is throwing well. Carlos Silva has not been good at all, but when he has pitched, the offense has picked him up! Boof Bonser has had a couple of very good starts since his most recent recall. Matt Garza showed in his last three innings of work that he will be just fine. But two of those guys are rookies. One gives up hits as if they're going out of style. One has a shoulder that wants to fall off.
But today is a big day for the Twins 2006 season. Not only do they start another key series, but lefty Francisco Liriano will play catch for the first time in weeks. He has said that he feels better. Doctors and the team's trainers are happy with what they see. If Liriano could come back strong in mid-September, that could be the boost that the Twins need to put them into the playoffs. But at the same time, he will only be playing catch, on flat ground, in a very controlled environment. It is hard to get too excited yet. But it is the first step toward recovery, and that is a positive thing. Let's just hope that the team, media or others don't put too much pressure on Liriano to get back to his 'old' self, or for the Twins to push him when he isn't ready. How they handle this situation is what is really important.
With the Twins off day and the White Sox loss to the Tigers last night, the Twins are now just 1/2 game behind the White Sox in the AL Wild Card. With the Yankees five game sweep of the Red Sox, the Twins are 3 1/2 games ahead of the Red Sox in the Wild Card. No matter what happens, Twins fans should be proud of their team. The Twins players, manager, coaching staff and front office should be proud of what they had done. Regardless of what happens. That said, there are just six weeks to go in the season, and they are in this position. Might as well go all out and see what happens, right?
All told, it is a great time to be a Twins fan. Joe Mauer is being mentioned as an MVP candidate. Justin Morneau should be a Top 3 guy in MVP voting (I would vote for him or Jermaine Dye as of today, even if David Ortiz is getting all the hype.). Johan Santana won the 2004 Cy Young Award, should have won again in 2005, and is in a position to win it again in 2006 (although Roy Halladay will have a lot of say in that as well). Francisco Liriano, before the injury, was a top candidate for not only the AL Rookie of the Year award (now probably goes to Justin Verlander unless Jered Weaver just keeps winning), but also for the AL Cy Young Award. Joe Nathan is the best closer in baseball. The bullpen as a whole is the best in baseball. Jason Bartlett is showing what many of us believed he could. It is good to be a Twins fan! Let's just enjoy it!
Any thoughts on the current state of the Twins, send me an e-mail, or leave some Comments below.
Here is a quick look at the upcoming pitching matchups for the three game series in Baltimore against the Orioles..
Tues - 6:05 - Carlos Silva (8-10, 6.30, 1.57, .333) vs Adam Loewen (3-4, 6.12, 1.70, .268)
Wed - 6:05 - Matt Garza (0-2, 11.74, 2.22, .382) vs Rodrigo Lopez (9-12, 6.03, 1.55, .305)
Thurs - 6:05 - Boof Bonser (2-4, 5.51, 1.48, .294) vs Kris Benson (10-9, 4.63, 1.37, .276)
Any thoughts on the series, please let me know! Send me an e-mail, or leave Comments below.
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE NOTES
SethSpeaks Player of the Day - Wilson Ramos, GCL Twins
SethSpeaks Pitcher of the Day - Glen Perkins, New Britain Rockcats
The Arizona Fall League rosters were announced yesterday. The Twins will be represented by Errol Simonitsch, Adam Harben, Kevin Slowey, Jay Sawatski, Matt Moses, David Winfree and Matt Tolbert.
If you have any thoughts on the Twins system, please e-mail me.
Monday - Red Wings – No Game Scheduled
NEW BRITAIN NEWS
Monday - Rockcats 1, Connecticut 0 – The Twins have to be absolutely thrilled with what Glen Perkins did last night. The lefty has missed a lot of time and struggled in his return. But last night, he won his third game of the year with seven shutout innings. He gave up just one hit, walked two and struck out 10! David Shinskie and Julio DePaula completed the shutout. On offense, the Rockcats had just two hits, and Denard Span had an RBI single.
FT MYERS MEMOS
Monday - Miracle/Clearwater - Doubleheader Rained Out.
Monday - Snappers 4, Clinton 6 – Ryan Mullins started and gave up six runs (4 earned) on seven hits in five innings. He walked one and struck out six. Danny Vais went two shutout innings before Dan Leatherman and Jose Cordero each threw one shutout inning. The Snappers managed just six hits. The Twins top two picks in 2006, Chris Parmalee and Joe Benson, made their first appearances with the Snappers. Parmalee was 0-4 with three strikeouts. Benson was 1-3.
Monday - E-Twins – No Game Scheduled.
GCL TWINS REPORT
Monday - GCL Twins 3, GCL Red Sox 11 – Wilson Ramos had two doubles in his four at bats. Matt Lawman was 2-5. Omar Alcala started and gave up three runs on four hits and three walks in three innings. He struck out seven. Bruno Sanchez gave up two in his two innings. Thomas Wright got just two outs, but he allowed four hits and three walks for five runs. Jakub Toufar went the next 1.1 innings without allowing any further runs. Carlos Garcia gave up a run in his inning.
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.
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!|
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