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4/15/14

What did I see from Eduardo Nunez last weekend

As I indicated earlier, in addition to seeing Alex Meyer, one of my goals last weekend when I attended the Red Wings' last 3 games at the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, was to have a good look at the newest Twins' player Eduardo Nunez.  Nunez, once the heir apparent to Derek Jeter and a Yankees top prospect, was traded by those Yankees to the Twins for Miguel Sulbaran (quick scouting report from this Spring Training here.)   Even though I am deeply enshrined as an Eduardo Escobar supporter for the Twins' starting Shortstop job,  any improvement over Pedro Florimon, is more than welcome, so I was extremely intrigued at seeing Nunez on the field and at the plate.

In the three games I saw, Nunez played Shortstop, DH, and Right Field.  There has been a reputation built around Nunez indicating that his defense is poor.  Looking at the various measurements, which are all affected by the smallish sample size, UZR, fangraphs "Defense" and RZR does not like him much, but it also looks like he made 50 plays out of the zone at shortstop in 152 games, so color me intrigued.  Here is what I saw:

In his game as a shortstop he handled several balls and made good accurate throws to first base.  Adjusts well on different batters and is pretty aware.  On a particular grounder he juggled the ball, but still initiated a double play, so that did not hurt.  As a right fielder he took good routes to the ball, had to dig a ball from the corner and did it exceptionally well and made strong throws to the correct cut off man.  On one occasion he tried to barehand a ground ball and he overran it by a foot, but recovered.  All in all he looks like an average fielder to me out there, if a bit eager to make a play.   I am not sure about where the reputation of a bad fielder comes from (maybe from WFAN 660 callers?) but for someone like me who have seen the Twins play Buscher, Nishioka, Harris, Delmon Young, and still play Plouffe and Willingham on the field, I think that Nunez will be an improvement over all of them.

As far as his bat goes, I was really impressed by the quality of his plate appearances.  You can see a video of a plate appearance here.  He is tied for the lead in Home Runs for the Red Wings with 3 and he has not played that much.  His ability to adjust and put the ball in play is excellent.  Something that the Twins can really use in the bottom of their lineup.  In addition to the video example mentioned above,  here is a sequence of photos that shows what I described:

Pitch 1:  Slider low and outside, swing and miss:






Pitch 2: Same pitch. Moves inside a more, times it better and fouls it:




Pitch 3: Same pitch. He gets the fat piece of the bat and turns it in for a double:


I cannot remember how many times I have seen Twins' hitters in the majors failing to do this.

All in all, I think that Eduardo Nunez will be an asset for the Twins and part of the solution in the future.



4/13/14

Video: Eduardo Nunez at Bat , Red Wings at IronPigs 4/13/2014

This is not all I have to say about Eduardo Nunez this weekend, but I decided to put it up since I have it now.   The one thing that Nunez impressed me with (and I have to admit that this video is not the best example over the last 3 games I saw - but his only PA I took a video of) is his ability to adjust to pitches, and to make contact.  This is really important in a team like the Twins that has a lot of strikeout prone players.



Eduardo Nunez Red Wings at IronPigs 4/13/2014 .

Red Wings at IronPigs 3 game Redux: Part I: Alex Meyer.

I had the opportunity to watch the Rochester Red Wings' last 3 games (the double header last night and this afternoon's game) in my back yard against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs over the weekend.  My list of must dos were to see whether Alex Meyer was as good as he was this Spring, in real game situations and to see what Eduardo Nunez was all about.   Happily to say, that I have done that and more and I am ready to share.

Speaking about sharing, on the first leg of the doubleheader last night, the IronPigs wore their new bacon uniforms, so here is a shot of them.



If you look closely, the bacon strip on the hat spells "IronPigs" in a Salvador Dali-like script.


Back to the Twins: Little known fact, but Alex Meyer is doing a variety of resistance exercises on his shoulder for a good 20 minutes before he goes to the pen to warm up.


I guess that loosens the shoulder



In this game Meyer showed why he is the Twins' number 3 overall prospect and the Twins' top prospect who is playing the game right now.  His Fastball sat all night between 94 and 96 mph, touching as high as 97 and as low as 92 on occasion, and was a ball that he threw all over the zone.  Inside and out and up and down.  If being a batter trying to catch up to a 97 mph inside FB after swinging at a 94 mph outside FB was not enough, Meyer's best pitch is not his fastball that has a wicked downward motion and it is very hard to lift.  Arguably, his Fastball is his third best pitch.  He is using his FB to set up a knee buckling high 70s curve (his best pitch by far) and a low to mid 80s changeup, with a tailing motion.  These two are his out pitches.  He also has a slurvy slider in mid to upper 80s, which is an average pitch at this point.  So we are talking about a repertoire of 3 plus pitches (with at least the curve being plus plus) and an average and improving pitch.   All a batter can do at this point is to put the bat down in the zone and pray that contact is made and there is a bloop or an error on the other end.  And that was what happened yesterday.   A couple of bloops, a couple of errors by Deibinson Romero and a couple of soft singles down the middle amidst a bunch of broken bats, soft grounders and strikeouts.

Here are pictorials on the velocities that Meyer operates within (Radar readings upper right corner) :




Those were: Fastball, Slider, Change up, Curve, Curve.   And his fastest Fastball clocked at 97, while his slowest curveball at 78.   This is a good 20 mph or so range and he held that range throughout the game.

By far, he has the best stuff in the Twins' organization and definitely top of the rotation potential.

Next: Eduardo Nunez. 

3/28/14

I have mixed feelings about Jason Bartlett making the Twins and it has nothing to do with nostalgia.

The Twins have been busy trying to finalize their 25 man roster, this week, the last of Spring Training, and unless you are lucky enough to vacation to a remote island away from mobile phones and the Internets, you would know by now that there was a waiver wire frenzy that had two Twins without options (Chris  Parmelee and Scott Diamond) passing through waivers unclaimed and assigned to Rochester (with Diamond sleeping on whether he will accept the assignment or not and become a free agent) and a third (Alex Presley of Justin Morneau trade fame) getting claimed by the Astros.  While frantically counting bodies to see who might be the backup Centerfielder in the squad, the Twins' Communications Director, Dustin Morse gave the answer on twitter:



That conclusion was there, just by looking at who remained after the waiver activity, and in addition to Jason Bartlett it seems that Chris Colabello, who had a terrific Spring Training, also made the team.  However, unlike with Bartlett, no official announcements have been made about Colabello (who does have 2 years of minor league options remaining) and since yesterday the Twins have 2 open 40-man roster spots, even if you include Kubel and Bartlett, which they might use to pick someone from the waiver wire and promote to the 25-man roster.

I really have mixed feelings about Bartlett making the team.  I did not like the idea that the Twins gave minor league contracts to both Kubel and Bartlett, mainly because I thought that both of them had their best years well behind and, like when they traded a Hamburger to the Rangers for Yesterday Eddie, the Twins were signing the ghosts of Jasons past.   And Bartlett had a horrible Spring on paper and did not get any better when I was down there and saw him in person.   His appearances on the plate made me think that he would have hard time making contact from a tee and allowed me to make snide in game remarks like this and this. But something changed yesterday.  On one hand I still do not think that he is in shape to help the team with his bat, but it is not the end of the world and he might actually do help the team.  Why is that?

First of all, to make it clear.  It is not because of nostalgia.  If you have been reading this blog for a while, by now you should know that I think that one of the darkest seasons in the Twins' history was the smallball team of 2006, which lost all 3 of its postseason games, despite the facts that it had both the AL MVP and the AL Cy Young and it was the favorite to win it all.  Dark times for the Twins, Gardy's piranhas and all, and Bartlett was part of the problem in my book.

It is not even because I think that Florimon probably will not be ready to begin the season and Bartlett might provide insurance.  I already think that the Twins have a very capable shortstop (other than Florimon) who should be starting and is due for a break through season.  

It is because of this.  I really disliked the vibe I got from the Twins when I was down in Fort Myers, especially as far as effort goes, and I wrote about it in detail, predicting that it will be the downfall of the Twins this season.  But Barlett actually gave it all this Spring.  Inability to make contact or not.  He was fine on the field as well, he was always with a smile on his face, including when he made that catch at Centerfield (I was sitting at the new OF seats right above him practically) and he looked like he had fun playing the game like a kid.  I think that the Twins can use this kind of energy right now, despite the fact that the Bartlett as a major leaguer experiment might be short-lived. 

So, sarcasm aside, I am warming up to the idea...






3/23/14

Twins and Stranded Runners: Cuddyer, Kubel and Plouffe. Who strikes out more with 2 outs and RISP?

Given the troubles the Twins have in stranding I was recently in a discussion regarding who has been the worst rally killer in recent history with the Minnesota Twins as far as striking out with two outs and runners in scoring position.   My recollection, is that it was Micheal Cuddyer; it was suggested that Jason Kubel and Trevor Plouffe were worst that Cuddyer in this metric.   Here are their career statistics as far as Plate Appearances and Strikeouts with Runners In Scoring Position.   Note:  Cuddyer's and Kubel's numbers include their seasons away from the Twins, which help Cuddyer.

Without further ado:

Cuddyer: 770 PA, 183 K, K%: 23.8%
Kubel: 427 PA, 99 K, K%: 23.2%
Plouffe: 161 PA, 38 K, K%: 23.6%

It is a virtual three way tie, as far as career goes.

If you look at their Twins' only numbers you have:

Cuddyer: 651 PA, 156 K, K%: 24.0%
Kubel: 331 PA, 73 K, K%: 22.1%
Plouffe: 161 PA, 38 K, K%: 23.6%

Definitely Cuddyer is the leader in this category, with Plouffe close second and Kubel further removed. 

How about the MLB average?  Here are the MLB Totals in 2013:

2013 MLB total with RISP and 2 outs: 21837 PA, 4536 K, K%: 20.8% 

So all three do strike out more than the imaginary average/composite player in this situation.


3/20/14

Spring Training Redux: How will the Twins do in 2014? Here is my prediction.

Every year I wait to watch the Twins in Spring Training before I form an opinion about how they will do this coming season.   And I like to watch them in person to do this, just trying to see little signs here and little clues there.    A bit before I did that, my arm was twisted to give a number of wins and position of finishing for the Twins this season, and I predicted that the Twins will go 81-81 to finish third in AL Central.  It was a quick prediction based on the improvement of the pitching staff this off-season.  Even Mike Pelfrey, recently said (reference to be added soon) that the Twins will finish at least .500 next season.

This might be good on paper, but I really got a bad feeling last week.  And it does not have to do with the front office completely ignoring the offensive and position player side of the ball this off-season (the only moves practically being substituting Kurt Suzuki for Ryan Doumit and Jason Kubel for Justin Morneau.)  It does not even have to do with the recent (and much celebrated and discussed) comments of acting GM Rob Antony, suggesting that nobody who is competing for a spot is actually doing anything to win a job.   On paper, and being optimistic, I thought that Willingham and Plouffe will rebound, Hicks will reach his potential, Arcia will be the power hitter we all expect to be, Pinto will solidify the catcher position, Mauer will improve with his knees not having the catching stress and that Escobar will have a break-through season as a shortstop akin to Brian Dozier's 2013 who would not regress.   It might still as well happen.  And then the Twins will win at least 81 games.  And I hope it happens.

But I got a really bad feeling last week.   And it was there precipitated and displayed in front of the eyes of the 100 of us who remained late Tuesday night to see the last pitch at that Twins' night game hosting the Rays.  And it had not much to do with Vance Worley's right arm and the batting practice projectiles he was throwing, but by the lackadaisical play and non-effort by the position players the whole spring.  And not only the ones who are fighting for a job per Rob Antony.  And not only at that game, but this was the epitome.

On the flights to Fort Myers and back I have been reading Cool Of The Evening: The 1965 Minnesota Twins by Jim Theilman (an excellent book and highly recommended, btw.)  Thielman mentions that one of the turning points of the 1965 magical Twins' season came at the middle of Spring Training in Orlando's Tinker Field:  At the middle of a game, because of lack of effort, Sam Mele, the Twins' manager, took Zoilo Versalles (the eventual 1965 MVP) out of the lineup, benched him for a while and fined him $300, an amount very high for the time.  This gave the message that it is expected for even the best players to give 100% even during Spring Training and set the tone for the rest of the season.

How many times the last 3 seasons have you seen plenty of Twins' players not giving it all?  And with what consequences?   And it is continuing this Spring and I do not think that the Twins will go anywhere unless they go back to full effort (Mele's season, piranhas' season or whatever, take your peak.)   Examples (from that game) :

  • Josh Willingham hits a scorcher past third base to left that bounced just over the bag, half a foot fair and rolled all the way to the corner.  As the ball was hit, I was thinking triple all the way.  Mr Willingham jogged around the bases and managed to get himself thrown out at second by a few feet.  It ended up being recorded as a single with the hitter thrown out at second trying to stretch it into a double. On the field It was much more.
  • Vancy Worley was hit hard. Very hard.  And at about four times, if Trevor Plouffe was guarding the line on inside fastballs, he would have made outs out of those 4 hits.  I do understand it if it happens once.  Then you adjust.  And the Twins have a special infield coach who should supposedly help these days too. On paper it was four hits (a couple doubles as well.)   On the field it was much more. 
  • Alex Presley gets on base.   Gets a good jump trying to steal second.  He is there before the throw.  He over-slides the base.  He is tagged out.  For the third time.  On the paper it was recorded as an CS.  On the field it was much more.
  • Later in the game there is fly ball to the short left field.   LF Wilkin Ramirez goes in, SS Eduardo Escobar goes out to catch the ball.  Ramirez yells "I got it".  Escobar stops 7-8 feet away.  The ball drops in front of Ramirez.  On paper it was an error.  On the field it was much more.

It is the little things.  And they are not little. They are big cumulatively. And it is accountability for not doing things right.  Did Willingham and Presley have extra base running practice the next day?  Plouffe and Ramirez fielding practice?  Did anyone of them get pulled out of the game (they cannot be fined, the CBA took care of that)?  We all know the answer.  And if the Twins do not start holding everyone from the players, to the manager, to the coaches to the front office accountable for what is happening on the field, not much will change.  Rotation improvements or not.

My prediction: I hate to say it, but 70-92 and 5th place.   But I do hope that this time someone is held accountable for this...





Video: Twins Niko Goodrum at Bat vs the Orioles' A+ team this Spring Training

From this Spring Training:  Niko Goodrum at bat against the Baltimore Orioles' Advanced A team last Tuesday


3/17/14

Is there a trade between the Minnesota Twins and the Tampa Bay Rays imminent?

This morning the Minnesota Twins' AAA and AA teams had an intrasquad game at Field 3 at the Lee County Sports complex.  I will have more about it in my daily Twins Spring Training report that will be coming soon, but a couple interesting things happened that need to be noted.  Kevin Correia was scheduled to start tonight against the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota; instead he started for the AAA squad facing Trevor May, who started for the AA squad.  Potentially, Correia pitched in this game to get his work in, in case the weather did not cooperate (and it did not.)

What was interesting was that there was a Tampa Bay Rays (with badge and id) scout who was paying strong attention to both Kevin Correia and Trevor May, timing each of their pitches, charting them and taking many notes.   Each of the Twins' starters pitched 5 innings.  After that, the aforementioned scout, put the notebook away and became an observer.



Coincidence? There has been speculation that Kevin Correia might be traded before the season started, and it is common knowledge that the Rays at this point do not have a fifth starter behind David Price, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb and Chris Archer (since Erik Bedard has been faltering,) and two of the aforementioned four are not very experienced.  The other internal options for the Rays' fifth spot (Jake Odorizzi, Nathan Karns and Cesar Ramos) offer slim pickings and someone like Kevin Correia (or even Trevor Mays) will be a definite upgrade.






3/16/14

Twins Spring Training Report from Fort Myers: 3/16/2014: Dueling Aces and Minor League Intrasquad games

Today it was Minnesota Day at Hammond Stadium, which apparently means that a whole bunch of people get early at the ballpark to tailgate at the parking lot and is a pain to find parking spots.   I arrived just in time for the two intrasquad games (AAA vs AA) and (A+ vs A) at Fields number 2 and 3.  Aaron Hicks was hitting for the AA team and Pedro Florimon was playing for the AAA team, so that is where I exclusively spent my time before I was headed to the ballpark for the Twins and Marlins game.

Alex Meyer was pitching and he was practically unhittable and a strike out machine, other than a long home run by Mike Gonzalez who looks in shape this season and will likely split the 1B/DH duties with Kennys Vargas in New Britain.  I am not going to give a scouting report on Meyer, it is unnecessary, but he was on top of his game and hitting his spots with ease.    I have not noticed before, but he does this weird thing with his mouth when he pitches:


Aaron Hicks did not play at the field but was the second batter in every inning for the AA squad and did nothing in 3 innings against Alex Meyer.  However, when he was replaced in the fourth, Hicks hit a long home run in dead center off Yohan Pino.   Pino was not quite as good as I remember him to be, his control was just not there.


Speaking of not good, BJ Hermsen started for the AA team and he was, well, not good.   It was amazing that he has been the Twins' minor league pitcher of the year in the past as well as having a spot on the 40-man roster.   I am not sure what has happened to him, but it is not pretty.  He was hit hard by every Rochester player, allowing multiple home runs and extra base hits.   Even Pedro Florimon hit a triple off him in one plate appearance and struck out (a feat by itself because Hermsen struck out 3.7 AA hitters per 9 innings last season) in another.


And if you are a major leaguer, this is how you go from the back fields to Hammond Stadium:


Some additional tidbits from the intrasquad game:  Evan Bigley played CF for Rochester today.  With Mastroianni back there tomorrow, I do not think that this will be a common sighting.  Bigley was fine at the field and made a couple good catches and looked good at the plate as well.   I think that this is a make or break season for him.  

This off-season the Twins picked up 28 year old CJ Ziegler, the Independent American Association MVP (.318/.408/.645 with 30 HRs and 99 RBI in 100 games,)  hoping it will be Chris Colabello's second coming.   Ziegler is listed at 6'5", 245 lbs, but he is a much bigger man.  This of a righty Jim Thome.  It will be interesting to see how he does in Rochester


Cole Johnson came to relieve BJ Hermsen and I think that he might be a sleeper.  Very lanky righty with easy delivery, throwing almost side arm and good movement.   Not a mph guy, but good solid stuff and looks like he got a good feel for pitching.  He struck out 11 per 9 innings last season in AA, so he might be doing something right.  The 44th round pick from Notre Dame in 2011 has been flying under the radar so far, but he might be someone to pay attention to this season. 

Back at the Hammond Stadium the Twins hosted the Marlins, which resulted in a pitching matchup between a former Twins Ace



and the current Twins' Ace.


It was a pitching duel through five with each of the starters giving one run a piece and each of the starters topping out at 92 mph (which is quite a feat for Slowey.)    Ricky Nolasco was very impressive in that he has a repertoire of 5 (or so) pitches and he is throwing them any time in the count.  His change up (79-81) was particularly impressive today.   He will be the Twins' opening day starter and I predict a great season for him.   Both Jasons (Kubel and Bartlett) reached base today (a rarity for these guys) on walks.  Despite Twins' fans rooting for them to make the team, I think that their best days are well behind them and that they are not major league caliber players at this point.   Aaron Hicks came in for Alex Presley and had a nice double.    At this point, I think that it is not even close between these two.  In addition to Presley having an anemic bat this Spring and misjudging balls at the outfield, at one point in a single at mid-depth, he bounced the throw to the cutoff man.  An arm reminiscent of Ben Revere.  Speaking of feats, at some point Josh Willingham hit a strong liner that hugged the right field line.  I was thinking triple all the way as soon as it left his bat, but he managed to get thrown out at second base.  Unacceptable at pro ball.  Maybe the thing in his back pocket was weighing him down...


Tomorrow the Twins are playing the Orioles in Sarasota and it will be a full day of minor league coverage from Fort Myers for me.  

The Minnesota Twins cut 8 and the latest Spring Training dashboards

Today the Twins announced 8 cuts from the major league Spring Training camp.

The following players were optioned to AAA Rochester:

C Eric Fryer
LHP Kris Johnson
SS Danny Santana

And the following were re-assigned to the minor league camp:

IF James Beresford
LHP Sean Gilmartin 
OF Darin Mastroianni
OF Jermaine Mitchell
3B/1B Brandon Waring

The Santana and Johnson cuts are pretty surprising because they were doing pretty well.  Santana was probably the best position player at the camp and Pedro Florimon could not get the ball out of the cage in batting practice a couple days ago.  It might be good news for Eduardo Escobar.  However, I find it surprising that Doug Bernier, who has been barely average and Jason Bartlett who has been awful, are still in camp.  Kris Johnson's performance was the best of a lefty in the bubble so far, and his cut is also interesting at this point, given the fact that Aaron Thompson (not to mention Scott Diamond) is still in camp.  Maybe  they want to stretch him for starting in AAA.

These cuts leave the Twins with 20 pitchers and 20 position players, which means that 15 more need to be cut before opening day.

Here are the newest Spring Training Dashboards reflecting last night's game, including the players who were cut:
(You can find all of the 2014 Spring Training dashboards here) :

A reminder of the scoring system:


For the pitchers, I quantify using  a measurement created by Bill James more than a decade ago called "Game Score".  It is calculated as follows:
You start with 50 points for each pitcher.
Add 1 point for each out.
Add 1 point for each strikeout.
Subtract 2 points for each hit.
Subtract 4 points for each earned run.
Subtract 2 points for each unearned run.
Subtract 1 point for each walk.
There is a point bonus for pitching more than 4 innings as well, adding 2 points for each IP after the 4th, but this is not too applicable here.

Game Scored of 49-51 are "average" (yellow),
everything higher than 51 "above average" (green),
and everything below 49 "below average" (red).

For position players, I devised a similar metric that goes like this:
Start with 0 points (unlike the pitching Game Score that starts with 50)
Add 1 point for each Run, RBI, 2B, SB, BB, and HBP recorded.
Add 2.5 for each hit, 3 for each 3B and 4 for each HR.
Subtract 1 for each CS and GIDP,
subtract 1 for each error,
for catchers add 1 for each CS
Subtract 0.2 for each SO and 0.5 for each AB.

Again, as in the Pitching Battle Dashboard, the Position Player Battle Dashboard is color-coded based on average, above average and below average performances, where:

Average is Batting Game Score between 0 and 2
Above average is Batting Game Score higher than 2
Below average is Batting Game Score less than 0

Players on the 40-man roster are in bold.  The ones without options are also underlined.  Left-handed pitchers are in italics.

Here is the Dashboard for the Twins' position players:


And here for the pitchers:



I am heading to Hammond Stadium soon, where the Twins meet Kevin Slowey and the Florida Marlins.

3/15/14

Twins Spring Training Report from Fort Myers: 3/15/14: Top prospects galore take the back fields.

The (big) boys were out of town today and this left only the two A-level squads in action at the Lee County Sports Complex fields playing the A and Advanced A level Orioles' squads.   One of the things that need to be noted, is that these squads do not see each other in regular season competition.  The Twins' Advanced A team, the Fort Myers Miracle, is in the Florida State League, whereas the Orioles' Advance A team, the Frederick Keys, is in the Carolina League.  The Twins' A team, the Cedar Rapids Kernels, is in the Midwest League and the O's A team, the Delmarva Shorebirds, is in the Southern Atlantic League.  Even their higher level short season teams are in different leagues:  The Elizabethton Twins are in the Rookie Appalachian League, whereas as the Aberdeen IronBirds are in the Short-Season A, New York-Pennsylvania League.  So the players (and the coaches) are not really familiar with each other.

Another fun thing about today was that there were 9 of my top 40 Twins' prospects playing today and at least 3 more players who will receive consideration for next season: Numbers 8 (Berrios), 10 (Gonsalves), 11 (Eades), 12 (Jorge), 13 (Harrison), 16 (Kepler), 18 (Walker), 24 (DJ Hicks) and 26 (Duffey.)  Here is what I saw from them today:



Jose Berrios, was on top of his game.  He probably gained a couple on inches of height from last season and his fastball gained a few notches.  He was throwing easy 94-96 mph four seamers, his curveball was its usual plus pitch (but probably the third best curve by a Twins' pitcher today; more on that later) and his changeup is improving.  He struck out the side first inning and cruised afterwards.  A solid pitcher for that number 8 ranking, who might move a bit higher if he shows some endurance and pitches a bunch of innings at Fort Myers this season.


Stephen Gonsalves, my 10th ranked prospect, threw the single nastiest pitch on both fields today:  His 12-6 slow 69-73 mph curveball is a devastating pitch.  And coming from a tall lanky lefty who is all arms and lengths, is even more harder to hit.  Solid 89-91 mph two seamer and a good high 70s changeup complement his offerings.  I have Gonsalves ranked as the highest ranked LHP prospect in the Twins' system, and unless I get really flabbergasted by Luis Thorpe, it will still be the case.  That curveball (or any plus plus secondary "out" pitch) is very hard to develop, while adding mph on one's fastball is easier.


I admit that I also got a bit of heat when I ranked Ryan Eades as the Twins'  11th best prospect.  And the reasons I did, are the same reasons that today I think that the ranking is pretty good:  He is a very polished pitcher with at least 4 above average pitches:  His bread and butter is a 89-92 mph two seamer with crazy movement.  Think Deduno, but with better control.  Today, the results were not good, because he had to throw it up the zone because the home plate umpire did not call the low strike at all, but this is a plus pitch at that level.  Add above average to plus slow curve, cutter/slider and change, and you got a complete pitcher.


Felix Jorge (my number 12 prospect) is a guy who a lot of people think that he is throwing high 90s heat because of the sound of the ball when it hits the glove, plus he has this nice frame and fluid delivery and looks like he can throw fast.  Here is my mini scouting report in the prospect rankings (go to number 12.)  His fastball touched 92 today, but it is a really heavy sinker.  This guy is a warm killer.  Great downward movement and good horizontal tailing.  The breaking ball (called it a slurve back then, still stand with it) is tight. Second best breaking ball today.  Very easy delivery.  I think that the change up with improve, and I bet that he has a four-seamer in his back pocket.  Really.


Keeping with the pitchers and skipping up to number 26:  It was good to see Tyler Duffey pitch and I have this feeling in the back of my head that he will be a reliever again.  His fastball was up to 95; and this is about 4 mph more than his average last season. And that was a very effective pitch.  He is also throwing a slider and change, which both are above average.

As far as the position players go:

These two guys (who were first and second on one of the most meaningless stats - RBIs - in the Twins' organization last season)  look even bigger this season.  Florida State League beware.




Travis Harrison is in incredible shape. The last couple seasons, he was the prototypical slow power hitter guy, even as a teenager, making people think that he is a corner OF/1B/DH type.  This season the Fort Myers' (and likely New Britain) fans will be in for a treat.  Today he legged out a triple, he has much better range at the field.  A total delight to see.  Dark horse to shoot up the prospect rankings big time.  And he hit in the second hole tonight.

Speaking of people who will shoot up the rankings (at least mine) here are 3:

Engelb Vielma.  This is the single one most unknown superstar in the making in the Twins' organization.  He turned two unassisted double plays (one a line out/throw out the other a step on second throw at first) today and he made them seem so easy.  Like it is an everyday kind of thing.  Looks like his contact tool is getting better.  He has crazy nutty speed and as a cutoff guy, he almost threw a guy out at third on a easy triple. Very strong arm.  And he has room to grow.  I think that he will move into second in my SS rankings after 6th overall ranked Jorge Polanco.



The other two guys are catchers who just look like ball players: Brian Navarreto (pictured below) and Mitch Garver.  All of a sudden, I think that the Twins are alright in catcher depth in the organization.


3/14/14

Twins Spring Training Report From Fort Myers: 3/14/2014 and the newest dashboards

Second day of live coverage of the Twins Spring training from Fort Myers.  Today there was mainly major league action and some minor league drills before the Miracle and Kernels games, with the Red Wings and Rock Cats squads traveling.

 As a reminder, you can find all Spring Training coverage here

On the single A Beloit side of things, there was a lot of fielding practice going on, including a lot of serious work with the pitchers.  I think that these gentlemen might make a pretty mighty squad this coming season:


On the field few paces west (Field 2) the high A squad was doing drills with Doug Mientkiewitz and company.   This is more of a note to self, but this guy, is one to follow, especially after his lights out appearance at Elizabethton last season.  Second tallest person in the Twins' system (Loek Van Mil now has replaced Tanaka in his previous team in Japan) and I think that his future is bright.


And, yes, Hudson Boyd looks a lot slimmer and he ever volunteer to carry stuff around:


Even this guy was practicing with the Miracle:


And it was good to see him rip a couple and let them go.  (This is Alex Wimmers, if you don't know.)  He then joined a bunch of Red Wings' pitchers like Alex Meyers, Yohan Pino, Danny Turpen and company for a toss.

The main affair at Hammond Stadium was a 2-2 a piece tie with Baltimore.  Mike Pelfrey started and he pitched a fine 3 innings.  A couple things to note (actually one) :  Either he is working on a sinker (yes) or they calibrated the Hammond Stadium radar (yes too).  He was tossing mainly two seamers with a couple of curves and splitters mixed in today and his two-seamers were sitting around 89-91 a good 4-5 mph below his usual four seamer velocity.

Good to see Mattie Guerrier throw today, especially after Jared Burton, because he was so much better than Burton.  Easy 92-93 mph, nice mechanics, I am not sure whether he should be regarded as a dark horse at this point.  Give him a week or so of work and I suspect that he might make the team.

Glen Perkins signed a contact extension and this was what he had to say:


The other half of the Twins' split squad punished the Yankees 7-2 up in Tampa today.  

Here are the newest Spring Training Dashboards reflecting both games today:

(You can find all of the 2014 Spring Training dashboards here) :

A reminder of the scoring system:


For the pitchers, I quantify using  a measurement created by Bill James more than a decade ago called "Game Score".  It is calculated as follows:
You start with 50 points for each pitcher.
Add 1 point for each out.
Add 1 point for each strikeout.
Subtract 2 points for each hit.
Subtract 4 points for each earned run.
Subtract 2 points for each unearned run.
Subtract 1 point for each walk.
There is a point bonus for pitching more than 4 innings as well, adding 2 points for each IP after the 4th, but this is not too applicable here.

Game Scored of 49-51 are "average" (yellow),
everything higher than 51 "above average" (green),
and everything below 49 "below average" (red).

For position players, I devised a similar metric that goes like this:
Start with 0 points (unlike the pitching Game Score that starts with 50)
Add 1 point for each Run, RBI, 2B, SB, BB, and HBP recorded.
Add 2.5 for each hit, 3 for each 3B and 4 for each HR.
Subtract 1 for each CS and GIDP,
subtract 1 for each error,
for catchers add 1 for each CS
Subtract 0.2 for each SO and 0.5 for each AB.

Again, as in the Pitching Battle Dashboard, the Position Player Battle Dashboard is color-coded based on average, above average and below average performances, where:

Average is Batting Game Score between 0 and 2
Above average is Batting Game Score higher than 2
Below average is Batting Game Score less than 0

Players on the 40-man roster are in bold.  The ones without options are also underlined.  Left-handed pitchers are in italics.

Here is the Dashboard for the Twins' position players:



 and for the pitchers:





3/13/14

Twins Spring Training Report From Fort Myers: 3/13/2014

I am on site at Fort Myers and this will be the first in a series of reports regarding the Twins' major and minor leaguers from the Lee County sports complex grounds.  As a reminder, you can find all Spring Training coverage here

Miguel Sulbaran came to the Twins from the Dodgers in the Drew Butera trade last season and started four games for the Cedar Rapids Kernels, the Twins single A affiliate.   Sulbaran did not make it to my top 40 off-season Twins' prospect list,  but he made the cut in plenty lists, so I was intrigued to see him pitch for the first time, throwing live pitching practice to Pedro Florimon (mostly) and Nate Hanson.  He is stockier than his listed 5'10", 185 lbs, with strong lower body.  He has a good fastball in the low 90s with good pop.  He threw a very good changeup, and an excellent curve, which had Florimon guessing.  He also has a slider that is a cutter-like pitch. 30-40 live batting practice pitches are not a big sample size, but I think that the Twins have something here.  On the other hand 30-40 pitches were plenty enough to see that Florimon is not even close.  He made contact with only 2 balls, neither of which left the cage.   The biggest issue is timing.  I just cannot see how he can make the team with just 2 weeks left in Spring Training.


Today the Twins were hosting the Red Sox at Hammond Stadium and had another Spring Training attendance record with 92xx people.    Phil Hughes was the starter for the Twins. He started the first inning throwing primarily his four-seamer that was sitting between 92-94 and touched 95.  He also threw a few cutters  at 88-91 and his curveball that was pretty much the story of his game.  He is working on it this spring to replace his slider and it was the main pitch he threw his last 2 innings of work, along a few two-seamers and cutters and a couple of high 70s low 80s change ups.  His curveball hit anywhere from 69-75 mph and he threw one for strikes (one of them caught David Ortiz looking at strike 3) as well as at the dirt.  His appearance was much better than the results that were in part on a fielding error by Plouffe or a ground ball and on another on Mauer on a low pick off throw by Hughes (that one actually could have been on Hughes as well.)


Hard to see Mauer at first base, but he was fine (other than that one play)


Matt Hoffman pitched a couple of innings for the Twins and I think that he is in competition for a Lefty Spot in the pen.  


He really has 2 pitches now, a fastball that touched 89 and a breaking ball of sorts that was thrown around 80.  That is somewhat of a slurve, but with more of a change up type of motion and I can see it raking havoc against left hand batters.   

Deduno has pitched for 3 innings and they were strong 3 innings.  I could not believe that he would be ready this close to his shoulder surgery, but he threw really well.  His fastball was as lively as ever from 88-92 and his control was better than I have seen from him before.  I was really impressed today.


Mike Tonkin finished the game for the Twins and he had a solid outing.  One thing that might mean something or might not, is that his fastball was clocking from 91-94 (with the Hammond Stadium radar) with is a few ticks lower than his usual fastball.   He is a candidate to break camp with the Twins this Spring


I am not sure that any of these gentlemen, on the other hand, will be breaking camp with the Twins:


And the reason I am saying this is that Hicks has been solid both with the bat and on the field, while Presley has been anaemic with the bat and error prone at the field and he has a long way to climb now to even reach the back up level, while Frier is probably fourth in the depth chart, behind Hermann, Pinto and Suzuki (alphabetically.)  Chris Herrmann might have been the surprise of this spring, along with Danny Santana, and will be interesting to see these two guys up North.  Chris Collabelo is another player who might be knocking at the door and this might mean bad news for Jason Kubel.

There was a replay today on a disputed home run call, and I cannot believe how primitive looking the replay apparatus is:


All in all it was a good game.   There was a questionable stop sign by the Twins third base coach, Joe Vavra, with 2 outs and down one at the eighth inning, but I guess coaches have Spring Training as well.  Regardless, if the Twins are to climb off the 90 loss hole, they need to be more aggressive at every phase of the game including base running.