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8/21/09

September Call-ups for the Twins: Realistic Expectations

September is the time in a baseball season when the major league rosters "expand". This is the time when teams "call up" minor league players to either help them in a pennant race or to give the players a try out for the next season. First I will describe the rules that govern this process as well as analyze potential consequences of different moves:

"Roster expansion" in September refers to the fact that from September 1st each team is allowed to play all the players in its 40-man roster in major league games. Prior to September only players who are in their 25-rosters (or "major league" rosters) are eligible to play. The 40-man roster includes minor league players that the team wants to protect from the Rule 5 draft, as well as players on the 15-day disabled list. Players on the 60-day DL do not take a spot on either roster. To be called up a player needs to be in a team's 40-man roster. If the 40-man roster is full, a player on the roster needs to be removed (designated for assignment, DFA) before a new player takes his spot.

Twins' fans have the expectation that potential bullpen solutions such as Robert Delaney and Anthony Slama as well as the future third baseman, Danny Valencia, Yohan Pino who has been pitching remarkable in Rochester in August, and the minor league leader in home runs, Justin Huber, will be wearing Twins' pinstripes in September.

How realistic is this?

Here are the players in the Twins' 40-man roster, currently not on the 25-man roster (and their status):

R.A. Dickey (AAA)
Armando Gabino (AAA)
Francisco Liriano (DL)
Kevin Mulvey (AAA)
Glen Perkins (DL)

Drew Butera (AAA)
Jose Morales (AAA)
Wilson Ramos (AA)

Brian Buscher (AAA)
Luke Hughes (AA)
Trevor Plouffe (AAA)
Deibinson Romero (A+)
Matt Tolbert (AAA)
Steven Tolleson (AAA)
Jason Pridie (AAA)


It is a safe bet that Francisco Liriano and Glen Perkins will be in with the Twins in September. It also a safe bet that Jose Morales will be also with the big team in September, as is Armado Gabino. Steven Tolleson, Jason Pridie and Trevor Plouffe have good possibilities to see action as well.

Anthony Slama, Danny Valencia, Yohan Pino, Justin Huber and Robert Delaney would need to replace 5 players in the 40-man roster to be called up. Another option is the fireballer Juan Morillo.

Who could those players be? In addition to the above, Bobby Keppel and Philip Humber are currently on the 25-man (and 40-man roster). It is possible that the Twins will DFA them to open 2 positions in their 40-man roster. There are 3 more positions needed to fit these players. And this is where it comes to hard decision time for the Twins:

Looking at the 40-man roster, the candidates for replacement are: R.A. Dickey, Brian Buscher, Matt Tolbert, Drew Butera, Jason Pridie and Luke Hughes.

I do not think that the Twins will give up on the last 3, since they are younger. So the tough decisions the Twins have to make are: who has a bigger future with the organization and do they want the future to start in September or in November (when these players would have to be added to the 40-man roster to protect them in the Rule 5 draft)

Yohan Pino/Anthony Slama/Robert Delaney/Juan Morillo or R.A. Dickey
Danny Valencia or Brian Buscher
Jason Huber or Matt Tolbert.

It is a hard decision. Danny Valencia will be added to the 40-man roster sooner or later and I hope that it is sooner. I do not see R.A. Dickey with the organization in 2010 and I would like to see what Yohan Pino can do in September. Also, Tolbert has been pretty much a failure and the presence of Alexi Casilla, Nick Punto and Brendan Harris, makes him unnecessary at this point.

My logic says that the Twins should go with all 5 younger choices here, esp. since this will give them a competitive advantage in September. My gut says that at least Buscher and Tolbert and probably R.A. Dickey will be up. This will allow only 2 (at most, if the Twins DFA Keppel and Huber) of the 5 deserving non-roster candidates to be up in September.

I hope that the Twins surprise me

What is your opinion? Feel free to comment.

8/18/09

Twins Pitching News: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue

Fransisco Liriano has been placed to the 15-day DL after his latest short ineffective outing (last night at Texas, at 96 degree weather.) This outing was particularly disappointing since it came just after a brilliant 7 inning (3 hits, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K; game score 74) performance (his best this season) against the Royals in the Metrodome. There is no official diagnosis about what is physically wrong with Fransisco. Ron Gardenhire is quoted to say "he had nothing left in the tank". A medical reason might be given soon. Not to forget that Justin Morneau was taken out early in the game with "dizziness". High heat and humidity would do that. Let's hope that there is nothing too alarming, especially dealing with his surgically reconstructed elbow. Liriano is the third pitcher in the Twins rotation (Slowey 60-day, Perkins 15-day) currently in the DL.



The best news for the Twins last night was that the team work around a potential impasse, to sign their 2009 first round pick, Kyle Gibson, for $1.85 million signing bonus, an amount in the middle of the 22 spot recommendation and the $2.5 million he and his adviser (amateurs do not have agents, but are allowed to have agents as negotiating advisers before they sign a contract) reportedly wanted. The negotiations went well close to the midnight ET deadline. About an hour and forty five minuted before that deadline, Kyle appeared live on Seth Stohs' weekly podcast. A definite must listen for a Twins' fans. Do not miss it. Kyle sounds like a great guy who likes to interact with fans. This is the third time he appeared in Seth's podcast and to do this while the negotiations were heating up, says a lot about him. Welcome to the Twins' family Kyle.

Kyle, a projected top 10 pick, fell down to number 22 because of a stress fracture on his forearm, which has completely healed. I provided links to scouting reports and videos of Kyle during my live draft blogging coverage of the first day of the draft. Kyle will probably go to the Twins' training complex in Ft. Myers for instructionals, but I will not be surprised if he joins the Miracle in the FSL playoffs if they need an additional arm and he is in game ready shape.




To replace Fransisco Liriano in the Twins' pitching staff, the Twins purchased the contract of Philip Humber (109 IP, 5.28 ERA, 1.477 WHIP, 6.4 K/9, 2.0 K/BB with the Red Wings) from the Rochester Red Wings. There is an additional move to be made to open a spot on the 40-man roster, and I suspect that either R.A. Dickey or Matt Macri will be removed from that roster. This is a very surprising move, because it bypassed 2 Red Wings' starting pitchers, Armando Gabino (83 IP, 2.93 ERA, 1.012 WHIP, 5.7 K/9, 2.7 K/BB with the Red Wings) and Yohan Pino (35 IP, 3.86 ERA, 1.114 WHIP, 8 K/9, 3.44 K/BB with the Red Wings and 62 IP, 3.19 ERA, 1.242 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, 4 K/BB with the Rock Cats) who outpitched him this season and could potentially help more the Twins. Rob Delaney and Anthony Slama, other potential candidates, are relievers and allows 11 ERs in 1.1 IP between the 2 of the last night for Rochester, which makes them slightly less desirable in the bigs, esp. with the state of the Twins' starting pitching in a flux.



On the heels of a disappointing season that proved what was thought as the strength of the team last spring, the starting rotation, a mirage, and just before the move to a brand new park, I believe that a pitching move by the front office to energize the fan base, the players and the staff is necessary. And what would be better than acquiring Cuban 21 year old phenom free agent Aroldis Chapman. If you are not familiar with Champan, he is a starter lefty with a fastball that touches the low 100s and sits comfortably in the mid to high 90s. here is a brief scouting report from his recent WBC appearance. Chapman is currently probably at the AAA level, because of his command and quality of the secondary pitches, but at this point, he would have been the third best starter for the Twins behind Scott Baker and Carl Pavano. His price tag is speculated to larger than the $30 million contract Jose Contreras signed in 2003; but with the state of the economy, this might be a fairly high estimate. I suspect that it will be closer to the $16 million neighborhood (Steven Strasburg's singing bonus by the Nationals). Bringing Aroldis Chapman north would not only be a tremendous energizing move for the Twins' fan base, but a move that would help their rotation for years to come.