Live from Fort Myers: Twins Spring Training Notes: 3/17/2018

This is my daily live report from Fort Myers on the Twins' Spring Training:
  • The Twins played today at Bradenton against the Pirates so  I spent most of my time watching some of the top Twins' prospects with the Miracle work group facing the A+ Rays' squad.
  • Few interesting changes in the back fields this Spring Training:  There is music playing on the loudspeakers on the tower throughout the afternoon (and earlier.)  The DSL players who are there for EST, are not here yet, and the three ring binders that kept stats were replaced by laptops and members of the Twins' analytics department working on them side by side with recovering pitchers charting pitches.
  • The Miracle lineup today was (prospect ranking in parenthesis):  Akil Baddoo (11), Royce Lewis (1), Alex Kirilloff (13), Ben Rodriguez, Jose Miranda (18), Andrew Bechtold (26), David Banuelos (30), Trey Cabbage, Andy Crosgrove, and Taylor Grzelakowski (yes that's the batting order and the last 2 were the DHs - not unusual to bat 10 or more people in MiLB ST games.) 
  • So there were a lot of intriguing prospect to observe.  Let me start with the pitchers.
  • Edwar Colina was the starter.  The Venezuelan pitched in the DSL in 2016 and at Elizabethton last season as a starter.  He has an interesting mix of pitches.  He throws both a 2- and a 4-seamer from 91 to 96 mph and it is an above average pitch that flashes plus, esp. the 2-seam variety.  Command is somewhat of an issue, but it is early.  His best pitch is likely a mid 80s changeup with a fairly nasty tailing action.  This is a close to plus pitch and he has a good feel for it.  His third best is a slider at 84-87 that he commanded ok most of the time.  He also throws a 79-81 slow curve that seemed to miss the mark most of the time.  Not sure if it is because he reminded a bit of Alex Burnett, but he looks like a reliever to me.
  • Twins' 17th round draft pick last season, Ricky Ramirez, followed.  Strickly a reliever, about 150 lbs wet, but threw a mid 90s fastball, had a very good 85-88 mph slider and even tossed a low 70s curve.  The slider is his best pitch and there is some potential there.  RHP Juan Gamez, a 31st round pick in 2016 followed.   Fastball (90-93), slider (83-85) pitcher with very good command of the two-seamer.  The last player for the Twins was converted first baseman LHP Zach Featherstone.   He was drafted in the 12th round of 2016 as a first baseman, converted to pitching mid-season last season, and he is the one of the four I saw today who might make it as a starter.  Very good mechanics for a converted position player, he throws a lot like Scott Diamond (mechanics-wise.)  He throws a four seamer from 91-94 mph and a great changeup at 82-84.  He has an excellent feeling for the change, which is pretty rare for a converted position player.  Also throws a breaking ball with confused identity at about 76-81 mph, which is definitely a work in progress.
  • None of these pitchers are top prospects, but a couple are worth keeping an eye on.  There was another fairly huge change that I observed this season:  Minor league pitchers are encouraged to pitch inside and establish the inside fastball early in the game.  With most batters these days standing very close to the plate, that inside fastball strike is one of the hardest pitches to hit.  On a similar note, new Twins' minor league pitching coordinator Pete Maki was at the field today and color me really impressed, based on his ability to mingle with his players (unlike his predecessor) and on some conversations regarding pitching I overheard.  
  • As far as position players go, here is the skinny about the top prospects (and others).  Royce Lewis can hit the crap of the ball if it is on the outside or the middle of the plate.  He has a hard time with inside pitches, both looking at strikes and swinging unsuccessfully at them.  A couple of times he made soft throws to first base, and at another helped turned a double play.  Not sure that he has the arm to be a shortstop.  His uniform practically hangs on him, and he is all legs.  In addition to the arm situation, he might just outgrow the position.  He is still young to be definitive about it, but I see the outfield more in his future.  A very fast base runner with good instincts as well
  • Alex Kirilloff on the other hand is a horrible outfielder.  A couple balls went over his hand and in the three throws he made, two made a single bounce and one a double bounce to the cutoff man.  Allegedly his arm was strong as a prep, but now (could be the TJ surgery) is not enough for right field.   He can hit the ball, esp, pull the ball on the other hand.
  • Akil Baddoo is the guy who does the little things right.  Do I see him be a superstar?  Not the guy I saw today.  I will need to see more but he looks like a solid corner OF with good bat control.  Andrew Bechtold has not seen a pitch he does not like.  He swings at everything and that is something that he will need to fix.  Trey Cabbage is now an OF, and not a very good one.  Had a route trouble at one fly ball that almost had him head first at the chain link fence.  Not good.  David Banuelos reminds me of a baby Pudge Rodriguez but it might be his build.  His arm is not quite at that level yet.
  • The guy who impressed me the most, because I did not expect anything, was the Twins' 38th round draft pick from Pepperdine in 2017, 1B Ben Rodriguez.  At 6-6 and 225 lbs, he is a big presence but has excellent plate control and power, can run well and can hit.  He hit .290/.399/.457 in the GCL in his first pro season.  Will not be surprised if he goes to Cedar Rapids and repeats that performance this year.
  • The Twins' minor league catching coordinator Tanner Swanson was hit with a foul ball in the dugout late in the game.  He was walking back to the Twins' minor league building with the trainer, but it did not look that bad.  It was pretty scary moment.
  • In other prospect news, Levi Michael is now listed as an OF and Brent Rooker as a 1B, making me think that the succession order to Joe Mauer might be written in stone.
  • In other news, Phil Hughes and Alan Busenitz both sucked against the Pirates doing the best to lose their spots in the team.
  • It is a wild card thought, but I will not be surprised if the Twins acquire another reliever at this point...
  • Still the talk of the town is the trade for OF Jake Cave for RHP Luis Gil and the resulting designation of 1B Kennys Vargas for assignment.  Lots of real estate-alluding headlines, like "The Twins acquire Cave" the last 24 hours or so. Apparently Vargas was not very happy with the signing of Logan Morrison by the Twins.  As I indicated yesterday, there was talk of Japan next week.
  • Former Twins' pitcher Anibal Sanchez who was DFA'd to open room for Lance Lynn has signed a minor league contract with the Braves

To see all the notes and coverage of the 2018 Twins' Spring Training, including my daily live reports from Fort Myers in the second half of March, please visit here

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