Five (free) things to do while waiting for spring training

  1. Are you missing your advent calendar and those little chocolates hiding behind it's pockets? Go daily to Josh Johnson's blog for a countdown of his Twins' top 50 prospects compete with profiles and information. Sweeter than chocolate

  2. Can't live without daily stats and box scores? Ease your withdrawal by following the Twins organization players performance in the winter leagues

  3. Give yourself a head start for the world baseball classic by going here reading about international baseball and marvel at the popularity of a sport that ten years ago was primarily a Western Hemisphere and Eastern Asian sport. Learn all about teams such as the Ă“buda Brick Factory and the Danesi Caffe' Nettuno

  4. Do you feel that the hot stove have been fairly tepid lately? Keep weekly track of the minor league transactions here

  5. Last but not least: Root for the Vikings all the way to a Super Bowl victory and follow their daily events and player news at Access Vikings and Kevin Seifert's blog


Congratulations NFC North Champs!

Playoff Predictions:

Vikings over Eagles
Arizona over Atlanta

Vikings over Carolina
Arizona over Giants

Vikings over Arizona

Indianapolis over San Diego
Dolphins over Ravens

Indianapolis over Titans
Steelers over Dolphins

Steelers over Colts

Vikings over Steelers


If the history repeats itself...

... the last year in the Metrodome (2009) does not look too good for the Twins.

Here are the records and finishes of all the teams in the franchise in the last year of a stadium:

1903 Washington Senators (American League Park I) 43-94 (8th out of 8 in the AL)

1010 Washington Senators (American League Park II) 66-85 (7th out of 8 in the AL)

1955 Washington Senators (Griffith Stadium I) 53-101 (8th out of 8 in the AL)

1960 Washington Senators (Griffith Stadium II) 73-81 (5th out of 8 in the AL)

1981 Minnesota Twins (Metropolitan Stadium) 41-68 (7th out of 7 in the AL West)

Will the 2009 team break the curse of the last year in a stadium for the Twins/Senators franchise?


Meet and greet R. A. Dickey

This is the second time in 2 years that the Twins signed R.A. Dickey as a minor league free agent. Last season they lost him to the Mariners in the rule 5 draft. While the Mariners could not add him to their 25 man roster, they worked a trade with the Twins that brought Jair Fernandez a catcher who just turned 22 past December 10 and had a .283/.333/.370 season while throwing out 46.7% of attempted stollen base runners in Beloit (Midwest league, A) last year. Last May I described that trade as a mistake.

Given what we know now, about the failures of Rincon and Bass in the pen, it looks like it was probably a mistake, since R.A. Dickey posted a 2.00 ERA and held opposing batters to a .205/.287/.307 line as a reliver with the Marines while compiling an 1.11 WHIP, 1.43 K/BB and 5.0 K/9 in 36 innings of relief.

Let's dig a bit deeper. Dickey also started 14 games for 76.3 innings and he was horrible as a starter: Opponents batted .316/.385/.506 off him, he had a 6.72 ERA, 1.77 WHIP, 1.01 K/BB and 4.49 K/9. That is below replacement level. For comparison purposes, while with the Twins, Livan Hernandez had a 5.48 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 1.86 K/BB, 3.50 K/9. Given that knuckleballers can pitch until embalmed and should not have that much difference between starting and relieving (because they can go for many innings in consecutive days), how is this schism on Dickey's stats explained? Looking even closer, there are several warning signs about Dickey:

a. His knuckleball is too fast. It averages 73 mph while his fastball averages 85 and his change 74. To be effective in needs to be in the 60s maximum.

b. His knuckleball has not enough movement. Given that and its speed hitters sit on it like a change and hit it like a change. Hitters chased only 18% of his knuckleballs last season (for comparison purposes hitters chased 37% of Bonser's off-speed offerings and 40% of Guerrier's). In addition to the lack of the movement, he does not have control of it. His overall K/BB last season was 1.14.

c. Last season he threw 65% knuckleballs and 30% fastballs (of the Livan variety of “fastball” with similar results, 1.56 WHIP) He’s got to be at the 90% knuckleball 10% fastball range

d. His BABIP as a starter was .322 and as a reliever a ridiculous .226; which means that with a normal BABIP of .290 he would be closer to a 4.75 ERA 1.45 WHIP pitcher.

I do not have the numbers, but maybe as a starter he used his fastball more and an 85 mph fastball in this league is bigger than a harvest moon to a professional hitter (ask Livan). If this is the case, a good pitching instructor who specializes on knucleballers (alas, the Twins have none such beast in their current staff) might fix the problem.

Which Dickey will show up next year (Jeckyl or Hyde, R or A) is hard to fortell; regardless, R.A. Dickey is a great human story

One more note: Number 41 is taken by Bobby Korecky. Would he been a better option than Dickey in the Twins' pen?

Twins' fans' Christmas present: R. A. Dickey

a full profile to follow, but this spot from Mike and the Mad Dog sums up my feelings pretty much...



’cause things are fairly quiet now, time to stir the waters a bit ;)

here goes another interesting situation with potential Twins’ consequences:

a. Every team has until March to offer every player in its roster a contract (in most cases for players not going to arbitration or signed to a contracts it is a typical situation: player is under team control, team offers minimum, thing done)

b. Atlanta’s owner, GM and the whole front office after the Furcal situation are in record saying that they will never sign a player represented by or work with the Wasserman group of agents (Furcal’s agents)

c. Guess who is represented by the Wasserman group? Yunel Escobar.

Do you think that he will not be offered a contract and thus become a free agent or do you think that Atlanta’s owner, GM and front office will offer him a contract and prove that their word is worth as much as the Wasserman group in the Furcal negotiations?

nice Catch-19 (Escobar’s jersey number) situation…


Welcome Henry Arias; so long Juan Sanchez, David Shinskie and Jose Lugo

Yesterday, I profiled the Twins Major League rule 5 draft pick Jason Jones; today, I will give you the profiles of the other players involved in the Twins' Rule 5 draft:

Henry Arias will be 24 years old next January and was the player to be named later in the the trade that sent minor leaguer Brad Salmon to the Royals from the Reds last summer. Probably his biggest claims to fame are that he shared last names with one of the best players to wear a Twins' uniform and that he was involved in the infamous bench clearing brawl between the Dayton Dragons and the Peoria Chiefs last July, and was almost hit by lightening when on the mount for the Burlington Bees against the Clinton LumberKings, before his trade last June.

His highest level of play was the Midwest league, last season, where he was fairly old at 23. In the previous two seasons he pitched at the Arizona League (low Rookie) and the Appalachian league. Being in the same league as Twins' farm clubs the last two seasons, the Twins had plenty of time to scout him. He has been a set up man the last year and finished 24 games of the 39 he appeared, accumulating 3 saves on the way. I think that the Twins see more to him than his numbers (career: 4.76 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 1.61 K/BB and 7.23 K/9) or his scouting report (borderline plus sinker at 88-90 mph, curve, change up) indicate. He is slated to start the season in Rochester (which will be more appropriate for his age, 24); however, Delaney and Slame are better suited for a promotion there. He may end up in New Britain or Ft. Myers (both places will be promotions for him).

Juan Sanchez was selected by Milwaukee in the 4th round of the AAA portion of the draft. The soon to be 22 year old righty made the transition from the DSL in 2007 to the GCL in 2008, where he was a major contribution posting .314/.382/.467 as a SS and 3B. His OPS was 4th in the team and the best for an infielder. He was blocked in the team by Tyler Ladendorf and was one of the oldest players in the league. Juan ranked 13th in my Twins hitting prospects list, ahead of names such as Danny Valencia and Luke Hughes. He did not figure as a top prospect in other lists. He will be missed by the Twins more than any other player selected, but there was no way to put him in the AAA roster. Milwaukee is taking a chance, because he probably is not ready for AAA. It has to be noted that, unlike the MLB portion of the Rule 5 draft, a player taken in the minor league portions is not required to be in a AAA roster all season. He is automatically property of the new club.

David Shinskie was selected by Toronto in the minor league portion of the draft. He is a 24 year old RHP former starter turned reliever the last few years. He signed out of high school at 19 and took a long time to develop, mainly because of injuries. His highest level was in New Britain in 2006 and 2008 season. Career 4.68 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 2.22 K/BB, 6 K/9. He was blocked by several relievers in the Twins system. In 2006 he was thought as a better prospect than Scott Baker, Glen Perkins and Nick Blackburn (this is a good reason not to believe prospect rankings), but he regressed due to injuries. He was the 16th relief pitching prospect in my list. I hope he turns it around with the Blue Jays organization.

Jose Lugo was a pick that did not make much sense. He was the 9th overall player selected in the Major league portion of the draft by the Kansas City Royals and his rights were immediately sold to the Mariners. He needs to be in the Mariners 25-man roster all season, otherwise he will return to the Twins. Lugo is a 24 year old lefty starter turned reliever who pitched at Ft. Myers last season. He accumulated a 4.04 ERA a 1.46 WHIP and a 2.3 K/BB but he was a strikeout (9.91 K/9) and ground ball (57%) machine. He has a great hard sinker. As a fist sight he has the makings (and the name) to be a ML LOOGY; however, his problems are that LHB hit .264 (vs .253 for RHB) off him and his WHIP was 1.57 against LHB vs. 1.29 against RHB. He does strike out lefties at a rate of 12.90 K/9, but this is in the Florida State League. Would it be sustainable in the majors? Jose ranked 20 in my Twins relief pitching prospect list

Make sure that you participate in the December contest! You do want Seth's book, don't you? Much more information about these players and a whole slew of Twins prospects in there!

Contests, contests!, contests! and December contest

Here is the deal:

I am planning of having a contest a month in this space on which the winner will get some nice Twins-related goodies:

  • For each of the off-season contests (December, January, February and March), the winner will get a copy of one of the best minor league publications for the Twins
    Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook - 2009
    , by Seth Stohs of SethSpeaks.net a major authority in the Twins' blogosphere, personally autographed by Seth himself.

  • For the in-season contests, I will give away goodies (balls and cards, mainly) autographed by current and past Twins players

  • I will have a big contest that will run all season long dealing with predicting the outcome of the season and the winner will receive a package of autographed goodies, including a ball autographed by a Hall of Famer

Here is how it works:

  • Every month I will post a challenge question

  • The contest will end the last day of the month

  • The first person that gives the correct answer to the challenge question in the comments space here (click the pencil at the bottom of the post), will be the winner

  • Only one answer per person, and "anonymous" users cannot win, just to keep the one answer integrity; so think

Without further ado here is the challenge question for December:

Predict the moves that the Twins' front office will make by the end of December

Scoring and rules:

  • 3 points for each correct major league move

  • 1 point for each minor league move and roster addition or subtraction

  • All players in the moves need to be identified correctly to receive points (e.r. "the Twins will acquire a relief pitcher", will receive no points)

  • Dollar amounts of contracts are not necessary

  • If no moves are made the first person that says "no moves" wins (but this is highly unlikely because the arbitration deadline is today, so don't do it :) )

  • Please do not include moves made before this post (e.g. Punto re-signing) or post a move that was made after this post but before your comment. They will not count

  • Have fun and bring a friend or two :)


Meet and greet Jason Jones (& Nick Punto)

The Twins today filled their 40 man roster (they can move Pat Neshek to the 60 day DL and still have an open spot) by re-signing Nick Punto and drafting Jason Jones from the New York Yankees in the major league part of the rule 5 draft (they lost 3 players in the draft and acquired one in the minor league portion, but this will be another post).

Who is Jason Jones?

Jason who turned 26 last November 20th, was selected in the 4th round of the amateur draft of 2005 by the Yankees from Liberty University. A couple of times he was named the pitcher of the week (2006, Florida State League) and 2008 (Eastern League). He was a Florida State League Mid-season All Star in 2006. His arsenal of pitches include a 2-seamer that tops out at 92 mph, a plus plus 81-83 mph slider with late breaking action in to lefties and away from righties, a split-finger fastball (his strikeout pitch) and a changeup that he throws occasionally.

He started his professional career with an excellent campaign in 2004, when he pitched 79 innings and started 14 games split between the State Island Yankees of the New York-Penn League (low A) and the Battle Creek Yankees of the Midwest (A) League. He accumulated a 2.62 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and had 7.67 K/BB and 5.24 K/9. In 2005 he was promoted to the Tampa Yankees of the Florida State League (high A) where he pitched 128.1 innings with disappointing results: 5.68 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 3.8 K/BB and 5.34 K/9. This drove two changes in his pitching style brought about by the Yankees pitching staff: a. a change in his mechanics and b. abandonment of his erratic curve ball for the favor of a newly tought split-finger fastball. In 2006 he split time between the Tampa Yankees and Trenton Thunder of the Eastern League (AA). His totals for the year were 3.39 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 2.39 K/BB and 5.22 K/9. The decrease in his K/BB was due to the increase use of the split-finger fastball that he was learning at the time. In 2007 he spent the whole season in Trenon where he pitched 131.2 innings resulting to a 3.62 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 2.51 K/BB and 5.35 K/9. He split last season between Trenton and Scranton of the International League (AAA) and pitched 160 innings accumulating a 3.26 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 2.04 K/BB and 5.74 K/9.

How does he fit in the Twins' plans? He could be a change of page reliever in the major league club (however, that would require that one of the current relievers or Phillip Humber who is out of options get dealt.) or his contract could be bought via a trade and have a spot in Rochester's rotation in 2009. If I were to guess, I would guess that unless there is a trade and he shocks the universe in spring training, he would either return to the Yankees or get traded by the Yankees and will start in Rochester. The Twins will surely get a good look of him in spring training because there would be several of their pitchers expected to play in the the World Baseball Classic, which would result in Jones pitching more innings.

Not much I can say about Nick Punto. We all know him. As I indicated previously, he was not that bad last year. He ranked 15th and above the major league average for shortstops in BFE. The huge perception of disappointment is probably a combination of the facts that a. people do not seem to forget 2007 and b. there have been no significant moves by the front office to improve this team. Yet. There are still about 4 months before the first pitch of the 2009 season is thrown, and I will wait to hold judgment about this off-season performance of the Twins' front office until then. For an organization that values "continuity" at all levels, this was not a surprising singing... However, this organization has not won much since 1991, so sometimes the pot needs to be stirred in order for results to be produced.

Time will tell...


All is quiet for the Twins in the Vegas front...

At least as far as transactions realized go. As soon as the Twins acquire someone, I will analyze those signings/trades.

I will not propagate rumors and whispers started elsewhere, there is already enough of that in the cyberspace.

Expect news regarding the Twins tomorrow, because of the Rule 5 draft. The Twins may select a player or two (they have 2 empty spots in their roster) and also are expected to lose a player or two...


Catching up

Not many news are expected this weekend (a travel weekend for many officials and reporters to the Winter Meetings in Vegas). A couple of interesting notes (and I am not going to harp on the the Gardy foot in the mouth situation and potential Delmon Young trade rumors or why the Twins should not give 3 years to Blake):

  • The Twins made the first blunder this off-season, releasing Randy Ruiz to reportedly open another spot on the 40 man roster. Readers of this space know who I feel about Randy Ruiz. It is bothersome that this comes from a team that has 5 catchers on the 40 man roster, re-singed the AARP-eligible Redmond as the back-up catcher for next season, and having several older career minor league non-prospects in that roster. Good luck Randy, you deserve a 25 man roster spot and you'll get it, but unfortunately not with the Twins. There are strong rumors about Ruiz going to Japan; we'll have to wait and see.

  • Apparently the shortstop market has become a buyer's market after the singing of Rentaria by the Giants and the trade for Greene by the Cardinals: The A's pulled off the table their offer to Furcal ($35-40M for 4 years). The Tigers are looking at Jack Wilson and Adam Everett, Orlando Cabrera is still out there as they are the lesser free agent shortstops (Alex Cora, Juan Uribe, Cesar Izturis et. al.). The Twins do have 2 internal options (3 if you add Plouffe), Steven Tolleson, who supplemented a great season in AA last year with a phenomenal AFL performance and Alejandro Machado who in his first year with the Twins' organization, after sitting all 2007 out with injuries, hit .338/.376/.472 in Rochester, primarily as a second baseman. Depending how the market goes, I would not be surprised if the Twins wait until late and if Furcal is available come January/February make him a 1-2 year contract offer. The Furcal situation also affects the Blake situation, because if the Dodgers sign Furcal, they will probably be out of the running for Blake, making the Twins the only team with an offer on the table.

  • I have been updating with signings my Minor League free agent potential target list. A couple of players have already singed with other clubs.

  • Meanwhile, it looks like, finally, the names "Wigginton" and "Twins" are being placed in the same sentence. Earlier (time flies, it has been almost 2 months), I suggested that Wiggington should be one of the 4 real targets for third base help this offseason. Speculation is that Wigginton might cost just prospects of the caliber the Padres received for Greene.


Gardy, Gardy, Gardy...

The latest from the manager of the millennium from the North Dakota Forum (you need to register for access), talking about his outfield:

“Those three guys (Gomez, Span and Cuddyer) need to play every day,” said Gardenhire, in Fargo to speak at an agricultural trade show. “Delmon is in the mix. He’s a hell of a player, a hell of a talent. But to me, those three guys should be your outfield and then you go from there.”

Why is that inane?

1. You should never make negative public statements about your players (and Gardy has been guilty of that many times). Did he really need to talk about his outfield in an "agricultural trade show"?

2. You should never say who is going to be your starting outfielder in December, before Spring training, before the roster is set. This smells prejudice and it is stupid not to only count but name your eggs before they hatch

3. Young outplayed both Gomez and Cuddyer last year a fact that Gardy either does not realize (which means he does not have baseball sense) or ignores (which means he is prejudiced).

Any way you cut it, it’s bad, but at least it happened in a proper forum (a bull trading show)

Gardy has already burned enough bridges with players arranging from superstar level (Ortiz) to serviceable+ major leaguers (Romero, Lohse) to budding stars (Garza, Liriano) with his bullheaded judgmental closedmindedness. And this organization rewarded him with a non-deserved extension. If he messes up with Young, it should be the last straw…


Diamonds in the rough? Minor league free agents

There is not much talk about minor league free agents, but here in the list of all the minor league free agents this off season from Baseball America. Are there any potential diamonds in the rough for the Twins to consider?

Given the Twins system needs for major-league ready righty relievers, better fielding middle infielders, third basemen and power right handed bats, the following might be good fits. I do not expect anything to happen before the Rule 5 draft in December.

The age listed is projected age on opening day 2009 (I am not including players 30 and in the list, even though someone like Jason Lane, Jay Gibbons, Bobby Scales, Ben Broussard, Mike Koplove, Jeff Weaver or Michael Burns might be of interest to some teams) :

Right Hand Relievers:

Jose Garcia RHP, 24. Career: 2.82 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 9.24 K/9, 3.98 K/BB. Garcia took the Marlins organization by storm moving from the Rookie Gulf Coast league to the AAA Pacific Coast league and earned a September call up as a starter in only 2 seasons. He then needed Tommy John surgery and lost all 2007. Came back in the Athletics' organization in 2008 and pitched 19 innings of relief accumulating a 3.32 ERA with a 0.84 WHIP, 4 BB and 20 K. The numbers suggest that his elbow is fine. Very young for his progress, he is a no-brainer signee for any organization.

Brandon Medders, RHP, 29. Good arm but somewhat erratic. Career 4.44 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 9.49 K/9, 2.5 K/BB. Most of it the last 5 years in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast league. Four years MLB (NL) experience 3.52 ERA, 1.391 WHIP, 6.50 K/9, 1.65 K/BB. He will be in a major league bullpen in 2009.

Paul Bush RHP, 29. Might be a steal. Career 3.23 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 9.39 K/9, 2.70 K/BB

Oneli Perez RHP, 26. Career: 2.99 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 9.72 K/9, 3.15 K/BB. Other than a horrible 2007, which made the Indians take him off their 40-man roster and the Yankees claiming him with similar results, Oneli Perez has been a lights out reliever in the minors. He has a very heavy sinker complemented by a nasty slider. He is a lot rike a right handed version of Jose Mijares. If he regains his confidence from the sub-par 2008, he could be a good set up man in the majors. An interesting factoid is that Perez was born with 12 fingers. Update: 12/24/08: Signed with the San Diego Padres.

David ShaferRHP, 27. Career 3.17 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 8.93 K/9, 2.49 K/BB. Once a touted closing prospect for the Reds (2.34 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 26 saves in Chattanooga, Southern league) was traded to the As for Kirk Saarloos before the 2007 season. Of course, in the A's organization he met the Pacific Coast League where he disappointed. He has a 92 mph fastball a decent slider and an immature change up. He could benefit from a chance inscenery.

Ferdin Tejeda RHP, 26. Made the transition from a light hitting SS to a pitcher in 2005, so his arm is not abused. Career 2.60 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 6.93 K/9, 3.74 K/BB. Excellentcontrol, never made it above A+ (Carolina league), definitely worth a look to supplement the minor league system.

Cory Doyne RHP, 27. Career 3.31 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 8.74 K/9, 1.94 K/BB. Was the closer for the Norfolk Tides (International League) in 2007 producing a great season with 2.23 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. Had rotator cuff surgery last year and came back fine producing a 3.43 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 11.57 K/9 and 3.86 K/BB in 21 innings in 4 levels. Another potential steal, he very likely be a middle reliever in the majors next year. He also is quite a character.

Jose Capellan RHP, 28. Career: 3.26 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 8.14 K/9, 2.38 K/BB. Spent parts of 4 season and the whole 2006 in the Majors as a middle reliever with the Brewers appearing in 61 games, pitching 71.7 innings, 31 BB, 58 K, 4.40 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. His career MLB numbers are 4.89 ERA, 1.435 WHIP, 7.17 K/9, 1.96. Once a great prospect in the Braves' organization was traded to Milwaukee for Danny Kolb, the post season after 2004 when Danny Kolb was an All Star and saved 39 games. Up to that point, he was a great starting pitcher advancing from Rookie league to AAA in just 3 seasons. He missed all of 2002 with Tommy John surgery. His best pitch is a 100 mph rising four seamer. He does have control problems and needs to develop his secondary pitches (slider and change up) better to be a more effective reliever, but he can produce as a middle reliever in a major league club (preferably with a good pitching coach) next season. A sure bet to sign a minor league contract and get invited to Spring Training with a club.

Nic Ungs RHP, 29. Career: 3.70 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 5.98 K/9, 2.97 K/BB. Nic Ungs, a starter, is tale of two stories: He is a very good pitcher in any other league than the Pacific Coast League and he is awful in the Pacific Coast League. Last season, in Huntsville (Southern League) he had an ERA of 1.96 and a WHIP of 1.00; after his promotion to Nashville (Pacific Coast league) his numbers ballooned to 7.49 ERA and 1.54 WHIP. Similarly in 2006 and 2007 in Albuquerque he posted a 4.00 ERA/1.46 WHIP and 4.98 ERA/1.49 WHIP respectively. His stuff is soft and the hitter's league exposes it. A transition to a reliever might be beneficial as would be playing time in leagues other than the Pacific Coast League.

Matt Peterson 27, RHP. Career: 3.93 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 7.44 K/9, 1.91 K/BB. A second round draft pick by the Mets and ranked as the 4th best Mets' prospect in 2004 by Baseball America, was the centerpiece of the trade that brought Kris Benson to the Mets. A starter with the Mets, made the transition to the pen with the Pirates where he served as the Altoona (Eastern league) closer in 2007, producing 1.98 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 29 saves, 56 K and 27 BB in 63.2 innings. Blocked in the Pirates' system he just had a cup of coffee in AAA with Indianapolis that season, then released and signed by Kansas City playing in 4 different teams in that organization. Still relatively young, will need work with his control to make it to the bigs but he has the talent.

Felix Romero 28, RHP. Career: 3.52 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 10.87 K/9, 3.77 K/BB. A strikeout machine with excellent control but a steroid violation suspension in 2005 as well.

Tim Spooneybarger 29, RHP. Career: 1.79 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 10.98 K/9, 2.70 K/BB. The primary closer for Richmond Braves (international league) in 2001 and 2002 where he dominated the league at a rate of 0.71 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 2001 and 0.90 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 2002. Earned a promotion to the Braves in 2002 where he delivered producing 2.63 ERA and 1.247 WHIP. He was the main trading chip to Florida for Mike Hampton in that off season, where he produced a 0.905 WHIP. He stated a band (Mad Ink) with his former teammate AJ Burnett. With all those numbers, and a name like that, where is the catch? 2 Tommy John surgeries back to back in 2004 and 2005, missing most of 2005 and all of 2006 and 2007. He played in 6 games in low A in 2008, pitching 7 innings, striking out 12 and walking 4 (3.68 ERA, 1.77 WHIP). Clearly not 100% percent but also clearly the biggest potential bargain among the listed. A team should take the risk an play him in A ball and by September might end up with a solid set up man in the majors.

J.D. Martin RHP, 26. Career 3.50 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 7.76 K/9, 3.14 K/BB. Not flashy, but steady. A first round Cleveland pick out of high school had great potential until he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2005 and transitioned into a reliever. He had to change his delivery and lost some of his effectiveness. Another gamble that might pay off huge for a team that is good about mechanics coaching. Update 12/13/2009: Signed with the Nationals

Lee Gronkiewicz RHP, 30. Career: 2.44 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 9.41 K/9, 3.82 K/BB. Just a cup of coffee in the majors. His biggest problem was that he pitched for clubs that had great bullpens (CLE, TOR, BOS) so he was stuck in the minors. Now his biggest problem is that he just underwent Tommy John surgery and will be out in 2009. He might come back as a 31 year old in 2010. I doubt that he will find any takers this off season, but maybe next.

Erick Abreu RHP, 25. Career: 3.34 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 7.41 K/9, 2.90 K/BB. A relatively young part-time starter in the Yankees' system and last season in the Astros' organization, never made it above High A. No health problems, he might be a guy that a team might take a flier on to work as a middle reliever in ahigh A or AA club.

Middle Infielders:

Tony Granadillo, 2B, 24, SH. Career .287/.375/.441. Good eye, some pop. Decent second baseman, bad third baseman. Young enough to fill a spot at AA. Last year he regressed in Portland (Eastern League) hitting .232/.342/.338. 2004 rule 5 draftee, a couple times Minor League All star (2004 Appy League, 2007 California League)

Callix Crabbe 2B, 26, SH. Career: .276/.368/.382. The diminutive (5'7" 171lbs) second baseman from the Milwaukee organization showed enough potential on the field and the base paths that was picked in the 2007 Rule 5 draft by the Padres; however, his light hitting led to his return to Milwaukee after a month an a half in the bigs. A great fielder, selected to the All-star team in the California league in 2004 and has been in the top 5 in his respective leagues in assists, putouts, triples and stolen bases since. Good plate discipline but not great contact. His strong defense will make him a useful part of an organization. Crabbe won a community service award for the Nashville Sounds in 2007. Update 12/5/2008: Signed with the Seattle Mariners.

Jesus Guzman 2B/3B, 24, RH. Career: .295/.365/.463. Jesus Guzman is a better bat than a glove and part of his career numbers are inflated by his career year with the High Desert Maverics (California league in 2007) where he hit .301/.370/.539 with 25 Home runs and 112 RBI. He, however, improved in 2008 with the Midland Rockhounds (Texas league) hitting .364/.419/.560. There were defensive concerns at third base (his original position) but the switch in 2B paid dividends. A high ceiling player who is just 24 years old. Update 12/4/08: Singed with the San Fransisco Giants

Pedro Lopez SS, 24, RH. Career: .275/.324/.352. Pedro is a great shortstop with the glove. Great hands, great range, decent arm. His bat lacks and he was rushed through the White Sox' and Reds' systems before he learned to hit. He was in low Rookie at 17 and at the majors at 21, playing mostly in AAA (International League) afterwards. The Intenation League is not the best place to develop a 21 year old prospect, because it has some of the best pitchers in the minors. Pedro should probably start 2009 in a AA league and work his way up. His glove and flashes of offensive potential (.322/.358/.453 with 5 HR in Birmingham, Southern league in 2006) prove that. He would be a very good signing for the right team that will not rush him.

Don Kelly, 2B, 29, LH. Good field, average hit, think Punto. Career .282/.355/.378

Jesus Merchan, SS, 28. RH. Decent field, better hit. Started his career in the Twins organization and when departed learned to hit. Career .295/.344/.389. Update: 12/23/08. Singed with the Cleveland Indians

Doug Bernier SS/2B, 28, SH. Career .244/.357/.322 hitter and he played the last two season in Colorado Springs (Pacific Coast League). Probably the best fielding middle infielder in the list, excellent range and hands in both SS (his primary position) and 2B. His hitting is his weakness. Prototypical all field, light hit middle infielder; however he always had good plate discipline and drawn a bunch of walks. Update 12/5/08: Singed with the New York Yankees

Third Basemen:

Vasili Spanos 3B, 28, RH. Career: .291/.379/.454. Excellent plate disipline and adequate fielding at 3B made him ascent the Oakland system very fast. An All-American from Indiana University, a minor league All Star and a former Olympian (with the Greek Baseball team) is probably the best third baseman in this list. He is diabetic, and a sounds like a good guy. Stagnated and blocked in the Oakland system, played for Juniper (Florida State League) last season, hitting .271/.353/.432. A prime candidate for change of scenery improvement.

Tony Blanco 3B/1B/OF, 27, RH. Career .279/.331/.496. Even though Blanco is just 27 he amassed a full 9 seasons of minor league ball. Last season with the Tulsa Drillers (Texas League) he batted .323/.385/.587 with 23 HR and 88 RBI. In 2004 as a 22 year old he hit 29 home runs split between the Potomac Cannons (Carolina League) and Chattanooga (Southern League). This made the Nationals draft him next winter in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft, giving him a spot in New Orleans (Pacific Coast League) and 40-men rosters and calling himup to the bigs for most of the season. Blanco is very bad at third base. He has a career .845 fielding percentage. He mostly projects as a 1B/LF/DH type, but has some pop in his bat and is young enough to find takers.

Joel Guzman 3B/SS, 24, RH. Career .264/.311/.446. Joel joined the Dodger's organization as a Shortstop at 17, but at 6'6" and 225 lbs, he does not have the prototypical middle infielder body and was switched to third base in his fourth season in the minors. He was rushed through the Dodgers organization and reached his first cup of coffee in the bigs as a September call up at age 21 in 2006. The next post season he was traded to the Rays for Julio Lugo. His best season was 2004 where as a 19 year old he hit for .297/.341/.540 with 23 HR and 86 RBI splitting time between Vero Beach (Florida State League) and Jacksonville (Southern league). Joel was rushed before he could develop plate discipline or could improve his fielding. He would be a perfect fit for an organization like the Twins that would allow him to do so. He is just 23 and has a lot of potential. A demotion to AA allowing him to work his way up could do wonders for him. Another no-brainer signee. Update 12/13/2009: Signed with the Nationals

Andrew Pinckney 3B, 26, SH. Career: .277/.332/.444. Decent range, strong arm, average glove. Andrew is somewhat of an enigma. He was an all star in the South Atlantic League as a 23 year old in 2005 batting .311/.362/.535 with 21 HRs and 98 RBI but could not have guessed his power numbers from his college track record where he hit .415/.480/.721 with 7 HRs in his senior year at Emory. Nevertheless he did not put similar power numbers again and never made it above the AA level. Still a respectable player to have as organizational depth and young enough at 26 to take a flier on. Update: 12/5/2008: Singed with the Toronto Blue Jays

Matt Craig 3B/1B, 27, SH. Career .283/.368/.464. Buscher-like on the field at 3B, better at 1B. Former 3rd round draft pick by the Cubs; had 20 HR in 376 AB for the Diamond Jaxx in 2004 (Southern League) and 19 HR in 248 AB his last year of College. Not much of a third baseman on the field, and not much power the last few years to fit in the next category, but a team might consider him. Update 12/8/2008: signed with the Florida Marlins

Power Right Hand Bats:

Victor Diaz OF, 27, RH. Career: .291/.344/.476 (minors, 7 seasons) .256/.309/.487 (majors, parts of 4 seasons). Diaz was once a highly touted Mets prospect who as a 22 year old in AAA hit .292/.331/.491 with 24 HRs and 94 RBI. He earned a September call up and spend most of 2005 in the majors where he hit .257/.329/.468. Diaz has power. He hit a total of 24 HR and drove in 73 runs in the majors in 147 games and 446 AB (parts of 4 seasons). These are pretty decent numbers, given the fact that he produced them between ages 22 and 25. His problem has been plate discipline. In the majors he struck out 135 times and walked 32. This is a lot in 446 AB. He is just entering his prime and last season in the Pacific Coast League his K:BB ratio dropped from his usual 4:1 to 3:1. This is some improvement. If he gets it down to 2:1 territory and makes better contract, he will be a big contributor in the majors, because he has a lot of raw power.

Jason Dubois OF/1B, 29, RH. Career .288/.361/.529. Prototypical power hitter (6'5" 220lbs). Drafted by Toronto in the rule 5 draft in 2002 but did not stick. Traded by the Cubs to the Indians for Jody Gerut in 2005 but did not meet expectations. Career .233/.286/.443 in the majors, but mashed minor league pitching starting his minor league career at A ball and climbing a level a year until he had 30 HR and 99 RBI in 385 AB for Iowa (Pacific Coast league) in 2004 and got his call to the majors. Had 30 HRs in AAA last year spitting time between Columbus (international League) and Iowa. His slash line in Iowa was .307/.399/.664. Even though he is on the older side, he could help a major league team next year. Has been a minor league free agent the last 3 years, signing but not sticking with 2 different oranizations including the Orioles and Nationals.

Brad Eldred 1B, 28, RH. Career .263/.321/.538. Brad is a big bopper (6'5" 270 lbs). Last season in Charlotte (International league) he hit 35 home runs, drove in 100 and slugged .546. The down side is that he also had 144 strikeouts and only 28 walks. His record is 38 home runs in a season (in 2005 split between Altoona, Eastern League, and Lynchburg, Carolina League) Hit all and miss all mentality that is common to power hitters but not sure how it would sit with the Twins' brass. UPDATE 12/4/08: Singed with the Washington Nationals

Nate Gold 1B/DH, 28, RH. Career .268/.348/.489. Nate is a power hitter in the Randy Ruiz mold. Nate was a star collegiate first baseman hitting .333/.416/.842 with 33 HR and 76 RBI in 228 AB in his senior year at Gonzaga. His best season in the minors was in 2006 with Frisco (Texas league) when he hit .292/.376/.582 with 34 HR and 103 RBI in 452 AB. He projects mostly as a DH but has a lot of raw power. As with most power hitters plate discipline (esp. with breaking pitches) has been a problem for Nate.

Javier Brito, OF/1B, 26, RH. Career .306/.398/.481; great plate discipline, 16 HR in 264 AB in California league in 2006. Think a younger version of Randy Ruiz with a little less power and much better (i.e. average) on the field

Todd Linden OF/1B, 28, RH. Career .289/.382/.489. Claim to fame: one of 12 players to ever slash a home run ball into the Dodger Stadium upper deck. He also had a .321/.437/.682 30 HR season in Fresno in 2005, but that's in the Pacific Coast League, and by this part of this post you should know what it means ;) . Someone will sign him, but should not expect more than his .231/.303/.335 slash line in the majors for parts of 5 seasons.

Matt Whitney 1B, 25, RH. Career: .260/.340/.431.
These numbers do not make him belonging in this list, but his 2007 performance (.299/.364/.545 32 HR 113 RBI split between Lake County, South Atlantic League and Kinston, Carolina League) does. He might have been promoted too soon but he is a first round draft pick (2002, Indians) who is young enough to find an organization
that would let him reach his potential. Strike this, he just signed with the Nationals...

So here you have it: my list of the most intriguing minor league free agents. Who will be the diamond in the rough? We will found out soon.


Twins batters prospect list

Earlier, I attempted to make a list of the top Twins starting and reliever pitching prospects using objective criteria. I knew that trying to attempt a similar endeavor with the batting prospects would be a much more daunting task. And it were. What you'll see here is a compromise, mainly because there are not any reliable fielding measures for minor league position players. So my list is really focuses on the batting part of the equation (like treating everyone as a DH.) That given, and using the same criteria I used for pitchers, here is the formula I used to evaluate batters:

The raw scores were:

Angel Morales, 18, OF, Rk (Elz) 6.05

Jairo Perez, 20, 1B, Rk (DSL) 5.34
Josmil Pinto, 19, C, Rk (GCL) 5.3

Anderson Hidalgo, 19, 2B/3B, Rk (GCL) 4.98
Alexander Soto, 21, C, Rk (GCL) 4.77
Jonathan Waltenbury, 20, 1B, Rk (GCL), 4.19
Aaron Hicks, 18, OF, Rk (GCL) 4.10
Ben Revere, 20, OF, A, 4.09

Evan Bigley, 21, OF, Rk (Elz), 3.69
Michael Gonzales, 20, 1B, Rk (GCL) 3.62
Chris Parmelee, 20, 1B, A, 3.61
Jason Pridie, 24, OF, AAA, 3.58
Juan Sanchez, 21, 3B, Rk (GCL) 3.58
Luke Hughes, 23, 3B, AAA, 3.49
Daniel Valencia, 23, 3B, AA, 3.41
Matthew Macri, 26, 3B, AAA, 3.29
Rene Tosoni, 21, OF, A+, 3.02

Dustin Martin, 24, OF, AA, 2.91
Steven Tolleson, 24, 2B, AA, 2.85
Daniel Berg, 23, OF, AA 2.83
Wilson Ramos, 20, C, A+, 2.79
Jeff Christy, 24, AAA, C, 2.75
Steven Singleton, 22, 2B, A+, 2.62
Brock Peterson, 24, 1B, AAA, 2.59
Brian Dinkelman, 24, 2B, AA, 2.45
Trevor Plouffe, 22, SS, AAA, 2.43
Jose Morales, 25, C, AAA, 2.30
Erik Lis, 24, 1B, AA, 2.23
Whitney Robbins, 23, 1B, A+, 2.04
Drew Butera, 24, C, AA, 2.04

Felix Molina, 25, 2B, AAA, 1.96
Ramon Santana, 22, SS, A, 1.95
Edward Ovalle, 23, OF, A+, 1.84
Michael Harrington, 22, OF, Rk (Elz) 1.83
Rene Leveret, 22, 1B, A, 1.79
Mark Dolenc, 23, OF, A, 1.74
Deibinson Romero, 21, 3B, A, 1.72
Reggie Williams, 19, 2B, Rk (ELZ) 1.71
David Winfree, 22, OF, AA, 1.71
Alejandro Machado, 26, SS, AAA, 1.64
Joe Benson, 20, OF,A, 1.63
Daniel Lehmann, 22, C, A+, 1.60
Oswaldo Arcia, 17, OF, Rk (DSL), 1.60
Toby Gardenhire, 25, 1B, AA, 1.58
Rodolfo Palacios, 23, C, AA, 1.55
Jeff Lanning, 21, C, Rk (ELZ) 1.55
Yangervis Solarte, 20, OF, A+, 1.51
Daniel Santana, 17, SS, Rk (DSL) 1.48
Nicholas Romero, 20, 3B, Rk (ELZ) 1.47
Juan Portes, 22, OF, A+, 1.44
Dominic De La Osa, 22, 2B, Rk (Elz), 1.44
Eli Tintor, 23, OF, A+, 1.44
Daniel Rams, 19, C, Rk (ELZ) 1.43
Johnny Woodard, 23, 1B, A+, 1.12
Yancarlos Ortiz, 23, SS, A+, 1.03
Daniel Ortiz, 18, OF, Rk (GCL) 1.04

Allan de San Miguel, 20, C, A+, 0.94
Starling De Los Santos, 21, SS, A, 0.92
Adan Severino, 21, OF, Rk (ELZ), 0.87
Jonathan Goncalves, 19, OF, Rk (DSL) 0.84
Andrew Schmiesing, 22, OF, A, 0.83
Brandon Roberts, 23, OF, AA, 0.81
Jair Fernandez, 21, C, A, 0.79
Garrett Olson, 23, 3B, A+, 0.79
Eliel Sierra, 22, OF, RK (DSL) 0.66
Andres Diaz, 19, 1B, Rk (GCL), 0.46
Chris Cates, 23, SS, A, 0.44
Lesther Galvan 18, DH, Rk (DSL) 0.44
Jeanfred Brito, 20, 2B, A, 0.43
Ozzie Lewis, 22, OF, A, 0.32
Nathan Hanson, 21, 3B, Rk (Elz) 0.29
Gregory Yersich, 21, C, A, 0.26
Matt Moses, 23, OF, AA, 0.11
James Beresford, 19, SS, Rk (Elz), 0.03
Jean Carlos Mercedes, 20, OF, Rk (DSL) 0.02

Juan Richardson, 21, 3B, A, -0.12
Wilfy Gil, 18, OF, Rk (DSL) -0.14
Herbert Lara, 20, OF, Rk (GCL) -0.26
Ben Petsch, 23, OF, A, -0.31
Hyun-wook Choi, 18, OF, Rk (GCL) -0.34
Manuel Soliman, 18, 3B, Rk (DSL) -0.70
Juan Blanco, 19, OF, Rk (DSL) -0.99
Felix Caro, 18, OF, Rk (DSL) -1.06
Jhonatan Arias, 19, C, Rk (DSL), -1.22
Daniel Rohlfing, 19, C, Rk (GCL) -1.31
Hyeong-rok Choi, 18, 2B, Rk (GCL) -1.36
Jairo Rodriguez, 19, C, Rk (DSL) -1.74
Tyler Ladendorf, 20, SS, Rk (GCL) -1.88
Yorby Martinez, 19, SS, Rk (DSL) -2.27
Jakub Hajtmar, 21, 1B, Rk (GCL) -2.32
Yancarlo Franco, 19, 2B, Rk (DSL) -3.76
Xavier Gonzalez, 19, 2B, Rk (DSL) -4.62

And the tidy list of the Twins' top 30 batting prospects is:

  1. Angel Morales

  2. Jairo Perez

  3. Josmil Pinto

  4. Anderson Hidalgo

  5. Alexander Soto

  6. Jonathan Waltenbury

  7. Aaron Hicks

  8. Ben Revere

  9. Evan Bigley

  10. Michael Gonzales

  11. Chris Parmelee

  12. Jason Pridie

  13. Juan Sanchez

  14. Luke Hughes

  15. Daniel Valencia

  16. Matthew Macri

  17. Rene Tosoni

  18. Dustin Martin

  19. Steven Tolleson

  20. Daniel Berg

  21. Wilson Ramos

  22. Jeff Christy

  23. Steven Singleton

  24. Brock Peterson

  25. Brian Dinkelman

  26. Trevor Plouffe

  27. Jose Morales

  28. Erik Lis

  29. Whitney Robbins

  30. Drew Butera

I have Angel Morales listed higher than most people out there, but he did perform better and is younger than fellow outfielders Revere and Hicks. Jairo Perez is probably a surprise to most people, but most people do not pay much attention to the Dominican Summer League (check the pitching list for more ranting about that fact).

So here you have it. This is the official tenth inning stretch Twins' 2009 batting prospect list.

If you want more information on these any many more of the Twins' prospects, go, run, refresh your browser and buy Seth Stohs' Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook – 2009; the best prospect handbook ever written for Twins' Prospects. Alternatively (not really, just go buy one now), be the first person to answer the current contest question correctly and get one.

Some food for thought:

Alcides Escobar has been mentioned by many as a can't miss infield prospect for the Brewers, a player who can push JJ Hardy to third base or even outside the Brewers' organization.

Here is a comparison:

Alcides Escobar:

2008 Southern League (AA): .328/.363/.434 (.797 OPS) .971 FP.

Steven Tolleson:

2008 Eastern League (AA): .300/.382/.466 (.848 OPS) .982 FP (2B), .930 FP (SS)

Should the Twins be thinking of Tolleson's major league potential in similar terms?


Where have you gone Aaron Heilman? (And a contest and a plug)

One of the biggest disappointments last season for the New York Mets was Aaron Heilman. Aaron was one of the greatest college pitchers in his time and the Mets used a first round draft pick for him. In his first 3 years he was mainly used as a starter and has a one hitter complete game in his books. He finished 2007 as the Mets' primary set up man with 3.03 ERA and 1.070 WHIP. Last season he took a huge step back performing at a 5.21 ERA and 1.592 WHIP rate. He definitely is expendable by the Mets and is arbitration eligible. Is he someone that the Twins should consider for their pen?

His biggest problem last year was that, even though he increased his K/9 to a very good 9.47, his K/BB dropped to 1.74. Scouting reports show that his fastball velocity increased to an average of 93.3 mph and was his out pitch, but his change up velocity also increased to 84 mph, making it a less ineffective pitch. In his effective 2007 Heilman threw 62% fastballs, 37.5% changeups and 0.5% sliders. In his ineffective 2008, Heilman developped an unexpected love with his not that effective slider (as an off-spead pitch), throwing it 15% of the time and decreasing his changeup rate to 24%. His changeup has location problems and this was the main reason for the decreased use. Is Heilman "fixable"? Until I looked at the pictures below, I had my questions:



Now I don't. I think that there is a good probability for improvement of his change up and becoming a great set up reliever again.

Any guesses why I think that?

The person who would be the first to guess the answer correctly and completely, would receive a copy of Seth Stohs' Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook – 2009. the best Twins Prospect handbook ever written. And if you do not win, make sure you order one. The price is right and no Twins' fan should be left without it.

I'll close the contest a week from today. And here is a hint: It is not the fact that his BABIP was .326, which is way too high and will certainly go down next year.

EDIT 12/1/2008:

Contest closed. And it was probably more esoteric and hard that I thought... It's all in the grip. In 2007 he was throwing a circle change and for some reason in 2008 he changed (pun not intended) to a three-finger change grip. Also notice that in his 3-finger grip, the index and middle finger are gripping the ball on the seams (like a sinker) instead of gripping across the seams (like a 4-seamer fastball), which is the proper grip for a 3-finger change up.

Not to worry, I ordered five copies of Seth's book and will give 4 of them away in monthly contests before the season starts


Stop the presses: I made a prospect list (or 2)

Top prospect lists are more of a form of art than a science, since they use observational rather than numerical data as an input. There are several prospect lists out there, so is there a need for another?

I have been trying to devise a way to evaluate prospects objectively, without gut feeling rankings that once made Tod Van Poppel the best prospect in baseball. Also, I strongly believe that starting pitching, relief pitching and position playing are different beasts, so lists that contain all 3 of them are mixing apples and oranges and tangerines. So, let's talk about oranges and tangerines and leave the apples for another day.

I created a preliminary formula mid-season, taking a cut in rating the Twins prospects after 2007. I knew that it was rough and extremely preliminary. Since, I devised the PE measurement, components of which were in the pitching evaluating formula and I think that this one is a bit more accurate, so I am willing to share with a bit more confidence.

The formula I use to evaluate Minor league pitching prospects is containing the following criteria

  1. Overall effectiveness compared to the average MLB starter or reliever

  2. Effectiveness improvement each of the last 2 years compared to the previous year

  3. level of play (i.e. AAA, AA, A etc)

  4. number of levels ascended

  5. Age

The formula is:

Where PE is pitching efficiency this year, the MLB average PE is the average starter or reliever PE in the majors in 2008, depending on whether the prospect is a reliever (def: more games in relief than started) or a starter, the level is the highest level the player played that year described by as follows: Rk (DSL/GCL) 1, Rk (APP) 1.5, A 2, A+ 2.5, AA 3, AAA 4, MLB 5, and the levels ascended is the difference of the highest level played from the lowest level played the last 3 years (using the former numbers) + 1 (i.e. if a player started at A+ and assented to AAA, the levels ascended would be 4-2.5 = 1.5 + 1 = 2.5). The + 1 is there to avoid dividing by zero issues. Players that stay at the same level have level ascended = 1. Age is the age of the player in the beginning of a season. The effectiveness has a higher weight than improvement and improvement between this season and the last has a higher weight than improvement between last season and the season before. In order to keep the integrity of the results, players who showed a negative improvement were scored as 0; however negative effectiveness compared to MLB PE was scored as was.

Here is how the Twins' starting pitchers rank using this formula:

Daniel Osterbrock, 21, Rk (ELZ), 28.01

Pedro Guerra, 18, Rk (DSL), 14.18
Miguel Munoz, 19, Rk (GCL) 10.23
Adrian Salcedo, 17, Rk (DSL), 10.00

Eliecer Cardenas, 20 (Rk, DSL) 9.91
Ramon Acosta, 21, Rk (DSL) 8.70
Bobby Lanigan, 21, A, 7.99
Michael McCardell, 23, A, 7.53
David Bromberg, 20, A. 5.39

Anthony Swarzak, 22, AAA, 2.34
Tyler Robertson, 20, A+, 2.25
Shooter Hunt, 21, A, 2.23
Errol Simonitsch, 25, AA, 2.17 (released)
Angelo Sanchez, 19, Rk (GCL), 1.93
Martire Garcia, 18, Rk (GCL), 1.87
Michael Tarsi, 21, A, 1.60
Jeffrey Manship, 23, AA, 1.54
Kevin Mulvey, 23,AAA, 1.53
Cole Devries, 23, A+, 1.16
Philip Humber 25, AAA, 1.14

Brian Duensing, 25, AAA, 0.67
Ryan Mullins, 24, AA, 0.49
Steven Hirschfeld, 22, A, 0.41
Alex Burnett, 20, A+, 0.31
Yohan Pino, 24, AA, 0.26
Jay Rainville, 22, AA, 0.18

Daniel Berlind, 20, A, -0.19
Deolis Guerra, 19, A+, -0.46
Oswaldo Sosa, 22, AA, -0.95
Brian Kirwan, 20, A+, -0.96

Before the newly drafted class had a chance to make a dent I indicated that in my opinion, Pedro Guerra was the best arm in the Twins minor leagues, and that the DSL Twins have some of the best pitching prospects.Using these results, that statement proved to be pretty accurate. However, Dan Osterbrock who was drafted on the seventh round this year from University of Cinncinaty, put incredible numbers in Elizabethton (7-2, 13 GS, 75 IP, 104 K, 8 BB, 3.00 ERA, 1.04 WHIP) easily earning him the title of the best Twins starting pitching prospect.

Dan Osterbrock is a 6'3", 186 lbs, lefty from Cincinnati, OH. He has an 87-91 mph fastball with plus location and a great changeup, which is his out pitch. He needs to develop and improve his breaking pitches. Think of a lefty version of Kevin Slowey with a better change up and not as good breaking stuff. He helped lead Elizabethton to the best record in the Appalachian League.

The DSL wealth needs to be taken more seriously and the players need to be included in the prospect list pool; this is a fact.

As far as relievers go, here is the ranking:

Robert Delaney, 23, AA, 13.65

Jose Gonzalez, 18, Rk (DSL) 12.02
Andrei Lobanov, 18 Rk (GCL) 10.52
Leonardo Parra, 21, Rk (DSL), 10.42
Anthony Slama, 24, A+, 9.72
Michael Allen, 21, A+ 9.15
Edison Alvarez, 19, Rk (DSL) 8.07
Jose Mijares, 23, AA, 7.37

Curtis Leavitt, 21 Rk (Elz) 4.45
Joe Testa, 22, A+, 4.31
Bobby Korecky, 28, AAA 4.11
Matthew Williams, 21, A+. 4.09
David Martin, 22, A, 3.67
Steven Blevins, 21, A+, 3.14
Blair Erickson, 23, A+, 2.92
David Shinskie, 24, AA 2.85
Danny Rondon, 21, Rk (Elz) 2.69
Ben Julianel, 28, AA, 2.49
Renzo Reverol, 17, Rk (DSL) 2.25

Jose Lugo, 24, A+, 1.74
Santos Arias 21, A, 1.73
Matthew Fox, 25, A+, 1.28
Bradley Tippett, 20, A, 1.27
Kelvin Mota, 20, Rk (GCL) 1.17
Timothy Lahey, 26, AAA, 1.08
Carlos Gutierrez, 21, A+, 1.04

Charles Nolte, 22, A, 0.98
Spencer Steedley, 23, A+ 0.84
Ludovicus Van Mil, 23, A, 0.69
Thomas Wright, 20, Rk (Elz), 0.64
Mariano Gomez, 25, AAA, 0.55
Ricky Barrett, 27, AAA, 0.36
Frank Mata, 24, AA, 0.23
Armando Gabino, 24, AA, 0.07
Henry Reyes, 23, A+, 0.04
Jean Mijares, 20, Rk (GCL) 0.01

Bruce Pugh, 19, Rk (GCL) -0.06
Jay Sawatski, 26, AA, -0.18
Carlos Carrillo, 18, Rk (DSL), -0.27
Kyle Aselton 25, AA, -0.31
Chris Anderson 22, A, -0.72
Eddy Santana, 20, Rk (DSL) -0.83
Lesmir Vargas, 21, Rk (DSL), -0.84
Lee Martin, 22, Rk (Elz) -0.98
Michael Mopas, 20, Rk (GCL) -1.12 (released)
Danny Hernandez, 22, A+, -1.15

The ranking of the relievers indicates the the winner of the MiLB pitcher of the year award, Robert Delaney, is the best Twins' reliever prospect, which is not a surprise.

Back to the formula. Do I think it's perfect? Nope. But I think that if a pitcher has actualized a 12.48 K/9, 13 K/BB, and 1.04 WHIP season (Osterbrock) should be valued more and ranked higher than a pitcher who supposedly has better tools but has been regressing every year in his professional career (Deolis Guerra). Think of it as a car race: If a driver with a stock Chevy Impala beats a driver with a stock Ferrari Testarossa more kudos to him. The Ferrari guy needs to know how to use his car and until he proves so, he should not be taken seriously. And this is not a list of who is the most ready for the majors, but of who has the most potential based on actualized potential and improvement throughout his minor league career, factoring in his age and level of play.

Because people would like to see tidy lists, here is my list of the top 15 starting pitching prospects and the top 20 relief prospects.


  1. Daniel Osterbrock

  2. Pedro Guerra

  3. Miguel Munoz

  4. Adrian Salcedo

  5. Eliecer Cardenas

  6. Ramon Acosta

  7. Bobby Lanigan

  8. Michael McCardell

  9. David Bromberg

  10. Anthony Swarzak

  11. Tyler Robertson

  12. Shooter Hunt

  13. Errol Simonitsch

  14. Angelo Sanchez

  15. Martire Garcia


  1. Robert Delaney

  2. Jose Gonzalez

  3. Andrei Lobanov

  4. Leonardo Parra

  5. Anthony Slama

  6. Michael Allen

  7. Edison Alvarez

  8. Jose Mijares

  9. Curtis Leavitt

  10. Joe Testa

  11. Bobby Korecky

  12. Matthew Williams

  13. David Martin

  14. Steven Blevins

  15. Blair Erickson

  16. David Shinskie

  17. Danny Rondon

  18. Ben Julianel

  19. Renzo Reverol

  20. Jose Lugo

Now that I am done with the oranges and tangerines, next will take a look at the apples, but, alas, there are a lot of varieties of them, so they will need to be sorted out.

Something about pitching or why Kevin Slowey was more effective than Johan Santana

In order to evaluate position players more effectively, a couple of weeks ago I introduced a new statistic, bating and fielding efficiency (BFE). There are some established statistical measure that can tell you about a pitcher's performance, independent of the fielding of the team behind him. A couple of those are Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and eXpected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) and Defense-Independent Component ERA (DICE). You can see the formulae for these measurement in this excellent Wikipedia article. I have 2 problems with these formulae:

  1. They use arbitrary numericals to factor and add to the statistical measurements within their equations (3, 13, 2, 3.2)

  2. For some strange reason, hits given are not included, but home runs are, factored by a huge 13-times factor

  3. Bases on balls are factored by 3, strikeouts are factored by 2

  4. Home runs are based mostly on a hitters capability and the park and not on the pitcher, whereas the defense does not have that much of a role for a hit.

Let's clarify the last point:
One of the statistics I will use to evaluate pitching is WHIP. Arguably, WHIP might be defense dependent, but how much?

Defense has 2 flavors:

a. accuracy - reflected by Errors. Errors do not count on WHIP, so that is out.

b. range - let’s use the plus minus system for this to understand the impact:

in 2008 the best defender in baseball as far as plus-minus goes was Chace Utley with a total score of 49 (i.e. he made 49 plays the average player does not make). He made a total of 803 plays (340 POs and 463 assists) even if we assume that all those +49 plays took a hit away (which is a stretch, because some of those were to get the lead runner in a double play or fielder’s choice, both of which do not take hits away from a pitcher’s WHIP).

49 is 6.1% of his total plays. If you divide that by 5 starting pitchers you get 1.2%.

So the best defender in baseball saved 1.2% of the hits for a particular starting pitcher (stretch). If you take the MLB average for 2008 pitchers 0.37 BB/Hits, 0.37 of a pitcher’s WHIP is a factor of BB and 0.73 a factor of hits. So the difference that the best ranging defender can potentially make on a pitcher’s WHIP is 0.88%

With examples:

Perkins’ WHIP in 2008 was 1.470, in that theoretical best case scenario would have been 1.457

Let’s go more extreme: here are the best plus minus numbers per position in 2008 (2B was Utley): 1B +24, 3B + 32, SS +23, LF +23, CF +32, P +16.
If you build a team with those people as defenders, the 0.88% difference above due to just Utley would become 2.8%

In other words, Perkins with the best defense in the MLB Universe of 2008 would have a WHIP of 1.429 instead of 1.470 (even with the best case scenario that all plus plays take hits away). Not much difference. Certainly not enough to discount the hits a pitcher gives as part of how effectively he pitches.

I created a new measurement, called Pitching Effectiveness (PE) which is simply: (K/9*K/BB)/WHIP. All these factors take into account how a pitcher is performing without extraneous factors. Here is a list of the 2008 MLB pitchers who pitched more than 20 innings and had a PE over 20, broken down by starters and relievers and sorted by decreasing PE (I included all Twins pitchers for comparison):


Dan Haren, AZ 39.13
Josh Beckett, BOS 37.83
Roy Halladay, TOR 37.81
Ervin Santana, LAA 35.79
CC Sabathia, MIL 34.08
Ricky Nolasco, FLA 31.68
Cliff Lee, CLE 30.84
Rich Harden, CHC 30.77
Kevin Slowey, MIN 30.67
Tim Lincecum, SF 28.29
Randy Johnson, AZ 26.85
Mike Musina, NYY 26.66
Cole Hamels, PHI 26.52
James Shields, TBR 23.23
Johan Santana, NYM 22.54
Javier Vasquez, CHW 21.46
Roy Oswalt, HOU 21.19
Scott Baker, MIN 20.98
Ben Sheets, MIL 20.97
Zack Greike, KCR 20.86
Jake Peavy, SD 20.50

Other Twins:

Boof Bonser: 13.44
Fransisco Liriano: 11.91
(Matt Garza 10.91)
Nick Blackburn: 8.09
Glenn Perkins: 5.69
(Livan Hernandez: 3.13)


Mariano Riviera, NYY 189.22
Jonathan Papelbon, BOS 101.06
Billy Wagner, NYM 57.94
Sergio Romo, SFG 51.05
Kerry Wood, CHC 49.00
Hong-Chih Kuo, LAD 48.76
Grand Balfour, TB 48.49
Trevor Hoffman, SD 45.02
Joe Nathan, MIN 44.89
Scott Eyre, PHI 43.89
Matt Thorton, CHW 41.92
Brian Fuentes, COL 39.87
Mike Adams, SD 38.14
Joey Devine, OAK 37.91
Tagashi Saito, LAD 36.16
Joakim Soria, KCR 35.56
Carlos Marmol, CHC 35.22
Frank Francisco, TEX 32.67
Octavio Dotel, CHW 32.43
Rafael Perez, CLE 32.16
Scott Linebrink CHW 32.00
Chad Qualls AZ, 31.91
Jonathan Broxton, LAD 31.87
Jose Valverde, HOU 31.71
Mike Gonzalez, ATL 31.14
Jon Raunch, AZ 28.83
Max Scherzer, AZ 27.06
Brad Lidge, PHI 25.61
Joba Chamberlain, NYY 25.50
Neal Cotts, CHC 25.10
Taylor Buchholz, COL 24.89
Wade Corey, LAD 23.65
Joe Nelson, FLA 23.01
JUan Cruz, AZ 22.52
Jeremy Affeldt, CIN 22.37
Damaso Marte, NYY 22.36
Ramon Troncoso, LAD 22.10
Edwar Ramirez, NYY 21.89
Jesse Carlson, TOR 20.91
Doug Brocail, HOU 20.90
Arthur Rhodes, FLA 20.45
Brandon Morrow, SEA 20.12
Manny Delcarmen, BOS 20.08

Other Twins:

(Pat Neshek: 31.64 less than 20 innings)
Dennys Reyes: 16.59
Craig Breslow: 13.59
Jesse Crain: 10.90
Matt Guerrier: 7.00
(Juan Rincon: 6.27)
(Brian Bass: 4.58)

The MLB averages for 2008 were:

MLB starter average WHIP 1.39
MLB starter average K/9 6.20
MLB starter average K/BB 2.06
MLB Starter average PE: 9.19

MLB reliever average WHIP 1.39
MLB reliever average K/9 7.80
MLB reliever average K/BB 1.94
MLB reliever average PE: 10.89

It is expected that relievers would have higher PE numbers than starters and they do. A couple of observations: Slowey and Baker were the best Twins starters. Slowey is among the pitching elite. BTW, for those who are lamenting the Delmon Young trade, Matt Garza's PE was 10.91, placing him as the 5th best potential Twins starter. Glenn Perkins is trailing the starting group and Nick Blackburn's numbers are below MLB average, making Perkins and potentially both expendable. Bonser should get another chance to make the rotation and Liriano's PE was hurt by his horrid first few starts.

The Twins need at least 2 relievers above 20 in 2009 now that they lost Neshek. Mijares could be there, but at least another right handed reliever would be welcomed. From the list of relievers here, Jeremy Affeldt (22.37), Doug Brocail (20.90), Juan Cruz (22.52), Brian Fuentes (39.89, probably a closer someplace other than the Twins), Trevor Hoffman (45.02, probably a closer someplace other than the Twins), Bobby Howry (23.40), Damaso Marte (22.36), Arthur Rhodes (20.45) and Kerry Wood (49.00, probably a closer someplace other than the Twins) are free agents; so are Kyle Farnsworth (16.55), Brandon Lyon (15.23), Will Ohman (15.74), Darren Oliver (15.62) and Russ Springer (17.26), all with PE higher than the remaining Twins. Given the facts that the Twins would probably like a right hander and some of the above players will sign as closers, the list gets smaller, but there are still more than a few potential targets remaining. Other than Guerrier, the remaining bullpen arms were above league average in 2008.

One last parting thought: The PE is a useful tool to identify future closers. I think that PE > 40 equals good closer material. From the above list:

Sergio Romo, SFG 51.05
Hong-Chih Kuo, LAD 48.76
Scott Eyre, PHI 43.89 and
Matt Thorton, CHW 41.92

show closer potential.


Twins minor league free agents

RHP: Julio DePaula (AAA), Danny Graves (AAA), Tom Shearn (AAA)
LHP: Ricky Barrett (AAA), Carmen Cali (AAA), Mariano Gomez (AAA), Jason Miller (AA)
1B: Garrett Jones (AAA)
2B: Felix Molina (AA)
SS: Sergio Santos (AAA)
OF: Joe Gaetti (AA), Darnell McDonald (AAA), Tommy Watkins (AAA)

I hope that Mariano Gomez gets re-signed. Other than that, it is about time that younger players with more potential play at Rochester.


Do stolen bases and GIDP matter for Gardy's Twins to win?

A couple of weeks ago I examined what makes the Gardenhire Twins win, looking for potential improvements in that caterogy. I was recently asked to examine the effect of SB and GIDP and its correlation with Twins wins. The following should be familiar. It basically lists all the statistical measurements examined in the previous post with the addition of SB and GIDP and their correlation to wins.

One surprise: Stolen bases have a negative correlation to wins for the Gardy Twins, which is actually stronger than the positive correlation of runs scored (compare the pink boxes). In plain english, this means that this team has less chance to win if they steal. By first glance this looks like a paradox, albeit an interesting one. OPS still has the higher correlation to wins and GIDP does have an expected negative correlation (albeit not extremely strong) with wins.

I dug further and examined the correlation of both GIDP and SB with the other offensive statistic measurements as well as with wins:

GIDP (top line in the bottom of the table) has the highest negative correlation with SLG and the highest positive correlation with SB. SB, has the highest positive correlation with GIDP and the highest negative correlation with wins.

In other words:

1. The higher the number of stolen bases the less wins the team has
2. The higher the number of stolen bases the more GIDP (and the reverse) the higher the number of GIDP, the higher the number of SB
3. The higher the number of GIDP the lower the SLG.

Statement 3 makes absolute empirical sense. Statement 2 is fine also: the more a team grounds into double plays, the more it wants to run to prevent DP so the more SB. Statement 1 is the kicker that defies empirical knowledge and bit of further discussion is necessary.

Regardless the perception that stolen bases increase the probability of a team to win, James Click of Baseball Prospectus has shown that this is not a case in an article called What if Ricky Henderson Had Pete Incavilia's Legs?, Published in the Baseball Prospectus' book Baseball Between the Numbers. The previous link is a link to the whole book (pointing at the pertinent chapter) available free at google books. Great read. A must for stat fans. So despite the popular empirical opinion, stolen bases have been proven to decrease win probability and the 2002-2008 Twins, confirm this fact.

As a conclusion, OPS is still the best correlating measurement to Wins for these Twins. And OPS (and projected OPS) could be used as a leading indicator to predict wins as I did here. This is fine for these Twins, but how about the rest of the league? What if you wanted to start a team from scratch or select a fantasy team? What would be the best league indication away from the context of the Gardy Twins?

To answer this question I looked at the same statistic measurements I examined for the 2002-2008 Twins, with the addition of Pythagorian Wins a Bill James measurement that predicts wins based on runs scored and allowed. Pythagorian Wins is a lagging indicator, which it means that it confirms trends and events rather than predict them (in other words, a game has to be played before you get the RS and RA measurements, whereas you can use historical or predicted OPS values to predict future performance). The following chart will probably look like an eye-chart:

Here is the summary. Looking across the MLB teams in 2008. The best correlating measurement with Wins is Pythagorian Wins (0.922). The correlation of other categories were: BA:0.405, OBP:0.521, SLG:0.566, OPS: 0.592, RS: 0.588, GIDP: 0.033 (practically non correlated), SB: 0.489 (surprisingly a + correlation), ERA: -0.649 (the higher the ERA the fewer wins), WHIP: -0.687 and RA: -0.641. Unfortunately, not a single statistic that could be used as a leading indicator has similar correlation to wins as Pythagorian Wins (runs cannot be used as leading indicators). Plan B: create a composite measurement. I created 8 measurements dividing each of the 4 offensive categories (BA, OBP, SLG, OPS) with the 2 pitching categories (ERA, WHIP). Here is their correlation to Wins: SLG/WHIP: 0.907, OBP/WHIP: 0.815, BA/WHIP: 0.779, OPS/WHIP: 0.892, SLG/ERA: 0.867, OBP/ERA: 0.763, BA/ERA: 0.765 and OPS/ERA: 0.835.

As you can see SLG/WHIP has a correlation of 0.907, close to that of Pythagorian Wins 0.922) and could be used as a leading indicator for team wins. In other words, if you assemble a team from scratch, real life or fantasy look for batter with high SLG and pitchers with low WHIP.

But how about them Twins? Well, for the Gardy Twins, the correlation of wins with Pythagorian wins was 0.768 and the correlation of SLG/WHIP with wins was 0.804, both lower than the correlation of OPS with wins (0.886). So, in other words, if you want to make the Twins better, look for batters with high OPS, esp the SLG part of OPS, because that correlates with OPS for these Twins at a close to absolute 0.959 rate.

Why is that discrepancy between the Gardy Twins and the rest of the league? Here is my theory and deemed to be vastly unpopular but not surprising to the people who have been following this blog. Look at this table for the Gardy Twins:

year actual wins pythagorian wins AL Central Record- Twins

2002 94 87 .421
2003 90 85 .432
2004 87 88 .452
2005 83 84 .492
2006 93 94 .502
2007 79 80 .502
2008 88 90 .492

The harder the division has gotten in the Gardy ERA (right column is the record of the rest of the division) the harder time the Twins have to achieve their predictive record. They fell short a win or two, but a win or two would have gotten the Twins in the postseason this year. Why does this happen? Methinks is the manager who does not realize the full potential of the team. But this is another long discussion.

Next: evaluating pitchers.


Middle infield revisited:

After devising the BFE measurement to apply to third basemen, I am examining the ranking of MLB second basemen and short stops based on their 2007 BFE numbers (Twins in bold, SS free agents in italics) Minimum 200 innings at the position and 250 AB:

Short Stops:

Rafael Furcal, LA: 1.331 (fewer than 250AB)
Hanley Ramirez, Fla: 1.194

Jerry Hairston Jr., Cin: 0.983
Mike Aviles, KC: 0.959
Jose Reyes, NYM: 0.949

J.J. Hardy, Mil: 0.890
Stephen Drew, Ari: 0.871
Jhonny Peralta, Cle: 0.854
Jimmy Rollins, Phi: 0.853
Derek Jeter, NYY: 0.852
Yunel Escobar, Atl: 0.848
Cristian Guzman, Was: 0.845
Jed Lowrie, Bos: 0.824
Clint Barmes, Col: 0.821
15.Nick Punto, Min: 0.808

Michael Young, Tex: 0.773
Miguel Tejada, Hou: 0.766
Ryan Theriot, ChC: 0.758
Marco Scutaro, Tor: 0.746
Troy Tulowitzki, Col: 0.717
Maicer Izturis, LAA: 0.716
22.Brendan Harris, Min: 0.701

Erick Aybar, LAA: 0.690
Orlando Cabrera, CWS: 0.683
Jason Bartlett, TB: 0.682
Yuniesky Betancourt, Sea: 0.672
Edgar Renteria, Det: 0.661
David Eckstein, Tor/Ari: 0.645
Jack Wilson, Pit: 0.629
Julio Lugo, Bos: 0.622
Bobby Crosby, Oak: 0.610

Cesar Izturis, StL: 0.558
Jeff Keppinger, Cin: 0.539
Khalil Greene, SD: 0.527
Angel Berroa, LA: 0.507

36.Adam Everett, Min: 0.497
Omar Vizquel, SF: 0.407

Juan Castro, Bal/Cin: 0.279

Second basemen:

Mike Fontenot, CHI: 1.131 (246 AB)
Chase Utley, Phi: 1.105
Ian Kinsler, Tex: 1.069
Dustin Pedroia, Bos: 1.042
Dan Uggla, Fla: 1.024

Brian Roberts, Bal: 0.967
Mark DeRosa, ChC: 0.953

Ray Durham, Mil/SF: 0.867
Kelly Johnson, Atl: 0.858
Placido Polanco, Det: 0.849
Orlando Hudson, Ari: 0.846
Alexei Ramirez, CWS: 0.834
Joe Inglett, Tor: 0.825
Jose Lopez, Sea: 0.824
Kazuo Matsui, Hou: 0.823
Ronnie Belliard, Was: 0.812
Clint Barmes, Col: 0.804

Howie Kendrick, LAA: 0.796
Aaron Miles, StL: 0.794
Mark Grudzielanek, KC: 0.782
Mark Ellis, Oak: 0.776
Akinori Iwamura, TB: 0.771
Mark Loretta, Hou: 0.770
Brandon Phillips, Cin: 0.760
Jeff Baker, Col: 0.755
Edgar Gonzalez, SD: 0.745
28.Nick Punto, Min: 0.744
Rickie Weeks, Mil: 0.739
Felipe Lopez, Was/StL: 0.737
31.Alexi Casilla, Min: 0.736
Marco Scutaro, Tor: 0.721
Asdrubal Cabrera, Cle: 0.720
Jeff Kent, LA: 0.719
35.Brendan Harris, Min: 0.716
Robinson Cano, NYY: 0.701

Adam Kennedy, StL: 0.693
Jamey Carroll, Cl: 0.689
Juan Uribe, CWS: 0.654
Damion Easley, NYM: 0.629
Freddy Sanchez, Pit: 0.604

Luis Castillo, NYM: 0.591
Eugenio Velez, SF: 0.573
Tadahito Iguchi, Phi/SD: 0.516

Some observations:

  • Surprisingly, second base seems to be a bigger problem for the Twins in 2008, than SS

  • Punto was an above average SS, ranking 15th out of 34 players, surpassing players like Michael Young and Miguel Tejada, while Harris at 23 was 3 spots below MLB average

  • Punto was the highest ranking 2B at #28 but still well-below the MLB-average. Castillo (despite the fact that he is projected as a lock for the position in 2009, in most people's minds) was ranked at #31 and Harris at #35.

  • Tolbert did not have enough innings or ABs to qualify for ranking in any position, while Everett was ranked close to the bottom in the SS rankings

How does this change my previous assessment of the middle infield needs? Not much. I did propose changes in both 2B and SS, and the numbers reinforce the need for change in 2B. I also think that Punto with his performance last year, plus the high contract offers for middle infielders (see: Ellis, Mark) has priced his way out of the Twins' organization. Steve Tolleson with a spectacular ALF performance (.426/.463/.590, 2HR, 16 RBI in 61 AB as of this post) and a solid minor league season will be in the mix and potentially fight with Tolbert for a position in the 25-men roster.


Third base revisited

In order to give an objective (see: measurable) application of the criteria, I previously suggested for potential third basemen targets, I devised a measurement that combines the performance of a player as a batter and as a fielder. This measurement (let's call it Batting and Fielding Effectiveness, BFE for the lack of a better name) is defined as (OPS+/100)*(FP)*(ZR).

As a reminder the 3 criteria for a potential third baseman target were defined as:

a. the Twins should not look at anyone with less production than the current Buscher/Harris platoon

b. Danny Valencia is thought by many insiders and fans to be the Twins 3rd baseman of the future, so any choice should potentially leave the door open for him

c. Any new third baseman should provide better power (in the numbers below expressed as SLG%), be right handed batter and provide better defense.

The definition of a "third baseman" I am using here is a player with at least 250 AB and at least 250 innings at third base. 56 players in the majors satisfy this definition, here is how they rank according to BFE (potential targets discussed before are indicated with italics, the Twins' third basemen are indicated with bold) :

Chipper Jones, Braves: 1.390
Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox: 1.168
Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: 1.167
Russell Branyan, Brewers: 1.087
David Wright, Mets: 1.052
Aubrey Huff, Orioles: 1.032

Evan Longoria, Rays: .998
Ty Wiggington, Astros: .973
Troy Glaus, Cardinals: .966
Chris Davis, Rangers: .948
Aramis Ramirez, Cubs: .923
Carlos Guillen, Tigers: .903

Adrian Beltre, Mariners: .887
Hank Blalock, Rangers: .873
Melvin Mora, Orioles: .865
Ron Belliard, Nationals: .848
Mike Lowell Red Sox: .828
Scott Rollen Blue Jays: .825
Casey Blake, Indians/Dodgers: .810

20. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals .794
Gregg Dobbs, Phillies: .783
Ramon Vasquez, Rangers: .773
Omar Infante, Braves: .773
Willie Aybar, Rays: .765
Jorge Cantu, Marlins: .756
Ian Steward, Rockies: .755
Joe Crede, White Sox: .744
Edwin Encarnancion, Reds: .738
Alex Gordon, Royals: .736
Marco Scutaro, Blue Jays: .736
Garett Atkins, Rockies: .728
Kevin Kouzmanoff, Padres: .726
Rich Aurilia, Giants: .708
34. Brian Buscher, Twins: .704

35. Brendan Harris, Twins: .699
Blake DeWitt, Dodgers: .686
Chone Figgins, Angels: .681
Jose Bautista, Pirates: .680
Jed Lowrie, Red Sox: .679
Brandon Inge, Tigers: .677
Doug Mientkiewicz, Pirates: .676
Jeff Blum, Astros: .666
Mark Reynolds, Diamondbacks: .659
Craig Council, Brewers: .656
Pedro Feliz, Phillies: .632
Jamie Caroll, Indians: .609
Bill Hall, Brewers: .606

Jose Castillo, Giants: .599
Juan Uribe, White Sox: .595
Jack Hannahan, As: .586
Wes Helms, Marlins: .560

German Duran, Rangers: .467
Rob Quinlan, Angels: .456
Mike Lamb, Twins: .432
Andy Marte, Indians: .414

Andy LaRoche, Dodgers/Reds: .276

There were a few surprises:

  • The Twins situation at third base, which is thought as "serviceable" by many is more dire than thought, with the Twins' platoon ranking 34th and 35th out of 56 players

  • Players like Russell Branyan, Chris Davis and Ron Belliard, who flew under the radar had surprisingly good years

  • Players like Garrett Atkins, Edwin Encarnancion and Kevin Kouzmanoff, who are touted as the potential 3B solution for the Twins are not that much better than what the Twins currently have

Do the results make me amend my list of 4+1 real targets? Based on the above 3 criteria (RH batter included), and the fact that to make a serious difference the Twins should not look below the top 20 players (#20 is Ryan Zimmerman), I would gladly add Melvin Mora, Ron Belliard and Casey Blake to the list that includes Troy Glaus, Ty Wiggington, Adrian Beltre, Scott Rolen and Mike Lowell.

I will use the same analysis to the 2B/SS situation


The bottom line with the prosposed 2009 changes (and a bunch of stats to boot)

How many wins will the changes in the Twins’ lineup will produce? To answer this question we have to examine what makes the Twins’ teams under Gardenhire and his coaches win games and how many potential games will the Twins win in 2009 if they make these changes.

Keep in mind that before last season started I used different methodologies to predict that the Twins will win 89 games in 2008, amidst wild speculation from the 'experts' that they will finish 4th or 5th and barely crack 70 wins. Also, using game by game arguments, I predicted that Detroit will win a maximum of 79 games in 2008, while everyone else had them sweeping their way to the World Series. After much ridicule upon publication of these things last spring, I can now just say, “I told you so. And numbers do not lie if you know how to take advantage of them and use them correctly.”

But enough self-patting on the back. Self-induced high-fives look a lot like clapping and cannot clap when Tampa Bay instead of the Twins is playing today in the World Series.

That was then, this is now and there will be more game-to-game predictions coming next spring after the roster is settled, but I wanted to device a statistical way that would allow me to a. see what makes these Twins win (i.e. The Gardenhire era Twins) and b. what effect certain moves have on the Twins W-L record.

It is generally accepted that W-L record is related to the run differential of a team. Heck, Bill James devised his Pythagorean Wins Expectation formula based on Runs Scores (RS) and Runs Allowed (RA), and who the hell am I to doubt the word of the baseball statistics God? Nah, I am not doubting Bill James, but it is all about context (and a warning, from here on this is going to be pretty statistically intense, so if you want the bottom line skip at the end of the post.) One cannot predict how many games the Twins will win in 2008 and 2009 based on a formula constructed that includes data from the number of games the Babe Ruth- and Lou Gheric-led Yankee teams won in the deadball era. Context is extremely important in Baseball of all sports. Different teams have different philosophies and different practices. Thus, I am just looking at statistical samples of the Twins under Gardenhire, and this is what the quasi-big picture looks like:

Back to English:

What I did here was to look at several statistical measures (stats) from the Twins from 2002 on (listed as a table year by year) and see how they correlate with the Twins' W-L record that year (Because the Twins had a negative run differential in 2007, I had to correlate that to wins-82 to balance the scales in order for the algebra gods to not give me biased numbers)

What the results show is that the Gardenhine Twins W-L record correlates better (BTW, 1 is perfect correlation) not with ERA (light green/blue box), not with Run Differential (left pink box), even when the RD was normalized for the other teams of the AL Central winning percentage (far right pink box), but it correlated better with team OPS (yellow box).

OPS has two components: OBP and SLG. In the line underneath the year-by-year numbers, I correlated OPS for the Gardy Twins with OBP and SLG. As you can see,for the Gardy years, OPS is very closely correlated to SLG rather than OBP. I am not going to use this fact again (or against anyone other than Billy Bean and he is out of context, anywaya) but the take home lesson is that these Twins succeed when they have a higher slugging percentage (and this was quasi-empirically covered here, albeit in a very dry way.)

Alright... you buy it or not :) this is leading us to potentially formulate a relationship between OPS and wins for the Gardenhire Twins:

and based on the average and standard deviation, one can formulate an OPS vs. wins chart that would look like that:

(forget the italics for a moment) This basically allows you to calculate the maximum, average, and minimum wins expected based on a particular team OPS.

Aright. We got our formula, let's put in into play:

This figure turned up a little more complex than I wanted it (heck, I can't help it), so please ignore columns 3 and 4 (league OPS and diff). Column 1 is the field positions. Column 2 is their OPS. The column titled projected update is the projected OPS numbers of the Twins lineup with the proposed changes in the previous post. The projected OPS values I used are the projected PECOTA OPS values for the proposed Twins' lineup. To see whether that makes any sense, I had to do the control showing the projections of the 2008 starters column (far right), where I used the PECOTA projections for the 2008 Twins starters to predict team OPS. Using that, the Twins' team OPS was predicted to be .741 which is very close to the actual .747 and that makes me a bit more confident about the use of PECOTA projections for 2009.

So, the bottom line is (go to the previous table and look at the italics): with the proposed changes the Twins should win 4 more games than 2008.

Methinks that 92 games will lead the Twins to win the AL Central in 2009.

PS. I'd love to correlate the stat of your choice with the Twins' wins if you don't see it above. Just drop a comment and I'll make it happen...

Recap: proposed changes, 25 man roster and payroll for 2009.

To recap & summarize the previous posts, here are the proposed off-season changes and their cost to the Twins:

  • Glenn Perkins, Brian Buscher and a prospect to the Cardinals for Troy Glaus ($12M)

  • Boof Bonser and Trevor Plouffe to the Padres for Khalil Greene ($6.5M)

  • Alexi Casilla, Brian Duensing, Phillip Humber and Sergio Santos to the Marlins for Dan Uggla ($5M)

  • Sign Pedro Martinez ($6M)

total cost: $29 M, which will bring the Twins' 2009 payroll to $76 Million, or $4.5 million more than their 2007 payroll.

Thus, the Twins projected 25-man roster would be:

lineup (and batting order):

LF Span
RF Young
C Mauer
3B Glaus
1B Morneau
2B Uggla
DH Kubel
SS Greene
CF Gomez


C Redmond
IF Harris
IF Tolbert/Tolleson
OF/DH/1B Cuddyer


SP Liriano
SP Slowey
SP Baker
SP Martinez
SP Blackburn


Joe Nathan RH
Pat Neshek RH
Jose Mijares LH
Craig Breslow LH
Jesse Crain RH
Robert Deleaney RH (or Korecky/Swarzak/Mulvey)
Matt Guerrier RH

Next posts: a. How many wins will this team get and b. changes in the minors & organization