Spring Training Final Summary

I have been doing a weekly summary of the Twins' players' performance during this spring training. The 25-man roster is set, all their bags are packed, they are on their way to Minneapolis and the season opener is less than 2 days away. This is an overview on the spring performance for the players who are coming up north. As in the weekly reviews, I will indicate the position player of the Spring, but instead of having one pitcher for the best spring performance as I did in the weekly reviews, I am breaking it out to the Starting Pitcher of the Spring and Relief Pitcher of the Spring. These are the cummulative statistics of all Spring Training. (The rankings are by decreasing OPS for position players and by decreasing WHIP for pitchers, the leaders in individual statistics on each category have their numbers in the leading stats in bold) :

Position Players:

Morneau .395/.439/.711, 3 HR, 3 BB, 10 RBI (38 AB)
Buscher .393/.470/.534, 2 HR, 9 BB, 11 RBI (56 AB)
Kubel .369/.429/.524, 3 HR, 7 BB, 12 RBI, (63 AB)
Cuddyer .317/.358/.583, 2 HR, 5 BB. 9 RBI (60 AB)
Punto .353/.395/.500, 3 BB, 5 RBI (34 AB)
Gomez .283/.358/.583, 3 HR, 6 BB, 5 SB, 8 RBI (60 AB)
Harris .311/.417/.410, 1 HR, 9 BB, 2 SB, 3 RBI (61 AB)
Young .292/.313/.492, 3 HR, 1 SB, 9 RBI (65 AB)
Redmond .306/.370/.367, 5 BB, 3 RBI (49 AB)
Casilla .306/.354/.361, 5 BB, 4 SB, 6 RBI (72 AB)
Crede .189/.259/.321, 1 HR, 4 BB, 6 RBI (53 AB)
Span .190/.274/.286, 1 HR, 9 BB, 2 SB, 10 RBI (84 AB)
Morales .233/.226/.265 4 RBI (30 AB)

Position Player of Spring Training:

Justin Morneau

Honorable mention: Jason Kubel, Brian Buscher, Mike Cuddyer, Nick Punto, Carlos Gomez


Starter Performance:

Blackburn ERA 2.57, WHIP 0.64, 1 BB, 4 K, 14 IP
Slowey ERA 2.13, WHIP 0.87, 2 BB, 22 K, 25.1 IP
Dickey 2.04 ERA, WHIP 0.96, 4 BB, 18 K, 17.2 IP
Liriano ERA 4.94, WHIP 1.17, 12 BB, 27 K, 27.1 IP
Perkins ERA 2.03, WHIP 1.23, 6 BB, 13 K, 31 IP
(Baker ERA 6.85, WHIP 1.73, 3 BB, 16 K, 23.2 IP)

Starting pitcher of spring training:

Kevin Slowey

honorable mention: Nick Blackburn, R.A. Dickey

Reliever Performance:

Ayala 0.00 ERA, WHIP 0.71, 2 BB, 4 K, 7 IP
Crain 4.22 ERA, WHIP 0.84, 1 BB, 8 K, 10.2 IP
Nathan 2.70 ERA, WHIP 0.90, 2 BB,10 K, 10 IP
Breslow 3.09 ERA, WHIP 1.20, 6 BB, 14 K, 11.2 IP
Duensing 2.65 ERA, WHIP 1.35, 6 BB, 7 K, 18 IP
Guerrier 5.40 ERA, WHIP 1.46, 4 BB, 8 K, 11.2 IP
Humber 7.53, WHIP 1.47, 2 BB, 5 K, 11 IP

Relief pitcher of spring training:

Jesse Crain

honorable mention: Luis Ayala, Craig Breslow, Joe Nathan


The Roster is finalized

The last cut was just announced: Matt Tolbert is going to Rochester and Brian Buscher won the last spot. Gardy is going with a 12-man pen.

Do I think that it was a good decision? No. Let me count the ways:

  • First and foremost, they did not have to send Tolbert to Rochester, until April 10th, when Dickey is projected to make his first start: Keep an extra player who might be useful in some situation, instead of wasting a roster spot on a guy will will not see any work in 4 games. This is exactly what the Mets are doing with Livan Hernandez, their fifth starter; he will be added to the roster the day he has to pitch, so the team can have an extra player. No-brainer. Earth to Bill Smith: you gotta to act smarter to hold that office for long

  • By adding Buscher, you got a singles bat from the left side, who is better suited to be a pinch hitter. Last time I checked, there were 4 more powerful LH bats in the lineup (based on 2008 isoP: ) Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, Denard Span, and (surprise) Nick Punto. As a matter of fact, Tolbert has higher isoP in the majors than Buscher (and he is more than a year younger.) And can an American League team with only 4 bench spots, really afford a leftie pinch hitter taking one of those spots?

  • You bring Buscher up north, Gardy will put him on the field. This is begging for a repeat of the Anaheim disaster last season, while Buscher's two errors in the third, that allowed 3 runs to score, singlehandedly cost the (4-6) game for Nick Blackburn and the Twins

  • Tolbert would have provided more flexibility in case one of the injury-prone middle infielders and outfielders got hurt and were in a day-to-day situation. That said, he did make a huge gaffe on the bases today, costing the Twins the game and was probably the final nail on his coffin. Tolbert would not have been a perfect solution to the problem (I was hoping that Steve Tolleson was given a more than an 11 AB chance to show what he has this spring training, but anything that would have kept Buscher off the field would have been a plus)

that's how I feel about it. And I am wishing Buscher the best and hope he turns into a star overnight now that he made the team. However, I hope that the person who made that decision is held accountable (for once) if it does not work out.

What do you think?

And here is a scouting report for Brian Buscher from his Norwich Navigator days with the Giants:
"Stocky player who is going wrong direc. Body is getting worse. Dumpy lower 1/2. Low energy. Barrel chested. Sets up open and off plate. Short arms make it hard for him to cover plate. Swinging off his back ft. Very slow bat. Swings like he's in a swimming pool. Makes contact and clean contact but ball goes absolutely no where. Must've raked w/aluminum. Takes some of the worst swings in the league. Rolls over lots of balls. Can't go the other way with authority, in fact he can't pull the ball with any authority. Gd feel for bat head allows him to make contact against soft stuff but power is essentially nonexistent for such a big strong guy playing a premium offensive position. Gets blown away by gd stuff. Don't see much in the way of offense @ upper levels. Mediocre raw power. Defense seems to have gone backwards as well. Not likely to be able to stay @ 3B @ upper levels. 2B is out of the question with slow ft. Basically looking at a guy who belongs @ 1B from a defensive standpoint. Bat won't play anywhere. Should get back to AA next yr but can't see him moving any higher. Don't see org. value."

Have enough things changed in 3 years? Time will tell.


There are a lot of ways on getting into Target Field next season...

And I was just emailed a different one... so I am sharing

I suspect that the airwaves in and around the Twins Cities are buzzing about this already (but, alas, they are outside my range) and here is the deal:

The Minnesota Lottery is having a promotion that runs until October 19, in which you can send special tickets in through the mail (these are non-winning scratch tickets) or entering some numbers (sorry, not a big lottery fan here) in their web site and there will be a drawing for several Twins-related prices, including:

  • Four-packs of regular-season game tickets in the new Target Field.

  • Ballpark VIP section seats in the new Target Field.

  • A suite experience for you and your friends in the new Target Field.

  • Spring Training trips to Fort Myers, Fla., in 2010.

(that was cut and paste)
but, still, this is a cool promotion and even though I buy approximately 5 scratch lottery tickets a year (to put into Christmas stockings), I'd spent $5 bucks just for it (too bad that here in Pennsylvania this is not that applicable)

and those scratch tickets look mighty cool:

The pitching battle is over... for now

Scott Baker was placed in the 15 day DL, retroactive to March 27, which means that Brian Duensing, Phillip Humber and R.A. Dickey will all make the trip North. The starters will slide a day ahead with Liriano starting the opener against Seattle next Monday. It is reported that R.A. Dickey might be the 5th starter, starting at April 10th in Chicago. Baker will probably come off the DL on April 12, which means that the battle for that last spot will continue for a week or so in the bigs in meaningful games.

I will be doing profiles on Phillip Humber and Brian Duensing soon.

About the last 2 bench positions, for which there is a battle between Brandon Harris (he is close to a "lock" because he is out of options), Matt Tolbert and Brian Buscher, there are a couple of interesting developments today;

Could it be that Buscher will be a Cardinal in the near future settling that battle?


One spring training position battle was won today; and another round of cuts.

José Morales was told today, according to La Velle Neal III, that he will make the 25-man roster and will be Mauer's temporary replacement. La Velle, in his article indicated that it was a hard decision for the Twins. Drew Butera had a better offensive spring and is regarded as a better defensive catcher, but the facts that Morales: a. is a switch hitter and has been better offensively b. has more experience in higher levels of the organization that Butera and c. at some point in his career caught all the Twins' starters regularly, weighted on his favor. I was not surprised by the move, regardless the buzz that Butera might be the choice. I actually had Butera starting the season in Rochester, when I posted my take on the Rochester Red Wings roster last week. The fact that it was a difficult decision is a good problems for the Twins to have. It seems that Jeff Christy will still stick around the major league camp until it breaks, while Drew Butera was optioned to Rochester.

José Mijares, in an anticipated move, was optioned to Rochester and Alejandro Machado was reassigned to the minor league camp. There were indications that the bullpen battle for the last 2 spots will be settled by today, but this does not appear to be the case. Also the last position player spot on the bench will be settle no earlier than the end of the week.


Goodbye Charles Nolte

Over the weekend the Twins traded Charles Nolte to the Yankees to retain the rights of Jason Jones. This made somewhat obsolete my predictions for the Rochester Red Wings and Ft. Myers Miracle rosters, since Jason Jones was not accounted in the former and Charles Nolte was projected to be in the latter. Looking at the rosters for those teams, it is likely that one of Sean Henn or Bobby Keppel will opt or be forced out and Jason Jones will take that spot in the Red Wings' rotation. As far as the Miracle pen goes, Michael Allen would be the most likely person to make the jump from the Beloit Snappers to the Miracle.

I profiled Jason Jones when the Twins' drafted him in the rule 5 draft; so, who is Charles Nolte? Charles is an interesting case. He has a very highly rated RHP prospect in the beginning of his senior year of high school (Junipero Serra High in San Diego), throwing a mid 90s four-seamer and a plus curve as a prep athlete and a lock to be a top 2-3 round pick. However, he blew his elbow later in his senior season in high school and required Tommy John surgery. He accepted an earlier scholarship offer from San Diego State and went to College majoring in Business Administation. He played for the Aztecs as a reliever in his junior and senior years and never found the control he had in high school before his surgery: He appeared in 8 games in each of his junior and senior seasons (all but 3 games in his senior season as a reliever) and issued more walks than strikeouts. Regardless, the Twins took a flier and drafted him in the 24th round of the 2007 draft. He spent the 2007 with the GCL Twins (Gulf Coast, low Rookie) where he pitched in 14 games (all in relief) and 24.1 innings, accumulating a 1.85 ERA and 1.15 WHIP producing 8.1 K/9 and having 2 K/BB. A very encouraging sight for someone who lost the plate in College. This allowed him to start the 2008 season in Beloit (Midwest League, A) where he pitched in 44 games for 70.1 innings (he is not an one inning guy), resulting in a 2.05 ERA and 1.39 WHIP, while striking out 9.6 batters per 9 innings and having a 2.14 K/BB ration. That was his age 22 season.

It is very hard to predict what Nolte could have become in the Twins' organization, but there are probably about 10-15 relief prospects ahead of him at this point. Is this a good trade for the Twins? Only time will tell, but I think that at this point it is all about organizational depth at the higher levels.

MLB predictions for 2009

Since this is the time of the year that everyone does this, here are my predictions for the MLB division races, the post-season races and the major awards:


Boston Red Sox 94-68
New York Yankees 92-70 (WC)
Toronto Blue Jays 86-76
Tampa Bay Rays 81-81
Baltimore Orioles 72-90


Minnesota Twins 90-72
Cleveland Indians 82-80
Kansas City Royals 81-81
Detroit Tigers 68-94
Chicago White Sox 66-96


Los Angeles Angels 93-69
Oakland Athletics 89-73
Texas Rangers 82-80
Seattle Mariners 64-98


New York Mets 99-63
Florida Marlins 89-73 (WC)
Philadelphia Philies 84-78
Washington Nationals 77-85
Atlanta Braves 76-86


Chicago Cubs 87-75
Pittsburgh Pirates 86-76
St. Louis Cardinals 82-80
Milwaukee Brewers 75-87
Cincinnati Reds 73-89
Houston Astros 70-92


Los Angeles Dodgers 88-74
San Diego Padres 81-81
San Fransisco Giants 80-82
Arizona Diamondbacks 73-89
Colorado Rockies 70-92


Twins over Red Sox
Yankees over Angels


Mets over Cubs
Marlins over Dodgers


Twins over Yankees


Mets over Marlins


Twins over Mets

AL MVP: David Ortiz
AL Cy Young: Kevin Slowey

NL MVP: Manny Ramirez
NL Cy Young: Dan Haren

AL ROY: Matt Wieters
NL ROY: Andrew McCutchen

Manager of the year: John Russell, Pittsburgh Pirates

As far as the American League goes, I think that the Tampa Bay Rays will fall back to the earth this year, Seattle, Baltimore and Detroit will continue their uninspired performances, joined by the White Sox. The A's would be in the wild-card race until the last minute, but their young rotation will falter in September.

In the National League the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros, aging teams with decreasing talent are due for a wake-up call. The Brewers, Diamondbacks, Nationals and Rockies will be mediocre. The Marlins and Pirates will be the surprises of the division fighting until the end for the wild card spot. I gave the nod to the Marlins but I would not be surprised if the Pirates after their first winning season in more than a decade, make it to the post-season behind their young strong rotation and outfield. I think that the battle for the NL Central will be closer than predicted with the Pirates being well in a 3-way mix with the Cubs and Cardinals, and maybe surprising the Cubs for first place.

PECOTA eat your heart out


Spring training weeks 1-5 summary.

Only one week of the Spring Training is left, and this is how the Twins' players involved in position battles are performing so far. These are the cummulative statistics through week 5 with a weep more of games to go (The rankings are by decreasing OPS for position players and by decreasing WHIP for pitchers) :

Position Players:

Outfield Starter Battle:

Gomez .286/.372/.592, 3 HR, 6 BB, 5 SB (49 AB)
Cuddyer .333/.377/.583, 2 HR, 4 BB (48 AB)
Young .293/.317/.517, 3 HR, 1 SB (58 AB)
Span .154/.257/.246, 1 HR, 9 BB, 2 SB (65 AB)

Spot on the Bench vs Rochester Battle:

Buscher .348/.426/.478, 1 HR, 7 BB (46 AB)
Tolbert .283/.395/.472, 3 HR, 10 BB, 2 SB (53 AB)

Mauer's temporary replacement battle
Butera .385/.438/.462, 2 BB (13 AB)
Morales .238/.227/.238 (21 AB)

Other 25-man roster position player stats:

Punto .423/.483/.615, 3 BB (26 AB)
Morneau .353/.389/.676, 3 HR, 2 BB (34 AB)
Kubel .367/.436/.510, 2 HR, 6 BB (49 AB)
Harris .292/.393/.396, 1 HR, 7 BB, 2 SB (48 AB)
Redmond .308/.386/.385, 5 BB (39 AB)
Casilla .288/.344/.339, 5 BB, 4 SB (59 AB)
Crede .174/.240/.304, 1 HR, 4 BB (46 AB)

Position Player of weeks 1-5:

Nick Punto

Honorable mention:, Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, Brian Buscher, Carlos Gomez, Mike Cuddyer


Starter Performance:

Blackburn ERA 2.00, WHIP 0.56, 0 BB, 2 K, 9 IP
Slowey ERA 2.21, WHIP 0.84, 1 BB, 20 K 20.1 IP
Liriano ERA 5.18, WHIP 1.19, 11 BB, 24 K, 24.1 IP
Perkins ERA 2.25, WHIP 1.25, 5 BB, 7 K, 20 IP
Baker ERA 6.85, WHIP 1.73, 3 BB, 16 K, 23.2 IP

Battle for set up man:

Ayala 0.00 ERA, WHIP 0.60, 1 BB, 3 K, 5 IP
Breslow 1.80 ERA, WHIP 0.90, 4 BB, 12 K, 10 IP
Crain 4.82 ERA, WHIP 0.96, 1 BB, 6 K, 9.1 IP

On the bubble; battle for the last 1-2 spots:

Dickey 3.63 ERA, WHIP 0.95, 3 BB, 15 K, 13.2 IP
Humber 4.91, WHIP 1.09, 2 BB, 5 K, 11 IP
Duensing 0.75 ERA, WHIP 1.17, 4 BB, 5 K, 12 IP

Mijares 9.80 ERA, WHIP 2.70, 9 BB, 7 K, 10 IP

Others in the 25-man Roster:
Nathan 3.38 ERA, WHIP 1.00, 2 BB, 8 K, 8 IP
Guerrier 6.52 ERA, WHIP 1.66, 4 BB, 5 K, 9.2 IP

pitcher of weeks 1-5, spring training:

Kevin Slowey

honorable mention: Luis Ayala, Nick Blackburn, Craig Breslow, R.A. Dickey, Jesse Crain, Joe Nathan, Phillip Humber