Profile of the newest Minnesota Twin: C Kurt Suzuki

It has been reported that the Minnesota Twins have Signed 30 year old C Kurt Suzuki to an 1 year $2.75 million contract plus incentives.  Suzuki, who made $6.5 million last season, will provide catching depth, allowing the Twins to pace the use of  Josmil Pinto and Chris Herrmann at the catcher position in a way that it is most appropriate for them.   He would also act as insurance, in case one or both of the rookies need additional work at AAA.   The Twins would need to create a spot on the 40-man roster for Suzuki, which likely means that 28 year old Eric Fryer, who was slated for this role now filled by Suzuki, will be taken off the 40-man roster and designated for assignement.

The 5'11", 200 lbs, Suzuki, who is from Hawaii, was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 2nd round of the 2004 MLB June Amateur Draft from California State University Fullerton.   He flew threw the Athletics system at a pace of a level a year starting as a 20 year old in short season A Vancouver and ended up starting 2007 in AAA Sacramento.  Baseball America had him ranked as the 89th best prospect in Baseball before that season.   Mid-season 2007 he made his debut with the Athletics where he stayed until the 2012 trading deadline when he was traded to the Washington Nationals.  He returned to the Athletics, traded back by the Nationals this trading deadline, to support thens in their post-season run in 2013.

His career slash line is .253/.309/.375 (.685 OPS, 86 OPS+).  The right hand hitter seem to be consistently declining with the bat since his age 25, 2010 season when he hit .274/.313/.421 (.734 OPS, 93 OPS+) .   Last season between the Nationals and the Athletics he hit .232/.290/.337 (.627 OPS, 73 OPS+) in 94 games (316 PAs), which is what the Twins should probably be expecting from him (in fewer PAs) in 2014 and his $2.75 million one year contract reflects this.   He is a right hand hitter but hits both lefties and righties equally.

Suzuki does not walk a lot, but he does not strike out a lot either (about 8% BB rate and 10% K rate).  He makes contact, but does not have much power.  He is a good bunter and can move runners on; also suited for hit and run plays. Suzuki's defense behind the plate, his ability to block balls in the dirt, to make hard plays and to stall runners has been praised.   So has his clubhouse presence.  So has his game calling by managers and his pitchers.  He has been extremely healthy spending only 24 days in the 15-day DL in his career for an intercostal muscle strain in 2010.  Even if he might not be able to contribute with the bat as a starter, he would be an invaluable mentor for both Pinto and Herrmann.   All in all a great addition for the Twins.

Weekly summary of the Twins moves and targets: 12/20/2013

Here is the summary of the moves the Minnesota Twins did and the players they expressed interest in this week (the links will take you to reports).  As far as "targets" go, I am listing players that the Twins reportedly expressed interest in and not players who baseball writers and other thought that they would be a good fit or may fill a need.  The targets identified past weeks are still in the list unless they signed elsewhere.

As a reminder, you can see all the Twins' weekly transactions and targets in reverse chronological order here.



Traded OF/DH Ryan Doumit to the Atlanta Braves for Minor League LHP Sean Gilmartin who was invited to Spring Training (12/18)


Signed RHP Yohan Pino to a Minor League contact

Signed RHP Mike Pelfrey  to a two year, $11 million contract with additional $3.5 million in incentives (12/14)

Signed OF Jason Kubel to a split contract:  The Minor League portion would be $15,000 a month.  If he makes the MLB team he will receive a base of $2M with $150K for reaching each of 300 and 350 PAs, $200K for reaching 400 PAs, $150K each for spending 30 and 60 days and $200K for spending 90 days on the 25 man roster.  Additionally he will receive $100K each for being named the World Series or the AL MVP and $25K for making the All-Star team or winning a gold glove. (12/13)


RHP Liam Hendriks was claimed off waivers by the Chicago Cubs (12/13)

The current Twins' 40-man roster is here and contains 21 pitchers (if you include Pelfrey, which is not yet official) and 19 position players for a total of 40 spots.



Free Agent:
RHP Raisel Iglesias (Cuban Defector)
C John Buck 
SS Erisbel Arruebarruena (Cuban defector)


Scouting report of newest Twins' member LHP Sean Gilmartin

The Minnesota Twins in an effort to reduce the logjam in the DH/OF position have traded Ryan Doumit to the Atlanta Braves for 23 year old minor league LHP  prospect Sean Gilmartin.  The 6'2", 200 lbs Gilmartin was the Braves' 1st round (28th overall) pick of the 2011 draft.  Before he was drafted, he was named All American from Baseball America and before the 2012 season he was ranked as the Braves' 5th best prospect, and 4th best before the 2013 season. 

Currently, he is ranked as the Braves' 10th best prospect for 2014 by Baseball America that also ranks his change up as the best in the Braves' system and suggest that he has 4th starter upside.   This is good, otherwise Gilmartin sounds a lot like a prototypical Twins' lefty:  High 80s-Low 90s average fastball with few strikeouts (6.3 K/9 in AAA in 128.7 IP, and 6.5 K/9 in AA in 119.3 IP), who needs impecable command and control to survive.  His change up is a truly plus pitch and sits in the low 80s.  He has a low 80s above average to plus slider that he uses almost exclusively against LHBs while he prefers an also above average slow (low 70s) 12-6 curveball against RHBs.   His mechanics are good and his delivery pretty smooth.

Gilmartin needs to have exceptional command and control with his average fastball in order to keep his team in games.  However, last season in AAA Gwinnett, that was not the case (and add some lackluster defense behind him and bad luck) and it showed.  He finished the season with a 3-8 record, 5.74 ERA (4.61 FIP), 1.593 WHIP (.332 BABIP), 6.4 K/9 (15.8 K%) and 1.97 K/BB.   A lot like a current Twins' LHP, but unlike Scott Diamond, Gilmartin has 3 above average to plus supplementary pitches and a full set of options.   In addition he does not need to be on the 40 man roster, which opens a spot for Mike Pelfrey.   Some of his control issues were potentially due to minor shoulder injury issues (tendinitis), which if corrected could be a good sign for Gilmartin and the Twins going forward.

Gilmartin would have ranked some place in the 20s in my Minnesota Twins top 40 prospect list

Effect on other Twins' players? 

With the addition of Kris Johnson and Sean Gilmartin and the existence of Logan Darnell on the 40 man roster and Pat Dean on the AAA roster, Andrew Albers falls even lower in the Twins' depth chart and might be moved.  Scott Diamond is out of options and Johnson and now Gilmartin might offer a better alternative for depth in AAA, so he might moved as well.   Caleb Thielbar who has options might lose his bullpen role to the optionless Diamond and start the season in AAA. 

The recently signed Jason Kubel has one less hurdle to clear to win a spot on the major league roster and be paid (with incentives) as much as Doumit was going to make.


Guess who wants to be in the 2014 Twins' rotation?

With no comments:

Five reasons that the Twins re-signing of Mike Pelfrey could be a steal

Late last week it was communicated, but not officially announced that the Minnesota Twins have reached agreement with Mike Pelfrey for a 2 year contract.  The contract is for a base amount of $5.5 million per season and with the potential of additional $3.5 million in incentives through the life of the contract.  Additional details about the incentives will be announced when the signing will be official.

There has been a lot of noise in Twins' Territory about this signing, and most of it was negative.   People look at Pelfrey's 5-13 record, accompanied by a 5.19 ERA and by the long time that Pelfrey took between pitches and wonder why the Twins re-signed a guy who is perceived as no better then what they already have.

I have always been a Mike Pelfrey fan and here are the reasons why his re-signing could be a steal for the Twins.

1. The Tommy John situation and already achieved improvement

Pelfrey threw in his first real game a record 10 months after his surgery.  To put it into perspective, Fransisco Liriano had his Tommy John Surgery on November 6, 2006 and pitched his first spring training game on March of 2008.  Kyle Gibson had his on September of 2011 and pitched his first game on March of 2013.   2013 was a tale of 2 halfs for Pelfrey, even by the crude ERA measurement: His ERA by month was:  April 7.66, May 5.90, June 4.66, July 3.25, August 3.60 and September 7.45.   In other words, if he took 13 months to recover and ignore April and May, those are pretty good numbers.   His September ERA (also aided by a .431 BABIP) could have been a product of fatigue.   He finished the season with a 17.9%  K% in the second half, which is really encouraging and easily led the Twins' starting pitchers.  If one uses advanced metrics, he also led the Twins starters in FIP (3.99) and WAR (2.1); and those are full season and not second half only values

2. He actually has excellent stuff.

We all know of Pelfrey's fastball that sits at 92-93 and touches mid 90, easily the highest velocity of the Twins' 2013 rotation.  Here is something very little known:  He has a few other weapons that are rarely mentioned.   I took all 2013 starting pitchers who pitched more than 150 innings in 2013 and sorted them by Slider Velocity.  This is the resulting table:

As you can see,  Mike Pelfrey has the 7th hardest slider in the majors.  And this is big news.  Looking at the names surrounding him, I cannot see a single name that Twins' fans would not be ecstatic to have.

However, the other obvious thing from this list, is that he has not been throwing his slider enough (only 9.9% of the time) and mostly relies on his fastball (72.6%) of the time, unlike his peers in this list.   I hope that it is elbow rehabilitation related and the further that he is removed from surgery, the more he will trust his elbow with the slider, like his peers.   In addition, to the Fastball and Slider, he has a mid 80s Split Finger pitch that he throws as a change up and a slow mid-70s Curve, that last season he threw only about 10% of the time each.

3. He was hurt by the Twins' defense.

Again, I took all starters in the majors who pitched more than 150 innings and sorted them by BABIP, high to low and I also indicate WHIP. Here is the resulting table:

As you can see, Mike Pelfrey had the second worst BABIP in the majors.  Normalize his WHIP for a league average BABIP and becomes close to Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson (normalized) levels.  

Why such a high BABIP?  If you look at balls in play, he ranks 35th lowest (of the 96 pitchers who pitched more than 150 innings in 2013) in the percentage of line drives surrendered with 20.8%, which suggests that balls were not hit that hard.   His fly ball percentage 36.0 % is the 35th highest in the same group.  When you are a fly ball pitcher and have a combination of Willingham, Parmelee, Doumit, Arcia and Colabello at two out of three outfield positions, you are about to have a high BABIP and a lot of outs will become singles and doubles.   Corner OF defense is something the Twins will have to address in 2014, in order to be successful.

4. He has a lot of intangibles on his side.

Pelfrey will not turn 30 until next month.  He is in his prime and will be during the duration of the contract.  He does not have a true change up, but has Bobby Cuellar around for 2 years and is young enough to do so, if he wants to add one to his repertoire (and it will be a good idea.)

As I indicated here, yes, he was a human rain delay, but so were his teammates and this was an aberration from previous seasons, adding a full extra 3 seconds between pitches.  I don't know whether that is related to shaking off secondary pitches and  preferring the fastball because of the elbow, as shown above, but I suspect that it will improve next season. 

For what is worth, my math predict continuous improvement for Pelfrey, and my analysis on who the Twins should target in free agency had him (and Phil Hughes) in the list of 8.

Also, he is a stellar clubhouse guy, a trait that has to be mentioned. At every stop in his career, teammates, managers and coaches have the best to say about Pelfrey.

5. The monetary risk is not very much; this is a very small contract comparatively.

The annual value of Pelfrey's contact is $5.5 million if he does not meet the incentives.   To put the Twins' risk in dollars in perspective:   $5.5 million is the exact amount the Twins paid Nick Blackburn not to pitch in 2013.   Also, if you believe in WAR-based monetary value, according to fangraphs, Mike Pelfrey's contribution to the Twins in 2013 (a down season) was worth $10.7 million dollars...  The real point here is that the Twins will assume the risk they had when they had Nick Blackburn in 2012 and 2013.