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

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

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


Live from Fort Myers: Twins Spring Training Notes: 3/16/2018

This is my daily live report from Fort Myers on the Twins' Spring Training:

  • The Twins played the Tampa Bay Rays today and playing the Boston Red Sox tonight, in split squad games, but a transaction, or rather a set of two transactions stole the show today:  The Twins announced that they acquired 24 year old OF Jake Cave from the Yankees for 19 year old RHP Luis Gil.  Cave was added to their 40-man roster to be protected from the Rule 5 draft last winter.  When the Yankees acquired Neil Walker they DFA'd Gil to make room.  To make room on their 40-man roster for Gil, who has 3 options, the Twins announced that they have DFA'd 1B/DH Kennys Vargas.
  •  There were some rumors last week that Vargas will be released to play in Japan.  Today the talk is that he will be a great fit for the Rays; however he will need to either clear waivers or not get claimed by teams that claim earlier than the Rays for that to happen.  We shall see
  •  Cave is a yet another left throwing and hitting OF, who opened some eyes last season hitting 20 HRs between AA Trenton and AAA Wilkes-Barre.  At AAA he hit .324/.367/.554 with a 6.1 BB%, and 27.6 K%.  He does not walk much, but  makes successful contact at a good clip and the .230 isoP is intriguing.  To late to include him in my 2018 prospect list, but he would be at the mid 20s or so, close to LaMonte Wade.
  • Gil will be 20 years old this June and was signed as a free agent by the Twins on February 12, 2015.  He played the 2015 season in the DSL, had shoulder surgery missing the following season and returned in the DSL for 2017 making 14 starts for 41-2/3 innings, striking out 49 (10.6 K/9, 27.7 K%) and walking 20 (4.3 BB/9, 16.4 K-BB%), hit 5 and threw 5 wild pitches.  He finished with a 2.59 ERA, 3.34 FIP, and 1.22 WHIP (.287 BABIP).  He throws hard but is wild, has command problems, is about to hit his age 20 season and has not appeared Stateside.  He was not ranked among the top 60 Twins' prospects.
  • Before the Twins game vs the Rays started I had the opportunity to watch Andro Cutura throw live batting practice in the back fields.  Definitely a name to know.  He was drafted in the 6th round of the 2014 season, a season he did not play due to elbow problems, from Southeastern Louisiana University.  He pitched He started 11 game for Elizabethton, pitching for 60-2/3 innings with a 1.34 ERA, 7.3 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 3.27 FIP and 1.01 WHIP.  He started only 6 games next season at Cedar Rapids before being shut down with elbow issues and having Tommy John surgery on October of 2016.  He missed the whole 2017 season recovering.  Not sure how the Twins see him, but he looks like a reliever to me.  He has plenty of pop in his fastball a good changeup and a decent breaking ball.  He is a tad smaller and his delivery is a bit jerky and max effort, which makes me think that the pen might be in his future.
  • Some interesting happenings at the Twins game:  Jose Berrios was riled pretty badly by defensive mistakes behind him and he started pitching very slowly and without any rhythm in the second inning.  It was his worse outing.
  • Speaking of worse, Chris Heisey had a horrible defensive game.  He had a two-base error when he seemed to push a ball with his glove instead of catching it.  At the next inning he should have been charged with another (three base) error, when he lost the ball on the sun multiple times, stopped looking and ducked with his hands crossed above his head.  The ball bounced 15 yards behind him...      I do not see him as a Twin much longer, especially with Cave now in the organization.
  • Jorge Polanco was charged with 2 errors; however the second should have been on Logan Morrison who like Heisey earlier pushed instead of grabbing the ball with his glove.  Morrison did not have a good day, as he was hit with a line drive in the back later in the game.  With Vargas gone, and Morrison's fairly sketchy play at first, I suspect that Mitch Garver might be used as a back up first baseman on occasion.  He played in that role today and was fine with the glove, making an excellent scoop play as well.
  • Miguel Sano was scratched with a knee bruise he suffered sliding into second in the previous game.
  • Joe Mauer hit the ball hard today; good to see from him in a contract issue.  He receives the most cheers from the Hammond crowd in every game.
  • Trevor Hildenberger was again awful, facing mostly AAA competition.  He allowed a walk and three hits (including a 3R HR) in one inning of work.  His ERA is now 10.29.  I just do not see how he can make the Twins this Spring, even though some might think that he is a lock based on past performance.    

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


Live from Fort Myers: Twins Spring Training Notes: 3/15/2018

This is my daily live report from Fort Myers on the Twins' Spring Training:
  • Eduardo Rosario has started throwing on Wednesday, after nursing a triceps issue, which was  also described  by some as an "elbow" issue.  The play he injured his arm is on video in the above link.  He was the DH in the Thursday's game against the Rays
  • Miguel Sano is proving the pundits wrong.  As of yesterday he is hitting .304/.429/.739 with 5 walks and 6 strikeouts in 28 PA.  He will make a great right/lefty combination in the heart of the Twins' order with Logan Morrison who is hitting .385/.467/.538 with 2 walks and 3 strikouts in 15 PA. 
  • Tyler Duffey wants to be part of the Twins' rotation.  He last pitched 3 innings with 50 pitches (had 10 more in the pen afterwards) against the Red Sox.  He definitely is not sharp at this point, wasting pitches;  also the fact that he has an option remaining might play against him on the battle for the potential 5th starter after Jose Berrios, Lance Lynne, Jake Odorizzi, and Kyle Gibson.  And that spot on the rotation will definitely go away when Ervin Santana is healthy in early May.  In addition, Trevor May is waiting in the wings with an ETA of early June.
  • Gibson had a very strong 5 inning performance at Port Charlotte on Thursday allowing only 4 hits, 1 run, no walks and struck out 5 Rays.  His reworked slider was very effective today.   His Spring ERA is down to 1.80
  • Phil Hughes, who has been pitching at 88-90 mph with his fastball, and also aspires for the same short-lived 5th spot in the Twins' rotation, is looking at a former teammate as an example is adjusting to life as a pitcher with a lower velocity fastball.
  • Remember the $3 upper deck seats in the Metrodome in the late 1980s?  The Twins are having an equally good deal at the Target Field right now that matches that $3 a game.
  • The minor leagues are implementing a whole slew of changes to "speed up the game", the most controversial being the fact that each extra inning will start with a runner on second (that run will not be earned if it happens.)   What to expect from an organization that has already shrunk double-headers to 7 innings a piece?  
  • Mike Moen at Minnesota Public Radio, is wondering whether the Twins are still cheap, even with a record payrol
To see all the notes and coverage of the 2018 Twins' Spring Training, including my daily live reports from Fort Myers in the second half of March, please visit here


Twins Spring Training Notes: 3/13/2018

Here are my latest Twins' Spring Training notes; the next installment will be coming live from Fort Myers this Thursday:
  • Twins manager Paul Molitor is not sure whether he wants 4 or 5 starters  to begin the season
  • Phil Hughes had a decent outing against the Yankees, but he never touched 91 mph (here is a chart of all of his pitches.)  He has turned into a RH junk baller, and I am not sure that the Twins can afford that in their rotation while competing.
  • Beating the Yankees, Spring Training or not, does matter for the Twins.
  • Lance Lynn hit 94 in the first inning as a Twins' player; it was an 1-2-3 inning.   He was hitless in 3 innings and threw 41 pitches against Baltimore.  He walked one and struck out 5.
  • Trevor Hildenberger who appeared in his 6th game this Spring against the Orioles, continued his lackluster performances.  He has pitched a total of 6 innings, allowing 13 hits, 2 HRs, 8 runs (5 earned), walked 3 and struck out 5.  His ERA is 7.50 and WHIP is 2.67.  I see him starting the season in AAA, esp. with Gabriel Moya and Myles Jaye having good Springs.
  • The Twins have cut pitchers John Curtiss, Stephen Gonsalves (their ninth overall prospect,) Adalberto Mejia, Fernando Romero (their fifth overall prospect,) and Aaron Slegers.
  • Erick Aybar was pretty awful on the field against the Yankees; just cannot see him get a spot.  He is just too short (5' 10") and his arm is not strong enough to play at third base, so the Twins should stop that experiment.
  • Eddie Rosario and Ehire Adrianza are still sitting out.  Their injuries seem to be more serious than predicted.   Rosario might not be ready to start the season at this point, which might make another bench spot available.
  •  I did not know that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine upon their arrival turned the physical space of the Twins' Front Office into an open office environment, reducing doors and walls
  • As I indicated the next installments will be daily from Fort Myers starting this coming Thursday.  I will also be live tweeting esp. in games; if interested feel free to follow me on twitter @thrylos98
I will be making more such notes in somewhat regular intervals few times a week and daily when I am at Fort Myers. To see all the notes and coverage of the 2018 Twins' Spring Training, including live reports from Fort Myers in the second half of March, please visit here


Twins Spring Training Notes: 3/11/2018

Here are my latest Twins' Spring Training notes:

  • With the acquisition of Lance LynnPhil Hughes is headed to the bullpen, and that might not be a bad thing, since he was very successful there for the Yankees lots of moons ago.
  • Here is a big "if" that nobody is talking about: We are in the middle of Spring Training.  Lynn has not really pitched.  Will he be ready by opening day?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  We will find out.
  • Speaking of founding out, I will be at Fort Myers starting next week, so I will be reporting in situ from there as I see things.  If you care about live reports, please follow my twitter.
  • The Twins' new pitching coach Garvin Alston, has already paid dividends with smoothing the Twins' projected opening day starter Jose Berrios's delivery.  
  • You've heard it here first (and probably prematurely, because I will have to confirm when I see him pitch in person next week) : Kyle Gibson is due for a breakthrough season.
  • After the Twins game at the Rays on Friday, the Twins' players' wives played in their annual softball charity game against the Rays' players' wives.  We do not know the specifics, other than they raised $19,500 for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas victims' fund, the Twins' wives won by a score of 9-4, and a certain Twins' player got the victory. 
  • The Twins players attended a seminar titled “Harassment: What You Need to Know to Protect Yourself.”, which might be a response to the Miguel Sano harassment accusations and a sign that they might come to an end soon.
  • Former Twins RHP J.T. Chargois so far this Spring with the Dodgers: 3 G, 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K, .100 OBA
  • The Twins released 22 year old Dominican shortstop Gorge Munoz. He hit .289/.341/.395 in Elizabethton and .250/.307/.370 in Cedar Rapids last season, his third with the organization since signed as International Free Agent in 2014.
  • The Twins are tied for the 5th most Tommy John surgeries among MLB organizations since 2010.
  • A former Twins' first round pick, needs a new kidney.
  • Another former Twins' first round pick, Glen Perkins, is a guest brewer for Surly making a beer called "Cut Down" that will be available early in the baseball season.

I will be making more such notes in somewhat regular intervals few times a week and daily when I am at Fort Myers. To see all the notes and coverage of the 2018 Twins' Spring Training, including live reports from Fort Myers in the second half of March, please visit here