Live from Fort Myers: Twins Spring Training Notes: 3/24/2018

This is my daily live report from Fort Myers on the Twins' Spring Training:
  • This is my last day at Fort Myers  and the last live from Fort Myers Twins Spring Training Notes.  The next version will come from Pennsylvania along with my annual Twins' prediction post.  
  • We are five days away from the major league Opening Day and twelve days from the minor leagues Opening Day.
  • The Twins have re-claimed 1B Kennys Vargas from the Reds on waivers.  The 40-man roster is at 40 currently. 
  • From the trainer's room: Phil Hughes is nursing a left oblique strain, and Zack Granite a right shoulder contusion; both might start the season in the DL because of it.
  • The Twins are currently playing the Orioles in Sarasota, but there was plenty of action in the back fields today.
  • Zack Littell pitched for the AA squad against the Red Sox' and he was very good.  He is not overpowering with a fastball that sits from 88-90 and he commands masterfully up and down left and right, inducing plenty of ground balls.  In several respects he reminds me of former Twins' RHP Brad Radke, but unlike Radke's changeup, Littell's out pitch is a low 70s curve, which make his high 80s fastball look much faster.  He also throws a mid 80s cutter that moves in to righties and out to the lefties.
  • Eddie Rosario hit with the AA team and sat in batter's box during the pregame bullpen sessions.  He still has a bit of timing issues due to rustiness from sitting with the triceps issue, but I think that he will be fine in time for the opener.
  • Speaking of injuries, Kohl Stewart had ice over his elbow after his bullpen and Tyler Jay had to do shoulder stretches with a band before he went to the game.
  • Jay's velocity is not there.  His fastball was at 90-91 and hit 92 once.  His mid-80s slider is still a devastating pitch, and he threw some 75-77 mph curveballs that looked promising, albeit wild.  Hopefully the shoulder will be healthy enough to see a few more ticks in the fastball this season.
  • I had the opportunity to see the Twins' 13th round pick from 2016, RHP Ryan Mason, pitch for the first time.  The now full time reliever did one of the most amazing tricks one can do with a baseball in College.  He has an interesting delivery throwing lower than 3/4 and higher than side arm, I guess that you can call it 2/3 delivery, and across his body.  This bring a lot of deception and downwards torque.  He throws a 90-91 mph fastball and a mid 70s slider (unlike what the velocity indicates, it is a slider vs a curveball.)  He also threw a changeup in the 80s.  The slider is frisbee-like but with tighter downward break and his fastball has good movement.  Keep an eye on him, you can see him in a bullpen in your favorite ballpark one of these days, if his command improves a bit.
  • As far as hitters go, Brent Rooker played at left field and hit a moonshot over to International Avenue.  I ranked him as the Twins' fourth prospect, with an ETA this season; I still believe that he can be in the Twin Cities under the right circumstances this season.
  • I have not always been the biggest Travis Blakenhorn fan.  This off-season he fell to 27th  in my prospect rankings from 15th in 2017.  He did make huge strides from when I last saw him as far as his hitting goes.  His power and contact will be much better this season.  He still has issues with fielding.  He started the game at third base and ended it at left field.  If he finds a home with the glove, his future will be bright, but right now he is a man without a position, which is part of the issue that drove down my ranking.  His bat is legitimate on the other hand.  Interesting to see what he can do with the glove.
  • The Twins made a trade with the Dodgers.  They received Minnesotan high A starting RHP Adam Bray for cash considerations.

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: 3/23/2018

This is my daily live report from Fort Myers on the Twins' Spring Training:
  • The big news of the day is that Miguel Sano was cleared from any wrongdoing in the recent allegations against him by the MLB, due to "insufficient evidence" and "the absence of contemporaneous substantiation".  I hope that both parties in this situation, and the rest of the world put this thing behind them, and move their attention onto the upcoming 2018 season, and we hear nothing else about it.  Here is the MLB and Sano's statements on the situation. 
  • The Twins faced the World Champion Houston Astros at Hammond Stadium today with a lineup that looked a lot like the opening day lineup.  Unfortunately, it was held to a no-hitter until the bottom of the 9th when Ryan LaMarre broke it with a double and Twin for a day Tanner English hit a 2-run HR to tie the score.  It is more than a bit disappointed that the Twins' bats did not show up esp. when last year's World Champion was visiting.  Spring or not. Winners win and want to beat teams that beat them last season.
  • Lance Lynn had a good day today, allowing only one hit, a HR in his 4 innings of work.  He threw 65 pitches.  Here is a chart of all his pitches today.  As you can see, he worked a lot on the cutter (green highlights) throwing it in blocks and threw 2 curveballs (red highlights).  His fastball, his bread and butter pitch, was effective all day.
  • Trevor Hildenberger had yet another shaky appearance allowing a 84 mph cookie to go for a HR, and had another HR on a 89 mph fastball saved by Max Kepler with a fantastic grab over the right field fence.  Not sure that he will make the team at this point.
  • Eddie Rosario has no issues since he returned on the field after taking some time off with tricep tendonitis. 
  • The Twins starting OF,  Rosario, Byron Buxton, and Kepler, all featured high socks this Spring.  I hope the trend continues through the season.
  • A couple of notes from the minor league fields:  Twins' number 14 prospect 2B Louis Arraez who has been recuperating from a surgery to repair a torn ACL and is listed on the DL, was in uniform and took batting practice today.  Happy to see that.  He is one of the purest hitters in the organization.
  • Color me impressed by the Twins' 19th round draft pick last season from Coastal Carolina IF Jordan Gore. He makes solid contact, has doubles power and has good hands and defensive instincts, at least at second base where I saw him play.  Another prospect to note.
  •  The Twins reassigned catchers Bobby Wilson and Willians Astudillo and 1B/OF Brock Stassi to minor league camp and released IF Erick Aybar officially;  OFs Robbie Grossman, Zack Granite, and Ryan LaMarre are fighting for the last two bench spots. With Jorge Polanco's suspension the Twins 40-man roster is at 39, so there is the potential for someone not on that roster (or even in the organization) now to land that spot.
  • Every season the Cardinals Conclave is doing a round robin Q&A with bloggers of all other MLB teams.  Today was the Twins' turn and I was more than happy to participate along several other Twins' bloggers.  It is very interesting to see how close all of our answers were, perhaps for the first time in many years I participated.  You can find this Q&A session here.
  • Former Twins' RHP Pat Dean will spend a second season with the KIA Tigers of the KBO, after he signed an 1 year, $925,000 contract.

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: 3/22/2018

This is my daily live report from Fort Myers on the Twins' Spring Training:
  •  No games on Tuesday but RHP Kyle Gibson pitched six innings throwing 95 pitches at the AAA game and he seems ready for the season.   Probably the best Spring of any Twins' pitcher.
  • The likely Twins opening day lineup took against the Pirates of Wednesday night with Jose Berrios starting.  Berrios was not very smooth, requiring quite a few pitches to get through innings; he needs to be more efficient.  Maybe he is working on something, since he threw plenty of (average) change ups.
  • Byron Buxton had a stand up triple off the glove of Pirates' RF Polanco.  I think  that the Twins might be served better having Buxton on the lead off spot, instead of Brian Dozier who struck out his first 2 PAs and grounded out the third.  Buxton, unlike Dozier can provide a spark plug on top of the lineup and occupy opposing pitchers, distracting them and helping the PAs of the following hitters.  
  • Not sure how much his contract situation and the current free agent compensation has been a distraction for Dozier, but he has had an awful spring hitting a pitiful .162/.244/.324; this does not bode well for someone who is a notoriously slow starter.
  • On the other hand Miguel Sano has done his best shut up his critics, including both the BMI police and the self-proclaimed judges and jury of his alleged charges, by letting his bat talk to the rate of .323/.432/.742   
  • Looks like the Twins have not found a trading partner for 1B/OF Kennys Vargas and placed him on waivers.  He was claimed by the Cincinnati Reds.
  • Phil Hughes had a decent outing against the Yankees, but seems that the Twins will go with a 4 man rotation of Jake Odorizzi, Gibson, Berrios, and Lance Lynn, utilizing Hughes as the long man/spot starter.
  • The Twins have optioned RHPs Tyler Duffey and Alan Busenitz, meaning that RHPs Tyler Kinley, and Trevor Hildenberger, and LHPs Gabriel Moya, and Taylor Rogers will be fighting for three spots.  All but Kinley have options.  
  • The Twins announced today that they have cut OF Jake Cave and released OF Chris Heisey.  It also appears that IF Erick Aybar was told that he did not make the roster.  The Twins have 36 players,  13 pitchers and 23 position players, on camp now and they will take 12 pitchers and 13 position players up North.
  • RHP Trevor May recovering from Tommy John surgery is a couple weeks away from throwing live batting practice.
  • One Twins player made Keith Law's 2018 breakout candidate list.
  • The Twins second overall prospect SS Wander Javier has been held out of games with discomfort in his glove shoulder.  It does not sound serious.
  • David Dorsey at Fort Myers Sun Sentinel has a great article on new Rochester manager and long time Twin Tommy Watkins who is only one of nine African Americans holding part of the 160 MiLB manager positions.
  • The Twins have the second easiest schedule in the AL, based on fangraphs projections.  Guess who has the easiest?  Here are the latest fangraphs projected 2018 records and probability of making the postseason list.
  • The Twins are using the Blast Motion tools for player development and swing analysis.  Press release here.

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: 3/19/2018

This is my daily live report from Fort Myers on the Twins' Spring Training:
  •  The biggest story of the day was Jorge Polanco's suspension that was revealed yesterday.  The Twins' organization found out yesterday when Polanco, who knew about it for a month or so,  decided to drop his appeal.   This might explain all the errors this Spring Training.  His mind was elsewhere...
  • The Twins lost to the Pirates today away, in a game that Miguel Sano and Brian Dozier blasted long home runs (one of the 3 hits for Sano,) and the pitching was intended to test the bullpen against MLB-level competition.  Taylor Rogers did not have a good game raising his Spring ERA to 8.10, Trevor Hildenberger had his second clean game in a row dropping his Spring ERA to 8.00, Rule 5 pick  Tyler Kinley followed with another dud, raising his ERA to 4.50, Gabriel Moya stopped the bleeding with an effective inning dropping his ERA to 1.00.   Tyler Duffey followed in the last 3 innings of the game with his worst appearance of Spring, allowing 5 runs in 3 innings raising his ERA to 7.11.  Thank. Heaven.  Not sure what the Twins' bullpen will look like when the final cuts are made next week.
  • Back in the minor league fields at Fort Myers I had a chance to look at several Twins' prospects and some of the new minor leaguers in AAA and AA games against the Boston Red Sox' squads.
  • Zack Littell was the starter in the AA game and he pitched well.  The Twins' 8th overall prospect, kept pounding the strike zone with his 85-89 mph two-seam FB, changing speeds and locations and kept the opponents on their toes with his low 70s plus curveball.  He did not throw his four-seammer or changeup today.
  • Speaking of a curveball, on the AAA field I had a chance of seeing Ryne Harper, a newly signed Minor League free agent pitch.  The 28 year old has 3 kinds of breaking ball, a 12-6 slow hammer, a slurve and a slider and he threw them often and early in every count.  Supplemented by a heavy sinker at the low 90s that turns a lot of ground balls, he is a pitcher who is better served pitching backwards.  Keep the name in consideration, I suspect that he will spend some time in Twins' uniform this summer.
  • Back at the same field, a blast from the past, Zack Jones pitched an inning.  He really seems to be the last of the Mohicans from his generation of prospects.  First time back from a surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, his fastball was there, with good movement, but he has zero control of his secondary pitches that were all over the place.  Definitely not ready to pitch in game situations yet.  I suspect that he will start the season in the DL.
  • At the AA side of the field 25 year old Keaton Steele, 8th round pick in 2014 who was converted to a reliever last season made quite an impression with quick work, an 87-91 mph heavy sinker an excellent slow curve and a low 80s changeup.  Another guy who nobody knows and might be knocking on the door soon.
  • At the same field Ben Rortvedt looked much bigger than last season and I think that he will make strides with his hitting.  Heir apparent to Joe MauerBrent Rooker punished pitches at the middle and away, but has a hard time at pitches inside, no matter if they are strikes or balls.  His glove at first will need work, but he does have time. 
  • Levi Michael is listed as an OF, so is Vander Weil btw, but he played at second base with the AAA squad today.
  • The Twins have signed OF Jared Foster who was cut by the Angels last week.  The 25 year old former 5th round pick, has reached high A the last two seasons, can play the centerfield and has been plagued by nagging injuries.  The Twins officially released LHP Mike Theofanopoulos.
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: 3/18/2018

This is my daily live report from Fort Myers on the Twins' Spring Training:
  • The big news of the day is that Twins' SS Jorge Polanco was suspended 80 days for the use of the anabolic steroid Stanozolol. Ervin Santana was suspended 3 seasons ago for testing positive to the same substance.  Ehire Adrianza and Eduardo Escobar will likely play at SS.  This means that there are now two additional roster positions at least until the middle of the season with (alphabetically) Erick Aybar, Jake Cave, Zack Granite, Robbie Grossman, and potentially even Ryan Lamarre or Brock Stassi fighting for them.   Polanco's suspension opens a spot on the 40-man roster as well.  
  • The Twins might want to make a trade or sign a free agent (even though the pickings are very slim for that last category now) to replace Polanco.   SS Adeiny Hechavarria currently of the Rays is owed $5.9 million for 2018, and the Twins need to trade Kennys Vargas.
  • On other player news, Ervin Santana has not been yet cleared to hold a baseball.  Not sure what that means for his return timeline but does not sound too good.
  • The next round of cuts was announced today: OF Nick Bass, IF Nick Gordon, RHP Myles Jaye, C Jordan Pacheco, RHP Jeff Reed, and OF Lamonte Wade were the victims.
  • Before the Twins game hosting the Phillies, RHP Lance Lynn pitched at Bobby Wilson at the back fields, hitting 90-93 mph with his fastball.
  • Jake Odorizzi made his third start with the Twins and it was not as good as the box score says.   Here is every single pitch he made, and he made a lot of them, 69 in 4 innings.  And he was slow and deliberate about it.  After the game he said that part of the issue was that his split-change was not where he wanted it to be.   His curve was his best pitch today and his command with the fastball was mostly ok.  The other problem was that he was ultra-deliberate and took a lot of time between pitches...
  • Newcomers Addison Reed and Zack Duke followed with a clean inning each.  Reed was effective with an 88-91 mph fastball and a sharp breaking slider, while Duke relied on a 87-90 mph fastball and an 80 mph changeup.  A couple of times he dropped down and threw 72 and 75 mph Frisbee sliders that were devastating.   Ryan Pressly followed with a forgettable outing that was highlighted by a 3R HR, and Trevor Hildenberger and Tyler Rogers pitched their first clean innings of the Spring against the Phillies' minor leaguers to end the game.
  • Byron Buxton relied on his speed today and that should be more part of his game.  In his first plate appearance he had a bunt single that he followed with a stolen base and later had a stand up triple, that could had been stretched into an inside the part home run if needed.  Ehire Adrianza also had a triple.
  • One of the side effects of the expanded netting is that it will reduce the fielding plays into the stands by 90% or so...
  • This is a great "then and now" story about a former Twins top prospect from Ron Morris of Baseball America.

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