JC’s Top 15 Twins Prospects

Over the past couple of months, a number of smart, informed people who spend a lot of time analyzing young baseball players have been publishing their lists of top Twins prospects. Since I’m not nearly as smart or informed about these players as others are, I’ve held off on publishing my own rankings.

But I’m going to put my rankings out there today, for two reasons. First, I’ve now had time to read and consider the opinions of a lot of those smarter, more informed people and use the research and analysis they’ve done to help solidify my own opinions. Second, and perhaps more importantly, we’re still getting through a holiday season when many people are not bothering to go online and read blogs like ours, so if I write something really stupid, it’s less likely than usual to be noticed.

So without further delay, here’s my list of top Twins prospects heading in to the new year:

  1. Byron Buxton (OF) – It’s risky to elevate a player this high when he has yet to complete his first year of “full season” professional baseball, but the Twins first round pick from 2012 (and 2nd overall pick) was named top prospect of both rookie leagues, Gulf Coast and Appy, last year by Baseball America and that’s pretty hard to ignore. He doesn’t have the power of Miguel Sano, the consensus top Twins prospect for the past couple of years, but his potential as a centerfielder gives him an edge over Sano, who’s still a work in progress defensively. While Buxton could stay behind for extended spring training, I’m not sure he really has anything left to prove in Rookie leagues. He should spend most of the year in Cedar Rapids (A).

    Miguel Sano
    Miguel Sano
  2. Miguel Sano (3B) – Dropping Sano a spot from last year is simply a reflection of Buxton’s arrival rather than any red flags with regard to Sano. I saw Sano play several games in 2012 and saw nothing that would keep me from continuing to believe that he should someday claim a spot in the heart of the Twins batting order. We all know he can hit, but until I watched him several times, it didn’t really sink in to me just how well he runs the bases, as well. Midwest League pitchers seemed to pitch around him at times (for good reason), so it will be interesting to see how he fares against better pitching in Fort Myers (A+).
  3. Alex Meyer (P) – Acquired from the Nationals in return for Denard Span, Meyer immediately became the Twins’ best hope for a top of the rotation starting pitcher within the next couple of seasons. It has become evident that having a true ace… a pitcher who can miss bats consistently… gives a team a much better chance to compete for championships and Meyer has the potential to give the Twins such a weapon for the first time since Johan Santana was dealt to the Mets. It’s not going to happen right away, though, as Meyer didn’t exactly overwhelm hitters in the handful of starts he got at high-A last year. The Twins have invited him to open Spring Training in the Major League camp, but that almost certainly is simply to give the staff an initial look at the new guy. He may open the season at New Britain (AA), but I won’t be surprised if the Twins will keep him in Fort Myers (A+) to start the season with the hope that he’ll earn a quick promotion.
  4. Oswaldo Arcia (OF) – Arcia has been projected to be a future corner outfielder for the Twins, as he’s shown power and the ability to hit line drives in to the gaps, while demonstrating solid corner outfield skills with his legs, glove and arm. Arcia split time in 2012 between Fort Myers (high A) and New Britain (AA) and actually hit better at the higher level, where he put up a .328/.398/.557 split. Arcia really hadn’t been projected to arrive in Minnesota until at least 2014, but with the departures of Span and Ben Revere, the question now is whether Arcia’s path to The Show will be accelerated. I assume he’ll start the season in Rochester, but if he plays well there, look for him to be promoted to Minnesota if/when there are injuries or the Twins start trading away veterans like Justin Morneau or Ryan Doumit toward mid-season. To my mind, Arcia is the “position player” prospect most likely to make the earliest significant offensive impact on the Twins Major League roster.
  5. Aaron Hicks (OF) – Hicks was the Twins first round draft pick in 2008 as a high school player and his progression through the minor leagues has not been without some challenges. After a solid rookie league year after signing with the Twins, he spent the following two seasons at Class A Beloit, partially due to injury and partially due to unsatisfactory performance. In 2011, he had another lackluster season at Fort Myers (high A), leading his name to be dropped from many “top prospect” lists. In 2012, however, he put up a solid .286/.384/.460 split at AA New Britain and that was good enough, apparently, to restore the organization’s confidence in Hicks to the point where GM Terry Ryan felt comfortable trading away Span and Revere. I think it would be best for Hicks to spend some time at AAA this season, but it sounds like he’ll be given the opportunity to win the Twins CF job in Spring Training.
  6. Kyle Gibson (P) – Another first round (2009) pick of the Twins, Gibson’s career has been one full of promise… and injuries that seem intent on quashing that promise. A college injury resulted in his dropping to the Twins with the 22nd pick and after zipping through high-A, AA and AAA during the 2010 season, Gibson’s career was derailed by Tommy John surgery midway through his 2011 AAA season. He threw just over 28 innings across three minor league levels toward the end of 2012, with encouraging results and performed relatively well in the Arizona Fall League. There’s little doubt that he’ll get an opportunity to pitch for the Twins in 2013, but the Twins intend to limit his innings somewhat, so it may be 2014 before we see what Gibson can really do at the Major League level. It’s not unreasonable to expect him to be a mid-rotation starting pitcher for years to come. I’d like to see him open in Rochester (AAA), but won’t be surprised or disappointed to see him with the Twins to start the season.

    Eddie Rosario
    Eddie Rosario
  7. Eddie Rosario (2B/OF) – Since being drafted in 2010 out of his Puerto Rican high school, Rosario has put together 2 and a half seasons of solid work, hitting about .300 and tallying an even .900 OPS. Those would be pretty encouraging numbers for a centerfielder, which is what Rosario was drafted to play. But in 2012, the Twins asked Rosario to learn to play 2B in Beloit (A) and while his defense in the infield is still a work in progress, if he can successfully develop Major League level skills at 2B, his abilities with the bat could mean the difference between a “solid” CF and an “All-Star” 2B. This makes Rosario one of the most interesting players to watch as he takes his talent to Fort Myers (A+) this season.
  8. Jose (J.O.) Berrios (P) – Until Alex Meyer was acquired from the Nationals, Berrios was arguably the Twins’ best hope for a future top of the rotation pitcher. That probably says as much about the overall dearth of top pitching in the Twins organization as it does about Berrios, but nonetheless Berrios made a very impressive debut after being a supplemental first round pick by the Twins this past June. Berrios threw only 30.2 innings for the Twins two rookie league teams, starting four of the 11 games in which he made appearances. He struck out 49 batters in those innings, however, while walking only four and pitching to a WHIP of only 0.620. It will be interesting to see how quickly the Twins push the 18-year-old Berrios through the system. We may get an indication of their intent by watching to see if they send Berrios to Cedar Rapids (A) in April or keep him in Florida for extended spring training.
  9. Max Kepler (OF) – Kepler was signed as a teenager out of Germany and given the highest signing bonus ever for a European ballplayer the same offseason the Twins signed Miguel Sano. Kepler was not as developed as a ballplayer as Sano, however, and as a result, Kepler was spending his second short season at Elizabethton (rookie) in 2012, while Sano was playing his first year of full season ball in Beloit (A). In 2012, Kepler finally showed some of the promise the Twins saw in him before signing him, hitting just a couple clicks below .300, putting up a .925 OPS and hitting 10 home runs in 59 games. He reportedly has the skills to play some CF, but with the other CF prospects the Twins have in the pipeline, he’s probably more likely to fill a corner OF spot. Kepler will turn 20 years old a few weeks before he likely opens 2013 in the Cedar Rapids (A) outfield.
  10. Trevor May (P) – The 10th spot is probably not the right ranking for May, who was part of the return the Twins got for sending Ben Revere to the Phillies. In all likelihood, May should be ranked a few spots higher or several spots lower, depending on which version of this 23 year old pitcher shows up. If he’s the fireballing hurler who struck out between 12 and 13 hitters per nine innings at some stops of his minor league career and caused him to be a consensus “Top 100 overall prospect” at one time, he would project to join Alex Meyer at the top of a future Twins rotation. But if he’s the pitcher who walked almost five hitters per nine innings and posted a 1.450 WHIP for Reading (AA) in 2012, he would join the ranks of several other arms in the Twins organization that project to potentially fill back of the rotation spots in Minnesota down the line some time. I would think he would open the season at Rochester (AAA), but wouldn’t be shocked or even disappointed if the Twins let him open in New Britain (AA).

It’s a good sign for the Twins and the relative depth of their organization that a number of my picks for spots 11 through 15 this year have been ranked, by me and/or others, as top 10 Twins prospects previously. Each of these players have the potential to make significant contributions to the Twins sooner or later. Trying to distinguish these five guys from one another in a way to rank them 11-15, though, is just too much for my limited knowledge to do, so I’ll just list them alphabetically, along with where I would expect them to open the 2013 season.

  • Joe Benson (OF) – Rochester (AAA)
  • Travis Harrison (3B) – Cedar Rapids (A)
  • B. J. Hermsen (P) Rochester (AAA)
  • Chris Herrmann (C) – Rochester (AAA)
  • Randy Rosario (P) – Elizabethton (Rookie)

There’s a lot of baseball talent on this list and a number of other Twins prospects have a lot of potential, as well. It should be a fun year to follow all of the Twins’ minor league affiliates in 2013.

– JC

2013 Twins fashion stylings..

ESPN blogs put out a fun piece showing a bunch of the teams’ new BP caps! Of course they offer their opinions of all the new toppers (some of which I agree with and some not so much) but you should really give it a read anyway.

But to grab you the part us Twins fans are interested in, here’s a snip:

Twins (home)

twins home.png

The white front panel makes sense for the Twins, because they’ve worn that style before as a batting helmet. They’re also adding a road design, which seems like a bit much. Like, the Twins, of all teams, really need separate home and road BP caps? Grades: A (home) and B- (road) 

My personal fav of the new ones is the Rockies – I really like some of the more graphic additions as long as they aren’t too busy because I’m really rather conservative about my caps. That shows in the fact that I think the Rangers and the Diamondbacks also did a good job… and yep, I still hate the Marlins. Wow, that is some crap coloring they have to work with and well, everything. It has no saving graces whatsoever.

At any rate, you should check them out if you’re sitting somewhere looking out at more snow to shovel and ponder warmer days.. it’s therapeutic. Now where is my “sun” lamp…

Who (If Anyone) Is Cooperstown Bound in 2013?

It took me longer than usual to really study the BBWAA Baseball Hall of Fame ballot this year. I don’t know why. However, there remains a pretty interesting storyline this year with so many of the most high-profile steroid era superstars in their first year on the ballot.

It’s not like we’ve had no discussion of the HoF at all though, as the Pleiss boys covered the topic in one of their “Talk to Contact” podcasts earlier this month.

Last year, I put up a poll here at Knuckleballs and allowed our readers to cast votes. I’m not going to do that this year, but I will give you the benefit of my wisdom concerning who I would cast my vote for if the BBWAA had gone out of their frigging minds and sent me a ballot.

Baseball-Hall-Of-FameFirst of all, there are going to be some players I voted for last year that I won’t be voting for this year, simply because so many of the first-timers are clearly deserving. That makes things tough for me because I do believe that the players I voted for last year are still worthy.

Two years ago, I shared my thoughts about the BBWAA having the honor of determining who “gets in,” and in particular about those who refuse to vote for PED users based on some sort of “morality” judgment. Here’s one paragraph from that post that summarizes my views:

I’m sure that if you and I sat down and tried to come up with a group of people worthy of casting judgments about others’ “morals”, we could come up with an idea or two. But I’m also pretty sure “sports writers” wouldn’t be at the top of our list. Not that sports writers are, inherently, less moral than any of the rest of us, as a group. But I’ve known enough of them over the years to be damn sure they aren’t morally superior to most other groups, either… and that includes ballplayers. So, if BBWAA members were willing to just vote based on players’ performances, I would reluctantly agree to let them keep their position as HoF gatekeepers. But if they think it’s their responsibility to protect the HoF’s integrity, please… spare me. The percentage of BBWAA members who would have willingly “juiced” in order to be able to play Major League Baseball in the 1990s instead of writing about it would be roughly 100%. I detest the hypocrisy of some of these writers.

Last year, my post was geared more toward what my own approach would be if I were among those honored with a ballot. Again, a snippet to give you a sense of what my approach would be:

My criteria for judging whether a player should be in the HoF is as much art as science. It’s not just an “eyeball test”. It’s more of a memory test. Certainly, statistical excellence over a period of a player’s career should be a consideration, but not the sole consideration.

It’s the Hall of FAME. So tell me what these players accomplished during their careers that stood out, that was remarkable, that made an impression on baseball in their era, that made memories, that fans of that era and beyond still talk about and recognize, that made the player famous or added to the general level of fame bestowed upon the game of baseball itself.

Why shouldn’t players that found something in themselves that allowed them to rise above their otherwise good-but-not-excellent career performance levels to give the baseball world something remarkable to remember for a lifetime be recognized for their contributions to baseball’s fame?

This year, the ballot seems longer than usual. I don’t know if it really is. There are 13 players that carried over from last year and 24 first-timers, for a total of 37 players on the ballot. Click here for the full list, complete with career stats from baseball-reference.com.

Voting BBWAA members can vote for up to 10 players, so I’ll do that as well. Here are the 10 players I would cast my vote for this year:

First, five players who deserve to be in anyone’s Baseball HoF or you really shouldn’t bother having one… I don’t care what you think of them personally (which is probably pretty close to what I think of them personally):

  • Barry Bonds
  • Roger Clemens
  • Sammy Sosa
  • Rafael Palmeiro
  • Mark McGwire

Add to those a name that, I believe, has been wrongfully kept out of the HoF simply due to “guilt by association and rumor” and another name that could be treated much the same way for the same reasons if the BBWAA voters were going to be consistent (which is certainly not a given):

  • Jeff Bagwell
  • Mike Piazza

That leaves room for just three more players on my ballot. It’s tough, but here are my choices and all three are carry-overs from my ballot last year:

  • Jack Morris
  • Tim Raines
  • Alan Trammell

That means a couple of guys I voted for a year ago are not on my ballot this year. I do believe Edgar Martinez is HoF worthy (if you don’t think a DH is worthy of the HoF, then get rid of the DH) and hopefully he will get in eventually. I also believe Dale Murphy is overlooked and, unfortunately, this is his 15th and final year on the ballot, so I won’t be able to add him back to my ballot in the future.

It also means there’s at least one first-timer that I believe is certainly worthy of HoF status who is not on my ballot in his first year of eligibility and that’s Craig Biggio. Curt Schilling is another that I certainly could see myself voting for eventually. I’m sure both Biggio and Schilling will get the requiste 5% that will keep them on the ballot next year, so I don’t feel too bad about leaving them off this year.

I’m also open to reconsidering such players as Fred McGriff and Larry Walker down the road. I suppose Don Mattingly and Bernie Williams should fall in to that category, too, but as career Yankees, they have a steeper hill to climb to get my vote (I never claimed to be an unbiased voter!).

Last year, I correctly predicted that Barry Larkin would be the only player to get the 75% of votes necessary to be enshrined (granted, it wasn’t a tough prediction to make). I’m not sure it’s quite so easy this year. In fact, I think the only thing harder than predicting who will get elected might be actually getting elected. I don’t think anyone will get the necessary votes.

Jack Morris will come very close, but the deep field will keep him from making the progress he would otherwise make. I hope I’m wrong about Morris… it would be nice for Twins fans to have something to smile about for a few days, anyway.

Mike Piazza is really the only other name I think could possibly approach the 75% bar, but I just don’t think he’ll get there either. I’ll be very interested to see how his vote total compares to Bagwell’s though.

Feel free to share who you would vote for and your predictions for who actually will be elected in the comments section.

– JC

Why Do We Care About the Twins?

I’ve been pretty critical of the Twins front office lately. I’m not alone in that, of course. Quite a number of fans, including many who are far more informed and better able to communicate than I, feel that the Twins have simply not done enough to improve the team this offseason.

Over this Christmas holiday week, I couldn’t help but reflect on matters so much more important than baseball. Will the ideologues in Washington really lead our country in to a deeper recession simply to try to make those who disagree with them look bad? What can we do to help those whose lives have been devastated by terrible storms? How do we make sure our children and their teachers can go about the educational process without fear of seemingly random acts of unthinkable violence?

Kind of makes the whole debate over whether Terry Ryan is doing enough to fix the Twins’ rotation seem hardly worth thinking about, much less arguing about over and over, doesn’t it?

So why do it? If we’re going to feel so passionate about a problem that we’ll write 1,000 words about it… not once but several times a week… shouldn’t the topic be more substantial than baseball? Of course it should.

But I can’t solve those important problems. Nothing I say or write will help. I’ve led a relatively active political life, yet I’ve never felt less able to influence my government. I give to charities, but it seems like a drop in the bucket of what’s needed for humanity. I pray, yet have never felt less aware of God’s presence in our world.

frustration2So perhaps it’s simply that powerlessness that brings me back here. I can’t do anything about any of the important matters facing the world, so I focus attention… arguably too much attention, at times… on baseball. Granted, I have no more influence with Terry Ryan than I do Congress, but I enjoy writing about baseball more than about politics, so here I am and here I shall remain.

The give and take with other baseball fans and writers… especially other Twins fans… is enjoyable. It would certainly be more enjoyable if the talent being assembled looked to be more competitive on the field come Opening Day, but we can’t really do any more about that, as fans, than discuss it. So that’s what we do.

Is it really all that important whether the Twins are being built to win more games in 2013 or not? Does it matter if we have to wait until 2014… or even 2015 or 2016… for the Twins to be good again? Well, for those of us closer to the end of our projected mortality arc than the beginning of it, it may be more important, but no, it’s not all that critical in the grand scheme of things.

But it is important.

I don’t believe the Pohlads are evil people out to fleece Twins fans out of our money without any concern for the quality of the product on the field. I don’t believe Terry Ryan is stupid about baseball, nor is he so ego-driven that he is determined to prove he can assemble a winning roster without spending any money at all. I also don’t envision his staff of senior baseball people resembling the group of old-school scouts in the movie version of “Moneyball,” whose player evaluations seemed based solely on “gut feel”.

Pohlad and Ryan want to win. I believe they want to win in 2013, while also preparing to contend in years beyond. The players Ryan obtained in return for Denard Span and Ben Revere make it clear that Ryan’s primary focus is at least two years in the future. He knows it would be a very good idea not to have the 2013 Twins lose 95+ games again and he’ll try to avoid that, but he’s clearly not going to waste a lot of energy… or the Pohlads’ money… on any attempt to fix the team’s immediate problems.

I still think that’s bad business, but it’s not my business. The Pohlads have entrusted those decisions to Ryan and, presumably, team president Dave St. Peter, so in a few years we’ll see who was right.

With the new year almost upon us, it’s probably time to move past the, “what should Terry Ryan do?” phase of the offseason discussion, anyway. Maybe there will be a late bargain available to Ryan over the next couple of months, but for the most part, the roster is set. It will be an $80 million payroll short on established Major League talent. It will be a team projected to finish at the bottom of the AL Central again.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun to watch… and to talk about.

That’s one of the things that makes baseball the greatest game in the world, to me. When the players… whatever their respective talent levels… take the field, anything can happen. You never know when you might see something you’ve never seen before. I couldn’t begin to count the number of baseball teams I’ve been involved with over the years, from the time I started playing organized ball at the age of 5, through my years as a player, as a coach, and now as merely a fan who enjoys writing about the game and my chosen favorite teams. But I’ve enjoyed literally every summer of baseball for these past 50+ years and I’m sure I’ll enjoy 2013, as well.

I will also get frustrated in 2013. I will rant here… and elsewhere… about that frustration. I will argue about it. I will cheer what successes may be found in 2013 and I will try to savor the experience of watching a potential Hall of Fame catcher do his thing for the Twins, just as I savored watching Rod Carew’s talent, even during some very difficult years for the Twins and their fans.

I may not spend much of my money on Twins tickets in 2013 (I spent no money at all on them in 2012) because I do believe the only way any of us can genuinely influence Ryan and his bosses to change their business strategy is by speaking with our pocketbooks. I attended 12-15 games a year when I felt the organization was moving in the right direction. I won’t do so when I feel that’s no longer true.

Hammond Stadium, Spring Training home of the Twins
Hammond Stadium, Spring Training home of the Twins

That doesn’t mean I won’t still be a fan. I’ve been a fan through far worse stretches over the past 50 years. For better or worse, being a Twins fan is an important aspect of who I am and I will continue to spend a considerable about of time following them, talking about them, writing about them and, yes, arguing about them. I’m not sure what that says about me, but it probably isn’t good… at least not entirely good. I don’t really care about that.

I care about the Twins. And I care that Spring Training is less than two months away.

– JC

Merry Christmas From Knuckleballs!

Merry Christmas, friends!

Yes, I know Babs posted this “funnie” a year ago on Christmas, but I find it so hilariously on the nose that I’m posting it again. In fact, it may even become an annual Knuckleballs tradition.

post christmas-baseball-cartoon1-598x540

Seriously, though, we want to wish all of our friends a very Merry Christmas. A year ago, we were pretty shocked at the number of readers our little Twins blog was getting and as difficult as it is for us to fathom, the number just keeps growing. We enjoy what we’re doing here at Knuckleballs and while we probably would keep spouting off about the Twins even if nobody was reading our stuff, it certainly makes us grateful that so many of you make an effort to come find us here.

BaseballChristmasYou are, in reality, our “Christmas present” and your willingness to spend your time and even share your own thoughts and opinions with us is truly appreciated.

So on behalf of CapitalBabs, Eric, KL and myself, thank you… and may you and yours all have a blessed holiday season. Take time to enjoy and appreciate your friends and family and please celebrate the holidays safely.

– JC

Spending the Twins’ Money… or Not

Terry Ryan has been a busy boy. We may or may not be impressed by what he’s been doing, but nobody can say he took an early holiday break from the office.

The Twins went in to the offseason needing starting pitching. Ryan told anyone who asked that he understood it was his job to improve the rotation. He also has, at various times, mentioned also wanting to add some bullpen pieces and someone to push Trevor Plouffe at third base.

TwinsMoneyclipHe also consistently claimed that payroll would not significantly inhibit him from turning one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball in to a group that could compete in the AL Central.

Understanding that almost none of us actually believed that last part, I thought now might be a good time to tally up what the Twins’ GM has accomplished so far and how much of the Pohlads’ money he has spent. So, let’s project what the 25-man roster might look like if there are no further additions to the roster. (For the sake of simplifying things, I’ll assume all pre-arbitration eligible players will make $500,000… some will make a few bucks more, some a few less.)

Starting position players:

  • C Joe Mauer: $23,000,000
  • 1B Justin Morneau: $15,000,000 (inlcudes prorated bonus)
  • 2B Brian Dozier: $500,000
  • 3B Trevor Plouffe: $500,000
  • SS Jamey Carroll: $3,750,000
  • LF Josh Willingham: $7,000,000
  • CF Aaron Hicks: $500,000
  • RF Chris Parmelee: $500,000
  • DH Ryan Doumit: $3,500,000

That’s $54,250,000 for the projected starting batting order. Ryan may still try to find a third baseman, but chances are he’ll go dumpster diving even if he does find one, so I think it’s safe to project that whatever four players Manager Ron Gardenhire will have keeping him company on the bench will be making somewhere close to the league minimum, so that’s another $2,000,000 for some combination of Darin Mastroianni, Pedro Florimon, Eduardo Escobar, Oswaldo Arcia, Drew Butera, Chris Herrmann and/or whoever else claims a bench spot in Spring Training. (Butera is arbitration eligible, but it’s unlikely he’ll be awarded much, if any, above $500,000,)

That makes $56,250,000 for 13 non-pitchers. Let’s take a peek in to the bullpen:

  • Closer Glen Perkins: $2,500,000
  • Set Up Jared Burton: $2,050,000
  • LHRP Brian Duensing: $1,300,000 (est. arb award)
  • RHRP Anthony Swarzak: $500,000
  • RHRP Alex Burnett: $500,000
  • RHRP Casey Fien: $500,000
  • RHRP Josh Roenicke: $500,000

Yes, pretty much everyone below Duensing on the above list is going to have to win a spot in Spring Training, but for financial purposes this projection works. It would seem unlikely that anyone currently with the organization who knocks one of the last four guys out of the bullpen would make much more money. That adds up to a $7,850,000 bullpen.

OK, we’ve put off projecting the starting pitching as long as we can, but let’s uncover our eyes and take a look at the current state of the rotation:

  • Kevin Correia: $4,500,000
  • Mike Pelfrey: $4,000,000
  • Vance Worley: $500,000
  • Scott Diamond: $500,000
  • Liam Hendriks: $500,000

Once again, we could discuss the chances of Pelfrey being healthy enough to start the season in the rotation or whether Kyle Gibson will be there to open the season or whether someone like Pedro Hernandez might impress in Spring Training, but the net effect would just be swapping another “minimum wage” earner in to the fifth spot. So that’s an even $10,000,000 for the rotation. Yes, in an era when mediocre starting pitchers are getting seven figure salaries, the Twins look to pay their entire rotation $10 million. And if that doesn’t bother you enough, consider that Kevin Correia will make up 45% of that total.

That all adds up to a current Major League payroll of $74,100,000. Even if we have to add the $5,500,000 the Twins owe Nick Blackburn (yes, the Twins look like they’ll pay Blackburn more money NOT to pitch for them in 2013 than they’ll pay anyone else TO pitch), the total amounts to only $79,600,000… for the entire roster.

Rich Harden signed a minor league contract with the Twins this week and I haven’t read yet whether his deal includes something more than minimum wage pay if he makes the Big League roster out of Spring Training, but it certainly wouldn’t be surprising. That said, I think we will need to see Harden throw hard and stay healthy before we worry too much about what effect he’ll have on the payroll.

Maybe Terry Ryan isn’t finished. One would certainly like to think he’s spending some time with the agents of a couple of the remaining starting pitchers on the market who have demonstrated some level of proficiency of getting batters out over the last year or two, but would you be willing to bet on someone like Shawn Marcum still being added to the roster? Yeah… me either.

The Twins’ Opening Day payrolls during their three seasons at Target Field have been $97,659,167 (2010), $113,237,000 (2011) and $100,435,000 (2012)*, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. It’s virtually assured, at this point, that the Opening Day payroll in 2013 will be the lowest since the final year the team spent at the Metrodome when they opened at $65,299,266.

*Charley Waters of the Pioneer Press Tweeted over the weekend that it appeared the Twins Opening Day payroll would be about $83 million, $11 million fewer than in 2012. The only thing I can assume is that Charley is not counting the $3 million owed to Tsuyoshi Nishioka and the portion of Francisco Liriano’s paycheck the team avoided paying by trading him. Perhaps the Twins had insurance that negated Scott Baker’s salary? I don’t know, but even his newspaper’s published estimate of the Twins Opening Day payroll last year was about $100 million. Waters must also be assuming Terry Ryan is going to spend another $5 million somewhere because I can’t come up with anything close to $83 million right now.

What conclusions can we draw from this? Here’s my big take-away: Terry Ryan could have slashed Opening Day payroll by 10% to $90 million and still had over $20 million to spend on starting pitching. Instead he has pried less than $10 million out of the Pohlads’ wallets to fix arguably the most glaring problem of any team in Major League Baseball.

Could this be a glimpse of what Target Field will look like during Twins games in 2013?
Could this be a glimpse of what Target Field will look like during Twins games in 2013?

Personally, I think cutting payroll even 10% from last season’s level when you’ve got an entire community of frustrated and distrusting fans is just bad business. The Twins brass keep talking about planning to compete in 2013, but talking that way while simultaneously cutting payroll by more than 20% is insulting our intelligence.

I think they’re underestimating the baseball IQ of their fanbase and they will see far more empty seats at Target Field in 2013 than they are expecting. Of course, that’s when we’re likely to learn what “insulting” really is… because that’s when someone in the organization is going to complain publicly about a lack of fan support.

You get the level of fan support you earn. Right now, I don’t think the Twins front office has earned the right to expect a single fan to show up for a game.

Let’s hope that changes over the next couple of months.

– JC

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 18

Episode 18 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

itunes pic

Eric and Paul are joined this week by special guest Brandon Warne of Star Tribune Storts, Fangraphs and other places around the web, to talk about the newest Twin, Mike Pelfrey, and what that signing means for the team going into 2013 and beyond. After Brandon departs the twins discuss Rod Carew, whether or not Daniel Turpin will ever reach the big leagues and what the Mets/Blue Jays trade means for baseball in Canada. The episode also includes Paul and Eric singing a couple of Christmas carols. Merry Christmas podcast nation.



If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes (ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which help us become warlocks.)

You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.

– ERolfPleiss


birthday balls

 Hey Knuckleballers! Our very own ERolfPleiss has a birthday today!! So I wanted to be sure that we are all able to wish him a grand birthday and of course, since he’s a Twin, his brother BaseballPirate is also celebrating today.

I hope they have a great day and the whole next year!