Free Agent Pitching: 20/20 Hindsight

By the end of the coming weekend, the Twins will have reached the one-quarter mark of the season with 40+ games under their belts. It’s as good a time as any to reflect upon how some of the decisions made by General Manager Terry Ryan in building the team’s roster have turned out.

As a team, the Twins have been hovering over the .500 mark most of the season and, after Monday night’s win over the White Sox, they are one game over the break-even point. Over the weekend, Ryan told 1500ESPN that .500 wasn’t what he was looking for out of this team, that he wanted them to be contenders. It’s great, of course, for your team’s GM to say that kind of thing, but I think most fans would have been pretty satisfied with the prospects of a .500 year out of this Twins team.

Terry Ryan

Terry Ryan

You also have to consider that those words were coming out of the same mouth that, last November, told TwinsDaily’s John Bonnes that the Twins would be pursuing one of the “pretty darn good” pitchers on the free agent market last season and then went out and made Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey the cornerstones of the team’s free agent class.

In that same interview, Ryan also told Bonnes that he felt the free agent pitching market was, “thin,” when most of us felt there was a pretty solid group of middle-to-upper-half of the rotation arms available.

Now, looking back over the first six weeks of the season, is it possible Terry Ryan was right?

Back on November 20, I posted an article here at Knuckleballs in which I shared my wish list of free agent pitchers for Ryan and the Twins to pursue. Other fans and writers were naturally sharing their own advice for the Twins GM about the same time. Let’s see how our suggestions have been panning out compared to the guys Ryan actually signed for the Twins.

Not many of us were suggesting the Twins should (or even could) sign Zack Greinke, who eventually signed a six-year deal for $159 million with the Dodgers. Greinke was actually off to a decent start until he broke his collarbone (or rather, Carlos Quentin broke Greinke’s collarbone). Maybe Greinke will bounce back and pay dividends on his deal with the Dodgers, but I’m not sorry the Twins didn’t try to outbid the Dodgers for his services.

I argued in my post that the Twins should go ahead and pursue not one, but two of the other big dogs among the free agent pitching class, Anibal Sanchez and Edwin Jackson.

Sanchez is one guy who is putting up the kind of numbers you would hope for, so far, as his 2.05 ERA , 1.082 WHIP and 66 strikeouts in 52.2 innings would attest. However, he eventually re-signed with the Tigers (5 years/$88 million), so there’s certainly doubt as to whether he and his agent would ever have even considered a move to Target Field.

Jackson, on the other hand, is not exactly earning his 4 year/$52 million contract with the Cubs. Yes, he’s striking out almost one batter per inning pitched, but otherwise, his 6.02 ERA and 1.569 WHIP are pretty close to what the Twins are getting out of Mike Pelfrey (6.03/1.689)… and Ryan is on the hook for about $48 million less than Theo Epstein owes Jackson.

The third pitcher on my wish list was Joe Saunders. I felt the Twins needed another lefty in the rotation and while he wasn’t likely to be a headliner, Saunders looked to me like a good bet to be a solid middle of the rotation pitcher for the next couple of years. When he eventually signed with the Mariners for just one year and $6.5 million, I was pretty certain the Twins would regret not outbidding the M’s for Saunders’ services (though I recall there was some talk about Saunders not being interested in pitching for the Twins, regardless).

Saunders has pieced together a 3-4 record despite a 5.51 ERA and a 1.521 WHIP. He’s struck out exactly as many hitters (20) as Correia has for the Twins, but has walked more than twice as many batters. Correia’s ERA (3.09) and WHIP (1.200) are certainly looking better than Saunders’.

So maybe my ideas, outside of Sanchez, weren’t as good as I thought they were (and apparently not as good as the ideas Ryan and his staff were having at the time).

But what about the other pitchers on the market last off season? With all of the talent we thought was out there, surely there must have been several pitchers that have turned out to make the GMs who signed them look smart.

Many of the best options, like Sanchez, were re-signed by their 2012 clubs or, in some cases, had options picked up by their teams. But there were still a number of pitchers generating buzz among the Twins faithful.

There was some chatter about Dan Haren, who ended up with the Nationals on a one-year deal for $13 million. He’s put up a 5.17 ERA and a 1.487 WHIP while striking out 27 batters in 38.1 innings over seven starts. That’s not real impressive to me, but hey, he does have a 4-3 record if that’s what you’re in to.

Brandon McCarthy was also a hot commodity in the blogging world. He got a two-year deal from the D’Backs totaling $18 million. For that, he’s accumulated a 5.63 ERA, a 1.542 WHIP, and has gone winless. I’ve read that McCarthy has been “unlucky,” as reflected in a higher than average batting average on balls in play (BABIP). That’s fine. But if you buy that, you need to also give a couple of the Twins (such as Pelfrey and, to an even greater degree, Vance Worley) pitchers the benefit of the same doubt for their “bad luck.”

Ryan Dempster got beat up a bit by the Blue Jays on Sunday, but I don’t think the Red Sox are doubting their two-year/$26.5 million investment too much, so far. He’s got a 3.75 ERA, even after giving up six earned runs to the Jays in five innings of work. His 1.146 WHIP is certainly competitive, but it’s his 61 strike outs in 48 innings that’s perhaps more impressive. Again, I don’t think there was ever any chance Dempster would sign with the Twins since he likely had more than enough suitors from among contending teams.

Shawn Marcum, though, was certainly a guy that a number of Twins fans thought might be obtainable by the club. Marcum signed a one-year deal with the Mets for just $4 million. It turns out the Mets may have overpaid. Marcum has put up a nasty looking 8.59 ERA to go with a 2.045 WHIP. He’s thrown only 14.2 innings covering three starts and one relief appearance.

Were you one of the fans touting Joe Blanton as a possible Twins rotation addition? If so, you might want to keep it to yourself. Blanton signed with the Angels for $15 million over two years and has repaid them with a 0-7 record covering eight starts. His 6.46 ERA and 1.870 WHIP would indicate his record is not terribly misleading.

It’s starting to look like Terry Ryan’s assessment of the pitching market as “thin” might have actually been pretty accurate, isn’t it?

But certainly there must be some success stories, right? Of course there are.

If, while the rest of us were laughing at the absurdity of the Royals signing Jeremy Guthrie to a 3 year/$25 million contract, you were actually going on the record saying it was a shrewd move certain to pay dividends, give yourself a pat on the back.

Guthrie is 5-0 with the Royals and while he’s not striking a ton of hitters out (30 Ks in 47.1 innings), he’s put up a 2.28 ERA and a 1.183 WHIP in his seven starts for the Royals. He’s gone at least six innings in every start and has one complete game shutout of the White Sox to his credit. Oh yeah, and the Royals are three games above .500 going in to Tuesday night’s games, 1 ½ games behind Division leading Detroit.

Of course, Guthrie isn’t the only free agent pitcher making his GM look wise.

Carlos Villanueva and Scott Feldman were among the pitchers Epstein added to the Cubs and it’s pretty clear that neither of them are primarily responsible for the Cubs being six games under .500. Villanueva sports a 3.02 ERA and a 1.007 WHIP, but has only one win in seven starts to show for his efforts. Feldman’s ERA is even lower, at 2.53 and his WHIP is a very respectable 1.148. He’s actually gotten enough support to put up a 3-3 record.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I just don’t recall a lot of wailing about Terry Ryan allowing Villanueva and Feldman to slip through his fingers. And before you credit Theo Epstein for being so much more brilliant than Terry Ryan, take a look at what Epstein and the Cubs are getting in return for outbidding Ryan for the services of Scott Baker this season. Baker’s next pitch in a Cubs uniform (if he ever makes one) will be his first.

There are probably a few more pitchers worth checking in on that are escaping me at the moment. But from the looks of things, I’m starting to think Correia and Pelfrey weren’t such bad ideas after all. I’m not convinced Correia will continue to perform at the levels of his first few starts, but I do think that as Pelfrey continues to work out the post-TJ-surgery kinks, he may actually improve as the year goes on.

Even with the benefit of perfect hindsight, I’m not 100% sure I’d jump for joy at those free agent signings, but I certainly like the way they’ve turned out so far a whole lot better than most of the other options.

- JC

GameChat – White Sox @ TWINS, 7:10 pm

It’s always fun to look at the AL Central Division standings and see the White Sox below the Twins and that’s what those standings show right now. Our guys are 2 1/2 games in front of the visiting South Siders.

Of course, that also means that if the Twins don’t take care of business in this three-game series, they could just as easily be looking up at the White Sox (and everyone else in the Division) by the time the series wraps up Wednesday.

The flip side, if you care to be a “glass half full” kind of fan, is that the Twins are also just 2 1/2 games out of first place in the Division, so sweeping the Sox out of town could also certainly improve their spot in the standings.

If anyone saw any of the game Sunday night between Chicago and the Angels, you’ll join me in also celebrating the fact that the Twins will not be facing pitcher Chris Sale this series. He was literally almost unhittable last night, giving up just a Mike Trout ground ball single up the middle.

Meanwhile, it appears Aaron Hicks and Pedro Florimon are over their respective owies enough to return to the Twins line up. Whether that’s a good thing or not, I’ll leave up to each of you to decide for yourselves.

WHITE SOX

@

TWINS
De Aza, CF Dozier, 2B
Ramirez, Al, SS Mauer, C
Rios, RF Willingham, LF
Viciedo, DH Morneau, 1B
Dunn, A, 1B Doumit, DH
Keppinger, 3B Plouffe, 3B
Wells, C, LF Arcia, RF
Flowers, C Hicks, CF
Greene, 2B Florimon, SS
_  Santiago, H, P Hernandez, P, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Baltimore 2 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 6 11 0
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 8 1

If there’s one thing more fun than watching the Twins beat the White Sox 10-3, it’s watching the Twins beat the White Sox 10-3 and listening to Hawk Harrelson explain why it’s happening (the Sox “gave” the Twins 7 of their 10 runs).

Tonight was hopefully Aaron Hicks’ breakout performance. He hit two home runs and stole a home run from Adam Dunn by snaring the ball as it sailed over the center field wall. He even got a curtain call from the fans after his second dinger. It really was great to see Hicks smile out there on the field. Let’s home this helped cleanse him of some of the tension he had to be feeling after his struggles thus far and we’ll start seeing more of this kind of thing going forward.

There were plenty of other solid performances from the Twins, including solid pitching from all involved and a fine night at the plate from Justin Morneau, but there can be only one choice as our BOD. That would be you, Mr. Hick. Keep up the good work!

AaronHicks

GameChat – Orioles @ Twins #3, 1:10pm

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!  … unless you’re a guy and then you just have to wait.

Another day of cool but sunny weather for the boys in Target Field – game time start should be a little over 50. Considering it’s going to be 90 on Tuesday, they should all just count their lucky stars…

I’m going to miss the start of the game again since I’ll be off lunching with my mama but we all eat fast.. ;) JC is also off to be with his mother. Who knows who will be around to chat baseball but I will be later. See y’all soon!

Baltimore

@

Minnesota
Markakis, RF Dozier, 2B
Machado, M, 3B Mauer, DH
Jones, Ad, CF Willingham, LF
Davis, C, 1B Morneau, 1B
Wieters, DH Doumit, C
Pearce, LF Plouffe, 3B
Hardy, SS Parmelee, RF
Casilla, A, 2B Ramirez, W, CF
Snyder, C, C Escobar, E, SS
  Chen, W, P   Diamond, P

 

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Baltimore 2 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 6 11 0
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 8 1

Not much offense today. Only one Twins hitter had more than one hit and only one Twins hitter had an extra-base hit. It should come as no surprise that, in both cases, the hitter was Joe Mauer.

The Twins had been scoring 5-6 runs a game for a while so I suppose we shouldn’t whine too much about just the second shutout they’ve suffered this season. Just don’t make a habit of it, boys. – JC

 

Sunday Morning Comic Relief

I looked around for to see if I could find anything especially entertaining with a Mother’s Day theme but .. not so much. So Happy Mother’s Day to all those who are!

And for you Sunday morning amusement, if you haven’t seen some of the latest Twins commercials, you should – and in honor of the Willinghammer Bobblehead they put out on Friday.

 

GameChat – Orioles @ Twins #2, 6:10pm

So JC & I had an entertaining lunch today before going our separate ways – me off to more family stops & more shopping (sheesh) and he, off to the game. Let’s hope that since the weather is not nearly as nice as yesterday, hopefully the baseball will actually be better. It’s still sunny but significantly cooler and a LOT windier. I’m curious as to whether that will effect the game. Let’s hope Worley has great stuff tonight since I think our bullpen could use the break – but I’m not holding my breath.

I’ll be in and out (honestly still trying to take advantage of what outside weather we have to try to catch up to the months of  backlog on yard work) but don’t leave if I don’t answer right away – I’ll be back!

Baltimore

@

Minnesota
McLouth, LF Dozier, 2B
Machado, M, 3B Mauer, C
Markakis, RF Doumit, DH
Jones, Ad, CF Morneau, 1B
Davis, C, 1B Plouffe, 3B
Wieters, C Parmelee, RF
Hardy, SS Arcia, LF
Flaherty, 2B Ramirez, W, CF
Reimold, DH Escobar, E, SS
  Johnson, S, P   Worley, P

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

Baltimore

3

0

0

1

0

1

0

0

0

5

12

0

Minnesota

0

0

2

4

0

2

0

0

x

8

10

1

YAY! They certainly did a better job at giving JC a reason to want to come back to MN later on this season. And the game was entertaining enough that I didn’t fall asleep in the 7th inning! This is also a good measure of a baseball game for me lately.

At any rate, it’s amazing the kind of win you can get when the top – heart of the order is getting on base or clearing a base with every AB. Mauer, Morneau, Doumit and Dozier all seemed to come through at the right moment tonight. And then Burton came in for a ground-breaking appearance in his recover/rehab/return but had told Gardy he felt good and could give him an inning – given our bullpen right now, that was VERY GOOD and he nailed down the save at the end. It was a good game with some great effort all around.

And just because in our discussions, we couldn’t really decide which was better: Mauer’s 3 Runs (+some) or Morneau’s 3 RBI but eventually we decided to give the BOD to Mauer just because he was really making it work tonight and that IBB just went to prove that the Orioles pitching really didn’t want to give him yet another opportunity. So Mauer is BOD!

JOEMAUER

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 37

Episode 37 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

itunes pic

On Episode 37, Cody and Eric are joined by Baseball Prospectus‘ Jason Parks to talk about the Twins Minor League system.  Jason Parks has plenty to say about Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, as well as some of the pitching prospects.

Before Jason Parks comes on to the show, Cody and Eric go through the Twins news, including the pitching performances of Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey and Scott Diamond; Joe Mauer’s Fenway expertise, and the explosion that is Oswaldo Arcia.

To close out the show the guys name a Listener of the Week, go Down on the Pond with Michael Tonkin, and regardless of what they’re drinking (juice?!) they take a quick tour of the biggest news stories around the league.

80 minutes of fun!


 

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan.  You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.  And of course, you can find me on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read my writing here at Knuckleballs!

- ERolfPleiss

GameChat – Orioles @ Twins, 7:10pm

Ok, it’s finally absolutely GORGEOUS in MN for a baseball game!! Seriously, our boys aren’t going to recognize Target Field!

JC made the trip up from Cedar Rapids in order to snag himself a Willinghammer bobblehead – glad he gets a nice night to watch baseball. Of course, I am not going to see it since we have a bunch of running around to – at least we’re doing all that on the motorcycle!

At any rate, with Pelfrey on the mound, I might have a chance to catch the second half when we get back around.. oh… 9′ish. But I’m going to hope that he will maintain the improved pace he showed on Sunday. *crosses fingers*

Baltimore

@

Minnesota
McLouth, LF Carroll, 2B
Machado, M, 3B Mauer, DH
Markakis, DH Willingham, LF
Jones, Ad, CF Morneau, 1B
Davis, C, 1B Plouffe, 3B
Wieters, C Doumit, C
Hardy, SS Arcia, RF
Dickerson, RF Hicks, CF
Casilla, A, 2B Escobar, E, SS
  Hammel, P   Pelfrey, P

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

R

H

E

Baltimore

0

0

0

0

0

3

3

0

0

3

9

18

0

Minnesota

1

2

1

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

6

11

2

I know this isn’t something I should admit but … yeah, I fell asleep somewhere around the 7th. It was still tied last I saw the score but things weren’t headed in the right direction. Of course, given the lead that they had had when I got home, it hadn’t been going the right direction for some time. Granted, they didn’t lose the game until overtime play in the 10th inning but still.

Let’s just say that the later innings last night were just not impressive for Twins baseball fans – either on the mound, at the plate, or in the field. There were LOTS of mistakes and sloppy play from a lot of players – whether they have an excuse or not. And that’s just what I SAW! I didn’t even see the end where we allowed the Orioles three more runs, the lead and the win! That tells me 9 unanswered runs came out of the Baltimore lineup … ouch. It might have been gorgeous weather for baseball but the baseball part of it sure wasn’t pretty. Sorry JC.

GameChat – Twins @ Red Sox #4, 6:05pm

The final game of the series – almost here since it’s hard to give you guys much notice with these 6pm games! – but I have to say that as much fun as the Green Monster has been for us, I’ll be glad when we’re away from these BoSox-paced games. Yeesh.

Let’s hope that Correia can continue what he’s been so good at this year so far in getting deep into the game and keeping it moving. I would really love that and I’m pretty sure our now completely over-worked bullpen feels the same.

Minnesota

@

Boston
Dozier, 2B Ellsbury, CF
Mauer, C Victorino, RF
Willingham, LF Pedroia, 2B
Morneau, 1B Ortiz, D, DH
Plouffe, 3B Napoli, 1B
Doumit, DH Nava, LF
Arcia, RF Middlebrooks, 3B
Hicks, CF Drew, SS
Florimon, SS Ross, D, C
  Correia, P   Lackey, P

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

Minnesota

0

0

0

0

1

4

0

0

0

5

6

1

Boston

0

0

1

1

0

1

0

0

0

3

9

2

boston lagerWOOHOOO!!! It feels good to take a series on the road against an east coast team – especially one that can hit like that BoSox lineup. Considering that pitching is still likely our weakest element, I’m pretty pleased with how the majority of the pitching staff has done tonight… not to mention the whole series. I was a little worried about the freshness of what was available given the heavy use they have had this week. I wasn’t alone in that concern in the chat. So we voted that the bullpen all gets a treat after hanging in there and holding the line tonight. Given their location, they all get a nice Boston Lager!

birthday cakeThe offense started off well early and then we fell behind again but thanks to young Oswaldo Arcia, we retook the lead and held that through the end of the game! (which came far earlier tonight than it had previously in this series) So for an outstanding offensive performance and honestly, very good timing, we voted Arcia as tonight’s BOD! Oh yeah, it just happens to be his 22nd birthday today so Happy Birthday as well!

Minnesota+Twins+Photo+Day+Arcia

GameChat – Twins @ Red Sox, 6:05 pm

Programming note: Tonight’s game is on ESPN!

Today’s entertainment revolved around the whole Gardy vs Hicks confrontation from last night. The Twitterverse was apparently alive with comments about an incident that probably would have gone totally unnoticed outside of Minnesota and surrounding states if not for the fact that it occurred in Boston, where everything is magnified 100 times.

Hicks is back in the starting line up tonight and playing center field, so apparently his sins weren’t fatal.

Hopefully, the Twins will do something tonight that will make everyone forget about the other nonsense (and hopefully whatever that something is will be a good something).

 

TWINS

@

RED SOX
Carroll, 2B Ellsbury, CF
Mauer, C Victorino, RF
Willingham, LF Pedroia, 2B
Morneau, 1B Ortiz, D, DH
Plouffe, 3B Napoli, 1B
Doumit, DH Gomes, J, LF
Arcia, RF Saltalamacchia, C
Hicks, CF Drew, SS
Florimon, SS Ciriaco, 3B
  _Hernandez, P, P   _Webster, P

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

Minnesota

4

7

0

1

2

0

0

0

1

15

20

0

Boston

5

1

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

8

12

1

Seriously.

I have no words to describe this game accurately.

It was just ridiculous and I don’t care who was scoring along at home, I don’t think ANYONE has a matching sheet. In case you were wondering, here’s what the OFFICIAL MLB Play by Play has listed for the top of the 7th inning:

TOP OF THE 7th

 

 
AB# Play String Play Play by Play
68     Defensive Substitution: Daniel Nava replaces right fielder Shane Victorino, batting 2nd, playing right field.
68 ..BFD E5/TH/G Josh Willingham reaches on a throwing error by third baseman Pedro Ciriaco.
69 .BFBFFX 8/F Justin Morneau flies out to center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
70 .CD S7/L.1-2 Trevor Plouffe singles on a line drive to left fielder Jonny Gomes. Josh Willingham to 2nd.
71 .FX S8/FDP.2-3;1X3(3);BX2(8643) Ryan Doumit singles on a fly ball to center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. Double play, first baseman Mike Napoli to center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to shortstop Stephen Drew to second baseman Dustin Pedroia to first baseman Mike Napoli. Trevor Plouffe out at 3rd. Ryan Doumit out at 2nd.

Despite more officiating miscues than I can count and a strike zone that traveled more than Santa Claus, the Twins were able to make significant use of the Fenway’s historic nature – and goofy field proportions! The whole team gets a beer – or two (or as many as they need to recover) courtesy of Knuckleballs. It was a lot of fun to watch the whole lineup get a hit tonight! And our sincerest congratulations to Ryan Pressley for getting the Win tonight – it was his first MLB Win and he worked hard for it tonight.

The official vote for BOD was a landslide – for the Green Monster.

green monster

 

But if you’re a stickler for having a person as your boyfriend of the day, second place went to Ryan Doumit – who has basically kicked ass this whole series. He kept it up tonight too so we’ll toss the alternative acknowledgement his way.

Ryan Doumit

Ryan Doumit

That being said, let’s hope this officiating crew gets their heads screwed back on before tomorrow’s series finale.

 

Clash of Top Two Picks May Have to Wait

Wednesday, May 8, was supposed to be a big night for fans that follow the top minor league prospects in professional baseball. Quad Cities shortstop Carlos Correa, selected with the No. 1 pick overall by the Astros in last June’s amateur draft, was set to go head-to-head against Kernels’ center fielder Byron Buxton, chosen as the No. 2 pick overall in the same draft by the Twins.

Byron Buxton

Byron Buxton

According to MiLB.com, it was the first time two position players of high school age were drafted in the first two spots in over 20 years. As a result, it is almost inevitable that Correa and Buxton will be compared closely to one another throughout their careers.

But thanks to a pitch that hit Correa in the hand a week ago and put him on the River Bandits Disabled List, their first match up on the same field will have to wait. The question is, for how long?

Correa was placed on the Bandits’ 7-day Disabled List on Friday, May 3, which would make him eligible to be reactivated for this Friday’s series finale with the Kernels. However, there’s been no indication from the team that they intend to do so.

After this series, the Kernels and River Bandits are scheduled to face one another next on June 5 in Cedar Rapids. Then again, if Buxton continues to perform at current levels, there is legitimate reason to question whether he will still be wearing a Kernels uniform at that point.

Carlos Correa (Photo: ESPN.go.com)

Carlos Correa (Photo: ESPN.go.com)

If Correa and Buxton don’t face one another this season, it’s unlikely they’ll match up again in a regular season game until they wear Big League uniforms for the Astros and Twins. The two organizations have no high-A, AA or AAA affiliates playing in the same league.

How rare would an early meeting of No. 1 and No. 2 picks from the same draft be? Only three times have the top two picks in the draft made their full-season debuts in the same league in the same season. It hasn’t happened in the Midwest League since the No. 1 pick in the 1983 draft, Tim Belcher*, opened the following season with the Madison Muskies and No. 2 pick Kurt Stillwell was in a Cedar Rapids Reds uniform.

It’s not difficult to understand, then, why many fans have looked forward to seeing Correa and Buxton on the same field this season.

Though we may not see Buxton and Correa share a ball field this week, we can take a look at how their first years of full-season professional baseball have compared so far.

There’s no doubt that Buxton is off to the better start. While there is already considerable speculation concerning how soon the Kernels’ center fielder might be promoted to the next level in the Twins’ minor league organization, there has been little, if any, such speculation where Correa is concerned.

Byron Buxton

Byron Buxton

Five weeks in to the season, Buxton has played in all but one of the Kernels’ 29 games and has the second highest batting average in the Midwest League at .373. Correa was having some trouble staying on the field for the River Bandits even before his current stint on the Disabled List. He has already missed 11 of Quad Cities’ 29 games and is hitting just .221 on the year.

Buxton leads the MWL with a .488 on-base percentage and also leads the league with a .647 slugging percentage. Combined, that puts his OPS (on-base plus slugging) at a league-high 1.135. Of Buxton’s 38 hits, 15 (or almost 40 per cent) have been for extra bases. He has seven doubles, three triples and five home runs. Buxton has walked more times (24) than he has struck out (21) and has stolen 13 bases in 17 attempts.

Correa has reached base at a .384 clip and is slugging just .397, for a .781 OPS. He has three doubles and three home runs. Correa has drawn just 15 walks while striking out 23 times. He has one stolen base and has been caught stealing once.

Five very early weeks in the professional careers of these two prospects mean very little, of course, in terms of predicting their ultimate success or failure as Major League ballplayers. If both men stay with their current organizations long term, fans should eventually have plenty of opportunities for side by side comparisons at the Major League level, now that Correa’s Astros are in the American League.

Regardless of whether Correa is activated in time to face Buxton and the Kernels this week, fans in Cedar Rapids should get their first opportunity to see the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft on June 5 when the River Bandits make their first appearance of the season at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Whether Byron Buxton will still be around to greet him remains to be seen.

- JC

*As long time Twins fans know, Tim Belcher had been selected No. 1 by Minnesota in the 1983 draft and did not sign. He then was drafted No. 1 by the Yankees in the subsequent January 1984 Secondary Draft and ended up with the Athletics organization as a Free Agent Compensation selection a month later.