What a Terrific Start!

It’s pretty hard to imagine this baseball season getting off to a better start, isn’t it? I mean, even the most optimistic of us probably wouldn’t have predicted a .789 winning percentage through the first week of games! This looks like it could be a fun summer of baseball!

What’s that? You say the Twins are languishing with a 1-6 record? Who cares? I’m talking about their full-season minor league affiliates! That’s where the action (and literally ALL of the fun) is!

The AAA Rochester Red Wings are 3-1.

The newest Twins affiliate, the AA-level Chattanooga Lookouts (with arguably one of the most loaded rosters in all of minor league baseball) are sitting at 4-1.

The Class A Advanced Fort Myers Miracle are 3-2 (pending the outcome of their Tuesday game – what’s up with these morning start times, anyway?).

And last, but certainly not least, the Class A Cedar Rapids Kernels are still on pace to be a perfect 140-0 at the end of the year after winning their first five games of the season.

That means that the four minor league affiliates, combined, are 15-4 through Monday night and have lost two fewer games than the Twins have managed to drop all by themselves.

Does this represent the Twins' pitching woes or their farm clubs' hitting prowess? Take your pick.

Does this represent the Twins’ pitching woes or their farm clubs’ hitting prowess? Take your pick.

Of course, it’s early. You don’t want to read too much in to the small sample size of a week’s worth of games. After all, will even the Twins continue losing at their current pace to finish the year with a 27-135 record? Of course they won’t. Well – probably not, anyway.

But while those of you who insist on following only the big leaguers continue to wonder why you’re paying big league prices to watch what even Torii Hunter has admitted to essentially being “Bad News Bears” baseball, here’s a small sample of what you’ve been missing on the farm:

  • The Red Wings have three guys, all deemed by Twins management to be unworthy of a spot with the Twins, with an OPS over 1.000. Two of them, Danny Ortiz and Aaron Hicks, would likely improve the Twins’ outfield defense if they weren’t wearing Rochester uniforms. The third, Josmil Pinto, probably deserves an entire post dedicated to discussing why he should or shouldn’t be in Minnesota.
  • The consensus top two Twins prospects, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, both are in the Lookouts’ everyday lineup, so it’s not surprising that Chattanooga also has three guys with above-1.000 OPS numbers. Then again, none of those three guys are named Buxton or Sano. Stephen Wickens, DJ Hicks and Travis Harrison are bringing the lumber, so far, for the Lookouts. They aren’t the only productive hitters, however. That lineup is stacked, as expected. Their TEAM OPS is .829. Oh, and their pitchers are striking out almost 1.3 batters per inning, too.
  • Niko Goodrum is a .400 hitter, going in to Tuesday’s game, for the Miracle, who also had two starting pitchers, Aaron Slegers and Ryan Eades, who each tossed six shutout innings in their initial starts of the season.
  • No less than five Kernels hitters have put up 1.000+ OPS numbers through the first five games. As a TEAM, the Kernels have put up a .316/.380/.471 (.851 OPS) slash line. That Midwest League-leading team batting average is a full 47 points over the next highest team in the league. Not to be outdone, the pitching staff has put up a 1.80 ERA, so far, and have struck out 57 batters in a combined 45 innings of work.

Conversely, the Twins have put up a team OPS of .530 on the season, which is the worst in Major League Baseball. Their team ERA is 6.52, which is also dead last among the 30 big league teams. Not coincidentally, their 35 staff strikeouts is also good for dead last.

All of this might be more understandable if the Twins had made clear that, for the good of the franchise, they were going to punt on 2015 – that the plan would be to plug journeymen “replacement level” players in to fill every perceived gap in their big league roster, in order to give their much-heralded minor league prospects more time to become adequately seasoned on the farm.

But that’s not what they did. Every public comment from everyone in the organization from the end of 2014’s fourth consecutive 90+ loss season through the final days of spring training expressed the company line that they were expecting significant improvement this season.

That’s not really surprising. Twins fans generally hear that refrain every offseason.

The truth is that the Twins have been hoping that fans would be patient, because there really is a ton of young talent approaching the Major League team’s doorstep. From the sounds coming from Target Field on Monday, it seems that ‘patient’ is not exactly what much of the fan base is feeling.

I don’t think it had to be this way.

Back in early October, I wrote that I thought it was time for the Twins to adjust their model, when it comes to promoting their prospects. I suggested that, despite both guys losing virtually their entire seasons a year ago to injury, the Twins should consider simply promoting Buxton and Sano and letting them learn their craft on the big stage.

I argued that, yes they would struggle, but they’re likely to struggle a while whenever they are finally promoted and both young men have demonstrated that they learn, adapt and, ultimately, dominate, very quickly as each new challenge is presented.

I also argued for either signing one of the top free agent starting pitchers or simply getting Alex Meyer and Trevor May in to the rotation from the start and setting up Jose Berrios for a debut not too deep in to the season.

I didn’t discuss the bullpen, at the time, but if I’d known what the Opening Day bullpen was going to look like, I’d have argued pretty forcefully for an immediate youth movement there, too.

Instead, the Twins have assembled a cast at the big league level that deflated and discouraged its fan base (warm welcome-home ovation for Torii Hunter, notwithstanding) virtually before the Home Opener was finished.

The future does look bright. There is an embarrassment of riches in terms of baseball talent in the Twins organization.

Unfortunately, the Twins have decided that you won’t see a lot of it at Target Field for a while.

That’s bad news for fans in Minnesota, but Twins fans in New York, Florida, Tennessee and Iowa look to be in for a lot of fun this summer.

– JC

Twins’ Roster is Set (but don’t call it “final”)

With Thursday night’s announcement that Chris Herrmann would be heading north with the Minnesota Twins, their opening day roster appears to be set. The back up catcher spot was the final unresolved question of the spring.

A lot is made of the make up of the Twins’ roster as they open the 2015 season, but it really is of just mild interest to me, personally.

Yes, I like to see a guy like Herrmann rewarded for his hard work and persistence and JR Graham’s story as a Rule 5 pick up earning a spot in the bullpen is compelling.

Chris Herrmann (photo: SD BUhr)

Chris Herrmann (photo: SD Buhr)

But I’m a lot more curious, already, as to what the Twins roster will look like come mid to late July than I am concerning what it looks like when they travel to Detroit to open the season. And I suspect there will be at least a 33% turnover in the roster by the end of July.

That would be eight or nine spots on the 25-man roster that would be held down by someone not making the trip north out of spring training with the Twins – and I think that sounds about right. In fact, I could see the turnover being more than that.

JR Graham (photo: SD Buhr)

JR Graham (photo: SD Buhr)

I’m not making that prediction based purely on an expectation that the Twins will be clearly en route to a fifth straight 90+ loss season and find themselves in sell-off mode. In fact, I’m probably more optimistic about the Twins’ chances of remaining competitive beyond the All-Star break than I’ve been in a couple of years.

I think that, if they stay healthy, this line up will score plenty of runs and I think a lot of people are underestimating how improved the starting rotation may be with the addition of Ervin Santana and a healthier Ricky Nolasco.

Trevor May (photo: SD Buhr)

Trevor May (photo: SD Buhr)

My belief in the likelihood of significant turnover comes not so much from a lack of confidence in the team as initially constituted (though I do worry about that bullpen), but from a sense that there are simply so many talented young players at the higher levels of the organization minor leagues that are almost certain to force their way on to the Twins roster by mid-season.

To start with, if Josmil Pinto is healthy and still in the Twins organization, I have little doubt he’ll be wearing a Twins uniform by July.

Beyond that, does anyone not believe that Alex Meyer, Trevor May, Nick Burdi and Jake Reed will be pitching for the Twins by mid-year if they come out of the gate strong in their respective minor league assignments? Those are four pitchers that you could make an argument for putting on the roster right now. You might even be tempted to put Jose Berrios on that list, though I suspect he may be held down on the farm at least until later in the season.

Jose Berrios and Tony Oliva (photo: SD Buhr)

Jose Berrios and Tony Oliva (photo: SD Buhr)

Even if any/all of those arms fail to impress during the season’s first half, that doesn’t mean that all of the arms that are making up the Twins’ opening day pitching staff are likely to have performed well enough to keep their jobs. This pitching staff (especially among the relief corps), as initially constituted, is simply not strong enough to avoid the need for a significant make-over, whether via promotions or trades (or, perhaps most likely, some combination thereof).

And we haven’t even mentioned the organization’s consensus top pair of prospects, Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. If they manage to shake off the rust that resulted from lost seasons a summer ago (and which clearly still existed during spring training), I expect they will both be Minnesota Twins by mid season. They could easily be joined by Eddie Rosario and, of course, nobody would be at all surprised to see Aaron Hicks rejoin the big league club.

Miguel Sano (photo: SD Buhr)

Miguel Sano (photo: SD Buhr)

In addition to the prospects that have become familiar to much of the Twins’ fan base, the AA Chattanooga Lookouts’ everyday line up is going to be literally full of players that are only a hot start and the ability to play a defensive position of need away from being called up.

What it all means is that the Twins roster in July, August and September should include far more players that are likely to be part of the next generation of Twins capable of contending for future postseasons than the roster we are discussing in April.

It’s not easy being patient, but most of these young players will benefit from getting a little more minor league seasoning. The good news is that we are no longer talking about it being several years before we see these promising prospects at Target Field, but, hopefully, merely several weeks.

– JC

Episode 106: The Cody Christie Episode

You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here, and if you want to add the show to your non-iTunes podcast player, this is the RSS Feed.

Our fearless host and Drew "Boat Anchor" Butera

Our fearless host and Drew “Boat Anchor” Butera

For the first time ever, Cody Christie hosts and entire episode of Talk to Contact. He runs the transitions, he drives the content, and he tells all the jokes! North Dakota fans, unite!

In addition to our North Dakotan flare, we talk about the ongoing Twins manager search, what it means that no one will go to games in 2015 at Target Field, and way too much about Aaron Hicks.

Eric also has a moment of clarity talking about beer that changes his life, and of course, beer, baseball, and the news.

93 minutes of blues and baseball.

Thanks for listening and enjoy the show.

If you enjoy our podcast, please tell your friends about us and take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews aren’t even that cool anyways, so whatever.

Episode 86: Josh Willingham is Not Dead Yet

Jason Kubel strikes out when he says it, but “This is Talk to Contact.” You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or click here you can download the new episode, and if you want to add the show to your podcast player, this is the RSS Feed.

This week on the podcast we talk about the resurgence of Josh Willingham since his return from the Disabled List (being healthy is pretty important, I guess), we ramble on a bit about Aaron Hicks and the failure of the front office to have any sort of reasonable back up plan (has this rant been beaten to death yet? Yes?  Good, we’ll keep bringing it up), and we talk about all of the students Down on the Pond pitching for the Rochester Red Wings (Alex Meyer, Trevor May, Logan Darnell, Kris Johnson, Yohan Pino and the still terrible Scott Diamond).

We all drank excellent beers, answered a question from the internet, gave a shout out to our listener of the week, and talked all things baseball news going Around the League.
96 minutes of baseball joy.
Thanks for playing along!

Enjoy the show.

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and you can find Mr. Jay Corn on Twitter (@Jay__Corn)!
If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review our show on iTunes.   iTunes ratings and reviews are the sole reason that Josh Willingham is hitting home runs.

Episode 85: Astatine, Jim Callis and the Most Important Coach in Baseball

Half of Twins Territory still thinks we’re morons, but “This is Talk to Contact.” You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or click here you can download the new episode, and if you want to add the show to your podcast player, this is the RSS Feed.

This week’s episode is highlighted by a lengthy interview with Jim Callis (@JimCallisMLB, MLBpipeline.com) who talks about the draft and a whole mess of Twins topics. The Baseball Pirate makes his return from defending the homeland and the whole gang is back together for the first time in a long time. The show starts out with a rousing discussion of which coach is the most important coach in baseball, and whether or not any of the players on the 25-man roster could be more important than the most important coach. Interesting things are happening.

Brian Dozier continues to impress, the Twins pitchers continue to distress (except for Punxsutawney Phil Hughes), and Eduardo Escobar continues to mash extra-base hits like it’s his job (because it is). Is Eddie Escobar playing over his head? Probably some, but could this also be the natural maturation of a player who’s been in the big leagues since his age-22 season?

Eddie Rosario makes his return from his drug suspension, Ben Revere hits a real life, honest to god, over the wall home run and Carlos Gomez says “It’s sexy batting clean-up!” All this and more on this week’s episode of Talk to Contact.


You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and you can find Mr. Jay Corn on Twitter (@Jay__Corn)!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review our show on iTunes.   iTunes ratings and reviews are the main way to get us kicked off of iTunes, again.

Episode 84: The Twins are Above Five Hundred and Fox Sports’ Gabe Kapler

The Twins are TWO GAMES ABOVE FIVE HUNDRED! That must mean that Gardy is a magician, I don’t know how else to explain in.  You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or click here you can download the new episode, and if you want to add the show to your non-iTunes podcast player, this is the RSS Feed.

Gabe Kapler, Fox Sports Live

Gabe Kapler, Fox Sports Live

This week we discuss the Twins shift to six-man rotations in Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers, Dozier’s chances of being a 40/40 guy (and a related tangent about Jose Canseco in 1988), what the Twins will do when Mike Pelfrey, Oswaldo Arcia, and Josh Willingham are healthy, and a change in the Twins’ mentality.

We pick a pitcher and hitter of the week, and talk about Minor Leaguer Zack Granite when we go down on the pond.

This week we were lucky to be joined by Fox Sports One’s Gabe Kapler.  Kap, as he is affectionately known, is a 12 year MLB veteran, and hosts a couple of shows on FS1, including Fox Sports Live and MLB Whip Around.  He talks about his path to the majors, and weighs in on batter perparation and making adjustments to pitchers, a couple of topics very close at hand for Twins Aaron Hicks and Chris Colabello.

We ran long on Twins news this week, so we had to cut the Beer and Around the League segments, but do not fret, we will be back next week at full strength.

Thanks for listening!

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and you can find Mr. Jay Corn on Twitter (@Jay__Corn)!
If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review our show on iTunes.  iTunes ratings convinced the Twins to have a Gardy-Gnome giveaway on June 7th.

GameChat – Red Sox @ Twins #3, 12:10pm

Ok, my apologies for the late post – somehow I’ve managed to get sick.. ain’t that fun?

But the Twins are doing pretty well in rubber matches this season so lets see if that translates to beating the BoSox today!

Boston @ Minnesota
Pedroia, 2B Dozier, 2B
Bogaerts, SS Mauer, DH
Ortiz, D, DH Plouffe, 3B
Napoli, 1B Colabello, 1B
Gomes, J, RF Kubel, LF
Carp, LF Suzuki, K, C
Ross, D, C Parmelee, RF
Middlebrooks, 3B Hicks, CF
Bradley Jr., CF Escobar, E, SS
  Buchholz, P   Hughes, P, P
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Boston 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 3 9
Minnesota 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 4 12

Well now that was fun! Despite Perk going through a bit of a closer slump right now, we managed to get that rubber match win again! Frankly, this is the first time we have won a home series against the BoSox since Target Field’s first season … ouch. They’ve clearly had our number here for most of it. Glad that we were able to make it happen today. Phil Hughes’ experience against them might have had a LOT to do with that. I am pretty happy with his performance against them today – wish he could have gone longer but not if it meant he’d have given them crooked numbers in the box score.  Of course, they managed to get that tie anyway to give us an extra inning.

Looking at the box score, it’s clear to see that Kurt Suzuki continues to really shine in this lineup and I love how he seems to not only hit well, but to hit CLUTCH! He always shows up when absolutely necessary. And Hicks hardly needs additional recognition because the confidence booster he received from getting that walk-off winner and the support from his team mates does a lot for this young man. Let’s hope that he can pull it together and build on it to return to the big hitter we want to see him be. They are both our BOD’s today!


Episode 82: Kicked off of iTunes, Tough Joe Mauer, and Darren Wolfson

iTunes and MLB, tyrants of industry, don’t cha know!  You cannot download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes but if you click here you can download the new episode.  And if you want to add the show to your podcast player, this is theRSS Feed


In our little part of the internet, the big news this week was MLB asking iTunes to remove several baseball themed podcasts because of what they believe was copyright infringement.  We were one of the podcasts removed, we were fired up, and spent the first ten or so minutes discussing this entire situation.

We also had the opportunity to purchase some free tickets through ScoreBig.com, an online ticket auction site. We detailed the purchase process and the pros and cons of using this ticket provider.

Then we finally circled back around to Twins news.  We talked about the phantom DL and Mike Pelfrey, Aaron Hicks’ concussion, and the current Twins roster construction. Jay took a strong stand on Joe Mauer’s toughness, and Eric strongly disagreed.
Darren Wolfson joined us for almost thiry minutes to give us the scoops on the upcoming MLB draft, and all thing Twins.
We closed out the podcast with our regular segments selecting hitters and pitchers of the week, talking beer, baseball and the news.
101 minutes of fun.  Thanks for listening.

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and read his writing at PuckettsPond.com, and you can find Mr. Jay Corn on Twitter (@Jay__Corn)!
If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and tell iTunes and MLB that we think what they did on Wednesday really stinks.

GameChat – Twins @ Rays #3, 12:10pm

I think the whole team as well as the fans are hoping for a good start from Nolasco – especially the bullpen.

The Twins have themselves in a nice position to win another series. I’d like that; how about you?

Minnesota @ Tampa Bay
Dozier, 2B Zobrist, 2B
Mauer, 1B Jennings, D, CF
Plouffe, 3B Joyce, LF
Colabello, RF Longoria, 3B
Pinto, DH Loney, 1B
Suzuki, K, C Myers, RF
Fuld, LF DeJesus, DH
Hicks, CF Escobar, Y, SS
Florimon, SS Molina, J, C
  Nolasco, P   Bedard, P
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 3 1 0 0 4 1 0 0 0 9 12 1
Tampa Bay 0 3 0 0 0 1 2 1 0 7 13 0

you know what? it’s fun to watch baseball when we are able to actually WIN the game! And the series is just bonus..  (Of course coming back to a homestand after some nice road series wins feels pretty good to.)

It was really tough to narrow down a BOD today because this team was doing it’s best to work as a team with a lot of effort up and down the order. It was good to see Sam Fuld have a very good day against his old team and for that, we are awarding him access to the pastry buffet. Mr. Fuld, the donuts are on us!

Today’s BOD came down to the veteran but new Twin, Kurt Suzuki, or the struggling young phenom, Aaron Hicks. I decided that trying to choose was too much work for a rainy afternoon so I went with BOTH! Congrats to Hicks for getting his first homerun of the season and I hope to see his bat continue to warm up. Our thanks to Zuke for holding down the fort with a great outing!


Episode 80: Tommy Watkins and Three Amigos

Paul is gone again, but we’re still here! While he’s gone we put pine tar all over our bodies and get ejected in the 2nd inning. You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.

tommy watkins

The Twins won a double header against the Jays, but other than that things have been less than stellar for the team in the pas week.  We dive into some stories from the week that was, including the acquisition of Sam Fuld and what it means for Aaron Hicks, the retirement of Jason Bartlett, and what to make of Chris Colabello.

It is an exciting time to be a podcast listener because this week Cody runs an interview for the first time in the history of the podcast as we chatted with the Cedar Rapids Kernels’ Hitting Coach, Tommy Watkins.  Watkins has coached several of the current Minnesota Twins and shares some of his baseballing knowledge with us.  

We also take some time to talk about the unhearlded pitcher Yohan Pino who has been pitching in Minors for 10 years without a MLB appearance.  Of coure, the usual – beer, baseball and the news to round out the show.

Enjoy the show.


If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are pretty cool, you guys.