Unsurprisingly the Twins largest group of players on the 40-man roster come as high school draftees. There is a fairly good mix of position players and pitchers, though of the pitchers on the list none of them were drafted in the first round, compared to 4 first round position players*. This makes sense as the arms on this list are all bullpen guys, not a single player there with really dominant stuff.
*Byron Buxton, the Twins most recent 1st round draft pick was just 5 years old when the Twins drafted Justin Morneau in 1999. Morny has been with the team a long time, it will be interesting to see if the Twins look to move him later this year.
Likely because the Twins spent so many high draft picks on position players, the Twins have struggled to develop their own pitching and have turned to the free agent market to balance their roster. As with the high school draftees, none of the arms on this list are particularly dominant, though Burton was a pleasant surprise in 2012.
I listed Scott Diamond as a player acquired via trade, but he originally joined the Twins through the 2010 Rule 5 draft, but when he failed to make the roster out of Spring Training the Twins completed a trade with the Atlanta Braves in order to keep him with the organization. Of the other names here, only Butera sticks out, only because with his ties to the organization (his father Sal Butera was with the Twins for parts of 6 Minor League and 4 Major League seasons) I often forget that he was not originally drafted by the Twins.
Drafted out of College (4, 3 pitchers, 1 position player)
Again, because the Twins were not drafting and developing high school pitching they have used several early round picks on college pitchers in an effort to balance the system. Of the two 1st rounders here, only Gibson was the Twins 1st overall pick of the draft, Perkins was selected after Trevor Plouffe, with a compensation pick from the Mariners when they signed Eddie Guardado. In fact, in the 2004 draft the Twins had 3 first round picks and 2 more supplemental round picks, giving them 5 of the first 39 draft picks and 7 of the first 100. Of those seven picks, Plouffe, Perkins and Anthony Swarzak are all still with the Twins, 9 years later.
International Free Agent (4, 1 pitcher, 3 position players)
It remains to be seen if Pressly will make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training, though the cards are certainly stacked against him. If the Twins are going to keep him long term, they’ll need to work out a trade with the Boston Red Sox to keep him in the organization if he is not on the big league roster.
So there you have it, 40 players and their origins within the Twins organization. With high school draft picks making up the lion’s share of the roster, the Twins amateur scouts seem to know what they’re doing. That bodes well for the future and Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios, Travis Harrison and Hudson Boyd, the Twins’ highest drafted high school players in the past two drafts.
All player information obtained from Baseball-Reference. If I’ve listed any player origins incorrectly, please let me know.
According to Jerry Crasnick, the Twins have signed Kevin Correia to a two-year, $10 million dollar contract. The savvy Twins fan might liken this deal to the Jason Marquis signing from a year ago, but with an extra year tacked on, just for fun! Correia has been a below average starter in the National League over the past two years for the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 2012 the Pirates (not known for the pitching depth) decided that they had better starting options and demoted Correia to the bullpen. On a one-year deal, signing Correia would not seem half as bad, as the Twins are likely in the midst of a serious rebuilding effort after trading Denard Span and Ben Revere over the past couple of weeks. The second year of the deal could be tricky as Correia is not likely to improve coming to the American League for the first time in his career where he’ll have to face the designated hitters instead of pitchers.
Correia joins the Twins and is instantly their third best starting pitching option in 2013 behind Scott Diamond and Vance Worley. That’s how bad the Twins pitching is right now, they are turning to the Pirates’ bullpen for starting pitching help. While the Correia signing gives the Twins a much needed are in 2013, his role in 2014 is less clear. With Kyle Gibson another year removed from Tommy John surgery, and Liam Hendriks with some additional Major League experience (and perhaps some confidence boosting time at Triple-A), Correia’s best option for 2013 is as the Twins fifth starter. But five million dollars for a fifth starter, when guys like Cole De Vries, B.J. Hermsen, Sam Deduno and Esmerling Vasquez are all equally qualified to fill that spot, is harder to stomach.
If you’re a glass half-full type of person, it is possible that the Twins could flip Correia in 2014, maybe even eating some of his salary, in hopes of bringing back a low-level prospect. But it seems more likely to me that he ends up in the bullpen filling the long relief role that Anthony Swarzak currently fills, or becomes the swing-man that Brian Duensing has occupied the past couple of years. All in all, Correia is a Major League veteran that fills a roster spot for 2013, just keep your fingers crossed that he does not turn into another Nick Blackburn.
Last week the Minnesota Twins added eight players to their 40-man roster, maxing out their roster with 40 players. The Twins will likely remove at least one player prior to the upcoming Rule 5 draft, but for now, the Twins do not have room for any additions. If Spring Training started tomorrow, here are the 40 players that would be competing for a coveted 25-man roster spot and a place on the 2013 Opening Day roster. We’ll start with the Pitchers today, and look at the position players later this week.
Right Handed Pitchers (Age, Position, Highest 2012 Level)
Alex Burnett– 25, Reliever, MLB – Burnett appeared in 67 games for the Twins in 2012 and posted the best ERA of his career (3.52). Unfortunately, Burnett struck out batters at the lowest rate in his career (4.5/9), while still walking more than three batters per nine innings and his 2012 success is unlikely to continue in 2013, if he makes the 25-man roster, it will be as a middle-inning, low-leverage, reliever.
Jared Burton – 31, Reliever, MLB – Like Alex Burnett, Burton also posted the best ERA of his career (2.18). Unlike Burnett, Burton’s success came from an increase in stike out rates and a decrease in walk rates. Burton is almost a lock for the 25-man roster, and will likely be the eighth inning set up man.
Cole De Vries – 27, Starter, MLB – De Vries was a long shot to make the 25-man roster in 2012, but because of a string of injuries and generally poor play from other Twins starters, De Vries started 16 games en route to a 4.11 ERA. De Vries is a typical Twins-type pitcher, low walks, low strike outs, and is a long shot to make the 25-man roster again in 2013, but unless the Twins acquire multiple starting pitchers through trades or free agency, the Twins do not have a lot of other competent options.
Casey Fien – Casey Fien, Reliever, MLB – Fien returned to Major League action after spending 2011 in the Minors. Fien had several surprisingly good appearances toward the end of the year, earning a 2.06 ERA to go along with 32Ks in just 35.0 IP. Fien’s previous MLB performance and Minor League track record does not indicate that he’s likely to continue to perform at a high level, but he’s gained the trust of Ron Gardenhire and has a farily good chance to make the 25-man roster with a strong performance this spring.
Kyle Gibson – Kyle Gibson, Starter, AAA – Gibson spent all of 2012 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and pitched in four different leagues during his rehab, including the Arizona Fall League where the big right-hander was said to be consistently throwing 93-94 MPH with good control. If fully healthy, Gibson is in line to be one of the Twins five starters in 2013.
Deolis Guerra – 23, Reliever, AAA – Guerra split time in 2012 between Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Rochester and posted a 4.11 ERA in his first full season as a reliever, with high strike out numbers (9.1K/9) and low walk totals (3.3/9). At 23 Guerra is still fairly young for AAA and I expect him to start the season in Rochester, though he will have a chance to play in Minnesota before the season ends. Edit: Per John Bonnes, Deolis Guerra is out of options, so he’ll need to make the 25-man roster or risk being claimed off of waivers.
Liam Hendriks – 23, Starter, MLB – Hendriks struggled to turn his Minor League success into Major League succes and spent the better part of 2012 searching for his first big league victory. Hendriks finished the year 1-8 with a 5.59 ERA and only 50 strike outs over 85.1 innings. Ideally Hendriks would start 2013 in Rochester, working to fine tune his command against lesser hitters before being asked to join the Twins. If Hendriks makes the Opening Day roster it will likely be because the Twins lack other viable options rather than their belief in Hendriks ability to succeed at a high level.
B.J. Hermsen – 22, Starter, AA – Hermsen is another Twins-type pitcher with low strike out numbers and in Hermsen’s case, extremely low walk rates (1.6/9). Hermsen is unlikely to merit serious consideration for the starting rotation in 2013 because he has no experience above AA. Hermsen has continually put up ERAs around 3, and if he can continue to put up good numbers in AAA he should earn himself a September call-up and, if the Twins do not add a couple of free agents on multi-year deals, could be a candidate to start for the Twins in 2014.
Lester Oliveros – 24, Reliever, MLB – Oliveros had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and will spend most, if not all, of 2013 rehabbing his elbow. He will be moved to the 60-day DL once Spring Training begins, opening up a roster spot.
Josh Roenicke – 30, Reliever, MLB – Claimed off of waivers from the Colorado Rockies, Roenicke is unlikely to start the season in the Twins bullpen and instead the Twins will probably attempt to pass Roenicke through waivers later this spring and use him as roster depth in Rochester. However, Roenicke did post an impressive 3.25 ERA last season with the Rockies, so the Twins might be willing to give him a longer look in Spring Training before ultimately relegating him to the Minor Leagues.
Anthony Swarzak – 27, Long Man/Spot Starter, MLB – The Twins have seen enough of Swarzak over the past couple of years (198.2 IP) to know what they have out of the 27-year old. Swarzak has struggled when he’s been asked to start, but as a long man in the bullpen he’s performed moderately well (5.79 ERA as Starter, 4.03 as reliever). I believe that the Twins will bring Swarzak back in a similar role in 2013, but if they are intent on finding a spot for B.J. Hermsen, this could be somewhere they’d be willing to make a switch.
Michael Tonkin – 23, Reliever/Closer, High-A – While Tonkin has never pitched above High-A Fort Myers, he posted a 12.6 K/9 in 2012 and followed that up with a spectacular Arizona Fall League performance posting a 2.45 ERA over 14.2 innings with a 0.75 WHIP. Tonkin will likely start 2012 at Double-A New Britain, but he could certainly be in Rochester by the All-Star break.
Tim Wood – 30, Closer, Reliever, MLB – Wood was claimed off of waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates after spending all of 2012 in Triple-A. As a likely closer, Wood does not have the kind of strike out numbers you would typically expect, but he’s posted a 3.49 and 2.19 ERA each of the last two seasons in Triple-A so he’s doing something right. You have to wonder why a guy with a 2.19 ERA did not get a September call-up with the Pirates as they were once again spiraling their way to another losing record. Before his successful 2011 and 2012 seasons, Wood struggled mightily in the PCL, splitting time between the Miami Marlins and Texas Rangers systems. Do not expect to see Wood on the 25-man roster this spring, as he’s likely to spend most of the season in Rochester.
Left Handed Pitchers Scott Diamond – 26, Starter, MLB – Diamond is the lone Twins starter to be guaranteed a spot in the 2013 rotation, so as long as he makes it through Spring Training without injury he has a secure spot on the 25-man roster. Diamond is now 2 years removed from being drafted by the Twins in the Rule 5 draft and while his strike out numbers are dreadfully low (12.6% strike out rate), he manages to keep the base paths clear by limiting walks and inducing ground balls. If Diamond can repeat his 2012 numbers the Twins will be ecstatic.
Brian Duensing – 29, Reliever/LOOGY/Starter, MLB – With the Twins again searching for answers from their starting rotation Duensing given another chance to win a spot as a starter. He didn’t fare well. Overall, Duensing has a 4.57 ERA as a starter compared to just a 3.38 ERA out of the pen. As a starter Duensing is subject to facing a lot more right handed batters (.302/.358/.473, AGV/OBP/SLG), whereas in the bullpen he can be used selectively against left handed batters (.217/.261/.298). Hopefully the Twins understand who Duensing is at this point in his career and keep him in the pen. He’s a lock to be on the 25-man roster and should begin the year as the teams primary LOOGY (Left-handed One Out guY).
Pedro Hernandez – 23, Starter, MLB – Hernandez is one of the players the Twins acquired in the Francisco Liriano deal with the White Sox. Hernandez has just one disastrous Major League start, and has only 52.1 innings at Triple-A. The Twins should send Hernandez back to Rochester to start 2013, and unless things go poorly for the Twins rotation again this year, he’s unlikely to put on a big league uniform anytime before September.
Glen Perkins – 29, Reliever/Closer, MLB – After signing a 4 year $11.85 million dollar deal this past winter, Glen Perkins went out and had one of the best years of his career, posting a 2.56 ERA to go along with 78 strike outs and just 16 walks in 70.1 innings. Perkins will start 2013 as the Twins primary closer, a role he shared at times in 2012 with Matt Capps and Jared Burton.
Tyler Robertson – 24, Reliever/LOOGY, MLB – Making his Major League debut in 2012, Robertson performed poorly, but his Minor League performance in 2012, prior to his stint with the Twins, show the signs of life you like to see from a big left-hander. He gets plenty of strike outs (10.4/9 innings), and he doesn’t give up a lot of a home runs. For Robertson the biggest issue is going to be control, as he walked 14 batters in his 25 innings for the Twins a year ago. Robertson is great against left-handed batters (.190/.268/.317), but if he cannot learn to get out right-handed hitters (.290/.436/.484) he is not going to stick around for long. Robertson should start the year as the Twins #2 LOOGY and a middle reliever.
Caleb Thielbar – 25, Reliever, AAA – Thielbar made it as far as AAA in 2012, but at the end of 2011 he had never pitched above High-A. Thielbar likely needs some additional Minor League seasoning before the Twins are ready to put him on the 25-man roster, especially after a terrible Arizona Fall League permanence in which he posted an 11.05 ERA with 8 walks in just 13.0 innings.
The Twins definitely have plenty of arms on the 40-man roster, but they don’t have a lot of talent in the bunch. If the Twins start the season with this same group of arms they’ll have Scott Diamond, Kyle Gibson, and Liam Hendriks as their one-two-three starters, and will be well on their way to another 90 loss season. It is more likely that the Twins sign at least two free agent pitchers, and bring in another arm via trade, but until anything happens, there is not a lot of hope readily available in Minnesota.
Last night, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were awarded the Rookie of the Year awards, in the National and American League, respectively. Harper and Trout did amazing things as rookies, and in the case of Mike Trout, had the best season a rookie has ever had. Harper helped the Washington Nationals win their division, and Trout did his part to keep the Los Angeles Angels relevant until the final week of the season. Minnesota Twins, on the other hand, had plenty of rookies suit up for them in 2012, but outside of Scott Diamond, none of them did much of anything to help the Twins win games (in fairness, the rest of the team was not exactly doing a lot to help the Twins win games either).
As a group, those 16 rookies accounted for a grand total of 4.1 Wins Above Replacement. They were led by Scott Diamond with 2.2 WAR, and at the other end was Liam Hendriks, -1.2 WAR. In between the Twins saw surprisingly positive performances from waiver claim Darin Mastroianni(.8 WAR) and defensive specialist Pedro Florimon (.8 WAR). The Twins were also disappointed by break-out candidate Chris Parmelee (-.6 WAR) and would-be lefty-specialist Tyler Robertson.
Here, alphabetically, is a closer look at each of the Twins’ 2012 rookies, including their status heading into 2013, as several players will still retain their rookie eligibility.
Matt Carson – 31, OF, .227/.246/.242 (BA/OBP/SLG) – Carson exhausted his rookie eligibility in 2012, which is pretty impressive for a guy that is 31 years old and had played in parts of two previous seasons. The Twins called Matt Carson up late in the season when they were a little short on outfielders and Ron Gardenhire really seemed to enjoy having him around. He’s unlikely to return to Minneapolis in 2013, as he is off of the 40 man roster, and the Twins have plenty of young outfielders just waiting to break onto the Major League roster.
Cole De Vries – 27, RHP, 87.2/4.11/58/18 (IP/ERA/SO/BB) – Cole De Vries was the right guy in the right place at the right time in 2012. After signing as an undrafted free-agent in 2006 out of the University of Minnesota, De Vries spent the better part of the last six years quietly working his way through the Minnesota’s farm system. De Vries struggled in 2010 (after being converted to a bullpen guy) between AA New Britain and AAA Rochester, but in 2011 he turned things around and despite starting the year back in Double-A, he finished the year in Rochester with a combined 3.40 ERA. De Vries started 2012 in Rochester (once again as a starting pitcher) and when the arms were falling off of every Twins starting pitcher with a hear beat, he was called up to the big leagues and performed better than many had expected. De Vries has lost his rookie eligibility heading into 2013, but he remains on the 40-man roster and has an outside chance of being the Twins’ 5th starter this spring.
Samuel Deduno – 29, RHP, 79.0/4.44/57/53 – Deduno was having himself a very surprising 2012 campaign until a string of bad starts toward the tail end of the season ballooned his ERA over 4. Deduno is a guy that has great movement on his pitches, but unfortunately not even he knows where the ball is likely to end up and as a result, Deduno finished the year with almost as many walks as strike outs. Deduno seemed to get a handle on his wildness about half way through his season, and will need to show increased control this spring but could battle De Vries for that 5th spot in the rotation. Deduno is on the 40-man roster and has exhausted his rookie eligibility.
Scott Diamond – 26, LHP, 173.0/3.54/90/31 – He turned out to be the Twins’ most effective starting pitcher in 2012, leading the team in innings, and providing the Twins with a reliable performance every fifth day. Without Diamond the Twins’ best starter would have been Samuel Deduno, certainly not anyone’s idea of a staff ace. Diamond is the only starting pitcher from the 2012 staff that has been guaranteed a spot in the 2013 rotation, and if the Twins can do enough in free agency, Diamond slots in as a solid number 3. Like Deduno, Diamond remains on the 40-man roster and is no longer eligible as a rookie.
The Minnesota Twins are sending seven players to the Arizona Fall League (AFL). For those of you that are unfamiliar with the AFL, it is a six team league in (big surprise) Arizona that generally features some of the top prospects from the Minor Leagues. Of the seven players the Twins sent to the AFL in 2011, three have played a significant role for the MLB club this season, Cole De Vries, Scott Diamond and Brian Dozier.
Evan Bigley, 25, Right Field, Started 2012 at AA New Britain, Currently at AAA Rochester
Evan Bigley was drafted by the Twins in the 10th round of the 2008 draft out of Dallas Baptist University, alma mater of former Minnesota Twin and current Baltimore Oriole Lew Ford. Bigley started the year back in Double-A, his third consecutive year in New Britain, and while his batting average was slightly higher than it was in 2011, his on-base skills were exactly the same as they were the year ago (.311 OBP). However, in 2012 he was hitting the ball with a lot more authority, slugging almost 70 points higher in 2012 before being promoted to Rochester. Bigley has struggled to adjust to AAA pitching, hitting just .211/.241/.328, the worst batting line of his Minor League career. As a corner outfielder in the Twins system Bigley is going to need to adjust to high-level pitching or he’ll quickly become an afterthought in an organization filled with high-upside outfield talent like Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia, and Joe Benson.
Logan Darnell, 23, Left Handed Starting Pitcher, AA New Britain
Logan Darnell was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 6th round of the 2010 draft out of the University of Kentucky. Darnell profiled as a reliever coming out of the draft, but the Twins have used him exclusively as a starter the past two seasons. In 2011, despite mediocre numbers, Darnell moved quickly through the system advancing from Low-A Beloit all the way to AA New Britain. He’s spent all of 2012 at New Britain and really struggled to find success. While his ERA is down in 2012 (5.21 from 5.28), his WHIP, HR/9 and BB/9 all went up while his SO/9 and SO/BB rates went the other way. Darnell is on pace to pitch more than 150 innings for the 2nd consecutive year, so he certainly has the arm strength to remain a starting pitcher, but if he cannot find greater success against talented hitters he’ll need to move to the bullpen to extend his career.
Kyle Gibson, 24, Right Handed Starting Pitcher, Started 2012 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, Currently at AAA Rochester
Kyle Gibson was the Twins’ first round draft selection (22 overall) in the 2009 draft out of the University of Missouri and went from High-A Fort Myers to AAA Rochester in his first year in the Minor Leagues in 2011. In 2011 Gibson pitched fairly well in the first half of the year before being shut down with elbow inflammation before eventually requiring Tommy John surgery. Gibson rehabbed for the first 2/3 of the 2012 season spending time with the Twins Gulf Coast and High-A squads before returning to Rochester earlier this August. Reports on Gibson are that he’s throwing the ball as hard, if not harder, than he was before his surgery and his control is as good as it has ever been. Gibson was rated as high as the number 34 overall prospect by Baseball America before the 2011 season, and if he pitches well in the AFL could have a chance to compete for a spot in the starting rotation when the Twins leave Spring Training in 2013.
Chris Herrmann, 24, Catcher, AA New Britain
Chris Herrmann was drafted by the Twins in the 6th round of the 2009 draft out of the University of Miami (along with teammate David Gutierrez, who did not sign in 2009,but signed in 2010 when the Twins drafted him again). Herrmann spent most of 2011 in New Britain and has been there for the entire 2012 season. Herrmann is probably the Twins best hitting catcher in the system, but he’s also been getting playing time as an outfielder and DH in order to keep his bat in the lineup for the Rock Cats. He’s hitting .268/.342/.385 with a career high 10 HR and 23 2B. The Twins will likely be watching how Herrmann calls games in the AFL and how his bat plays against some higher-level pitching.
Nate Roberts, 23, Corner Outfielder, Low-A Beloit
Nate Roberts was drafted by the Twins in the 5th round of the 2010 draft out of High Point University. High Point University has only produced 1 Major League Players, RHP Cody Allen, who made his Major League debut in 2012 for the Cleveland Indians despite being drafted a year after Roberts. Roberts is repeating Low-A Beloit in 2012 after spending all of 2011 there despite posting a .302/.443/.446 line in his first year above rookie ball. Roberts has posted another impressive line in 2012, .306/.438/.438, but he’s 23, about a year older than the average player in the Midwest League, so with his success at Low-A he’ll likely be promoted to Fort Myers for the 2013 season, regardless of how he preforms in the AFL.
Caleb Thielbar, 25, Left Handed Relief Pitcher, Started 2012 at High-A Fort Myers, Currently at AAA Rochester
Caleb Thielbar was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 18th round of the 2009 draft. Thielbar failed to get past Low-A in the Brewers system and found himself playing Independent Baseball in 2011 for the Saint Paul Saints. The Twins plucked Thielbar from the Saints at the end of 2011 and he made 3 appearances for the Fort Myers Miracle before the season came to an end. According to Seth Stohs of TwinsDaily.com, Thielbar throws between 88 and 91 MPH with a good slider/curve. As a 25 year old starting the 2012 season, Thielbar was two years older than the average High-A Florida State League player. He’s moved quickly through the season posting SO/9 rates of 11.7 at High-A, 9.4 at AA, and while he is struggling a little bit at AAA, he’s still managing 7.1 SO/9, a strike out rate that would make half of the Twins’ current bullpen green with envy. Thielbar will likely need another year at AAA before he has a chance to be a realistic option for the Twins, but as a 25 year old with just barley a year in the Twins’ system, the Arizona Fall League gives the Twins additional opportunities to see what Thielbar can really do.
Michael Tonkin, 22, Right Handed Relief Pitcher, Started 2012 at Low-A Beloit, Currently at High-A Fort Myers
Michael Tonkin was drafted by the Twins in the 30th round of the 2008 draft. Tonkin signed quickly and spent the end of 2008 and all of 2009 in the Gulf Coast League. In 2010 Tonkin split time between the Elixabethton Twins in the Appalachian League, and ended the season with the Low-A Beloit Snappers. Tonkin was promoted to Fort Myers about midway through the 2012 season and he’s continued to strike out more than 12 batters per 9 innings. According to Kevin Goldstein, Tonkin has a big fastball that sits in the mid 90s and a low 80s slider that helps him reach those lofty strike out numbers. It will certainly be worth following Tonkin in the Arizona Fall League against significantly more advanced hitters. A solid showing in the AFL and Tonkin could start 2012 in AA as a 23 year old.
And that’s about it. I’m certainly not an expert in the Minor Leagues or scouting, but hopefully this gives you a little bit of information about the Twins 2012 Arizona Fall League participants.
The Minnesota Twins have not won a game since Monday, August 20, and the closest they’ve come was the following day in a 4-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics. Since then the Twins have lost by 4, 4, 8 and 6 runs, bringing their season-long run differential to -111, only the Cleveland Indians (-134) have a worse run differential in the American League.
A win today does nothing to help Minnesota in the standings, but it will go a long way toward bringing up morale in the clubhouse of a team that’s been clobbered for the better part of a week. Cole De Vries has a 10.64 ERA over his last 3 starts, he will need to turn things around this afternoon or the Twins will be in another big hole against a high powered Rangers offense.
Here is something that happened earlier today: The Minnesota Twins, previously referred to as a professional baseball team, won a contest of baseballing against an actual real-life baseball club. A club, known as none-other than the Texas Rangers. It was pretty fun.
Ben Revere had his 6th career 4 hit game and was on base 5 times, despite only hitting the ball out of the infield once. For his performance this afternoon the fans in the Knuckleballs blog GameChat (BaseballPirate and myself, though BaseballPirate was inactive, so really I just picked whoever I wanted), decided to give Ben Revere a nice warm German style beer. Enjoy that beer, Ben.
Jeff Gray pitched a third of an inning and gave up 3 runs, which was pretty impressive for a guy who has no business being on a Major League Baseball team. Anyways, his run-surrendering performance woke up the bullpen and then Casey Fien, Jared Burton and Glen Perkins closed out the game against the high-powered Rangers offense without surrendering another run. For his wake-up performance, Jeff Gray is the BOD. Hopefully he woke up Terry Ryan and Ryan outrights Gray and assigns him to some lesser level of baseball, perhaps Triple-A baseball.
There can be no doubts that a 63-99 team has plenty of areas for improvement. In 2011 the Twins were 28th in team OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage), ahead of only the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres. Sure, they were playing half of their games in the pitcher friendly Target Field, but even when adjusting for park factors, the Twins posted an OPS+ of just 84 (100 is average), 29th in the MLB, this time behind the Padres. Clearly there were issues with the Twins’ bats a year ago. Part of that was attributable to injuries to Joe Mauer (replaced by Drew Butera and Rene Rivera) and Denard Span (replaced by Joe Benson, Rene Tosoni, and Jason Repko). Another part of the hitting problem was related to dreadful offensive production from the middle infield, as Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Luke Hughes, Danny Valencia, and Matt Tolbert, and the the oldTrevor Plouffe all posted below leave average offensive numbers.
As bad as the Twins’ bats were in 2011, it did not really matter what their pitchers were doing. And maybe that is what the front office was thinking heading into Spring Training. If the Twins could just upgrade their offense, even with a mediocre pitching staff, they were likely to see a big improvement. Unfortunately, the Twins did not have a mediocre pitching staff in 2011, their 4.58 team ERA was 29th, and were one of just two teams (along with the Baltimore Orioles) to allow more than 800 runs. So to go along with their 29th place OPS+, the Twins also had the 29th worst pitching staff, and yet somehow they still only lost 99 games.
After a winter of free agent signings and departures the Twins arrived in Spring Training as optimistic as any team in baseball. After all, they were only a year removed from a 94-win AL Central Championship team, and they were truly healthy for the first time in more than a year. Their franchise catcher, Joe Mauer, had finally recovered from whatever it was that was ailing him in 2011 and caused him to miss almost half a season, and Justin Morneau was finally overcoming his concussion symptoms that cost him the better parts of 2010 and 2011. Ryan Doumit and Josh Willingham were on board to replace Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer, and the Twins signed veteran on-base sepcialist Jamey Carroll to compensate for the failures of Nishioka. Alexi Casilla was coming off one of the best offensive seasons of his underwhelming career and looked poised to finally become the everyday player the Twins had been hoping he would be since 2007. Despite all their failures in 2011, the Twins looked like their bats were ready to hit in 2012.*
*And to some extent, they are. The Twins’ 2012 OPS+ is 6th in the American League, and they are scoring runs at an almost league average rate (4.30/4.47).
The Twins, however, did little to improve a pitching staff that was one of the worst in 2011. They inexplicably resigned 9th inning reliever Matt Capps to a $4.75 million dollar deal to step in for the departed Joe Nathan. They also sent starting pitcher Brian Duensing back to the bullpen where he had previously been successful and replaced him in the rotation with free agent acquisition Jason Marquis, hoping that he would rebound from a broken leg that cost him the end of the 2011 season, and become the renaissance man that Carl Pavano had been for the Twins since he arrived in 2009. But with just five real candidates for starting pitching Minnesota was walking a pretty thin line. The Twins also brought in just about every free agent relief pitcher they could find hoping that a couple of them would pitch well enough in Spring Training to head north with the big league team. They even went against their traditionally risk-averse strategy and signed Joel Zumaya to a minor league deal hoping to add a power arm to their bullpen without paying the power arm price. And with that, the Twins were seemingly ready to start the season.
Just five starting pitchers and not a lot of MLB ready pitchers in AAA ready to step in if things went poorly. Among the starting pitchers not in that group of five, only Liam Hendriks and Scott Diamond seemed like realistic replacements to join the Twins if things did not go well in Minnesota.
As you are well aware, things have not gone well for the Twins’ starting pitchers in 2012. Even before leaving Spring Training the Twins were forced to move Liam Hendriks into starting rotation as Jason Marquis was pulled away from the team to be with his daughter while she was recovering from a serious bicycle accident. To make matters worse, Scott Baker did not leave Ft. Myers with the Twins either, dealing with supposedly minor arm issues which ended up as a worst-case scenario as Baker would eventually require Tommy John surgery to repair the UCL in his pitching arm. That meant that Anthony Swarzak would start the season in the starting rotation, leaving with Twins without their regular long-reliever until Marquis would be back with the team. Before long the Liam Hendriks experiment was over and he was back in AAA looking garner some additional seasoning. Now the Twins had to start getting creative. They had already burned through the only two replacement options they’d planned for and with the Twins already well below .500, it was unlikely that they would be playing any meaningful baseball in October. Since that time the Twins have used five additional starting pitchers, none of whom the Twins were counting on in April. P.J. Walters was first, then Scott Diamond, Cole De Vries, Brian Duensing, and finally Sam Deduno.
The Twins still have 63 games remaining in 201. With Francisco Liriano now pitching for the Chicago White Sox the Twins will have to find another arm to step in. While the next pitcher they call upon to start will likely not be a fresh face, they will still be tip-toeing around a problem unlikely to be resolved without the infusion of some fresh arms this winter.
Twins fans should have known that when Minnesota signed Jason Marquis and hoped for the best that the team was just winging it in 2012.
Coming off a disappointing road trip before the All-Star Game in which the Twins lost of couple of heart breakers to the Texas Rangers, the Minnesota Twins are likely to aggressively look for offers for many of their current players. While the Twins are “only” 11.0 games out of first place, they are still 13 games under .500 and would have to go 45-32, playing .582 baseball. Only the New York Yankees, the Texas Rangers, and the Washington Nationals played .582 baseball or better before the All-Star Break, so the Twins are looking at a monumental climb just to get back to .500.
Realistically the Twins would need to approach not just 81 wins to compete in the Central, but something more like 86 wins to win the division (assuming the White Sox Cleveland or Detroit do not play much better in the 2nd half), which would mean going 50-27 in their remaining games. That simply is not happening with the Twins’ current pitching staff. Even if the good Francisco Liriano shows up and Scott Diamond continues to impress, Cole De Vries and Samuel Dedunoare still in the starting rotation!
So what would a realistic record look like going down the stretch? The Twins are 18-17 since June 1, which is a lot closer to the mediocre team many thought the Twins would be heading into the season, than the 18-32 baseball the played before June. In their remaining 77 games, the Twins have 43 games against the AL Central and just 17 left against the AL East and the AL West. Even if the Twins’ front office trades off a couple of their more valuable players, the Twins should still have a decent opportunity to play within a game of .500 baseball against the AL Central teams, going 21-22 the rest of the way. Against the East and West the Twins played very poorly in the first half, posting a winning record only against the Oakland Athletics (3-0). I do not think they’ll be as bad as they were in the first half, and if they manage to go 15-19 against the rest of the AL I will not be surprised. Maybe that is a little bit of a rose colored prediction, but this team has shown in the past month+ that they are capable of putting together stretches of competitive baseball.
That would put the Twins at 36-41 in the second half, and a record of 72-90 to finish the season. That is only 9 games better than the 63-99 the Twins were a year ago, but if the front office is building towards future success, I will be willing to accept the lumps in 2012 in hopes of a brighter future ahead.