Episode 55 of the Twins baseball podcast, Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.
We’re essentially geniuses, that’s the only conclusion I could come to after recording and listening to this week’s episode. Pure baseball genius. We talk about some issues surrounding the infield this off-season (The return of Justin Morneau? What Miguel Sano means to Trevor Plouffe and if anyone can or should challenge Pedro Florimon at SS), talk a little bit about the farm system and some possible trades that might develop. We also talk about beer. Eric was fired for drinking water, then immediately hired back, because he’s my brother. We also made a wager of 100 beers while debating if Doug Bernier will ever post an OBP over .330 again in his career.
Episode 51 of the Twins baseball podcast, Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.
The Minor League season has ended for all of the Twins MiLB affiliates except for the Rochester Red Wings. We take a look at some standout seasons and team reviews around the Twins system. We also spend a good deal of time discussing Aaron Hicks’ role in 2014 and the possible leadership void left in the wake of Justin Morneau’s trade to Pittsburgh.
It occurs to me that since I’ve been a little preoccupied with writing about the Cedar Rapids Kernels the past five months, I have written very little about the Minnesota Twins.
Now that the Kernels’ season has come to a close, I’m going to try to remedy that situation and I’m going to begin by posing a question to the Twns’ front office: Why the heck have you not announced that you are shutting Joe Mauer down for the season?
I mean it. Shut Joe Mauer down and do it right frigging now!
I know he wants to play. I know he wants to put on the gear and get behind the plate again this season. I know he doesn’t like sitting and watching his team mates play (and frankly, many days, the rest of us aren’t enjoying it much either).
I don’t care. He is not (or at least he shouldn’t be) the one calling the shots.
“I start feeling symptoms when I start to get my heart rate up,” Mauer said between workouts at Target Field on Thursday.
Mauer is determined to return to the Twins lineup before the end of the regular season – but he has to wait until the symptoms go away for good.
“This process has been a little longer than I hoped,” Mauer said.
Tell me that doesn’t sound like something we might have heard Justin Morneau say during the summer of 2010.
That summer, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com authored a piece on the concussions of Morneau and Jason Bay, and quoted another former member of the Twins, Corey Koskie, extensively. This quote from Koskie should resound with Twins fans who think Mauer should return to the field for any part of what’s left of this third straight lost season:
Koskie doesn’t profess to know everything about concussions, but he’s compiled a list of “do’s” and “don’ts.” He advises any athlete with concussion symptoms to consult a doctor with no vested interest in the player’s return to the field. His blood pressure also spikes when he reads a news story that Player X suffered a “mild” concussion in the line of duty.
“That’s a pet peeve of mine,” Koskie said. “The brain is the most important organ in the body. You’d never hear somebody say, ‘This guy just had a minor heart attack. He should be able to play in two days.’ ”
When Morneau caught a knee to the helmet in Toronto three years ago, he was hitting .345 and had an OPS of 1.055. Last week he was traded for two guys 99% of us had never heard of.
Look, I’ve got plans to attend a Twins game a week from Saturday (assuming I survive the #GrandDrunkRailroad pregame festivities) and I’d like to see Mauer play. I don’t care if he doesn’t hit home runs, I appreciate what he does with a bat and he’s almost certainly going to be enshrined in Cooperstown someday. I want to see him play any chance I can get.
But Justin Morneau’s career path was just as promising as Joe Mauer’s three seasons ago and a concussion that was originally thought to be minor robbed Twins fans of getting to see him at his best in his prime… not to mention robbing us of the opportunity to see what difference he might have made in a couple of Twins’ postseason appearances in 2010 and 2011.
I want to see the Twins improve in 2014 and I want to see them return to contention in 2015 and beyond. The Twins organization has a number of very good prospects who will be arriving by then.
But if prospects like Miguel Sano or Byron Buxton had been concussed with three or four weeks left in their seasons, is there any way the Twins WOULDN’T just shut them down immediately rather than try to get them back on the field for a couple weeks at the end of the season, even if it might involve minor league postseason games?
There is no way they would take that kind of risk with such critical assets.
After all, the chances of the Minnesota Twins returning to relevancy in the next few years depend on a healthy Miguel Sano and a healthy Byron Buxton.
They also depend on a healthy Joe Mauer.
And the remaining games on the Twins’ schedule are every bit as meaningless as minor league games are, at this point. They simply do not matter at all, except for the purpose of evaluating players with an eye toward what, if any, roles they should play on a future Twins roster.
The Twins need to find out if Josmil Pinto and Chris Herrmann can handle catching at the Major League level. They need to find out if Chris Colabello and Chris Parmelee can hit Major League pitching well enough to take over at first base.
There may be a legitimate question as to what position Joe Mauer should play in the future, but there is absolutely no question concerning whether he’ll have a role somewhere – unless he tries to return too soon from his concussion and spends an offseason dealing with symptoms the way Morneau did leading up to 2011.
If the Twins’ brass ask Mauer if he wants to continue to work toward getting back on the field this season, of course he’s going to say, “yes.” He’s a competitor and you would expect no other answer.
That’s why the question shouldn’t even be asked.
The Twins should simply tell Mauer his season is over and he should focus on being ready to take the field when pitchers and catchers report to spring training in February.
Doing otherwise is illogical and perhaps even irresponsible.
So we have a makeup game this afternoon before the regularly scheduled evening game – Surprise! Honestly, I wish that the Twins could figure out how to update (or just do it) their iCal schedule for those of us who watch it – changes are never updated so let’s hope I’m paying attention… never a good bet.
At any rate, a little injury rotation notation – it’s Friday and I’m in a goofy mood:
Doumit is on the 7-day concussion DL. Not terribly good news but at least we have Chris and things are good there. Honestly, I always had the impression that Doumit’s noggin was especially armored the way he shrugs off most knocks to the helmet. I’m sure this is yet another occasion where he told himself, “wow, that rung my bell” and just kept going – until he got dizzy. He doesn’t strike me as a “get dizzy” kind of guy at all.
BACK from the DL is Josh Willingham. Convenient. Let’s see what he can do with that surgically repaired knee. It’s hard to believe he’s out there after only 5 weeks but they can do remarkable things with surgery and rehab these days. Let’s hope that his bat comes back as well…
I’ve lost track on Gibson’s schedule whether this is supposed to be a good start or a hittable start.. LOL Just joking but I sure hope that it’s a good day. We aren’t in any danger (at this point) of trading places with the White Sox who are just not playing good baseball as a rule this season BUT that never seems to stop this particular rivalry from throwing odd wrenches into the gears. I’ll maintain my general mode of “beat the Sox, whenever & wherever you can” and go from there.
Well that was certainly an enjoyable afternoon! It would be really easy to say today was all about the homerun.. Which is probably true but to be honest, those homeruns were so costly because of all the WALKS. We actually got runs with RISP!
But yeah, in a return to the Justin we remember, a very timely Grand Slam makes him the BOD for this afternoon…
After paying a visit to one former Twins center fielder in Washington over the weekend, the Twins play host to another one tonight as Ben Revere and the Phillies begin a series in Minnesota.
Aaron Hicks is now on the Disabled List and Oswaldo Arcia is back with the club and manning left field while Josh Willingham slides in as the DH. Clete Thomas is the best option Gardy could come up with to play center field in Hicks’ absence.
That was a pretty slick win. Maybe it just comes as such a total surprise to me when the Twins get a really impressive start from a member of their rotation. PJ Walters earned our kudos and some baked goods for 7.1 innings of work.
But after the Phillies tied the game up at 2 in the top of the eighth, Justin Morneau came through with a two out RBI single to put the Twins back up 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth and set up Glen Perkins for a save.
For that game winner, the Chat group elected Morneau our BOD for the game.
With one bad first inning on Tuesday night, the Twins fell from a first place tie atop the AL Central Division in to sole possession of next-to-last place.
Such is life in the second week of a six-month-long Major League Baseball season.
The Twins sit at .500 with a 4-4 record after winning their first two series of the season from Detroit and Baltimore, both of which were postseason participants a year ago. The latter series was also on the road. That ain’t bad.
The losses the past two games in Kansas City have been a bit hard to stomach, of course. Blowing a one-run lead and wasting a pretty fair performance by pitcher Kevin Correia (at least through his first seven innings) was galling on Monday and the five-run bottom of the first that the Twins coughed up to the Royals Tuesday night was way too reminiscent of the kind of starts the Twins endured last year from their rotation.
But, on balance, things could be a lot worse, right?
After all, the Twins have put together this .500 start while most of their best hitters have gotten off to what you’d have to be generous to call mediocre starts.
The Twins have three hitters with batting averages above .300 at this point and you’d have to add all of those three players’ plate appearances together to match the number of times the team’s regular position players have come to the plate. When Eduardo Escobar, Pedro Florimon and Wilkin Ramirez are leading your team’s offense, you know you aren’t hitting (in this case, literally) on all cylinders yet.
Josh Willingham is off to a productive start, however. He’s hitting .280 with a couple of doubles and a couple of dingers. We’ll take that from the Hammer all year long. Chris Parmelee and Trevor Plouffe haven’t been great, but haven’t been awful either. Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer have not gotten off to great starts, so you have to figure the offense will improve as those two begin to warm up.
So things could be worse, offensively. Don’t believe me? Just imagine if Manager Ron Gardenhire had decided to plug Brian Dozier and his .174 On-base percentage in to the #2 spot of the order.
Then there’s the pitching. We’ve known all along that this team is going to live or die based on what kind of pitching they get.
Most of the good news is in the bullpen. Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Ryan Pressly and Josh Roenicke, as a group, have not yet surrendered a run, earned or otherwise. They have 14 strikeouts (and seven walks) in 15 innings of combined work. Anthony Swarzak and Brian Duensing have also contributed positively out of the pen.
The results from the rotation members have been mixed. But, as with most things in life, it’s all relative. Compared to what we grew accustomed to seeing a year ago, maybe it hasn’t been all that bad.
Kevin Correia isn’t striking anyone out, but nobody really thought he would. What he has done is induce 23 ground outs and taken his team through the first seven innings of each of his starts. I think we’d take that all year long if we could get it.
There have been some encouraging innings out of some of the other rotation members, as well, but we need to see improvement there. That improvement could potentially start when Scott Diamond comes off the Disabled List in a couple of days.
Still, considering that the Twins pitchers are sixth in the American League in team ERA and their hitters are 12th in both batting average and OPS, you’d almost have to say it’s the team’s pitching that has them even as high as .500 at this point. Who would have expected that?
You may not have realized it by looking out your window at the new snow this morning, but the Twins’ Opening Day is just two weeks from today. That means it’s probably time to start taking a more serious look at how the team is rounding in to shape in Fort Myers.
Although Spring Training has officially been in gear for about a month, it’s usually pretty pointless to pay a lot of attention to individual performances during the first couple of weeks of Grapefruit League games. Veteran hitters are just shaking the rust off and working on specific things, such as hitting to this or that specific field or hitting particular pitches. Established pitchers use each early outing as an opportunity to refine deliveries or work on specific pitches. Results are of secondary concern.
But as the team gets down to it’s final dozen games or so, the hitters start wanting more plate appearances in the games and the pitchers start using all their pitches as they focus more on getting outs. We should also see with some level of certainty how the starting pitching spots are firming up as the Twins adjust their rotation so that they have pitchers lined up they way they want to open the season. Their final 10 Spring Training games will start this Thursday against the Yankees.
It’s a good thing, too, that we can conveniently discount performances up to this point, because a lot of those performances have been less than awe-inspring thus far. If you were inclined to predict the season’s outcome based on the first few weeks of Spring Training results, it would be pretty difficult to find cause to believe the 2013 Twins will be much better than last season’s version.
While it’s encouraging to see Justin Morneau looking like his former MVP-level self and Aaron Hicks looking like a legitimate Major League centerfielder in the making, every fan has known all along that it’s the pitching rotation that had to improve significantly if the Twins are to have a chance to show significantly improved results this summer and there hasn’t been too much to get excited about in that area yet.
With Scott Diamond certain to start the season on the Disabled List, there are two rotation spots up for grabs among several of the Twins’ young arms. Kyle Gibson was expected to contend for a spot, but he’s already been sent across the parking lot to minor league camp, so he’ll be starting his season in Rochester. Liam Hendriks is another contender, but he’s struggled in most of his appearances. Hitters have averaged .295 against him and have hit him up four home runs in his 15 innings of work. His WHIP is a lackluster 1.40.
But here’s the kicker… Hendriks arguably has had a better spring, statistically speaking, than any of the three “locks” for Twins rotation spots, Vance Worley, Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey. Those three haven’t been as prone to giving up gopher balls as Hendriks, but through the past weekend, hitters are batting better than .300 against each of them and Worley’s 1.83 WHIP is the best of the trio.
On the other hand, if you want to look for encouraging signs for the Twins among their starting pitching corps, you can take a look in the direction of Cole DeVries. DeVries has only thrown 10 innings in his three starts, but he’s not giving up many hits (.121 batting average against), has not given up any home runs, has a tidy little 0.70 WHIP and, if you’re in to small sample size ERAs, he’s sporting a 0.90 in that category, too. Of course, “small sample size” caveats apply to all stat lines at this point.
Another rotation candidate that’s been at least moderately impressive is a guy who has only thrown one inning for the Twins this spring, Samuel Deduno. While he hasn’t been in camp for the past couple of weeks, Deduno has been getting work in the rotation for the Dominican Republic’s entry in the World Baseball Classic, where he’s had some success. In fact, he was the starting (and winning) pitcher for the Dominicans in their victory over Team USA last week.
Because Deduno is not on the Twins’ 40-man roster at this point, the team would have to make a roster move to keep him when they move north to start the season. Since they hope to have Diamond available by mid-April, it’s quite possible they’ll only need their initial fifth starter for one game before Diamond is activated. That being the case, Hendriks should still be considered the leading candidate for that spot.
So here’s what the rotation seems to be setting up to look like, to my eyes:
Opening Day starter: Vance Worley (started Sunday, will likely start again Friday and have his last Spring Training Start Wednesday, March 27… five days before Opening Day)
#2 starter: Kevin Correia (starting today, leaving remaining starts March 23 and 28)
#3 starter: Mike Pelfrey
#4 starter Cole DeVries
#5 starter: Liam Hendriks (may only be needed for one start, March 7, before Diamond is activated in mid-April)
That’s all pure speculation on my part, of course. The point is merely that, with two weeks remaining before the scheduled Opening Day, now is when these pitchers need to start showing me something more than they have already… something to make me believe they’ll make up a better rotation than the disaster we saw on the mound last season.
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.
Day one of baseball’s Winter Meetings in Nashville is drawing to a close and while the Twins rotation still sucks, there wasn’t a complete lack of Twins-related news coming out of the Gaylord Opryland Resort. OK, calling it Twins “news” might be a stretch, but at least the Twins were mentioned here and there among all the rumors floating out of Nashville.
I spent the better part of my day refreshing various web sites that track the latest rumors and reading Twitter messages being posted by all of the Twins beat reporters representing various media outlets. After all, I had to make sure I didn’t miss anything interesting. I was keeping up pretty well, too, at least until someone with a pretty screwed up set of priorities scheduled me in to back-to-back conference calls starting at 3:00 pm.
Speaking of those hard-working reporters down in Nashville, you really should be following them on Twitter, if you aren’t already: Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com (@RhettBollinger), Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN (@PMac21), Ben Goessling of the Pioneer-Press (@BenGoesslingPP) and LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star-Tribune (@LaVelleNeal). Of course, MLBTradeRumors.com is a must-follow this week (and most weeks), as well.
Anyway, here’s a rundown of what I saw and heard around this here interweb thingy today:
Terry Ryan stated that the Twins have checked in on every available free agent pitcher, but that some are more realistic than others. (Yeah… I bet.)
Ryan also indicated the Twins would almost certainly participate in Thursday’s Rule 5 draft. They have the 4th pick so not participating would be pretty stupid.
The Twins remain interested in right-hander Brett Myers. They may or may not have competition for Myers from the Orioles, depending on whose rumor you believe.
Other lesser (and in some cases, much lesser) pitchers that the Twins have been linked to include: Joe Blanton, Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, John Lannan. Mike Pelfrey and Vicente Padilla. Blanton and Lannan, in particular, are reportedly high on the Twins’ list.
Ryan Dempster is the only pitcher remotely close to being considered a top-half-of-the-rotation option that I’ve seen even mentioned in connection with the Twins today.
While the Twins have indicated they’re likely to be focused on free agents during the winter meetings, other teams have continued to check in with them about the availability of both Ben Revere and Josh Willingham.
Terry Ryan stated that Joe Mauer will not be traded.
In addition to pitching, the Twins are likely to acquire a third baseman to provide competition for Trevor Plouffe during Spring Training. However, it’s unlikely they’ll add more middle infielders, which means Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon, Jamey Carroll and Eduardo Escobar are most likely going to be manning SS and 2B, for better or… you know… worse.
Pitcher Liam Hendriks had some elbow surgery to remove bone chips and won’t pitch for Australia during the World Baseball Classic. Nick Blackburn had a similar procedure done at about the same time. Both should be ready to go by Spring Training.
Joe Mauer (USA) and Justin Morneau (Canada) do plan to participate in the WBC for their respective home countries.
Manager Ron Gardenhire commented to media about his time in the Twins’ “War Room” at the hotel: “I’m listening to them all and they’re trading my whole darn team!” He was kidding. (We think.)
Chris Parmelee may be the early contender for the Twins’ RF job, but Darin Mastroianni and Ryan Doumit could compete for the job.
I’m posting this a bit before 8:00 pm CT Monday night and suffice to say I’m pretty disappointed in Day 1, so far. Joe Blanton is the top pitcher the Twins have been connected to in any manner more than just having “checked in on.”
Newsflash for Terry Ryan: Joe Blanton will not solve your problems, sir. Nor will additions of that caliber bring fans back to Target Field. You can do better.