Episode 60 of the Twins baseball podcast, Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.
60 is a number worn my several Twins throughout the years, including current “closer” Glen Perkins from 2006-2007, and most recently by Pedro Hernandez (2013) and Jeff Gray (2012), but most notably by Jon Rauch and his terrible neck tattoo in back to back seasons (2009-2010). This week on the podcast we discuss a plethora of minor league happenings, including the pending 50-game suspension of Eddie Rosario and recent 40-man roster moves. The debate wages on over which starting pitchers make sense for the Twins to sign, as Eric, Cody and Jay each make their cases of Ricky Nolasco, Bronson Arroyo and Matt Garza. Who would you take? There’s a considerably lengthy discussion about the true value of the Metrodome baggie and who the real winner is in the Prince FielderIan Kinsler trade. Also, if you are a Leinenkugel Beer affectionado, you may want to stick around for the “Beers from Around the World” segment. This episode also features an interview with noted sabermatrician, FanGraphswriter/editor and BBWAA member, Carson Cistulli (@cistulli). This is a long episode, almost 2 hours, but it’s pure gold from beginning to end.
If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which helps the Twins pitching prospects break the 93 MPH barrier.
Ok, a bit of roster news that you may have already heard but then again, maybe not. Officially this morning, the Twins brought up Anthony Swarzak and Pedro Hernandez and put Cole DeVries on the DL while optioning Tyler Robertson.
Swarzak is maybe not 100% yet from my read of the situation since he just got his wisdom teeth removed and had to deal with a gum infection on top of it. But apparently he’s still able to play. Who knew.
With their win today the Twins have improbably won their first two series of the year and are sitting at 4-2 heading into the second week of the season. The Twins played another enjoyable game this afternoon. Pedro Hernandez made a spot start for the injured Cole De Vries and while he didn’t pitch great, he pitched five innings, and while he gave up three runs in the bottom of the second, throwing more than a third of his 83 pitches, he was otherwise effective against the Orioles lineup. The Twins picked up a pair of runs in the third inning on a flyball that Adam Jones lost in the sun, then tied the game and eventually took the lead on an Aaron Hicks RBI single in the seventh. Anthony Swarzak made his first appearance of the year, pitching an inning and a third, and Brian Duensing, Jared Burton, and Glen Perkins finished off the game for a come from behind four to three victory.
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.
It has taken me a little longer than expected to put up a post here about my trip up to Minneapolis for TwinsFest. That’s because it took me a little longer than anticipated just to get home from TwinsFest.
The plan was simple:
Drive up to Minneapolis Saturday morning
Go to TwinsFest Saturday afternoon
Go to Hubert’s Saturday night for the TwinsDaily-hosted social event
Sleep a few hours at my hotel
Go to brunch with my Knuckleballs “family” Sunday morning
Drive home Sunday afternoon
Yes, I got a later start than I expected Saturday morning, due, to some degree, to staying at the local sports bar with my family alonger than I’d planned Friday night, but I made it to my Eagan hotel by 1:00-ish. It was about that time that I realized I hadn’t brought my camera with me, which is kind of a big deal for me (some of you may have noticed I enjoy taking pictures when I travel). I got to the hotel early enough that they didn’t have a room ready for me to check in to. They were more than happy to take my credit card information, of course, so all I would have to do would be pick up my door card when I got back from downtown that night.
After taking the Light Rail from the Mall of America to the Metrodome, I wandered around the place for a bit. I ran in to several familiar faces, caught up with a few friends and listened in to some of the interviews taking place on the 1500ESPN stage.
Before long, I made my way to the “Down on the Farm” area and chatted a while with the folks at the CR Kernels’ booth, including General Manager Doug Nelson.
I didn’t do the autograph thing this year, but I did enjoy seeing some of my own boyhood heroes signing. Rollie Fingers, Jim “Mudcat” Grant, Jim Perry and Fergie Jenkins were at one station on the main floor of the Dome and seeing them all together made me smile.
As TwinsFest was getting set to close down for the evening, just before 6:00 pm, I wandered across the street to Hubert’s for the little social event planned there by the good people at Twins Daily. I wasn’t sure how many people to expect to see, but the guys were promising free beer, so I really didn’t need much additional incentive to show up. My plan was to stick around long enough to talk with a few people I don’t get to see often, then part at an hour appropriate for someone of my advanced years. It was a reasonable plan.
I’m not sure how many people the Twins Daily guys were expecting, but it seemed like a great turnout to me. People came and went, but I’m almost positive at least 100 different people showed up. It’s a considerable understatement to say I had a great time. I got to spend time talking to a few people I have met before at other blogger gatherings and a lot of people I hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting before. We talked Twins, we talked Kernels, we talked about writing. We watched the Timberwolves blow a lead and lose.
Time really just flew by and the next thing I knew, it was after 11:00 and I was finally getting around to eating… at a totally different place, where a number of us had moved to as things wound down at Hubert’s.
Fast-forward a couple of hours and I finally made it back to my hotel where, it turns out, they lock the doors to the lobby at 11:00 pm. Of course, you can let yourself in with your room key… and they assume all guests would actually HAVE a room key. It took a little longer than expected, but I did eventually get checked in to a room for what was left of the night.
By 10:00 am Sunday, I was sitting down for brunch at Chammp’s in St. Paul with fellow Knuckleballers KL and Babs (and her hubby, Andrew). I can’t say I was 100% on my game, at that point, but I’ve been much worse.
It was just starting to spit a little something when we left the restaurant, though I wasn’t sure whether it was rain, sleet or snow. Before I got out of the Twin Cities area, heading south, things were a much worse. By the time I reached Albert Lea, I’d pretty much seen it all: Freezing rain. Some ice. A bit of snow. Cars and trucks in ditches. Cars and trucks actually leaving the road and driving in to ditches. In short, I saw enough to know I didn’t want to join them, so I pulled in to my old home town and found a hotel room.
Not only did I find a hotel room, but the hotel had a nice little sports bar/restaurant attached to it! The waitress/bartender was kind enough to find the Iowa-Purdue basketball game on one of their TVs for me while I enjoyed an excellent quesadilla and a beer or two before heading back to my room for the night.
When I looked out the window of my hotel room early Monday morning, I couldn’t see my car. In fact, I couldn’t see anyone’s car. Fog had pretty much engulfed us. Not being all that interested in getting on a slick interstate with no visibility, I had breakfast and spent a couple hours working in my room before checking out.
By then, you could see maybe 200 yards in front of you on the interstate, so it wasn’t too bad. I had to make two more stops of an hour or two each to deal with work-related phone calls, but finally rolled in to my garage around 4:00 pm… almost exactly 24 hours after I SHOULD have been home.
While things didn’t exactly go as planned, it was definitely worth the trip just to have a chance to see so many friends Saturday and Sunday.
We don’t all agree on everything Twins-related. In fact, some of us rarely agree on anything Twins-related. But we all have a mutual interest in the Twins. In fact, for most of us, it’s probably more accurately called a mutual passion for the Twins.
I don’t know how the upcoming Twins season will turn out, but it’s great to know we’ll all share the experience together.
I’ll wrap up with a handful of additional photos I did manage to take with my phone-camera.
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.
Not surprising really that the White Sox released the news before the Twins did so, but regardless, Francisco Liriano is now a Chicago White Sox (Sock?).
In return, the Sox sent two young players who have primarily been minor leaguers, though both have already spent some time in the Big Leagues with the BitchSox.
Lefty pitcher Pedro Hernandez recently made his MLB debut with a four-inning start. He gave up 8 runs (3 homers). I guess his 18.00 ERA is bound to improve, right? The 23 year old Venezuelan has been a starting pitcher pretty much his entire minor league career. He’s got a 3.42 career MiLB ERA and a 1.240 WHIP in his six minor league seasons. In rookie leagues, he was striking out about a hitter per inning, but that rate has dropped as he’s progressed through the levels. Thus far in 2012, with time in AA and AAA, he’s sporting a 5.7 K/9 rate and walking 2.2 hitters per 9 innings. Hernandez is just 5′ 10″, but he weighs in at an even 200 pounds.
The other player coming to the Twins is also a 5′ 10″ 23 year old Venezuelan. However, infielder Eduardo Escobar is just 165 pounds. That’s a good thing, because if he carried Hernandez’ weight, he wouldn’t be “hitting his weight” this season (he’s hit .195 in 32 games for Chicago this season). He has just 99 career plate appearances for Chicago (92 this season). He appears to essentially be a utility infielder, but he’s going to have to learn how to do something with the bat if he’s going to have any kind of career. Escobar has a .270/.315/.351 split in 6 minor league seasons.
I’m sure we’ll learn more about these players in the coming hours and days. Frankly, if Hernandez turns out to be at least a replacement level starting pitcher, then this return is about all I was expecting for Liriano. There’s no doubt in my mind that his implosion in hs last start cost the Twins something in trade value.
Thanks for the memories, Frankie. I wish I could wish you good luck in the future, but given where you’ll be playing, I just can’t bring myself to do so. I do thank you for the good times and I’ll try not to think too much about the bad times.