Thursday, February 8, 2007
Twins Organizational Preview
Good morning everyone! Continuing our Twins Organizational Preview, today we will look at the infielders throughout the Twins system. Yesterday we looked at the team's Outfielders and Catchers. Tomorrow, we will finish with the pitchers. Let's get right to it.
This one is pretty easy at the Major League level. An AL MVP and a new $4.5 million contract pretty much ensures that Justin Morneau will be the Twins 1B in 2007! If need be, Jeff Cirillo can eat up some innings over there as well. There should be no need to put Michael Cuddyer in the infield any more.
At Rochester, however, there is a very interesting situation developing. Garrett Jones has been the team's primary 1B the last two years. Although he hasn't hit much, when he does make contact, he has shown tremendous power. He will continue to get at bats. However, a couple of minor league invites could also steal some of that time at 1B. Matthew LeCroy could get some innings over there when he isn't DHing or serving as a catcher. Ken Harvey could also see some time over there if he doesn't make the Twins roster and sticks with the club. Danny Matienzo had a monster season at New Britain in 2005. He returned in 2006 and was very disappointing. I think he will need to make the AAA roster in order to stay with the organization. Finally, Doug Deeds likely will be a starting OF for the Red Wings, but he could also take some innings at 1B.
Because of the log jam ahead of him at 1B, Brock Peterson had to spend a second season at Ft. Myers. It proved to be a very good thing for him as he now appears to be ready for the challenge ahead at AA New Britain.
It made little sense that Erik Lis had to spend the entire 2006 season in Beloit. As a college hitter, he dominated the league offensively. The only reason he wasn't promoted had to be to continue to get playing time. He should jump up to Ft. Myers and be the team's primary 1B assuming he works on his glove work.
At Beloit, we should see Danny Valencia at 1B to start the season. The former Miami Hurricane plummeted to the 19th round where the Twins were able to take him. He could be a half-season kind of guy at this level.
There are a couple of question marks that will need to be resolved. Johnny Woodard was a Twins high draft pick just a couple of years ago, but he has been unable to stay healthy. He got some at bats at Ft. Myers a year ago before getting hurt again, but he will likely start this season on the disabled list again. The other question mark is Henry Sanchez. A supplemental first-round pick in 2005, he was unable to hit a curveball during his first two professional seasons. He was hurt and missed the second half of the 2006 season. Depending on his health, he could be a DH-type at Beloit to start the season, or he could report to extended spring training.
Luis Castillo's 2007 contract vested with his 501st plate appearance last year. That's not a bad thing. Castillo is a decent top of the order hitter who puts the ball in play. He even stole some bases last year again. But, it is good to know that Alexi Casilla is nearly ready, and he should be the 2B starting in 2008.
Note - Alejandro Machado was the Twins Rule V pick in December, and he has a chance to make the Twins roster. Personally, I think that he has a very good chance to be one of the Twins utility men. If not, it means that Luis Rodriguez earned the roster spot. This is the same situation at both shortstop and third base.
I think that Casilla is ready to start the season at AAA, but there is a massive log jam of infielders at Rochester so it is possible that he could start the season back at New Britain, and that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing either. He only had a couple of months there. So, other candidates for the 2B job at 2B include Luis Maza and Luis Rodriguez.
I am almost assuming that Casilla will start the season at Rochester. If that is the case, then 2006 Eastern League All-Star Felix Molina will remain the New Britain starting 2B. Luke Hughes is also an option as a utility guy at New Britain.
I believe that despite missing a lot of time in 2006, Drew Thomson will move up to Ft. Myers. Part of the reason for that is because Brian Dinkelman needs to move up to Beloit. Both need regular playing time and this makes the most sense.
Nick Punto just made a bunch of money. 2 years and $4.2 million means a lot longer of a string as the team's starting 3B. This is where we all hope that the Nick Punto of June through August is the real Nick Punto. Jeff Cirillo rakes against left-handed pitching, so I think he will get plenty of at bats at 3B, but also as the DH and a pinch hitter.
Glenn Williams will get plenty of at bats as the Rochester 3B. The question is, will it be as the regular, or as a mentor. I happen to think that the Twins will want to push Matt Moses to AAA. He has already spent a year and a half at New Britain. However, it is important to remember that he is a year younger than Denard Span, who spent 2006 at New Britain. Moses is not on the 40 man roster yet, so there is really no reason to rush him. Also, with the two year contract given to Nick Punto, he probably doesn't have to be the Twins 3B until 2009. Luis Maza and Luis Rodriguez can also get a lot of at bats for the Red Wings.
Therefore, I see Matt Moses and David Winfree splitting 3B and DH duties for the New Britain Rockcats. Of course, Winfree can also get at bats at 1B. There is a lot of offensive potential between those two hitters! Minor League Rule V draft choice Brian Buscher could also factor in here somewhere.
Whit Robbins was the Twins 4th round pick in 2006 out of Georgia Tech. He started at Beloit and got off to a very fast start. But injury derailed the last few months of the season. I think that he begins the season at Ft. Myers.
Garrett Olson was the Twins 6th round pick in 2006. He is definitely ready for Beloit. I think 3B will be his primary position, but he could also play the other infield positions. Matthew Betsill will likely get plenty of time at the position too.
Jason Bartlett finally got the chance to really be the every day shortstop last June when Juan Castro was traded. He showed just how good he can be, but that is not to say that he has reached his full potential. I think he can get better. I really think that there is a good chance that Alejandro Machado will be the backup SS.
I surprised myself a little in my prediction that Matt Tolbert will make the jump to Rochester to be the primary SS. I think that he is ready defensively for the challenge, but that he also improved so much last year and has plenty of confidence to make this jump. His stint in the Arizona Fall League should only help his confidence. However, I can't really call him an "Every Day" shortstop because Gil Velazquez and Tommy Watkins will also likely remain on the roster. They can both play all three infield positions. Is it possible that either of them could play some Outfield?
I would actually think that Tolbert would start at New Britain, but I think that the team will push Trevor Plouffe up to New Britain. It is time for Plouffe to put together a big year, and I think that he will this year. I think that his primary backup will be Steven Tolleson, who can play all three infield positions. JR Taylor could a utility infielder at New Britain.
I think that it could be good for Plouffe to spend another half-season at Ft. Myers, but Paul Kelly needs to move up to Ft. Myers and both need a full allotment of plate appearances. Toby Gardenhire and his sub-.200 batting average could be a utility player at Ft. Myers or back at Beloit.
Yancarlos Ortiz began the 2006 season with Beloit, but he really struggled and went back to Elizabethton where he played well. He should get another shot at the Midwest League. 2006 pick Steve Singleton could get much of the playing time though.
As you can see, the team has a solid 1B prospect at each level. Two years ago, the middle infield in the Twins system was its weak point. Although the upper level is still full of utility types now that Jason Bartlett is with the Twins, the rest of the system's middle infielders are all solid prospects. By my prediction, David Winfree will have finally caught up with Matt Moses in the Twins system. Which will move up to Rochester first?
As always, please feel free to e-mail me any time with your thoughts, comments, stories or ideas for future stories.
Have a great day!|
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