New Britain Rock Cats
∑ Step 1: Finalize 2011 Minnesota Twins roster - Check.
∑ Step 2: Find a way to keep Scott Diamond in the organization - Check.
∑ Step 3: Configure the 2011 Triple-A Rochester Red Wings 24-man roster - In progress.
∑ Step 4: Configure the 2011 Double-A New Britain Rock Cats 24-man roster Ė In progress.
The fun of projecting minor league rosters after major league rosters is that we donít know whatís happening. We donít always understand the big picture. For instance, I projected that Chris Province would be in the Triple-A bullpen. Yesterday, I found out that he, in his words on Twitter this morning, ďvoluntarily retired.Ē The Twins made 12 cuts over the past couple of days, and as I review the names of all of the players still in Twins minor league camp, it is difficult to place all of them. We donít know injury situations. I was unaware the Bruce Pugh was set back a few days by back soreness. That will likely keep him back in Ft. Myers and in the bullpen for at least a little while. Some of the decisions on these minor league veterans brought in has kept several minor leaguers down a level. In some cases, thatís good. In other cases, it is a little surprising. For instance, I understand that Tony Davis will be heading back to Ft. Myers to start the season.
With all that in mind, I present to you my thoughts on a projected roster for the Twins Double-A affiliate, the New Britain Rock Cats. (the below roster is my opinion and my guesses, and nothing official.)
Catchers: Danny Lehmann (40 man - No) Ė Jair Fernandez (40 man - No)
Lehmann was impressive this spring. He has been named the Twins minor league catcher of the year the past two years. Defensively, he is ready to be a backup catcher for the Twins. Offensively, heís probably a notch above Drew Butera. Fernandez, like Waldrop and Portes, could have been a six-year minor league free agent after last season. He chose to stay with the Twins. He is a big guy with a little pop in his bat. Not a great catcher at all though despite a strong arm.
Infielders: 1B Ė Chris Parmelee (40 man - Yes), 2B Ė Steve Singleton (40 man - No), 3B Ė Nick Romero/Deibinson Romero (40 man Ė No/No), SS Ė Estarlin de Los Santos (40 man - No), Utility Ė Chris Cates (40 man - No), IF/OF/DH Ė Yangervis Solarte - (40 man - No)
Chris Parmelee is going to be my choice for preseason Twins minor league hitter of the year. Hopefully he will be able to stick with the Rock Cats all season, as I believe that would be best for his development. Steve Singleton should be in Rochester. I know, Iím shy about expressing that, arenít I? He should get some time at both 3B and SS as well. Estarlin de Los Santos should get a couple of months here to regain his prospect status or else Brian Dozier will be here and get the playing time. 3B is where Iím not certain. So, I can see a scenario in which Nick Romero and one-time prospect Deibinson Romero split time, or even platoon. Solarte can play anywhere on the field, kind of like Luke Hughes. He has hit when healthy and was up with the Rock Cats last year before getting hurt. The utility infield spot will be interesting. Chris Cates is the incumbent, but could Ray Chang or Matt Brown be sent to AA? Neither can play SS well, so Iím leaning toward Cates.
Outfielders: LF Ė Evan Bigley (40 man - No), CF Ė Joe Benson (40 man - Yes), RF Ė Rene Tosoni (40 man - Yes), 4th outfielder Ė Mark Dolenc (40 man - No).
At this time last year, Rene Tosoni thought he was packing to go to Rochester, but then the Twins signed Jason Repko right before Opening Day and Tosoni went back to New Britain. His shoulder was bad, and he was DHing until a midseason shoulder surgery ended his season. But he was still added to the 40 man roster, and he could move up quickly if he swing returns. Joe Benson was last yearís Twins Minor League Hitter of the Year. The sky is the limit for Benson. The only thing is his contact rate will need to improve for him to advance where we all hope he will. Again, I think the best thing for his development would be to stay in New Britain for the entire season, get comfortable, make adjustments and see what kind of numbers he can put up in a full season. Evan Bigley is an underappreciated prospect. Heís got some power, and he can hit for average. He can play solid defense. When he moved up to New Britain last year, he played better than he had with the Miracle early in the season. I mention Dolenc as the 4th outfielder, and thatís where he is always put. However, every year, he gets a lot of at bats, and he performs better than expected. He is fast and plays very good defense at all three positions.
Starting Pitchers: RHP David Bromberg (40 man - Yes), RHP Deolis Guerra (40 man - Yes), RHP Bobby Lanigan (40 man - No), Liam Hendriks (40 man - No), Dan Osterbrock (40 man - No)
I was very much surprised to learn that David Bromberg would start this season in Double-A after he made nine starts in Rochester last year. That said, I think that it can be a good thing for him to spend a couple of months. Heís seen Triple-A. Heís now been to big league spring training and likely learned a lot. It will be great for him to implement some of the things heís learned at Double-A, perfect them and get back to Rochester. Deolis Guerra pitched well in New Britain last year before being promoted to Rochester, and from that point on he was never able to find it again. Guerra is the best example of why bringing in some minor league veterans at the upper levels can be good. Guerra should not have been rushed, but the team was forced to. Bobby Laniganís fastball/slider combination is tough. I think long-term he can be a terrific reliever, but might as well keep him starting as long as he keeps putting up the numbers and stays healthy. I would be surprised if both Hendriks and Osterbrock start the season with the Rock Cats, but both pitched so well at Ft. Myers last year that they could be ready for this next challenge. Pitchers often say that they experience their first struggles at AA. Osterbrock experienced some struggles with Beloit in 2009, but figured things out last year. Hendriks is a tremendous prospect, very driven and competitive, and worth watching closely.
Bullpen: RHP Carlos Gutierrez (40 man - No), RHP Brett Jacobson (40 man - No), RHP Steve Hirschfeld (40 man - No), LHP Tyler Robertson (40 man - No), RHP Dakota Watts (40 man - No), RHP Santos Arias (40 man Ė No), LHP Spencer Steedley (40 man - No), LHP Jake Stevens (40 man - No), LHP Paul Bargas (40 man - Yes)
I think that Gutierrez is ready for Triple-A. Some could argue heís ready for the big leagues. But this is the first time he has gone into a season as a reliever, and I think it would be good to start him back with New Britain for a month or two, let him close and pitch in more tough situations and get comfortable. It also gives some of those AAA guys a couple of months to prove what they have. There is no rush with Gutierrez. He doesnít need to be added to the 40 man roster until after the season, and they arenít going to want to use an option, so patience is a good thing. Jacobson was the second piece that came over from the Orioles in the Hardy trade. He has an interesting delivery, but he does throw hard and has a good curveball. Hirschfeld is definitely an option to start. He was terrific in 2009 but missed more of 2010 with injury. Robertson struggled as a starter with the Rock Cats last year, and when he went to the Arizona Fall League, it was announced that he would be moved to the bullpen. I think he has the makeup and the stuff to be successful in the role. Dakota Watts started the 2010 season (his first full season) with Beloit and ended in New Britain, and in the middle, he was touching 98 and 99 on the radar gun in Ft. Myers. Arias really struggled with the Rock Cats last year, but he has shown enough to get another shot. Steedley had a terrific April for the Rock Cats last year, but by the end of May, he had his elbow worked on. He could start this season on the Disabled List, but if he can come back, he is a good LOOGY possibility down the road. Jake Stevens is also left-handed. He was out of baseball last year, but the Twins gave the Naples, FL, native a chance to make the team. Paul Bargas was acquired by the Twins in the trade of Jose Morales. Heís got decent numbers in his minor league career, especially against left-handers. Bargas also has meningitis, and on one of the first days of minor league camp, he collapsed on the field and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. He has not yet returned to the team, but he should at some point.
Overall: This is where some really exciting Twins prospects will be. A couple of these guys would be ready to play at Rochester, but in terms of development, I think that Parmelee, Benson, Bromberg, Tosoni and Gutierrez may be best served by spending more time in AA. The first four were only added to the 40 man roster this offseason, and Gutierrez isnít even on the 40 man yet, so time is on their side. This should be a solid team. Donít be surprised if the likes of Ray Chang and Matt Brown end up here as well, which would make them a more veteran team. This should be a fun team to watch and several of them could be called up to the Twins at some point this season, if needed.
The minor league rosters should be announced later this week as their seasons get started next week. In fact, most of the roster spots have been determined and players are finding out. I have been quite surprised by some of the reports I have heard, but without knowing background, injuries, etc., itís hard to determine from afar what some of the reasoning might be. Either way, it will be fun to find out and more importantly, to get this season started!
If you have any thoughts or questions, please feel free to comment or ask.