Happy Minor League Opening Day!!
∑ I am happy to say that I will be returning to the Paul Allen Nine to Noon show family for the 2011 season. Thursday mornings at 9:15, PA and I will talk Twins topics, and that starts today. So, be sure to tune in to KFAN (am1130), one of its affiliates or www.KFAN.com.
∑ I was a guest on last nightís Fanatic Jack Twins Talk podcast along with Brandon Warne. †
∑ Speaking of the KFAN affiliates, you recall that I was a frequent guest on The Dan Hammer Show on 740 The Fan in Fargo. A couple of months ago, Hammer became the sports guy for Valley News Live, taking him back to his TV routes. On Tuesday, it was announced that olí friend Jack Michaels would be taking over for Hammer as the Sports Director for Radio Fargo Moorhead. He will also host The Jack Michaels Show from noon to 1 p.m. week days on 740 The Fan. As you recall, I was also an occasional guest on The Jack Michaels Show on ESPN710 in Bismarck the last several years. Jack was really the first person to give me an opportunity on sports radio. I have been a big Jack Michaels fans since listening to him as the voice of the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks. The current voice of the Redhawks is Scott Miller who is also the host of Front Row Sports show week nights on KFGO in Fargo (sister station of 740 The Fan), and Iíve been on his show several times as well.
Happy Minor League Opening Day everyone!! I know, Iím weird, but I am much more excited about the minor league Opening Day than I was about Major Leagueís Opening Day. Of course, some of that may have been that the MLB Opening Day was moved to a Thursday (instead of a Monday) ,and the Twins didnít play until Friday.
As you know, I follow the Twins minor league system pretty closely. I write about Twins minor leaguers a little bit. We all jot down our Top 50 Twins prospects lists before the season. But now it is time for those guys to get their seasons started. It will be fun to watch box scores and stat lines. It will be fun to see if some of the Top 10 prospects can take another step forward in their development. Probably five to ten guys that are not in peopleís top 40 or top 50 lists will take major strides forward and put their names higher on next yearís lists. Of course, there will be injuries and some players will not adapt well to playing one level higher than a year ago.
Iíve been amazed over the past six or seven years with fansí increased enthusiasm and excitement about the Twins minor league system. When I first started writing about the Twins minor leaguers, I would get some ho-hum feedback. It has gradually increased over time to the point where I get more comments on minor league articles than Twins articles. And I think thatís OK.
I am a Twins die-hard, and in my mind, to be as such, I need to know what the future of the Twins could be as well. The Twins have built from within over the past decade and it has been a good thing. The Twins have spent a lot of money on top prospects from around the globe over the last two years. Increased revenues have led to increased payroll, but I hope that never stops player development and scouting from being the cornerstone of the organization.
Over the last couple of days, Iíve posted a few Twins bloggers and my choices for Breakout Minor League Hitters and Pitchers for 2011. Later today, I will be posting our predictions for Twins Minor League Hitter and Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
Last Friday, I posted the Twins Opening Day minor league rosters here. Thatís where they will start. Which players will play well? Which players will move up a level throughout the year? Will any move up twice this year as Kyle Gibson did last year? Unfortunately, there will also be some who will no longer be with the organization at the end of the year.
It will be fun to see the starting lineups for Opening Night for the Twins four full-season affiliates, but it always starts with pitching and here are the four Opening Night starters:
∑ Anthony Swarzak Ė Rochester Red Wings Ė †Two years ago, he came up to the Twins and pitched well in his debut. 2010 was a frustrating year for the Twins former 2nd round pick. He missed time early because of a liner off the foot that broke a bone, and when he came back, he didnít pitch well. Reports from Ft. Myers indicate that he has regained some velocity and is now touching 94. Itís a big year for Swarzak, and getting the opening night nod says that the organization still believes in him. Kyle Gibson will start the Red Wingsí home opener on Saturday night. Scott Diamond, Erik Hacker and Minnesota-native Andy Baldwin are the other Red Wings starters.
∑ David Bromberg Ė New Britain Rockcats Ė It was somewhat surprising that Bromberg was sent back to New Britain after he made nine starts for Rochester late last season. He was an easy choice to add to the Twins 40 man roster after last season. He played in the Arizona Fall League. He got time in the Twins big league spring training with the big league coaches and pitchers and likely learned a lot. It will be good for him to get another half-season in New Britain to work on those things. Since signing with the Twins, the former 32nd round pick had led his league in strikeouts three times. He was the Florida State League Pitcher of the Year in 2009 as well as the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year. The Rock Cats rotation will also include Deolis Guerra, Bobby Lanigan, Steve Hirschfeld and Liam Hendriks.
∑ Kane Holbrooks Ė Ft. Myers Miracle Ė Holbrooks was the Twins 21st round pick in 2009 out of Texas State where he went 10-1 and was an All-America selection. He began last season in the Snappers bullpen, making 31 appearances before getting to starts. He then was terrific (2.27 ERA) in eight appearances with the Miracle. He ended last year with a start in New Britain. When drafted, he told me that he really only had a fastball. Last year, he was working with a solid changeup and a very good slider. If he continues to improve those secondary pitches, the 23 year old could again pitch at three levels. The Miracle rotation will be rounded out by Tom Stuifbergen, Miguel Munoz, Brad Stillings and 2010 top pick Alex Wimmers.
∑ BJ Hermsen Ė The Iowa native gave up a full scholarship to play at Oregon State to sign with the Twins at the last minute. The 6th round pick in 2008 pick has shown some strong glimpses of potential in his short time with the organization. He is a typical Twins pitcher, pitch-to-contact, but he has a lot of pitches. He was scheduled to spend the entire 2010 season in Elizabethton, but he was needed in Beloit. While there, he pitched a game in Cedar Rapids, about an hour from him home, and he threw a complete game shutout in which he lost a no-hitter in the 9th inning. He struggled a little before going back to Elizabethton when their season started and being one of their top pitchers. Other starters for the Snappers will be Adrian Salcedo, Manuel Soliman, Logan Darnell and Andrei Lobanov.
What can you expect from SethSpeaks.net throughout the Twins minor league season? As I have in the past, I hope to kind of be a one-spot stop for Twins minor league information. I will post brief game reports from each minor league game. I will highlight the hitting stars and let you know how pitchers performed. I will update prospect lists, and I will try to do some Q&As and get some quotes from players. And I definitely encourage you to come to me with ideas for stories or features that you would like to read. Iím always looking for your feedback.
Finally, last week was the first week of Twins Minor League Weekly. Travis Aune and myself co-host the show each Thursday night at 10:00 central time. Tonight, we will discuss the Opening Night games, performances, lineups, etc. We will also continue to preview the rosters, spending more time discussing the Ft. Myers Miracle and the Beloit Snappers. Itís always fun, so tune in and join the chat room. †
Feel free to leave your thoughts, questions or comments today.