Friday, May 27, 2005
Twins Minor League Report
Good morning! It's the Friday before a long weekend. I'm leaving work early and heading out of town. That's always a good thing. I won't be getting back until Monday sometime, so there will be no new entry on Monday, but Tuesday should be a good one! We'll see.
I'm always asking for people to e-mail me and send me questions or comments, and I thank all of you that do. That is what makes this site and the time it takes to write and research it daily worthwhile. I also ask that if you have any ideas for topics for me to write about, I would love to hear them too! In the past week, I have had a number of people write to me asking me to discuss my thoughts on the Major League Baseball Draft and what the Twins should do. I think that's an interesting topic and since the draft is next week, it is very timely. So today, I am going to discuss some of my thoughts on the draft in general, but then I will incorporate those thoughts into specific thoughts on what the Twins should do.
Of course, I will still discuss the Twins win last night as well as the results of their affiliates. I will also post a few links for you to check out over the long weekend!
So, let's got to My Drafty Thoughts:
The Major League Draft is incredibly important to every franchise, however, it is more important to some. A team like the Yankees uses the draft to pick guys that they hope they will eventually be able to trade for proven ball players. Obviously Michael Lewis' Moneyball chronicled that the Oakland A's believe in drafting college players because they are less risky investments, closer to the big leagues, and maybe more tradable. They are able to trade some of those players eventually for players with pending free agency for the stretch run, then let that player go in order to accumulate more draft picks the following year. The Twins on the other hand are an organization that is not afraid of player development. They are not afraid to draft three high ceiling high school pitchers in the first couple of rounds in one year, along with a high school shortstop, because they have developed an organization with depth and are willing to be patient.
People frequently ask why the MLB draft is not aired on TV. The NFL Draft takes up two full days on ESPN. The NBA Draft is a highlight of the summer for TNT. Even the NHL's 1st round has been televised for a few years. But MLB does not have its draft televised. Why? Well, as important to an organization as the draft is, they players eligible for the draft are rarely known by a mass audience. Sure, I may know most of the first rounders. Anyone who reads Baseball America religiously knows the names. But the average fan of major league baseball will not know very many draft picks. There are a lot of high school players drafted who obviously are not on TV. ESPN has shown more college baseball games this spring than in past years. That is good in that names like Alex Gordon or Taylor Teagarden are now a little more known. But I think that name recognition is really the reason that the MLB Draft is not on TV. I should point out that if you go to MLB.com, they will be airing the first round on their radio network.
People always want to know what my philosophy on drafting would be regarding drafting high school players versus college players. It is interesting. I have exchanged a few e-mails the past few days with The Baseball Savant, David Bergner, about this topic. As a Reds fan, he would really like to see them draft college players. First, they are not a good baseball team and have plenty of needs. They also need to find a way to win soon. That is why I would agree with him that the Reds should consider drafting college players who will not need much time in the minor leagues. Now, the Twins have an excellent organization which has developed its own players through a solid system. The Twins are successful at the Major League level right now and have high level prospects at each of their affiliates. They are really in a position to draft high school players and allow them the time to develop without the need to rush them. However, if they feel that they can draft, and sign, a college player, they can also do that and expedite them through their system (Crain, Baker, maybe Perkins). Of course there is more risk in drafting a 17 year old high school kid with great tools. They are likely five or six years from being close to competing for a major league roster spot. But those tools sometimes develop into a Joe Mauer or Ken Griffey Jr. As Twins fans know, those tools sometimes turn into a BJ Garbe. But if that's your lone argument, then I can also give you the names of Adam Johnson and Ryan Mills, pitchers the Twins draft high in the first round who were highly touted college pitchers. They also never really made it.
So, that is why my draft philosophy is to look at your organization. I think it is important to see what kind of positional depth that your team has. It is important to determine where you are weak. I would tae players from those positions. Be willing to take a high school 3B in the 1st round and then a college 3B in the 4th round. It may seem like duplication, but remember that each team has to fill rosters for a AAA team, a AA team, two A teams, and a couple of rookie league teams. The college 4th rounder may become a star, or he may just provide organizational depth. The high schooler may top out in AA, or he could become an All-Star. You just don't know.
And I have completely different philosophy on drafting pitchers. My opinion is that, unless you're drafting Mark Prior or Justin Verlander, there is really very little certainty in drafting pitchers. There is a thought that teams should draft college pitchers simply because they can be closer to the big leagues. That means that they will need fewer minor league innings. That likely means that they are less likely to be hurt before getting to the majors. Of course, to that, I would argue that many of the top starting pitchers in college end up pitching way too many innings and too many pitches during the college season that they could be more likely to develop arm problems. A high school pitcher may require more innings in the minor leagues as they will move up the system much slower. However, the organization is also able to closely monitor that pitcher's development and keep an eye on pitch counts.
So, where do the Twins stand on all of this? To me, they are the perfect combination of the two schools of thinking. Over the course of the past five or six years, they have developed their major league and minor league system to compete every year. They are able to allow veterans to leave via free agency and bring up players to replace them. They are also able to accumulate draft picks. Last year, because of the losses of LaTroy Hawkins and Eddie Guardado, they had six picks in the top two rounds. Look at what they did with those picks:
1 - Trevor Plouffe - SS - The organization is weak in the middle infield, so they take a SS out of high school.
2 - Glen Perkins - LHP - Perkins is an example of a top college pitcher who has dominated the Florida State League and could rise through the system quickly.
3 - Kyle Waldrop - RHP - A high school pitcher who many teams felt would go to Vanderbilt, so he fell to the Twins. He strikes out more than one an inning and has incredible control for such a young pitcher. Has potential to be a top of the rotation starter.
4 - Matt Fox - RHP - Another college pitcher, Fox actually had an 'off' senior season at Central Florida, but his 'other' numbers still looked good.
5 - Jay Rainville - RHP - A big high school pitcher, Rainville is frequently compared to Roger Clemens. He is young, but throws really hard and has very good control. With patience and health, he could be a top of the rotation starter.
6 - Anthony Swarzak - RHP - Another high school pitcher, Swarzak has been the best pitcher at Beloit this season. Doesn't allow hits, doesn't walk anyone, and strikes out more than one an inning. Certainly a top of the rotation potential. (how impressive is this stat? In Swarzak's last five starts, he has gone 32 innings and given up 14 hits, 7 walks and ZERO earned runs. He also has 38 strikeouts!)
So, what does this strategy show? First, it shows how important pitching is to the Twins. In just the first two rounds, the Twins took five pitchers. Two out of college, including Perkins who could be up to the Twins by the end of 2006. They also picked three high school pitchers with top of the rotation potential. In other words, I think that they took the pitchers/players that they felt were the best available, regardless of whether they were in high school or college. They will then trust their system to make it work.
Analyzing the Twins System
As I mentioned above, I think it is important for a team to evaluate their current minor league affiliates. It is necessary to look position-by-position and see where the organization is weak. So, let's look at the Twins, by position, and see where they need help.
Major Leagues - Justin Morneau
Minor Leagues - Garrett Jones (AAA), Danny Matienzo (AA), Brock Peterson (A-FM), Mark Zamojc (A-Bel), Johnny Woodard (A-Bel-Injured).
Analysis - The Twins and their fans have high hopes for Morneau. He will not even be arbitration-eligible for a few years, so he will be around for another five to six years before he even gets expensive. Obviously, his potential is incredible and he has already shown a lot in the big leagues. Garrett Jones had a huge year last year, maybe enough to provide the Twins some insurance in case of injury. Johnny Woodard's upside is great! The other first basemen are there for their bats. In each case, they are probably DH types.
Draft - But again, this is excellent positional depth, so it should not be a real high priority in the draft yet this year. Maybe a few mid-to-late round picks just to fill the E-Town and GCL Twins rosters.
Major Leagues - Luis Rivas, Nick Punto, Luis Rodriguez
Minor Leagues - Brent Abernathy (AAA), Luis Maza (AA), JR Taylor (A-FM), Luke Hughes (A-Bel)
Analysis - This is a very weak position for the Twins. All three in the big leagues are weak and incredibly replaceable. Abernathy is hitting well at Rochester, but he is really no better (or worse) than any of the big league three. I think that Maza can be a solid big leaguer, but he has to be frustrated to be back and New Britain for the third straight season and his stats are showing it. Taylor is a non-prospect. Scouts seem to be high on Australian Luke Hughes, but to this point, he has done very little.
Draft - Definitely a position of need. Because of the lack of quality prospects, this is where drafting a quality college 2B in the early rounds makes sense. But I would also consider taking a second college 2B as well as a couple of high school 2B.
Candidates - Jed Lowrie of Stanford - This year, he hit .328 with 12 homers and 57 RBI. He is a switch hitter and many compare him to Chase Utley.
Major Leagues - Michael Cuddyer, Terry Tiffee
Minor Leagues - Glenn Williams (AAA), Ricky Bell (AA), Matt Moses (A-FM), David Winfree (A-Bel)
Analysis - Incredibly weak at Rochester and New Britain. Williams and Bell are both career minor leaguers. Matt Moses has reclaimed his spot as a Top Prospect in the organization with what he has done thus far at Ft. Myers. Maybe after the draft, he could find himself being pushed to New Britain. Similarly, I think that Winfree is a legitimate prospect as well. Certainly not in Moses' category, but a guy worth developing and seeing what he can do.
Draft - Again, I don't think that this is a position that the Twins really need to focus on. I still fully believe that Cuddyer is more than capable at 3B. Maybe when Moses is deemed ready to play 3B (defense will be the concern), Cuddyer could move to 2B again. But, that also shows that there is no rush to draft 3B. But again, organizational depth is good, so they could draft a couple late round 3B to fill out the organization.
Major Leagues - Juan Castro
Minor Leagues - Jason Bartlett (AAA), Gil Velazquez (AA), Matt Tolbert/Felix Molina (A-FM), Trevor Plouffe (A-Bel), Juan Portes (Rookie League)
Analysis - Obviously no one really believes that Castro is a full-time big league shortstop. He is a temporary fix. Bartlett is the near-future at the position. You all know how I feel about that situation. However, this is still a very weak position for the organization. They are very weak at Ft. Myers and New Britain. Plouffe has been pretty bad so far at Beloit, but he has shown great improvement over the past three weeks. And Portes can flat-out hit.
Draft - Some may think that if the Twins were to draft another shortstop, particularly a college shortstop, that they would essentially be saying that Plouffe was bust. I happen to disagree. To me, SS is a position for athletes. Athletes are able to adjust. Lets not forget that Michael Cuddyer was drafted as a SS and he's played everywhere. In other words, if the Twins were to draft a college SS that could be ready in a year or two, it is possible that he could move to 2B (or Bartlett could). There are so many options with SS. That is another reason that I would not focus much at all on drafting a 3B. I would draft another SS in the early rounds. I would consider a college SS in the first couple of rounds and a few more SS throughout the draft. Again, depth is good!
Candidates - CJ Henry from Putnam City HS in Oklahoma City. He hit .481 with 13 homers, 41 RBI and 21 stolen bases. Cliff Pennington is a 5-11 switch hitter out of Texas A&M. This year, he hit .368 with seven homers, 37 RBI and 26 stolen bases. Tyler Greene is 6-2 and from Georgia Tech. He hit .362 this year with 22 homers, 60 RBI and 28 stolen bases. Seth Johnston went to Texas. He hit .391 with seven homers, 43 RBI and 12 stolen bases.
Major Leagues - Joe Mauer, Mike Redmond
Minor Leagues - Rob Bowen, Chris Heintz, Corky Miller (AAA), Bryan Kennedy, Gabby Torres (AA), Kyle Geiger, Kyle Phillips (A-FM), Korey Feiner, Javy Sanchez (A-Bel), Eli Tintor (Rookie League)
Analysis - Mauer is a star who will be around for a long time. Yes, catching. Please, no more of the position change talk. Like Morneau, he will be with the Twins for a number of years before even going to arbitration. Redmond is an excellent backup for the next two seasons. The team wants Bowen to get a full season of at bats. Heintz, Miller and Torres are just fillers really. The lower-level catchers are all very young and developing. Again, the Twins can be patient with them.
Draft - Catcher is another position where having some depth is a very good thing. It would be nice to have a real quality backup (like Redmond) in 2007. Maybe a solid college catcher would be a good pick to backup Mauer in two years if Bowen doesn't pan out.
Candidates - Brandon Snyder played catcher and shortstop for Westfield HS in Centreville, Virginia. The 18 year old had just 53 at bats, but he hit .547 with three homers and 29 RBI and has a very strong arm.
Major Leagues - Torii Hunter, Shannon Stewart, Jacque Jones, Lew Ford (don't forget Jason Kubel)
Minor Leagues - Josh Rabe, Kevin West, Jason Tyner, Todd Dunwoody, and Michael Ryan (AAA). Doug Deeds, Alex Romero, James Tomlin (AA). Denard Span, Trent Oeltjen, Ron Perodin and Scott Whitrock (A-FM). Deacon Burns, Tarrence Patterson, Jeremy Pickrel, Dwayne White (A-Bel).
Analysis - The major leaguers are all very good. However, Jones will likely be gone after this season. Stewart becomes a free agent following next season. Hunter could be if the Twins chose not to pay him $12.5 million in '07. Ford should be around for awhile. At AAA, as much as I like Rabe and West, the others are basically minor league veterans around in case of emergency (Although I'd be happy with Ryan moving up to pinch hit). At New Britain, Deeds continues to improve. I am starting to worry about Romero, and Tomlin may have hit his wall. Span is finally hitting like the Twins hopes he would. I'm very high on Oeltjen. And, the Beloit outfielders are always putting up good numbers, however, they're all college hitters hitting against really young pitchers. In other words, the Twins simply do not have the plethora of outfield prospects that they were able to boast a couple of years ago.
Draft - The team may want to take a power hitting outfielder in the early rounds. They will also want to draft a mixture of high school and college outfielders throughout the rest of the draft.
Candidates - Lots, but I'll highlight Eli Iorg, a 6-3, 200 pounder from Tennessee. This year, he hit .387 with 14 doubles, 14 homers, 58 RBI and 26 stolen bases.
Major Leagues - Johan Santana, Brad Radke, Carlos Silva, Joe Mays and Kyle Lohse
Minor Leagues - (only listing prospects) Scott Baker, JD Durbin, Boof Bonser and David Gassner (AAA). Francisco Liriano, Colby Miller, Justin Olson and Levale Speigner (AA). Glen Perkins, Adam Harben, Errol Simonitsch, Scott Tyler and Nick Blackburn (A-FM). Anthony Swarzak, Kyle Waldrop, Jay Rainville, Alexander Smit and Angel Garcia (A-Bel).
Analysis - I just get really excited thinking about all of the legitimate pitching prospects in the Twins organization. A friend asked me yesterday if I am just being a homer by saying all of these guys are real pitching prospects, or if every team's big fans think all of their minor league pitchers are real prospects too. My response was this: As I mentioned above, I think that there is nothing scarier than the term 'pitching prospect'. So yes, I fully believe that all of the pitchers I mentioned above have the potential to be at least a #5 starter for the Twins. That said, I know how the term "prospect" works. Each year, some move up the list and others move down the list. Some get hurt, and some just stink and get released. It just happens. I listed 18 pitchers above. Don't you think that the Twins would be thrilled if just two of them became top of the rotation starters? Don't you think that the Twins would be thrilled if two more of them became quality #3 or #4 starters for the Twins. Don't you think that the Twins would be thrilled if they were able to use a couple of these pitchers as trade bait? Don't you think that the Twins would be happy if 3 or 4 of these guys simply get to the big leagues even if just in a relief role?
Draft - As much talent as you see above, I agree with the Twins that you can never have enough pitching. Because of the reasons I mentioned above (injury, just not being that good, etc.), it is important to keep adding more strong arms. I think that the Twins should draft at least two or three pitchers in the top two or three rounds. If they get a college pitcher, maybe he moves up the system quickly. If they get a couple of high school pitchers, they can start them out in the GCL, or Elizabethton.
Candidates - I'm just picking two from high school and two from college. Mark Pawalek is a left-handed pitcher from a high school in Springville, Utah. This year, he is 8-0 with a 0.00 ERA. I should point out here that he is being advised by Scott Boras, so it is unlikely that he will be drafted by the Twins. In 51 innings, he has given up 12 hits, 12 walks, and struck out 109 batters! Michael Bowden is from an Aurora, Illinois, high school. He is 8-1 this year with a 0.46 ERA. In 61 innings, he has given up 18 hits, walked just seven and struck out 135 hitters! Matt Green is 23 and went to Louisiana-Monroe. He went 10-2 with a 2.65 ERA. In 105 innings, he allowed 92 hits, 26 walks and struck out 141. Chris Mason went to UNC-Greensboro and went 6-5 with a 2.28 ERA. In 103 innings, he gave up 78 hits, walked 20 and struck out 126 batters!
Major Leagues - Joe Nathan, Juan Rincon, JC Romero, Jesse Crain, Terry Mulholland, Matt Guerrier (don't forget Grant Balfour)
Minor Leagues - (Again, guys I consider big league prospects only) - Travis Bowyer, Willie Eyre and Ricky Barrett (AAA). Pat Neshek, Jason Miller (AA). Jay Sawatski (A-FM), Kyle Aselton, Kevin Culpepper (A-Bel)
Analysis - The Twins really have a strong bullpen. Bowyer is pretty close to ready. Eyre had a strong spring. Barrett is now two years after Tommy John surgery and really pitching well. Neshek is striking out a lot of hitters. Miller throws gas. Sawatski was an 8th round pick last year and could fly through the Twins system.
Draft - Unless you can get a Sawatski, Crain, Chad Cordero, Ryan Wagner, etc., I would not set out to draft a relief pitcher. Because of the incredible starting pitching depth and the fact that not all of them will make it as a starter, they can fill bullpen spots with some of them.
Candidate - J. Brent Cox went to Texas. This year, he is 7-1 with 12 saves and a 1.83 ERA. In 54 innings, he has allowed 41 hits and walked just 10. He has struck out 65.
OK, I have no idea what will really happen, but I am going to try to predict who the Twins will take with their first three picks. The Twins pick 25th in the first round. They then get the 39th pick as compensation for losing Corey Koskie. They receive the Blue Jays second round pick (#56), also for Koskie. Their own second round pick is 75th overall. They get the 82nd pick as compensation for losing Henry Blanco. They receive the Nationals 3rd round pick for their signing of Cristian Guzman. Their own 3rd round pick is #109. Also, I haven't selected either of the pitchers that the Star-Tribune reported the Twins are interested with their first pick, although both obviously are worthy.
#25 - I would love to see CJ Henry fall this far, but he won't. Also, if Mark Pawelek falls this far, it may be worth the risk of losing him because of Boras. But I think that the Twins will hope to pick SS Cliff Pennington here.
#39 - I would love to see Michael Bowden, RHP, fall this far. If he does, they should certainly take him. If not, this would be the right place to take 2B Jed Lowrie. If these first two picks came to fruition, I would keep Pennington and Lowrie teamed throughout the minor leagues.
#56 - Eli Iorg, OF - But I really like his power and speed combination.
#75 - Matt Green, RHP
#82 - Seth Johnston, SS
#86 - Chris Mason, RHP
The draft is always interesting for me to follow. It is fun to see who goes where. Will Arizona take Justin Upton? Will Wade Townsend, Jered Weaver and Stephen Drew sign this year? Do the Twins seem to have a plan in place? Are the getting some middle infielders?
Predicting what will actually happen is virtually impossible. But, be sure to check out the Baseball America draft coverage to keep up to date on the rumors going around as well as for some information on the players. Another great source is The Baseball Analysts.
What do you think of the draft? Are there players you would like seeing the Twins draft? E-mail me.
TWINS SPLIT WITH CLEVELAND
Three games that went into overtime, in a four game series. That seems to just be how the series with the Indians have gone the past few years. Brad Radke was solid until the defense hurt him in the 7th, but even JC Romero came through big time by coming in with a runner on 3rd and nobody out. He got two strikeouts and the third out without allowing the inherited runner to score. At that point, we should have just known that only good could happen for the Twins. After starting the series 1-17, Shannon Stewart came through with a big 2 out, 2 strike home run to dead center to give the Twins the lead. Joe Nathan was able to get right back out there and recorded his 14th save of the year. Of course, Jesse Crain came in and dominated an inning right before the Twins grabbed the lead, so he stole his fifth win and is 5-0 on the year.
By the way, wasn't Torii Hunter a good defensive outfielder at least? He already has three errors this year, and last night, he misplayed two balls that should have been outs. I don't really know what to make of his defensive lapses. I really think we've seen as many already this year as in the last three seasons put together. Well, at least he hit a little bit the last couple of games!
Lew Ford was 2-5. Mike Redmond went 2-3 with two walks. I absolutely love his signing!
I finished up helping with some coaching last night, so I wasn't able to see much of the game, so I'm really not in a position to say much more than this about the Cleveland series. It was good to get the split. It was also nice to see the Angels comeback and beat the White Sox.
Do you have any thoughts on last night's game, or the Twins in general?? If so, e-mail me.
The Twins will now be heading across the border to take on the Corey Koskie-less Blue Jays. Morneau gets to play in Canada, and don't forget, Jesse Crain was actually born in Toronto as well. Here are the pitching matchups for the upcoming series in Toronto:
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE REPORTS
Thursday - REDWINGS 1, Buffalo 7 - Yes, even Scott Baker has an occasional off day. Last night, he went 5.1 innings and gave up four runs on six hits and two walks. He struck out four. Ricky Barrett came in and gave up two runs in 1.2 innings. Brent Shoening is back and gave up a run and struck out three in two innings. Jason Bartlett is hitting third now for the Redwings. Last night, he went 2-3 with two walks. In just a handful of games, he is hitting .300. Jason Tyner went 2-5, and Josh Rabe hit his 10th double.
NEW BRITAIN ROCKCATS
Thursday - ROCKCATS 9, Trenton 1 - The offense. was the story for the Rockcats on this night led by Danny Matienzo (again). He went 3-5 including his 8th home run. Gil Velazquez went 2-5 as did Doug Deeds who added his 11th double. Ricky Bell went 2-4 with his second homer and three RBI. Luis Maza drilled his 6th homer. Levale Speigner went the first 4.1 innings. He gave up no runs on three hits and a walk before leaving. John Thomas came in and went the next 3.2 innings. He gave up a run on two hits and a walk. Pat Neshek pitched a perfect ninth.
FT MYERS MIRACLE
Thursday - Game 1 - MIRACLE 7, Vero Beach 3 - Nick Blackburn improves to 5-2 on the season. He gave up three runs (2 earned) in 6.2 innings. He allowed eight hits and a walk while striking out four. Jay Sawatski came in for the final out, which he got, to record his fifth save. JR Taylor led the offense going 2-3.
Thursday - Game 2 - MIRACLE 0, Vero Beach 1 - Glen Perkins made another start and pitched great again. He went all six innings for the complete game, but he falls to 1-2 with the loss. He gave up just one run on five hits and a walk. He also struck out seven. The problem? One pitch, the 19th homer of the season by Andy LaRoche. Matt Moses was the DH in both games after nursing an injury the past couple of games. He went 2-3 in the nightcap.
Thursday - SNAPPERS 8, Cedar Rapids 6 - The Snappers scored five runs in the 7th innings to grab the lead and kept it. Kyle Waldrop had another up and down start. He went six innings and gave up five runs on six hits. He struck out six and didn't walk a single batter. Paul Rutgers went 2-4 with a double and his first homer, a grand slam in the 7th inning. Javy Sanchez went 2-3 with his sixth double. David Winfree knocked his 12th double.
OTHER THOUGHTS AND LINKS
Paris Hilton is COOL! And well, That's Hot!
What's going on over at Twins Chatter?
Gotta plug the athletics at my old high school, right?
I don't plug Batgirl a lot because she has a cult following already and I wouldn't help her much at all. But I have to admit that I watched Oh Five! A Batgirl Musical at least eight times yesterday. It is absolutely classic and has me laughing just typing about it!
CJ Nitkowski signed with the Nationals yesterday.
On that note, I am going to call it a day and a week! As always, please feel free to e-mail me your thoughts on the Twins, the minor leagues, or anything you would like to discuss.
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