Tuesday, October 4, 2005
NFL ďEXPERTĒ PICKS
So.. NOW WHAT?
OK, itís been just two days since the Twinsí season ended with a sweep of the Detroit Tigers at the Dome. Since the Twins were pretty much eliminated from contention months ago, it has been far easier to get over the season's end this year than in the past three. I am all ready to give my take on what the Twins should be doing as they are planning for their 2006 season (as if anyone would listen, right?). First, Iím going to go through who I think will be on the 2006 roster. I happen to think that the Twins will need a budget of approximately $60 million for next season, keep some of the current players, and replace others with some prospects. For the first time in a few years, I really believe that they also need to look outside of the organization for some bats. I think the team can again compete in the AL Central in 2006, but win the division, a division which should be even stronger next year as both the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians will continue to contend.
I have no way of knowing who the Twins would receive if certain players would be traded, so my roster will be comprised of players currently in the Twins organization with a couple of guesses as to other players they could acquire. But remember who the Twins were able to receive as part of trades last year. So, I will present who I believe the Twins should have on their roster, then I will take a look at those that I really donít think should be back.
I want to point out that I am in agreement with what Terry Ryan is saying publicly. I don't think that this Twins team is far off. I think many of the young players who struggled in 2005 have more seasoning now and hopefully learned a lot. I do believe that one major bat should be added and that a little tweaking is necessary. However, I do not believe that this team is in need of a major overhaul as some suggest. Pitching is vital, and the Twins are as good as anyone in that department. Yes, this team will need to score about 100-120 more runs next season in order to compete, but I think that is very attainable. I also believe that Gardy needs to stop bunting all the time, unless a really bad hitter is bunting and a really good hitter is batting next, or if it is in the 8th or 9th inning of a one-run game.
At the end, you will see that I ask a Discussion Question regarding what you think that the Twins should do this offseason. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Please e-mail me.
So, here you go, position-by-position (14 position players, 11 pitchers), Sethís Minnesota Twins 2006 Opening Day roster: (Note - many of the dollar value projections are estimated.) Also, be sure to check back tomorrow for the Final Month's grades, along with an overall grade for each Twins player.
Position Players (14)
Joe Mauer - ($400,000) - The question headnig into the season about Mauer was whether or not he would remain healthy. That is why we lost Michael Restovich for nothing because they felt the need to keep Corky Miller instead. But throughout the year, Mauer had no problems at all with his knee. He missed a few games with a bad groin, but that will happen with a catcher throughout the season. Mauer's average stayed around .300 the whole season. The quality of his at bats were good for the most part. They are always talking about how this team needs professional hitters. Well, Mauer is certainly that. Some people were disappointed because he did not hit for as much power as some had hoped. I guess I'm not sure what people were expecting from him. I probably expected 15-20 homers, and he ended with nine. Expecting any more than that wouldn't have been fair. Remember that he is just 22 years old, and had no protection in the lineup. Give him time and he'll be just fine. At this age, let's just let him be a line drive, solid contact hitter!
Mike Redmond - ($900,000) - What a great thing for the Twins when Henry Blanco chose to become a free agent after last season! Redmond had an incredible season. Sure, his at bats were low, but that is to be expected from a backup. That is good actually. But he did a good job with the pitching staff, and he put together some quality at bats. You can't ask for more than that from a catcher. I expect much of the same from Redmond next year. ALSO - I was glad that the Twins chose to bring up Chris Heintz at the end of the season for a well-earned cup of coffee. If I was the GM, I would tell him that we are going to take him off of the 40 man roster, allowing him to become a free agent, but that we would really like him to stick with the Twins. I would be honest and tell him that Redmond will be the backup, but if need-be, he would be the guy called up. Hopefully Heintz would want to take that.
Justin Morneau - (probably $375,000) - I am going to have to admit to being wrong about Justin Morneau, for the 2006 season. I was one of many who was sure that he would hit 30, and probably 40, home runs. I also thought he would hit between .280 and .300. I was wrong. His batting average was awful. He didn't take many walks. He had zero plate discipline. He was bad. Yet, in a bad year, he hit 23 homers and drove in 79 runs, many out of the seven and eight spots in the lineup. If I am a Twins fan, I am still incredibly excited about Justin Morneau. I think that with a full offseason, first to clear his mind and second, to work out as he normally does, he can be great. I still believe he has 40 homer seasons in his future, and his history tells us that he will hit for average and get on base too. He's still young. It is way too early to give up on him, or make any judgments.
Matthew LeCroy - ($1.25 million) - This is a tough decision for me. First, I believe that Morneau will be playing 1B most of the time. Also, LeCroy is so one-dimensional. He can hit home runs, and that is about it. He strikes out too much. He hits into double plays. He has to place a ball well just to get a double. And now, his salary will be more than someone with just one skill should make. But his ability to hit left-handed pitching could make him important in two roles. First, I think that he should be the DH against all left-handed pitchers. Second, he should be a late-inning pinch hitter. Used correctly, and not too much, he could really be productive.
Alfonso Soriano - ($10 million) - Alright, here is the one big addition that I have planned for. The Rangers put Soriano on the trading block at the deadline only to see if they could rip off some team. They wanted Francisco Liriano from the Twins, which would have been ridiculous for Terry Ryan to do. But maybe the Twins can send some other pitchers to the Rangers for Soriano. The Rangers need pitching. The Twins need hitting. I think this would be a good fit for a Torii Hunter trade. Hunter lives in the Dallas area. The Rangers could really use a strong defensive outfielder like Hunter. Hunter could really thrive in that lineup and in that offense. Soriano would provide the Twins with a middle of the lineup bat that would protect both Mauer and Morneau. Now, Soriano is a Hunter-like swinger at times, and he will strike out a lot. But he will also hit bad pitches a long way. He would be the impact player that the Twins would need. I would offer Torii Hunter, and (one of: Boof Bonser, JD Durbin or David Gassner), and (one of: Errol Simonitsch, Nick Blackburn or Glen Perkins). IF the Twins are able to sign Soriano to a multi-year contract before the trade, I would also add one of (Jay Rainville, Anthony Swarzak or Kyle Waldrop). In other words, find a way to get it done, without losing Liriano, Baker, Adam Harben, and Justin Jones.
Nick Punto - ($350,000) - Showed a few things during the 2005 season. The main thing he showed is that he is not an every day player. I would have thought that he also showed that he is not a top-of-the-lineup hitter either. He also showed that he takes a lot of pitches, including many called third strikes. But he is still cheap, and he showed an ability to play the three infield positions well. He is also still cheap which is why I would pick him over Juan Castro.
Kevin Youklis - ($350,000) - I mentioned above that the Twins want veteran, 'professional' hitters, hitters that will put together good at bats. Well, why does that have to be a veteran. Joe Mauer was the Twins most professional hitter this year, and he is the youngest. If you subscribe to professional hitter meaning takes pitches in an attempt to get on base or drive the ball, well, Kevin Youklis might be the guy. The Red Sox have shown indications that they may keep Bill Mueller around, so Youklis could be had. My thinking is that the Red Sox need pitching badly. Kyle Lohse would be an excellent starting pitcher for that lineup. He is good for 180-200 innings every year. He is also likely to have an ERA between 4.00 and 4.50. With those numbers, he would pick up a lot of wins. Maybe he would then pitch with more confidence and could really take off. If I'm the Red Sox, I'm willing to take a chance on a guy like that. The Red Sox also showed interest in JC Romero. If they can acquire anything for Romero, that would be great! But Youklis (or as he was referred to in Moneyball, the Greek god of walks) could be the kind of professional hitter, right-handed, that the Twins need. In 2004, in 241 plate appearances, he hit .260, but had an on-base percentage of .367. In 2005, in 92 plate appearances, he hit .278 with an on-base percentage of .394. Each year, his isolated on-base percentage was over .100 which is very impressive!
Luis Rodriguez - ($330,000) - L-Rod showed this year that he can play three infield positions very well. He also showed that he can put together a good at bat. Throughout his minor league career, he walked more than he had struck out. He may never be a star, but he showed me enough that he will not hurt the team, either offensively or defensively, when he gives someone a day off
Jason Bartlett - ($340,000) - The concern about Jason Bartlett heading into the 2005 season was not his offense, but whether he could play SS at the major league level. Last year, he looked nervous and shaky. This year, I thought he looked very good defensively. He showed great range, particularly up the middle. His errors came on plays where he went a ways and tried to make a throw. I am no longer worried about his defense. His offense did leave a little to be desired. When the Twins sent him back down to the minors early in the season, it was because of his offense. Yet, he was hitting as well as Cristian Guzman had the previous three years for the team. He went down to AAA and really hit the ball well again earning his recall. Now, his batting average was not good, but I do think that Bartlett put together some really good at bats. He took pitches, and he put good swings on the ball. That just didn't result in many hits. But he definitely has the right approach at the plate. I would like him to stay in the ninth spot of the lineup, at least for much of next year, just to keep any pressure off of him.
Shannon Stewart - ($6 million) - Much of the year, I have been saying that the Twins should try their best to trade Shannon Stewart. Although I am not saying that here, I would certainly not be disappointed if he were traded. Really, Shannon Stewart was the worst leadoff hitter in the league this season. He fought injuries much of the year and played through it until the Twins were eliminated. And we can come up with all kinds of excuses for his lack of production, but the truth is that he just was not the same hitter much of the year. He normally was such a professional hitter, but he went outside of the strike zone frequently this year. However, 2006 is a free agency year for Stewart. You have to assume that Stewart will want to have a big year and will come into the year ready to go. Despite never really being much of a leadoff hitter statistically, his presence in the Twins lineup did produce positives for the Twins his first two seasons with the club. I am going to hold out that he can be a major contributor at the top of the Twins lineup again in 2006, and that 2005 was just a fluke, rather than a sign of a career in decline.
Jacque Jones - ($5 million) - Of all of the players on this list, Jacque Jones has to be the biggest surprise, right? I have been saying for two years that Jones should be traded. However, after seeing him play centerfield the last few weeks of the season, it gave me the idea of bringing him back. Now, there are two obvious factors that play into me making this choice. The first is economics. I would offer him a two year deal at $5 million per season. I would include a team option for the third year at $5.5 million. The second thing would be a promise from the manager, Ron Gardenhire, that Lew Ford would start in centerfield against left handed pitching. I would, as GM, want to know that the manager would realize that Jones can not hit lefties. I think that if he only played against righties, he would stay healthier, and he would be more productive. Jones can be a very streaky hitter, and sometimes I think that hitting against some lefties would really put him in a slump. If these things happen, including a Torii Hunter trade, I think that Jones could be worth keeping around. ALSO - With Shannon Stewart likely in his final season in a Twins uniform and Denard Span probably one more year away, I see the Twins starting outfield in 2007 being Jones back in left field (where he was Gold Glove caliber) and Span taking over in CF.
Michael Cuddyer - ($1 million) - Well, I still think that 2B would be his best position, but Michael Cuddyer did enough in 2005 to deserve the job. His .807 post-All Star break OPS was the best on the Twins roster. He put together much better at bats as the season went along. He played a lot of right field late in the season which may be a sign of things to come. Or, it was a way to keep his bat in the lineup while giving both Terry Tiffee and Luis Rodriguez at bats and time at 3B. The health of Jason Kubel will play a key role in everything next year. Kubel is still young, and the team should be cautious with him early in the season. As Kubel feels more healthy and plays more frequently, and is able to play the field, the two can switch some. But again, the key is the Cuddyer deserves to play every day in 2006 somewhere!
Lew Ford - ($400,000) - Lew Ford is not a DH. He is too athletic to only contribute with the bat. He also does not provide the kind of power that a DH should. He is an on-base guy who takes a lot of pitches and hits well with two strikes. As I mentioned above, Ford should be starting in centerfield against righties. We all know that he is better defensively than Shannon Stewart, but that Stewart will continue to play the outfield as long as Gardy is managing. In an attempt to keep Stewart healthy, I would say that Ford should also play in left field twice a week to spell Stewart. With that, Ford should be playing four or five days a week which is probably right. He can contribute a lot in that role and also provide a quality, late-inning at bat as a pinch hitter.
Jason Kubel - ($320,000)- Kubel is arguably one of the more important keys to the 2006 Twins team success. A 23 year old with less than 100 plate appearances at the major league level who is coming off of a massive knee injury could be vital to the Twins season. But, with what he showed in 2004, he could be another one of those Mauer-like "special" hitters, a guy who just gets it at the bat. We know that he is putting on a hitting display against batting practice in Fort Myers now, and that the team is being pretty cautious with his knee, as they should be. It would be nice to get him some real, live, game at bats this fall to make him and the team feel better about him going into next spring, but at the same time, they need to be careful. I would say that in such an attempt, especially early in the season, I would hit Kubel as the designated hitter against all right handed pitching. It would mean that he would play about two of every three or three of every four games. As he gets stronger, you can play him more against some lefties, or even put him in the field. Again, Matthew LeCroy should be DHing against lefties anyway.
Starting Pitchers (5)
Johan Santana - ($8.75 million) - Best pitcher in the league, no matter what Cy Young voters want to think. And he is signed with the Twins for three more years! What more can I write here that hasn't been written about him! He is incredible! It would just be nice if he can put together a first half like his last two second halves!
Brad Radke - ($9 million) - Having Brad Radke throw 200 innings and be healthy is another big component to the Twins winning again in 2006. Not only would it be nice for him to have a sub-4.00 ERA again with a sub-1.20 WHIP, but he would also be very influential on Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano. I don't expect Radke to be a top three AL pitcher as he was in 2004, but if he can just continue to be as solid as he has been the last three season, that will be great for the Twins. Of course, then the next question, following the 2006 season will be if he really will retire. But we can discuss that next year!
Carlos Silva - ($3.25 million) - I was glad that Silva shut it down when he did this year. The Twins were out of it, so he was able to have his knee surgically repaired about a month earlier than he would have. That should make him 100% by spring training which would be good. What Silva did in 2005 was incredible. I was excited to see what he could do in year #2 of his starting career. It is a positive, to me, that it was a knee injury rather than anything with his arm. He actually seemed to be stronger and throwing harder as the season went on. He really throws just one pitch, a heavy sinker. So, it would be nice to add a consistent secondary pitch, something off speed. But when you get a lot of groundballs, and you don't walk anyone, you can be successful. His walk rate was historical. It is unfortunate that he didn't get more run support too! As long as his knee is fine next year, I think that he can still be very successful.
Scott Baker - ($310,000) - We can say as much as we want about how the Twins did not call Baker up for good earlier in the season. In each of his call ups, he did very well. I like Baker because he throws hard, he throws his fastball at different speeds, he has three pitches, and he has good control of them. He will take his lumps throughout the season, but do we really expect him to do any worse than Kyle Lohse would in the #4 spot in the rotation? I personally think he'll do a little bitter (ERA around 4.00). And, he is so poised that I think that he will continue to improve too.
Francisco Liriano - ($310,000) - It may not be a terrible idea for the Twins to have Liriano start the 2006 season at Rochester. There are a few things that he could work on there. However, Liriano is another key to the Twins season. So, my theory is that they need to get his feet wet right away. He needs to learn and make adjustments at the big league level. He needs to learn hitters, and he also needs to develop a rapport with Joe Mauer. I think that it would be good to do these things right away in April so that by June he is ready to roll. If the Twins wait until June to call him up, it will likely be July, or even August, before he is comfortable. So, I would start him out in the rotation right away. With his strikeout rate, he could be very special, a certain Rookie of the Year candidate. (by the way, Liriano was just named the Top Prospect in the Eastern League by Baseball America. Denard Span ranked 14th, and Matt Moses was 16th. For a chat on this list, click here.)
Left-Handed Relief Pitchers (1)
Jason Miller - ($300,000) - I am not certain that a left-handed reliever is necessary when the righties in the bullpen are just as effective against lefties as they are against righties. But, I know that Gardy will want at least one at his disposal. I chose to include Jason Miller as that guy because I think that both JC Romero and Terry Mulholland will, and should, be gone. Miller was an All-Star for New Britain this year, and when he moved up to Rochester he did well. Other possibilities include Ricky Barrett, David Gassner or a veteran, cheap free agent.
Right-Handed Relief Pitchers (4)
Juan Rincon - ($900,000) - Juan Rincon had the steroid suspension early in the season. He really struggled before the suspension when only he knew about it and was appealing it. But the rest of the season, he was great again. That time hurt his strikeout rate a little. But his stuff is still nasty. I know he was scheduled to have some bone chips removed from his elbow yesterday, but he should be fine heading into the 2006 season. He's one of the best 8th inning guys in the league!
Jesse Crain - ($350,000) - Crain had a really incredible season on a number of levels. First, his first full big league season was great. He won ten games and had a great ERA. In summary, he simply got the job done. Even when he did give up hits, they were rarely hit hard. He also gave up few home runs. The other incredible part of his season was his complete lack of strikeouts. It is remarkable to have the numbers he had while striking out so few. Hopefully he will be able to strikeout more starting next year. Hopefully he'll forget the piece of advise that Rick Anderson gave him that cut his velocity by a few mph. But he still can hit 95 on the gun with a nasty slider at 88-89 and a sharp slow curveball. I think he'll be just fine.
Travis Bowyer - ($310,000) - The torn labrum and torn rotator cuff injuries that Grant Balfour just had surgery to repair probably means the Bowyer will make the 2006 roster. I am not saying he is completely ready. He will need to improve his changeup and slider to be successful, but as with Liriano and Baker, I would prefer he pitch at the big league level sooner rather than later so by June, they're ready to go 100% You can look at Bowyer's last outing, when he gave up the three homers and five runs in an inning, and say he isn't ready. Or, you can look at his ERA of 5.59. However, I chose to look at his first ten games pitched when his ERA was just 1.04. Also, the 12 strikeouts and three walks in 9.2 innings. Those are reasons to tell us that he can get the job done now.
Matt Guerrier - ($335,000) - I am pleased to put Guerrier on here. He had a very strong first full season in the big leagues in 2005. He wasn't expected to make the team out of spring training, and likely would have been lost as he was out of options, but he ran with his opportunity. He really was a surprise to me, but after seeing his stuff early in the year, you can see why he can be good. His fastball hits spots at about 93 mph, and he has a very sharp curveball. I really do hope that he can pitch for the Twins again in 2006.
Joe Nathan - ($3.75 million) - He had one bad month, but take that away, and Nathan is one of the best closers in all of baseball. He throws very hard, and has such sharp breaking pitches. The Twins will continue to win because of pitching, and if that's the case, it is vital to have a great guy at the end of games. Nathan is also pitching for a fair price in 2006. I think he is worth keeping around.
So, there you have it, my look at a potential 2006 roster. If you add up those contracts, it comes to under $54.6 million. Here is a breakdown of the salaries:
Hitters (14) - $27.015 million
Starters (5) - $21.62 million
Relievers (5) - $2.195 million
Closer (1) - $3.75 million
All said, weíve got a payroll of $54.58 million, less than last season's, and we have done two things, added a couple of new bats to the lineup, and rid the team of some players who caused problems in 2005 and cost a lot in comparison to their productivity. It would be balanced, with pitchers earning $27.565 million and hitters getting $27.015 million. This is a team that can win now and in the future, obviously assuming healthy and typical production.
You may be asking yourself, what would the possible lineups look like? Well here are a couple of attempts, one against righties and one against lefties:
Versus Right-Hander Versus Left-Hander
LF - Shannon Stewart LF - Shannon Stewart
C - Joe Mauer CF - Lew Ford
2B -Alfonso Soriano C - Joe Mauer
CF - Jacque Jones 2B - Alfonso Soriano
3B - Kevin Youklis 1B - Justin Morneau
1B - Justin Morneau DH - Matthew LeCroy
RF - Michael Cuddyer RF - Michael Cuddyer
DH - Jason Kubel 3B - Kevin Youklis
SS - Jason Bartlett SS - Jason Bartlett
Torii Hunter - For $10 million I would expect more. As a player, it could be argued that Hunter is worth the money. I used to think that he was a good leader for the Twins too. But sometimes adversity brings out the truth. Hunter has really hurt his chances of staying in Minnesota, and although many Twins fans still see him for his incredible defense and that smile, it will all be tainted at this point. Since his injury, it has changed. First, he left the team and has been in Dallas. Not exactly leadership quality. Then when he came in this last weekend, he had the audacity to make fun of the swings of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. OK, like Torii Hunter should be mocking anyone on how to hit! Then he and Morneau get into a pushing match over it during which Hunter takes a punch at Morneau, misses and cuts up Nick Punto's lip. Then he comes in and talks about how none of these locker room issues would have occurred if he would have been there. Carlos Silva wouldn't have bad-mouthed the offense. Kyle Lohse wouldn't have taken a bat to Gardy's office door. JC Romero wouldn't have, well, done numerous things. Well, isn't that the point, Hunter wasn't there. He was at home, reading all these things in the comfort of his home. Which is fine, of course. However, then you should not get into a fight when you decide to mak an appearance. Also, he talked about how people said things in the media. Well, that is exactly what he was doing, not just now, but earlier in the season when he made it known that he thought Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau should have played hurt. A little hypocritical, I'd say. And his antics are just getting old. Yes, defensively he is great. Yes, offensively, he can provide 25 homers. However, he is very replaceable, and by a cheaper, better option. I really do hope that Terry Ryan trades Torii Hunter!
Terry Mulholland - He was definitely worth the $1 investment to get him in 2004 from the Mariners. No, he wasn't good. And yes, it could be argued that he was using up a roster spot that could have been used elsewhere. But Mulholland did eat up some innings when called upon. At times, he was very decent. Gardy put him into a few uncalled for positions, but he took the ball. He suffered back problems the last couple of months. I have to assume that his career is likely over, but he is left-handed and breathing, two criteria that could keep him in the league.
Joe Mays - Mays now will become the poster child for not giving long-term deals. After one good season, he signed a four year deal. He was basically hurt and ineffective the whole time since. I would like to see him able to get back to his 2001 abilities. But the Twins gave him a lot of money, and it is time for the two parties to end their relationship.
Juan Castro - Two guaranteed season. $2.05 million guaranteed. For a ten year career good field, no-hit infielder. Castro showed signs of life throughout the season, even some with the bat. But his defense is greatly overrated. He is smooth, but he has little range, particularly in comparison to Jason Bartlett. And he'll make another million dollars next season. With the way Luis Rodriguez played three infield positions and put together very solid at bats, L-Rod earned a utility infield spot. The Twins should try to get whatever they can for Castro.
JC Romero - So much talent. He could, maybe should, be so good. But after his one solid season, Romero has become a head case. Maybe he always was, I don't remember. But he is no longer worth the effort, or the $2.2 million that the team found it necessary to give him for 2006. They signed him to the two year deal worth about $3.5 million the offseason following a year in which he was so bad he had to be sent down to AAA. This year, he was held out of games for a few weeks because whenever he was brought in, he allowed inherited runners to score. Sure, his own ERA doesn't look so bad, but that is very misleading. Hopefully the Twins can find a taker.
Kyle Lohse - I have to point out that I am not anti-Lohse the way I have been in the past. He put together a very good season for a fourth starter. Take away his two late-season starts against Texas's offensive juggernaut, Lohse really had a solid second half. He has been incredibly inconsistent throughout his career. If he comes back, it wouldn't be the end of the world. My poing throughout the season has been this: The Twins need hitting. They are deep in pitching. In arbitration, Lohse could earn about $4 million in 2006. That money should be spent on offense, especially when Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano are both just as good now, and combined will cost the Twins just $650,000 in 2006. I would like to see Lohse go to Atlanta where I think Leo Mazzone could make him a star. I would also like to see him as a Red Sox or Yankees pitcher where he could use the offense to post a lot of Wins.
Luis Rivas - FINALLY! He has to be gone now, right? Why they signed him to a $1.7 million contract for 2005 is beyond me. They signed a number of replacement level minor league infielders who were better anyway, so why give him that kind of money. This year, he was actually sent down to Rochester for a few months and still didn't hit. I can't imagine that they would even offer him arbitration. If any team is crazy enough to offer a rookie league utility infielder for Rivas, they should take it!
Glen Perkins - The former Gopher lefty was the Twins second first round pick in 2004. He dominated the lower minor league levels in 2004, and then the Florida State League at the outset of this season. But he struggled once he moved up to New Britain. I assume he'll start at AA in 2006, but if he makes that adjustment, he could again be on the fast track. In fact, if the Twins feel they need another lefty in the bullpen, maybe Perkins is their guy. Or, maybe he'll make an appearance in September.
Alex Romero - Romero is a hitter. No question about that. He has some speed. He can hit for average and some power. He is yet another left-handed bat, but the Twins are not as strong in the outfield as they once thought they were, so depending on offseason moves, Romero could be a factor in 2006.
Denard Span - Span had a great 2005 season, starting at Fort Myers and continuing up at New Britain. The speedy leadoff man still has some things to work on, but he has learned to become a real leadoff hitter. He puts the ball in play. He takes walks and gets on base. He doesn't try to hit the ball out of the park. He still needs to learn how to steal bases. Don't be surprised in Span makes his debut in 2006.
Pat Neshek - The Minnesota native had a very strong season as New Britain's closer. He was used for more than just one inning frequently which would likely be his role with the Twins, at least in the near future. Should the Twins make any moves involving their relievers in the offseason, or if there are injuries throughout the season next year, Neshek could be ready to get big league hitters out.
Luis Maza -The Twins went through Luis Rivas, Brent Abernathy, Nick Punto, Juan Castro, and Luis Rodriguez. Maza is probably a better hitter than any of them. Remember his big offensive season in 2004 at New Britain? Many will forget that he did not have an error at 2B in the team's first 70+ games! At Rochester, he played 2B, 3B, SS and LF and hit well.
So there you have it, my choices to be on the 2006 Minnesota Twins rosters, who wonít be back, and what other minor leaguers may get an opportunity to contribute. As Iíve mentioned before though, I really donít envy the job that Terry Ryan has in front of him again this winter.
DISCUSSION QUESTION OF THE WEEK
Iím sure youíve got plenty of comments on my thoughts on the 2006 Twins. If so, please be sure to e-mail me. Weíre going to make this into a discussion question. There are many new readers to the site since the last time we had a Discussion Question, so let me again explain how this works.
First, I will ask a question, and I would like some interaction with the readers, letting me know what they think. Second, think about the question and how you would answer it, then send me an e-mail with your answer. Finally, on Friday, I will write up a posting composed of your thoughts on the question. Hopefully Iíll get plenty of e-mails from you, so that we get some varying opinions.
Take a look at some previous Discussion Questions of the Week:
8/8/2003 - Who Do You Want To Talk To?
8/15/2003 - All-Time Best Lineups
10/15/04 - Your Thoughts on the 2005 Twins (right after 2004 season)
So, hereís the Question of This Week:
"The Twins had a good, but still disappointing season in 2005. Terry Ryan has some very difficult roster decisions to make. IF YOU WERE TERRY RYAN, THE TWINS GM, WHAT WOULD YOU DO? WHAT WOULD YOUR ROSTER LOOK LIKE IN 2006?"
Thanks for thinking about it, and I canít wait to hear the responses. Please be sure to e-mail me.
To keep this brief, I will just highlight some of the key parts to a team in a playoff series for the four Divisional Series. If you have any specific thoughts on any of the series that you'd like to share, please e-mail me.
#3 Yankees vs #2 Angels
Starting pitching - Advantage Angels (not a big advantage, especially if The Unit is on)
Relief pitching - Advantage Angels (Not what they once were, but still very good)
Closer - Advantage Yankees (hard to go against K-Rod, but it is Mariano in October)
Offense - Advantage Yankees (really not even close)
Defense - Advantage Angels (but the Yankees have a lot of guys that used to be pretty good)
Manager - Advantage PUSH (both are very good and have been here before)
Seth's prediction is Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 5 games.
#4 Red Sox vs #1 White Sox
Starting pitching - Advantage White Sox (big advantage)
Relief pitching - Advantage White Sox (the Red Sox pen is a mess!)
Closer - Advantage PUSH (both are bad!)
Offense - Advantage Red Sox (Just no answer for Papi and Man-Ram)
Defense - Advantage White Sox (funny how getting rid of Jose Valentin made this a decent defense)
Manager - Advantage Red Sox (it isn't even close!)
Seth's prediction is Boston Red Sox in 5 games.
WC Astros vs #2 Braves
Starting pitching - Advantage Astros (Great Matchups, both team have two top starters, the 'Stros have three)
Relief pitching - Advantage Astros (by a little)
Closer - Advantage Astros (Lidge versus who?? This isn't even close!)
Offense - Advantage Braves (but just slightly)
Defense - Advantage Braves (fairly significant)
Manager - Advantage Braves (Cox should be Manager of the Year)
Seth's prediction is Houston Astros in 4 games.
#3 Padres vs #1 Cardinals
Starting pitching - Advantage Cardinals (But if Peavy can start twice, you never know)
Relief pitching - Advantage Cardinals (even without Reyes)
Closer - Advantage Padres (Trevor Hoffman should have more people calling him the best closer ever!)
Offense - Advantage Cardinals (Pujols is the best, but their offense is not what it was a year ago)
Defense - Advantage Cardinals (only slightly)
Manager - Advantage Cardinals (not by much though)
Seth's prediction is St. Louis Cardinals in 4 games.
What do you think? E-mail me.
Just a couple more links you may be interested in:
There have been a couple of former American Idol contestants in the news of late. First, a little good news for those Constantine Maroulis fans. Yesterday, he signed a deal to be on a sitcom for ABC and Kelsey Grammar's production company. The show is still in development, and there are other details of the contract saying that he could be on other shows as well.
The Minnesota Timberwolves will be participating in their first official practice today under the lead of new head coach Dwayne Casey! I look forward to watching some NBA games in the coming months!
Well, I think our panel is starting to get things figured out, particularly our consensus picks. Well, Mike Brasel was back on top of our group with a great 12-2 week. Trevor Born stays on top of the overall rankings as he had another strong 11-3 week. Brent Hanson and Kevin Slowey were both 11-3 as well. Had the Packers completed their comeback last night, Slowey would have won. Either way, he is back to the 50% mark. Here is how our panel did this week, as well as how we are doing through the first four weeks of the regular season.
Note - Remember that Grant Balfour did not make picks this week as he had surgery on his torn labrum and rotator cuff on Thursday. I did receive an e-mail from him yesterday that said that the surgery did go well, but he is still quite sore. If you would like to send well wishes to Grant, send me an e-mail and I be sure that he sees it.
Final Standings Total Week 4 Over All Name Site
L Win% W L Win % Trevor Born Twins Junkie 11 3 78.6% 42 18 70.0% Mike Brasel Fantasy FB Guru 12 2 57.1% 39 21 65.0% Cory Hepola KTVH-TV Sports 9 5 64.3% 39 21 65.0% Seth Stohs SethSpeaks.net 10 4 71.4% 38 22 63.3% SethSpeaks Panel 11 3 78.6% 37 22 62.7% Aaron Gleeman Aaron's BB Blog 10 4 71.4% 36 24 60.0% Melissa Lien SethSpeaks.net 10 4 71.4% 36 24 60.0% Brent Hanson BrentNet 11 3 78.6% 35 25 58.3% Stick & Ball Guy Stick & Ball Guy 9 5 64.3% 34 26 56.7% Ben Jacobs Hardball Times 8 6 57.1% 32 28 53.3% Will Young Will's Twins Blog 8 6 57.1% 32 28 53.3% Kevin Slowey Twins Pitching Prospect 11 3 78.6% 30 30 50.0% Grant Balfour Twins Relief Pitcher 5 9 35.7% 23 23 50.0%
That's it for today! I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any questions or comments on anything, please e-mail me!
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