Thursday, November 17, 2005
"Roger" on the Twins Catchers
Good Morning everyone! Still no progress on "The Stone", so today, you're barely going to get anything from me. Sorry!
"Roger" is going to start a feature that will look through the Twins minor league system, position by position. It will really serve a couple of purposes. First, it will be fun and informative. Second, it will let you know a little bit about these guys and how they performed this year. I have mentioned before that I believe all of these guys deserve some recognition for being in a position that most of us are very envious of! "Roger" will do about a position every other week as I would still like to make Thursdays available to others who may want to write guest columns as well. If you're interested, be sure to send me an e-mail with what you would like to talk about.
So anyway, today we will start with the catchers. I hope you enjoy this and would love to hear your thoughts on any of the players. Tomorrow I will be back with some more of my own thoughts and our NFL "Expert" Panelist's Week 11 picks. But now I must just get some sleep. If you have any thoughts, e-mail me. Have a great day!
Twins Minor League System Review
Over the next several months, we will take a look at all the prospects in the minor league system by position. Today we will look at the catchers…including each player’s ranking among all position players using the formula I created.
Rochester Red Wings (AAA)
The Red Wings had three catchers on their roster during most of the season. Switch hitting Rob Bowen (#25/Drafted 2d Round, 1999) is a 24 year old catcher who has been on the 40-man roster for several years during which he had been called up to the Twins several times prior to 2005. Bowen had improved numbers at Rochester in 2005 (262ab/.267Ave/.366OBP/.401SLG), compared with 2004 when he had an average of .197 in 249ab at New Britain. Considering his age and improvement this year offensively, he is certainly a candidate to be Joe Mauer‘s backup in 2007.
Chris Heintz (#34) is a 31 year old catcher who joined the Twins as a minor league free agent prior to the 2004 season. He was one of Rochester’s top hitters (329ab/.304Ave/.343OBP/.444SLG) and was often used as a DH when not catching. After the end of Rochester’s season, Heintz was called up to the major leagues for the first time in his career. His play in September was solid behind the plate and at bat (25ab/.231Ave/.320OBP/.200SLG) and the Twins will likely keep him on the 40-man roster and return him to Rochester as insurance should either of their catchers be injured in 2006.
Twenty-nine year old Corky Miller (#48) was signed as a free agent in 2005 and began the season as a controversial fourth catcher. After going hitless with the Twins in 12 at bats, Miller cleared waivers and joined Rochester for the remainder of the 2005 season. He hit 11 home runs at Rochester (1HR/15.4AB) and his overall numbers were respectable (170AB/.229Ave/.379OBP/.465SLG). Although Miller is a fine defensive catcher it does not appear that he is a capable injury replacement, therefore, he was released from Rochester following the end of the season.
New Britain Rock Cats (AA)
The Rock Cats began the season with three catchers, including 27 year old minor league veteran Gabby Torres (#66) who was signed as a non drafted free agent in 1996. Torres (178ab/.242Ave/.330OBP/.320SLG) has not repeated his performance from 2003 when he hit .323 for the Rock Cats in 155 at bats. He was released following the end of the season.
Bryan Kennedy (#65/D24, 2001) is the 26 year old brother of Anaheim’s Adam Kennedy. Bryan performed well during the first half of the season (230ab/.239Ave/.321OBP/.462SLG), and was definitely missed after going on the disabled list during the second half of the season. It should be noted that because the ranking is based on 2005 performance, the ranking of any player who was injured will be lowered as a result of missing part of the season.
Jose Morales (#80/D3, 2001) is a 22 year old switch hitter who spent nearly the entire season on the disabled list (20ab/.250Ave/.286OBP/.300SLG), following an excellent 2004 season at Ft. Myers when he hit .287.
After Bryan Kennedy was injured, the Twins promoted 21 year old Kyle Phillips (#26/D10, 2002) from Ft. Myers. Phillips who is also a younger brother of a major leaguer (Dodgers Jason Phillips), performed well defensively for New Britain (67ab/.209Ave/.263OBP/.313SLG) following a solid performance at Ft. Myers (278ab/.230Ave/.309OBP/.302SLG).
Ft. Myers Miracle (Hi-A)
Ft. Myers was affected by a series of injuries at New Britain when Kyle Phillips was promoted to replace Bryan Kennedy. His departure provided 23 year old Kyle Geiger (#54/D42, 2002) with an opportunity which he took advantage of with a solid performance (292ab/.257Ave/.327OBP/.346SLG).
To replace Phillips, the Miracle promoted Allan de San Miguel (#62) from the Gulf Coast League Twins to be Geiger’s backup for the last month of the season. de San Miguel is an Australian who was signed as a non drafted free agent in 2004. Although only 17 years old, he played more like a 20 year old for the Miracle (33ab/.242Ave/.333OBP/.303SLG). He is an excellent prospect whose career will be interesting to follow during future years.
Beloit Snappers (Low-A)
The Twins selected Notre Dame’s 22 year old Javi Sanchez (#41) in the 14th round of the 2004 draft. He was one of the top performing catchers in the system (271ab/.251Ave/.345OBP/.306SLG) during 2005 and should begin the 2006 season at Ft. Myers.
The backup catcher at Beloit was Korey Feiner (#75) who was signed as a non drafted free agent in 2004. Feiner is a 24 year old who appeared in 63 games for the Snappers during 2005 (202ab/.188Ave/.331OBP/.233SLG).
Elizabethton Twins (Rookie)
The Elizabethton championship team had the strongest group of catchers of any team in the system. All three catchers on the roster are legitimate prospects who should continue to move higher in the system during the coming years.
Minnesota native Eli Tintor (#61/D18, 2003) is a 20 year old who is an excellent hitter and was frequently used as a DH (139ab/.281Ave/.327OBP/.410SLG) to keep at least two of the catchers in the lineup for many games.
Caleb Moore (#49/D4, 2005) was the nation’s leading hitter in 2004 while at East Tennessee State. His numbers improved throughout the season, finishing with a solid (123ab/.309Ave/.361OBP/.431SLG).
Perhaps the biggest surprise from the 2005 draft was 22 year old Sean Richardson (#32) who was selected in the 19th round out of the University of Kansas. Richardson (.298Ave/.356OBP/.564SLG), who is one of the top power prospects in the system, had 7 home runs in 94 at bats.
Gulf Coast League Twins (Rookie)
Allan de San Miguel appeared in 23 games prior to his promotion to the Miracle (54ab/.204Ave/.295OBP/.315SLG). Following his departure, 19 year old Greg Yersich (#77/D7, 2005) assumed the starting role appearing in 31 games (84ab/.238Ave/.340OBP/.321SLG).
Miguel Barientos (#83) is a 19 year old non drafted free agent who appeared in 18 games (44ab/.159Ave/.240OBP/.182SLG).
Rodolpho Palacios (#89) is a 20 year old non drafted free agent who was signed in 2003. He spent nearly the entire season on the disabled list getting his 4 plate appearances during the last week of the season.
For years it was said that other than Joe Mauer, the Twins minor league system lacked any solid catching prospects. Although not a system strength, the catching position does have both immediate help and several solid prospects at various levels of development. Chris Heintz has proven that he is a serviceable replacement if needed for short periods of time. Rob Bowen’s performance last season indicates that he is now a legitimate prospect to be Mauer’s backup after Mike Redmond’s contract expires following the 2006 season. Considering he is only 21, Kyle Phillips performed well at New Britain and Jose Morales remains a solid prospect provided he gets healthy. Following a solid year at Beloit, Javi Sanchez may be the system’s top prospect. The Elizabethton trio all have different strengths and although they played in a short season rookie league, all are excellent prospects. Finally, considering his performance for the Miracle at the age of 17...Allan de San Miguel may be the most intriguing catching prospect in the system…his performance in 2006 will tell us whether or not he is special.
To me, the key to this whole position for the Twins is Joe Mauer. It is still amazing to me that there are people who think that Joe Mauer should switch positions, even after he had a perfectly healthy season. When a guy can hit like Mauer, and he has the ability to keep the other team's running in check, what more do you want? Mauer can still DH on days when he doesn't catch. That said, essentially the Twins are only concerned about their backup catcher position for at least the next half-dozen years. For 2006, they have Mike Redmond who put together a very impressive 2005 season in reserve of Mauer. Should Redmond remain productive and be willing to sign an extension to stay with the team, great. If not, I don't think that the Twins are that bad off. Chris Heintz has shown an ability at AAA and even in his brief big league time that he can be an adequate backup. Rob Bowen could be a decent backup.
The lone concern would be who could be a backup starting catcher if Joe Mauer was out for an extended period. And, I would agree that that is a concern. Redmond could probably do well starting three or four times a week, and Heintz and Bowen are OK in limited action, but who could be a quality starter? I am intrigued by a couple of these guys. Jose Morales was young for AA and I am eager to see what he can do in a full, healthy season. The three guys at E-Town are intriguing, but likely would not be ready for at least two or three years. And, as Roger said, I am greatly intrigued by Allan de San Miguel and his youth. It will be interesting to see where he plays in 2006. Another sleeper may be Greg Yersich.
But again, the key is Mauer. With him, we are talking about one of the top two or three catchers already, and he should only get better. Hopefully he can remain healthy so that he can gain game-experience. I don't think that the position is as weak as we may want to think.
And on those notes, I will call it a day. I certainly hope that you have found Roger's catchers article worth reading, and I hope that many of you will have comments for him. I will be back tomorrow for more of my own thoughts, as well as the NFL "Expert" Picks. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me.
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