Tuesday, November 22, 2005
NFL "Expert" Picks
"Roger" on the Twins First Basemen
Good Morning everyone! Well, I should apologize for not posting a Q&A today. Things just did not come together on time to do that. With the Thanksgiving week, the schedule will be a little bit altered, and I will get into that later. I want to make just a couple of notes regarding The Big Trade that may have happened (pending physicals), and other baseball topics. I also have a couple of comments and another promotion to encourage readers to participate in the site over the next month. I will also have some other links and some thoughts on the Vikings last-second field goal to beat the Packers.
Before we get started, please take a couple of minutes to read this article that is really inspirational.
Then compare that article to this one, in which MSNBC gave former Wolves guard Stephon Marbury the Whine of the Week!
That segues us well to all of the rumors that Kevin Garnett will be traded. If you want to know more about the rumors, including specifics, be sure to go to Stick and Ball Guy for an excellent article on them.
HELP! (TOMORROW'S POSTING)
Tomorrow, I will be posting our Expert football picks tomorrow since there are the two traditional Thanksgiving games on Thursday. So check back for those.
However, the main part of tomorrow's posting will be Questions for Seth. You've probably read some of MLB.com's Mark Sheldon's Mailbag issues, where Twins fans e-mail him and he answers a certain number of questions each session. For tomorrow, I will do the same thing. So, if you're interested in helping me with the posting, be sure to send me one, two, or three questions, along with your name (or how you would prefer to be referred to on the site, full name, first name-last initial, first name-city, etc.). Questions can be about the Twins, players, trade thoughts, anything baseball, the Vikings, the Timberwolves, fantasy football, TV shows, movies, anything (with obvious exceptions, of course). So please, take a minute or three and e-mail me a couple of questions. I will try to sufficiently answer as many questions as I can. Thanks for your help!
ROGER'S MINOR LEAGUE REVIEW - 1B
Last week, "Roger" started his look at the Twins minor league system by looking at the catchers. This week, we will review the 2005 seasons of their first basemen. This is one of few offensive positions where the Twins do have some strong talent and depth. So, lets see what Roger has to say about all of the players. If you have any thoughts, e-mail me. Have a great day!
Twins Minor League System Review
The First Basemen
Today we will take a look at one of the strongest positions in the system, first base. One reminder about the ranking I show for each player. It is a ranking based on their performance in 2005 and if they missed part of the season, their ranking will be lower as a result. I have highlighted all rankings that were lowered because of injury or a late signing in red (#46). Players included on the Twins 40-man roster will have their names in Bold Green.
Rochester Red Wings (AAA)
The Red Wings had one player who played nearly all their games at first base in 2005. Garrett Jones (#5) is a 24 year old who was signed as a minor league free agent out of the Atlanta system following the 2002 season. Jones (488ab/.244Ave/.297OBP/.445SLG) led the system in home runs this past season with 24 after having 30 in 2004 at New Britain. He recently completed his season in the AFL with a team leading 9 home runs and a .289 average. Jones is one of the top power prospects in the system, however, needs to reduce his strikeouts (109/488ab-2005 and 98/450ab-2004) if he is to be successful with the Twins.
New Britain Rock Cats (AA)
The Rock Cats had two of their best hitters sharing time at first base and DH. Danny Matienzo (#6/D23, 2002) is a 25 year old emergency catcher/first baseman/DH who had an excellent season (531ab/.282Ave/.338OBP/.488SLG). Although his power vanished late in the season, he is one of the top power hitters in the system with 23 home runs which were second to Jones’ 24 and 87 rbi which were second to Winfree’s 101. Matienzo is a right handed hitter who appears to be a young version of Matt LeCroy, although better defensively at first base. With Morneau set at first base for the Twins, Garrett Jones will likely return to AAA for another season to work on his strikeouts. That creates a question as to where Matienzo will begin the 2006 season? Will he be promoted to AAA as a DH/first baseman or return to New Britain for a second season?
The Twins signed Luis Jimenez (#13) during the 2004/2005 off season. He began the season late for what has been reported as a league suspension. Although he put up tremendous numbers at AA for a 23 year old (431ab/.278Ave/.349OBP/.462SLG), he was released following the end of the season. Considering his performance on the field, there must have been other reasons for his release.
Ft. Myers Miracle (Hi A)
The Miracle was another team that had one player play most of the games this season at first base. Brock Peterson (#27/D49, 2002) didn’t play in 2002 as he was a low draft and follow who was signed in 2003 and hit .290 at Elizabethton. Peterson is another solid first base prospect who is only 22 years old. In a league not known for hitting, Peterson had the second most home runs (12) and was consistently one of the team’s best hitters (424ab/ .250Ave/.332OBP/.401SLG) throughout the season.
Beloit Snappers (Low A)
The Snappers lost their starting first baseman to an injury early in the season. Outfielder Mark Zamojc played some first base following the injury, however, Zamojc will be discussed with the Ft. Myers outfielders later this winter.
Following the 2004 season, Johnny Woodard (#46/D3, 2003) was ranked by the Twins and other sources as a top prospect after hitting .309 with 8 homers at Elizabethton. He broke his foot early this past season which had a major effect on his overall numbers (217ab/.235Ave/.316OBP/.396SLG) at Beloit. He is only 21 years old and assuming he is healthy next spring, he continues to be considered an excellent prospect.
Chris Brown (#33/ndfa, 2004) is a 22 year old who was promoted to Beloit from extended spring training following Woodard’s injury. As is often the case, another player’s misfortune gave Brown an opportunity which he took advantage of with an excellent performance (332ab/.265Ave/.326OBP/.452SLG) for the Snappers. Chris must be added to the mix of solid first base prospects which the Twins seem to have at every level of the system.
Elizabethton Twins (Rookie)
Erik Lis (#15/D9, 2005) led the championship Elizabethton team in average and slugging percentage (168ab/.315Ave/.356OBP/.577SLG) and also had the second most home runs (10). Lis is a 21 year old who was taken by the Twins in the 9th round of the 2005 draft out of the University of Evansville.
Dustin Bensko (#56) is a 21 year old who was signed prior to the season as a non drafted free agent. Bensko is another player with some power (6 HR) who had a solid season (122ab/.270Ave/.341OBP/.475SLG).
Gulf Coast Twins (Rookie)
The GCL Twins had two players sharing first base for much of the season. Josh Dean (#22) is an 18 year old non-drafted free agent from Australia who was signed prior to the 2005 season. Dean, who was one of the GCL Twins top hitters, led the team with a .340 batting average (106ab/.426OBP/.406SLG). Dean also displayed excellent plate discipline with 15BB and only 9SO.
Marion Knowles (#70) was signed as a 22 year old non drafted free agent out of college prior to the 2005 season. Knowles provided solid play at first base (121ab/.248Ave/.341OBP/.322SLG), while sharing the position with Dean.
Henry Sanchez (#72/D1sandwich, 2005) was reportedly one of the best power hitting high school prospects in the 2005 draft. Sanchez didn’t do much offensively until the last two weeks of the season when he went 11 for 24 with 2 home runs. His numbers for the GCL Twins (70ab/.229Ave/.300OBP/.343SLG) were affected by his late signing and reporting to the Twins after having not played for several months.
From AAA to the GCL, the Twins have solid first base prospects at all levels of the system. As previously stated, first base may be the strongest position in the system… perhaps as strong as starting pitching which everyone has raved about for the past several years. Garrett Jones is a top power prospect on the verge of competing for a job with the Twins. His future appears to be limited only by his plate discipline and strikeout ratio. Danny Matienzo is another power hitter who has nothing left to prove at AA and needs to play at Rochester to determine if he also is ready to help the Twins as early as September, 2006. The presence of Justin Morneau with the Twins obviously will affect the future of each of the above prospects who are close to being ready for “The Show.”
At 22 and 21 years old respectively, Brock Peterson and Johnny Woodard are both solid prospects from whom we will learn more about as they move up the system during the next few years. Following Woodard’s injury, Chris Brown performed very well for Beloit and must be added to the mix as a solid prospect currently playing in single A. The players with the top batting average at both rookie league teams were first basemen, Erik Lis and Josh Dean. Both are excellent prospects, however, Dean is only 18 and will be a player whose career should be exciting to follow during the coming seasons.
Finally, Henry Sanchez was a first round sandwich pick in the 2005 draft. He is said to be a classic power hitter, something the Twins system has been short of for some time. Assuming some of the younger players continue their development, the Twins will have a new first base prospect ready for the major leagues nearly every year for the next five or six seasons.
I don't know that I can really add anything to Roger's report or his summary, except maybe that Luis Jimenez's suspension was 15 games for performance-enhancing drugs. I would hope that is not the reason he was released following the season because I agree that his numbers would certainly be good enough to keep around, especially a power hitter who is just 23 at AA. That said, I have also heard that he does not have a strong work ethic. Maybe there is more to his release than we really know.
To me, the key to the first base position is Justin Morneau. Those of you who have read my site since its inception back in June of 2003 know that I have been talking him up all along. Like many others, I was disappointed not so much in Morneau's numbers, although I too expected 30 homers and 100 RBI, but in the quality of at bat he was giving. I have to believe that with a full, healthy offseason, Morneau will be able to come into training camp ready to go. I think that even next year he is capable of .280 with 30-35 homers. There were ,even in a bad year, too many glimpses of greatness from Morneau, and even his defense turned out to be excellent.
Now, if we are able to make an assumption that Morneau will be the player we think that he can be, he should be manning 1B for the Twins for the next five years. If that is the case, each of these minor league prospects will likely be vying for one of two things. First, a DH/PH spot on the Twins roster. Guys like Garrett Jones and Danny Matienzo will be competing for that role probably starting late in 2006 or in 2007. However, the other guys, the guys who played in A ball or the college guys in the rookie leagues have not even needed to be added to the 40 man roster yet. If that happens in the next year or two, those guys will have three options. In other words, they will have three years to be called up and stay up with the Twins. That puts the Twins in a position, if they keep the productive minor leaguers in their system, to be able to replace Morneau should he price himself out of the Twins budget. If Morneau fails (and I hate even typing that), then some of these other men will have to step up.
Garrett Jones needs to cut down on the strikeouts, and learn how to take some pitches, but his power is impressive. Matienzo is usually compared to Matthew LeCroy and could be a pinch hitter by the end of next season. Brock Peterson has been an intriguing prospect for me because of his age and power. It will be interesting to see if he moves up to New Britain. Woodard and Brown should move up to Ft. Myers next year and split time between 1B and DH. I will be watching Erik Lis next year. It is one thing for a college guy to succeed in the Appalachian League. Let's see what type of numbers he (and Bensko, for that matter) can put up in a full season, in Beloit. And of course, what will the team do with Henry Sanchez? Will they keep him in extended spring training and wait for the short-season? Or, will they push him as a DH/1B at Beloit?
First base is definitely a strong position for offense in the Twins system. There is no 'sure-thing' in the group, but there are a lot of guys with some tools and some guys who have simply produced. With each year comes a new level of competition and players weed themselves out. What would be nice is to see one or two, or even three, of these players take a step in 2006 to put themselves in the BIG prospect category.
Well, the Vikings and the Packers played another competitive game. Please don't mistake that with playing a "good" game. As a matter of fact, it was flat-out some bad football. Here are a few thoughts as I watched and listened to the game last night:
Regarding Samkon Gado, a first-half comment by Al Michaels: "a legend in the making." Gado fumbled the one carry he got in the second half and Tony Fisher got the rest of the carries in the second half. It was a nice story while it lasted, huh?
Also from Al Michaels, this one regarding Brett Favre, "that's vintage Favre." It was after a fairly routine pass and catch. It wasn't even after the impressive touchdown from Favre to Donald Driver in the first quarter.
Late in the fourth quarter, Madden said, "That is a throw that only Brett Favre can make." Again, sounds nice, however, the fact is that most quality NFL quarterbacks could make similar passes. They just either chose not to make such passes or put themselves in a position that they don't need to.
Brad Johnson does not have much of an arm, does he? He'll throw a long ball once in awhile, one with plenty of lift. But is it just me, or does the ball seem to take forever to get to the intended receiver? Also, does it not appear that he throws a lot of passes at about a 3/4 arm slot? It looks as though he contorts his body and is attempting to throw the ball below an oncoming rusher.
Did you see when Sam Ryan showed the 77 page 'Code of Conduct' binder that each member of the Vikings organization was given? That book is huge, and seriously, how many of the players, coaches or staff do you think actually read the entire thing?
The first half was awful again for the offense. They were able to move the ball on the ground a little bit, but they were not getting any passing game. Nothing. But in the second half, I have to say that the offense did kind of click. Mewelde Moore found holes throughout the defensive line racking up 100+ yards. And Johnson was finding the right receivers for the right distances on third down.
Paul Edinger is not a good kicker on natural turf, is he? He's lights-out on the artificial stuff, but just not consistent outdoors at all.
How about the Dovante Edwards interception return for TD in the first half? Right before that play, I commented that the Vikings were about to make a big defensive play. I was thinking Darren Sharper again. But even as Edwards was running the ball toward the end zone, I just kept thinking, "This guy wasn't even on the roster last week, was he?"
How wide open was Koren Robinson on that 2nd-and-2 play with about a minute and a half left? How does that happen? Think that the nine consecutive Mewelde Moore runs had some affect? Absolutely! That is why having a running game is so important to setting up passing. That said, the Vikings were on the 50 yard line with under two minutes, so it isn't as if the Vikings could run the whole way in that time!
OK, the Robinson play got the team down to the six yard line. On 1st down, Brad Johnson took a one yard loss in the center of the field. On 2nd down, same thing. After each play, the Packers called time outs. Same thing on third down, and the clock ran down. Initially, I was bothered by the fact that they were 'settling' for a field goal. My assumption was that the Packers had another time out and would be able to get the ball back. In reality, it was a brilliant strategy. The Vikings were able to call a time out with three seconds left and had a 27 yard field goal from right in the middle of the field. You can't ask for a better opportunity. It is certainly better than when Edinger had to kick a 56 yard field goal to beat the Packers a few weeks ago! The snap was perfect, Johnson's hold was perfect, and Edinger's kick was perfect.
The Vikings get the 20-17 win, their third straight win. And in this game, as I said, the offense actually contributed, in the second half Brad Johnson and Mewelde Moore were the horse trailer players of the game, and both were huge in the half! Moore rushed for 90 of his 122 rushing yards in the second half. Johnson had a bad interception and a fumble in the first half, but was nearly perfect in the second half.
The Vikings are now at 5-5. They have won three in a row and four in their last five. Things are certainly looking better. Again, Brad Johnson is playing adequately and not making too many big mistakes. However, with Culpepper healthy and playing, these are all games that the Vikings could have won. But either way, the Vikings have won. They are two games behind the Bears whose defense is incredible. That said, the Vikings can still put themselves in a position where their final game, at home against the Bears, could determine if they will make the playoffs!
Any thoughts on the Vikings? E-mail me.
BASEBALL THOUGHTS (and a trade proposal!)
OK, there were a few stories worth following yesterday.
First, I heard that a deal between the Rangers and the Marlins was imminent. The Marlins would send Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to the Rangers. The Rangers would take on Lowell's entire remaining contract and send Hank Blalock, and either Thomas Diamond or Josh Danks to the Marlins. To me, that sounded like a fairly even trade, especially with the Lowell contract status. I figured to get a young 'ace' like Beckett, a team should be willing to give up a little more. Blalock is more than a "little", but Lowell is likely to improve upon 2005 season.
By late afternoon, things had shifted. Now, it appears that a deal has been reached between the Marlins and the Boston Red Sox. Lowell and Beckett will go to Boston in exchange for SS Hanley Ramirez, P Anibal Sanchez, and a minor league player to be named later. Also an excellent deal for both teams. The Red Sox will get a solid starting pitcher who has shown an ability to be dominant and won 15 games this year (with blister and shoulder issues) and a 3B to replace Bill Mueller. The Marlins get a lot of salary relief as well as two excellent prospects. Ramirez was really without a spot with the Red Sox, although he could have moved to 2B. Sanchez was the second choice of the Marlins. They wanted Jon Lester, but settled for Sanchez when the Red Sox threw in another minor leaguer.
Now, I did read that if Blalock had been sent to the Marlins in this deal, they would have turned around and traded him to another team because they intend to move Miguel Cabrera back to 3B. If that had been the case, the Twins, Phillies and Devil Rays were listed as teams that are known to have shown interest in Blalock. (click here for Aaron Gleeman's take on this deal and its possible affect on the Twins) I have heard that previously. I never thought that the Rangers would trade Blalock. He has been an All-Star in two of his three full seasons. He didn't commit many errors. He bashes right-handed pitching (And struggles with lefties, which is why I was a little more hesitant in endorsing a deal for him). Blalock also signed a long-term deal a two years ago to keep him at a reasonable price through arbitration. That is another huge reason that I can see the Twins being very interested in him!
The Marlins are holding a fire sale. I would like to see the Twins get involved in that, if it is for the right people. Now that Lowell and Beckett are gone, I don't really think that the Twins need to deal with the Marlins. Carlos Delgado is available, but he makes way too much money and the Marlins will be getting offers where the other team will take on the entire contract. And that is the goal of their trades, right? Luis Castillo has been an All-Star second baseman before. He has been a decent on-base guy and shown a lot of speed. Much of that was done three or more years ago. I think that Castillo has been average enough, with no power, for a couple straight years, so I don't think he is at all worth the $5.5 million he is owed for 2006! Not for the Twins. And finally, Juan Pierre makes no sense, unless the Twins are able to trade Torii Hunter.
Just to get involved in fun trade proposals, how about this three-team trade between the Twins, Yankees and Marlins?
Twins receive: Juan Pierre and Robinson Cano
Yankees receive: Torii Hunter, Luis Castillo and Juan Castro
Marlins receive: Eric Duncan, Melky Cabrera, Philip Hughes and Boof Bonser
Twins trade: Torii Hunter, Boof Bonser and Juan Castro
Marlins trade: Juan Pierre, Luis Castillo
Yankees trade: Robinson Cano, Eric Duncan, Melky Cabrera and Phillip Hughes
From the team's perspective -
Twins - rid themselves of Hunter and his contract and save about $5 million by replacing him with Pierre for a season. Cano steps in as the Twins second baseman for the next five years (or more) for cheap. They also get rid of a million dollars of uselessness in Castro. The team now has a bona-fide leadoff hitter who would get on for professional hitter Shannon Stewart before The Franchise, Joe Mauer, comes up with a couple of runners on. The team still would need to add a power right handed bat to hit cleanup. Pierre would also be around for just one season. He will likely be a Type A free agent meaning that if the Twins don't sign him after the season, they would receive the-team-that-signs-him's first round pick and a supplemental first round pick for him. Also, he could work with Denard Span in CF and on the base paths!
Marlins - rid themselves of two more large veteran contracts and add four legitimate prospects. Duncan would have to move to 1B as Cabrera moves back to 3B. Cabrera gives a guy who could play CF in 2006, or for sure by 2007. And two pitchers who could be ready in 2006. In other words, they not only clear salary, but they get four guys who could help at the big league level (for cheap) this year.
Yankees - Get the CF that they need. Get a veteran 2B who can hit at the top of their order and get on for the big bats. I added Castro because I think he is replaceable by the Twins. He may not make immediate sense to the Yankees. However, the Yankees really did not have a backup infielder. That would likely mean that he would play about 25... innings... next year in the field behind A-Rod, Jeter and Castillo, but the Yankees can afford $1.05 million for a guy like that for a year. However, they also lose four more young players, and I know we say that they already have no prospects, they would now have even less. However, they would be solid at every position, and I did not include Chien-Ming Wang in this deal. Also, this is the Yankees. It's not about building for 2008, it's about 2006, and that's it!
Anyway, those are fun! Any thoughts on the trade, or proposed trades or Twins needs? E-mail me. Oh, and because the Red Sox seem committed to Kevin Youklis at 3B, it is possible that they will trade Lowell, and some cash, to the Twins. Because Youklis could play 1B, I am sure they will ask for Scott Baker. Hopefully the Twins would not do that, but instead offer up Kyle Lohse and JC Romero!
The other big baseball news was that the Mariners signed Japanese catcher Kenji Johjima to a three year contract worth $16.5 million. He will start, the team will look to trade Yorvit Torrealba and use Rene Rivera as the backup. Aaron Gleeman discusses the signing and uses his formula to calculate how well Johjima will perform in 2006.
NFL "EXPERT" PICKS
Another week is in the books, and as I mentioned at the top, I will be posting the Week 12 picks tomorrow, before the Thanksgiving games. It was a tough week overall for our panel, however Twins reliever Grant Balfour had a terrific week of picking the games. He went 12-4 to win the week, one game ahead of Ben Jacobs. It was a rough week for our overall leader, Trevor Born, the Twins Junkie as he was just 8-8. Cory Hepola's 10-6 put him just one game out of the lead. There is quite a race going for places three through five too. Here are the overall standings, through Week 11. For more on our panel or our picks, check out the NFL "Expert" Picks page here.
Final Standings Total Week 11 Over All Name Site
L Win% W L Win % Trevor Born Twins Junkie 8 8 50.0% 111 49 69.4% Cory Hepola KTVH-TV Sports 10 6 62.5% 110 50 68.8% SethSpeaks Panel 9 7 56.3% 103 50 67.3% Mike Brasel Fantasy FB Guru 8 8 50.0% 107 53 66.9% Seth Stohs SethSpeaks.net 10 6 62.5% 107 53 66.9% Aaron Gleeman Aaron's BB Blog 9 7 56.3% 106 54 66.3% Will Young Will's Twins Blog 10 6 62.5% 103 57 64.4% Stick & Ball Guy Stick & Ball Guy 10 6 62.5% 101 59 63.1% Ben Jacobs Hardball Times 11 5 68.8% 100 60 62.5% Brent Hanson BrentNet 9 7 56.3% 99 61 61.9% Melissa Lien SethSpeaks.net 8 8 50.0% 98 62 61.3% Grant Balfour Twins Relief Pitcher 12 4 75.0% 92 68 57.5% Kevin Slowey Twins Pitching Prospect 8 8 50.0% 88 72 55.0%
That's all, folks! I will call it a day. I certainly hope that you have found Roger's first baseman 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 on some of your questions, as well as the NFL "Expert" Picks. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me.
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