"I really appreciated that," Hunter said.
Thursday, December 8, 2005
"Roger" on the Twins Middle Infielders
Good Morning to all! Well, there was a lot of action at the Winter Meetings yesterday. Today is the Rule V draft and likely plenty of more free agent signings, trades and other baseball news to discuss. But today, Roger is back with his review of the Twins minor league middle infielders. As always, it is excellent. But again, please feel free to leave some Comments and discuss amongst each other! Let's get to today's article.
ROGER'S MINOR LEAGUE REVIEW - Middle Infielders
In previous weeks, "Roger" has done his positional review of the Twins system. He has reviewed the 2005 seasons of the catchers, the first basemen, and the third basemen last week. This week, we will review the 2005 seasons of the Twins minor league middle infielders. This has long been a position of weakness for the Twins, and to be honest, much of the perceived "talent" in the organization is in the lower levels. So, lets see what "Roger" has to say about all of the players. If you have any thoughts for me or Roger, e-mail me, or leave some comments below. Have a great day!
Twins Minor League System Review
The Middle Infielders
Today we will take a look at the middle infielders. A reminder about the ranking I show for each player. It is 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 another reason (#46). Players included on the Twins 40-man roster will have their names in Bold Green.
Rochester Red Wings (AAA)
The Red Wings had several players who played part of the season in Minnesota. Brent Abernathy (mlfa, 2005) signed with the Twins last winter and performed very well at Rochester (215ab/.326Ave/.388OBP/.470SLG) and was solid in a brief stint with the Twins (67ab/.239Ave/.316OBP/.299SLG). Abernathy was released following the season and has since signed with Milwaukee. Luis Rodriguez (#11/ndfa, 1997) was one of Rochester’s top players for the past two years (138ab/.304Ave/.381OBP/.399SLG) and was very solid with the Twins for much of the season (175ab/.269Ave/.335OBP/.383SLG). LRod belongs on the Twins in 2006, however, with the acquisition of Castillo…what role will the Twins have for him in 2006? Jason Bartlett began the season as the Twins starting shortstop and was sent down to Rochester for a few months last spring. While at Rochester, Bartlett put up great numbers (229ab/.332Ave/.405OBP/.459SLG) with 29BB/34SO. He became more comfortable defensively upon his return and all indications are that he will be the Twins starting shortstop on opening day. After starting at second base for four years, Luis Rivas was sent to Rochester last July (145ab/.248Ave/.280OBP/.386SLG) and was released following the end of the season. Rivas recently broke his wrist while playing winter ball in Venezuela and although his future is uncertain, there is no indication that he will return to the Twins.
After Rodriguez was called up by the Twins, Luis Maza (#10/ndfa, 1998) joined the Red Wings from New Britain. The 25 year old Maza, who is one of the best defensive second basemen in the system, put up great numbers at Rochester (275ab/.291Ave/.318OBP/.476SLG) after starting slowly in his second season at New Britain (197ab/.249Ave/.299OBP/.386SLG). Maza is a right handed hitter who showed some power with 17 home runs last season. The Twins had him play some third base and left field at Rochester as they look for a way to maximize his chances of making the parent club. Augie Ojeda (#58/mlfa, 2004) saw some time with the Twins late in 2004, however, didn’t make the Club out of spring training and spent the entire season at Rochester (313ab/.224Ave/.322OBP/.304ALG) prior to being released following the end of the season.
New Britain Rock Cats (AA)
After Luis Maza was promoted to Rochester, JR Taylor (#28/D24, 2000) was called up from Ft. Myers. Taylor is a switch hitting 23 year old second baseman who was solid at both New Britain (105ab/.276Ave/.347OBP/.343SLG) and Ft. Myers (262ab/.256Ave/.328OBP/.309SLG). Taylor is a disciplined hitter with 11BB/14SO and 28BB/34SO ratios at New Britain and Ft. Myers, respectively. His performance at New Britain likely enhanced his chances of becoming a future Twin.
The Twins signed veteran minor leaguer Gilbert Velasquez (#63/mlfa, 2005) last winter, giving the young Rock Cats a veteran presence (286ab/.231Ave/.297OBP/.287SLG) with his solid defense. Another veteran of the Twins system is Tommy Watkins (#53/D38, 1998), a 25 year old infielder who was in his second year with New Britain (319ab/.229Ave/.307OBP/.326SLG). Ex Gopher Ben Pattee, who was promoted to the Rock Cats early in the season, struggled at New Britain (146ab/.205Ave/.295OBP/.288SLG) and was released during the later half of the season.
Ft. Myers Miracle (Hi A)
The middle infield for the Miracle was in a state of flux for much of the season. Felix Molina and JR Taylor both began the season as part of the Miracle’s infield prior to being promoted to New Britain where Molina was moved to third base. Ben Pattee was also promoted to New Britain prior to his release after putting up solid numbers at Ft. Myers (81ab/.333Ave/.413OBP/.395SLG). Second baseman Luke Hughes joined the Miracle late in the season (84ab/.202Ave/.222OBP/.262SLG) after a solid season at Beloit. Angelo Fermin (#47/ndfa, 2000) is a 22 year old who also began the season at Beloit (143ab/.224Ave/.376OBP/.273SLG) and was promoted to Ft. Myers where his batting average improved (112ab/.250Ave/.312OBP/.330SLG).
The only middle infielder who spent the entire season at Ft. Myers was 23 year old Matt Tolbert (#35/D16, 2004). Tolbert alternated between shortstop and second base while Taylor was with the Miracle. After Taylor’s move to New Britain, Tolbert became the Miracle’s regular shortstop. Tolbert had the second most at bats on the team (417) finishing the season with very solid numbers (.266Ave/.326OBP/.365SLG) offensively, however, had a team high 22 errors.
Beloit Snappers (Low A)
The Snappers had a regular shortstop for the entire season, 19 year old Trevor Plouffe (#18/D1, 2004), who was the Twins top selection in the 2004 draft. At first glance, Plouffe’s system high 35 errors and a .223 batting average appear to be somewhat disappointing for a top prospect. A deeper look however, suggests that he had a good year with excellent plate discipline (50BB/78SO/466AB) and .300OBP/.345SLG including 18 doubles and 13 home runs. It was reported that he was making good contact early in the season when his batting average remained under .100 over the first month of the season. Although his average rose throughout the year, he was never able to statistically overcome that first month when like a lot of young players from places like California, he had his first exposure to baseball in Wisconsin’s early spring weather. Because most 19 year old position players are at some level of Rookie ball, it is important to compare Plouffe’s performance to two other high school infielders selected in the 2004 draft. The “number 1 overall pick” by San Diego was shortstop Matt Bush. Bush also spent the entire 2005 season in the Midwest League at Ft. Wayne. His offensive numbers for the season were not as good as Plouffe (.221Ave/.279OBP/.276SLG) and he had 38 errors in 126 games compared with Plouffe’s 35 in 127 games. The “number 9 overall pick” by Colorado was shortstop Chris Nelson who spent the entire season at another Low A League (Asheville of the South Atlantic League) similar to the Midwest League. Nelson had 24 errors in 79 games and his offensive numbers were similar to Plouffe (.241Ave/.304OBP/.330SLG). Considering the level he was playing at and his performance, Plouffe had a very good season and must be considered a top shortstop prospect for the Twins.
Luke Hughes (#30/ndfa, 2001) is a 21 year old Australian who spent much of the season as Beloit’s second baseman before a late season promotion to Ft. Myers. The Twins are reportedly very high on Hughes who had respectable numbers at Beloit (292ab/.257Ave/.319OBP/.390SLG), including 7 home runs and 42 rbi. Another 21 year old Australian playing middle infield for Beloit was Paul Rutgers (#59/ndfa, 2001) who had a solid year for the Snappers (230ab/.230ab/.304OBP/.291SLG).
Steven Tolleson (#45/D5, 2005) was drafted out of the University of South Carolina in last spring’s draft. As a college player, Tolleson was 21 years old and was promoted to Beloit after a strong start at Elizabethton (56ab/.321Ave/.457OBP/.571SLG). At Beloit, Tolleson’s average suffered (.176Ave/.311OBP/.284SLG) however, he had a respectable on base percentage with 17BB/23SO in 102AB.
Following the Gulf Coast League season, the Snappers called up Paul Kelly to play second base in their last few games of the season and in the playoffs (16ab/.313Ave/.368OBP/.625SLG). Kelly was selected by Baseball America as the best athlete of the Twins’ 2005 draft, rating him average or better in all aspects that a scout looks for with a very strong arm as demonstrated by his having been a high school pitcher with a 94-95 mph fastball. Early indications are that Kelly is a top prospect who will battle Plouffe for the right to be the Twins shortstop of the future.
Elizabethton Twins (Rookie)
Juan Portes (#8/D15, 2004) is a 19 year old who could be on a fast track to the Twins. The Twins have moved him around in an effort to find his best defensive position, playing mostly second base during Elizabethton’s championship season. Following the season, Baseball America ranked Portes as the 7th best prospect in the Appalachian League. Portes had excellent numbers offensively (245ab/.286Ave/.349OBP/494SLG), including a team high 12 home runs, the doubles co-leader with 13 and second most rbi (39). It should be noted that his batting average was well above .300 until the last few weeks of the season. He was also solid defensively with 9 errors during the short Appalachian League season.
Yancarlos Ortiz (#37/ndfa), was Elizabethton’s regular shortstop at the age of 21. Ortiz was solid defensively with only 5 errors, while putting up excellent offensive numbers (187ab/.289Ave/.362OBP/.310SLG) with a team high 10 stolen bases in 15 attempts.
Ron Gardenhire’s son, 22 year old Toby Garden hire (#85/D41, 2005) was the main infield reserve for much of the season. The ex University of Illinois player was solid defensively at many positions (100ab/.200Ave/.286OBP/.230SLG).
Gulf Coast Twins (Rookie)
Odannys Valdez (#39/ndfa) was the GCL Twins 20 year old shortstop who committed only 1 error during their short season. Valdez has excellent speed as evidenced by his 15 stolen bases in 17 attempts. Offensively, Valdez put up reasonable numbers during his second year for the GCL Twins (114ab/.219Ave/.338OBP/.263SLG) showing excellent plate discipline (21BB/19SO).
As discussed on the Beloit squad, Paul Kelly (#40/D2, 2005) is an 18 year old high school pick who has unlimited upside potential. Kelly had excellent offensive numbers in the Gulf Coast League (137ab/.277Ave/.358OBP/.365SLG).
Andrew Thompson (#31/D2s, 2005) is another 18 year old high school pick who is the son of a former major leaguer. Baseball America stated that he is the best pure hitter from this years draft (109ab/.257Ave/.385OBP/.367SLG) who is a little more polished than Kelly at this stage of their careers. Thompson has excellent plate discipline with an equal number of walks to strikeouts (22BB/22SO). Following the end of the GCL season, Thompson played a few games for the Miracle where he compiled (13ab/.308Ave/.357OBP/.385SLG).
Michael Lysaught (#79/ndfa, 2003) is a 19 year old middle Infielder who had a solid second season with the GCL Twins, compiling respectable offensive statistics (72ab/.250Ave/.325OBP/.389SLG). Kualana Kuhaulua (#90/D12. 2001) is an older player who was injured much of the season, getting a few at bats on a rehab assignment with the GCL Twins late in the season.
Jason Bartlett should provide a major contribution to the Twins as their starting shortstop in 2006. Another Red Wing who should play a role for the Twins is Luis Rodriguez. The other player close to being ready to help the parent club is Luis Maza, who may be the best defensive second baseman in the organization other than newly acquired Luis Castillo. Although still at least two years away, other prospects who may contribute in the future would include JR Taylor, who played very well at New Britain, and two players who the Twins have been high on, Luke Hughes and Matt Tolbert.
The top middle infield prospects in the system however, were at Beloit, Elizabethton and the Gulf Coast League. Former #1 pick Trevor Plouffe had an excellent year as a 19 year old at Beloit and although several years away from the major leagues, is arguably the Twins top prospect at shortstop. Another top prospect is Juan Portes, who may be their top prospect at second base and is one of their most exciting young hitters. It will be interesting to see if Portes jumps a level and moves into the second base position at Ft. Myers on the top infield in the Twins system (Woodard/Brown, Portes(?), Plouffe and Winfree). Can he be the player to replace Castillo in 2008? To do so he will need to make this move and play well at Ft. Myers in 2006. Although a year younger than Plouffe and Portes, this year’s second round picks, Kelly and Thompson, must be included as top prospects with very high ceilings. It is likely they will begin the year as the double play combination at Beloit and could stay together as they move up the ladder in future years. Yancarlos Ortiz is another player who could work himself into top prospect status if his development continues during the coming seasons. Will there be any other young players joining this fine group?
The Twins have often been criticized by fans and the media for not drafting hitters or developing middle infielders. This group of top young middle infielders in the Rookie Leagues (and Plouffe) have the potential of becoming solid hitters who could someday start for the Twins. Although 3, 4 or 5 years away…this is both a very special and exciting group!
Jason Bartlett should be given the shortstop job and hopefully this year he will run with it. Until the Twins acquired Luis Castillo, I was hoping there would be a real, open competition for the second base job between Luis Rodriguez and Luis Maza. But after these guys, who are both potentially decent big league bit players, the better middle infield prospects are in the lower levels.
That group is led by Beloit's shortstop Trevor Plouffe. He got off to an absolutely horrible start this year, but after he got adjusted, he was a solid contributor. Maybe not a big deal, but when you consider that he was the youngest position player in the league for most of the season, it is not so bad. I think that the Twins will push him to Ft. Myers next year which will be another big step, he will be more prepared. He is immensely talented and his bat should develop a little power as he gets stronger and older. Defense is another major question mark for him.
Luke Hughes is from Australia. He is often-times talked about as a potential power-hitting 2B, but to this point in his brief career, it is hard to see that. I think 2006 will be a big year for him.
Juan Portes is a big question mark. I know Roger would like him to completely skip Beloit and team him with Plouffe in Ft. Myers as the second baseman. I know that he played some left field at Elizabethton. Let's remember that he is as young as Plouffe and I don't think that the team should push him too quickly. I would start him as a LF/2B at Beloit. If he gets off to a big start there, then I would move him up to Ft. Myers. Let's remember also that he is not known for his defense at 2B. Can you imagine the infield defense in Ft. Myers if it contained Plouffe, Portes and David Winfree? You would almost feel bad for Johnny Woodard and Chris Brown!
And then the 2005 draft picks out of high school are certainly worth following. Paul Kelly and Drew Thompson could team as a keystone combo in Beloit next year and maybe for the next few years as they move up the system together. Both are good bats and natural ball players. The other early round SS taken by the Twins was Stephen Tolleson who, like Thompson, is the son of a former big leaguer. He is certainly more of a defensive middle infielder.
Obviously the Twins have to hope that Jason Bartlett succeeds this year as their shortstop. If he can man the position for the next three seasons, the team should have a replacement ready in Plouffe, Kelly or Thompson. The question mark for me is, if Luis Castillo is not back in 2007, who will take over 2B that year because the organization seems to have no confidence in L-Rod or Luis Maza.
Do you have any thoughts on the Twins minor league middle infielders? If so, e-mail me, or post some comments below. Check back next week when Roger will help us learn more about another position in the Twins minor league system.
Just a few thoughts on some of the deals made in Day 3 of the Winter Meetings, along with a few other thoughts on the baseball world.
First, be sure to head over to Minor Details and read a fun Q&A with Garrett Guest. Guest was a 49th round pick out of college and his story is kind of fun and interesting. Seems like a guy with his head on his shoulders!
Ouch! A year ago at this time, the Braves traded a flame-throwing pitching prospect named Jose Capellan to the Brewers in exchange for their closer Dan Kolb. At the time, I know I was not the only person who thought the Braves were dumb for making that move. Well, yesterday they traded Kolb back to the Brewers in exchange for Wes Obermueller. I think it is fair to say that that was not a good deal for the Braves. Capellan is still young and cheap and could fit a number of roles with the Braves.
Rafael Furcal officially signed his three year, $39 million deal with the Dodgers yesterday. My initial thought was why he took this deal rather than the five year deals he was being offered by the Cubs. However, after looking at it a bit more, Furcal is probably smart in this deal. He is just 28 years old, so he will become a free agent again in three years when he is still just 31 years old. At that time, he can sign a six year, big money deal toward the end of his career. He took less guaranteed money now (although more per season) for the ability to still be able to have another bigger pay day down the road.
I can't believe I was almost believing that Trevor Hoffman was going to be a Cleveland Indian. Of course he was going to go back to San Diego all along. Like Brian Giles, Hoffman took full advantage of being a free agent and used that power to push the Padres into giving them just a little more money than their initial offers. But both players were staying in San Diego all along. We should have known that. And, you know I like when guys stay loyal to their teams, so I have no problem with that.
And the Padres traded 2B Mark Loretta, a very solid but unspectacular player, to the Boston Red Sox for back up catcher Doug Mirabelli. It is believed that the Padres will now make a run at Nomar Garciaparra to have him play 2B. Interesting option, but it is another case where, Garciaparra could play 3B (instead of Vinny Castilla) and they should give their 2B job to Josh Barfield. He is ready.
And the Marlins got rid of one more big salary player. They sent Juan Pierre to the Chicago Cubs for pitchers Sergio Mitre, Ricky Nolaska and Renyel Pinto. Good deal for the Cubs in that they have their CF and leadoff hitter, although I do believe that Pierre is greatly overrated both offensively and defensively. As I was hearing about this trade, I just kept thinking about how fun it would be to be the GM of the Marlins. Sure, you'd rather put together a team to win now, but Larry Beinfest is now trying to put together pieces to win in three or four years. And, they really are doing surprisingly well in these trades despite the fact that every GM knows that the Marlins are trying to rid themselves of contracts.
OK, so we have learned that Roger Clemens will not be offered arbitration by the Astros. Smart move by the team because after his 2005 season, he could again get whatever he asked for. Clemens will likely still stay in great shape so he can pitch in the World Baseball Classic, and the Astros could sign him again on May 1. I really do not see him signing with another team.
More importantly to Twins fans, the White Sox did not offer arbitration to Frank Thomas or Carl Everett. Also the Mets did not offer it to Mike Piazza. This is important because now teams can sign these guys without losing draft picks. I think that Thomas will sign with the A's tomorrow, but I really believe that the Twins will sign Mike Piazza in the next 24-48 hours. That is not based on anything, just a guess, but it is just such a good fit. Piazza can DH 130 times or so, and maybe catch once every couple of weeks and play some 1B. He is a right-handed power bat with an OPS of over 1.000 for his career. I don't expect that, but he would be a very good, professional bat in the cleanup position. And now that Shannon Stewart, Luis Castillo and Joe Mauer should hit in the first three slots, Piazza should get a lot of RBI opportunities early in games. That could help the Twins get an early lead, something they had very rarely last year.
Remember earlier in the week when I mentioned that the Angels signed former Twins reliever Hector "Carrisco" Carrasco to a two year deal worth more than $3 million a season? Well, to make room for him on their 40 man roster, they released Jeff DaVanon. Now, DaVanon is anything but a star, but he is a very solid big league player. He is a good fourth outfielder, pinch hitter, base runner and could fit on a team nicely. I don't think he is a fit for the Twins ,but it seems like another reason that this signing made no sense.
Lavelle E. Neal III wrote his daily Twins rumor update, and there is just a lot to discuss from it:
In a deal for Hank Blalock:
The Twins would give up pitching in return, perhaps lefthander J.C. Romero, as part of a deal. The Twins are trying to hold on to righthander Kyle Lohse, so they might include righthander Scott Baker in the deal.
OK, sure on Romero, but why would they prefer to keep Lohse over Baker??? That makes absolutely no sense to me. Baker at his potential worst would be about equal to Lohse, but he'll be far cheaper. My assumption is simply that that the Rangers have no interest in Lohse so if the Twins really want Blalock, it will have to be Baker.
There also are some indications that the deal could be expanded to include outfielder Kevin Mench and/or a third team.
If it was Blalock and Mench, then getting rid of Baker probably would be bearable. Maybe.
The Twins also are believed to be discussing a three-way deal with Milwaukee and Toronto. The Twins likely would supply Milwaukee with pitching, the Brewers would send Lyle Overbay to Toronto and the Blue Jays would send the Twins a hitter, possibly Shea Hillenbrand.
No thanks on Hillenbrand. He is worse than Cuddyer defensively, and his offense, if you live by OPS, is barely .800 because he so rarely walks. I would not want him as a 3B, but as a last option as a DH. However, for the money he could make, he just is not worth it.Twins manager Ron Gardenhire on Wednesday spoke with outfielder Torii Hunter, who is eager to see more power in the Twins' lineup. Gardenhire told Hunter about some of the players the club is interested in and asked Hunter for his opinion on some of them.
"I really appreciated that," Hunter said.
Oh boy! Hunter is getting talked to about who the Twins might sign or trade for! They sure owe that to him, don't they? Can you feel my sarcasm? Seriously, Mr. Ryan, please trade him!
They are a couple of many routes the Twins might head into as they look to boost the offense. While they could leave the winter meetings with a new player or two, they likely will need a few more weeks before their search is over.
At least he ends the argument with this paragraph. I just do not want them to sign someone today just because everyone else is doing it. It has to make sense on the field and in the pocketbook whether it is a free agent signing or a trade of prospects. Do not make a deal just to make a deal!
Unless it is about Hunter!!!
Peter Gammons is reporting that Alfonso Soriano has been traded from the Texas Rangers to the Washington Nationals in exchange for Brad Wilkerson and Termell Sledge. Both are outfielders primarily meaning that Kevin Mench is probably more available, but do you think that the Rangers would still deal Hank Blalock after trading Soriano? Also, the Nationals have Jose Vidro at 2B (along with Junior Spivey and Bernie Castro), so do you think that Soriano will be willing to move to the outfield? Ridding themselves of Soriano should be a good thing for the Rangers. It will not only save them some money, but it allows Ian Kinsler to become the Rangers new 2B meaning that the infield defense will be very solid. I've seen him play a couple of times at SS, and I wonder if the Rangers would consider moving Michael Young back to 2B and inserting Kinsler at SS? According to Lonestar Ball, it appears as though Rangers fans are very happy about this move!
And finally, this penguin game is far too addictive!
Any thought on the baseball trade, signings or rumors? E-mail me. or leave some comments.
That's all, folks! I will call it a day. I certainly hope that you have found Roger's article on the Twins middle infielders 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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