Friday, December 17, 2004
Sexson Signs with Ms
Beltre Signs with Ms Too!
Another Sox Signing
Smoltz Signs Extension
Hudson Traded to Braves
Marrero To the Royals (Twins Connection?)
Johnson Becomes a Yankee
NFL "EXPERT" PICKS
Q&A with Alexander Smit
I would encourage all Twins fans to check out this posting. If you are interested in a CD account of the 2004 Twins season, set to music, get it here! I got the 2003 version last year and it was very well done. For all details, click here!
SETHSPEAKS on WCCO - For those in the Minneapolis area, I will be on WCCO radio (830 am) on Sunday afternoon in the 1:00 hour (approximately 1:10-1:50). Yes, I know it is right during the middle of the Vikings game. But, it sounds like we'll talk about the Twins, the Hot Stove league, and other fun topics.
Good Friday morning everyone! Lots happened in the world of baseball in the last 24-48 hours and I have a huge suspicion that some other huge free agent deals and trades will go down this weekend, if not today (or by the time you read this). I will talk about all of that below. It is also Friday, so that means that our “Experts” will make their selections for the NFL’s Week 15 games. But the primary piece of today’s posting is going to be an interview I have been talking about much of the week, an interview that I am very excited about.
The Twins minor league system is as good as any organization’s system. There are a number of prospects that are very near the big leagues. But there are also waves of prospects at every level that should keep the Minnesota Twins competitive for years to come, even with their self-inflicted budget restraints.
One of the team’s most exciting prospects is Alexander Smit. Of all the Twins pitching prospects, he may have the highest ceiling. The 19 year old left-hander from Holland signed with the Twins organization in July of 2002 and went to the instructional league. The team is, wisely, being very patient with this talented, but youthful, southpaw. In 2003, he played with the Twins short-season rookie team in Ft. Myers. In 8 games, Smit went 3-1 with a 1.18 ERA. In 38 innings, he struck out 40 hitters! An excellent start to his pro career. Last year, Smit began the season at Extended Spring Training again, and moved up to Elizabethton, the Twins other short-season team. He continued to impress. In six games, he was 1-1 with a 2.54 ERA. However, in 28.1 innings, he struck out 43 batters. That’s 13.7 per nine innings! He also dropped his walk rate. He pitched less because he was a member of the Dutch Olympic team and pitched in Athens. Recently, I ranked Smit my #20 Twins prospect. By potential, he should be a top 5 prospect, even on this team. I just want to give him a year at a full-season minor league team. Smit’s youth, his build, his arm, and his makeup are all reasons that he is so highly thought of. 2005 should be an interesting season for Alexander Smit. Will he move up to Beloit, the Twins Low-A team? That would be my guess. But I also have to think that the Twins will do what they feel is best for Smit’s long-term future within the organization, and that is smart!
Recently, I asked Alexander if he would be interested in answering a number of questions for me and my readers for this website. He told me he was definitely willing to, so I asked him a number of questions. He answered so well and so graciously, and was even willing and encouraged a few follow-up questions. It is impressive, especially when you remember that English is not Alexander’s primary language. So, thank you very much to Alexander again! Best wishes for continued success, and hopefully all within the Twins organization!
If you have any questions, please e-mail me. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Also, I mentioned it on the Dickie Thon Twins Fan Forum here, so you can post your thoughts there too. So, let’s get to the interview:
Hello Alexander, and thank you very much for taking the time to answer some questions for us.
SethSpeaks: First, you are from The Netherlands. Have you talked to another person from there, former Twins pitcher and current Twins TV announcer Bert Blyleven? If so, what has he told you?
Alexander Smit: I did not talk to anybody else like Bert Blyleven. I tried to meet him in person a couple of times but we missed each other by seconds. I will try again this spring training because Bert is a celebrity in Holland too.
SethSpeaks: Is The Netherlands the same as Holland? What is the capital?
Alexander Smit: The Netherlands is the same as Holland, both names are used but the Netherlands is the official name of the country. Our capital is Amsterdam.
SethSpeaks: What is the language of your country? How many languages can you speak? And, what do you do, or do the Twins do for you, to help you with your English?
Alexander Smit: Our language is Dutch. I speak Dutch (of course) and English, a little bit German and I try to learn a bit of Spanish. The Twins speak English (haha) and they help me to speak English better in doing so.
SethSpeaks: Who were your favorite baseball players when you were younger?
Alexander Smit: My favorite player (only one) when I was younger was Ken Griffey Junior.
SethSpeaks: What is the youth baseball program like in The Netherlands? Are other sports big there? Did you play other sports?
Alexander Smit: The youth baseball program in Holland is nothing compared to that in the USA. Still, everybody tries hard and during the years and with the help of American coaches the program is getting better end better. A lot needs to be done though. The one big sport in Holland is soccer. It outnumbers all other sports. By the way, that counts for all of Europe. They are all big soccer lovers. I used to play a lot of tennis and still play golf besides my baseball.
SethSpeaks: You were a member of the 2004 Netherlands Olympic Baseball team. What was it like to represent your country in the Olympics? Was it an enjoyable experience for you?
Alexander Smit: It was a great experience to represent my country in the Olympics. It sure was enjoyable and for the bigger picture and the inside stories you can better look and read on my web-site www.alexandersmit.com. Click on English and you can read and see it all.
SethSpeaks: You have a great web site that chronicles your career with the Twins and your time at the Olympics, with great pictures and more. How long have you had the site and how much time to you spend on it?
Alexander Smit: Thanks for the compliments about my web site. We have had a great time making it. I spend about one hour every two days keeping the site in order. For the rest and the programming my friend Rene de Wit does the work. He is the web master.
SethSpeaks: What was the process like for you when Major League teams started contacting you?
Alexander Smit: The process was about the same as everybody else, I think. Scouts come over and follow you for a couple of years. They were always around at the big tournaments for the youth, like European and World Championships. But they also came and looked when I was in the competition. In these days, all the talents are together and scouts start contacting you.
SethSpeaks: You received a lot of big money offers from other teams, why did you choose to play for the Minnesota Twins?
Alexander Smit: I chose for the Twins because of the system. I believed and still believe that the system of the Twins is the best . Also my father and other people that know baseball advised me to choose the Twins. But I had to make up my mind myself and the quality of the system was the point that made the difference for me.
SethSpeaks: How has the adjustment to living in the United States during the baseball season been? What has been your favorite part about this country?
Alexander Smit: The adjustment of living in the USA has been rather easy. People are great, and I feel at home when I’m there. My favorite part of the USA is Florida. Nice temperatures (I love warmth) and Fort Myers is a great place to be. On the other hand, I have not seen much of this great country, and it is possible that I will change my mind in the future
SethSpeaks: Can you name a couple of your teammates that you think can make it to the major leagues?
Alexander Smit: Teammates of whom I think they will make it to the big leagues: Trevor Plouffe and Glen Perkins.
SethSpeaks: Who have been some of the people that you would say most helped you get to where you are now as a baseball player?
Alexander Smit: The most help I had as a baseball player from my father (coached me until I was 13) and my head coach from the first team when I was older. He taught me a lot of things that are very useful in baseball and in pitching, like how to throw different pitches and so on.
SethSpeaks: How would you describe yourself as a pitcher? What is your best pitch (or pitches)?
Alexander Smit: I am a real starter. My best pitch is the fastball outside.
SethSpeaks: Where do you feel that you need to really improve at this point to keep moving up the Twins minor league system?
Alexander Smit: I have to improve on consistency to keep on moving up.
SethSpeaks: When you say you have to improve your consistency to move up, what do you mean? More strikes, more consistent release point, any other things?
Alexander Smit: With consistency, I mean that my delivery point of the strikes has to be more consistent. So a strike, when I want one, and less balls when I want a strike instead.
SethSpeaks: What have the Twins told you about where you will play next season?
Alexander Smit: The Twins have told me nothing about where I will play in 2005. I will hear that in spring training 2005.
SethSpeaks: Do you set goals for yourself? If so, what are your goals for 2005?
Alexander Smit: My goal for 2005 is going up: Up to a higher team, up in pitching speed, up in strength, up in consistency.
SethSpeaks: So, what do you do during your offseason? School? What do you do to prepare for next season? Do the Twins have a workout program for you to follow?
Alexander Smit: During the off season, I workout in the gym for 3 or more hours per day. I throw with a pitcher from the Marlins (a friend of mine) on the nearby baseball field together and workout with the Olympic swimming team from Holland in the big pool in our place. One of their members is the 3 times gold medal winner Pieter van den Hoogeband.
The Twins have sent me a detailed program for the off season to follow which I do, of course. This program contains training exercises for power, speed and athletics, as for the right meals and rest periods. If you follow the program, you are in great shape when spring training starts. There is not time enough for school. I have finished high school and college takes to much time to attend.
SethSpeaks: When would you like to see yourself in a Twins uniform? What will it feel like when you make the Major Leagues?
Alexander Smit: I hope to be in the Twins uniform in 2009. The feeling will be one of great pride and honour if that’s the case. (frankly, I will probably go out of my mind!!)
SethSpeaks: Thank you again for taking the time to answer these questions. Is there anything else you would like Twins fans to know about you?
Alexander Smit: One thing you might want to know about me is that I love Japanese food especially Sushi.
SethSpeaks: Happy Holidays to you and your family!
Thanks again to Alexander Smit for doing this. I think it was fun and hope you all enjoyed it. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me.
Wow! Yesterday was quite the day for big-named free agents to sign, and for bigger named pitchers to be traded to the other league! I expect this to really start the signings. I would expect this weekend to bring more signings, even some of the more significant ones! I love the Hot Stove League!
Richie Sexson Signs in Seattle – 4 years and $50 million. Sexson and Troy Glaus both missed much of last season with shoulder injuries, yet both have signed lucrative deals this offseason. Sexson is a huge power hitter, so if he can stay healthy, this is probably a fair deal.
Adrian Beltre Signs in Seattle – 5 years, $64 million. Beltre was the big free agent 3B. He’s just 25 years old and has already played six seasons in the big leagues. He had a monster 2004, even playing through a lot of pain, so that justifies the big contract. Put Beltre and Sexson back-to-back in the lineup and the Mariners have a pretty potent combo. Beltre was a guy known for his potential, but had never really reached it until this year, his contract year. It will be interesting to see if he remains motivated. If he is, good deal. If not, HUGE waste!!
It is interesting that when the Mariners were close to championship caliber teams, GM Pat Gillick did not make moves. Now, after a near 100 loss season, the team is spending a lot of money, and they may not be done dealing.
Another White Sox Deal – The White Sox signed SS Juan Uribe to a 3 year, $9.75 million deal. It is probably a very fair annual salary for Uribe. I just have to wonder why they found it so necessary to sign Uribe long-term. He did not even play full-time last year. Just another Sox deal that makes me, as a Twins fan, very happy!
Smoltz Signs Extension – Days after acquiring Danny Kolb from the Brewers and John Smoltz was moved back to the starting rotation, he signed a deal that will keep him in a Braves uniform an extra two years (at $10 million a year!). Smoltz was on MLB Radio yesterday talking about how no Braves player had spent his entire career with the Braves, and he wanted to do that. The Braves must have wanted that too. Now, I have questioned moving Smoltz back into the rotation, thinking his arm will soon fall off. He addressed that question as well by saying that in the bullpen, he needs to come in and go 100 mph right away. As a starter, he will be able to ease into a game and really take care of his arm better. If he is healthy, this is a fair deal. I still worry about his elbow and shoulder.
Tim Hudson Becomes A Brave – A very interesting part of Smoltz’s interview was that he kept mentioning how the Braves needed to acquire another arm to make their rotation solid. He kept mentioning one name over and over. That name, was Tim Hudson. Was Smoltz told of the impending deal? Interestingly, just two hours later, it was announced that the Braves had acquired Hudson from the A’s in exchange for RHP Juan Cruz, OF Charles Thomas and LHP Dan Meyer. Apparently Meyer was the key to the deal for the A’s. Meyer is a great pitching prospect, as I mentioned earlier when I heard that he was the PTBNL in the Kolb deal, and the A’s are thrilled to have him. Juan Cruz has never made it as a starter, but continues to put up great strikeout numbers. He was also successful out of the bullpen. Charles Thomas came seemingly out of nowhere and put up very solid numbers for the Braves in ½ season of play.
Now, all along, the A’s have insisted that they needed a 2B and some pitching in exchange for Hudson. But the day before, they had acquired Keith Ginter from the Brewers, so that was no longer a need. I am still a little surprised that Nick Green was not included in this deal. The name that surprised me most was Charles Thomas. I figured he would be the Braves LF this year. But he will have a shot to play with the A’s as well.
After seeing what it cost the Braves to acquire Tim Hudson, I know longer feel bad about what I suggested the Twins offer the Brewers for Ben Sheets! Hudson is an incredible pitcher, a staff ace for 90% of the teams in the big leagues. He will be the Braves ace, followed in the rotation by Smoltz, John Thomson, Mike Hampton and either Horacio Ramirez or Kyle Davies. Great trade for the Braves because I don’t think they gave up anything major to acquire such an incredible pitcher! Interestingly, Hudson is a Georgia native who went to college at Auburn. Just an added bonus.
Royals Acquire Eli Marrero (Twins connection?) – You may wonder why I would include this very minor deal in my listing. Well, after the Braves traded Charles Thomas, only Andruw Jones and Eli Marrero were likely starters in the Braves outfield. And then they traded Marrero to the Royals for a young relief pitcher? So, now Jones is the only certain in the Braves outfield. Maybe Chipper Jones moves back to LF and the team will bring up Andy Marte to play 3B? Is it possible that the Braves could be interested in the Twins Jacque Jones? Maybe there could be a deal worked out between the teams to make that happen! Just something worth thinking about and following.
The BIG UNIT Trade – OK, this is still in rumor form, but it is pretty close! Here is the breakdown as it is believed to be going down (waiting a few details, like dollars and no-trade clauses):
To the Yankees To the Dodgers To the Diamondbacks
LHP Randy Johnson RHP Javier Vazquez RHP Brad Penny
3B Eric Duncan OF Shawn Green
C Dionner Navarro RHP Yhency Brazoban
First, the Yankees did well. They get Johnson and his contract, and likely will have to give him a contract extension. But they do know what they get. The Dodgers come out VERY well in this deal too. I can see Javier Vazquez regaining his prior abilities by moving to the Dodgers! Eric Duncan is the Yankees Top Prospect (take that for what it is worth), and is a couple years away. Dionner Navarro has a chance to be the Dodgers every day catcher next year already. But the Diamondbacks actually did quite well also. First, they will likely get plenty of cash in this deal to pay some of these contracts. Shawn Green has had a couple of sub-par seasons, but is adequate and in the last year of his contract. Brad Penny, when healthy, is average, but showed that he can be dominant at times. Yhency Brazoban is another one of those great-stuff relievers, a la Guillermo Mota. He will definitely be a big part of Arizona’s plan.
Not knowing any of the “other” details, like where is cash flowing, etc., I think this is a very good trade for all three teams. I think that it has been a solid offseason for the Yankees now. I also think that it has been a very bad offseason for the Red Sox, especially their pitching staff, and I do think that the Yankees would have to be given the edge at this point! That said, I don't think that Twins fans need to be intimidated again. They can even sign Carlos Beltran, and it won't make me worry any more about them. The Twins and other teams can still compete with them!
So, what do you think of all of these deals? What a busy day! E-mail me your thoughts.
NFL “EXPERT” PICKS
Many people come to this site each week to see our “experts” football picks. If you look at our standings, you will see quite the cluster at the top of the list. With just three more weeks to go, things could get very interesting.
The Vikings travel to Detroit and play the Lions on Sunday afternoon. The Vikings really need a win. To do that, they will really need to focus on stopping Lions rookie RB Kevin Jones who has really been running well of late. Joey Harrington, following his 5-22-49 yard performance last week, will likely be on a short list. Maybe the Vikings defense can give him some confidence. So, who am I picking to win the game? See below:
(I have to apologize. I did not get the games to the panelists until mid-day yesterday. So, I will post these people's picks as I receive them. Thanks!)
Seth Stohs Melissa Olson Ben Jacobs Aaron Gleeman John Bonnes Ryan Maus SethSpeaks.net SethSpeaks.net Hardball Times Aaron's BB Blog Twins Geek Twins Chatter Pittsburgh @ NY Giants Steelers Steelers Steelers Steelers Steelers Steelers Washington @ San Francisco Redskins Redskins Redskins Redskins Redskins 49ers Carolina @ Atlanta Panthers Falcons Falcons Panthers Panthers Falcons Houston @ Chicago Bears Texans Texans Texans Bears Texans Buffalo @ Cincinnati Bengals Bills Bills Bengals Bengals Bills San Diego @ Cleveland Chargers Chargers Chargers Chargers Chargers Chargers Minnesota @ Detroit Vikings Vikings Lions Vikings Lions Vikings Jacksonville @ Green Bay Packers Packers Packers Packers Packers Packers Seattle @ NY Jets Jets Jets Jets Jets Jets Jets Dallas @ Philadelphia Eagles Eagles Eagles Eagles Eagles Eagles St. Louis @ Arizona Rams Rams Rams Rams Cardinals Rams New Orleans @ Tampa Bay Saints Buccs Buccs Buccs Buccs Saints Denver @ Kansas City Chiefs Chiefs Chiefs Broncos Chiefs Chiefs Tennessee @ Oakland Titans Raiders Raiders Titans Raiders Raiders Baltimore @ Indianapolis Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts New England @ Miami Patriots Patriots Patriots Patriots Patriots Patriots Michael Labuda David Bergner David Bloom Vic Quick Mike Brasel Jeremy Kovash ChiSox Daily Baseball Savant Ya Gotta Believe KDUH-Sports FFB Guru Wolf Lake Mgr Pittsburgh @ NY Giants Steelers Steelers Washington @ San Francisco Redskins Redskins Carolina @ Atlanta Falcons Falcons Houston @ Chicago Texans Texans Buffalo @ Cincinnati Bengals Bills San Diego @ Cleveland Chargers Chargers Minnesota @ Detroit Vikings Vikings Jacksonville @ Green Bay Packers Packers Seattle @ NY Jets Jets Jets Dallas @ Philadelphia Eagles Eagles St. Louis @ Arizona Rams Rams New Orleans @ Tampa Bay Buccs Buccs Denver @ Kansas City Chiefs Broncos Tennessee @ Oakland Raiders Titans Baltimore @ Indianapolis Colts Colts New England @ Miami Patriots Patriots
If you're looking for a great way to organize your family's Christmas Wish Lists, be sure to go to this site, designed by a good friend of mine.
And as I mentioned last week, I got my copy of 2004 Hardball Times Baseball Annual! It is far more impressive than I ever would have thought. Great articles, get writing, and very interesting and comprehensive statistics. It is well worth picking up for yourself or as a Christmas gift for family and friends who are baseball fans! By it here.
If you have any thoughts, opinions or questions on any topic, please feel free to e-mail me. Have a great weekend!!
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