Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Twins Minor League Report (4/22): Vicious Vasquez

Things were a struggle for Kyle Gibson on Tuesday night. The Rays pounced on him for seven runs and he was saddled with his first loss of this young season. David Price pitched nine strong innings and showed why he is one of the best pitchers in baseball.

The good thing is that it appears as if Brian Dozier is going to continue to hit a lot of home runs this season. Chris Colabello also seemed comfortable at the plate as he collected his second home run. He also saw 20 pitches over his four at-bats while no other Twins player saw more than 14.
Rochester 7, Pawtucket 5
Box Score
The Red Wings offense was very balanced as six different men had RBI in the game and most of the damage came in a six-run seventh inning. Chris Parmelee extended his hit streak to a season-long seven games. Eric Harris went 2-for-4 and scored two runs. Chris Rahl hit his fifth double and Wilkin Ramirez hit his second triple of the season. The team went 5-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

Logan Darnell started for Rochester and pitched five strong innings. He allowed two earned runs on three hits including six strikeouts and two walks. Yohan Pino did some fantastic work in relief by striking out nine hitters in only four innings of work.

With their 10th win of the season, the Red Wing matched their win total from last April. The team hasn't had a winning month of April since 2007 and they currently sit with a record of 10-8.

New Britain 2, New Hampshire 1
Box Score
This low scoring affair saw the Rock Cats squeak out their fifth victory of the season. Virgil Vasquez didn't pick up a decision in this game but he pitched seven scoreless innings by allowing three hits on only 84 pitches. It was his first start of the season after being used in relief in his first two appearances this year. Jim Fuller allowed the only run scored by New Hampshire but he ended up "earning" his first win of the season.

It was a doubles party for New Britain as Tony Thomas, Reynaldo Rodriguez, and Brandon Waring all collected a two-bagger. Rodriguez had a multiple hit game for the fourth time in his last seven games. Anderlin Mejia didn't join the doubles party but he had two hits and he scored a run. Because of some bad weather and poor play, this was New Britain's first victory since April 13th.  

Fort Myers 1, Jupiter 5
The Miracle couldn't get to Jupiter starter Scott Lyman as he tossed six scoreless frames. Jason Wheeler got hit around over 4.2 innings as the Miracle starter. He allowed five runs on seven hits with three strikeouts and a walk. Tyler Jones and Mason Melotakis combined to pitch the last 3.1 innings without allowing a hit.

Levi Michael was the lone Miracle batter with more than one hit. He went 2-for-4 and he has three multiple hit games out of the last eight. Travis Harrison cracked his first triple since 2012 in the rookie leagues. Max Kepler knocked in Harrison with a single to score the only run of the game.

Cedar Rapids 1, Peoria 4
In three out of his four starts this season, Ryan Eades has allowed three runs or fewer but the Kernels continued struggle to find ways to support his efforts. Tonight Eades tossed 5.2 innings of two-run baseball with five strikeouts. It was his third loss of the season. Josue Montanez took over for Eades and allowed one run over the last 2.1 frames.

Chad Christensen did his best to keep the Kernels in the game as he went 3-for-4 with a run scored and a stolen base. He was also the only batter in the line-up that didn't strikeout at some point in the contest. Tanner Vavra had the only extra-base hit for Cedar Rapids, his fourth double of the season. The team left six men on base and went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day: Virgil Vasquez, New Britain Rock Cats
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day: Chad Christensen, Cedar Rapids Kernels

Rochester @ Pawtucket (5:15 CST)- Alex Meyer
New Hampshire @ New Britain (5:35 CST)- DJ Baxendale
Jupiter @ Fort Myers (6:05 CST)- Tyler Duffey
Cedar Rapids @ Peoria (11:00 CST)- Ethan Mildren

25-Man Roster Dissection: Caleb Thielbar

Glen Perkins, Anthony Swarzak, and some of the other names out in the bullpen get a little more press than other younger arms. This comes with the territory and their important role for the team. The younger arms in the Twins bullpen are just as important as they could be part of the next winning club in Minnesota.

Experience is always key to the growth of a team and some of these players have gained value able service time over the last couple of seasons. Because of poor starting pitching, the Twins relied a lot on their bullpen last season. There are positives and negatives that come out of this reliance. Hopefully, these pitchers didn't get wore down last year and they can continue to find success in 2014.

2013 Recap: 1.76 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 39 SO, 14 BB (46.0 IP)
Thielbar didn't join the Twins organization until the 2011 season after being let go by the Brewers and taking a brief stop with the St. Paul Saints. After pitching for the three highest levels in the minors during 2012, he made his debut with the Twins last season and it doesn't seem like he will be looking back.Thielbar put together a very impressive rookie campaign as he was named the Twins Most Outstanding Rookie. The Minnesota native held opponents to a .149 batting average over 49 appearances. He set the club record by starting his career with a 17.1 inning scoreless streak. Thielbar also tied for fifth most appearances by an American League rookie.

Forecasting 2014: 3.55 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 48 SO, 24 BB (55.0 IP)
It's tough to imagine things going as well for Thielbar as they did in his first season. He's already given up two earned runs over six innings pitched which has him sitting at a 3.00 ERA. There is always the stipulation that it has been a small sample size but he hasn't allowed a run in his last four appearances. Some members of the bullpen have struggled at this early juncture of the season and it could mean more high leverage situations for other younger pitchers. Jared Burton has looked horrible and someone like Thielbar could be eased into a late inning role over the course of the current campaign. It helps that Thielbar is a left-handed pitcher so the Twins can rely on him to come in against some tough lefties and get some big outs at the end of games. He might not be on pace for the same kind of year but he could be an important piece of the next winning team in Minnesota.

25-Man Roster Safety: On the Bubble (Only because he has options left)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Should Brian Dozier Move Back to Shortstop?

It has been rough start to the season for Pedro Florimon. He's collected six hits over 40 at-bats and he has two extra-base hits to his name. There weren't high offensive expectations for Florimon when the season began but he has clearly under-performed. He is a defensive first middle infielder but his offensive has become painful to watch. It's hard to know where the line should be set for Florimon to stay on the field.

One of the biggest holes for the Twins moving forward could be the gap at shortstop. Florimon was never meant to be a long-term solution but Minnesota's future at shortstop is a little cloudy. Danny Santana is lurking at Triple-A but there are questions about his defensive skills. Niko Goodrum is in the lower levels of the minors and it will likely be multiple years before he is ready for big league action.

So what could the Twins do to improve their shortstop situation in the short term?

An option that might not have been considered yet by the Twins could be moving current second baseman Brian Dozier back over to shortstop. Dozier played all but a handful of games in the minor leagues at shortstop and he played there for his entire rookie season in 2012. Because of his poor performance in his first season, the Twins decided to shift Dozier to the other side of the infield.

In the minor leagues, Dozier was never lights out when it came to defense at shortstop. As he moved up the ladder, he was able to improve his fielding percentage and cut back on some of his defensive miscues. The 2011 season was his last full season in the minors and he only had nine errors in close to 400 chances at shortstop.

When the Twins brought Dozier up in 2012, people wanted to see some promising signs after suffering through the poor play of Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Dozier struggled in the field with 15 errors in 413 chances. His offense wasn't nearly enough to overcome his defensive flaws so the Twins were forced to try something different.

Last season was a breakout campaign for Dozier as he smacked a team record 18 home runs from his new position at second base. He also played terrific defense and it looked like the Twins might have solidified one of their middle infield positions for the foreseeable future.

The Twins aren't likely to make a major position switch like this with Dozier in the middle of the season. It's more convenient for the player and the team if they have an entire offseason to adjust to the switch. If Minnesota were to move Dozier, he wouldn't get to every ball but he could be passable and his power from the position would be a welcome upgrade.

There are other second baseman working their way through the Twins minor league system and it might be nice to have Dozier back at his original position. For now, the Twins are scoring plenty of runs even with Florimon in the line-up on a regular basis. A drastic move might not be necessary...

at least not yet...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Episode 79: Brian Dozier is Robinson Cano and Other Lies

Happy birthday to our very own Jay Corn!  As a birthday present to Jay, Paul skipped the show!  Without him Eric is free to heap all of the praise in the world on Brian Dozier, and he does. You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.

Jay Corn revisits his prediction that Josmil Pinto will hit 25 home runs (which is not looking so bad right now), and we wonder what might happen to Pinto’s playing time when Josh Willingham and/or Oswaldo Arcia return from the DL and Chris Herrmann goes back to AAA.  The jabbering continues with Logan Darnell, one of three AAA left handers in the Rochester starting rotation.  Lots of beer talk this week, and Eric is a little over excited about his “bready beer” and then the gang goes Around the League.

Enjoy the show!

You can follow Eric on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) or read his writing at Knuckleballs Blog, you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and read his writing at PuckettsPond.com, and you can find Mr. Jay Corn on Twitter (@Jay__Corn)!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are like syrup for our metaphorical banana walnut pancakes.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Twins Minor League Report (4/15): Kernels Streak Ends

For the second Tuesday in a row, weather played havoc on the Twins farm system. Only half of the teams were able to get on the field and both of those teams didn't exactly like the results on the night. Some hitters continued their hot starts to the year but the pitching seemed to be the biggest problem on this night

Fans who braved the weather at Target Field got to see Phil Hughes get off to a great start before giving up a chunk of runs in the sixth inning. The Blue Jays have held the Twins number in recent years. Since 2010, Toronto has a 21-7 record versus Minnesota and things haven't been pretty during that stretch.
Rochester --, Pawtucket -- (Postponed)
Today's game between Rochester and Pawtucket was postponed due to inclement weather. The teams will play one game tomorrow (Wednesday) at 2:35 CST and they will make up today's game as part of a doubleheader on Thursday. The first game of the doubleheader is scheduled for 12:05 CST and game two will start approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of game one. Scott Diamond was scheduled to make his third start of the year before the weather acted up. He is off to a rough start after allowing eight earned runs in five innings of work through two starts.

New Britain --, New Hampshire -- (Postponed)
The weather in the Northeast part of the US was not cooperating when it came to baseball action. Much like Rochester, New Britain wasn't able to play their game on Tuesday evening. It will be made up at some point later this season. DJ Baxendale was scheduled to make his third start of the year. He currently has a 5.91 ERA after giving up seven runs over 10.2 innings on the mound.

Fort Myers 4, Charlotte 6
Box Score
Fort Myers held 2-run leads at two different points in this game but it still wasn't enough. Tim Shibuya surrendered four runs including a three-run home run in the eighth inning to see the victory slip away. Jason Wheel started the game and gave up two runs on eight hits. He struck out three and walked two. It was the first time this season he allowed more than one earned run in a start.

Levi Michael continued his hot hitting streak by going 3-for-4 with a run scored. He has gone 7 for his last nine and he has been on base in 9-of-11 plate appearances. Dalton Hicks collected the only extra-base hit for the Miracle, his third double of the young season. Max Kepler had two hits for the second time this season and he ended a six-game hitless streak.

Cedar Rapids 5, South Bend 7
Box Score
The Kernels were off to a scorching start with victories in six straight games. Cedar Rapids starter Ryan Eades got beat-up as he allowed five earned runs in three innings. On the positive side, he did record five strike outs but South Bend pounded out eight hits. Josue Montanez came on in relief and struck out six of the eight outs he recorded while limiting the Silver Hawks to one run.

Mitch Garver has started 12 games for the Kernels and he has five home runs so far. His fifth home run of the season put him in first place in the Midwest League in home runs and total bases. Tanner Vavra collected a hit to extend his hitting streak to seven games. Bryan Haar hit a two-run homer, his second in three games.

Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day: Josue Montanez, Cedar Rapids Kernels
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day: Levi Michael, Fort Myers Miracle

Pawtucket @ Rochester (2:35 CST)- Scott Diamond
New Britain @ New Hampshire (9:35 CST)- Taylor Rogers*
Fort Myers @ Charlotte (9:00 CST)- Tyler Duffey
South Bend @ Cedar Rapids (6:35 CST)- Ethan Mildren
*Subject to change because of today's weather delay