Saturday, April 30, 2016

Twins Minor League Report (4/30): Plouffe Rehabs, Jorge Delivers

The first month of the minor league season wrapped up on Saturday with plenty of positive signs from the Twins system.

Strong pitching has been the key throughout most of the organization but there have also been some hitters that have gotten off to hot starts. As the weather continues to warm-up, it will be interesting to see the direction that will be followed by the Twins' affiliates.

So what was the story on Saturday? Strong pitching? Hot hitting? Read on to find out.
Photo Credit: Linwood Ferguson, Captive Photons (Felix Jorge)
RED WINGS REPORT
Rochester 7, Scranton/WB 5
Andrew Albers made his return to the Twins organization with his first start for the Red Wings since 2013. The first inning was a little rough as he allowed back-to-back home runs to start the game. He would settle down a little from there and finish the game by allowing five earned runs on nine hits in 5.1 innings. Of his 80 pitches, 50 were for strikes and he had one walk.

Marcus Walden took over in the sixth and allowed a couple of inherited runners to score. Brandon Kintzler earned his fourth win out of the bullpen after throwing two scoreless frames. Buddy Boshers earned his first save by striking out the side in the ninth.

Despite being outhit 12 to 9, Rochester used a pair of three-run innings to separate themselves from the RailRiders. Wilfredo Tovar and Darin Mastroianni both had a two hits including a double for each. Tovar had two of the biggest hits for the Red Wings including the game tying hit in the bottom of the eighth. Kennys Vargas plated the game-winning runs with a single to left.

CHATTANOOGA CHATTER
Chattanooga 0, Montgomery 12
Box Score
One hit... that's all the Lookouts could muster up in this one. Like a few other team's in the organization on Saturday, the Lookouts offense was almost nonexistent. Mitch Garver was the lone player to save the team from being no-hit. He went 1-for-2 with a walk. Three batters reached in the bottom of the ninth to load the bases but the Lookouts couldn't push across a run and were shutout for only the third time this season. 

Omar Bencomo made his first Southern League start and gave up eight runs, four earned, on seven hits with a strikeout and three walks. Mike Strong and Corey Williams didn't fare much better as each of them allowed a pair of runs in their combined four innings of work. All three pitchers allowed a home run and Strong was the only one to strike out more than one batter. 

Chattanooga finished 3-4 in the last week after Montgomery has taken two of the first three in this series. At this point, the Lookouts are at the bottom of the Southern League North standings but there is plenty of baseball left to play. 

MIRACLE MATTERS
Ft. Myers 1, Charlotte 2
Felix Jorge continues to pitch well for the Miracle even though the offense hasn't really supported him in many of his starts. Today, the right-handed hurler pitched six strong innings while allowing two-earned runs. He struck three and walked one. In both of his losses this season, he has made it through six frames and allowed a total of four runs. John Curtiss and Yorman Landa kept the team in the game as each pitched a shutout inning but the offense didn't show up.

Fort Myers squeaked out four total hits and struck out 12 times. The club was limited to one at-bat with a runner in scoring position. Alex Real plated the only run for the team with a solo home run in the fourth inning. Trevor Plouffe is on rehab assignment with the club and he went 1-for-4 with a strikeout. Ryan Walker and Nick Gordon had the team's other hits.

The Miracle pitching staff had recorded 32 straight scoreless innings against Charlotte and that streak extended to 33 tonight before a run pushed across the plate. With the loss, the Miracle dropped to three games over .500 at 13-10. Over the last week, the club has gone 5-2 as they sit near the top of the standings in the Florida State League South.

KERNELS NUGGETS
Cedar Rapids 1, South Bend 5
As has been the trend for most of this season, the Kernels offense had a tough time getting moving on Saturday night. Only three players managed hits in the game and the team left six men on base (1-for-4 with RISP). LaMonte Wade reached base in three of his four at-bats. Christian Cavaness went 1-for-2 with an RBI and a walk. Sean Miller scored the team's only run after he singled and stole second in the fifth frame.

South Bend jumped out to an early lead after some wild plays in the first inning. The first three batters reached after a pair of singles and a throwing error by Miller. Starting pitcher Dereck Rodriguez struck out a batter before a couple of doubles and a wild pitch allowed the inning to continue. The Kernels have only lost 10 games and Rodriguez has been charged with four of those losses even though he only gave up one earned run in this game. He struck out four and walked one in four innings.

Mile Nordgren did well in relief by pitching three scoreless frames. He had to dance round five hits and a walk but he continued to put zeros on the board. Michael Theofanopoulos struck out four and walked three in two scoreless innings. It was his fifth straight appearance without allowing an earned run.

TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY
Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day- Felix Jorge, Fort Myers Miracle 
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day- Wilfredo Tovar, Rochester Red Wings

SUNDAYS'S PROBABLE STARTERS
Rochester vs. Scranton/WB (12:35 CST)- RHP David Martinez (0-1 4.00 ERA)
Chattanooga vs. Montgomery (1:15 CST)- RHP Aaron Slegers (1-1, 3.91 ERA)
Fort Myers @ Charlotte (11:35 am CST)- LHP Randy Rosario (2-1, 1.02 ERA)
Cedar Rapids vs. West Michigan (2:05 CST)- RHP Cody Stashak (2-0, 1.13 ERA)

Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss the Saturday games.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Twins Minor League Report (4/27): Stewart Stifles, Wheeler Deals

This week's recent disable list fiasco at the big league level means the upper minors are pretty sparse in the starting pitching department. With Jose Berrios, Alex Meyer, and Tyler Duffey all on the big league roster, three-fifths of the Rochester rotation is no longer with the club. This left a clear need to add another starter.

Minnesota wasted little time scouring independent league rosters for some help. Former Twins pitcher Andrew Albers was signed to a minor league deal and assigned to Rochester. He had been pitching for an independent team in the Atlantic League.

With the continued roster movement down on the farm, how would the team's fare as they adjust to new faces in new places?
Photo Credit: Linwood Ferguson- Captive Photons
RED WINGS REPORT
Rochester 1, Buffalo 2 (10 Innings)
After being locked into an extra-innings battle on Tuesday, nine innings wasn't enough to decide this one between Rochester and Buffalo. Jason Wheeler was promoted from Double-A before today's game to make the start because of the trio of players mentioned above that were called up to the big leagues.

Wheeler pitched a very strong game against a very experienced Bisons roster. He lasted seven innings and allowed one run on six hits with three strikeouts and a walk. Buddy Boshers relieved Wheeler and went 1.2 shutout innings while limiting Buffalo to one hit. Brandon Kintzler took the loss, his first of the season, after three singles in the bottom of the tenth inning allowed the game-winning run to score.

Despite the loss, James Beresford recorded his third straight multi-hit game and finished the day 3-for-5 with an RBI. Byron Buxton notched his first multi-hit game since being demoted and he has now recorded a hit in all 15 games he has played in Rochester the last two years. Heiker Meneses recorded the team's lone extra-base hit, his first double of the season. Overall, the team left eight runners on base and went 2-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

CHATTANOOGA CHATTER
Chattanooga (Scheduled Off Day)
After another strong performance from Daniel Palka (one of my breakout hitter picks), the Lookouts enjoyed an off-day on Wednesday. Chattanooga has won two straight games and they currently have a 8-12 record while sitting 4.5 games out of first place in the Southern League North. The club resumes action on Thursday with the start of a five-game home series against Montgomery. 

Roster Move: Right-handed pitcher Omar Bencomo was added to the Lookouts roster.  So far this season with Fort Myers, he had a 1-1 record with a 1.50 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP over 18.0 IP.

MIRACLE MATTERS
Ft. Myers 6, Jupiter 1 (10 Innings)
Kohl Stewart did his best to put the Miracle in position to win but he wouldn't figure into the decision as the offense didn't wake up until the late innings. For the second time in his last three appearances, Stewart pitched six shutout frames. When he was pulled, he has struck out five and walked three while lowering his ERA to 1.93. Miracle starting pitchers have now tossed 25 1/3 innings over their last three games without allowing a run. Yorman Landa allowed one run after giving up a lead-off double in the seventh inning and he was in line for the loss before Trey Vavra saved the day.

In the top of the ninth frame, Vavra stepped to the plate with his team down 1-0 and down to their last out. He connected on a 3-2 pitch and homered to left field to tie the game. It was just the spark the team needed as the team batted around and scored five runs in the next inning which included doubles from Edgar Corcino and Chris Paul. Alex Swim led the team with three hits and Vavra plated three runs.

Brandon Peterson earned his first victory of the season after tossing two scoreless frames with a strikeout. Todd Van Steensel closed things out in the bottom of the tenth as the only base runner he allowed was on a two-out walk. With the win, Fort Myers stretched their winning streak to four games.

KERNELS NUGGETS
Cedar Rapids 3, West Michigan 8
The Whitecaps were coming in strong on Wednesday as they plated runs in each of the first four innings including two multi-run innings. Andro Cutura took the brunt of the damage as he allowed a career high eight earned runs on nine hits with two strikeouts and a walk in four innings. Michael Theofanopoulos stopped some of the bleeding as he pitched three shutout frames with a pair of strikeouts. Zach Tillery struck out four in the final two innings.

Cedar Rapids struggled going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left eight runners on base. A.J. Murray went 2-for-4 with his fourth double and a run scored. Luis Arraez had two hits and  reached base four times. J.J. Fernandez hit his first home run, a solo-shot in the second inning to tie the game before West Michigan took back the lead.

These same two teams square off tomorrow in the rubber game of this three-game set. The Kernels have lost four of their last six games so a series win could help get things moving in the right direction.

TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY
Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day- Jason Wheeler, Rochester Red Wings 
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day- Trey Vavra, Fort Myers Miracle

THURSDAY'S PROBABLE STARTERS
Rochester @ Buffalo (12:05 CST)- LHP Logan Darnell (1-2, 4.58 ERA)
Chattanooga vs. Montgomery (6:15 CST)- RHP DJ Baxendale (1-2, 2.35 ERA)
Fort Myers @ Jupiter (9:30 am CST)- LHP Tyler Jay (1-1, 3.60 ERA)
Cedar Rapids vs. West Michigan (6:35 CST)- RHP Sam Gibbons (1-2, 5.74 ERA)

Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss the Wednesday games.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Turner Could Solve Minnesota's Catching Dilemma

Photo Credit: Kim Klement- USA Today Sports
Minnesota had their anchor at catcher but tell the baseball gods your plan and they will laugh in your face.

Joe Mauer was locked into a long-term contract and he looked like he was on his way to a Hall of Fame catching career. There was a chance that Mauer could beat out the likes of Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra to be the best backstop of all-time. Those plans changed in recent years as Mauer's concussion related symptoms have moved him out from behind the plate.

The Twins found themselves in a little kerfuffle with their long-term catching plans. Kurt Suzuki was brought in to bridge the gap to some of the younger catching prospects in the organization. With Suzuki's aging body, the Twins traded former first round pick Aaron Hicks to the Yankees for catcher John Ryan Murphy.

Murphy has struggled in limited action this season. Through this weekend's games, he has three hits in 35 plate appearances and only one of those hits has been for extra-bases. Suzuki has fared a little better as he has gone 7-for-37 but four of his seven hits have gone for extra-bases. With the weak production from the current catching core, it's tough not to look to the future.

Stuart Turner was drafted by the Twins in the third round of the 2013 MLB June Amateur Draft from the University of Mississippi. With his college experience, the Twins have not been afraid to be aggressive with Turner. He has been younger than the competition at every stop except for rookie ball.

With Minnesota's aggressive approach, Turner has encountered some offensive struggles. At Fort Myers in 2014, he hit under .250 with a .698 OPS while getting on base 32.2% of the time. Those numbers dipped a little last season as he made the jump to Double-A. He still posted a .322 OBP but hit only .223 and slugged .306. These aren't exactly offensive numbers to write home about.

Turner has gotten high praise during his time in the system as a good game caller while being a strong defensive presence behind the plate. He's a leader on and off the field and that provides a lot of value to a club even if his bat never turned around... but what if his bat finally caught up to his defensive prowess?

The Twins sent Turner to the Arizona Fall League this past off-season and for the first time in his career, he has been asked to repeat a level to start 2016. The Twins could have been aggressive with him and sent him to Rochester but the organization thought it would be best for him to go back to Chattanooga. That decisions seems to be paying dividends so far.

Through this weekend's action, Turner was hitting .286/.432/.486 with four doubles and a home run. All of those numbers would put him on pace for career high totals. The most positive sign might be that Turner is doing this at Double-A in his age-24 season where he is roughly the same age as the competition.

This isn't a move that is going to happen in the next week or month but Turner is looking more and more like a long-term solution to the Twins catching woes. 

If Turner can continue to evolve into a catcher that can be more than a defensive first option, he can become a vital piece for the Twins as they head into a new era. When the Twins have went on World Series runs in the past, the catcher has always been a role player.

His defense, game calling, and leadership will continue to be strong. Turner can be that type of solid contributing role player as the Twins attempt to return to their World Series glory in the years to come.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Twins Minor League Report (4/19): Gonsalves Keeps Rolling

There were multiple streaks to keep an eye on during Tuesday's action in the Twins farm system. Stephen Gonsalves entered his start tonight with a streak of 11 straight scoreless innings. LaMonte Wade entered play today with a 12-game hit streak, the longest currently active streak in affiliated baseball.

Would either of these streaks continue? You'll have to read on to find out.
RED WINGS REPORT
Rochester 4, Pawtucket 9
Pat Dean and Loek van Mil ran into some tough times on the mound on Tuesday night. Dean earned his third loss after allowing four earned runs over five frames. He struck out four and walked two. Van Mil didn't do much better in relief as he gave up four runs in 1.2 innings with a strikeout. Dan Runzler and Buddy Boshers put zeros up the rest of the way but the Wings were in a deep hole.

As a team, Rochester was held to four hits but three of the four hits were for extra-bases. David Murphy hit his first home runs since signing with the Twins. James Beresford and Kennys Vargas both collected their second double of the season. Wilfredo Tovar doubled his stolen base total on the year with by swiping second twice in the game. The team was 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left five runners on base. 

With the loss, the Red Wings drop to 4-8 on the season as the team has lost six of their last eight games. They are currently in last place in the International League North and trail the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders by four games.

CHATTANOOGA CHATTER
Chattanooga 4, Mississippi 7
David Hurlbut started for the Lookouts and he couldn't make it out of the fourth inning. In 3.1 innings, he allowed four earned runs on nine hits with three strikeouts. Corey Williams took over for Hurlbut and allowed one run, a solo home run, across two innings with three strikeouts. Marcus Walden and Jake Reed finished off the last 2.2 innings by allowing one run, a home run given up by Reed.

Joe Maloney and Levi Michael each went 1-for-3 with a run scored, a RBI, and a walk. Leonardo Reginatto had the team's lone extra-base hit, his third double of the season. Shannon Wilkerson reached base three times but also struck out twice. The team left nine men on base and went 4-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

The loss drops Chattanooga to 4-9 on the season as the team has lost four of their last five games. They are currently in last place in the Southern League North and sit 4.5 games behind the Jackson Generals. These two teams will square off again tomorrow in game four of a five game series.

MIRACLE MATTERS
Ft. Myers 2, Jupiter 1
Stephen Gonsalves has been on quite the roll to start the season. He gave up three runs in his first inning this season and he entered the night with 11 straight scoreless frames. He carried that streak into the fifth inning tonight before allowing a leadoff home run. Gonsalves wouldn't factor into the decision but he made it through seven innings by allowing the one earned run with eight strikeouts and a walk. Trevor Hildenberger would earn his first victory of the year as he pitched two scoreless innings to close out the contest.

Alex Swim was the lone Miracle batter with multiple hits as he finished the night 2-for-4 before being pulled for a pinch runner in the late innings. Tanner English walked to start the bottom of the sixth inning and followed this up by stealing second. Swim grounded out to advance him to third and Nick Gordon drove him in with another groundout. English was hit by a pitch to start the bottom of the eighth and this was followed by a Swim single. One batter later, Trey Vavra would walk to load the bases for Chris Paul who used a sacrifice fly to score the winning run.

With the victory, the Miracle have won six of their last eight games. Their six-game homestand continues tomorrow with the second game of their series with Jupiter. Former first-round pick Kohl Stewart is scheduled to take the mound.

KERNELS NUGGETS
Cedar Rapids 1, Burlington 5
The Kernels struggled to get any offense going against Bee's starter Jamie Barria as he took a perfect game into the fifth inning. However, the Kernels were right in the game behind a solid start from Randy LeBlanc. He lasted a career-high seven innings and limited the Bees to two runs (one earned) on four hits with four strikeouts and no walks. Logan Lombana allowed three earned runs in his one inning on the mound to allow the Bees to add to their late inning lead. 

Seven of the nine batters in the Kernels line-up had a hit but the team only had four at-bats with runners in scoring position. Rafael Valera cracked his fourth double of the season as he drove in the team's lone run. In the seventh inning, J.J. Fernandez tried to score from first on a double from Jermaine Palacios but he was gunned down at the plate and the Kernels were out of scoring opportunities. 

LaMonte Wade's 12-game hit streak was snapped with an 0-for-4 day. The Kernels and the Bees are tied at 1-1 in this three game series with the rubber match scheduled for Wednesday evening.  

TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY
Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day- Stephen Gonsalves, Fort Myers Miracle 
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day- Alex Swim, Fort Myers Miracle

WEDNESDAY'S PROBABLE STARTERS
Rochester vs. Pawtucket (12:35 CST)- TBD
Chattanooga @ Mississippi (10:35 am CST)- RHP Aaron Slegers (0-1, 3.60 ERA)
Fort Myers vs. Jupiter (6:05 CST)- RHP Kohl Stewart (1-0, 1.50 ERA)
Cedar Rapids @ Burlington (6:30 CST)- RHP Andro Cutura (2-0, 2.45 ERA)

Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss the Tuesday games.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Twins Minor League Report (4/12): Rosario Rolls

Minnesota's minor league affiliates are starting to hit their stride as the season is underway and players are starting to settle into their roles with the club. The weather is still chilly in many parts of the country and this can impact both pitchers and hitters at this early junction of the season.

Over the last two weeks, I've tried to pick out some breakout minor league players on both sides of the ball. Some of the hitters I selected are off to decent starts and I expect their bats to heat up as the weather improves. Pitchers can be up and down but one of the players I picked had a tremendous start on Tuesday night.

Let's dive into the action.

RED WINGS REPORT
Rochester 1, Lehigh Valley 6
Box Score (Game 1- 7 Innings)
Lehigh Valley wasted little time jumping on Logan Darnell as the IronPigs used a two-run home run in the first inning to take the lead and never looked back. Darnell allowed six earned runs on seven hits in five innings of work. Buddy Boshers and Dan Runzler put up zeros the rest of the way but there wasn't enough offensive firepower in Game 1.

Rochester was held with out an extra-base hit and Reynaldo Rodriguez was the only batter to record multiple hits. Jorge Polanco knocked in the team's only run with a sacrifice fly and he ended the game hitting .462 so far this season.

Rochester 0, Lehigh Valley 4
Box Score (Game 2- 7 Innings)
Mark Appel showed Rochester why he was the first overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft. He pitched into the sixth inning while scattering five hits and striking out five. David Martinez started opposite Appel and was pulled after 6.1 innings as he allowed three earned runs on seven hits. Ryan O'Rourke recorded the last two outs but not before allowing the final run to score. Both Rochester pitchers failed to strike out a batter.

Rodriguez went 2-for-3 with a couple singles to complete a four hit day. Juan Centeno had the team's only extra-base hit, a double, and it was his first double of the season. The team saw very limited action with runners in scoring position (0-for-3 with RISP) and left seven men on base.

CHATTANOOGA CHATTER
Chattanooga 3, Jackson 4
Box Score
A day after the Twins competed in their home opener the Lookouts returned to Chattanooga for a home opener of their own. The Lookouts have struggled out of the gate this season (1-5 record) and that trend continued on Monday as the club lost a back and forth battle with Jackson.

Jason Wheeler started the night on the mound and he wouldn't allow an earned run in six frames. However, an Engelb Vielma error at shortstop lead to three unearned runs in the top of the fourth inning. One inning later, Travis Harrison would collect a two-out RBI single after Zach Granite had started the inning with a double. Granite went 2-for-5 while scoring twice. Leonardo Reginatto, Stuart Turner, and Joe Maloney all had doubles but the team left 10 runners on base and was 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

Alex Wimmers pitched a perfect seventh inning with a strikeout and no walks. Mason Melotakis was charged with his first loss of the season as he gave up the go-ahead run in the eighth frame. J.T. Chargois struck out a pair of batters to close out the ninth.

MIRACLE MATTERS
Ft. Myers 2, Brevard County 1
Box Score
Randy Rosario was the story of this game as he took a perfect game into the sixth inning and the Miracle were able to survive with a 2-1 victory. Rosario retired the first 16 batters and struck out four total batters in the first two frames. By the time he was removed, he had eight strikeouts across six innings with no walks and two hits. Luke Bard got into some trouble by allowing a single and a double before inducing a double-play and a ground out. Yorman Landa earned a hold even though he allowed the Manatees one run. Todd Van Steensel earned his first save with one strike out and a walk in the ninth.

The scoring got started early for the Miracle as Chad Christensen blasted a two-run home run in the first inning. Tanner English started the game with a walk and stole second before the home run. Nick Gordon reached base two times in four trips and T.J. White ended the game 2-for-4, his third multi-hit game. Trey Vavra extended his hitting streak to five games. Every batter in the line-up recorded at least one hit with the exception of Brian Navarreto.

With the win, the Miracle improved to 3-3 and send Stephen Gonsalves, one of the organization's top pitching prospects, to the mound on Wednesday night.

KERNELS NUGGETS
Cedar Rapids 7, Kane County 2
Box Score
In his first start in the Midwest League, Miles Nordgren took a no-hitter into the fifth inning before back-to-back batters reached base. He ended the day with five innings pitched and one earned run on one hit with two strikeouts and two walks. Cody Stashak was nearly as impressive in relief. He allowed one earned run on two hits in four innings of work for his first professional save.

Cedar Rapids got their scoring started in the third inning. A pair of walks and an infield hit left the bases loaded. Sean Miller hit a foul ball that was deep enough to score the game's first run. LaMonte Wade followed this up with a sacrifice fly of his own to push the lead to 2-0. Chris Paul was the only Kernel with multiple hits as he went 2-for-5 with a pair of runs scored. Jermain Palacios plated a pair of runs and Wade cracked his third double of the young season.

The Kernels improved to 5-1 with the win and sit atop the Midwest League Western division. Cedar Rapids will look to take the series from Kane County in tomorrow morning's (11:00 am CST) rubber match with Randy LeBlanc on the mound.

TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY
Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day- Randy Rosario, Fort Myers Miracle
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day- Chad Christensen, Fort Myers Miracle

WEDNESDAY'S PROBABLE STARTERS
Rochester vs. Lehigh Valley (12:35 CST)- RHP Tyler Duffey (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Chattanooga vs. Jackson (10:15 am CST)- RHP DJ Baxendale (0-1, 4.50 ERA)
Fort Myers vs. Brevard County (6:05 CST)- LHP Stephen Gonsalves (0-1, 4.50 ERA)
Cedar Rapids @ Kane County (11:00 am CST)- RHP Randy LeBlanc (1-0, 1.80 ERA)

Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss the Tuesday games.