Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Twins Minor League Report (7/22): One Great Hamburger

The Florida State League announced that Byron Buxton was that league's player of the week. In games played from July 14-20 and he went 10-for-20 at the plate with one triple, two home runs, four runs batted in and scored six runs. Buxton is currently listed as day-to-day after being hit on the wrist by a pitch. He is expected to be back in the line-up by the end of this week.

There were a few different roster moves made throughout the system on Tuesday. Yohan Pino was recalled by the Twins to make the start at Target Field. To make room for him, the team sent Monday's starter Kris Johnson back to Rochester. Relief pitcher Alex Muren was promoted from Cedar Rapids to Fort Myers. Over 29 appearances, he had a 2.89 ERA with 44 strikeouts and eight walks.

RED WINGS REPORT
Rochester 4, Durham 0
Box Score
While making a spot start for only the fourth time this season, Mark Hamburger was dominant over seven shutout innings. He struck out a career high nine batters, walked none, and limited the strong Bulls roster to four singles. It was the first time a Wings pitcher tossed at least seven shutout innings since the middle of June. Ryan Pressly finished the final two innings of the shutout by striking out four and only allowing two base runners. 

Josmil Pinto led the offensive charge with a two hit night including his fifth double and his eighth RBI. Deibinson Romero helped spark the first run of the game with his International League leading 29th double. Nate Hanson and James Beresford joined the doubles party with one two-bagger each.  

It was the first road shutout for Rochester since August 11th of last season. Tuesday's have also been very good to the Red Wings. They have a 10-3 record on Tuesday and they haven't lost on Tuesday since May 27th. The team's four doubles tonight give them an International League best 220 on the season.

ROCK CATS REVIEW
New Britain 9, Altoona 10
Box Score
The Rock Cats offense was hot at the beginning of the game combining for nine runs in the first three frames. Altoona got out to a hot start too with a five run first and they capped off their scoring with two ninth inning runs to take back the lead.

Virgil Vasquez had a rough day on the mound. He allowed 13 hits and eight runs over four innings. Matthew Summers coughed up the lead after a trio of Rock Cats relievers combined to shut down the Curve offense for four frames. It was the second blown save for Summers and dropped his record to 2-4.

Eddie Rosario cracked two home runs and a double. He knocked in four runs and scored three runs to cap quite the offensive night. Brandon Waring and Brad Boyer joined the hit parade with two hits apiece. Mike Kvasnicka only had one hit but he knocked in two runs.

MIRACLE MATTERS
Fort Myers 7, Brevard County 6 (12 Innings)
Box Score
The Miracle had to use multiple comebacks to stay in this game. Fort Myers was shutout until the eighth inning but they team combined for four runs in the last two frames to push this one into extras. The Manatees scored two in the top of the 11th inning and the Miracle had to answer back to push this one further into the night.

Ethan Mildren started this contest but he would be long gone before a decision was made. He lasted six innings and allowed four runs while striking out five. It was the first time he had gone six innings since being called up from Cedar Rapids. Madison Boer gave up the two runs in the eleventh but the team bailed him out.

Tyler Grimes did it all in this game as his fourth hit of the night turned out to be the walk-off hit. He also had two doubles, two runs batted in, and two runs scored. He also had two outfield assists as he threw out a runner at second and at third. Jorge Polanco hit his 18th double of the season as part of a two hit night. Mike Gonzalez reached base four times including two walks and a double.

KERNELS NUGGETS

Cedar Rapids had a scheduled off day after taking a 10 hour bus ride to Kentucky. The Kernels start a series with Bowling Green on Wednesday as the start of a six game road swing. Former first round pick Kohl Stewart is the scheduled starter tomorrow. 

E-TWINS E-NOTES
Elizabethton 2, Bluefield 7
Box Score
The E-Twins almost matched the Blue Jays in hits on this night but the big hits weren't there. Even though the club combined for nine hits, none of them were for extra-bases. The team went 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position and they combined to leave nine runners on base.

A trio of players including Jeremias Pineda, Trey Vavra, and Pat Kelly all went 2-for-4. Pineda stole his ninth base of the season but he also was caught stealing for the fourth time. Nick Gordon was held hitless for only the third time in the last ten games. He also had his fifth error of the year at shortstop.

Sam Gibbons started for Elizabethton and he went five frames while giving up four runs on seven hits. He struck out one and walked two. It was the fewest amount of strikeouts he's had all season after averaging over 6.5 per game coming into this start.

GCL TWINS TAKES
GCL Twins 0, GCL Rays 3 (Suspended- Rain)
Box Score
This game was suspended by rain in the third inning. The two squads will complete this game tomorrow unless weather gets in the way for a second day in a row. Look for a full report on this game in Wednesday's Minor League Report at Twins Daily.

TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY

Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Mark Hamburger, Rochester Red Wings
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Eddie Rosario, New Britain Rock Cats


WEDNESDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS

Rochester @ Durham (6:05 CST) – Alex Meyer (Listen)
Altoona @ New Britain (11:05am CST) – Pat Dean (Listen
Brevard County @ Ft. Myers (10:35am CST) – Brett Lee (Listen)
Cedar Rapids @ Bowling Green (7:05 CST) - Kohl Stewart (Listen)
Elizabethton @ Bluefield (6:05 CST) -  Matt Batts
GCL Rays @ GCL Twins (11:00am CST) – TBD 
GCL Rays @ GCL Twins (Completion of Tuesday's game)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Reviewing the Twins Trade Candidates

The buzz surrounding baseball in the Twin Cities was high after last week's All Star festivities. Fans turned out from all around the country to watch the best players in the game. Minnesota and even more appropriately Target Field provided a picturesque backdrop from the Midsummer Classic.

After winning five of their last seven games entering the break, the Twins flopped over the weekend against lowly Tampa Bay. This pushed Minnesota even further into the depths of the American League. Entering play on Monday, there were only two teams with worse records than the Twins in the AL, Texas and Houston.

Baseball's none waiver trade deadline is only a handful of days away and it's looking much more likely that the Twins will be sellers rather than buyers. During the break there was plenty of talk in the Twins clubhouse about the team still being in contention and the overall mood was that the club wanted to avoid a trade deadline fire sale. Since then the tone has changed and Terry Ryan makes it sound like trades will be coming.

The rough series with the Rays means the Twins might want to see what they can get for some of their veterans with expiring contracts. With that in mind, here is a look at some of the men who might find themselves in different uniforms before the calendar turns to August.

Kurt Suzuki- Catcher
The All Star catcher is in the middle of his best offensive season and he is no stranger to being dealt at this time of year. In 2012, Suzuki was traded from Oakland to Washington and the very next year he was sent back to Oakland from Washington. Catchers can be a valuable commodity especially late in the season. It is a grueling position and team's might be looking to add depth or replace an injured player. A Suzuki trade would also open the door for the Twins to get an extended look at catching prospect Josmil Pinto. Suzuki might be the Twins most valuable expiring contract and he could be gone in the next few days.

Josh Willingham- Outfield/DH
There were some calls for Willingham to be traded after his monster 2012 season. He won a Silver Slugger that season after being one of the few bright spots in the Twins line-up. Fast-forward a couple of seasons and things haven't been as rosy. Age might be catching up to the 35-year old veteran of 11 seasons. Over the last two seasons, he has struggled to keep his batting average over the .200 mark. There have been some signs of power but he only has one home run since June 25. Teams might like to add a right-handed bat to bolster their bench but how much does Willingham have left in the tank.

Kendrys Morales- First Base/DH
Scott Boras, the agent for Morales, was in Minneapolis over the All Star break and he talked about the possibility of Morales signing a long-term deal with Minnesota. This might not make a ton of sense with younger players like Oswaldo Arcia and Miguel Sano figuring to get chunks of time at designated hitter in the coming years. It would also be interesting to see the Twins trade a player that has only been with the team since the beginning of June. Like Willingham, there could be team's interested in adding a bench bat for the home stretch. It doesn't seem likely for Morales to be part of the next winning club in Minnesota so the team could try and get something for the 31-year old.

Kevin Correia- RH Pitcher
Correia's time in Minnesota might be best described as unmemorable. In two seasons with the club he has pitched close to 300 innings and his ERA is over 4.00, a mark lower than his career total. He currently leads the entire American League in losses and he is in the top ten for most hits allowed. This might not look like a player a lot of teams would want on their roster for the stretch run. He isn't a top of the line starter but this also means his price will be a lot lower. Some teams like to give their front of the line starters a break in the second half so they are ready for a playoff run. Correia could eat some inning for a contending team. A trade would also open a rotation spot for top pitching prospects Trevor May or Alex Meyer.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Episode 92: Reviewing the First Half

You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here, and if you want to add the show to your non-iTunes podcast player, this is the RSS Feed.
This week we talk all about the first half, the Twins best players and worst players before the All Star break, and what we think might happen in the second half. Jay Corn rags on Joe Mauer, Cody Christie praises Brian Dozier, and Eric Pleiss raves about his boyfriend Phil Hughes.

Join us for the Twins talk, stay for the beers and baseball chatter.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Handing Out Twins First Half Awards

Welcome to the unofficial midpoint of the 2014 Twins season. After teasing fans for different portions of the first half, the Twins find themselves in a familiar position at the break, last place in the AL Central. The Twins enter the break six games under .500 and 10.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers for the top spot in the division.

Even though the team's record might not show it, there have been some positive things happening for the Twins this year. Kurt Suzuki and Phil Hughes are looking like fantastic free agent signings. Brian Dozier is in the midst of a breakout season at the plate. Even Kyle Gibson has started to look like he will be a long-term option as a starting pitcher.

At the beginning of the season I made a preseason pick about who will be the best players on the Twins in four different award categories (MVP, Best Starter, Best Reliever, Best Rookie). Each of the awards below has been named after someone that optimizes that award for the Twins organization. There are some legends from the past and even one current MLB player but all have had a significant place in Twins lore.

Harmon Killebrew First-Half MVP: Brian Dozier, 2B
Preseason Pick: Joe Mauer, 1B
Joe Mauer is always the safe pick at the beginning of the season and it seems that he has continued to disappoint in recent years. This makes it easy to look at the team and give the first half MVP to Brian Dozier. He has 10 more home runs than any other player on the roster. His 69 runs scored are the most in the American League. He also leads the team in RBI and stolen bases. All of these offensive numbers are great but he also makes some tremendous plays on the defensive side of the ball. His batting average is always going to be low but he seems to have all of the other tools to be part of the Twins long-term rebuilding process. 

Johan Santana Pitcher of the First Half: Phil Hughes, RHP
Preseason Pick: Ricky Nolasco, RHP
In the preseason I had the right idea to pick one of the free agent starters the Twins had signed. However I elected to go with the wrong man. Rick Nolasco has struggled during his first 18 starts with the Twins while Phil Hughes has looked like a brand new pitcher. Hughes leads the Twins in wins, innings pitched, and WAR. He's also only walked 11 batters the entire season for a eye popping 0.81 BB/9 rate. To put that in perspective, no other Twins starter has allowed fewer than 2 BB/9. There have been some rough starts for Hughes leading into the break so it will be interesting to see what kind of pitcher he looks like at the start of the second half.

Rick Aguilera Relief Pitcher of the First Half: Casey Fien, RHP
Preseason Pick: Glen Perkins, LHP
This was one of the toughest picks to make but looking deeper at the numbers it made my decision a little easier. Casey Fien and Glen Perkins could both be considered for this award but I give the slight edge to Fien. Perkins will always strikeout more batters than Fien but Fien has been asked to fill a very important late inning role. He does a great job of limiting damage when he comes into games because almost 83% of the time he is able to leave runners on base. Perkins left on base percentage is under 65%. Fien's ERA and WHIP are both lower than Perkins and Fien has pitched the second most innings out of the bullpen behind long-man Anthony Swarzak. This will be a race to watch in the second half as both players are having good seasons up to this point.

Rod Carew Rookie of the First Half: Danny Santana, SS/OF
Preseason Pick: Josmil Pinto, C
Both Josmil Pinto and Danny Santana did some good things in the first half but my vote goes to Santana. He has seemed to be a spark plug for the line-up when he is in the game. While his natural position is in the infield, the team has been forced to move him to the outfield because of injury issues. He was able to continue to produce in the outfield as well. In 37 games, he has been a threat on the bases with six steals to his name. He also has accumulated the same amount of runs scored and RBI as Pinto in fewer plate appearances. Pinto provides the power but Santana's overall game has been a big asset to the Twins in the first half. 

Now it's your turn. Who would you pick for each of the above awards? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Twins Minor League Report (7/13): Futures Game Impressions

The festivities are underway in the Twin Cities as Minnesota plays host to the MLB All-Star Game. The major league players still had games to play on Sunday but the some of the best and brightest minor league players were on hand to strut their stuff.

Twins pitching prospect Jose Berrios got the start for the World squad and Kennys Vargas was in the middle of the batting order to back him up. Berrios struck out the first batter he faced on a high fastball and both of the other batters flied out. Vargas played the entire game and he collected a double in four plate appearances. He also made a nice leaping catch at first and a couple of nice scoops.

Alex Meyer pitched the fifth inning for the US and earned a hold. The first two batters made decent contact against him but luckily one of those hits was right at a fielder. Meyer got a double play to end the inning and he only needed four pitches to get his job done.

While these three players were busy with a big event, their teams were busy still trying to win games. Here's a look at how their teams did on Sunday.

RED WINGS REPORT
Rochester --, Scranton/Wilkes Barre -- (Postponed)
Rain put a damper on what was supposed to be the unofficial end of the first half for the Rochester Red Wings. Trevor May was scheduled to make his first start since coming off of the DL but that will have to wait another day. Rochester had also ended a four game losing streak on Saturday so it would have been nice to keep the momentum going in the right direction.

The game will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Saturday, August 23. Game one is scheduled for a 3:35 pm CST and both games will be seven innings long. 

ROCK CATS REVIEW
New Britain 4, Reading 6
Box Score
New Britain staked themselves to an early two run lead but Reading connected on four home runs as part of a 12-hit barrage to win the game. Jason Wheeler started for the Rock Cats. He went five innings and allowed five earned runs on 10 hits including three of the above mentioned four home runs. It was his third loss in five starts since being moved up from Fort Myers.

Daniel Turpen relived Wheeler and pitched two innings. He gave up one hit but it happened to be a home run. Mason Melotakis pitched the last two frames and he kept the ball in the park. Over two shut-out frames he allowed one hit and struck out two.

Reynaldo Rodriguez collected two hits including his 30th double of the season. It was the third time in his last ten games that he has collected multiple hits. Eddie Rosario had a double and scored a run. Lance Ray also collected his second double in only eight games since getting promoted.

MIRACLE MATTERS
Fort Myers 3, Dunedin 1 (Game 1- 7 innings)
Box Score
DJ Baxendale put together his best outing of the year for the Miracle as he tossed a complete game. He scattered five hits over seven innings and struck out two. Baxendale induced three double plays and recorded 12 outs on ground balls. He hadn't made it through more than six innings in any other start.

Nate Roberts and Stuart Turner both knocked two hits and Roberts' triple was the lone extra-base hit. Byron Buxton went 1-for-2 with a run scored and his second stolen base of the season. His infield single was his first hit since coming off of the disabled list at the beginning of last week.

MIRACLE MATTERS
Fort Myers 8, Dunedin 4 (Game 2- 7 innings)
Box Score
In the second game of the doubleheader, the Miracle beat up on a familiar name, Dunedin starter Frank Viola Jr. He only lasted 2.1 innings and was charged with six earned runs as the Miracle pelted him with seven hits. Four Miracle hitters had at least two hits. Anderlin Mejia led the way going 3-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. Adam Brett Walker had a couple of big hits as he knocked in two and hit his ninth double. 

Fort Myers patched together pitchers for the second half of the doubleheader. BJ Hermsen collected the win after tossing a scoreless second inning. Todd Van Steensel made his Miracle debut at Hammond Stadium and lasted 1.1 scoreless frames. Madison Boer shut the door by recording the last five outs without allowing a hit. 

KERNELS NUGGETS

Cedar Rapids 7, Clinton 4 (Rain Shortened- 6 innings) 
Box Score
One giant inning is all that it took for Cedar Rapids to earn the win. In the top of the sixth inning, the Kernels scored seven runs without recording an extra-base hit. Cedar Rapids has now won four games in a row including another rain shortened game on Saturday.

In that big sixth inning, the Kernels sent 11 men to the plate. The team recorded five singles and took advantage of one defensive error. The first four hitters all reached base. It matched the largest run-scoring inning for the Kernels on the season. Four Cedar Rapids hitters (Logan Wade, Chad Christensen, Jason Kanzler, and Alex Smith) had two hits. Swim hit the only Kernels extra-base hit, a double.

Lewis Thorpe pitched the first four innings by allowing three earned runs on four hits. He struck out five and didn't walk anyone. Brandon Bixler earned his sixth victory of the season with all of them coming out of the bullpen. He allowed one run over two innings with a strikeout. Hudson Boyd earned the save since he was on the mound when the game was called.

E-TWINS E-NOTES
Elizabethton 10, Danville 6
Box Score
The E-Twins brought a consistent offensive approach to pound out 10 runs on 16 hits. Max Murphy reached base four times and scored three runs. He also hit his sixth home run of the season in the ninth inning. Tyler Kuresa went 2-for-4 with a home run. All of the hitters in the batting order from first to seventh had a minimum of two hits with the exception being Nick Gordon (1-for-6 with a run scored).

Michael Cederoth was credited with his second professional victory in as many appearances. He allowed three runs over five innings with four strikeouts and two walks. CK Irby got hit around a little in his second inning of work. He gave up two runs on four hits but it wasn't enough to get Danville back into the game. 

TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY

Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – DJ Baxendale, Fort Myers Miracle
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Max Murphy, Elizabethton Twins

MONDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS
Rochester- Scheduled Off Day
Reading @ New Britain (11:05 CST) – Tyler Duffey (Listen
Dunedin @ Ft. Myers (6:05 CST) – TBD (Listen)
Cedar Rapids @ Clinton (6:30 CST) - Ryan Eades (Listen)
Elizabethton @ Danville (6:00 CST)- Stephen Gonsalves
GCL Twins @ GCL Rays (11:00am CST) – TBD