Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hicks, Dozier among Twins named to AFL

Every season some of the best prospects in all of baseball meet in Arizona for what is appropriately named the Arizona Fall League. There are many purposes for a team to send players to the Arizona Fall League. It is used for pitchers that need to get more innings in, for hitters that need some more at-bats, and for various other reasons. 

The Twins named seven prospects to the Mesa Solar Sox for when play starts in the Arizona Fall League. The list of players includes Cole DeVries, Scott Diamond, Bruce Pugh, Brett Jacobson, Brian Dozier, Chris Hermann, and Aaron Hicks. Some of these names are familiar to fans and others could be unknown at this point but the Twins hope each will have an impact on the future of the franchise. 

Here is a quick profile of each of the players headed to Mesa to represent the Twins:

Cole DeVries, RHP 
3.50 ERA/ 87.1 IP/ 75 K 
2011 Teams: AAA Rochester, AA New Britain
DeVries is a native of Eden Prairie, MN and he signed with the Twins as a non-drafted free agent in August of 2006. He has shown the ability to be a reliable relief option for the Rochester Red Wings. His last ten games for Rochester have looked very good with a 2.25 ERA and only six runs allowed in those appearances. He has been forced to make a couple of spot starts for Rochester and he has a 7.71 ERA in those starts. The former Golden Gopher seems more comfortable in the bullpen and he could provide a lift to the 2012 Twins bullpen. 

Brett Jacobson, RHP
4.61 ERA/ 99.2 IP/ 79 K
2011 Team: AA New Britain
Jacobson was born in the Phoenix area so he will be heading back to his roots for the AFL. Out of his 36 appearances with the Rock Cats, he has made 13 starts for a team that is now fighting for a playoff spot. In his 23 games as a relief pitcher, he has posted an ERA of 4.74 while opponents hit .255 off of him. His numbers look similar in his 13 starts for the Twins AA farm team. As a starter, he has managed a 4.52 ERA with opponents managing a .234 average. It will be interesting to see if he is used as a relief pitcher, a starting pitcher, or a little bit of both in Arizona.

Bruce Pugh, RHP
5.69 ERA/ 61.2 IP/ 70 K
2011 Teams: AA New Britain, A Fort Myers
Pugh started the year in Fort Myers and was promoted to New Britain at the start of June. He seemed to be over-matched during his time this season at the AA level. In 12 games with New Britain, he slopped together an ERA of 9.00 and he was sent back to the Florida State League at the end of July. He has been given many opportunities to close this year for a total of 17 saves between the two levels. One of his biggest problems could be getting out of jams with runners on base. He ERA is a very high 8.85 when there are runners on so look for him to improve that number in the AFL.

Chris Herrmann, C
.258 BA/.379 OBP/.382 SLG/ 13 DBL/ 8 HR 
2011 Teams: AA New Britain, A Fort Myers
Herrman did not play catcher until his second year in the Twins organization but now he has developed into a decent catching option for the future of the Twins. On occasion, he still plays outfield but most of his reps are taken from behind the plate. The 23-year old sixth round pick of the Twins has shown a little pop in his bat this year with 30 extra base hits. Last offseason, the Twins had to bring in some veteran catchers to fill the higher levels of the organization. Herrmann could prove himself to be a viable option at catcher for the Twins in the AFL.

Brian Dozier, SS
.318 BA/ .400 OBP/ .489 SLG/ 30 DBL/ 9 HR
2011 Teams: A Fort Myers Miracle, AA New Britain Rock Cats
There has been some buzz surrounding Dozier in the last couple weeks with the numbers he is putting up for the Rock Cats as they fight for a playoff spot. Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire has even taken notice and he has expressed some praise for New Britain's SS. Dozier has a .380 BA against left handed pitching with the Rock Cats but most of his power has come off of right handed pitchers. Of his 19 doubles at the AA level, 16 of them have come against right handed pitching. There was a small possibility that Dozier would be one of the September call-ups to the Twins. It will be interesting to see if that has changed now that he is headed to Arizona.

Aaron Hicks, CF
.230 BA/ .345 OBP/ .345 SLG/ 28 DBL/ 5 HR
2011 Team: A Fort Myers Miracle
The biggest prospect on this list has to be the young outfielder Mr. Aaron Hicks. His season has been a roller coaster ride at the high A level in Fort Myers. The first three months of the season saw his batting average increase each step of the way. After hitting .211 in the month of April, he hit .286 in May and an outstanding .337 in the month of June. It has been a nightmare since then for Hicks with a .178 BA in July and a horrible .146 BA in August. Hopefully, the competition in Arizona will bring out the best in one of the top prospects in the Twins organization. 

Some of the names of players NOT on this list are surprising to those that follow the Twins minor league system. Alex Wimmers and David Bromberg each had reasons for missing some time this year and not hitting their innings limit in 2011. Wimmers was the Twins first round pick in 2010 and he struggled mightily with his command at the beginning of the year. Bromberg had his arm broke by a line drive earlier in the year and missed some time because of the injury. Each player has worked their way back to form and many thought the Twins would use this opportunity to let them increase their innings pitched in 2011.

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