Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Links-N-Thinks

It's the last Friday of the regular season and that means this will be the last Friday the Twins will be playing until opening week of next year. That might be sad to think about for some fans but it has been two tough seasons in a row. The 162 game schedule can be grueling for the players and it seems logical to think some of them are ready for their up coming break. It's been the second year in a row that the Twins haven't been close to making the playoffs and that hasn't happened since the 1999-2000 campaigns. Sigh...

There are things to watch as the season comes to a close. Joe Mauer is inching closer to the top of the leader board for the batting title in the American League. It would be his fourth batting title and his first title since 2009, his MVP year and the last season in the Metrodome. Over the last six games with the Tigers and the Blue Jays, Scott Diamond could add to his already impressive season and Glen Perkins could increase his final save total. If Willingham is healthy, he could tack on a few more home runs to his final tally.

After losing two out of three to the Yankees, the Twins will try to play the upset role with the Tigers over the weekend. Twins pitchers can help Mauer get closer to a batting title if they can hold Miguel Cabrera in check. Before the start of the weekend, check out the latest edition of "Friday Links-N-Thinks."
My Weekly Rundown:
Video of the Week: One of the best defensive plays of the year happened this week and it came from an unlikely source. Travis Snider did his best impersonation of Michael Jordan and Spider-Man while hauling in a ball for the Pittsburgh Pirates. I enjoy the fan underneath Snider and a little to the right that is standing up and pointing at him making the catch. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ryan and Gardenhire speak to season ticket holders

One of the benefits of being a season ticket holder with the Minnesota Twins is the opportunity to participate in conference calls with current players, coaches, and front office personnel. Earlier this season, Scott Diamond and Trevor Plouffe discussed their breakout seasons with fans. It's fun to hear their answers to unique questions that might not pop up in a regular interview setting with reporters in the Twin Cities. There are also prizes handed out including memorabilia, bobbleheads of different players, and other experiences at Target Field.

On Thursday night, General Manager Terry Ryan and Manager Ron Gardenhire were fielding questions from season ticket holders. This was intriguing to me because I thought it might turn into a blood-bath with the hard-hitting questions asked by the fans. It certainly didn't start off as all flowers and roses for the leading men for the Twins but there were some easy questions along the way. 

Below are some of the questions and thoughts from Ryan and Gardenhire. I tried to get as close to direct quotes as possible but some of this is general thoughts from the two men in charge of turning around a franchise in the dumps over the last two years.

-What can the Twins do to improve the starting pitching of the club?
Terry Ryan (TR): The biggest concern is with the starting rotation. There were some injuries this year to players like Pavano and Baker. It's time to go out and find pitching with trades, free agents, or in the international market. This can be a hard thing to do when the other clubs are searching for the same thing but no one is going to try harder than the Twins.

-What has been the most frustrating thing about this season?
Ron Gardenhire (RG): Some of the fundamentals haven't been there like getting bunts down and hitting the cutoff man. The Twins take pride in those things and it isn't showing up on the field. Coaches continue to work hard with the players in practice but the results haven't been showing up on the field.

TR: One of the most frustrating things has been getting guys on base with no outs in an inning and not seeing more runs cross the plate. This line-up should be scoring more on the offensive side of the ball. There needs to be more innings with crooked numbers.

-What are the differences in your second time as GM?
TR: We need to get back to the way things were when the team turned around at the end of the 1990's. The organization has things going in the right direction but there are plenty of things to do before the Twins will be playing meaningful games in September.

-Are you willing to give up Willingham or others for pitching?
TR: We are always willing to deal but it's tough to find the right deal. There aren't many untouchable players on our club. It's about getting value back from the other club so we are willing to deal if the deal is right.

-What is the plan for Ben Revere in 2013?
RG: One of the most important things is to find him at-bats. He has shown the ability to player anywhere in the outfield but he is very exciting and we love having him out there. He still has shortcomings in his game and the coaches will continue to work with him. It's all about putting together a solid outfield for next year and we feel comfortable with him out there.

-Why should we stay season ticket holders?
TR: It starts with the front office making better decisions about the way money is spent and trying to stay away from injuries. We understand the frustration of the fans but there is nothing better to do than coming out to watch a baseball game. The team is going to have good years and bad years and our goal is to put a good club on the field. Nothing is more frustrating then seeing fans leaving the game in the 5th inning. 

-Besides starting pitching, what else needs to change?
TR: The team needs to improve on the defensive side of the ball. The outfield did fine this year but there was a lot of other players switching positions. Carroll was a constant for the club but the defense needs to get better. (Author's note: They address this in other questions but this sounds like a good sign for Florimon.)

-Why switch from Beloit to Cedar Rapids for the Low-A affiliate?
TR: It simply came down to better facilities for the players and better attendance from the local fans.

-What lies ahead for Chris Parmelee?
RG: We like him an awful lot. He needed to hit better so it was a good move to send him to the minor leagues earlier this year. He seemed to find his swing in the minor leagues and his mind-set changed while he was down there. On the defensive side of the ball, he needs to spend more time in the outfield. The goal is to find him as many at-bats as possible for next year.

-Any thoughts of moving Mauer to third base or to the two spot in the batting order?
RG: I agree that he is a perfect two-hole hitter but the old-school baseball mentality says to put your best hitter in the number three spot. Our line-up isn't as deep as other clubs like the Yankees and for them it might make sense to bat Mauer second. We want him batting with the chance to drive in runs. There have been talks about moving him to third but all of those decisions haven't been run past Mauer. His arm action would need some work at third but it looks like the perfect move. It's always up to the player for approval before we do anything and he loves to catch.

-What are your thoughts on Pedro Florimon and what will second base look like next year?
RG: He is great on the defensive side of the ball but there are areas of improvement on the offensive side of the ball. There is still a language barrier as Florimon tries to learn English. He can be really hard on himself when he makes a mistake but at this point he looks like the front-runner for the shortstop position next year.

TR: Florimon has surprising power and we are really happy with him. He was a pleasant edition especially as a waiver pick-up. As far as second base goes, it will likely be up to Jamey Carroll, Brian Dozier and Alexi Casilla to earn the spot.

-Morneau is entering his final contract year, has there been talk of an extension?
TR: When the season started, we were afraid of having him at first base. Justin has put a lot of those fears to rest. He has a lot more ceiling for the future and we think he can continue to get better. I am not going to get into contract discussions in a conference call.

-Will there be any coaching changes like getting rid of Jerry White?
RG: The coaching staff does great work with the players. Jerry White works hard with the outfielders and he has done that going back to Hunter, Span, and Revere. As a staff, we have put a lot of good years together even if the last couple years have been tough. They are my friends and these guys are out there getting it done. I have a lot of respect for the coaching staff.

- I was wondering how Scott Baker is doing?
TR: Baker is to the point where he is playing catch and he is on schedule to take part in spring training. The team will need to address the option year on his contract but he is one of the good guys that we've got.

-Can you speak about the team leadership in the clubhouse?
RG: Cuddyer moved on and now other players like Morneau and Mauer have been the on the field leaders. It has been a fun group of players and this group has really tried hard to win. They hang their heads when they lose but I have to go around and pick them back up again. I am happy with this group of players.

-Are the Twins too nice and do they give too much time for a player to perform at the big league level?
TR: We show patience with a player because we know their track record in the minor leagues. Sometimes a player like Parmelee or Dozier needs to get sent back down if it doesn't work out. Torii Hunter and Latroy Hawkins were examples of players we had to be patient with. 

-Are we keeping Willingham for next year?
TR: As I said before, no one is untouchable on this roster. It's hard to find a player that can drive in this many runs and hit 40 home runs so we expect to see him in our line-up next year.

-What is the status of Kyle Gibson?
TR: He threw five innings in the instructional league today, as he gets ready to go to the Arizona Fall League. We are targeting around 80 innings for him to throw. He is throwing well and hard with good location of his pitches. He is getting close to the guy we had before the surgery.

-How long before Byron Buxton gets to the big leagues?
TR: For most players his age, it will take around four years for him to make it. He has a solid make-up and he is a good teammate. From talking to other coaches and Paul Molitor, he gets it as a player. There are a lot of positives surrounding him.

-What has been wrong with Brian Duensing?
RG: He has been bouncing around a lot from the bullpen to being a starter. That has been tough on him. His slider and change-up are better when he is coming out of the bullpen. In the rotation, he has trouble the second and third time he has to go through a line-up. We need to make a decision on what to do with him but the needs in the rotation have pushed him out of the bullpen in recent years.

-What will the payroll be for next season?
TR: There isn't going to be a firm number on the payroll. The Pohlad family gives us plenty of money to spend on this team. I need to make better decision on how to spend the dollars. We can't have a lot of money tied up in players at Triple-A like Nishioka and Blackburn. Better spending will lead to a better product on the field.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Killer Speed of Byron Buxton

World came out on Tuesday morning that Byron Buxton had been named by Baseball America as the top prospect in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Last year's first round pick for the Twins didn't spend the entire season in the GCL but it was long enough to make his mark on the league. In 27 games for the GCL Twins, Buxton hit .216/.324/.466 with 11 extra-base hits including four home runs. He would spend the rest of the season with the Elizabethton Twins as they made their march to an Appalachian League Championship. It had to be a memorable year for Buxton as he graduated high school, became the second pick in the MLB Draft, and started his professional baseball career.

Terry Ryan was asked about Buxton in an interview after Baseball America announced their pick for outstanding prospect in the GCL. He had nothing but glowing remarks for Buxton and his play with the Twins organization. One of the quotes included, "He's a great teammate, he cares, he tries to pay attention to detail-- all those things you can't scout." It sounds like the Twins are happy with the make-up of their blooming prospect but what about the rest of his game.

"The only thing I was worried about was how much power he had. He's got power. He can hit the ball a long way," Ryan said later in the interview. As an 18-year old, Buxton had five home runs and 10 doubles across both levels he played at with the Twins organization. When Buxton was in the Twin Cities to finalize his deal with the club, he got the opportunity to take batting practice at Target Field. There were reports of him putting at least one or two balls into the bullpen in deep center field so his power seems to be legit. As a teenager, he is tall and lanky so there is room for him to continue to grow into his frame in the coming years. This should only add more power to an already powerful swing.

One of the more interesting quotes in the article stated that Buxton is the faster player in the Twins system "by far," and he is faster than the current speedy outfielder for the Twins, Ben Revere. Buxton showed some of his speed in the GCL by stealing four bases in seven chances but that isn't the greatest steal percentage in the world. When he shifted to the Appalachian League, he racked up seven steals and he was never thrown out in any of those opportunities. The art of the steal can be something a player has to develop in the minor leagues. Fans of the Twins have been spoiled with Revere's speed in the last two seasons and it's fun to imagine Buxton being a faster version of Revere with plenty of more pop in his bat.

Cincinnati Reds prospect Billy Hamilton set the minor league stolen base record this season by swiping 155 bases between two different levels. The thoughts of Buxton trying to break this record in the future might not be at the top of the wish list for fans of the Twins. Hamilton is more of a light-hitting middle infielder so he doesn't hit for a lot of power. This gives him the opportunity to steal more bases because he is on first a lot of the time when he gets on base. In his four seasons in the minors, Hamilton has seven home runs and Buxton already has five in his first season. It's nice for Buxton to have the speed but hopefully it will translate into turning doubles into triples over stealing second base.

The outfield of the future for the Twins could be a conglomerate of some very talented and speedy defensive players. Ben Revere is still under team control for multiple seasons so he might have to be the player to mentor Buxton into the big leagues. Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia are going to be knocking on the door to the big leagues in 2013 and there's hope they can stay in the team's long-term plans. An outfield with Revere, Hicks, and Buxton manning all three positions might be one of the best defensive line-ups in the game and their speed on the bases could be exciting to watch.

These happy thoughts of top prospects turning into wonderful major league players are still a couple of years away. Until then, we will have to be happy with beating the Yankees and trying to help the Orioles win the American League East.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Matt Capps and his looming option year

In last night's loss to the New York Yankees, Matt Capps made his return to the field after missing almost the entire second half of the season. It was the first action for Capps after not appearing in a game since the middle of July. The season has been injury plagued for the 29-year old relief pitcher and his time with the Twins has been full of plenty of ups-and-downs. Fans seem to hold a grudge against Capps for his poor play in the last couple of years but some of this hatred might be better aimed at the front office for the Twins. The past decisions with Capps have left fans scratching their heads and it's tough to know what the next move will be from the front office.

Back in 2010 when the Twins traded catching prospect Wilson Ramos for relief pitcher Matt Capps, there was plenty of uproar across Twins Territory. It was tough to see the Twins giving up on one of their best positional prospects for what looked like a mediocre relief pitcher. Capps would be under team control through 2011 so the team wasn't giving up a prospect for a couple months of a relief pitcher. The deal was still tough to swallow and it doesn't help that Ramos has looked good for the Nationals even though he suffered a season-ending injury earlier this year. It could go down as one of the worst trades in team history and it is one of the many things fans hold against former general manager Bill Smith.

During last offseason, the Twins had the opportunity to part ways with Mr. Capps because the veteran relief pitcher was heading to free agency for the first time in his career. If the Twins had let Capps sign with another team, the organization would have been given a draft pick as compensation for him leaving the team. Instead, the Twins thought it was more important to sign him to a contract for 2012 and the scariest thing is the fact the team has an option for next season. The option is for $6 million with a low buyout of $250,000 so it seems tough to think the Twins won't buy him out but the team has made some surprise decisions with Capps in the past.

Would the Twins ever consider bring back Capps on a one-year deal for $6 million?

Some fans might shiver at the thought of Capps being back in a Twins uniform next year especially with how good the bullpen has looked in 2012. Glen Perkins is set-up to be the closer for the next handful of years and the Twins signed him to a cheap deal during last offseason. Jared Burton has burst onto the scene as another very good arm out of the bullpen and he has shown the ability to get some big outs in late-inning situations. Looking to the offseason, the bullpen seems to be the least of the worries for the Twins and the $6 million option for Capps could be better spent on starting pitching or help in the middle infield.

It's hard to imagine what role Capps would serve if he was brought back for another season in Minnesota. Perkins and Burton seem to have the last couple innings of games under control so this would shift Capps to a set-up role in the 7th inning or earlier. The Twins have gotten a look at plenty of other options to fill-up the bullpen for next season and players like Alex Burnett, Anthony Swarzak, and Casey Fien will all come with a smaller price tag than Capps. There doesn't seem to be a place for him on the 2013 Twins but that doesn't mean he won't be back in Minnesota.

The front office has made some surprising decisions surrounding Capps in the past such as trading for him in the first place and resigning him when they had a free draft pick sitting in front of them. So even though it seems unlikely, there is always a chance the front office surprises fans again and brings Capps back for next year. When the team signed him last offseason, there were a lot of comments about his attitude and make-up being one of the reasons the team wanted him back in a Twins uniform. After back-to-back poor seasons, his attitude might not be enough to get another multi-million dollar deal in Minnesota.

Then again, I have been surprised with their decisions surrounding Capps in the past...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cabrera vs. Trout: The MVP Debate for the Ages

Over the weekend, the Twins got a first-hand look at one of the front-runners for the American League Most Valuable Player Award. Miguel Cabrera is trying his best to be the first Triple Crown winner in the American League since Carl Yastrzemski won it back in 1967. There are other deserving candidates in the American League and it looks like the main competition for Cabrera will come in the form of standout rookie Mike Trout. The debate has been swirling over the last couple of weeks as the end of the season is closing in and voters are going to have to decide between the outstanding seasons put together by the top two players in the American League.

It seems to be a debate between fans that like the old-school statistics such as home runs and RBI versus new-school fans that turn to Sabermetrics for much of their statistical analysis. There have been plenty of opinions circling from writers, coaches, and other players. For voters in the Baseball Writers Association of America, the choice will be up to them and there are plenty of things for them to consider before they make their final choice.

What weight do the Triple Crown categories hold?
For Cabrera, it has been arguably his best offensive season in his outstanding career that has spanned the last decade. He sits at the top of all three Triple Crown categories with a .331 batting average, 42 home runs, and 133 RBI. If Cabrera ends up winning the first Triple Crown since the 1960s, there is a good chance the vote could swing his way. There are still plenty of older voters composing the electorate in the BBWAA and a push by these elder statesmen could put the trophy in the hands of Cabrera.

A couple of weeks ago, it looked like Trout was going to run away with the batting title in the American League. The month of September hasn't been the best for the young Trout as he reaches the end of his rookie campaign. His recent late-season slump has dropped him from the top of the leader-board in batting average and it might be hard for him to reclaim the lead. He also isn't sitting high in the other Triple Crown categories because he missed the first month of the year while he was toiling in the minor leagues.

Should defensive value be considered?
When the Tigers signed Prince Fielder in the offseason, it meant Cabrera would need to move from first base back to his previous position at third base. There were many that thought his transition to third base would make for some terrible defensive line-ups for the Tigers but it hasn't been as bad as some thought it would be. He has 13 errors in 363 chances at third but when you look a little deeper things can get more dicey for his defense. By looking at the defensive runs saved statistic, he has cost the Tigers four runs over the course of the year and this translates to a negative defensive WAR for him.

Trout is one of the best defensive players in the game with his ability to take away hits in center field. If you take a look at the numbers, his defensive runs saved total is an eye-popping 25 so far this year. According to Baseball Reference, this translates to a 2.6 WAR on the defensive side of the ball. His ability to take away home runs has been well chronicled in highlight reels across the country. He also plays a premium defensive position so his team can rely on him to track down balls in parks across the country.

Does the MVP have to be in the playoffs?
When the Tigers made the playoffs last year, their ace pitcher Justin Verlander was named MVP of the American League. There were other candidates for this award but Verlander put together a very good year on a team that would be competing in October. At this point, it seems the Tigers have a shot to make the playoffs out of the AL Central since they trail the White Sox by one game with a week and a half to go in the season. Some of the voters might consider the Tigers getting into the playoffs as their deciding factor in the vote for the MVP award.

Jacoby Ellsbury had an outstanding final month of the season last year but his team was in the midst of one of the worst collapses in baseball history. When the last month of the season started, he looked like a clear-cut favorite for the MVP award. His team didn't make the playoffs and he didn't win the hardware so it's possible the same thing will happen to Trout. The Angels are currently 2.5 games out of the final Wild Card spot so they are left on the outside looking in at the Orioles and the A's playing in the new Wild Card game. His team's poor play in the first month of the year might cost him the MVP and he wasn't even on the team at that point.

WAR, What is it good for?
According to Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Cabrera is in the midst of one of the best seasons of his professional career. He currently sits at 6.6 rWAR and 6.9 fWAR depending on which site you turn to for your statistical analysis. The only season he had a higher WAR was last year and he would need to put together a decent final week to reach his total from last year. Obviously, his defensive numbers take away from his total WAR so this hurts him in the long run. His totals are still hard to ignore on a team fighting to get into postseason play.

Some of the Sabermetric categories are in love with Trout and his magical season. His numbers at the plate combined with outstanding defense and his threatening speed on the base paths have him off the charts. He is the first player to compile a WAR of over 10 since Barry Bonds did it back in his heyday. The last center fielder to reach this mark was Willie Mays so Trout is in some good company with the season he has put together.

Will recent play make a difference in the vote?
The month of September has been very good for Cabrera as his team gets closer to the playoffs. He is hitting .356 since the calendar turned from August and he has nine home runs during that time. The voters can sometimes have long-term memory loss and they might look with favor at the hot streak by Cabrera over the last month. This could push the vote towards the Tigers slugger.

It would be hard for any player to continue to perform at the level Trout was at earlier this year. So it's not too hard to believe he has come back down to earth for the final month of the season. His batting average has dipped to .256 in September but he has still shown good defensive ability and speed on the bases. If he could put together a good last week and a half of the season, voters might remember all of the good things he accomplished in 2012

Who should win versus who will win?
In my opinion, the best player in the American League this season has been Mike Trout. His overall season is something baseball hasn't seen in quite awhile and it would be a shame if he wasn't honored for his historic year. His offense, defense, and speed make him one of the most exciting players in the game and he should win the award no matter how his team finishes the year.

Cabrera has a shot to win the first Triple Crown in a long time and this might be hard for some of the older voters to ignore. It also helps for the Tigers to be so close to making the playoffs. There seems to be a late-season push for Cabrera to come out on top and it seems more likely for him to end up with his first MVP award in his very good career. Cabrera has been close in the past so it might be his turn to win and Trout could be left to win the award in another season.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Links-N-Thinks

A couple of milestones happened for the Twins during the past week. The team won a series against the Indians but as part of that series, Josh Willingham crushed his 35 home run of the season and Liam Hendriks picked up his first victory at the big league level. These might not seem like very important numbers but the story behind those numbers gives a little bit more meaning to these milestones.

For Willingham, he became the first Twins player to hit 35 home runs since Harmon Killebrew in 1970 to knock that many out of the park. Other players like Justin Morneau, Gary Gaetti, and Kent Hrbek have gotten to 34 home runs but the Hammer becomes the first player since Killer to reach this plateau. There is a chance for Willingham to reach the 40 home run mark and that would be a cool milestone to reach in a miserable season.

For Hendriks, the first victory might not seem like that big of a deal. Every pitcher in baseball can usually get lucky and find some way to earn a victory as a starter or as a relief pitcher. It took Hendriks until his 18th MLB start to finally get his first win. That is quite the stretch of bad luck for Mr. Hendriks and it wasn't all related to his bad performance on the field. He pitched a complete game against Seattle at the end of last month and still got the loss by giving up a solo-home run. Going into last start, the Twins were only averaging 3.38 runs of support for Hendriks so it was nice for him to get his first victory out of the way.

But enough about the milestones from the last week, let's jump into this week's edition of "Friday Links-N-Thinks."
My Weekly Rundown:
Video of the Week: Trevor Plouffe had an odd moment the series finale with the Indians. He crushed a ball to deep center field and it looked like the outfielder was going to be able to make a play on the ball. It turns out the ball was well over his head but he faked out Plouffe in the process. Check out the video to see Plouffe's reaction to his "surprise" home run.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Career of lost opportunities for Alexi Casilla

As the offeseason is approaching, there are plenty of decisions the Twins will have to make in the coming months. The team needs to address some gapping holes in the starting rotation, there are issues with the middle infield, and even the training staff might need to be replaced. There are plenty of things the Twins could do to make some subtle improvements for the 2013 campaign. It isn't like the club's revenue stream is going to allow them to go out and spend a ton of money on the open market for free agents. There will be tough choices that have to be made and one of those decisions could surround middle infielder Alexi Casilla.

When he made his debut with the club back in 2006, the expectations weren't off the board for him but there was hope that he could develop into a decent regular for the team. He had only joined the Twins organization in 2005 after a trade with the Angels to get JC Romero out of town. Since that point, it has been a career of more downs than ups on his roller coaster ride. He has yet to appear in more than 100 games with the Twins and the most games he has started for the club was 94 contests back in 2008. There was hope at the beginning but it hasn't resulted into many positive performances on the field from Mr. Casilla.

It's not like the Twins didn't give him plenty of chances over the years because the organization has turned to him on multiple occasions to earn a starting role with the club. Since 2009, Casilla has been in the Opening Day line-up at second base or shortstop in three out of the four seasons. The only year he didn't crack the Opening Day line-up was 2010 when Orlando Hudson started at second base and Nick Punto was the starting shortstop. So the Twins have wanted Casilla to show that he could be a starter but to say he hasn't performed up to expectations is an understatement.

In his career, Casilla has hit .248/.303/.331 with 95 extra-base hits over the course of 1566 at-bats. He is a middle infielder so the lack of power can be expected but his low on-base percentage and his inability to hit for a higher average have hindered him in his career. The 2008 season was his best as he hit .281/.333/.374 with seven home runs and 15 doubles but he also had a career high 437 plate appearance that season. There is a good chance for Casilla to set a career-high in games played with the 97 appearances he has made in 2012. But he hasn't been at his best in the batter's box because he is hitting .228/.269/.305 with 18 extra-base hits as a 28-year old.

One of the problems for the Twins organization has been their ability to develop middle infield talent over the course of much of the last decade. This has given Casilla more than one opportunity to prove his worth to the club but his time with the organization could be running out. He is currently in his second year of being arbitration eligible and that means he could still be under team control for next year. The earliest that he could reach free agency is 2014 but his paycheck most certainly would go up for next year. In 2012, he is making $1.382 million to be a below average at the plate and adequate in the field. Mr. Casilla could be looking at a deal between $1.5-$2.0 million for next season and that might be too much for a back-up role with the club.

As the season is winding down, the Twins are getting a look at some of the other infield options that could have a place with the team in the future. Pedro Florimon and Eduardo Escobar have gotten the opportunity to show they belong with this team next year and the price tag might be right for each player. These two players combined will be making less than Casilla would earn if the Twins went to arbitration with him. It seems that the team is becoming more comfortable with Florimon having the opportunity to earn a starting spot for next season and Escobar could back to serving in the utility role he had with the White Sox earlier this year.

With the holes the Twins have to fill, it seems unlikely Casilla will make a return trip with the organization. Besides Florimon and Escobar, there are other options like Brian Dozier and Jamey Carroll to fit into the middle infield picture. There's always a chance the club would go out and sign a middle infielder but it looks to be a weak crop of free agents and hopefully the Twins aren't going to outbid other teams for the services of a mediocre player. It seems like the Twins middle infield picture is already overcrowded and Casilla might be the man pushed to the side.

Casilla etched his place in Twins lore with his hit in Game 163 against the Tigers but the rest of his career was full of plenty of lost opportunities.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mauer racing for fourth batting title

With last night's three hit performance, Joe Mauer continues to climb up the ladder for best batting average in the American League. There are still a couple of players for him to pass so it will be interesting to see if he is able to earn his fourth batting title in the last seven seasons. The other titles might come with more meaning since the Twins were fighting for the playoffs in each of those campaigns. It seems like Mauer is on a mission this season after an injury-plagued year in 2011 and his next stop could be the top of the American League batting race.

Over the last week, Mauer has missed some time with back spasms and this could have crippled any chance of him catching the leaders in the AL. Since returning from the injury, he has two multi-hit games and he had two multi-hit games before his back started acting up. He is currently in the midst of a six game hitting streak and he has hits in nine of his last ten contests. With the season winding down, it seems like Mauer is getting stronger at the plate and that could mean trouble for the other hitters ahead of him in the standings.

His opponents in the race for the batting crown are arguably the two top candidates for the American League Most Valuable Player. Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout are attempting to get each of their team's into the postseason so there is a lot of pressure on each of their at-bats. Here is a look at Mauer's competition over the coming weeks:

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers: .333 Batting Average
The defending batting champion in the American League is in a prime position to take home the award again in 2012. He is hitting .373 so far in September and that number has only gone up with his .500 batting average in the last week. His schedule in the coming weeks looks pretty easy as he has six games left with the Twins and seven games left against pitchers from the Royals. He is currently facing Oakland's pitching staff but it only gets easier from that point. So far this season, he has hit .438 against the Twins so he is probably thrilled about the opportunity to play the Twins a couple of more times.

Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels: .327 Batting Average
A month ago, it looked like nothing would stop Trout from walking away with the batting title in his rookie season. In late August, Trout was still batting over .340 but he has less at-bats than most of the other contenders so a bad performance in one game hurts him more than others. So far in September, he is hitting .274 and it has been a rough week for Trout with a .227 average. Every game is important for his team and the Angels have five more games against a good staff in Texas and three games in Chicago. Trout has hit .370 versus the Rangers and .300 in limited action against the White Sox. There are six other games with the Mariners so that could mean facing Felix Hernandez twice in the last week. 

Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins: .325 Batting Average
The month of September has been good to Mauer as he is hitting. 474 since the calendar turned from August. As far as the Twins schedule, Mauer has two games left with the Indians, six games left with Detroit, three games left with the Yankees, and three games left in Toronto. In 52 at-bats versus Tigers pitching this year, Mauer has a .346 batting average so facing that team could help him. He has also hit over .350 in a limited amount of action against the Yankees and the Blue Jays. The opportunity is there and he seems to be hitting his groove at the right time.

Derek Jeter, New York Yankees: .323 Batting Average
When comparing Jeter to Trout, it's hard to believe how many years separate these two. Jeter was a year away from being a first round pick when Trout was born. It has been a good September so far for Jeter as he is hitting .344 in the month. The last week hasn't been the greatest as he is batting a little under .300 as the Yankees push for the playoffs. For Jeter, there are some opponents that could help him move up in the standings. The Yankees face the Blue Jays seven more times, the Twins three times, and the Red Sox three times. He has hit over .340 against the Blue Jays and the Twins in 2012 so his average could rise in the home stretch.

For Mauer, he would probably rather have the Twins in position to get a playoff spot but a batting title would be a nice consolation prize. The Twins face two of the three men on the list above in the coming weeks so fans in Twins Territory will get a first-hand look at the chase for the batting title. Mauer could also look to his pitching staff to help him to the title and pitch well against some of the best hitters in the league. 

There's a chance for another batting champion in Minnesota and that's something worth watching as the season comes to a close.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Should Scott Diamond be shutdown?

One of the best story lines for the Twins in 2012 has been the emergence of Scott Diamond as a stabilizing force in the starting rotation. In a season where the Twins have used 12 different starting pitchers, Diamond leads the way with 24 starts under his belt. During the first half of the season, it looked like Diamond could be an All-Star because of his performance after being called up by the Twins. It has been a different story for Diamond in the last couple months as his performance has gradually declined to the point where his rotation spot might need to be called into question. A couple of weeks ago, this idea would be out of the question but recent starts from Diamond have showcased a mediocre pitcher with opposing teams hitting the ball all over the field against him.

So the question to the front office of the Twins is, should Scott Diamond be shut down?

Let's backtrack a few weeks to see how Diamond got to this point in the year. In the second half of August, Diamond put together a start against the Seattle Mariners that Twins fans had become accustom to seeing from him over the course of the year. He tossed 6.2 innings by surrendering two runs on nine hits and he got the no-decision as the Twins went on to lose the game by a run. His ERA dropped to 2.95 and things continued to look good for the left-handed hurler. The next outing for him would come against the Texas Rangers and this is when it seems like the season switched directions for Diamond.

After Joe Mauer had been hit with a pitch in a previous inning, Diamond tried to stand-up for the Twins star catcher by throwing at Josh Hamilton of the Rangers. The pitch from Diamond got close to Hamilton but it was near the head of the slugger from Texas. Home plate umpire Wally Bell didn't like the pitch location from Diamond so he tossed him out of the game for throwing near the head of an opposing player. It was the shortest outing of the season for Diamond and it was the first time all year where he failed to pitch more than five innings. The Commissioner's Office would suspend Diamond for six games and things just haven't been the same since this point.

He has made four starts since the infamous attempted bean ball near the head of Hamilton and it seems like something is missing from Diamond. In three of the four outings, he has been handed the loss and his performances haven't been up to the level fans were use to seeing from him. He has given up four or more runs in each appearance and he hasn't been able to pitch more than six frames in three of the four outings. The only win for Diamond during this stretch was when the offense exploded for 18 runs against the White Sox on September 4th. His last start on Sunday might have been his worst of the year as he gave up six earned runs on seven hits including two long balls. There just doesn't seem to be something right with Mr. Diamond.

At this point in the season, there are plenty of players dealing with the aches and pains that accompany a grueling 162 game schedule. Diamond is in his first full season with the Twins and he is entering uncharted territory for his professional career. He started the year by throwing 34.2 innings with the Rochester Red Wings before poor play and injuries forced the Twins to turn to the minor leagues. If you combine his minor league innings with his MLB total, he has thrown 188.1 innings in 2012. The career high in innings for Diamond before this season was 162, a mark he reached in 2011 as a member of the Twins and Red Wings. By crossing this innings threshold, Diamond might have run into some fatigue issues and other problems with his arm mechanics.

The Twins have been eliminated from playoff contention and one could argue that the team was never really in contention this year after their poor start to the season. Diamond's continued presence in the rotation is not entirely necessary over the last couple weeks of the year. He could be quietly shutdown and the team could continue to let other arms get the chance to showcase themselves against some of the tough opponents on the schedule for the rest of the month. It's terrible to think about Diamond suffering an arm injury in a meaningless September game when the club could use him in more meaningful games at the start of next season.

Diamond hasn't exactly been helping the club to win in recent weeks and it's tough to know what the team wants to do with him for the rest of the year. It doesn't seem like he will be shutdown before his next start and I am sure the team would like to see how many inning he can pitch by the end of the campaign. The competitor inside of Diamond will want to go out on the mound for every opportunity he is given in the next couple weeks. It's just tough to watch him struggle at the end of what has been a breakout season for the 26-year old left-handed pitcher. The fans that are still watching are going to remember the struggles at the end of the year and not the positive signs from the majority of the season. It will also be tough for Diamond to enter the offseason on a sour note.

In the next couple weeks, Diamond will most likely get to play out the rest of his 2012 season. He could rediscover himself from earlier this year or the performances could continue to go in the opposite direction. The innings are piling up and it's tough not to wonder if Diamond should be on the shelf for the remainder of the campaign.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pedro Florimon lining up to be Opening Day starter

"I love having him at shortstop."- Ron Gardenhire, 9/16/12, The Ron Gardenhire Show
It didn't take very long for Brian Dozier to fall out of the good graces with the Minnesota Twins. The team gave him plenty of opportunities to showcase his talents as the shortstop of the future for the organization but he was unimpressive during his rookie campaign. This has left the door open for another player to step-in and get most of the reps at shortstop during the last couple months of the season. Pedro Florimon was the man the Twins turned to and he might be lining himself up to be a starter on Opening Day next season.

On Sunday's edition of The Ron Gardenhire Show, Gardy had nothing but praise for Florimon and his performance so far with the club. There are obvious things to like about his defensive and those were the skills Gardenhire focused on when asked about his new shortstop. He likes his hands in the field and his ability to get to the ball seems to be "as advertised" from his time in the minor leagues. While there were some plays just out of the reach of Dozier, it seems like Florimon is able to complete almost every play that is asked to make. The offensive side of the ball is a little bit of a different story for Mr. Florimon.

During his time in the minor leagues this season, Florimon didn't exactly strike fear into opposing pitchers. In time at the Double-A and Triple-A level, he hit .259/.318/.351 with only 27 extra-base hits in 424 at-bats. To say, his ability to hit for power is lacking would be an understatement. It is fine for a middle infielder to not have pop in his bat but this usually comes with the ability to be a contact hitter. For Florimon, his contact swing hasn't exactly developed in the minor leagues either. In 83 games with Rochester, he hit .251/.308/.344 so he wasn't exactly pounding down the door for the Twins to give him a look at the big league level.

Since joining the Twins in the middle of August, Florimon has appeared in 29 games for the club with all of those appearances coming as a shortstop. His non-hitting prowess has followed him to the big league level as he has posted a batting line of .237/.290/.333 with seven extra-base hits in 29 games played. He has almost as many strikeouts (20) as hits (22) and this is another scary trend that has followed him during his trek through the upper minors for the Twins and the Orioles. It would be nice if he could steal a base or two but he was thrown out in 8 of his 21 steal attempts in the minors this season. He hasn't been asked to steal a lot with the Twins but his two attempts at the big league level have been successful.

He is getting a shot with the team and it is hard not to wonder if this could turn into a more permanent role for next season. We have seen this before with Gardenhire falling in love with a slick fielding middle infielder with limited skills on the offensive side of the ball. It's not like Florimon is a young infielder working his way through the Twins system. He wasn't exactly fought over when he came to the organization as a waiver claim from the Baltimore Orioles organization. In December, he will turn 26-years old and it's hard to imagine his offensive skill taking a giant leap in the coming years. At this point in his development, he is what he is and the Twins have to deal with the player they have on their roster.

The Twins entered this past spring with some question marks up the middle after signing veteran infielder Jamey Carroll as the team tried to forget about the nightmare of Tsuyoshi Nishioka. It seems more and more like next spring could have some of the same story lines playing out. Terry Ryan and the coaches for the Twins will tell the media about an opening contest for the middle infield spots but they will have an idea about where they want those positions to end up. Carroll, Florimon, and Doizer will all be in the mix for starting roles and even Eduardo Escobar might be given a look. Alexi Casilla is still arbitration eligible but it might be time for the Twins to part ways with him as his contract value starts to rise and his playing ability isn't where the club would like it to be.

To most fans, Dozier might seem like a better option for the future of the club since he seems to have the "vibe" surrounding him about an up-and-coming prospect. The truth is Florimon and Dozier are both going to be 26-years old for the majority of next season and it could be make or break time for their careers as big league players. It seems like a situation where Florimon will be given the starting shortstop role out of spring training and the job will be his until he shows the team otherwise. Dozier will be sent to Triple-A to try and find success at that level where he could show the team he deserves a place with the big league club. Carroll will get the nod at second base but an injury or old age could mean Dozier gets the call.

If I was making the roster, I would like to see Florimon sitting at shortstop to start the year because of his defensive ability. Dozier showed fans and the front office that he was lacking in some defensive areas at shortstop so I would give him the starting second base job. It could take some of the pressure off of him on the defensive side of the ball and let him relax when he steps in the batter's box. This would leave Carroll as the utility man and it would also give the Twins some flexibility when it comes to giving players a day off in the field. Carroll has shown adequate ability to man most infield positions and this could be his role as he turns 39-years old before the beginning of the 2013 campaign.

How would the middle infield look on Opening Day if you were in charge of the team?

Leave a comment below and let the discussion begin.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Links-N-Thinks

While the Twins have been busy playing decent baseball in the last week, fans have gotten to the point where they are just shrugging their shoulders and saying, "That's nice." The team swept the Indians over the weekend but they have put up some clunkers against the Royals in front of the small crowds gathering at Target Field. Last night's walk-off win felt good but we will see what the rest of the season brings With the White Sox coming to town this weekend, there is a chance for the Twins to play spoiler to the first place club in the AL Central. This means there are still reasons to watch and Francisco Liriano might make another start against his old team on Friday so that should be entertaining.

The play by the Twins in the last couple of weeks has pushed them up near Cleveland with a chance for the club to see third place in the Central. Poor play by the Twins in August made it look like the club could still get the second pick in next year's draft. Their recent play has been slightly better so the club sits behind the Astros, Cubs, and Rockies in the draft order for next June. It also seems like the Twins will avoid 100 losses which is always a good thing. The team would need to be pretty terrible over the course of the rest of the season to not reach last year's mark of 64 wins and 99 losses.

One of the biggest pieces of news from the last week was the release of the 2013 schedule. For the first time since the team opened Target Field, they will get to open the season at home. Unfortunately, the game comes on April 1st so it might be a little chilly for the home opener. There is interleague play throughout the entire season now and the Twins will face the Mets, Phillies, Marlins, and Brewers at home as part of their schedule with the National League.

There is still plenty of great baseball and Twins related content being produced across the World Wide Web. Here's this week's edition of "Friday Links-N-Thinks."
My Weekly Rundown:
Video of the Week: While researching for the minor league awards I handed out during the week, I stumbled across this video of top prospect Aaron Hicks setting the franchise record for triples with New Britain. It was a pretty cool moment and the announcers get excited about the play. On the night, it was his second triple and it capped a very good season for the outfielder at Double-A.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

2012 Twins Minor League Hitter of the Year

The minor league season have come and gone for the Twins farm system and that means it's time to hand out postseason awards. For the last couple of days, I have focused on the pitchers in the system. On Tuesday, I named Michael Tonkin as the best relief pitcher of 2012 in the Twins system. After yesterday's results were tallied, BJ Hermsen came out on top as the best starting hurler for the past season. Both of these choices were tough to make but the hitters in the system provided a much more difficult task.

Arguments can be made for more than one of the names below to be named as the top hitter for the organization over the past calendar year. Miguel Sano picked up where he left off last season by belting 28 home runs in his first year in a full season league. Aaron Hicks had the breakout campaign fans have been waiting for since the team drafted him. There were plenty of other stories across the organization and it seems the future of Twins baseball is looking brighter with these players on their way to the major leagues.

Over at Twins Daily, Seth Stohs has been naming his picks for the top awards in the Twins minor league system so make sure you check out his picks after you finish with my selections below. There can be some debate about where some of these players finished so it's fun to see where other writers have them. In reverse order, here are my selections for the 2012 Twins Minor League Hitter of the Year:

5.) Eddie Rosario: Beloit Snappers
Stat Summary: .299/.347/.499, 35 2B, 4 3B, 13 HR, 74 RBI, 62 R
It was a magical season for Rosario last year as he showed that he could hit for average and power while playing great in the outfield. The Twins decided to switch him to infield before the 2012 campaign so he spent most of this year trying to learn a new defensive position. His home run total dropped but he still had a decent amount of power with 57 extra-base hits. He gets on base at a good clip but a lot of that comes from his high batting average so it would be nice to see him get a few more walks. An injury took a few weeks away from Rosario but he was still productive when he returned to the field. It has been a struggle for the Twins to develop middle infielders so the experiment with moving Rosario to second base will be something for fans to keep an eye on over the next couple seasons. 

4.) Chris Parmelee: Rochester Red Wings
Stat Summary: .338/.457/.645, 17 2B, 1 3B, 17 HR, 49 RBI, 45 R
While Twins fans have seen bits and pieces of Parmelee at the big league level, he was a beast in the International League during his time there. There was no place for him to play when he was called up to the Twins so he made more than one trip back-and-forth between Rochester and the Twin Cities. If he would have spent the entire year in the minor leagues, there is a good chance this award would be his. After the Twins sent him down the first time, he put on a hitting clinic for the rest of May by batting over .450 with six extra-base hits in nine games. Mr. Parmelee couldn't fight his way into the line-up with the Twins but he continued to destroy minor league pitching. Much like Trevor Plouffe last year, Parmelee's breakout season at Triple-A will make it hard for the Twins to not give him a more permanent role in 2012.

3.) Miguel Sano: Beloit Snappers
Stat Summary: .258/.373/.521, 28 2B, 4 3B, 28 HR, 100 RBI, 75 R
Sano went swing for swing with Rosario last season but this year it was a little bit different story. The powerful swing of Sano continued to show but his batting average took a dip. As with most power hitters, he struggles with strikeouts and he compiled 144 of them in 457 trips to the plate. He is only 19-years old and his approach at the plate will continue to develop as he moves through the system for the Twins. Fans see young players like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout succeeding at the MLB level and it can be natural to want to push Sano up the ladder. These players are the exception and not the rule so let's give Sano some time to develop. When prospect rankings come out at the end of the year, Sano will most likely be the consensus pick as the team's number one prospect. This doesn't mean there aren't things for him to work on with his approach at the plate and his defense on the field.

2.) Aaron Hicks: New Britain Rock Cats
Stat Summary: .286/.384/.460, 21 2B, 11 3B, 13 HR, 61 RBI, 100 R
For Hicks, it was a record-breaking year with the Rock Cats as he set the franchise record for triples and runs scored in a season. After battling through some ups-and-downs in 2011, Hicks wiped a lot of questions away with his overall performance this year. He combined everything the Twins were looking for when they drafted him. His speed, power, and defensive ability were a force in the line-up at New Britain for the entire year. As the season went on, he seemed to get better at the plate. His average was over .300 in July and August and he combined that with 24 extra-base hits in those months. Hicks was doing his best to keep the Rock Cats in the heart of the race for the playoffs.  His ability to draw walks has been one of his strongest assets during his professional career and this continued in 2012 as he was issued a free pass on 79 occasions. This award could easily be his for all of the skills he showed on the offensive side of the ball. Fans have gotten use to hearing about the potential of Hicks and he could be appearing at Target Field sometime next season.

1.) Oswaldo Arcia: Fort Myers Miracle, New Britain Rock Cats
Stat Summary: .320/.388/.539, 36 2B, 8 3B, 17 HR, 98 RBI, 76 R
The big key to the success story of Arcia in 2012 was his ability to stay healthy. After some injuries in 2011, he finished the season with the Fort Myers Miracle and he was sent back there to start 2012. In half a season in Florida, he did well by belting seven home runs and 16 doubles. Arcia's first half performance was recognized and he was asked to participate in the Florida State League All-Star Game. For the second half of the year, he would move on to New Britain and it seemed like his game improved with the tougher competition. His batting average jumped over 20 points, his slugging percentage went up 40 points, and this was over more at-bats than he got with the Miracle. He hit .330 or higher in July, August, and September and it seemed like the end of the season was the only thing that could cool down his bat. With runners on base, Arcia would get locked in as he hit over .400 with other players on ahead of him, which makes him a great fit for the middle of a line-up. 

All of these numbers didn't just speak for themselves because Arcia was well noticed during the year. He won player of the week honors twice in the International League and once in the Florida State League. Arica was also the Twins representative in the MLB Futures Game during the All-Star festivities in Kansas City. It seems like the accolades didn't end for him. During last offseason, the Twins had to add him to the 40-man roster so it will be interesting to see how quickly the Twins will move him to the big league level. The 21-year old outfielder stayed healthy for an entire season and he showed why he is one of the top prospects in the organization.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

2012 Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year

It wasn't the best year for starting pitching in the Twins organization. Top pitching prospects like Alex Wimmers and Adrian Salcedo suffered through short seasons because of injuries. Kyle Gibson, the team's first round pick from 2010, spent most of the year recovering from Tommy John surgery and he will head to the Arizona Fall League to rack up some innings before the beginning of next season. The organization had to find other pitchers to fill roles with their clubs and this allowed for some surprise names to be included in the list for top starting pitchers in the Twins farm system.

In yesterday's post, I honored Michael Tonkin with my pick for the Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. There were some close battles between a few players for the top spot on the list so make sure to check it out and leave a comment on who would make your ballot. Seth Stohs over at Twins Daily has been naming that sites picks for each of the awards across the minor leagues so head over there to check out his selections. Of course there will be some similarities between our selections but it's always fun to see how other writers will rank players for the seasons they compiled with the Twins.

So who came out on top when it came to the top season for a starting pitcher in the Twins system? In reverse order, here are my rankings for the 2012 Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year:

5.) Jason Wheeler: Beloit Snappers
Stat Summary: 14-6, 3.45 ERA, 156.2 IP, 115 SO, 43 BB, .218 Opp. Avg.
It was Wheeler's first season as a professional and he spent the entire year with the Beloit Snappers. He started the year off pitching very well by going 3-0 in April with a 2.33 ERA for the month. At the beginning of May, he won pitcher of the week for the Midwest League and he was eventually named to the Leagues All-Star Game in June. Mr. Wheeler was roughed up a little by the end of June to the tune of a 6.28 ERA in his six starts that month and his three losses were the most out of any month for the lefty. His record was the same in both halves of the season but his ERA was lower in the second half of the year. The 22-year old held his own in Beloit and it will be interesting to see how he fares in Fort Myers next season.

4.) Esmerling Vasquez: Rochester Red Wings
Stat Summary: 9-6, 2.78 ERA, 100.1 IP, 98 SO, 39 BB, .210 Opp. Avg.
Fans who have kept their eye on the Twins during the last couple of weeks have gotten a taste of Vasquez on the mound. Before he was pitching in Minnesota, he had put together a pretty good season for the Rochester Red Wings. The first two months of the season for Vasquez were spent as a relief pitcher at the Triple-A level. It wasn't until the end of June that the organization moved him from the bullpen to the starting rotation. As a starter, he posted a 4-2 record with a 2.93 ERA in eight games with one complete game under his belt. To get to this point in his career, Vasquez has gone through quite the ride and the 28-year old pitcher looked like a lifer in the minor leagues before 2012. His numbers in 2012 showed the Twins that he deserved a shot but it's hard to know what his future will be with the franchise.

3.) David Hurlbut: Beloit Snappers
Stat Summary: 6-6, 2.76 ERA, 111.0 IP, 85 SO, 25 BB, .249 Opp. Avg.
Much like Vasquez, Hulbut started the season as a relief option before being asked to move to the rotation. It was only the first month of the season for Hulbut in the bullpen but his 1.35 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 20.0 IP made it an easy choice to move him to the rotation. In three out of the five months of the season, Hurlbut had an ERA of under 2.00 and four of his six wins came during those months. He didn't see a lot of innings against lefties but southpaws only managed a .200 batting average against him. It would be nice to see him do a better job of limiting damage when he lets runners get on base but that doesn't take away from his good season in 2012. Hulbut was the team's 28th round pick from the 2011 draft and his performance will keep the club's focus on him for the coming years. The Twins need starting pitching and Hulbut might be a late round find from the draft.

2.) Liam Hendriks: Rochester Red Wings
Stat Summary: 9-3, 2.20 ERA, 106.1 IP, 82 SO, 28 BB, .201 Opp. Avg.
Hendriks, last year's minor league pitcher of the year for the Twins, could have won the award again if he hadn't of spent as much time at the big league level. With how well Hendriks has performed at the Triple-A level, it's hard to believe he hasn't won a game during his time in the major leagues. The Australian native shot through the Twins system last season and made his debut with the club in September. Due to some other situations with the starting staff, Hendriks started the year in the rotation for the Twins. It wasn't a successful trip back to the big league level so he was sent back to Rochester and things started to improve. He won pitcher of the week for the International League at the beginning of June and this lead to another call-up from the Twins. One of the best months of the season for Hendriks was August where he posted a 2-1 record with a 1.61 ERA over four starts. There is a good chance for Hendriks to spend all of next season in the starting rotation for the Twins.

1.) BJ Hermsen: Fort Myers Miracle, New Britain Rock Cats
Stat Summary: 12-6, 2.88 ERA, 162.2 IP, 87 SO, 30 BB, .258 Opp. Avg.
Hermsen made it to the Fort Myers at the end of 2011 and that is where he started the 2012 campaign. He wouldn't stay long in the Florida State League as he made four starts and went 1-0 with a 0.78 ERA. Most of the damage done by Hermsen would take place in the Eastern League. He would finish second on the team in innings pitched and his best start of the year came in one of his last appearances of the year. On August 10, he took the mound against the Reading Phillies and he was very good over nine innings by striking out 10 and only allowing a single run.  Over his last ten starts, he pitched at least five innings and allowed three earned runs or less in every outing. Hermsen was a sixth round pick of the Twins out of high school in 2008 and his performance this season might have put him in the long-term plans for the club. He will be 23-years old for all of next season and it might not be long before he is asked to debut for the Twins.