Thursday, February 28, 2013

Rosario could rise to the top in '13

With a variety of top prospect list coming out at this time of year, there is plenty of talk about the high-ranking prospects in the Twins farm system. Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton could be on their way to multiple All-Star appearances. Alex Meyer and Kyle Gibson could make up the starting rotation of the future.

The Twins have some talent at the top of their farm system and this makes the next couple years of development very important. Some of these younger players will be working through their most important years in the minor leagues before they make their debut. An injury or poor play could see their stock fall exponentially.

Plenty of the big name prospects for the Twins haven't made an appearance above the Single-A level. Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, and Alex Meyer are just a few of the players that will be trying to get to Double-A at some point in 2013.

When it comes to minor league players, the Twins tend to take a conservative approach to moving players from one level to the next. The team doesn't want to rush players before they find success at their current level. This can help their confidence for the future and it can hurt their development if they are rushed.

One player that could be a fast riser in the next couple of years is Eddie Rosario. He is considered a top 10 prospect in the organization but he has some attributes that could make it easier for him to rise to the top. Last season, the 20-year old spent the entire year in Beloit. This could be the year for him to jump multiple levels.

Rosario was a fourth round pick by the Twins back in 2010. He signed quickly and got into over 50 games that year with the GCL Twins. He showed the ability to hit for average and mix in some power. These were great signs from an 18-year old but the best was yet to come.

The 2011 season was amazing for Rosario. He had a stretch of baseball to finish the year that was eye-popping. As I wrote in the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook, "Rosario went on a hitting hot streak for the ages to help lead the E-Twins to the playoffs. During the team’s last 17 games, he hit 10 home runs to go along with four triples, a double, and an eye-popping .477 batting average."

His swing is very advanced for the level he is at in the minor leagues. Rosario's quick wrist allow him to power the ball to all fields and this could help him get to the top faster than his peers. For his career in the minor leagues, he is .310/.362/.538 hitter.

The only thing holding him back at this point might be the Twins decision to move him to second base. He was a fine defender in center field but the team has a surplus of other prospects at that position. It seems like the Twins always need middle infield help. If he can continue his strong offensive showing and play adequate defense, he could be well on his way to Target Field.

Another item helping Rosario in his development is his inclusion on Team Puerto Rico for the World Baseball Classic. He gets to spend the first few weeks of spring training in big league camp. This gives some of the coaches and front office personnel a closer look at him. His performance has been very good so it will be interesting to see how he does in the WBC.

For the coming year, Rosario will likely start the year in Fort Myers but this shouldn't be his only stopping point in 2013. Getting to New Britain should not be out of the question for Rosario and he could even go as far as Rochester.

Either way, Rosario should be knocking on the door to the big leagues by season's end...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Picking One Twins Player to Start a Franchise

When a club is in the rebuilding process like the Minnesota Twins, it can be tough to know which players need to stay and which players need to go. Fans are connected to a lot of the players that have been here for multiple seasons and it can be tough for the team to part ways with some fan favorites.

In the end, it is up to Terry Ryan to decided what is best for the future of the franchise. He had to make the tough decision to trade away Denard Span and Ben Revere this offseason. Those were tough calls to make but they were important moves for the future of the franchise.

Rebuilding can be frustrating for fans to watch. It isn't a fast process and it will most likely take multiple seasons for the team to get back to the top of the AL Central. When going through this rebuilding process, it is interesting to consider which players are critical to the future of the club.

This brings out an interesting question...

If you were the General Manager of a team and you had the opportunity to start a franchise, which player in the Twins organization would you pick to be your cornerstone player?

There choices from the big league roster all the way down to the rookie leagues so let's take a look at some of the candidates.

The Catcher: Joe Mauer could be in the midst of a Hall of Fame career. This would be a hard player to ignore when starting a franchise. His ability to play an important defensive position also helps his candidacy. There will continue to be questions about his lack of power and one has to wonder how long he will stay behind the plate. For now, Twins fans get to watch one of the sweetest swings in the game even if it doesn't result in a bunch of home runs.

The Top Prospect: He might still be at the Single-A level but Miguel Sano has already put together some impressive numbers in the minors. His power swing is the stuff of legend but there are some flaws with his game. On the defensive side of the ball, he is a little shaky at third base but his arm is great from that position. He's a couple years away from Target Field but he could be the cornerstone of the future.

The Number Two Pick: Byron Buxton might have been the best player in last year's draft and the Twins were happy to select him with the number two pick. He has all of the skills to be a five-tool player in the Twins outfield for a big chunk of the next decade. His speed is amazing and his power was better than the Twins thought in his first season. He's further away than Sano but he could be quite the player to build around.

The Flamethrower: The Twins didn't have a ton of arms with some upside until the team traded away their two center fielders. Alex Meyer can hit in the upper 90's with his fastball and he has the breaking pitches to make him scary for any batter. He is a rarity in the game of baseball and many teams go searching for someone with his pitching talent. There are still questions about him but he could be a future ace.

The Others: There are other candidates in the organization. Each one might have some flaws but they could be stars of the future for the franchise.
  • Kyle Gibson looks ready for the big leagues but does he have the stuff to be an ace?
  • Oswaldo Arcia has the swing to be in the middle of the Twins line-up for multiple years.
  • Aaron Hicks is supposed to have all of the tools and he should get an opportunity to prove himself this year.
  • J.O. Berrios has impressed the coaches in camp with his raw stuff but he has a long way to go to get to the top.
  • Eddie Rosario is trying to get comfortable in the middle infield while his bat continues to be very advanced for his age.
There are some of the top candidates from the Twins system. If you had to pick one player to start a franchise, who would it be? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What will Willingham do for an encore?

One of the biggest surprises in the 2012 season was the performance of Josh Willingham. The veteran outfielder signed a free agent deal with the club before the season and he went on to have the best offensive campaign of his career. He led the Twins in a variety of offensive categories including home runs, RBI, and slugging percentage.

After a season that stands out like Willingham's, there can be some questions about whether he will be able to replicate his fantastic numbers. The 34-year old will be entering his tenth year at the big league level. His age and track record at the big league level might leave fans wondering what he will be able to do for an encore.
Being able to stay on the field for an entire season has been a little bit of a challenge for Willingham in the past. Last year, he played in a career high 145 games. It was the first time he had played over 140 games since 2007, his second full year in the league.

In the four seasons from 2008-2011, Willingham averaged 121 games played. He only made it into 102 games in 2008 and 114 games in 2010. This means he was missing a fourth of the season on average due to injury or other causes. That can be scary to think about after how healthy he was able to stay in 2012.

One way the Twins could try to keep Willingham healthy is by having him spend more time at DH. He only played 25 games last year but look for that number to go up this season. Joe Mauer wants to spend more time behind the plate and Justin Morneau seems to be healthy. If those players aren't being used at DH, Willingham might get a few more opportunities to stay out of the outfield.

Keeping Willingham out of the outfield could also help the team's defense. Of course, that depends on who takes his place in the outfield. The thought of having Willingham and Chris Parmalee in the corner outfield spots had to be a nightmare for the starting staff. If a more athletic fielder like Joe Benson or Darin Mastroianni took left field, it could stabilize the defense.

While Willingham did set personal bests in a variety of offensive categories, his batting average of .260 was very close to his career mark. His on-base percentage was only a couple points higher than his career mark. This means that fans can expect him to be close to those numbers again.

After the Twins signed Willingham, it seemed like his swing was built for Target Field. That proved to be true as he hit 21 of his 35 home runs in Minneapolis. To get the ball out of Target Field, it is important to pull the ball. Willingham is the perfect example of a dead pull hitter with none of his home runs last season going to opposite field.
Willingham's contract with the club runs through the 2014 season for a very reasonable rate. The slugger will average $7 million over the next two years. If the Twins can get the same production level out of him over the life of the contract, it will be a steal. His health and some rising outfield prospects might mean a change in the next couple of years.

A trade involving Willingham could be possible in the next two years. It is hard to imagine the Twins pushing for a World Series title in 2013 or 2014. The club is in the middle of a rebuilding process and Willingham might not be part of the next winning team in Minnesota.

If the club gets the right deal for the slugger, he could be packing his bags. For now, Twins fans will have to wait to see what "The Hammer" can do for an encore. He clobbered a home run in his first spring training game so maybe it is a sign of some more good things to come in 2013.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Predicting the Opening Day Starting Rotation

There are more than a few question marks when it comes to the 2013 Twins starting rotation. Two potential starters are coming off of Tommy John surgery, two other players had bone chips removed in the offseason, and three players are trying to make the switch from the National League to the American League.

This could cause a lot of headaches when it comes time for the Twins to hammer out a projected Opening Day starting rotation. Some players might end up on the disabled list because they need extra time to get ready. Others might end up in the minor leagues to show they are ready for big league action.
Who gets the start on Opening Day? The most logical choice for Twins fans would be Scott Diamond. He is coming off a very good rookie campaign where he went 12-9 with a 3.54 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP. Diamond also had the lowest BB/9 rate in the American League.

Unfortunately, Diamond had surgery on his elbow in December and he might not be ready for the first week or two of the regular season. This leaves the door wide open for another starter to get the Opening Day gig against Justin Verlander and the Tigers.

Mike Pelfrey, a free agent acquisition by the club, has looked good as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. There can be some speed bumps on the road to recovery so there could be some hiccups throughout the rest of the spring. If he continues to look good, he might be the front-runner for the Opening Day job.

His competition for the first start of the year could be Vance Worley, one of the pitchers acquired from Philadelphia for Ben Revere. Like Diamond, Worley had some bone chips removed from his arm but his surgery was at the end of last season. This means he should be ready for Opening Day.

Which players will fit into the middle of the rotation? If Pelfrey and Worley are set to take the first two spots in the rotation, the middle of the rotation will present some interesting battles. There are a handful of men vying for these spots and a couple names should rise above the rest.

Kevin Correia was the only free agent starter to get a multi-year contract from the club this winter. His two-year, $10 million contract has been scrutinized by fans and the media. This deal should almost guarantee him a spot in the rotation to start the year.

The Twins have used Liam Hendriks for over 100 innings in the last two seasons. Since there are some openings in the rotation, it could be his first chance to play at the big league level for an entire season. He had great success at the Triple-A level last year and it's time to show he can find success at the next level.

Who gets Diamond's spot in the rotation? With the possibility of Diamond missing time to start the year, a spot could be available for someone to sneak in and grab it. There are a few options at the Twins disposal and it will be interesting to see which direction the club decides to go.

Kyle Gibson, a former first round pick, is coming off Tommy John surgery but he has looked very good in camp so far. From the team's point of view, they might want to keep him in the minor leagues to start the year so they can control over his contract for longer. This could mean he won't debut with the club until a few months into the season.

At the end of last season, the Twins used Sam Deduno for almost 80 innings. His 15 starts with the club were full of some ups-and-downs but it still might be enough for him to earn the fifth starter job. When Diamond is ready for the rotation, Deduno will likely end up back in Rochester.

There is still plenty of spring training left to hash out some of the battles for the starting rotation but here is what it could look like if today was Opening Day.
1. RHP Mike Pelfrey
2. RHP Vance Worley
3. RHP Kevin Correia
4. RHP Liam Hendriks
5. RHP Sam Deduno

That's a whole lot of right-handed pitching action...

Friday, February 22, 2013

Twins Headlines Turned Into Oscar Movies: 2013 Edition

Over the last two years, one of the most popular posts at NoDak Twins fan has been an annual occurrence at this time of year. I love the Oscars and I love Twins baseball so this is my attempt to combine both of these things.

In these posts, I take the plot from all of the nominees in the Best Picture category and I connect them to a Twins story line. The first time I did this back in 2011 there were some funny results since the team was coming off a positive year in 2010. The 2012 version wasn't as light hearted since the team had been terrible the previous year.

Here are this year's nominees. Lights, camera, action...

Amour
Plot Summary: Georges and Anne are in their eighties. They are cultivated retired music teachers. Their daughter, who is also a musician, lives abroad with her family. One day, Anne has an attack. The couple's bond of love is severely tested.

Twins Plot: Most of Minnesota has latched onto the Twins since their first championship in the 80's. The team has been under attack the last few years and this has resulted in poor play on the field. The bond of love between fans and the team will be severely tested.

Argo
Plot Summary: A dramatization of the 1980 joint CIA-Canadian secret operation to extract six fugitive American diplomatic personnel out of revolutionary Iran.

Twins Plot: Six men are fighting for a role in the Twins starting rotation. It is a joint effort between Americans, Canadians, and even an Australian. There is a young revolution of pitchers on the way but that might not be happening in 2013.

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Plot Summary: Faced with both her hot-tempered father's fading health and melting ice-caps that flood her ramshackle bayou community and unleash ancient aurochs, six-year-old Hushpuppy must learn the ways of courage and love.

Twins Plot: Faced with the challenge of former health problems and the chance to enter free agency after the season, a Canadian first baseman must prove that he can regain his MVP former to get back to the top.

Django Unchained
Plot Summary: With the help of a German bounty hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.

Twins Plot: A Mississippi infielder must prove he can handle a new position after a brutal first year in the major leagues. He must hunt for a more consistent swing to stick with the big league club.

Les Miserables
Plot Summary: In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole, agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's daughter, Cosette. The fateful decision changes their lives forever.

Twins Plot: In 21st-century Minnesota, Terry Ryan, who had taken a few years off from being General Manager, agrees to return to his former position to try and rebuild a crippled franchise. The fateful decisions he makes will change the franchise forever.

Life of Pi
Plot Summary: A young man who survives a disaster at sea is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery. While cast away, he forms an unexpected connection with another survivor; a fearsome Bengal tiger.

Twins Plot: A young man was close to making some life changing decisions before he is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery across the country. He is cast away to the Twins and fans will start to connect with the man known as "Vanimal."

Lincoln
Plot Summary: As the Civil War continues to rage, America's president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield and as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.

Twins Plot: As a war wages over his future with the club, Minnesota's manager struggles with continuing carnage on the field and as he fights to put together a new coaching staff while trying to emancipate the team from their losing ways.

Silver Linings Playbook
Plot Summary: After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.

Twins Plot: After a stint recovering from Tommy John surgery, former first round pick Kyle Gibson moves back in with the big league squad and tries to reconcile his career. Things get more challenging when Kyle meets Mike, another pitcher with Tommy John problems of his own.

Zero Dark Thirty
Plot Summary: A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 in May 2011.

Twins Plot: A chronicle of the decade-long debate over how much time Joe Mauer should spend behind the plate. The number one pick from 2001 is trying to prove he can get back behind the plate to be the player he was before 2011.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Berrios, Gibson already impressing

The Twins are in the lull time of spring training after players have reported and before the start of games. There are plenty of players making adjustments to being in a new organization. Other players are sliding into the daily routines that help them prepare for the coming season.

It is hard to get a lot of information about players at this stage in the spring training process. This still doesn't mean that there aren't some positive signs coming out of Fort Myers.

Two pitchers have already made a strong impression in the first week of workouts. JO Berrios and Kyle Gibson were both high draft picks by the Twins but they are on opposite ends of the organization's minor league system. Gibson will be fighting for a big league job and Berrios will be in the lower levels of the minors.

For Gibson, this isn't his first time being in camp with the big league club. It is, however, his first time in camp since he has recovered from Tommy John surgery. The coaches might remember the Gibson from before he went under the knife and now they have to familiarize themselves with Gibson version 2.0.

In his first opportunity to face live hitters since the end of the Arizona Fall League, Gibson got plenty of swings and misses. He wasn't exactly squaring off with the heart of Minnesota's order. Joe Benson, Brian Dinkelman, and Eric Fryer stepped in against him and there were some good sliders thrown at them.

Gibson would tell reporters after the session that his changeup is "pretty much where I want it." His fastball has been good in the bullpen but he missed some spots during his live throwing sessions. It will be critical for Gibson to hit his spots with his fastball so this is one area for him to improve in the coming weeks.

Since the Twins only drafted Berrios in June, this is his first real opportunity to be in camp with the club. He didn't have a formal invite to big league camp but he is preparing to play in the World Baseball Classic for Puerto Rico. This gives many of the coaches a first chance to see the 18-year old.

His breaking balls were sharp and he had good control of his other pitches. During his throwing session, Twins coach Scott Ullger asked, "And this kid is 18-years old?" I thought this quote from La Velle E. Neal summed up the situation quite nicely. "The guy looks like a clubhouse attendant when he walks around. But he has grown man stuff"

It will be interesting to see how far Berrios will be able to rise this season. He did very well in both rookie league last year so he should get the opportunity to start in Cedar Rapids. If things go well there, he could find himself in Fort Myers by the end of the year. There is no reason to rush him since he is so young.

Gibson will be another story. There isn't a whole lot left for him to prove in the minor leagues and he will be 25-years old for this entire season. He might end up in the minors to start the year but fans are anxious to see what he can do with the big league club.

The future looks bright for both of these players even if they are at opposite ends of the Twins minor league system.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Training Days: Episode 1

The Twins are putting together a pretty neat video series for their time in spring training. The first episode was released today and it is really well put together.

There are sweeping shots of Hammond Stadium and it gives fans a behind the scenes look at what life is like for the players as the arrive for spring training.

Check it out below and look for other episodes in the future.

Should there be a Morneau contract controversy?

When Twins position players reported to camp at the end of last week, Justin Morneau was one of the first people that the media hunted down. There was good reason to do this since he is in the last year of his contract with the club and his future is unclear at this point.

According to Morneau, there haven't been any discussions about an extension between his agent and the club. This means that he is anticipating playing out the rest of his contract and testing the free agent market at season's end.

As part of Morneau's interview, he talked about the Twins having plenty of prospects working their way to the major leagues. This is great for the club but it isn't so great for a 31-year old former MVP. After ten years in the big leagues and some recent injury concerns, the future is not certain at this point.

Any player that is getting closer to the end of their career is going to want to find a way to win. Morneau and his agent are probably looking at the Twins current rebuilding job and wondering if the Canadian slugger is part of the equation. There could be younger, cheaper options to take his spot on the roster.

During last offseason, the Twins saw Joe Nathan leave in free agency to head to Texas. The opportunity to be on a contending team was too much for Nathan to ignore. If the same situation plays out this coming offseason, it could mean that Morneau will find himself in a different uniform by next year.

With one year left on his deal and free agency loom, there is plenty of uncertainty for 2013. Will the Twins trade Morneau before the deadline? Is he fully healthy after a slough of injuries in the last handful of years? And should there be a Morneau contract controversy?

A couple of seasons ago, the Twins had another former MVP getting close to free agency. The team needed to hash out a new contract with Joe Mauer before the start of the year. He had just come off his best season where he put together a historically good offensive campaign for a catcher. It seemed like the time was right for a deal.

The Twins front office hasn't been in a position to offer Morneau a contract because his health has been so much of a concern. It would have looked silly to extend a deal when the team wasn't sure if he would be able to play first base or get back to his old ways at the plate.

Morneau proved his ability to stay healthy last season. This offseason he was able to complete his full workout routine for the first time in years. These are all good signs but it still doesn't mean that the Twins are going to be jumping to sign him to a long-term extension.

A motivated and healthy Morneau could be fun to watch. He is working towards an important contract in his career and that could mean some big numbers on the field. If he wants teams to spend some money on him next offseason, it will be crucial for him to show he can get back to his old mashing ways.

It was made clear by Morneau that he won't discuss a new contract once the season starts because he doesn't want the deal to be a distraction. He seems content to play out the next few months and see what the future will bring.

Morneau has done some great things for the Twin Cities community while he has been a member of the Twins. Those charitable works might be heading to a different market at some point this year. This could leave Twins fans with only a few more opportunities to see Morneau cracking home runs out near the flagpole.

Enjoy the last few months of Morneau because there doesn't seem to be a contract controversy brewing anytime soon...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Minor League Players to Watch: Position Players

The Twins have a few full squad workouts under their belt and the team's first spring training game will be this weekend. Spring has sprung in Fort Myers even if the 40-degree weather this weekend didn't agree. Baseball season is back and there are plenty of things to be excited about for the Twins.

Last week, I looked at some of the story lines for pitchers and catchers since they were the first to report. Later in the week, I dissected some of the headlines for position players as they got ready for their first practice. These stories are important for the 2013 roster but there are some other stories worth watching in the minor league system for the Twins.

When it came to pitchers and catchers, there were a few names to keep an eye on in the minor leagues. The Twins have a couple of young catchers working their way up the ladder and they could both play important roles for the future of the club. There are also some pitchers that could be looking to have even more of a breakout year.

Here are some position players to watch in the minor leagues in 2013. These might not be the biggest names in the farm system but they are players that could surprise during the coming season.

Infielders: The Twins are trying to patch together a middle infield for this season after some dreadful play at those spots. High-ranking prospect Eddie Rosario has switched from the outfield to the infield in an attempt for the organization to get more depth at these spots. Miguel Sano will certainly be a name to watch for the future but here are a couple other candidates.

Danny Santana: He is already on the 40-man roster and he put together a very productive year at Fort Myers last season. As a 22-year old, he should be given a starting middle infield job at the Double-A level. This would mean that he is getting closer to making his big league debut.

Santana, a switch-hitter, does better from the left side of the plate, which is good since that is where he will get the majority of his at-bats. He hit nearly .300 versus right-handed pitchers last season. There is a little pop in his bat as he hit 38 extra-base hits last season including 21 doubles.

His fielding has made small improvements since he was a 17-year old shortstop in the Dominican Summer League. He had 13 errors in 35 games at that position in 2008. Last year, Santana had 18 errors over 85 games at shortstop so there is still work to be done on the defensive side of the ball.

Levi Michael: Usually, a first round pick wouldn't be too much of a surprise on a list like this but Michael is coming off a rough season. The Twins first pick in the 2011 draft was suppose to be a fast riser after his college experience at the University of North Carolina. He struggled in his first full season of professional ball.

Most of his offensive struggles came against right-handed pitchers. He only hit .212/.306/.271 over 288 at-bats versus righties. After posting a .216 batting average before the All-Star Game, he hit .272 down the stretch. He was able to make some adjustments and it showed on the field.

On the defensive side of the ball, Baseball America ranks him as the best defensive infielder in the Twins farm system. He split time between shortstop and second base last year and his path to the big leagues might come from his strong defense. Michael and Santana could form the middle infield duo for the Rock Cats.

Outfielders: There are plenty of eyes on the battle for center field in big league camp. Can Joe Benson or Aaron Hicks beat out the competition and win the Opening Day gig? There is another other name in the organization to watch this year.

Daniel Ortiz: As a 22-year old Oritz played at two different levels last season. Most of his playing time came with the Fort Myers Miracle but he did play a little with the Beloit Snappers. The former fourth round pick has been slowly working his way through the Twins system and he has made some improvements along the way.

After struggling to make constant contact in 2011 at Beloit, the Twins sent him back there to start last season. He gained some confidence and hit close to .300 in his 22 games with that club. When he was promoted to Fort Myers, his average dropped a little to .269 but he showed some power with 37 extra-base hits.

Ortiz can be used at all three outfield positions but most of his games in the minor leagues have been at a corner outfield spot. The Twins have plenty of other center fielders ahead of him so he will likely settle into a corner spot as he moves up the ladder.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Twins All-President Players List

Happy President's Day!

Getting past this day means that the start of the baseball season is one step closer. Fans could start purchasing Twins single game tickets over the weekend. This is always a fun day for people across Twins Territory to pick out the games they want to attend and where they want to sit.

Since today is a day set up to honor some of the greatest leaders in our countries history, I only thought it fitting to write a post that fit with that theme.

Here is a look at the best players with presidential names to play with the Twins organization. There are a couple fan favorites and some other lesser-known players but it is a fun list to explore.

1. Lew Ford CF, OF: Any Twins list with Lew Ford at the top is pretty cool. The scrappy outfielder had some very good years with the Twins. Fans would echo his name off the Teflon roof of the Metrodome. His comeback story with Baltimore last season was great to see. WAR 7.3

2. Mudcat Grant, RHP: He played for seven different organizations in his 14 year professional career but some of his best years were in a Twins uniform. He won 21 games for the 1965 Twins team that went to the World Series. He also picked up the win in two of those World Series games against the Dodgers. 5.0 WAR

3. Tom Johnson, RHP: Johnson only started one game during his five-year career with the Twins but he was able to have a couple of good seasons. In 1977, he won 16 games and had a 3.31 ERA out of the bullpen. His 1976 season was also good as he had a 1.08 WHIP and a 2.61 ERA. 2.8 WAR

4. Ron Washington SS, 2B: The current manager of the Rangers played the bulk of his career in a Twins uniform. He only played over 100 games in one season and his best year was probably the 1984 campaign. He hit almost .300 that season with 19 extra-base hits over 88 games. WAR 0.9

5(t). Mike Adams OF: He only played 58 games for the Twins and he had a .222 career batting average with the club. Adams played 55 games with the 1973 Twins, the most games he every played in one season. He did hit 21 homers in his last Triple-A season for the Twins. 0.2 WAR

5(t). Brian Buchanan OF: Buchanan didn't break into the big leagues until age 26. In 2001, he hit 10 home runs and 12 doubles while posting a .274 batting average. He was part of two important trades in club history. He came to the Twins along with Eric Milton and Cristian Guzman for Chuck Knoblach. Later he would be dealt for Jason Bartlett. 0.2 WAR

6(t). Otis Nixon OF: His lone season in a Twins uniform wasn't too bad. He hit for a high average but basically no power. Nixon was also third in stolen base percentage in 1998. 0.1 WAR

6(t). Randy Bush OF: Bush would be a staple in a Twins uniform from 1982-1993. He would be part of both championship teams with the club. He had three stolen bases and a triple during the 1987 ALCS. 0.1 WAR

7. Tack Wilson OF: It was a brief big league career for Mr. Wilson. He only made four plate appearances with the Twins and he had one hit to his name.  0.0 WAR

8. Roric Harrison RHP: His five-year big league career would come to an end in Minnesota. He threw 12 innings with the club and gave up 10 earned runs and 11 walks. -0.2 WAR

9. Mike Lincoln RHP: The Twins took Lincoln in the 13th round of the 1996 MLB Draft. He would break into the big leagues three years later and pitch a couple of seasons with the club. He fared much better when he switched to the NL later in his career. -0.6 WAR

10. Glen Adams DH: Someone had to be at the bottom of this list and it just happened to be Mr. Glen Adams. He played five years for Minnesota and he hit over .280 with the club. Most of his poor WAR comes from not being very good on the defensive side of the ball. WAR -1.7

Friday, February 15, 2013

Twins Spring Story Lines: Position Players

It's official.

Twins position players are required to report to Fort Myers today. The team's first official workout will be held tomorrow morning. Quite a few of the players have already reported for duty and have been taking part in informal workouts.

The road to the Opening Day 2013 officially starts and it's time to get the bad taste out of their mouths from the last two seasons. This could be quite the challenge with the roster that has been compiled by the front office and the AL Central is looking a little tougher these days.

Earlier in the week, I profiled some of the story lines to follow with pitchers and catcher reporting. There are also some intriguing stories when it comes to the other players on the roster. Here are some of the top headlines that fans will be following as the team prepares for 2013.

Who will win the starting job in center field?
With Denard Span and Ben Revere shipped out of town, there will be some change over in the middle of the Twins defense and at the top of the batting order. Span and Revere have spent the majority of the last two years in those spots and these will be some tough shoes to fill in the hearts of Twins fans.

Three men will be battling to win the starting job. Joe Benson, Aaron Hicks, and Darin Mastroanni will attempt to prove they belong as the replacement for Span and Revere. All of these men took different paths to get to this point and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.

Benson and Hicks might have to prove themselves at Triple-A before getting the starting job. Hicks is a top prospect that fans have been waiting to see. Like Hicks, Benson was considered a top prospect before injuries derailed his 2012 season. Mastroanni could have the upper hand at this point while the other two get a chance to prove they belong.

Which Trevor Plouffe will show up?
Fans got excited last season when Trevor Plouffe looked like Babe Ruth for a couple weeks in the middle of the season. He went on quite the tear at the plate and his defense even looked okay in the field. This allowed the Twins to part ways with struggling third baseman Danny Valencia.

The end of last season wasn't the greatest as Plouffe struggled through a hand injury. This might have been one of the biggest causes for his drop in power. With the full offseason to recover, the Twins hope Plouffe is ready to take the next step and prove he can be the third baseman for the future.

Plouffe has been down in Florida early and this could be to his advantage. There was talk for most of the offseason about bringing in someone to challenge Plouffe at third. It doesn't look like there will be much of a challenge for him to win the starting spot but the Twins could use other infielders at third if necessary.

Who wants to play middle infield?
On Opening Day, the Twins are going to have two players penciled in to the middle infield but some things need to get sorted out by that point. The team used multiple players at shortstop and second base last season to try and find someone that could stick. Unfortunately, there were plenty of unmemorable performances but a new season brings new optimism.

Brian Dozier and Pedro Florimon got long looks at shortstop last year and it sounds like Florimon has the inside track to win that position. His slick glove was fun to watch in the field at the end of the year. Compared to how good his glove looked, his approach at the plate was on the opposite end of the spectrum. That being said, he should still have enough to start the year at shortstop.

This leaves Dozier, Jamey Carroll, and Eduardo Escobar to fight it out for second base. It could be intriguing to see if Dozier can find success at a different middle infield position. Carroll would make a good utility man since he can play all over the infield.

Can Chris Parmelee adjust to being an everyday player?
There have been flashes of greatness from Parmelee over the last two seasons. In 2011, he was a September call-up and he looked great in the last month of the season. This was a great sign for a player that was trying to find a permanent position with the big league squad.

He broke camp with the team in 2012 and things were continuing to look up for Parmelee. The team wasn't getting him into the line-up and he was sent back to Triple-A so he could play everyday. Over the next couple months, he would destroy the ball in the minor leagues. The Twins had to find a spot for him.

Parmelee will get most of his playing time in right field this year and there shouldn't be too many players challenging him for that spot. If the Twins trade Justin Morneau before the deadline, he could be moved to first base. For now, he will have to show that his flashes of greatness over the last two seasons can translate to consistent performance at the big league level.

Will Justin Morneau be able to continue his success from the end of last season?
After back-to-back season of struggling with concussions and other injuries, Morneau is having a normal offseason where he can get through his entire routine. This is great news after the team wasn't sure if Morneau was even going to be able to play in the field last year.

In the second half of last season, Morneau looked to be getting back to his old ways. He was hitting for power and his batting average was actually higher than his career mark. These were steps in the right direction after a couple of nightmare years for Mr. Morneau. Fans hope that his performance can continue over from the end of last year.

It will be an interesting year for Morneau as he is in the last year of his contract. If he performs well at the beginning of the year, he could increase his trade value at the deadline. Morneau has been a cornerstone of the franchise since the early 2000s but his time could be running out in Minnesota.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Starting rotation has plenty of question marks

It could be another long season for Twins fans after watching back-to-back seasons of poor starting pitching be the cause of the team's woes. The men brought in to be part of the mix for this year's team aren't exactly the cream of the crop. This could lead to even more headaches in 2013.

There are question marks surrounding more than one member of the proposed starting staff. For Twins fans, this can be a scary proposition. The club had to use a wide variety of pitchers to make it through last season. Fans might not be able to handle the likes of Sam Deduno and Nick Blackburn being relied on for extended periods of time.

Below you will see a brief look at some of the men fighting for a rotation spot and the reasons there are question marks surrounding health and other issues with this crew.
Scott Diamond
Last year's jewel of the Twins rotation will have to try and avoid a sophomore slump. This will come by putting together consistent numbers throughout the season. It's tough to think of him as a number one starter but he might be the best thing the Twins have going in their starting core.

Question Mark: While lifting weights in December, Diamond heard a cracking sound in his throwing elbow. It turned out to be bone chips so it wasn't something major. There are still questions about if he will be ready to be the Opening Day starter against Justin Verlander and the Tigers.

Kevin Correia
If Diamond isn't ready to go, Correia could get the Opening Day nod. He has been healthy for most of his career which is a skill not many starters have been able to say for the Twins. The team needs someone that can stick in the rotation and eat up some innings.

Question Mark: Was he really worth a two-year deal and $10 million? His health might not be an issue but his performance over the course of the contract will be debated across Twins Territory. There were some struggles for him in the National League so the switch to the American League could be a tough adjustment.

Mike Pelfrey
There were questions about whether or not Pelfrey would be able to go at the start of spring training. He put those to rest at TwinsFest by letting the media know that he would be able to be a full participant from the first day of spring training. This is a good step and the team will have to judge what he looks like from that point.

Question Mark: Since Pelfrey is coming off Tommy John surgery, there are questions about how many innings he will be able to pitch. There are also concerns about whether those innings will be effective. All of his big league experience was with the Mets so he will also be making the NL to AL jump.

Vance Worley
Worley, one of the pieces of the Ben Revere trade, is young and he has something to prove with his new team. He is switching from a hitter's park in Philadelphia to a little more pitcher friendly field in Minnesota. This could help his numbers and help him stick in the rotation for the long-term.

Question Mark: At the end of last season, Worley had to have a bone spur removed from his elbow. He pitched through the injury at the end of the year and this could have impacted his performance. The Twins obviously didn't think it was a concern since they traded from him after he went under the knife.

Kyle Gibson
The former first round pick is ready to prove he belongs at the big league level. He could start the year as a relief pitcher but his future lies in the starting rotation. Minnesota hopes he can be in the rotation for most of the next decade but only time will tell if he is up to that challenge.

Question Mark: Like Pelfrey, he is trying to come back from Tommy John surgery. This leaves plenty of question marks around what the Twins will do with him. He could start the year as a starter in Minnesota or Rochester but the team might have him begin in the bullpen.

Liam Hendriks
Hendriks finally got his first big league win last season. It took parts of two seasons and some up and down moments. If one of the above-mentioned names isn't ready to start, Hendriks could be asked to break camp as a member of the rotation for the second year in a row.

Question Mark: He hasn't been able to reproduce his great Triple-A numbers at the big league level. Hendriks is still young and there is time for him to figure it all out. The Twins would just like him to prove that he belongs in the rotation for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Minor League Players to Watch: Pitchers and Catchers

Pitchers and catchers will hold their first workout on Wednesday morning and that can be exciting for multiple reasons. There is hope at the beginning of any baseball year that your club will be able to put it all together and come through a long season with a World Series Championship at the other end.

Yesterday I wrote about some of the major story lines that fans can follow during the course of spring training with the pitchers and catchers. There is at least one spot open in the rotation and a couple of question marks in the bullpen to be sorted out in the coming weeks.

There will be some prospects in the big league camp that could play an important role in the coming year. If you want information on all of the prospects in the Twins minor league system, make sure to order a copy of the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook.

There are plenty of other minor leaguers out there and this is just a taste of some of the young men working through the system. For now, here are a few pitchers and catchers that could be getting closer to playing a role with the club in 2013.


Catchers:  With Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit, and Drew Butera scheduled to take up most of the playing time on the big league roster at this position, there won't likely be room for younger players. There are still a couple of promising catching prospects that will be one step closer to the big leagues.

Chris Herrmann: Twins fans got a brief taste of Herrmann at the end of last season when he got a September call-up. His performance wasn't memorable but it is hard to be remembered over seven games and 19 plate appearances.

After racking up 97 games at Double-A in 2011, the Twins sent him back to New Britain and his 2012 season was one of his best as a professional. His ability to play catcher and outfield is an asset that could be very valuable in the future. He will start the year at Rochester but an injury to one of the big league catchers could mean a return trip to Minnesota.

Josmil Pinto: The 23-year old has slowly been working his way through the Twins system. Last season, he spent most of the year at Fort Myers before getting a taste of New Britain at the end of the year. A second season in the Eastern League is likely for Pinto and a strong start to the year could see him being bumped up to Rochester.

His 2012 season was his best as he hit .295/.362/.482 with 14 home runs and 26 doubles. He combined a high batting average with a good amount of power. On the defensive side of the ball, there are a few holes in his game. Pinto has a couple of levels to work out the kinks before he can make his Twins debut.

Pitchers:  All eyes will be on recent acquisitions Alex Meyer and Trevor May since there is plenty of hype following these two powerful arms. Kyle Gibson will be making his long awaited debut this year after spending most of last year recovering from Tommy John surgery. There could be at least one open spot in the starting rotation and others in the bullpen.

BJ Hermsen: The team honored Hermsen with their minor league pitcher of the year award and he will look to have a repeat performance this year. He threw almost 140 innings at the Double-A level last year so it will be interesting to see if he gets the bump up to Triple-A.

There is probably a slim chance that Hermsen makes the Opening Day roster. There are plenty of other players in camp that have big league experience so those arms will likely get first crack at the rotation. He could still spend time in upper levels of the minor leagues and he is already on the 40-man roster so that helps his cause.

Caleb Thielbar: It has been quite the story for Thielbar as he bounced around the Brewers organization before playing for the St. Paul Saints. The Twins signed him for a few brief appearances in 2011 and this led to wild ride in the 2012 season. He played at three different levels from High-A to Triple-A.

His time at Rochester wasn't outstanding but he made it one step closer to the big leagues. The Twins sent him to the Arizona Fall League this offseason. In what most experts consider a hitters league, he struggled in the AFL over a small sample size of 13 innings. Hopefully, this experience will serve him well in the future.

Michael Tonkin: It looks like Tonkin could end up being a very good relief arm at the back end of the bullpen. He put together a very good 2012 season and he seemed to get better throughout the year. He averaged 12.2 SO/9 with Beloit but he increased that number to 13.1 with the Miracle.

Like Thielbar, Tonkin got to face some of the best prospects in the game during the AFL. He fared a little better by not giving up an earned run in his first eight appearances. In the last couple of outings, he surrendered a couple home runs and four earned runs. It was still a very good AFL season as he never gave up more than one hit in an appearance.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Twins Spring Story Lines: Pitchers and Catchers

It might have seemed like it would never come (especially with the recent snow storm that hit a chunk of Twins Territory) but Twins pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers today. The first workout is tomorrow morning and there are plenty of questions to be answered before the start of the year.

For the rest of the position players, the reporting date is on Friday with the first full squad workout taking place on Saturday. It sure doesn't feel like it is close to the start of baseball season but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

On Friday, I will go over five story lines to watch for the players that will report on that day. For now, here is a look at some of the top stories to follow as pitchers and catchers begin their trek to Opening Day.

Who will make the starting staff?

At the beginning of the offseason, it was clear that Scott Diamond was the lone player that looked to be a lock for one of the five starting spots. There have been plenty of moves since that point to bring in a variety of arms with big league experience.

Vance Worley was added to the club from Philadelphia in the Ben Revere trade. He will slide into the rotation behind Diamond. Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey were added on free agent deals and they are both expected to be in the starting rotation for a bulk of the year.

This leaves the fifth spot open for a few different arms. Former first round pick Kyle Gibson is coming off Tommy John surgery and he could have the upper hand at winning the spot. Other options of players on the 40-man roster are Liam Hendriks and Cole De Vries.

How much will Joe Mauer catch?

Word out of TwinsFest was that Joe Mauer wants to spend more time at catcher in 2013. This comes a year after Mauer played a career high 147 games but only 74 of those games were behind the plate. From 2005-2010, Mauer caught over 110 games and getting back to that mark could be a goal for him this year.

Mauer will also have to be ready earlier in spring training to catch a full game since he will be one of Team USA's catchers in the World Baseball Classic. It will be interesting to see how USA Manager Joe Torre uses Mauer and if the Twins will try to control how many innings he logs.

As I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, the right formula for Mauer could be finding the best time for him to catch. Manager Ron Gardenhire and Mauer seem to have a good relationship when it comes to his playing time. They will try and work out a plan that will be best for Mauer and the Twins.

What will the role be of Kyle Gibson?

As mentioned before, the Twins are going to need someone to fit into that fifth spot in the rotation. The hope is that Gibson can be part of the rotation for the foreseeable future. That being said, the team isn't sure of where he will begin the season.

If the team wants him to start games from the beginning of the year, the best spot for him might be in the rotation of the Rochester Red Wings. This way the club can have an easier time controlling his innings while not put strain on the big league bullpen. It might also be nice to get some starts under his belt before making his debut.

The club has also talked about using him in a relief role to start the year. This will keep his innings lower at the beginning of the year so he is available for the majority of the season. He will likely have an innings limit for 2013 so the organization has to be careful with how he is used.

How can Scott Diamond avoid the sophomore slump?

Diamond is looking to improve upon what was a good rookie campaign in which he led Twins starters in almost every statistical category. His hot first half start was tough to duplicate in the second half. He posted a 2.62 ERA in the first half with a 1.18 WHIP. Those numbers jumped to a 4.31 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP.

The Twins hope they can see more of the Diamond from before the break when he was one of the best pitchers in the American League. Other teams and hitters might be coming more familiar with Diamond so it will be even more important for him to locate his pitches in his second full season.

With other experienced pitchers around Diamond, there might not be as much pressure on the 26-year old Canadian. He has a chance to be the Opening Day starter versus Justin Verlander and the Tigers. From there, it is about making his pitches and hoping the defense holds up behind him.

Can Glen Perkins and Jared Burton continue to find success?

One of the biggest strengths for the Twins last season was the bullpen. There were strong performances from multiple members of the relief core but two men stood out above the crowd. Glen Perkins and Jared Burton are two of the key pieces that will look to find continued success in 2013.

Perkins will officially enter the season as the team's closer for the first time. He has put together back-to-back strong seasons after he found his place as a relief pitcher. His velocity has increased and he has become a major threat in the late innings of games.

Burton had a marvelous season after struggling to find his place in Cincinnati. He was one of the best set-up men in the game last year so the Twins signed him to a multi-year contract. It helps that he is right-handed and Perkins is left-handed so there are two different options for the club.

Their continued success could go a long way in helping this club get back to .500 this year.

Monday, February 11, 2013

5 Questions with MLB Fan Cave Nominee Michael McGivern

For the second year in a row, Twins fans can help to send a local representative to New York City for MLB's Fan Cave. Michael McGivern, a resident of St. Paul, is one of 52 finalist for this year's version of the Fan Cave. He needs help from everyone in Twins Territory by voting for him as much as possible. Fans can vote at MLB.com and you can see his video on the site.

The MLB Fan Cave started in 2011 as two "cave dwellers" were selected to live in NYC for the entire season. As part of their position's in the Cave, they would be charged with watching every MLB game live, interviewing players that stopped to visit, and interacting with fans across a wide variety of social media.

Last season, Lindsey Guentzel was one of the nine finalist that was elected to the Fan Cave. It was nice for Minnesota fans to have a local connection in last year's Fan Cave. The hope for McGivern is that he can continue the tradition of the Twins being represented in NYC.

I recently had a chance to ask McGivern a few different Twins related questions. After reading through some of his great responses, make sure to vote for him as much is possible.

NoDak Twins Fan (NDTF): What's your earliest memory of the Twins?

McGivern (MM): My earliest memory of the Twins is probably just being in the car with my Dad listening to games. I don't know what was going on, but Herb Carneal had a way to keep you engaged. The first game I could remember going to was the day the Twins retired Kent Hrbek's number and the guy next to us had a sign that read "HRBEK! HOF!"

NDTF: If you could go back and be at any Twins game in history, what game would it be? Why?

MM: Game 7 of '91. I think game 163 against the Tigers was the most nerve-wracking three-and-a-half hours of my life, but wouldn't the Jack Morris game be 10-fold?

NDTF: What are your predictions for the Twins 2013 season?

MM: I think they are improved. If Willingham and the pitchers can stay healthy, they'll be closer to .500  than they will 90 losses. I wonder what the lineup will look like on August 1st?

NDTF: With some recent moves, the Twins farm system has become ranked as one of the best in baseball. Which prospects are you most excited to see over the next couple of years?

MM: Miguel Sano, Aaron Hicks, and Byron Buxton are going to get the most attention, and rightfully so, but I'm interested most in Alex Meyer because he wasn't a homegrown player who I could keep an eye on since he got drafted; we need high-upside arms' and the Twins have bee in a rut particularly because player we have received in big trades over the last several years have fizzled. Is Oswaldo Arcia in that aforementioned lineup Aug. 1?

NDTF: Which MLB player would you be most excited to meet if you are elected to the MLB Fan Cave?

MM: Other than a Twin I'd go with Mike Trout. Such an electrifying young player who has the potential to be his generation's Griffey or Mantle. There are a myriad of others, but he is at the top of my list.

Thanks again to Michael McGivern for the interview and fans across Twins Territory should get out and vote for him to make it to the MLB Fan Cave!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Worst Twins of All-Time Series: Ron Davis

Over the last couple of weeks, I have looked back at some of the worst players to ever suit up in a Twins uniform. There have been some poor players to wear these colors and it can be fun to look back on their careers. Some of these men went on to have successful careers in baseball or even outside of the baseball world.

Here is a rundown of all of the players that have been covered so far in the "Worst Twins of All-Time Series" with links back to the original articles:
Today's addition to the "Worst Twins of All-Time Series" had been an All-Star the year before the Twins traded for him. His trade helped to bring a critical piece to Minnesota for their title runs but he ran into some rough patches along the way.

Mr. Ron Davis, welcome to the "Worst Twins of All-Time Series."
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Davis was originally drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the third round of the 1976 amateur draft. His professional career would start at the Low-A level where he had some rocky seasons. He would start 17 games in his first season and throw 12 complete games. After he got a couple of minor league seasons under his belt, he was sent to the Yankee organization where he would start to make his mark.

The Yankees saw the future for Davis as being a relief pitcher. He would never start a game in their organization and he would become one of the best set-up men. When Rich "Goose" Gossage got hurt, the Yankees had to turn to Davis as their closer. He won 14 games out of the bullpen in 1979 and he finished fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting.

Over the next three seasons, the duo of Gossage and Davis would be formidable in late inning situations. Davis was one of the first pitchers to be used exclusively as a set-up man leading up to the closer. During this stretch, Davis averaged almost 100 innings a season with a 2.86 ERA. He was 25-years old and he looked to have a bright future in front of him.

On April 10, 1982, the Twins and the Yankees would work out a deal that would bring Davis to Minnesota. The Twins sent shortstop Roy Smalley to New York in exchange for Davis, Greg Gagne, and Paul Boris. For the Twins, Boris would only get a taste of the big leagues. Gagne would become a vital part of the team's two championships.

The Twins would shift Davis from set-up man to closer and this switch came with some disastrous results. In his first season with the club, he pitched over 100 innings with 22 saves. Unfortunately, he had a 4.43 ERA and he had five blown saves. He was often asked to pitch more than one inning but it was still rough going after the numbers he put up in New York.

Davis would improve for the 1983 season by lowering his ERA to 3.34 and the team cut back on some of his workload. He wasn't asked to pitch as many multiple inning situations and he only blew two saves. This was a step in the right direction but it was still far from great.

The 1984 season would be a record breaking season for Davis and not in a good way. He would tie the record for most blown saves in a single season with 14. No closer since that year has blown that many saves in a single campaign. He would end that year with a 4.55 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP. Ouch!

Minnesota continued to use Davis as the closer but this didn't last forever. Some terrible outings in 1986 forced the team to take away his closer duties. There were wild pitches, walks, home runs, and too many headaches for the coaches to handle. He would be sent to the Cubs in a mid-season deal to end his Twins tenure.

For his Twins career, Davis finished with a 19-40 record and a 4.51 ERA. He racked up 108 saves, which ranks fourth in club history. Davis would finish in the top five for saves in the AL in three of his five seasons with the team. Over 381.1 innings, Twins fans suffered through a 1.49 WHIP and plenty of blown saves. He tallied a -0.2 WAR in his five years with the club including a -2.1 WAR in 1986.

Davis wouldn't record another save after he left the Twins organization. He would make appearances with the Cubs, Dodgers, and Giants with his last big league appearance coming in 1988. The Giants and Yankees would keep him at Triple-A in '89-'90 but he never made it back to the top.

The son of Davis, Ike, has emerged as a regular with the New York Mets. He was selected in the first round of the 2008 draft and it only took him a couple of years to make it to the big leagues. Last season, he clobbered 32 home runs but he only hit .227/.308/.462 with 141 strikeouts.

As far as the worst Twins players of all-time, the elder Davis doesn't exactly rank at the top of the list. He had some positive moments along the way. Even with his high ranking on the all-time saves list for the club, Twins fans will always associate his name with ineffective relief pitching.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Road to Rebuild: Switching Draft Strategies

The road back to the top of the AL Central isn't going to be easy for the Twins and the organization has already started their rebuilding process. Players have been traded away, some of the top minor league players are getting closer to making their big league debuts, and new coaches have been brought in to provide a fresh voice.

Over the last couple of days, I have taken a look at a few of the different topics that will help the Twins on the road to rebuild. Kyle Gibson could be a key figure in the starting rotation of the future. Minnesota also could have a couple of tough decisions to make when it comes to the expiring contracts of Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham.

There are going to be plenty of things that need to break right for the Twins to find success in the next couple of years. That's the same story for many teams in the baseball world. No one thought the Orioles would make it into the playoffs last season with their run differential being negative for most of the year.

The game of baseball is filled with quirks and this can allow for some surprises on the way to the top. The Twins are trying to get back to their winning ways and it is going to take a little luck along with some better performances on the field.

Last season, the Twins had one of the most important drafts in the history of the franchise. The team switched their draft strategy and there could be a big payoff in a couple of seasons.
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Something needed to change because the draft strategy for the Twins had left the organization without many pitchers with upside in their system. The team got in the habit of taking the same kind of pitcher, college arms that threw strikes.

Out of the five pitchers to throw the most innings last season, Nick Blackburn was the only player to be drafted by the Twins and brought up through the organization. The pitch-to-contact formula wasn't working for the organization.

Minnesota had three first round picks in 2012 and one of those picks was the second player in the draft. The team needed to find a way to get some arms with more upside into the organization. One way to do this is by trading away major league players but eventually a team will run out of big league talent. So something needed to change on draft day.

On draft night, the Twins were lucky enough to get the player many considered the best in the draft with the number two overall pick. Byron Buxton is already considered one of the top prospects in baseball and his selection wasn't all that different for Minnesota. The team is known for taking toolsy high school outfielders but the picks that followed Buxton would be a change for the franchise.

For most of the rest of the draft, Minnesota would load up on pitching. The team had 43 selections in the draft and 24 of them were used on pitchers. In 2011, the Twins had 52 picks and 35 of them were used on pitching. The team knows this is a major weakness for the organization and it will be very important for the club to stockpile young arms for the future.

Of the 24 pitchers taken by the Twins in 2012, 20 of them were college arms. The team was adding arms with a lot of potential for what seemed like the first time in quite awhile. JO Berrios and Luke Bard were Minnesota's other two first round picks and both men can hit in the mid-90's with their fastball.

Mike Radcliff, vice president of player personnel, told MLB.com after the draft, "I know everybody says we're the pitch-to-contact Twins and all that, but that's really not our preference at all. It's how it played out over time with all the different pitchers we drafted, signed, and brought in."

He went on to say, "But we have just as much preference and desire to sign guys that throw hard as anybody else. It just hasn't played out that way. We did take a lot of guys with some arm strength, some power to their pitches."

Even outside scouts and prospect writers took note of the switch for Minnesota in last year's draft. ESPN's Keith Law is the main prospect writer for that company and earlier this week he ranked the Twins as the second best farm system in baseball.

Law also had good things to say about the switch for the Twins in last year's draft. In his farm system overview, he said, "They're stacked, with center fielders, athletes, power bats and, in a new development for the Twins, a few power arms sprinkled in there as well -- this ain't your father's Twins system, packed with college command-and-control pitchers with 45-grade fastballs."

He went on to add, "They went for upside in the 2012 MLB draft more than they'd done in the previous few seasons.

It will be a couple of seasons before the Twins know if this new draft strategy worked for the club. Most of these players, especially the starting pitchers, won't be making their debuts in 2013 or even 2014.

The organization had to make a switch and last year's draft might be one of the steps that helps the club to rebound on the road to rebuild.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Road to Rebuild: Trading Away Assets

Yesterday was the first part of a series that will look at the road that lies ahead for the Minnesota Twins as they try to rebuild after back-to-back 90 loss seasons. The team has already started the rebuilding process by trading away two of their most valuable major league assets in Denard Span and Ben Revere.

In the first part of the series, Kyle Gibson was looked at as one of the key pieces to helping the rebuild get off to a good start. He might not end up being an ace for the Twins but he could end up being a solid starter for the better part of the next decade. The Twins might be relying on him to form the first part of the rotation of the future.

There are plenty of things that will be part of the rebuilding process but many fans are only going to notice some of the big changes. Today, “The Road to Rebuild” looks at trading away some of the team’s assets to get players for the next time the team will be competitive.
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Denard Span and Ben Revere were two fan favorites over the last couple of years but the team jumped at the opportunity to trade these two players for young pitchers with upside. The Twins turned two former first round picks into three pitchers that should figure into the team’s equation over the next handful of seasons.

It can be tough to trade away players that have been with the organization since they were teenagers. At TwinsFest, Terry Ryan made it clear that trading away Revere was one of the toughest decisions of his professional career. He said, "Ben Revere is like a son to me." These are decisions that the front office has to make with their head and not with their heart.

There are a couple of other valuable pieces that the Twins could potentially trade in the next two years. This could help add more depth to a farm system that is already considered one of the best in all of baseball. Trades are one of the best ways to help rebuild a team. It seems that there will be plenty of other tough decisions for Mr. Ryan to make along the road to rebuild.

Two of the team's best players will have their contracts with the club expire before the end of the 2014. The way the Twins are shaping their roster doesn't make it seem like the team will be competitive before the end of those deals. This could leave Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham on the trading block.

Trading Morneau could be another tough decision for Ryan. Twins fans have cheered for Morneau through thick and through thin. The former MVP has had a couple of rough years in a row but the end of 2012 was a step in the right direction. He hit .289/.354/.439 in the second half of the year. If Morneau could get the 2013 season off on the right foot, he could increase his trade value.

Morneau is in the last year of a six-year, $80 million deal. With Chris Parmelee on the roster, the Twins have a replacement for Morneau waiting in the wings. Parmelee will be a much cheaper option since he has yet to reach arbitration. A team looking to add a powerful left-handed bat for the stretch run might be willing to give up some pieces to acquire Morneau.

Last offseason, the Twins signed Willingham to a very reasonable three-year, $21 million contract. He more than lived up to the deal during his first season in a Twins uniform. MLB honored him with a Silver Slugger Award after he knocked 35 home runs, the most by a Twins player not named Harmon Killebrew since 1963. This tremendous season helped to add value to a player the Twins got for a good deal.

Willingham's contract will run through the end of the 2014 season but he will be 36-years old by that point. He is closer to the end of his career than he is to the beginning so it is hard to imagine him gaining any more value on the field. If the right deal is on the table from another club, the Twins might have to pull the trigger.

For fans, it can be tough to watch their favorite players leave for another team. Especially when the players the Twins get back are still a couple years away from making an impact at the big league level. Trading away veteran players is part of the rebuilding process.

And hey, fans can be rest-assured that Joe Mauer will be around for this rebuild...

...and maybe even the next one too.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Road to Rebuild: Kyle Gibson could be key

Over the next couple of days I will be looking at a few different topics as it relates to the Twins getting back to their winning ways. It has been a tough couple of seasons for Twins fans but it looks like there is hope for the future. This might not come in 2013 but it is only the first step in the process.

"The Road to Rebuild" series will look at some of the key figures or events that will be critical for the long-term success of the organization. There are plenty of things that need to go right and these are just a handful of those topics.

The first article in the series looks at a young man that was on the fast track for the big leagues before an arm injury forced him to the sidelines.
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During the next couple of seasons, there is going to need to be more than one thing that breaks in favor of the Twins for the team to get back to the top of the AL Central. There will be plenty of young talent ready to emerge for the club but this will mean that some things need to go right in the minor leagues. For Minnesota, the road to rebuild has already started and there will be plenty of other important steps along the way.

Kyle Gibson could be one of the key pieces for the Twins on their road back to the top. The former first round pick back in 2009 will undoubtedly make his MLB debut this year after missing most of last season due to Tommy John surgery. Reports from the Arizona Fall League have his slider looking sharper and there seems to be a little more life on his pitches. This is great news for the Twins.

The Twins hope their rotation of the future will include Gibson and recent acquisitions Alex Meyer and Trevor May. It will be a year or two before Meyer and May make it to the big leagues. This leaves Gibson as the first cog in the rotation of the future. He should have the most big league service time under his belt and this could help him to be a leader to these other young pitchers.

When Minnesota looks ahead, the front office probably isn't considering Gibson a front of the rotation starter. His track record in the minor leagues didn't put him on the path for that elite level. But the team might not need him to get to this point; he still could be a very good number two or number three pitcher. If he can reach this level, he could be in the middle of the Twins rotation for the better part of the next decade.

Gibson has a fastball that can hit in the mid-90s but it usually rests in the 91-92 range. His plus slider will be a pitch that could be fun to watch for Twins fans. The other above average pitch in his arsenal is a change up. Between the end of last season and the AFL, Gibson got plenty of work in so there shouldn't be any restrictions on the type of pitches that he throws.

The plan for Gibson in 2013 is still up in the air. Since it will be his first full season since surgery, there will most likely be an innings limit placed on the right-hander. The other thing yet to be decided is where the 25-year old will start the season. He could be asked to begin in Rochester so he can be a starter and the team can have better control over his innings. The other option is to have him start the year in the bullpen for the Twins.

In an interview conducted by Seth Stohs of Twins Daily, Ron Gardenhire had good things to say about Gibson and the coming year. Gardenhire said,
The first thing is to get him out on the field and get him going through the same thing as everybody else. I'm sure he can't wait to do that. And get right into the middle of the program. HE's ready to do that with no restrictions. Get back on the programs and do all the drills. I'm sure he's fired up about getting back in there. I'm excited to see the young man. He's a very talented young man.
If Twins fans think Gibson is going to win multiple Cy Young awards and be a perennial 20-game winner, this might be setting the expectations a little too high. It does seem that at minimum he should be a strong middle of the rotation pitcher with the potential to do some very good things along the way.

The road to rebuild is going to be an extended process and Gibson is a key figure in that process. The Twins need some of their young starting pitching to succeed and Gibson will be the first of that young core to make his debut. Eyes across Twins Territory will be keeping their focus on Gibson and it will be up to him to perform at the big league level.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Power outage hit Metrodome in '92

Most sports fans are well aware that the Super Bowl was played last night. Those that watched the game also know that one of the biggest story lines of the night was when a power surge caused the lights to go out in the Superdome. It took about a half an hour for the whole ordeal to get worked out and for the players to get back on the field. 

The Twins played under the Metrodome roof for close to three decades and there are bound to be a few mishaps along the way. Everyone will remember the roof collapse a couple of seasons ago but that came after the Twins had moved across town to Target Field. There were some other delays when the Twins played at the Dome including multiple roof tears caused by heavy snow.

A power outage also fits into the history of the Twins in their time under the roof of a domed stadium. On August 29, 1992, there was a power outage that caused a 23-minute delay in the game versus the New York Yankees. The outage happened in the third inning but there wasn't as much excitement after the outage as there was in last night's game. 

The Yankees would get out to a 3-0 first inning lead after some ineffective pitching from Bill Krueger with two outs in the frame. Don Mattingly cracked a double to get the rally started. After a walk to Danny Tartabull, Roberto Kelly hit a single that would score Mattingly from second. Another walk would load the bases before Jim Leyritz knocked a single to drive in two runs.

Krueger would run into some similar issues in the second inning. He gave up a single to leadoff hitter Bernie Williams before walking Randy Velarde. Don Mattingly would be retired without any damage but Tartabull would provide all the pop for New York. His three-run home run would open up a 6-0 lead for the Yankees and they seemed to be well in control of the game.

Minnesota would mount a small comeback in the bottom of the second inning to cut the lead in half. Shane Mack would coax a walk from Bob Wickman to start the frame. After Brian Harper advanced Mack to second, a single from Gene Larkin would put runners on the corners. Scott Leius would single and then steal second ahead of a double from Greg Gagne. Minnesota was getting closer and there was still plenty of baseball left in the game.

The power outage would come in the next inning and it didn't seem to have too much of an impact on the game. Both starting pitchers would stay in the game. Wickman would go on to pitch eight innings and earn his first big league win in only his second start. Krueger got pulled after four innings and he was saddled with his six loss of the season. 

If the power outage had any impact, it was to cool down the offenses for both teams. There would only be five more hits in the rest of the game, three for New York and two for Minnesota. Also there would be no runs scored by either team. The power outage was just that for the two offenses in what looked like a slugfest after two frames. 

Close to 35,000 fans were there to witness the lights going out in the Metrodome. It wasn't nearly as big of stage as the Super Bowl but these things happen in stadiums of this size. San Francisco was able to turn the game around after the lights came back on. 

Too bad Minnesota couldn't do the same back in 1992.