Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday Links-N-Thinks

After some miserable baseball in Twins Territory, this week wasn't so bad for the hometown nine. It helps to play the lowly Brewers but it is still important to win games no matter who the opponent is. There were some close games but the club was able to steal a couple wins in Milwaukee before the two teams switched venues.

The trip back to Target Field turned out to be just as good for the Twins. Minnesota won both games on their home turf. It was also nice to see the team pound out a bunch of home runs against former Twins pitcher Kyle Lohse.

In another Twins training room nightmare, Trevor Plouffe was activated from the 7-day concussion disabled list on Wednesday. That same night, he hurt his calf in warm-ups and ended up back on the DL. The injury situation for the Twins is always an adventure.

Before you head out of the office for the weekend, check out the latest edition of "Friday Links-N-Thinks." You'll laugh. You'll cry. It's the best of times. It's the worst of times.
My Weekly Rundown
Video of the Week: I love old baseball things so this video of Walter Johnson's throwing motion was something I had to share. Ty Cobb once said that Johnson's fastball "hissed with danger." It might be tough to tell if the ball is hissing in this video but is still cool to see him on the mound. These are some must watch clips for every type of baseball fan.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Twins Minor League Report (5/29): Rochester Comebacks

The Twins finished off their road trip with two wins in Milwaukee over the last couple days. Now the border battle moved to Target Field for a couple of games.

Trevor Plouffe was reinstated from the 7-day concussion disabled list but he was a late scratch with some left calf tightness. This meant Chris Colabello was sent back to Rochester. Maybe it was because the rookie wore the wrong jersey on Tuesday night. This leaves the Twins with three catchers on their roster including Chris Herrmann.

Here's a look into Wednesday night's minor league action.

Rochester Red Wings 8, Lehigh Valley IronPigs 7 
(Completion of 5/28 Game)
Box Score
Weather got in the way for these two clubs on Tuesday evening. This meant their game got suspended in the top of the fifth inning with one out. The IronPigs were leading 6-5 at the time of the suspension. There was still plenty of time for a Rochester comeback.

Andrew Albers started the game on Tuesday and he pitched 4.1 innings before the rains came. It was his worst start of the season as he allowed five earned runs on seven hits with three strikeouts. The six runs allowed by Albers were a career high.

When play resumed, Luis Perdomo took over the pitching duties. He got the final two outs of the fifth inning and went on to pitch another two frames. Perdomo allowed one run on two hits with three strikeouts. Tyler Robertson got out of a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the eighth with a pop out and a strikeout.

At the plate, Jeff Clement had himself quite the game. He hit a solo home run in Tuesday's portion of the game and he hit another solo shot in Wednesday's portion. Brian Dinkelman had his first triple of the season. The hit moved him into third place on the Red Wings all-time hits list in the Twins era. The biggest hit of the game was a two-run single off the bat of Ray Olmedo to give Rochester the lead in the bottom of the sixth.

Rochester Red Wings 8, Lehigh Valley IronPigs 7 (7 innings)
Box Score
Three home runs were just enough for Rochester in this game. Doug Bernier, Clete Thomas, and Dan Rohlfing all hit home runs and the Red Wings had another comeback victory up their sleeves. The win clinched a series victory for Rochester and the club can go for the sweep tomorrow morning.

Pedro Hernandez made his second start since being sent down by the Twins and things didn't go so great. He was roughed up over 3.1 innings to the tune of six runs and nine hits. Only three of the runs were earned but he only struck out one batter and walked two men.

Daniel Turpen and Shairon Martis did a fine job in relief of Hernandez. Turpen earned his second victory of the year by throwing 1.2 innings. The only blemish on his night was a solo home run. Martis earned his first save of the year and his first save since the 2005 Arizona Fall League.

Danny Lehmann went 3-for-3 with a run scored. Clete Thomas finished the night with a double, a home run, and three RBI. Oswaldo Arcia didn't join the hit parade as he went 0-for-3 with a strike out. He has yet to record a hit since being sent down.

New Britain Rock Cats 5, Richmond Flying Squirrels 10
Box Score
There was a whole lot of offense going on in New Britain on Wednesday night. The Rock Cats ended up on the wrong end of a shoot out and there were some rough moments on the mound and in the field. New Britain had four errors in the game but the defense also turned three double plays.

DJ Baxendale got called up from Fort Myers to make his first Double-A start. He had been terrific in the Florida State League with a 1.10 ERA and a perfect 7-0 record. Things didn't go so great for him on this night. He surrendered seven earned runs on nine hits over 4.2 innings. 

Reynaldo Rodriguez was 2-for-3 with a double. Danny Santana and Jordan Parraz both went 2-for-4 and Parraz added his third double of the year. Chris Pettit had his first multi-hit game since joining the Rock Cats seven days ago. He went 2-5 out of the leadoff spot with his second double.

New Britain sits five games under .500 and the team will look to salvage the last game of the series tomorrow morning. Pat Dean is scheduled to start and he is looking to repeat a solid outing in his last start.

Fort Myers Miracle 10, Bradenton Marauders 3
Box Score
Matt Tomshaw, Eddie Rosario, and Kennys Vargas worked together to put on quite the show for the Miracle. The win marked the fourth in the last five games for Fort Myers. It also clinched a series win and the Miracle have not lost a series in the month of May.

Tomshaw was terrific on the mound. He gave up two hits and one earned run on a solo home run. Over six innings, he struck out four and only walked one batter. It was his first start since being called up from Cedar Rapids and it couldn't have gone much better for the lefty.

As good as Tomshaw was on the mound, Rosario and Vargas were just as good at the plate. Rosario finished the night 3-for-5 with a home run and a double. Vargas was 2-for-3 with a home run and a double. Both players knocked in two runners with two outs in an inning.

It was the 37th win of the year for Fort Myers and the team will go for the series sweep on Thursday evening. After that, the club will head to Palm Beach to play the Cardinals in a three-game weekend series.

Cedar Rapids Kernels --, Clinton LumberKings -- (Postponed)
The game between the Kernels and the LumberKings was postponed on Wednesday evening. A double-header will be played on Thursday starting at 4:00 pm. Thursdays games will both be scheduled for seven innings.

Cedar Rapids has only won one game in the last week. This has shrunk their lead in the Western Division of the Midwest League to one game. The club boasts an 18-7 record at home but the club is only one game over .500 on the road (13-12).

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Twins MLB Draft Profile: Brandon Shipley, RHP

Who IS This Guy?

Shipley is a former shortstop that only moved to the mound full-time last year. He is still among the top 10 talents in the draft because of his low-effort delivery and the effectiveness of some of his pitches. His recent performances for Nevada have him moving quickly up the draft boards.

In the past, he has hit 99 mph with his fastball but he is more consistently in the 92-95 mph range. His best pitch is his changeup, which counters his fastball nicely. His change sits 83-86 mph and he uses great arm speed to deceive the batter. He does have a curveball but he doesn't have a feel for this pitch yet probably because of his inexperience. Overall, he can throw strikes and this is a trait the Twins have coveted in the past.

One NL scout recently said, "When he is firing on all cylinders, he's as good as any pitcher not named Appel in this class." That's high praise and it could be tough for teams to pass him by.

Who Could He Be?
His arm strength and athleticism make him an intriguing pitching option especially since he is so new to the position. He had a great start to the spring season and some hiccups in the middle. More recent starts have been better and this could help his draft stock.

Shipley will need to work on his curveball if he is going to develop into a top of the rotation pitcher. He doesn't have much feel for this pitch and this is evident in the type of break he gets while throwing it. With more repetition, this pitch could move from the below average range and help to make him more effective.

He might not be in the elite class of college arms in this draft but he isn't far behind. The ceiling for him might be a number two pitcher on most teams. With the Twins, he could end up being a front of the rotation hurler for multiple seasons.

How Soon Could He Be Playing In Target Field?
Out of all of the pitchers taken early in the draft, Shipley might need the most development time in the minors. His fastball and change-up are great but he is going to need time to work on his curveball. This will only come with repetition in the minors.

If he signed right away, the Twins would likely send him to the rookie leagues for the end of the 2013 season to pitch out of the bullpen. Next season, he would get the chance to be a starter for Cedar Rapids. After spending the entire season with the Kernels, he could move to Fort Myers for 2015.

In 2016, he would make his way to New Britain with a shot at going to Rochester. Because of his inexperience, it would seem that 2017 would be the earliest he could make an appearance with the Twins.

If the Twins Draft This Guy, They Messed Up Because...
There are more experienced college pitchers in this draft. Shipley could be a wild card especially if his secondary pitches aren't honed in the minors.

His fastball and change-up combination could make him a deadly bullpen weapon. With the fourth pick in the draft, a team doesn't necessarily want a good relief pitcher. The front office and the fans want a front of the line starter and Shipley might not have all of the tools to reach this lofty goal.

It would also take some time for him to develop in the minor leagues and the Twins might be back in contention before he is ready to take over a rotation spot.

If the Twins Draft This Guy, They Nailed It Because...
The Twins need pitchers with upside. With Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray likely off the board, Shipley is the next best collegiate option. Other prep arms like Kohl Stewart could take even more time to develop in the minor leagues. Some members of this organization might lose their jobs before a younger arm makes it to the big leagues.

Shipley's upper 90s velocity makes him a power arm this organization has been lacking. In recent weeks, he has shown more control over his curveball and this could make him a devastating pitcher.

At the beginning of the spring season, there were other collegiate pitchers in front of him. But by draft day, he could be the third college arm off of the board.

Twins Daily MLB Draft Player Profiles:

The Many Sides of Carlos Gomez

It has been four seasons since Carlos Gomez last wore the uniform of the Minnesota Twins. At that point in his career, he was a hotshot 23-year old outfielder that was heading to his third club in four years. The defensive side of the ball was his calling card and his offensive game still looked to be in the infant stages.

The Twins acquired Gomez as the top prospect in the famous deal that sent Johan Santana to the New York Mets. He would play 290 games in Minnesota while hitting .248/.293/.352 with 10 home runs, 12 triples, and 39 doubles. This all added up to a 0.8 WAR in two seasons.

Minnesota eventually got tired of the attitude of Gomez and his lack of offensive production. This meant he was shipped across the border to Milwaukee in a deal that netted the Twins JJ Hardy. His first two seasons for the Brewers were filled with ups and downs. He hit .238/.288/.377 in 191 games from 2010-2011. At 25-years old, Milwaukee stuck with Gomez and it seems to be paying off.

Flash-forward to the present day and Gomez is putting together his finest season as a professional. His name is being bounced around as a potential MVP candidate and he could be in line to make his first All-Star team.

Oh, how things have changed for Mr. Gomez...

Twins fans got an up close and personal view of Gomez on Monday afternoon as he put on a personal hitting clinic in Milwaukee. In his first two at-bats, he hit solo-home runs. They were his ninth and tenth home runs respectively.

This wasn't just one miracle game from Gomez. He has been putting up solid offensive numbers all season. His .331 batting average ranks him in the top five in the National League. To go along with his 10 home runs, he has three triples and 13 doubles so there has been plenty of power. His slugging percentage is also in the top five in the NL.

There were positive signs from Gomez at the end of last season. He batted .233/.280/.423 in the first half of 2012 but something clicked after the All-Star Break. He would hit .278/.321/.488 with 14 home runs and 11 doubles in the second half of the year. Gomez has never hit more than 8 home runs in one season so to knock out 19 in one year was quite the power surge.

Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin liked what he saw from Gomez down the stretch so the club signed him to a four-year, $28.3 million extension. At the time of the signing, it looked like the Brewers were overpaying for someone with one half of a good season at the big league level. The performance of Gomez so far this year makes it look like Milwaukee made a wise investment.

Did the Twins get rid of Gomez before the club should have?

There were plenty of other center fielders in the Twins organization. Denard Span, Ben Revere, and Aaron Hicks were all in different parts of their development when Gomez was sent packing. Span looked ready to take over the center field job on a regular basis. Revere and Hicks were still in the minors but on their way to the big leagues.

It also doesn't seem likely that the Twins wouldn't have waited for Gomez to try and solve his offensive woes. For Gomez, it took five seasons and close to 2,000 plate appearances to get to this point. With better offensive options in center field, the Twins would have likely passed on Gomez before his offensive explosion.

The future could be interesting for Mr. Gomez. In 2016 at 30-years old, he will be making $9 million. That is almost more than he has made in his entire career up to this point.

Will Gomez be worth that kind of money in four years? Only time will tell...

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Twins Minor League Report (5/26): Arcia Hurt

After ending their 11 game losing streak on Saturday, the Twins couldn't make it two wins in a row. The Tigers offense pounced on Mike Pelfrey for five runs on five hits in less than six innings of work. The offense didn't help him out much with three hits and a single run on the board. 

There were a few different story lines to follow in the minors so let's see what went down!
Rochester Red Wings 2, Charlotte Knights 3
Box Score
Rochester only collected four hits in the game but the team was still able to keep it close against Charlotte. The Knights got on the scoreboard first with three singles in the top of the fourth inning. This lead wouldn't last very long as the Red Wings scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth to take back the lead.

The first three batters of the fifth inning reached on a pair of walks and a single. This meant the bases were loaded with Oswaldo Arcia coming to the plate. He struck out for the first out in the frame before Deibinson Romero singled to plate a couple of runs.

The Red Wings would hold the lead until the top of the eighth inning. Aaron Thompson came in to make his second appearance since being called up to Rochester. He gave up a couple of singles and a double in the frame and the Knights would grab back the lead. Thompson saw his 17.1-inning scoreless streak between New Britain and Rochester snapped.

Romero was the lone Red Wings hitter with a multi-hit game. He went 2-for-4 with his first two hits of the season at Triple-A. Before today's game, he had gone 0-for-11 since being called up from New Britain. Clete Thomas and Eric Farris had a hit apiece.

Virgil Vasquez started the game and pitched five strong innings. He allowed one run on five hits with three strikeouts and two walks. Shairon Martis earned his first hold of the year by throwing two scoreless innings. Anthony Slama made his first appearance since April 22nd and he worked a 1-2-3 ninth with two strikeouts.

Arcia left Sunday's game with an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder. He made a strong throw to the plate and was removed from the game at the end of the inning. According to some reports, he has been bothered by a shoulder injury since spring training.

Rochester is 10 games under .500 but the club has gone 5-5 in their last ten games. The Red Wings continue their homestand with four games against Lehigh Valley.

New Britain Rock Cats 11, New Hampshire Fisher Cats 4
Box Score
For the first time since May 6th, the Rock Cats scored double digits in runs. The win also helped to ensure at least a split of their series with New Hampshire. New Britain will try and earn a series win when the teams meet on Monday afternoon.

Trevor May got the nod on the mound and pitched five innings. He allowed two earned runs on six hits with two strike outs and three walks. May has won three of his last four starts and he has lowered his ERA to 3.88. Bobby Lanigan tossed two scoreless innings of relief to close out the game.

Dan Rohlfing went 3-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored. He hit his seventh double of the year. Nate Hanson had a couple RBI of his own and his first triple. Danny Santana, James Beresford, and Josmil Pinto all had two hits.

With the win, New Britain is only two games under .500. The club will finish their series with New Hampshire on Monday before heading home for a six game homestand.

Fort Myers Miracle 2, Charlotte Stone Crabs 4
Box Score
The Stone Crabs jumped out to an early lead with run in the top of the first inning. They would add to their lead with another couple of runs in the third. Miguel Sano had his 11th error of the year at third base. His error allowed an extra run to score in the third.

It took until the bottom of the fifth inning for the Miracle to get on the board. Jonathan Murphy hit his first home run this season. Kennys Vargas added two hits including his 13th double. Stephen Wickens tried to get a rally started in the eighth with a double but the rest of the team didn't follow suit.

Tom Stuifbergen took the loss but he still did a decent job on the mound. He gave the bullpen a break by throwing eight innings and allowing three earned runs on six hits. He didn't record a strikeout but he also didn't walk anyone. It was the first time all season that he made it through eight innings.

Fort Myers will enjoy an off day on Memorial Day before starting a three-game series with the Bradenton Marauders.

Cedar Rapids Kernels --, Burlington Bees -- (Postponed)
The Kernels game against the Bees was rained out on Sunday afternoon. The game will be made up as a special Memorial Day doubleheader beginning at 2:00 pm. Both games are scheduled to be seven innings.

Cedar Rapids is in the midst of a four game losing streak and they are in danger of falling out of first place in the Western Division of the Midwest League. The Beloit Snappers are sneaking up behind the Kernels in the standings.

Following tomorrow's doubleheader, the club continues their homestand with a three game series versus the Clinton LumberKings.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Talk to Contact: Episode 39

Episode 39 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.
Cody and Eric must hate themselves, because there is not other reason they would be watching bad baseball and drinking bad beers.  But alas, here they are, for another week, with another bad team, and more Twins banter.
This week they cover the Twins news, do a lenghty look at the Twins regulars now that the season is 25% of the way over, and they decide that Joe Mauer and the bullpen are the only things going well for the Twins (ummm duh!).
The round out the podcast with FOUR bad beers, their bored, tipsy, silly friend Tricia, and as always, a trip around the league.
Ninety-nine minutes of audio pleasure.
You can follow me on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read my writing at NoDakTwinsFan.  You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.  And of course, you can find Eric on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read my writing at Knuckleballs!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday Links-N-Thinks

It was a rough week for the Twins with nine straight losses. The club hasn't won a game since May 13th. Two fifths of the starting rotation was replaced including sending down Opening Day starter Vance Worley. Even on a night where Josh Willingham hits two home runs, the club still can't find a way to win.

Minnesota does have two of the best team's in all of the minor leagues. This can make it fun to dream about the future. Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton could turn into monster MLB players. The Twins will also have a chance to add another very good player when they have the fourth pick in the upcoming MLB Draft.

It was a busy week here at NoDak Twins Fan. Make sure to check out all of my posts and some of the other great work from around the web.
My Weekly Rundown
Video of the Week: Byron Buxton is already getting local sports media attention and he's still multiple levels away from the big leagues. His tremendous start in Cedar Rapids makes it look like the Twins made the right decision with the second overall pick in last year's draft. His interview skills might need a little improvement but his play on the baseball field is superior to the competition.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Twins MLB Draft Profile: Clint Frazier, OF

The 2013 MLB Draft is quickly approaching. For the second year in a row, the Minnesota Twins have a top four pick. With this high of a selection, there can be a lot of pressure on the organization to find an impact player for the future.

Over at Twins Daily, the different writers have been putting together profiles all week of the top names in the draft. There are three big names at the top of the draft board and then quite a few question marks. This could make it tough for the Twins to sort out who would be the best for them with the fourth pick.
Who IS This Guy?
Clint Frazier is a high school center fielder from Loganville, Georgia. He is widely considered to have the best bat speed in the entire draft class. This enables him to have very good raw power. His 5-foot-11 frame already has a muscular build as he weighs in at 190 pounds. This makes it tough to project him adding more weight to his frame but he already looks like an MLB player. He plays with a ton of energy.

On the defensive side of the ball, there are some questions about whether he will be able to stick in center field. He is starting to track the ball well and he continues to improve his ability to finish plays in center. His arm strength is very good, even with some tendonitis concerns, but he needs to work on his accuracy. 

Most few him as a top ten pick in the draft because of his hit and power tools. He could be a top five pick but this doesn't seem likely at this point in the draft process.

Who Could He Be?
There is the potential for Frazier to develop into a five tool player at a premium up the middle defensive position. He has the chance to make multiple All-Star teams or be a solid regular player. 

One of the biggest holes in his game has been his pitch recognition. He goes up to the plate looking fastball and he can destroy hanging breaking balls. Pitchers have been able to get him out with below average breaking pitches. If this can improve, he could be a monster on the offensive side of the ball.

Tendonitis issues have lowered Frazier's arm strength from plus to above average. If he could get back to his previous level, his defensive value would pair nicely with his solid offensive projections. 

There is some risk with Frazier but he could reward a team that takes a chance on him by becoming a perennial All-Star.

How Soon Could He Be Playing In Target Field?
Frazier will be 18 years, 9 months old at the time of the draft. This would put him on a similar path to the major leagues as last year's first round pick Byron Buxton. He would spend the end of this coming summer in rookie ball. 

Like Buxton this year, he could be at Low-A to start 2014 with the opportunity to get to High-A by the end of the season. He would spend most of 2015 at High-A and 2016 at Double-A. This could leave him close to making his big league debut.

The Twins let Aaron Hicks skip from Double-A to the MLB level and Frazier has the potential to make that type of move. Frazier could have a chance to be a September call-up at the end of 2016. If he takes care of some of his flaws in the minors, he could be on path to be an everyday starter by 2017.

If the Twins Draft This Guy, They Messed Up Because...
Frazier might end up busting out in the minor leagues and never making it to the big league level. He doesn't have any room to grow into his body so the potential to add power and strength isn't there.

There will likely be better players available at number four. He also has red hair and apparently a good big league player can't have red hair according to old school scout analysis.

The Twins could work out a deal with Frazier before the draft to sign him for less than slot value then the team could use the extra money for a pick later in the draft.

If the Twins Draft This Guy, They Nailed It Because...
Without risk, there is never any reward. Frazier's bat speed and five-tool potential could help him to move quickly through the Twins system.

Buxton might be the team's center fielder of the future but Frazier could slide into a corner spot and be an above average regular. The addition of Frazier could give the Twins a strong outfield in 2017 with Buxton in CF, Frazier in RF, and Arcia or Hicks in LF.

Frazier is an unbelievably hard worker and he shows this on the field. He is a natural leader and he will push himself. There might be work ethics questions surrounding other prep players but there is no doubt about Frazier's make-up.

Plus it would be cool to have a guy with bright red hair in the middle of the line-up on an everyday basis.

MLB Draft Player Profiles:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Twins Minor League Report (5/22): O-fer Kind of Night

Two men were having very different feelings on Wednesday afternoon in Atlanta.

Chris Colabello continued his remarkable journey by making his MLB debut. The 29-year old rookie failed to get a hit but he made it to the big leagues. There had to be nights along the way where he wondered if it would ever happen. His dream came true today.

It has been a nightmare season for Vance Worley after the Braves roughed him up for 10 hits and eight earned runs in less than four innings of work. His ERA ballooned to 7.21 on the year and his record dropped to 1-5. Following the game, the Twins sent Worley to Rochester to try and work out his kinks.

Alex Meyer was on the mound for New Britain, the Miracle tried to continue their winning ways, and Cedar Rapids faced a familiar foe in the form of the Beloit Snappers. Let's go down on the pond!

Rochester Red Wings (Off Day)
While the Red Wings enjoyed an off day, two of their best offensive players from the beginning of the year were playing against the Atlanta Braves. Oswaldo Arcia and Chris Colabello put together numbers in the International League that were worthy of promotion.

Now it could become harder for Rochester's struggling offense to put up runs. The team ranks 9th in the International League in OPS and 11th in runs scored. Infielder Dibinson Romero was promoted from New Britain to try and help spark the offense. Romero was hitting .355 in eight games with three homers and six RBI. In a corresponding move, Nate Hanson was sent to New Britain.

Rochester will look to turn things around during an eight game homestand. The club has lost six of their last nine games and they sit nine games out of first place in the International League North. Both of the team's coming to Rochester in the next week are below .500 so this gives the team a chance to make up some ground.

New Britain Rock Cats 3, Binghamton Bees 8
Box Score
Two costly errors from Rock Cats shortstop Danny Santana lead to a couple of unearned runs that were hard for New Britian to come back from. Santana had 18 errors last year at shortstop and he his two errors today push his 2013 total to 17. He hasn't been getting on base or hitting for much power so he needs to make some strides on the defensive side of the ball.

Alex Meyer started the contest and pitched into the seventh inning. Over 6.2 innings, he gave up three earned runs on six hits with seven strikeouts and three walks. It was the first time all season where he recorded an out in the seventh inning. For the month of May, it was his best start and one can hope that he is turning a positive corner for the rest of the year.

On the offensive side of the ball, Daniel Ortiz put together a three hit effort. He hit his 15th and 16th doubles of the year and scored a run. In his last ten games, he has a .333 batting average with six doubles. Reynaldo Rodriguez added his 11th double of the year. In his first game since being demoted, Nate Hanson went 0-for-4.

The Rock Cats have lost 9 of their last 10 games so it has been a rough stretch of baseball. The team can still salvage a split of their series with Binghamton if they can win on Thursday. Over the long weekend, New Britain will play a four-game set against New Hampshire.

Fort Myers Miracle 1, Lakeland Flying Tigers 4
Box Score
The Miracle scored a quick run in the top of the first inning and then the Lakeland pitching staff proceeded to put a lot of zeros on the scoreboard. Fort Myers wouldn't score another run in the game and the Flying Tigers pounded out 13 hits.

Matt Koch was the only Miracle batter to collect more than one hit. He went 2-for-4 with his 1st triple of the year. Miguel Sano and Kennys Vargas, the three and four hitter, combined to go 0-for-7. Fort Myers had plenty of opportunities as the club left 10 runners on base and went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

Taylor Rogers pitched admirably by throwing five innings and allowing one earned run. He scattered nine hits but he was able to limit the damage. In the second, third, fourth innings he was able to leave the bases loaded to end the frame.

In a perfect eighth inning, Zach Jones struck out two batters and lowered his ERA to 0.90. Adrian Salcedo was saddled with his first loss of the year by giving up two runs over two innings. It was the first time he had allowed a run in the month of May.

The Miracle are 32-13 and they wrap up a seven-game road trip with their game against Lakeland tomorrow night. Following that game, Fort Myers will head home for a weekend series with the Charlotte Stone Crabs.

Cedar Rapids Kernels 6, Beloit Snappers 7
Box Score
The Kernels tried their best to be the only Twins affiliate to win on Wednesday with a ninth inning rally. Trailing by three runs at the start of the frame, Candido Pimentel walked before a fielding error allowed Byron Buxton to reach. Niko Goodrum stepped to the plate as the tying run but he grounded into a double play. Jorge Polanco was the next batter and he sent one over the fence to cut the lead to one. But in the end, Dalton Hicks popped out to the catcher in foul territory to end the game.

Hudson Boyd coughed up seven earned runs in a little over five innings on the mound. The Snappers pounded out three home runs against him and he was limited to four strikeouts. Josue Montanez and Manuel Soliman would combine to shut down the Snappers for the rest of the game. In fact, Beloit would only get one more hit.

None of the Kernels hitters were able to knock more than one hit. Byron Buxton went 1-for-4 with his 5th triple and 20th stolen base on the year. J.D. Williams had an interesting line as he went 0-for-1 but collected three walks in the game. Travis Harrison got his 15th double.

Cedar Rapids has two more games in Beloit before returning home for a six-game homestand. The Snappers are the team right behind the Kernels in the standings so these next two games are important to the team.

Who is Chris Colabello?

I originally posted this story back in spring training under the title "Chris Colabello continues his fairy tale." With the recent news of his promotion to the Twins, I thought it would be appropriate to move it back to the front page of this blog. I have added in some information about his season so far.

One of the best stories in the Twins organization in 2012 was the tale of a 28-year old man that got his first taste of baseball with an affiliated club. Chris Colabello had molded himself into one of the best hitters in the Canadian-American Association before the Twins signed him to deal. He spent all of last season being the elder statesman of the Eastern League while showing off his skills at the plate.

The story of Colabello could get even better this year when he is asked to make his MLB debut. He would be a 29-year old rookie and the thought of him being in the Twins line-up isn't too hard to imagine. Let's look back at what got him to this point and look ahead to what could bring him to the Twin Cities.

After growing up and attending college in Massachusetts, Colabello wanted to continue his professional baseball career. No major league organization drafted him out of college so he found a team in the independent leagues. For six seasons, he played in the Canadian-American Association and he developed himself into one of the best hitters in this league.

From 2005-2011, Colabello hit over .300 in every season. Those seven seasons saw him hit .317/.390/.514 with an average of 14 home runs a year. He showed the ability to play both corner infield positions and even a little outfield. The skills were there but no MLB teams came calling.

Before the 2006 season, Colabello got to try out for the Italian World Baseball Classic team. He didn't make the squad but the Tigers took notice and invited him to spring training. His spring was good but he didn't make the club and he went back to the CAA. His persistence would finally pay off but not for another half of a decade.

The 2011 season would be an eye-opening year for Colabello because he would put together the best numbers of his career. He hit .348/.410/.600 with 20 home runs and 32 doubles. He finished second in the league in home runs, batting average, RBI, and hits. He led the league in doubles and slugging percentage. At the end of the season, he would be named the Independent Leagues Player of the Year by Baseball America.

Minnesota would offer him a chance for the start of the 2012 season. There weren't any promises made by the Twins and he didn't get a signing bonus but he was getting an opportunity. If he made a minor league team, he would be making less money then he had in the CAA but sometimes it's not about the money.

Colabello would be sent to New Britain for the entirety of the 2012 season. He would hit .284/.358/.478 over 134 games. His numbers would be good enough to lead the Eastern League in doubles and he finished second in RBI, fourth in runs, and fourth in home runs. Darin Ruf would walk-away with the Eastern League MVP but Colabello would have strong runner up finish.

He was finally living his dream and that dream has only gotten better so far this spring.

The Twins wanted Colabello back in the organization and his performance last year was good enough for Team Italy to add him to their roster for the 2013 WBC. Italy would make a surprise trip to the second round of the WBC and Colabello was a key figure for their team. He hit .333/.368/.667 and he lead the team in home runs (2) and RBI (7).

Things were off to an even better start with the Rochester Red Wings this season. He was hitting .358/.417/.659 with 12 HR, 17 2B, and 39 RBI. Colabello was leading the team in almost every offensive category and the Twins offense hasn't exactly been firing on all cylinders. Hopefully, he can insert some offensive pop into a dull line-up. 

The fairy tale ending for Colabello will be when he steps onto the field for his first big league game. It has been quite the journey but he has earned this opportunity. He might not be a prospect to build around but his story is one of the best.

Fairy tales are great but Colabello gets to live out his dream and play major league baseball. 

That sounds like a fairy tale ending to me...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Soul Patrol: Back with a Vengeance

When the Minnesota Twins were coming back into relevance in the early 2000s, there was a group of outfielders at the core of the team's success. Torii Hunter, Jacque Jones, and Matt Lawton roamed the outfield and they were given a unique nickname, "The Soul Patrol."

Lawton would only make it part of that first season as part of the "Soul Patrol," as he was traded in a deadline deal to the New York Mets. This left the team a member short when it came to the "Soul Patrol" until Shannon Stewart joined the club in 2003.

This became the second version of the "Soul Patrol." Jones would leave in 2005, Stewart left after the 2006 season, and Hunter became a free agent one year later. The "Soul Patrol" was spread out throughout baseball and it was tough to know if the Twins would ever see it again.

A new group of outfielders in the Twins farm system has taken on the mantra of the "Soul Patrol." JD Williams, Byron Buxton, and Adam Walker have put together strong starts to their seasons for Cedar Rapids. The Kernels have come out of the gate hot so there might be a little more magic in the "Soul Patrol" name.

"Soul Patrol" Center Fielder: Torii Hunter to Byron Buxton
Both players were first round picks but Buxton is putting together a season unlike anything Hunter ever had in the minor leagues. Through 41 games, Buxton is hitting .317/.420/.559 with seven home runs, four triples, and 10 doubles. His 19 stolen bases are also more than Hunter ever had in the minors.

Hunter has put together quite the major league career after never being ranked higher than 79th on Baseball America's Top Prospect List. Buxton enters his first full season already in the top 10 and he could be at the top of the list by the end of the year.

Throughout the history of the Twins organization, the club has turned to their center fielder for leadership. Hunter was a leader on the resurgent Twins teams of the 2000s. Buxton might have to be a leader as the team tries to erase the memories from the last couple of poor seasons and get back to playing winning baseball.

"Soul Patrol" Left Fielder: Jacque Jones to JD Williams
The Twins took Jones in the second round of the draft so there were some high expectations from the start. Williams was a tenth round pick and he has been a surprise so far with his ability to hit for power. Both men can play multiple outfield positions but Williams has been sent to left so Buxton could be in CF and Walker could be in RF.

Williams has struck out 29 times this season in 36 games but his OBP is still over .400. This comes from his ability to draw walks. Jones improved on his ability to draw walks during his Minnesota days but he never had an OBP of higher than .335.

So far this year, Williams is hitting .255/.406/.500 with four home runs, two triples, and eight doubles. He has eight steals in four attempts so he can take an extra base when the time is right. This is his second trip through the Midwest League and his numbers are improving. Last year, he hit .234/.311/.340 with Beloit.

"Soul Patrol" Right Fielder: Matt Lawton to Shannon Stewart to Adam Walker
Lawton joined the Twins organization as a 13th round pick and he went on to a decent career as a big leaguer. Stewart joined the Twins on a trade that would help push the team toward the playoffs. In 2012, Walker was a third round pick so there have been some expectations for him to succeed.

Last year, he played 58 games for the E-Twins and hit .250/.310/.496 with 14 home runs and 11 other extra-base hits. The power swing was there but some of his other numbers were lower than the club would have liked. He would still be advanced to Cedar Rapids this year and he is off to a very good start.

Through 41 games, he is hitting .284/.333/.594 with 10 home runs, 10 doubles, and four triples. He has three steals to his name and he has yet to be thrown out. His 45 RBI already match his total from last year and he did this in 83 less plate appearances.

It would be a very cool story if all three of these minor league outfielders made it to the Twins outfield at some point in their careers. There is a good chance that one or more of them won't be able to make it all the way through to the MLB level.

It's still a very exciting group of players to watch and the future could be bright for the newest edition of the "Soul Patrol."

Monday, May 20, 2013

Who is Caleb Thielbar?

It has been quite the wild ride for Mr. Caleb J. Thielbar on his way to the major leagues.

The 26-year old left-hander was called-up by the Minnesota Twins on Monday after the team demoted fifth starter Pedro Hernandez. Thielbar is not a starter so the team will need to make another roster move before Friday's game to fill out the rotation. Options for this spot include Kyle Gibson, Sam Deduno, and PJ Walters.

Thielbar was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 18th round of the 2009 MLB Draft. The Minnesota native went to college at South Dakota State University. He would spend the first two years of his professional career in the lower levels of the Brewers' system.

During his first season in rookie ball, he posted a 6-1 record with a 1.53 ERA. Most of his appearances were out of the bullpen as he was asked to make two starts. Over 48 innings, he struck out 48 and walked eight. These were the type of numbers that one would expect from a college age pitcher in rookie ball.

In 2010, Thielbar found a few more bumps in the road as he tried to make his mark in the minors. He played nine games at rookie ball and his ERA jumped to 3.68 over 14.2 innings. His time in Low-A produced even worse numbers. Over 30 games, he had a 5.60 ERA and a 1.491 WHIP. He struck out 43 and walked 14 over 53.0 innings.

The Brewers would cut ties with him and it was time for Thielbar to make some changes as he headed to independent baseball.

Thielbar would find a new team to latch on with for 2011. The St. Paul Saints were looking to add some depth to their bullpen and Thielbar seemed to fit the mold. He would pitch 49.2 innings for the Saints with a 2.54 ERA and a 1.128 WHIP. He had a decent strike out to walk rate as he struck out 62 and walked 15.

The Minnesota Twins took notice of Thielbar's numbers and he signed a deal with the club. Since it was so late in the year, he was limited to three appearances with the Fort Myers Miracle. It was enough to earn his first win as a member of the Twins organization. He didn't allow a single run and he gave up one hit in 7.1 innings.

Last season was a whirlwind for Thielbar. He pitched very effectively at three different levels in the Twins system. On a return trip to the Florida State League, he pitched 12.1 innings with a 0.00 ERA and a 0.486 WHIP. The next stop was New Britain where he threw 25.0 innings with a 1.80 ERA and a 0.840 WHIP. Rochester was his final stop and he threw 40.1 innings with a 3.57 ERA and a 1.438 WHIP.

Minnesota wanted to see more out of Thielbar so he was sent to the Arizona Fall League this past year. He had pitched close to 80 innings in the minors so he had tired by the time the AFL started. Over 13 innings, he posted an 11.08 ERA. He gave up 21 hits, walked eight, and struck out 12. There was still enough there for the Twins to add him to their 40-man roster.

To start the 2013 season, Theilbar was sent back to Rochester. He was 1-1 with a 3.76 ERA in 17 relief appearances at Triple-A. In 26.1 innings, he struck out 34 and walked eight while holding lefties to a .159 batting average. Since his primary responsibility with the MLB club should be to get out lefties, he seems to be up to this task.

Over his last eight appearances with the Red Wings, he had not allowed a run. In those 11.1 innings, he  struck out 15 and limited his walks to five. Things seemed to be clicking on all cylinders for him and the time was right to have him join the Twins roster.

According to the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook, (which you can still order here for a discounted price):
"When Thielbar was pitching in the Brewers system, he threw a fastball in the mid-80s. After being released, he completely reworked his mechanics and got himself in much better shape. In 2012, he was hitting 92 mph. He has very good control of his curveball, and also throws a change-up. Some compare his delivery to that of fellow-Minnesota left-handed reliever Glen Perkins."

One of the strengths of the Twins has been their bullpen and Thielbar can be another important piece of the puzzle. It looks like he is ready for the big leagues and this will complete quite the journey to get to this point.

Talk to Contact: Episode 38

Episode 38 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.
Dalton Hicks
Dalton Hicks
This week Cody and Eric dive into the poor pitching management of Ron Gardenhire,Joe Mauer‘s hit-streak amid a season filled with strike-outs, and then we discuss the possibility of seeing Kyle Gibson in a Twins uniform and the outside shot of a 6-man rotation in Minnesota.
We name our Twins hitters and pitchers of the week, and then go Down on the Pond and talk about Low-A Cedar Rapids Kernals first basemen Dalton Hicks.
We finish up the podcast talking about beers from Europe and making a trip Around the League (including a fabulous Korean bat flip).
Only an hour of fun this week, but we’ll be back next week with a special patriotic Talk to Contact in honor of Memorial Day.
You can follow me on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read my writing at NoDakTwinsFan.  You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.  And of course, you can find Eric on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read his writing at Knuckleballs!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Friday Links-N-Thinks

It wasn't the best week for the Twins as the team lost the rubber game of their three game set with the Orioles on Sunday. This was followed by losing two out of three games to the dreaded White Sox.

Even with the poor play, Joe Mauer continues to be one of the best hitters in the game (.519/.594/.704 in the last 7 days). Aaron Hicks showed off all of his skills in one game to help the team to their only win of the week. It wasn't all bad for Justin Morneau either as he hit over .460 for the week with four doubles.

Things don't get much easier from here as the Boston Red Sox come to Target Field for a weekend set. Clay Buchholz takes the hill on Friday for the Sox. He has been one of the best pitchers in the American League this season but the Twins got to him in their last match-up a little over a week ago.

Boston's in town for a three game series but don't forget to check out some of the top baseball news from the last week.
My Weekly Rundown
Video of the Week: As mentioned multiple times in this post, Aaron Hicks put together quite the effort earlier this week. In one game, he hit two home runs and he took a home run away from Adam Dunn. Like Puckett, Hunter, Span, and Revere before him, Hicks can scale the wall and bring one back into the park. Check out the smile on his face when he shows off the ball he caught.