Wednesday, December 31, 2014

NoDak Twins Fan's Most Popular Posts of 2014

Here at North Dakota Twins Fan, I spend the year writing about Twins history, the club's current happenings, but a lot of my focus is on the minor leagues. This can lead to an interesting collection of stories that are compiled in my most popular posts of the year.

The 2014 calendar year was tough for many of the Twins top prospects so it's no wonder that most of my most popular posts were in relation to minor league headlines.

Enjoy a look back at the stories!
1. Twins Minor League Report (5/6): Buxton Homers (May)
In the early part of the season, fans were looking for any good news about top prospect Byron Buxton. A spring training wrist injury held him out of action and he struggled at the plate in his return to the diamond. On this day, he cranked his first home run of the season. Another interesting note was this post came the day after Danny Santana made his big league debut. At the time, it was hard to imagine how good of season Santana would have and how much Buxton would be injured.

2. Twins Top 10 Prospects: Post-Draft Edition (June)
After the Twins made their third straight top five pick, it was time to adjust my top 10 prospects for the organization. Nick Gordon broke into the top five and some other prospects fluctuated through the list. It can be tough to evaluate prospects when they are new to the organization. There were even more changes to this list on Monday when I released my off-season top 10 list. This newest list is released in conjunction with the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook.

3. Sorting through the 2014 Hall of Fame Ballot (January)
It seems fitting that my very first post of 2014 would end up as one of the year's most popular posts. Last year's ballot was a little easier to sort through while the 2015 ballot is going to be a mess. There are well more than 10 deserving candidates but that's a story for another day. I correctly picked two of the three inductees while still having the other person on my ballot as a future induction. Jack Morris didn't make the cut on my ballot in his final year of eligibility.

4. Twins Breakout Prospect Candidates for '15 (December)
While the last post was one of my first from the year, this post was one of my more recent. As we put the finishing touches on the 2015 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook, I tried to select some minor leaguers who might be posed for a breakout season next year. Jose Berrios was very impressive this past year and someone out of this trio of players could follow in his footsteps. There's one pitcher and a couple of position players to watch for in 2015.

5. Twins Minor League Report (6/24): Big News for Berrios, Vargas (June)
Minnesota would play host to the All-Star Game in July and this post started with the announcement of the players that would represent the Twins in the Futures Game. Vargas would make his mark in the game and he would be back in Minnesota by season's end. Berrios made it to Triple-A  at the end of the year so he could make it back to Target Field this season.

Thanks for another successful year for NoDak Twins Fan. I look forward to an even more successful 2015.

A Happy New Year to You and Yours!

Monday, December 29, 2014

2015 Top 30 Twins Prospects: 1-10

One of the highlights of the off-season for a core of Twins fans is the release of the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. Seth Stohs has worked to put together this fantastic book for the last seven years. In 2012, he gave me my first taste of helping with the book. By 2013, I was writing an article for the annual and for the last three years I have been among a trio of writers that includes Jeremy Nygaard, Stohs, and myself. 

In the first part of my top 30 list there are a core of young pitchers moving through the system. The second part of my list includes a surprise or two but there are some powerful prospects. I have some differences compared to the other authors but that's what makes this fun. To see their top 30's, you're going to have to go and pick up a copy for yourself.

***Get your copy of the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook now (Paperback or PDF). Use the code: TREAT before the end of the year for 25% off the print version***

1 – Byron Buxton – OF – Ft. Myers Miracle, New Britain Rock Cats
2014 Stats: .234/.307/.395, 4-2B, 2-3B, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 6 SB
Buxton entered the 2014 season as the consensus top prospect in all of baseball. He suffered multiple injuries and was limited to just 31 games. This still takes nothing away from what his potential could be. His combination of speed, power, and hitting could result in him being a perennial All-Star and the player that leads Minnesota out of the bottom of the American League. However, he's going to have to avoid the injury bug because he can't afford another lost season.

2 – Miguel Sano – 3B – Did Not Play
2014 Stats: DNP
Sano didn't play in 2014 after undergoing Tommy John surgery during spring training. There was a chance that he would make his debut in 2014 but now he will have to show he is ready for 2015. Some questions remain about his long-term defensive position or his ability to make consistent contact as he moves up the ladder. For now, he's still considered elite because of his power potential. If everything goes right, he'll be at Target Field before the end of the year. 

3 – Kohl Stewart – RHP – Cedar Rapids Kernels
2014 Stats: 3-5, 2.59 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 87.0 IP, 24 BB, 62 K
The gap between Stewart and Berrios is small but I give a slight nod to Stewart. He compiled decent numbers at Low-A as a teenager. There were some shoulder issues near the end of the season but I don't think this is going to impact him long-term. As a multi-sport athlete in high school, this was his first full season focusing on baseball. He will continue to rack up innings and figure out the art of pitching. He has the chance to be a future ace. 

4 – Jose Berrios – RHP – Ft. Myers Miracle, New Britain Rock Cats, Rochester Red Wings
2014 Stats: 12-8, 2.76 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 140.0 IP, 38 BB, 140 K
Berrios had the best season of any player in the Twins farm system. Even though he is small is stature, he has the work ethic to mold himself into a top-notch big league pitcher. His fastball can hit into the mid-90s and his secondary pitches continue to improve. He pitched out of his mind this past season so it will be interesting to see where he starts in 2015 and how fast he gets to the big leagues. There's no reason to rush him but he might force the Twins hand.

5 – Nick Gordon – SS – Elizabethton Twins
2014 Stats: .294/.333/.366, 6-2B, 4-3B, 1 HR, 28 RBI, 11 SB
Gordon marked the third straight top five pick for the Minnesota Twins with Buxton and Stewart already being featured on this list. He comes from a baseball family as his dad played in the majors and his brother was an All-Star last season. Most reports say he will be able to stay at shortstop for the long-term and he has the potential to be dangerous at the plate and on the bases. He's a long way from Target Field but he could be part of a solid core in the future.

6 – Alex Meyer – RHP – Rochester Red Wings
2014 Stats: 7-7, 3.52 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 130.1 IP, 64 BB, 153 K
There isn't much left for Meyer to do in the minor leagues and it sounds like the Twins might give him the chance to make the Opening Day roster as a bullpen arm. His command wasn't the best this season but he can strikeout a ton of batters. If everything breaks right, he could be a top of the rotation guy or he might end up being a solid bullpen option. The time is now for Meyer.

7 – Jorge Polanco – SS – Ft. Myers Miracle, New Britain Rock Cats, Minnesota Twins
2014 MiLB Stats: .288/.353/.395, 23-2B, 6-3B, 7 HR, 61 RBI
2014 MLB Stats: .333/.500/.833, 1-2B, 1-3B, 0 HR, 3 RBI
When the Twins were in a roster crunch, they looked all the way down to High-A to pluck Polanco up to the majors. He saw limited action but showed off some of his skills. He's switch-hitting ability and powerful swing could make him dangerous. There's questions about if he will stay at shortstop but he made improvements at the position throughout the year. He'll need more time in the minors but his make-up will mean he's only a phone call away from being back with the Twins.

8 – Trevor May – RHP – Rochester Red Wings, Minnesota Twins
2014 MiLB Stats: 8-6, 2.84 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 98.1 IP, 39 BB, 94 K
2014 MLB Stats: 3-6, 7.88 ERA, 1.77 WHIP, 45.2 IP, 22 BB, 44 K
His big league numbers don't look the greatest but May made some strides in 2014. He lowered his walk rate and posted a better WHIP during his time at Triple-A. After some rough outings in his first handful of appearances, May calmed down a little. He struck out 41 and walked nine in his last seven starts to end the year on a positive note. He'll be in the running for the final rotation spot coming out of spring training and he might be the front-runner at this point.

9 – Eddie Rosario – OF/2B – Ft. Myers Miracle, New Britain Rock Cats
2014 Stats: .243/.286/.387, 20-2B, 3-3B, 8 HR, 40 RBI, 9 SB
Rosario started the year with a 50-game suspension for violating the minor league drug policy. Before this season, he had shown the ability to hit at every level. There might have been some issues adjusting to better pitching at Double-A. He put together some impressive numbers in the AFL by hitting .330/.345/.410 with four doubles and two triples. He also stole 10 bases in 14 attempts. Minnesota tried him out at second base for a couple seasons but it looks like he'll have to make the big leagues as an outfielder.

10 – Nick Burdi – RHP – Cedar Rapids Kernels, Ft. Myers Miracle
2014 Stats: 2-0, 2.66 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 20.1 IP, 10 BB, 38 K
Burdi had to finish up his run through the College World Series before the Twins could get him into action this year. He has all the tools to be a very solid back-end of the bullpen option for the Twins in the very near future. He can hit triple-digits with his fastball and he counters that with a good slider and an occasional change-up. Burdi could debut in 2015 but it might be more realistic to look for him during the 2016 campaign.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Dissecting the 25-Man Roster

During last week's episode of Talk to Contact, Eric brought up an interesting topic. How many spots on the Twins 25-man roster are already locked in before spring training?

In recent years there have been position battles or pitching rotation spots up for grabs. This year there may be some question as to whether a player will fit into the rotation or the bullpen. So how many spots are actually up for grabs as try to complete their roster?

Position Player Locks
Catchers: Kurt Suzuki, Josmil Pinto
1B/DH: Joe Mauer, Kennys Vargas
IF: Brian Dozier, Danny Santana, Trevor Plouffe, Eduardo Escobar
OF: Oswaldo Arcia, Torii Hunter, Aaron Hicks, Jordan Schafer

If the Twins carry a four-man bench, I believe 12 of the 13 roster spots are already taken by the men listed above. Minnesota would have room for one more bench bat and that player might not even be on the 40-man at this point. There have been rumors about the team signing a veteran player to a minor league contract so someone like that could end up with the final roster spot if they don't want to give it to a player already on the 40-man roster.

Pitching Locks
Starters: Phil Hughes, Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco, Kyle Gibson
Bullpen: Glen Perkins, Casey Fien, Brian Duensing, Caleb Thielbar, Tim Stauffer

It seems as if the Twins already have four out of their five starting pitchers locked into the rotation. This leaves a group of players fighting for the last rotation spot with some of the players being relegated to the bullpen and the others left out. If the Twins carry a 12-man pitching staff, nine of the slots will be taken by these men.

Pitching Bubble
Undefined: Mike Pelfrey, Trevor May, Tommy Milone, J.R. Graham, Alex Meyer

These five players will be fighting for three spots on the 25-man roster. I don't think Graham sticks at the big league level so he won't be with the Twins organization unless Minnesota can work out a trade with Atlanta. Palfrey will be making a lot of money so he likely begins the year on the roster. May deserves a shot to be on the roster but I don't know if that will be as a starter or reliever. This leaves the other three players fighting for one spot.

Looking at the two lists above it seems as if there is one or two open spots on the 25-man roster before the Twins even think about heading to Fort Myers for spring training. This likely leaves out Alex Meyer, who could be a candidate for a bullpen role to start the year. Paul Molitor has already hinted as much in a recent interview. Former Twins Johan Santana and Francisico Liriano both started their careers as bullpen arms.

The last spot off the bench might be the biggest question mark entering spring training. Prospects like Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, and Eddie Rosario are intriguing but they all need more experience in the minors. This probably means the front office will be deciding between Chris Herrmann and Eduardo Nunez for the final spot. Herrman's versatility means he can play some catcher if needed and he has outfield ability as well.

My vote is for Herrmann but I can see Nunez getting the nod to start the year. I also disappointed with the fact that Meyer looks to be relegated back to Triple-A. His 2014 seasons wasn't outstanding but it's time to test the tires on the Meyer-mobile.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Episode 114: Fryer's Off the 40-Man Holiday Bash

You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking herePhil Hughes renegotiated his contract adding three more years to his deal and keeping him in Minnesota through 2019. This was such a momentous occasion that we asked the Twins Hangout fells, Seth Stohs and Jeremy Nygaard, to join us.
I'll warn you up front that E Rolf has his potty mouth out again, and that the beverages were flowing on the podcast, so if you have children, or sensitive grandparents in the room, you may want to go elsewhere to listen.

We talk about Phil's new contract, and try to figure out exactly what the Twins acquisition of Tim Stauffer means for the organization going into 2015. For starters it means that Eric Fryer has been removed from the 40-man roster, but that might not be such a bad thing, depending on who you ask.

We discuss the recent minor league manager assignments and some other minor league news before jumping into our winter series reviewing the roster. This week we take a look at Casey Fien, Lester Oliveros and Eduardo Escobar.

Thanks for listening and enjoy the show!

If you enjoy our podcast, please tell your friends about us and take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews help Phil Hughes to stay healthy over the life of his new contract.

Monday, December 22, 2014

2015 Twins Top 30 Prospects: 11-20

One of the highlights of the off-season for a core of Twins fans is the release of the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. Seth Stohs has worked to put together this fantastic book for the last seven years. In 2012, he gave me my first taste of helping with the book. By 2013, I was writing an article for the annual and for the last three years I have been among a trio of writers that includes Jeremy Nygaard, Stohs, and myself. 

I already released the first part of my top 30 list and there are some strong prospects making their way to Target Field.. I have some differences compared to the other authors but that's what makes this fun. To see their top 30's, you're going to have to go and pick up a copy for yourself.
***Get your copy of the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook now (Paperback or PDF).***
11 – Lewis Thorpe – LHP – Cedar Rapids Kernels
2014 Stats: 3-2, 3.52 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 71.2 IP, 36 BB, 80 K
Thorpe exploded onto the prospect scene a year ago and seemed to be busting his way into Twins top 10 prospect lists across the country. A year removed from that explosion and things have come back down to earth. He held his own in the Midwest League while being four years younger than the other pitchers in the league. Thorpe will likely miss all of 2015 after spraining his ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow.

12 – Max Kepler – OF – Ft. Myers Miracle
2014 Stats: .264/.333/.493, 20-2B, 6-3B, 5 HR, 59 RBI
Kepler has been one of the most intriguing prospects in the Twins organization since they signed him as a teenager out of Europe. His batting average improved in each month of the season and he got on base over 33% of the time. He continues to be a strong defensive outfielder but his power numbers will need to improve to stick at a corner spot. Kepler did very well in 18 AFL games this season with an .806 OPS including four doubles and three triples.

13 – Stephen Gonsalves – LHP – Elizabethton Twins, Cedar Rapids Kernels
2014 Stats: 4-3, 3.02 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 65.2 IP, 21 BB, 70 K
Behind Thorpe, Gonsalves is the second highest ranked left-handed pitcher in my top 30. He did well at Low-A even though he is only 20-years old. He has some room to grow into his body and he has shown the ability to throw strikes. If Gonsalves continues to make strides at High-A, he could be a top 10 prospect by next off-season. 

14 – Travis Harrison – OF/3B – Ft. Myers Miracle
2014 Stats: .269/.361/.365, 33-2B, 1-3B, 3 HR, 59 RBI
I've liked Harrison a lot since he joined the Twins organization but I didn't like his dip in home runs this season. He was hitting in the tough FSL and he did collect 33 doubles. Some positives were his ability to hit to all fields and he cutback in the strikeout department. He's young and still has some untapped potential. 

15 – Stuart Turner – C – Ft. Myers Miracle
2014 Stats: .249/.322/.375, 16-2B, 2-3B, 7 HR, 40 RBI
I've always liked catching prospects and Turner's defense is enough to carry him to the big leagues. His bat will be the question mark but all of his appearances came in the pitcher friendly FSL. As he moves up the ladder and pitching improves, it will be interesting to see if he can make the adjustments to stay relevant at the plate. I think he makes stress next year and finds himself just shy of the top 10.

16 – Adam Brett Walker – OF – Ft. Myers Miracle
2014 Stats: .246/.307/.436, 19-2B, 1-3B, 25 HR, 94 RBI, 9 SB
Walker killed the ball in the pitcher friendly FSL. However there are still questions about his ability to make consistent contact and he strike out a lot since he has trouble recognizing off-speed offerings. It seems like he will have to make some offensive adjustments in the years to come or be relegated to a lesser role at the big league level.

17 – Felix Jorge – RHP – Elizabethton Twins, Cedar Rapids Kernels
2014 Stats: 6-7, 4.97 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 105.0 IP, 34 BB, 84 K
I'm higher on this guy than basically anyone else that does a Twins prospect list. He struggled mightily at Low-A but made some positive adjustments when he moved back to E-Town. Jorge lost a little mojo with his fastball this year and his off-speed offerings continue to improve. He still has a high ceiling and I'm higher than anyone else about him.

18 – Amaurys Minier – OF/1B – GCL Twins
2014 Stats: .292/.405/.520, 11-2B, 2-3B, 8 HR, 33 RBI
Minier made solid improvements in his second trip through the GCL. He's still a teenager and he will move up in the system in 2015. He has very good power from the left hand side of the plate but there are questions about how his approach will fare as he moves up. There are some holes in his defensive skills but he is one player that could breakout in 2015
19 – Taylor Rogers – LHP – New Britain Rock Cats
2014 Stats: 11-6, 3.29 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 145.0 IP, 37 BB, 113 K
After breaking out at both Low-A and High-A last season, Rogers was able to hold his own at Double-A for all of 2014. He's left-handed and he has a pulse so that puts him a little higher on this list than he might be if he was right-handed. His strikeout rate improved this season and he tossed the most innings of his career. He might not be a starter at the big leagues but he can definitely get lefties out.

20 – Tyler Duffey – RHP – Ft. Myers Miracle, New Britain Rock Cats, Rochester Red Wings
2014 Stats: 13-3, 3.67 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 149.2 IP, 30 BB, 113 K
In only his third year in the system, Duffey cruised his way to Triple-A. He started the year at Fort Myers and the majority of his innings were at Double-A. He was almost four years younger than the other pitchers in the International League. His fastball sits in the low-90s and his change-up was much improved this year. This could make him dangerous moving forward.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Episode 113: The Twins Turn Thirty

You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking hereEric and Paul celebrate their 30th year of life by recording a podcast with Cody who already beat them to the 30-year mark. 

This week's episode features a lively discussion as the guys trying to figure out how the batting order will shape up for next season. We also discuss the possibility of trading Trevor Plouffe, using Alex Meyer in the bullpen, and the value of Kyle Gibson. 

We went Down on the Pond to discuss Stephen Gonsalves, the second best left-handed prospect in the organization and we finish the show with beers and news from around the league.

Thanks for listening and enjoy our show.

If you enjoy our podcast, please tell your friends about us and take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews help the Twins to figure out who should bat at the top of the line-up. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2015 Twins Top 30 Prospects: 21-30

One of the highlights of the off-season for a core of Twins fans is the release of the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. Seth Stohs has worked to put together this fantastic book for the last seven years. In 2012, he gave me my first taste of helping with the book. By 2013, I was writing an article for the annual and for the last three years I have been among a trio of writers that includes Jeremy Nygaard, Stohs, and myself. 

There is a ton of work that goes into the creation of this book. I don't know if we could create this without the help and push from the other writers involved. Besides profiles of all of the prospects in the Twins system and articles on topics from across the baseball world, one of the best parts of the book is our top 30 prospect lists.

Over the next few days, I will be counting down my top 30. I have some differences compared to the other authors but that's what makes this fun. To see their top 30's, you're going to have to go and pick up a copy for yourself.

***Get your copy of the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook now (Paperback or PDF).***

21 – Chih-Wei Hu – RHP – Elizabethton Twins, Cedar Rapids Kernels
2014 Stats: 8-2, 2.15 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 71.0 IP, 15 BB, 64 K
Hu had one of the most surprising seasons in the entire Twins organization. He could be on his way to being much higher on this list if he continues on his current trajectory. He doesn't strike out a ton of batters but he controls the strike zone. He had dominant stretches in Low-A as a 20-year old and could be a sleeper pick 

22 – Michael Cederoth – RHP – Elizabethton Twins
2014 Stats: 4-2, 3.55 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 45.2 IP, 18 BB, 42 K
One of a core group of hard throwing college pitchers the Twins have selected in recent drafts. Because of some of his up-and-down track record, he could be a good candidate to end up in a bullpen role. His professional debut didn't go perfect but he should improve as he moves up the ladder.

23 – Niko Goodrum – SS/3B – Ft. Myers Miracle
2014 Stats: .249/.337/.336, 19-2B, 5-3B, 3 HR, 49 RBI, 35 SB
Goodrum has ranked higher on my list in previous years. His speed and on-base abilities make him a threat once he reaches base. However, he struggled to make consistent content this year at High-A. He also doesn't flourish at any specific defensive position. The transition to Double-A could be tough and it might be a make-it or break-it season for Goodrum.

24 – Jake Reed – RHP – Elizabethton Twins, Cedar Rapids Kernels
2014 Stats: 3-0, 0.29 ERA, 0.45 WHIP, 31.0 IP, 3 BB, 39 K
Reed was a fifth round pick in 2014 out of Oregon. He put up impressive numbers in his professional debut as he threw strikes and overpowered the opposition. Cederoth throws a little harder than Reed and that's why he's higher on the list. His fastball hits up to 95 and he has a decent slider to keep hitters off-balance.

25 – Zack Jones – RHP – GCL Twins, Fort Myers Miracle
2014 Stats: 0-0, 3 S, 1.74 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 10.1 IP, 6 BB, 14 K
Jones got into limited action in 2014 after having shoulder surgery at the end of February. Doctors found that he has an aneurysm in his shoulder that was causing circulation problems. Jones served as the closer for the Miracle in their run to the FSL title. He pitched well in the AFL to cap off his 2014 campaign. Over 11 appearances, he didn't allow an earned run and struck out 11. 

26 – Engelb Vielma – SS – Cedar Rapids Kernels
2014 Stats: .266/.313/.323, 13-2B, 4-3B, 1 HR, 33 RBI
Vielma made some huge strides in the jump from rookie ball to a full season league. He got on base over 31% of the time and his batting average increased by 32 points. Vielma's biggest strength might be his defensive ability and his fielding percentage jumped 42 points. If he can continue to make offensive improvements, he could rise in the years to come.

27 – J.R. Graham – RHP – Mississippi Braves
2014 Stats: 1-5, 5.55 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 71.1 IP, 26 BB, 50 K
The Twins just selected Graham in the Rule 5 Draft so there is a chance that he's back with the Braves organization before the season starts. He spent time as a starter and a reliever. His strikeout rate has dropped in recent years. For him to stay with the Twins, he will have to fill a bullpen role for the entire 2014 campaign.

28 – Fernando Romero – RHP – Cedar Rapids Kernels
2014 Stats: 0-0, 3.00 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 12.0 IP, 5 BB, 9 K
Romero was three years younger than the competition in the Midwest League. He was limited to three starts after tearing his UCL at the end of June. He underwent Tommy John surgery and will likely almost all of next season. He threw hard before Tommy John surgery so he could move through the system quickly if he can get back to his previous level.

29 – Jason Wheeler – LHP – Ft. Myers Miracle, New Britain Rock Cats, Rochester Red Wings
2014 Stats: 11-9, 2.67 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 158.1 IP, 37 BB, 115 K
Wheeler had arguably the best professional season of his career as he cruised through three different levels and finished the year at Triple-A. He fits the mold of pitch to contact as he throws a lot of strikes and doesn't strikeout a ton of batters. Wheeler's impressive season was rewarded as he was added to the 40-man roster so there's a chance he could debut in 2015.

30 – Brett Lee – LHP – Ft. Myers Miracle
2014 Stats: 10-5, 2.45 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 106.1 IP, 33 BB, 54 K
Lee pitched all of 2014 for the Fort Myers Miracle. His strikeout rate is terrible and he will need to improve this area if he is going to find any sort of success in the higher levels of the minors. Even saying that, he was able to limit runs scored against him and he posted career best marks in wins and ERA. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Santa(na) Comes Early, Now What?

"Making a list, checking it twice.
Terry Ryan got what he thought was nice."

Even though the Twins are coming of four straight 90-loss seasons, there wasn't a ton of things the club needed to accomplish this off-season. The team seemingly had one one position player spot in the corner outfield. Terry Ryan also wanted to add depth to the starting pitching core. Just days after the winter meetings and the Twins have crossed both of these needs off their holiday wish list. 

At the beginning of December, Minnesota signed Torii Hunter to a one-year, $10.5 million contract. This checked off the Twins corner outfield need. Near the end of the winter meetings, word came out of the club's interest in starting pitcher Ervin Santana.Over this past weekend, the club signed the righty to a four-year, $54 million contract, the largest free agent deal in franchise history.

With the ink drying on over $60 million worth of free agent contracts, what's left for the Twins to accomplish this off-season?

If the Twins add any more pitching, it will likely be a cost effective bullpen option. Minnesota took J.R Graham during last week's Rule 5 Draft and he will be in the mix for a bullpen role. There are plenty of options for the back end of the rotation and to complete the bullpen. Mike Pelfrey, Trevor May, Tommy Milone, and Alex Meyer will already have quite the battle on their hands this spring.

One name that popped up over the weekend was former club ace Johan Santana. Darren Wolfson reported that the left-handed pitcher will be trying to get into action by the end of the month in the winter leagues. With all of Santana's health issues in recent years, he could be a very cheap option that could eventually be used in a bullpen role. Even if he had to start the year in the minors to prove he was healthy, it could still work out for the club.

Besides pitching depth, the team could also be looking to add a couple of bench bat option on minor league deals. Apparently, the club has reached out to free agent and Twin Cities native Jack Hannahan. A shoulder injury limited the infielder to 26-games last season so if there is interest from both parties, he could end up in Fort Myers for spring training. 

So if your Christmas dreams included another big deal for the Twins, I wouldn't get your hopes up. It seems as if all of the big presents were opened early this year.

***Get your copy of the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook now (Paperback or PDF). If you follow me on Twitter and send me a DM, I will send you a coupon for 30% off a print copy (Offer good through Dec. 15)***

Friday, December 12, 2014

Episode 112: Eric Hates Ervin Santana and Other Lies

You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here, and if you want to add the show to your non-iTunes podcast player, this is the RSS Feed.
This week the gang talks about Ervin Santana, the Rule Five Draft, and what the Twins rotation will look like to start the year. The guys were joined by TwinsDaily's Jeremy Nygaard to talk about who JR Graham is, and what the Twins lost in Sean Gilmartin and Matt Tomshaw (THE THING!). 

The episode wraps up with beer, baseball, and the news.

Thanks for listening and enjoy our show.

If you enjoy our podcast, please tell your friends about us and take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews help Trevor May throw strikes.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

PROSPECT HANDBOOK PREVIEW: Injuries Plague Twins System in ‘14

For the third year in a row, Seth Stohs of asked Jeremy Nygaard and myself to help him put together the annual off-season handbook that looks deep into one of the best minor league systems in all of baseball. Several other high quality writers helped to write articles for the book and this only adds to the over 200 pages of content.

It was our goal to get the paperback version out to the public before Christmas and we will meet our goal for the second year in a row. This also allows fans to have the book in hand for TwinsFest later next month. We will have full release details in the coming days.

Here's a brief rundown of what's included in the book:
  • Stories on my minor league award winners: Mitch Garver (hitter), Jose Berrios (starting pitcher), Brandon Peterson (relief pitcher) and Doug Mientkiewicz (manager).
  • A Foreword by Mike Beradino of the Pioneer Press
  • Jeremy wrote articles reviewing the 2014 Twins draft, and another looking forward to the 2015 draft.
  • AJ Pettersen wrote an article about his lasting memories as he reflected back on his professional career
  • The top 30 prospect lists for Seth, Jeremy, and myself.

Below you will find a preview of one of the articles I wrote for the book. There was a bad trend throughout the farm system so it was only appropriate to include a story relating to the injuries that plagued the organization's top prospects.

If there was one theme across the Twins minor league system in 2014, it was the injury bug that seemed to touch almost every top prospect. This unfortunate series of events ran rampant and seemed to know no bounds. Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Kohl Stewart and other top prospects fell victim and many players lost a large chunk of playing time during the season.

Losing games can be tough for prospects especially as they are trying to develop. Lost playing time means more years in the minor leagues and it pushes back their arrival time at the big league level. There were high hopes for many of the players on this list going into the season. Injuries are going to happen and it will be interesting to see how these players are impacted for 2015.

Byron Buxton, CF
2014 Games Played: 31
Injury List: Left-wrist injury (twice), right-wrist injury, head injury,  dislocated middle finger on left hand

It was a nightmare season for Buxton as he tried repeatedly to get back on the field but the injuries continued to pile up. Buxton started the spring in major league camp and injured his left wrist while diving for a ball on the minor league side of camp. His first action of the year came with Fort Myers and five games into the season he re-injured his left wrist on a slide into third base. Two months later he was back on the field but a couple weeks later a pitch hit him on the right wrist. He only missed a handful of games and on August 11th he was promoted to Double-A. His first game in New Britain saw the end of his regular season and a very gruesome collision. Buxton was carted off the field after colliding with Mike Kvasnicka as both players attempted to make a diving catch in the gap. Buxton was knocked out for about 10 minutes and luckily there were no broken bones. In the Arizona Fall League, he finished his injury plagued season with a dislocated middle finger on his left hand after diving for a ball.

2015 Impact: Buxton is an exciting player that is going to play the game hard all of the time. There could be some injuries that arise from playing the game at an all-out pace. His wrists should be healed and there didn’t seem to be any lasting concussion issues during his play in the Arizona Fall League.  

Miguel Sano, 3B
2014 Games Played: 0
Injury List: Tommy John surgery

This was supposed to be the year Miguel Sano made his much anticipated big league debut. Sano’s elbow pulled him out of the Dominican Winter League last offseason but at the time there wasn’t a ton of concern coming out of Twins camp. He showed up to spring training and a physical showed that his elbow had improved. In January, Terry Ryan even came out and said that he didn’t think the injury would require surgery. During TwinsFest, Sano predicted he would crack 45 home runs and make his big league debut. The pain in his elbow came back in February and he underwent Tommy John surgery on March 12.

2015 Impact: His rehab is progressing well and there was some speculation that he could return to game action in the second half of the Dominican Winter League. However, the Twins are going to be conservative and hold him out of action until spring. Everything seems on track for him to start next season in the minors before making his MLB debut later in the year.

Kohl Stewart, RHP
2014 Games Played: 19
Injury List: Right shoulder impingement (twice)

Kohl Stewart dealt with a shoulder issues near the end of the 2013 season and his problems continued for different parts of this past year. In late July, he was dealing with some slight shoulder soreness after he slept wrong on his arm during a long bus ride. He was placed on the disabled list but the MRI came back clean. Some thought he might be done for the season but the Twins put him out there for a couple more games in the middle of August. Two starts later he had to be pulled because the shoulder was still sore. “I felt like (crap), tried to pitch through it,” Stewart said.

2015 Impact: The Twins will watch Stewart’s workload very closely in 2015. If there is any sign of him not being able to get loose, the club will quickly pull him from the action. The Twins were aggressive with his promotion last year and that could allow them to be a little more conservative in 2015. It might also be helpful to get a neck pillow for the long minor league bus rides.
There's much more to this article and a ton of other great content in the book. Let me know if you have any questions about the book and look for the release of my top prospect lists in the days to come.