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. 

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