Friday, May 30, 2014

The Only Prescription is Less Kubel

"I've got a fever and the only prescription is less Kubel"

Those words don't taste good coming out of my mouth because I consider myself a Jason Kubel fan. I've liked Kubel since he was a budding prospect in the Twins minor league system. He was supposed to be one of the left-handed power bats to join Joe Mauer in the middle of the batting order. A devastating knee injury kept those dreams from becoming a reality and it's looking more like his time is over in Minnesota.

Things haven't been very good for Kubel this season. He is batting .238/.329/.313 on the year with eight extra-base hits. Those numbers might not seem horrendous but most of his good hitting came at the beginning of the season. According to FanGraphs version of WAR, Kubel has been the second worst left fielder in the American League this season. 

Since the calendar turned to May, Kubel has looked like a shell of his former self. He has no extra-base hits this month and his slash line has dropped to .179/.295/.179 with 27 strikeouts. That's right his batting average and slugging percentage match and that's not a good thing. It's tough to stomach Kubel being in the line-up as a corner outfielder with little defensive value. The value Kubel provided in the past was from his offensive power. With his power gone, what value does he provide?

Corner Outfield Crunch
When Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham were recovering from injuries, it made sense to have someone like Kubel around for some outfield depth. Arcia is swinging a hot bat and he looks to be penciled into a corner outfield spot for the rest of the season. Willingham could be a trade candidate at the deadline so the Twins need him on the field as much as possible. There also might be more left in Willingham's tank compared to Kubel. Hopefully both Arcia and Willingham will be healthy for the rest of the year.

Pinto Needs to Play
Fitting Kubel into the line-up means that Josmil Pinto has been pushed to the bench. Pinto needs to be in the line-up on a more regular basis for a variety of reasons. First of all, he is one of the best offensive players on the roster and the Twins are struggling to score runs. Just because Ron Gardenhire is scared about having both catchers in the line-up on a given night doesn't mean he should shy away from using Pinto. Secondly, the team should be committed to him as the catcher of the future and that isn't going to happen with him on the bench while the team isn't scoring runs.

Other Outfield Options
While Chris Parmelee and Chris Colabello have gone through some struggles in the last two seasons, it would be nice for the Twins to continue to give each of them opportunities. Parmelee is barely 26-years old and he has shown the ability to produce at Triple-A. Colabello was the International League MVP a season ago and he produced some monster numbers in the first month of this year. There might be ups and downs with these two but they seem like more viable options than a depleted Kubel.

Kubel was part of many special moments in Minnesota but my fever is hot and it's time for the Kubel to stop ringing.

Episode 85: Astatine, Jim Callis and the most important coach in baseball

You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or click here you can download the new episode, and if you want to add the show to your non-iTunes podcast player, this is the RSS Feed.
This week's episode is highlighted by a lengthy interview with Jim Callis (@JimCallisMLBMLBpipeline.com) who talks about the draft and a whole mess of Twins topics. The Baseball Pirate makes his return from defending the homeland and the whole gang is back together for the first time in a long time. The show starts out with a rousing discussion of which coach is the most important coach in baseball, and whether or not any of the players on the 25-man roster could be more important than the most important coach. Interesting things are happening.


Brian Dozier continues to impress, the Twins pitchers continue to distress (except for Punxsutawney Phil Hughes), and Eduardo Escobar continues to mash extra-base hits like it's his job (because it is). Is Eddie Escobar playing over his head? Probably some, but could this also be the natural maturation of a player who's been in the big leagues since his age-22 season?

Eddie Rosario makes his return from his drug suspension, Ben Revere hits a real life, honest to god, over the wall home run and Carlos Gomez says "It's sexy batting clean-up!" All this and more on this week's episode of Talk to Contact.

Enjoy the Show!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Twins Minor League Report (5/27): Tomshaw Twirls Gem

On Tuesday it was announced that New Britain Rock Cats outfield Daniel Ortiz was selected as the Eastern League Player of the Week for the period of May 19th-May 25th. Over six games, he hit .480 with four doubles, a triple, and two home runs. He had at least one hit in all six games and he post back-to-back three hit nights earlier in the week. During the last week, Ortiz lead the league in slugging percentage (.960), OPS (1.460) and tied for the league lead in extra-base hits (7)

Would Ortiz's hot hitting continue this week? Read on to find out.

RED WINGS REPORT
Rochester 2, Syracuse 10 
Box Score
Syracuse must have been sick of losing to Rochester. Coming into the game the Red Wings had beat the Chiefs in three straight games and outscored them 24-10.

Scott Diamond is not making it easy for Rochester to win the games he starts. After giving up seven runs in 3.1 innings, his ERA is up to 7.51 and his WHIP is the highest in the International League. He hasn't won a start since May 2 and he's given up five runs or more in four of his nine starts. Yohon Pino, Deolis Guerra, and Edgar Ibarra did their best to clean up the mess as they combined to give up three earned runs over the last 5.2 frames.

There wasn't much to speak of on the offensive side of the ball. Chris Herrmann and Chris Colabello made their return to the Rochester line-up after being sent down on Monday. Herrmann went 2-for-4 with a run scored while Colabello went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. Chris Rahl had the lone extra-base hit, a double that scored two runs.

ROCK CATS REVIEW
New Britain 5, Portland 5 (2 Innings-Suspended)
Box Score
The Rock Cats didn't get very far into their game with the Sea Dogs but there was plenty of action. New Britain got on the board early with a big five-run first inning. Daniel Oritz continued his hot hitting ways with two hits including a triple. Reynaldo Rodriguez cracked a two-run home run, his eighth of the season.

Pat Dean got beat up in the rainy weather as he allowed five runs on six hits in 1.1 innings. He walked one and struck out one. The game is scheduled to be completed on Wednesday as part of a double-header.

MIRACLE MATTERS
Fort Myers 11, Clearwater 3
Box Score
Matt Tomshaw twirled eight shutout innings and faced just one batter over the minimum. He was able to get around his two walks and three hits because of three double plays turned behind him. It was his fourth straight win in May and he has only allowed two earned runs so far this month. Brandon Peterson had a strikeout as he closed out the ninth inning to preserve the shutout.

Stuart Turner put together a very impressive night at the plate. He went 4-for-5 with two doubles and four RBI. It was his second consecutive multi-hit game and he's hit safely in eight of his last ten games. Five other hitters in the Miracle line-up had two hits or more. Max Kepler scored three runs and Niko Goodrum added a double.

KERNELS NUGGETS
Cedar Rapids 16, Beloit 5  
Box Score
The Kernels exploded for seven runs in the fifth inning and 16 runs, a season high, over four innings to pound the Beloit Snappers. Every Kernels starter had a hit besides JD Williams and he still scored three runs and had an RBI without recording a hit. Surprisingly, there was only one extra-base hit out of the 16 total hits for Cedar Rapids. Mitch Garver went 3-for-5 with 4 RBI and Ivory Thomas hit a pinch-hit three run homer to cushion the lead.

Jake Mauer was able to use a variety of pitchers in the late innings since his club scored so many runs. Derrick Penilla started things for Cedar Rapids and he went four shutout frames while walking three and striking out two. It was only his second start of the season and it was the most inning he has pitched this year. Brandon Bixler picked up the win but he was charged with five runs in less than three innings. Jared Wilson and Hudson Boyd combined to shutout the Kernels in the last 2.1 innings.

The Kernels improved to 4-2 against the Snappers this season. After the series win, the Kernels won't face the Snappers again in the first half. The two teams meet-up again in August

TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY
Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day: Matt Tomshaw, Fort Myers Miracle
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day: Stuart Turner, Fort Myers Miracle

SUNDAY'S PROBABLE STARTERS
Syracuse @ Rochester (6:05 CST)- Alex Meyer (Listen)
New Britain @ Portland- Taylor Rogers (Listen)
New Britain @ Portland (5:00 CST)- Competition of 5/28 Game 
Fort Myers @ Clearwater (12:00 CST)- David Hulbut (Listen)
Wisconsin @ Cedar Rapids (6:35 CST)- Aaron Slegers (Listen)

Walks Don't Haunt Phil Hughes

Phil Hughes signed during the off-season to help remedy some of Minnesota's starting pitching woes over the last two seasons. Hughes was coming off a rough final season in New York where he posted an ERA over 5.00 and his WHIP topped out at 1.46. Hughes was charged with a career high 14 losses and he probably couldn't get out of town fast enough.

"Walks Will Haunt" was the message played to taunt opposing pitchers inside the Metrodome. Apparently, Hughes has taken that message to heart as he has been living out that mantra over the last month.

When Hughes takes the mound on Tuesday evening, he is in the midst of quite the impressive streak. He hasn't walked a batter in 147 consecutive batters, a career-best stretch. It has been more than a month since he last walked a batter on April 20 at Kansas City. It is the longest such streak for the Twins since Carlos Silva went 155 batters between walks in 2005.

Since Hughes isn't walking batters, it's easy to assume that he is throwing more strikes. Last season he averaged 67% of his pitches being strikes and that was close to his career mark of 66%. Since joining the Twins, he has been much more efficient with his pitches. In 2014 over nine starts, he is averaging almost 73% of his pitches being strikes.

While Hughes has been in the strike zone more frequently, he has been able to coax more swinging strikes than in previous seasons. In 2013, Hughes got opponents swung at pitches outside of the zone 29.7% of the time. That was very close to his career mark of 30.3%. So far this season, opponents have show more of a willingness to chase pitches out of the zone as opponents have swung at 37.8% of pitches outside of the zone.

Besides swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, opponents have also shown a tendency to swing at more pitches overall. For his career Hughes gets opponents to swing 48.7% of the time and he posted a 48.9% swing percentage a year ago. Because of his ability to get more swings outside of the zone, Hughes is up to a 56.2% swing percentage in 2014.

Hughes has always been known as a fly ball pitcher and that's easy to see from his heat maps from 2013. He gave up 24 home runs last season, 13 to left-handed hitters and 11 to right-handed batters. His heat maps show a change for 2014. He is doing a better job of keeping the ball out of the middle of the zone versus righties. Hughes approach versus lefties seems to be similar but he is tending to stay up in the zone.

Some questioned whether the Twins should give Hughes a three-year deal especially after his recent track record in New York. At this early stage of the contract, things seem to be working out in the Twins favor. Hughes will eventually walk a batter because that's how baseball works.

Let's hope that walk doesn't haunt him...

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Maturation of Trevor Plouffe

As spring training began in Twins Territory, there were questions about who should be starting at third base when the team headed north. Trevor Plouffe was coming off an underwhelming season where he dealt with some injuries and he struggled defensively at third base. Miguel Sano was ranked as one of the best prospects in the game and his powerful swing looked primed to make his debut.

Flash-forward a couple months and Sano is recovering from Tommy John surgery while Plouffe has continued to look more comfortable at the plate and in the field. Plouffe is never going to be a high batting average player but he's changed some of his offensive approach. Last season, he set a career high in doubles with 22 and this season he's already notched 18 two-baggers. His OPS+ of 106 ties his career high from back in 2012 when he went HR crazy for a few weeks.

There have been two big changes for Plouffe this season. The first has been his plate discipline and more importantly his ability to coax walks. He has 19 walks to his credit this year but he has increased is BB% from 6.5% in 2013 to over 10% in 2014. Plouffe has also seen more pitches per game this season than last year. In 2013, he average 14.93 pitches seen per game and that number has jumped to 18.23 in 2014.

Another area of improvement for Plouffe has been his ability to drive the ball to the opposite field. Last season, he had a total of six doubles to opposite field and only two of those balls were to the gap. Already this season he has ten doubles to opposite field and seven of those doubles are in the gap. His line drive percentage has also increased from 24.7% to 28.5%.
Plouffe is in his first year of being arbitration eligible since he qualified as a Super 2 player. His salary bumped up to $2.35 million this season and that number will continue to increase in the years to come. Here's a fun little player comparison between two former Twins first round picks.

Player A: 1544 PA, .260/.336/.444, 86 2B, 48 HR, .184 ISO, .304 BABIP
Player B: 1544 PA, .242/.305/.413, 78 2B, 51 HR, .171 ISO, .281 BABIP

Player A is Michael Cuddyer, another late bloomer with the Twins. Player B is Trevor Plouffe through Wednesday night's game in San Diego. It took Cuddyer over 1500 at-bats to consistently compile an OPS+ of over 100. Plouffe is around that mark and he just crossed the 1500 career at-bats.

If Plouffe can continue to make small improvements, the Twins are going to have to continue to find room for him on their line-up card.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Episode 84: The Twins are Above Five Hundred and Fox Sports' Gabe Kapler

The Twins are TWO GAMES ABOVE FIVE HUNDRED! That must mean that Gardy is a magician, I don’t know how else to explain in.  You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or click here you can download the new episode, and if you want to add the show to your non-iTunes podcast player, this is the RSS Feed.
This week we discuss the Twins shift to six-man rotations in Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers, Dozier’s chances of being a 40/40 guy (and a related tangent about Jose Canseco in 1988), what the Twins will do when Mike PelfreyOswaldo Arcia, and Josh Willingham are healthy, and a change in the Twins’ mentality.

We pick a pitcher and hitter of the week, and talk about Minor Leaguer Zack Granite when we go down on the pond.

This week we were lucky to be joined by Fox Sports One’s Gabe Kapler.  Kap, as he is affectionately known, is a 12 year MLB veteran, and hosts a couple of shows on FS1, including Fox Sports Live and MLB Whip Around.  He talks about his path to the majors, and weighs in on batter perparation and making adjustments to pitchers, a couple of topics very close at hand for Twins Aaron Hicks and Chris Colabello.

We ran long on Twins news this week, so we had to cut the Beer and Around the League segments, but do not fret, we will be back next week at full strength.

Thanks for listening!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Twins Minor League Report (5/20): Tremendous Pitching Trio

Minnesota starts into a West Coast swing of baseball action on Tuesday. The club will play two games in San Diego before heading up the coast for a weekend series in San Francisco. This means some late night baseball action for Twins Territory, as most of the team's games won't be starting until 8:00 pm or later.

The Twins have won each of their last three series including two out of three from Boston and Detroit. If the Twins want to continue to be relevant in the AL Central, they will need to continue to win series. The Tigers are out to an early lead in the division and they are playing at a very high level.

Down in the minor leagues, there were three very strong starts by pitchers in New Britain, Fort Myers, and Cedar Rapids. Were their teams able to pick up the victory? You'll have to read on to find out!

RED WINGS REPORT
Rochester 0, Toledo 3 
Box Score
The loss by Rochester ended a seven-game winning streak and a 10-game home winning streak. It was the third time the Red Wings have been shutout this season and Toledo has done it twice to them. Scott Diamond started and lasted seven innings while giving up three runs on six hits. He tied his season high in strikeouts with six and he hasn't allowed a walk in the last 13.1 innings.

James Beresford went 1-for-4 in the game and extended his hitting streak to seven games. He also has a 13-game home hitting streak in front of the Frontier Field faithful. Doug Bernier started at first base and he has now started at six different positions (1B, 2B, 3B, SS, LF, and RF) for the Wings this season. Pedro Florimon had two hits and his sixth error in the field.

ROCK CATS REVIEW
New Britain 7, Richmond 2
Daniel Ortiz powered the Rock Cats past the Flying Squirrels on Tuesday night. Ortiz went 3-for-4 with two doubles and it was his second consecutive multi-hit game. The first four hitters in New Britain's line-up all had multi-hit games and they combined to go 9-for-15 with three doubles and five runs scored. Overall, the team went 6-for-13 with runners in scoring position and this certainly helped the pitching staff on this night.

Sean Gilmartin had plenty of run support and he didn't necessarily need it all. Over 8.0 innings, he allowed two runs on four hits and he struck out a season high nine batters. It was his first win since May 2nd and it was the first time he had pitched more than 6.2 innings this season. Lester Oliveros pitched a perfect ninth innings with a strikeout.

MIRACLE MATTERS
Fort Myers 7, Dunedin 2
Box Score
A four-run fourth inning helped the Miracle to break open a tie game. Travis Harrison started the frame with a double and Dalton Hicks followed that up with a walk. A few pitches later Niko Goodrum drove in both base runners with triple. Adam Brett Walker knocked in Goodrum with a single and a few batters later he scored on a Jonathan Murphy single. The Miracle were up 5-1 and they didn't look back.

To cap off a solid day of starting pitching by Twins minor leaguers (Cedar Rapids played an afternoon game), Matt Tomshaw went seven frames by allowing two runs on five hits. Both of the runs scored against him were home runs but they were solo-shots to keep his team in the game. He struck out four and walked one. Madison Boer pitched two shutout innings to end the game. He allowed one hit and stuck out two.

KERNELS NUGGETS
Cedar Rapids 4, Beloit 2  
Box Score
JD Williams played the hero in this game as his pinch-hit, two run single in the bottom of the eighth turned out to be the difference in the game. Bryan Santy had a good day at the plate as he went 2-for-3 with his third double of the season. He also scored two of the team's four runs. Ivory Thomas and Carlos Avila each went 2-for-2 at the dish.

Kohl Stewart didn't figure into the decision but he was outstanding on the mound. He tossed six frames and allowed one run on four hits. He struck out three and walked one. It was the first time he has pitched at least six innings since April 25th and it was only the second time all year he made it that far into a game. His ERA is down to 2.21 for the season over 40.2 innings.

Alex Muren picked up his first win of the season by allowing one run in two innings of relief work. He struck out three and didn't walk any. Todd Van Steensel earned his second save by pitching a scoreless ninth frame.

TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY
Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day: Sean Gilmartin, New Britain Rock Cats
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day: Daniel Ortiz, New Britain Rock Cats

SUNDAY'S PROBABLE STARTERS
Rochester- Scheduled off day 
Richmond @ New Britain (5:35 CST)- Pat Dean (Listen)
Fort Myers @ Dunedin (5:30 CST)- David Hulbut (Listen)
Beloit @ Cedar Rapids (6:35 CST)- Felix Jorge (Listen)

Monday, May 19, 2014

REVIEW: 'Down to the Last Pitch' by Tim Wendel

The 1991 World Series will always hold a special place in the heart of Twins fans. Kirby Puckett's heroics in Game 6 and the magnificent pitching performance of Jack Morris are legendary moments etched into the minds of a generation of baseball fans. Many consider this World Series as the best of all time and it all comes into focus in the newly released book "Down to the Last Pitch."

To get a better understanding of this legendary World Series, author Tim Wendel breaks down every game by using the words and stories from the players who were in the middle of the action. Wendel was a founding editor of USA Today Baseball Weekly and he has authored ten books. His years of being around the game of baseball are evident throughout the book's chapters.

This specific World Series will always be marked as a special time in baseball. Changes would hit the game hard in the coming years. Performance enhancing drugs and labor unrest would be baseball's themes for the next decade. "In a lot of ways it will always be a sweet spot in time," said Steve Hirdt of the Elias Sports Bureau. "Not only did this one Series have everything you ever wanted in terms of pressure games and great performances, you also look back on it fondly because of what was to come, the challenges the game would soon face."

Each chapter of this 253-page book is dedicated to one game in the Series. However, Wendel doesn't just retell the story of each pitch or each at-bat. He delves into the back-stories of the players on the rosters for the Braves and the Twins. He explores other stories from around the baseball world like Ricky Henderson's stolen base record, Nolan Ryan's final no-hitter, and Pete Rose being banned for life.

Baseball is never about one team or one player. It is about the stories and the history that takes place on an everyday basis.

One of my favorite stories in the book took place in spring training 1991. The author, a man who covered National League baseball until '91, was trying to get to know the teams and players of the American League. He showed up late one evening to the Lee County Sports Complex in Fort Myers and he heard someone taking batting practice.

What he ended up finding was Kent Hrbek, Chili Davis, and Dan Gladden watching Kirby Puckett taking hacks in the batting cage. Some interesting conversations took place as a strange report showed up to their impromptu batting session but it ended with an interesting back-and-forth between the parties involved.

     "Puckett exited the batting cage and Hrbek took his place.
      'But Baseball Weekly, man, you have to ask yourself something,' Puckett continued.
      I shrugged, not sure what he was talking about.
      'How many teams are taking BP at this hour?' Puckett asked.
      'Probably none,' I replied.
      'Exactly,' Hrbek said."

Did those extra spring training BP sessions pay off for the Twins? No one may ever know but the team wound up in the middle of a World Series for the ages. Five of the seven games were decided in the home team's last at-bat, four games were decided on the last pitch, and three games finished in extra-innings.

Wendel's baseball acumen and historical knowledge make this a book for any baseball fan. This isn't just a story of the Twins winning or the Braves losing. It is a snapshot of baseball in the early 1990's, a simpler time when "everyone involved was left with memories of the last fine time in baseball."

Friday, May 16, 2014

Lost Playing Time Hurting Top Twins Prospects

It has been a rough season for some of the top position players in the Twins minor league system. Eddie Rosario is serving a 50-game suspension after he tested positive for marijuana use. Miguel Sano had to undergo Tommy John surgery and the earliest he could be on the field is very late in the summer. To cap it all off, Byron Buxton, the consensus top prospect in all of baseball, has played a whopping five games this year because of wrist injuries.
Byron Buxton
Original Outlook (2014): After tearing up both Low-A and High-A last season, Buxton was expected to spend most of the season at Double-A. This would have left him with an outside chance at making his big league debut as a September call-up.

Injury Issue: Buxton missed all of the first month of the season with a wrist injury. This forced the Twins to send him back to Fort Myers to work himself back into form after the injury. He played five games and went just 3-for-20 with a double and a home run before he re-injured his wrist sliding into third base.

Consequences of Lost Playing Time: One of the things that made Buxton move up the prospect charts so quickly was his achievement at each level for his young age. Last season he was two years younger than the average age of position players in the Midwest League. He dominated the Florida State League and he was almost four years younger than players in that league. There are comparisons between him and Mike Trout and Buxton's numbers are even better at the same point. Every at-bat is important for development and he is losing precious development time.

Miguel Sano
Original Outlook (2014): After producing some of the best power numbers in the minor leagues, Sano was expected to get the majority of his playing time at Triple-A. This would have left him knocking on the door to the big leagues shortly after the All-Star Game.

Injury Issue: Something wasn't right with Sano's elbow for most of the off-season. He wasn't able to fully participate in Winter League action but the Twins wanted him to try to rest his sore elbow. After he reported to big league camp, the reports were mostly positive as he tried to stretch out his arm. It was eventually decided that Tommy John surgery was the only option as he continued to deal with pain.

Consequences of Lost Playing Time: Much like Buxton, one of the reasons Sano was so highly touted was his advanced ability at such a young age. When he was playing with New Britain at the end of 2013, he was almost 4.5 years younger than the competition. He has more professional playing time than Buxton and he reached a higher level even though they are both close to the same age. Sano's injury is frustrating especially since he was dealing with elbow problems for much of the off-season. He'll try and get back in games at the end of this year and this will push back his debut into 2015.

Eddie Rosario
Original Outlook (2014): After transitioning to the middle infield and getting some extra at-bats in the Arizona Fall League, Rosario was supposed to end up in Rochester to push for the big leagues. He and Sano have followed much of the same path so a late season call-up was not out of the question.

Injury Issue: Rosario reported to Twins camp three weeks after the other minor league players. The only word out from the Twins front office was that he was dealing with "personal issues." After he reported the extended spring training, word came out about his suspension was due to smoking marijuana during the Arizona Fall League. He is also rehabbing a sore elbow.

Consequences of Lost Playing Time: While Buxton and Sano are trying to get healthy and back on the field, Rosario is dealing with a different kind of recovery. He made a mistake in the off-season and he is dealing with the consequences. Rosario's suspension will be over at the end of May so he will likely beat the other two players back onto the field. There was an outside chance of him making his debut this year but that likely won't happen because of his lost at-bats. It will also be interesting to see if the Twins continue to use him at second base because of Brian Dozier's emergence.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Episode 83: Chicken Parm and (Pinto) Beans

Chris Parmelee hit a walk-off home run to steal a game against the Boston Red Sox, and he's named after a popular italian food. That's called bi-winning. You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or click here you can download the new episode, and if you want to add the show to your podcast player, this is the RSS Feed.
The Twins Phil Hughes out dueled Justin Verlander in Detroit and the Twins stole the series from the Tigers. Did Phil Hughes do enough to garner this week's Pitcher of the Week?

The Twins have been making roster moves left and right, call-ups, send-downs, concussion DL stints galore. We review what's been going on with the roster and what may be coming as Josh Willingham begins his rehab. Byron Buxton is back on the DL, is it time to be worried?

Joe Mauer is set to overtake Kirby Puckett in career WAR, but are you ready to admit that he's a better player? We tackle that debate and more. 

This week's Down on the Pond profile is on Twins AAA LHP Kris Johnson. Hopefully he doesn't tear his UCL like Jose Fernandez and seemingly everyone else in baseball.

Thanks for the download.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Twins Minor League Report (5/13): Berrios Baffles

It's shaping up to be a killer couple of days for Cedar Rapids. After the first two games of their four-game set with Peoria got rained out, the Kernels will be forced to play double-headers on Tuesday and Wednesday.

In their two other double-headers this season, the Kernels have played to an all or nothing result. They have either swept or gotten swept by the opposition. This left the club with a 2-2 record in double-header action this season.

How would they fare tonight? Would they be the sweepers or get swept?

RED WINGS REPORT
Rochester 6. Columbus 0 (6 innings- Rain)
Rochester decided to have a home run party. The only requirement was that the batter couldn't of hit a home run yet this season at the Triple-A level. Eric Farris, Oswaldo Arcia, Deibinson Romero, and Chris Herrmann each. They were all solo home runs except for Arica's two-run shot. After a two-hit effort, Farris now has a team leading 15 multi-hit games in 32 starts this season.

Trevor May was pitching against another tough Trevor, Trevor Bauer. May gave up three hits and struck out six over six frames. It was the first time Bauer had lost this season and the win ended Rochester's eight game losing streak, a season long skid. The Red Wings have a season high five-game winning streak at home.

ROCK CATS REVIEW
New Britain 4, Portland 2
The Rock Cats turned to Taylor Rogers to continue their recent winning ways. The club had won back-to-back games coming into the night and Rogers did his best to continue this streak. He tossed six innings of one-run ball by striking out seven and walking three. Over his last two starts, he has pitched a minimum of six innings and allowed one earned run or less. It was also his third straight victory.

Kennys Vargas and Reynaldo Rodriguez both had multi-hit nights and each scored two runs. It was the eighth double of the season for Vargas. Brandon Waring and Daniel Ortiz each added a double to help the Rock Cat offense. Waring's two-out double knocked in Rodriguez and Vargas and that hit made the difference in the game.

MIRACLE MATTERS
Fort Myers 6, Brevard County 0
Jose Berrios, one of the Twins top pitching prospects, completed 6.1 innings of shutout ball by limiting Brevard County to three hits. He didn't allow a hit until the fifth and his eight strikeouts were a season high. Berrios might have been able to finish the seventh inning if not for a missed catch error by first baseman Mike Gonzales. Madison Boer and Brandon Peterson helped to complete the shutout by allowing a hit each.

The Miracle didn't need a ton of offense but they scored enough to get a comfortable lead. Travis Harrison is in the midst of a four-game hitting streak as he knocked two doubles. Aderlin Mejia and John Murphy each collected two hits including a double apiece. Jorge Polanco scored two runs and he extended his hit streak to 11 consecutive games.

KERNELS NUGGETS
Cedar Rapids 3, Peoria 4 (Game 1)
The Kernels got out hit 11 to two but the club held a two run lead heading into the fifth inning. This is when Peoria got their big inning. After allowing one run in the first, starting pitcher Ethan Mildren settled in before allowing three doubles and three runs in the top of the fifth. His record dropped to 0-2 despite having a 3.10 ERA after allowing two runs or less in every start prior to today.

Jason Kanzler provided all of the offense for the Kernels. With two outs in the fourth, he cracked his third double of the season to drive in two runs. He also swiped two bases to bring his season total to seven steals. Overall, there wasn't a ton of offense to speak of from Cedar Rapids.

Cedar Rapids 4, Peoria 6 (Game 2)
A big five-run third inning doomed the Kernels and starting pitcher Josue Montanez. He was charged with five earned runs on four hits and his ERA is up to 8.74. It's been back-to-back rough starts for Montanez as he allowed eight earned runs in less than two innings during his previous appearance.

Bryan Haar clocked his sixth home run of the season, a two-run shot. The long ball gave Cedar Rapids an early lead but it wasn't enough. Haar finished the double-header going 4-for-6 with three runs scored. Bo Altobelli added two hits and an RBI in this game.

TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY
Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day: Jose Berrios, Fort Myers Miracle
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day: Bryan Haar, Cedar Rapids Kernels

SUNDAY'S PROBABLE STARTERS
Columbus @ Rochester (6:05 CST)- Scott Diamond
Portland @ New Britain (5:35 CST)- Tyler Duffey
Fort Myers @ Brevard County (9:35 CST)- David Hulbut
Peoria @ Cedar Rapids (5:05 CST)- Kohl Stewart
Peoria @ Cedar Rapids (30 min. after Game 1)- Felix Jorge 

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Rising Cost of Brian Dozier

On last week's episode of Talk to Contact, Darren "Doogie" Wolfson spent some time with us discussing the possibility of a Brian Dozier contract extension. He mentioned that Dozier's agent has already approached the Twins about this possibility. By the end of the interview, he said he wouldn't be surprised if Dozier has a new contract in place by the end of spring training next year.

From the perspective of the Twins front office, there might not be a reason to be in a rush with Dozier. He didn't make his big league debut until the age of 24. His first year of arbitration eligibility is 2016 and he can't be a free agent until 2019. Dozier would be 31-years old before he hit the free agent market and a lot can happen to a player over the course of multiple seasons.

On the other hand, Minnesota might want to lock-up Dozier before he gets to arbitration because of the way he has played since the second half of last season. Dozier's power swing really showed up in the last year's second half. He slashed .253/.313/.443 with 10 home runs and 18 doubles. His batting average is never going to be the prettiest (he's a career .240 hitter) but his combination of stellar defense and base running ability make him very valuable.

A hot start from Dozier in 2014 could mean his cost is starting to rise. He already has nine home runs to his name and his 34 runs scored leads the American League. The addition of Hall-of-Famer Paul Molitor to the coaching staff must also be helping Dozier. One of Molitor's duties is base running coach and Dozier is closing in on a career high in steals. He collected 14 steals a season ago and he already has 12 in 2014.

So what could a Dozier extension look like in the next year?

A starting point for the Twins and Dozier could be the deal signed by Padres second baseman Jedd Gyorko. Gyorko was drafted a year after Dozier and he made his debut on roughly the same timeline. Even though he was still arbitration eligible, the Padres inked him to a 5-year, $35 million contract, which includes a team option for a sixth year. This could mean Gyorko is in San Diego through 2020.

Another second baseman to sign a recent contract extension was Jason Kipnis. Like Dozier, he was drafted in 2009 but he made his debut a year earlier. He also has an All-Star appearance to his name and he was closer to free agency by a year. The Indians gave Kipnis a 6-year, $52.5 million deal with a team option for 2020.

Looking at these two deals I would put Dozier somewhere in the middle of these two players. The Twins should offer Dozier a 5-year deal for around $40 million with a team option for a sixth year. His average salary would be less than Kipnis and higher than Gyorko. I could see it going a little higher than $40 million but not too much higher. This deal would lock up Dozier through his arbitration years and push back his free agent years.

Friday, May 9, 2014

25-Man Roster Dissection: Alex Meyer

When I started this series at the beginning of spring training, the goal was to pick out the players who would spend the most time on the 25-man roster. The back end of the roster can be a puzzle especially in this early portion of the season. Minnesota has already gone through multiple bench players and the pitching staff has fluctuated from 12 to 14 men at times.

Alex Meyer isn't even on the Twins 40-man roster but I am picking him out as the last man in this series. He has done some great things at Triple-A to start the year and the Twins starting pitching has shown some holes. This could open up the opportunity for the Twins top pitching prospect to get a call-up in the next couple months.

2013 Recap: 2.99 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 100 SO, 32 BB (78.1 IP)
In Meyer's first season in the organization, he missed some time due to a shoulder injury. For pitchers, shoulder injuries can be very tough to deal with. Meyer was able to rehab and get back on the diamond with almost all of his innings last year coming at Double-A. Since he missed time in the season, the Twins sent Meyer to the Arizona Fall League. He did some good things in the AFL and this can be a very tough environment for pitchers to find success. Over 26 innings, he struck out 28 and he posted a very good 1.04 WHIP. His performance in the AFL made it easier for fans to get excited about his future and that he was past his shoulder injury.

Forecasting 2014: 3.65 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 81 SO, 28 BB (70.0 IP)
There is a good chance that Meyer won't be appearing at Target Field until after the beginning of June. This still doesn't take away of the mark he could make in his rookie campaign. He has the potential to be the Twins ace for the foreseeable future especially since a lot of the best pitching prospects in the organization are much younger. Minnesota has been waiting for a top flight pitcher since Johan Santana left the organization many moons ago. Meyer is off to a fast start at Triple-A and he has started to use a new change-up. This switch in his off-speed pitch has produced some positive results and the club will watch him closely in the months to come. If he can show some consistency on the mound, he could be at Target Field sooner rather than later.

25-Man Roster Safety: On the Verge

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Episode 82: Kicked off of iTunes, Tough Joe Mauer, and Darren Wolfson

iTunes and MLB, tyrants of industry, don’t cha know!  You cannot download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes but if you click here you can download the new episode.  And if you want to add the show to your podcast player, this is the RSS Feed


In our little part of the internet, the big news this week was MLB asking iTunes to remove several baseball themed podcasts because of what they believe was copyright infringement.  We were one of the podcasts removed, we were fired up, and spent the first ten or so minutes discussing this entire situation.
We also had the opportunity to purchase some free tickets through ScoreBig.com, an online ticket auction site. We detailed the purchase process and the pros and cons of using this ticket provider.
Then we finally circled back around to Twins news.  We talked about the phantom DL and Mike Pelfrey, Aaron Hicks’ concussion, and the current Twins roster construction. Jay took a strong stand on Joe Mauer’s toughness, and Eric strongly disagreed.

Darren Wolfson joined us for almost thiry minutes to give us the scoops on the upcoming MLB draft, and all thing Twins.

We closed out the podcast with our regular segments selecting hitters and pitchers of the week, talking beer, baseball and the news.

101 minutes of fun.  Thanks for listening.