Monday, June 30, 2014

Picking the Home Run Derby Contestants

Minnesota will host the All-Star Game in a little more than a couple weeks and this is the time of year where pundits start debating who should and who shouldn't be on the All-Star Game roster.

One of the most exciting events in almost 30 years since Minnesota last hosted the game is the Home Run Derby. In 1985, the last year the Twins were the host, the first HR Derby was held and this event has exploded to a full-day prime-time event.

It's always nice for the home team to have a participant in the derby but the Twins won't likely have a candidate when the final derby teams are announce. If I was in the shoes of Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Bautista, this is how I would construct the rosters.

The Captains: Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Bautista
Major League Baseball already announced both of these players as captains and they were both leading fan voting for the All-Star Game. Bautista will lead the AL squad that has won the last four contests. The Toronto slugger will return to the event for the third time. Tulowitzki will be participating in his first home run derby but he is in the middle of a monster season for Colorado. There have only been a handful of shortstops to participate in this event so it will be interesting to see how Tulo can do.

Former Twins: Justin Morneau, Carlos Gomez
Since the Twins aren't likely going to have a representative in this event, the closest thing to a Twin would be Justin Morneau. He spent the first 11 years of his career here and he would get one heck of an ovation from the Target Field fans. Tulowitzki has already said that he won't ask Morneau to participate in the event until rosters are announced for the All Star Game. Another former Twin that could be asked to participate is Carlos Gomez. Besides his connection to playing here, he's also from Minnesota's border state so the Brew Crew can be happy too. There's no doubt he would bring a certain flare to the event.

The Rest of the NL: Giancarlo Stanton, Yasiel Puig
While Tulowitzki is waiting to announce some members of the squad, he has already come out and said that Giancarlo Stanton will be participating. Stanton is known for his shows in batting practice so it makes sense for him to participate in this event. He has never been a contestant in the event and he will quickly become one of the favorites this year. Yasiel Puig is a sensational player and he can do some amazing things on the field. This event seems tailor made to his personality. The only questions that remains is... Would he do a bat flip after every home run?

The Former Champion: Yoenis Cespedes
Last season Yoenis Cespedes beat out Bryce Harper to take home the HR Derby crown. If he wants to defend his title, he is going to have to do it in Minnesota. He's already told reporters in the Bay Area that he plans to defend his title. This could also set-up an interesting Cuban match-up if both Cespedes and Puig are participants. No player has repeated as champion since Ken Griffey Jr back in 1998 and 1999. That's a long streak to break and Cespedes will have plenty of competition standing in his way.

The Rest of the American League: Mike Trout, Edwin Encarnacion, Chris Davis
Mike Trout is the best player in the world and it could be exciting to see what he can do when he's swinging for the fences with every pitch. Bryce Harper got to participate in last year's event so maybe it's Trout's turn. If Bautista is going to bring a teammate, it could be Edwin Encarnacion, who is near the top of the AL leader board in home runs. Jose Abreu said he didn't want to participate and Nelson Cruz had his steroid issue last year so Encarnacion could be a solid choice. A year ago, Chris Davis put on a solid showing in this event finishing in fourth place so he might want another shot at the title. He also has the most home runs in the AL since the start of 2013 so sign him up.

My AL Team:
1. Jose Bautista- Toronto
2. Yoenis Cespedes- Oakland
3. Mike Trout- Los Angeles
4. Edwin Encarnacion- Toronto
5. Chris Davis- Baltimore

My NL Team:
1. Troy Tulowitzki- Colorado
2. Giancarlo Stanton- Miami
3. Justin Morneau- Colorado
4. Carlos Gomez- Milwaukee
5. Yasiel Puig- Los Angeles

Friday, June 27, 2014

Episode 89: The Roster Crunch and Jorge Polanco

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 we spend time talking about the series of roster moves and player swaps that lead to Jorge Polanco being called up from High-A Fort Myers to the Big League club. We talk about Byron Buxton‘s rehab, Kendrys Morales finally hitting a home run for the Twins, and the Twins’ struggles on the road. 

We go Down on the pond and talk about Pat Kelly (Cody and Jay interviewed Pat but the audio did not come through clearly, so we have a write up on that interview at BaseballTwins.com) and what he’s been doing since he was drafted in the 12th round of the 2014 draft.

We talk beer, baseball, and we take some questions for the listeners.

Thanks for sticking around!

Enjoy the Show.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Twins Minor League Report (6/25): Mr. Rogers Very Unneighborly

On Tuesday afternoon, the rosters for the MLB Future's game were announced and it included two Twins players, Jose Berrios and Kennys Vargas. Word came out on Wednesday that Rochester Red Wings starter Trevor May would be added to US roster to replace Cardinals LHP Marco Gonzalez who made his big league debut. 

May is in the middle of a breakout season at Triple-A. Since the beginning of May, he's gone 7-3 with a 2.35 ERA over 10 starts. This could set up a situation similar to last year when the Mets had prospects as the starting pitchers for both the US and the World team. May could start for the US and Berrios could start for the World squad. 

Enough about the Futures Game, let's dive down on the pond.

RED WINGS REPORT
Rochester --, Scranton/WB -- (Postponed)
The game between the Red Wings and the RailRiders was rained out on Wednesday night. The game will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Thursday, July 10. First pitch is scheduled to be at 4:35 CST and both games are scheduled to be seven innings. 

Earlier in the day, Rochester made a roster move by adding RHP Lester Oliveros from New Britain. To make room for him on the roster, the team sent RHP Mark Hamburger to Double-A.

ROCK CATS REVIEW
New Britain 3, Altoona 1
Box Score
The Rock Cats rode a hot start from Taylor Rogers to win the rubber game of a three-game set with the Altoona Curve. Rogers tossed eight frames by allowing one on six hits. He struck out a career high 11 batters and improved to 7-4 on the season. He hasn't lost a game since June 3rd and he is 6-1 over his last ten outings. Matthew Summers earned his first save of the year by pitching a perfect ninth.

Earlier in the day, the Twins reinstated Aaron Hicks from the disabled list and optioned him to New Britain. He lead-off for the Rock Cats but went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. Nate Hanson was the lone batter with multiple hits as he went 2-for-3 with a run scored. Brandon Waring had a big two-out RBI double that turned out to be the difference in the game. Reynaldo Rodriguez added his 21st double of the season.

New Britain starts a five-game weekend series in New Hampshire on Thursday including a make-up game from April 15th. 

MIRACLE MATTERS
Fort Myers 8, St. Lucie 6
Box Score
The Miracle put themselves in an early 6-0 hole before the team even had a chance to bat. B.J. Hermsen was pelted for six runs on six hits in the first inning. After the rough start, he didn't allow another run and he made it through four innings. Alex Wimmers picked up the victory out of the bullpen with four shutout innings of work. He struck out four and limited the Mets to two hits. 

Fort Myers responded to St. Lucie big first inning with a strong inning of their own. The Miracle sent 11 men to bat and plated five runs in the frame. Even a 20 minute delay due to a lightning strike in the area couldn't stop the runs from being scored in the first. With the delay, the first inning took over an hour to complete and featured 21 hitters, 11 runs, nine hits, six walks, three different pitchers, and an error.

Lance Ray's first home run of the season was a big one as he put the Miracle on top in the late innings. Nate Roberts went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBI. Niko Goodrum scored two runs and stole his 14th base of the season but his first inning error added to an already bad frame.

KERNELS NUGGETS

Cedar Rapids 1, Peoria 2 
Box Score
Kohl Stewart continues to impress on the mound but the Kernels are having a tough time backing up some of his stronger outings. He went five innings in this game and gave up two runs on six hits. Over his last ten starts, he has a 2.29 ERA and he has allowed more than two earned runs in only one of those outings. Unfortunately for him, the offense hasn't been there and he hasn't won a game since April 25th.

The Kernels went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position as the team left six men on base. J.D. Williams went 2-for-4 with two doubles and a run scored. His doubles were the only extra-base hits for the Kernels. Bryan Haar collected two hits. It was a rough night at the plate for Jason Kanzler as he struck out four times. 

E-TWINS E-NOTES

Elizabethton 8, Burlington 0
Box Score
Nick Gordon cracked his first professional home run to help the Elizabethton to their fourth win of the season. His three-run shot was part of a two hit night where he also scored two runs. Max Murphy also helped the cause with a two hits including his first home run of the young season. Tyler Kuresa had a double and an RBI.

In his second start of the season, Stephen Gonsalves was very sharp to pick up his first victory. He struck out nine batters in six shutout innings. Keaton Steele earned a hold after pitching two innings and limiting Burlington to one base runner. Jake Reed closed out the shut out by striking out the side in the ninth. 

GCL TWINS TAKES

GCL Twins 9, GCL Orioles 7
Box Score
The GCL Orioles outhit the GCL Twins six to 14 but the Orioles pitching staff allowed nine walks. The Twins were timely with their hits and four of the six hits were for extra-bases. It was the second straight day with a win for the Twins after losing their first three contests of the year.

Four different pitchers helped the Twins to come out victorious. Josh Guyer started the game and tossed 3.1 innings by allowing three runs on five hits. He struck out two and walked one. Alexis Tapia earned his first victory as he gave up two runs over 2.2 frames. Trevor Hildenberger struck out three batters in his two innings of work.

Nelson Molina was in the middle of most of the offensive action. He went 2-for-3 with two triples, two runs scored, and four RBI. Rafael Valera only collected one hit but he knocked in a couple runs and drew two walks. Dubal Baez and Jarrad Poteete both hit their third double of the season.

TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY

Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Taylor Rogers, New Britain Rock Cats
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Nick Gordon, Elizabethton Twins


THURSDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS

Rochester @ Lehigh Valley (6:05 CST) – Trevor May (Listen)
New Britain @ New Hampshire (6:05 CST) – Jason Wheeler (Listen
St. Lucie @ Ft. Myers (6:05 CST) – Tim Shibuya (Listen)
Cedar Rapids @ Peoria (7:00 CST) - Aaron Slegers (Listen)
Elizabethton @ Burlington (6:00 CST) – Sam Gibbons (Listen
GCL Orioles @ GCL Twins (11:00am CST) – TBD

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Twins Minor League Report (6/24): Big News for Berrios, Vargas

If not for injuries to top prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, it's likely that both players would be heading to their second straight Futures Game. With both players on the shelf, the Twins will have the opportunity to showcase some of their other top talent on Sunday of All-Star week.

The rosters were announced for the MLB Future's Game on Tuesday and the Twins will be represented by first baseman Vargas and right-handed pitcher Jose Berrios. Vargas is near the top of the Twins minor league leader board in almost every major offensive category. Berrios is in the midst of a breakout season in the Florida State League and he could be considered a top 50 prospect in all of baseball.


Berrios pitched on Monday night so he wouldn't be part of Tuesday's action. Kennys Vargas has played at New Britain all season and Berrios could be well on his way to joining him with the Rock Cats. Let's see how New Britain did along with a jammed packed day in the minors.


RED WINGS REPORT

Rochester 7, Scranton/WB 5 
Box Score
The Red Wings didn't make it easy on this night as they found themselves in a back and forth contest with the RailRiders. Out of Rochester's ten hits, six of them were for extra-bases. The team was also able to overcome leaving 10 men on base and only notching two hits with runners in scoring position. The win snapped a three-game losing skid.

Chris Colabello lead the way offensively going 2-for-5 with a home run, double and two RBI. It was his first home runs since June 20th and only his second home run in 29 Triple-A games this year. Eric Farris was back in the leadoff spot and he collected three hits and two RBI. 


Logan Darnell earned the victory but he wasn't exactly sharp. He tied a career-high with five walks and it was the second time in three starts that he had allowed that many free passes. He allowed three runs over five frames. Michael Tonkin earned his fifth save with a perfect ninth inning. 


ROCK CATS REVIEW

New Britain 5, Altoona 2
Box Score
The Rock Cats ended their 12-game winning streak on Monday so it was time to start a new winnings streak on Tuesday. Pat Dean tossed 6.2 frames while allowing one earned run on seven hits for his sixth win of the season. Cole Johnson and Lester Oliveros took care of the rest of the game as Altoona only had one base runner over the last 2.1 innings. 

New Britain's offense showed some strength with a trio of home runs. Mike Kvasnicka hit a two-run bomb in the second inning to start the scoring for the Rock Cats. Reynaldo Rodriguez and Brandon Waring added solo shots later in the game. Aaron Hicks continued his rehab assignment and went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts. Kennys Vargas got big news earlier in the day but he failed to pick up a hit in four trips to the plate. 


The Rock Cats are 13 games over .500 and the club has won 15 of their last 17 contests.


MIRACLE MATTERS

Fort Myers 7, Charlotte 6 (10th inning)
Box Score
It took two late inning lead changes and a clutch RBI triple from Stuart Turner in the 10th for the Miracle to sweep the Stone Crabs. It was the first extra-innings win for Fort Myers in 2014. Travis Harrison started the top of the tenth with his team-leading 20th double, a pinch hit, and Turner followed with the game-winning hit.

The Miracle pounded out 15 hits including three hit efforts from Tuner, Lance Ray, and Aderlin Mejia. Ray collected two doubles and he scored a run while Mejia had two RBI. The team went 6-for-14 with runners in scoring position to help the cause. 


Fort Myers had to rely a lot on their bullpen in this game. DJ Baxendale lasted 4.2 innings while surrendering five runs on eight hits. Steven Gruver finished the fifth and pitched the next two frames without allowing a run. Tyler Jones was asked to get a two-inning save but he blew the lead in the bottom of the ninth. With the comeback, Jones earned his first victory of the season and Mason Melotakis struck out the side in the 10th for his first save.


KERNELS NUGGETS

Cedar Rapids 1, Peoria 3 
Box Score
Cedar Rapids scored the first run of this game but they would come up empty the rest of the way. The Kernels struggled to a total of five hits and one extra-base hit. Zack Granite led off the game with a double and he was knocked in a couple batters later by Chad Christensen. The four through eight hitters in the order didn't collect a hit and combined for eight strikeouts.

Ethan Mildren pitched five innings and allowed three runs but he didn't get much offensive support. It was the second straight loss for Mildren after winning two straight starts. He's pitched at least five innings in nine of his last ten starts. Brandon Bixler was solid in relief as he allowed two hits and struck out two over two shutout innings.


The loss dropped Cedar Rapids 11 games under the .500 mark.


E-TWINS E-NOTES

Elizabethton 6, Pulaski 9 (10 Innings)
Box Score
The E-Twins jumped out to any early 6-0 lead after only two innings but the bullpen faltered down the stretch allowing the Mariners to get back into the game. It was the second consecutive loss for Elizabethton after winning three of the team's first four games. On this night a wild pitch and a fielding error with two outs would cost the team the game.

Three doubles in the first inning and two doubles in the second inning helped the E-Twins offense but the club wouldn't record another extra-base hit the rest of the way. Trey Vavra went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI. Max Murphy knocked his second double of the year as part of a two hit night.  Every starter for the Twins had at least one hit.


Michael Cederoth started and pitched 2.2 shutout innings. Dereck Rodriguez earned his first hold of the year by throwing two innings and only allowing one unearned run. CK Irby had his first blown save of the year and Josue Montanez took the loss. Montanez didn't allow an earned run as a wild pitch and a fielding error proved costly.


GCL TWINS TAKES

GCL Twins 9, GCL Orioles 1
Box Score
The GCL Twins had struggled out of the gate losing their first three contests of the year and things didn't start out too great in this one as the team found themselves in any early 1-0 hole. Luckily for the Twins, the Orioles didn't do much else after that and the Twins offense found some life.

Roberto Gonzalez was hitless so far this season but that didn't stop him from collecting two doubles as part of a three hit effort. All three of Gonzalez's RBI came with two outs in the inning. Dubal Baez did a good job setting the table out of the lead-off spot. He went 3-for-5 with a double and three RBI. 


Michael Theofanopoulos earned his first victory of the season by throwing two shut-out innings with four strikeouts. Wilfredy Liranzo started the game and allowed one run on two hits with four strikeouts and three walks. Eduardo Del Rosario and Miles Nordgren locked down two innings apiece to notch the team's first victory.


TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY

Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Pat Dean, New Britain Rock Cats
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Stuart Turner, Fort Myers Miracle


WEDNESDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS

Rochester @ Scranton/WB (6:05 CST) – Kris Johnson (Listen)
Altoona @ New Britain (11:05 CST) – Taylor Rogers (Listen
St. Lucie @ Ft. Myers (6:05 CST) – B.J. Hermsen (Listen)
Cedar Rapids @ Peoria (7:00 CST) - Kohl Stewart (Listen)
Pulaski @ Elizabethton (6:00 CST) – TBD (Listen
GCL Orioles @ GCL Twins (11:00am CST) – TBD

Monday, June 23, 2014

REVIEW: 'Minnesota Twins Baseball' by Stew Thornley

Hardball history on the Minnesota prairie started long before the Twins moved to the Upper Midwest. Baseball legends like Ted Williams and Willie Mays called Minnesota home before making their big league debuts. There was a lot that went into the Twins becoming the franchise they are today and the club's entire history is summarized in the new book Minnesota Twins Baseball: Hardball History on the Prairie.

There are plenty of people who know a lot about Twins baseball but author Stew Thornley is a little closer to the action than most. He is the official scorer for Twins home games and he has written more than 40 books including On to Nicollet: The Glory and Fame of the Minneapolis Millers. He's been around baseball, and more specifically the Twins, for decades and his historical knowledge is evident to the reader.

Minnesota's rich history of supporting teams like the Saints and the Millers gave way to talk of a major league team moving to Minnesota. The Giants and the Dodgers were some of the team's discussing a move but Minneapolis wasn't attractive enough for their organizations. Both team's moved west and thankfully the Senators were also looking for a new home and their rich crop of young players helped to make the team successful early in the club's history.

Throughout the pages of this 126-page book, Thorney does a good job of retelling the major events in Twins history one decade at a time. There have been good and bad times over the last five decades and the author employs his collection of knowledge to convey that to the most passionate of Twins fans. He tells stories that might not be familiar and even provides insights into his own private collection of baseball artifacts.

Some of the best parts of this book are the stories before Minnesota had the Twins. One of the most interesting stories was that the New York Giants organization took out a full page ad in the Minneapolis Tribune to apologize for calling up Willie Mays after only 35-games with the Millers. As the Giants President Horace C Stoneham said, "We honestly admit too, that this players exceptional talent's are the exact answer to the Giants' most critical need." He was certainly right about Mays.

The fight to avoid contraction and to build a new stadium has been central to the Twins organization in recent decades. The Minnesota Twins could have become the North Carolina Twins at one point but that story line never played itself out. The club started to play better, a new stadium was built, and it is truly hard to imagine a summer in the Upper Midwest without the Twins being part of this generation or the next.

Even though this book is a quick read, there is great information packed onto every page. The inset stories and pictures provide a look at how baseball has changed on the prairie since the 1880s. For even the most dedicated Twins fan there will be stories in this book that one has forgotten or stories that one would love to relive again. This book can be read over a long weekend at the lake but the memories will stick with you forever.

When Calvin Griffith decided to name his team the Minnesota Twins, he said, "We want our new baseball enterprise to be for everyone in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest." Twins Territory has expanded beyond the boundaries of Minnesota and the history of baseball in the region is something every fan can cherlish.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Episode 88: The Return of Trevor May

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.

No reason to bury the lead, Trevor May is BACK!  Trevor talked about his approach to pitching, what he’s been doing in 2014 that has allowed him to be successful, and how much fun he’s having as a member of the outstanding pitching staff in Triple-A Rochester.

Just Cody and Eric this week, in addition to talking with Trevor May, they talk about what the Twins have been doing well (pitching) and what they have not been doing at all (hitting) in the past week.  They also take a shot at predicting the Twins’ All-Star representative (and fail), and they whip around the world for beers and around the league to talk about great pitching from Clayton Kershaw and bad pitching from Justin Verlander.

84 minutes of cool dudes talkin’ ball.

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review our show on iTunes.   iTunes ratings and reviews helped Yohan Pino make his Major League Debut.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Ranking the Twins All-Star Candidates

Next month's All-Star Game is fast approaching and Target Field will serve as the center of the baseball universe. The starting rosters for the National League and the American League will be announced during the weekend of July 5th-6th and it doesn't seem likely for the Twins to have a starter elected by the fans. 

This leaves some question as to who should represent the hometown team in Minnesota's first Mid-Summer Classic since 1985. Joe Mauer has been named MLB's All-Star Ambassador but that might not guarantee him a spot in the game. He's been a regular at the game when he was a catcher but the switch to first base has seen a decline in his numbers.

There are other worthy candidates on the Twins this season and the team might be able to sneak a couple players onto the roster since manager Ron Gardenhire is on the coaching staff. Here's a look at the top All-Star Game options for the Twins through the middle of June.

1. Glen Perkins, LHP
Perkins was picked as a replacement player for last year's All-Star Game after Jesse Crain went down with an injury. Unfortunately for Perkins, he never made it into the game and I think this is something Gardenhire will want to accomplish this year. Only Greg Holland and Fernando Rodney have more saves than Perkins in the American League. It would be cool to hear Perkins come into a close game in front of his hometown crowd especially after the leadership role he has taken with this organization over the last handful of years.

2. Phil Hughes, RHP
It has been quite the stretch of baseball for Hughes since he signed with the Twins. Hughes is keeping the ball in the park and he has the lowest walk rate of his career. His seven wins have him three behind the leaders in the American League and he has as many wins as Yu Darvish and Jered Weaver. He's been the most valuable pitcher on the Twins staff and he should be recognized for his achievements. His exit from New York was rough which makes his success in Minnesota all the sweeter.

3. Brian Dozier, 2B
Dozier might be the team's MVP up to this point but there are slough of bigger named second baseman in the American League. Ian Kinsler, Robinson Cano, and Dustin Pedroia all have the big names that would draw in viewers for the All-Star Game. According to FanGraphs version of WAR, Dozier has been more valuable than all of them but that still might not help his cause. His 15 home runs are more than Kinsler, Cano, and Pedroia combined. He's have a great first half but it might not be enough.

4. Kurt Suzuki, C
Since Mauer isn't in the catching picture any more, there will be a new starter behind the dish. Salvador Perez and Yan Gomes sit ahead of Suzuki in fWAR but most of that comes from their power numbers and defense. Suzuki leads AL catchers in batting average and on-base percentage. Someone like Perez might deserve the start but Suzuki would be a viable back-up option for the late innings. He's an eight year veteran in the middle of one of his best seasons so it might be nice for him to get an All-Star nod to add to his resume.

5. Joe Mauer, 1B
There are a lot of Mauer haters out there especially with his rough first half of the season. He's been striking out more, not hitting for power, and his average has suffered as more teams shift against him. He's still the biggest name on the Twins roster and he's MLB's appointed ambassador. Mauer is only the 10th best first baseman according to fWAR so there would be quite the list of players ahead of him. If you factor in last season's numbers as well, Mauer's fWAR would be the fourth highest among AL first baseman.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Connections Evident Between Puckett and Gwynn

Baseball lost another great on Monday morning. Hall of Fame hitter Tony Gwynn passed away at the age of 54. He lost his battle after he had been dealing with cancer issues for some time. Gwynn said that he believed the cancer was attributed to his chewing tobacco habit during his playing days.

Fans across Twins Territory can feel the pain that Padres fans are dealing after today's announcement. Former Twins great and Hall of Fame inductee Kirby Puckett also passed away at an early age. It can be tough for a franchise to lose the player most associated with the success of the franchise.

Gwynn never had a heroic World Series moment like Puckett but there were still connections between these star players.

  • Both players were born in 1960. Gwynn was born in Los Angeles, CA and Puckett was born in Chicago, IL.
  • Gwynn debuted in 1982 at age 22. Puckett wouldn't debut until 1984 at the age of 24.
  • Puckett would make every All-Star Game from 1986 to 1995. Gwynn was on the NL squad for every one of those games except for 1988.
  • Puckett led the AL in hits in 1987, 1988, 1989, and 1992. Gwynn led the NL in hits in 1984, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1994, 1995, and 1997. 
  • Puckett won his lone batting title in 1989 when he hit .339. Gwynn won the NL crown that same year with a .336 batting average. 
  • Gywnn collected his 2,000 career hit in August 1993. Puckett wouldn't be far behind as he got his 2,000th in April of the next season. 
  • Both men finished their careers with a batting average of over .300 (Puckett at .318, Gwynn at .338)
  • Gwynn led the NL in WAR once in 1987. Puckett led the AL in WAR once in 1992. 
  • Puckett won Gold Gloves in 1986-1989 and 1991-1992. Gwynn won Gold Gloves in 1986-1987 and 1990-1991.
  • Gwynn won seven Silver Slugger awards and Puckett had six Silver Slugger awards to his credit
  • Both were elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame with over 80% of the vote. Puckett got 82.1% and Gwynn received 97.6% of the vote.
  • Both men played their entire careers with one organization.

Both of these players were great hitting outfielders during the same time period, one in the National League and one in the American League. They helped make their organizations better.

Overall, both players were taken too soon.

The Cloudy Future of Aaron Hicks

On May 24th the Twins were in San Francisco for the second game of a three game series. Aaron Hicks was the starting center fielder that day and this day would mark a turning point in his career. Whether it was a turning point for the better or for the worse, remains to be seen.

Ryan Vogelsong, a right-handed pitcher, was the Giants starter that day. This meant the switch-hitting Hicks was batting left-handed. Hicks would struggle on this day going 0-for-3 with a strikeout. He would be removed in the late-innings of a close game for a pinch hitter.

This was the end of Hicks being a switch hitter. A couple of days later he would enter Ron Gardenhire's office and tell him he was done from the left side of the plate. Hicks had been a switch hitter since little league but he lost confidence at the plate and it was time for a change.

Hicks is only 24-years old and the former first round pick was supposed to be the team's center fielder of the future. What does the future hold for Mr. Hicks?
Bait and Switch
Hicks is not that far removed from seemingly putting it all together at Double-A. During the 2012 season, he was a .286/.384/.460 hitter with 13 home runs, 21 doubles, and 11 triples. Even from the left-hand side of the plate he had an .828 OPS with 29 extra-base hits. His triple total was a New Britain team record and this gave the Twins plenty of confidence in him moving forward.

In the Eastern League that season, Hicks was almost 2.5 years younger than the other hitters. This made his performance all the more impressive. He made one of the hardest jumps in the minor leagues and compiled the best numbers of his professional career. It was hard to imagine that he would be giving up switch-hitting in a little over a year and a half.

Playing Rushin' Roulette
Twins fans know the tale of Terry Ryan trading away Denard Span and Ben Revere during the same off-season. This meant Hicks was rushed to the big leagues after never seeing a pitch at the Triple-A level. There were plenty of struggles during his rookie season and the Twins sent him down to Rochester to finish out 2013.

He has a grand total of 22 games played in Rochester. The Twins talked about sending him down after he switched away from switch-hitting. At the time, the team didn't really have any other options for center field so he stayed with the big league club. There have been some positive signs since Hicks gave up switch-hitting. In a very small sample size of 24 plate appearances, he's hit .263/.391/.316 with a double and four walks.

Rising Stars
Hicks was put on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to last Tuesday with a right shoulder strain. With Sam Fuld recovered from his concussion, it would seem likely for the Twins to send Hicks to Rochester after he's healthy. Minnesota has other options in center field and Hicks needs to spend more time seeing right-handed pitching from the right side of the plate.

Danny Santana has burst onto the scene as a viable fill-in option in center. He's been a lifetime infielder during his time in the Twins organization but his bat has been so hot there is no reason to keep him out of the line-up. Byron Buxton has taken over the title of the center fielder of the future but he's been hurt for most of the year. This could leave a surprise candidate like Eddie Rosario as the center fielder to bridge the gap to Buxton.

Time Will Tell
The career of Hicks is far from over. Players like Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe both struggled in their first tastes of the big leagues. It took them time to develop and now they are both important parts of the current Twins line-up.

Hicks is young and the Twins are going to give him every opportunity to succeed. If he can rekindle some of his Double-A magic in Rochester, the Twins will make sure he is back in Minnesota. Only time will tell when Hicks will make his way back into the Twins starting line-up.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Episode 87: When Cats Attack, Reviewing the Draft

If you're listening to this podcast, you probably have more than a passing interest in Twins baseball. You've probably read about all of their draft picks, even guys drafted after the first few rounds, like Minnesota native Pat Kelly, who was taken in the 12th round. 

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.
Jay is driving the episode this week, so prepare your ears for a little different sound, but have no fear, other than lots of cat noises in the background, the show is pretty stellar. We start the episode by saying goodbye to one of the most handsome red beards to ever grace the outfield grass in Minnesota, Jason Kubel. Kubel is gone, but highlighting this last week was the acquisition of Kendrys Morales who along with the emergence of Eduardo Escobar and Danny Santana gives the Twins arguably one of the best line ups in the American League.

We talk a little draft, but save most of the draft talk for our guests from the Twins Hangouts (@TwinsHangouts), Jeremy Nygaard (@jeremynygaard) and Seth Stohs (@SethTweets). With the help of those two we dive into the draft and discuss the Twins moves and what it could mean for this club in the near and long term.

A lot of weird things have happened in the world of baseball this week, and we cover most of them when we go around the league, to include banana and mayo sandwiches, a Seminole Indian rain man and a fatty mass with tentacles. Yikes!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Twins Minor League Report (6/10): Shibuya Flirts with No-No

The Twins took care of business in Toronto on Tuesday night and most of the teams in the minor leagues were able to follow their lead. It didn't take long for Kendrys Morales to remember how to hit and Brian Dozier is putting himself into the All-Star conversation at second base.

Minnesota is in the mix for the playoffs and many of their minor league affiliates are fighting for first half titles. Every win is important so let's jump down on the pond to check out the action.

RED WINGS REPORT
Rochester 7, Gwinnett 4 
James Beresfor, Deibinson Romero, and Chris Collabello all had multiple hit games to lead the Red Wings to their 37th team victory. Romero and Colabello each had two doubles and Colabello added two RBI. Pedro Florimon cracked his second home run of the year to pace the Red Wings. Overall, Rochester pounded out eleven hits and seven runs to end a two-game losing streak.

Trevor May started the game but he only lasted 5.1 innings and allowed three earned runs on six hits. I praised him in earlier in the week during my midseason Twins top prospect rankings so it figures that he would have a little bit of a rough start. Ryan Pressly and Aaron Thompson each earned a hold for combining to pitch 2.2 scoreless innings.

Wilkin Ramirez extended his career-long hit streak to 12 games. He is hitting .333 with 10 RBI during that stretch. The Red Wings finished their nine-game rod trip with a 6-3 record.

ROCK CATS REVIEW
New Britain 5, Reading 4
Box Score
It took a come from behind victory but these Cats were able to claw their way back into the game. New Britain scored in the top of the ninth inning to separate themselves from the Reading Phillies. Tony Thomas was the lone New Britain hitter with more than one hit. Sam Fuld and Kennys Vargas both added home runs to help the cause.

Rock Cats starter Tyler Duffey tossed six strong innings by scattering five hits and two earned runs. He struck out three and walked two. Matthew Summers surrendered the lead but his teammates bailed him out. Lester Oliveros picked up his third win by tossing 1.1 scoreless innings and striking out three. His ERA currently sits at and eye-popping 0.68. 

MIRACLE MATTERS
Fort Myers 10, Charlotte 0
The story of this game was Mr. Tim Shibuya. He flirted with a no hitter for a large chunk of this game before allowing a couple of hits. He tossed seven shutout frames on two hits with no walks and two strikeouts. His record improved to 4-2 with relief help from BJ Hermsen and Alex Wimmers.

On the offensive side of the ball, it was the Stephen Wickens show. He knocked the sixth grand slam of the year for the Miracle as part of a 2-for-4 night. He collected five RBI, hit a double, and scored two runs along the way. Four other Miracle hitters collected two walks to help the team stay alive in innings.

KERNELS NUGGETS
Cedar Rapids 2, Quad Cities 6
Bryan Haar collected his 23rd extra-base hit of the year on a double in this game but it wasn't enough to help the Kernels to victory. Tanner Vavra and Chad Christensen each tallied two hits but the rest of the team didn't follow their lead. The Kernels committed two defensive errors on the night and are now 1-6 against the Bandits this year.

Aaron Slegers got beat around over 4.2 innings as he allowed five total runs with three of them being unearned. This had to be frustrating. He was charged with six hits but he struck out three and walked one for his third loss of the season. Josue Montanez and Chris Mazza were not charged with a run for the rest of the game. Montanez struck out six over 2.2 frames.

TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY
Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day: Tim Shibuya, Fort Myers Miracle
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day: Stephen Wickens, Fort Myers Miracle

WEDNESDAY'S PROBABLE STARTERS
Rochester- Scheduled Off Day
New Britain @ Reading (6:05 CST)- Sean Gilmartin (Listen)
Charlotte @ Fort Myers (6:05 CST)- Jose Berrios (Listen)
Quad Cities @ Cedar Rapids (6:35 CST)-  Fernando Romero (Listen)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Twins Top 10 Prospects: Post-Draft Edition

Minnesota added some top-notch talent to the organization at the end of last week. For the third year in a row, the Twins had a top five pick in the MLB Draft. Minnesota's farm system was already considered one of the best in the game and adding top tier talent can only help the organization.

My last prospect rankings were released in conjuncture with the "2014 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook." There have been some changes since that time as minor league teams are almost halfway through their season. Some players have shined and others have struggled.

Injuries have been the story for the Twins top two prospects this year but some pitching prospects have really started to shine, as they get closer to the big leagues.

1. Byron Buxton- OF (Previously #1)
2014 Team(s): Fort Myers Miracle
2014 Stats: .150/.150/.350, 1 HR, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 3 R (5 Games)
Even though Buxton has missed most of this season with a wrist injury, he is still considered by many to be the best prospect in the game. The lost playing time is going to hurt some of his development but he was young for the levels he has played at so far. Hopefully, he can get into some games in the second-half of the year and show some positive signs.

2. Miguel Sano- 3B (Previously #2)
2014 Team(s): N/A Tommy John surgery
Tommy John surgery took away most of this season from Sano. He won't likely be able to get on the field this season unless it is in a DH capacity at the very end of the year. It seems likely for the Twins to send Sano to the Arizona Fall League to get some extra at-bats before he plays in the Dominican winter league.

3. Alex Meyer- RHP (Previously #3)
2014 Team(s): Rochester Red Wings
2014 Stats: 3.30 ERA, 62.2 IP, 75 SO, 28 BB, 51 H (12 Games)
Meyer will likely be making his big league debut this season and he has made some adjustments at the Triple-A level. He learned a new change-up grip and this has helped to improve his strikeout totals. Opponents are hitting .223 against him for the season. Because of some injury issues last year, he's already closing in on the amount of innings he pitched last year.

4. Nick Gordon- SS (Previously N/A)
2014 Team(s): N/A 2014 Draft
The Twins haven't been able to develop a shortstop in the minor leagues for quite some time. Nick Gordon is hoping to be the man to end that trend. He add 15 pound of muscle in the last year and this should help to improve his power numbers. He'll start in the rookie leagues once he signs a contract.

5. Jose Berrios- RHP (Previously #6)
2014 Team(s): Fort Myers Miracle
2014 Stats: 2.24 ERA, 64.1 IP, 74 SO, 17 BB, 57 H (11 Games)
Berrios might be having the best season of any of the top prospects on this list. There have been questions in the past about whether his long-term role was going to be as a starter or as a relief pitcher. He is putting some of those questions to rest with his performance in the Florida State League. I would have moved him higher but I need to see more from him throughout the season.

6. Kohl Stewart- RHP (Previously #4)
2014 Team(s): Cedar Rapids Kernels
2014 Stats: 2.67 ERA, 49.0 IP, 36 SO, 15 BB, 37 H (10 Games)
Stewart's ERA looks great but I was expecting him to strike out more batters. This is one of the reasons he dropped a little. It's still very early into his first full season in professional baseball so he has a lot of time left to develop before reaching the big leagues.

7. Eddie Rosario- 2B/OF (Previously #5)
2014 Team(s): Fort Myers Miracle, New Britain Rock Cats
2014 Stats: .350/.409/.450, 1 HR, 1 2B, 6 RBI, 9 R (10 Games)
Rosario missed 50 games to start the season because of a drug related suspension. He's done fairly well since his return and the team already moved him up from High-A to Double-A. It sounds like Rosario will be playing some in the infield and some in the outfield after transitioning to second base last year. He's still a very gifted hitter and he could make it to Rochester by season's end.

8. Jorge Polanco- 2B (Previously #7)
2014 Team(s): Fort Myers Miracle
2014 Stats: .289/.362/.395, 3 HR, 11 2B, 26 RBI, 40 R (57 Games)
Polanco has consistently moved through the Twins system and he seems to improve at every level. He's hit over .300 each of the last two seasons and continues to add power. The switch-hitter has close to the same batting average from both sides of the plate so he should continue to switch hit as he moves up the ladder.

9. Trevor May- RHP (Previously #13)
2014 Team(s): Rochester Red Wings
2014 Stats: 2.80 ERA, 61.0 IP, 63 SO, 24 BB, 45 H (11 Games)
One of the biggest concerns for May has always been his control. He's made some positive strides this season, as he has been able to limit the amount of walks he's allowing. His numbers are the best of his career and he's another player who is knocking on the door to the big leagues. If he continues to show consistency, the Twins will reward him with a call-up.

10. Lewis Thorpe- LHP (Previously #11)
2014 Team(s): Cedar Rapids Kernels
2014 Stats: 9.64 ERA, 4.2 IP, 1 SO, 3 BB, 6 H (1 Game)
Thorpe exploded onto the scene last year and shot up prospect lists with his performance in the GCL. The Twins had him skip Elizabethton and he got roughed up in his first Low-A start. He's only 18-years old so he's much younger than the competition. The Twins had confidence in him skipping a level so they must believe he is ready.