Thursday, July 31, 2014

30 Life Lessons From 30 Years

I turn 30 years old this week. Time certainly flies by because I don't feel much older than my early 20s. I suppose that's all part of the journey. I've made mistakes in my 30 years and there's a pretty good chance I will make some more mistakes in the future. Out of those mistakes, I have learned a thing or two.

Here is a look at 30 life lessons I've learned in my 30 years.

Life

1. Relax. Life is better when you take time to stop and smell the roses.
2. Stay healthy. Exercise, eat the right foods, and take care of your body because it's the only one you get.
3. Always mind your manners. "Please" and "thank you" are two phrases that don't get used enough.
4. Everyone makes mistakes. It's your job to learn from those mistakes and become a better person.
5. Most of the best things in life are free. A long phone conversation, a walk in the park, or just sitting down with a good book can all be found for little or no cost.

Family

6. Value the time you spend with your family because you never know when that time will get taken away.
7. During the hard times in life, lean on your family because they are the ones who can see you through to the other side.
8. Let people know that you love them. Who knows when you will have the opportunity to tell them again.
9. Love is best when it is shown. Words are important but actions speak louder.
10. Laughter is the best medicine especially when it's with people you love.

Friends

11. Some friends will come and go but the good ones stick around
12. Be yourself. Don't worry about fitting in. If people are truly your friends, they will accept you for who you are.
13. Everyone you meet today is fighting a battle of some kind, so be gentle.
14. Everyone comes into your life for a reason. They might get on your last nerve but there is still something to learn.
15. Surround yourself with people who love and support you.

Sports

16. You're never too old to play a child's game.
17. Working as a team is a skill everyone needs to have in their tool belt.
18. Strive to do you best because that's all you can ask of yourself.
19. Failure is important because some of the best lessons in life are learned in those moments.
20. Life continues to be quick, scary, and competitive. You need to be able to handle all of these situations.

Spirituality

21. We are all connected. Everyone is equal and taking the same journey through life.
22. Let your soul shine. Be true to yourself and your purpose in life.
23. Everyone is full of light. Make your light shine on others.
24. Sometimes prayer or meditation are the first steps to a better life.
25. Serve the less fortunate and you will be even more grateful of what you have in your life.

Everything Else

26. Dogs are a man's best friend. No seriously they are.
27. Dream big because out of those dreams can come some great things.
28. It's okay to be afraid but make sure to be aware of those fears and stand up to them.
29. There is plenty lessons to learn in life. Keep searching for the answers.
30. Life flies by so sit back and enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Twins Minor League Report (7/29): Berrios Injured

For fans of the Twins minor league system, there were three of the organizations best pitching prospects all on the mound in one night. This is about as exciting as it gets, folks.

Rochester starter Alex Meyer had pitched five straight starts of six innings by allowing two earned runs or less. New Britain starter Jose Berrios was making his fourth start at Double-A and he combined to pitch 13 innings of two-run ball in his last two starts. Lewis Thorpe has been showing signs of improvement even though his season numbers might not show it.

One of these pitchers would have one of his best starts of the year. At the same time another pitcher would unfortunately be pulled early with an apparent injury.

RED WINGS REPORT
Rochester 6, Lehigh Valley 1
Box Score
For the first time in five starts, Meyer didn't make a quality start but it was still enough to earn his sixth victory of the season. Over five innings, he allowed one run on two hits but he walked a career high five batters. It was his 13th start of allowing one or fewer earned runs this season. Lester Oliveros and Stephen Pryor each pitched two shutout frames to end the game and keep the Red Wings on top.

Reynaldo Rodriguez hit his first Triple-A home run, a three-run shot, in the fifth inning.  It was part of a five run fifth inning when the Red Wings sent 10 men to the plate. Doug Bernier extended his hit streak to nine games with a single in the fifth inning.

With the win, the Wings take a 0.5 game lead in the Wild Card over idle Pawtucket. They also guarantee themselves a 4th straight winning month for the first time since 2006. Before the game, LHP Jason Wheeler was transferred to New Britain.

ROCK CATS REVIEW
New Britain 1, Trenton 4
Box Score
Jose Berrios didn't make it far into this game and unfortunately it was due to an injury. The training staff and coaches came out to the mound to look at him and he was pulled after just 1.2 innings. His velocity dropped on his fastball leading up to him being pulled. Sources have said that shoulder tightness is the initial diagnosis.

New Britain's pitching staff had to patch together the rest of the game. Jim Fuller and Matthew Summers pitched 4.1 scoreless frames. They combined to strike out seven. Only one Rock Cat player was able to get a hit. Aaron Hicks went 2-for-4 with a triple and a run scored. It was his first triple since being demoted to New Britain.

MIRACLE MATTERS
Fort Myers 3, Clearwater 5
Box Score
The Miracle were left without any extra-base hits and the team was a woeful 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Byron Buxton went 0-for-5 and struck out three times. Max Kepler reached base three times and Levi Michael went 2-for-4. Stuart Turner knocked in a couple of runs. The Miracle loaded the bases in the ninth inning but they couldn't plate a run.

Steven Gruver was forced to make a spot start for the Miracle. He lasted three innings and was charged for two earned runs. After pitching two scoreless innings, Alex Muren allowed a couple of runs to score in the sixth as Clearwater took the lead for good. It was the fourth loss in the last six games for the Miracle.

KERNELS NUGGETS
Cedar Rapids 6, Burlington 2
Box Score
Lewis Thorpe had his strikeout mojo working for the Kernels. He struck out a season-high 10 batters over 5.2 frames for his second victory. He surrendered two runs on four hits while walking one batter. The bullpen had to do some work after Thorpe left with runners on the corners. Chris Mazza got out of the jam and limited the Bees to one hit. Jake Reed was perfect over the last two innings for his first save.

Michael Quesada notched a couple of RBI in the fourth while Bryan Haar and Alex Swim each scored two runs in the game. Haar collected his 18th double of the season and Swim added his sixth two-bagger. Mitch Garver went 2-for-4 and stole his sixth base of the year.

E-TWINS E-NOTES
Elizabethton 2, Greeneville 4
Box Score
The E-Twins struggled to find their offensive stroke in this one. The team combined to go 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and the team left five on base. Dutch Deol had the only extra-base hit of the game a double that plated two runs. It was his third double of the year. Nick Gordon picked up a single to stretch his hitting streak to three games.

Felix Jorge continued his stretch of strong starts since being send from Cedar Rapids to Elizabethton. In this contest, he went six innings and scattered four hits. He struck out four, walked one, and saw his ERA drop to 1.93 over seven starts in the Appalachian League. Keaton Steele was charged with the loss after he gave up two runs, one earned, in the ninth inning

GCL TWINS TAKES
GCL Twins 6, GCL Rays 7 (7 Innings)
Box Score
The GCL Twins got within one run in two different innings in the first game of the double header but they weren't able to overcome the five run second inning by the Rays. Josh Burris took the loss after allowing four earned runs in a third of an inning. After the first three pitchers lasted less than an inning, Josh Guyer threw the last 4.1 innings by allowing two runs on three hits.

It would turn out to be quite the day for Amaurys Minier. In this game, he slugged a grand slam with two outs in the third to bring the Twins within a run. It was the only extra-base hit for the team. Rainis Silva and Joel Polanco each added two hits and Silva had an RBI. 

GCL Twins 4, GCL Rays 2 (7 Innings)
Box Score
Two runs in each of the first two innings were enough to put the GCL Twins on top in this one. Amaurys Minier knocked a two-run bomb to get the scoring started in the first inning. It was his fourth home run this season and his second of the day. In the second inning after some wild pitching by the Rays, Ruar Verkerk collected two RBI on a single passed the first baseman.

Alex Tapia continued his winning ways tossing six innings and limiting the Rays to two runs on three hits. It was his fourth consecutive victory to start the season and it was his first time pitching at least six frames. Trevor Hildenberger allowed two base runners in the ninth but neither would score and he earned his fifth save.

TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY
Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Lewis Thorpe, Cedar Rapids Kernels
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Amaurys Minier, GCL Twins


WEDNESDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS

Lehigh Valley @ Rochester (10:05am CST) – Trevor May (Listen)
New Britain @ Trenton (11:05am CST) – TBD (Listen
Clearwater @ Ft. Myers (6:05am CST) – Tim Shibuya (Listen)
Burlington @ Cedar Rapids (6:35 CST) - Ryan Eades (Listen)
Greeneville @ Elizabethton (6:00 CST) -  Derrick Penilla
GCL Rays @ GCL Twins (11:00am CST) – TBD 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Handful of Twins Not Likely to Be Traded

When a team could be heading for its fourth consecutive 90-loss season, the trade deadline can be a bit of a bummer. The Twins have had the opportunity to deal veteran players over the last couple of seasons but nothing has happened. Minnesota sticks with the players on their roster while not getting anything back for some of their expiring contracts.

Last week, I took a look at some of the possible trade candidates on the current Twins roster. These players are all veterans and there's a good chance they won't be back with the club next season. The Twins aren't going to be in contention this year or even next year so it makes sense to deal assets while they are still under team control.

There are a few players who likely won't be dealt over the next few days. Realistically the Twins should be listening to offers for any player in the Twins system with the exception of Byron Buxton. For now, the focus is on the major league side of the roster and these men will still be in a Twins uniform at the beginning of August.

Joe Mauer- First Baseman
Mauer's contract is huge and he can't play behind the plate anymore. These are two big red flags for other teams looking to make a trade. He doesn't fit the prototypical version of a first baseman as he doesn't hit for power. If the Twins wanted to move Mauer (that's a big if at this point), they would have to eat a big chunk of his salary. He also hasn't played a high level for a couple of seasons. His stock is low and his contract is high which means a trade is very unlikely.

Brian Dozier- Second Baseman
Dozier might seem like a young player but the 27-year old spent a lot of time working through the Twins minor league system. He won't even be arbitration eligible until 2016 which means he can't hit free agency until 2019. That's a long ways off and the Twins will have him at a very friendly price for a couple of more seasons. Since he is cost controlled, it makes sense to keep Dozier around. If another player in the system looks ready to take over second base, the Twins could make a deal but that likely isn't happening this season.

Glen Perkins- Relief Pitcher
Out of all the players currently on the roster, Perkins might have the highest trade value. Contending teams value relief pitching for the stretch run and Perkins is a high strikeout guy with closing experience. He also signed a team friendly deal that could keep him under contract through the 2018 season. At this point, it's hard to know how much the Twins will be in contention over the life of Perkins' contract. If the team wants to get the most value, it could be this year but the deal would have to be overwhelming. Perkins is staying in his home state.

Trevor Plouffe- Third Baseman
There probably isn't much of a market for a low average third baseman with some rough around the edges defensive skills. Plouffe is only a year older than Dozier but he has already reached his arbitration years because of his status as a Super 2 player. Even with this status, he can't become a free agent until 2018. He's not an outstanding player but it's important to have everyday regular players on the roster. It will be interesting to see where his salary goes in the coming years. The Twins will keep him for now but he will become more expensive in the next couple years.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Episode 93: The Return of Jason Parks

This week on the podcast Paul learns about ground rule triples, and strangely enough, if does not include TC Bear going on a rampage with his T-shirt gun (but we'd pay good money to see that happen). The Twins offense has struggled to score runs recently (what's new?) and Joe Mauer is still working his way back from injury. The scholarship program is over in Minnesota (again) as Matt Guerrier was DFA'd to make room for roster worthy Ryan Pressly.

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.

Ron Gardenhire passed another managerial milestone, 1000 losses, pretty neat, you guys. How does he still have a job? 

All of this good news and an interview with Jason "Professor" Parks from Baseball Prospectus to talk Twins minor leaguers and a suitable explanation of what exactly "rig" is/means.

Thanks for the download.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Twins Minor League Report (7/22): One Great Hamburger

The Florida State League announced that Byron Buxton was that league's player of the week. In games played from July 14-20 and he went 10-for-20 at the plate with one triple, two home runs, four runs batted in and scored six runs. Buxton is currently listed as day-to-day after being hit on the wrist by a pitch. He is expected to be back in the line-up by the end of this week.

There were a few different roster moves made throughout the system on Tuesday. Yohan Pino was recalled by the Twins to make the start at Target Field. To make room for him, the team sent Monday's starter Kris Johnson back to Rochester. Relief pitcher Alex Muren was promoted from Cedar Rapids to Fort Myers. Over 29 appearances, he had a 2.89 ERA with 44 strikeouts and eight walks.

RED WINGS REPORT
Rochester 4, Durham 0
Box Score
While making a spot start for only the fourth time this season, Mark Hamburger was dominant over seven shutout innings. He struck out a career high nine batters, walked none, and limited the strong Bulls roster to four singles. It was the first time a Wings pitcher tossed at least seven shutout innings since the middle of June. Ryan Pressly finished the final two innings of the shutout by striking out four and only allowing two base runners. 

Josmil Pinto led the offensive charge with a two hit night including his fifth double and his eighth RBI. Deibinson Romero helped spark the first run of the game with his International League leading 29th double. Nate Hanson and James Beresford joined the doubles party with one two-bagger each.  

It was the first road shutout for Rochester since August 11th of last season. Tuesday's have also been very good to the Red Wings. They have a 10-3 record on Tuesday and they haven't lost on Tuesday since May 27th. The team's four doubles tonight give them an International League best 220 on the season.

ROCK CATS REVIEW
New Britain 9, Altoona 10
Box Score
The Rock Cats offense was hot at the beginning of the game combining for nine runs in the first three frames. Altoona got out to a hot start too with a five run first and they capped off their scoring with two ninth inning runs to take back the lead.

Virgil Vasquez had a rough day on the mound. He allowed 13 hits and eight runs over four innings. Matthew Summers coughed up the lead after a trio of Rock Cats relievers combined to shut down the Curve offense for four frames. It was the second blown save for Summers and dropped his record to 2-4.

Eddie Rosario cracked two home runs and a double. He knocked in four runs and scored three runs to cap quite the offensive night. Brandon Waring and Brad Boyer joined the hit parade with two hits apiece. Mike Kvasnicka only had one hit but he knocked in two runs.

MIRACLE MATTERS
Fort Myers 7, Brevard County 6 (12 Innings)
Box Score
The Miracle had to use multiple comebacks to stay in this game. Fort Myers was shutout until the eighth inning but they team combined for four runs in the last two frames to push this one into extras. The Manatees scored two in the top of the 11th inning and the Miracle had to answer back to push this one further into the night.

Ethan Mildren started this contest but he would be long gone before a decision was made. He lasted six innings and allowed four runs while striking out five. It was the first time he had gone six innings since being called up from Cedar Rapids. Madison Boer gave up the two runs in the eleventh but the team bailed him out.

Tyler Grimes did it all in this game as his fourth hit of the night turned out to be the walk-off hit. He also had two doubles, two runs batted in, and two runs scored. He also had two outfield assists as he threw out a runner at second and at third. Jorge Polanco hit his 18th double of the season as part of a two hit night. Mike Gonzalez reached base four times including two walks and a double.

KERNELS NUGGETS

Cedar Rapids had a scheduled off day after taking a 10 hour bus ride to Kentucky. The Kernels start a series with Bowling Green on Wednesday as the start of a six game road swing. Former first round pick Kohl Stewart is the scheduled starter tomorrow. 

E-TWINS E-NOTES
Elizabethton 2, Bluefield 7
Box Score
The E-Twins almost matched the Blue Jays in hits on this night but the big hits weren't there. Even though the club combined for nine hits, none of them were for extra-bases. The team went 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position and they combined to leave nine runners on base.

A trio of players including Jeremias Pineda, Trey Vavra, and Pat Kelly all went 2-for-4. Pineda stole his ninth base of the season but he also was caught stealing for the fourth time. Nick Gordon was held hitless for only the third time in the last ten games. He also had his fifth error of the year at shortstop.

Sam Gibbons started for Elizabethton and he went five frames while giving up four runs on seven hits. He struck out one and walked two. It was the fewest amount of strikeouts he's had all season after averaging over 6.5 per game coming into this start.

GCL TWINS TAKES
GCL Twins 0, GCL Rays 3 (Suspended- Rain)
Box Score
This game was suspended by rain in the third inning. The two squads will complete this game tomorrow unless weather gets in the way for a second day in a row. Look for a full report on this game in Wednesday's Minor League Report at Twins Daily.

TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY

Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Mark Hamburger, Rochester Red Wings
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Eddie Rosario, New Britain Rock Cats


WEDNESDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS

Rochester @ Durham (6:05 CST) – Alex Meyer (Listen)
Altoona @ New Britain (11:05am CST) – Pat Dean (Listen
Brevard County @ Ft. Myers (10:35am CST) – Brett Lee (Listen)
Cedar Rapids @ Bowling Green (7:05 CST) - Kohl Stewart (Listen)
Elizabethton @ Bluefield (6:05 CST) -  Matt Batts
GCL Rays @ GCL Twins (11:00am CST) – TBD 
GCL Rays @ GCL Twins (Completion of Tuesday's game)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Reviewing the Twins Trade Candidates

The buzz surrounding baseball in the Twin Cities was high after last week's All Star festivities. Fans turned out from all around the country to watch the best players in the game. Minnesota and even more appropriately Target Field provided a picturesque backdrop from the Midsummer Classic.

After winning five of their last seven games entering the break, the Twins flopped over the weekend against lowly Tampa Bay. This pushed Minnesota even further into the depths of the American League. Entering play on Monday, there were only two teams with worse records than the Twins in the AL, Texas and Houston.

Baseball's none waiver trade deadline is only a handful of days away and it's looking much more likely that the Twins will be sellers rather than buyers. During the break there was plenty of talk in the Twins clubhouse about the team still being in contention and the overall mood was that the club wanted to avoid a trade deadline fire sale. Since then the tone has changed and Terry Ryan makes it sound like trades will be coming.

The rough series with the Rays means the Twins might want to see what they can get for some of their veterans with expiring contracts. With that in mind, here is a look at some of the men who might find themselves in different uniforms before the calendar turns to August.

Kurt Suzuki- Catcher
The All Star catcher is in the middle of his best offensive season and he is no stranger to being dealt at this time of year. In 2012, Suzuki was traded from Oakland to Washington and the very next year he was sent back to Oakland from Washington. Catchers can be a valuable commodity especially late in the season. It is a grueling position and team's might be looking to add depth or replace an injured player. A Suzuki trade would also open the door for the Twins to get an extended look at catching prospect Josmil Pinto. Suzuki might be the Twins most valuable expiring contract and he could be gone in the next few days.

Josh Willingham- Outfield/DH
There were some calls for Willingham to be traded after his monster 2012 season. He won a Silver Slugger that season after being one of the few bright spots in the Twins line-up. Fast-forward a couple of seasons and things haven't been as rosy. Age might be catching up to the 35-year old veteran of 11 seasons. Over the last two seasons, he has struggled to keep his batting average over the .200 mark. There have been some signs of power but he only has one home run since June 25. Teams might like to add a right-handed bat to bolster their bench but how much does Willingham have left in the tank.

Kendrys Morales- First Base/DH
Scott Boras, the agent for Morales, was in Minneapolis over the All Star break and he talked about the possibility of Morales signing a long-term deal with Minnesota. This might not make a ton of sense with younger players like Oswaldo Arcia and Miguel Sano figuring to get chunks of time at designated hitter in the coming years. It would also be interesting to see the Twins trade a player that has only been with the team since the beginning of June. Like Willingham, there could be team's interested in adding a bench bat for the home stretch. It doesn't seem likely for Morales to be part of the next winning club in Minnesota so the team could try and get something for the 31-year old.

Kevin Correia- RH Pitcher
Correia's time in Minnesota might be best described as unmemorable. In two seasons with the club he has pitched close to 300 innings and his ERA is over 4.00, a mark lower than his career total. He currently leads the entire American League in losses and he is in the top ten for most hits allowed. This might not look like a player a lot of teams would want on their roster for the stretch run. He isn't a top of the line starter but this also means his price will be a lot lower. Some teams like to give their front of the line starters a break in the second half so they are ready for a playoff run. Correia could eat some inning for a contending team. A trade would also open a rotation spot for top pitching prospects Trevor May or Alex Meyer.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Episode 92: Reviewing the First Half

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 talk all about the first half, the Twins best players and worst players before the All Star break, and what we think might happen in the second half. Jay Corn rags on Joe Mauer, Cody Christie praises Brian Dozier, and Eric Pleiss raves about his boyfriend Phil Hughes.

Join us for the Twins talk, stay for the beers and baseball chatter.

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review our show on iTunes.  iTunes ratings and reviews is how to government funds unemployment.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Handing Out Twins First Half Awards

Welcome to the unofficial midpoint of the 2014 Twins season. After teasing fans for different portions of the first half, the Twins find themselves in a familiar position at the break, last place in the AL Central. The Twins enter the break six games under .500 and 10.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers for the top spot in the division.

Even though the team's record might not show it, there have been some positive things happening for the Twins this year. Kurt Suzuki and Phil Hughes are looking like fantastic free agent signings. Brian Dozier is in the midst of a breakout season at the plate. Even Kyle Gibson has started to look like he will be a long-term option as a starting pitcher.

At the beginning of the season I made a preseason pick about who will be the best players on the Twins in four different award categories (MVP, Best Starter, Best Reliever, Best Rookie). Each of the awards below has been named after someone that optimizes that award for the Twins organization. There are some legends from the past and even one current MLB player but all have had a significant place in Twins lore.

Harmon Killebrew First-Half MVP: Brian Dozier, 2B
Preseason Pick: Joe Mauer, 1B
Joe Mauer is always the safe pick at the beginning of the season and it seems that he has continued to disappoint in recent years. This makes it easy to look at the team and give the first half MVP to Brian Dozier. He has 10 more home runs than any other player on the roster. His 69 runs scored are the most in the American League. He also leads the team in RBI and stolen bases. All of these offensive numbers are great but he also makes some tremendous plays on the defensive side of the ball. His batting average is always going to be low but he seems to have all of the other tools to be part of the Twins long-term rebuilding process. 

Johan Santana Pitcher of the First Half: Phil Hughes, RHP
Preseason Pick: Ricky Nolasco, RHP
In the preseason I had the right idea to pick one of the free agent starters the Twins had signed. However I elected to go with the wrong man. Rick Nolasco has struggled during his first 18 starts with the Twins while Phil Hughes has looked like a brand new pitcher. Hughes leads the Twins in wins, innings pitched, and WAR. He's also only walked 11 batters the entire season for a eye popping 0.81 BB/9 rate. To put that in perspective, no other Twins starter has allowed fewer than 2 BB/9. There have been some rough starts for Hughes leading into the break so it will be interesting to see what kind of pitcher he looks like at the start of the second half.

Rick Aguilera Relief Pitcher of the First Half: Casey Fien, RHP
Preseason Pick: Glen Perkins, LHP
This was one of the toughest picks to make but looking deeper at the numbers it made my decision a little easier. Casey Fien and Glen Perkins could both be considered for this award but I give the slight edge to Fien. Perkins will always strikeout more batters than Fien but Fien has been asked to fill a very important late inning role. He does a great job of limiting damage when he comes into games because almost 83% of the time he is able to leave runners on base. Perkins left on base percentage is under 65%. Fien's ERA and WHIP are both lower than Perkins and Fien has pitched the second most innings out of the bullpen behind long-man Anthony Swarzak. This will be a race to watch in the second half as both players are having good seasons up to this point.

Rod Carew Rookie of the First Half: Danny Santana, SS/OF
Preseason Pick: Josmil Pinto, C
Both Josmil Pinto and Danny Santana did some good things in the first half but my vote goes to Santana. He has seemed to be a spark plug for the line-up when he is in the game. While his natural position is in the infield, the team has been forced to move him to the outfield because of injury issues. He was able to continue to produce in the outfield as well. In 37 games, he has been a threat on the bases with six steals to his name. He also has accumulated the same amount of runs scored and RBI as Pinto in fewer plate appearances. Pinto provides the power but Santana's overall game has been a big asset to the Twins in the first half. 

Now it's your turn. Who would you pick for each of the above awards? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Twins Minor League Report (7/13): Futures Game Impressions

The festivities are underway in the Twin Cities as Minnesota plays host to the MLB All-Star Game. The major league players still had games to play on Sunday but the some of the best and brightest minor league players were on hand to strut their stuff.

Twins pitching prospect Jose Berrios got the start for the World squad and Kennys Vargas was in the middle of the batting order to back him up. Berrios struck out the first batter he faced on a high fastball and both of the other batters flied out. Vargas played the entire game and he collected a double in four plate appearances. He also made a nice leaping catch at first and a couple of nice scoops.

Alex Meyer pitched the fifth inning for the US and earned a hold. The first two batters made decent contact against him but luckily one of those hits was right at a fielder. Meyer got a double play to end the inning and he only needed four pitches to get his job done.

While these three players were busy with a big event, their teams were busy still trying to win games. Here's a look at how their teams did on Sunday.

RED WINGS REPORT
Rochester --, Scranton/Wilkes Barre -- (Postponed)
Rain put a damper on what was supposed to be the unofficial end of the first half for the Rochester Red Wings. Trevor May was scheduled to make his first start since coming off of the DL but that will have to wait another day. Rochester had also ended a four game losing streak on Saturday so it would have been nice to keep the momentum going in the right direction.

The game will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Saturday, August 23. Game one is scheduled for a 3:35 pm CST and both games will be seven innings long. 

ROCK CATS REVIEW
New Britain 4, Reading 6
Box Score
New Britain staked themselves to an early two run lead but Reading connected on four home runs as part of a 12-hit barrage to win the game. Jason Wheeler started for the Rock Cats. He went five innings and allowed five earned runs on 10 hits including three of the above mentioned four home runs. It was his third loss in five starts since being moved up from Fort Myers.

Daniel Turpen relived Wheeler and pitched two innings. He gave up one hit but it happened to be a home run. Mason Melotakis pitched the last two frames and he kept the ball in the park. Over two shut-out frames he allowed one hit and struck out two.

Reynaldo Rodriguez collected two hits including his 30th double of the season. It was the third time in his last ten games that he has collected multiple hits. Eddie Rosario had a double and scored a run. Lance Ray also collected his second double in only eight games since getting promoted.

MIRACLE MATTERS
Fort Myers 3, Dunedin 1 (Game 1- 7 innings)
Box Score
DJ Baxendale put together his best outing of the year for the Miracle as he tossed a complete game. He scattered five hits over seven innings and struck out two. Baxendale induced three double plays and recorded 12 outs on ground balls. He hadn't made it through more than six innings in any other start.

Nate Roberts and Stuart Turner both knocked two hits and Roberts' triple was the lone extra-base hit. Byron Buxton went 1-for-2 with a run scored and his second stolen base of the season. His infield single was his first hit since coming off of the disabled list at the beginning of last week.

MIRACLE MATTERS
Fort Myers 8, Dunedin 4 (Game 2- 7 innings)
Box Score
In the second game of the doubleheader, the Miracle beat up on a familiar name, Dunedin starter Frank Viola Jr. He only lasted 2.1 innings and was charged with six earned runs as the Miracle pelted him with seven hits. Four Miracle hitters had at least two hits. Anderlin Mejia led the way going 3-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. Adam Brett Walker had a couple of big hits as he knocked in two and hit his ninth double. 

Fort Myers patched together pitchers for the second half of the doubleheader. BJ Hermsen collected the win after tossing a scoreless second inning. Todd Van Steensel made his Miracle debut at Hammond Stadium and lasted 1.1 scoreless frames. Madison Boer shut the door by recording the last five outs without allowing a hit. 

KERNELS NUGGETS

Cedar Rapids 7, Clinton 4 (Rain Shortened- 6 innings) 
Box Score
One giant inning is all that it took for Cedar Rapids to earn the win. In the top of the sixth inning, the Kernels scored seven runs without recording an extra-base hit. Cedar Rapids has now won four games in a row including another rain shortened game on Saturday.

In that big sixth inning, the Kernels sent 11 men to the plate. The team recorded five singles and took advantage of one defensive error. The first four hitters all reached base. It matched the largest run-scoring inning for the Kernels on the season. Four Cedar Rapids hitters (Logan Wade, Chad Christensen, Jason Kanzler, and Alex Smith) had two hits. Swim hit the only Kernels extra-base hit, a double.

Lewis Thorpe pitched the first four innings by allowing three earned runs on four hits. He struck out five and didn't walk anyone. Brandon Bixler earned his sixth victory of the season with all of them coming out of the bullpen. He allowed one run over two innings with a strikeout. Hudson Boyd earned the save since he was on the mound when the game was called.

E-TWINS E-NOTES
Elizabethton 10, Danville 6
Box Score
The E-Twins brought a consistent offensive approach to pound out 10 runs on 16 hits. Max Murphy reached base four times and scored three runs. He also hit his sixth home run of the season in the ninth inning. Tyler Kuresa went 2-for-4 with a home run. All of the hitters in the batting order from first to seventh had a minimum of two hits with the exception being Nick Gordon (1-for-6 with a run scored).

Michael Cederoth was credited with his second professional victory in as many appearances. He allowed three runs over five innings with four strikeouts and two walks. CK Irby got hit around a little in his second inning of work. He gave up two runs on four hits but it wasn't enough to get Danville back into the game. 

TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY

Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – DJ Baxendale, Fort Myers Miracle
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Max Murphy, Elizabethton Twins

MONDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS
Rochester- Scheduled Off Day
Reading @ New Britain (11:05 CST) – Tyler Duffey (Listen
Dunedin @ Ft. Myers (6:05 CST) – TBD (Listen)
Cedar Rapids @ Clinton (6:30 CST) - Ryan Eades (Listen)
Elizabethton @ Danville (6:00 CST)- Stephen Gonsalves
GCL Twins @ GCL Rays (11:00am CST) – TBD

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Future's Game Profile: Trevor May

It has been a little over a year and a half since  the Twins traded Ben Revere to the Phillies for Trevor May and Vance Worley. While Worley's stay in Minnesota was a disappointment, May is blossoming into one of the club's best pitching prospects. He will get the opportunity to showcase his abilities in this weekend's Futures Game at Target Field.

May wasn't one of the Twins two original selections for the Futures Game. He had to wait to be a replacement player after Cardinals prospect Marco Gonzalez was called up to the Major Leagues. It's likely that May will make his big league debut later this season so it's only fitting that he gets to showcase himself in front of the fans in an event like this.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire knows the fans are excited to see May. "I think our fans want to see him pitch. They've been yelling for him to come to the big leagues anyway." He knows how good of a season May has been having and he could find himself managing the young pitcher in the next couple months. "I'm sure it will be a good feeling for him to be part of the game, and I'm sure we'll see him shortly after that- hopefully so- if he keeps pitching like he is."

May's performance on the field has been hard to ignore. In the month of June, he posted a 3-1 record while never allowing more than three runs in a game. The highlight of the last month was a 8.1 inning performance where he struck out 11 and allowed one run. May also won his last four decisions in the month of May so he has been tossing the ball very well.

One of the biggest changes this season has been May's ability to limit walks. Control was always the biggest concern with May but he has found some more consistency on the mound. Throughout his minor league career, his walks per nine rate was well over four per game. This year that total has dropped to around 3.5 walks per game and this has happened in May's first taste of Triple-A.

On a recent episode of the Talk to Contact podcast, we discussed all of the changes this year for Trevor May. He's very candid about his approach to the game and how he has matured as a player this season. It's an entertaining interview to listen to especially with how much he has changed even since this point last season.

May might not turn into the number one starter Twins fans have wanted since Johan Santana left but he could be a very important piece of the next winning baseball team in Minnesota. He could fit in very nicely as a number two or three starter and those kinds of pitchers have been few and far between over the last three seasons in Minnesota.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Future's Game Profile: Kennys Vargas

Top prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are hurt otherwise they could each be heading back to their second straight Futures Game. Sano is out for the year after having Tommy John surgery and Buxton has been dealing with a wrist injury for most of the season. This left the door open for the Twins to look for a different player to add to the Futures Game roster.

Kennys Vargas might not even be a top 10 prospect in the Twins system (I didn't have him on my updated top 10 list following the draft) but he is having a very good season. Some players can struggle with the jump from High-A to Double-A but Vargas has made a seamless transition. He hit .267/.344/.468 with 19 home runs last season in Fort Myers. He led the Florida State League in RBIs (93) and tied for second in home runs in 2013.

This season he is on pace to break those marks in the Eastern League. He collected 14 home runs and 57 RBI before the end of June. Both of these totals put him near the top of the league. The Twins have also been happy with the improvements he has made on the defensive side of the ball. As a 6-foot-5, 275-pound first baseman, there can be some struggles in the field but he a career high fielding percentage half way through the year.

Another area of improvement for Vargas this year has been his strikeout to walk rate. Last season he struck out over 100 times and was issued a free pass on 50 occasions. His walk rate is a little over 1% more than last season but he is striking out in less than 16% of his plate appearances. In every other season he has struck out over 20% of the time. 

Compared to the rest of the Eastern League, Vargas is almost two years younger than the rest of the hitters. He is in his age 23 season and he will turn 24 at the beginning of August. If Vargas is able to continue his small improvements, the Twins could move Vargas up to Rochester before the end of the year. He has yet to play at two different levels in the same minor league season so he could deserve a reward. Perhaps a September call-up might even be in order.

These small improvements have made a big difference for Vargas. His size limits his positional flexibility on the field but he could still be a valuable asset on a future Twins roster.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Future's Game Profile: Jose Berrios

It started on draft night when the cameras turned to a young man surrounded by his family and friends as a life changing moment was taking place. Jose Berrios was taken by the Twins in the supplemental round of the 2012 MLB Draft and the room exploded around him. The joy on his face could clearly be seen as tears started to enter his eyes.

His dream had come true as the Puerto Rican native was going to live out his dream of becoming a professional baseball player. The 18-year old had worked his entire life to hear his name called and the Twins made this dream a reality. This was the first time fans got a taste of the personality of Berrios and it was already easy to like him and his story.

Flash-forward a couple of seasons and Berrios is in the middle of a breakout campaign with the Fort Myers Miracle. He is making the Florida State League look like his own personal proving ground. This is a league that is typically slanted towards pitchers but he has been one of the best pitchers in the minors over the last month.

For the month of June, Berrios went a minimum of six innings in his outings and never allowed more than two earned runs. His 53 strikeouts lead all pitchers in the minor leagues and he never struck out fewer than seven batters. In two of his starts, he went seven innings and only allowed one run. His performance in the month of June earned him the MLB Pipeline Pitching Prospect of the Month.

Berrios is a fun follow on Twitter as well. He announced his select for the Future's Game on Twitter before the rosters were released. He's also a very humble player who gives a lot of the credit to other people around him. His mom also is very passionate about her son and she retweets almost anything about Jose on the Twitter machine.

The Future's Game will not be the first time Berrios has competed on a big stage. He pitched out of the Puerto Rican bullpen in last year's World Baseball Classic. There might be a little added pressure of stepping out on to Target Field for the first time in front of the hometown crowd but it shouldn't be anything the 20-year can't handle.

His ultimate dream is to get to Target Field and he will make that dream a reality on Sunday. It won't be a permanent stay but he will get a small taste of what is to come...

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Episode 90: Mauer's Injury and Midseason Awards

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.
The Twins have struggled mightily on the road recently, but thanks to Kyle Gibson, they were able to snap the road losing skid at 10 games before coming home to drop two of three to the Kansas City Royals. This week we take a look at what's been going wrong for the Twins and what it means for the franchise going into the All-Star break.

Joe Mauer is on the DL, Brian Dozier is slumping, and Josh Willingham can't seem to find a hit to save his life (or the team). We were lucky enough to have a full booth of podcasters tonight, and the gang gave out mid-season awards for both the American and National Leagues.

This week's show features a good deal of disagreement amongst the four of us, so be sure to let us know who you think was right and who was wrong by sending us tweets or emails. We also used some "adult language" so this show may not be suitable for young children or sensitive old people.

Thanks for the download.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Twins Minor League Report (7/1): Early Fireworks Shows

Welcome to July!

Minnesota's offense busted out the fireworks a couple days early with a big performance against the Royals. The biggest news of the night might have been Joe Mauer being pulled from the game with what is being called an oblique strain. Mauer told reporters after the game that he has been dealing with a sore oblique for about a week and it doesn't feel good. This is bad news especially since Mauer's bat had seemed to be warming up in recent weeks.

The Twins offense wasn't the only one to explode on Tuesday. Let's look around the minor leagues to see who's hot and who's not.

RED WINGS REPORT
Rochester 15, Norfolk 11
Box Score
Rochester went on a scoring rampage of their own pounding out 15 runs on 19 hits. Chris Colabello cranked out two home runs and Wilkin Ramirez collected five hits to help the offensive charge. Chris Herrmann went 2-for-4 with a home run and he now has a season-high six game hitting streak. Eric Farris has a seven game hitting streak of his own and he leads the team with 29 multi-hit games. 

On the mound, Kris Johnson did just enough to pick up his seventh win of the season. He last five innings and gave up four runs on six hits. Edgar Ibarra saw his 15.1 inning scoreless streak come to an end in a big way. In relief of Johnson, he was charged with five earned runs on only three hits. Aaron Thompson did well to stop some of the bleeding at the end of the game by tossing two shutout innings.

ROCK CATS REVIEW
New Britain 9, Binghamton 6
Box Score
New Britain rode a five-run first inning to an early lead and the team was able to hold back the charging Mets. Eddie Rosario and Mike Kvasnicka each hit a home run to help the cause. Rosario reached base in three at-bats and scored two runs. Aaron Hicks showed some positive signs by going 2-for-3 with a run scored. Reynaldo Rodriguez has been a doubles machine this year as he hit his 24th double in this game.

Jason Wheeler picked up his second win in three starts since being promoted from Fort Myers. He went six frames and was charged with three earned runs. He struck out five and he has yet to allow more than three runs in any of his Double-A action. Mark Hamburger struck out five batters in only two innings of relief work but it took him 45 pitches to get through those innings.

MIRACLE MATTERS
Fort Myers 4, Bradenton 5
Box Score
The Miracle rallied for two runs in the ninth inning and three runs over the last three frames but it still wasn't enough to overcome an early deficit. Lance Ray got the scoring started early with a first inning home run. After that the Fort Myers offense went cold until the late innings. At one point 16 Miracle batters were retired in a row. 

Alex Wimmers was strong in relief as he threw five scoreless frames before giving up two runs in his sixth inning of work. BJ Hermsen took the loss after surrendering three runs on five hits over two innings. There was a lengthy weather delay after the second inning which caused Hermsen to be pulled early. 

Travis Harrison and Max Kepler each had a double, the 21st for Harrison and the 8th for Kepler. Jorge Polanco went 0-for-4 in his second game back after his brief taste of the big leagues. 

KERNELS NUGGETS

Cedar Rapids 0, Wisconsin 1 (12 innings) 
Box Score
It turned into a long evening in Wisconsin as the Kernels and the Timber Rattlers decided nine innings wasn't enough to decide this game. In fact, it took 12 innings and the game almost lasted until after midnight in the Central Timezone. After all of those innings and all of that time, the Kernels found themselves on the short end of the stick

Cedar Rapids had a grand total of four hits over 12 frames. Two of those hits came off of the bat of Jason Kanzler. Bryan Haar and Zack Granite also added singles. The team went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and they left seven runners on base. They also couldn't capitalize on three defensive errors committed by Wisconsin.

Aaron Slegers started the game but he would long gone before a decision was made in this one. He last five innings and limited the Timber Rattlers to two hits. Brandon Bixler and Dallas Gallant kept the shutout going by combining for four scoreless frames. Jared Wilson took the loss as he gave up a walk, a sac-bunt, and then the game winning hit.

E-TWINS E-NOTES
Elizabethton 4, Johnson City 8
Box Score
After ending the month of June on a three-game winning streak, the E-Twins saw that streak come to a screeching halt. The team was only able to muster up four hits including a 2-for-3 night from Dutch Doel. Nick Gordan went 1-for-5 including his third stolen base. He also committed his second error of the season on a throw. The team left seven runners on base.

Stephen Gonsalves scattered seven hits and limited the Cardinals to four runs. Cameron Booser kept Elizabethon in the game by pitching three shut-out innings with two strikeouts. Randy LeBlanc took the loss as he gave up three run in the bottom of the eighth inning.

GCL TWINS TAKES
GCL Twins 7, GCL Rays 8
Box Score
There wasn't a lot of solid pitching in this match-up as the teams combined for 29 hits and 15 runs. The Twins held multiple leads in this game but costly error meant three late unearned runs. Alexis Tapia tossed four innings of two-run ball to start the game but he didn't figure into the decision. Miles Nordgren took the loss but he didn't give up an earned run after Rainis Silva had a fielding error at first.

Manuel Guzman and Amaurys Minier each had three hits and they combined to go six-for-nine in the game. Minier is batting .407/.500/.630 in eight games this season with four extra-base hits. The lone extra-base hit for the Twins came off the bat of Jack Barrie, his firs double of the year. The club went 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position and that was the difference in the game.

TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY

Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Jason Wheeler, New Britain Rock Cats
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Chris Colabello, Rochester Red Wings


WEDNESDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS

Rochester @ Pawtucket (5:15 CST) – Sean Gilmartin (Listen)
Binghamton @ New Britain (6:05 CST) – Tyler Duffey (Listen
Ft. Myers @ Bradenton (5:30 CST) – Tim Shibuya (Listen)
Cedar Rapids @ Wisconsin (7:05 CST) - Lewis Thorpe (Listen)
Elizabethton- Scheduled Off Day
GCL Rays @ GCL Twins (11:00am CST) – TBD