Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Twins Top Stories of 2015

The champagne is on ice and it's almost time for the ball to drop in Times Square. 2015 will move over to make way for 2016 and it will be time for resolutions and the hope of a new year.

The Twins offered plenty of hope to their fan base in 2015. After four straight seasons with at least 92 losses, many major media sources expected the Twins to again finish near the bottom of the AL Central. Thankfully, they were wrong and the Twins surprised many by staying in the playoff hunt until the final week of the season.

Here is a look at five of the top stories that surrounded Minnesota in 2015.
Molitor Takes the Reigns
The Twins don't like change when it comes to their manager. The last two managers in Minnesota, Tom Kelly and Ron Gardenhire, combined to manage from 1986-2014. Paul Molitor invigorated the Twins clubhouse on the way to an 83-79 record. He did all of this despite the Twins have no one in the top 10 in the American League in batting average, home runs, RBI, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, strikeouts, or ERA. Because of all of this, Molitor finished third in the balloting for the American League Manager of the Year Award.

Twins In Playoff Hunt
When a team has lost over 90 games for four consecutive seasons, it's refreshing to have a club back in the playoff hunt. Minnesota wasn't eliminated from postseason contention until the second-to-last day of the season. The club used a historic May record of 20-7 to finish the month in first place. It was the first time the organization won at least 20 games in a month since 1991. With 83 wins, the club finished with an above .500 record for only the second time in the Target Field era.

Hunter Plays Final Season Back Home
Not all fans were excited about the Twins giving over $10 million to an aging Torii Hunter last offseason but the Twins wanted to add his veteran leadership to what would turn out to be a young clubhouse. By most accounts, Hunter played better than expected and finished the year with 22 home runs and 81 RBI. Shortly after the season ended, Hunter announced that he would be retiring to spend more time with his wife and family. He played 12 of his 19 seasons in a Twins uniform.

Perkins, Dozier Named All-Stars
Even though the Twins were one of the top teams in the AL during the first half of the season, it looked like the club was only going to have one representative at the Midsummer Classic. Glen Perkins didn't blow a save in the first half of the season and he was an easy choice for his third consecutive All-Star Game. Brian Dozier had to fight his way into the game as he was included on the Final Vote candidate. He wouldn't get in through this method but he'd be named as an injury replacement to cap off a week where he finished one of the most dramatic wins in recent Twins history. Both players impact the All-Star Game as Dozier hit a home run and Perkins closed out the win for the AL.

Top Prospects Debut
Big names prospects like Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton earn legendary status before ever seeing a big league pitch. Sano lived up to the hype as he collected 18 home runs, 17 doubles, and 52 RBIs in 80 games on his way to being named the team's MVP. Buxton's debut didn't come with as much flare as Sano but he's still considered one of the top prospects in the game. Eddie Rosario made an impact as he attained double digits in home runs, doubles, triples, stolen bases, and outfield assists. Tyler Duffey made a big impact on the mound winning five games to help keep the team in the hunt. Max Kepler was given a September call-up after being named the Southern League MVP and helping the Lookouts to win the league's championship.

Baseball is a game of hope and the Twins offered their fan base plenty of hope in 2015. It would seem the team is trending in the right direction for 2016 with a more experienced manager, a young core, and a chance to get back into the playoffs for the first time since 2010. 

Raise a glass to toast 2015 and let's keep hope alive for an even better 2016 in Twins Territory.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Dozier's Defensive Dielmma

Brian Dozier was able to call himself an All-Star for the first time in 2015. He's gained national attention after competing in the 2014 Home Run Derby and after hitting a home run to help the American League win the 2015 All-Star Game. He's slowly become one of the Twins most valuable players as he has entrenched himself near the top of the team's line-up.

His value to the organization has been clear in recent years. He's ranked in the team's top three for rWAR from 2013-2015 and he led the team in that category in 2014. Dozier has also led the team in home runs in each year during that stretch.

For Twins fans, it's easy to get excited about his play. His presence in the line-up has been a jolt the team has needed at different portions of the season. However, offense is only one part of the game and his defensive game has been in decline.

As Dozier started his rise to stardom in the Twins line-up, the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) started to use a defensive index to help decide portions of the Rawlings Gold Gloves.

According to the SABR website: "The SABR Defensive Index draws on and aggregates two types of existing defensive metrics: those derived from batted ball location-based data and those collected from play-by-play accounts. The three metrics representing batted ball data include Defensive Runs Saved from Baseball Info Solutions, Ultimate Zone Rating developed by noted sabermetrician Mitchel Lichtman, and Runs Effectively Defended built by SABR Defensive Committee member Chris Dial. The two metrics included in the SDI originating from play-by-play data are Defensive Regression Analysis, created by committee member Michael Humphreys, and Total Zone Rating."

2013 Season
By the end of the 2013 season, Dozier ranked as the third best second baseman in the American League according to the SABR Defensive Index (SDI). Dustin Pedroia won the Gold Glove and compiled an 11.6 SDI. Dozier's 5.5 SDI was 1.4 points behind Ian Kinsler for second place. There were only seven second basemen that scored in positive territory on the SDI.

In 734 chances at second, he was charged with six errors for a .992 fielding percentage, a career best mark. This was seven points higher than the league average for second basemen. However, defense goes deeper than fielding percentage. His defensive runs saved above average (Rdrs) was nine, another career high. Some other Sabermetric Fielding numbers weren't as kind to him. His Total Zone Total Fielding Runs Above Average (Rtot) was -2.

2013 was his best defensive season as a big leaguer and it was Dozier's first full season playing second base so this was quite the remarkable feat.

2014 Season
Dozier dropped down the SDI rankings in 2014 as Pedroia won his second consecutive AL Gold Glove. Ian Kinsler actually ranked higher than Pedroia in the final SDI rankings and Howie Kendrick rounded out the top three. Dozier slipped all the way to eighth place in the American League with a -0.7 SDI, the sixth worse mark out of qualifying second basemen.

During his second season at second base, Dozier showed some regression as he was charged with 15 errors in 751 chances. His .980 fielding percentage was four points lower than the league average. Dozier's Rdrs dropped 9 runs and his Rtot dipped nine 10 runs from -2 to -12.

Although his defense wasn't at the bottom of the league, there was a clear decline from the positive numbers he compiled in 2013. He would need to make some changes going into 2015 because he was trending in the wrong direction.

2015 Season
For the first time in the SDI era, a second baseman not in the top two was awarded the Gold Glove. Jose Altuve's 4.6 SDI ranking was less than half of the league leader Ian Kinsler (10.7 SDI) but Altuve was still awarded the top defensive award. Dozier continued his decline into the bottom of the league as he finished with a -6.1 SDI and only ranked ahead of two qualified players, Robinson Cano and Johnny Giavotella.

Dozier's fielding percentage went back up to .990 (8 errors in 767 chances) while the league average was a .983 fielding percentage. However some of his other numbers compared differently when looking at his previous seasons. His Rdrs was negative for the first time as he posted a -5 mark but his Rtot was slightly better at -8.

There is some hope for Dozier. At the end of the 2014 season, Altuve was the lowest ranking second baseman according to SDI with a -10.2. This mark was 2.5 points lower than competition. In one season, Altuve improved by 14.8 SDI points and was rewarded with the Gold Glove.

Dozier makes some tremendously athletic plays but some of this results from him not being able to get to balls that are near the edge of his range. The best second basemen made the routine plays look easy and can stretch their range to meet a specific play.

If Dozier wants to be considered one of the best second basemen in the game, his defense is his biggest weakness. He has the opportunity to improve and solving this defensive dilemma could help the club to continue trending in the right direction.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Twas the Night Before Twins Christmas

Tis the season... well it's not baseball season but fans can still be in the baseball mood. Back in 2010, I wrote a version of this poem that had become a little outdated after half a decade. The Twins had a different manager and GM at the time and the team's biggest offseason move was bringing in Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

So here is an update version to help us survive this holiday season. May your holiday be filled with plenty of blessings (and maybe a free agent signing by the Twins).

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through Target Field
Not a worker was stirring, for every door had been sealed;

The stockings were hung by the dugout with care,
In hopes that a free agent soon would be there;

Every fan was nestled all snug in their beds, 
While visions of championships danced in their heads;

And Terry Ryan in his 'kerchief, and Molitor in a cap,
Seem to be spending the offseason on a long winter's nap;

David Price had signed and still no deals had been made,
On many fans minds this problem heavily weighed;

When out on the field there arose such a clatter,
Ryan sprang from the bed to see what was the matter;

 A star from Korea with a bat that could bash,
Left fans hoping that his contract wouldn't be too brash;

Target Field lay under the new fallen snow,
While the rest of the offseason moves seemed to come slow;

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
Thoughts of new pitcher would let the fans cheer;

Molitor wants a new team with power in their swings,
With hopes that it will result in multiple rings.

Hunter retired after much fortune and fame,
A title in the Central will be hard to reclaim;

The team is young and expectations are high,
2015 was great but now it's time to say goodbye ;

There are roster quandaries as youth starts to take hold,
For Twins Territory, the losing was getting old;

With the new year, changes will come,
It is still hard not to feel glum;

A star pitcher would make the fans clamor,
Or a bullpen pitcher who can drop the hammer;

The wish list is long for fans this holiday season,
Trying to overcome the Royals is definitely the reason;

Fans want a plan so they can be merry,
Because making no moves seems all too scary;

A Christmas signing wrapped in a bow,
Could make up for this excess of snow.

Back to sleep I will go with the hope of a good dream,
For the Twins will continue to be our baseball team;

There is still plenty of offseason to make things right,
Until then "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night."

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Building the Twins 2018 Line-Up

The final touches are being put on the 2016 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook and fans can look for ordering details shortly after the new year. In the aftermath of writing profiles on every prospect in the Twins system, it's hard not to get excited about the direction the team is heading in 2016 and beyond.

Predicting the future can be a tough task when it comes to prospects especially when trying to decipher who will part of the next playoff team in Minnesota. There are a plethora of high-end prospects ready to make an everyday impact but the crystal ball can be a little murky when gazing into the future. 

Let's do our best to try and have our own lightsaber Force vision of the future. When the Twins are ready to make consistent playoff runs, what will the line-up look like in 2018?
Catcher: This position is one of the hardest to get a read on as we look into the future. The Twins have a group of young catchers moving through the system. Mitch Garver, Brian Navarreto, and Alex Swim could all play well enough to get some big league playing time. For now, it seems like Stuart Turner will be the team's likely option at backstop. The Twins have been aggressive with him during his time in the organization and he could make his big league debut this season. He has an experienced approach at the plate but his offense isn't his calling card. Turner is a defensive first catcher but that could be enough to give him the starting job by 2018.
2018 Prediction: Stuart Turner, Back-Up Plan: Mitch Garver

First Base: It's crazy to think Joe Mauer's contract will come to an end at some point but that's exactly what will happen after the 2018 season. Mauer can be a free agent as he will be in his mid-30s at the time with the potential to still have some baseball in front of him. It's hard to know if that future will be in Minnesota but there doesn't seem to be a situation where he won't be part of the line-up in 2018. There will be other options on the roster. Newly signed Korean slugger Byung Ho Park has experience at first and he could be getting more playing time at first in the next few years. As Miguel Sano continues to grow into his body, it wouldn't be surprising to see him end up playing at first as well. 
2018 Prediction: Joe Mauer, Back-Up Plan: Byung Ho Park

Second Base: Brian Dozier is coming off an All-Star season but he's struggled offensively in the second half of 2014 and 2015. Minnesota just signed him to a deal through 2018 and he will be 31 years old by the end of that deal. This makes it pretty easy to hypothesize that Dozier will still be there by 2018. The Twins do have other infielders making their way through the system. Jorge Polanco has ranked high on Twins prospect lists and he's had a brief taste of the big leagues. There are some questions about his defensive abilities at shortstop so a switch to second base might be just what the doctor ordered. If Polanco continues to show promise, the Twins might be willing to deal Dozier before his contract expires.
2018 Prediction: Brian Dozier, Back-Up Plan: Jorge Polanco 

Third Base: The Twins have seen Trevor Plouffe evolve into a very good player at third base. The former first round pick will be a free agent before the 2018 season so it seems likely that the organization will part ways with him. This could mean a shift for Miguel Sano back to the hot corner. There is talk from the Twins of Sano playing some outfield this season and that might be the only way to get all of their sluggers in the line-up at the same point. Sano will be entering his fourth big league season and he could still have something to prove if he hasn't played a ton of third base up to this point in his career. While someone like Polanco could switch from shortstop to third, the other options at third might be someone like Trey Cabbage. 
2018 Prediction: Miguel Sano, Back-Up Plan: Jorge Polanco

Shortstop: Shortstop has been a black hole in the Twins organization. The Twins have added multiple players like Nick Gordon and Wander Javier over the last couple seasons to try and turn a weakness into a strength. Javier signed for a ton of money but he won't be ready by 2018. This means the Twins future shortstop could be left in the hands of Nick Gordon. He has the potential to be an All-Star and a top-of-the-order hitter. The Twins have been aggressive with him so far in his professional career so it wouldn't be a surprise for him to spend the 2018 season as the club's primary shortstop. Engelb Vielma is another top-20 prospect that has all of the defensive skills to stick at the position. If Gordon isn't ready in '18, look for Vielma to fit the role. 
2018 Prediction: Nick Gordon, Back-Up Plan: Engelb Vielma

Right Field: Minnesota's 2018 outfield could be littered with talent. Top prospects like Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, and Eddie Rosario will all need homes especially if they establish themselves as everyday players. All three of these players have shown the ability to play center field so two of them will have to get pushed to the corners and combine for a solid defensive grouping. Kepler seems like the logical choice for right field since he could grow into his body more and he's played the position in the minor leagues. After being named the team's minor league player of the year, hopes will be high for Kepler but he has the chance to be an All-Star. A back-up plan could be slugging outfield Adam Brett Walker especially if he keeps mashing home runs.
2018 Prediction: Max Kepler, Back-Up Plan: Adam Brett Walker

Left Field: With Kepler occupying right field, Eddie Rosario gets the reigns to left field. Rosario is coming off a very good rookie campaign where he showed some positive signs at the plate. If he can continue to develop offensively, he could nestle snugly into a everyday player that fits nicely into the second half of the line-up. Walker would be another back-up option for this position as he has played both corner outfield positions during the last two seasons. A middle of the order with Sano, Park, and Walker could be a murder's row for opposing pitchers in the American League.
2018 Prediction: Eddie Rosario, Back-Up Plan: Adam Brett Walker

Center Field: The land once occupied by the likes of Kirby Puckett and Torii Hunter seems close to becoming the land of Byron Buxton. Baseball's top rated prospect for much of the last two seasons should be a regular by the time the 2018 season roles around. He has all the skills to be a five-tool player and he could be on his way to multiple All-Star appearances and potential MVP awards. There is still a lot left for him to prove but most of the baseball world seems confident that Mr. Buxton will be able to put it all together to be a well above-average player. 
2018 Prediction: Byron Buxton, Back-Up Plan: Max Kepler

Designated Hitter: When Minnesota signed Park this offseason, they made sure to refer to him as a designated hitter. Twins general manager Terry Ryan made reference to his ability to play first base but the Twins have another player entrenched at first base so this means Park will have to get playing time at another spot. There are also plenty of other names on this list that could fill into a DH role by 2018. Mauer might be aging too much to play first base or a combination of Sano and Walker could definitely add some power to the DH role. As long as Park adjusts well to baseball in the States, it seems like the DH role is his to lose. 
2018 Prediction: Byung Ho Park, Back-Up Plan: Mauer/Sano/Walker

What would your 2018 line-up look like? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Twins Minor League Report (9/21): Chattanooga Champs!

One game to rule them all.

The Lookouts have combined for quite a season leading into tonight's decisive game five. Stud prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton started the season in Chattanooga before eventually making their big league debuts. Max Kepler and Jose Berrios both spent time with the Lookouts before being named the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter and Starting Pitcher of the Year.

Chattanooga won the first half title in the Southern League North Division and finished the season with an overall record of 76-61. The club was just one game over .500 at home but they were a stunning 42-28 away from AT&T Field.

Tonight they played at home with a chance to be crowned kings of the Southern League.
Chattanooga 4, Biloxi 0
Box Score
The Lookouts had a chance to jump out to an early lead in the bottom of the first inning. With two outs in the frame, Southern League MVP Max Kepler walked. Travis Harrison followed with a single to give Chattanooga their first chance with runners in scoring position. Adam Brett Walker came up in a big spot but he grounded out to third to end the frame.

DJ Baxendale started for the Lookouts and he ran into a little trouble in the top of the second. After a single and a double to start the frame, Baxendale gave up a free pass to load the bases without recording an out. He came up with two big swinging strikeouts and a ground out to get out of the jam.

The bottom of the second would see the first runs of the game. Heiker Meneses stepped up to the plate and cracked a triple. Two batters later Stuart Turner would drive in Meneses with a double to left field. Shannon Wilkerson followed Turner's double with a RBI-single to stretch the lead to 2-0 in favor of the Lookouts.

Max Kepler has been carrying the Lookouts for large portions of the seasons so it seemed fitting that he would help add to the team's lead in their most important game of the year. He had gone 0-for-7 in the last two games but he lead-off the third with a solo-home run, his third of the series.

Baxendale used 95 pitches to get through five shutout frames before turning the game over to the bullpen. He gave up four hits, three walks, and struck out three. Jason Wheeler took over for Baxendale and was outstanding. In four shutout innings, he allowed two base runners and struck out three.

The Lookouts picked up a big insurance run in the bottom of the seventh inning to push their lead to 4-0. Stuart Turner walked to start the inning and was thrown out at second on a bunt attempt from Shannon Wilkerson. Stephen Wickens stepped to the plate and cracked a double to left field that was deep enough to score Wilkerson from first to add to the lead.

Wheeler stayed in for the top of the ninth inning. The first batter popped out to second base and the Lookouts were two outs away. The next batter walked to be only the second base runner against Wheeler. However the next batter would hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the game and the season.

Your 2015 Southern League Champions, the Chattanooga Lookouts.

Twins 2015 Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year - Trevor Hildenberger

Relief pitchers can get a tough rap with one bad outing resulting in inflated numbers that they have to work to improve for the rest of the season. With a limited amount of appearances to leave their mark, relievers need to show their stuff in short appearances in order to continue their path to the major leagues.

The Twins Minor League Report authors each voted for the five awards being handed out this week. Today, we'll take a look at the top relief pitchers in the Twins minor league system for 2015. We each voted for out top six performers in this category.

You'll see short profiles of our Top 6, but first, here are some honorable mentions.

Honorable Mention
  • Michael Theofanopoulos - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 37 G, 5-3, 3.82 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 68.1 IP, 68 H, 29 BB, 74 K 
  • Cameron Booser - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 32 G, 1-2, 3.72 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 46.0 IP, 31 H, 40 BB, 64 K
  • Nick Burdi - Chattanooga Lookouts/Fort Myers Miracle - 43 G, 5-6, 3.82 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 63.2 IP, 52 H, 35 BB, 83 K
  • Alex Muren - Chattanooga Lookouts/Fort Myers Miracle - 44 G, 3-3, 3.03 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 71.1 IP, 62 H, 24 BB, 54 K  
  • Randy LeBlanc - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 33 G, 9-5, 3.03 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 89.0 IP, 78 H, 28 BB, 69 K
  • Luke Bard - Cedar Rapids Kernels - 28 G, 7-1, 2.41 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 52.1 IP, 45 H, 15 BB, 47 K


Here are the top six vote-getters for the Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year.

#6 - JT Chargois - Chattanooga Lookouts/Fort Myers Miracle - 48 G, 2-1, 2.63 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 48.0 IP, 38 H, 25 BB, 53 K
In his first professional action since the Appalachian League in 2012, Chargois made a strong impression back on the mound. He underwent Tommy John surgery in September 2013 and he enter the season with a lot of buzz out of the Instructional League. In his second appearance back on the mound, he was lit up for four earned runs on five hits while only recording one out. Over his next 14 appearances with Fort Myers, Chargois wouldn't allow an eanred run while holding opponents to a .137/.214/.196 batting line. His streak continued after being promoted to Chattanooga and it only came to an end after two months and 20 appearances. He'd end the year with another impressive run as he gave up one earned run on 11 hits over his last 19.2 innings with 24 strikeouts.

#5 - Todd Van Steensel - Fort Myers Miracle - 46 G, 2-4, 2.32 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 66.0 IP, 53 H, 32 BB, 81 K
Van Steensel started back in the Florida State League after finishing the 2014 campaign with the Miracle. Fort Myers relied a lot on the Australian native throughout the year as he compiled the best professional numbers of his career. He got off to a strong start in the month of April with a 1.35 ERA and 22 strikeouts in just over 13 innings. June would also be a good month as he held opponents to a 0.796 WHIP and 20 strikeouts in 16.1 innings. Right-handed batters actually hit worse against the righty as their OPS was 17 points lower. He led the Miracle in saves, games finished, appearances, and he finished second on the team in strikeouts even though he never made a start.

#4 - AJ Achter - Rochester Red Wings - 43 G, 4-2, 2.63 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 48.0 IP, 28 H, 13 BB, 47 K
The Twins have gotten quite the run out of the 46th round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft. Achter has made appearances with the big league club in each of the last two seasons and he continued to improve himself in the minor leagues. Throughout the entire season, he only allowed opponents to hit over .190 against him in one month (June) and that was the month he made his fewest amount of appearances. Achter put up some crazy numbers in May (12 appearances) with a 0.75 ERA and a 0.42 WHIP while opponents hit .103/.125/.179 against him. He tied for Rochester's team lead with 14 saves and lead the relief pitching core with 48 total innings.

#3 - Brandon Peterson - Chattanooga Lookouts/Fort Myers Miracle - 41 G, 2.07 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 61.0 IP, 44 H, 28 BB, 77 K
After some up and down appearances through the first month of the season, Peterson hit a nice groove near the beginning of May and stretched it all the way to July. During that time he didn't allow a run over 26.0 innings while striking out 33 and holding opponents to a .103/.161/.115 batting line. During that stretch he was promoted from Fort Myers to Chattanooga where he'd finish the season. His time in the Florida State League was outstanding as he posted a 0.85 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP. The jump to the Southern League saw his ERA jump to 3.38 and his WHIP bump up 55 points. Peterson was almost a year and a half younger than the other pitchers at Double-A so it was an overall very impressive season.

#2 - Michael Tonkin - Rochester Red Wings - 33 G, 2-1, 1.10 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 41.0 IP, 25 H, 5 BB, 46 K
Tonkin hasn't been able to stick at the big league level over the last handful of years but he showed that he can thoroughly dominate hitters at the Triple-A level. Tonkin changed rosters nine different times this year including one stretch where four straight appearances on different teams between Rochester and Minnesota. From June 30 to August 29, he allowed two earned runs in 28.0 innings with 28 strikeouts and two walks. Opponents hit .160/.186/.202 against him during that stretch and Rochester handed over the closer role to him to end the year. Even with all the trips to Minnesota, Tonkin stilled tied Achter for the Rochester team lead with 14 saves and he had the best ERA of any pitcher on the staff. Tonkin doesn't have much left to prove at Triple-A so it will be up to the Twins to find him a big league role for 2016.

Relief Pitcher of the Year - Trevor Hildenberger - Cedar Rapids Kernels/Fort Myers Miracle - 41 G, 3-2, 1.55 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 64.0 IP, 39 H, 7 BB, 80 K
Hildenberger, a 22nd round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, spent all of his debut season pitching for the Twins two rookie league affiliates. His numbers were good but that can be expected for an experienced college pitcher going against younger hitters. He finished the 2014 season with a 2.48 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP with 32 strikeouts in 29 innings. This year would be a test as he would be asked to make the jump to the full season leagues and test his stuff against some older competition.

He wasted very little time making his mark in Cedar Rapids. In the month of April, he allowed one earned run on six hits in ten innings with 13 strikeouts. He continued his masterful mound performance into May as he didn't allow a run for the entire month while striking out 23 in 18.2 innings. In fact, Hildenberger had a stretch from April 19 to June 21 (31.1 IP) where he allowed one run on 11 hits with 40 strikeouts and four walks. Batters could only compile a .107/.148/.117 line against him and he struck out 36% of hitters during this impressive run.

Hildenberger's numbers jumped up a little during his 13 appearances in the Florida State League and he has been older than the competition at every stop along the way. Next year will be huge for him as he will likely spend some time back in the Florida State League before making a jump to the higher levels of the minors. It was a very impressive season but there's still room for him to grow in the coming years.

In an attempt to be transparent, here are the ballots from our Twins Daily minor league writers.

  • Seth Stohs - 1.) Trevor Hildenberger, 2.) Michael Tonkin, 4.) AJ Achter, 4.) Brandon Peterson, 5.) Todd Van Steensel, 6.) JT Chargois 
  • Jeremy Nygaard - 1.) Trevor Hildenberger, 2.) Michael Tonkin, 3.) AJ Achter, 4.) Todd Van Steensel, 5.) JT Chargois, 6.) Nick Burdi
  • Cody Christie - 1.) Trevor Hildenberger, 2.) AJ Achter, 3.) Brandon Peterson, 4.) Todd Van Steensel, 5.) Cameron Booser, 6.) JT. Chargois
  • Steve Lien - 1.) Trevor Hildenberger, 2.) Michael Tonkin, 3.) Brandon Peterson, 4.) AJ Achter, 5.) JT Chargois, 6.) Todd Van Steensel
  • Eric Pleiss - 1.) Trevor Hildenberger, 2.) Brandon Peterson, 3.) Michael Tonkin, 4.) Michael Theofanopoulos, 5.) JT Chargois, 6.) Todd Van Steensel

Feel free to start the discussion and explain who you think should be on the ballot

Monday, September 14, 2015

Twins Minor League Report (9/14): Lookouts Moving On, Hurlbut Dominant

The Cedar Rapids Kernels already moved on to the Championship Series of the Midwest League and the Chattanooga Lookouts were looking to join Kernels by qualifying for the Championship Series in the Southern League.

It was going to take a strong performance from some of the Twins top prospects to push the Lookouts further into the playoffs. Which players would step up under the pressure of a postseason run?

Photo Credit: Craig Gordon
Chattanooga 4, Montgomery 1
Box Score
David Hurlbut was on the mound for the Lookouts in this pivotal contest and he found himself in trouble early. He gave up a very long home run in the second inning and this was followed by two more hits to leave runners on the corners with two outs. Hulbut got out of the inning and he was locked in for the rest of the game.

From the third into the seventh inning, Hulbut retired 11 straight batters. He'd finish the night by scattering six hits, striking out four, and walking two. The lone run surrendered against him was the solo home run in the second where the batter used an unnecessary bat flip that might have turned a switch on for Hulbut.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Lookouts turned a four double plays with Stephen Wickens and Heiker Meneses being part of two plays each. Both men also helped out at the plate with Wicken finishing with a double and a run scored while Meneses reached base three times.

It seems like no Lookouts game is complete without a longball from Adam Brett Walker and he helped cement the lead with a solo home run in the top of the eighth. It was his second home run in as many nights. Max Kepler used a walk, a double, and a stolen base to score two of the team's four runs.

Nick Burdi and JT Chargois each pitched scoreless frames in relief of Hurlbut to close out the win. Burdi struck out one and picked up his first hold of the postseason. Chargois earned the save even though he allowed one runner to reach on a walk.

With the win, the Lookouts move on to the Southern League Championship Series against the Biloxi Schuckers, an affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. The first game of the series will be played on Wednesday night in Biloxi with the first two games of the series scheduled to be on the road for the Lookouts.

Pitcher of the Day - David Hurlbut, Chattanooga Lookouts
Hitter of the Day - Max Kepler, Chattanooga Lookouts

Midwest League Championship Series Game 1 - Wednesday, September 16
Cedar Rapids Kernels @ West Michigan (5:35 CST) - TBA

Southern League Championship Series Game 1 - Wednesday, September 16
Chattanooga Lookouts @ Biloxi Shuckers (TBA) - TBA

Monday, September 7, 2015

Twins Minor League Report (9/7): That's All Folks

Monday marked the final day of the regular season for the Twins minor league affiliates with three of the organization's minor league team's taking the field. Two of the Twins affiliates, Cedar Rapids and Chattanooga, qualified for the playoffs so there will be continued coverage of the MiLB Postseason in the coming days.

For now, each team tried to end their regular season on a high note.

Rochester 8, Lehigh Valley 1
Box Score
Jose Martinez ended the season on an extremely high note as he put together a strong performance at the plate. He finished 4-for-5 with two home runs and two doubles while driving in four and scoring four runs. Argenis Diaz reached base four times as part of a three hit effort and collected his 12th double. Danny Ortiz ended the season with his 31st double.

After losing two of his last three appearances, Taylor Rogers won his 11th game after pitching six frames. He scattered seven hits and allowed one earned run with four strikeouts and no walks. Alex Meyer allowed one base runner in two innings of work for his fourth hold and Aaron Thompson finished the game off in the ninth.

Rochester finished the season 10 games over .500 and four and a half games out of first place in the International League North Division. Despite the winning record, the club will be home for the postseason after finishing six games behind Indianapolis for a Wild Card spot.

Chattanooga 4, Jackson 6
Box Score
It wouldn't be a fitting end to the regular season without another home run from Adam Brett Walker. With two outs in the second inning, Walker clubbed a solo-shot, his 31st home run of the season. Unfortunately, a late-inning rally wasn't enough to push the Lookouts to victory.

Aaron Slegers started for Chattanooga but was charged with the loss after allowing five runs, four earned, on eight hits with three strikeouts and a walk. Nick Burdi allowed an unearned run in his inning of work while JT Chargois struck out the side in the eighth frame and Alex Wimmers reached the 100 strikeout mark for the season.

Chattanooga ended the regular season with a 76-61 record and will start their Southern League Playoff Series on Thursday. The Lookouts will play host to the Montgomery Biscuits, an affiliate of the Tampa Bays Rays. Montgomery ended the season with a 77-61 record and a 43-27 record in the second half.

Cedar Rapids 2, Clinton 6
Box Score
Even in Monday's loss, Sean Miller and Rafael Valera both looked prime for the playoffs. Both players collected three hits and Valera posted a pair of doubles. Chris Paul went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI but it wasn't enough as the team went 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners on base.

Randy Rosario took the loss in his first relief appearance for the Kernels. He allowed four runs, three earned, on five hits in less than two innings. Sam Clay started and picked up one out in the fifth before being removed. He walked five and struck out five while surrendering two earned runs.

The Kernels start their Midwest League Playoff Series on Wednesday at 6:35 pm as they host the Quad Cities River Bandits, an affiliate of the Houston Astros. The best of three series could be toufgh for Cedar Rapids as the Kernels went 4-9 against the River Bandits during the regular season.

Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Taylor Rogers, Rochester Red Wings
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Jose Martinez, Rochester Red Wings

Wednesday, 9/9/15: Cedar Rapids vs. Quad Cities (6:35 CST) – Felix Jorge
Thursday, 9/10/15: Chattanooga vs. Montgomery (6:15 CST) – TBA
Cedar Rapids @ Quad Cities (7:00 CST) – TBA

Monday, August 31, 2015

Twins Minor League Report (8/31): Tremendous Pitching Trio

Logan Darnell became the ninth Rochester Red Wings player to honored with a weekly award from the International League. Pat Dean (2x), Tommy Milone (2x), Tyler Duffey, Oswaldo Arcia, Reynaldo Rodriguez, and Byron Buxton have all been honored this year.

Darnell won two times this week and led the league with 17.0 innings pitched and 17 strikeouts. On Monday night, he took a no-hitter into the 7th inning as part of a Rochester shutout. Saturday was much of the same story as he allowed just one run on five hits over 8.0 innings. Since joining the starting rotation on August 13, Darnell has allowed just two earned runs on 14 hits in 28.0 innings of work.

Did anyone for Rochester get this week off to a good start? Read on to find out.

Rochester 4, Pawtucket 2
Box Score
UPDATE: Reports out of Rochester have Michael Tonkin, Eric Fryer, Danny Santana, and Kennys Vargas being called up with the possibility of others joining them once the MiLB season finishes.

In what could be his last start at Triple-A, Jose Berrios continued his recent hot streak. Over six innings, he allowed one earned run, a solo home run, on four hits with five strike outs and no walks. In his last ten starts with Rochester, Berrios has a 2.30 ERA with 73 strikeouts  and 12 walks in 62.2 innings.

Another potential September call-up, Danny Santana, had a big night at the plate and a poor night in the field. He was the only Red Wings player with multiple hits as he finished 3-for-4 with a home run, a double, and three RBI. On the defensive side, he committed two throwing errors. Aaron Hicks cracked a double in four trips to the plate for the team's only other extra-base hit.

Aaron Thompson allowed a run on one hit in 1.1 innings of work. He was credited with his fifth hold. Mark Hamburger collected his first save after getting the last five outs of the game. He allowed two hits and struck out one.

Chattanooga 4, Birmingham 5 (10 Innings)
Box Score
Aaron Slegers walked off the mound in his last start after being beat around for six runs in four innings of work. That version of Slegers didn't show-up versus Birmingham. In his fifth start at the Double-A level, he went seven strong innings by allowing two runs on six hits with six strikeouts and two walks. In four of his five appearances since being promoted, he's gone at least six innings and allowed three earned runs or less.

Alex Wimmers was able to get two outs in the bottom of the ninth but a clutch double plated a pair of runs and Slegers masterful start wouldn't figure into the final decision. Brandon Peterson replaced Wimmers for the tenth and allowed a lead-off triple as Shannon Wilkerson was removed after crashing into the wall trying to make a game saving catch.

Before being injured, Wilkerson scored two runs out of the lead-off spot and was helped out by a 2-for-4 night from Jorge Polanco as the number two hitter. Adam Brett Walker smacked his 30th double and drove in his 101st RBI during the team's big three run sixth inning.

Cedar Rapids 0, Peoria 1
Box Score
While a lot of fans might have been focused on the start by Jose Berrios, Felix Jorge was on the mound for Cedar Rapids and he's in the midst of a strong season.  He pitched into the seventh inning and the only run scored against him was unearned. He struck out six and walked one but the Kernels didn't give him any run support. It was his fourth straight quality start.

Michael Theofanopoulos was asked to get the final four outs of the game. He didn't allow a batter to reach base and he struck out three. It was his fourth consecutive appearance without allowing a run after allowing runs in four out of his five appearances prior to starting his current streak.

The Kernels offense was lacking after scoring an eye-popping 23 runs last Monday against the same squad. Austin Diemer went 2-for-3 and TJ White reached base twice but the team didn't put themselves in a lot of scoring opportunities. Cedar Rapids left seven men on base and went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

Elizabethton 6, Greeneville 5 (10 Innings)
Box Score
The E-Twins used the committee approach on the mound on Monday night. Cody Stashak pitched the first three innings by allowing three runs on five hits. He struck out five and walked one. Logan Lombana tossed the next three frames and he put up three zeros while striking out a pair of batters. Tyler Stirewalt struck out four in his three innings but he allowed two runs to score in the ninth to see the E-Twins lead disappear.

It looked like the game was over as the E-Twins trailed by one in the bottom of the ninth with two outs. AJ Murray pinch-hit for Lewin Diaz and he was able to get into scoring position with his 10th double. A wild pitch and a fielding error allowed the tying run to score before heading to extra-innings.

Jermaine Palacios doubled with one out in the 10th. Manuel Guzamn grounded out to second base but Palacios was able to advance to third on the play. LaMonte Wade could have played the hero but a wild pitch allowed Palacios to score from third and end the game.

Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Felix Jorge, Cedar Rapids Kernels
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Danny Santana, Rochester Red Wings

Rochester vs. Scranton/WB (6:05 CST) – RHP Michael Bowden
Chattanooga @ Birmingham (7:05 CST) – TBA
Fort Myers @ Jupiter (4:05 CST) – TBA
Fort Myers @ Jupiter (Game 2) – TBA
Cedar Rapids @ Peoria (7:00 CST) – TBA
Elizabethton vs. Bristol (6:00 CST) – TBA

Monday, August 24, 2015

Twins Minor League Report (8/24): Darnell Deals, Kernels Explode

Credit: Linwood Ferguson, Captive Photons
Rochester left-handed pitcher Pat Dean was awarded the International League Pitcher of the Week on Monday. On Wednesday night, he tossed his league-leading third shutout and fourth complete game. He became the franchises first pitcher with three shutouts in a season since Rick Krivda in 1997.

Dean wasn't the only Twins pitcher to be honored this week. Sam Gibbons of the Cedar Rapids Kernels took home top honors in the Midwest League. In his lone start this week, Gibbons allowed one hit in eight shutout innings with twelve strikeouts and and no walks. He had been perfect through 5 2/3 innings before an infield single broke up the no-hitter and perfect game.

Did any other players make their case to win next week's Player of the Week award? You'll have to read on to find out.

Rochester 9, Syracuse 0
Box Score
Behind a massive offensive outburst and some superb pitching by Logan Darnell, the Red Wings were able to shutout the Chiefs for the team's 67th win. Darnell pitched a complete game shutout while limiting the opposition to five hits and striking out nine. It was his first victory since July 3rd but it was only his third start since joining the rotation.

Five players in the Rochester line-up had three hits apiece and the team collected 20 hits overall. Danny Ortiz was part of the three hit parade and two of his three hits were for extra-bases. The line for Ortiz could have looked even better but he was thrown out at home twice in the game. Argenis Diaz had the team's other extra-base hit, a double, and he drove in a pair of runs. Kennys Vargas was the lone hitter in the Red Wings batting order that failed to get a hit (0-for-6). 

Chattanooga 4, Tennessee 2 (7 Innings)
Box Score
With the game tied in the bottom of the sixth frame, Adam Brett Walker stepped to the plate with the chance to play the hero. Max Kepler had just tied the game with a single that scored Jorge Polanco. Walker put the Lookouts in the lead with a two-run home run, his 28th long ball of the season. After being held without a home run for seven games, Walker homered in two straight contests.

David Hurlbut picked up his ninth victory after allowing two earned runs across six innings. He struck out four and walked three. It was his third straight start where he's gone at least six innings and allowed two runs or less. J.T. Chargois earned his tenth save with a perfect seventh inning including a strikeout.

Chattanooga 1, Tennessee 4 (7 Innings)
Box Score
Greg Peavey had the Lookouts locked into a 1-1 tie after four innings but he gave up three runs over the next pair of innings to see that tie disappear. Peavey finished by allowing three earned runs on five hits with three strikeouts and three walks in 5.1 innings. Corey Williams finished off the game with 1.2 scoreless innings in his second appearance since being promoted from Fort Myers.

Niko Goodrum was the only hitter with multiple hits as he finished the night 2-for-3 with a run scored. Levi Michael smacked his 11th double of the season while DJ Hicks had the team's lone RBI. After homering in two straight games, Adam Brett Walker went 0-for-2 with a walk.

Fort Myers 3, Jupiter 10
Box Score
Fort Myers sent former first round pick Kohl Stewart to the mound on Monday but he couldn't do enough to help his team to victory. The defense behind Stewart did him little help as the Miracle committed a whopping five defensive errors. Stewart finished the night allowing seven runs (four earned) on five hits with three strikeouts and three walks across 5.2 innings.

In his first appearance since being sent back from Chattanooga, Alex Muren had a rough night on the mound by allowing three earned runs in one inning. Brian Gilbert and Tyler Jay stopped some of the bleeding in the late innings. Jay struck out two in his inning of work.

There wasn't a single batter with more than one hit for the Miracle and none of the team's hits were for extra-bases. Mitch Garver drove in all three runs and Zach Granite scored two of the team's three runs. Engelb Vielma reached base twice and scored a run.

Cedar Rapids 23, Peoria 3
Box Score
Cedar Rapids didn't want to be outdone by their counterparts in Rochester so the club put on their own offensive clinic down in the Midwest League. The team jumped out to an early 5-0 in the first and added another 11 runs in the bottom of the fourth. Overall, the team pushed across 23 runs and clubbed an eye-popping 27 hits. It got so bad that the Chiefs used multiple position players as pitchers in the game.

When a team collects this many hits it's hard to know where to start with summarizing the night. Sean Miller lead the team with five hits and he scored four runs. TJ White went 4-for-7 with a double and a triple. He tied with Edgar Corcino with five runs driven in. All but two batters in the line-up had three hits or more and every batter had a hit and scored a run.

Keaton Steel was the beneficiary of the massive offensive backing. He settled into a nice rhythm on the mound and finished the night by allowing two earned runs on six hits with five strikeouts across six innings. Zach Tillery allowed one run in two innings of work.

Elizabethton 2, Greeneville 3
Box Score
The E-Twins held two different leads in this contest but weren't able to come up with the big hit to push their lead far enough ahead. Andro Cutura pitched into the sixth inning and allowed two runs, one earned, on five hits. He struck out five and walked two while lowering his season ERA to 1.13. Nate Gercken took the loss, his third, as he allowed the game winning run to be scored in his two plus innings of work.

All of the E-Twins offense came from the top of the line-up. Outside the top three hitters, no one else was able to collect a hit. Alex Perez went 2-for-4 with a run scored but he committed two defensive errors. Jermaine Palacios had the team's only extra-base hit, his 11th double, and LaMonte Wade reached base twice. Zander Wiel didn't have a hit but he was credited with the team's only RBI.

GCL Twins Takes
GCL Twins 0, GCL Rays 2
Box Score
The Twins offense struggled to find any offense punch in this contest. Only two members of the line-up managed hits and the team went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. Ruar Verkerk went 2-for-3 before being lifted for a pinch runner in the late innings. Bryan Haar picked up one hit in three trips and he's hitting .300 for the season.

Jose Martinez was charged with his sixth loss but he didn't allow an earned run in four innings of work. He struck out four and walked one but the offense didn't do him any favors. Williams Ramirez and Hector Lujan combined to finish off the last two innings with Lujan allowing a run in the Rays last trip to the plate.

GCL Twins 1, GCL Rays 1 (Suspended)
Box Score
This game was supposed to be a make-up of a game played in the middle of July but rain interfered with its completion. The two teams will try and finish the contest on Tuesday. Look for a full report at Twins Daily when this game is completed.

Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Logan Darnell, Rochester Red Wings
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – TJ White, Cedar Rapids Kernels

Rochester @ Syracuse (6:05 CST) – LHP Pat Dean
Chattanooga vs. Tennessee  (6:15 CST) – LHP Brett Lee
Fort Myers vs. Jupiter (6:05 CST) – LHP Luke Westphal
Cedar Rapids vs. Peoria (6:35 CST) – RHP Felix Jorge
Elizabethton @ Greeneville (6:00 CST) – TBA
GCL Twins vs. GCL Rays (11:00 am CST) – TBA
GCL Twins vs. GCL Rays (Completion of Today's 2nd Game)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Twins Minor League Report (8/13): Walker Attack!

Credit: Craig Gordon
During the zombie apocalypse, a walker attack is not a good thing but for fans of the Chattanooga Lookouts, an Adam Brett Walker attack is a terrific thing.

Besides Walker's strong night at the plate, there  were multiple strong pitching performances across the Twins system on Thursday. This wasn't the only piece of good news as big name prospects like Byron Buxton and Max Kepler continued to try and find ways to help their teams to win.

Which players had the biggest games on Thursday? You will have to read on to find out...

Rochester 3, Buffalo 0 (7 Innings)
Box Score
Pat Dean didn't allow a run as he pitched into the seventh inning for his ninth win of the season. It was his second time in his last three starts that he pitched six innings or more and didn't allow a run. Michael Tonkin was called on to get the final two outs and he recorded his 12th save.

On the offensive side of the ball, Xavier Avery had a big game after replacing Oswaldo Arcia after he was hit by a pitch. Avery finished the day 3-for-3 with a home run and all three of the team's RBI. James Beresford and Eric Fryer each picked up a pair of hits and Byron Buxton went 1-for-4 with a run scored.

Rochester 1, Buffalo 2 (7 Innings)
Box Score
Rochester jumped out to an early 1-0 lead but the club wasn't able to hold on for their second win of the day. Logan Darnell put his club in position to win as he limited the Bisons to one run in 5.1 innings of work. He struck out five and walked one. Mark Hamburger took the loss after allowing the go-ahead run during his 1.1 innings.

There wasn't much excitement on the offensive side of things. Byron Buxton was the lone Red Wings player with multiple hits. He went 2-for-4 with a steal but he struck out two times as well. Doug Bernier reached base twice and scored the team's only run.

Chattanooga 4, Tennessee 3
Box Score
Chattanooga scored a very important run in the bottom of the eighth innings as Tennessee would put two on the board in the ninth to make it a one run game. Brandon Peterson allowed both runs in the ninth inning but he had enough in the tank to get the final out and earn his second save. Brett Lee pitched into the eighth inning for his 4th victory. He struck out three and limited the Smokies to one earned run.

Adam Brett Walker collected his 25th and 26th doubles of the season as part of a three hit effort. Walker was part of the insurance run in the eighth as he ended up scoring the pivotal run on a Heiker Meneses single. Max Kepler continued his strong season as he is now one double shy of 30.

Fort Myers 0, Palm Beach 1
Box Score
Fort Myers had a hard time finding their offensive stroke on Thursday as the team was held to five hits. Engelb Vielma went 3-for-4 and Logan Wade had the team's only extra-base hit, a double. Mitch Garver finished going 1-for-4. Overall, the team went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

Luke Westphal was very good on the mound. He scattered five Cardinals hits over seven innings and limited them to one run. He struck out five and walked none but it wasn't enough as he was charged with his fourth loss. Todd Van Steensel pitched two shutout frames to end the game.

Cedar Rapids 7, Lake County 6
Box Score
The Kernels used a four-run fifth inning to mount a come-from-behind victory and win their third straight rubber game. Eight of the nine Kernels hitters reached base at least once and seven of them recorded at least one hit. Rafael Valera went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI. Tanner English extended his hitting streak to a personal-best 12 games and also extended his on-base streak to a Kernels' season-high 23 games.

The bullpen was strong for the Kernels after starter Zach Tillery allowed five runs on 11 hits in four innings. Luke Bard earned the win and remains a perfect 7-0 on the season. He allowed one run across a pair of innings. Yorman Landa and John Curtiss shutdown the Captains the rest of the way for the club's 68th win.

E-Twins 5, Bristol 4
Box Score
Dereck Rodriguez improved his record to 5-1 as he did just enough to lead the Elizabethton to the victory. In seven innings, he allowed four runs on eight hits and struck out eight. His ERA sits at 1.75 for the season. Kuo Hua Lo picked up the save after tossing two shutout frames with three strikeouts and a pair of walks.

Travis Blankenhorn provided most of the offensive punch as he had three-run home run and drove in another run for a total of four RBI. Brad Hartong collected three hits including his fifth double. Jermaine Palacios and Daniel Kihle both had multi-hit efforts including a double for Palacios and a stolen base for Kihle.

GCL Twins Takes
GCL Twins 3, GCL Rays 10
Box Score
Both of these teams slugged it out for the first few frames but the GCL Rays had way too much firepower. Blake Schmit used a triple and a home run to drive in a pair of runs. Kerby Camacho knocked his first two doubles of the season and scored a run. Christian Cavaness also drove in a run and scored a run out of the lead-off spot.

Jose Martinez was charged with the loss after allowing six earned runs on nine hits. He struck out three and walked two. Andrew Vasquez and Luis Hernandez ran into some control issues later in the game as both pitchers combined for five walks and three earned runs.

Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Brett Lee, Chattanooga Lookouts
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Adam Brett Walker, Chattanooga Lookouts

Rochester vs. Scranton/WB (6:05 CST) – TBD
Chattanooga vs. Tennessee  (6:15 CST) – RHP Aaron Slegers
Fort Myers vs. Palm Beach (6:05 CST) – RHP Omar Bencomo
Cedar Rapids @ Fort Wayne (6:05 CST) – LHP Randy Rosario
Elizabethton @ Bristol (6:00 CST) – RHP Onesimo Hernandez
GCL Twins vs. GCL Red Sox (11:00 am CST) – TBA

Monday, August 10, 2015

Twins Minor League Report (8/10): Awards, Awards, Everywhere!

Credit: Linwood Ferguson, Captive Photons
Monday means another week's worth of honors handed out by each league in the minors. The Twins were well represented this week as three position players took home top honors.

Minnesota's Opening Day DH isn't exactly where he'd like to be but the Southern League recognized his outstanding play. In seven games, Kennys Vargas went 10-for-23 with a double, two triples, and three home runs. He showed remarkable patience by drawing seven walks and he also drove in 10 runs.

Tanner English has been on a tear through the Midwest League. Over the last six games, he went 13-for-25 with five doubles and a triple. He's hit .315/.383/.490 since the All-Star break. He ranks third overall in the Midwest League with 35 stolen bases and second overall in runs scored.

LaMonte Wade was a ninth-round pick by the Twins back in June and he's already making his mark in the Appalachian League. Across six games this week, he went 8-for-22 with a pair of homers and a double. He coaxed eight walks on the way to scoring eight runs. Only four Apply League players have more than his seven home runs.

Rochester --, Buffalo -- (Postponed)
Rochester gave in Buffalo was postponed on Monday night due to rain. The team was already scheduled for a double-header on Tuesday to makeup a postponed game from 5/31. This means the teams will play another double-header on Thursday. Five games in three days between the two teams tied for second place in the International League North. Sounds like some exciting baseball should be on the docket.

Byron Buxton was also reinstated from the disabled list and officially optioned to Triple-A. He had five hits in 12 at-bats for Rochester on rehab assignment. The move stops his service-time clock and it also uses up one of Buxton's three minor league option years. 

Chattanooga 6, Mobile 5 (16 Innings)
Box Score
The Lookouts played well into the night as both clubs tried to gain the upper hand in this back and forth contest. Chattanooga jumped out to a first inning lead after Jorge Polanco lead off the inning with a triple. It took a two-out infield single from Kennys Vargas but the run scored. The offense would go silent until the seventh inning when the club plated three runs after three singles and a hit by pitch started the inning.

Tim Shibuya would be long gone before a decision was handed out in this one. He went four shutout innings by striking out two. Alex Murne pitched three big shutout innings in the late stages of the game to keep zeros on the board. Alex Wimmers earned his seventh victory after two shutout innings of work even though he had to escape a bases loaded jam.

Over five hours after the game started, Niko Goodrum drove in the winning run. He had been 0-for-5 on the night with a pair of walks before the big hit. Max Kepler was the lone starting player to not pick up a hit in the contest.

Fort Myers 8, St. Lucie 4
Box Score
Fort Myers used a balanced attack to pound out eight runs on 14 hits. Four batters collected multiple hits including a three hit, three RBI night from Aderlin Mejia. Tanner Vavra collected a pair of doubles and scored two runs. Marcus Knecht smacked his fourth triple on his way to reaching base three times.

Mat Batts started and scattered four runs on seven hits. Over five innings, he struck out five and walked three for his six victory. Jake Reed and Nick Burdi combined for four scoreless innings of relief. Burdi was perfect across two frames including three strikeouts.

The Miracle scored six of the eight runs with two outs and eight of the nine batters in the order registered at least one hit. David Wright, on MLB rehab assignment, finished the night 1-for-3 with a run scored and a walk.

E-Twins 3, Greeneville 5 (7 Innings)
Box Score
Elizabethton saw their two-run lead disappear over the last two innings including two unearned runs in the last frame. Jose Abreu threw a wild pitch and shortstop Manuel Guzman had a throwing error that turned into the final two runs. Andro Cutura got the no-decision after lasting four innings and allowing one earned run.

The E-Twins were limited to two hits on the offensive side of the ball. Jermaine Palacios hit his sixth double and scored a run. Kamran Young drove in two runs with his fifth home run of the season. The team didn't have many other opportunities as they went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring positions.

E-Twins 3, Greeneville 2 (7 Innings)
Box Score
It looked like the E-Twins were on their way to being swept in their double header before the offense decided to wake up in the bottom of the seventh inning. After two walk to start the frame, Nelson Molina used a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners. Jermaine Palacios ground out for the second out but Daniel Kihle saved the day with a single.

Nate Gercken allowed both runs and he was pulled with two outs in the fifth inning. He struck out seven and walked two. Anthony Mciver earned his second win after collecting the last seven outs and only allowing one hit.

GCL Twins Takes
GCL Twins 11, GCL Rays 3
Box Score
The GCL Twins capitalized on some wild pitching in the bottom of the second inning to score eight runs on two hits. There were six walks, two hit by pitches, two fielding errors, and two wild pitches. It sounds like it was quite the circus of an inning.

Both Christian Cavaness and Robert Molina went 2-for-4 including a double, the team's lone extra-base hit, for Cavaness. Every batter in the line-up scored at least one run. Roberto Gonzalez reached base three times and scored two runs.

Eduardo Del Rosario improved to 3-0 on the season after tossing five innings of one-run ball. He struck out four and didn't walk any as his ERA improved to 1.46. Luis Hernandez and Andrew Vasquez each pitched two frames and combined to allow a pair of runs. 

Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Eduardo Del Rosario, GCL Twins
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Aderlin Mejia, Fort Myers Miracle

Rochester @ Buffalo (4:35 CST) – LHP Taylor Rogers
Rochester @ Buffalo (Game 2) – RHP Tyler Duffey
Chattanooga vs. Mobile (6:15 CST) – LHP David Hurlbut
Ft. Myers @ St. Lucie (5:30 CST) – LHP Stephen Gonsalves
Cedar Rapids @ Lake County (6:00 CST) – RHP Keaton Steele
Elizabethton @ Greeneville (6:00 CST) – TBA
GLC Twins @ GCL Rays (11:00 am CST) – TBA

Friday, July 31, 2015

Twins Minor League Report (7/30): The Power of Kepler

Credit: Linwood Ferguson, Captive Photons
On the eve of the trade deadline, there have already been a lot of top prospects that have changed organizations over the last few days. The Twins have been holding steady with their young core of players but that could change at some point in the next handful of hours.

Some of the Twins minor leaguers were doing their best to show off their talents in what could be their last appearance in a Twins affiliated jersey. Check out all of the action below.

Chattanooga 3, Pensacola 0
Box Score
Max Kepler cranked two solo-home runs and that was more than enough to back a solid outing by Jason Wheeler. Kepler finished the game going 3-for-4 at the plate with a pair a runs and RBI. Wheeler pitched eight shutout innings with six strikeouts and no walks.

JT Chargois finished off the shutout with a scoreless ninth frame. He walked one and allowed a hit but he used a pair of timely strikeouts to finish with his eighth save. Shannon Wilkerson collected a pair of his out of the lead-off spot. Kennys Vargas and Levi Michael both went 1-for-3 and Michael stole his 11th base.

Fort Myers 4, Daytona 0
Box Score
The Miracle pitching staff had a no hitter into the seventh inning and they finished the game with one hit allowed. Steven Gonsalves earned his fifth victory and lowered his ERA to 2.11 after five hitless frames. He struck out eight and walked three. Of his eight strikeouts, six were swinging. Trevor Hildenberger allowed the lone hit but he did strikeout three in two innings of work. Brian Gilbert and Nick Burdi struck out five of the six batters they faced to finish the game.

Much like Chattanooga, Fort Myers didn't need a ton of run support but they got a pair of solo home runs off the bats of Mitch Garver and Logan Wade. For both players it was their third home run of the year with the Miracle. Tannner Vavra reached base three times and Zach Granite and Chad Christensen both had multi-hit nights.

Over the last 20 innings, the Miracle have held opponents without a run. The last time an opposing team scored was the seventh inning on July 28.

Cedar Rapids 9, Clinton 5
Box Score
Cedar Rapids used a four-run fourth inning to help pace themselves to the win. It was the team's third straight series win and every Kernels hitter except one recorded at least one hit in the series finale.

Ethan Mildren was credited with the victory even though he allowed three runs on five hits in less than two innings out of the bullpen. Jared Wilson had an unconventional save as he pitched almost three innings. Zack Tillery got a no-decision after not allowing a hit in the first three innings and finishing with two runs allowed on two hits.

Nick Gordon scored a couple runs and hit his 16th double. Alex Real and Austin Diemer both hit two-run home runs. Brett Doe drove in three runs as part of a two hit night. Rafael Valera was the lone starter that didn't collect a hit. He went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts.

E-Twins E-Notes
E-Twins 13, Johnson City 4
Box Score
Elizabethton jumped out to a 7-0 lead by the end of the second inning on their way to a 16-hit effort. Every player in the line-up had at least one hit and six of the nine hitters collected multiple hits. AJ Murray went 3-for-4 with a home run, a double, and four RBI. Alex Perez drove in three runs and scored three runs. LaMonte Wade only had one hit but it was his fifth home run of the season.

Samuel Clay pitched five shutout innings for his first win of the season. He struck out seven and walked none. Nate Gercken got into a little trouble and allowed three runs to score in three innings. Jose Abreu allowed one run in the ninth on a pair of hits.

GCL Twins Takes
GCL Twins 4, GCL Rays 5 (7 Innings)
Box Score
All the other Twins affiliates seemed to be on fire but the GCL Twins must not have gotten the memo from the rest of the organization. They were swept in as part of a regularly scheduled game and a postponed game from earlier in the month.

In the regularly scheduled game, the Twins held a 1-0 lead going into the final innings. However, Callan Pearce allowed three runs on three hits to take the loss. Miguel Gonzalez started and pitched three shutout innings before turning it over to the bullpen.

The Twins combined for five doubles but the team was only 3-for-17 with runners in scoring position. Kolton Kendrick reached base three times including a double and a run scored. Luis Arraez went 2-for-4 with a double. Lewin Diaz knocked his sixth double of the season.

GCL Twins Takes
GCL Twins 2, GCL Rays 7 (7 Innings)
Box Score
The Twins left nine runners on base and eight of those runners were in scoring position. Rowan Ebersohn and Roni Tapia each went 2-for-3. Ebersohn's double was the lone extra-base hit for the club. Luis Arraez finished 1-for-3 with a steal.

Jovani Moran started but didn't make it out of the first inning. He allowed two runs on three hits with two walks and a strikeout. Moises Gomez finished off the first frame and pitched another three scoreless innings to keep the game close. Rich Condeelis took the loss after allowing five runs in 0.1 innings. Matz Schutte collected the last five outs and limited the Rays to two hits.

Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Jason Wheler, Chattanooga Lookouts
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Max Kepler, Chattanooga Lookouts

Rochester vs. Syracuse (6:05 CST) – LHP Taylor Rogers
Chattanooga vs. Pensacola (6:15 CST) – LHP David Hurlbut
Ft. Myers @ Daytona (6:05 CST) – RHP Kohl Stewart
Cedar Rapids @ Kane County (6:30 CST) – LHP Randy Rosario
Elizabethton vs. Burlington (6:00 CST) – RHP Cody Stashak
GLC Twins vs. GCL Red Sox (10:00 am CST) – TBA
GLC Twins @ GCL Red Sox (Make-up of 7/24 PPD) – TBA

Monday, July 27, 2015

Twins Minor League Report (7/27): Super Slegers!

Credit: Linwood Ferguson, Captive Photons
Winning has been a trend through out the Twins system this season. Entering play on Monday night, the Twins had the third highest winning percentage for any farm system. Twins affiliates have won 54.29% of their games and only trail the Astros and Mets for the top spot.

Did Minnesota's affiliated teams continue their winning ways? There were multiple double headers scheduled for Monday so you'll have to read on to find out.

Rochester 1, Toledo 2
Box Score
Pat Dean pitching a complete game and limited the Mud Hens to two runs but he didn't get enough run support and was handed his ninth loss of the season. He scattered nine hits and walked two while striking out one. It was his third straight start of seven innings or more while allowing two earned runs or fewer. He's taken the loss in three of those three previous starts.

The lone Rochester run came courtesy of a Reynaldo Rodriguez solo home run. Eric Farris matched Rodriguez with a 2-for-4 night at the plate. Jorge Polanco and Chris Herrmann both reached base twice with a pair of walks. The team only had three at-bats with runners in scoring position but they were held hitless.

With the loss, the Red Wings have lost five straight games and sit three games over .500. The club currently sits three games behind the Scranton/WB RailRiders for first place in the International League North Division.

Fort Myers 5, Lakeland 1 (7 Innings)
Box Score
Aaron Slegers earned his eighth victory after pitching a seven inning complete game. He allowed one earned run on five hits with four strikeouts and two walks. It was his sixth straight start of pitching at least seven innings and allowing two earned runs or less. During that stretch, he has gone 4-1 while limiting opponents to one walk.

Michael Quesada drove in a pair of runs to help add to the Miracle lead. Engelb Vielma and DJ Hicks finished the game with two hits each including both having a double. TJ White went 2-for-3 with a run scored. The team had more than enough offense to back the stellar pitching performance by Slegers. 

Fort Myers 1, Lakeland 6 (7 Innings)
Box Score
After the strong pitching performance from Slegers in the first half of the double header, Chih-Wei Hu had a tough time on the mound. He allowed five earned runs on 10 hits while striking out six in less than five innings of work. Brian Gilbert, Tyler Jay, and Trevor Hildenberger put up zeros for the rest of the night but it was too big of a hole.

No Miracle batters had more than one hit and none of the team's hits were for extra-bases. Michael Quesada scored the lone run for the team. Engelb Vielma reached base two times and finished the double header 3-for-5 with a double, an RBI, a run, and a walk.

E-Twins E-Notes
E-Twins 0, Johnson City 4 (7 Innings)
Box Score
The E-Twins were held to three hits as no one on the team had more than one hit. Chris Paul reached base two times and cracked the team's lone extra-base hit, a double. AJ Murray, Alex Perez, and Manuel Guzman each reached base two times. The team went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left nine runners on base.

Alexis Tapia pitched into the sixth inning but took the loss after allowing four runs, three earned, while striking out nine and walking three. Tyler Stirewalt pitched 1.1 innings without allowing a run. He struck out one and didn't walk any. The loss dropped the E-Twins to four games under .500.

E-Twins 4, Johnson City 1 (7 Innings)
Box Score
The E-Twins struggled to get on the board in the first half of the double header but they found a way to scratch out some hits in the second half. LaMonte Wade had a pair of hits including a double to go along with two RBI. Alex Perez scored two runs and hit his fourth double of the season. The E-Twins two through seven hitters each had at least one hit and the team only left four men on base.

Onesimo Hernandez remained perfect on the season after throwing five innings of one run ball. He struck out four and walked one and the lone run was scored on a solo home run. CK Irby picked up his first save after pitching two scoreless innings to close out the contest.

GCL Twins Takes
GCL Twins 2, GCL Rays 1 (Suspended- 2 Innings)
Box Score
The GCL Twins were scheduled for a double header but they weren't able to get through two innings of work before rain interrupted play. Lewin Diaz and Jermaine Palacios each drove in a run before the rain came a tumbling down. Look for a full report on both of these games when the rain finally stops falling in Florida. 

Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Aaron Slegers, Fort Myers Miracle
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Engelb Vielma, Fort Myers Miracle

Rochester @ Toldeo (6:00 CST) – RHP Jose Berrios
Chattanooga vs. Pensacola (6:15 CST) – LHP Brett Lee
Ft. Myers vs. Lakeland (6:05 CST) – RHP Ryan Eades
Cedar Rapids @ Clinton (6:30 CST) – RHP Keaton Steele
Elizabethton vs. Johnson City (6:00 CST) – TBA
GCL Twins vs. GCL Rays (11:00 am CST) – TBA
GCL Twins vs. GCL Rays (Completion of 7/27 Game)