Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Twins Minor League Report (7/26): Rosario Helps Fort Myers Roll

Photo Credit: Linwood Ferguson, Captive Photons (Randy Rosario)
Andrew Albers wasn't in the Twins organization the last two years but he is back and making a mark on the International League. Entering tonight's contest in Pawtucket, Albers sported a 9-3 record (97.1 innings) with a spiffy 3.14 ERA and a 63 to 23 strikeout to walk ratio. 

At 30-years old, Albers isn't exactly considered a prospect any more but he has helped the Red Wings to get off to a fantastic start this season. Rochester entered the night 16 games over .500 (60-44) and they were only 2.5 games out of the wild card race.

Players like Albers deserve recognition for their contributions to the Twins organization. That's one of the main reasons we write these daily minor league write-ups. Players throughout the organization deserve to be recognized for their dedication to baseball even if they won't all be superstars. 

Rochester 2, Pawtucket 4 (11 Innings)
Box Score
The Red Wings collected seven hits but no player had more than one hit. In the second inning, Wilfredo Tovar doubled after a Daniel Palka walk to put two runners in scoring position. Carlos Paulino singled in both runners to give Rochester an early 2-0 but the offense would go quiet from there.  

Andrew Albers did his best to put himself in position for his tenth win but the Rochester. Albers went 6.2 innings by scattering seven hits and striking out four. It was the fourth straight start where he pitched at least six innings. Neil Ramirez and JT Chargois kept the game tied at two but Sean Burnett took his third loss after allowing a walk-off two-run shot in extra-innings.

Rochester dropped to 60-45 with the loss, their third straight defeat. The Red Wings sit 6.5 games behind Scranton/WB for first in the International League North. They are also just three games back of the wild-card spot. 

Chattanooga 9, Tennessee 13

Box Score
The Lookouts tried their best to overcome a deficit that stretched to 12-0 at one point but the comeback would fall short. Aaron Slegers got hit hard over two innings as he allowed six earned runs for his fifth loss. Brandon Peterson didn't fare much better by allowing four runs in his two frames. Ryan Eades slowed some of the bleeding but still gave up two runs across three innings. In the last two innings, Tyler Jay allowed the final run.

With two outs in the fifth frame, Zach Granite smacked his fifth triple. Ryan Walker followed with a single to put Chattanooga on the board. Mitch Garver doubled to push across the second run of the inning. Trailing by a score of 13-4, the Lookouts pushed across five runs in the ninth. Granite, Garver, and DJ Hicks all doubled in the frame but a Stuart Turner double play would effectively end the threat. 

Fort Myers 7, Palm Beach 1
Box Score
T.J. White wasted little time putting the Miracle up in this contest. He took the first pitch of the game and cranked a 381-foot home run to give Fort Myers a 1-0 lead. White finished the game 3-for-4 with two RBI and two runs. Four innings later Joe Maloney started a three-run inning with a with a solo-blast of his own. Trey Vavra and Chris Paul joined the hit parade with multi-hit nights. 

This offensive output was more than enough to back-up a terrific start from Randy Rosario. For only the fifth time this season, he pitched more than six innings. He allowed one earned run over 6.2 innings with three strikeouts and three walks. Luke Bard and Nick Anderson pitched 2.1 shutout innings by each allowing a hit and combining to strike out three. 

After losing four straight games last week, the Miracle have now won three of their last four games and tomorrow they will go for a three-game sweep of Palm Beach. The club (18-5) currently sits 2.5 games behind Jupiter for the second-half title.

Elizabethton 0, Pulaski 7
Box Score
The E-Twins offense had a hard time getting things going against the Yankees pitching staff. Elizabethton collected three total hits, went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, and struck out 14 times. Travis Blankenhorn went 2-for-4 with a double. Bryant Hayman added the other hit, a double, while Amaurys Minier reached base twice on walks. 

Domenick Carlini was handed his fifth loss after allowing three runs on seven hits. He struck out seven and walked one in five innings of work. Hector Lujan gave up four runs in his three frames while striking out two and walking two. 

With the loss, the E-Twins five game winning streak is over. The team dropped to 15-17 on the season but they have still won seven of their last ten games.

GCL Twins 5, GCL Orioles 4
Box Score
The GCL Twins took a 5-1 lead into the eighth frame before seeing the GCL Orioles claw their way back into this one. Miguel De Jesus put the Twins in position to win by pitching into the sixth inning without allowing a run. Overall, he tossed 5.1 shutout frames with six strikeouts and three walks. 

Moises Gomez allowed the tying run to score in the seventh inning but earned the victory by stopping the scoring there. He allowed one run on two hits over 1.2 innings. Onas Fanfar pitched the final two innings and allowed three runs (two earned). 

Offensively, Tyree Davis led the charge by going 2-for-3 including his sixth double. Akil Baddoo drove in a pair of runs and scored a run. Aaron Whitefield reached base three times, stole two bases, and scored twice out of the lead-off spot. The team combined to go 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position while leaving seven runners on base. 

Pitcher of the Day – Randy Rosario, Fort Myers Miracle
Hitter of the Day – TJ White, Fort Myers Miracle

Rochester at Pawtucket (6:05 CST) - RHP Jose Berrios (10-4, 2.31 ERA)
Chattanooga vs Tennessee (6:15 CST) - LHP David Hurlbut (7-5, 3.56 ERA)
Fort Myers vs Palm Beach (6:05 CST) -TBD

Cedar Rapids @ Kane County (6:30 CST) - RHP Dereck Rodriguez (2-11, 5.73 ERA)
Elizabethton at Pulaski (6:00 CST) - RHP Tyler Wells (1-1, 4.80 ERA)
GCL Twins @ GCL Orioles (11:00AM CST) - TBD

Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss Tuesday’s games.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Brandon Kintzler: Proven Closer?

Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports
Proven closer...

In a baseball world full of analytics and new statistical analysis, what does the term "proven closer" even mean?

Old-school baseball minds would tell you that a "proven closer" is the player a manager always turns to in the ninth inning of a close game. He has experience collecting saves and pitching in high leverage situations. It doesn't matter the match-ups for the final frame because the "proven closer" will be out there on the mound. However, not every team has a proven closer and every closer needs to start gaining experience somewhere to earn their "proven closer" badge of honor.

Terry Ryan, the Twins recently fired GM, was no stranger to this adage. Entering the 2012 season, Glen Perkins had been dominant in relief the year before but he was hesitant to give him the closer role. "He doesn't have any experience in that role," said Ryan. "I think you're wise to ultimately see if you can find a guy with experience." Perkins would serve as closer that season and he has been a three-time All-Star since 2012.

Flash-forward to the 2016 season and the Twins have shuffled through multiple players at the back-end of the bullpen. Glen Perkins began the year with the closer title but he was limited to two appearances before requiring season-ending shoulder surgery. Kevin Jepsen was fantastic at the end of 2015 so he stepped back into the closer role. However, he posted a 6.16 ERA and was recently released by the club.

Enter Brandon Kintzler, a 31-year old who the Brewers organization didn't want in the off-season. Since earning his first save on June 8, Kintzler has posted a 1.69 ERA and a 10 to 2 strikeout to walk ratio in 17 appearances. Opponents are slashing .238/.262/.317 and he has yet to blow a save.

There's been a shift with the former 40th round draft pick this season. In previous season's he stayed in the low to mid 90's but this season he has hit over 95 multiple times. Another significant change in 2016 has been his use of his sinking fastball. For his career, he has used this pitch 52.8% of the time but this season he has bumped that total up to 83.4%.

Kintzler's sinking fastball has also resulted in 15 strikeouts this season which is 75% of all of his strikeouts this season. Over the course of his career, this pitch has been the out pitch in 53.2% of his strikeouts. This pitch has also been effective because he has hit nearly 96 mph with it but he can also drop it all the way down to 87.6 mph.

The myth of the "proven closer" might still be out there in some baseball organizations. Kintzler has been good and hopefully someone would like to pay for Kintzler and his new closer title as the trade deadline approaches.

Because he seems to have "proven" himself.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Minnesota's Defensive Dilemma

Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports
Defense wins championships. While in baseball that adage might not completely apply, the defensive side of the ball is a big part of the game. Teams can make up for other holes in the roster by playing solid defense and doing some of the other little things right on the field. 

The Twins needed their defense to help this team to take the next step. Many of the regular players on the roster have been sub-par at their primary defensive position and this has only added to some of the first half frustrations.

During last week's All-Star Break, SABR released their updated rankings for the SABR Defensive Index (SDI). According to SABR, the 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 SDI rankings were updated through games as of July 10, 2016. It allows fans to compare the defense of their everyday players in relation to other players at the same position in the American League. Zero is the baseline score for SDI so a player with a positive score is doing well and a player with a negative score is not doing so well.

Here are the position players that have qualified so far this year and how they compare to other players at their position in the American League.

Joe Mauer, First Base
SDI Score: 2.8
While Mauer's bat might have cooled off a little in recent weeks, his defense continues to be strong at first base. Mauer trails only Mitch Moreland in the AL SDI rankings for first base. This is a vast improvement over Mauer's play even as recent as last season. In 2015, Mauer posted a -0.1 SDI score and finished ranked tied for the fourth worst defensive AL first baseman. It might be tough for Mauer to catcher Moreland for the top spot in the AL but he should be a Gold Glove finalist at first base.

Brian Dozier, Second Base
SDI Score: -4.5
I wrote about Dozier's defensive ineptitude during the off-season in hopes that he could make a turn-around similar to Jose Altuve. Unfortunately, Dozier's defense hasn't improve and he might actually be getting worse. Only Johnny Giavotella of the Angels ranks lower than Dozier according to the SDI. Last year, Dozier was only able to finish ahead of Robinson Cano and Giavotella. He finished with a -6.1 SDI score last season so it looks like Dozier will shatter that mark in 2016. Many Twins fans associate Dozier with playing good defense but that's not the case. He struggles to get to balls that are routinely made by other players at his position.

Eduardo Escobar, Shortstop
SDI Score: -1.1
Only four shortstops in the AL have posted positive SDI marks this season. Escobar ranks fifth on the list ahead of players like Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, and Elvis Andrus. In the final 2015 SDI rankings, Escobar finished ninth in the AL (-1.4 SDI score). Overall, he has moved up in the rankings but his score is trending in the wrong direction. Escobar is also playing less frequently so he might not end up having the required number of innings at the position to qualify by season's end.

Kurt Suzuki, Catcher
SDI Score: -2.5
Suzuki has never been known for his defensive prowess. He has a hard time throwing out runners but Twins pitchers like throwing with him behind the plate. Suzuki currently sits in ninth place in the AL which ranks him ahead of five qualifying catchers. He was the worst ranking catcher according to SDI last season with a -8.4, a total that was more than four times worse than the next qualifying catcher.

At this juncture of the season, only one everyday player has a positive score which is scary considering the state of the Twins pitching staff. Young players like Max Kepler and Byron Buxton haven't played enough innings to qualify but they both should score well in future updates. With Miguel Sano's recent struggles at third base, Minnesota's infield is almost entirely composed of sub-par defensive players.

With young pitchers like Tyler Duffey and (eventually) Jose Berrios trying to establish themselves, it's imperative for the defense behind them to be strong. Right now, there are some holes in Minnesota's defense but the next month could see some changes as veteran players are dealt away.

Did any of the SDI scores surprise you? Who would you put in Minnesota's best defensive line-up? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Twins Minor League Report (7/19): Polanco Parks One

Photo Credit: Linwood Ferguson, Captive Photons (LaMonte Wade)
It's getting to that point in the season where minor league team's need to decide if they are contenders or pretenders. Players get promoted and demoted but each team has the goal of reaching the playoffs and finding success in the post-season tournament.

Twins minor league squads have fared well in recent years. Can this year's crop of teams live up to those that have come before them? Read on to see which teams are trending in the right direction.

Rochester 6, Durham 7 (10 Innings)
Box Score

It was Christmas in July night in Rochester but the Red Wings took awhile to open their gifts to their fans. Darin Mastroianni lead off the first inning with a triple and was driven in by a James Beresford sacrifice fly to put Rochester up 1-0 before the offense went into a Christmas freeze.

Things picked up again in the eighth inning with Rochester trailing 6-1. After Wildfredo Tovar reached on a single and Logan Schafter walked, Darin Mastroianni was hit by a pitch to load the bases. James Beresford, who is in the midst of an eight-game hitting streak, drove in another pair of runs with a single. Jorge Polanco cleared the bases with his ninth home run.

Pat Dean started for Rochester and allowed four runs on eight hits in six innings of work. Marcus Walden took over for Dean and gave up a pair of runs (one earned) in two frames. J.T. Chargois took the loss as he was asked to come out for a second inning of work and he couldn't make it out of the tenth. After getting the first batter to fly out, the next two men reached and he exited. Sean Burnett was on the mound when the go-ahead run was scored but it was charged to Chargois.

Rochester remains 4.5 games behind first place Scranton/WB, who also lost on Tuesday night. It was the second straight extra innings affair between these two teams with Durham winning both contests.

Fort Myers 3, Lakeland 5
Box Score
Keaton Steele got off to a rough start in this one as the Flying Tigers pounced on him for two first inning runs. He would recover for a few innings before surrendering three more runs in the fifth inning. Steele went five frames and scattered seven hits while striking out six and walking three. His nine losses are tied for the second most in the Florida State League. 

The bullpen did well to keep the Miracle in striking distance. John Curtiss, Michael Theofanopoulos, and Nick Anderson combined to toss four shutout innings on three hits. None of the relief arms allowed a batter to get further than second base. 

It took awhile for the Fort Myers offense to wake up in this one but the team tried to mount a comeback in the late innings. Alex Perez lead off the inning with a single in front of a TJ White walk. Following a ground out and a pop out, the runners were still in scoring position. LaMonte Wade brought them home with a three-run home run. 

It was the second straight loss for the Miracle after winning three straight over the weekend. The club currently sits at three games over .500 for the entire season. In the second half standings, they are 15-11 and are near the top of the Florida State League South.

Elizabethton 9, Kingsport 8
Box Score
If you are a fan of offense, there were plenty of fireworks in Elizabethton on Tuesday night. The E-Twins pounded out 13 hits but it took quite multiple comebacks to for the squad to end up the victors. 

Elizabethton entered the sixth frame trailing 7-2 as starter Tyler Beardsley couldn't make it out of the fifth frame. He was charged with five earned runs (seven total runs) in 4.2 innings while striking out three and walking one. Quin Grogan and Johan Quezada allowed one unearned run the rest of the way to set the stage for what was to come. 

The E-Twins scored three runs in the sixth inning but only managed one hit in the frame, an RBI single from Alex Kirilloff. Before Kirilloff's hit, the first two batters reached with walks. Then a force attempt coaxed a throwing error by the second baseman to load the bases. A wild pitch and a ground out scored two runs before Kirilloff drove in the third run of the frame. 

In the next inning, the club would continue to mount their comeback. Mitchell Kranson singled and moved to second on a Caleb Hamilton walk. Andre Jernigan cracked his third double to drive in both runners and the score was now tied at 7-7. 

After allowing an unearned run in the top of the ninth, the E-Twins needed to find one more comeback. With one out, Jernigan reached on a fielding error to put some pressure on the pitcher. Luis Martinez flew out for the second out of the inning but Ariel Montesino walked to put the winning runner on base. After a pitching change, Shane Carrier ripped a double to score both runners and to send the fans home happy. 

GCL Twins 4, GCL Rays 2

Box Score
After giving up a first inning run, Bo Hellquist settled in nicely for the GCL Twins. He scattered six hits over five innings while striking out seven and walking none. His season ERA dropped to 2.08 and this was his first professional victory. Hellquist, a Minnesota-Duluth product, set career highs in innings pitched and strikeouts. 

Garret Kelly picked up his second hold in relief of Hellquist by limiting the Rays to one base runner in two shutout innings. Callan Pearce got in a little trouble in the later innings but not enough to surrender the lead. He allowed one run, an unearned run, while striking out three and walking two in two innings. It was his second save and he has yet to allow an earned run this season. 

Jean Carlos Arias came up with the first big hit for the Twins. He drove in a pair of runs after Jhon Alvarez walked, Gorge Munoz was hit by a pitch, and Heiker Meneses singled. This put the GCL Twins up 2-1 in the third frame. 

Things got a little wild in the sixth frame. Joe Cronin was hit by a pitch with one out in the inning. This was followed by a pair of wild pitches that allowed Cronin to move all the way around to third. Zach Featherstone drove him in with a sacrifice fly to push the lead to 3-1. Tyree Davis didn't want the scoring to end there. He singled and stole second before advance to third on a throwing error by the catcher. He would come in to score on a wild pitch to cap the GCL Twins scoring for the day. 

Pitcher of the Day – Bo Hellquist, GCL Twins (5 IP, 1 ER, 7 K, first professional win)
Hitter of the Day – Tyree Davis, GCL Twins (3-for-4, 2 doubles)

Durham @ Rochester (10:05 AM CST) – TBD
Chattanooga @ Jackson (7:05 PM CST) – RHP Kohl Stewart (3-4, 3.78 ERA)
Lakeland @ Fort Myers (6:05 PM CST) – LHP Randy Rosario (5-6, 3.73 ERA)
Bowling Green @ Cedar Rapids (6:35 PM CST) – LHP Lachlan Wells (2-1, 1.27 ERA)
Kingsport @ Elizabethton (6:00 PM CST) – LHP Domenick Carlini (1-3, 4.71 ERA)
GCL Twins @ GCL Rays (11:00 AM CST) – TBD

Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss Tuesday’s games.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Five Potential Twins GM Candidates

Jerry Lai, USA Today Sports (Chicago Cubs Brass including Jason McLeod)
The winds of change are in the air around Target Field. The Twins removed Terry Ryan from his position as general manager. Minnesota will immediately begin their search for Ryan's replacement and the hope is to have someone new in the position by season's end.

So here's where the rubber meets the road... what kind of candidates are available to get the Twins back to their winnings ways?

By many accounts, Theo Epstein is the "Godfather" of the current baseball world. He acquired 11 members of the 2016 National and American League All-Star teams during his 14-year tenure with the Red Sox and Cubs. If Minnesota wants to make a step in the right direction, it might be good to find someone connected to Epstein.

Candidate: Jason McLeod 
Role: Cubs Senior VP of Player Development 
McLeod has worked with Epstein since the beginning. McLeod has been rumored to be a top GM candidate for years and Chicago's recent turnaround will only help push the envelope. Some of his player development successes include Dustin Pedroia, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo. He's also done a good job of finding undervalued pitchers like last year's NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta.

If I were running the Twins, McLeod would be the candidate I would spend the most time pursuing. As recent as last season, he wondered what it would be at the helm of his own organization. Minnesota might provided the right opportunity with a budding farm system and talented young players already on the roster.

Candidate: Ben Cherington
Role: Former Red Sox GM
Cherington, the man that took over for Epstein in Boston, left the Red Sox front office last August after the team hired Dave Dombrowski as the new president of baseball operations. This basically took away any decision-making power from Cherington. At the time, he indicated that he wanted a break from the baseball work and he turned down opportunities to interview for the GM openings in Seattle and Philadelphia. In his four years at the helm in Boston, he finished last three times and won the 2013 World Series. He is currently teaching at Columbia University in the sports management program.

Candidate: Kim Ng 
Role: MLB Vice President for Baseball Operations
Minnesota could really make a splash by hiring the first female GM out of the four major sports. While previously working as an assistant GM with the Yankees and Dodgers, she has interviewed for various GM jobs with the Dodgers, Mariners, Padres, and Angels. She has worked in her current position at MLB since 2011 where she works under Joe Torre. When taking the position, she made it clear that her career goal remains being a GM as other executives have made the jump from the Commissioner's Office to a GM position.

Candidate: Thad Levine
Role: Rangers Assistant GM
Levine has worked well with Jon Daniels in Texas so it would take quite the offer to remove him from his current position. The duo was behind one of the best trades in Rangers history that sent Mark Teixeria to Atlanta for a bushel of prospects including Elvis Andrus. Before joining the Rangers eight seasons ago, Levine worked in Colorado as the Rockies' Senior Director of Baseball Operations. Levine was a candidate for the Diamondbacks job in 2014 but he withdrew his name before Arizona hired Dave Stewart.

Candidate: Hal Morris
Role: Director of Pro Scouting for the Los Angeles Angeles
Ryan had a deep background in the scouting world so the Twins might want to go in a different direction than Morris. However, Morris does have an MBA from Stanford so he could be good at handling the business side of the GM position. Morris also served as a scout for the Red Sox and Pirates before taking his current position. He has been a candidate for the Diamondbacks and Angels GM positions in recent years and many people think highly of him in baseball circles.

What names stand out to you? What kind of characteristics should the Twins be looking for? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Twins Minor League Report (7/12): Gonsalves Strikes Out Season-High

Photo Credit: Linwood Ferguson, Captive Photons (Stephen Gonsalves)
While most of the baseball world was focused on the MLB All-Star Game in San Diego, there were a smattering of minor league games on the docket.

Stephen Gonsalves was scheduled to make his fourth start since being promoted to Double-A. He allowed eight runs in his first 8.2 innings with Chattanooga but he bounced back nicely with six shutout frames in his last outing.

Which version of Gonsalves would show up on Tuesday night? Read on to find out.

Chattanooga 4, Tennessee 0
Box Score
For the second straight start, Stephen Gonsalves pitch six shutout innings. He struck out a season-high 11 batters while scattering four hits and not walking a batter. He had walked 11 batters in his first three appearances with Chattanooga. Gonsalves continues to pile up strikeouts as he has 30 strikeouts in 20.2 innings since being promoted. 

Jake Reed took over for Gonsalves and kept the shutout alive with two clean frames. He allowed one hit, walked one, and struck out one. Trevor Hildenberger closed out the ninth with a perfect inning by striking out two. 

Levi Michael had a huge night at the plate. The former first round pick went 3-for-3 with a triple, two RBI and a walk. Shannon Wilkerson reached base four times and scored a pair of runs. Leonardo Reginatto stole his seventh base as part of a multi-hit night at the plate. Mitch Garver was named Twins minor league player of the week after batting .455 last week but he went 0-for-4 tonight. 

GCL Twins 6, GCL Orioles 4
Box Score
The GCL Twins wasted little time in this contest as they jumped out to an early 4-0 first inning lead. Gorge Munoz lead-off the inning with a walk right before a Jorge Andrade single. Jean Carlos Arias advanced the runners with a ground out before a Jose Miranda walk loaded the bases. Ben Rortvedt drove in a pair of runs with a single before Aaron Whitefield walked to load'em up again. Kidany Salva got drew a walk with the bases loaded to make it 3-0. While Tyree Davis was batting, a wild pitch forced in another run to cap the scoring for the inning. 

Whitefield reached base three times including a pair of hits and his fourth stolen base of the season. Rortvedt went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored. Andrade scored two runs and reached base twice. Overall, the team went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position while leaving seven runners on base. 

Tyler Fox started for the E-Twins and made it through three frames. He allowed three runs on five hits with three strikeouts and no walks. Moises Gomez picked up his first victory after pitching three innings and only allowing an unearned run. Clark Beeker earned his first save as he pitched three perfect innings and struck out one. 

Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Stephen Gonsalves, Chattanooga Lookouts
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Levi Michael, Chattanooga Lookouts


Chattanooga @ Tennessee (11:05 am CST) - RHP Aaron Slegers (8-4, 3.39 ERA)
Ft. Myers @ Tampa (6:00 CST) - RHP Keaton Steele (4-7, 3.84 ERA)
Cedar Rapids @ Lake County (6:00 CST) - RHP Cody Stashak (5-5, 3.17 ERA)
Elizabethton @ Danville (6:00 CST) - RHP Tyler Beardsley (0-0, 3.00 ERA)
GCL Twins vs. GCL Orioles (11:00 am CST) - TBD

Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss Tuesday's games.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Minnesota's Worst All-Stars

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel, USA Today Sports
If someone would have told me at the beginning of the season that Eduardo Nunez would be the Twins All-Star representative, I would have laughed in their face. Nunez is having a great first half of the season but he doesn't exactly conjure up thoughts of being one of the best players in baseball.

Every team gets an All-Star and there could be a length discussion over the validity of this practice. It gives each team's individual fan base someone to root for in the game. The best players might not always be on the field but that's not always what the Mid-Summer Classic is all about.

There have been some bad Twins teams throughout the franchise's history. The early 1980's and mid 1990's come to mind as some rough times in the not so distance past. Over the last handful of years, there have been some of the organization's worst teams but those teams still get an All-Star representative.

Here are my picks for the top five worst All-Star selections in Twins history. I took into consideration the player's career WAR total and the season in which the player was elected but there have been some bad players that were able to put the title of All-Star next to their name.

5. Joe Mays, 2001 All-Star (Career 9.0 WAR)
The 2001 season was the only year Mays finished with an ERA under 4.00 and it was also his lone season of pitching more than 200 innings. He would actually lead the entire league in ERA+ that season but the rest of his career was hardly All-Star worthy. He struggled with injuries and posted a career 5.05 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP. Almost all of his WAR value was accumulated during the 2001 campaign where he finished in the top-10 for WAR.

4. Dave Engle, 1984 All-Star (Career 3.9 WAR)
Engle, the brother-in-law of Tom Brunansky, was the team's lone representative in 1984. He wasn't even having that great of a season when he was elected. He hit .266/.308/.353 with four home runs and 20 doubles during the 1984 campaign. He actually finished ninth on the team in WAR behind the likes of Kent Hrbek, Kirby Puckett, and Gary Gaetti. Maybe he was being rewarded for his 1983 season where he combined for a .800 OPS with 34 extra-base hits.

3. Tim Laudner, 1988 All-Star (Career 3.2 WAR)
The two catchers on the AL roster in 1988 were Terry Steinbach and Tim Laudner. Minnesota was coming off the World Series and more of the team's players were represented on the roster including Kirby Puckett, Frank Viola, Jeff Reardon, and Gary Gaetti. Laudner played in a career-high 117 games in 1988 and hit .251/.316/.408 with 13 home runs and 18 doubles. However, he allowed the second most stolen bases in the AL and he would only play one more season at the big league level.

2. Eduardo Nunez, 2016 All-Star (Career 2.1 WAR)
Nunez is thriving in one of his first opportunities to play on a regular basis. He played in 112 games for the Yankees in 2011 but those games resulted in a negative WAR total for the season (-0.5 WAR). His time in Minnesota has been more productive as he has been worth 3.7 WAR over the last three years. The Twins are bad this year and someone had to represent the team. My vote would have been for Brian Dozier but they didn't ask me.

1. Ron Coomer, 1999 All-Star (Career 1.4 WAR)
The 1999 version of the Twins went 63-97 so there wasn't much to be excited about. Players like Corey Koskie, Jacque Jones, and Terry Steinbach might have been more deserving of an All-Star selection as Koskie's WAR ended up being more than three times that of Coomer. Mr. Coomer was in a stretch of five straight seasons with 12 home runs or more and he combined for a .744 OPS during that stretch. In an era where baseballs were flying out of stadiums at a record pace, Coomer got to be on the same roster as the likes of Ken Griffey Jr., Manny Ramirez, and Jim Thome.

There's my top-five worst Twins All-Stars of all-time. Should someone else have made the list? Who would be your worst Twins All-Star? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Futures Game Preview: J.T. Chargois

Photo Credit: Kim Klement, USA Today Sports
When the Twins drafted J.T. Chargois in the second round in 2012, there were plenty of unknowns. The right-handed pitcher out of Rice University played both sides of the ball in college. This limited him to just 72 combined innings on the mound across three college seasons.

After signing with the Twins, he was assigned to Elizabethton and served as the team's closer in the middle of the playoff hunt. The E-Twins would go on to win the Appalachian League Championship and Chargois would combine to post a 1.69 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP across 16 innings. His fastball could hit the high 90's and it looked like he could move through the system very quickly.

Chargois wouldn't make it out of extended spring training in 2013 as he dealt with elbow issues. In fact, he wouldn't take the mound in 2013 or 2014 as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. Most pitchers miss one year because of this surgery so to miss two years but the Twins wanted him to try and rehab before going under the knife.

By 2015, Chargois was ready to return. He made 48 appearances between Fort Myers and Chattanooga as he combined for a 2.62 ERA, a 1.31 WHIP, and a 53 to 25 strikeout to walk ratio. He ended the year on quite the run. Over his last 18 appearances (19.2 IP), he allowed one earned run and posted a 24 to 9 strikeout to walk ratio as opponents were limited to a .164 BA.

Chargois was clearly back on the prospect radar and the Twins added him to their 40-man roster.

He ended the 2015 season at Double-A and that's where he'd start the 2016 campaign. After posting a 2.73 ERA with the Lookouts last year, Chargois lowered that mark to 1.54 on the way to collecting seven saves. His time in Rochester might be even better as he has posted a 30 to 5 strikeout to walk rate along with lowering his WHIP from 1.32 at Double-A to 1.02 at Triple-A.

His MLB debut was a disaster as he allowed five earned runs in 0.2 innings. He walked a pair of batters and failed to record a strikeout. His 67.50 ERA at the big league level is tough to look at but it hasn't impacted his performance in the minors. The Twins were faced with a bit of a roster crunch so this was the only MLB appearance Chargois has made. One would have to think that it left a bad taste in his mouth.

Maybe his Futures Game roster spot was a reward for being sent down after his rough debut. There are only 10 pitchers on the U.S roster so there is a good chance that he will get to collect at least an inning of work. This will be the 18th edition of the Futures Game and it will take place on Sunday, July 10, at Petco Park in San Diego (6 PM CST on MLB Network).

Monday, July 4, 2016

Twins Trade Deadline Primer

Photo Credit: Jesse Johnson, USA Today Sports
The firework dust settled and this means baseball's trade deadline is quickly approaching. Following next week's All-Star Game festivities in San Diego, contending teams will be wheeling and dealing to try and find the right pieces to push their organization to the next level.

Minnesota's terrible first half has put them in a position to be sellers in 2016. This isn't a terrible position to be in but the Twins have been bad in recent years and the front office hasn't been willing to part with trade chips. Maybe this year will be different as Terry Ryan looks to add to one of the best farm systems in baseball.

Who is available? What can the Twins get in return? Let's dive in...

Starting Pitchers: Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco
The Twins spent a lot of money on both of these pitchers on the free agent market and it hasn't gone according to plan. Santana spent the first part of his contract being suspended for 80 games and he hasn't been anything fantastic since returning to the mound. His name has even popped up in national headlines as "perhaps the most viable trade deadline pickup on the market." Nolasco has struggled with very brief flashes of being the pitcher the Twins thought they were getting.

With both pitchers, the Twins would have to pay some of their remaining contracts. Santana is owed $27 million over the next two seasons and Nolasco is owed $24 million during the same stretch. That's a lot of money to two pitchers that haven't lived up to expectations but maybe both could be helped by moving back to the National League.

Trading one or both of these players would free up a second half rotation spot for the likes of Jose Berrios. Some Twins fans have even started the discussion about Trevor May being stretched out and put back in the rotation. Minnesota needs to see what they have in their young pitchers and the second half can offer them that opportunity.

Relief Pitchers: Fernando Abad
Contending teams pay a premium for effective relief pitching near the deadline (see Matt Capps for Wilson Ramos trade). Even Minnesota traded for relief help last year when Kevin Jepsen was acquired for a pair of pitching prospects. Jensen was designated for assignment over the weekend which can show how fickle relief pitchers can be.

Abad has run into some rough outings in the last week but he still might be one of the team's most valuable trade pieces. As a left-handed relief pitcher, he has held lefties to batting under .175 and they are getting on-base less than 21% of the time. He also comes with an extra year of team control so that adds some value to him since he can't be a free agent until 2018.

Much like trading one of the starting pitchers would open a spot for Berrios, dealing Abad could open a role for an up-and-coming relief arm. J.T. Chargois didn't get much of a look in his brief call-up so it would be nice to see more of him in the second half.

Position Players: Brian Dozier, Eduardo Nunez, Trevor Plouffe, Kurt Suzuki
Dozier isn't going to be part of the next winning team in Minnesota. He has busted out of his early season slump in a big way and he's under contract for the next two seasons for and average value of $7.5 million per year. Jorge Polanco has been ready for the big leagues but the Twins have no where to put him. Trading Dozier opens up a spot for Polanco and he could bring back an intriguing prospect or two.

Nunez has been the biggest surprise on the Twins roster this season. For the first time in his career, he has become an everyday starter and he has taken full advantage of the opportunity. He is arbitration eligible for one more season and he can play multiple spots around the infield. For a team looking for a bench player with some versatility, Nunez could be their man. It might also be the first time in awhile where the Twins have sold high on a player and not waited until his value was gone.

The Miguel Sano outfield experiment seems to be coming to an end. Plouffe's time in Minnesota has included plenty of good moments and he has become a fan favorite. However, Plouffe would likely leave in free agency after the 2017 campaign so trading him now could result in more value. A contending team might need a bat off the bench or a replacement at third and Plouffe can serve both of those roles. He will be on the disable list until for the next couple weeks so he might be able to be dealt until the off-season.

Much like Dozier, Suzuki has broken out of his early-season offensive slump. His contract expires at the end of the year and the Twins will likely need to go in a different direction from the aging catcher. He is below average on the defensive side of the ball but Twins pitchers have like his ability to call games. Suzuki could serve in a back-up catcher role or be asked to fill-in for an injured starting catcher. His veteran leadership and experience could be intriguing.

There's the list of potential trade targets. Who else do you think the Twins should make available? What can Minnesota get back for the pieces that they have? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Twins Minor League Report (7/1): Kiriloff Cranks First Home Run

Photo Credit: David Hague Photography (Alex Kirilloff)
Daniel Palka has been on quite the role in recent weeks and he was honored on Friday for his hot hitting. The Southern League announced that Palka was the Player of the Month for the month of June. By the end of the month he had hit .302/.372/.802 (1.174 SLG) with 13 home runs, three doubles, and three triples.

During the week of June 6th, Palka set-up his tremendous month by going 10-for-29 with seven extra-base hits, four home runs, 10 RBI, a .931 slugging percentage, and an OPS of 1.306. He would be given the Southern League's Player of the Week award for that hot stretch.

Could Palka keep the fireworks going for this long Fourth of July weekend? Read on to find out.

Rochester 5, Syracuse 3
Box Score
The Red Wings had to move on from Miguel Sano's tenure as his rehab assignment ended on Thursday and they were able to do so with the help of some familiar names. 

Eddie Rosario collected his seventh home run of the season, a two-run shot. He went 2-for-4 on the night including two runs scored. Darin Mastroianni and Jorge Polanco both had a pair of hits and Mastroianni came around to score a run. Wilfredo Tovar had a double and an RBI out of the ninth spot in the batting order. 

Jason Wheeler started and kept the Red Wings in the game. He struck out six in 5.2 innings on the mound while allowing three earned runs on five hits. The bullpen was fantastic for Rochester. D.J. Baxendale, Ryan O'Rourke, Trevor May, and Alex Wimmers combined for 3.1 shutout innings on the way to the team's 48th victory. For Wimmers, it was his seventh save. 

Chattanooga 8, Pensacola 10
Box Score
The Lookouts jumped out to a first inning 2-0 thanks to a two-run shot off the bat of Mitch Garver. Things would go quiet on the offensive side until the sixth when Niko Goodrum hit a one-out double before SL Player of the Month Daniel Palka knocked him in with a single, his 62 RBI this year. Chattanooga did their best to come back in the late innings with a five-run eighth frame that was bolstered by a Travis Harrison home run. 

Goodrum finished the night going 3-for-4 with two runs scored and a walk. Garver drove in four and scored a pair of runs as part of a two-hit effort. DJ Hicks reached base twice. The Lookouts only left five runners on base and batted .600 with runners in scoring position (6-for-10). 

In his third start at Double-A, things didn't go well for Stephen Gonsalves. He was roughed up for six runs in 3.2 innings of work. He struck out eight and walked two as his Double-A ERA is now over 8.00. Omar Bencomo allowed two runs (one earned) in 1.1 innings while striking out three. Luke Westphal didn't stop the scoring as he gave up a pair of runs in two innings of work. Trevor Hildenberger was the only pitcher to put a zero on the board.

Ft. Myers 7, Jupiter 4
Box Score

Randy Rosario got the start for Fort Myers but ran into a little trouble during the sixth inning. After back to back one out hits, Rosario coaxed a ground out that allowed a run to score. During the next batter he threw a wild pitch and eventually walked the batter. Rosario's night was done and John Curtiss came in with runners on the corners. He'd get the next out to end the inning and finish out the next frame with a couple strikeouts. 

Things continued to get hairy from there. Nick Anderson started the eighth inning and allowed three straight singles to start the frame. He'd be replaced by Yorman Landa without recording an out. Landa did his best to limit the damage as the first batter bunted to advance the runners. The next batter grounded out but another run scored. After a walk, Landa got the final out but the score was now 5-4. 

The Miracle bounced back quickly scoring two runs in the bottom half of the inning. LaMonte Wade and Joe Maloney started the inning by getting hit by pitches. Alex Perez advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt and T.J. White brought them home with double. White had already homered in the game as he finished 3-for-5 with four RBI. Max Murphy also had a home run, his fifth of the season, which left the bat at 105 mph. Two-thirds of the batting order had at least one double. 

Fort Myers have now won four in a row and remain in first place in the Florida State League South Division.

Cedar Rapids 4, Beloit 5
Box Score

After falling behind early, the Kernels plated three runs in the fifth inning to take a 4-2 lead. Rainis Silva walked to lead-off the inning before a Daniel Kihle single advanced him to second. A couple batters later Luis Arraez singled to score Silva. The big hit in the inning came from Sean Miller who was credited with a double and two runs scored on the play.

However, the bullpen couldn't hold it together. Cody Stashak started and left with the Kernels up 4-3. He allowed three runs on six hits with four strikeouts and three walks. Tom Hackimer took the blown save and the loss after allowing a pair of runs to score in the eighth inning. Kuo Hua Lo got two outs and struck out one.

Miller finished 3-for-4 with the team's only extra-base hit. It was his 13th double of the season. Joining the multi-hit parade was Zander Wiel as he collected a pair of hits and an RBI.

Elizabethton 8, Pulaski 3
Box Score
The E-Twins powered out four home runs in the first three innings to help the team push across eight runs. Alex Kirilloff, the Twins 2016 first round pick, hit his first professional home run as part of a multi-hit night. Jaylin Davis cracked two home runs to go along with five RBI. Davis has six home runs this season and this was just the E-Twins ninth game. Amaurys Minier also added a long ball, his first on the season. 

Tyler Wells made it through two perfect frames including striking out the four straight batters but he ran into some third inning issues. He had runners at first and second after two walks and a pair of strikeouts in the inning. Griffin Jax entered and gave up a sharp singled to score one. During the next at-bat he had a wild pitch that score another run. Wells ended up with no hits in 2.2 innings with six strikeouts and two walks. Jax allowed two runs to score against Wells before another run scored against him. He struck out two in 2.1 frames.

Andrew Vasquez picked up his first professional victory after throwing three terrific innings. He limited the Yankees to two hits and he struck out seven. Vasquez has yet to allow a run this season across three appearances. Colton Davis got the ninth and saw two batters reach but struck out the last two batters of the game. 

GCL Twins 1, GCL Red Sox 6
Box Score
The GCL Twins couldn't take advantage of plenty of opportunities in this contest. The Twins kept pace with the Red Sox in the hit department with 12 each but the home team went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base. 

Gorge Munoz had a big day at the dish going 3-for-4 with a double and a home run. Dane Hutcheon matched Munoz with three hits and he is hitting .400 so far this season. Besides the two extra-base hits from Munoz, Ben Rortvedt had the only other extra base hit, a double.

Miguel De Jesus took the loss after allowing five runs on eight hits in just under four innings of work. He struck out six and walked one. Clark Beeker took over for De Jesus and struck out three while giving up a run in 2.1 innings. Matz Schutte didn't allow a hit and struck out three across two frames. Brady Anderson finished off the last inning with a hit and walk but didn't allow a run.

Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – The Rochester Bullpen, Rochester Red Wings
Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Jaylin Davis, Elizabethton Twins

Rochester @ Syracuse (6:05 CST) - LHP Pat Dean (1-5, 4.40 ERA)

Chattanooga @ Pensacola (6:30 CST) - RHP Aaron Slegers (6-4, 3.38 ERA)
Ft. Myers vs. Jupiter (5:05 CST) - RHP Randy LeBlanc (1-2, 5.40 ERA)
Cedar Rapids @ Beloit (7:00 CST) - LHP Lachlan Wells (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
Elizabethton vs. Bluefield (5:00 CST) - RHP Ryan Mason (0-0, 18.00 ERA)
GCL Twins @ GCL Red Sox (9:00 am CST) - TBD

Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss Friday's games.