Sunday, July 23, 2017

Twins Minor League Report (7/22): Perkins Returns, Hurlbut Rolls

Photo Credit: Seth Stohs, Twins Daily
Injuries can be devastating to the careers of players. Some of the best players in baseball history have seen their careers cut short because of surgeries and the injuries that caused them to go under the knife. It seems rare for players to be able to avoid the injury bug for their entire career. However, it can be a momentous occasion when a player is finally able to return to the game they love.

Glen Perkins hadn't pitched in a baseball game in almost 13 months. On Saturday, he was able to step back on the mound in a rookie league game and feel like he was getting closer to his goal. He still might be a ways off from regaining his All-Star form but it was a step in the right direction.

Read on to see how he fared in his return to the mound...

RED WINGS REPORT
Rochester 4, Toledo 3
Box Score

David Hurlbut twirled a gem and the bullpen was able to barely hold off the charging Mud Hens for the victory. Hurlbut tossed seven innings and allowed one run on six hits He struck out four and didn't surrender a walk. He's won five of his last six decisions and he hasn't allowed more than three earned runs since the middle of June. Alex Wimmers and John Curtiss each allowed a run in relief but they kept the Red Wings on top. 

Matt Hague didn't need much help to create the team's first run. A one-out double put him in scoring position. He'd move to third on a wild pitch and a Kennys Vargas ground out brought him in. Niko Goodrum lead off the fifth with his 20th double before advancing to third on a fielding error by the right fielder. Leonardo Reginatto wasted little time bringing him in with a run-scoring single to put Rochester up 2-0.

After Toledo scored in the top of the seventh, Rochester answered back. Goodrum notched his second double of the game with two outs. Reginatto, JR Murphy, and Edgar Corcino strung together three straight singles to push across a pair of runs. Rochester needed all the breathing room they could get and it paid off to put the team at 15 games over .500 on the season. 

CHATTANOOGA CHATTER
Chattanooga 7, Mobile 0

Box Score
Fernando Romero was provided from early run support in this one and Lookouts bullpen held on to the victory. Romero pitched five shutout frames and struck out six while walking three. He lowered his season ERA to 2.68 but he hasn't pitched more than five innings since the end of June. Randy LeBlanc tossed two scoreless frames including three strikeouts. Raul Fernandez finished off the final two frames to complete the shutout. He struck out two and walked one.

With one out in the first, LaMonte Wade was hit by a pitch. Jonathan Rodriguez, Andy Wilkins, and Max Murphy all followed with singles before TJ White was hit by a pitch to score the third run of the inning. Rodriguez created a run in the third. He walked, stole second, and advanced to third on a fly out. White doubled to score Rodriguez. One batter later, White would score on a Perez single. Rodriguez had another big hit in the six, a two-run homer, that capped a big night at the plate.

With the victory, the Lookouts move to 64-34 on the season. They lead the Southern League North division by six games in the second half but they already won the first half title.

MIRACLE MATTERS 
Fort Myers 2, Tampa 3
Box Score
Fort Myers fell one big hit short of a big comeback. The Miracle left the bases loaded in the ninth but fell a run short. David Fischer took his seventh loss as he allowed one run over two innings. He struck out four and walked four. Keaton Steele only allowed one hit over three innings to go along with a strikeout. Williams Ramirez put together two shutout innings with three strikeouts. Alex Muren gave up the two biggest runs in his two innings of work.

Miracle catcher Brian Navarreto and manager Doug Mientkiewicz were both ejected in the seventh inning after Navarreto was called out on a check swing. Mitchell Kranson collected three hits and an RBI. Jermaine Palacios had the team's only extra-base hit, a double, as part of a multi-hit night. Kevin Garcia reached base three times and came around to score a run.

KERNELS NUGGETS 
Cedar Rapids 12, Lansing 4
Box Score
The Kernels used an all-out offensive assault to catapult the club to their 52nd victory. Ben Rortvedt launched a three run home run and Trey Cabbage added a home run of his own. Travis Blankenhorn, Lewin Diaz, and Christian Cavaness all finished with multi-hit nights. Cabbage reached base four times in five plate appearances and scored two runs. Diaz drove in three runs and scored twice. Every batter in the Kernels' line-up had a hit with the exception of Joe Cronin but he walked twice.

Griffen Jax was able to coast to his second victory. He pitched into the seventh inning for the third time in his last four appearances. Overall, he allowed two earned runs on five hits with three strikeouts and three walks. Logan Lombana ran into a little trouble as he allowed two runs on three hits in an inning of relief. Patrick McGuff finished off the final four outs without allowing a hit and striking out three.

E-TWINS E-NOTES
Elizabethton 1, Bluefield 4
Box Score
For the fourth time in his last five starts, Edwar Colina pitched at least five innings. However, five team errors meant he saw four runs cross the plate and he only allowed two earned runs. He struck out five and walked two. Jared Finkel didn't allow a run over the final 3.2 frames. Only two men reached base and he struck out two.

Jose Miranda and Shane Carrier each went 2-for-4 at the dish. Robert Molina had the team's lone extra-base hit, a double. Akil Baddoo reached base twice and scored the team's only run. Overall, the team went 2-for-6 with runners in scoring position and they left seven men on base.

GCL TWINS TAKES
GCL Twins 7, GCL Red Sox 0 (Game 1- 7 Innings)
Box Score
Royce Lewis was part of two big scoring innings and Glen Perkins made his return trip to the mound after missing 13 months. Perkins started the game and was asked to get three outs. He struck out the first two batters he faced and fielded a come-backer that ended his clean 1-2-3 inning. It had to be a relief for the former All-Star to get back into game action. There is still a chance he could impact the 2017 Twins but that remains to be seen.

Lewis and Ricky De La Torre helped singled to start the first before an Alex Robles ground out brought Lewis in from third. Benjamin Rodriguez cracked his fifth double of the season to plate another run. A Brian Olson ground out and a Victor Tademo single capped off a four-run frame. With one out in the second, Lewis singled and would come around to score on a Robles single. Rehabbing outfielder Daniel Palka singled to score De La Torre and the Twins were up 6-0.

Brusdar Graterol pitched five shutout innings after Perkins left the game. He scattered three hits and tallied five strikeouts to improve to 2-0 on the season. Jose Bermudez closed out the final frame with a perfect inning including a strikeout.

GCL Twins 2, GCL Red Sox 4 (Game 2- 7 Innings)
Box Score
For all the offense in the day's first game, the second game didn't go so hot for the GCL Twins. The club only mustered up three hits and went 0-for-11 with runs in scoring position. Alex Robles finished 1-for-2 with a double and a run. Kerby Camacho didn't record an at-bat as he was walked three times. Ricky De La Torre reached base twice.

Taylor Clemensia struggled as he walked two batters, had a balk, allowed a steal, and didn't record an out. Carlos Suniaga took over and pitched 4.1 scoreless innings with five strikeouts and four walks. Zach Featherstone and Vadim Balan finished the final two frames with each allowing two free passes.

TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY
Pitcher of the Day – David Hurlbut, Rochester Red Wings (7 IP, 1 ER, 4 K, 0 BB)
Hitter of the Day – Jonathan Rodriguez, Chattanooga Lookouts (2-for-4, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, BB)


SUNDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS
Rochester vs. Toledo (12:35 CST) - RHP Aaron Slegers (10-4, 3.50 ERA_
Chattanooga @ Mobile (5:05 CST) - RHP Felix Jorge (8-1, 3.56 ERA)
Fort Myers vs. Tampa (3:05 CST) - RHP Brady Anderson (4-5, 4.30 ERA)

Cedar Rapids vs. Lansing (2:05 CST) - LHP Anthony Marzi (3-0, 1.37 ERA)
Elizabethton vs. Bluefield (5:00 CST) - RHP Huascar Ynoa (0-1, 3.68 ERA)
GCL Twins - Scheduled Off-Day

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

Monday, July 17, 2017

Appreciating Max Kepler

Photo Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Time and patience are two key aspects when it comes to developing prospects. Max Kepler fits this mold more than a lot of other young players. When the Twins signed him as a teenager out of Germany, the club knew of his athletic ability but Europe hasn’t exactly been a hot bed for MLB prospects.

Kepler has played just over 200 games at the MLB level and he has found a way to provide value through all aspects of his game. There are areas that could still improve but Kepler is on a course to be an above average big leaguer for years to come.

Only two short seasons ago, Kepler exploded at Double-A on his way to winning Southern League MVP honors. He hit .322/.416/.531 with 56 extra-base hits across 431 at-bats. These numbers were an improvement from his career totals in the minor leagues (.281/.363/.446) and many prospect followers believed he had put it all together.

Following a brief September call-up in 2015, Kepler became a main-stay in the Twins line-up during 2016. He struggled through his rookie campaign by hitting .235/.309/.424 with 17 home runs and 20 doubles. Hitting isn't the only part of his game as he provided 4.4 runs on the bases according to BsR and six defensive runs saved. 

Kepler has made measurable strides in his second full MLB season. Compared to 2016, he's raised his batting average over 30 points and this has helped him to get on base almost 34% of the time. His improved his wRC+ from 93 in 2016 to 108 in 2017. According to both Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, the only position player worth more WAR this season is Miguel Sano.

He's hitting the ball hard as well. Last season, Kepler hit the ball at an average exit velocity of 89.4 mph. He ranked 81st among 225 hitters with a minimum of 250 balls in play which ranked him higher than the likes of Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado. This season, his average exit velocity has dipped to 88.4 but he ranks 64th among 147 players with 200 at-bats. He's hitting the ball harder than Anthony Rizzo,  Joey Votto, and Evan Longoria. 

Earlier this season, I identified Kepler as one of a trio of players who was helping to spur Minnesota's defensive turnaround. He ranks in the top-12 among AL outfielders in defensive runs saved. This spring MLB Advanced Media introduced a new Statcast metric called Catch Probability, which measures how likely a fielder is to catch a given ball in play based on its distance and hang time. Kepler leads MLB in "three-star outs" as he has gone 15-for-17 in those opportunities. Three-star outs have a 51-75% chance of being caught. 

To stay in the hunt for a division title, the Twins need young core players to perform at a high level. Jacque Jones was one of those players for the Twins in the early 2000s. He didn't have a season worth more than 2.0 WAR until he was 27-years old. Kepler has managed that total in each of his first two seasons and he won't be 25 until next February. 

Kepler may never be an All-Star like Miguel Sano or track down fly-balls as well as Byron Buxton but he is slowly improving. His offense and defense continue to improve and he is part of the team's long-term plans. Fans should appreciate the value he has brought to the 2017 version of the Twins. 

Show your appreciation for Kepler in the COMMENTS. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Twins Minor League Report (7/14): Murphy, Stewart Lead Lookouts

Photo Credit: Seth Stohs, Twins Daily (Max Murphy)
Defense has been key for the Twins turnaround this season. Fans saw a key error from Jorge Polanco on Friday night caused Jose Berrios to throw 30 extra pitches. This meant he was pulled after only collecting five outs. Pitchers rely on the defense behind them and it can be tough when defenders can't make the play.

Errors ran rampant for multiple Twins affiliates on Friday. Which clubs would be able to avoid these defensive woes? Read on to find out...

RED WINGS REPORT
Rochester 4, Lehigh Valley 1
Box Score

Rochester's pitching staff hurled a gem in this one as a final inning run was the only thing stopping them from collecting a shutout. Justin Haley earned his first victory of the season after limiting the Iron Pigs to three hits. He didn't allow an earned run and he struck out two. Craig Breslow, Alex Wimmers, and Michael Tonkin all pitched scoreless innings with Wimmers and Tonkin each collecting two strikeouts. Jake Reed allowed three hits and a walk in the final frame but limited the damage to one run. 

Bengie Gonzalez singled with one out in the third and moved into scoring position on a Engelb Vielma walk. A couple batters later, Gonzalez would come around to score on a wild pitch. In the fifth inning, Edgar Corcino tripled before Gonzalez brought him home with a sacrifice fly. Rochester was up 2-0.

The Red Wings added some critical insurance runs in the seventh inning. Matt Hague started the frame with a double. After a ByungHo Park hit by pitch and a JB Shuck single, the bases were loaded. With Corcino batting, an error by the first baseman allowed two runs to come around and score to push the lead to 4-0.

Rochester is now 10 games over .500 for the season (50-40). Since the calendar turned to July, the club has gone 8-4.

CHATTANOOGA CHATTER
Chattanooga 9, Jacksonville 3

Box Score
These two clubs found themselves in a back and forth battle before the Lookouts went on a strong run to end the game. Kohl Stewart started and allowed three runs on six hits with a season-high seven strikeouts. Randy Rosario struggled with some control issues as he walked four batters in two inning but he escaped without allowing a run. Luke Bard struck out one and walked on in the final frame.

Max Murphy fell a home run shy of the cycle as part of a four hit night. TJ White drove in three runs including a two-run home run. Jonathan Rodriguez went 3-for-5 with a double and two runs. Dan Rohlfing was the lone batter to be held without a hit.

It was the third straight win for the Lookouts as the club has gone 11-4 so far in July.

MIRACLE MATTERS 
Fort Myers 3, Charlotte 4
Box Score 
Fort Myers entered play on Friday night with an eight game win streak and things were looking good for the club as they jumped out to an early 3-0 lead. Tanner English lead-off double put the Miracle in position to score their first run on a Jermaine Palacios sacrifice fly. Mitchell Kranson added to the lead with a solo-home run. In the third inning, Sean Miller launched his first Florida State League home run in over 333 at-bats. He was greeted with the silent treatment in the dugout.

David Fischer kept the Stone Crabs at bay before allowing a three-run homer in the fourth. He ended the night after four innings with three strikeouts and four walks. Williams Ramirez and Michael Theofanopoulos each pitched two scoreless innings with Theofanopoulos striking out two and walking two. Alex Muren entered in the ninth and allowed a walk-off home run to the first batter of the inning. It was only the second pitch of the inning for Muren.

KERNELS NUGGETS 
Cedar Rapids 0, West Michigan 3
Box Score
The Kernels were limited to three hits while committing four errors, a season high, which is a tough recipe for winning a game. Clark Beeker took the loss but he only allowed one earned run over five frames. He struck out five and walked two. Ryan Mason and Colton Davis combined for three shutout innings to end the game. Mason struck out two and Davis struck out one.

Lewin Diaz had the lone extra-base hit, a double, but he also had one of the team's defensive errors. Trey Cabbage and Ben Rortvedt each went 1-for-3. Cedar Rapids combined for 14 strikeouts and the team only had one opportunity to bat with runners in scoring position.

After winning four straight games through last weekend, the Kernels have dropped four straight including being swept by West Michigan. Friday's shutout was the club's third shutout loss in their last four contests. It was the team's first three-game sweep since June 12, 2016.

E-TWINS E-NOTES
Elizabethton 3, Burlington 5
Box Score
After trailing 1-0 in the third inning, the E-Twins plated two in fourth to take back the lead. With two outs, Brent Rooker was hit by a pitch and Kolton Kendrick moved him to second with a walk. Colton Waltner, making his E-Twins debut, drove in both runs with a double. In the sixth, the E-Twins added to their lead as Kendrick and Waltner walked before a Mark Contreras single drove in a run to make it 3-1.

Charlie Barnes got the start and cruised through five innings. He didn't allow an earned run on three hits with five strikeouts and three walks. Blair Lakso ran into some late inning trouble as he surrendered four earned runs including three in the eighth inning. He struck out two and walked two in 2.1 innings. Jose Martinez finished off the game by recording the final two outs and allowing one inherited runner to score.

It was the second straight loss for the E-Twins but the club has won six of their last nine games.

GCL TWINS TAKES
GCL Twins 2, GCL Red Sox 9
Box Score
GCL Twins pitchers only allowed two earned runs but five defensive errors lead to seven unearned runs. Number one overall pick Royce Lewis had yet to commit an error but he was charged with a throwing error and a fielding error. He also struggled at the plate by going 0-for-4. Humberto Maldonado went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI.

Pertru Balan was charged with the loss even though he didn't allow an earned run. He scattered four hits and struck out five with two walks. Vadim Balan didn't make it through an inning on the mound as five unearned runs crossed the plate. He has yet to allow an earned run in six appearances. Matt Jones allowed the only two earned runs of the game in 3.1 innings. Zach Featherstone collected the final six outs by only allowing hit hit with a pair of strikeouts. 

TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY
Pitcher of the Day – Kohl Stewart, Chattanooga Lookouts (6.0 IP, 3 ER, 7 K, 1 BB)
Hitter of the Day – Max Murphy, Chattanooga Lookouts (4-for-5, 2B, 3B, 2 RBI)


SATURDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS
Rochester @ Lehigh Valley (5:35 CST) - RHP Dillion Gee (1-0, 0.00 ERA_
Chattanooga vs. Jacksonville (6:15 CST) - RHP Dereck Rodriguez (3-1, 3.77 ERA)
Fort Myers vs. St. Lucie (5:05 CST) - RHP Cody Stashak (3-3, 3.76 ERA)

Cedar Rapids @ South Bend (6:05 CST) - RHP Griffin Jax (1-0, 2.84 ERA)
Elizabethton @ Greenville (5:00 CST) - TBD
GCL Twins @ GCL Red Sox (9:00 am CST)- TBD

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

Monday, July 10, 2017

Three Unique All-Star Journeys

Photo Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
"If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else."--- Yogi Berra, MLB Hall of Famer and 18-time All-Star

Each professional baseball player's journey takes them down different paths. Some players seem destined for glory with high signing bonus and top prospect attached to their name. Other players spend each year wondering if they will have a job or if they will be pushed away from the game they love.

Even for the game's best players, there are ups and downs along the way. These experiences can help fans relate more to the players. They have their own struggles and search for the right mixture to be successful on the field. While each player took their own route to Miami, three Twins players can officially call themselves All-Stars.

The Experienced Veteran: Ervin Santana
Ervin Santana has been here before but it was nearly a decade ago. As a 34-year old, Santana is in the midst of his best professional season. His journey started as an 18-year old from the Dominican Republic and Baseball American had him in their top-100 prospects twice. Santana would debut as a 22-year old and spend his first 12 seasons in the Angels organization. He's made stops in Kansas City and Atlanta before putting it all together this season.

As a 25-year old first-time All-Star, Santana probably thought he'd make multiple return trips to the All-Star Game. So far this season, he leads all of baseball in complete games and shutouts. He's one of the main reasons the Twins have been able to stay in the playoff picture. This might be his final All-Star experience so you have to believe he is cherishing every step of this part of his journey.

The New Kid On The Block: Miguel Sano
Miguel Sano was a name known in baseball circles before he signed his first professional contract. As a teenager in the Dominican Republic, Sano was the top international player in the 2009 signing class. However, there were questions about his age and MLB stepped in to investigate. The results were inclusive and Sano signed a $3.15 million bonus to join the Twins organization. This tumultuous journey was chronicled in the 2011 documentary, Ballplayer: Pelotero.

There have been some other bumps in the road for the young slugger. He missed all of the 2014 season following Tommy John surgery. His 2016 campaign saw a sophomore slump as he struggled to live up to the hype of his monster rookie season. On Monday night, he took center-stage in Miami as one of the four American League Home Run Derby participants. His journey has taken quite the turn from the small dirt floor home his family occupied in the Dominican Republic.

The Unexpected Closer: Brandon Kintzler
There had to be times when Brandon Kintzler thought his baseball career was over. He wasn't drafted until the 40th round of the 2004 MLB Draft. He never got higher than High-A with the Padres organization before they let him go. For the next three seasons, he bounced around the independent leagues including stops in Winnipeg and St. Paul.

Kintzler pitched well enough for the Brewers to notice and he took advantage of a new opportunity. He made his MLB debut in 2010 and pitched in the Arizona Fall League in each of the next two seasons. With the Brewers, he found some moderate success out of the bullpen but they didn't bring him back following the 2015 campaign. Other arms were ahead of Kintzler when he got to Minnesota. Glen Perkins getting injured and Kevin Jepsen pitching poorly allowed the door to open. He's been terrific this season as he leads baseball in games finished and his 24 saves are second in the American League.

Santana might be making his final All-Star trip. Sano is making his first of what many expect to be multiple All-Star appearances. Kintzler took the longest road to get here and he has to be happy about every step that he took along the way.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Twins Minor League Report (7/9): Gordon Stars, Garver Hits Three Out

Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Twins top prospect Nick Gordon took center stage on Sunday as part of MLB's Futures Game. Gordon led off the game and started at shortstop for the USA squad and worked the count to 3-1 before a sharp ground out to second base. In his second at-bat, he was more aggressive as he swung at the first two pitches before popping out to short.

For his third and final at-bat, Gordon would follow a Brendan Rogers single with a single of his own. He'd move to third on a double and score on another double. Gordon finished the game 1-for-3 with a run scored including two hard hit balls.

Transactions
Rochester: LHP Craig Breslow began his MLB rehab assignment
Fort Myers: LHP Alex Robinson promoted from Cedar Rapids
Cedar Rapids: RHP Tyler Beardsley activated from 7-day DL

RED WINGS REPORT
Rochester 8, Syracuse 2
Box Score

Mitch Garver put on a hitting clinic in this contest. As part of a four-run second inning, Garver clocked his first home run of the day, a two-run shot. He step up with two-outs in the fourth inning and blast a solo-shot. Two innings later, he'd send his third ball of the day over the fence, his twelfth home run of the season. He ended the day 3-for-5 with four RBI. 

Garver wasn't the only one teeing off on Syracuse pitching. Bengie Gonzalez matched Garver with three hits including two doubles. He also walked once. Matt Hague, ByungHo Park, Ryan Strausborger, and Engelb Vielma all had doubles in the winning effort.

On the mound it took a combination of pitchers to get the win. Justin Haley continues to be stretched out in the Red Wings rotation. He pitched four frames while allowing one run on three hits. Craig Breslow made his first rehab appearances and saw a runner score after he gave up a walk and a double with two outs. Nik Turley pitched two scoreless frames for his third win. Mason Melotakis, Michael Tonkin, and Alex Wimmers put up zeros over the final two frames. 

CHATTANOOGA CHATTER
Chattanooga 5, Pensacola 1

Box Score
Even with Gordon out of the line-up for the Futures Game, the Lookouts managed a solid win. Kohl Stewart made his best start since returning from the DL. He pitched six innings while allowing one earned run on three hits. He struck out six and walked one. Todd Van Steensel pitched two scoreless innings with a strikeout and a walk. Nick Anderson finished off the game with a perfect ninth including a strikeout.

Chattanooga got things going offensively in the third frame. LaMonte Wade doubled with before a Jonathan Rodriguez single put runners on the corners. Andy Wilkins brought them both in with his tenth double of the season. The Lookouts were staked to a 2-0 lead.

Things were still close until Chattanooga made some separation in the last two innings. TJ White and Max Murphy started the eighth with singles before a Travis Harrison walk loaded the bases. Dan Rohlfing walked to bring in the first run of the frame. With two outs, Ryan Walker would strikeout but a wild pitch allowed the team's fourth run to score. In the ninth, Rodriguez singled in front of a Wilkins hit by pitch. Murphy brought home Rodriguez with his first double with Chattanooga.

 Rodriguez finished the day 4-for-5 with a double and two runs scored. Wade and Murphy both went 2-for-5 with Wade collecting a pair of doubles. Rohlfing was the lone batter not to collect a hit but his walk to drive in a run was critical.

MIRACLE MATTERS 
Fort Myers 4, Palm Beach 2
Box Score
Tanner English cracked two home runs and helped the Miracle to their fifth straight victory. Locked in a pitchers duel for the first four and a half frames, Jaylin Davis walked and moved to second on a balk. Shane Kennedy opened the scoring with an RBI single. English belted the first of his home runs to start the sixth inning and push the lead to 2-0. However, the Cardinals would tie the game in the seventh.

English stole the lead back in the eighth inning as he connected his second long ball of the day. The Miracle also added an insurance run later in the frame. Jermaine Palacios struck out with two outs but reached first base on a wild pitch. Mitchell Kranson singled and Zander Wiel walked to load the bases. Davis singled to drive in a run before Kranson was thrown out at home.

Cody Stashak scattered four hits over six strong innings. He allowed two earned runs and struck out two while walking a pair. Andrew Vasquez pitched a scoreless seventh as he has yet to allow a run since being promoted to High-A (14.2 IP). Tom Hackimer picked up his second win as he pitched two perfect innings with a pair of strikeouts.

KERNELS NUGGETS 
Cedar Rapids 2, Peoria 1
Box Score
The Kernels found themselves in an early 1-0 hole after Anthony Marzi allowed back to back singles and a sacrifice fly. He did not allow any hits in his final five frames and face one batter over the minimum in that stretch.. His final line read seven innings with six strikeouts and one walk. Ryan Mason and Colton Davis each saw one base runner reach but they put up zeros to complete the win.

Peoria's lead wouldn't last for long. Aaron Whitefield tied the game with his tenth home run of the season. Things got crazy in the seventh. Gorge Munoz struck out but advanced to second on a wild pitch and a throwing error by the pitcher. Christian Cavaness hit a sacrifice bunt and the pitcher committed another error to put runners on the corners. Whitefield drove in the winning run on a sacrifice fly.

Cedar Rapids picked up their season-high-tying fourth consecutive victory and have a chance to sweep this four-game series on Monday afternoon.

E-TWINS E-NOTES
Elizabethton 1, Johnson City 2
Box Score
The E-Twins out hit the Cardinals six to three but Elizabethton left five runners on base and went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Edwar Colina was outstanding over seven shutout inning. He struck out eight, walked one, and allowed two hits. Jared Finkel took the tough luck loss. A passed ball by Rainis Silva and a Finkel throwing error allowed two unearned runs to score.

Brent Rooker started the seventh with a single. Rooker would come around to score after Shane Carrier reached on a fielding error by the third baseman. That was the end of the scoring for the E-Twins. Batters two through four in the line-up all struck out multiple times and no batter managed more than one hit. TJ Dixon reached base twice in three plate appearances.

TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY
Pitcher of the Day – Edwar Colina, Elizabethton Twins (7 IP, 0 ER, 8 K, 1 BB, 2 H)
Hitter of the Day – Mitch Garver, Rochester Red Wings (3-for-5, 3 HR, 4 RBI, 3 R)


MONDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS
Rochester - Scheduled Off Day
Chattanooga @ Pensacola (6:35 CST) - TBD
Fort Myers @ Palm Beach (6:05 CST) - RHP Sean Poppin (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Cedar Rapids vs. Peoria (12:05 CST) - RHP Eduardo Del Rosario (7-4, 4.69 ERA)
Elizabethton vs. Johnson City (6:00 CST) - RHP Huascar Ynoa (0-1, 2.57 ERA)
GCL Twins @ GCL Orioles (11:00 am CST)- TBD

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

Friday, June 30, 2017

Get To Know: Felix Jorge

Photo Credit: Seth Stohs, Twins Daily
Felix Jorge will be making his big league debut on Saturday but he's probably a name that isn't familiar to a lot of fans. The 23-year old right-handed pitcher has been in the Twins organization since 2011 when he signed out of the Dominican Republic. I recently named him the ninth best prospect in the Twins organization. As with any pitching prospect, there have been some ups and downs during the professional tenure of Mr. Jorge.

Before he makes his big league debut, here's your opportunity to get to know Felix Jorge.

Rookie Leagues
Jorge made his professional debut as a 17-year old in the Dominican Summer League. In nine appearances (five starts), he allowed eight earned runs (2.67 ERA) with 26 strikeouts and nine walks. He'd come stateside in 2012 and pitch for the GCL Twins. Across 34.2 innings, he allowed nine earned runs while improving his SO/9 from 8.7 to 9.6. He moved up the ladder again in 2013 as he headed to Elizabethton where he combined for a 2-2 record with a 2.95 ERA. Jorge was establishing himself as one of the Twins' top pitching prospects.

2014 Struggles
The Twins organization continued to be aggressive with Jorge to start the 2014 campaign. He was sent to Cedar Rapids to start the season and he struggled for the first time in his professional career. Jorge was knocked around for 39 runs in 39 innings including nine home runs. The Kernels tried to move him to the bullpen to find some success but even that plan didn't work. By the end of May, he was sent back to extended spring training with plenty of question marks surrounding his future.

Bouncing Back
It would be an understatement to say Jorge bounced back strongly from his early season struggles. Jorge finally had something click when he returned to Elizabethton for the second-half of the 2014 campaign. He would be named the Appalachian League Pitcher of the Year as he went 4-2 with a 2.59 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. He posted a 61 to 14 strikeout to walk ratio over 66 innings. From this point forward, Jorge would become the most consistent starting pitcher in the Twins organization.

During the 2015 campaign, Jorge would spend the entire season at Cedar Rapids, the site of his biggest professional failure. While being almost a year younger than the competition, he posted a 2.79 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. He posted career highs in innings pitched (142), strikeouts (114), wins (6), and starts (22).

Upper Minors
The 2016 season saw him take the next step as he split time between High-A and Double-A. Through his first seven starts, he posted a 2.00 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 45.0 IP. From May 26-July 5, he reeled off seven straight victories while averaging over six innings per start. During this stretch, he had a 1.13 ERA and held opponents to a .549 OPS. His impressive stretch meant he was named the starter for the FSL South Division All-Stars. His first six starts at Double-A saw him post an ERA north of 5.00. From there, he settled in with a 3.16 ERA while averaging more than seven innings per start in his last five appearances.

Jorge was added to the 40-man roster leading into the 2017 season. This is one of the reasons he will be making a start on Saturday as the Twins needed someone to make a spot start. However, he has been doing well in his second stint at Double-A. Through 14 starts, he has a 3.26 ERA and a 61 to 22 strikeout to walk ratio. His eight wins are the second most in the entire Southern League.

Scouting Report
The Twins list Jorge at 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds so he doesn't exactly look overpowering on the mound. He can hit in the low 90s with his fastball which can surprise some hitters because of his size. He doesn't strikeout a lot of batters but he always stays around the zone. Jorge prefers to pitch in the lower half of the zone so he can coax ground balls from the batters. He also uses a change up and a late-breaking slider to help him get some more ground ball outs. Overall, the hope would be that he can develop into a mid-rotation starter that can help the Twins as they fight their way back into contention.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Twins International Signing Period Preview

Photo Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Baseball's July 2 international signing date is quickly approaching and this signing period can be one of the most valuable ways for organizations to add talent. These players can sign for big bonuses but they are signed at age-16 compared to older ages for MLB's domestic draft.

Fans need to look no further than the current Twins roster to see valuable international pieces. Miguel Sano and Max Kepler were both signed in 2009 as part of the international signing period. Jorge Polanco is another starter who signed from the international market. Other top prospects like Fernando Romero, Felix Jorge, and Engelb Vielma were international signees and they each are already on the 40-man roster.

Overview of the Class
Many national entities feel like the 2017 international signing class is very strong with two strong players at the top, Wander Franco and Daniel Flores. Baseball America said this about the class, "While there are 5-10 players who emerge among the elite prospects in a signing class, the 2017 group has strong depth of top-end talent. Any of the players in the top 15 could fit into a top five in many years.

Hard Cap Era
Baseball has been tightening its rules when it comes to signing players. This year will mark the beginning of the hard cap era for international signings. The majority of teams have a bonus pool of $4.75 million while smaller market clubs, like the Twins, get either $5.25 million or $5.75 million. Even with this hard cap, clubs are able to trade for up to 75 percent of their original poll allotment and they can trade away all of their pool.

Minnesota has $5.25 million allotted for players in their bonus pool which means only eight clubs can currently spend more than the Twins. Eleven teams are currently under penalty for exceeding their bonus pools in previous signing periods. This means they are prohibited from signing any player for more than $300,000 during this season's international signing period.

Twins Focus
Switch-hitting shortstop Jelfrey Marte is expected to get a majority of the Twins' allotment pool. He has been linked to the Twins since this winter and he is expected to get a signing bonus around $3 million. Other sources told the Pioneer Press that a deal was "not done yet" but he should get over $2 million as a bonus.

Marte is one of the top ranking Dominican shortstops in the class. Baseball America has him as the 13th overall international prospect in this signing class and the fifth best Dominican shortstop. MLB.com has a much higher view of Marte as he ranks third in their overall rankings. The only shortstop to rank higher than Marte on this list is Wander Franco who is considered the best player in the class.

MLB.com offers some strong support for Marte. "He's a good runner with quick hands, a strong arm and the defensive tools that could make him an everyday shortstop one day. Scouts also like Marte's footwork, his polished actions and his range to both sides. On the offensive side, "Marte makes consistent hard contact from both sides of the plate. He has shown good bat speed and a solid approach. What's more, Marte is a line-drive hitter now but he could develop some pop as he grows and his body matures."

According to Darren Wolfson, another name to watch is Venezuelan outfielder Carlos Aguiar. Baseball America has him as the 30th best prospect in the class while MLB.com didn't have him in their top-30. There will be other names as well but the Twins will likely use most of their bonus pool on Marte and Aguiar.

Will the Twins trade for some more bonus pool space? What are your thoughts on Marte and Aguiar? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Need For Speed

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Until recently, speed was a hard to quantify when it came to scouting players. Timers can be used to see how fast a player gets down the first baseline or how fast a player moves around the bases on a hit into the gap. Some scouting of speed was based on the eye-test because most scouts can look at a player and be able to tell if they are fast.

Earlier this season, I delved into some of MLB's new StatCast data. Thing like launch angle and exit velocity are becoming common place in the baseball lexicon. With increases in technology, StatCast continues to evolve and they have added a baserunning sprint speed component.

Fans know Byron Buxton is fast but how well does he rank compared to the rest of baseball. What other players run well for the Twins? Who is below the league average? 

Sprint speed is Statcast's foot speed metric, defined as "feet per second in a player's fastest one-second window." The Major League average on a "max effort" play is 27 ft/sec, and the max effort range is roughly 23 ft/sec (poor) to 30 ft/sec (elite). A player must have at least 10 max effort runs to qualify for the leaderboard. 

Elite
Byron Buxton is the lone Twins player who is elite. In fact, only Billy Hamilton ranks faster than him at the big league level. Buxton's average speed on a max effort play is 29.9 ft/sec while Hamilton clocks in at 31.1 ft/sec. Bradley Zimmer is only 0.1 ft/sec behind Buxton while the average for all center fielders is 28.2 ft/sec, the highest mark for any position. Earlier this season, Buxton made it to third in 10.73 seconds. Buxton also had an inside-the-park home run last season that clocked in at just over 14 seconds.

Above Average
Besides Buxton, three other Twins rank highly at their positions. Max Kepler ranks fifth among qualified right fielders with a 28.1 ft/sec sprint speed. He is only 0.2 ft/sec behind the right field leaders, Daniel Robertson and Ben Gamel. While Eduardo Escobar hasn't been the Twins regular third baseman, he ranks as the second fastest runner (28.0 ft/sec) behind Kris Bryant (28.2 ft/sec). Only two regular designated hitters rank above average, the Twins' Robbie Grossman and the Rays' Corey Dickerson. Grossman's 27.5 ft/sec mark is currently 0.3 ft/sec behind Dickerson.

Jorge Polanco is in the top-10 for shortstops but his 28.1 sprint speed is almost a full foot per second behind leader Trea Turner. Among left fielders, Rosario ranks in the top-20 with a 28.0 sprint speed but he ranks behind former Twins Ben Revere and Danny Santana at his position. Brian Dozier sits on the edge of the top-10 among second basemen but he is over 1.5 ft/sec behind the Marlins' Dee Gordon.

Below Average
Five Twins regulars sit below average on the sprint speed scale. Miguel Sano and Joe Mauer are the closest to reaching leave average speed. There are only five first basemen who are above average and Mauer is 0.4 ft/sec from joining that group. Sano has been faster than Mauer this season (26.8 ft/sec) and he is sandwiched in the rankings between former Twin Trevor Plouffe and the Rockies' Noaln Arenado.

Only six designated hitters rank lower than Kennys Vargas. His 25.9 ft/sec is tied for the slowest on the Twins. While Jason Castro ties Vargas in this category, he actually sits in the middle of the pack when compared to the other catchers in the league. Ehire Adrianza ranks as the fourth slowest shortstop with only JJ Hardy, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Troy Tulowitzki being slower.

Who's ranking surprised you? Did anyone not meet your expectations? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Searching For Relief

Photo Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
"The two most important things in life are good friends and a strong bullpen."--- Bob Lemon, Hall of Fame Pitcher

The Twins bullpen would hardly be called strong this season. In fact, Minnesota's relief core has been somewhat of a revolving door with a well-worn path between Rochester and Target Field. As Nick wrote about on Monday, Brandon Kintzler might be the bullpen's unlikely hero but the team is going to need some second-half help to stay in contention.

Are there internal options that could be added to the mix? Could any injured players be making a comeback? Who is out there on the trade market? Let's take a look at how the bullpen could be bolstered.

The Injured 
Phil Hughes has been making rehab starts for Rochester and it sounds like he could be joining the Twins as soon as the end of the this week. He will make one more appearance on Wednesday before being activated by the club. In three Triple-A appearances (3 IP), Hughes has allowed one run on three hits with one strikeout and two walks. He wants to contribute this season and the bullpen is his best option since he has some lingering symptoms of the shoulder weakness that caused him to have surgery last season.

While Hughes is close to impacting the Twins, former closer Glen Perkins seems much further away from making a return. Manager Paul Molitor told reporters on Monday that Perkins could resume throwing after he receives a cortisone shot. This shot could come as early as Tuesday but there are no guarantees for Perkins. At this point, it seems like a long-shot for him to make an appearance this season.

The Minors
Ryan Pressly has struggled in his big league time this season by posting an 8.18 ERA with a 1.41 WHIP. In five Triple-A appearances (8 IP), he has yet to allow a run while converting all three save opportunities. He has given up more walks (3) than hits (2) to go along with 12 strikeouts and a .080 opponents' batting average. Those numbers might be tough for the front office to ignore.

Michael Tonkin and John Curtiss are two other names to watch in the second-half. Like Pressly, Tonkin has struggled during his big league action this season. He has a 6.55 ERA and a 13 to 10 strikeout to walk ratio over 11 innings. With Rochester, he's posted a 2.81 ERA and a 23 to 9 strikeout to walk ratio. Curtiss was dominating as Chattanooga's closer before being promoted to Triple-A. For the season, he has allowed two earned runs (0.99 ERA) with 38 strikeouts over 27.1 innings.

The Reunion Possibilities
Former fan favorite Pat Neshek is currently on a bad Philadelphia team and his name has already be surfacing in trade rumors. The side-winding hurler has a 0.59 ERA to go along with a 0.783 WHIP that would be attractive to any team in contention. He is in the final year of a three-year contract so he will be a free agent at season's end. This makes it hard for a team to surrender multiple prospects for player who will only make a handful of appearances during the stretch run.

Another former Twin, Anthony Swarzak has been performing very well out of the White Sox bullpen. His 2.94 ERA is his best mark since 2013 with the Twins. Swarzak has also been posting SO/9 rate higher than his career average with a career-best 1.10 WHIP. Like Neshek, he will be a free agent at the end of the season so trading multiple prospects probably doesn't make sense. He's also currently plays on a division rival so that can make a trade less likely.

Other options are available and it still remains to be seen how the new front office regime will handle the trade deadline. Do they want to go all-in on a club that is surprisingly in the playoff hunt? How do you think the front office should sort through the second-half bullpen options? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Twins Minor League Report (6/25): Romero Rocks, E-Twins Roll

Photo Credit: Seth Stohs, Twins Daily
This time of year can get very busy in the Twins farm system. The rookie league teams are starting to get up and running while the full-season affiliates have shifted into second-half mode. New playoff spots are on the line and players have a lot to prove in the months ahead.

After a plethora of roster moves over the last week, there are plenty of new faces in new places that are trying to make their mark. Whose Sunday performance got them closer to a call-up?

RED WINGS REPORT
Rochester 7, Lehigh Valley 4
Box Score

Lehigh Valley has been the cream of the crop in the International League this season. In fact, the Red Wings were looking to avoid their 10th straight series loss to the IronPigs. Rochester pounced early as Zack Granite lead off the bottom of the first with his third home run of the season. Mitch Garver followed with a double and he moved to third on a JB Shuck single. Matt Hague grounded into a double play but Rochester still took a 2-0 lead. 

Red Wings' starter Tim Melville ran into a little bit of trouble in the third. The first two batters reached on a hit by pitch and a walk before a three-run bomb gave Lehigh Valley the lead. Melville would settle in from there and toss five frames by scattering four hits. He struck out six and walked two. Phil Hughes made his third rehab appearance and allowed his first earned run, a solo home run. Drew Rucinski tossed two perfect innings while striking out two. Michael Tonkin earned his second save as he struck out the side in the ninth. 

Rochester took the lead in the fourth inning. Matt Hague and ByungHo Park both doubled to start the frame. Niko Goodrum drove in Park with a single before coming around to score on a Leonardo Reginatto double. The Red Wings were up 5-3. In the seventh inning, Hague drove in two important runs with his sixth home run of the season to cap off the Rochester victory. 

CHATTANOOGA CHATTER
Chattanooga 6, Pensacola 0 (Game 1- 7 Innings)

Box Score 
Dereck Rodriguez was rocking in this game as he picked up his first Double-A victory. In six innings of work, he allowed two hits while striking out six and walking two. There was only one time he faced a batter with a runner in scoring position.  Paul Clemens made things a little interesting in the seventh as he allowed a walk and a hit but he struck out the side to finish the game.

Travis Harrison put the Lookouts on the board with a solo home run to start the second inning. In the fourth inning, LaMonte Wade came up with a huge two-out single with the bases loaded to score a pair of runs. Andy Wilkins started the next inning with a double and Brain Navarreto had to use a two-out single to score Wilkins from third. Wilkins would drive in another run in the sixth. Edgar Corcino walked and Wade walked before Wilkins brought them both home. Corcino reached base in all four plate appearances. Wilkins finished with a three hit night.

Chattanooga 6, Pensacola 0 (Game 2- 7 Innings)
Box Score
After only needing one relief pitcher in the first game of the day, Fernando Romero made sure the Lookouts could avoid using the bullpen in this one. He was masterful over seven shutout innings as he struck out six and walked three. The Blue Wahoos only managed three hits and went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. Romero hasn't lost a game since the middle of May and he has pitched into the sixth inning in five straight appearances.

Nick Gordon got things going in the first as he lead off with a single. TJ White bring him home with a two-out hit. Travis Harrison created a run by himself in the second. He doubled, stole second, and then scored on a throwing error. In the third frame, Wade singled and Wilkins walked before Levi Michael cracked his eighth double. Gordon and Harrison each reached base three times in the winning effort. Alex Perez went 3-for-3.

MIRACLE MATTERS 
Fort Myers 8, Florida 3
Box Score
The Miracle pounded out 13 hits including a four-hit night from Max Murphy on their way to an 8-3 victory. Jaylin Davis and Mitchell Kranson each had multi-hit games with Kranson recording his first double. Tanner English reached base three times including a triple. In the fourth, Jermaine Palacios recorded his first FSL RBI with a sac-fly to right. Nelson Monlina was the lone batter in the line-up that failed to record a hit.

Anthony McIver was credited with his second win after he allowed three runs on six hits with four strikeouts. Keaton Steele took over for McIver and tossed two scoreless frames. David Fischer and Andrew Vasquez combined for two more scoreless innings as Vasquez struck out all three batters in the final frame.

The Miracle have an off-day Monday before the start of a seven-game homestand. Mets farmhand Tim Tebow was recently promoted to St. Lucie and the Miracle have four-games against his squad starting next Friday. Stay tuned...

KERNELS NUGGETS 
Cedar Rapids 6, Quad Cities 2
Box Score
The Kernels used a strong start from Clark Beeker and some timely hitting to come out on top in this one. Beeker pitched into the sixth inning as he allowed one run on six hits. As part of his team-high seventh win, he struck out two and walked none. Max Cordy took over for Beeker and pitched 2.1 innings as he allowed one unearned run. He didn't surrender a hit but he walked three batters and struck out two. Hector Lujan pitched a scoreless ninth with a strikeout.

With two outs in the first, Travis Blankenhorn singled before a Amaurys Minier double to stake Cedar Rapids to an early 1-0 lead. Caleb Hamilton and Ben Rortvedt cracked back-to-back homers to start the fourth frame. In the seventh inning with two outs, Rortvedt would double in another run. Hank Morrison capped the scoring with a single to post a final score of 6-2.

Minier reached base three times in six plate appearances. Christian Cavaness, Rortvedt, and Morrison all had multi-hit games. The Kernels are now eight-games over .500 on the season.

E-TWINS E-NOTES
Elizabethton 12, Pulaski 3
Box Score
The E-Twins compiled four three-run innings to blowout the Yankees. After trailing 1-0 early, Andrew Cosgrove singled to drive in a run and Jordan Gore doubled to plate two more. The fifth inning was the power inning as Matt Contreras and Brent Rooker both homered to extend the lead to 6-1.  Contreras drove in another run with a bases loaded single in the sixth. Carson Crites added a two-run double as the three-run inning streak continued. Six E-Twins batters had multi-hit nights lead by Gore as he went 3-for-4 with two doubles.

Melvi Acosta earned his first victory of the season. He scatted five hits over five innings while allowing three runs with five strikeouts. Jovani Moran was stellar in relief as he tossed three scoreless innings with six strikeouts and no walks. Juan Gamez finished with a scoreless ninth.

TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY
Pitcher of the Day – Fernando Romero, Chattanooga Lookouts (CG, 7 IP, 0 ER, 6 K, 3 BB, 3 H)
Hitter of the Day – Max Murphy, Fort Myers Miracle (4-for-5, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI)


MONDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS
Rochester @ Buffalo (4:35 CST) - LHP David Hurlbut (4-4, 3.36 ERA)
Rochester @ Buffalo (Game 2) - RHP Aaron Slegers (6-4, 4.11 ERA)
Chattanooga vs. Pensacola (6:15 CST) -  RHP Randy LeBlanc (2-2 5.35 ERA)
Fort Myers - Scheduled Off-Day

Cedar Rapids vs. Burlington (6:35 CST) - RHP Tyler Wells (4-1 1.89 ERA)
Elizabethton vs. Pulaski (6:00 CST) - RHP Griffen Jax (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
GCL Twins vs. GCL Orioles (11:00 am CST)- TBD

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Cody's Post-Draft Top 10 Prospects: 1-5

Photo Credit: Seth Stohs, Twins Daily
In the aftermath this year's MLB Draft, it can be fun to reevaluate where an organization stacks up in the prospect department.  For better or worse, franchises can make it or break it with their selections in the draft. It's also important for teams to be able to build from within to help manage the bottom line.

Minnesota's top prospect list is littered with players drafted highly over the last handful of years. Players like Nick Gordon, Tyler Jay, and Kohl Stewart have all been taken with first round picks. Ideally, these players will form the nucleus of Minnesota's next championship winning club.

On Tuesday, I ran through the first half of my top-10 prospect list. Today I shift my focus to the top-5. Who's going to be number 1?

5. Alex Kirilloff, OF, 19-- Highest Level: Rookie
Preseason Rank: 4
Minnesota's first round pick in 2016, Kirilloff will miss all of 2017 after having Tommy John surgery. The Twins drafted him highly because of his ability to hit. He did that last year in his first taste of professional action. His batting average was over .300 with a nearly .800 OPS. Miguel Sano has been another big name Twins prospect to undergo Tommy John and he hasn't shown an ill-effects from the procedure. Kirilloff will be 20-years old before he gets back on the field. He will need to show he can continue to hit and the Twins will need to be aggressive with him when he returns to action.

4. Fernando Romero, RHP-- Highest Level: Double-A
Preseason Rank: 3
Romero is in the midst of a very important season. With a year under his belt since Tommy John surgery, he is sneaking into the Twins' long-term plans. With his big fastball and off-speed offerings, he has all the assets to be a front-line starter. He posted strong numbers last season at Low- and High-A but the transition to Double-A has come with some bumps. His ERA is over 3.00 and he has a WHIP north of 1.30. He's struck out 70 in 71.2 innings pitched so he will need to continue to improve his peripheral numbers as he gets closer to the big leagues. Romero might have the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the Twins system but he needs to prove he can stick as a starter. Otherwise, he could be destined for the bullpen.

3. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, 22-- Highest Level: Double-A
Preseason Rank: 2
Gonsalves hasn't done anything wrong to move him down my list. It's hard to ignore the talent of the players listed in front of him. After some rough moments in the Arizona Fall League, Gonsalves has gotten back on track to start the 2017 campaign. He has an eye-popping 0.912 WHIP which would be his lowest total in any season. His 11.1 SO/9 would be his highest total with any full-season affiliate. He's also walking fewer batters which might signal that the 22-year old is putting it all together. He has dealt with a left-shoulder issue which has kept him out of action in the AFL and at the beginning of this season. If he continues to put up strong numbers, there's no reason he shouldn't make his Target Field debut this season.

2. Royce Lewis, SS, 18-- Highest Level: High-School
Preseason Rank: N/A
It's might seem odd not to put the Twins newly minted top draft pick at the top of a prospect list. Lewis was the first overall selection but there are a few factors that go into his placement on this list. First of all, Lewis wasn't considered the best draft prospect on every draft list compiled before the draft. He is a very raw prospect with all the tools to be a superstar. However, it will be multiple years before the Twins know if they struck gold. Lewis will start in the rookie leagues and he needs to prove he can stick at shortstop over other prospects currently in the Twins system. Some believe he will need to be shifted to the outfield, a position where he has shown some promise in the past. Lewis might dominate the rookie leagues this season and force his way to the top of the Twins prospect list but he isn't there yet.

1. Nick Gordon, SS, 21-- Highest Level: Double-A
Preseason Rank: 1
In almost any other organization, Lewis would be a team's top prospect. However, Gordon is destroying baseballs this season. He is over three years younger than the competition in the Southern League and he's hitting .315/.376/.504. Gordon has hit more home runs this season than his first three season's combined. Since Engelb Vielma has moved to Rochester, Gordon has played shortstop on a regular basis. He's gotten a taste of second base but the organization seems committed to giving him as many opportunities as possible to succeed at shortstop. Like his brother, he might need to eventually move away from shortstop but his bat is better than even the Twins might have imagined when they drafted him. He's a strong top prospect and he could be a regular in the Twins line-up as soon as next season.

There you have my top-10 Twins prospects following the 2017 MLB Draft. Who did I miss? Who ranks too high? Who ranks too low? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Cody's Post-Draft Top Prospects: 6-10

In the aftermath this year's MLB Draft, it can be fun to reevaluate where an organization stacks up in the prospect department.  For better or worse, franchises can make it or break it with their selections in the draft. It's also important for teams to be able to build from within to help manage the bottom line.

Minnesota's top prospect list is littered with players drafted highly over the last handful of years. Players like Nick Gordon, Tyler Jay, and Kohl Stewart have all been taken with first round picks. Ideally, these players will form the nucleus of Minnesota's next championship winning club.

The Twins took Royce Lewis with the first overall pick. Where will he fall in the team's top prospects?

10. Daniel Palka, OF, 25-- Current Level: Triple-A
Preseason Rank: 12
Palka hasn't been hitting for as much power as his first season in the Twins organization. However, he has lowered his Triple-A strikeout percentage from 38.6% last year to 24.6% in 2017. The Twins added him to the 40-man roster this off-season so he could have been a call away from making his big league debut. Unfortunately, he broke his left index finger at the end of April which will keep him on the DL for a chunk of this season. His potential continues to be high but he is going to have to come back strong from this injury and fight his way on to the 2017 Twins roster.

9. Felix Jorge, RHP, 23-- Current Level: Double-A
Preseason Rank: 10
Like Palka, Jorge was added to the Twins 40-man roster this past off-season. As a 23-year old, he is over a year younger than the competition in the Southern League. He's off to a tremendous start with an 8-1 record and the Lookouts have gone 12-1 in games he has started this season. Jorge isn't overpowering but he finds a way to get outs. Last year at Double-A, he posted a 3.9 SO/9 and he has improved that number to 6.2 in 2017. He's struck out over 100 batters in back-to-back seasons while being younger than the competition. Jorge might not be a front-line starter but he could settle into a very important pitching role on a future Twins roster.

8. Tyler Jay, LHP, 23-- Highest Level: Double-A
Preseason Rank: 5
One of the most disappointing stories out of spring training this year was the Twins deciding to move Tyler Jay to the bullpen. When the Twins took Jay with a top-10 pick, they were hoping to shift him from the bullpen to a starting pitcher. There were some ups and downs during his first two professional seasons and it sounds like both Jay and the new Twins front office felt like this was the best decision. He's only made a couple appearances this season as he has dealt with bicep tendinitis. Baseball bullpens are evolving with players no longer being limited to one inning or one batter. Jay could develop into a late inning weapon much like Cleveland's Andrew Miller.

7. Lewin Diaz, 1B, 20-- Highest Level: Low-A
Preseason Rank: 9
Diaz is making his mark during his first taste of full-season action. Even though he's over a year younger than the competition in the Midwest League, Diaz is hitting .271/.314/.446 with a career-high 21 doubles. Even though he is a power-hitter, he has been able to control his strikeout numbers with 45 strikeouts in 274 plate appearances. Defense will never be his calling card but he can make the plays he needs to make at first base. While there might be some defensive struggles, Diaz has the bat to impact the game. The Kernels clinched a first-half playoff spot on Sunday and Diaz was one of the main cogs leading them to the postseason.

6. Wander Javier, SS, 18- Highest Level: Dominican Summer League
Preseason Rank: 7
In July of 2015, Javier made a splash when the Twins signed him for $4 million dollars. He was limited to nine game during the 2016 season as he dealt with hamstring issues. This still didn't stop him from hitting .308/.400/.654 with five of his eight hits being for extra bases. With the addition of first overall pick Royce Lewis, it will be interesting to see how at-bats are handled to start the year in the GCL. Both Javier and Lewis will need repetitions but who will be able to standout above the crowd. All of the tools are there for Javier and he will need to showcase them this season as the Twins shortstop picture is starting to fill-up in the minor leagues.

How would your rankings look? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Twins Minor League Report (6/18): Kernels Clinch

Happy Father's Day to all the dads, grandpas, and great-grandpas across Twins Territory. Baseball can be quite the bonding experience for fathers and sons. This bond is passed down through the generations.

My dad worked many long days as a UPS driver for over 30 years. I still remember waiting up for him to get home so we could play catch. He'd schedule his breaks so he could show up in his brown work uniform to play in the father-son baseball game. He took me to my first Twins game where I got to watch Kirby Puckett, the man I thought was a hero.

It turns out the hero was the man who brought me to the game. The man who didn't have to play catch with me when he got home after a long work day. The man who didn't have to take his breaks so he could play in a kid's baseball game. These are the memories that stick with a person as other memories fade away.

Thank you, dad!

RED WINGS REPORT
Rochester 3, Pawtucket 2 (Game 1- 8 Innings)
Box Score

Rochester scored in each of the first two frames to take an early 2-0 lead. After a Matt Hague walk, singles from Mitch Garver and ByungHo Park plated the first run. JB Shuck was hit by a pitch to start the second. Bengie Gonzalez and Engelb Vielma were walked to load the bases. Zach Granite singled to push the score to 2-0 with no outs. Unfortunately, the Red Wings would only score one with the bases loaded and no outs. 

Chris Heston started and allowed two earned runs on seven hits with a strikeout. Drew Rucinski didn't allow a run in two innings. Michael Tonkin picked up his second win after striking out four of the six batters he faced to end the game. 

Seven innings wasn't enough to decide the first game of the doubleheader. Lucky enough for Rochester fans, Matt Hague didn't wait long into extra-frames. He lead-off the top of the eighth inning with his fifth home run of the season which turned out to be the game-winning knock. 

Rochester 2, Pawtucket 1 (Game 2- 7 Innings)
Box Score

Rochester found themselves in an early 1-0 hole but that's where the scoring would stop for the Red Sox. Tim Melville, in his second start with Rochester, pitched five innings and allowed one run. He danced around four walks and three hits but struck out four on the way to his first win. Trevor Hildenberger picked up save number five with two scoreless frames including three strikeouts. 

JB Shuck started the third with a double, his 15th on the season. Bengie Gonzlez was the next batter and he reached on a throwing error which allowed Shuck to score. In the top of the fifth, Tommy Field singled and scored on a single from Shuck. The play included two errors from the Red Sox outfield so neither of the runs scored by Rochester were earned. 

With two wins on Sunday, Rochester is now just one game under .500 at 32-33 on the season. They are 11 games out of first place in the International League North but they are only eight games back in the Wild Card race with plenty of baseball left to play. 

CHATTANOOGA CHATTER
Chattanooga 10, Tennessee 2

Box Score 
Chattanooga pounded out 12 hits and 10 runs on their way to the club's 42nd win this season. With the game tied at 1-1 in the top of the fourth, the Lookouts plated four runs. Ryan Walker started the inning with a single and moved to third on Nick Gordon's second double of the game. Levi Michael drove in one with a ground-out before LaMonte Wade added a run-scoring single. Wade stole second in front of an Andy Wilkins double. Then Dan Gamache doubled to bring in Wilkins and cap the four-run inning.

TJ White would break the game open in the seventh inning with a three-run home run. It was his third homer of the season. Nick Gordon finished 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles and three runs scored. Wade, Wilkins, and Walker all had multi-hit games.

Paul Clemens was able to put the game on cruise control to improve to 2-0 with the Lookouts. He scattered five hits over five innings while adding a strikeout and a walk. Alex Muren struck out two in two innings but did allow a solo home run. Todd Van Steensel pitched two scoreless innings to finish the contest which lowered his ERA to 1.93.

KERNELS NUGGETS 
Cedar Rapids 16, Clinton 3
Box Score
With a chance to clinch a playoff spot on Sunday, the Kernels made quick work of the LumberKings. Cedar Rapids sent 13 men to the plate in the first inning on their way to scoring nine runs. Travis Blankenhorn scored twice in the frame including a two-run home run. Lewin Diaz added a two-run single and Christian Cavaness brought home two with a triple. The Kernels added to their lead in the second with an Aaron Whitefield two-run home run and a run scoring single from Blankenhorn. Their 12-0 lead was more than enough for the pitching staff.

Whitefield finished with a career-high five runs batted in. Ben Rortvedt connected for his first career home run as part of a three hit game. Blankenhorn went 4-for-5 with a home run, two runs scored, and three RBI. Every batter in the Kernels' starting line-up reached base.

Max Cordy pitched into the fourth inning and allowed one run on three hits with four strikeouts and two walks. Alex Robinson was credited with the win. He tossed 2.1 scoreless innings with a strikeout and a walk. Logan Lombana allowed a pair of runs in one inning. Patrick McGuff finished off the game with two scoreless frames including two strikeouts.

The Kernels qualified for the Midwest League playoffs for the fifth year in a row and secured the longest playoff streak in Cedar Rapids professional baseball history.

TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY
Pitcher of the Day – Michael Tonkin, Rochester Red Wings (2 IP, 4 K, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB)
Hitter of the Day – Travis Blankenhorn, Cedar Rapids Kernels (4-for-5, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI)


MONDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS
Rochester vs. Buffalo (6:05 CST) - TBD
Chattanooga - Scheduled Off-Day
Fort Myers @ Jupiter (5:30 CST) - TBD

Cedar Rapids - Scheduled Off-Day

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