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.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Twins Causing Trouble With The Curve

Photo Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Baseball teams always looking for pitchers who can light up the radar gun. However, in recent years there has been a resurgence in pitchers utilizing the curveball. Pitchers like Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, and Jake Arrieta have been dominant because of their off-speed offering. Even young pitchers like Lance McCullers have relied on the curveball to be effective.

Minnesota has been home to some of the greatest curveball throwers in history. Now, the Twins have their own core of pitchers utilizing one of baseball's oldest pitches. As the curveball makes a comeback, can the Twins cause some trouble with the curve?

Berrios Riding The Curve
It's no secret that Berrios struggled during his rookie campaign. In 14 starts, he allowed 12 home runs and posted an 8.02 ERA. Things have turned around this season as he has an impressive 2.84 ERA while having a higher strikeout rate and walking fewer batters. Something has clicked for the young pitcher and his curveball might be one of the reasons for the dramatic turnaround.

During the 2016 campaign, Berrios threw his curveball 21.6% of the time. He was consistently falling behind batters and this meant he couldn't turn to his off-speed offerings. So far this season, he has been able to use his curveball almost 30% of the time. This pitch can continue to be a weapon if he can stay ahead of batters and avoid fastball counts.

Berrios isn't the only Twins pitcher taking advantage of the curve.

Twirling Relief Trio
Minnesota ranks in the top-10 for curveball usage this season and only four AL teams have a higher curveball percentage. Tyler Duffey, Buddy Boshers, and Taylor Rogers have all used their curveball for close to a third of their pitches. Duffey has been one of Minnesota's best relief options this season as he's posted career best marks in SO/9, WHIP, and ERA. In his first season as a relief pitcher, he has seen his fast ball velocity increase by almost two miles per hour which helps to set-up his off-speed offerings.

Rogers has also seen an improvement in some of his peripheral numbers while being used in some late inning situations. Boshers has spent the majority of the season at Rochester. However, he struck out nearly nine batters per nine innings at Triple-A and has a spiffy 0.818 WHIP in his time with the Twins.

This trio along with Berrios are following some of the best curveballs in history.

Minnesota's Curveball History
Two of the most feared curveball pitchers in history have worn Minnesota Twins jerseys. Camilo Pascual started his career as a 20-year old with the Washington Senators. When the Twins moved to Minnesota, Pascual was in the midst of four-straight All-Star seasons. He'd lead the AL in WAR in 1959 and 1962.

Ted Williams, who is considered one of the game's greatest hitters, had high praise for Pascual. "He had the best curveball I ever saw. You could hear it." He went on to say it sounded like ripping silk and that Pascual "had the most feared curveball in the American League for 18 years." Besides Williams' praise, fellow Hall of Fame hitter Al Kaline said, "Pascual's curveball was big, sharp and fast. Most players couldn't hit it."

While Pascual was terrific, Bert Blyleven rode his curveball all the way to the Hall of Fame. He had nine seasons where he was in the top-10 for WAR and he lead the AL in WAR for Pitchers in 1973 and 1981. Jim Palmer said, "I was amazed at how Blyleven's curve seemed to change direction not once, but twice on its way to the plate." Phil Roof, one of Blyleven's catchers, could hear the pitcher's middle finger snap against his palm since he threw his curve with so much force.

The curveball might be back and it could be a key pitch as the Twins fight to stay in contention in the weeks ahead.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

McKay Says No Way

Photo Credit University of Louisville Sports Information
Yesterday became a whirlwind as the hours and minutes counted down to the Twins making the first overall selection. No experts or reporters were able to crack the Twins front office and figure out who the club would be taking at the top of the draft. It really did feel like it was coming down to the wire.

Eventually, the Twins decided on prep shortstop Royce Lewis. He wasn't the highest ranked prospect on many draft boards so why did he end up in Minnesota? Did the Twins have a different plan with the first pick?

Most predictions leading into Monday night had the Twins going after college pitcher/first baseman Brendan McKay. Multiple reports surfaced on Monday that McKay was the target for the Twins but he declined the offer the Twins had on the table. 

McKay would fall to the Tampa Bay Rays with the fourth overall pick. It might have come down to the dollar amount. The assigned value for the first overall pick is $7,770,700 but team's rarely hand out the total amount of that bonus. For the fourth pick, the assigned value was $6,153,600 which is over $1.6 million less than the top spot.

In interviews last night, McKay made it clear that the Twins had approached him with an offer. He said, "They had offered a number that we felt that we could get a better offer from another team." The Twins saved some money on the top pick and wanted to transfer that savings to later picks in the draft. It's just hard to imagine their offer to McKay would have been less than the value of the fourth pick.

Another reasons McKay might have turned down the Twins was his on field position. McKay had told different media outlets that the Twins preferred him as a pitcher. When the Rays called McKay's name, he was announced as a first baseman. He clearly likes playing both positions and there's a possibility that some teams were taking a harder stance on him playing one position over another.

Teams could float the idea of him doing both during his time after he signs. "It could be just for that initial summer," said McKay, "but it'd be fun to be able to do both and see where it takes you." The possibility of a true two-way player could be intriguing but it seems like a very hard path to follow to the big leagues.

No one will ever know what type of conversations happened between the Twins and the top players in the draft. There is a lot of posturing that happens with the top players in the draft. However, the Twins are saying all the right things when it comes to Lewis,

"We see this guy as an impact player on both sides of the ball," Mike Radcliff, Twins vice president of player personnel, said. "He also has a unique ability to impact the clubhouse and the community. This guy gets it. He's got that 'it' factor that a No. 1 pick needs to survive and move forward and have success at the end of the journey. He checked all the boxes for us."

We will never know if the Twins got the top player on their board but it's clear that an offer was made to McKay. Did the Twins miss out on their top pick? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Twins Minor League Report (6/12): Jorge Dominates, Turley Honored

Photo Credit: Seth Stohs, Twins Daily (Felix Jorge)
On a night when big league team's were changing the future of their franchise, three Twins affiliates were continuing to try and secure first half playoff spots. Chattanooga entered play on Monday with a slim half game lead over Tennessee. Montgomery, the Lookouts' opponent on Monday, sits two games behind Chattanooga.

Cedar Rapids is in a similar situation. They enter the final week of the first half with a one game lead over Kane County and a two game lead over Quad Cities. The Kernels start a series in Quad Cities on Tuesday but they can't look past their Monday match-up with Burlington.

Did either team get closer to clinching a playoff birth?

News and Notes: Nik Turley was named International League Pitcher of the Week. The left-handed pitcher struck out a career-high 15 batters over six scoreless innings. He was rewarded for his strong start as he made his MLB debut on Sunday.

CHATTANOOGA CHATTER
Chattanooga 5, Montgomery 0

Box Score
Felix Jorge pitched into the seventh inning for the sixth straight start and he allowed two runs or fewer for the fourth straight appearance. In this game, he pitched seven scoreless frames and limited the Biscuits to three hits. Jorge struck out five and walked two as he lowered his season ERA to 3.00. The Lookouts improved to 11-1 in games started by Jorge this season.

Chattanooga took awhile to get their bats moving in this one. In the top of the fifth, Dan Rohlfing singled before Nick Gordon's 18th double of the season moved him to third. Edgar Corcino would drive in the first run of the game with a one-out single. However, Gordon would end up being stranded ninety feet from home.

When the seventh frame rolled around, the Lookouts scored without recording a hit. Edgar Corcino walked and moved around the bases on a passed ball and two wild pitches. Things opened up in the top of the ninth with two outs. Corcino singled and LaMonte Wade reached on a throwing error that saw both runners move up a base. Jonathan Rodriguez collected a two-run single  and came around to score on a Andy Wilkins double. Two more wild pitches would push across another run and make the score 6-0.

Mason Melotakis struck out the side during a perfect eighth inning. After watching a long top of the ninth, Melotakis allowed a double in the bottom half of the inning, He still managed a pair of strikeouts to end the night with five strikeouts in two innings of work. Tennesse lost for the second straight day so the Lookouts moved to a game and half up in their division.

MIRACLE MATTERS 
Fort Myers --, Charlotte -- (Postponed)
Fort Myers and Charlotte were postponed on Monday. The team's will play a doubleheader on Tuesday starting at 4:30 CST. Each game is scheduled to be seven innings. The Miracle have already been eliminated from first-half playoff contention.

KERNELS NUGGETS 
Cedar Rapids 0, Burlington 1
Box Score
The Kernels were nearly no-hit hit in this contest as an eighth inning single from Travis Blankenhorn was the lone hit. Blankenhorn reached base twice in four plate appearances. Mitchell Kranson drew a pair of walks. Christian Cavaness and Ben Rortvedt also reached base once. Cedar Rapids only had two opportunities to bat with a runner in scorning position.

Tyler wells did his best to keep the game close. He allowed one run on four hits over five innings of work. He struck out eight and walked two. It was his first loss since last August. Ryan Mason and Alex Robinson each pitched two shutout frames with neither walking a batter. Mason struck out one and Robinson struck out two.

Cedar Rapids avoided being no-hit for the first time since May 1, 2015.

TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY
Pitcher of the Day – Felix Jorge, Chattanooga Lookouts (7 IP, 0 ER, 5 K, 2 BB, 3 H)

Hitter of the Day – Andy Wilkins, Chattanooa Lookouts (2-for-5, 2 2B, RBI, R)

TUESDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS
Rochester @ Scranton/WB (5:35 CST) - TBD
Chattanooga @ Montgomery (7:05 CST) - TBD
Fort Myers vs. Charlotte (4:30 CST) - LHP Lewis Thorpe (0-2, 1.38 ERA)

Fort Myers vs. Charlotte (Game 2)- RHP Brady Anderson (2-2, 3.86 ERA)
Cedar Rapids @ Quad Cities (6:35 CST) - RHP Sean Poppen (4-1, 2.63 ERA)

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

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Twins Minor League Report (6/11): Playoff Push

Photo Credit: Seth Stohs, Twins Daily (Max Cordy)
The Twins are less than 24 hours from an influx of talent into their farm system. Obviously, some of these players won't sign right away but this time of year can always pull minor league fans in opposite directions. It's great to add new talent but that also means other players could be out of a job as new players take their place.

It's tough to consider but some players might be in their final days in a Twins uniform. With only three affiliates playing on Sunday, who stood out above the crowd? Read on to find out.

Roster Moves
RHP Nik Turley, contract purchased by Minnesota
LHP Matt Tracy was moved from Chattanooga to Rochester
LHP Randy Rosario was optioned from Minnesota to Chattanooga
RHP Drew Rucinski, designated for assignment
LHP Nick Greenwood, released

RED WINGS REPORT
Rochester 6, Syracuse 5
Box Score

Rochester got their offense moving in the second inning. Niko Goodrum singled to start the frame. ByungHo Park doubled before a J.B. Shuck triple plated a pair of runs. JR Murphy used a sac-fly to push the Rochester lead to 3-0.  In the next inning, Matt Hague walked before a Tommy Field double moved him to third. Park singled and Shuck doubled as each batter drove in a run. 

After Syracuse scored three runs in the top of the fourth, Rochester needed to find someway to answer. Zach Granite started the frame with a double. Mitch Garver moved him to third on a come-backer to the mound. Matt Hague brought him in on a sacrifice fly to extend the lead back to three runs. 

With Nik Turley making his big league debut, Matt Tracy started for Rochester. He went five frames and allowed three runs on six hits. He struck out four and walked two. Trevor Hildenberger ran into some sixth inning trouble as he allowed two runs and the Chiefs were one run away from tying the game. Park, Shuck and Engelb Vielma were all 2-for-4. 

Alan Busenitz and Ryan Pressly pitched two shutout innings to end the game. Busenitz allowed a double, a wild pitch, and a walk before a huge inning ending double play. Pressly struck out the side in the ninth and all three strikeouts were swinging. 

CHATTANOOGA CHATTER
Chattanooga 5, Montgomery 4

Box Score
Chattanooga bounced early on Montgomery's pitching staff. Jonathan Rodriguez and Dan Gamache reached with a walk and a single to start the threat. With two outs, Jose Gonzalez walked to load the bases. A Ryan Walker single brought in the first two runs of the game. Nick Gordon finished the frame with a 2-run triple to put Chattanooga up 4-0. In the next inning, Rodriguez would single and score two batters later on a TJ White single to extend the Lookouts' lead.

Randy LeBlanc had just pitched out of the bullpen three days ago so he was on a short pitch count. He scattered five hits and struck out five through four shutout frames. Raul Fernandez continued posting zeros as he didn't allow a run in two innings while striking out one. From there, things got a little dicey in the bullpen.

Todd Van Steensel allowed a one-out double before a wild pitch moved the runner to third. A sacrifice fly scored Montgomery's first run of the game. Recently returned Randy Rosario ran into some trouble himself. He gave up three singles and a walk but a key strikeout kept the bleeding to one run. 

Jake Reed entered the ninth with a three run lead and he'd need everyone of them. He walked two of the first four batters before a double cut the lead to 5-3. During the next at-bat, Reed uncorked a wild pitch that allowed the runner to scamper in from third. A line out to center would end the threat and the Lookouts came away with the big win.

With the win, the Lookouts move into sole possession of first place in the Southern League North Division. Tennessee lost on Sunday and sits a half a game behind Chattanooga. Montgomery is two games back. 

KERNELS NUGGETS 
Cedar Rapids 1, Burlington 4
Box Score
The Kernels got out to a quick start as they used back-to-back doubles from Mitchell Kranson and Jaylin Davis to score the game's first run. Cedar Rapids had three hits in the first frame but they will be held to two more hits the rest of the way. Kranson is in the middle of a career-best seven game hit streak. Travis Blankenhorn went 2-for-4. Hitters five through nine in the Kernel's line-up reached base one time.

Max Cordy made a spot start and had a career-high-tying four shutout innings. He had to get out of a bases loaded jam in the second and then Davis had to throw out a runner at home in the fourth. Evan Sanders took the loss as he allowed three runs on three hits with two walks. Logan Lombana allowed a solo home run in his two innings with two strikeouts. Colton Davis struck out two as part of two scoreless innings.

Even with the loss, the Kernels have their destiny in their own hands. Entering the final week of the first half, Cedar Rapids leads the Midwest League Western Division by one game over Kane County and sits two games above Quad Cities.

TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY
Pitcher of the Day – Randy LeBlanc, Chattanooga Lookouts (4 IP, 0 ER, 5 K, BB, 5 H)
Hitter of the Day – JB Shuck, Rochester Red Wings (2-for-4, 2B, 3B, 3 RBI)


MONDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS
Rochester - Scheduled Off Day
Chattanooga @ Montgomery (7:05 CST) - RHP Felix Jorge (6-1, 3.32 ERA)
Fort Myers vs. Charlotte (6:05 CST) - LHP Lewis Thorpe (0-2, 1.38 ERA)

Cedar Rapids vs. Burlington (12:05 CST) - RHP Tyler Wells (3-0, 2.05 ERA)

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

Friday, June 9, 2017

Twins Daily MLB Draft Review

Minnesota has been on the clock since late last season. They knew this day was coming. A parting gift from the 2016 team for accumulating the worst record in franchise history. The 2017 MLB Draft could be a franchise altering event. For better or for worse, the Twins new front office could be defined by the choices they make in the coming days.

As fans already know, the Twins will make the first overall selection on Monday. The organization also has two other picks in the top-40. Because of these high picks, Minnesota will have the draft's highest bonus pool which is almost half a million more than the next closest team. This gives the organization a financial advantage but this advantage is less than it has been in previous years. 

Hopefully, Twins Daily has been your first stop for all of your MLB Draft related coverage but you might have missed something along the way.

Twins Daily Draft Preview: Jeremy, the Twins Daily Draft Guru, kicked off the coverage by looking at the Twins's draft pool, what players were under consideration for the top pick, and some potential draft strategies. There are lots of factors impacting an organization as the draft gets closer.

Draft Player Profiles

Royce Lewis, SS/OF: While a lot of the draft focus has been on the big three (Wright, McKay, and Greene), the Twins are considering other players for the top spot. Lewis might be the best higher hitter in this draft class. Baseball America calls him "arguably the best position player prospect in this year's class." With that type of praise, the Twins certainly have to consider him. 

Pavin Smith, 1B: Smith might be one of college's most polished players. His advanced approach at the plate has helped him to have more home runs (12) than strikeouts (9). For a player with power hitting ability, that is quite a shift away from the norm. Baseball America thinks he is the best college hitter in the draft. He might not have the up-side of other potential picks but his floor could be higher. 

Brendan McKay, SP/1B: If the draft was happening earlier this spring, McKay might have been the Twins' most likely first pick. He has crushed the ball at the plate and shown some strong ability on the mound. Unfortunately, his stock has slipped a little as his fastball velocity dropped. MLB.com columnist Jim Callis said McKay might be the best two-way player since Dave Winfield. He's one of the big three at the top of the draft but it would be a little surprising for the Twins to take him. 

Hunter Greene, SP/SS: Greene has been at the front of the national draft coverage for most of the spring. Sports Illustrated featured him on their cover and called him "the star baseball needs." He hasn't pitched in some time and there is talk of him wanting to end up with San Diego at the number three pick. Greene could end up being the best player in the draft but he could also fail to develop and end up as a bust. The Twins can't afford for that to happen but they also have to hope Greene won't haunt them.

Kyle Wright, SP: Fans have heard Wright be called the "right pick". While McKay and Greene might have lost some steam as the spring progressed, Wright has only solidified his place at the top of the draft. McKay and Greene have been two-way players while Wright has been focusing solely on his pitching. He is more polished and could move quickly through the Twins system. Most national writers expect Wright to be the Twins' choice with the first overall pick.

MacKenzie Gore, SP: Gore has been gaining a ton of steam as draft day approaches. He's left-handed and has advanced command for his age. He can mix in four different pitches and he might be the most complete high school pitcher in the draft. Would the Twins surprise the baseball world and select the lesser known of the top-two high school arms?

Other MLB Draft Coverage

Twins 10-round mock draft: Jeremy does his best every year to try and select the players Minnesota will be focusing on through the first 10-rounds. Sometimes this can be an exercise in futility but he has gotten multiple players correct when doing this for previous drafts.  

The Multi-Pick Gambit: As mentioned before, the Twins have the biggest pool in the draft. Will they be able to cut a deal with the number one pick so they have other money to spend on later selections? It's tougher than one might think. 

Will Hunter Greene Haunt The Twins?: He could be a once in a generation player. What happens if the Twins decide to go in a different direction?

Keith Law On The Twins And The 2017 Draft: Law, ESPN's prospect writer, did an interview with Seth where he look ahead to the draft and speculated on the names Minnesota is considering at the top.

The Wright Fit?: Kyle Wright could end up in Minnesota. Why is he the right pick for this organization? 

The Scouting Skinny: Kyle Wright: He probably has the best chance to go first overall. What do scouts have to say about Wright and his ascension to the top?

Sam Carlson Q&A: Part 2: Carlson, a Burnsville High School player, has a good chance of being taken in the mid-to-late first round. While he might not be in play for the Twins, it's interesting to hear about the draft process for a player in the midst of a life-changing event.

Even after the Twins make their selection on Monday, check back at Twins Daily for all of your MLB Draft related coverage. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Twins Minor League Report (6/8): Rodriguez Rocks, Gordon Homers

Photo Credit: Linwood Ferguson, Captive Photons
The dog days of summer are quickly approaching and many of the Twins affiliates need to push for the playoffs. Three leagues hand-out first half playoff spots while Rochester has a full-season battle ahead of them.

Rochester entered play on Thursday 11.5 games behind Lehigh Valley in the International League North. The Iron Pigs are going to be tough to catch so the Red Wings might need to focus on the Wild Card race where they trail by six games. Chattanooga currently trails Montgomery by half a game for the top spot in the Southern League North.

Fort Myers sits nine games out of first place and five games under .500. There are four teams ahead of them in the standings so the first half title is likely out of reach. If the Midwest League playoffs started today, the Kernels would be in as the first half winners of the Western Division. They are currently a game up on Kane County for the division lead. The division winner and runner-up for each half qualify for the MWL playoffs.

RED WINGS REPORT
Rochester 2, Syracuse 3
Box Score

Syracuse was threatening in many of the early innings but Aaron Slegers continued to find ways to get out of the jam. The Chiefs had runners in scoring position in the first, second, and fourth innings before they eventually broke through in the sixth. A pair of doubles and a pair of singles would sink Slegers. In 6.2 innings, he ended up allowing three runs on eight hits while striking out four and walking three. 

Rochester tried to answer back in the bottom of the sixth. Engelb Vielma and Zach Granite started the frame with singles. With one out, Matt Hague lifted a sacrifice fly to center. Granite would come around to score after two wild pitches from Chiefs' starter AJ Cole. However, the two runs wouldn't be enough. 

Many Twins fans are on bullpen watch as the big league squad could use some help. Michael Tonkin allowed base runners in both innings he worked but he worked out of it with a couple strikeouts. Ryan Pressly struck out the side in the ninth but he also allowed a pair of hits. 

CHATTANOOGA CHATTER
Chattanooga 2, Jackson 3

Box Score
Chattanooga wasted a strong start from Ryan Eades as Jackson wasn't able to score until the Lookouts' bullpen got into the game. Eades only allowed one hit and struck out three in five innings. Randy LeBlanc struggled in the sixth as he surrendered three runs on four hits. Todd Van Steensel struck out two and walked two in an inning. Jake Reed pitched two scoreless frames by allowing one hit.

Before the bullpen blow-up, the Lookouts held a 2-0 lead. Ryan Strausborger and TJ White started the second with a pair of doubles. With one one out in the inning, Nick Gordon brought in Strausborger for the first run. In the fifth inning, Gordon crack his fifth home run which is already as many home runs as his first three professional seasons combined.

Jonathan Rodriguez reached base four times in five at-bats with a double and a pair of walks. Gordon, Strausborger, and Ryan White all had multi-hit efforts. The team went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and out hit Jackson 10 to 6.

MIRACLE MATTERS 
Fort Myers 1, Tampa 2 (Game 1- 7 Innings)
Box Score
Fort Myers jumped out to an early 1-0 thanks to a lead-off home run from Max Murphy. The hits would be few and far between for the rest of the game. The Miracle went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Murphy was the lone batter to finish with multiple hits as he added a double and reached on a walk. Nelson Molina went 1-for-3 with a double.

Brady Anderson suffered his second loss in as many starts. In the top of the third, he allowed a one out walk that came back to haunt him. The next batter would knock a two-run home run that turned out to be the difference in the game. Anderson stuck out four and walked two in six innings. Williams Ramirez pitched a scoreless seventh with a strikeout.

Fort Myers 2, Tampa 1 (Game 2- 7 Innings)
Box Score
Fort Myers turned things around on Tampa in the second game of the double-header. Much like the Miracle did in game one, the Yankees jumped out to an early 1-0 first inning lead. Derek Rodriguez allowed a triple and single to the first two batters of the game. He would settle in from there and go on quite the run.

Rodriguez retired 11 straight batters at one point on his way to a complete game (even if it was only seven innings). He struck 10 batters for only the third time in his career. It was the first time he had accomplished this feat since last July. There have only been three starts this season where he has allowed more than three runs.

Murphy was in the middle of the offensive action for the second straight game. He tripled to lead-off the fourth inning. Alex Perez would knock him in with a single. After two straight walks to load the bases, Kevin Garcia grounded into a double play that pushed in the second run. Fort Myers only had three hits but that's all they would need.

KERNELS NUGGETS 
Cedar Rapids 1, Clinton 4
Box Score
The Kernels struggled to get the bats going in this one and found themselves in an early hole. Domenick Carlini allowed four runs on eight hits while taking his fourth loss of the season. He struck out eight and didn't give up a walk. Logan Lombana only allowed one base runner over the last three innings to keep the game close. All four LumberKings runs were scored with two outs in the inning.

Cedar Rapids' top six hitters in the line-up combined to go 3-for-22 with no extra-base hits in the loss. Brandon Lopez went 2-for-3 but failed to come around and score. Ben Rortvedt collected his fifth double and drove in the team's lone run. Lewin Diaz and Mitchell Kranson each went 1-for-4.

With the loss, the Kernels drop to 34-26 and they still hold their playoff destiny in their own hands. It was only the third series loss for Cedar Rapids this season.

TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY
Pitcher of the Day – Dereck Rodriguez, Fort Myers Miracle (7 IP, 1 ER, 10 K, 1 BB)

Hitter of the Day – Max Murphy, Fort Myers Miracle (3-for-6, HR, 3B, 2B, BB 2 R)

FRIDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS
Rochester vs. Syracuse (6:05 CST) - LHP Adam Wilk (0-0, 4.26 ERA)
Chattanooga @ Montgomery (7:05 CST) - RHP Fernando Romero (4-5, 3.51 ERA)
Fort Myers vs. Tampa (6:05 CST) - RHP David Fischer (3-4, 4.02 ERA)

Cedar Rapids vs. Burlington (6:35 CST) - RHP Clark Beeker (5-2, 2.51 ERA)

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