Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A Look at Some New Twins

I've posted already about the additions (and subtractions) from the Rule 5 Draft, but it's time to catch up on the additions to the Twins organization who have come via other routes, notably minor league free agency, the draft, and international signings. Special thanks goes out to The Baseball Cube, Thoughts on Goal, and Baseball America's Minor League Transactions page.

Mike Venafro - LHP
The 33-year-old Venafro has spent parts of 7 seasons at the Major League level, compiling a career ERA of 4.09 with a so-so career 131-94 K-BB ratio. He last pitched "full-time" (or close to it) at the Major League level in 2002 with Oakland. Since then, he's wandered around a bit, making it to the Majors every year except for 2005. Last season, he made 7 appearances for Colorado and pitched well, posting a 2.45 ERA - but that was in just 3.2 innings. The Twins would like to add a left-handed pitcher to the bullpen so that Dennys Reyes wasn't all alone, and Venafro will be given a chance to prove himself in Spring Training. But, remember Gabe White and Darrell May from last spring - just because a veteran lefty is brought in doesn't mean that he'll make the big squad. Even Reyes started 2006 in AAA, and that could very well be Venafro's destination at the start of 2007. Looking at the Twins bullpen, I don't see who Venafro would replace (unless the Twins carried 12 pitchers and Willie Eyre disappeared down the rabbit hole). This will definitely bear watching.

Ken Harvey - 1B/DH
You've already read about Harvey being a "former All-Star," so I'm not going to mention how meaningless that is. Harvey is an odd signing, and I really don't know where he fits in the Twins plans. He'll be just 29 when the season starts, but is there really any chance that he makes the big squad? I suppose if he plays really well he could become the Twins DH (if Jason Kubel is given the nod in LF), or if the Twins sign a LF (Rondell, I'm looking at you) then Harvey could platoon with Kubel in the DH role. If he doesn't make the Twins (and I'm really not expecting much - he didn't play anywhere in 2006 that I can find), then perhaps he'll fill Erubiel Durazo's role with the Red Wings last year as a veteran DH type who is essentially being given a chance to prove he can still play ball.

Carmen Cali - LHP
The 28-year old Cali was signed for the same reason as Venafro - to give the Twins another guy to look at in Spring Training as a possible bullpen lefty. Unlike Venafro, Cali doesn't have much Major League experience, having pitched in just 16 games over the course of 2 seasons with St. Louis. His 9.45 ERA and 13-12 K-BB ratio in 13.1 innings suggest that he's never really been ready for prime time. In 23 games for AA Springfield last year, however, he posted a 3.00 ERA and a 35-15 K-BB ratio - so he's probably ready to go back to AAA, and that's where he's likely to start the season for the Twins.

Matt Allegra - OF
Allegra is a 25-year-old who has spent his entire career to this point in the Oakland system. He spent most of last season in AA, where he hit .265 with 15 homers and 62 RBI. He also can play a little bit of 1B. I suspect that he'll be given a chance to compete for a job in Rochester because of his power, but wouldn't be surprised to see him end up in New Britain to start the season.

Jeremy Cummings - RHP
Cummings is 30, and spent last season in the Phillies organization at AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, posting an 8-6 record with a 3.97 ERA in 25 starts. He also had a solid 102-49 K-BB ratio. There seems little doubt that Cummings is going to become a starter for the Red Wings.

Cole DeVries - RHP
Formerly of the Gophers, DeVries was signed in mid-August. No idea where he'll end up next season - his NCAA experience suggests he could start out in Beloit, or he could be left in Extended Spring Training with the intention of placing him with one of the Rookie teams.

Nick Papasan - SS
Papasan was the 24th round pick for the Twins in last June's draft, and was signed in August. He'll be 19 when the season starts, and is coming out of high school, so I would expect him to end up with a Rookie team next year.

Jonathan Waltenbury - 1B
Another high schooler - Waltenbury will turn 19 on April 1 of next season. He was the 7th round selection in last June's draft, and was also signed in August. Same deal with him - Rookie League likely is in his future.

The following players are generally international type players who are very raw, very young, or in the process of converting positions. As a result, they are likely to be kept in Extended Spring Training until the short-season teams in Elizabethton and the Gulf Coast League start. Thoughts on Goal, linked to above, was instrumental in providing background on many of these players.

Matt Ryan - 1B (converting to LHP)
Ryan is from Australia, and spent the last two seasons as a 1B in the Angels system, at the Rookie League level. He was signed with the intention of converting him to a pitcher.

Nikolay Lobanov - LHP (Russia)
That's right, we've signed a Russian pitcher. He's just 17, and is best known for having participated in the 2001 Little League World Series for the Russian squad (cute anecdote on ToG regarding that). I imagine it's hit or miss as to whether he'll get any time in the GCL this year.

Rodney Gessmann - RHP (Germany)
19 years old, and can also play outfield. Not much more information out there.

Wang-Wei Lin - OF (Taiwan)
18 years old, and considered to be a top hitting prospect out of Taiwan. The Twins first Taiwanese signing.

James Beresford - RHP/IF (Australia)
Signed at the age of 16, Beresford should be making his rookie league debut this year after being allowed to finish secondary school in Australia.

Jarrad Eacott - P (Australia)
I believe he's right-handed, but I'm not sure. Suffered a broken leg in July, but is expected to be ready for rookie league action in 2007. He's 17 right now, but should be 18 when the season rolls around.

Jakub Hajtmar - 2B (Czech Republic)
All I know is that he's 20 and he plays 2B.

Tom Stuifbergen - RHP (Netherlands)
The Dutch righty is 17 (possibly 18 by now), and pitched for the Dutch National Team last summer. Here's an article that mentions him (and provides the extent of my knowledge on him).

Jae-Hyung Jang - C (South Korea)
I know nothing about him other than that he's a catcher - and he's from Korea (how's that for informative?). Here's a link to a site that provided me with his nationality.


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