Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Spring Training Report: Game One

One spring game is in the books as we turn the calendar to March, and what an interesting game it was . . . Here are a few of the things I found notable while watching the game on the NESN feed through MLB.tv:

1.) The big news is of course that Matt Garza pitched exceedingly well and Scott Baker . . . didn't. Baker actually struck out the four batters that he retired - but that was interspersed with a lot of hits, walks, and four runs. Matt Garza threw fewer pitches in his 2 innings of work (22 - 11 each inning) than Baker did in his first inning (24). Baker ended up making 41 pitches, 29 for strikes. Somehow I think the Twins would prefer that a guy get through 1.1 innings in less than 41 pitches. Even more depressing: Baker was actually removed from the game in the middle of an inning, being replaced by lefty Jason Miller. How often do you see that in the first week of spring training? Obviously, the competition for 5th starter isn't over - but Garza put himself in a great position after the first game, and Baker dug himself into a big hole.

2.) The Twins used 7 pitchers in this game, and most of them looked pretty good. After Garza and Baker came Jason Miller, who picked up a strikeout and looked reasonably in control. He was followed by righty Julio DePaula who went 2 innings and also picked up a K. Brad Voyles had perhaps the second-most impressive outing of the night, needing just 8 pitches to get through the 7th inning. Ricky Barrett (another lefty) needed 23 pitches to get through the 8th inning, and gave up a gap double to Alberto Castillo. Finally, Errol Simonitsch pitched the 9th and 10th, needing 32 pitches. I had never seen Simonitsch's motion before tonight - he has a great lefty delivery, with a release point that's very high and outside - the ball has a long way to go to get into the zone, and it seems to be hard to pick up for the batters. He also was able to drop a couple of decent breaking pitches into the zone on unsuspecting hitters. It was a nice performance.

3.) Matthew LeCroy and Ken Harvey were both in the game, and Harvey had the better of the night (although he came up injured and is likely to miss a few days of action). Harvey is a big man, but he made a nice catch down the foul line and looked fairly comfortable in the field. He also picked up a hit to center field off of Curt Schilling. LeCroy blooped a single to center later in the game, but he didn't look that settled at the plate.

4.) Garrett Jones and Tommy Watkins both came into the game as outfielders during the 5th-6th inning change-up of players that the Red Sox announcers referred to as the "fog of Spring Training." Watkins had to make a play, but I don't recall Jones being tested. Neither did much at the plate (in fact, Jones struck out twice), but Jones did take a couple of great big hacks that looked kinda powerful.

5.) Alejandro Machado isn't the only Twin in camp who needs to work on his bunting skills. Gil Velazquez had a shot in the 9th inning to bunt Luis Rodriguez (who had doubled to start off the inning) over to third base. He fouled off two bunt attempts, was redeemed by a wild pitch that got Rodriguez to third anyway, and then struck out looking. Velazquez isn't in the running for a roster spot anyway, but c'mon - if you're a middle infielder, you have to be able to bunt.

6.) Rondell White looked very good early - he picked up a couple of singles to center field and picked up an RBI - but it's hard to tell just how meaningful that is. Remember, even early in the year, Rondell could hit fastballs - it was the slow stuff that was bothering him. Pitchers were dishing up a lot of straight stuff today, and Rondell hit it pretty hard. We'll need to wait for later in the spring to determine if the Rondell who hit .321 in the second-half of the season is the Rondell that's returned to the Twins for the year. Certainly a nice, promising start though.

7.) I'm anxious for the remaining starters to debut tomorrow - Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, and Nick Punto should all be in the starting lineup. I'm guessing that Jason Kubel will be DH'ing, and Mike Redmond should be behind the plate. The other positions are a little harder to figure, although Carlos Silva will be starting and Juan Rincon is supposed to get an inning or two as well.

Today's Big Winner: Matt Garza
Runner-Up: Brad Voyles (Joe Mauer's HR was nice, but he's not exactly fighting for a job)

Today's Big Loser: Scott Baker
Runner-Up: Matt LeCroy (not many other candidates, and he struck out looking twice)

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Blog Update

For anyone who is looking for the Organizational Ranking on Relief Pitchers, which I wanted to get up sometime tomorrow - well, it isn't going to happen. My new goal is to get it up by Friday, but I may take the weekend to get it up. Rest assured, I will finish off this series by making the final post.

Tomorrow, I will post something discussing the Twins first pre-season game of the year. I do not plan on posting my thoughts after every game (although, you never know - I might get inspired). Instead, I'm planning to continue to post with some updates every two or three days discussing what we're learning, who's on the cut-line, and all the rest.

Enjoy the game tomorrow - and Go Twins!


Crain Locked Up

The Twins announced this morning that they have agreed to a three year contract with Jesse Crain that will keep him in Minnesota through the 2009 season. Crain almost certainly would have been eligible for arbitration after this season (to not be, he would have had to spend the majority of the season in the minor leagues), so this move pre-emptively removes him from the list of players that Terry Ryan will have to worry about next year.

I can't say yet whether this was a good move or a bad one, simply because terms of the deal weren't disclosed. I will say, however, that Crain could be a vital piece of the bullpen if he pitches like he did late last year. He could become even more important if the Twins feel the need to deal one of the other members of the bullpen, such as Juan Rincon (not that there's anything in the works that I'm aware of on that front).

Hopefully the Twins will now turn their attention to Joe Nathan and Johan Santana. An announcement on either before the start of the season would be extremely welcome news, and an announcement on both would probably make me euphoric.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

The Ponson Situation

After getting some bad advice from a lawyer, Sidney Ponson obtained the wrong visa from Aruba. The result: an inability to pitch in regulation exhibition games until things are cleared up. It looks like that isn't going to happen until at least March 9, and Ponson might not be available to pitch until March 11 or 12. The question, then, is whether such an extended delay in action will hurt Ponson's chances of making the team.

While the common sense answer would seem to be "of course," I'm going to play the contrarian and suggest that Ponson is still the favorite to win the 5th starter job. The Twins will simply continue to monitor his performance by watching him pitch bullpen sessions and batting practice. They'll work him to the maximum extent possible. Nothing outside of a game situation is really adequate to prepare for the season, but Ponson should still have about 3 weeks (or between 4 and 5 appearances) to get ready for the season. That's cutting things close, but it should be enough time.

Of course, this is an opportunity for the other competitors for the fifth starter job. Garza, Perkins, Baker and Durbin will all have a chance to demonstrate how great they are in Ponson's absence - and he won't be able to do a thing about it. Is 11 days enough time for one of the young guns to creep into that spot? We'll see as the games progress, but I think it would take one heck of a performance to move Ponson off the fifth starter spot.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Spring Roster Update #2

It's Sunday, and that means it's time for a Spring Training Roster Update. As before, players listed in black are players who I am projecting will earn a roster spot (or would do so if the season began tomorrow). Players listed in blue have a chance to creep up into a roster spot, and will be listed beneath the player they are most likely to displace. Players listed in red are pretty much just in camp to give the Twins bodies during the early weeks when nobody is pitching more than 2 innings or playing a full game in the field. I'm also adding a +/-/= behind each player. A "+" means that the player moved up in the depth chart from where I had him listed last week, while a "-" means he has moved down and an "=" means that he's right where he was before.

My standard disclaimer applies: these are not necessarily the 25 guys who I would take north to start the season, but are instead the 25 guys who I think would make the team if the season started tomorrow.

Finally, please note that a few comments on player movement will follow the listing of players, so if you want to know why I've moved a player up or down on the chart, that's the place to look.


Starting Pitcher - 1 - Johan Santana (=)
Starting Pitcher - 2 - Boof Bonser (=)
Starting Pitcher - 3 - Carlos Silva (=)
Starting Pitcher - 4 - Ramon Ortiz (=)
Starting Pitcher - 5 - Sidney Ponson (=)
Glen Perkins (=)
Matt Garza (=)
J.D. Durbin (+)
Scott Baker (-)
Kevin Slowey (=)
Jeremy Cummings (=)
Errol Simonitsch (=)
Alexander Smit (=)
Oswaldo Sosa (=)
Brad Voyles (=)
Closer - 6 - Joe Nathan (=)
Setup - 7 - Juan Rincon (=)
Bullpen - 8 - Pat Neshek (=)
Bullpen - 9 - Dennys Reyes (=)
Bullpen - 10 - Jesse Crain (=)
Bullpen - 11 - Matt Guerrier (=)
Ricky Barrett (=)
Julio DePaula (=)
Tristan Crawford (+)
Jose Mijares (-)

Catcher - 12 - Joe Mauer (=)
First Base - 13 - Justin Morneau (=)
Second Base - 14 - Luis Castillo (=)
Third Base - 15 - Nick Punto (=)
Shortstop - 16 - Jason Bartlett (=)
Left Field - 17 - Rondell White (=)
Center Field - 18 - Torii Hunter (=)
Right Field - 19 - Michael Cuddyer (=)
Des. Hitter - 20 - Jason Kubel (=)
Backup Catcher - 21 - Mike Redmond (=)
Chris Heintz (=)
Jeff Christy (=)
Jose Morales (=)
Korey Feiner (=)
Brad King (=)
Corner Infielder - 22 - Jeff Cirillo (=)
Glenn Williams (=)
Middle Infielder - 23 - Alejandro Machado (+)
Luis Rodriguez (-)
Alexi Casilla (=)
Tommy Watkins (=)
Gil Velazquez (=)
Backup Outfield - 24 - Jason Tyner (=)
Josh Rabe (=)
Denard Span (=)
Garrett Jones (-)

Misc. Reserve - 25 - Lew Ford (+)
Mike Venafro (-)
J.D. Durbin (+)
Randy Choate (-)
Ken Harvey (-)
Matt LeCroy (-)
Carmen Cali (-)
Jason Miller (-)

There are a surprising number of changes in these protections from the first go around last week. First, J.D. Durbin (who is the only player that I've listed twice on the list because he's seriously competing in my mind for two distinct jobs) has had success with his early pitching regimen, and the Twins seem excited about him. As a result, I've moved him ahead of Scott Baker on the list of guys fighting for the 5th starter spot, and I've also moved him behind everyone but Lew Ford and Mike Venafro in the fight for the 25th roster spot.

Speaking of Ford, the Star Tribune's recent suggestion that he's a lock for the roster can't be ignored. While I think it would be a mistake to keep Ford over one of the lefty pitchers or Durbin, I have to acknowledge that the "experts" who write about baseball for the living seem to think that's exactly what's going to happen. As a result, Ford has been moved from the 4th guy behind Mike Venafro in the line for the 25th spot to the guy I have winning the 25th spot. We'll know more about the likelihood of this actually happening when we see Ford play a bit this spring.

In another major position shift, I now have Alejandro Machado winning the 24th roster spot as the backup middle infielder. The Twins aren't likely to accept Luis Rodriguez as the backup shortstop, and Machado is a better fit in that role. He's also being asked to work on his outfield play this spring, which means the Twins seem to be trying to mold him into a bit of a Jeff Reboulet/Denny Hocking utility type player. Even if all he could do was play short and second, Machado fits better than Rodriguez with this lineup, so this move made sense.

You'll also notice that Jose Mijares has been moved down to the last guy I have in the "no chance" category of the bullpen players. Unfortunatley, this is not because of anything Mijares did on the field - the death of his brother in Venezuela yesterday was a tragic circumstance that has Mijares flying to Venezuela to be with his family. I'm not removing him from the list because he hasn't been officially cut from camp (and likely won't be until he returns - although there is understandably no timetable for that at this point), but it seemed prudent to acknowledge that a player not in camp would be at the bottom of the list.

One final mention - Garrett Jones is being asked to concentrate on his outfield skills this spring, and that has been reflected by moving him into the outfielder section above rather than the first base section. If he starts getting at-bats and playing time as a first baseman this spring (more than in the outfield, anyway), then I'll move him back. For now, I'll take the Twins at their word and believe that he's being converted to the outfield.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Oh, the Horror!

The Strib has posted a couple of things regarding the Twins likely opening day roster, and there is a glaring, horrifying, gaudy problem with what they've posted. Let me quote:

"If the Twins go with 11 pitchers (which is very possible), that leaves nine starters, including DH, and five reserve position players. Clubhouse catalyst Mike Redmond, infielder Jeff Cirillo (who played first, second and third and emergency shortstop for Milwaukee last season), LEW FORD, and Tyner should be locks." (emphasis mine)

Which of these things is not like the other? The biggest problem is that I don't think the Twins are going to take 11 pitchers - I think they're going to go with 12. As a Twins fan, let me ask one question - would you rather have Lew Ford or J.D. Durbin on the team, considering that Durbin is gone if he doesn't get a roster spot? My answer is flat out Durbin - even if he struggles, you can cut ties with him later.

Sadly, I'm forced to conclude that this is probably legitimate - the Twins wouldn't have offered Ford a contract if they didn't intend for him to make the team. If that takes a roster spot away from Durbin, however (assuming of course that he's deserving), that would be a true shame.

Incidentally, there is some questin of whether Ford or Tyner would get the roster spot as the backup outfielder if the Twins went with 12 pitchers. There shouldn't be . . . Tyner has significantly better numbers. Ford has been trending downwards every year. Frankly, this is an easy call (unless Ford has a monster spring or Tyner really struggles). Maybe I'm missing something, but is this really a question?

If someone has a pro-Ford viewpoint, I'd love to hear it. So far, I haven't heard a compelling reason to consider him a lock for the opening day roster. I'd love to hear from anyone who thinks he should be so considered - and I don't want to hear about how good a guy he is - I agree with that sentiment, but don't think that's a good reason for giving someone a spot on a Major League roster.

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Spring Training Update: Day 5

There are some interesting stories coming out of Twins camp today that I'd like to expand on a bit as we reach reporting day for position players.

1.) Ramon Ortiz is in camp and will participate in workouts tomorrow. That should be enough time to get him ready to pitch in one of the first two games of the spring, on Wednesday or Thursday. I for one am particularly interested to see how Ortiz looks this spring, and whether Rick Anderson and the calming presence of Joe Mauer can help Ortiz find his slider and keep the ball in the ballpark.

2.) News out of Twins world is that Garrett Jones is being asked to concentrate on playing the outfield. This makes sense, because Jones wasn't going to displace Justin Morneau and crash the big league club, so adding the ability to play in the outfield would make him a little more likely to eventually get up to the big leagues. This also means that Doug Deeds and Ken Harvey will probably get the majority of playing time at 1B for Rochester this season, with Jones playing some in the outfield, some at DH, and possibly some at 1B. Jones, by the way, is entering his third and final option year - so he'd best learn how to play outfield quickly if he wants to have a chance to stay with the Twins next year.

3.) Sounds like J.D. Durbin looked good in his most recent bullpen session. That's good news, but we won't know much until he actually pitches in a game. When he'll be healthy enough to that is debatable, but it sounds like he's progressing quickly. Meanwhile, the only other injury situation in camp still seems to be Josh Rabe's back, which feels good enough that Rabe is going to start participating in workouts again tomorrow.

Those are the highlights for today - first full-squad workout is tomorrow, and the countdown to the first game of the spring is at just 5 days. I can't wait!


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Organizational Rankings: Starting Pitchers

These archived Organizational Rankings were originally put together in February 2007. There are a few things to keep in mind when browsing through them:

1.) This is a subjective ranking -- please feel free to dispute where I've ranked players, but keep in mind that nothing happening in the 2007 season went into the decision on where to rank a player.

2.) A player's actual team assignment will be listed following the player's name. When my original projection of where a player would start out was wrong, I'll list that projection in parentheses and blue text behind the player's actual assignment.

3.) Each player is listed in only one of these posts. The determination of where to list a player was made based on where that player played most often in 2006, and I won't be moving players during the season.

4.) Players who are no longer with the team will remain on the list, but will be listed in red along with the method by which that player left the team.

5.) Players added to the team will be added at the bottom of the rankings, and will be ranked along with everybody else in the February 2008 version of the rankings.

Rank - Name - Likely 2007 Destination

#1 - Johan Santana - Minnesota Twins
Not really any other choice here, is there.

#2 - Francisco Liriano - Minnesota Twins
Twins fans all know that Liriano won't be around this season, which is unfortunate. Looking on the upside of things, he should still be a great young pitcher in 2008 when he returns (although the Twins will need to worry about arbitration at the end of that season, and that could be painful). Still and all, there doesn't seem to me to be any reason to doubt that Liriano is the second best pitcher in the organization. Let's hope I can still say that after he comes back.

#3 - Matt Garza - TRADED to Tampa Bay (11/28/07)
It's possible that Garza will make the Twins out of spring training as the fifth starter, but I'm guessing that isn't going to happen - simple math dictates that several deserving candidates aren't going to get a spot. I think the Twins would like to take a breather with Garza anyway - he was rushed to the Major Leagues last season more quickly than the Twins probably would have preferred, and the results were pretty mediocre. Another spring, and some more chances to work on his pitch selection at AAA to start the season, are probably just what is needed for Garza. For those who didn't pay attention last year, Garza was the Twins first-round pick in the 2005 draft, and the 23-year-old Garza has rocketed through the system (he pitched at 4 levels last year! FOUR!). With just 5 starts at the AAA level, there is certainly more learning that can be done there - but man, what an upside.

#4 - Boof Bonser - Minnesota Twins
The story of how the Twins acquired Bonser is old news now, but in case you haven't heard it I'll just mention that Bonser was thrown into the deal that sent A.J. Pierzynski to San Francisco in exchange for Joe Nathan and some fella named Francisco Liriano. Until last year, Bonser was viewed (at least outside the organization) as a middling prospect - someone who may or may not become a legitimate major leaguer at some point. Last year, the 25-year-old Bonser put it all together, pitching well enough at AAA to get a chance in the bigs after Scott Baker couldn't hold down the fifth spot in the rotation. After struggling early, Bonser found his rhythym down the stretch, and was one of the most important pitchers in the rotation. This season, he's virtually assured of landing a spot (probably as the #2 starter) in the Twins rotation, and it will be interesting to see if he can continue to pitch effectively. Based on what we saw late last season, there doesn't seem to be any reason to say no.

#5 - Glen Perkins - Minnesota Twins (Roc/Min)
Perkins is a left-handed version of Matt Garza, not in terms of pitching style but in terms of career arc. Perkins was also an college starter who was drafted by the Twins in the 1st round (a year before Garza, in 2004). Perkins also has moved through the organization quickly, pitching at 3 levels last year (although, to be fair, he spent almost the entire season in New Britain). Still, when he made it to the Twins, he was fantastic - showing clearly that he will be a Major League starter sometime soon. Like Garza, the soon-to-be 24-year-old (from Stillwater, Minnesota) could conceivably make the team out of spring training, but starting out in Rochester makes more sense. By next season, he should be in line to earn a spot in the rotation.

#6 - Kevin Slowey - Rochester Red Wings
The 2005 draft was a humdinger for the Twins, as they picked up Slowey the round after Matt Garza. Slowey is a 22-year-old who was drafted out of Winthrop University, and like Garza and Perkins he has quickly moved through the system. Last season, Slowey was absolutely great in Ft. Myers (1.01 ERA/99-9 K-BB/89.1 innings), earning a promotion to New Britain. He was still very good there (3.19/52-13/59.1 innings), and that should be enough to earn him a place in the Rochester rotation. It is possible (although so unlikely that I'm not even listing him as being on a cut-point) that he could spend the first month or so in New Britain - but that seems unlikely. The right-handed Slowey is mentioned as a Brad Radke type, a control pitcher who is never going to blow people away but who could still be very effective. I would say that there's a 75% chance that he makes his Major League debut this season (probably in September). Optioned to Rochester 7/5/07

#7 - Carlos Silva - FREE AGENT (c. 10/29/07)
I really wasn't sure where to put Silva. On the one hand, he's a proven Major League starter. On the other - he was terrible last season. The 27-year-old (28 in April) finally landed here because I think he can continue to be a #3 or 4 starter at the Major League level for several more years, and many of the guys below him on this list are really just unproven prospects. If Silva doesn't perform early this year, however, there is a very good chance that he will lose his job with the Twins - and assuming that the young guys in Rochester develop as expected, there is very little likelihood that he'd be returning to the Twins next season.

#8 - Ramon Ortiz - TRADED to Colorado (8/15/07)
Same story as Silva, listed above. I didn't really know where to put him, so I'm putting him up here based on his Major League experience. Like Silva, he almost certainly will not be back next season - but let's hope he pitches well enough this year to justify the $3 million + the Twins spent on him. Incidentally, Ortiz is 30, and will turn 31 in May.

#9 - Scott Baker - Minnesota Twins (Rochester)
Twins fans should be familiar with Baker, who has spent significant parts of 2005 and 2006 with the Twins. Unfortunately, the 25-year-old has never quite put it together at the big league level, with a career record of 8-11 and an ERA of 5.19. On the plus side, his K-BB ratio of 94-30 is solid, and indicates that he can get people out - he just hasn't done it consistently enough. Baker was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2003 draft, and is essentially entering his last chance year with the Twins - if he spends any time in the minors this year, it will use up his third and final option. As with several of the young guns mentioned above, it's possible that he could pitch himself onto the team at the start of the season, but he seems much more likely to start out in Rochester, where he'll continue to battle with his teammates to determine who will get the first call-up. I like Baker - and the way he handled the Yankees last year indicates that the dude can flat out pitch - but I'm not convinced that he can do it consistently well at the big league level. He's got one year left as a Twin to prove that he can.

#10 - J.D. Durbin - Waived (Claimed by Arizona Diamondbacks)
Ah, J.D. Durbin. The Real Deal. The soon-to-be 25-year-old was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2000 draft, and it's been a long, slow slog through the system since that time. Actually, it didn't start off too slowly - he pitched well in 2001 with Elizabethton, and was good in Quad Cities back in 2002. By 2004 he was all the way up in New Britain to start the season, and a solid season there earned him a promotion to Rochester, where he went 3-2/4.54/38-16 in 35.2 innings. He also made his Major League debut that year, posting a 7.36 ERA in 7.1 innings. He hasn't been back up since. It looked like 2006 was going to be a bounce-back year for Durbin, and he posted numbers of 4-3/2.33/81-50 in 89.0 innings before having to shut things down due to a nerve problem in his arm. Durbin is now out of options, which means he has to make the Twins or be exposed to waivers - and with his upside, someone will pick him up. My money is on Durbin making the team, either as the fifth starter (unlikely), or as the 7th arm out of the bullpen. That's all dependent on Durbin regaining his arm strength this spring and being able to pitch - but I hope he makes it.

#11 - Eduardo Morlan - TRADED to Tampa Bay (11/28/07)
Morlan, who will turn 21 on March 1, was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2004 draft. The righty was assigned to the GCL Twins, where he went 1-2 with a 2.84 ERA and a 28-10 K-BB ratio in 25.1 innings. He split 2005 between Elizabethton and Beloit, posting great numbers in 4 starts with the E-Twins, and ok numbers (4.38/55-31 in 51.1 innings) with Beloit. Last season, in a full year with the Snappers, he went 5-5 with a 2.29 ERA and a 125-38 K-BB ratio in 106.1 innings. That seems to have been a great step forward for Morlan, and should earn him a promotion to the Miracle this year, where he will continue to try to move on up through the system. With so many great pitchers in the system above him, I don't expect him to receive a mid-season promotion - but if he's great with the Miracle, it certainly could happen.

#12 - Oswaldo Sosa - New Britain Rock Cats (NB/FtM)
Sosa is 21, and was signed in 2002 as an undrafted player out of Venezuela. The righty started off his Twins career in the GCL in 2004, and was with Elizabethton in 2005. He pitched well enough there to move on to Beloit last season, where he went 9-7 with a 2.75 ERA and a 95-36 K-BB ratio in 117.2 innings before being promoted to Ft. Myers to finish up the season. He only made 6 starts for the Miracle, but his 4-1 record and 2.08 ERA may be enough to earn him a promotion to New Britain to start the season; it's also entirely possible, however, that Sosa could start off in Ft. Myers to get a bit more seasoning before being promoted. Either way, he's established himself as a solid starting prospect for the organization.

#13 - Dave Gassner - Minor League Free Agent (c. 11/02/07)
The Twins have removed the left-handed Gassner from their 40-man roster, but he remains a potential spoiler to return to the Major Leagues. Gassner is 28, and has put together a solid minor league career with Toronto and Minnesota, with a 53-34 record and a 3.52 ERA. His sole big-league experience was in 2005 with the Twins, when he went 1-0 with a 5.87 ERA in 7.2 innings. Gassner will more than likely have enough service time to become a minor league free agent at the end of the year if he isn't on the 40-man roster by that point, and would also be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft if he wasn't added. If he is added, and is assigned to the minor leagues, he'll use up his last option. In other words, this is a make-it-or-break-it year for Gassner in the Twins organization. While I like him, I suspect his Twins career is entering its final stretch.

#14 - Sidney Ponson - RELEASED (c. 5/13/07)
Too high? Too low? I see him as more of a risk than Silva or Ortiz (that may very well be a poor assumption), and so ranked him fairly low for a guy who is in line to make the Major League team. I'm not going to say much about the 30-year-old, other than that he has Major League talent - you don't go 14-6 with a 3.77 ERA if you can't pitch in the big leagues - but he certainly hasn't shown it over the past few seasons. If he has a reasonable spring, he'll break camp as the Twins fifth starter. If he doesn't - I suspect he'll be released. Expect him to make at least a few starts in April for the Twins.

#15 - Anthony Swarzak - New Britain Rock Cats
Swarzak was the Twins 2nd round selection in the 2004 draft. The 21-year-old righty started off his Twins career that year in the GCL, where he had a 2.63 ERA in 48 innings. He skipped Elizabethton, heading right to Beloit for the start of the 2005 season, where he went 9-5 with a 4.04 ERA and a 101-32 K-BB ratio in 91.1 innings before being promoted to Ft. Myers, where he continued to pitch well. He stayed in Ft. Myers for a full season last year, and had a 3.27 ERA and a 131-60 K-BB ratio - certainly good enough to be given another promotion for this season. Most of the Twins top pitching prospects are guys who were drafted out of college - Swarzak was a high school pick. It makes sense, then, that he's not as far along as fellow 2004 draftee Glen Perkins - but he's moving along at a good, solid pace, and he could be making his Major League debut in a few years if he continues to develop.

#16 - Kyle Aselton - Ft. Myers Miracle [New Britain]
Aselton, who turns 24 on February 28, was drafted by the Twins in the 11th round of the 2004 draft out of Oregon State University. The lefty was assigned to Elizabethton in 2004, and went 1-4 with a 4.54 ERA in 37.2 innings. He spent 2005 in Beloit, putting up the best numbers of his professional career (6-2/2.49/113-61 K-BB), mostly in relief. Last year, Aselton was promoted to Ft. Myers, and spent his time exclusively as a starter, going 9-5 with a respectable 3.79 ERA and a 90-54 K-BB ratio in 97.1 innings. Aselton should be promoted yet again this year, continuing his steady climb through the organization.

#17 - Kyle Waldrop - New Britain Rock Cats (FtM/NB)
Waldrop is a 21-year-old righty who was drafted in the 1st round of the 2004 draft out of Farragut High School in Knoxville, TN. He started off his Twins career in the GCL, and dominated hitters through 7 games (3-2/1.42 ERA/30-4 K-BB in 38 innings) before being promoted in the middle of the season to Elizabethton, where he continued to pitch well (3.24 ERA). He spent his entire 2005 season in Beloit, and struggled a bit, going 6-11 with a 4.98 ERA and a still great 108-23 K-BB ratio in 151.2 innings. That season wasn't good enough to get him promoted, so he started 2006 back in Beloit, where he went 6-3 with a 3.85 ERA before being promoted to Ft. Myers in midseason. His 3-2 record was complimented by a 3.57 ERA. I'm guessing that Waldrop will start this season in Ft. Myers, but there is a chance that he could be moved up to New Britain right from the start.

#18 - Brian Duensing - Rochester Red Wings [New Britain]
Duensing, who turned 24 today, was the Twins 3rd round selection in the 2005 draft out of the University of Nebraska. The lefty pitched with Elizabethton in 2005, going 4-3 with a 2.32 ERA in 50.1 innings. His promotion to Beloit to start the 2006 season was therefore assured, and Duensing didn't disappoint, going 2-3 with a 2.94 ERA and a 55-14 K-BB ratio in 70.1 innings before being promoted to Ft. Myers. While he wasn't dominant there, his 4.24 ERA in 40.1 innings earned him another promotion, this time to New Britain, and he once again looked very good (3.65 ERA/30-18 K-BB). With so many solid starters at Rochester, there wouldn't be room there for Duensing just yet even if the Twins wanted to promote him. He should start the season in New Britain, and I would be surprised if he didn't spend the entire season there.

#19 - Jeremy Cummings - RELEASED (c. 7/05/07)
Cummings is a 30-year-old who was picked up as a minor league free agent, coming out of the Phillies organization. The righty is essentially a man without a spot right now, as the Twins have a log-jam of starters at the AAA level, and there doesn't seem to be room for a 30-year-old minor league lifer. Cummings has posted some solid numbers at the AAA level - he has a 3.86 lifetime ERA in 890 innings, and has a K-BB ratio of 671-227. Cummings was invited to Spring Training, so he'll be auditioning for a spot somewhere in the organization during the spring (theoretically, he's probably even being given a shot to win the fifth starters job, although it's unlikely he would succeed). My guess is that Cummings will either be cut before the end of camp, or will go to Rochester to be used primarily as a reliever and as insurance in case of an injury to one of the regular starters.

#20 - Ryan Mullins - New Britain Rock Cats [Ft. Myers]
Mullins is a 23-year-old lefty who was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2005 draft out of Vanderbilt University. He was assigned to Elizabethton, and proceeded to go 3-0 with a 2.18 ERA and a 60-13 K-BB ratio in 53.2 innings. Last season, he started for Beloit, going 5-8 with a 3.86 ERA in 139-53 K-BB ratio in 156.1 innings. There is no reason to think that he won't be promoted to Ft. Myers for this season.

#21 - Jeff Manship - Ft. Myers Miracle (Ft.M / Bel)
Manship is a 22-year-old righty who was drafted in the 14th round of the 2006 draft out of Notre Dame. He pitched in just six games last year, two with the GCL Twins and four with Ft. Myers, but in that time he put up a 1.28 ERA and a 22-3 K-BB ratio in 14.1 innings. That impressive performance, and his collegiate experience (which was pretty sucessful, and includes a 9-2 2006 season in which he had a 3.26 ERA and a 111-28 K-BB ratio) indicate to me that he's most likely to stay in Ft. Myers this season. It's possible that the Twins could decide to be a little more cautious with Manship and move him down to Beloit for the start of the season, but I doubt that that is going to happen. If Manship puts up a great season, he'll rocket up this chart, probably into the top 12.

#22 - Errol Simonitsch - New Britain Rock Cats
Simonitsch, who is on the Twins 40-man roster, is a 24-year-old lefty drafted in the 6th round of the 2003 draft out of Gonzaga University. After a great start to his career in Elizabethton, Simonitsch had a brilliant 2004 season in Quad Cities, posting a 6-2 record with a 2.56 ERA and a 107-36 K-BB ratio in 109 innings. He started off equally strong at Ft. Myers in 2005, earning himself a mid-season promotion to New Britain, where he levelled off a bit (as evidenced by an ERA of 4.12 and a lower, 52-28 K-BB ratio). Last season, Simonitsch stayed in New Britain, and had his most disappointing season so far, going 8-14 with a 4.48 ERA and an 89-39 K-BB ratio in 148.2 innings. Whether Simonitsch is going to turn out to be the prospect who earned himself a spot on the 40-man roster with his solid early pitching, or the prospect who washed out in AA, remains to be seen. He'll get another shot in New Britain again this year, consuming his second option year.

#23 - Nick Blackburn - Rochester Red Wings (New Britain)
Blackburn, who will turn 25 in two days, was a 29th round pick in the 2001 draft out of Seminole State College. The righty started off his career in Elizabethton, and has played at every level of the organization (other than low Rookie in the GCL), making it up to AAA for 3 games in 2005. His 2006 season was spent entirely in New Britain, where he went 7-8 with a 4.42 ERA and an 81-37 K-BB ratio in 132.1 innings. With the roadblock in front of him, he should once again by in New Britain this season.

#24 - Jay Rainville - Ft. Myers Miracle
Rainville is a 21-year-old righty who was drafted in the 1st round of the 2004 draft out of Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick, RI. He missed all of 2006 after undergoing shoulder surgery to fix a nerve problem before last season started, and I would probably list him as higher on this list if he hadn't suffered that injury. Until we see him pitch, however, there is some doubt as to how he'll look when he comes back. Rainville started his Twins career in 2004 with the GCL Twins, where he went 3-2 with a 1.83 ERA and a 38-3 K-BB ratio in 34.1 innings. In 2005, he started off in Beloit, and went 8-2 with a 3.77 ERA and a 77-27 K-BB ratio in 88.1 innings before being promoted to Ft. Myers, where he continued to pitch very well (4-3/2.67/35-6 K-BB in 54 innings). Hopefully, Rainville can return to form this year, but it could take awhile to get him back into regular shape as a starter, and there's a chance I suppose that he could even start his comeback out of the bullpen.

#25 - Zach Ward - Ft. Myers Miracle [Beloit]
Ward is a 23-year-old righty who was drafted by the Reds in the 3rd round of the 2005 draft out of the University of Alabama-Birmingham. He was traded to the Twins last season in exchange for Kyle Lohse, and at the time of the trade it looked like another steal pulled off by Terry Ryan - Ward was 7-0 with a 2.29 ERA and a 95-37 K-BB ratio in 114 innings at Dayton (A-ball). Unfortunately, Ward struggled once he joined the Snappers in Beloit, posting a 1-4 record with a 5.93 ERA and a 23-11 K-BB ratio in 30.1 innings. I like Ward, and think he's going to regain his form from Dayton this season - but I'm hedging my bets by placing him 25th on this list instead of higher.

#26 - Brad Voyles - RELEASED (c. 3/30/07)
If Jeremy Cummings is in a tough spot, Voyles is even more pinched. Like Cummings, Voyles is 30 - unlike Cummings, Voyles has some Major League experience, but his career 6.59 ERA in 40 Major League games is not inspiring. If Voyles remains with the team once the season starts, he'll almost certainly be a reliever. His minor league numbers are actually better than Cummings are - 2.99/449-207 K-BB - but by far most of his appearances historically have come out of the bullpen. He's on the starters list because in the past couple of years he's primarily been used as a starter - but I expect that to change this year. There's just no room for Voyles to start for Rochester.

#27 - Jose Castillo - RELEASED (c. 10/25/07)
Castillo is a 22-year-old who has pitched well in two seasons of Rookie ball - 2005 with the GCL Twins (4-4/3.00/27-19 K-BB in 48 innings), and 2006 with Elizabethton (4-3/3.17/56-23 K-BB in 71 innings). This season, he should finally get a chance to pitch in a full-season league at Beloit.

#28 - Jesse Floyd - RELEASED (c. 10/25/07)
Floyd was selected by the Twins in the AAA portion of the Rule 5 Draft this last December. He is a 26-year-old righty who was signed as a nondrafted free agent by the Giants back in 2003. His 2006 season was solid (4.00 ERA, and a 100-38 K-BB - but a 4-14 record didn't look so flashy), but compared to guys like Matt Garza and Kevin Slowey, he just doesn't measure up. As a result, I would expect him to end up in New Britain.

#29 - Alex Burnett - Beloit Snappers
Burnett is a 19-year-old righty who was drafted in the 12th round of the 2005 draft out of Ocean View High in Huntington Beach, CA. He started off his Twins career in the GCL in 2005, going 4-2 with a 4.10 ERA and a 33-14 K-BB ratio in 48.1 innings. Last season, Burnett pitched in Elizabethton, and went 4-3 with a 4.04 ERA and a very nice 71-13 K-BB ratio in 71.1 innings. He should continue his orderly march through the organization by pitching in Beloit this season.

#30 - Adam Hawes - Ft. Myers Miracle
Hawes is a 23-year-old righty who was drafted in the 40th round of the 2003 draft out of Connors State College. His first appearance for the Twins wasn't until 2005 for Elizabethton, where he went 4-0 with a 1.53 ERA and a 68-16 K-BB ratio in 59 innings. Last season, Hawes pitched for Beloit, putting up a 4-4 record with a 4.02 ERA and a 65-37 K-BB ratio in 87.1 innings. Those aren't great numbers, but they should be good enough for Hawes to be promoted to Ft. Myers this season.

#31 - Ludovicus Van Mil - Elizabethton Twins
The 7'1" Van Mil (who apparently also goes by "Loek") is a bit of a project, but his first season was generally a success, as the Dutchman went 1-2 with a 3.30 ERA and a 24-17 K-BB ratio in 43.2 innings and 8 starts in 10 appearances. I'm anticipating that Van Mil will get a promotion to Elizabethton this year, where he will continue to develop. Every team should have a 7'+ pitcher in the organization somewhere . . .

#32 - David Bromberg - Elizabethton Twins
Bromber is a 19-year-old righty who was drafted in the 32nd round of the 2005 draft out of Palisades High School in Pacific Palisades, CA. 2006 was his first season in the organization, and he went 3-3 with a 2.66 ERA in 50.2 innings for the GCL Twins. That should definitely be good enough to earn him a promotion to the higher rookie league team, and possibly even all the way up to Beloit (where I count only 4 starters on the roster).

#33 - Jeff Schoenbachler - UNASSIGNED (Elizabethton)
Schoenbachler is a 21-year-old lefty who was drafted in the 5th round of the 2004 draft out of Reno High School in Reno, NV. Since that time, he's spent three years in the GCL (although, to be fair, he must have been injured last year because he appeared in just 1 game for 1 inning). Why Schoenbachler hasn't advanced is a mystery, because his 3.92 and 3.97 ERA's in 2004 and 2005 would normally have been good enough for a promotion. I'm predicting that his promotion will come this year, because four years in the GCL just seems a bit ridiculous . . .

#34 - Sean Land - Beloit Snappers
Land was a 9th round pick in the 2006 draft out of the University of Kansas, where he was a middling starter (his best ERA was 4.62 in 2005). He started off for the Twins in Elizabethton, where he went 3-5 with a 4.45 ERA and a 57-27 K-BB ratio in 60.2 innings. Those aren't great numbers, but the Snappers need starters and Land will likely be promoted for the 2007 season.

#35 - Tyler Robertson - Beloit Snappers (Elizabethton)
Robertson is a 19-year-old lefty who was selected in the 3rd round of the 2006 pick out of Bella Vista High School in Fair Oaks, CA. His first season with the Twins was spent in the GCL, where he went 4-2 with a 4.25 ERA and a 54-15 K-BB in 48.2 innings. Those are good enough numbers to earn a promotion to Elizabethton in 2007.

#36 - Omar Alcala - Elizabethton Twins
Alcala is a 20-year-old lefty who pitched in the GCL last season, going 3-1 with a 4.02 ERA in 53.2 innings. Like Robertson, those numbers are solid enough to earn a promotion to Elizabethton - where there are likely to be a lot of guys competing for starts. That could mean a few appearances out of the bullpen for Alcala.

#37 - Brian Kirwan - Beloit Snappers (Eliz/Bel)
Kirwan is a 19-year-old righty who was drafted in the 11th round of the 2005 draft out of Santa Fe Christian High School in Solana Beach, CA. His first season as a Twin was in 2006 with Elizabethton, where he wasn't great - 5-5/5.63/58-23 in 64 innings. Nevertheless, because Beloit needs starters, I think Kirwan will get a promotion and an early chance to pitch from the start of the season. There are a lot of guys who would love to claim that rotation spot for the Snappers, however, so somebody might step up and jump past Kirwan and into that spot.

#38 - Michael Allen - Elizabethton Twins (GCL/Eliz)
Allen is a 19-year-old righty who was drafted in the 13th round of the 2005 draft out of Arlington Country Day School in Jacksonville, FL. Last season was his first in the Twins organization, and he pitched in the GCL, going 0-2 with a 4.91 ERA and a 22-8 K-BB ratio in 22 innings. Whether that's enough experience to get a promotion to Elizabethton might be doubtful, and I would guess that he'll start the season with the GCL Twins rather than with Elizabethton.

#39 - Curtis Leavitt - Elizabethton Twins (GCL/Eliz)
Leavitt is a 20-year-old righty who was drafted in the 22nd round of the 2005 draft out of Vasquez High School in Acton, CA. Last season was his first in the organization, and he pitched with the GCL Twins, going 0-2 with a 7.59 ERA in 32 innings. His 33-16 K-BB ratio was the only semi-promising thing about his performance, and unless he makes significant strides in extended spring training, he'll be back in the GCL for 2007.

#40 - Cole DeVries - Beloit Snappers (GCL/Eliz/Bel)
DeVries was signed in August, and the former University of Minnesota starter could end up at any of three levels, depending on what the Twins think of him. His NCAA experience makes a start with the Snappers a posibility (and his 7-3/2.42 numbers with the Gophers in 2006 indicate that he might be able to make that leap). However, I suspect that he'll start out with Elizabethton. We'll know in a month and a half or so.

NR - Brian Bass (40-Man) - Rochester Red Wings
Bass was drafted in the 6th round of the 2000 draft by the Kansas City Royals. The 25-year-old righty had a great 2003 season in High A Wilmington, posting a 2.84 ERA in 152.1 innings, but since them he's struggled a little bit. Last season, he pitched reasonably well in 27 innings for AA Wichita, posting a 4.00 ERA; however, he really struggled once he was promoted to AAA Omaha, going 1-5 with a 7.59 ERA in 32 innings. Considering the number of pitchers the Twins have at AAA, and the struggles Bass has had at that level, it seems likely that he'll be starting off in New Britain this year. Bass became a minor league free agent in early November 2007, but was brought back into the fold by the Twins on November 28 and added to the 40-man roster.

NR - Mike McCardell - GCL Twins [Elizabethton]
McCardell was drafted in the 6th round of the 2007 draft by the Twins out of Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, where he struck out 79 and walked just 10 in 59 innings of work. Apparently, he can also hit pretty well -- and played in the infield for Kutztown on occasion when he wasn't pitching. The 6'5", 220 lb. righty was born on April 13, 1985.

NR - R.A. Dickey - Rule 5 (Major) - drafted by Seattle (12/06/07)
Dickey is a 33-year-old righthander who has spent parts of five seasons at the big league level in between minor league stints. The Twins signed him as a minor league free agent on November 28, and extended him an invitation to spring training 2008.

NR - Kyle Edlich - Unassigned [No Prediction]
Edlich is an an Australian who last pitched in the Twins system back in 2005 in the GCL. He appeared on a transaction list during the season, so my assumption is that he's still hanging around. He will turn 22 in March, so assuming that he's still capable of pitching, there's still a chance that he could find his way onto an active roster.

NR - Landon Jacobsen - Unassigned [No Prediction]
Jacobsen, born on May 4, 1979, is a righty out of Mitchell, SD who was drafted in the 50th round of the 1999 draft by the Pirates. He spent 2000-2006 in the Pirates organization before crossing Pennsylvania and joining the Phillies organization for 2007. While Jacobsen has a career minor league ERA of 3.46, he struggled in 2007. The bulk of his season was spent in AA, where he posted a 4.61 ERA in 93.2 innings to go along with a 1.38 WHIP and a 45-35 K-BB ratio. He also pitched 69.1 innings in AAA, posting a 4.80 ERA and a 1.73 WHIP with a 38-31 K-BB ratio. He joined the Twins as a minor league free agent sometime around January 4.

NR - Heath Totten - Unassigned [No Prediction]
Totten, born on September 30, 1978, is a righty out of Port Arthur, TX who was drafted in the 5th round of the 2000 draft by the Dodgers. He spent 2000-2006 in the Dodgers organization before joining the Phillies organization for 2007. Totten has a career minor league ERA of 4.33. In 2007, he split his time between AA and AAA, with drastically different results. In AA, he put up a 3.38 ERA in 56 innings of work along with a 1.32 WHIP and a 31-13 K-BB ratio. Unfortunately, his time in AAA didn't treat him nearly as well, as he posted a 7.09 ERA in 33 innings along with a 1.73 WHIP and an 11-8 K-BB ratio. He joined the Twins as a minor league free agent sometime around January 4.

NR - Zach Day - Unassigned [No Prediction]
Day was brought into the Twins organization as a minor league free agent with an invite to spring training 2008 in early January. Day is a 29-year-old righty out of Cincinnati, Ohio who was drafted by the Yankees in the 5th round of the 1996 draft. Day made his Major League debut with the Expos in 2002, and besides those two teams Day has pitched in the Indians, Nationals, Rockies, and Royals organizations. In 372.2 career innings, Day has a 4.66 career ERA and a 189-172 K-BB ratio.

NR - Randy Keisler - No Assignment [No Prediction]
Keisler is a soon-to-be 32-year-old lefty (b. 2/24/76) out of Texas who was drafted by the Yankees in the 2nd round of the 1998 draft out of LSU. After moving up through the minors, Keisler made his Major League debut in Yankee pinstripes in 2000. Since then, he's bounced around a lot, playing in the Rangers, Astros, Padres, Mets, Reds, A's, and Cardinals organizations. All in all he's pitched 55 games in the Major Leagues, compiling a rather sloppy 6.63 ERA in those appearances.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Spring Training Report: Day 3

There isn't a lot of news tonight, but there are some interesting pieces of information attached to some continuing/developing stories that it seems appropriate to update on.

1.) Ramon Ortiz is still not in camp, but the visa problem appears to have been solved, and Ortiz is now expected in camp by the end of the day tomorrow, and should be participating in workouts in Friday.

2.) Sidney Ponson continues to get his requisite story-a-day - something that will happen until he makes the team at the end of the spring, or gets cut. The interesting news coming out of today's articles is that Ron Gardenhire considers Ponson to be one of the team's starters - a statement that would seem to indicate that Ponson is the early front-runner to win the team's fifth starter spot.

3.) There was another story on J.D. Durbin's health today, as he threw for the first time in months off of a mound. That in itself isn't really news - but the suggestion that Durbin could claim Willie Eyre's old long-relief spot on the roster is something that so far had only been speculated on. Now, it's at least in an article on the Twins website, indicating that it's not a completely outlandish idea. I'll say it again: I hope Durbin makes the roster.

4.) I said the other day that Carlos Silva, as the 3rd starter, would probably start (or at least pitch a couple of innings in) the February 28 opener against Boston. That was a mistake, because I said Johan Santana "lines up" for a start on March 2. That would make the February 28 start the regular spot for the #4 starter - which in my mind is Ramon Ortiz. Of course, with pitchers only throwing a couple of innings in their early starts, things can be pretty flexible at this stage. With Ortiz still out of camp, his first Twins pitching appearance might come a few days late - so Silva might still end up getting the start on the 28th.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Transaction Update

Once again, Baseball America has posted an update on minor league transactions, and there are a couple of new faces to add to the list for the Twins. If you go to the page, you'll see that Randy Choate and Matt LeCroy are just being mentioned now, but I've mentioned them in previous postings so I'm not going to say anything about them here. There are, however, two other new additions:

Domingo Reyes - LHP
The 22-year-old Reyes was drafted back in 2003 by the Pirates, but never signed. I haven't been able to find any record of what he's been doing since then, but the Twins must have caught up with him somewhere, so I would assume that he's been pitching for someone, somewhere. Not knowing Reyes' background, I can't say whether he's more likely to start out with a full season team (probably Beloit), or whether the Twins will hold him in extended spring training and assign him to a rookie ball team.

Luis Ugueto - 2B/SS
If you think you've heard this name before, you're probably right - Ugueto has 74 games of Major League experience (although just 28 at-bats, which tells you all you need to know about his offensive abilities) with the Seattle Mariners. Last year, the 28-year-old Ugueto spent his season with AAA Omaha in the Royals organization. This move was likely made to add a little bit of depth to the AAA middle infield, but I wouldn't expect him to take much playing time away from Tommy Watkins or Alexi Casilla.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Spring Training: Day 1

I don't want to just re-hash what's said in the Star Tribune or any other source, so there's a good chance that I won't be posting every day running up to the first spring game of the year. However, when I feel like I can add something to the commentary being delivered by my source news outlets, I will do so. Today is one of those days.

1.) The Sidney Ponson weight watch is, for me, over. It was an interesting story leading up to camp, but as soon as La Velle E. Neal said that Ponson didn't look particularly heavy (Ponson is suggesting he's around 250), I stopped worrying. This would have been a big story if Ponson had clearly come into camp out of shape. Since that's not the case, fans can start worrying about how he'll pitch.

2.) Josh Rabe and J.D. Durbin are the only two players for whom injury concerns are being mentioned. While I like Josh Rabe, there isn't any room for him on the Major League roster anyway, so even if his injury slows him down in camp it's not going to be a really big deal. Durbin, on the other hand, needs to pitch well this spring to have a chance of earning the fifth starter spot (or, less likely, the 7th bullpen spot). The nerve injury which ended his season last year is still a concern this year, and that could mean trouble for Durbin fans - the fewer chances he has to show what he can do, the less likely he is to secure a roster spot, and the more likely that he's placed on waivers at the end of the spring. For the record, while I'm not projecting him to earn a spot, I AM pulling for him. I'd love for the Twins to give him a month to prove himself as the fifth starter. With plenty of early off days, the Twins would probably only need him to make 3 starts during that time, so he would probably get a chance to pitch a little out of the bullpen as well. I think it makes sense, and I hope he pitches well enough in spring training to earn that shot.

3.) It sounds like talks are with Johan Santana are underway (it's not said explicitly anywhere I can find that this is the case, but it seems to be implied), while talks with Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan are likely to start soon. According to Neal, the Twins don't have much interest in pursuing a multi-year deal with Michael Cuddyer at this point. Let's hope at least one more player gets sown up this spring (and please let it be Johan . . . )

4.) Torii Hunter and Luis Castillo are the only two starters not to report. They have until the 23rd to get to camp, so the fact that every other starter is already there is a testament to the energy and excitement surrounding this team.

5.) Another reason to hate President's Day (the first being that it stops the mail): Ramon Ortiz's visa situation is languishing for at least another day because the consulate was closed. What a joke.

6.) It's much too early for the Twins to be worrying about "setting" their rotation for the start of the season. If they were going to worry about such things, however, then Johan Santana would make his first appearance (probably throwing about 2 innings) in the third game of the spring, against Cincinnati on March 2 in the home opener for the Spring. Seems like a good bet. That means the opener on February 28 would rightfully be started by the 3rd starter - so don't be particularly surprised to see Carlos Silva throw for a couple of innings during that ball game. And, with so many guys vying for the 5th starter spot, I would expect 1 or 2 of them to get involved in that game as well.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Reporting Update

The Strib is reporting that Ramon Ortiz is the only player not to report to camp on time, due to a visa issue. Such situations are by no means unusual for international players, but I've always wondered - when you know you have to report by such-and-such a date, and when these issues are always resolved within a couple of days, why don't players go out of their way to make sure that they get the visa on time? I would be incredibly frustrated if I were a GM.

There is also talk that the Twins and Justin Morneau will continue to negotiate this spring on a long-term deal. While I would be very happy to see a deal done, I don't expect it to happen. Unless Morneau agrees to a bit of an "uncertainty discount," or the Twins just give in to his demands, I don't see the basis for an agreement. Morneau has had one great, MVP-caliber year that was proceeded by disappointing years. While I certainly hope that he continues to produce at his 2006 level, that's not guaranteed. Of course, the game theory involved in this is that the uncertainty cuts both ways, and the Twins might want to get a deal done specifically because Morneau would get much more expensive if he had another great year. It's a tough call, but I trust Terry - and I hope a deal gets done.

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La Velle E. Neal's Blog

For those of you who haven't yet made your way to the Star Tribune website and checked out Neal's blog, you should. I'm incredibly excited about this, because it should mean significantly more access and news over the course of spring training than we've received before. There are the requisite stories of fun and folly, but I'm more interested in the details that could affect action on the field. A summary of today's notes:

1.) Sidney Ponson looks to be in at least reasonably good shape

2.) Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, and Lew Ford are all already in camp

3.) Alexander Smit looks - well - like any young player in his first camp would like: like a deer in the headlights.

Once again, check out Neal's blog. Let's hope this thing gets updated a couple of times a day - if so, it will be a great spring training resource.


Spring Roster Update #1

Every Sunday from now until the start of the season, I'm going to put up a post with the state of the roster. I think the format will be pretty intuitive, but I'll try to explain it here in case it gets confusing. There are, of course, 25 roster spots available. Players with a number to the left of their names are in line to get one of those spots. Those players names will also appear in black (even if that player is just the "front-runner" in my mind for the position). Players who have a chance of making the roster will be listed in blue, immediately under the position they're most likely to get. Finally, until a player is officially cut from camp, he'll show up on this roster update, but players who have virtually no chance of making the team will appear in red.

Also, note that the last spot on the roster could go to either a pitcher (if the Twins decide to carry 12 of them), or a position player. As a result, I'm putting that at the very end of the post, and a mix of pitchers and position players will be listed as competing for that spot.

Remember as well that this is not necessarily the list of players who I would place on the roster if I were Terry Ryan. This is how I think the roster is actually shaping shape.

The reason I'll be posting this once a week is that it can, and will change. As players have poor performances, or develop injuries, or are cut, the list will change. Check back each Sunday (hopefully by noon CT) for the update.


Starting Pitcher - 1 - Johan Santana
Starting Pitcher - 2 - Boof Bonser
Starting Pitcher - 3 - Carlos Silva
Starting Pitcher - 4 - Ramon Ortiz
Starting Pitcher - 5 - Sidney Ponson
Glen Perkins

Matt Garza
Scott Baker
J.D. Durbin
Kevin Slowey
Jeremy Cummings
Errol Simonitsch
Alexander Smit
Oswaldo Sosa
Brad Voyles
Closer - 6 - Joe Nathan
Setup - 7 - Juan Rincon
Bullpen 3 - 8 - Pat Neshek
Bullpen 4 - 9 - Dennys Reyes
Bullpen 5 - 10 - Jesse Crain
Bullpen 6 - 11 - Matt Guerrier
Ricky Barrett
Julio DePaula
Jose Mijares
Tristan Crawford

Catcher - 12 - Joe Mauer
First Base - 13 - Justin Morneau
Second Base - 14 - Luis Castillo
Third Base - 15 - Nick Punto
Shortstop - 16 - Jason Bartlett
Left Field - 17 - Rondell White
Center Field - 18 - Torii Hunter
Right Field - 19 - Michael Cuddyer
Des. Hitter - 20 - Jason Kubel
Backup Catcher - 21 - Mike Redmond
Chris Heintz
Jeff Christy
Jose Morales
Korey Feiner
Brad King
Corner Infielder - 22 - Jeff Cirillo
Glenn Williams
Garrett Jones
Middle Infielder - 23 - Luis Rodriguez
Alejandro Machado
Alexi Casilla
Tommy Watkins
Gil Velazquez
Backup Outfield - 24 - Jason Tyner
Josh Rabe
Denard Span

Misc. Reserve - 25 - Mike Venafro (LHP)
Randy Choate (LHP)
Ken Harvey (1B/DH)
Matt LeCroy (DH/1B/C)
Lew Ford (OF)
Carmen Cali (LHP)
Jason Miller (LHP)
J.D. Durbin (RHP)

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Why to Care About Pitchers & Catchers Reporting

Sunday is the big day - the cold, barren winter gives way to the resplendant spring. Or something like that. Actually, a bunch of out-of-shape ballplayers will make their way to Ft. Myers and start tossing medicine balls around . . .

But, just because the first game isn't going to be played until February 28 doesn't mean there is nothing to pay attention to for the next week and a half. Here are a few of the things of interest to watch for as the pitchers and catchers kick off the season.

1.) Are these guys in shape? I'm looking at you, Sidney Ponson. And you, Carlos Silva. And, yes, YOU Matt LeCroy. Some ballplayers take great care of themselves during the off-season - some don't. I don't know whether any of the three guys I just listed will be in shape or not when they report, but you better believe that Ponson and LeCroy's chances of making the team are heavily dependant on their demonstrating quickly what they're capable of - and if they need to spend the first three weeks of spring getting into shape, they're not going to be able to do that.

2.) Will any of the veteran lefty arms run out of gas early? Mike Venafro is 33 and Randy Choate is 31 - neither of them is ancient by baseball standards, but both have been pitching for awhile. The competition for the Twins 7th bullpen slot could be fierce, but if either of these guys break down early on, it will get a bit easier.

3.) Which of the youngsters will go the extra step to get noticed? I believe that the Twins are essentially operating under the assumption that there is one spot available in the rotation. Sidney Ponson (by no means a "youngster") will be battling for that spot with familiar names like Matt Garza, Scott Baker, Glen Perkins, and J.D. Durbin. With such a crowded field, it's going to take a lot to get noticed. Reporting to camp in shape, participating hard in all of the drills, nailing your targets in bullpen sessions, and finding the breaking pitches early on could all be key. Whoever shines brightest in the next 10 days will get the primo slots in the early games, and the first chance to prove themselves.

4.) Where will the injury bug crop up? It's almost inevitable that with around 30 pitchers reporting, someone (or two someones) will either report with nagging pain, or will develop soreness from throwing. A couple of years ago, it was Grant Balfour; last year it was Juan Rincon. All you can hope for is that the problem passes by quickly enough to let the player get in shape for the regular season. One of the nice things about having so many guys ready to step into a starting spot, though, is that you have some limited protection against these kinds of freak injuries.

5.) Which youngster will do the most good for his future? Every year, the young guys on the 40-man roster, and a few non-roster invites, get a chance to hang with the major leaguers for a couple of weeks and get the experience of a professional training camp. Sometimes, they shine - I remember watching Joe Mauer's swing during spring training back at his first camp, and thinking how smooth and mature it already was. I remember watching Adam Johnson (remember him?) pump a fastball into the catcher's mitt that clearly meant business. So, who will it be this year? Actually, I'm pretty sure I already know the answer - Kevin Slowey, the new "can't miss prospect" in the Twins system, will almost certainly be the most impressive guy who has no chance to make the team out of Spring Training. By the end of the year, he just might be pulling a Boof Bonser and showing just how good he is with the Twins.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Live Podcast . . . Sort Of

I very foolishly failed to mention that I was going to be on Marty Andrade's live Twins podcast tonight. I just finished my 38-minute long segment, where Marty and I talked about spring training, non-roster invitees, the stadium, and the AL Central. It was a lot of fun, and I apologize to Marty for failing to mention it beforehand. You can listen to it at your leisure by clicking on the link above, and you can visit Marty's blog here - but be forewarned, the man talks about politics as well as baseball.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

No More Arbitration!

JUST when I was getting ready to brag about my skills at prognostication, with all signs pointing towards my prediction of an arbitration hearing for Michael Cuddyer, the Twins and Cuddy came to an agreement - and made me look worse by having it be for less than the midpoint, indicating that Cuddyer's agents weren't quite as confident as I had thought they were.

I'm glad this deal got done - it means that the Twins somehow, incredibly, pulled off avoiding arbitration with 6 players, 5 of whom are significant contributors to the team. That's an incredible accomplishment, and Terry Ryan deserves credit for his hard work. I know the Twins ostensibly tried to sign both Morneau and Cuddyer to multi-year deals, and couldn't make it happen; but that's not a failure. Neither of those guys is going anywhere soon, as they aren't eligible for free agency for several more years.

Now, who won this deal? Well, I find it hard to come to any conclusion other than that the Twins won, big time. I fully believed that Cuddyer would have won his hearing - then again, it hasn't been a very succesful season for players who have gone to hearings, so maybe Cuddyer's chances weren't as solid as I thought they were.

Now, the Twins can turn to trying to sign Johan Santana and Joe Nathan to multi-year deals . . .


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Organizational Rankings: Outfielders

These archived Organizational Rankings were originally put together in February 2007. There are a few things to keep in mind while browsing through them:

1.) This is a subjective ranking -- please feel free to dispute where I've ranked players, but keep in mind that nothing that has happened in the 2007 season went into the decision on where to rank a player.

2.) Originally, these posts had my predictions on where a player would start off the 2007 season. The team in purple immediately following a player's name is where that player is right now, and nothing else will appear if that was where I predicted that player would be playing. If I was wrong, I'll list my predicted destination in brackets and blue text following the team that player is actually playing with.

3.) Each player is listed in only one of these posts. The determination of where to place a player was made based on where that player got the most playing time in 2006, and I won't be moving players around during the season.

4.) Players who are no longer with the team will remain on the list, but their entry will be in red text and the method by which that player left the team (released, traded, etc.) will be listed in place of a team assignment.

5.) Players added to the organization during the season will be placed at the bottom of the rankings, and will receive a rank of "NR," for "Not Ranked." If they are still with the team when the 2008 season rolls around, they'll be ranked along with everyone else.

Rank - Name - Likely 2007 Destination

#1 - Torii Hunter - FREE AGENT (c. 10/29/07)
Haters, I'm waiting for the comments. Bottom line: Hunter deserves the number 1 ranking on this list because of what he's done AND because of what he means to this team. His 31 homeruns last year were a career high, and his .278 batting average was good enough when coupled with his 826 OPS. As I've said before, these posts are designed to focus more on the minor leaguers than on the Major Leaguers, so I'm not going to say much more about Hunter, other than to say that the Twins need another season like 2006 out of him if they are going to compete in the stacked AL Central this season.

#2 - Michael Cuddyer - Minnesota Twins
If Torii Hunter deserves the #1 ranking in the outfield because of what he's done, then Cuddyer deserves it for what he could mean. Cuddyer developed into the offensive force that the Twins needed him to be, perfectly completing Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau in the lineup. Cuddyer's future is very bright now that he's put the pesky position-shifting behind him, and he should have a chance to take another big step forward this year.

#3 - Jason Kubel - Minnesota Twins
Kubel should be given every opportunity to claim the DH job with the Twins this season, and Twins fans should be hoping he does exactly that. Kubel has a career .320 minor league average, with an 884 OPS. Unfortunately, in 96 games at the Major League level, he's hit just .254/693. If he comes into camp fully healthy, and starts hitting like he's capable of hitting, then he could be scary good. He deserves to be ranked this high, because if things click then he will become one of the most important hitters in the Twins lineup. If he struggles again this year, it will begin to look like he's a AAAA player who might never figure out the Major League game. Of course, he's still just 24-years-old - so there is PLENTY of time for him to figure things out.

#4 - Jason Tyner - Non-Tendered (12/12/07)
Odd choice, you say, considering some of the talent in the minor league system? Well, perhaps - but consider that Tyner (once a first round draft pick of the New York Mets) has hit .312, .321, and .278 in his last three Major League seasons (admittedly, the .321 average was put up in just 18 games). In other words, Tyner is a proven Major League hitter, who can fill in at any outfield position. He gives the Twins a great deal of flexibility, and always seems capable of coming up with a big hit. As someone who should have played many more than 325 Major League games in his career, Tyner deserves this ranking.

#5 - Rondell White - FREE AGENT (c. 10/30/07)
Sure, White struggled last year. Sure, he's getting up there in age. Nevertheless, White is a proven Major Leaguer who will be holding down the left-field post for the Twins this season. I thought about ranking him a little lower, but I still have a bias in favor of players who have actually played at the Major League level over those who haven't - although, as you'll see, that doesn't always stop me from ranking a Major Leaguer a good distance down the list . . .

#6 - Josh Rabe - FREE AGENT (c. 10/05/07)
Rabe was an 11th round pick in the 2000 draft, and the 28-year-old has taken a long, slow road to his position as (in my opinion) a top outfield prospect. The Twins may disagree with me on Rabe's prospect status - they removed him from their 40-man roster after the 2006 season - but Rabe will return to Rochester for a fifth straight season, and try once again to prove that he belongs. Last season seemed to be a breakthrough for Rabe - he hit .299/773 in 93 games (355 AB's) with the Red Wings, and ended up playing 24 games (49 AB's) with the Twins, hitting .286/804. To me, those numbers should have earned Rabe some respect, but he was left exposed to the Rule 5 Draft (obviously, he went undrafted), so the Twins don't seem that worried about him. Here's hoping Rabe can have another strong season at Rochester and get his way back onto the roster - I'd like to see him succeed. Rabe can play in left or right field, as needed.

#7 - Denard Span - Rochester Red Wings
Is Span the replacement for Torii Hunter in 2008? The 1st round pick from the 2002 draft has sure been talked up as being the likely candidate for that job, and with the difference in cost between the veteran Hunter and Span, it seems like a very good possibility. Of course, the Twins will need to be convinced this season that Span has what it takes to do the job. The speedy span (he is most definitely NOT a power hitter) hit .285/689 in 134 games (536 AB's) with New Britain, and split his 2005 between Ft. Myers and the Rock Cats. It's not a stretch to say that Span will be one of the most closely-watched prospects in 2007, as the Twins see if he can adjust to AAA and position himself to take over for one of the most beloved members of the big league squad. Span is primarily used as a center fielder.

#8 - Brandon Roberts - New Britain Rock Cats
Roberts was acquired by the Twins for Juan Castro, of all people, and this has the makings of another steal of a trade by Terry Ryan. The left-handed hitting Roberts is just 22, and was drafted in the 7th round of the 2005 draft. Roberts was very strong in rookie ball in 2005, hitting .318/824 in 68 games (274 AB's). The start of 2006 was a different story, as he struggled to adjust to life in High-A ball (the Reds skipped him over Low-A), hitting .267/633 in 60 games before the trade. The Twins left him at High-A, and it was like he was a different player, hitting .316/766 in 71 games (285 AB's) for the Miracle. Roberts is still very young, and has a lot of levels left to go through, but he certainly appears to be a steal for the Twins. Roberts is primarily a center fielder.

#9 - Chris Parmelee - Beloit Snappers
Parmelee was the Twins first round pick in last year's draft, and the soon-to-be 19-year-old was assigned to the GCL Twins. Parmelee proceeded to demonstrate his power, hitting 8 homeruns in 154 AB's. His batting average was an adequate .279, and he had a very good 901 OPS. The left-handed hitting Parmelee was moved up to Beloit at the end of the season, and wasn't able to make the instant adjustment, hitting .227/643 in 22 AB's. Beloit should be his destination to start the season, and with time to adjust to that level, he should be strong there. Parmelee played a little bit of 1B last season in addition to his time in the outfield, but I would guess that he'll be asked to stick more in the outfield this season.

#10 - Trent Oeltjen - Minor League Free Agent (c. 11/02/07)
The soon-to-be 24-year-old Oeltjen was signed out of an Australia as an undrafted free agent back in 2001 and assigned to the GCL squad, where he hit .321/805 before being promoted to Elizabethton. He made his way up through the system, and last year played with New Britain, where he hit .299/789 in 113 games (401 AB's). With a lot of open space in the outfield at Rochester, he should easily be moved up. The lefty doesn't have a lot of power, but he's got decent speed (29, 25, 21, and 23 steals respectively over the past 4 years). In other words, he's a Jason Tyner type. His career .293/750 minor league numbers are solid, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him have success again this season with Rochester. Oeltjen played all over the outfield last season, and will probably do the same this year, with Josh Rabe, Denard Span, and Garrett Guzman likely ahead of him with the Red Wings.

#11 - Eli Tintor - Beloit Snappers [Ft. Myers]
Tintor, a 22-year-old out of Hibbing, Minnesota, was drafted by the Twins in the 18th round of the 2003 draft. The righty, who started off as a catcher, began his Twins career with the GCL Twins, where he hit .266/651 in 25 games (64 AB's). He stayed put in 2004, hitting .228/590 with 25 games (79 AB's), and then was briefly promoted to Ft. Myers, where he struggled. He finally started to catch fire with Elizabethton in 2005, hitting .281/737 in 40 games (139 AB's). Last season, he finally moved up to the full-season Beloit squad, where he hit .285/749 in 116 games (410 AB's), also demonstrating some decent power (12 homers). Tintor played mostly in right field last season, but can also play a little bit of center.

#12 - Garrett Guzman - Rule 5 (Major) - Washington (12/06/07)
Guzman, 24, was a 10th round selection in the 2001 draft. I should probably rank him higher than this, because he's never had a very bad season in his minor league career (2004 with Ft. Myers is probably the closest he's come, when he hit .269/706 in 78 games). However, until last year, he had never played more than 82 games in a season. Whether that was due to injuries or limited use, I don't know - but last season, Guzman played in 129 games between High A and AA, so he seems to be over the hump in that regard. In 64 games with New Britain at the end of last season, Guzman hit .275/779 over 222 at-bats. Normally, I would think that the Twins would keep him in New Britain at the start of this season to give him a few more at-bats there before moving him up - but, with a dearth of outfielders at the AAA level, I actually think it's more likely that he's given a promotion to Rochester to start the season. Guzman primarily played in left field last season.

#13 - Lew Ford - FREE AGENT (c. 10/05/07)
Were you wondering when Ford was going to show up on this list? The 12th round pick in the 1999 draft for the Red Sox had a great 2004 season (.299/827 in 154 games), but regressed in 2005 (.264/715), and a horrible 2006 (.226/599). That trend is a serious problem, and in my mind indicates that the league caught up with Ford. He's now 30, and while I wish him the best I no longer consider him a solid Major League caliber player. We'll find out this spring, when Ford is forced to compete for a roster spot that doesn't seem to be available. If he ends up in Rochester, the big question is whether he'll ever be back with the Twins. Is this low of a ranking too harsh?

#14 - Danny Santiesteban - Beloit Snappers
Santiesteban was drafted in the 39th round of the 2004 draft, but didn't play until the 2005 season. He started off with the GCL Twins, hitting .307/1005 in 21 games (75 AB's). That was enough to earn him a promotion to Elizabethton in 2006, when he hit .250/726 in 64 games (244 AB's). Those aren't great numbers, but I think that will be enough to get him promoted to Beloit. He should even be one of the primary three starters with the Snappers. Santiesteban is (or will be in two days) a 22-year-old right-handed hitter. Santiesteban was primarily a center fielder last season.

#15 - Joe Benson - Beloit Snappers
Benson was a 2nd round pick in the 2006 draft for the Twins, and will be 19 in early March. Last season, he played with the GCL Twins, and hit .260/779 in 52 games (196 AB's). He finished up with Beloit, hitting .263/526 in just 8 games (19 AB's). I'm predicting that Benson will start the season in Beloit, and I'm standing firmly enough on that assertion that I'm not listing him as being on the cut-point between Beloit and Elizabethton. However, it's not out of the question that Benson is asked to stay back and start the season with the E-Twins. We'll know pretty quickly whether that's the case. Benson was primarily a center fielder last season.

#16 - Edward Ovalle - Ft. Myers Miracle
Ovalle is a 21-year-old righty who was signed out of the Dominican Republic as an undrafted free agent back in 2002. Ovalle first played in the Twins organization back in 2004, with the GCL squad - he hit .279/731 in 45 games (172 AB's). The next season, Ovalle moved up to Elizabethton, where he hit .285/809 in 65 games (239 AB's). The progression continued last year, when he hit .261/702 in 128 games (471 AB's) with Beloit. That should be good enough to get him moved up to Ft. Myers this season. Ovalle is primarily a center-fielder, but occasionally will play in right.

#17 - Matt Allegra - Minor League Free Agent (c. 11/02/07)
Allegra was picked up by the Twins to add depth to the outfield in the system. He's played at the AA level for the last year and a half, hitting .265/811 in 96 games (355 AB's) with Midland in the Oakland system. Allegra is 26, and was originally a 16th round pick in the 1999 draft. The right-handed hitter has some power (15 HR's last season). Whether he'll prove a meaningful addition to the Twins organization remains to be seen, but he seems to have some potential and could work his way into the top-tier of Twins outfield prospects.

#18 - Deacon Burns - RELEASED (c. 4/06/07)
Burns was a 26th round pick in the 2004 draft. The 24-year-old lefty started off his career with Elizabethton in 2004, hitting .314/933 in 63 games (255 AB's) for the E-Twins. He moved up to Beloit in 2005, and hit .271/802 in 132 games (527 AB's), and then found himself in Ft. Myers last season. Unfortunately, he stalled out last year, hitting just .228/611 in 114 games (404 AB's). That's unlikely to earn him a promotion to New Britain, so expect Burns to be left behind in Ft. Myers for a second season, where he'll try to regain his status as a promising prospect. Burns is primarily a left fielder, but can also play right when needed.

#19 - Dwayne White - Ft. Myers Miracle
The 23-year-old White (who will turn 24 shortly after the start of the season) was originally drafted in the 36th round of the 2003 draft by the Rangers. How he ended up in Minnesota, I don't know - but I'm guessing he didn't sign with the Rangers, and then went undrafted the next year. That would have allowed him to sign with anyone, so I'm guessing that's how the Twins got him - if anyone knows differently, let me know. The left-handed hitting White started off his career with Beloit in 2005, hitting .261/658 in 78 games (268 AB's). Last season, he was again in Beloit, where he hit .258/701 in 97 games (322 AB's). Those aren't great numbers, but I'm guessing that promotion is in order anyway, with room needing to be made for some newer players. As a result, White's play is probably good enough to get him a promotion. White is primarily a left fielder.

#20 - Tarrence Patterson - RELEASED (c. 3/30/07)
Patterson is a 22-year-old who was selected in the 35th round of the 2002 draft. He spent two seasons with the GCL Twins, hitting .349/859 in 2002 and .308/799 in 2003. That was enough to earn him a promotion to Elizabethton in 2004, where he hit .224/656 in 43 games (170 AB's). The previous two seasons were enough to get him another promotion to Beloit, where he's spent the last two years (hitting .254/676 and .257/623 respectively). Again, while those numbers aren't great, they are probably good enough to get him a promotion to the Miracle for this season. Patterson pretty much plays in left and center field.

#21 - Jeremy Pickrel - RELEASED (c. 4/06/07)
Pickrel was selected in the 10th round of the 2004 draft. The soon-to-be 24-year-old left-handed hitting Pickrel started off in Elizabethton in 2004, hitting .266/769 in 49 games (177 AB's). He moved up to Beloit in 2005, hitting .277/820 in 108 games (393 AB's). Then, last season, he was given another promotion, this time to the Miracle, where he struggled, hitting just .231/676 in 93 games (316 AB's). Pickrel probably deserves to be higher on this list, but last season was troubling. If he ups his average and hits 12 homeruns like he did in 2005, it'll go a long way towards restoring his status. As for whether he plays with Ft. Myers or New Britain this year, it probably depends not only on how he looks this spring, but on how the outfields in New Britain and Ft. Myers are shaping up. For my money, I'm guessing he stays in Ft. Myers to start the season (but that outfield is starting to look awfully crowded). Pickrel is primarily a right fielder.

#22 - Scott Whitrock - RELEASED (c. 3/30/07)
Whitrock was drafted in the 19th round of the 2001 draft. The 26-year-old righty has moved up a level every year, except in 2003-2004, when he played with Quad Cities. Last season, Whitrock played in New Britain, hitting .207/602 in 72 games (222 AB's). That should mean a return to New Britain this season, as there doesn't seem to be any reason to give him a precious roster spot in Rochester. Whitrock is primarily a right fielder.

#23 - Josh Land - RELEASED (c. 3/30/07)
Land was drafted in the 38th round of the 2004 draft, and the now 22-year-old lefty started off his Twins career with Elizabethton in 2005. He actually had a solid first season, hitting .306/777 in 24 games (72 AB's) for the E-Twins. He started off 2006 with Beloit, but hit just .207/542 in 18 games (58 AB's) and was sent to Elizabethton once the short-season began. Unfortunately, he didn't do any better there, hitting just .211/578 in 36 games (128 AB's). Nevertheless, I'm guessing that Land will once again start the season in Beloit, although playing time will be limited. Land typically plays left field.

#24 - Justin Arneson - RELEASED (c. 3/30/07)
Arneson is from Fergus Falls, Minnesota, and was signed by the Twins as an undrafted free agent back in 2002. The 25-year-old righty played with the GCL Twins in 2002, hitting .344/895 in 37 games (125 AB's). Unfortuntely, that was the highlight so far of his career. He's moved up to Ft. Myers, where he's hit .199/580 and .232/620 over the past two seasons. It seems likely that Arneson will stay in Ft. Myers this season, but he may be due for a "social promotion" up to New Britain. As a backup outfielder, he's likely to end up wherever the team needs a little depth. While he played primarily in right field last season, he got time at each outfield position and likely will again this year.

#25 - Wesley Connor - RELEASED (c. 10/25/07)
Connor is a native of the Netherlands, and the switch hitter will be 22 for most of this season. The 2005 season was Connor's first in the Twins system, and he started off with the GCL Twins. He hit .246/671 in 27 games (65 AB's), and found himself in Elizabethton for most of the 2006 season, where he hit just .188/466 in 32 games (101 AB's). I'm guessing that a sub-.200 average is not enought to earn Connor a promotion to Beloit, considering that there is already a pretty full field ahead of him. Connor played primarily in right field last season, but also got some time in left.

#26 - Mark Robinson - RELEASED (c. 5/1/07)
Robinson was drafted in the 4th round of the 2004 draft, and the switch-hitter will turn 21 on April 7. Robinson was in Beloit last season, but really performed poorly, hitting just .178/488 in 42 games (135 AB's). While it's possible that he'll be kept in Beloit as a backup, I think there's a good shot that he's sent back to Elizabethton this season, as a way to open up a roster spot in Beloit. Robinson played about equally in left and right field last season.

#27 - J.W. Wilson - UNASSIGNED [Eliz/GCL]
Wilson was a 6th round pick in the 2005 draft, and the 20-year-old righty started off his Twins career with the GCL Twins in 2005, hitting .229/634 in 26 games (83 AB's). Last season, he hit .228/661 in 48 games (171 AB's) with Elizabethton. I'm putting him on a cut-point between Elizabethton and Beloit, but it seems much more likley that his numbers won't be good enough to get him to Beloit just yet. I look for him to start off in extended spring training before returning to Elizabethton for a second season. Wilson primarily played in right field last season, but also got a little bit of time in center.

#28 - Mark Dolenc - Elizabethton Twins [Eliz/GCL]
Dolenc was drafted in the 15th round of last years draft, out of Minnesota State - Mankato. The 22-year-old righty was assigned to the GCL team, where he hit .212/543 in 51 games (189 AB's). While those numbers ordinarily wouldn't be enough to get promoted, Dolenc may be a mature enough ballplayer to earn a spot with Elizabethton rather than a repeat season in the GCL. Dolenc pretty much split time between left and right field in 2006.

#29 - Kevin Harrington - GCL Twins
Harrington was drafted in the 12th round of the 2006 draft, and the soon-to-be 19-year-old lefty was assigned to the GCL team. He struggled mightily, hitting a woeful .136/419 in 36 games (110 AB's). Harrington will almost certainly get a shot to prove himself again in the GCL this year, and hopefully he can make some improvements. Harrington plays mostly in left, but also got some time in center and right last season.

#30 - Wang-Yi Lin - GCL Twins
All I know about Lin is that he is 18 (maybe 19 by the start of the season) and that he's from Taiwan. As with many international signings, I'm placing him at the bottom of the rankings until we see him play, and also guessing that he'll start off in the GCL. It's at least possible that Lin is actually developed enough to start off higher, but I think the GCL is a good guess.

NR - Ben Revere - UNASSIGNED [GCL]
Revere was the #1 pick in the 2007 draft for the Twins, and the speedy center fielder from Lexington Catholic High School in Kentucky fits the Denard Span mold to a T right now. The Twins have high hopes that Revere will develop significantly more power than Span as he rises through the system. Revere's first step will likely be to prove that he can hit GCL pitching, with a likely step up to Beloit for 2008 if he performs well this year. Revere was born on May 3, 1988, bats from the left side, and throws from the right.

NR - Andrew Schmiesing - GCL Twins [Elizabethton]
Schmiesing was the Twins 11th round pick in the 2007 draft, coming out of St. Olaf in good ole' Minnesota. Baseball America was predicting that it would be tough to sign the college junior, since he apparently was interested in returning to St. Olaf for his senior year of football. However, I suspect that being drafted by the hometown Twins made it impossible to pass up a contract, and Schmiesing's signing was announced on June 12. He was born on May 24, 1986, and hits and throws from the left side.

NR - Ozzie Lewis - Elizabethton Twins [No Prediction]
Lewis was drafted by the Twins in the 21st round of the 2007 draft out of Fresno State University in California. He's on the big side at 6'5", 210 lbs, and both bats and throws from the right. He was born on March 21, 1986, and he signed with the Twins on June 12.

NR - Darnell McDonald - Rochester Red Wings [No Prediction]
The Twins acquired McDonald from the Washington Nationals on June 24, 2007 in exchange for allowing the Nats to keep Levale Speigner, a 2006 Rule 5 Draft choice who had been designated for assignment the week before. McDonald was a 1st round pick for the Baltimore Orioles in 1997, and made it to the big leagues in 2004 for 17 games (he hit .156). Since that time, he's bounced around the AAA level for Cleveland, Tampa Bay, and Washington before heading to Minnesota. He has a little bit of speed, and in 2007 has been hitting pretty well. He was born on November 17, 1978 in Fort Collins, Colorado, and both hits and throws from the right side.

NR - Angel Morales - UNASSIGNED [No Prediction]
Morales was drafted by the Twins in the 3rd round of the 2007 draft out of Puerto Rico. He's supposed to be a 6'0", 185 lb. speedster. He was born on November 24, 1989 and both hits and throws from the right side.

NR - Dustin Martin - Ft. Myers Miracle [No Prediction]
Martin was acquired by the Twins in the trade that sent Luis Castillo to the Mets, and was assigned to Ft. Myers. A 26th round pick by the Mets in 2006, the left-handed hitting Martin (who was born on April 4, 1984) hit .294 in 119 AB's for the Miracle.

NR - Hyun-Wook Choi - Unassigned [No Prediction]
Choi is a South Korean high schooler who was signed by the Twins in August along with second-sacker Hyeong-Rok Choi. All the information that I have on him (which isn't much) comes from this Korean Times article, which includes a picture of the two Choi's together.

NR - Craig Monroe (40-Man) - Minnesota Twins [No Prediction]
Monroe was acquired by the Twins from the Cubs for a Player to be Named Later in mid-November. The Twins will reportedly attempt to sign Monroe, who is arbitration-eligible, to a new contract for less money than he made last season. If they cannot do so by December 1, they will non-tender him and owe the Cubs nothing in return.

NR - Delmon Young (40-Man) - Minnesota Twins [No Prediction]
Young was the centerpiece of a six-player deal that sent top Twins pitching prospect Matt Garza to the Tampa Bay Rays on November 28. Young is one of the most promising young hitters in the game, and was targeted by the Twins to bolster their offense. After the departure of Torii Hunter to the Angels, acquiring Young became even more of a priority for the Twins. He's expected to play left-field for the Twins in 2008, and should provide a reasonably high average and a power bat from the right side.

NR - Jason Pridie (40-Man) - Minnesota Twins [No Prediction]
Pridie has been viewed favorably by the Twins for a few seasons, having been taken by them in the Rule 5 Draft conducted in December 2005. He was returned to the Rays after Spring Training 2006, and was part of the Delmon Young/Matt Garza swap on November 28, 2007. Pridie is a center fielder who may have a chance to make the Twins in 2008, depending on who else the Twins end up acquiring over the course of the off-season.

NR - Jon Knott - Unassigned [No Prediction]
Knott is a 29-year-old right-hander who was signed by the Twins as a minor league free agent on November 22 and was invited to spring training in early January.

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