Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Organizational Rankings: First Basemen

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.) 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 end up. 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 ranking, 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 - Justin Morneau (40-Man) - Minnesota Twins
As I said in the last post, this series is designed to cover the minor league system more than the Major League system. Nothing says that the major league incumbent is necessarily going to get the #1 ranking at any given position, but in this case it's pretty easy to say that the reigning AL MVP is the best first baseman in the system. Began season with Minnesota

#2 - Erik Lis - Ft. Myers Miracle
I absolutely love this guy. He's put up some monster numbers in his first two years in the organization, with a .315 average and 933 OPS for Elizabethton in 2005 and a .326 average with a 949 OPS last year for Beloit. He was a 9th round selection in the 2005 draft, and will be 23 when the season starts. Granted, to this point he's only played in the lower levels of the system, but the lefty seems poised to continue to blast through the system this year. He was the second 1B taken by the Twins in that 2005 draft - and as you'll see, he's absolutely rocketed past the other one. Lis was injured at the end of last season, but presuming that he's healthy, there is no reason that he shouldn't start the season for the Miracle. A quick promotion to New Britain may be in order if he starts off hot in Florida, as well. And, just to throw out a little bit of speculation - if Lis continues to hit and moves up through the system, he just might be a candidate to replace Morneau if the Twins find that the MVP is becoming too expensive, round about the start of the 2009 season. Began season with Ft. Myers

#3 - Doug Deeds - Rochester Red Wings
The 24-year-old Deeds was a 9th round selection for the Twins back in 2002, and seems poised to make it to AAA this season. Deeds has hit .282/.304/.294 over the past three seasons (with New Britain in '06 & '05, and with Ft. Myers in 2004), put up OPS numbers of 853, 861, and 812 in those years. He's made more valuable because of his ability to also play in the outfield, which he's done with some regularity. Deeds has been blocked from moving up to AAA by Garrett Jones, but with some holes in the outfield at Rochester, and Deeds two-year performance in New Britain, it seems almost inevitable that he'll make the move this season. This is also the last year that Garrett Jones can be optioned to the minors, so Deeds is the heir-apparent at 1B and on the 40-man roster if Jones doesn't perform this year. Began season with Rochester

#4 - Daniel Matienzo - RELEASED (c. 3/15/07)
Matienzo was drafted back in 2002, as a 23rd round selection. The 26-year-old has never matched the productivity of long-time teammate Deeds (who he's played with the last three seasons), and his batting averages are moving in the wrong direction (.252/.282/.305 the last three seasons). As a result, I'm projecting that the righty stays in New Britain for a third-straight year. If he's to avoid being passed up by younger prospects, he'll need to perform this year.

#5 - Garrett Jones (40-Man) - Minnesota Twins [Rochester]
Jones will turn 26 in the middle of the season, and will be entering his last option year (Note: Jones was originally drafted by the Atlanta Braves, back in 1999. He was released by the Braves back in 2002, and signed shortly thereafter by the Twins. It's possible, although extremely unlikely, that Jones was optioned once while with Atlanta - if that were the case, he would be out of options. I don't think this is the case, but if somebody knows otherwise, let me know). Jones can hit for power, and back in 2004 with New Britain he put up a .311 batting average and 949 OPS. In the past two years, however, he's put up .238/732 and .244/742 - definitely a step backwards. Both of those season were spent with Rochester, so it's possible that something will click for Jones this year, enabling him to boost his numbers back to '04 levels. If not, Jones will likely be gone before the 2008 season, as younger players are moving through the system and will need roster spots in Rochester. Optioned to Rochester 3/23/07; Recalled to Minnesota 5/15/07; Optioned to Rochester 5/18/07; Recalled to Minnesota 7/11/07

#6 - Brock Peterson - New Britain Rock Cats
Fot a 49th round draft pick (back in 2002), Peterson has done pretty well for himself. He had his best season last year, hitting .291 with an 853 OPS for Ft. Myers. Those numbers, along with Doug Deeds' likely promotion to Rochester, should get the right-handed Peterson to New Britain this year. At 23, he's still young enough to develop a bit in the next couple of years, and if he continues to hit like he did last year, he could get into the top prospect mix. Began season with New Britain

#7 - Ken Harvey - Minor League Free Agent (c. 11/02/07)
I'm not sure what to say about Harvey. For the record, I think it's fairly unlikely that the Twins would give him a roster spot in the minor leagues - not when there are so many young guys fighting for playing time at this position. Nevertheless, it's at least possible. Harvey last played in the Major Leagues with Kansas City in 2005, but he played in just 12 games and didn't do very well. His 2004 season was solid (.287/759), and the Twins are probably hoping he can return to that kind of form. Harvey will compete for the Twins open DH spot in the spring, and has at least a shot of making the team. The most likely scenario, however, has Jason Kubel winning that job, and Harvey either being assigned to Rochester (probably as the DH, with Jones at 1B, and Deeds in RF) or released from the organization altogether. Began season with Rochester; Rehab assignment with GCL 6/23/07 - 6/28/07

#8 - Daniel Berg - Beloit Snappers [Bel/Eliz]
Berg can play at 1B, at 3B, and can catch a little, so he's a nice versatile player to have around. Berg was drafted in the 30th round back in 2004, and the 22-year-old spent most of his time last season with Elizabethton, where he played alright (.253/819). Certainly, his 2006 season was an improvement on 2005, when he hit just .159 in 88 at-bats with the GCL Twins. Berg did get into 9 games with Beloit, and hit just .192. That low batting average could mean that he is left in Extended Spring Training in April again this year, and assigned to Elizabethton when the short-season starts. However, I think it's more likely that he is assigned to Beloit to start the season, where he will play at a number of positions. Began season with Beloit

#9 - Henry Sanchez - Elizabethton Twins [Bel/Eliz]
Sanchez is the guy who was drafted in front of Erik Lis back in 2005. In fact, Sanchez was a 1st round pick that year, but the 20-year-old has so far failed to impress. He struggled so much last season with Beloit (.202/617) that the Twins assigned him to Elizabethton, but he played in just 12 games, hitting .220 and putting up a 623 OPS before essentially disappearing (I think he got hurt, but I can't remember for sure). His .229/643 with the GCL team in 2005 also was disappointing. Sanchez is still young, and as a first round pick obviously has potential - but he's already been passed up by Lis, and if he continues to struggle the Twins may lose patience with him and cut ties. Because he's struggled so much since being drafted, I think that the Twins will work with him during Extended Spring Training and assign him to Elizabethton to start the season. However, with 1B at Beloit relatively open, they may decide to start him there and see what happens. Began season with Elizabethton

#10 - Johnny Woodard - Ft. Myers Miracle [Ft.M/Bel]
Woodard was a 3rd round pick in 2003, but the 22-year-old has struggled over the past few years. In 2005, he spent time in both the GCL (.235/669) and with Beloit (.235/712), and played with Ft. Myers in 2006 (.181/548). The dismal '06 numbers could mean that he's busted back down to Beloit to start the season, but it's also possible that the team will keep him where he's at and hope that he adjusts. Began season in Beloit; Promoted to Ft. Myers 6/22/07

#11 - Jonathan Waltenbury - GCL Twins [Eliz/GCL]
Waltenbury was a 7th round selection in last year's draft, but came to terms with the team in August - late enough that the Twins didn't assign him to play last year. Waltenbury will turn 19 on April 1, and will almost certainly be assigned to one of the two short-season Rookie League teams. Not being that familiar with him (he hits left-handed - that's about all I know), I can't say whether he's more likely to go to the GCL or to Elizabethton. I imagine it depends on how he performs during Extended Spring Training. His position on my organizational ranking is likely to change once he has some numbers to base things on - he's last on my list because I just don't know enough about him to make a solid judgement. Began season with GCL

NR - Spencer Steedley - Elizabethton Twins [No Prediction]
Steedley was the Twins 25th round pick in the 2007 draft, and is sort of listed all over the place, depending on who you listen to. Baseball America has him down as an OF/LHP, but the Twins have him listed as a 1B on the team website, so that's what I'm going with. He comes to the Twins out of UNC-Charlotte, and was born on May 31, 1985. It will be interesting to see where he ends up once he starts playing. Began season with Elizabethton

NR - Rene Leveret - Elizabethton Twins [No Prediction]
Leveret is a graduate from the Twins Dominican Summer League team, where he hit .331/.936 in 254 AB's in 2006 while bashing 7 homers and knocking in 55 RBI's. The righty is originally from South Reward, Saint Maartin, and was born on 11/19/1985. Began season with Elizabethton

NR - Nick Biagini - RELEASED (c. 10/25/07)
Biagini was the Gophers backup first baseman for a couple of years, and the graduate of Minnesota's own Cretin-Derham Hall was just recently signed by the team and given a shot to make a roster. It seems that he's done just that, making it onto the GCL squad for 2007. Biagini didn't exactly do a lot in the 2007 season for the Gophers, playing in just 8 games and hitting .125 in 8 at-bats on the season (that one hit was, oddly enough, a triple). The Pioneer Press described his signing as a "long-shot chance," so we'll see how does as a professional. Biagini was born on January 1, 1985, and hits and throws from the left-side. Began season with GCL

NR - Tim Atherton - UNASSIGNED [No Prediction]
Atherton is an Australian who was just signed by the Twins in March. Since he was just 17 when he signed, it's not particularly remarkable that he hasn't been assigned to a team yet -- for all I know, he's still in Australia finishing up school. I wouldn't expect to hear from him until the 2008 season, with a likely assignment at that time to the GCL.

NR - Randy Ruiz - Unassigned [No Prediction]
Ruiz, who also plays a little OF, is a 30-year-old right-hander out of the Bronx who was signed by the Reds as an undrafted free agent in 2003 (he had been drafted four years earlier by the Mets in the 36th round, but never signed). Ruiz has some power (27 HR in 2005, 26 in '06, and 24 in '07) and has a career .300 minor league batting average in 3235 career at-bats. His career OPS of .899 is also pretty solid. Maybe Ruiz will prove to be a surprisingly strong find as a minor league free agent.

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  • At Wed Feb 07, 07:45:00 PM , Blogger Marty said...

    OPS is awesome

  • At Fri Feb 09, 09:46:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Lis to replace Morneau in 2009 in case Morneau is too expensive? You're kiddding me right? One year before the new ballpark opens and we're going with Lis at 1st base. I don't think so!

  • At Fri Feb 09, 09:52:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Matienzo carries a 1st base glove only because he's expected to flash some leather somewhere on the field. Having watched him a few times in all honesty even the pick off throws to 1st are adventourous when he's manning the base.

    DH or bust, and unfortunately I vote for the latter.

  • At Fri Feb 09, 10:31:00 PM , Blogger JST said...

    Let me address the second statement first - when Matienzo is in the field, he's at first - that's why he's on the list. He's ranked as high as he is because of his potential as a hitter.

    As for Lis being a potential replacement for Morneau - look at what I said. I said "IF" he continues to hit, then he "MIGHT" be a candidate to replace Morneau. Unless you know exactly what Lis (or any other prospect) is going to do in 2007 and 2008, I don't think you can blow off anyone. Of the players ahead of Lis in the system, I don't think anyone is likely to claim the job. As a result, I think Lis has a shot if he has two solid seasons.

    As for why Morneau would need replacing - I'm still optimistic that the Twins can sign Johan to a long-term deal, and the same with Mauer. If they do, they probably can't afford to pay Morneau (or anyone else high priced). It's going to be an internal candidate - so if you don't like Lis, tell me who you think would get the job.

    Again, this is all speculative - Lis could very well have a bust season in 2007 and play his way out of contention for anything, let alone the starting job in 2009. We shall see.

  • At Fri Mar 09, 07:01:00 AM , Blogger Beach64 said...

    This year we will have these 1st baseman competing in AA and AAA. Jones, Deeds, and Peterson. I dont see how they can keep Peterson down another year after last year. (21 homers in Fort Myers is the most ever by a Miracle player). Deeds and Jones will also play OF so they can get a possible shot in the majors. Matienzo should be the odd man out. He only carries a glove so the gatekeeper lets him in the dugout.

  • At Wed Sep 05, 05:54:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Being Dutch I'm a keen follower of all Dutch players in the majors and minors. What do u think about Leverets numbers this year? Would u move him up or down on your list?

  • At Wed Sep 05, 08:37:00 AM , Blogger JST said...

    Dutch Anon -- Leveret was unranked on my list this year because he just came up from the Dominican Summer League this year, and I don't track the players at that level. That's why his "rank" is "NR" -- Not Ranked. He will definitely be moving up the rankings this season (for one thing, he'll actually get a real ranking), and after putting together a very nice year, I'm sure he'll be ranked well.


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