Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Nightly Notes: Game #58

The Twins pulled off the most unlikely of victories today to salvage a 2-4 road trip. Here are tonight's notes:

1.) Congratulations to Kevin Slowey on picking up his first major league win, of what will hopefully be many, many more. He wasn't particularly sharp today, going 5 innings and giving up 5 runs (4 earned) on 10 hits with 2 K's. He only threw 84 pitches, so presumably Gardy could have sent him out for more, but when you give up that many hits it's obvious you don't have your best stuff. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to actually watch a game (darned work!), but I have to agree with Gardy's decision to go to Matt Guerrier in the 6th. Slowey is doing enough to keep the interest level high, and hopefully his next start will be a break-through type performance.

2.) The bullpen was once again brilliant, with Matt Guerrier, Carmen Cali, Pat Neshek, and Joe Nathan all doing their part -- and allowing just 1 walk between them. That's a remarkable feat over 4 innings of work and 4 different pitchers.

3.) Nick Punto and Jason Bartlett going deep? Luis Castillo making an error? Jeff Cirillo starting at 1B? What the heck was going on today!

4.) By the next time the Twins play, Joe Mauer should be in the lineup -- and it sounds like he'll be batting second. Here's the thing: right now, I want to see Mauer hit second. Lord knows the offense isn't exactly on fire right now, so moving Mauer to second should help to set things up in the first inning. There's no reason not to experiment a little bit. I'm NOT, however, going to criticize Ron Gardenhire for trying to get Nick Punto (and a few others) to perform in the #2 hole. The idea behind having a guy like Punto (or even Bartlett) bat second is that you get some significant speed early. When Punto is hitting around .290 or so, that's not a bad strategy. When he's hitting .226 -- not so much. For those of you who have been clamoring for Mauer to hit second all year long; well, you aren't wrong. There are just alternatives that also weren't necessarily wrong early on.

5.) I realize that a 2-4 road trip seems like a major let-down after four straight series victories -- but it really wasn't that bad. The Twins are still at .500; they were playing good teams on the road; and they basically did what you expect to do in tough road series. As I said last year, 1-2 on the road is essentially par, because the home team is expected to win 2-of-3. In other words, the Twins did their job (although they sure looked bad in the games that they lost!). Now, it's time to take care of business against the Nationals -- a team that the Twins really should sweep.

6.) No Down on the Farm post tonight. Push everything back a day (and I really, really hope I can get a Low A report up Friday).

7.) No chance to put together a whole post on tomorrow's draft, so here are my abbreviated thoughts. The Twins have had remarkable success with college starters over the past few years. Look at some of these names:

Pat Neshek - 2002 - Butler University (yes, he started)
Scott Baker - 2003 - Oklahoma State University
Glen Perkins - 2004 - University of Minnesota
Matt Garza - 2005 - Fresno State University
Kevin Slowey - 2005 - Winthrop University
Brian Duensing - 2005 - University of Nebraska
Jeff Manship - 2006 - University of Notre Dame

There are other names, but these are the top guys from the last 5 drafts. Down the road, that 2005 draft class may become legendary. Bottom line: good things come from drafting college pitchers, in my opinion, and I think the Twins are very good at scouting in this area. Even if it isn't a "need" right now, you can never have enough quality pitching moving through the organization, and a large part of me hopes that the Twins take a college starter in the first round.

As for more "need" positions, the Twins could use some solid prospects in a couple of areas:

At Catcher, the Twins have a number of solid defensive players, but overall the cupboard is pretty bare. If there's a good spot to take a catcher without reaching in the first 5-7 rounds, the Twins should definitely do it.

At Shortstop, the Twins could use some more options in the lower levels. Some guys, like Nick Papasan, are already in the fold and might make the lower levels look more stocked quickly -- but the team could sure use an impact shortstop, if one is out there.

And, in the Outfield, the Twins have some of the biggest concerns. There just isn't a lot in the lower levels of the system (with apologies to Chris Parmelee, who is still a very solid prospect, and Joe Benson, who could be). I wouldn't be surprised to see the Twins make a number of outfield picks early on.

One last thing about the draft -- this is the first year with an August 15th signing deadline. That is going to have a significant impact on drafting strategy. In the past, quite a few picks in the later rounds were so-called "draft and follow" picks -- guys that the team would let play with spring teams before deciding whether to offer them a contract. That's no longer an option, and I think that means that a lot of teams will simply not draft those players at all -- they'll have to wait to the next season. I suspect that this means that a lot of teams will simply stop drafting somewhere around the 35th round. I could be completely off on this -- but I just don't see a reason to draft as many players under the new format. We'll find out soon.



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