Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Monday, August 13, 2007

Catching up with the Minors -- Part I

It's about time I catch up with the minor leagues, so this post will be dedicated to taking a look at the good and the bad from the Rookie League teams in the system. Tomorrow, I'll be looking at the two A-ball clubs, and Wednesday I'll look at AA and AAA. With about three weeks to go before the minor league seasons come to an end, this is the last chance for players to make an impression this season. Here are my thoughts:

Gulf Coast League Twins

The Good

For my money, the best news from the GCL offensively this season is the solid performance of Ben Revere, the Twins first round pick in this year's draft. Revere has a solid .318 batting average and .837 OPS. Perhaps most remarkable so far, however, has been his excellent speed -- he's stolen 19 bases in 39 games while being caught 6 times, and he's hit a remarkable 9 triples in 151 at-bats. So far, Revere has been solid.

Another solid find has been third baseman Juan Richardson, who appeared out of nowhere to put up a .321 batting average (albeit with a less impressive .781 OPS) in 162 AB's. Minnesotan Andrew Schmiesing (11th round pick in '07) has also been a pleasant surprise, hitting .321 (.779 OPS) in 109 AB's. Finally, a shout-out to Nick Papasan, a 24th round pick in 2006 who started off this season injured -- he makes this list because he was one of the people I was interested in seeing perform this year, and he's finally made his way into a couple of ballgames, going 2-for-5 in his first couple of games.

On the pitching side, there have been a lot of very solid performances. I was most interested in seeing some of the Twins international talent start their professional careers, and for the most part they haven't disappointed. Tom Stuifbergen of the Netherlands has yet to give up a run in 7 innings of work; Nick Lobanov of Russia started with 3 scoreless innings before being placed on an inactive list (for reasons I haven't found, yet); Liam Hendricks of Australia has been brilliant as a starter, with a 1.32 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in 34 innings of work; and Rodney Gessmann, who I was perhaps most interested in seeing perform, has been reasonably good with a 3.63 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP in 17.1 innings of relief. Hopefully it's the start of a long professional career -- although the odds are admittedly against any of these guys making it to the Major League level. I'll be cheering for each of them.

The Bad

Not all international debuts have been as steller as those of the pitchers listed above; Taiwan's Wang-Wei Lin has put up a .194 batting average and .555 OPS. I would guess that some of that is due to the difficulty of transitioning to life in the United States, and at only 19 Lin still has plenty of time to make that adjustment. I'm also going to include Daniel Rams in this category, but only tentatively -- after signing with the club, Rams (second round pick in this year's draft) started off on fire, but has hit just .143 in his last 10 games and is now hitting just .246 on the season with a .654 OPS. As with Lin, Rams certainly has plenty of time to turn it around, and it's important to remember that he signed relatively late and is certainly still adjusting to life as a professional.

On the pitching side of the equation, no one has struggled that seemed poised to be a solid performer -- but in the spirit of talking about the Twins international signings, I'll throw Jakub Toufar on this list -- the Czech reliever has a 7.36 ERA in 11 innings of work, placing him substantially behind the curve of his fellow internationals. Also disappointing this season has been Thomas Wright, a 23rd round selection in the 2006 draft who has a 6.00 ERA in 30 innings of work (8 starts and 1 relief appearance).

Elizabethton Twins

The Good

There's a clear front-runner in this category for Elizabethton, and his name is Ozzie Lewis. The Twins 21st round selection in the 2007 draft has played out of his mind so far for the E-Twins, with a .341 batting average and .990 OPS (including 9 dingers) in 173 AB's. When you get that kind of performance immediately out of a draft pick in the 20's, you have to be pleased. Lewis hasn't exactly been alone amongst good performers in E-town this year, however -- four other players with over 100 AB's each have a batting average over .300 so far this year, and Deibinson Romero is close with a .295 average and 8 homers. Perhaps the most applause deserve to go to Gregory Yersich, who was absolutely horrible offensively to start the season in Beloit (.168 BA in 119 AB's). Since his demotion to Elizabethton, Yersich has hit .329 with an .831 OPS. Hopefully he can carry at least some of that with him when he goes back to Beloit.

On the pitching side, Michael Allen's 2.29 ERA in 55 innings (along with a 1.13 WHIP and 58-10 K-BB) have been outstanding, which hopefully demonstrates that the 13th round pick from the 2005 draft is ready to bust into a full season league -- certainly, there's every reason to believe that he'll be starting next season with the Snappers. On the relief side, Aussie Bradley Tippett is posting his second consecutive solid rookie league season, with a 1.19 ERA in 30.1 innings over 16 relief appearances. Last year, Tippett had a 2.53 ERA in 21.1 innings for the GCL Twins, so he's continuing to improve. As with Allen, Tippett has likely already secured himself a place in Beloit next year.

The Bad

It may have been do-or-die time for former first round pick Henry Sanchez, who has disappointed ever since joining the Twins in 2005. Once again, Sanchez has been hampered by an injury, and hasn't played since early July. I can't imagine that the Twins will continue to hang onto a player who appears to simply not have the makeup to perform in professional baseball -- but since he's a former first round pick, I suppose the odds of the team just dumping him (especially after an injury-riddled season) are probably slim. Still, this was a hugely important year for Sanchez, and it just didn't happen for him.

On the pitching side, Omar Alcala has the gaudiest ERA at 7.63 in 15.1 innings -- but I'm more disappointed with the performance of Daniel Latham, the Twins 15th round selection in this year's draft. Latham was a very good closer for Tulane University, but his success in the NCAA has not translated to success in the minor leagues to this point, as he's posted a 5.56 ERA in 22.2 innings of work. His 26-2 K-BB ratio and solid 1.15 WHIP suggest that he's been a bit unlucky, but it sure would be nice if he could get that ERA below 4.50 by the time the season was done. If he does, he should still be able to earn a promotion to Beloit for next season.



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