Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Monday, April 07, 2008

Down on the Farm: AAA Report

If you've been with me since the beginning of this blog (or at least since early last season), you might remember that a regular feature during the season used to be a "Down on the Farm" report each weekday covering one of the minor league teams. Last season, due largely to time constraints, I abandoned the Down on the Farm reports. Starting today, I'm going to try to resurrect them. The structure is going to be a bit different from those early versions, but the goal will be the same -- to give you an idea both of who has played well over the past week and how that fits into the context of the season at large. I can't promise that I'm going to have time to keep up with this, but it's something that I want to do, and something that I think there is a demand for.

The schedule will be pretty simple: on Monday I'll cover AAA Rochester, on Tuesday it'll be AA New Britain, Wednesday will be reserved for High-A Ft. Myers, and Thursday will be the day for Low-A Beloit. Once the short-season rookie league seasons start in June, I'll attempt to cover both Elizabethton and the GCL Twins on Fridays. Now, enough for the intro -- here's the first Rochester report of the season:

Rochester Red Wings (1-2)

Starting Pitching
The Red Wings haven't exactly received great starts from their pitchers so far this season, with Brian Duensing's 5.2 inning, 6 hit/1 walk performance being the best of the bunch (despite all of those baserunners, he allowed just 2 runs, both earned, and he did strike out three batters). The other two starts were pretty miserable -- Glen Perkins started on opening day and went just 3 innings, allowing 2 runs (1 earned) on 4 hits and 5 walks while striking out 4. Phil Humber, meanwhile, went just 4 innings in his start on Saturday, giving up 5 runs (3 earned) on 8 hits while striking out 3. Of course, short starts aren't particularly unexpected early in the season as the starters get their stamina built back up -- but while 5.2 innings is acceptable, the team undoubtedly was hoping for more than the 3 or 4 innings that Perkins and Humber gave them. I wouldn't worry too much after just one start, though. Kevin Mulvey was scheduled to start yesterday's game, but was pushed back due to a rainout. On Tuesday night, meanwhile, Francisco Liriano is set to make his first start for the Red Wings after opening his season in Ft. Myers with the Miracle.

Relief Pitching
Heath Totten, who was reportedly going to start games, has made two relief appearances already this season and hasn't been terribly good (3 earned runs allowed in 2.2 innings). Julio DePaula (1.2 innings, 2 earned runs) has also struggled a bit, but the sample size is so small as to be virtually meaningless. Meanwhile, the strongest performances of the young season have come from Ricky Barrett (2 innings, 1 hit, 2 K's), Casey Daigle (2.2 innings, 1 hit, 1 K), and Bobby Korecky (1 inning, 1 hit, 1 K).

There's not a lot to report on the catching side of things. Regular starter Jose Morales was behind the plate for the first two games of the season and went 2-9 with a run scored, a walk, and 2 K's. His backup, veteran Eli Whiteside, went 1-3 with an error in his first game of the year on Saturday. Expect that 2-1 split in playing time to persist in favor of Morales, who may get some playing time as the DH.

Through the first three games, Randy Ruiz (1B), Howie Clark (2B), and Alexi Casilla (SS) were clearly established as the starters at their respective positions (although Casilla did get a start at 2B with Chris Basak spelling him at SS), while Matt Macri and Brian Buscher split starts at 3B (Macri started twice there and got a start as the DH, while Buscher got a start at 3B and a start as the DH). I'm not sure what advantage there is for the Twins organization in giving a veteran like Clark regular playing time, but that seems to be the direction we're headed in. For the most part, the infielders haven't warmed up their bats yet -- Alexi Casilla (4-13, 2 SB, 3 K's), Randy Ruiz (3-12, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K's) and Brian Buscher (2-8, HR) have been the best of the bunch. Meanwhile, the last player on the team without a hit is backup Tommy Watkins, who has gone 0-2 in two pinch hitting appearances. The big questions in this infield are whether Macri or Buscher will emerge with more playing time at 3B, and whether the Twins will really continue to give Howie Clark a chance to play regularly.

Garrett Jones has gotten off to an absolutely torrid start, going 6-12 with a HR, 4 RBI's, a SB, a BB, and perhaps most surprisingly no strikeouts while starting every game in RF. I fully expect things to change (and quickly), but those are obviously great numbers through the first three games of the season. Meanwhile, Jason Pridie has gone 2-11 while getting two starts in LF and one in CF -- expect him to play in center every day until the return of Denard Span to Rochester. The new left fielder for the next fifteen days seems to be Jon Knott, who went 1-7 after a game in left and one as the DH. I wouldn't be surprised to see some interesting names in left, though, until Span gets back (when Pridie will return to the position) -- perhaps Brian Buscher will get a start there, or maybe Jones with Randy Ruiz starting in right. Maybe Tommy Watkins will even get a start in the outfield. Honestly, why not experiment? Knott, like Howie Clark, is unlikely to ever make a dent with the big league club, so it doesn't make sense to start him exclusively in left.

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  • At Tue Apr 08, 12:54:00 PM , Anonymous TT said...

    I think Knott is projected as the first bat called up if the Twins decide they can get by with 11 pitchers. That's why he was with the team to the very end of spring training.

    As for Clark, I think he took the job in spring training. If Harris or Punto should get hurt, he could well get an opportunity at the big league level. Casilla may be a better prospect, but the Twins don't seem to think he is ready.

  • At Tue Apr 08, 03:05:00 PM , Blogger JST said...

    You may very well be right on both counts, but I hope you're wrong -- at least with Clark. At least with Knott, there's a clear need for more depth at his position in the minor league system -- the Twins have middle infielders coming out of their ears. Personally, I'd rather see one of the young guys get the call over a guy like Clark. I guess the bottom line is that I would probably have avoided giving him a roster spot at all, even in Rochester.


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