The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Part I
Rochester Red Wings (17-27)
Brian Duensing and Kevin Mulvey both have losing records, but both have pitched pretty well so far this season. Duensing has a 3.44 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 52.1 innings of work, moving himself into a position to be considered for a callup in the event that the Twins starting staff suffers another injury. Mulvey, meanwhile, has fallen off considerably from a great first 3 weeks or so, but still has a 3.89 ERA in 41.2 innings -- although his 1.56 WHIP is higher than I'd like to see. Glen Perkins (2.97 ERA/1.41 WHIP/33.1 IP) has been the best of the Rochester pitchers this year, but of course he's currently with the Twins and undoubtedly is hoping to stay there.
In the bullpen, minor league free agents are thriving. Lefty Mariano Gomez has a 2.36 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 26.2 innings, and with Bobby Korecky currently in the Twins bullpen and getting little use, the question has to be asked whether Gomez could find himself getting a callup. Casey Daigle has also been solid for the Red Wings, posting a 2.57 ERA and slightly high 1.52 WHIP in 21.0 innings. Meanwhile, Heath Totten has a 3.86 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in 21.0 innings, and back-from-the-dead Danny Graves has a 1.00 ERA and 0.89 WHIP in 9.0 innings since being promoted to AAA.
That's not to say that only the free agents have had success -- long-time Twins prospects Julio DePaula and Ricky Barrett have been solid this year (2.81 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 25.2 innings for DePaula, and 2.96 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 24.1 innings for Barrett) as well, and Rule 5 returnee Tim Lahey has a 3.96 ERA and very solid 1.06 WHIP in 16.0 innings since coming back to the organization. In other words -- the bullpen has been pretty darned good for Rochester this year.
There are fewer offensive success stories for the Red Wings, but some of those stories are pretty compelling. Denard Span has been a great story, making his big league debut when Michael Cuddyer went down with an injury and playing outstanding baseball in AAA. Span has a .378 batting average and unbelievable 1.031 OPS in 90 AB's. He's added 14 steals, 3 homers, and a stunning .486 OBP to that mix. What do you even say to that?
I'm also stunned by the performance of Darnell McDonald so far this year. McDonald, you may remember, was picked up from the Nationals last year in exchange for letting Washington send Rule 5 pick Levale Speigner to the minors. He had a brief stint in the big leagues and didn't show much, and it was somewhat surprising that he was still hanging around the team this spring. After starting the season with an injury, McDonald has gone on a tear, hitting .336/.992 with 4 homers in 110 AB's. I certainly didn't expect this out of the veteran McDonald, and it will be interesting to see if he can hold up over the summer.
Meanwhile, third baseman Brian Buscher deserves credit for shrugging off a horrid spring by hitting .322/.898 in 118 AB's so far this season, and for finding his power stroke (he's hit 6 homers for the Red Wings in that span). Honorable mention also goes to catcher Jose Morales, who was absolutely terrible early in the season -- he's managed to raise his batting average to a very respectable .281 in 121 AB's. Over his last 10 games, Morales is hitting .471 -- I'd say he's solved whatever the problem was early this year.
There's not actually much to talk about in the bad category. Former Met Philip Humber qualifies with his 5.09 ERA and 1.75 WHIP (and perhaps more disturbingly his near-parity 22-19 K-BB ratio). In fact, that line is close to being in the "ugly" category, but I'm going to be generous. Outside of that, there's no one else I can point to in Rochester who has consistently been bad.
I was very excited about first baseman/DH Randy Ruiz this spring, because of his power potential and his seeming ability to hit for a decent average. Unfortunately, in 146 AB's for the Red Wings, Ruiz is hitting just .247 and has just 2 homers. Worse (and this stat belongs firmly in the "ugly" category), Ruiz has an eye-popping 48 K's in those 146 AB's, and just 7 walks. Yikes.
Former "Ray" Jason Pridie has also been pretty mediocre this year, hitting .231 in 169 AB's. Like Ruiz, Pridie has also had a brutal strikeout problem with 47 of them this season. That's a better ratio than Ruiz, but is still a horrid number, especially for a player like Pridie who certainly shouldn't be aiming for the fences.
There's no one on the team that I think needs to be in this category. You could argue that a couple of Francisco Liriano's starts could fit in this category, but I'm giving him a pass, and his actual ERA puts him somewhere just above the "Bad" category.
Where to start? I guess the most disappointing player has been 1B/OF/DH Garrett Jones, who has a .181 average in 138 AB's. He's joined by the since-released Eli Whiteside, a backup catcher who hit just .167 in 24 AB's, and new backup catcher Ryan Jorgensen, who is hitting .143 in 14 AB's. I could also easily put recently claimed Sergio Santos on this list for his .171 BA in 105 AB's. Then, there's the sad performance of Tommy Watkins, the longtime Twins minor leaguer who was a popular callup to the Twins last year before seeing his season end with an injury. Unfortunately, after being brought back into the fold in the off-season (he could have left as a minor league free agent), Watkins is hitting just .179 in 56 AB's while dealing with injuries.