A Brief Look at the Elizabethton Roster
The Elizabethton roster revealed some new information for me, as 2008 eighth round draft pick Jeff Lanning was listed. I hadn't seen his signing reported anywhere, so that was an interesting development. Lanning, who had a very good 2008 season with the University of New Orleans, should get the bulk of the playing time in Elizabethton (although maybe not -- he didn't play on opening night). He'll be joined by 2007 pick Daniel Rams, who was taken in the 2nd round a year ago. Rams hit just .258 in 97 AB's with the GCL Twins a year ago, but remember that he was adjusting from the high school game. This year should put him in a better light. Third stringer Alexander Soto hit .273 in 66 AB's for the GCL Twins a year ago, but I don't expect him to get a lot of playing time with Lanning and Rams in front of him.
There are a number of very exciting players in the Elizabethton infield. I'm particularly intrigued by first baseman Rene Leveret, who hit .307 with an 862 OPS and 8 homers in 244 AB's for Elizabethton last year. The Twins must not have been convinced that he was for real, since those excellent numbers didn't earn him a promotion. I'm curious to see if he can put together another solid season in 2008 to prove he's for real. He's joined at 1st base by Jonathan Waltenbury, a 7th round pick from 2006 who was unexceptional last year in the GCL (.244/713/123 AB's), and, if he recovers from yet another injury, by Henry Sanchez. Sanchez was a first round selection back in 2005, but he's been a complete bust -- he's largely been unable to stay healthy, and even when he is on the field he's been unable to perform. I'd be willing to bet that we're in the end stage of his professional baseball career.
Up the middle, the most interesting name is Nick Papasan, who played well in limited action for the GCL Twins a year ago after he returned from injury. The Texan has been talked up incessantly by many of his fans from his high school days, so this will be his chance to live up to that hype. He's joined by Aussie James Beresford, Venezuelan Jeanfred Brito, and Puerto Rican Eric Santiago. Beresford and Brito both played well in the GCL a year ago, while Santiago struggled in Elizabethton and earned a return engagement.
At third base, the Twins will see what Juan Richardson can do after a solid 2007 season in the GCL, where he hit .317 with a 765 OPS. He'll be joined by former Golden Gopher Nathan Hanson, who was taken by the Twins in the 28th round of this years draft. As with Lanning, Hanson was a surprise to me because I didn't know he had signed.
There's a short crew in the outfield, with only four currently assigned to the team. Recent draft picks Evan Bigley (10th round out of Dallas Baptist University) and Michael Harrington (13th round out of the College of Charleston) appear to be similar players -- both are 6' tall and around 200 pounds, although Bigley hits from the right side and Harrington comes from the left. Both also have a bit of pop, so we'll how that translates with the wood bats. They are joined by 2007 draft picks Angel Morales (3rd Round) and Andrew Schmiesing (11th Round) who both played in the GCL a year ago. Morales, making the adjustment from high school, hit just .256 a year ago. Schmiesing, meanwhile, was coming out of St. Olaf college and had no trouble at the lowest professional level, hitting .321 in 109 AB's.
Starting rotations are usually a bit fluid in the short season teams, so I'm not going to split the guys up here. I'm also not going to comment on all of them. Two 2008 draft picks, Daniel Osterbrock (7th round - University of Cincinnati) and David Coulon (15th round - University of Arizona) have been assigned to Elizabethton, although Coulon appears to be on some sort of "reassignment" right now, so I'm not sure when, or if, he'll actually pitch for the team this year.
Other interesting names include recent Beloit pitchers Daniel Berlind and Bradley Tippett, who were sent down after struggling a bit so far this year (although neither of them was terrible). I'm also very excited to see Venezuelan Danny Rondon (1.14 ERA in 23.2 innings for the GCL a year ago), lefty Australian Jarrad Eacott (2.28 ERA in 27.2 innings for the GCL Twins in 2007), and Arkansan Lee Martin (18th round pick in 2007 who put up a 3.21 ERA in 14.0 innings in the GCL in 2007). Finally, because he's a Minnesotan who did well in 2007 (and because he's got a fun name), I'm curious to see how Mark Hamburger (1.20 ERA in 15.0 innings with the GCL in 2007) performs as well. No disrespect intended for any of the guys not mentioned, but these are the names I'm going to follow most closely in 2008 (unless someone gives me a reason to do otherwise!).