Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Minor League First Half Grades -- Part 4

I'm back today with the fourth in a series of post giving out "first-half" grades to the Twins minor leaguers. I was going to go with corner outfielders today, but decided to take the easy route and go with catchers instead. If you're allergic to bad numbers, don't look much further.

Rochester Red Wings

Jose Morales
Morales is currently on the disabled list, and has been limited to 197 at bats this year because of his injury. Nonetheless, he's easily had the best season amongst any of the other minor league catchers in the system, with a .315 average and 774 OPS. What's fairly remarkable is that Morales started off in a horrible slump this season, but has still put up really good numbers to cement his status as the organization's third catcher.
GRADE: A- (Would have been an A without the injury)

Ryan Jorgensen
The primary beneficiary of the injury to Morales has been Jorgensen, who was brought in to the organization as a minor league free agent in the off-season. A career .240 minor league hitter, Jorgensen has actually thrived with the Red Wings this year, hitting .277/821 with 7 homers. Much as it surprises me, I have to admit that he's been a steady replacement for Morales.

Jeff Christy
Christy has split his season between Rochester and New Britain, and hasn't been particularly effective with either. In New Britain, Christy had a .216 average and 592 OPS in 74 AB's. His numbers have actually been a bit better in Rochester, where he's hit .241/644 in 29 AB's. Christy has done virtually nothing offensively since being drafted in 2006, but since he continues to be moved quickly through the system I assume that he's a reasonably good defensive catcher.

New Britain Rock Cats

Drew Butera
Speaking of defensive catchers, the Twins knew that was exactly what they were getting when they picked up Butera from the Mets last year. So far in 2008, Butera has a .221 average and 672 OPS in 235 AB's. That's pretty much in line with his .214 career average. Hey, nobody said catchers were all that exciting! Butera gets a slightly better grade than Christy because I expect less of him and because he's shown more power, which is at least a somewhat useful offensive skill that Christy doesn't seem to have.

Rodolfo Palacios
Palacios flitted around the short season leagues from 2005-2007, although the only year he got any significant playing time was in 2006. This year, Palacios started off in Ft. Myers, where he hit .231/537 in 65 AB's, before being promoted to New Britain. He has a .200 average and 463 OPS in 40 AB's in AA. I imagine Palacios was promoted more out of necessity than for any other reason.

Ft. Myers Miracle

Wilson Ramos

After two seasons in which he hit .286 and .291, Ramos found himself a highly touted prospect coming into this season with Ft. Myers. He hasn't exactly disappointed -- he's hitting .261/722 with 10 homers and 53 RBI's in 333 AB's, in a league that often chews up offensive prospects -- but I suspect a lot of people (myself included) were hoping for a little bit more. Nonetheless, the fact that his power is continuing to develop nicely, and that he hasn't bottomed out offensively like many have done before when going from Beloit to Ft. Myers, is cause for being pleased overall.

Danny Lehmann
Lehmann is the only catcher drafted in 2007 by the Twins to make it to a full season team so far, and in 12 months he's gone from Elizabethton to Beloit to Ft. Myers. As with Palacios' promotion, this one seems to have been more out of necessity than anything else, although the Twins could have promoted Jair Fernandez (see below) instead of Lehmann. Either way, his season has been less than stellar offensively. In 104 AB's with Beloit, Lehmann hit .240/650. In 61 AB's with Ft. Myers, he's hitting a more paltry .213/524.

Beloit Snappers

Jair Fernandez
Fernandez was acquired by the Twins in exchange for allowing the Mariners to send Rule 5 pick R.A. Dickey to the minors at the beginning of the year. He's hitting better this season than he has previously in professional baseball, with a .283 average and 703 OPS in 127 AB's. If he turns into anything at all, the Twins will have done well in picking him up -- Dickey was a minor league free agent, so the Twins essentially turned a journeyman pitcher who they wouldn't have relied on in the least into a young catcher who will presumably in the organization for a few years.

Allan de San Miguel
De San Miguel has played with both the Miracle and the Snappers this season, and hasn't been that good with either. In 65 AB's with the Miracle, he hit an absolutely horrific .123 with a 439 OPS. He's been better with the Snappers, with a .226 average and 725 OPS in 62 AB's -- but you know there's a problem when a .226 average is actually a marked improvement.

Gregory Yersich
Yersich got off to a terrible start last year, hitting just .180 before being sent down to Elizabethton when the short season started. His strong performance with the E-Twins (.312 average in 186 AB's) had me hopeful that a return to Beloit this year would produce a different result. In a way it has -- his .210 average in 224 AB's for the Snappers this season isn't great, by any means, but at least it's 30 points higher than what he was hitting last year. Yersich also has 6 homers this year, which is more than he's hit before in a full season. That means there's been a little bit of improvement, but not enough to make me happen.

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  • At Fri Jul 25, 04:53:00 AM , Blogger Dianna said...

    Palacios has very questionable skills behind the plate. While you grade Dirty "F" based on his batting, he is defensively very good. Earlier in the season, everyone and his brother was running on Ramos...Dirty could at least catch the guys that were stealing. Of course, these skills are useless. The only thing that counts is batting as we're having a home run derby here, not playing baseball.

    As for promoting Lehmann over Fernandez, how would it help Fernandez development to sit on the bench when Ramos was getting the bulK of the playing time? The answer is - it wouldn't, which is why when you are promoting back up catchers it's important to promote the guys that are back ups, and not the guys that are looking like legitimate prospects.

  • At Fri Jul 25, 10:41:00 AM , Blogger JST said...


    Last point first -- I don't disagree with you that it makes sense to promote a backup over a starter if it will affect playing time. I honestly didn't think about that point when I commented on Lehmann/Fernandez, so I accept what you say as a valid point.

    On to the "F". I gave de San Miguel the "F" largely on the basis of hitting .123 for half of his at bats. I understand that catching skills are importnat, but you can't hit that poorly. Obviously, things have "improved" since the move, but I couldn't ignore an average that low.

    Regarding defensive skills -- I'm not competent to judge them. I give catchers a bit of benefit of the doubt when grading because I figure they're doing something behind the plate, but I can't judge that effectively. So, yes -- the grades are based almost exclusively on hitting stats, and that's a flaw. What can I say -- I'm an amateur blogger, not a professional scout, so that's what you're going to get.

    Finally, I'm curious what grade you'd give a generic catcher who has decent defensive skills but hits .220. I'm honestly curious, I'm not being sarcastic or defensive. This goes for anyone else who reads this, too -- what grade is appropriate for that type of player?

  • At Sat Jul 26, 11:26:00 AM , Anonymous toby said...

    If he's age appropriate for the level and "decent defensive skills" means possibly above average but not amazing and his OBP/SLG is normal for hitting .220 (i.e. slightly below average walk rate, no power) maybe a D or D+. Think of it this way: most of the major league catchers I can remember who hit .220 and had CAREERS as backups were considered excellent defensively. They were the guy where people said "if only he could hit .260 with a little pop he's be their starter, because he's really great behind the plate." If a guy was merely decent defensively -- not a liability -- would you as a fan of that MLB team consider the guy any better than a D? Any more than a placeholder until the next possibility was ready at AAA?

    Sometimes, depending on age and (lack of) potential movement higher in the system, I think it makes more sense to promote a guy into a parttime/platoon situation than it does keep him somewhere he's surpassed just because he's going to play everyday. It depends how much there is left to do against a given level of opposition. For Fernandez, he's still 21, so low A ball is just fine. He'll be in Ft. Myers next year and Ramos should be starting for New Britain.

    De San Miguel threw out 5 of 25 base stealers in Beloit this year, which ain't great. Dunno about Ft. Myers. Wilson Ramos has thrown out 21 of 56, or roughly double the proportion at a higher level of baseball. Obviously there's a lot more to defensive catching, but he's only got 5 errors in 63 games at catcher, which ain't great but it ain't bad for a 21 year old either. De San Miguel made 4 errors in just 21 games for Beloit. All that said, Dianna gets to see these guys and neither of those numbers captures WP-stoppage/etc, so I have to assume De San Miguel's better defensively than the numbers would indicate. But if I guy fails to cut the mustard that badly offensively after promotion I'd fail him, too.

    In the end, they're just letters in a blog, after all. DSM's welcome to start hitting and prove the grade wrong. I want to drink, not go to work.


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