Minor League Report From The Fort
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily (photo of Doug Mientkiewicz and LaMonte Wade)I’ve had the opportunity to watch a few practices and some games down on the minor league fields, and today will share some of what I have seen and heard. As always, I welcome your questions and comments in the forum below. And think of other questions that you would like me to ask players if I run into them this week.
As a quick note, I’ll likely be doing some Live Twitter/Periscope broadcasting throughout the next week, so be sure to follow Seth and Twins Daily on Twitter. I’ll be taking a ton of photos too, so be sure to Like Twins Daily on Facebook.
On Tuesday, I did a 17-minute Live Twitter in which I walked around the back fields right before the intrasquad games. It was windy, so the audio isn’t great, but it does give a good feel for the lay of the land down there. Also, there are cameos from Todd Van Steensel, Callan Pearce, TJ White, and a short (almost inaudible) interview with Lachlan Wells.
Tommy John rehab and recovery: Andro Cutura, Tyler Benninghoff, Brusdar Graterol and Alex Kirilloff. Kirilloff is back in Ft. Myers following his surgery.
I chatted with Tyler Benninghoff a bit on Tuesday afternoon. Earlier in the day, he was on the field playing catch from 130 feet. Coaches and trainers were nearby to monitor him. He said he was throwing 70-80% While the scar is impressive, he noted that he is scheduled to throw off of the mound for the first time next Friday (3/24). He is about 8 ½ months after his surgery and on pace. Who knows? He may be able to make his pro debut sometime in the GCL.
Zack Jones is also in Ft. Myers rehabbing from his shoulder surgery. Stephen Gonsalves is listed on the DL, though he is expecting to throw a bullpen on Wednesday. Johan Quezada has shoulder impingement and is yet to pitch in spring training. He remains very tall. Right-hander Ryan Mason is fighting some back spasms right now. Brandon Peterson has suffered a lat strain. Vadim Balan continues to deal with his back issues as well.
In terms of hitters, as you know, Trey Cabbage is likely out another week with his ankle/foot injury. I told him today that he’s looking too comfortable walking around in his walking boot. He agreed. Catcher Bryant Hayman had ACL surgery, so he’ll be out for a while.
I have to recommend that you read Phil Miller’s article in the Star-Tribune on Zack Granite and his speed. Miller chatted with Granite and with manager Paul Molitor about Granite. In the article, Miller used several quotes from the manager, but since we aren’t limited by space here, I wanted to include several more quotes. I think it shows just how much of a fan Molitor is of Granite and the type of player that he can become.
Molitor is impressed by the speedster’s game. On one play, he was on second base and there was a looping liner to left field. With a runner on third making sure the ball wasn’t caught, Granite cautiously took off toward third. When the left fielder slightly bobbled the ball, Granite took off, rounded third and scored on the play.
“You still need guys that can do those things, table set and run the bases. The play today was just... my favorite part about that play was that he made the decision himself. He didn’t come into third and look for help. He peripherally saw the slight bobble and just kicked it into gear. That was a good instinctive play. He’s done that a few times in different situations on the bases.”
Not only that, Molitor noticed, “He turned around that 97 mph fastball and hit it up the middle. He’s coming off a really good year with a lot of people speaking very highly of him. I like those kind of players. It’s better when they blend in with guys who can produce in terms of hitting the ball over the fence and drive people in, but there’s a definite place for those guys.”
Here are some other phrases that Molitor used to describe Granite:
“Shows no fear.”
“Strike zone knowledge.”
“He’s thrown the ball well.”
“He’s gone to get it.”
“There’s a lot of people, but I was looking forward to watching him play.”
While Granite remains a long shot to make the Opening Day roster, it’s clear that Granite has fans in important places in the Twins organization, and it’s easy to understand why.
Before Paul Molitor joined the Twins’ big league coaching staff (and then became manager), he was a roving instructor in the Twins minor league system. He’s seen a lot of these younger players develop. On Monday, Niko Goodrum made a start at first base and finished the game in left field.
Regarding Goodrum’s evolution since being drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft, Molitor noted, “It seems like he’s been here a long time. I remember him as a youngster coming in as a prospect, switch-hitter guy who could play around. His body developed. He had some injuries and things along the way, but he re-emerged and found himself back on the map.
Molitor noted that he hasn’t played a ton because of a “little shoulder issue that’s plaguing him a bit, but he’s taken good at-bats when he gets the chance.”
- Talked briefly with Tanner English, Ryan Walker and LaMonte Wade. All three of them had the opportunity to play for Team USA last Wednesday when they took on the Twins at Hammond Stadium. All three agreed that it was really cool to be in the dugout with that team, and that they were able to glean some good stuff from those players. They didn’t work out or practice with Team USA, but they did spend the morning working out with the Twins. All said it was just a very good day, and are grateful for the opportunity.
- Wander Javier is pretty impressive. He’s pretty big in person, though he certainly has room to grow. He looks like a guy who could probably stick at shortstop. And, he can hit. On Sunday, he drilled an opposite field double. On Monday, he had a home run against Bethel. He’s got a long ways to go. I would assume he will start in the GCL, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets to Elizabethton by the end of the season.
- Chatted briefly with Lewis Thorpe. He said he’s supposed to work three innings on Wednesday in a minor league game. He says he feels great and is strong. It’s been a long couple of years for the Australian southpaw. It’s hard to imagine that the Twins would want to start him in the cold of Cedar Rapids, so they could have him start with the Miracle.
- The wind was blowing out to right field on the field the Miracle and Kernels were playing on. Ben Rortvedt hit a long, long home run to right field that would have been well beyond the fence even without the wind. On Twitter, I estimated that it measured 7,000 feet. I talked to him afterward, and he said that felt pretty good. Through a couple of days of observing, he also appears to be real good defensively. He has the tools to become a very good defensive catcher, but I thought he also showed some real leadership vocally as well.
- I chatted a little bit with 2016 draft pick Caleb Hamilton. He was by the bullpen waiting his turn to catch a bullpen. I asked him if he had ever caught before coming to the Twins and switching positions in the Instructional League. He said that he had caught a little bit, and caught some bullpens in college at Oregon State. He said that with all of the injuries his team had last year, he played every position but first base. He said he even warmed up in the bullpen once and almost came in to pitch. He’s really enjoying learning to catch and all it entails.
- While it’s probably more random than anything else, side-winding Trevor Hildenberger was pitching on one field, side-winding Tom Hackimer was pitching on the other field. I took time to watch both from almost right behind home plate. They are very similar. I will say that I was incredibly impressed with Hildenberger’s changeup and how much command he has with that delivery. Hackimer was a little more wild, but I think could move up really fast too.
- Travis Harrison had the opportunity to travel to Bradenton with the big league club on Sunday. Not only did he travel, but he got to play. He also got two at-bats. He said that he just missed one in his first at-bat, flying out to the warning track in center. He was also (understandably) excited about his second at-bat when he homered. The homer came off of Pirates Rule 5 pick Tyler Webb.
- It was a lot of fun seeing Kernels pitching coach JP Martinez working with the young pitchers, many in their first spring training. Pitchers stood on the mound and went through their delivery (not throwing). As they did that, Martinez would load a ball into the pitching machine and “shoot” it toward the mound. The pitcher would have to field it and throw it toward second base. A big net was positioned at second base with a strike-zone sized box in the center. The pitcher had to field the ball, turn, and throw to second base. If they didn’t field the ball cleanly or they missed the target, they were “out.” Eddie Del Rosario was the winner of that particular competition. But it was fun to see the creativity and keeping things like PFPs, which are important but can get monotonous, fun.
- Starting pitchers in minor league camp are hoping to reach three innings (at 45 pitches) in their first outings. In their next start, they hope to go four innings (60 pitches). They will continue to ramp it up to 90 pitches which will likely be their limit for a couple of starts early in the season.
- Mike Radcliff told me the the team has signed several more minor league free agents than they have in the past. The idea is more players equals more competition equals better baseball. As we know, the new front office regime has talked about expanding the front office. They also want to make sure there are more players in minor league camp.
We’ll be back with more throughout the next week. Again, feel free to use the comments section below to ask questions about this article or things you would like me to dig into on the back fields.
- Tom Froemming and caninatl04 like this