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Three-Bagger: Red Wings Edition

Coming into play on Tuesday, August 8th, the Rochester Red Wings have a record of 65-50. That puts them 8 ½ games back of International League North Division leading Scranton-Wilkes-Barre. They’re in third place, two games behind the Lehigh Valley IronPigs for second place in the division, and more important, in the wild card race.

That’s why it’s understandable that the organization made the move to bring up lefty starter Stephen Gonsalves and righty reliever Luke Bard. The hope could be that the two will help bolster the Red Wings pitching staff and help them get into the playoffs. Well, that, along with some good experience in a playoff chase at a new level of development.

Gonsalves will make his first AAA start on Thursday against Norfolk. When he and Bard make their Red Wings debuts, they will be the 37th and 38th pitchers to throw for the team this season, already a franchise record.

With that, I thought I’d bring out a Triple-A version of Nick Nelson’s Three-Bagger series. Below you’ll find three players at Rochester of particular interest.
Image courtesy of Caitie Ihrig/Rochester Red Wings
Here are three Rochester Red Wings to pay particular attention to in the coming weeks.


MITCH GARVER

Those that follow me on Twitter know that I’ve been including the hashtag #CallHimUp on any of the tweets that mention Garver. He’s 26, and he’s put up tremendous numbers. In fact, someone close to the Red Wings said he’s “having one of the best seasons as a catcher in recent Red Wings history.”

Through 81 games this season, he is hitting .276/.378/.521 (.898). He’s hit 23 doubles and 16 home runs. Since being drafted in the ninth round of the 2013 draft, after his senior season at the University of New Mexico, he has continued to improve each season. That’s great since he was the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year in 2014 while playing in Cedar Rapids. This year, he’s been impressive, showing a strong knowledge of the strike zone and attacking driveable pitches into the gaps and over the fence, to either field.

As important in a catcher’s development, he’s improved tremendously behind the plate as well. He’s blessed with a very strong arm, and has always thrown out base stealers at a strong percent. While his pitch framing numbers aren’t as strong this year as last, pitchers rave about his ability to call a good game.

My first thought was maybe Wilson Ramos put up some strong numbers for the Red Wings. However, in 71 games for the team in 2010, he hit .241/.280/.345 (.625) with 14 doubles and five home runs (as a 22 year old) in 71 games.

In 2014, Josmil Pinto hit .279/.376/.457 (.833) with 17 doubles and six homers in 60 games for the Red Wings. In 2008, Jose Morales hit .315/.348/.426 (.774) with eight doubles and four homers in 54 games. In 2007, Morales hit .311/.366/.399 (.765) with 25 doubles and two homers in 108 games. In 2005, Rob Bowen hit .268/.368/.402 (.770) with 13 doubles and six homers.

And that takes us back through the Twins affiliation with Rochester. I think it’s safe to say that the season Mitch Garver is putting together is the best in the last 15 years, to be sure.

Meanwhile, Jason Castro is hitting .227/.322/.371 (.693) with 20 doubles and six homers in 80 games for the Twins. Backup Chris Gimenez is hitting .202/.317/.355 (.672) with four doubles and five homers in 47 games.

Garver has versatility too. He’s caught in 61 games. He played first base in five games, and he’s played 14 games in left field. While his range may be that of a catcher in left field, he would be a right-handed bench or DH option for the Twins.

There is no question that Mitch Garver will be called up for September. There should be little question that he should be given every opportunity next spring to break with the big league club. For good.


MICHAEL TONKIN

After starting the season 0-1 with a 6.55 ERA and a 2.18 WHIP through nine games and 11 innings for the Twins, the front office decided it was time to DFA the hard-throwing right-hander.

Tonkin was drafted by the Twins in the 30th round of the 2008 draft out of high school in California. He was given some opportunity to start, but in 2010, he made the move to the bullpen. He quickly became one of the Twins top relief pitching minor leaguers. Blessed with a 95 mph fastball and a good slider, he showed good control while striking out ten or more batters per nine innings pitched. He got his first taste of the big leagues in 2013, and he went up and down for a few seasons. His first full season in the big leagues was 2016, his first season without options remaining.

This spring, he again made the Opening Day roster, primarily due to the options situation. But as we mentioned, by early May, the decision was made to let him go. Fortunately for the club, Tonkin passed through waivers and has been pitching late innings for the Red Wings this season.

And he’s been pitching well. In 23 games and 33 innings since joining the Red Wings, he is 3-2 with four saves. He has posted a 1.91 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. He’s walking 3.0 batters per nine while striking out an impressive 13.1 per nine (48 strikeouts in 33 innings).

More impressive, in his last 15 games (21 innings), he has a 0.86 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP. He’s walked three batters and struck out 34!

Tonkin is already 27, but maybe the extended trip back to AAA allowed him to figure something out. Maybe. Maybe not. But it does feel like he would warrant one last shot with the big league club to see what has stuck. If it looks legit, keep him on the roster. If not, you DFA him and let him become a free agent.


TIM MELVILLE

Every time the Twins sign someone out of independent leagues or promote a 27+ year old player to Rochester, I can always anticipate a certain faction of the Twins Daily readership cringing. I’m guessing that when the Twins signed RHP Tim Melville from the independent league Long Island Ducks earlier this season, several of you reading this hated it.

But Melville has made himself interesting, or at least he should be interesting to Twins fans. The still-just-27-year-old righty is 3-3 with a 2.55 ERA for the Red Wings in 10 games (nine starts) since joining their roster nearly two months ago. He’s got a 1.07 WHIP. In 60 innings, he’s given up 44 hits, walked 20 and struck out 58. If he was 1-2 years younger, we’d be crying out for him to get an opportunity.

Instead, Melville has had to live with the “bust” label, fair or not. He was a highly-touted prep player from Missouri. The Royals used a fourth-round draft pick, and a lot of cash ($1.25 million). He was a top prospect until he had Tommy John surgery in 2012. In 2014, he went 2-11 with a 5.50 ERA for the Royals AA affiliate and was let go by the organization. The Tigers swooped in and signed him for 2015. He went 7-10 with a 4.63 ERA in AAA.

In 2016, he signed with the Reds. He was called up and made his MLB debut on April 10th. He went 0-1 with an 11.00 ERA in three games (two starts) for the Reds. He was DFAd on April 22nd and went to AAA where he got hurt.

He found himself without an offer this spring, so he went the independent route. With the Ducks, he was 3-4 with a 3.45 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP in nine starts when the Twins signed him.

While his background doesn’t necessarily convince you that he’d have success if the Twins promoted him, his ‘stuff’ might. In his starts, he has been between 93 and 96 mph and been able to maintain that throughout the game. He’s got a pretty good curveball that can get swings-and-misses, and often gets weak contact. And his changeup is about average.

Now, I’m not saying he would come up and insert himself as a mid-rotation starter. Not at all. But maybe he can be the starting pitcher depth that Thad Levine talked about. Maybe he can be a guy at AAA who can make a few starts in the big leagues from time to time. Maybe not. But if the Twins bring him up in September and give him a shot, I certainly won’t feel bad about it. Maybe he can be a stop-gap until the new front office believes that the likes of Gonsalves, Romero, Jorge, Littell, Slegers are more ready for that role.


RED WINGS NOTEBOOK

OK, so I can’t stop at just three. Here are a few more Red Wings notes of note.
  • Niko Goodrum is setting himself up to be a valuable utility player. So far this year, he has played first base (three games), second base (24 games), third base (16 games), shortstop (nine games), left field (one game), center field (13 games) and right field (40 games). In 106 games, he’s hitting .259/.308/.413 (.721) with 23 doubles, four triples and nine home runs.
  • Matt Hague has quietly been very good for the Red Wings. In 110 games, he’s hit .294/.371/.405 (.777) with 21 doubles and eight homers. Very professional.
  • Since his return from fractured fingers, Daniel Palka has hit .277/.329/.446 (.775) with a double, two triples and two homers in 16 games. Reports indicate that he’s been much better the last week or so and appears to be returning to form.
  • Byungho Park started the season very slow, but he’s come on very strong. The 30-year-old is hitting .263/.321/.428 (.749) with 22 doubles and nine homers. In his last 57 games, he’s hitting .303/.351/.476 (.827) with 14 doubles and six homers.
  • In 18 games since he returned to the Red Wings, Kennys Vargas is hitting .234/.338/.516 (.853). However, in his last two games, he has gone 5-8 with two doubles and a homer, which account for most of that stat line.
  • Mason Melotakis has made 11 appearances (13.1 innings) since coming off the Twins 40-man roster for the Red Wings. He has a 2.03 ERA despite a 1.35 WHIP. Reports are that he’s been quite good despite the fact that his velocity has been way down from where has had been.
  • Jake Reed is 1-0 with a 1.45 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP in 14 games (18.2 innings) since joining the Red Wings. He has 16 strikeouts and six walks. He’ll need to be added to the 40-man roster in the offseason, so a September call up should happen.
  • John Curtiss has been with the Red Wings for about a month now. In 14 games (17.2 innings), he’s got a 2.04 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP. He’s got eight walks and 24 strikeouts, so he’s been a bit more wild, but he’s certainly a candidate for a September call up.
  • Aaron Slegers’ eight-game winning streak came to an end with his most recent start, but he’s been terrific and appears to be a very strong candidate for International League Pitcher of the Year. . He is 12-4 with a 3.22 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP in 20 starts (123 innings). He’s got 91 strikeouts to go with just 27 walks. While he doesn’t profile as a top prospect because his “stuff” doesn’t grade out real high, Slegers knows how to pitch. He’ll give up some hits, but he won’t hurt himself with walks, and his home run rate has stayed down as well. He’s earned a shot at a September call up. However, the business side of the 40-man roster decisions and the Rule 5 implications may make him a tough choice.
So there you have it. A whole bunch on the Twins AAA affiliate, the Rochester Red Wings. Feel free to discuss and ask questions.

  • Tibs, dbminn, Vanimal46 and 3 others like this

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14 Comments

I figured one of the reasons Garver has not been called up yet is not having the defensive chops to succeed at C a la Josmil Pinto... But from the sounds of it, his defense has also improved this season. I'm really at a loss why he has not received a call yet. 

 

 

    • glunn and wsnydes like this

Thanks for the overview. Regarding Melville - it seems like many more pitchers than hitters have had careers peak in their 30s (as well as have continued productive performance into their late 30s). So while I wouldn't expect a 27-year old hitter signed out of independent leagues to ever blossom into a stud, it's pretty conceivable for a 27-year old pitcher to do so.

    • glunn, blindeke and Original Whizzinator like this
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diehardtwinsfan
Aug 08 2017 03:55 PM

 

I figured one of the reasons Garver has not been called up yet is not having the defensive chops to succeed at C a la Josmil Pinto... But from the sounds of it, his defense has also improved this season. I'm really at a loss why he has not received a call yet. 

 

I'm guessing having 3 catchers on a roster that for the most part only had 3 bench bats might have something to do with it.

 

Reality is that neither Castro or Giminez got hurt this year, so there was no need. I'll be a bit more upset if they bring Giminez back.

    • glunn and SwainZag like this
Heres a thought, could we bring up Garver for September and trade Castro and keep Giminez as our back up C

Tonkin has proven that he can get out AAA hitters, but not MLB hitters.Same old with him. Dunno about Melville.To tell you the truth, I'd rather see what Turly and Busenitz can do in the pen than Melville...

 

Garver is having an amazing season.Here are a few more 800+ OPS seasons by Red Wings' Catchers that should be mentioned:

 

Chris Herrman hit .304/.373/.505 in 60 games (228 PA) in 2014
Dan Rohlfing hit .314/.402/.430 in 26 games (103 PA) in 2013
Jose Morales hit .336/.413/.436 in 58 games (242 PA) in 2009
Corky Miller hit .229/.379/.465 in 59 games (219 PA) in 2005

 

 

 

    • glunn likes this
Heres a thought, could we bring up Garver for September and trade Castro in the offseason and keep Giminez as our back up C next season.
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ashburyjohn
Aug 08 2017 06:07 PM

 In fact, someone close to the Red Wings said he’s “having one of the best seasons as a catcher in recent Red Wings history.”

That's kind of a lot of qualifiers for such a short sentence. :)

    • 70charger likes this

 

I'm guessing having 3 catchers on a roster that for the most part only had 3 bench bats might have something to do with it.

 

Reality is that neither Castro or Giminez got hurt this year, so there was no need. I'll be a bit more upset if they bring Giminez back.

 

I would say Grossman and Gimenez wont be back next year.  That would free up at bats for Garver.  While he's warranted a call up with his play this year, there just isn't room right now.

So where is Vielma in this mix. Niko will be a minor league free agent. Is he good enough to let the backup duo walk, perhaps?

 

A pitcher like Melville is interesting. Is he backup at AAA. Do you add him to the 40 man for a September callup, or do you put mroe stock in Hurlbut or Slegers, for example.

 

We still have Rucinski in the mix. Turley is out there. Wimmers will need someplace to go. Is ZTonkin a piece to reinvest in right now?

 

 

I would say Grossman and Gimenez wont be back next year.  That would free up at bats for Garver.  While he's warranted a call up with his play this year, there just isn't room right now.

 

sure there is. You don't need 8 RPs every game. You just don't. There is plenty of room for him right now.

 

Free Garver.

 

As for the hitters in the last section, not one is all that exciting. And I doubt very much Goodrum is on a roster for more than a week or two at a time. 

    • Vanimal46 likes this

I'm surprised Garver hasn't gotten his shot yet, but I really hope they see him as a roster player for next season. There's just no justifying keeping Gimenez over Garver at this point. Time to let the "kid" get some MLB run.

 

I'm less impressed with tonkin; we've seen this act before. His fastball may be 95 but it's been awfully flat over the years and MLB hitters catch up to that pretty quickly. He's a AAAA pitcher, good enough to dominate at AAA, not good enough to be a consistent contributor at the MLB level. He's roster filler and we have too many other guys with real upside to continue churning through Tonkin. Pass.

 

I'm intrigued by Park, really wonder if he's adjusting to US baseball. But at age 30, there's not much time left.

 

Curtiss excites me. September call up and a spring training invite? sure, why not. I'm ok with a him getting a cup of coffee in september so the MLB staff can get a look at him early and start seeing where he fits for next year. he's had a great season so far, good for him.

    • Vanimal46 likes this

 

Curtiss excites me. September call up and a spring training invite? sure, why not. I'm ok with a him getting a cup of coffee in september so the MLB staff can get a look at him early and start seeing where he fits for next year. he's had a great season so far, good for him.

A technicality, but -- spring training invites are also called "Non-Roster Invitees" (or NRIs).  Thus, a player on the 40-man roster doesn't need to be "invited" to spring training. He can just show up. :) But I'm not one to stand in the way of etiquette either!

Always rooted for Tonkin but I agree I just think he's a AAA player.

I still believe Vargas has the ability to be a nice ML bat and decent backup 1B. And I still don't like him being a human yo yo this season even though I understand the roster reasons why. But he hasn't done himself any favors with inconsistent production at both levels.

Could Melville be a find? 27 and a former top prospect who took a couple years to find himself post surgery? It does happen. I wouldn't hang my hat on him, but he's worth a look see.

I think Goodrum has a shot to contribute down the road. Remember, this is his first season at WAS. There's still to grow more as a hitter.

Slegers, Reed and Curtis all deserve their shot! More than any pitchers at Rochester.

Lastly...free Garver!
    • Mike Sixel likes this

My plan with the catchers would be Garver and Castro splitting time the rest of this season, and the beginning of next season, then transitioning to Garver getting a majority of the starts.


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