Top 10 Candidates for 2019 Sire of Fort Myers
Image courtesy of © Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports (photo of Mike Morin)So this spring, we will set out to identify those players who have the most to gain from posting impressive stat lines and eventually crown one of them Sire of Fort Myers. I know what some of you are thinking, “really, are we that desperate for baseball we’re going to keep an eye on a bunch of has-beens and never-beens?”
Well first off, yes. It’s February and the snow piled around my house is taller than Michael Pineda, so I am that desperate for baseball. Secondly, how dare you speak ill of Sire Ryan LaMarre, he who smote the Clevelanders in the Battle of Puerto Rico. Lastly, this is like a really, really serious honor, OK? Show some respect.
Last year was really the perfect time to debut this idea. Coming into spring, who could have seen LaMarre heading north with the Twins? Here’s part of what I wrote in my preview last year:
“But, just to be clear, these guys' chances of breaking camp with the Twins are anywhere from remote to downright unthinkable.”
He did it. Ryan LaMarre dreamed the impossible dream and made the team. That was crazy. So I’m not ruling anything out this time around.
Who are the top contenders for this year’s crown? Let's go over who’s eligible first. Anyone who’s not on the 40-man roster is eligible, as well as the few players who are on the 40 man but haven’t made their MLB debut. So before anybody asks, no, Willians Astudillo (a 2018 Sire of Fort Myers honorable mention) is not eligible this year.
Just a reminder, this isn't about identifying the player most likely to make the team, it's simply honoring the player who had the most impressive spring training performance. Without further ado, here’s who I think are the top 10 contenders for 2019 Sire of Fort Myers, in alphabetical order:
Randy Cesar, 24, 3B/1B
This guy seems interesting. Cesar hit .296/.348/.428 (.777 OPS) for Houston’s Double-A team and had a 42-game hitting streak last year. His BABIP dropped from an insane .444 through his first 64 games (which coincided with the end of that impressive streak) to just .277 over his final 52 games. So maybe his success was a complete mirage, but he’s a fun guy to bring in on a minor league deal. Cesar split time between third base and first base last year.
Tim Collins, 29, LHP
Remember this guy? Collins was a long-time member of the Royals’ bullpen before he had to suffer through not one but two Tommy John surgeries. He worked his way back to the big leagues for the first time since 2014, pitching to a 4.37 ERA in 22 2/3 innings with the Nationals last year. His fastball velocity was pretty much back to where it was when he was with Kansas City, averaging 92.5 mph.
Chase De Jong, 25, RHP
The Twins removed De Jong from the 40-man roster earlier this offseason, but he cleared waivers. Acquired in the trade that sent Zach Duke to Seattle, De Jong barely hits 90 mph but manages to induce a fair amount of weak contact. He had a 3.57 ERA in 17 2/3 innings with the Twins, 3.20 ERA in 39 1/3 innings with Rochester and a 3.80 mark in 120 2/3 innings with the Mariners’ Double-A team.
Lucas Duda, 33, 1B
Duda is hands down the favorite this year. He boasts a career 118 OPS+ and has hit 27 or more home runs three times in the big leagues. They’re trending in two different directions, but Duda’s resume is really even more impressive than that of projected starting first baseman C.J. Cron. The past few years have not been kind to one-dimensional players such as Duda. The fact he had to settle on a minor league deal illustrates that, but he still hit .264/.336/.477 (813 OPS) against right-handers last season.
Ryan Eades, 27, RHP
Eades was drafted in the second round in 2013 but his prospect shine faded fairly quickly. Last year was his second season pitching primarily out of the bullpen. Something clicked. After averaging 6.7 K/9 previously, Eades posted a 10.4 K/9 in 2018. He finished on a particularly high note, giving up just five earned runs over his final 30 1/3 innings (0.89 ERA) while holding opposing hitters to a .198/.244/.225 line, earning a promotion to Rochester in the process.
Nick Gordon, 23, SS/2B
Probably the most recognizable name on this list to Twins fans, Gordon’s stock dropped some after an uninspiring first showing in Triple A. In 164 games at Double A, however, Gordon hit .285/.350/.436 (.787 OPS) with 39 doubles, 11 triples and 14 home runs. He also stole 20 bases during his time in Chattanooga, had 86 RBIs and scored 102 runs. Even in a down season, Gordon posted his best OPS against left-handed pitching (.636) since his draft year.
Mike Morin, 27, RHP
Morin was a mainstay in the Angels’ bullpen from 2014-17, pitching to a 4.49 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 3.42 K:BB ratio over 177 appearances. He spent the majority of last season with Seattle’s Triple-A team, where he had a 3.86 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, though he also pitched in three games for the Mariners. Morin’s fastball sits 91.5 mph but he mixes in a changeup about a third of the time and relies on his slider for roughly a quarter of his pitches. I think he’ll get plenty of looks this spring, making him a strong contender for the crown. Morin was born in Andover but grew up in Kansas.
Jake Reed, 26, RHP
FREE REED! This guy has a 1.92 ERA in 89 career Triple-A innings. Considering some of the other guys the Twins have trotted out in their bullpen the past few years it’s pretty incredible he hasn’t had an opportunity to make his debut. The 26-year-old right-hander struck out 50 batters in 47 2/3 innings for Rochester last year. In 246 2/3 career innings in the minor leagues, Reed has surrendered just seven home runs. He’s faced 576 right-handed hitters and they’ve taken him deep just four times. That’s crazy.
Lewis Thorpe, 23, LHP
The 2018 season was a great building block for Thorpe. He reached a career high 129 2/3 innings, excelling in his first regular time in Double-A to the point where he earned a late-season promotion up to Rochester. Altogether, the Aussie lefty had a 3.54 ERA and 1.24 WHIP while averaging 10.9 K/9 against just 2.5 BB/9. That works out to an outstanding 4.36 K:BB ratio. The Twins have, understandably, been a little careful with him, but I wonder if they may loosen the reins a bit this year.
LaMonte Wade, 25, OF
It was nowhere near the level of Gordon’s drop off, but Wade slumped some in his first shot in Triple-A too. It was the first time he had more strikeouts than walks, which is pretty incredible in today’s age. But allow me to make the same kind of presentation we did with Gordon. In 163 career games in Double-A, Wade hit .294/.396/.418 (.815) with 14 home runs, 102 walks and just 91 strikeouts. He scored 104 times and drove in 94. He’s played all over the outfield, but seems to have settled in as a left fielder.
Here are the other non-roster invitees I didn’t include in the top 10: Preston Guilmet, Ryne Harper, Justin Nicolino, Brian Navarreto, Ben Rortvedt, Wynston Sawyer, Tomas Telis, Luis Arraez, Randy Cesar, Royce Lewis, Adam Rosales, Alex Kirilloff, Luke Raley and Brent Rooker.
Just a couple quick notes on those included on that list above: I’d expect Lewis and Kirilloff to be among the first cuts. It wouldn’t surprise me if Arraez turned some heads, he just missed my top 10. Harper was another guy who just missed, he had an insane 8.60 K:BB ratio down on the farm for the Twins last year (65 IP, 86 K, 10 BB). Guilmet's another guy who could've very easliy been named in the top 10. He has some ugly MLB numbers but a 2.45 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 9.9 K/9 in 265 career innings at Triple A. Rosales is 35 now, but he’s coming off of somewhat of a power outburst, as he popped 18 home runs for Cleveland’s Triple-A team last year.
There will be other minor leaguers who work their way in from time to time, especially on the days where the Twins have split squad games on the schedule, but I wouldn’t anticipate them getting enough playing time to be in contention for this most prestigious honor.
So what do you think? I’ve tabbed Duda as the favorite among hitters and Morin among pitchers. Will anybody give either of those guys a run for their money?
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