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  • Clearing the Path

    When the offseason began, most Twins fans had high hopes that the organization would finally dive into free agency and grab an upper-level starting pitcher. No one realistically expected the Twins to jump through hoops and go after Zach Greinke or Anibal Sanchez, especially after the market for starting pitching went crazy early. However, a second-tier guy like Edwin Jackson was seemingly a realistic dream. Instead, the Twins have signed Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey in an attempt to assist the starting rotation.

    Many Twins fans wanted the team to go after a veteran middle infielder after watching Brian Dozier and Pedro Florimon struggle in their first real big league opportunities. Although the Twins acquired some quality pitching from Washington and Philadelphia, it came with the loss of centerfielders Denard Span and Ben Revere. So, there are some fans that wanted the Twins to go after a centerfielder in free agency. Hey, Michael Bourn is still out there, right?
    There is, however, a case to be made that the Twins have been true to themselves and to the players brought up through their organization. It has long been a slogan of the organization. The Twins prefer to build from within. That’s true in the front office, and it’s true on the field. It is how the Twins have done it for over 30 years, and it is a belief that has proven successful over time. It is the best way to build sustained success.

    Unfortunately, the Twins minor league system since the middle of the past decade has not been able to supply the big league roster with players. Because of that, just one offseason ago, GM Terry Ryan was aggressive in his pursuit of free agents Josh Willingham, Ryan Doumit and Jamey Carroll.

    So what changed this offseason? Well, several of the Twins top prospects made positive strides in the 2012 season and made themselves ready for their big league opportunity. Some even got their first taste of the big league life. This offseason, the Twins have added Alex Meyer and Trevor May, and now have several pitchers that are close. Because of that, it appears, the Twins may not have been as aggressive in free agency. Why? Because the Twins have a very nice core of minor leaguers that are going to be ready to debut in 2013. Others have shown that they have nothing more to prove in the minor leagues and deserve the opportunity to show if they can make it in the big leagues. 2013 is a great opportunity for many players to take a positive step forward in their career, and if a couple of them are able to take big strides and show that they can be consistent and counted on for the future, that is the perfect scenario.

    Chris Parmelee – The 24-year-old will get an opportunity to start the season in right field for the Twins. Last year in 64 games at Rochester, he found his power. He hit .338/.457/.645 (1.102) with 17 doubles and 17 home runs. He got time with the Twins and certainly did not look intimidated. He deserves this opportunity to play every day and see what he can become.

    Liam Hendriks – We all know that Hendriks struggled most of the 2012 season with the Twins, but he has little to prove in AAA any more. In 16 starts, he went 9-3 with a 2.20 ERA and a 0.98 ERA. His minor league strikeout rate is 7.9 K/9, although that number dropped to 6.9 K/9 last year. He had elbow surgery in October but says he will be ready this spring. (Vance Worley had the same surgery in August, and Scott Diamond did in September.)

    Brian Dozier – Yes, he really struggled in 2012 with the Twins, but many players struggle in their first big league opportunity. We can all see that he was handled wrong last year. He was over-touted in spring training, brought up too quickly in early May, and then sent down too late. But it would be silly to completely give up on him. No one is expecting him to be an All Star, but can he be a solid every day starter? I’m not yet willing to say he is not. He will turn 26 during the season, so it will be a big year for him.

    Pedro Florimon – I’m less confident that Florimon will ever hit in the big leagues, primarily because he has never hit in the minor leagues. Last year, his defense with the Twins wasn’t very good either. At 26, this will be a big year for him to show that his defense is worth the (lack of) bat. Having the stable Jamey Carroll around, along with Eduardo Escobar, will certainly lower the risk.

    Joe Benson – Like Parmelee, Benson will turn 25 during Spring Training. 2012 was a lost season for him. He was hurt all season and his play on the field showed it. He should be healthy in 2013, and when he has been healthy, he has produced. One year ago at this time, he was the Twins #3 prospect by Baseball America. He will get an opportunity to start the season as the centerfielder. He is a great athlete and can play all three outfield positions. Like others, it’s a big year for him to show what he can do.

    Aaron Hicks – Hicks will be 23 years old throughout the 2013 season. He blossomed in 2012 when he hit .286/.384/.460 with 21 doubles, 11 triples, 13 home runs, 100 runs scored, 61 RBI and 32 stolen bases. He is also a tremendous outfielder with a very strong arm. Since the Span and Revere trades, Hicks has been receiving most of the attention and will certainly be given a real shot at opening the season as the Twins centerfield. If it doesn’t happen on Opening Day, it will happen sometime during the season.

    Oswaldo Arcia – Between Ft. Myers and New Britain in 2012, Arcia hit .320/.388/.539 with 36 doubles, eight triples, 17 home runs and 98 RBI. He will go to his second spring training as a 21 year old. He is a long-shot to make the Opening Day roster, but at some point during the season, it would not be surprising to see him make his debut.

    Kyle Gibson – The Twins top pick in 2009, he was on the fast track to the big leagues until he underwent Tommy John surgery late in the 2011 season. His rehab in 2012 went as scripted and he will be ready to debut with the Twins sometime in 2013. Will it be Opening Day or not? Will it be as a starter or a reliever? He will be up early in the season.

    Scott Diamond – Yes, he is a given to start the season in the Twins rotation (assuming his elbow allows), but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still questions about what his future holds. Hopefully what he showed in 2012 is the true Scott Diamond, but again, we will find out more in 2013.

    Alex Meyer and Trevor May – he two prospects received in the December trades are both Top 10 Twins prospects who have work to do in the minor leagues. Both are intriguing, hard-throwing, high-upside prospects. Although both will likely debut in 2014, if all goes well, they could see time in 2013.

    Caleb Thielbar and Tyler Robertson – These two lefty relievers may be competing for one bullpen spot in spring training, particularly if the Twins decide to carry a third lefty reliever (since Glen Perkins will be the closer).

    So, there are 13 players I’ve mentioned above could be seen in a Twins uniform in 2013. Some of these players are top prospects. Some of them have somewhat graduated from the minor leagues and deserve an opportunity to succeed or fail in the big leagues. Some guys will make their debuts and deserve an opportunity to show what they can do.

    If some of these guys can become the core of the next sustained Twins success, that would be best case. Within the next few seasons, there will be an influx of additional talent coming through the farm system. Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario and some of those college pitcher draft picks from 2012. Beyond that, names like Byron Buxton and JO Berrios will be coming. In my mind, 2013 is the beginning of what will hopefully be the sustained success that we hear so much about.

    Consider all of the players that the Twins brought up from 1999 through 2006, and what it meant for Twins fans over the better part of a decade. Yes, it’s been a long couple of seasons, and 2013 could be equally long. However, when you can see the plan, there is at least reason for optimism.

    The Twins front office could have gone out and signed players who would, in essence, block these players. However, if we can all agree that the best way to sustained success is to build from within (and them supplement your core with free agents when they are close to competing), then it is more difficult to argue with the strategy. Sometimes it is important to clear the path.
    This article was originally published in blog: Clearing the Path started by Seth Stohs
    Comments 30 Comments
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Most good teams don't worry about clearing a path. They let the best players play and give the top prospects a spot when they can. Given the "talent" in that list, there shouldn't be many there that we made an effort to keep a clear path for. Only Hicks was truly deserving of that notion.

      You definitely don't worry about clearing a path one or two seasons before it's clear they are ready.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim Crikket View Post
      If a AA or AAA player wants a regular job on the Big League club, he should go out and prove he's a good bet to be better than anyone the team might be able to acquire via trade or free agency. If he can't do that, he shouldn't feel he "deserves" to have a path cleared for him on the Twins.
      I agree with this, but I am at a loss to think of too many players who did not earn major league promotion, outside of last year's pitching staff, in which the whole starting staff went down to injury or utter ineffectiveness and needed emergency replacements. I guess they rushed Gomez and Casilla. More often than not, though, they have done the opposite. Thus, for example, Bartlett was held at AAA for two years in which he had OBPs over .400 each year, while the Twins wore out aged utility players every day. By the time he came up, he was 26 and already starting to wear down. That was the Twins way (Cuddyer, Kubel, etc.), unless the player was a rising star like Mauer.

      The best examples of clearing the path were Pierzinski for Mauer and Mientkievicz for Morneau. This year, I see the center field situation in that light. Hicks showed he was ready by the end of last year and that made our two CFers expendable, where they could be used to acquire pitching. Soon we'll see something similar with Arcia coming in for Willingham. I suppose I could say not acquiring someone is like clearing a path for Dozier. Ditto for SS, where neither young candidate earned promotion, but there were no good (internal) alternatives.

      As to the starting pitching, it wasn't as much clearing a path as scrapping what we had and starting over with whatever we could get our hands on. Gibson and Hendriks earned it, as did Diamond. But outside of Worely (my pick to stick), the others are retreads, who will take up temporary space until May and Myers are ready. Like 2012, Ryan will not be patient with the retreads (he canned Marquis after 6 starts and DFAed Blackburn despite a large contract obligation). When it comes to former college pitchers, the Twins have been aggressive with promotion. I see that repeating itself in 2013. Not signing a big free agent gives them the opportunity to be aggressive. I think that's Seth's point.
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      Quote Originally Posted by Top Gun View Post
      The Twins would be talking world series today if they had made the trade the Jays made with the Marlins. 2SP & 2 MI was just what the Twins needed. Now you can just wish for another 5 years.
      You win the special Olympics! Yay!
    1. Cody Christie's Avatar
      Cody Christie -
      I enjoyed the picture featured in this article more than I should have
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      Nice Article but like others, I think it only pertains to the outfield.
      There is no need to clear any paths for pitchers or infielders. The system is still weak in high level pitching and still very weak when it comes to infield guys. The MLB team's infield and pitching staff will be well below average and I think Rochester's will be as well.
      Its a shame that Ryan hasn't brought in some more minor league free agents to give the AAA club a chance.
    1. FrodaddyG's Avatar
      FrodaddyG -
      Quote Originally Posted by 70charger View Post
      You win the special Olympics! Yay!
      Hey, don't be a sore loser because he beat you. You still get your participation medal and a hug.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      "Clearing a path"? Mauer is the only player blocking a path for anybody. Theorectically all five starting pitching positions are open, with Worley and Diamond only promised long looks and patience as opposed to a guaranteed contract. I the bullpen, it appears that only three names are firm: Perkins, Burton and Duensing, (and I'm not certain about Duensing). Infield, Morneau is only guaranteed until July and then 1B is open. Plouffe has not been engraved at 3B, and the MI is clearly wide open as is CF.
      It might seem like fun to watch a bunch of rookies (or near rookies) scrap to prove themselves as MLB players--but not at $70+ a ticket plus travel, concessions etc. for an entire season. Even the cheap seats range from about $15 to $25. Add other normal expenses per game. At the dome when he tactic of promoting the top prospects from the minors to the Twins, tickets cost a whole lot less. $6 for the OF, $12 upper deck behind the plate. At those prices it sort of worked (though attendance was lack lustre) but not today. It makes a lot of sense to sign some solid free agents to market contracts and add the top prospects around them as they climb through the system. This was part of the premise for the new stadium--the ability to attract and retain top talent and be competitive.
    1. Twinsfan2284's Avatar
      Twinsfan2284 -
      I would agree overall with the article specifically related to this Twins team. Normally, I think I would agree that we need to be smart and sign good free agents and supplement those players with our good minor leaguers.

      However, what people seem to forget is that we were not close to contending last year or the year before. Before the Span and Revere trades, we are coming into this season with questions marks at right field, 2b, SS, 3rd base, and at least 3 members of our rotation. This is not discounting the injury history at 1st base and catcher, or finalizing our bullpen.

      In addition, there is at least 1 team in our own division (if not 2 or 3) that our much closer to competing for a title. And that is not even counting teams in the East and West divisions. So even if we were able to sign Sanchez or Jackson (80 mill and 50 mill contracts respectively) and maybe trade or sign a good middle infielder ($20-30 mill), where would that leave us? We would still have 5-6 legitimate holes to fill, a heavy reliance on young players, and several teams in the AL in a much better position to contend in the next couple of years. And who wants to give 5 or 6 years to Jackson or Sanchez, when they probably won't be key pieces of our team when we do actually have the ability to contend. They are good pitchers, but by no means elite. Even if we did the Blue Jays - Marlins trade as some suggested, we would be giving up a lot of young talent and be getting a couple of good pitchers, but still doesnt fix the massive amounts of holes that would be left.

      While I cannot defend the Correia signing specifically, I am not sure why people are so upset with this off season. Even if we had the Yankees payroll, the Twins would have a hard time contending the next couple of years because so many teams are in a much better position. Why spend money on mediocre free agents that still will not help you contend now, when you have minor leaguers that regardless of whether they 'deserve it,' the Twins at least want to look at. And in a couple of years when we have 'filled' some of our holes (hopefully through our higher upside Minor Leaguers), we can sign a couple of bigger free agents to supplement what should already be a good team.
    1. Physics Guy's Avatar
      Physics Guy -
      I think clearing the path is the right decision. In the past I had a problem with the way Gardy managed prospects that should be playing (Cuddy and Kubel come to mind). I felt those guys should have been left alone and allowed to play. I guess when a team is in contention the situation can be different. That should not be the case this year. There are four players in that situation this year IMO: Plouffe,Dozier, Parmelee and Hendriks. Unless they fall completely flat on their face, all three hitters should get 500+ AB and Hendriks should get 30 starts. I argued earlier for signing a Cedeno type player as insurance and I would still support that since I don't put Florimon in that category. I would put Hicks in that category if he comes up, but I would put him on a shorter leash since he hasn't proven himself in the higher minors yet.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I agree, those four should play all year, that still left plenty if room to add free agents. So yes, clear a path where it makes sense, but some of us think the current path is too wide, and the people in it too gar away not to sign a legit free agent or two.
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