• Rock Cats Hot Stove Luncheon

    Here's some good trivia: In 2013, 9 former Rock Cats players made major league debuts: Caleb Theilbar; Josmil Pinto; Oswaldo Arcia; Aaron Hicks; Chris Colabello; Michael Tonkin; Kyle Gibson; Andrew Albers; and Brock Peterson. With the exception of Peterson, who saw some time with the Cardinals, the other 8 players wore Twins uniforms.

    I watched each of these guys play and, of the guys on this list, have had good conversations with Colabello and Hicks. The truth is, when the major league club struggles, like the Twins have, there isn't much between AA and the major leagues. That was kind of the theme of today's Rock Cats Hot Stove Luncheon.

    Brad Steil, Twins Director of Minor League Operations, was today's keynote speaker. He was . . . very Minnesotan. Kind, soft-spoken. For instance, describing the 2013 Twins starting rotation, he said (not deadpanning like Terry Ryan or Gardy might), "we struggled a little bit." Not surprisingly, he's big into Byron Buxton, promising Rock Cats' fans that they will see the promising prospect at some point in 2014. Steil also noted that many believe Buxton has the best arm in the entire Twins' system. That's pretty impressive, especially when coupled with all his other tools. Other players Rock Cats' fans should expect to see in 2014: Kennys Vargas, Taylor Rogers, Matt Summers, Ryan O'Rourke, and Reynaldo Rodriguez. Steil mentioned that about half the 2013 team likely is returning this upcoming season.

    One thing Steil said that annoyed me -- and he basically opened up his keynote with this: "We're not a big market team. You're not gonna see us handing out a $100 million contract." True statement -- yes and no. The Twins aren't big market like the Yankees or the Red Sox, but they sure as hell aren't small market, and I simply hate that Metrodome Mindset (did I just coin that?). Steil's larger point -- which is true -- is that the Twins' talent comes predominately from the farm system, and that New Britain is arguably the most important stop on the path to Target Field. Bill Smith said the same thing 2 years ago regarding the importance of New Britain. I think it's mostly true. On the other hand, it kind of reminds me of when you go to a concert, and the lead singer says something like, "We love you, North Dakota! Fargo is our favorite city to play!!"

    I have some breaking Miguel Sano news to report: There will be a Miguel Sano bobblehead at Rock Cats Stadium in 2014. Oh. You were looking for actual news, like about Sano's elbow or where the Twins will have him start in 2014? I don't have anything related to that. In fact, apart from raffling off a Sano autographed picture, he wasn't even mentioned in this luncheon. It's clear the entire organization is holding their cards close on this issue. I'm going to be 100% shocked, even if Sano has a great Spring Training, if he starts 2014 in Minnesota.

    A couple small takeaways from today's event: First, I think the Rock Cats will be better in 2014 than they were in 2013. I expect several of last season's Ft. Myers Miracle roster to be up in New Britain for a good chunk of this season. Those guys put up some pretty good offensive numbers. As always, though, the other key is going to be pitching.

    Second, I think the both organizations are happy with the relationship in New Britain. The player development contract (essentially, the agreement the Twins and the Rock Cats have to partner as affiliates) is set to expire after the 2014 season. In June, 2012, the parties agreed to this current extension, but only for 2 years -- the minimum possible number of years. In those couple seasons, Smith has done essentially what he is hired to do: prepare talent for the next level. Yes, Hicks, Gibson, Arcia and others have struggled at the major league level, but that can hardly be blamed on the AA coaching staff. "They sure looked good when they were here," I recall saying.

    The other question is whether New Britain is happy with the relationship, or has better options. As I've mentioned before, the other regional teams (Yankees, Red Sox, Mets) are all locked into long-term player development contracts. Yes, there are other openings (Cleveland, Baltimore, Detroit, Giants) after the 2014 season, but it's tough to imagine what any of those organizations would offer New Britain that Minnesota wouldn't. Additionally, the Twins are pretty good about sending talent (Sano, Buxton, Arcia, Meyer, etc.) to New Britain, including players once or twice a season on rehab assignments. I'm biased, of course. I enjoy writing this blog, and if the Rock Cats component vanishes, I don't know ....

    Finally, Chris Colabello. He drove down from Massachusetts (as did Ryan O'Rourke) to speak to the crowd. Both were funny, sincere and professional speakers. Colabello's speech reminded me how great his story was. Seven years in independent baseball. Seven years! He was 29 when he made his debut, and it took a perfect storm of success in the Independent League, a need in the Twins' system for organizational depth, Colabello's own dominance at AA and AAA, and a struggling big league team, for it to happen. Obviously, with Joe Mauer expected to play "150-160 games" at first base this season according to Steil, Colabello's future in Minnesota is uncertain, at best. But you know what? I'm not ready to write him off yet. He has come this far. For every Buxton or Sano, there are literally hundreds of Colabellos. And that might be the best part of minor league baseball. You just never know.
    This article was originally published in blog: Rock Cats Hot Stove Luncheon started by Twins Fan From Afar
    Comments 12 Comments
    1. BigSkyTwinsFan's Avatar
      BigSkyTwinsFan -
      Really appreciate these kind of articles. Thanks Andrew!
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Good stuff.

      This is a really interesting thing that Steil said:
      One thing Steil said that annoyed me -- and he basically opened up his keynote with this: "We're not a big market team. You're not gonna see us handing out a $100 million contract."
      Because it is dead wrong
      Last time I checked the Twins have handed out a contact almost twice that much (8 years, $184 million) a few seasons back.

      Really bizarre and uninformed statement to say the least...
    1. Twins Fan From Afar's Avatar
      Twins Fan From Afar -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      Good stuff.

      This is a really interesting thing that Steil said:


      Because it is dead wrong
      Last time I checked the Twins have handed out a contact almost twice that much (8 years, $184 million) a few seasons back.

      Really bizarre and uninformed statement to say the least...
      Steil's larger point, which is correct, and appropriate for the audience (primarily New Britain fans -- who are not necessarily big Twins fans), was that the players you see in NB in 2014 are the same guys that will be wearing major league uniforms in 2014, 2015 and beyond. And that, for the Twins, they heavily rely on their farm system.

      I have no problems with either of those statements.

      I am just so tired of the "not a big market" line. I don't expect MN to be the Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers, but that doesn't mean they can't hand out a very large contract when appropriate, or that they can't be in the upper 1/3 or 1/4 of payroll spending if they're trying to make a run.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Twins Fan From Afar View Post
      I am just so tired of the "not a big market" line. I don't expect MN to be the Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers, but that doesn't mean they can't hand out a very large contract when appropriate, or that they can't be in the upper 1/3 or 1/4 of payroll spending if they're trying to make a run.
      Agreed. That's kinda iffy. The Twins' market is the 13th largest Metropolitan Area in the States , with 3,759,978 people as of the 2010 Census and has the fifth highest household income for Metro areas in the US with $54,304. Compare that with Seattle (3,554,760 people and $50,733 household income) and what the Mariners are paying for contracts these days, and that kind of rhetoric does not stand too much
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Then look at the TV revenues...
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Then look at the TV revenues...
      Well... I can turn that around and say that if Seattle, which is a smaller and less wealthy market than the Twin Cities according to factual data, can get more TV revenue, someone in the Twins' front office is not doing their job.
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      Well... I can turn that around and say that if Seattle, which is a smaller and less wealthy market than the Twin Cities according to factual data, can get more TV revenue, someone in the Twins' front office is not doing their job.
      oble likes, Im hoping when our reginal contract runs out we will get a better deal
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      Quote Originally Posted by johnnydakota View Post
      oble likes, Im hoping when our reginal contract runs out we will get a better deal

      Bad keyboard, it should read Double likes, Im hoping when the regional contract runs out,we get a better deal
    1. BigTrane's Avatar
      BigTrane -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      Well... I can turn that around and say that if Seattle, which is a smaller and less wealthy market than the Twin Cities according to factual data, can get more TV revenue, someone in the Twins' front office is not doing their job.
      Just curious to see a head-to-head comparison of the 2 clubs' TV deals. Actually, I'd love to see an overall comparison of all TV deals. Aren't the Phillies a big-market club with a bad deal, and the Astros basically SOL more because of the cable cos. than their competitiveness?

      Couple of things might be worth factoring in:
      - Vancouver (600k pop) must add to the fanbase, but I don't know if they get games on TV there- would love to know. Stands to add to ticket revenue, at the least.
      - Ms are owned by Nintendo- that's how you spell 'truly deep pockets'.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by BigTrane View Post
      Aren't the Phillies a big-market club with a bad deal.
      This off-season they signed a 25-year $2.5 Billion dollar deal so, not really
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      Great post.
      Interesting they expect 1/2 the team return. Im looking forward to seeing which pitchers from High A make the jump
      I like that the Twins are in the NE for the AAA & AA. I really hope they stay there.
      It gives their players experience playing in colder weather, the ball parks are generally neutral so stats are more meaningful and they have active local media to cover the games.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      The TV revenue thing has been beat to death over the years. My recollection is that it's not just a matter of population comparisons that's led to the Twins having lower regional rights fees. But apparently people in the Minnesota TV market spend less time watching TV than those in many other markets of a similar size. Fewer eyes on TV per capita means lower rights fees.

      Some markets also have multiple regional sports channels, which leads to bidding. Since FSN has no concerns about being outbid by another carrier, they can get away with paying less. It would appear that the only way the Twins will overcome that factor will be to stick their toes back in to the pool and either start their own cable channel or partner with one.

      I bitch a lot about the blackout stuff, but that's all a part of the Twins having to pretty much go along with whatever FSN wants in order to get as much money from them as possible.

      This is all just a long way of saying the regional TV rights are going to play an increasing role in determining the "haves" vs the "have nots" in an era when pretty much everyone has new/renovated stadiums. And as long as MLB allows each team to keep 100% of their own rights fees, the Twins are likely to slip lower and lower on the MLB revenue list in the future.
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