Late Saturday night, players and coaches assigned to play for the Elizabethon Twins left Ft. Myers on a bus destined for Tennessee. It would mean a 13 hour drive, but for all of the players, they are more than happy to make the trip. Most of the players reported to Twins minor league spring training in early March and remained at Extended Spring Training. Hopping on that bus means they will be playing in the Appalachian League instead of staying in Ft. Myers and playing in the Gulf Coast League. They are excited to play in games that matter.
Ray Smith is back for his 18th
year as manager of the E-Twins and 26th
year with the team in Elizabethton (not coaching his time there as a player. He has a record of 748-464 as manager. Jeff Reed is back for his 11th
season as the E-Twins hitting coach. Ivan Arteaga takes over for long-time pitching coach Jim Shellenback. Arteaga has served in that role with the GCL Twins the past six seasons.
The 2011 team boasted Appalachian League Pitcher of the Year Tim Shibuya and Hitter of the Year Eddie Rosario. Rosarioís 21 home runs was one more than teammate and Twins top prospect Miguel Sano. Those three, and most of the 2011 team, have moved their way up to the Beloit Snappers roster. However, there is some very good talent on the 2012 Elizabethton Twins roster and they will most likely again compete for an Appalachian League title.
Ricardo Arevalo (SP-21), Hudson Boyd (SP-19), Josh Burris (20), Steve Evans (22), Dallas Gallant (23), Tyler Herr (21), Garrett Jewell (21), Zach Jones (21), Corey Kimes (SP-22), Brett Lee (SP-21), Angel Mata (SP-19), Mason Melotakis (21), Luis Nunez (20), Hein Robb (SP-20), Taylor Rogers (21). DL Ė Tyler Duffey (21) and JT Chargois (21).
As you can see, this group is a combination of young guys who spent time in the GCL last year and college guys drafted earlier this month. There are a few college guys from last yearís draft as well.
2012 Draft Ė Mason Melotakis was the teamís first second round pick this year out of Northwestern State. Chargois was the teamís second second round pick this June from Rice. Duffey was the Twins second pick from Rice this year, and the teamís fifth round pick. Zach Jones was the fourth round pick out of San Jose State. Taylor Rogers is left-handed. He was the 11th
round pick out of Kentucky. The Twins clearly made a concerted effort to add some power arms. They did that, particularly with Melotakis, Chargois and Duffey. It will be fun to see how that plays out. I also canít help but wonder how quickly some of these college guys move up to Beloit.
2011 Draft Ė Hudson Boyd was the Twins second supplemental first round pick a year ago out of high school. There was a lot of speculation about whether he was go to the GCL or E-Town. The hard thrower will make his debut in the Appy League. If youíre looking for a guy and wondering why he is still in Elizabethton, look to 2011 13th
round pick Steve Evans. He pitched for Elizabethton last year, very well, and returns in 2012. How well? He was 2-1 with a 1.54 ERA in 21 games out of the bullpen. In 23.1 innings, he walked 11 and struck out 24. Garrett Jewell pitched just eight games last year for the E-Twins before coming down with mono. Corey Kimes got into a game or two before he fought injury the rest of the year. Brett Lee was a last day signing last year as well. The left-hander was the teamís 10th
round pick a year ago. Josh Burris has a huge upside thanks to a big fastball and a devastating curveball. If he throws strikes, he will be very good.
The GCL Guys Ė Ricardo Arevalo has made 25 appearances and 20 starts for the GCL Twins over the past two seasons. He is 0-11 with a 4.37 ERA. Tyler Herr was the Twins 44th
round pick in 2009 out of high school. He didnít pitch in the GCL until 2010. He stayed there in 2011 and was much improved out of the teamís bullpen. He looks to continue that trend with the E-Twins. Hein Robb has been a mainstay on the South African team in international competitions since he was 15 years old. The Twins signed him, and he came to the States as an 18 year old. He struggled in the GCL in 2010 and was much better in 2011, although inconsistent. In 2010 in the GCL, Luis Nunez struck out 30 batters in 29 innings, but he also walked 15. Last year, he returned and was incredible. He went 5-0 with 5 saves, and in 32.1 innings, he struck out 37 and walked just six. Heís skinny and throws really hard. Angel Mata is the youngest guy on the pitching staff. Last year in the GCL, he went 0-1 with a 1.46 ERA. In 37 innings, he walked 19 and struck out 30. Dallas Gallant has tremendous upside. He was drafted in 2010, but he missed all of 2011 with Tommy John surgery. He has a fastball that touches 95 and he could be one to watch late in games.
Bo Altobelli (21), Jhonathan Arias (23), Michael Quesada (22)
Arias returns to Elizabethton after spending most of 2011 in Beloit. Following the 2011 season, he went to Instructs and became a pitcher. However, he is back to catching. Quesada was the teamís 24th
round pick in 2010 out of Sierra College. He signed late and played in just three games that year. Last year, he was a constant in the GCL lineup. He hit .211, but got on base 31% of the time. He also had seven doubles, two triples and three home runs. Bo Altobelli was drafted the teamís 21st
round pick this month of Texas Tech.
Niko Goodrum (20), Travis Harrison (19), Josh Hendricks (20), DJ Hicks (22), Candido Pimentel (21), Jorge Polanco (18), Stephen Wickens (23)
This is a group of immensely talented, young players. These guys have very high ceilings, but there are still many questions with each of them, as you would expect from guys this young.
Goodrum was the Twins 2nd
round pick in 2010 out of high school. A tremendous athlete, he hit just .161 in 128 Pas in 2010 in the GCL. However, last year in Elizabethton, he hit .275/.352/.382 with 10 doubles, three triples and two home runs. He was also 8 of 9 in stolen base attempts. More important, he got better every month, offensively and defensively at shortstop. Josh Hendricks is 20 years old and hit .275/.316/.350 in the GCL a year ago with eight doubles and two triples. The Australian first baseman is 6-3 and 220 pounds. He had great power potential. His problem in his first two seasons in the States has been consistency. He has had several very good and several very bad streaks. DJ Hicks was the Twins 17th
round pick this year out of Central Florida. He has a lot of power potential as well, and should play a lot of 1B, although he also can play in the outfield. Jorge Polanco was a highly-ranked Dominican prospect. He was signed as a shortstop, for about $700,000. In his second turn in the GCL last year, Polanco hit .250/.319/.349 with eight doubles, three triples and a home run. Polanco played 19 games at shortstop, 14 games at third base and 10 games at second base. He also spent some time at all three outfield positions. Polanco will turn 19 in July. Candido Pimentel has been an outfielder through his minor league time, but this year, he is listed with the infielders. He is a lanky, speedy, Otis Nixon type bat, and maybe the better Nixon comparison would be his speed on the base paths.
Romy Jimenez (21), Max Kepler (19), Kelvin Mention (20), Rory Rhodes (20), Adam Walker (20).
Jimenez (who you may remember as Romy Trinidad in the DSL) hit .321/.367/.429 with three doubles in 28 at bats before his season came to an end with injury. The 21-year-old has terrific speed. Kepler played in Elizabethton last year. He hit .262/.347/.366 with 11 doubles, three triples and a home run. Those are solid, but unspectacular numbers, so the 19 year old gets to go back. Hopefully, like Goodrum, he will dominate the league this year. Kelvin Mention went to high school with Beloitís JD Williams. Unfortunately, he missed all of last season with injury. He is big and strong and if he can stay healthy, he could hit some home runs. Rory Rhodes started this season at Beloit but hit just .189/.262/.289 before moving back to Extended Spring Training. Instead of playing at first base, he is now listed with the outfielders. Finally, the Twins used their 3rd
round pick (97th
overall) on Adam Walker. Although he played 1B and Jacksonville U, the Twins wanted to list him as a right fielder. Although heíll likely strike out a lot, there is a good chance that he will hit a lot of home runs.
NEW RULE -
Previously, a player could spend no more than three years combined between the GCL and Elizabethton. A new rule this year allows three players with more than three years of experience. This is important in the case of Rory Rhodes. The 6-7, 20 year old from Australia played in the GCL in 2009 and 2010. He played in Elizabethton last year. That's three years. However, he is allowed to play in Elizabethton again in 2012 because of this rule. It would appear that this is a rule designed for players signed as 16 or 17 year olds from other countries. The players from Central America can play in the Dominican Summer League before coming up to the short-season leagues. However, players from Australia (Rhodes, Hendricks), or South Africa (Robb) or Germany (Kepler) or other places that don't have a pre-short season place to play. I think this is a good rule.
This roster for Elizabethton has another chance to compete for another Appalachian League title. There are some good veterans in the rotation and in the bullpen which always helps. However, there are also some high-end pitching prospects worth watching to see how they adjust to a little better competition.
On the offensive side, it is also a good mix. It is a good mix of college guys and young players. There is a good combination of power guys (Walker, Kepler, Hendricks, Rhodes, Quesada, Harrison, Hicks) and speed (Goodrum, Polanco, Kepler and Jimenez).
Tomorrow, we will take a look at the GCL roster. It includes several players drafted this year and last year out of high school as well as several players who have come up from the Twins Dominican Summer League team.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to ask.