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  • Twins Minor League Week in Review: A Nice Distraction


    Seth Stohs

    While we all hope that the Minnesota Twins find some way to turn their 2021 season around, and soon, it sure is nice to have the Twins minor league games as a distraction. Let's take a look back at Week 2 of the minor league season and highlight some deserving players. 

    Image courtesy of Wichita Wind Surge

    What have your early-season stories been as you’ve watched the Twins minor league games or box scores? It’s great having the four full-season affiliates back to playing, and the consistency of the six-game series has been noticeable. 

    Let's start with a question of the week. Leave your answers in the Comments. 

    Question of the Week: Which under-the-radar Twins prospect are you most intrigued by? 

    As a reminder, my plan is to do a weekly Twins Minor League Week in Review. It will be similar to Nick’s Twins Week in Review, but I will instead be highlighting the goings-on in the Twins farm system. My intent is to show top performers for the week as well as discuss some storylines developing in the system. As always, I welcome your feedback on what you would like to see from these Week in Review articles, so let me know in the comments below. 

     

    With that, let’s look at Week 2 in the Twins minor leagues: 

    RESULTS

    • Triple-A: St. Paul Saints: Week (3-3 hosting Iowa), overall (5-7)
    • Double-A: Wichita Wind Surge: Week (3-3 hosting Amarillo), overall (8-4)
    • High-A: Cedar Rapids Kernels: Week (1-5, at Quad Cities), overall (6-6)
    • Low-A: Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels: Week (3-3, hosting Clearwater), overall (6-6) 


    IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

    With the Twins struggles early this season, we have had a lot of minor league articles including articles on players who could be promoted and the daily minor league reports. 


    News & Notes 

    The Saints will remain at home for a second straight week. There are tickets are still available at CHS Field this week.. Check out their website for ticket availability and information. 

    Earlier in the week, Wichita catcher David Banuelos and his wife Jessica welcomed their first child, Ezekiel David, into the world. Congratulations! 

    Coming into Sunday’s game, 50% of their runs this season came via the home run. On Sunday, the Saints scored three runs without the benefit of a homer, so their percentage dropped just below 50% 

    On Sunday, Tomas Telis threw out a would-be base stealer. It was the first runner that the Saints had caught stealing all season. They had been 0-for-13 through the team’s first 11 games. 

    Also on Sunday, the Saints turned four double plays. That number equals the total number of double plays they had turned in the previous 11 games. Three of Sunday’s double plays were turned in the first five innings while Randy Dobnak was on the mound. The other came with Lewis Thorpe on the mound. That said, Nick Gordon and Yeltsin Encarnacion turned arguably the prettiest double play of the week. 

    Hearing that LHP Zarion Sharpe has been promoted to the Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels. Following the five-round MLB draft in 2020, Sharpe signed with the Twins. Get to know him here.  

     

    Highlights

    It’s always nice to start the season on a good note. We are all paying attention early in the season, and then we start looking at season numbers. It’s also a fun time to see players making their professional debuts, or returning from injury, or switching positions, and those are fun to cover as well. This week, we’ll start with something that is always fun… a walk off home run, courtesy of Ryan Jeffers! 

    Earlier in the week, Jose Miranda provided a walk off sacrifice fly to give the Wind Surge their first win at Riverfront Stadium. 

    We will start with the Twins choices for Hitter and Pitcher of the Week (which is announced on Sunday mornings). 

    Twins Player of the Week: Spencer Steer, Cedar Rapids Kernels  

    Last Sunday, Spencer Steer had a minor injury and did not play in the Kernels second game of a doubleheader. He missed Tuesday’s game as well. He returned to action on Wednesday and was fantastic the rest of the week. In five games, he hit .375/.542/.563 (1.104) with a home run. He also had seven walks with just two strikeouts. In his first ten games this season, he is hitting .361/.489/.444 (.934) with a homer. 

    Manager Brian Dinkelman pointed out, “Spencer can play all three infield positions for us. I think we’re comfortable with him at any infield position as long as we can get his bat in the lineup. He has good AB’s. He takes good at bats all the time and carries himself like a professional very well.” 

    Twins Pitcher of the Week: Josh Winder, Wichita Wind Surge  

    Winder was the Wind Surge opening day starter and made two starts in week 1. He went 4 2/3 innings in his first start, and then five innings in his second outing. In start number three, Winder tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings. He gave up three hits, walked one and struck out eight batters. On the season, he is now 1-0 with a 1.17 ERA over 15 1/3 innings. 

    Winder was the Twins seventh round pick in 2018 out of Virginia Military Institute. In 2019, he went 7-2 with a 2.65 ERA in 21 starts for Low-A Cedar Rapids. Obviously he missed the 2020 season, but he clearly impressed at Fall Instructional Camp last October when he was suddenly hitting 97 mph with a fastball. He was invited to big league spring training, and now he has not only skipped High-A, but he’s succeeding in AA. 

    His manager Ramon Borrego said, “I had a chance to see Josh Winder at Instructional League. We get our reports from the organization’s hitters. They say he throws a slider and the fastball was around 90-93. With the time off, we didn’t know what they worked on, but I saw that guy on the mound hitting 97-98. I was like ‘Oh my gawd!’ Really good frame. Strong guy. Really hard worker.”

     

    Other Strong Starts

    Nick Gordon, St. Paul Saints: Gordon returned to St. Paul from Minneapolis and was in the Saints lineup Wednesday. In five games, he hit .333/.429/.611 (1.040) with a triple and a big, three-run homer against Kohl Stewart. He also stole four bases. 

    Ryan Jeffers, St. Paul Saints: .Jeffers was optioned to Triple-A so that he could play every day and get some consistent plate appearances. He has played in all 12 Saints games including the six against Iowa. He hit .273/.333/.636 (.970) with two doubles and two home runs, including a walk-off winner on Saturday night. 

    Jose Miranda, Wichita Wind Surge: Week 1’s Twins hitter of the week, Miranda had another strong week. He hit .368/.381/.526 (.907) with a home run and five RBI. He was set to get a full day off but instead he came up and had a bases loaded walk in the 8th inning of a Wind Surge comeback. 

    Jermaine Palacios, Wichita Wind Surge: In his return to the organization, Palacios has been really good. He has at least one hit in all 11 games he’s played in. In five games this past week, he hit .333/.400/.500 (.900) with a home run. 

    Brent Rooker, St. Paul Saints: It wasn’t a great week for Rooker. I mean, he had just two hits in the five games he played. But, both hits were homers and he also walked four times (three strikeouts), and his slash line looks pretty solid. (.154/.353/.615 (.968))  

    Aaron Sabato, Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels: Last week, Sabato appeared on the Lowlights for a rough first week. Sabato still didn’t have a great week, but he improved and showed the skills that we like. He hit .250/.423/.500 (.923). No one saw more pitches this past week than Sabato (126). He still struck out 10 times, but he also walked six times. He also hit his first two doubles and his first professional home run. 

    Kyle Schmidt, Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels: It’s hard for minor league catchers in the lower levels to make this type of list because of the time shares. Schmidt is known for his defense, but in three games this week, he hit .364/.417/.454  (.871). He went 4-for-11 with a double. 

    Gabe Snyder, Cedar Rapids Kernels: Snyder started all six games for the Kernels this week, five at first base and once as DH. He hit.261/.320/.826 (1.146) with a double and an organization-leading four home runs. I

    Misael Urbina, Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels: A Twins top prospect, Urbina just turned 19 three weeks ago. He was called up to the Mussels a week into the season. He struck out in a pinch-hitting appearance on Tuesday night, then batted ninth the next night. By Thursday, he was leading off and had a huge, two-run single in a late-inning comeback. He ended the week with two multi-hit games. For the week, he hit. .353/.476/.353  (.829) with four walks and two strikeouts. He also stole three bases. 

    PITCHERS

    Mighty Mussels 

    Louie Varland continues to be a strikeout machine. In his appearance last week, he struck out seven batters in four scoreless innings. Ryan Shreve twice came out of the bullpen and gave up just two hits over 5 2/3 scoreless innings. He struck out nine and didn’t walk anyone. Miguel Rodriguez made his first start and tossed four scoreless innings.  

    ‘Kernels 

    The two Kernels starters that are not piggybacking are Matt Canterino and Blayne Enlow. In their Week 2 starts, both were good. Blayne Enlow was charged with one run on three hits over five innings. He struck out seven batters. Canterino also went five innings and gave up three hits. He was charged with two runs (1 earned) and struck out nine batters. Andrew Cabezas made one start and gave up one run on two hits over five innings. He struck out six batters. Derek Molina worked three innings and gave up only an unearned run and struck out five batters. Tyler Beck worked the final four innings in his appearance and did not give up a run, or a hit, or walk. He did strike out six batters.  

    Wind Surge 

    In his 2021 Double-A debut Austin Schulfer didn’t get out of the first inning. In his second start, he tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings and gave up just one hit. Jovani Moran gave up just one run over 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball. He struck out eight batters. Hector Lujan had just one appearance out of the bullpen this past week, but he tossed three hitless innings. Tom Hackimer also threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings. Yennier Cano worked in two games and tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings. The highlight was his Immaculate Inning. 

    Saints 

    Griffin Jax gave up one run on five hits over five innings to record his first Win of the season. Bailey Ober gave up just two hits over four scoreless innings in his start this week. Lewis Thorpe tossed five hitless, scoreless innings over two relief appearances. Another lefty, Daniel Coulombe tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings over two outings. He recorded the team’s lone Save of the week. 

     

    Lowlights

    As those who have known me or have read what I’ve written over the last couple decades know, I generally tend to be positive. But for this report, I think having a small ‘Lowlights’ section makes sense. It is , in my mind, more of a reminder for all of us that even the top prospects are still developing. They’re still working on things. They aren’t finished products. So here are a few guys that had a rough week. 

    The name that a lot of people seem to want called up this year is Keon Broxton. Last week, he went 2-for-19 (.105) with 14 strikeouts in 21 plate appearances. 

    He wasn’t the only one who struck out a lot this week. Cedar Rapids outfielder Matt Wallner hit .200 with 14 strikeouts in 27 plate appearances. Willie Joe Garry, Jr., of the Mighty Mussels hit .111 with 12 strikeouts in 19 plate appearances. Edouard Julien hit .211 with nine strikeouts in 21 plate appearances. 

    Others who struggled during the week included Caleb Hamilton (.071, 1-for-14), Andrew Bechtold (.150, 3-for-20), Wander Javier (.160, 4-25), and Yunior Severino (.118, 2-for-17). 

    Dakota Chalmers had a tough start this past week. He was charged with seven earned runs on three hits and five walks over 2 1/3 innings. That was the game in which the Wind Surge came back from a 7-1 deficit to win 8-7. 

    Two Saints pitchers had a rough week. On Sunday, Ian Gibaut entered the game in the ninth inning to try to protect a 3-0 lead. He gave up five hits, walked two and hit a batter and all eight came around to score. He got just one out . Earlier in the week, he had worked 1 2/3 perfect innings against Iowa. 

    Ian Hamilton got into two games for the Saints. On Tuesday, he went one inning but gave up two runs on two hits and two walks. On Friday, he came into the eight inning and walked the three batters he faced before being lifted. 

    Especially with pitchers, looking at a week of games means a very small sample size. It’s probably one start. A reliever may throw twice. So, be sure to take all of these numbers (good or bad) with the proper perspective. 

     

    Trending Storyline 

    When Randy Dobnak was optioned to St. Paul a little over two weeks ago, we wondered aloud if they were stretching him out to potentially take the rotation spot of Matt Shoemaker if he continues to struggle. At the same time, Lewis Thorpe went up to the big leagues and has been solid in two spot starts. 

    Now both Dobnak and Thorpe are in St. Paul, and it has been interesting to see how each has been used. Dobnak made one start in Omaha, and he was the starter for the Saints home opener at CHS Field. That also meant that he started on Sunday. 

    Meanwhile, Thorpe threw five innings for the Twins on Wednesday, May 5, against Texas. He started with five innings of one-run ball before being charged with two runs in the sixth inning that scored after he was removed from the game. This week, he worked three innings in relief of Griffin Jax on Tuesday night. On Sunday, he tossed two more innings in relief of Dobnak. Combined, he worked five innings without giving up a hit. 

    (Lucas Seehafer was at Sunday’s game and wrote about Dobnak and Thorpe)

    So, while it is clear that Dobnak is being stretched out to start, is Thorpe now being groomed to work out of the bullpen? Maybe in multi-inning relief opportunities? It will be interesting to see how Thorpe is used the next month or two (and even in the next week) to try to see what the Twins might have planned for him as the season progresses, especially if the team sells impending free agents such as Michael Pineda and J.A. Happ. 

    With Charlie Barnes, Griffin Jax and Bailey Ober starting their season pitching well too, and eventually Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic becoming options, the Twins second half pitching situation could be very interesting. 


    LOOKING AHEAD

    Ft. Myers @ Tampa (Regi Grace, Brent Hendrick, Steven Cruz, Sawyer Gipson-Long;  TBD, TBD)

    Beloit @ Cedar Rapids: (Blayne Enlow, Tyler Beck, Kody Funderburk, Matt Canterino, Andrew Cabezas, Ben Gross)

    Wichita @ Tulsa: (Austin Schulfer, Josh Winder (vs Gus Varland), Bryan Sammons, Cole Sands, Chris Vallimont, Austin Schulfer) 

    Indianapolis @ St. Paul (Griffin Jax, Bailey Ober, Andrew Albers, TBD, TBD, TBD)
     

    With this being just the second Week in Review for the Minor Leagues, feel free to provide some feedback below. What do you like to read? What types of information would you like added? And feel free to ask any questions you like.


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    Question of the Week: Which under-the-radar Twins prospect are you most intrigued by?

    He may not be an under-the-radar player to many Twins fans, but to me it would have to be Winder that I'm most intrigued by (a close second would be Ober).  Really like his makeup and the increased velo opens your eyes a bit.

    Going to be fun watching him continue to grow and mature as a player.

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    He isn't under the radar, Seth, just not well known because he is so young.  But the player I really want to see succeed and move up is Urbina.  Was excited reading your comments, especially when I saw he had six stolen bases this week...six!

    Great seeing Jeffers hitting like we learned to expect last summer, but didn't like your comment that the first 13 base stealers against the Saints were successful.  Yes, Jeffers isn't the only catcher, but I believe he caught most of those games.  In the games I watched, I saw several pitches in the dirt that weren't blocked and became wild pitches.  I know nothing about catching but believe that some of those should have been be blocked.

    Can hardly believe the start Miranda is having.  I know he was highly thought of several years ago, then had a couple so-so seasons.  Can't remember, but believe 2019 was better, but nothing to indicate we could have expected this start.  Yes, it is still a SSS, but if this continues is he the answer to replace Donaldson in a couple years?  What do you know about his defense, Seth?  I always heard that D was Bechtold's strength, but don't remember anything about Miranda.

    I guess spending big dollars on Latin 16-year old's doesn't always work, eh?  Are Javier, Sano and Severino the three biggest International signings ever for the Twins?  Maybe Urbina can change that disappointing run.

    Thanks again for this report, love it.  No need to change anything other than getting all four to have winning records.

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    7 minutes ago, roger said:

    He isn't under the radar, Seth, just not well known because he is so young.  But the player I really want to see succeed and move up is Urbina.  Was excited reading your comments, especially when I saw he had six stolen bases this week...six!

    Edited... it should have been three stolen bases, which is good for a week. He had 6 hits. I don't know what I did there. That said, I agree that Urbina is quite exciting. 

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    8 minutes ago, roger said:

    Can hardly believe the start Miranda is having.  I know he was highly thought of several years ago, then had a couple so-so seasons.  Can't remember, but believe 2019 was better, but nothing to indicate we could have expected this start.  Yes, it is still a SSS, but if this continues is he the answer to replace Donaldson in a couple years?  What do you know about his defense, Seth?  I always heard that D was Bechtold's strength, but don't remember anything about Miranda.

    I guess spending big dollars on Latin 16-year old's doesn't always work, eh?  Are Javier, Sano and Severino the three biggest International signings ever for the Twins?  Maybe Urbina can change that disappointing run.

    Miranda is fine defensively around the infield, but I wouldn't say he's great, by any means. But he is a very nice prospect with a ton of power potential. 

    Javier looks to be a bust at this point, though seeing him his size and athleticism and I won't give up on him. He is really good defensively at shortstop. Severino is also way too young to give up on. And Sano has absolutely been a major success of an international signing. Teams usually wish they get that kind of production from a 16-year-old international signing. 

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    Seth thanks for this.  Absolutely awesome condensed info on so many of the players I am stat watching.  While I always appreciate how positive you are it is nice that you added some reality by mentioning players that didn't have such good weeks.  That is the other part of the process and needs to be acknowledged as well.  Doesn't have to overly negative but guys not making contact is a concern.  Guys not walking is a legitimate concern.  Granted some of those guys will improve but we all know 90% of these guys are not going to make it so pointing out some flaws they need to correct to be successful isn't criminal but more in line with what will eventually happen if they don't improve.  I would love every player the Twins pick to turn into a super star that is just not how this process works.  You have to be a pretty amazing player to make it to MLB.

    Ok onto some players I like to start the season.  Palacios must just like being a Twin.  Nice to see that beautiful swing back and if he has figured things out that would be great for us.  

    While the K's are still an issue I really like what Jeffers has done back at AAA.  Have to believe that once he finds his swing he will be back.

    Really. really liking what Urbina has been doing so far.  Doing it at 19 means he might have star potential.  Would be awesome if he keeps things going and earns a promotion but odds are there are plenty of ups and downs yet.

    Other than Winder I haven't been overly impressed with the starting pitching while it hasn't been bad I was hoping for more dominance but it is early.  Some of the relief pitchers have looked really good and I hope those translate to MLB as we definitely need pen help.

    I have to say I am as low on Rooker as I ever have been.  His issue with chasing breaking balls does not look like it will end anytime soon and his swing and miss is a huge concern.  I mean waiver wire pickup Garlick has been a significantly better player pretty much all year.  I don't know what he needs to change but hopefully he figure it out this year.

    I keep rooting for Sabato and while he has better strike zone control than Rooker he is starting to look like the same type of player without the same amount of power.  For a guy who was supposed to be a polished hitter he hasn't looked the part.  I mean this is his first year facing this level of competition so I need to give him a break but I was hoping for more than I have seen to this point.

    I know Jullien was in the lowlights but he does have 11 walks to 16 K's so not a horrible eye at the plate.  He has a tough week no doubt but I see more positives with him than a lot of other players.

    Still way too early to establish any real trends but those are my thoughts for this week.  Thanks much for this article makes it easier for me to see where guys are at and easier to stay positive because so many players do have good weeks.

     

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    Under the radar- Pitchers-Cano, is he still under the radar, Hackimer, and Moran, Louie Varland. Would like to see Ober and Jax get a shot at MLB this year. Hitters- Gordon probably not under the radar but hope he gets another opportunity this year at MLB. Miranda has figured out something with his bat, as well as Whitefield.

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    1 hour ago, MplsFan said:

    Holy smokes.  How soon can that Yennier Cano guy get to Minneapolis?

    Watched him pitch that game. He actually struck out the last guy before that immaculate inning on three pitches as well, so got 4 hitters in a row on 12 pitches. Then he struck out the first two hitters to start the next inning on 4 pitches each... Since I'm counting, that was 6 consecutive K's needing only 20 pitches. It was unquestionable dominance. 

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