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  • Twins Minor League Week in Review: Six Down, 114 To Go


    Seth Stohs

    After approximately 20 months, minor league baseball returned on Tuesday night. The Twins have new affiliates, affiliates at different classifications, and lots of prospects to watch. The teams play six games each week, Tuesday though Sunday with Monday's as off days. Each Monday night, we will post this Twins Minor League Week in Review article to summarize the prior week and look ahead. 

    Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily

     

    How nice was it to see minor league baseball return this week? And, hopefully you have enjoyed the return of the Twins Minor League Reports each day on this site. 

    I had a great time watching and covering the start of the Cedar Rapids Kernels season from Cedar Rapids. Those that follow me on Instagram or Twitter likely saw that I took approximately 2.3 million pictures over four days. I enjoyed the time and was able to see the Kernels jump up to High-A after being the team’s Low-A affiliate for the previous eight years. 

    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 1 in the Twins minor leagues: 

    Results

    Triple-A: St. Paul Saints: Week (2-4 at Omaha), overall (2-4)

    Double-A: Wichita Wind Surge: Week (5-1 at Springfield), overall (5-1)

    High-A: Cedar Rapids Kernels: Week (5-1, hosting Peoria), overall (5-1)

    Low-A: Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels: Week (3-3, at Bradenton), overall (3-3) 

     

    News & Notes 

    For those of you looking to attend CHS Field for the St. Paul Saints first games as the Twins AAA affiliate, tickets are still available. Check out their website for ticket availability and information. 

    We may have less (though hopefully more and more) readers in the Wichita area, but they also have tickets available for their home opening series against Amarillo. Tickets also available in Ft. Myers as they start their home schedule on Tuesday as well. 

    Wichita opened their new $90 million ballpark, Riverfront Stadium, on April 10th when Wichita State played the University of Houston. Did you know, the last time a MLB-affiliated game was played in Wichita was in August of 2007. 

    Catcher David Banuelos began his season with the Wichita Wind Surge. He did leave the team this weekend, but for good reason. He and his wife are expecting their first child so he is back home. So while he went just 1-for-13 at the plate, this will be a good week for the catcher. 

     

    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. 

    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: Jose Miranda, Wichita Wind Surge 

    Splitting his time between second base and third base, Miranda provided some thump in the Wind Surge lineup. He hit .370/.414/.741 (1.155) with a double, three home runs and seven RBI. He has had at least one hit in all six games.  

    Twins Pitcher of the Week: Brent Headrick, Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels 

    Headrick made one start for the Mussels and it went well. He threw four scoreless innings. He gave up just two hits, walked one and struck out seven batters. 

    Other Strong Starts

    Aaron Whitefield, Wichita Wind Surge: The speedy outfielder put together a very nice first series of the season. He had multiple hits in all six games. He hit .444/.500/.815 (1.315) with two doubles, a triple and two home runs. He also stole three bases. 

    Matt Wallner, Cedar Rapids Kernels: The Minnesota native who was twice drafted by the Twins got off to a strong start for the Kernels. He hit .381/.462/.810 (1.271) with a double, a triple, two home runs and eight RBI. 

     

    Caleb Hamilton, Wichita Wind Surge: Just before the season started, Hamilton was transferred from the alternate site in St. Paul to the Wichita roster. In four games, he is hitting .417/.611/.583 (1.194) with two doubles. He also had six walks to go with four strikeouts. 

    Edouard Julien, Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels: The 2019 draft pick hurt his elbow playing for Team Canada that summer. He had Tommy John surgery. So this week marked his professional debut. It went well. He hit .353/.577/588 (1.165) with two doubles and a triple. He also walked nine times compared to seven strikeouts. 

    Trey Cabbage, Cedar Rapids Kernels: He hit .313/.450/.625 (1.075) with a triple and a home run during the week. On Thursday, he went 4-for-4 with the home run, triple, two singles and a walk. All four hits were over 100 mph off the bat. On Opening Night, he also made a great diving catch out in left field.

     

     

    Yunior Severino, Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels: In five games this week, Severino hit .333/.400/.611 (1.011) with two doubles, a homer and eight RBI. 

    Andrew Vasquez, St. Paul Saints: The lefty reliever worked in three of the Saints six games and gave up just one hit over 3 ⅓ innings. He didn’t walk anyone and struck out six batters, harkening back to his remarkable 2018 season. 

    Cole Sands, Wichita Wind Surge: The 2018 draft pick went 4 1/3 scoreless innings in his 2021 debut. He gave up two hits, walked two and struck out three batters. 

    Jovani Moran, Wichita Wind Surge: The lefty worked 3 1/3 scoreless relief innings over two appearances. He gave up two hits, walked one and struck out seven batters. 

    Hunter McMahon, Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels: The right-hander came to the Twins organization from the Nationals in the Ryne Harper trade. In his first appearance in the organization, he worked 4 2/3 innings and gave up just two hits, walked one and struck out six batters. 

    Randy Dobnak, St. Paul Saints: The righty tossed four scoreless innings for the Saints and gave up just two hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out five. In fact, he struck out the side in his final inning of work. 

    Kody Funderburk, Cedar Rapids Kernels: The southpaw was the Kernels opening night starter on Tuesday and worked three innings. He came in again on Sunday afternoon and recorded a two-inning save. In all, he gave up two unearned runs in five innings of work and struck out six batters. 

     

    Melvi Acosta, Cedar Rapids Kernels: Acosta worked 4 ⅓ scoreless innings over two appearances in Week 1. He gave up just one hit, walked two and struck out six batters. 

    Andrew Cabezas, Cedar Rapids Kernels: The righty came out of the bullpen and worked four scoreless innings in his 2021 debut. He gave up just one hit, walked two and struck out two batters. 

    Josh Winder, Wichita Wind Surge: Winder certainly has made a name for himself the past six months. Increased velocity and a strong spring training performance meant he skipped High-A ball and jumped right to AA where he was the team’s Opening Night starter. He also started on Sunday. Combined, he worked 9 2/3 innings and gave up just two runs. He struck out 11 batters. 

    Daniel Ozoria, Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels: On Sunday, the Mussels lost a crazy game by the score of 18-9. The team’s best pitcher in that game was Ozoria who worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings. He gave up one hit. He walked one. He didn’t strike anyone out. But he was able to get the team through those final innings… Oh, Ozoria, he’s an infielder. 

     

    Great Comeback Stories

    Zach Featherstone, Cedar Rapids Kernels: The Twins drafted Featherstone in 2016 as a 1B/OF. In 2018, he made the transition to the mound. However, he hurt his elbow, rehabbed, and then after just three games in the GCL, he needed Tommy John surgery. He was ready to return late in 2019, but a hurricane ended the GCL season early. Then came COVID in 2020. On Thursday night, Featherstone returned to the mound in a game for the first time in nearly three years. The lefty was pumping 96 in his first inning and displaying some good secondary pitches too. He worked 1 2/3 scoreless innings in relief. 

    After the game, Featherstone said, “It was definitely cool to get back on the mound and be competitive.”

    Jon Olsen, Cedar Rapids Kernels: Olsen starred at UCLA, but early in the 2018 season, he needed Tommy John surgery. The Twins still drafted him in the 11th round that year. He rehabbed that year and in 2019. Olsen was looking strong and excited to get going in 2020, but then came COVID. On Sunday afternoon, he was finally able to make his professional debut. He worked four innings and gave up just one run on five hits and a walk. He struck out four batters. 

     

    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 who have started their season slowly in the first week. 

    With the 27th overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, the Twins selected 1B Aaron Sabato from the University of North Carolina. While there were questions about his defense, the general belief is that he will hit and hit for power. It’s also possible that he could be a fast-riser through the system. He went to Twins spring training (development camp) and played a bunch late in big-league games. It may have surprised many that he began the season (and his professional career) in Low-A Ft. Myers. However, reports surfaced that he had struggled with the bat in minor league camp. 

    Through the season’s first six games, Sabato has started and batted third each game for the Mussels. He is hitting .095/.345/.095 (.440) with no extra base hits. He has walked seven times, but he’s struck out 11 times in his 29 plate appearances. What to do? Well, manager Brian Meyer will most likely play him each of the next six games at home this week, and bat him third, and he will continue to do that as long as Sabato remains with the Mighty Mussels. 

    Gilberto Celestino begins his 2021 campaign in Double-A Wichita despite ending the 2019 season with just eight games in High-A. He began the season by hitting .150/.292/.200 (.492) with one double. He has three hits in 20 at-bats. 


    Trending Storyline 

    It has been interesting to see how the pitching rotations for the Twins affiliates have been set up, especially with the two Class A affiliates. The idea, of course, is to protect the arms of these pitching prospects who were unable to work any official innings in 2020 due to the pandemic.

    On Thursday night, the Cedar Rapids Kernels were behind by a score of 4-2 going into the ninth inning. On the mound for the Kernels in the top of the ninth inning… Gabe Snyder, the first baseman. The lefty was hitting 77 mph with his fastball, but he faced five batters, gave up three hits and walked two batters before being replaced by second baseman Yeltsin Encarnacion. Encarnacion gave up two more hits and a long home run, but he got three outs, including one on a strikeout (with an 86 mph fastball). The Kernels lone loss of the season was an 11-2 loss that night. So why did they need to throw a position player into a close game?

    After the game, Kernels manager Brian Dinkelman said, “With a bit of a shortened spring training, guys were not quite built up all the way. We know we have a limit of pitches, and ups and downs for guys. We used some guys the first couple of games. We had our guys that were available tonight, and they threw. I know it’s a tough situation, close ball game in the ninth, to have to throw a position player out there. But we’re trying to protect these players so we can go farther into the season.” 


    The Kernels are not alone with this. Ft. Myers Mighty Mussels pitching coach Peter Larson pointed out “Coming off of the missed year, workload volume management is at the forefront, the most important thing, that we don’t blow these guys out.”

    Because of that, the Mussels roster, specifically the pitching staff, illustrates that. Larson noted, “We have a lot of starters, and we have 15 pitchers. We’re going to look to piggyback starters especially in the early months and it could go the whole season.” 

    He projected the idea of one pitcher starting the first week and then the guys who came in relief would start the second role to give them different opportunities. 

    With the Mighty Mussels, they will also have the advantage of being in the same facilities as the players at the development complex (essentially Extended Spring Training). In week one, we already saw the Mussels add two pitchers from the complex to their roster (Anthony Escobar and Donny Breek). 


    LOOKING AHEAD

    Clearwater @ Ft. Myers (Hunter McMahon, Regi Grace, Miguel Rodriguez, Bradley Hanner, Sawyer Gipson-Long, Louie Varland)

    Cedar Rapids @ Quad Cities: (Ben Gross, Blayne Enlow, Tyler Watson, Kody Funderburk, Matt Canterino, Andrew Cabezas)

    Amarillo @ Wichita: (Cole Sands, Austin Schulfer, Dakota Chalmers, Josh Winder, Bryan Sammons, Cole Sands) 

    Iowa @ St. Paul (Randy Dobnak, Griffin Jax, Bailey Ober, Andrew Albers, Charlie Barnes, TBD)


    With this being the first 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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    Seth:  Just an outstanding analysis of the 1st week for our four affiliates!  Although I posted on May 9th thread, I was impressed with what I saw from many on the Wind Surge in the 2 games I saw in Springfield last week.  Whitefield and Miranda had a great 1st week and Caleb Hamilton also was productive.  Know the managers at all levels want to protect their SPs early in the season, so I'm guessing it will likely into June before we see our rising prospects be able to pitch deeper into games.  As for your "lowlights" section, I think its important to update the fans who are following these prospects to report the facts.  Hopefully with Celestino, he just had a poor week at the plate.  His defense from all reports I've read is MLB quality now.  I more concerned with the "Sano-eque" start of Sabato at Fort Myers.  Big kid with a productive power bat at UNC, so I can't think he's being overwhelmed at the Low A level.  Hope he can get it going soon.

    Keep up the great work!

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    The only level that players can be promoted from this year is AAA. That and the taxi squad. So when AAA completes against others the win loss matters. It is not looking good for reinforcements from that supposedly awesome farm system after week one.

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    2 hours ago, h2oface said:

    The only level that players can be promoted from this year is AAA. That and the taxi squad. So when AAA completes against others the win loss matters. It is not looking good for reinforcements from that supposedly awesome farm system after week one.

    I have tickets to the Saints home opener tonight. I've been struggling with this thought since they announced the Saints are now the Twins AAA affiliate - why is watching demoted Twins players and guys not quite good enough for MLB better than just watching the Twins instead? I guess I see some of the intrigue to see a top prospect, although I fall back to why not just wait until they get promoted to the Twins. I've been a Saints fan since day one and have really enjoyed watching that franchise grow and become what it has. I am a bit skeptical that the Saints can and will keep the same fun vibe and atmosphere at CHS Field. I just really enjoyed having the Saints in a separate world from the Twins - it was a nice distraction from the Twins to follow the independent league Saints. Are we supposed to take care how the AAA Saints team performs as far as win-loss record? 

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    41 minutes ago, theBOMisthebomb said:

    I have tickets to the Saints home opener tonight. I've been struggling with this thought since they announced the Saints are now the Twins AAA affiliate - why is watching demoted Twins players and guys not quite good enough for MLB better than just watching the Twins instead? I guess I see some of the intrigue to see a top prospect, although I fall back to why not just wait until they get promoted to the Twins. I've been a Saints fan since day one and have really enjoyed watching that franchise grow and become what it has. I am a bit skeptical that the Saints can and will keep the same fun vibe and atmosphere at CHS Field. I just really enjoyed having the Saints in a separate world from the Twins - it was a nice distraction from the Twins to follow the independent league Saints. Are we supposed to take care how the AAA Saints team performs as far as win-loss record? 

    This has been my biggest hang up with the setup as well.  Plus, I liked that it was a different brand of baseball.  It served as a nice changeup from MLB and provided a much more fun and laid back atmosphere.

    There are good points for it too, but there are definitely aspects that I'll miss.

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    Thanks for a great first report, Seth.

    Was wondering if roster size has been increased to account for the extra pitchers?  Also, with the Saints having only 8 position players for their second game Sunday, have moves been made so they have a full roster tonight?

     

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    The only level that players can be promoted from this year is AAA. That and the taxi squad. So when AAA completes against others the win loss matters. It is not looking good for reinforcements from that supposedly awesome farm system after week one.

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    7 minutes ago, kuchinkulon said:

    The only level that players can be promoted from this year is AAA. That and the taxi squad. 

    I am apparently a moron. Is this true? MLB teams can't promote players straight from AA this year? I had not heard this.

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    10 minutes ago, kuchinkulon said:

    The only level that players can be promoted from this year is AAA. That and the taxi squad. So when AAA completes against others the win loss matters. It is not looking good for reinforcements from that supposedly awesome farm system after week one.

    The reinforcements are Kirilloff, Larnach, Gordon, Rooker and Jeffers. They up or injured, or down to get playing time. Dobnak and Thorpe looking to be good SP depth. 

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    10 minutes ago, Seth Stohs said:

    I'd heard that as rumor last week, but I believe it is true.

    So to get a guy from AA or A ball to the big league club, the Twins will have him report to St. Paul, play in one game, then promote across the river?  If this is true, it is another decision by MLB that is more than a head scratcher.  Hopefully, they won't figure out how teams will beat the system and then require X games at AAA before being promoted.

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    1 hour ago, kuchinkulon said:

    The only level that players can be promoted from this year is AAA. That and the taxi squad. So when AAA completes against others the win loss matters. It is not looking good for reinforcements from that supposedly awesome farm system after week one.

    I believe that is my unquoted post..... exactly.... and I believe I read it in a piece at MLBTradeRumors. 

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    3 hours ago, roger said:

    So to get a guy from AA or A ball to the big league club, the Twins will have him report to St. Paul, play in one game, then promote across the river?  If this is true, it is another decision by MLB that is more than a head scratcher.  Hopefully, they won't figure out how teams will beat the system and then require X games at AAA before being promoted.

     

    I asked Toby Gardenhire about that just a bit ago in the pre-game press conference for tonight's Saints game, and it is true. Also, a player called up to any level needs to go through an intake process which includes a 24-48 hour quarantine. When a player goes between AAA and MLB, they are on the same testing schedule so the intake is a little different, quicker. 

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