HrbieFan reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Twins Prospects Excited to Start Arizona Fall League Season
The Scottsdale Scorpions team contains seven players from the Twins, Giants, “Guardians,” Rays, and Red Sox.
As was announced just last week, the Twins are sending four pitchers and three position players. Right-hander Cody Laweryson and lefties Kody Funderburk, Zach Featherstone, and Evan Sisk will get some extra innings on the mound. Outfielder Matt Wallner, infielder Andrew Bechtold, and utility man Michael Helman will get more opportunities at the plate and in the field.
For the Twins representatives, it is their first time playing in the league. Most of them hadn’t even been to Arizona for the Fall League as a fan. The lone exception is Kody Funderburk, who grew up in Mesa, Arizona, and frequented the ballparks in the Fall.
The southpaw was a two-way player at Dallas Baptist, but he has been solely a pitcher since joining the Twins as their 15th round draft pick in 2018. He began this season at High-A Cedar Rapids, where he made ten starts and was 1-3 with a 3.18 ERA. In 45 1/3 innings, he had 59 strikeouts. He moved up to Double-A Wichita, and all seven of his appearances came out of the bullpen. He posted a 1.25 ERA and had 23 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings.
Ryan Smith has earned praise for his terrific work as the hitting coach of the Wichita Wind Surge, the same role he will have for Scottsdale.
Smith noted, “Prior to last week, I had never been in Arizona!”
The Twins prospects finished the season in either Cedar Rapids or Wichita. Both teams made the playoffs. They got a couple of weeks off before heading to Arizona for a week of practice.
Each player has things they want to work on during their time in the Fall League. Likewise, Smith intends to continue to improve himself during his time there.
He said, “ I’d like to continue to sharpen my communication (and Spanish-speaking) skills with this new group of players.”
For Evan Sisk, the Fall League provides him with an opportunity to work on pitches and such. He came to the Twins at the trade deadline from the Cardinals in the J.A. Happ trade and spent the final two months working in the Wind Surge bullpen. He will also get to know these Twins teammates better.
Minnesota native Matt Wallner missed about two months of the 2021 season because of a broken hamate bone. This time will allow him to get some of those missed at-bats back. He noted, “Working on seeing and being more comfortable against the better arms in this league.”
Kernels starter Cody Laweryson missed time early in the season. His season began in June, and he made 14 starts. In 58 2/3 innings, he had 73 strikeouts. For him, it is mainly about working on his confidence. “My biggest thing to work on is keeping my confidence high no matter how my outings are going.”
Like Funderburk, Zach Featherstone was a two-way player in college. The Twins drafted him in the 12th round of the 2016 draft as a first baseman/outfielder. He spent that first year in the organization as a hitter. However, he quickly moved to the mound. Unfortunately, after just a handful of innings in 2017, he had Tommy John surgery. He missed the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He was ready for a rehab appearance when a hurricane shut down the GCL season. Like others, he did not pitch in 2020. So you can imagine what it meant for him to get back on the mound for the Cedar Rapids Kernels in 2021. And he was terrific. By season’s end, he was the Kernels closer, and his pitches were much sharper.
He noted, “I’m going to be working on getting ahead of hitters more often, attacking the strike zone with all three of my pitches.”
Featherstone throws a low-to-mid-90s fastball, a curveball, and a slider that can be devastating at times.
Michael Helman was drafted as a middle infielder in the 11th round of the 2018 draft out of Texas A&M. His power arrived in 2021. In 121 pro games between 2018 and 2019, he had 19 doubles and seven homers. In 111 games for the Kernels in 2021, he hit 21 doubles and 19 home runs.
Helman did so while spending time playing all over the diamond. Having played one pro game in the outfield over his first two pro seasons, he played 42 games in left field, 27 games in right field, and 26 games in center field. He played 20 games in the middle infield.
He pointed out, “I would like to become more of a complete player all around both on the offensive and defensive sides. I’m not sure if I’ll be playing more outfield or infield. I guess it just depends on where they want to work me in.”
In the season’s first half, he split his time between first base and third base. After the Twins promoted Jose Miranda to St. Paul, Bechtold played more third base. In 99 games, he hit 23 doubles and 18 home runs. The day after the Wind Surge clinched a playoff spot, Bechtold played his first game as a catcher. It is something he had been working on for about a month.
“I’m definitely going to be continuing to work on my catching. Catching for me was a project the last month or so of the season, and we put in a lot of work. I was able to catch in a game in Double-A this year because of how well the progression we were working on worked. I know catching is a valuable tool for me to have. I’m excited to continue to work on it and continue to get more experience. Along with catching, I want to continue to develop as much range as possible at third base and continue to fine-tune my approach at the plate.”
The Arizona Fall League is something that baseball fans should include on their bucket list. And for players, the opportunity to play in the league is tremendous. The players should be excited about this opportunity, and they all are.
Bechtold said, “I’m most looking forward to playing against guys you may not normally see, whether that’s because of the league they are in or level. I think the AFL is a great opportunity to see guys first-hand and see how you compare to some of the other organizations’ top talents. I think playing with high-caliber players for an extended period of time pushes you and forces you to play your best baseball, so I’m looking forward to that.”
It is about testing yourself against prospects from around baseball.
Featherstone said, “I’m looking forward to getting to compete against some of the best minor league competition from this year.”
Laweryson explained, “I would say I’m most looking forward to the competition I’m going to face and the great players I’m going to be playing with.”
Wallner echoed the sentiment, “ Looking forward to competing against upper-level competition that’s out here.”
And so did Helman, “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to play against some great competition.”
One of the great things about the Fall League and playing with coaches and players from other organizations is the chance to learn from others. Maybe try something that will click for them and help them achieve another level of success.
Smith is undoubtedly looking forward to that. “I’m really looking forward to the collaboration with coaches and players from other organizations, as well as enjoying the great fall weather out in AZ. ”
To summarize, Bechtold said, “I’ve heard a lot about it just being a baseball fan growing up, and I always knew it was something I would want to play in one day if given the opportunity. I think the Twins have a good group of guys here, so I’m excited to experience it with them and really take it all in and enjoy my time here.”
In the past, I have chatted with players after the AFL season is complete to hear their experiences. Most are just thrilled to have had the opportunity to have met such great players and people from other organizations. It’s fun to see if they were able to accomplish some of the things they wanted to.
Each week throughout the AFL season, Twins Daily will update how the Twins prospects have performed.
HrbieFan reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Simmons Wants to Know the Real Story Behind Reliever’s Broken Hand
When Milwaukee’s ace setup man Devin Williams fractured his pitching hand after celebrating the team’s playoff clinching victory, reactions were pretty much uniform: that’s some real bad luck for the Brewers and/or worse decision making by Williams. For one shortstop, it only led to more questions.
“What is Anthony Fauci hiding,” asked Andrelton Simmons of the Minnesota Twins, referencing the doctor who leads the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “He hasn’t said a word about this. His silence says more than any public statement.”
Simmons, a public vaccine skeptic, had harsh words for those who believed the accounts of Williams, the Brewers, media outlets, the Commissioner’s office, and objective reality.
“The Brewers are a legitimate title contender and you people actually believe that one of their best players, after they lock up a playoff berth, would punch a wall with his pitching hand,” said Simmons. “I’m literally laughing out loud. Sure he did, sheeple. Sure he did.”
When pressed on what he thinks really happened, Simmons looked to the past.
“The Brewers were already 85% vaccinated in May, and now one of their best players has a broken hand,” said Simmons. “Not one Brewer pitcher broke his pitching hand before last year’s playoffs. You know what else didn’t happen before last year’s playoffs? Vaccinations. Connect the dots, my friend.”
Simmons also claimed that while there’s no proof that the FDA trapped former Twin Marty Cordova in a tanning bed and caused him to miss multiple day games, “they’ve never denied it, either. Funny how that works.”
HrbieFan reacted to Cody Christie for an article, TD Top Twins Prospect Rankings (Post Draft and Trade Deadline): 26-30
30. RHP Marco Raya (19 years old)
Season Stats: Yet to Debut
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: NA, 2021 Preseason: NA
Raya was the Twins’ fourth-round draft pick in 2020 out of United South High School in Laredo, Texas. His fastball can hit in the low- to mid-90s, and he mixes in three breaking pitches, including a slider, a curveball, and a change-up. At 6-feet tall and 170 pounds, he isn’t tall on the mound, but he is a good athlete, and the Twins are excited about the promise he shows for the future. Currently, he is on the IL with the FCL Twins.
29. LHP Jovani Moran (24 years old)
Season Stats (AA/AAA): 50 IP (26 G), 1.98 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, 15.3 K/9, 3.2 BB/9
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: Honorable Mention, 2021 Preseason: NA
Moran has one of the best change-ups in the Twins system, and he has been able to use it to dominate the minor’s upper levels this season. Originally, he was taken by the Twins in the seventh round in 2015 out of Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico. During July, he struck out nearly 50% of the batter he faced. Right-handed batters have been limited to a .352 OPS against him in 2021. With his success at Triple-A, he seems likely to make his big-league debut before the season's end.
28. LHP Steve Hajjar (21 years old)
Season Stats (College): 81.2 IP (14 G), 3.09 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 12.1 K/9 3.2 BB/9
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: NA, 2021 Preseason: NA
Hajjar was Minnesota’s second-round pick in this year’s draft from the University of Michigan. He signed for the full slot value of $1,129,700 but has yet to make his professional debut. At Michigan, he led the Big Ten with 110 strikeouts in 81 2/3 innings. He is 6-foot-5 and weighs 215 pounds, so he is quite the presence on the mound. Typically, his fastball sits in the low-90s, but he can reach the mid-90s with some movement. He mixes in a change-up and a curveball to keep batters off balance.
27. SS Wander Javier (22 years old)
Season Stats (A+): 76 G, .219/.274/.409 (.683), 9 HR, 12 2B, 9 3B, 33.8 K%, 6.1 BB%
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: 17, 2021 Preseason: NA
Javier was initially signed by the Twins in July 2015, and his name has populated the team’s top prospect lists throughout that time. At one point, he was considered a top-100 prospect in baseball, but he hasn’t put it all together to the point where he has been left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft the past two years. He had a tremendous month of June with a .834 OPS, but he struck out 41 times in 112 plate appearances in July. Fans can hope he develops into a five-tool talent, but that dream might have passed at this point.
26. 2B Alerick Soularie (22 years old)
Season Stats: Rehab Assignment
Previous Rankings: 2021 Midseason: 18, 2021 Preseason: 18
Soularie rolled his ankle during spring training and then broke his foot going down some stairs, which has kept him out of action until late last week. He was taken in the second round in 2020 out of the University of Tennessee and he is 22-years old. Soularie has started his rehab assignment by going 2-for-5 with a home run, two RBI, and two runs scored. He is considered one of the best athletes in the Twins system, and the organization has to be excited to have him back on the field.
Check back this week for the rest of the Twins post-draft and post-trade deadline top-30 rankings. Feel free to discuss this group of prospects and ask questions.
HrbieFan reacted to Lucas Seehafer PT for an article, Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month - June 2021
LHP Brent Headrick, Low-A: 1-1, 1.71 ERA, 21 IP, 30 K, 10 BB, 1.24 WHIP
RHP Sawyer Gipson-Long, Low-A, 3-0, 2.91 ERA, 21 2/3 IP, 31 K, 5 BB, 1.25 WHIP
Number 5: RHP Chris Vallimont, Double-A
Stats: 2-2, 3.22 ERA, 22 1/3 IP, 34 K, 10 BB, 1.39 WHIP
On the surface, Vallimont's numbers from May are arguably better than the ones he posted in June. However, the big difference was his uptick in innings. Vallimont faced exactly twice as many batters in June as he did in May - 96 versus 48 - and essentially maintained his strikeout rate. While he wasn't fantastic, he was good, which was enough to come in fifth in the vote.
Number 4: RHP Ben Gross, High-A
Stats: 2-0, 1.54 ERA, 23 1/3 IP, 29 K, 10 BB, 1.37 WHIP
Gross will be 25-years-old before the end of the season meaning the odds that he ever reaches the majors are dwindling with each passing day. That said, his performance during the month of June was rather encouraging. Compared to May, Gross pitched six more innings, struck out seven more batters, allowed four fewer runs, and dropped his overall ERA from 4.15 to 2.66.
Number 3: RHP Austin Schulfer, Double-A
Stats: 1-1, 1.75 ERA, 25 2/3 IP, 28 K, 8 BB, 1.29 WHIP
Like Gross, Schulfer saw his performance improve dramatically as the calendar turned from May to June.
A 19th-round pick in the 2018 draft, Schulfer dropped his ERA from 5.31 to 3.33 after allowing seven less earned runs and striking out twice as many batters in 5 1/3 more innings. Again, his future may not be in the majors as he is already 25-years-old and owns a FIP north of 3.50 in his minor league career, however, it's always intriguing anytime a player posts a month as successful as Schulfer.
Number 2: RHP Louie Varland, Low-A
Stats: 1-0, 0.40 ERA, 22 1/3 IP, 29 K, 5 BB, 0.90 WHIP
For as mediocre as Varland's May was, his June was absolutely superb.
Piling up strikeouts has never been an issue for the former Concordia-St. Paul Golden Bear, but what changed for the 23-year-old in June was his ability to combine his punch outs with preventing the long ball. Varland struck out 29 batters in June compared to his 28 in May while seeing his home runs allowed (0 versus 2) and walks issued (5 versus 10) drop precipitously subsequent to a 59% increase in innings pitched (22 1/3 versus 14).
Varland owns the raw stuff to be a contributor in some capacity at the major league level. The key with him, as is the case with many minor league pitchers, is improving his command to the point he did in June. If he can keep the walks low and and long ball few and far between, he could find himself pitching at Target Field someday.
Number 1: RHP Josh Winder, Double-A (recently promoted to Triple-A)
Stats: 2-0, 2.37 ERA, 30 1/3 IP, 35 K, 4 BB, 0.96 WHIP
In a Twins' farm system that is replete with talent, perhaps no pitching prospect is more under-appreciated than Josh Winder.
Winder, who did not even crack Twins Daily's Top 20 prospect list prior to the start of the season, finished in second place during last month's Starting Pitcher of the Month race after posting some ridiculous numbers and he continued his streak of dominance as spring turned to summer en route to winning this past month's honors.
Unlike contemporaries Matt Canterino and Jhoan Duran, Winder possesses fluid mechanics with a consistent, repeatable motion. He get's good push off from his back leg which reduces the strain placed on his shoulder and elbow. He's only been placed on the injured list once in his minor league career, a stint that lasted exactly one week.
Winder's owns a classic pitch arsenal consisting of a four-seam fastball, curveball, slider, and change-up. His fastball sits in the low- to mid-90s, though it can touch as high as 96 mph, and is graded as a 50-55 on the traditional 20-80 scouting scale according to FanGraphs.
While he doesn't have one pitch that stands out as more impressive than the others, all four are at least average offerings, which has the benefit of raising his floor as a prospect. It this fact, along with his string of consistent positive performances, that drove Winder to be named to the 2021 Futures Game alongside a host of top-tier MLB prospects.
Winder may never find himself among the Twins' top-10 prospects, however, arguably no pitcher in the system has risen their stock more than he has compared to prior to the season beginning.
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HrbieFan reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Does Jose Miranda’s Rise Mean I Have to Listen to Hamilton?
Jose Miranda, the surging Minnesota Twins third base prospect, is now mostly known for two things: hitting three home runs, including a grand slam, in his debut as a St. Paul Saint, on his 23rd birthday no less. The second thing? His cousin, the playwright/actor/musician Lin-Manuel Miranda.
This presents a quandary for many Twins fans. No, not what this means for the futures of the third base position in Minnesota, Josh Donaldson, and Miguel Sano. I mean something even more critical: Do you have to watch Hamilton now?
There are likely many of you who have already thrilled to one of the first hip-hop musicals ever written about the guy on the ten-dollar bill. But there are still more for whom musicals are like the end of Old Yeller expanded to two hours and set to music and in the end your real dog dies too.
This post is directed at the latter crowd.
You’re likely confused and scared. I would be too! It looks like Miranda the prospect might be the real deal, and on the fast track to the majors once the Twins finally start selling. This would normally be the soothing balm for a season lost.
But it’s complicated.
Once Miranda is called up, the first thing every post, every tweet, every radio hit, and every TV spot about him will mention is the other Miranda. In particular, the hip-hop musical he wrote about former U.S. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. If Jose fulfills his potential and reaches the rarified air of SportsCenter highlight mainstay, the anchor will say, “He’s not throwing away his shot!” Because that’s part of a song from his cousin’s musical, the one about Alexander Hamilton! It’s going to annoy the hell out of you! What are these weirdos talking about?
Here’s my suggestion: Dip your toe in it. Borrow your friend’s Disney Plus password (it’s probably Punto42069). You’ll know immediately if you can handle it or if you must tap out. I had to leave the room and read a book about crimes. My wife loved the hell out of it and will absolutely know every reference in every beat writer’s notebook to Hamilton, the hip-hop musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The important thing is to be mindful of yourself, and to offer yourself some grace.
Don’t throw away your shot.
HrbieFan reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Tenth Twins Player On Injured List Triggers Valuable Savings
Caleb “Meat Raffle” Thielbar landed on the Minnesota Twins injured list Thursday with a strained groin, joining Byron Buxton, Mitch Garver, Kenta Maeda, Max Kepler, Luis Arraez, Devin Smeltzer, Rob Refsnyder, Jake Cave, and Edwar Colina. While this staggering list of casualties is alarming for both the front office and Twins fans, it’s a blessing in disguise for the team’s accountants.
“We have ten players on the injured list,” said a senior employee with knowledge of the situation. “Next one’s free.”
Multiple sources confirmed that the Minnesota Twins purchased the Major League Baseball Silver Plan for health insurance, which contains a codicil for catastrophic injuries stating that every player over the tenth on a team’s injured list will have all medical expenses covered.
“It’s supposed to be triggered by acts of god, a tornado landing in the bullpen, Kent Hrbek bringing room temperature ‘guaca-mayo’ to the clubhouse, things like that,” said the source. “But the rapid accumulation of injuries did the trick.”
This is a major change from previous years, when the notoriously thrifty team stuck with MLB’s Mild Bronze Plan, in which snake handlers, disgraced veterinarians, and bloodletters were considered primary care physicians, Tylenol cost $800 per bottle, and the only in-network hospital was the abandoned church in Stull, Kansas.
“Given the pace of injuries, we expect at least 1-3 more Twins to be eligible for free care before players return to the active list,” said the source. “Did that Chinese satellite ever land? You’ve gotta figure it’s gonna fall right on Josh Donaldson’s calf. Hell, I’m calling it now.”
NOTE: The interview with the source was cut short when a swarm of cicadas attacked J.A. Happ’s face.