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big dog

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  1. Like
    big dog reacted to bean5302 for a blog entry, Is Brent Rooker Better Than His Stats?    
    Among Twins fans, few players have been given a shorter leash despite showing flashes of solid play than Brent Rooker. While Rooker’s results in 2021 have hardly been inspiring, the underlying data says Rooker may be much better than his weak triple slash has shown so far. 
    So what are his “results” so far? Regardless of the metrics you want to use, be it the traditional triple slash or others: .201/.294/.397, OPS .691, wRC+ 91, wOBA .302 or OPS+ 90, Rooker’s offensive production has been below par. In fact, for somebody who is touted as a glorified DH, way below par. Rooker would really be expected to produce an OPS above .750 to remain viable and over .800 to produce good value. Of the 15 players who qualify as “DH” with more than 300 plate appearances in MLB this year on Fangraphs, the median OPS is Josh Donaldson’s .816.
    On his way to the triple slash he’s produced, Rooker has struck out 32.5% of the time while walking in just 7.6% of his plate appearances. That’s not a great ratio, but for a power hitter, 32.5% K rate isn’t unusual and it’s also in only 197 plate appearances so far this year. This is, for all intents and purposes, Rooker’s rookie season and his first taste of MLB action after showing far above average production in the high minors for years now. The question at this point is not whether Brent Rooker is too good for AAA, it’s whether or not he’s destined to be labeled a AAAA player.
    I’ve seen some other posts suggesting Brent Rooker may be cooked already, but a dive into some of the advanced metrics show a very different set of numbers.
      AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA Actual .201 .294 .397 .691 .312 Expected* .236 .325 .448 .773 .345 *BaseballSavant has xBA at .237 and xSLG at .449 which result in 41.24 hits and 78.13 total bases. Those aren’t real numbers so I rounded them down to 41 hits and 78 total bases. I used Rookers actual walks and hit by pitch numbers to calculate his new xOBP so I could calculate his xOPS.

    So Rooker’s expected batting line numbers are far better than his actual results, but that can be true for a lot of hitters who don’t use the whole field because of the shift; however, Rooker is not the typical dead pull hitter who is helpless against the shift. Of course, Rooker does pull the ball a lot, 44% of the time in fact, but he also goes to the opposite field 26% of the time. Among qualified hitters, Rooker is actually in the top half of hitters going to the opposite field and he’s not in the top 25% in pull hitting. Fangraphs has limited data on Rooker’s plate appearances, but he gets shifted against about 59% of the time vs. say Max Kepler who gets shifted against 97% of the time (yes, 97% is the real number). Another consideration is whether or not the shift should even actually hurt a hitter. Ground ball hitters are hurt the most, then fly ball hitters, then line drive hitters. The shift is less effective against line drive hitters because the balls generally have high exit velocities and hit the ground quickly so even if defenders are “shifted,” the ball really has to be hit directly at the defender in order to have a play. Despite his excellent power, Rooker is more a line drive hitter than a pure fly ball hitter. He very rarely pops the ball up, and Fangraphs has him at 26% line drive and 38% fly ball with Baseball Savant having him at 31% line drive and 31% fly ball. With Rooker’s batted ball profile, the shift should not be highly effective against him.

    Beyond Rooker being somewhat shielded from the shift, there are other things to consider when it comes to hitting. Exit velocity, launch angle, hard hit and barrel rates are extremely important when trying to figure out whether or not a hitters bad luck is actually bad luck and not a function of just a lot of weak contact. Rooker’s average exit velocity is very good at 90.9mph (top 82% in baseball). His launch angle is 12.8% this year which reflects the high line drive rate, but it’s not quite high enough to be “optimal” for a hitter with Rooker’s power. There’s a hard core, in depth article on Fangraphs if you’re interested in getting into the deep end of the pool (I’m not, haha). https://fantasy.fangraphs.com/lets-talk-about-launch-angle-generally/ Rooker would probably experience better slash lines and an increase in home runs with a launch angle closer to 20* because of his power, but he should be very close to having his optimal batting average where he is. What about hard hit rate? Fangraphs says Rooker is 35.5% hard hit rate based on Baseball Info Solutions algorithms, which is good for the top 37% of hitters with 300 plate appearances, but BaseballSavant has Rooker with a higher 47.6% hard hit rate (different definition at 95mph+) and puts him in the top 15% of hitters with 100+ batted ball events. When it comes to barrel rate, Rooker is showing up as 11.8% putting him in the top 16% of hitters for Fangraphs and BaseballSavant. Btw, think of barrel rate as absolutely crushing a ball. The baseline is a launch angle of 25-31* and an exit velocity of at least 98mph. For every 1mph of exit velocity you add, you get about 2 degrees more leniency in the launch angle. Like 100mph gets you to 24-33*. It’s that no doubter home run or absolute rocket off the bat where no amount of shift makes any difference because the ball is in the outfield before the infielders even know what happened.
    Some charts to help folks who don’t follow metrics closely. This data was pulled from Fangraphs using Statcast numbers for the 252 players with at least 300 plate appearances this year prior to today. Rooker himself was not included as he only has 197.
     


    Now we can discuss his plate discipline. Does Rooker have the hit tool to play at the MLB level? How do opposing pitchers view him? BaseballSavant shows pitchers have become wary of testing Rooker, throwing him fewer fastballs and more breaking balls while avoiding the strike zone as much as possible. Interestingly enough, Rooker has better results against the breaking balls than fastballs, but according to the expected data, it should be the exact opposite. Rooker against the fastball is batting just .177 with a SLG of .375, but his xBA is 80 points higher at .256 and his xSLG is .487.  Rooker’s performance against breaking balls is closer to where it should be with a .245 AVG vs. xBA of .225 and a SLG of .434 vs. an xSLG of .418. His bat is not a black hole against breaking pitches in practice or theory and his bat looks like it should be downright dangerous against fastballs and changeups. In regard to plate discipline, Fangraphs shows his O-swing% (swing percentage of pitches outside the zone) at 30.6-32.3% depending on the source, but that’s not bad at all. His PitchFX data shows Rooker swinging outside the zone at 32.3%, which would rank as better than 43.5% of MLB hitters with more than 300 plate appearances so far this year. A tick below average. His contact rate on balls outside the zone does need some work suggesting he can be completely fooled a bit too easily. His Z-swing% (swing percentage of pitches inside the zone) rates are a little lower than they should be and Rooker takes too many called strikes because he’s not aggressive enough when he gets a pitch in the zone. Again, based on players with 300+ plate appearances from PitchFX data on Fangraphs.

    Lastly, something pretty interesting to me. Defense. While Rooker carries with him the expectation he’s a lost cause at the corners, BaseballSavant hints at Rooker not being a guaranteed waste in the outfield. Rooker’s sprint speed is above average. Yes. You read that right. His sprint speed on BaseballSavant shows 27.3 ft/sec, above average for an MLB player or left fielder for that matter. His defensive metrics show Rooker is above average when it comes to route running, but his reaction is terrible (feet in 0 to 1.5 seconds) with Rooker’s acceleration in sprint speed being iffy. The combination of Rooker not recognizing the ball off the bat quickly enough and his mediocre acceleration is what is hurting Rooker defensively. Some of that can be improved with work and experience, though it’s a little bit late for Rooker to take an active role in becoming a better fielder.
    In summary, What does all of this mean? Well, for starters, we don’t have a ton of data on Brent Rooker. He’s only at 197 plate appearances this season and a paltry 21 from 2020. At about 200 plate appearances in a season is where the first set of luck metrics just start stabilizing and they move quite a bit to 300 plate appearances where things start to get pretty stable. Rooker shows adequate plate discipline, his batted ball profile suggests he’s having terrible luck, but he’s frequently shown off his power. Opposing pitchers have formed enough respect for Rooker that they’ve made the adjustment to try to avoid throwing him anything decent to hit and Rooker hasn’t turned into a strikeout machine in the process. Rooker is primarily a pull hitter, but he’s gone to the opposite field enough to keep defenses semi-honest on the shift. Rooker also hits the ball much harder than the average major leaguer, he barrels up the ball well enough and doesn’t make a lot of weak contact. It seems like Rooker needs to be more aggressive when he gets a strike rather than waiting for a meatball because MLB pitchers are definitely being extra careful not to give him something easy to hit and MLB pitchers do not make mistakes like MiLB pitchers do. An MLB hitter might see 1 mistake pitch per game vs seeing several in the minors. Defensively, he waits a little too long to make a jump on the ball and he could work on improving his running technique to get better off the line acceleration, but he has the speed to cover a corner outfield position. With a little opportunity for his luck to even out and some minor adjustments, Rooker may turn into a real force at the plate with adequate corner outfield defense. Despite his limitations, it’s too soon to pull the plug on Rooker as he’s definitely got the potential to be a legitimate every day starting MLB player.
     
  2. Like
    big dog reacted to mikelink45 for a blog entry, Harmon Killebrew - our classic home run hitter   
    I could not resist putting up this Home Run Derby between Harmon Killebrew and Rocky Colavito. In this contest the two who had tied for the HR championship of the AL faced off.
     
    It is preceded by Harmon taking the crown from Mickey Mantle -
     
    And followed by a contest Harmon lost to Ken Boyer - a third baseman who belongs in the
    Ken did not last long - his next challenge was Hank Aaron who took over the program.  
    It is so amazing to see these greats playing for $2000 - chump change today.
     
    It is also fun to see Harmon, pre-Twins days in his Senator's uniform.
     
    These are great players without the science of today. I love watching them.
     
    Nostalgia - enjoy.
  3. Like
    big dog reacted to Travis M for a blog entry, 7 Twins Prospects Named All Stars   
    The Fort Myers Miracle’s season has not been off to a great start, their record is 25-37. However, they have some All-Star worthy players on this year's team despite the losing record. The seven players that are going to Tampa to represent the Miracle are Andrew Vasquez, Taylor Grzelakowski, Jimmy Kerrigan, Travis Blankenhorn, Taylor Wells, Lewin Diaz and Jaylen Davis.
     
    Andrew Vasquez is a very consistent and reliable reliever who has a 1.44 ERA through 31.1 IP. He has struck out 33 batters and has given up 8 runs.
     
    Jimmy Kerrigan is one of the top hitters in the league. He leads the team in AVG., doubles, and hits. He is batting .293/.356/.506 with the team tying 6 homers. I had the opportunity to ask him how it feels and he said “It feels great. Very thankful!”
     
    Travis Blankenhorn leads the Miracle in RBI and is tied in home runs with Kerrigan with a total of 6 bombs. His defense is what really stands out though; Blankenhorn holds a Division leading .962 FPCT and has only made 2 errors all season
     
    Jaylen Davis made it to the All Star game is because he has not made an error in the outfield for 51 games straight. His slash line is .259/.418/.773 and he leads the team in walks drawn.
     
    Taylor Grzelakowski is a late addition to the roster, however, he is still one of the best catchers in the division. He has a slash line of .270/.359/.414 and has 5 homers with 13 RBI’s.
     
    Lewin Diaz is also a late addition, however it is still well deserved because he has gone yard 4 times and has brought in 24 runs. At 1st base he has made only 5 errors.
     
    Taylor Wells had a great 1st half of the season, however he was a late addition the South Division team. His record is 5-3 and he holds a 2.47 ERA and keeps the opposing hitters to a .185 AVG.
  4. Like
    big dog reacted to Ted Schwerzler for a blog entry, If This Is It, Thank You Trevor   
    Recently, Paul Molitor announced to the media tasked with covering the Minnesota Twins that Trevor Plouffe is dealing with both a strained oblique and an intercostal strain. The unfortunate reality is that he'll need at least a handful of weeks before feeling back to playing condition. With just 22 games left in the 2016 season for the Twins, Plouffe's 2016 could well be over. That also means it's worth wondering if we've seen the last of him as a Minnesota Twin.
     
    Signed to a one year, $7.25 million deal this season, Plouffe will be entering his final year of arbitration this winter. Given the expected salary increase, Minnesota will likely be on the hook for something like $10 million during 2017 if they so choose to tender him a contract. For a 31 year old third-basemen who's posted a .731 OPS since 2013, that's a tall ask. To complicate things further, the organization also has Miguel Sano, Joe Mauer, Kennys Vargas, and Byungho Park all vying for time in similar roles. The writing may be on the wall. It's very possible he's played his last game with the Twins.
     
    Now, with that all being said, it's a tenure that ends with a touch of sadness.
     
    Trevor Plouffe was a first round draft pick out of Crespi Carmelite High School way back in 2004. He rose through the farm system and made his major league debut on June 16, 2004. Starting at shortstop, then moving into more of a super utility role over his first three professional seasons, Plouffe found his footing at the hot corner in 2013.
     
    Showing up first in 2012, Plouffe established himself as a capable power slugger. His 24 long balls that season will go down as his most in a single year with the Twins. Over the course of his 723 games played for Minnesota, he has landed just four homers shy of the century mark. That total ties him for 18th in Minnesota Twins history. Never an All Star, Plouffe had plenty of seasons that qualify his as a quality piece on the Minnesota 25 man.
     
    Playing the bulk of his Minnesota career during seasons in which the club lost 90 or more games, Plouffe didn't get to experience the highs of the Twins division championship seasons. Most notably during his career however has been the intense work ethic that allowed him to transform his ability with the glove.
     
    I think Plouffe would be among the first to admit his time at shortstop in the big leagues, and initial venture over to third base, didn't go well. He posted a -12 DRS at short in 2011, and was -8 at the hot corner in 2012. From there however, he pushed his total to league average in 2013 and then was worth a career high 6 DRS in over 1,110 innings during 2014. Increasing both his DRS and UZR (6.7), it was in 2014 that Plouffe flashed the best of himself at third base. He became a legitimate asset at the hot corner and was incredibly far removed from the guy that needed to acclimate to a big league infield.
     
    Over the past couple of years, Plouffe has been bit by the injury bug and missed time here and there. When healthy however, he's shown he's capable of being a good big league hitter, and has a place somewhere in the middle of the Twins lineup. While the latest malady may sap the rest of 2016 from him, Plouffe went out on a high note slashing .302/.365/.523 with five homers over his last 21 games.
     
    Whatever happens from here, both the Twins and Trevor Plouffe are better off because of each other. The California kid grew up into a very solid big leaguer, and the Twins solidified the extreme left side of their infield thanks to the work ethic of a guy who was determined to give the club more.
     
    From here, whether in Minnesota or elsewhere, the only thing to say is thank you Trevor. Thanks for being a part of Twins Territory. Thanks for committing to your craft. Thanks for always giving Minnesota the best you had to give. Thanks to you, Olivia, and Teddy for calling Minnesota home. Whatever the next stop on your journey, you will always have a place in Twins Territory.
     
    For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  5. Like
    big dog reacted to Thrylos for a blog entry, 2016 Twins Spring Training Coverage from Fort Myers. 3/23: Nolasco cements a job in the rotation   
    Originally Published at The Tenth Inning Stretch
    ----
     
    Today was the last live game from Fort Myers. Yesterday, I shared some thoughts about the Twins 25-man roster and based on what I have seen previously, Rickey Nolasco should be the Twins' fifth starter. With another stellar performance today against the Rays, going for 6 innings allowing only 3 hits, no earned runs, walking 2 and striking out 7, he cemented that position, especially when in Field number 2 his only competition, Tyler Duffey, allowed two home runs among other hard hit balls this afternoon. Pending a trade, I can see no way that Nolasco will not be in the Twins' rotation, and arguably has pitched pretty well this spring, earning a spot.
     
    Glen Perkins' appearance today and the rest of the Spring has been worrisome. His fastball barely reached 91 and his slider 81, and has been batter all over Hammond Stadium without finishing an inning. In 2/3 of an inning he allowed 2 hits and a walk with no strikeouts, adding up to 3 runs. I hope Terry Ryan has a plan B in his back pocket for a closer, because Perkins is continuing his decline from last season second half.
     
    As far as position players go, Eduardo Nunez was horrible today: Two errand throws to the first and a dropped ball on a base steal attempt did not help the Twins' cause. Let's call it a hick up and hope that it will not continue to happen.
     
    Byron Buxton has a lackluster performance a couple days ago, but today, he made up for it. He has a great running catch in the first innings and also got an infield hit in a ball hit deep in the shortstop, in the same situation he did not previously. I think that he also might be cementing a spot in the 25 man roster.
     
    So is Danny Santana, who got an infield hit in a drag bunt, then stole second, and in a play that featured 3 errant throws by Rays scored. Great heads up play, plus his speed and versatility will help.
     
    Oswaldo Arcia likely won the last 25 man spot over former hated White Sox player Carlos Quentin. Arcia has been better on the field that Quentin, making some difficult plays, whereas Quentin has no position, and has been better with the stick and the basepaths, stealing a couple of bases so far. I think that Quentin was brought in as a plan B if Byung Ho Park did not pan out right away as a 1B/DH, but this is not the case. So it looks like the Twins' position player side in the 25 man roster is about set. There are still some question-marks in the bullpen, as I indicated yesterday.
     
    Next: Catching an airplane up North tomorrow and either later this week or early next will will give my Spring Training Redux and my prediction for the Twins' 2016. Still need to chew on this a bit...
  6. Like
    big dog reacted to Bob Sacamento for a blog entry, On the Backfields: Florida Instructional League Camp 9/28/2015   
    It's that time of year again, where the minor league season is winding down but new life and a new season are just around the corner. Just like adolescence, the Instructional League is often an awkward yet still pivotal period in a player's developmental process.
     
    The bulk of the players that are in the FIL are new to the organization, they were taken in the 2015 draft and just got their feet wet in the GCL and Short Season Elizabeton. Pretty much they were coached on the fly, now in the FIL the coaching staff gets to work in-depth with the players and their deficiencies. Of the 44 players in camp, 16 of them were drafted this year.

     
    The new draftees aren't the only ones in camp. The rest of the roster is comprised of players who missed time due to injuries, players getting ready for AFL/Winterball, players working on new positions, pitchers working on new pitches then there are the headscratchers. A player who had a great season, reached career highs, has been to Instructs before and seemingly doesn't have much to work on.
     
    Over the past four seasons of watching Instructs, I've seen the light bulb go on in quite a few players and make amazing strides in their game. I've seen Jose Berrios further develop his changeup, I've seen "roving coach" Paul Molitor show off his abilities to inspire, I've seen Derek Rodriguez the hitter and Derek Rodriguez the pitcher, I've seen Adam Brett Walker work on his bunting, and it goes on and on.

     
    During the past week, I was fortunate enough to see a Camp Day in addition to two games against the Red Sox. Camp Days are often various offensive, defensive, baserunning and pitching drill sessions broken up into groups sets. When I showed up the offensive players in camp (minus a few playoff bound team players) were participating in various slide drills. Instructor Joel Lepel was in charge and had Jermaine Palacios as his lead example for every technique. Lepel always picks a few players out and razzes them more than others. The day's pick was Kolten Kendrick or as Joel referred to him as "Cottontop", the meaning could be several different choices but we'll just go with Kolten's hair looks like a red cottonball.
     

    The slide difficulty slowly progressed from straight hands up, to sliding past the bag with extended arm, to barrel-rolling, and finally breaking up a double play. Visually, it was appeasing as the player's starting points were staggered off in domino fashion, starting to run as the other descended for his slide.Catcher Robert Molina took the sliding serious enough that he split his pants, literally. Afterwards, the players took to the batting cages.

    Later on, Twins took on the Red Sox at JetBlue Park where the game was highly attended by nearly 20 scouts, everyone from Twins' front office members Scouting Director Deron Johnson, Lead Scout Mike Radcliff as well as scouts from the Rays, Astros, MLB.com, Yankees. Fernando Romero started the game going 2 inning before being relieved by Brandon Poulson for two and flamethrower Johan Quezada. Of the bunch, Romero looked the sharpest, locating his fastball while Poulson and Quezada were both erratic yet also popping 98 mph. I swear I've seen Poulson throw every weekend this summer, he shows off a high octane fastball but he doesn't know where it's going most of the time and his slider's even worse. It got bad enough at times that he was strictly throwing fastballs. Still the organization sees enough raw talent that they've kept him around despite his numbers.
     
    Johan Quezada is another strong arm in camp who is still growing into his body and frame, yet still throws up big velocity numbers. On several outings in the GCL, Quezada showed a fastball that hit 100mph and a slider in the upper 80's. As one would expect, with all the moving parts to a 6'6 and still growing physique that repeating his delivery has been a problem.
     
    The hitting side was lackluster for the most part, but Nick Gordon collected a couple hits, and Zander Weil took a charge into the deepest part of the park for a flyout. In the field, Flash Jr. displayed extremely quick hands and a strong accurate arm while covering plus lateral ground. Gordon has a first step in the field that allows him to have plus range. Jorge Fernandez was behind the plate and threw out a couple of would be baserunners with his strong accurate arm. The lineup consisted of CF Christian Caverness, SS Nick Gordon, DH Jermaine Palacios, 1B Zander Weil, C Jorge Fernandez, DH Brian Navarreto, LF Lamonte Wade, RF Daniel Kihle, 2B Sean Miller, 3B Luis Arraez. Rafael Valera was the warmup catcher for the weekend, just trying to reps as he put it.
     
    On Saturday, the small crowd was treated to a special matchup of Twins top pitching prospect Stephan Gonsalves and Red Sox phenom Anderson Espinoza. Both held the opponents scoreless for two innings and looked good. Deron Johnson came away saying he was impressed with what he saw from Gonsalves in his brief stint where he walked one and as he put it "picked off his first baseman". Stephan has a good move to first and Kolten Kendrick was not expecting it.
     

    After the game and the trainer got to stretch him out , I talked to the big lefty about his year and what he's doing for Instructs. According to the Catholic Cathedral HS grad, the key to his season was his changeup. Going into this year, Gonsalves threw his fastball maybe 10% of the time. After working with coaches last year in Instructionals, he started to feel more comfortable with the offering and threw it 27% of the time this year. That impressed me, not only seeing his change take a step forward but also that he knew exactly how often he threw it this year which tells me they stressed it in is exit interview at the end of the regular season. The biggest question I think both of us had was, what is he doing in instructionals. He's not working on a new pitch, he hit career highs in innings pitched already; the consensus that the two of us drew was that he's just getting further stretched out for next year.

     
    All in all, I'll be back next weekend as the Twins and Red Sox will once again take on each other!
  7. Like
    big dog reacted to Steve Lein for a blog entry, The Next Twins - 2015   
    Even though the Twins lost yesterday at the hands of David Price and the Detroit Tigers, it’s hard not to be excited for MLB Opening Day. The start of the baseball season means summer is just around the corner, and the prospect of spending afternoons and evenings at Target Field gets me all giddy, even if the opening day roster doesn’t.
     
    You see, despite the fact this roster is currently loaded with veterans and retreads, both new (Tim Stauffer, Blaine Boyer, Ervin Santana, Shane Robinson) and old (Torii Hunter) that don’t necessarily instill immediate confidence, the youth movement we’ve all been waiting for was finally taken out of neutral and eased into first gear late last season.
     
    Players who made their Major League Debut for the Twins in 2014 included pitchers A.J. Achter, Logan Darnell, Yohan Pino, and Trevor May, and position players Jorge Polanco, Danny Santana, and Kennys Vargas.
     
    It was May, Santana, and Vargas’ debuts in particular that signaled Terry Ryan finally releasing the clutch on a farm system that could be the equivalent of a Ferrari. While they’re barely out of the starting gate, the performances of Santana (.319/.353/.472, 41 XBH’s and 20 SB in 101 games) and Vargas (.274/.316/.456, 9 HR and 38 RBI in 53 games) in the latter portion of 2014 put some pretty good tread to tar on this track.
     
    While May will have to wait a bit longer to get back in the Twins rotation on this track, Santana and Vargas have been handed the keys to the 2015 revolution out of gate, and are poised to be infused with nitrous-boosters throughout the year.
     
    Top 100 prospects lists and team specific Top 10’s are always fun to read and one of my favorite parts of the baseball offseason whether it’s reading the great capsules here on Twins Daily, or checking out the litany of lists available elsewhere. But since there are so many of them, I like to take a little bit of a different look at prospects coming into a new season, and that means throwing out names that you might have a chance to actually see in the Majors during the upcoming season.
     
    Usually when I’ve done this list, there haven’t necessarily been a whole lot of Top-10-type prospects that populate it because they’ve been so far away from the Majors, but this year is different, and this Ferrari of a Farm System is ready to roll with those types of players littering AA and AAA for the Twins.
     
    So let’s take a look at some players that could make (or have now made) their MLB debut for the Minnesota Twins in 2015:
     
    J.R. Graham
     
    Graham was the Twins Rule V draft pick coming into the season which gave him a leg up on the competition to both make the roster, and his MLB debut. When healthy, which has been a big question mark in recent seasons, Graham brings legit velocity and was once a Top 5 prospect for the Atlanta Braves. On my trip down to Spring Training last month, Graham registered the highest radar gun readings of anyone I saw, Twins or otherwise (including Alex Meyer), so the Twins are banking on the potential he has to evolve into a useful bullpen piece after flaming out as a starter.
     
    Eddie Rosario (TD’s #8 Prospect)
     
    A disappointing 2014 season for Rosario began with a 50-game drug suspension, and he did nothing to help improve his stock going into 2015 with an underwhelming .672 OPS at AA when he finally got on the field. But he reversed that trend in a big way with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League, which is a proving ground for top prospects. His performance there put him in the competition for the centerfield job this spring, but he didn’t quite do enough. If he’s strong out of the gate at AAA Rochester, Rosario could be the first outfielder called up to fill in for an injury.
     
    Jason Wheeler
     
    The big left-hander has gone a bit unnoticed in a farm system that includes Top 100 pitching prospects like Meyer, Kohl Stewart, and Jose Berrios, but has been a workhorse in the minors since being drafted out of Loyola Marymount University in the Eighth Round of the 2011 draft. He pitched at three levels in 2014, ending his season with a start in Rochester, and totaled 158 innings with a 2.68 ERA and 1.190 WHIP on the season. He doesn’t have big velocity for a pitcher his size (6’6”, 255) nor does he rack up strikeouts (6.6K/9IP), but he doesn’t issue free passes (2.1BB/9IP) and gets a lot of ground balls to profile as a back-end starter. He’s on the 40-man roster, so his route to a 2015 debut is easier than a few others on this list. I was also impressed watching one of his outings this spring on the backfields down in Fort Myers.
     
    Alex Meyer (TD’s #5 Prospect)
     
    If not for a (repeated) shoulder injury near the end of 2014, Meyer may not have been eligible for this list in 2015, but it wasn’t meant to be. There’s no denying his ability, as he brings mid-to-high 90’s velocity and a wipeout slider out of his 6’9” frame that has placed him high on Top 100 lists since he was drafted. And despite the limitations (85 pitches or 6 innings) put on him in 2014 in an effort to keep him healthy the entire season, he still led the International League in strikeouts with 153 in 130.1 innings (10.6K/9IP). He can get wild as we all know, but when taken together with his penchant for strikeouts, he is able to limit the damage, as evidenced by his solid 3.52 ERA at AAA, which also ranked 6th in the league. Trevor May is probably in front of him on the call-up depth chart, but if Meyer doesn’t make his debut in 2015, something has gone extremely wrong.
     
    Miguel Sano (TD’s #2 Prospect)
     
    Sano was primed to burst onto the scene in 2014 after a season that saw him smash 35 home runs between Fort Myers and New Britain, but a cloud was also hanging over him that reared its head in his first Spring Training game, and that was his right elbow. After Tommy John surgery Sano is back to being healthy heading in to 2015, and will be part of perhaps the scariest lineup in all of the minor leagues at Chattanooga to start. Thus far he has had zero setbacks, and though he only collected two hits in Major League camp this spring, they were both mammoth HR’s, and he also displayed good patience and hit several other balls extremely hard, including one that prompted this reaction from me on the back fields after being sent to the Minor League camp. Sano is without a doubt THE GUY I’m looking forward to debuting in 2015, and let’s hope that the end to the second movie being made about him comes sooner rather than later.
     
    Jose Berrios (TD’s #3 Prospect)
     
    Berrios vaulted up prospect lists in 2014 as he burned through the Florida State League to the tune of a 1.97 ERA in 16 starts and 96 innings while striking out 109 hitters. He also made 8 starts at AA and 1 at AAA, but was noticeably less effective. He’s not on the 40-man roster yet, so his path to a 2015 is more clouded than others, but it’s also hard to put anything past him due to his work ethic and desire, which has been on full display this offseason if you follow him on social media circles. His size will always be a question mark, as he lacks the prototypical height and fastball plane of a top of the rotation starter, but he also brings surprising velocity and a diverse mix that he has full control over. He’ll start the season in AA, but could easily find himself in Rochester by July, just a phone call away from the majors.
     
    Nick Burdi (TD’s #10 Prospect)
     
    Burdi is the closest thing to a blue-chip pure relief prospect you will find in all of the minor leagues, and that’s because of his 100+MPH heat and a slider that comes in at 90+. He had a very forgettable MiLB debut, where he walked all four batters he faced, but after that minor setback, he struck out 38 hitters in just 20.1 innings between Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers while allowing just 13 hits and 6 walks. I was able to catch him while he was with the Kernels last season, and he’ll give you as exciting of an inning as you can imagine out of the bullpen. On several other teams, I have to believe he’d already be in the majors, but with the Twins we may have to wait until after the All-Star Break or longer.
     
    Byron Buxton (TD’s #1 Prospect)
     
    I honestly don’t actually believe that Buxton will make it to the majors this season, but there is a reason he’s one of the best prospects in all of baseball: He’s shown he can hit, has burgeoning power, can steal a ton of bases and run down fly balls with his speed, and has a big arm that he used to throw mid-90’s from a mound in high school. He’s a genuine five-tool prospect. The reason I think it will be hard for him to debut in 2015, is because he was so incredible in 2013, and then had everything possible that could go wrong for him in 2014, that it would be hard to reproduce. Then again, the Twins outfield situation is dire, so it may become a necessity at some point if he’s doing anything close to what he did in 2013 with his bat.
     
    Other Notable Names:
     
    RP Jake Reed – The Oregon closer made a name for himself after being drafted in the fifth round of last year’s draft by allowing just 1 earned run and 11 hits along with racking up 39 strikeouts over 31 innings pitched for Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids.
     
    IF Levi Michael – The first forgotten 1st round draft pick finally showed some life in 2014, though he wasn’t able to play a full season, hitting .313/.389/.387 across three levels, including .340/.444/.358 in 15 games at AA.
     
    SP/RP Alex Wimmers – The second forgotten 1st round pick also was able to get his career back on track in 2014 while making most of his appearances as a reliever. In 84 innings at Fort Myers and New Britain, Wimmers struck out 97 hitters and improved as the season went on.
     
    RP J.T. Chargois – The first half of the former Rice University closer committee drafted in 2012 missed all of 2013 and 2014 due to injury, but is back to pitching and flashing the same 100 MPH velocity he did when the Twins selected him in the 2nd round. Could be a fast mover if it all comes back.
     
    SP Tyler Duffey – The second half of the Rice University closer committee, drafted in the 5th round of 2012's draft, has been the Twins best reliever to starter conversion, and made three starts at AAA in 2014. Like Wheeler, he has the potential to be a back-end starter in the majors.
     
    IF James Beresford – The Australian native has spent the past 2 seasons at AAA in a utility role and has hit for a solid average. With the ability to field multiple infield positions, he could find himself in the same role with the Twins if the need arises.
     
    RP Ryan O’Rourke – O’Rourke is the unique LOOGY reliever who absolutely dominates same-handed hitters, but struggles to get anyone else out. It’s a luxury to be able to have his type of arm in a major league bullpen, but there are plenty of situations where it can be of use.
     
    SP Taylor Rogers – Rogers spent all of 2014 in AA, and will find himself in the rotation at AAA to begin 2015. He’s buried on the starting pitching depth chart, but is in the same position as Wheeler and Duffey as a future back-end starter candidate.
     
    Cheers to the 2015 MLB season, and to the potential debuts of the next great Minnesota Twins!
  8. Like
    big dog reacted to SD Buhr for a blog entry, Twins' Roster is Set (but don't call it "final")   
    With Thursday night's announcement that Chris Herrmann would be heading north with the Minnesota Twins, their opening day roster appears to be set. The back up catcher spot was the final unresolved question of the spring.
     
    A lot is made of the make up of the Twins' roster as they open the 2015 season, but it really is of just mild interest to me, personally.
     
    Yes, I like to see a guy like Herrmann rewarded for his hard work and persistence and JR Graham's story as a Rule 5 pick up earning a spot in the bullpen is compelling.
    http://knuckleballsblog.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/HerrmannST15-600x400.jpg
    Chris Herrmann (photo: SD Buhr)

    But I'm a lot more curious, already, as to what the Twins roster will look like come mid to late July than I am concerning what it looks like when they travel to Detroit to open the season. And I suspect there will be at least a 33% turnover in the roster by the end of July.
     
    (This article was originally posted at Knuckleballsblog.com)
     
    That would be eight or nine spots on the 25-man roster that would be held down by someone not making the trip north out of spring training with the Twins - and I think that sounds about right. In fact, I could see the turnover being more than that.
    http://knuckleballsblog.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/GrahamST15-600x400.jpg
    JR Graham (photo: SD Buhr)

    I'm not making that prediction based purely on an expectation that the Twins will be clearly en route to a fifth straight 90+ loss season and find themselves in sell-off mode. In fact, I'm probably more optimistic about the Twins' chances of remaining competitive beyond the All-Star break than I've been in a couple of years.
     
    I think that, if they stay healthy, this line up will score plenty of runs and I think a lot of people are underestimating how improved the starting rotation may be with the addition of Ervin Santana and a healthier Ricky Nolasco.
    http://knuckleballsblog.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/MayST15a-600x400.jpg
    Trevor May (photo: SD Buhr)

    My belief in the likelihood of significant turnover comes not so much from a lack of confidence in the team as initially constituted (though I do worry about that bullpen), but from a sense that there are simply so many talented young players at the higher levels of the organization minor leagues that are almost certain to force their way on to the Twins roster by mid-season.
     
    To start with, if Josmil Pinto is healthy and still in the Twins organization, I have little doubt he'll be wearing a Twins uniform by July.
     
    Beyond that, does anyone not believe that Alex Meyer, Trevor May, Nick Burdi and Jake Reed will be pitching for the Twins by mid-year if they come out of the gate strong in their respective minor league assignments? Those are four pitchers that you could make an argument for putting on the roster right now. You might even be tempted to put Jose Berrios on that list, though I suspect he may be held down on the farm at least until later in the season.
    http://knuckleballsblog.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/BerriosOliva-600x400.jpg
    Jose Berrios and Tony Oliva (photo: SD Buhr)

    Even if any/all of those arms fail to impress during the season's first half, that doesn't mean that all of the arms that are making up the Twins' opening day pitching staff are likely to have performed well enough to keep their jobs. This pitching staff (especially among the relief corps), as initially constituted, is simply not strong enough to avoid the need for a significant make-over, whether via promotions or trades (or, perhaps most likely, some combination thereof).
     
    And we haven't even mentioned the organization's consensus top pair of prospects, Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. If they manage to shake off the rust that resulted from lost seasons a summer ago (and which clearly still existed during spring training), I expect they will both be Minnesota Twins by mid season. They could easily be joined by Eddie Rosario and, of course, nobody would be at all surprised to see Aaron Hicks rejoin the big league club.
    http://knuckleballsblog.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/SanoST15-600x400.jpg
    Miguel Sano (photo: SD Buhr)

    In addition to the prospects that have become familiar to much of the Twins' fan base, the AA Chattanooga Lookouts' everyday line up is going to be literally full of players that are only a hot start and the ability to play a defensive position of need away from being called up.
     
    What it all means is that the Twins roster in July, August and September should include far more players that are likely to be part of the next generation of Twins capable of contending for future postseasons than the roster we are discussing in April.
     
    It's not easy being patient, but most of these young players will benefit from getting a little more minor league seasoning. The good news is that we are no longer talking about it being several years before we see these promising prospects at Target Field, but, hopefully, merely several weeks.
  9. Like
    big dog reacted to stringer bell for a blog entry, Still Optimistic   
    Today the posts have mostly been negative with three young players optioned to AAA. Many have pointed out that the rebuilding Twins won't have a single rookie from their system on the 25-man roster going north. The average age of the team won't be considerably different.
     
    Despite all of this, I'm optimistic that the Twins will improve. The next wave is very close and they could provide a real boost. I have predicted/advocated for Hicks to be demoted since the end of the regular season and while Schafer/Robinson isn't optimum, the better of Hicks or Rosario should be ready before mid-season.
     
    The pitching rotation will be better. Any regression from Hughes should be matched by regression for Nolasco. I think Gibson will be really good and Santana will be the best #4 starter the Twins have had since the 90s. I hope the leash isn't long for the bullpen.
     
    I have predicted 85 wins, really against all odds. I think there is enough talent there to improve even though the division will be tough. It will take filling of inside straights and rolling sevens, but I'm sticking with 85 wins, with or without Meyer, May, Rosario or Hicks and a bunch of relievers.
  10. Like
    big dog reacted to ashbury for a blog entry, Hammond Notes - March 27   
    Vacation time in Ft Myers is coming to a close. We had a very fun day at the Twins spring complex today.
     
    We arrived at 10:30 unaware the minor league games had been moved up several hours, presumably in response to the forecast of rain. I started watching the Cedar Rapids game, and then a little bird told me, "you're missing Phil Hughes". I switched over to the Miracle game, in the fifth inning.
     

     
    Performing as the World's Most Expensive Bat Boy in this game was Kohl Stewart. (Lurking on the right has to be Aaron Slegers, who served later in the game as World's Tallest Bat Boy.)
     

     
    Hughes's breaking pitch was working beautifully here in the fifth inning, as an overmatched Rays youngster barely ducks out of the way of strike three:
     

     
    Twins manager Paul Molitor was on hand to watch his ace, as well as catcher Suzuki. (Not pictured, bench coach Joe Vavra was nearby as well.)
     

     
    After Hughes's stint, Ryan Eades came in for his turn. Is it just me, or does he resemble a young (and right-handed) Jim Kaat?
     

     
    Reluctantly, at last, we departed the minor league area to attend the major league ST game. Here is an old friend collecting his thoughts during the National Anthem, standing beside someone else. Guess which one staked the Pirates to an early lead with a long home run. Hint: it wasn't the Florimonster.
     

     
    Trevor May pitched today, and his fastball was humming along at about 94 MPH.
     

     
    Unfortunately, the wind was blowing straight out to right, and the Pirates batters had little trouble making solid contact all through May's 4 2/3 inning stint, leaving a somewhat ugly 8 hit and 4 run lump on his spring record. Gregory Polanco started the mayhem with a homer to right, as the second batter of the game, and catcher Tony Sanchez added a similar shot in the fourth inning. In the meantime, a triple followed by a double plated shortstop Jung-Ho Kang with a ribbie for CF Jaff Decker, and two consecutive doubles (Polanco, Marte) in the fifth accounted for the fourth and final Pirate run.
     
    It wasn't all May's or the wind's fault though. I'm officially off the Start Aaron Hicks In The Majors bandwagon now. He took a zigzag route on Kang's wind-aided triple and I'm certain that an above average CFer would have tracked this one down to save a run. Hicks also bobbled a ball that went for a double anyway, to no additional loss to the team but significantly to my confidence in him as a fielder. Let him add some polish in AAA, I now say.
     
    As mentioned, there were two no-doubt home runs hit to right by the Pirates. To my consternation, it appeared that Torii read neither one correctly, taking a long while to realize he needed to go way back. Because he did eventually race back, it can't be that he judged them out of the park. Due to the extra lift from the wind, it didn't end up mattering, but I don't really know what to make of it.
     
    To May's credit, he worked quickly on the mound. No fiddling around, staying near the rubber between pitches.
     
    The Twins offense didn't keep up, against junkball lefty Jeff Locke. A couple of runs came in the third, tying the game for the moment, when Dozier drove in Santana with a triple and Mauer drove in Dozier with a fielder's choice to... guess where... second.
     
    Incidentally, the Pirates used a pronounced shift against Mauer, a fairly extreme one in fact in the last of his three PA. Mauer could have bunted toward third and if it was past the pitcher he could have sauntered to first base. No. He walked his first time up, hit his next one to second, and the last was an unassisted grounder to first. I guess this is playing the game the right way. Or stubbornness. Or something. But it's not making adjustments, as far as I can see.
     
    In contrast to the defensive lapses I mentioned, Brian Dozier made a very fine snare of a liner off the bat of fellow second baseman Sean Rodriguez. Since I don't have a photo of that, here is one of Dozier grounding out to short in the first inning. Not very effective, but still pretty. (Did I mention, we had nice seats behind first base, six rows up?)
     

     
    Speaking of not effective, here is Hunter getting thrown out trying to steal second in the third inning. Since Arcia followed with a single to center, who knows whether the inning would have resulted in more scoring than it did.
     

     
    Jordan Schafer, DHing because Molitor presumably wants him to bat as often as possible this spring, laid down a very nice bunt past pitcher and first baseman that left them only to watch the ball and hope it would roll foul. Oh, that reminds me, the Pirates turned up their nose at using a DH and let their pitcher bat, at least to begin the game.
     
    By the seventh inning, Molitor had removed all his starters except Schafer and Hicks. Clint Hurdle only inserted a couple of bench players, Florimon (3B) and Lambo (RF). At the end we had Nunez at short, Rosario in left (nice play on a fly in the sixth by Kang), Bernier at third, Rohlfing to catch, Brock Peterson at first, and very young prospects Levi Michael at second and Adam Brett Walker in right.
     
    Brian Duensing pitched an effective 1 1/3 innings to end the fifth and cover the sixth. His fastball was around 89 MPH, about his par. JR Graham pitched effectively in the seventh and the start of the eighth too, with his 96 MPH heater.
     
    In the Twins' seventh, Michael hit a sharp single to left following a (guess what) pop out by Nunez to the catcher to begin. Peterson struck out after a lengthy battle against Antonio Bastardo, as the light sprinkle threatened to turn to a more substantial shower. I was more than eager to see ABW get his chance, but he struck out too. I'm a big ABW backer right now. Here he is pinch running for Hunter in the fifth, rather than show you the strikeout.
     

     
    The eighth inning began and a couple of Pirates were retired by JR Graham. I think the umpires wanted to give him a chance to complete the inning, but after a walk, they took stock of the weather situation and, after consulting the managers, called the game. A wise decision, as by 15 minutes later the light shower had turned into a soaking rain.
     
    And thus our two weeks in Fort Myers ended on a wet note.
     

     
     

     
    Even in the rain, it's a nice place to spend one's time.
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