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  1. Acquired following the 2015 season from the New York Yankees in exchange for Aaron Hicks, John Ryan Murphy started the 2016 season with the Twins. When he didn't hit in the first month, he was sent down to Rochester where he has spent most of his time since. He has been very good defensively (elite-level pitch framer), but the 25-year-old backstop just was not able to reach the offensive potential that was assume when he spent parts of three years catching for the Yankees. As Nick pointed out shortly after the news came out, this would explain the addition of Anthony Recker in the Twins/Braves trade earlier this week. https://twitter.com/NickNelsonMN/status/890611421985161216 While this trade may not be a page turner, a Mark Feinsand tweet from a bit ago may create further discussion. https://twitter.com/Feinsand/status/890605061272780802 In Moya, the Twins get a young pitcher who has worked solely as a reliever in his career. This year at AA Jackson, he is 4-1 with a 0.82 ERA in 34 outings. In 43.2 innings, he has issued just 12 walks and struck out 68 batters. Jeff Wiser is the preeminent Arizona Diamondbacks prospect expert. Find his work at Inside the Zona. Here are his thoughts on Gabriel Moya: From Darren Wolfson: https://twitter.com/DWolfsonKSTP/status/890622910305492992 According to Baseball America, Moya had the Best Changeup in the Diamondbacks minor leagues. Here is a scouting report from 2080 Baseball from before this season:
  2. The Twins announced that catcher John Ryan Murphy has been traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for 22-year-old Double-A lefty reliever Gabriel Moya.Acquired following the 2015 season from the New York Yankees in exchange for Aaron Hicks, John Ryan Murphy started the 2016 season with the Twins. When he didn't hit in the first month, he was sent down to Rochester where he has spent most of his time since. He has been very good defensively (elite-level pitch framer), but the 25-year-old backstop just was not able to reach the offensive potential that was assume when he spent parts of three years catching for the Yankees. As Nick pointed out shortly after the news came out, this would explain the addition of Anthony Recker in the Twins/Braves trade earlier this week. According to Baseball America, Moya had the Best Changeup in the Diamondbacks minor leagues. Here is a scouting report from 2080 Baseball from before this season: Click here to view the article
  3. RED WINGS REPORT Rochester 7, Buffalo 0 Box Score The offense exploded early and the pitching staff threw a shutout as the Red Wings improved to 33-33 Zack Granite continues his dominance of AAA pitching as he went 3-5 with a double and an RBI. He is now batting .349 on the season. Matt Hague and John Ryan Murphy also contributed three-hit games. Hague doubled once and drove in a run. Murphy drove in two runs and doubled twice. Four other Red Wings, Mitch Garver, J.B. Shuck, ByungHo Park and Tommy Field, had two-hit games. All but Shuck doubled. All told, there were seven doubles and 17 total hits. David Hurlbut twirled seven shutout innings, striking out seven and walking two. He allowed four hits. Mason Melotakis and Kam Mickolio each worked hitless frames, each striking out one. MIRACLE MATTERS Fort Myers 3, Jupiter 4 (10 innings) Box Score Tanner English provided half of the team’s six hits with two doubles and a single. He also swiped his fifth base of the season. English scored and drove in a run. Sean Miller, Brian Navarreto and Max Murphy accounted for the other three hits (singles). Murphy stole two bases and drove in a run. Brady Anderson gave up three run in five innings on eight hits and two walks. He struck out three and gave up two home runs. Jonny Drozd pitched two scoreless innings and Michael Theofanopoulos struck out three in two innings. Williams Ramirez took the loss, giving up the winning run while recording only one out in the 10th inning. Fort Myers drops to 32-34. TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY Pitcher of the Day – David Hurlbut, Rochester Hitter of the Day – John Ryan Murphy, Rochester TUESDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS Rochester vs Buffalo (6:05 CST) - RHP Aaron Slegers (5-4, 4.06 ERA) Fort Myers vs Jupiter (5:30 CST) - RHP Anthony McIver (1-2, 2-53 ERA) Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss Monday’s games.
  4. The Twins and all but two of the affiliates were off on Monday, but there was still some news. Left-handed reliever Cameron Booser was suspended for 50 games for testing positive for a drug of abuse. He was currently in extended spring training, so his suspension will begin when the short season leagues start. Jake Reed was promoted from Chattanooga to Rochester. Matt Tracy was sent the opposite way to make room. The Twins also announced that both Hector Santiago and Phil Hughes will begin rehab assignments on Wednesday. Santiago will start, Hughes will relieve. Let’s check the only two affiliates in action on Monday.RED WINGS REPORT Rochester 7, Buffalo 0 Box Score The offense exploded early and the pitching staff threw a shutout as the Red Wings improved to 33-33 Zack Granite continues his dominance of AAA pitching as he went 3-5 with a double and an RBI. He is now batting .349 on the season. Matt Hague and John Ryan Murphy also contributed three-hit games. Hague doubled once and drove in a run. Murphy drove in two runs and doubled twice. Four other Red Wings, Mitch Garver, J.B. Shuck, ByungHo Park and Tommy Field, had two-hit games. All but Shuck doubled. All told, there were seven doubles and 17 total hits. David Hurlbut twirled seven shutout innings, striking out seven and walking two. He allowed four hits. Mason Melotakis and Kam Mickolio each worked hitless frames, each striking out one. MIRACLE MATTERS Fort Myers 3, Jupiter 4 (10 innings) Box Score Tanner English provided half of the team’s six hits with two doubles and a single. He also swiped his fifth base of the season. English scored and drove in a run. Sean Miller, Brian Navarreto and Max Murphy accounted for the other three hits (singles). Murphy stole two bases and drove in a run. Brady Anderson gave up three run in five innings on eight hits and two walks. He struck out three and gave up two home runs. Jonny Drozd pitched two scoreless innings and Michael Theofanopoulos struck out three in two innings. Williams Ramirez took the loss, giving up the winning run while recording only one out in the 10th inning. Fort Myers drops to 32-34. TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY Pitcher of the Day – David Hurlbut, Rochester Hitter of the Day – John Ryan Murphy, Rochester TUESDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS Rochester vs Buffalo (6:05 CST) - RHP Aaron Slegers (5-4, 4.06 ERA) Fort Myers vs Jupiter (5:30 CST) - RHP Anthony McIver (1-2, 2-53 ERA) Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss Monday’s games. Click here to view the article
  5. The Twins new catching duo has helped elevate the pitching staff to respectability, but is it time to break up the backstop tandem of Jason Castro and Chris Gimenez? The veteran pair has drawn rave reviews for their leadership and ability to manage a pitching staff, but both are struggling to provide much offensive value.Castro has had some nice stretches, but overall his batting line heading into Thursday was .202/.304/.360. That should come as no surprise, however, as that’s nearly identical production to his 2016 campaign. Castro is who he is, the Twins knew exactly what they were getting into. He has his flaws, but he’ll certainly be the primary catcher for the foreseeable future. Being a career .257/.355/.391 hitter against left-handers, Gimenez looked like a logical platoon mate for Castro. His defensive flexibility was also a plus when the Twins opened the year with a three-man bench, and his ability to pitch in an emergency doesn’t hurt his cause, either. After going 1-for-4 Thursday afternoon, however, the 34-year-old has a .195/.327/.268 line for the season. Altogether, Twins catchers ranked 20th in wRC+ (80) and 23rd in OPS (.646) heading into Thursday’s games. By all accounts there are a lot of intangibles Gimenez has added to the Twins. It’s also worth noting that the team is 5-6 in games he’s started behind the plate, so it’s not like he is crippling the team. But considering how the Twins Triple-A catchers are performing, you have to wonder if maybe there is a better option to back up Castro. Rochester One-Two Punch Down in Rochester, Mitch Garver and John Ryan Murphy have split playing time right down the middle at 18 games each. Both are off to strong starts, as they rank as the top two hitters in OPS among current players on the Red Wings’ roster. Garver, who is actually a few months older than Murphy, has been particularly impressive, hitting .255/.397/.473. If he had enough plate appearances to qualify, his .870 OPS would rank just outside the top 10 in the International League. Murphy has looked much better than last season, posting a .232/.306/.446 (.780 OPS) line. His biggest advantage over Garver comes in terms of experience, having 141 big league games under his belt. Murphy also has some better defensive numbers than Garver so far, besting him in caught stealing percentage (42 to 29) and passed balls (3 to 5), though Murphy has committed two errors and Garver zero. While neither is considered a liability in terms of pitch framing, they also don’t have reputations of being elite in that discipline either. Three Catchers? If the Twins were to replace Gimenez, I would expect Murphy would be the guy who got the call. It’s easy to forget he hit .267/.311/.374 over 284 plate appearances with the Yankees prior to falling on his face for the Twins last year. The team is trying to stay competitive, and Murphy is probably better suited to step in and contribute right away considering his familiarity with the league and the MLB pitching staff. But, if the Twins were looking to add a third catcher, I’d imagine Garver would be the guy. If the Twins were looking to add a right-handed bat to the bench, you’d be hard pressed to find a better option than Garver down on the farm right now. Sure, it’s great to see ByungHo Park back, but he’s still not on the 40-man roster and has hit just .179/.179/.321 in seven games since returning from injury. As much as I like the defensive upside of Ehire Adrianza, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to have him and Eduardo Escobar on the same bench. Swapping Garver for Adrianza would give the bench some more offensive firepower and provide Paul Molitor with flexibility. Adrianza would likely get claimed on waivers, but the Twins do have Engelb Vielma, who is another similar player, on the 40-man roster. I know a lot of people hate the idea of having three catchers, but Castro is so vulnerable against lefties (career .192/.254/.289 hitter off southpaws) that having the ability to pinch hit for him late in games could be a big asset. You’re never going to see Paul Molitor do that when he’s only got two catchers on the roster because the very last thing he ever wants to do is put his emergency catcher, Escobar, behind the dish. Forgotten Man It’s easy to forget the Twins could also be getting Stuart Turner back at any moment. The former third-round pick of the Twins was taken by the Reds in the Rule 5 draft this year, but he’s only gotten 27 plate appearances in Cincinnati's 39 games this season. Turner was basically brought in to be insurance, but Devin Mesoraco is healthy and has caught back-to-back games a few times this month. Tucker Barnhart has filled in admirably as the Red’s primary catcher in Mesoraco’s absence the past two seasons. For now, the Reds are sticking with three catchers, but Turner’s days there could be numbered. The Reds had to give the Twins $50k to acquire Turner, and if they were to remove him from their 25-man roster the Twins could get him back for $25k. Maybe the Twins would prefer to work out a trade and let the Reds keep Turner, who knows, but I suspect at some point they will have the opportunity to re-acquire him if they so desire. Bottom Line The Twins are off to a better start than expected and there seems to be a positive vibe in the clubhouse. Certainly much more so than last year. Gimenez has contributed to both those factors, so it’s probably premature to be talking about jettisoning him from the roster. But, if the team decides to go another direction, they have no shortage of options to back up Castro. Click here to view the article
  6. Castro has had some nice stretches, but overall his batting line heading into Thursday was .202/.304/.360. That should come as no surprise, however, as that’s nearly identical production to his 2016 campaign. Castro is who he is, the Twins knew exactly what they were getting into. He has his flaws, but he’ll certainly be the primary catcher for the foreseeable future. Being a career .257/.355/.391 hitter against left-handers, Gimenez looked like a logical platoon mate for Castro. His defensive flexibility was also a plus when the Twins opened the year with a three-man bench, and his ability to pitch in an emergency doesn’t hurt his cause, either. After going 1-for-4 Thursday afternoon, however, the 34-year-old has a .195/.327/.268 line for the season. Altogether, Twins catchers ranked 20th in wRC+ (80) and 23rd in OPS (.646) heading into Thursday’s games. By all accounts there are a lot of intangibles Gimenez has added to the Twins. It’s also worth noting that the team is 5-6 in games he’s started behind the plate, so it’s not like he is crippling the team. But considering how the Twins Triple-A catchers are performing, you have to wonder if maybe there is a better option to back up Castro. Rochester One-Two Punch Down in Rochester, Mitch Garver and John Ryan Murphy have split playing time right down the middle at 18 games each. Both are off to strong starts, as they rank as the top two hitters in OPS among current players on the Red Wings’ roster. Garver, who is actually a few months older than Murphy, has been particularly impressive, hitting .255/.397/.473. If he had enough plate appearances to qualify, his .870 OPS would rank just outside the top 10 in the International League. Murphy has looked much better than last season, posting a .232/.306/.446 (.780 OPS) line. His biggest advantage over Garver comes in terms of experience, having 141 big league games under his belt. Murphy also has some better defensive numbers than Garver so far, besting him in caught stealing percentage (42 to 29) and passed balls (3 to 5), though Murphy has committed two errors and Garver zero. While neither is considered a liability in terms of pitch framing, they also don’t have reputations of being elite in that discipline either. Three Catchers? If the Twins were to replace Gimenez, I would expect Murphy would be the guy who got the call. It’s easy to forget he hit .267/.311/.374 over 284 plate appearances with the Yankees prior to falling on his face for the Twins last year. The team is trying to stay competitive, and Murphy is probably better suited to step in and contribute right away considering his familiarity with the league and the MLB pitching staff. But, if the Twins were looking to add a third catcher, I’d imagine Garver would be the guy. If the Twins were looking to add a right-handed bat to the bench, you’d be hard pressed to find a better option than Garver down on the farm right now. Sure, it’s great to see ByungHo Park back, but he’s still not on the 40-man roster and has hit just .179/.179/.321 in seven games since returning from injury. As much as I like the defensive upside of Ehire Adrianza, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to have him and Eduardo Escobar on the same bench. Swapping Garver for Adrianza would give the bench some more offensive firepower and provide Paul Molitor with flexibility. Adrianza would likely get claimed on waivers, but the Twins do have Engelb Vielma, who is another similar player, on the 40-man roster. I know a lot of people hate the idea of having three catchers, but Castro is so vulnerable against lefties (career .192/.254/.289 hitter off southpaws) that having the ability to pinch hit for him late in games could be a big asset. You’re never going to see Paul Molitor do that when he’s only got two catchers on the roster because the very last thing he ever wants to do is put his emergency catcher, Escobar, behind the dish. Forgotten Man It’s easy to forget the Twins could also be getting Stuart Turner back at any moment. The former third-round pick of the Twins was taken by the Reds in the Rule 5 draft this year, but he’s only gotten 27 plate appearances in Cincinnati's 39 games this season. Turner was basically brought in to be insurance, but Devin Mesoraco is healthy and has caught back-to-back games a few times this month. Tucker Barnhart has filled in admirably as the Red’s primary catcher in Mesoraco’s absence the past two seasons. For now, the Reds are sticking with three catchers, but Turner’s days there could be numbered. The Reds had to give the Twins $50k to acquire Turner, and if they were to remove him from their 25-man roster the Twins could get him back for $25k. Maybe the Twins would prefer to work out a trade and let the Reds keep Turner, who knows, but I suspect at some point they will have the opportunity to re-acquire him if they so desire. Bottom Line The Twins are off to a better start than expected and there seems to be a positive vibe in the clubhouse. Certainly much more so than last year. Gimenez has contributed to both those factors, so it’s probably premature to be talking about jettisoning him from the roster. But, if the team decides to go another direction, they have no shortage of options to back up Castro.
  7. Rain won the day at Target Field on Wednesday. All four Twins minor league affiliates played, and there were some wild games. There was a very impressive pitching performance, and there were some big offensive showings. Two hitters were a triple away from the cycle. However, we start today with a very sad news in the Twins minor league report. We learned today from the San Diego Tribune-Union that Henry Sanchez died due to synovial sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. Sanchez was a supplemental first-round pick of the Twins in 2005, known for his tremendous power. He struggled on and off the field and was let go shortly into the 2009 season.Find out everything and more that happened happened in the Twins system on Wednesday night, starting with the transactions of the day. TRANSACTIONS Check out the transactions through the minor league system on Wednesday: Chattanooga placed RHP Todd Van Steensel on the disabled list with a groin strain. Taking his place is RHP Alex Wimmers (who had been sent to extended spring training on Monday from Rochester).Because of the doubleheader Thursday, the Twins are able to call up a 26th man. That player will be RHP Drew Rucinski.RED WINGS REPORTRochester 8, Lehigh Valley 11 (11 innings) Box Score In his first four starts this season, lefty David Hurlbut gave up a total of four runs in 22.1 innings. He had his first clunker of 2017 on Wednesday night. He was charged with seven runs on nine hits (two homers) and a walk in just 3.2 innings. Alan Busenitz came on and was terrific. The hard-throwing right-hander gave up just one hit over 3.1 scoreless innings. He struck out five without issuing a walk. Michael Tonkin came in for the 8th inning, protecting a one-run lead. He gave up a solo homer to tie the game, but he then worked scoreless innings in the ninth and 10th innings. Kevin Chapman came in for the 11th frame. He gave up three runs (two earned) on three hits in the inning to take the loss. The offense provided plenty of support. Byungho Park went 3-4 with his fourth double. JB Shuck was 3-4 with a walk and his fifth double. John Ryan Murphy went 2-5 with his third homer, a three-run shot. Matt Hague and Daniel Palka each went 2-5 with a double. It was Palka’s fifth and Matt Hague’s third. In the bottom of the 10th, the Red Wings got to go through the Pat Venditte Experience. Venditte is the ambidextrous pitcher who has moved up and down from AAA to the big leagues the last few seasons. The bases were loaded, but John Ryan Murphy grounded into a double play to end the threat to end the game. For Lehigh Valley, old friend Pedro Florimon went 5-5 with a double and is hitting .349 on the season. CHATTANOOGA CHATTER Chattanooga 6 Birmingham 8 Box Score It was an early start on Wednesday for the Lookouts. Their fifth and final game of a home series against Birmingham began at 11:15 local time. Following the game, the Lookouts headed to Biloxi for their next five-game series. Down 2-0 in the third inning, TJ White, Ryan Strausborger and Nick Gordon hit doubles to tie the score at two. Then in the bottom of the fourth inning, Levi Michael added a two-run homer to put the Lookouts on top. It was his first homer of the season. They added two more on an Edgar Corcino single. But that was it for the offense. In fact, after that fourth inning, they didn’t have another hit. The one base runner reached on a walk and was erased immediately by a double play. Felix Jorge was strong through six innings. He gave up an early two-run homer, but that was it. Until the seventh inning. He started the inning with a strikeout, but then he loaded the bases with a walk, a single and another walk. That’s when Mason Melotakis came in. Melotakis gave up a pinch-hit, grand slam and the game was tied. After recording the inning’s second out, he gave up a single which was followed by another home run. That gave the Kernels their 8-6 deficit that ended up being the final score. Melotakis worked a scoreless eighth frame. John Curtiss did pitch the ninth inning as well. He has now pitched 13 games this season, and in 14.2 innings, he is yet to allow a run. He has 19 strikeouts. However, he’s also given up nine walks to go with nine hits. TJ White was the lone Lookouts hitter with more than one hit. He went 2-4 with his first double. MIRACLE MATTERS Ft. Myers 3, Clearwater 1 Box Score Complete games are a rarity in minor league baseball. Pitch counts are more tightly monitored, and especially in the lower levels, the pitchers are young and will be taken care of. However, on Wednesday night, lefty Lachlan Wells delivered a complete game in a Miracle win. Wells gave up a double to lead off the game. After a sacrifice bunt, the run scored on a ground ball. After that, it was eight straight shutout innings. In fact, only one more runner the whole game reached second base. He gave up the one run on four hits and two walks. He struck out four. Most important, he needed just 92 pitches (67 strikes) to complete the game and win his second game of the season and reduce his ERA to 3.51. No surprise. It was the first complete game of his career. Offensively, the Miracle offense waited an inning to do their scoring. In the bottom of the second inning, Daniel Kihle launched a three-run homer, his third of the season. That was it for the Miracle offense, at least in terms of runs scored. After hitting a walk-off home run the night before, Chris Paul added two hits on Wednesday. Rafael Valera walked twice. KERNELS NUGGETS Cedar Rapids 7, Peoria 4 Box Score It looked as if Wednesday’s Kernels game had the potential to be a long one. Through two innings, a combined ten runs had already been scored. However, just one more run was scored the rest of the game. The Kernels got a two-run homer from Lewin Diaz in the bottom of the first inning, his fifth of the season. Sean Poppen gave up three runs in the top of the second frame, but the Kernels put up a five-spot in the bottom of the second inning. Aaron Whitefield drove in a run with a single before Jermaine Palacios launched a three-run homer, his fourth of the year. Two batters later, Mitchell Kranson hit his third homer of the year, a solo shot. Palacios had been in a bit of a slump, seeing his average drop from .398 to .326 over the past 13 games during which he hit .196. However, on this day, he went 3-5 with his eighth double, fourth homer and he stole his sixth base. Mitchell Kranson went 3-4 with his 12th double and third home run. That’s two guys who ended the day a triple shy of the cycle. Brandon Lopez went 3-4 with his second double. Aaron Whitefield went 3-5. Ben Rortvedt went 2-4 in the game. Sean Poppen made the start. The right-hander from Harvard gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits and a walk in six innings. He struck out five. He has completed six innings in all seven of his starts this season. Zach Tillery came on for his first appearance of the year and in a year. He gave up a run on three walks in his inning. It was his first appearance since May 7, 2016, with the Kernels. He missed the year with a shoulder injury. Alex Robinson recorded his second save with two shutout innings. He struck out four. TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Lachlan Wells, Ft. Myers Miracle Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Jermaine Palacios/Mitchell Kranson, Cedar Rapids Kernels THURSDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS Lehigh Valley @ Rochester (12:35 CST) - LHP Jason Wheeler Chattanooga @ Biloxi (6:35 CST) - RHP Fernando Romero Clearwater @ Ft. Myers (5:35 CST) - RHP Brady Anderson Cedar Rapids @ Wisconsin (6:35 CST) - LHP Domenic Carlini IV Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss Wednesday’s games. Click here to view the article
  8. Find out everything and more that happened happened in the Twins system on Wednesday night, starting with the transactions of the day. TRANSACTIONS Check out the transactions through the minor league system on Wednesday: Chattanooga placed RHP Todd Van Steensel on the disabled list with a groin strain. Taking his place is RHP Alex Wimmers (who had been sent to extended spring training on Monday from Rochester). Because of the doubleheader Thursday, the Twins are able to call up a 26th man. That player will be RHP Drew Rucinski. RED WINGS REPORT Rochester 8, Lehigh Valley 11 (11 innings) Box Score In his first four starts this season, lefty David Hurlbut gave up a total of four runs in 22.1 innings. He had his first clunker of 2017 on Wednesday night. He was charged with seven runs on nine hits (two homers) and a walk in just 3.2 innings. Alan Busenitz came on and was terrific. The hard-throwing right-hander gave up just one hit over 3.1 scoreless innings. He struck out five without issuing a walk. Michael Tonkin came in for the 8th inning, protecting a one-run lead. He gave up a solo homer to tie the game, but he then worked scoreless innings in the ninth and 10th innings. Kevin Chapman came in for the 11th frame. He gave up three runs (two earned) on three hits in the inning to take the loss. The offense provided plenty of support. Byungho Park went 3-4 with his fourth double. JB Shuck was 3-4 with a walk and his fifth double. John Ryan Murphy went 2-5 with his third homer, a three-run shot. Matt Hague and Daniel Palka each went 2-5 with a double. It was Palka’s fifth and Matt Hague’s third. In the bottom of the 10th, the Red Wings got to go through the Pat Venditte Experience. Venditte is the ambidextrous pitcher who has moved up and down from AAA to the big leagues the last few seasons. The bases were loaded, but John Ryan Murphy grounded into a double play to end the threat to end the game. For Lehigh Valley, old friend Pedro Florimon went 5-5 with a double and is hitting .349 on the season. CHATTANOOGA CHATTER Chattanooga 6 Birmingham 8 Box Score It was an early start on Wednesday for the Lookouts. Their fifth and final game of a home series against Birmingham began at 11:15 local time. Following the game, the Lookouts headed to Biloxi for their next five-game series. Down 2-0 in the third inning, TJ White, Ryan Strausborger and Nick Gordon hit doubles to tie the score at two. Then in the bottom of the fourth inning, Levi Michael added a two-run homer to put the Lookouts on top. It was his first homer of the season. They added two more on an Edgar Corcino single. But that was it for the offense. In fact, after that fourth inning, they didn’t have another hit. The one base runner reached on a walk and was erased immediately by a double play. Felix Jorge was strong through six innings. He gave up an early two-run homer, but that was it. Until the seventh inning. He started the inning with a strikeout, but then he loaded the bases with a walk, a single and another walk. That’s when Mason Melotakis came in. Melotakis gave up a pinch-hit, grand slam and the game was tied. After recording the inning’s second out, he gave up a single which was followed by another home run. That gave the Kernels their 8-6 deficit that ended up being the final score. Melotakis worked a scoreless eighth frame. John Curtiss did pitch the ninth inning as well. He has now pitched 13 games this season, and in 14.2 innings, he is yet to allow a run. He has 19 strikeouts. However, he’s also given up nine walks to go with nine hits. TJ White was the lone Lookouts hitter with more than one hit. He went 2-4 with his first double. MIRACLE MATTERS Ft. Myers 3, Clearwater 1 Box Score Complete games are a rarity in minor league baseball. Pitch counts are more tightly monitored, and especially in the lower levels, the pitchers are young and will be taken care of. However, on Wednesday night, lefty Lachlan Wells delivered a complete game in a Miracle win. Wells gave up a double to lead off the game. After a sacrifice bunt, the run scored on a ground ball. After that, it was eight straight shutout innings. In fact, only one more runner the whole game reached second base. He gave up the one run on four hits and two walks. He struck out four. Most important, he needed just 92 pitches (67 strikes) to complete the game and win his second game of the season and reduce his ERA to 3.51. No surprise. It was the first complete game of his career. Offensively, the Miracle offense waited an inning to do their scoring. In the bottom of the second inning, Daniel Kihle launched a three-run homer, his third of the season. That was it for the Miracle offense, at least in terms of runs scored. After hitting a walk-off home run the night before, Chris Paul added two hits on Wednesday. Rafael Valera walked twice. KERNELS NUGGETS Cedar Rapids 7, Peoria 4 Box Score It looked as if Wednesday’s Kernels game had the potential to be a long one. Through two innings, a combined ten runs had already been scored. However, just one more run was scored the rest of the game. The Kernels got a two-run homer from Lewin Diaz in the bottom of the first inning, his fifth of the season. Sean Poppen gave up three runs in the top of the second frame, but the Kernels put up a five-spot in the bottom of the second inning. Aaron Whitefield drove in a run with a single before Jermaine Palacios launched a three-run homer, his fourth of the year. Two batters later, Mitchell Kranson hit his third homer of the year, a solo shot. Palacios had been in a bit of a slump, seeing his average drop from .398 to .326 over the past 13 games during which he hit .196. However, on this day, he went 3-5 with his eighth double, fourth homer and he stole his sixth base. Mitchell Kranson went 3-4 with his 12th double and third home run. That’s two guys who ended the day a triple shy of the cycle. Brandon Lopez went 3-4 with his second double. Aaron Whitefield went 3-5. Ben Rortvedt went 2-4 in the game. Sean Poppen made the start. The right-hander from Harvard gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits and a walk in six innings. He struck out five. He has completed six innings in all seven of his starts this season. Zach Tillery came on for his first appearance of the year and in a year. He gave up a run on three walks in his inning. It was his first appearance since May 7, 2016, with the Kernels. He missed the year with a shoulder injury. Alex Robinson recorded his second save with two shutout innings. He struck out four. TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Lachlan Wells, Ft. Myers Miracle Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day – Jermaine Palacios/Mitchell Kranson, Cedar Rapids Kernels THURSDAY’S PROBABLE STARTERS Lehigh Valley @ Rochester (12:35 CST) - LHP Jason Wheeler Chattanooga @ Biloxi (6:35 CST) - RHP Fernando Romero Clearwater @ Ft. Myers (5:35 CST) - RHP Brady Anderson Cedar Rapids @ Wisconsin (6:35 CST) - LHP Domenic Carlini IV Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss Wednesday’s games.
  9. While much of the Twins 25-man roster might be pretty well set, there are a few position battles of note. As spring training rolls along, some of them will become more clear. It’s also possible that others could create additional position battles. We’ll certainly be covering those through the spring. One of those position battles that we’ll likely hear a lot about is the backup catcher position. Jason Castro will be the starter, and he will likely start between 110 and 125 games. So who will start the other 35 to 55 games?There are three catchers vying for the backup catcher spot, so let’s consider the pros and cons of each. CHRIS GIMENEZ Let’s start with the most veteran of the group, Chris Gimenez. Thad Levine and Derek Falvey spoke a lot about wanting more veteran leadership on the roster. Gimenez is 34 and has spent parts of the past eight seasons in the big leagues. Over the last three years, he has played for Texas and Cleveland, meaning that Falvey and Levine are very familiar with him. In 684 career at-bats, he has hit .218/.297/.335 (.632). The 68 games he played for Cleveland was his career high despite hitting just .216/.272/.331 (.602). While Gimenez is really the definition of a replacement player, he certainly has some intangibles beyond the leadership qualities. Paul Molitor has said that Gimenez will likely play the corner infield and maybe the corner outfield positions this spring. Last year, he played first base and third base, along with catcher. He DHd a few games, and he even pitched twice. Behind the plate, he is solid. He has thrown out 28% of would-be base-stealers in his career, and 29% last year. His pitch framing should be considered about average. Since Gimenez was signed in January to a minor league deal, he can be sent to Rochester to start the season. It is uncertain if Gimenez has an opt-out in his contract. JOHN RYAN MURPHY Murphy is the incumbent, at least in a way. After coming to the Twins in an offseason trade from the Yankees, Murphy was handed the backup spot a year ago. For many - yours truly included - the assumption was that over time Murphy would gain more playing time. Instead he was back in AAA a month into the season. And things didn’t go real well for him in Rochester either. He came back in September and did a little better. Murphy is 25 years old. He has spent parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Before last year, he was the backup to Brian McCann with the Yankees. In his career (344 at-bats), he has hit .238/.283/.337 (.620). However, before he hit .146/.193/.221 (.413) for the Twins last year, he had hit .267/.311/.374 (.685). In 2015, he played in 67 games for the Yankees and hit .277/.327/.406 (.734) as a 24-year-old. That’s a lot of triple-slash lines, but the purpose is to show that there is plenty of reason to believe that Murphy can and will hit some in the big leagues. Murphy is a quality defensive catcher. He is a good pitch framer, and he has a strong arm. In his career, he has thrown out 30% of would-be base-stealers. Murphy is on the 40-man roster. He also has one option remaining. MITCH GARVER Garver has worked his way up the Twins farm system since the team drafted him in the ninth round in 2013. And “worked” is the correct word. He was the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year in 2014 when he played for the Kernels. In 2015, he spent the season in Ft. Myers with the Miracle. He began 2016 in big league camp as a non-roster invite to spring training. While he has continued to get stronger and work on his offensive game, Garver has made his biggest strides defensively. He has gone from what some called below average defensively to now being considered an above average defensive backstop. That was very clear in 2016 when he split the season between AA Chattanooga and AAA Rochester. He was one of the best in minor league baseball in pitch framing, and he threw out 48% of would-be base-stealers. He’s always had a strong arm, having thrown out 38% in his minor league career. He might be the best combination of offense and defense of the group. In 95 games at AA last year, he hit .257/.334/.419 (.753) with 25 doubles and 11 home runs. He ended the season with 25 games in Rochester where he hit .329/.381/.434 (.815) with five doubles and a homer. Garver can also give the Twins some versatility. In 2016, he caught 60 games and played first base 16 times. Because of his bat, he was in the DH spot in most other games. There are a few things that he has going against him in this competition. First, he has zero MLB at-bats at this point, and one could say that he has just 25 games in AAA. He was just added to the Twins 40-man roster in November. So he has all three option years remaining. SUMMARY Nothing can be made of what we’ve seen so far in spring training games. Garver and Murphy have five plate appearances, and Gimenez has three. Murphy and Gimenez have each made one start behind the plate. Garver hasn’t, but he has played in three of the games to just two for Murphy and Gimenez. There is a lot of spring training remaining, and all three should get a lot of opportunities to play. All three have a legitimate opportunity to make the Opening Day roster, at least I would think and hope they would. It may come down to the end. So, what factors do you think will help Paul Molitor and the front office decide who will make the Opening Day roster? How would you rank the likelihood of each option? Click here to view the article
  10. There are three catchers vying for the backup catcher spot, so let’s consider the pros and cons of each. CHRIS GIMENEZ Let’s start with the most veteran of the group, Chris Gimenez. Thad Levine and Derek Falvey spoke a lot about wanting more veteran leadership on the roster. Gimenez is 34 and has spent parts of the past eight seasons in the big leagues. Over the last three years, he has played for Texas and Cleveland, meaning that Falvey and Levine are very familiar with him. In 684 career at-bats, he has hit .218/.297/.335 (.632). The 68 games he played for Cleveland was his career high despite hitting just .216/.272/.331 (.602). While Gimenez is really the definition of a replacement player, he certainly has some intangibles beyond the leadership qualities. Paul Molitor has said that Gimenez will likely play the corner infield and maybe the corner outfield positions this spring. Last year, he played first base and third base, along with catcher. He DHd a few games, and he even pitched twice. Behind the plate, he is solid. He has thrown out 28% of would-be base-stealers in his career, and 29% last year. His pitch framing should be considered about average. Since Gimenez was signed in January to a minor league deal, he can be sent to Rochester to start the season. It is uncertain if Gimenez has an opt-out in his contract. JOHN RYAN MURPHY Murphy is the incumbent, at least in a way. After coming to the Twins in an offseason trade from the Yankees, Murphy was handed the backup spot a year ago. For many - yours truly included - the assumption was that over time Murphy would gain more playing time. Instead he was back in AAA a month into the season. And things didn’t go real well for him in Rochester either. He came back in September and did a little better. Murphy is 25 years old. He has spent parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Before last year, he was the backup to Brian McCann with the Yankees. In his career (344 at-bats), he has hit .238/.283/.337 (.620). However, before he hit .146/.193/.221 (.413) for the Twins last year, he had hit .267/.311/.374 (.685). In 2015, he played in 67 games for the Yankees and hit .277/.327/.406 (.734) as a 24-year-old. That’s a lot of triple-slash lines, but the purpose is to show that there is plenty of reason to believe that Murphy can and will hit some in the big leagues. Murphy is a quality defensive catcher. He is a good pitch framer, and he has a strong arm. In his career, he has thrown out 30% of would-be base-stealers. Murphy is on the 40-man roster. He also has one option remaining. MITCH GARVER Garver has worked his way up the Twins farm system since the team drafted him in the ninth round in 2013. And “worked” is the correct word. He was the Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year in 2014 when he played for the Kernels. In 2015, he spent the season in Ft. Myers with the Miracle. He began 2016 in big league camp as a non-roster invite to spring training. While he has continued to get stronger and work on his offensive game, Garver has made his biggest strides defensively. He has gone from what some called below average defensively to now being considered an above average defensive backstop. That was very clear in 2016 when he split the season between AA Chattanooga and AAA Rochester. He was one of the best in minor league baseball in pitch framing, and he threw out 48% of would-be base-stealers. He’s always had a strong arm, having thrown out 38% in his minor league career. He might be the best combination of offense and defense of the group. In 95 games at AA last year, he hit .257/.334/.419 (.753) with 25 doubles and 11 home runs. He ended the season with 25 games in Rochester where he hit .329/.381/.434 (.815) with five doubles and a homer. Garver can also give the Twins some versatility. In 2016, he caught 60 games and played first base 16 times. Because of his bat, he was in the DH spot in most other games. There are a few things that he has going against him in this competition. First, he has zero MLB at-bats at this point, and one could say that he has just 25 games in AAA. He was just added to the Twins 40-man roster in November. So he has all three option years remaining. SUMMARY Nothing can be made of what we’ve seen so far in spring training games. Garver and Murphy have five plate appearances, and Gimenez has three. Murphy and Gimenez have each made one start behind the plate. Garver hasn’t, but he has played in three of the games to just two for Murphy and Gimenez. There is a lot of spring training remaining, and all three should get a lot of opportunities to play. All three have a legitimate opportunity to make the Opening Day roster, at least I would think and hope they would. It may come down to the end. So, what factors do you think will help Paul Molitor and the front office decide who will make the Opening Day roster? How would you rank the likelihood of each option?
  11. Well, the questioning seems to be never-ending during a down season, and I'd like to pile on and add Mitch Garver's usage to the list of head-scratchers in the organization. If the Twins believe Garver can be a starting catcher, they sure have a funny way of showing it. While in Chattanooga, fellow 2013 draftee Stuart Turner held a slight advantage over Garver in terms of reps behind the plate. Since his promotion, Garver holds a slight playing time advantage over John Ryan Murphy, but it's only eight starts vs. seven. Overall, Garver has played 107 games this year but has caught in just 54 of those contests. This is nothing new. In 2014, on his way to being named Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year, Garver caught 63 of his 120 games. Last year, the split was less extreme at 77 games caught and 127 total games. With just 12 games left in the Red Wings' season, when it's all said and done, Garver will have caught right around 200 games over the past three seasons. Sounds like a decent amount until you compare him to other backstops. A few of the most recent catchers to establish themselves as big league regulars are Philadelphia's Cameron Rupp, Miami's J.T. Realmuto and Cincinnati's Tucker Barnhart. Over their final three full years in the minors, each of them totaled over 280 games caught. Even prized Yankee prospect Gary Sanchez, who has always been more highly regarded for his bat, eclipsed 90 games caught in three separate MiLB seasons. It seems these days you can't have a discussion about catching without also talking about concussions. It's worth noting Garver has been placed on the DL twice for concussions, once in June of '14 and again this May. There is no such thing as a concussion that isn't a serious injury, but in both cases Garver was able to get back in the gear in a matter of weeks, so those injuries can't account for the lost reps behind the plate. Garver has kept his bat in the lineup by playing first base or DH, but his skills at the plate have never been questioned as much as his ability to play behind it (but we'll get to more on that later). With that being the case, you'd think the team would go out of its way to have Garver catching as much as possible. Not buying the playing time being an issue? Okay, then let's go into the "Free Mitch Garver" portion of the discussion. Garver was called up to Rochester on Aug. 9, but what took so long? There's a valid argument to be made that Garver should already be on the big league club. I understand that Turner was drafted ahead of Garver and started his career a level ahead. It's also valid to point out that the team invested resources into Murphy, who is on the 40-man roster, and they want to give him every opportunity to play his way out of his season-long slump. But why has Garver remained so low on the catching totem pole when his performance has been stellar and he's actually older than both Murphy and Turner? At 25-years-old, I'm not sure if Garver can really even be called a prospect anymore. It's time to see what he can do, no matter what that means to Murphy, Turner, or even Kurt Suzuki or Juan Centeno. Garver had a down year in 2015, but followed it up with an impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League. He had posted an above average OPS for the Southern League each month this season, ending his time in Chattanooga with a .257/.334/.417 slash line. Combine that with an excellent start in Rochester (.364/.404/.455) and you have a guy who has trended up for around 12 months now, and the glove work is catching up with his offense. On Sunday's pregame radio broadcast, interim GM Rob Antony went out of his way to compliment the strides Garver has made with the mitt, and the numbers back it up. The University of New Mexico product has also thrown out an impressive 50% of base stealers this season and has received positive reviews on his pitch framing ability. So ... if the bat was never in question and the numbers show he's been a phenomenal defensive catcher this season, then what gives? I suppose it's entirely possible the front offices does not, in fact, view Garver as an everyday catcher. The way he's been used over his career certainly makes you wonder.
  12. Terry Ryan and the Minnesota Twins foresaw the upcoming predicament at catcher. They knew they had only one more season on Kurt Suzuki's contract, with a bare cupboard in the minors. And so they made their move last November, acquiring John Ryan Murphy from the Yankees. Unfortunately, it was essentially their only move, and it has worked out about as poorly as one could imagine. Now, the club is once again scrambling for answers.When they swapped Aaron Hicks for him, the Twins spoke of Murphy's upside with the bat. Indeed, it was his offensive potential that made Murphy a second-round pick out of high school back in 2009, when questions still surrounded his defensive position. At the time of the trade, Murphy was coming off a season in which he posted a .734 OPS over 172 plate appearances as New York's backup catcher. He was also reasonably productive in the minors, so Murphy looked like a safe bet to at least hold his own in the batter's box. At no point since coming over to Minnesota has he even come close to doing so. Murphy endured an awful spring, going 5-for-36 with zero extra- base hits in the Grapefruit League. OK, only exhibition games, no reason for panic. Then, the season started, and he went 3-for-40 over the first month. A bit more concerning, but still a small sample for a guy maybe pressing with his new team. He was sent to Triple-A in early May, and his performance there is what truly saps any sense of enthusiasm surrounding his abilities. In 68 games with Rochester, Murphy owns a horrendous .209/.264/.279 slash line. In 239 plate appearances, he has mustered one homer and 12 doubles. After showing some signs of life in June (.802 OPS) he has gone back in the tank, with a .195 average and .438 OPS since July 1st. Because the Yankees kept Murphy up as their backup catcher for the entirety of 2015, he still has an option left for 2017, meaning the Twins can afford to be patient with him in terms of control. But, in other regards, they really can't. They've watched him flail away as a 25-year-old in the International League for four months now. And this week they promoted Mitch Garver to Rochester. Garver is one of the organization's most legit internal options and needs reps behind the plate, so he figures to get at least an equal timeshare the rest of the way. That leaves Murphy as an aging part-time minor-league catcher -- clearly not any kind of credible solution for next year. So what is Rob Antony, or whoever succeeds him at GM, to do? Kurt Suzuki has no chance at reaching the 465 PA threshold that would have activated his 2017 option, so he's set to become a free agent. If he finishes strong he'll be one of the better options in a thin catching market so he'll likely require another multi-year deal. Going down that road with a 33-year-old who has nearly 10,000 innings logged at the game's most punishing position would be unwise. Going all-out for one of the top free agents like Wilson Ramos or Matt Wieters would be out of character, but perhaps a nice opportunity for the newly arranged front office to make a statement. We'll see about that one. If there's one thing that has played out favorably with Minnesota's dire catching situation this year, it has been the emergence of Juan Centeno. The 26-year-old came up when Murphy was sent down and has shown all the traits of a quality backup. He's a solid receiver, he makes contact at the plate and he's even got a bit of pop. But a backup is not what the Twins are seeking. It's not what they were seeking when they dealt for Murphy. They were hoping to sneakily pluck away a starter from another organization, and sadly that approach fizzled. Now, it's back to the drawing board, with an even greater sense of urgency than they felt a year ago. Click here to view the article
  13. Nick Nelson

    Catching Grief

    When they swapped Aaron Hicks for him, the Twins spoke of Murphy's upside with the bat. Indeed, it was his offensive potential that made Murphy a second-round pick out of high school back in 2009, when questions still surrounded his defensive position. At the time of the trade, Murphy was coming off a season in which he posted a .734 OPS over 172 plate appearances as New York's backup catcher. He was also reasonably productive in the minors, so Murphy looked like a safe bet to at least hold his own in the batter's box. At no point since coming over to Minnesota has he even come close to doing so. Murphy endured an awful spring, going 5-for-36 with zero extra- base hits in the Grapefruit League. OK, only exhibition games, no reason for panic. Then, the season started, and he went 3-for-40 over the first month. A bit more concerning, but still a small sample for a guy maybe pressing with his new team. He was sent to Triple-A in early May, and his performance there is what truly saps any sense of enthusiasm surrounding his abilities. In 68 games with Rochester, Murphy owns a horrendous .209/.264/.279 slash line. In 239 plate appearances, he has mustered one homer and 12 doubles. After showing some signs of life in June (.802 OPS) he has gone back in the tank, with a .195 average and .438 OPS since July 1st. Because the Yankees kept Murphy up as their backup catcher for the entirety of 2015, he still has an option left for 2017, meaning the Twins can afford to be patient with him in terms of control. But, in other regards, they really can't. They've watched him flail away as a 25-year-old in the International League for four months now. And this week they promoted Mitch Garver to Rochester. Garver is one of the organization's most legit internal options and needs reps behind the plate, so he figures to get at least an equal timeshare the rest of the way. That leaves Murphy as an aging part-time minor-league catcher -- clearly not any kind of credible solution for next year. So what is Rob Antony, or whoever succeeds him at GM, to do? Kurt Suzuki has no chance at reaching the 465 PA threshold that would have activated his 2017 option, so he's set to become a free agent. If he finishes strong he'll be one of the better options in a thin catching market so he'll likely require another multi-year deal. Going down that road with a 33-year-old who has nearly 10,000 innings logged at the game's most punishing position would be unwise. Going all-out for one of the top free agents like Wilson Ramos or Matt Wieters would be out of character, but perhaps a nice opportunity for the newly arranged front office to make a statement. We'll see about that one. If there's one thing that has played out favorably with Minnesota's dire catching situation this year, it has been the emergence of Juan Centeno. The 26-year-old came up when Murphy was sent down and has shown all the traits of a quality backup. He's a solid receiver, he makes contact at the plate and he's even got a bit of pop. But a backup is not what the Twins are seeking. It's not what they were seeking when they dealt for Murphy. They were hoping to sneakily pluck away a starter from another organization, and sadly that approach fizzled. Now, it's back to the drawing board, with an even greater sense of urgency than they felt a year ago.
  14. With a loss on Monday, the Twins second half began in the same way the first half began, with a loss. When the Twins hit the halfway point of their season, they had a record of 27-54. Simple math tells us that they are on pace to end the season with a 54-108 record. Maybe Murphy’s Law is the best explanation or summary of the Minnesota Twins 2016 season so far. If anything can go wrong, it will, and it has.Let’s start at the end of last year. The Twins were not officially eliminated from the playoffs until after their 161st game. Hope was high as the offseason began. And that’s why 2016 has been so incredibly disappointing for the fans, and likely even more so for the players and the front office. If anything can go wrong… I believe that the Twins were very surprised when they learned that Torii Hunter had decided to retire. As much as we know that his skills had fallen, he really did have a major influence in the clubhouse. To what degree, there is no way to measure, but Hunter’s influence is unquestionably missed.The Twins traded Aaron Hicks to the Yankees for John Ryan Murphy. On the surface, the trade made a lot of sense for both teams. The Yankees have an aging outfield that consists of Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. Hicks was brought in to be the fourth outfielder and play most of the time. The Twins have some outfield depth and needed to address an organizational need behind the plate. In acquiring Murphy, the Twins had a catcher with solid MLB experience as a backup to Brian McCann over the past few years. He is still just 24 and under team control for four more years. However, Murphy struggled mightily in spring training and at the start of the season and was sent to Rochester by early May. He’s hitting better, and he still has a future with the Twins, but the first half did not go well at all.It was announced that the Twins won the bid on 1B Byung Ho Park for a reasonable $12 million bid. Weeks later, Park arrived in Minneapolis to sign a very reasonable contract of four years and $12 million, with an option. There was a lot of excitement around the signing of the top player in Korea. The man had hit 105 home runs and driven in 270 runs over the previous two seasons, but he also struck out a ton. He showed up to spring training and acclimated himself well to his new teammates. He has shown some of the great power that we all hoped for, but his inability to make consistent contact and declining confidence got him shipped to Rochester last week.While the decision to offer arbitration to Eduardo Nunez has certainly looked wise in the season’s first half, the other three decisions have not been so beneficial for the Twins. Casey Fien got off to a bad start (7.90 ERA in 14 games) and was placed on waivers and claimed by the Dodgers the first week in May. After a brief stint in the minors, he was called up and has posted a 2.33 ERA in 16 games in LA.Tommy Milone was placed on waivers at the same time, though he went unclaimed. He went and dominated the International League for a month before being called up recently. He has been bad in two starts since his return and may not be long for the roster… again.Kevin Jepsen was the final play who was offered arbitration. Like Milone, it was an easy choice to offer it to him. He had come to the Twins in a July 31 trade last year and was tremendous for the team through the final two months. With Glen Perkins unable to pitch, Jepsen was a very reliable closer. Though no one thought he would be that great again, no one could have imagined that he would be completely unable to get anyone out. He was DFA'd over the weekend. Days earlier, it was announced that the primary pitcher the Twins traded for Jepsen, Chih-Wei Hu, was named to the Futures Game roster. Of course, that’s how July deadline trades work out. The Twins got what they wanted for 2015. The Rays got a nice pitching prospect who may be part of their future. It’s the kind of trade that the Twins will hopefully be able to make before July 31.While Glen Perkins has been hurt the past two second halves, he put in the work in the offseason and got in much better shape. The hope was that he would be able to maintain his shoulder strength throughout the season. Instead, he struggled in two appearances and went on the DL. He had shoulder surgery last week which revealed that the labrum had been separated from his shoulder.Phil Hughes was elite in 2014. He struggled in 2015. The hope was that he could be something in between in 2016. Instead, he really struggled and got demoted to the bullpen. He got hit by a line drive that fractured his leg. Last week, he had surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome which will likely affect his 2017 season as well.There was an assumption that Eddie Rosario’s production might drop a bit in 2016 after a strong rookie season. We had seen similar fall-offs in production with guys like Oswaldo Arcia, Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas, but there are exceptions to the rule that plate approach was pretty important in sustaining success. Instead, Rosario made no adjustments and kept swinging at nearly everything and found himself optioned to Rochester by mid-May. He raked in Rochester and has now returned to the Twins. Hopefully we’ll see some improvement.Eddie Rosario is just one example of a young player taking a step backwards (or not taking a step forward) this year. Miguel Sano had a monster first half-season in the big leagues in 2015. He was all right in the first half of this season, when healthy, but certainly not performing to the level we had hoped. Byron Buxton has been great in the field, but he has really struggled with the bat. In fact, he was sent down to Rochester for about a month, and he again dominated the minor leagues. Jose Berrios finally got an opportunity, but he posted an ERA over 10 in four starts and really struggled with his control. He was sent back to Rochester where he appears to have turned things around again. He should be back in the big leagues soon. Finally, Alex Meyer was terrific through his first three starts in Rochester. In fact, he was called up to the Twins. He was to work long relief, but when Milone was removed from the rotation, he was put into the rotation. He made one start, and the Twins wisely sent him back to Rochester after the game to bring up a reliever for a few days before Ervin Santana took back his rotation spot. Unfortunately, in Meyer’s first bullpen session upon his return to the Red Wings, he felt something in his shoulder. That was the first week in May, and he has not pitched in a game since, nearly two months. These four players are a big part of the plans that Terry Ryan and company had. These elite prospects need to become solid (or better) big leaguers for the organization to regain some status. Fortunately, Max Kepler has played very well the last two or three weeks and fits into the same category now as the four listed above. Similarly, Tyler Duffey struggled early in the season but hopefully has made the adjustments to turn things around.As much as the young players struggled early, and they did, in my mind that wasn’t the big issue. I expect some struggles from young players. What really hurt, in my mind, were the struggles of some of the veterans early in the year. Brian Dozier has been on fire since the beginning of June, but through the first two months of the season, he was hitting .202/.294/.329 (.624) with just twelve extra-base hits. Similarly, Trevor Plouffe hit just .246/.273/.369 (.642) with nine extra-base hits through May. Kurt Suzuki was hitting .212/.266/.293 (.559) with five extra-base hits through May. Joe Mauer was terrific in April and has struggled since, other than a power streak in late May. Hughes. Nolasco. Milone. Jepsen. Fien. Ervin Santana. Even Kyle Gibson, who was the team’s pitcher of the year last year, struggled early and then missed about six weeks with injury. The veterans that we were hoping to gett quality play from have struggled as much as the young players.Eduardo Escobar finally went into spring training being handed a starting shortstop job. He earned it. He had tremendous second halves in 2014 and 2015. Unfortunately after a quick start, he struggled mightily and then got hurt and went on the DL. Eduardo Nunez took his spot and he took off and hasn’t slowed down since.I mean, those are just my thoughts from the top of my head. If I spent more time thinking about it, there would certainly be more issues. It was a disastrous first half of the season, and we will see what happens in the second half. There are some reasons to believe they will be better in the second half, and there are plenty of story lines to follow over the final 80 games. But the Twins first half has been dreadful and can be summarized by quoting Murphy’s Law: If anything could go wrong, it probably already has gone wrong for the Twins in the 2016 season. Click here to view the article
  15. Let’s start at the end of last year. The Twins were not officially eliminated from the playoffs until after their 161st game. Hope was high as the offseason began. And that’s why 2016 has been so incredibly disappointing for the fans, and likely even more so for the players and the front office. If anything can go wrong… I believe that the Twins were very surprised when they learned that Torii Hunter had decided to retire. As much as we know that his skills had fallen, he really did have a major influence in the clubhouse. To what degree, there is no way to measure, but Hunter’s influence is unquestionably missed. The Twins traded Aaron Hicks to the Yankees for John Ryan Murphy. On the surface, the trade made a lot of sense for both teams. The Yankees have an aging outfield that consists of Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. Hicks was brought in to be the fourth outfielder and play most of the time. The Twins have some outfield depth and needed to address an organizational need behind the plate. In acquiring Murphy, the Twins had a catcher with solid MLB experience as a backup to Brian McCann over the past few years. He is still just 24 and under team control for four more years. However, Murphy struggled mightily in spring training and at the start of the season and was sent to Rochester by early May. He’s hitting better, and he still has a future with the Twins, but the first half did not go well at all. It was announced that the Twins won the bid on 1B Byung Ho Park for a reasonable $12 million bid. Weeks later, Park arrived in Minneapolis to sign a very reasonable contract of four years and $12 million, with an option. There was a lot of excitement around the signing of the top player in Korea. The man had hit 105 home runs and driven in 270 runs over the previous two seasons, but he also struck out a ton. He showed up to spring training and acclimated himself well to his new teammates. He has shown some of the great power that we all hoped for, but his inability to make consistent contact and declining confidence got him shipped to Rochester last week. While the decision to offer arbitration to Eduardo Nunez has certainly looked wise in the season’s first half, the other three decisions have not been so beneficial for the Twins. Casey Fien got off to a bad start (7.90 ERA in 14 games) and was placed on waivers and claimed by the Dodgers the first week in May. After a brief stint in the minors, he was called up and has posted a 2.33 ERA in 16 games in LA. Tommy Milone was placed on waivers at the same time, though he went unclaimed. He went and dominated the International League for a month before being called up recently. He has been bad in two starts since his return and may not be long for the roster… again. Kevin Jepsen was the final play who was offered arbitration. Like Milone, it was an easy choice to offer it to him. He had come to the Twins in a July 31 trade last year and was tremendous for the team through the final two months. With Glen Perkins unable to pitch, Jepsen was a very reliable closer. Though no one thought he would be that great again, no one could have imagined that he would be completely unable to get anyone out. He was DFA'd over the weekend. Days earlier, it was announced that the primary pitcher the Twins traded for Jepsen, Chih-Wei Hu, was named to the Futures Game roster. Of course, that’s how July deadline trades work out. The Twins got what they wanted for 2015. The Rays got a nice pitching prospect who may be part of their future. It’s the kind of trade that the Twins will hopefully be able to make before July 31. While Glen Perkins has been hurt the past two second halves, he put in the work in the offseason and got in much better shape. The hope was that he would be able to maintain his shoulder strength throughout the season. Instead, he struggled in two appearances and went on the DL. He had shoulder surgery last week which revealed that the labrum had been separated from his shoulder. Phil Hughes was elite in 2014. He struggled in 2015. The hope was that he could be something in between in 2016. Instead, he really struggled and got demoted to the bullpen. He got hit by a line drive that fractured his leg. Last week, he had surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome which will likely affect his 2017 season as well. There was an assumption that Eddie Rosario’s production might drop a bit in 2016 after a strong rookie season. We had seen similar fall-offs in production with guys like Oswaldo Arcia, Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas, but there are exceptions to the rule that plate approach was pretty important in sustaining success. Instead, Rosario made no adjustments and kept swinging at nearly everything and found himself optioned to Rochester by mid-May. He raked in Rochester and has now returned to the Twins. Hopefully we’ll see some improvement. Eddie Rosario is just one example of a young player taking a step backwards (or not taking a step forward) this year. Miguel Sano had a monster first half-season in the big leagues in 2015. He was all right in the first half of this season, when healthy, but certainly not performing to the level we had hoped. Byron Buxton has been great in the field, but he has really struggled with the bat. In fact, he was sent down to Rochester for about a month, and he again dominated the minor leagues. Jose Berrios finally got an opportunity, but he posted an ERA over 10 in four starts and really struggled with his control. He was sent back to Rochester where he appears to have turned things around again. He should be back in the big leagues soon. Finally, Alex Meyer was terrific through his first three starts in Rochester. In fact, he was called up to the Twins. He was to work long relief, but when Milone was removed from the rotation, he was put into the rotation. He made one start, and the Twins wisely sent him back to Rochester after the game to bring up a reliever for a few days before Ervin Santana took back his rotation spot. Unfortunately, in Meyer’s first bullpen session upon his return to the Red Wings, he felt something in his shoulder. That was the first week in May, and he has not pitched in a game since, nearly two months. These four players are a big part of the plans that Terry Ryan and company had. These elite prospects need to become solid (or better) big leaguers for the organization to regain some status. Fortunately, Max Kepler has played very well the last two or three weeks and fits into the same category now as the four listed above. Similarly, Tyler Duffey struggled early in the season but hopefully has made the adjustments to turn things around. As much as the young players struggled early, and they did, in my mind that wasn’t the big issue. I expect some struggles from young players. What really hurt, in my mind, were the struggles of some of the veterans early in the year. Brian Dozier has been on fire since the beginning of June, but through the first two months of the season, he was hitting .202/.294/.329 (.624) with just twelve extra-base hits. Similarly, Trevor Plouffe hit just .246/.273/.369 (.642) with nine extra-base hits through May. Kurt Suzuki was hitting .212/.266/.293 (.559) with five extra-base hits through May. Joe Mauer was terrific in April and has struggled since, other than a power streak in late May. Hughes. Nolasco. Milone. Jepsen. Fien. Ervin Santana. Even Kyle Gibson, who was the team’s pitcher of the year last year, struggled early and then missed about six weeks with injury. The veterans that we were hoping to gett quality play from have struggled as much as the young players. Eduardo Escobar finally went into spring training being handed a starting shortstop job. He earned it. He had tremendous second halves in 2014 and 2015. Unfortunately after a quick start, he struggled mightily and then got hurt and went on the DL. Eduardo Nunez took his spot and he took off and hasn’t slowed down since. I mean, those are just my thoughts from the top of my head. If I spent more time thinking about it, there would certainly be more issues. It was a disastrous first half of the season, and we will see what happens in the second half. There are some reasons to believe they will be better in the second half, and there are plenty of story lines to follow over the final 80 games. But the Twins first half has been dreadful and can be summarized by quoting Murphy’s Law: If anything could go wrong, it probably already has gone wrong for the Twins in the 2016 season.
  16. 1) Install Miguel Sano at third base. We've discussed this quite a bit around here, so I won't dwell. It is becoming increasingly clear that Sano should be in the team's plans as a third baseman and Trevor Plouffe – who is enduring a rough campaign – should not. Make the necessary moves to open up the hot corner for Sano, allowing him to regain his comfort level there ahead of next season when the games start mattering again. This, in turn, would keep right field open for Max Kepler, who has played well enough to stick. 2) Roll with Eddie Rosario. Rosario was undoubtedly deserving of the demotion he received five weeks ago, but he has responded in a big way. The outfielder has multiple hits in 14 of the 35 games he has played in Rochester, reining in his K-rate and getting back to smashing hard liners all over the field. He still isn't walking much, and never will. But even with his ultra-aggressive ways, Rosario can be an impact player and he showed that last year. Bring him up and let him play his game over the final months. Maybe he proves himself to be the clear choice for left field next year. Maybe he builds some trade value for the offseason. Or maybe he reinforces the notion that he's going to be a fourth outfielder at best. Incidentally, Rosario has been playing center field regularly in Triple-A, which might put him in line to bump Byron Buxton, who still appears unprepared for MLB pitching. 3) Return Trevor May to a starting role. Unlike many, I was not opposed to using May in a relief role this year. I felt he brought a much-needed strikeout mentality to the bullpen and could be a pivotal piece at the back end if the team contended. The most important factor, though, was that this decision was reversible if things didn't play out well. It is now safe to say that things have not played out well. During his first month in the bullpen, May was very much the dominating force we hoped he would be. Unfortunately, the fact that he was often Paul Molitor's only trustworthy option led to overuse. May appeared in 17 of Minnesota's first 32 games, seemingly throwing with max effort each time out. It's not clear that his unraveling performance and subsequent back issues were related to his usage, but given the fact that May had been operating under a starter's routine for essentially his entire career up until last July, that seems very plausible. Even looking past that element, the Twins are suddenly in need of quality starters given the dire state of their rotation, and May deserves a shot to bolster that unit. May made his first rehab appearance in Rochester as a reliever yesterday, which isn't the most promising sign, but hopefully the plan changes. 4) Recall John Ryan Murphy. Murphy's numbers in Triple-A are far from great: he's batting .216 with a .599 OPS, though he's been trending up. The need to get him back on the roster has more to do with the circumstances surrounding him. This team has no real answers behind the plate after this year. Kurt Suzuki will be a free agent and likely won't return. Juan Centeno is has been fine as an interim backup but he's not a big-league player. The organization's prospects are not close. Right now, Murphy is the only credible option for 2017, whether we're talking starter or backup. We'll have a better idea of his true credibility if he gets a couple hundred plate appearances in the second half. 5) Let J.T. Chargois loose in the bullpen. There's no way around it: Chargois' MLB debut was a complete and total disaster. In his lone big-league appearance on June 11th, he faced eight hitters and was charged with five earned runs on three hits, two walks and an HBP. He was understandably optioned immediately afterward, forced to sit on a 67.50 major-league ERA until he gets another chance. That chance ought to come soon. The level of dominance that the fireballing righty continues to display in Triple-A makes it hard to justify keeping him there. Chargois has a 0.48 ERA and 25-to-4 K/BB ratio in 18 2/3 innings with Rochester, and hasn't allowed a run or issued a walk in five appearances since being sent back down. Given the major question marks that the Twins now face at the closer spot, they need to begin auditioning potential options quickly. Presently, Chargois arguably has a better case than anyone else in the organization, but he needs to show he can get big-league hitters out. Call him up and lengthen the leash. What would be your top priorities for the second half of the season?
  17. On Sunday, the Minnesota Twins played their 75th game of the season. Quickly closing in on the halfway point, they are on pace for a 52-110 record. Even if the Twins manage to play .500 ball the rest of the way, they'll finish with 94 losses. It goes without saying that the remainder of this season needs to be focused on 2017 and beyond. Here are five steps that the Twins can take to better prepare themselves for the future. 1) Install Miguel Sano at third base. We've discussed this quite a bit around here, so I won't dwell. It is becoming increasingly clear that Sano should be in the team's plans as a third baseman and Trevor Plouffe – who is enduring a rough campaign – should not. Make the necessary moves to open up the hot corner for Sano, allowing him to regain his comfort level there ahead of next season when the games start mattering again. This, in turn, would keep right field open for Max Kepler, who has played well enough to stick. 2) Roll with Eddie Rosario. Rosario was undoubtedly deserving of the demotion he received five weeks ago, but he has responded in a big way. The outfielder has multiple hits in 14 of the 35 games he has played in Rochester, reining in his K-rate and getting back to smashing hard liners all over the field. He still isn't walking much, and never will. But even with his ultra-aggressive ways, Rosario can be an impact player and he showed that last year. Bring him up and let him play his game over the final months. Maybe he proves himself to be the clear choice for left field next year. Maybe he builds some trade value for the offseason. Or maybe he reinforces the notion that he's going to be a fourth outfielder at best. Incidentally, Rosario has been playing center field regularly in Triple-A, which might put him in line to bump Byron Buxton, who still appears unprepared for MLB pitching. 3) Return Trevor May to a starting role. Unlike many, I was not opposed to using May in a relief role this year. I felt he brought a much-needed strikeout mentality to the bullpen and could be a pivotal piece at the back end if the team contended. The most important factor, though, was that this decision was reversible if things didn't play out well. It is now safe to say that things have not played out well. During his first month in the bullpen, May was very much the dominating force we hoped he would be. Unfortunately, the fact that he was often Paul Molitor's only trustworthy option led to overuse. May appeared in 17 of Minnesota's first 32 games, seemingly throwing with max effort each time out. It's not clear that his unraveling performance and subsequent back issues were related to his usage, but given the fact that May had been operating under a starter's routine for essentially his entire career up until last July, that seems very plausible. Even looking past that element, the Twins are suddenly in need of quality starters given the dire state of their rotation, and May deserves a shot to bolster that unit. May made his first rehab appearance in Rochester as a reliever yesterday, which isn't the most promising sign, but hopefully the plan changes. 4) Recall John Ryan Murphy. Murphy's numbers in Triple-A are far from great: he's batting .216 with a .599 OPS, though he's been trending up. The need to get him back on the roster has more to do with the circumstances surrounding him. This team has no real answers behind the plate after this year. Kurt Suzuki will be a free agent and likely won't return. Juan Centeno is has been fine as an interim backup but he's not a big-league player. The organization's prospects are not close. Right now, Murphy is the only credible option for 2017, whether we're talking starter or backup. We'll have a better idea of his true credibility if he gets a couple hundred plate appearances in the second half. 5) Let J.T. Chargois loose in the bullpen. There's no way around it: Chargois' MLB debut was a complete and total disaster. In his lone big-league appearance on June 11th, he faced eight hitters and was charged with five earned runs on three hits, two walks and an HBP. He was understandably optioned immediately afterward, forced to sit on a 67.50 major-league ERA until he gets another chance. That chance ought to come soon. The level of dominance that the fireballing righty continues to display in Triple-A makes it hard to justify keeping him there. Chargois has a 0.48 ERA and 25-to-4 K/BB ratio in 18 2/3 innings with Rochester, and hasn't allowed a run or issued a walk in five appearances since being sent back down. Given the major question marks that the Twins now face at the closer spot, they need to begin auditioning potential options quickly. Presently, Chargois arguably has a better case than anyone else in the organization, but he needs to show he can get big-league hitters out. Call him up and lengthen the leash. What would be your top priorities for the second half of the season? Click here to view the article
  18. Fort Myers, Florida and the Minnesota Twins spring training complex played host to the 2016 Florida State League All-Star Game on Saturday night. This will be the first of two All-Star Games hosted by Twins minor league affiliates this season as the Cedar Rapids Kernels will host the Midwest League All-Star Game. It was a low scoring affair as the FSL North used 11 pitchers to combine for a 1-0 shutout of the South squad. Miracle relief pitcher Yorman Landa gave up the lone run in the game. The first batter he faced cracked a double. He struck out the next two batters and the Hammond Stadium radar gun had him hitting 102 miles per hour and 100 miles per hour three more times. However a two-out ground ball single scored the run that would be the difference in the game. To see the full box score of the FSL All-Star Game, click here and read on to see how the other Twins affiliates did on Saturday.RED WINGS REPORT Rochester 5, Toledo 1 Box Score Logan Darnell has been one of the most consistent starters for Rochester this season as he helped the club to their 41st win on Saturday night. He pitched seven strong innings, allowing one run on four hits while striking out six and walking two. The six strikeouts were a season high for him.It was his eighth victory on the season which is the most wins by any pitcher in the International League. Marcus Walden and JT Chargois both put up zeros on the board to seal the victory. Walden allowed one hit and struck out two. Chargois had a couple batters reach against him but he didn't walk anyone and he lowered his season ERA to 0.57. Rochester's two biggest hits came off the bats of Jorge Polanco and John Ryan Murphy. Polanco gave the Red Wings an early 2-0 when he drove in a pair of runs on a two-out double. Murphy went 2-for-3 and knocked in two runs of his own. Adam Brett Walker reached base twice and didn't strike out. CHATTANOOGA CHATTER Chattanooga 4, Montgomery 2 Box Score The top four batters in the Lookouts line-up lead the offensive attack on Saturday night. This group combined for 10 of the team's 11 hits with each player having multiple-hit nights. Daniel Palka continued his impressive season by going 3-for-5 with a triple and a double. Engelb Vielma scored three runs and collected three hits including his third double. Travis Harrison reached base three times and drove in a pair of runs. With the top end of the line-up supporting him, Aaron Slegers was able to earn his fifth victory. He scattered three hits over 6.1 innings to limit the Biscuits offense to two runs. He struck out four and walked three. Jake Reed earned his ninth hold by pitching 1.2 perfect innings. Trevor Hildenberger collected his 11th save with a perfect ninth inning. KERNELS NUGGETS Cedar Rapids 2, Quad Cities 3 Box Score With their first half playoff hopes on the line, the Kernels rallied late to tie this game but they ended up falling by one run. The team was officially knocked out of the playoff race with the loss. Dereck Rodriguez posted his best start of the season. Across six innings, he struck out eight and walked one as he allowed two runs (one earned run) on five hits. Cam Booser took the loss, his second, as he allowed the go-ahead run in the eighth inning. Booser pitched two innings without giving up a hit but walked two and struck out three. Cedar Rapids was held to four hits and the team left eight men on base. Overall, the team went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring positions so the team couldn't find that big hit. Sean Miller drew two walks and scored two runs. J.J Fernandez drove in both of the team's runs as part of a 1-for-4 day. TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day- Logan Darnell, Rochester Red Wings Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day- Daniel Palka, Chattanooga Lookouts SUNDAY'S PROBABLE STARTERS Rochester @ Toledo (5:05 CST)- LHP Nick Greenwood (0-0, 0.00 ERA) Chattanooga @ Montgomery (6:35 CST)- RHP Kohl Stewart (1-1, 3.14 ERA) Cedar Rapids@ Quad Cities (6:00 CST)- LHP Sam Clay (4-2, 2.64 ERA) Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss the Saturday games. Click here to view the article
  19. RED WINGS REPORT Rochester 5, Toledo 1 Box Score Logan Darnell has been one of the most consistent starters for Rochester this season as he helped the club to their 41st win on Saturday night. He pitched seven strong innings, allowing one run on four hits while striking out six and walking two. The six strikeouts were a season high for him.It was his eighth victory on the season which is the most wins by any pitcher in the International League. Marcus Walden and JT Chargois both put up zeros on the board to seal the victory. Walden allowed one hit and struck out two. Chargois had a couple batters reach against him but he didn't walk anyone and he lowered his season ERA to 0.57. Rochester's two biggest hits came off the bats of Jorge Polanco and John Ryan Murphy. Polanco gave the Red Wings an early 2-0 when he drove in a pair of runs on a two-out double. Murphy went 2-for-3 and knocked in two runs of his own. Adam Brett Walker reached base twice and didn't strike out. CHATTANOOGA CHATTER Chattanooga 4, Montgomery 2 Box Score The top four batters in the Lookouts line-up lead the offensive attack on Saturday night. This group combined for 10 of the team's 11 hits with each player having multiple-hit nights. Daniel Palka continued his impressive season by going 3-for-5 with a triple and a double. Engelb Vielma scored three runs and collected three hits including his third double. Travis Harrison reached base three times and drove in a pair of runs. With the top end of the line-up supporting him, Aaron Slegers was able to earn his fifth victory. He scattered three hits over 6.1 innings to limit the Biscuits offense to two runs. He struck out four and walked three. Jake Reed earned his ninth hold by pitching 1.2 perfect innings. Trevor Hildenberger collected his 11th save with a perfect ninth inning. KERNELS NUGGETS Cedar Rapids 2, Quad Cities 3 Box Score With their first half playoff hopes on the line, the Kernels rallied late to tie this game but they ended up falling by one run. The team was officially knocked out of the playoff race with the loss. Dereck Rodriguez posted his best start of the season. Across six innings, he struck out eight and walked one as he allowed two runs (one earned run) on five hits. Cam Booser took the loss, his second, as he allowed the go-ahead run in the eighth inning. Booser pitched two innings without giving up a hit but walked two and struck out three. Cedar Rapids was held to four hits and the team left eight men on base. Overall, the team went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring positions so the team couldn't find that big hit. Sean Miller drew two walks and scored two runs. J.J Fernandez drove in both of the team's runs as part of a 1-for-4 day. TWINS DAILY PLAYERS OF THE DAY Twins Daily Minor League Pitcher of the Day- Logan Darnell, Rochester Red Wings Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Day- Daniel Palka, Chattanooga Lookouts SUNDAY'S PROBABLE STARTERS Rochester @ Toledo (5:05 CST)- LHP Nick Greenwood (0-0, 0.00 ERA) Chattanooga @ Montgomery (6:35 CST)- RHP Kohl Stewart (1-1, 3.14 ERA) Cedar Rapids@ Quad Cities (6:00 CST)- LHP Sam Clay (4-2, 2.64 ERA) Please feel free to ask any questions and discuss the Saturday games.
  20. As we continue to prepare for the 2016 MLB Draft, today I present a review of the catchers in the Minnesota Twins organization. Yesterday, we reviewed the Outfielders. Next week, we’ll continue with the Infielders and the pitchers while I’ll also post my updated Top 30 Twins Prospect rankings. Why look at the organization’s depth before the draft? As we mentioned yesterday, taking "best player available" is always the right strategy early in the draft, but in the later rounds, it might be important to add some depth at other positions as they look to fill some rosters.Minnesota Twins - Kurt Suzuki, Juan Centeno The Twins signed Suzuki before the 2014 season to a nice, one-year contract. He had an all-star caliber first half, so they extended him and he immediately turned back into the catcher and hitter he had been the previous few seasons. The Twins have played him less this year, ensuring that his $6 million option will not vest. Juan Centeno was brought in as a minor league free agent. He had a solid spring training and when John Ryan Murphy struggled and was sent to Rochester, the 26-year-old was called up and is off to a good start. Rochester Red Wings - John Ryan Murphy, Carlos Paulino Murphy came over from the Yankees where he spent parts of three seasons backing up Brian McCann. Nothing in his MLB or minor league track record indicated he would slump as badly as he did in the season’s first month. However, he is still young and can become a starting-caliber MLB catcher. Carlos Paulino also was invited to MLB spring training after joining the Twins organization a year ago. He is a defense-first catcher. Chattanooga Lookouts - Stuart Turner, Mitch Garver, Jairo Rodriguez In a way, Stuart Turner and Mitch Garver have been linked since they were drafted in the 2013 draft. At the same time, this is the first year they have been on the same team since that summer in Elizabethton. While the senior-sign Garver began his first full season in Cedar Rapids, Turner (who signed after his junior season at Ole Miss) skipped straight to High-A. While Garver was our hitter of the year in 2014, Turner has struggled with the bat. Turner spent all of 2015 in Chattanooga while Garver is there for the first time. Turner has the reputation as a better defensive catcher while Garver is known for a bigger bat. Reports indicate that Garver has narrowed the gap defensively. He stacks up among the best in the minor leagues at pitch framing while throwing out about 73% of would-be base stealers. Garver just returned to the lineup on Wednesday after suffering a concussion. Jairo Rodriguez is one of the longest-tenured players in the Twins organization. He has played throughout the system over the last eight or nine years, serving as a backup (or third catcher) where needed. Ft. Myers Miracle - Brian Navarreto, Kevin Garcia Brian Navarreto has a powerful arm. He also has size that one might think could develop some power. To this point, however, he hasn’t hit at all. Kevin Garcia signed with the Twins before spring training after being let go by the Tigers after a couple of pro seasons. He began this season in extended spring but came up when Alex Swim abruptly retired. Cedar Rapids Kernels - AJ Murray, Brian Olson AJ Murray has been one of the better hitters in the organization so far this year. He takes quality atebats, gets on base and has some power. He also has been the primary catcher behind the plate. Olson was a late-round pick a year ago. He hit well in the GCL and in Elizabethton last year. While he started the season in EST, he has hit well over .300 since joining the Kernels. Extended Spring Training - Bryant Hayman, Robert Molina, Rainis Silva, Jhon Alvarez, Jose Ortiz, Kerby Camacho (Suspended) Rainis Silva is the best prospect of this group. He is very good defensively. He spent a little time in Cedar Rapids last year before the Elizabethton season started. Hayman started the season in Cedar Rapids this year but was recently sent back to extended spring. Molina played last year in the GCL. He also gets time at first base. Alvarez and Ortiz are in the States after playing in the Dominican Summer League last year. Top Prospects 1.) Mitch Garver, 2.) Stuart Turner, 3.) AJ Murray Draft Thoughts It is very difficult to get a catcher to the big leagues for several reasons. Injury/Concussion - Yes, there are a lot of catcher concussions due to repeated foul tips to the face mask as well as “regular” injuries. It is a position of attrition in some ways.Most organizations value defense above hitting for catchers for obvious reasons. They have to be smart and call a good game while working with individual pitchers, but they also need to have a strong arm and enough accuracy to help control a running game. Pitch framing and ability to block balls in the dirt are also important.However, a starting catcher also needs to hit enough . “Enough” can be dependent on team.Look at the number of catchers the organization keeps at extended spring training. In some ways, an organization needs to draft a few catchers every year just to help with bullpens in the rookie leagues and in spring training (and EST). In the past, the Twins have typically drafted at least one catcher in the top ten rounds. They then will draft a couple more in the later rounds. Just a few years ago, the Twins drafted Stuart Turner, Jorge Fernandez and Mitch Garver in the first nine rounds. The Twins have quantity of catchers. In my opinion, they should take one in the top three or four rounds if they believe he can develop into a starter at some point. Then maybe add one or two in the late rounds. Click here to view the article
  21. Minnesota Twins - Kurt Suzuki, Juan Centeno The Twins signed Suzuki before the 2014 season to a nice, one-year contract. He had an all-star caliber first half, so they extended him and he immediately turned back into the catcher and hitter he had been the previous few seasons. The Twins have played him less this year, ensuring that his $6 million option will not vest. Juan Centeno was brought in as a minor league free agent. He had a solid spring training and when John Ryan Murphy struggled and was sent to Rochester, the 26-year-old was called up and is off to a good start. Rochester Red Wings - John Ryan Murphy, Carlos Paulino Murphy came over from the Yankees where he spent parts of three seasons backing up Brian McCann. Nothing in his MLB or minor league track record indicated he would slump as badly as he did in the season’s first month. However, he is still young and can become a starting-caliber MLB catcher. Carlos Paulino also was invited to MLB spring training after joining the Twins organization a year ago. He is a defense-first catcher. Chattanooga Lookouts - Stuart Turner, Mitch Garver, Jairo Rodriguez In a way, Stuart Turner and Mitch Garver have been linked since they were drafted in the 2013 draft. At the same time, this is the first year they have been on the same team since that summer in Elizabethton. While the senior-sign Garver began his first full season in Cedar Rapids, Turner (who signed after his junior season at Ole Miss) skipped straight to High-A. While Garver was our hitter of the year in 2014, Turner has struggled with the bat. Turner spent all of 2015 in Chattanooga while Garver is there for the first time. Turner has the reputation as a better defensive catcher while Garver is known for a bigger bat. Reports indicate that Garver has narrowed the gap defensively. He stacks up among the best in the minor leagues at pitch framing while throwing out about 73% of would-be base stealers. Garver just returned to the lineup on Wednesday after suffering a concussion. Jairo Rodriguez is one of the longest-tenured players in the Twins organization. He has played throughout the system over the last eight or nine years, serving as a backup (or third catcher) where needed. Ft. Myers Miracle - Brian Navarreto, Kevin Garcia Brian Navarreto has a powerful arm. He also has size that one might think could develop some power. To this point, however, he hasn’t hit at all. Kevin Garcia signed with the Twins before spring training after being let go by the Tigers after a couple of pro seasons. He began this season in extended spring but came up when Alex Swim abruptly retired. Cedar Rapids Kernels - AJ Murray, Brian Olson AJ Murray has been one of the better hitters in the organization so far this year. He takes quality atebats, gets on base and has some power. He also has been the primary catcher behind the plate. Olson was a late-round pick a year ago. He hit well in the GCL and in Elizabethton last year. While he started the season in EST, he has hit well over .300 since joining the Kernels. Extended Spring Training - Bryant Hayman, Robert Molina, Rainis Silva, Jhon Alvarez, Jose Ortiz, Kerby Camacho (Suspended) Rainis Silva is the best prospect of this group. He is very good defensively. He spent a little time in Cedar Rapids last year before the Elizabethton season started. Hayman started the season in Cedar Rapids this year but was recently sent back to extended spring. Molina played last year in the GCL. He also gets time at first base. Alvarez and Ortiz are in the States after playing in the Dominican Summer League last year. Top Prospects 1.) Mitch Garver, 2.) Stuart Turner, 3.) AJ Murray Draft Thoughts It is very difficult to get a catcher to the big leagues for several reasons. Injury/Concussion - Yes, there are a lot of catcher concussions due to repeated foul tips to the face mask as well as “regular” injuries. It is a position of attrition in some ways. Most organizations value defense above hitting for catchers for obvious reasons. They have to be smart and call a good game while working with individual pitchers, but they also need to have a strong arm and enough accuracy to help control a running game. Pitch framing and ability to block balls in the dirt are also important. However, a starting catcher also needs to hit enough . “Enough” can be dependent on team. Look at the number of catchers the organization keeps at extended spring training. In some ways, an organization needs to draft a few catchers every year just to help with bullpens in the rookie leagues and in spring training (and EST). In the past, the Twins have typically drafted at least one catcher in the top ten rounds. They then will draft a couple more in the later rounds. Just a few years ago, the Twins drafted Stuart Turner, Jorge Fernandez and Mitch Garver in the first nine rounds. The Twins have quantity of catchers. In my opinion, they should take one in the top three or four rounds if they believe he can develop into a starter at some point. Then maybe add one or two in the late rounds.
  22. They have already given up on the latter acquisition. John Hicks was placed on waivers to make room for Jose Berrios and was immediately claimed by the Tigers, leaving Minnesota with two catchers on the 40-man roster. One is Kurt Suzuki, who is likely in his last year with the Twins. The other is John Ryan Murphy, who is off to an utterly miserable start in his new uniform. When they traded Aaron Hicks for Murphy during the offseason, the Twins were hopeful that the improving 24-year-old backstop, a former prep star and second-round draft pick, could develop into a fixture behind the plate. Instead, he just looks like a player that badly needs to be fixed. Murphy was slow to get going in spring training. Given the lion's share of reps at catcher, he collected just five singles in 36 at-bats for a .139 average. "It's timing more than anything," said Joe Vavra, a former hitting instructor turned bench coach, when asked about the newcomer's struggles at the time. Timing still appears to be Murphy's primary issue, and I'm not talking about the poor timing of batting .086 in your first month when trying to make an impression on a new organization and fanbase. In April, Murphy put up a dreadful .225 OPS and it wasn't because opposing pitchers were flat-out overwhelming him. He struck out only five times in 38 plate appearances, but still managed just three hits – a pair of singles and a ground ball double. His BABIP currently stands at .100, meaning he is only getting a hit on one out of 10 balls he puts into play. It's not hard to see why when you look at his batted ball data; Murphy has hit a grounder or fly ball almost 90 percent of the time, with a meager 10.3 percent line drive rate. That is a rather blatant indication that his timing is off, and he's not quite squaring up the ball. The best way to resolve that problem is with regular at-bats. Murphy hasn't gotten those. Only once has he started consecutive games and usually he's been on the bench for multiple days between appearances. It's a bit of a hard sell to suggest that a guy whose batting average starts with zero should be playing more regularly, but I believe that would be the best course for Paul Molitor at this point. Murphy is bound to start collecting some hits and even if he doesn't you're not losing all that much by taking Kurt Suzuki's bat out of the lineup. Plus, additional rest could only be beneficial for the veteran, who has logged more than 9,000 MLB innings at catcher and routinely takes a beating. The other option for ramping up Murphy's at-bat count would be to send him to the minors, where he could start everyday, but unfortunately the aforementioned decision to waive Hicks leaves the Twins with no readily available replacement. In order to demote Murphy, another catcher would need to be added to the 40-man. Stuart Turner and Mitch Garver, the two best catching prospects in the system (faint praise), are both at Double-A and batting around .250. Neither belongs in the majors right now. The current starter in Rochester is Juan Centeno, a 26-year-old non-prospect with a .589 OPS at Triple-A. Unless Ryan can pull off a trade or salvage something off of the waiver wire, there's really no feasible option for replacing Murphy, not to mention Suzuki if he got injured. It's a bad situation, and there aren't any great options. But the Twins saw something in Murphy, and so now they might as well give him some more regular exposure to find out if it can emerge. Given the alternatives, they really need it to.
  23. The Twins had a glaring need to improve at the catcher position during the offseason. With no clear long-term solution in place, fans hoped to see Terry Ryan and the front office take aggressive action toward addressing this stark organizational weakness. The moves that the club ended up making probably would not be described as such. The Twins traded an expendable outfielder for a backup catcher from the Yankees, and grabbed a discarded backstop from the Mariners system off of waivers.They have already given up on the latter acquisition. John Hicks was placed on waivers to make room for Jose Berrios and was immediately claimed by the Tigers, leaving Minnesota with two catchers on the 40-man roster. One is Kurt Suzuki, who is likely in his last year with the Twins. The other is John Ryan Murphy, who is off to an utterly miserable start in his new uniform. When they traded Aaron Hicks for Murphy during the offseason, the Twins were hopeful that the improving 24-year-old backstop, a former prep star and second-round draft pick, could develop into a fixture behind the plate. Instead, he just looks like a player that badly needs to be fixed. Murphy was slow to get going in spring training. Given the lion's share of reps at catcher, he collected just five singles in 36 at-bats for a .139 average. "It's timing more than anything," said Joe Vavra, a former hitting instructor turned bench coach, when asked about the newcomer's struggles at the time. Timing still appears to be Murphy's primary issue, and I'm not talking about the poor timing of batting .086 in your first month when trying to make an impression on a new organization and fanbase. In April, Murphy put up a dreadful .225 OPS and it wasn't because opposing pitchers were flat-out overwhelming him. He struck out only five times in 38 plate appearances, but still managed just three hits – a pair of singles and a ground ball double. His BABIP currently stands at .100, meaning he is only getting a hit on one out of 10 balls he puts into play. It's not hard to see why when you look at his batted ball data; Murphy has hit a grounder or fly ball almost 90 percent of the time, with a meager 10.3 percent line drive rate. That is a rather blatant indication that his timing is off, and he's not quite squaring up the ball. The best way to resolve that problem is with regular at-bats. Murphy hasn't gotten those. Only once has he started consecutive games and usually he's been on the bench for multiple days between appearances. It's a bit of a hard sell to suggest that a guy whose batting average starts with zero should be playing more regularly, but I believe that would be the best course for Paul Molitor at this point. Murphy is bound to start collecting some hits and even if he doesn't you're not losing all that much by taking Kurt Suzuki's bat out of the lineup. Plus, additional rest could only be beneficial for the veteran, who has logged more than 9,000 MLB innings at catcher and routinely takes a beating. The other option for ramping up Murphy's at-bat count would be to send him to the minors, where he could start everyday, but unfortunately the aforementioned decision to waive Hicks leaves the Twins with no readily available replacement. In order to demote Murphy, another catcher would need to be added to the 40-man. Stuart Turner and Mitch Garver, the two best catching prospects in the system (faint praise), are both at Double-A and batting around .250. Neither belongs in the majors right now. The current starter in Rochester is Juan Centeno, a 26-year-old non-prospect with a .589 OPS at Triple-A. Unless Ryan can pull off a trade or salvage something off of the waiver wire, there's really no feasible option for replacing Murphy, not to mention Suzuki if he got injured. It's a bad situation, and there aren't any great options. But the Twins saw something in Murphy, and so now they might as well give him some more regular exposure to find out if it can emerge. Given the alternatives, they really need it to. Click here to view the article
  24. The Twins found themselves in a little kerfuffle with their long-term catching plans. Kurt Suzuki was brought in to bridge the gap to some of the younger catching prospects in the organization. With Suzuki's aging body, the Twins traded former first round pick Aaron Hicks to the Yankees for catcher John Ryan Murphy. Murphy has struggled in limited action this season. Through this weekend's games, he has three hits in 35 plate appearances and only one of those hits has been for extra-bases. Suzuki has fared a little better as he has gone 7-for-37 but four of his seven hits have gone for extra-bases. With the weak production from the current catching core, it's tough not to look to the future. Stuart Turner was drafted by the Twins in the third round of the 2013 MLB June Amateur Draft from the University of Mississippi. With his college experience, the Twins have not been afraid to be aggressive with Turner. He has been younger than the competition at every stop except for rookie ball. With Minnesota's aggressive approach, Turner has encountered some offensive struggles. At Fort Myers in 2014, he hit under .250 with a .698 OPS while getting on base 32.2% of the time. Those numbers dipped a little last season as he made the jump to Double-A. He still posted a .322 OBP but hit only .223 and slugged .306. These aren't exactly offensive numbers to write home about. Turner has gotten high praise during his time in the system as a good game caller while being a strong defensive presence behind the plate. He's a leader on and off the field and that provides a lot of value to a club even if his bat never turns around... but what if his bat finally caught up to his defensive prowess? The Twins sent Turner to the Arizona Fall League this past off-season and for the first time in his career, he has been asked to repeat a level to start 2016. The Twins could have been aggressive with him and sent him to Rochester but the organization thought it would be best for him to go back to Chattanooga. That decisions seems to be paying dividends so far. Through this weekend's action, Turner was hitting .286/.432/.486 with four doubles and a home run. All of those numbers would put him on pace for career high totals. The most positive sign might be that Turner is doing this at Double-A in his age-24 season where he is roughly the same age as the competition. This isn't a move that is going to happen in the next week or month but Turner is looking more and more like a long-term solution to the Twins catching woes. If Turner can continue to evolve into a catcher who can be more than a defense-first option, he can become a vital piece for the Twins as they head into a new era. When the Twins have gone on World Series runs in the past, the catcher has always been a role player. His defense, game calling, and leadership will continue to be strong. Turner can be that type of solid contributing role player as the Twins attempt to return to their World Series glory in the years to come.
  25. Minnesota had their anchor at catcher but tell the baseball gods your plan and they will laugh in your face. Joe Mauer was locked into a long-term contract and he looked like he was on his way to a Hall of Fame catching career. There was a chance that Mauer could beat out the likes of Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra to be the best backstop of all time. Those plans changed in recent years as Mauer's concussion-related symptoms have moved him out from behind the plate.The Twins found themselves in a little kerfuffle with their long-term catching plans. Kurt Suzuki was brought in to bridge the gap to some of the younger catching prospects in the organization. With Suzuki's aging body, the Twins traded former first round pick Aaron Hicks to the Yankees for catcher John Ryan Murphy. Murphy has struggled in limited action this season. Through this weekend's games, he has three hits in 35 plate appearances and only one of those hits has been for extra-bases. Suzuki has fared a little better as he has gone 7-for-37 but four of his seven hits have gone for extra-bases. With the weak production from the current catching core, it's tough not to look to the future. Stuart Turner was drafted by the Twins in the third round of the 2013 MLB June Amateur Draft from the University of Mississippi. With his college experience, the Twins have not been afraid to be aggressive with Turner. He has been younger than the competition at every stop except for rookie ball. With Minnesota's aggressive approach, Turner has encountered some offensive struggles. At Fort Myers in 2014, he hit under .250 with a .698 OPS while getting on base 32.2% of the time. Those numbers dipped a little last season as he made the jump to Double-A. He still posted a .322 OBP but hit only .223 and slugged .306. These aren't exactly offensive numbers to write home about. Turner has gotten high praise during his time in the system as a good game caller while being a strong defensive presence behind the plate. He's a leader on and off the field and that provides a lot of value to a club even if his bat never turns around... but what if his bat finally caught up to his defensive prowess? The Twins sent Turner to the Arizona Fall League this past off-season and for the first time in his career, he has been asked to repeat a level to start 2016. The Twins could have been aggressive with him and sent him to Rochester but the organization thought it would be best for him to go back to Chattanooga. That decisions seems to be paying dividends so far. Through this weekend's action, Turner was hitting .286/.432/.486 with four doubles and a home run. All of those numbers would put him on pace for career high totals. The most positive sign might be that Turner is doing this at Double-A in his age-24 season where he is roughly the same age as the competition. This isn't a move that is going to happen in the next week or month but Turner is looking more and more like a long-term solution to the Twins catching woes. If Turner can continue to evolve into a catcher who can be more than a defense-first option, he can become a vital piece for the Twins as they head into a new era. When the Twins have gone on World Series runs in the past, the catcher has always been a role player. His defense, game calling, and leadership will continue to be strong. Turner can be that type of solid contributing role player as the Twins attempt to return to their World Series glory in the years to come. Click here to view the article
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