February 24, 2009

Twins Notes: Canada, College, Korecky, and Quotes

  • Debilitating struggles with post-concussion syndrome have sidelined Corey Koskie since crashing to the ground while chasing a foul ball on July 6, 2006, but he's been training in Twins camp recently and landed a spot on Canada's roster for the World Baseball Classic next month with an eye toward joining an MLB team. Koskie's comeback faces long odds at the age of 35, but it'd be great to see him play again after a freak injury ended a .261/.343/.490 season and basically ruined his life for two years.

    Random trivia: Koskie went 27-of-33 stealing bases in 2001 and is just one of five third basemen this decade to steal 25-plus bases in a season. Chone Figgins, David Wright, Alex Rodriguez, and Aaron Boone are the other four. Aside from that 2001 season Koskie has only 44 career steals, including no more than 11 in one year. He stole double-digit bases three times, which ranks second in team history behind four from Gary Gaetti, whose 14 steals in 1986 are second among Twins third basemen.

  • Baseball America recently posted their top 100 college prospects for this year's draft and the players ranked 7th, 32nd, 63rd, and 66th were previously drafted by the Twins but went unsigned. For instance, the Twins drafted left-hander Andrew Oliver in the 17th round when he was coming out of high school in 2006, but failed to sign him. Now he's a junior at Oklahoma State University and BA ranks Oliver as the No. 7 college prospect in the entire draft.

    LSU outfielder Jared Mitchell and Missouri outfielder Aaron Senne were other unsigned Twins picks from that same 2006 draft class and Mississippi right-hander Aaron Barrett ranks No. 66 on BA's list after going unsigned as last year's 20th rounder. Of course, the Twins are far from alone, as nine of the top 13 players were drafted previously. Among them is USC shortstop Grant Green, who was unsigned as a Padres pick in 2006 and is now the consensus top college position player available.

  • Signing Luis Ayala and Joe Crede required the Twins to clear two spots on the 40-man roster. One spot was created by placing Pat Neshek on the 60-day disabled list, which is strictly a procedural move given that he's out for the season following Tommy John elbow surgery. The other spot was created by waiving Bobby Korecky, which cost the Twins a usable bullpen arm when he was claimed by Arizona. Korecky is unlikely to be more than a solid middle reliever, but he deserved more of a chance.

    He's spent the past three seasons stuck at Triple-A despite posting a 3.34 ERA in 210.1 innings there, including a 2.91 ERA, 71-to-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio, .237 opponent's batting average, and 26 saves in 74.1 innings last season. Despite consistently strong numbers at Triple-A and a 3.09 ERA over 425.2 innings as a minor leaguer Korecky got a grand total of 16 appearances with the Twins before they let him go for nothing.

    Korecky is already 29 years old, so he's unlikely to haunt the Twins, but cutting him while keeping Matt Macri, Drew Butera, Jason Jones, and Armando Gabino on the roster is odd. Macri was superfluous with Brendan Harris around and overkill after inking Crede. Butera has hit .215/.303/.324 in the minors, so his upside is good-glove, no-hit backup catcher. Jones is a Rule 5 pick who'll be offered back when he doesn't make the team. And Gabino is a 25-year-old reliever with worse numbers than Korecky.

    UPDATE: Boof Bonser announced this morning that he's slated for shoulder surgery, which makes the decision to let Korecky go for nothing even more regrettable and increases Philip Humber's chances of making the team (and perhaps intensifies the Twins' pursuit of Juan Cruz).

  • Speaking of Ayala, can the people who get paid to write about the Twins please stop referring to him as a "sinkerballer"? When the Twins signed Ayala two weeks ago Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Phil Miller of the St. Paul Pioneer Press both called him a "sinkerball specialist" and last week LaVelle E. Neal III called him "the sinkerballing Ayala." Ayala and the Twins may tell you that he throws a sinker, but he hasn't actually had an above-average ground-ball rate since 2004.
  • Reports varied last month regarding how far along in negotiations the Twins got with Brandon Lyon, but Jon Paul Morosi of the Detroit Free Press notes that "Lyon turned down a multi-year offer to set up for the Twins ... for the chance to close in Detroit." If that's true the Twins can't be criticized for failing to sign Lyon, although choosing Ayala over relievers like Russ Springer, Jeremy Affeldt, Joe Nelson, and Bob Howry is still plenty questionable.
  • Last year Livan Hernandez got a one-year deal worth $5 million plus incentives from the Twins. This year Hernandez managed only a minor-league deal from the Mets. Here's an amusing excerpt from the New York Post story about Hernandez signing:
    Hernandez slipped badly last season, with scouts noticing a significant drop in his velocity to the low 80 mph range, and he bounced between Minnesota and Colorado. He finished 13-11 overall, but was just 3-3 with an 8.03 ERA in the thin Denver air with the Rockies.

    Hernandez attributes his swoon at the end of last season to pitching at Coors Field, which he said is a struggle, humidor or not. "Anybody in the league going to Colorado has to make an adjustment," said Hernandez, who also had knee problems in recent years. "I mean, you throw a curveball and the curveball doesn't work."

    That excerpt contains two of the many reasons why I'd be a horrible newspaper reporter. First, I'd never be able to write about "scouts noticing a significant drop in his velocity" to make it appear like passing along insider information because I'd just go to Fan Graphs and see that his average fastball velocity has actually remained remarkably consistent over the past three seasons at 83.9, 83.6, and 83.7 miles per hour. Not only aren't "scouts" needed for that information, they're apparently not even right.

    Beyond that, I'd never be able to write something like "Hernandez attributes his swoon at the end of last season to pitching at Coors Field" without mentioning the fact that Hernandez had a 5.71 ERA in his 26 starts that didn't take place at Coors Field. Apparently my alarm didn't go off on the mornings when they taught "quoting experts with incorrect versions of freely available information" and "making excuses for your subject that ignores evidence" in journalism school. Or maybe they tell you that stuff at graduation.

  • Patrick Reusse wrote a good column in the Star Tribune last week catching up with former Twins prospect Michael Restovich, who's now 30 years old and trying to make the White Sox this spring as a non-roster invitee. Restovich is a Minnesota native and 1997 second-round pick who BA ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the Twins' system for both 1999 and 2000, the No. 3 prospect for 2001, and the No. 4 prospect for 2002 and 2003.

    Despite being a highly touted former second-round pick who hit .274/.364/.442 in assorted brief stints with the Twins through the age of 25, Restovich received a grand total of just 113 at-bats before being waived at the end of spring training in 2005. He's done little since then, but given Restovich's pedigree and .284/.359/.501 career line in 4,424 plate appearances as a minor leaguer it's always surprised me that he was only able to accumulate 297 plate appearances in the majors.

  • We talked so much Twins during my live appearance on FOX's "Sports on Demand" show yesterday afternoon that the video is now broken up into six clips on the station's website.
  • Out of Context Quote of the Week, courtesy of Justin Morneau speaking about Joe Mauer: "I've told Joe, if he ever leaves me, I'll never speak to him again."

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