June 23, 2010

Twins Notes: Mauer, Lowell, Bonser, Neshek, Plouffe, and prospects

• A few weeks ago after Ken Griffey Jr. retired friend of AG.com Jay Jaffe wrote a good article at Baseball Prospectus focusing on his place in baseball history, which also included this list of the best No. 1 overall picks of all time based on Wins Above Replacement Position (WARP):

NO. 1 PICK           YEAR     WARP
Alex Rodriguez       1993    101.0
Ken Griffey Jr.      1987     79.7
Chipper Jones        1990     72.4
Harold Baines        1977     48.4
Darryl Strawberry    1980     46.9
Joe Mauer            2001     34.5

I was surprised to see that only six No. 1 overall picks in baseball history have accumulated as many as 30 career WARP. To put that in some Twins-related context, Corey Koskie and Greg Gagne had 26.0 and 24.6 career WARP, respectively. Joe Mauer is already the sixth-best No. 1 pick ever despite being in the middle of his age-27 season. He won't top Alex Rodriguez and may be a long shot to pass Griffey, but should give Chipper Jones a run for the third spot.

• Last week I examined whether the Twins should trade for Mike Lowell after Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reported they were talking to the Red Sox about the veteran third baseman. Rosenthal has since followed up his initial report, adding that the Red Sox are in a "stalemate" with the Twins and Rangers regarding Lowell because they're willing to pay the rest of his $12 million salary, but only if they get a decent player in return.

In other words the Red Sox want to save money or get a decent player. If the Twins are willing to absorb most of Lowell's remaining salary they can likely get him for a low-level prospect. If the Twins are willing to part with a mid-level prospect the Red Sox will likely pay the rest of his salary. Either way, the price is right. Lowell makes sense as a third baseman or DH platoon partner for Jason Kubel, who has a Jacque Jones-like .235/.317/.352 career line off lefties.

• Traded to the Red Sox in December after missing all of last year following shoulder surgery, Boof Bonser spent the first two months of this season on the disabled list, allowed four runs without recording an out in his first big-league appearance in 21 months, and was designated for assignment a week later. Meanwhile, the prospect the Twins got in return, Chris Province, has a 5.66 ERA in 41 innings as a 25-year-old reliever at Double-A. Seems like a fair trade.

• After angering the team by writing publicly about his injury status, Pat Neshek was activated from the disabled list and optioned to Triple-A earlier this month, with Ron Gardenhire saying:

He's just like everyone else in the minor leagues now. He's got to pitch his way back up. When there's a need, he'll get an opportunity ... if he's the one throwing the ball good.

Neshek has pitched in four Triple-A games with a 2.00 ERA, .152 opponents' batting average, and 7-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in nine innings. So far so good, although I doubt he's gotten much closer to rejoining the Twins and even a 2.00 ERA ranks just third-best in the Rochester bullpen behind Kyle Waldrop at 1.16 and Anthony Slama at 1.60 ERA. Despite that, Rochester is 28-41 and has the worst team ERA in the International League at 5.03.

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reported recently that the Orioles have been "sniffing around for a shortstop" and Trevor Plouffe "is rumored to have piqued their interest." Plouffe was oddly the only shortstop Stark mentioned by name and that seems like some awfully random smoke if there's zero fire behind it. Over the weekend Plouffe was sent back to Triple-A, where he's hit a career-best .278/.340/.449 in 54 games.

• Last week B.J. Hermsen was four outs from a no-hitter at low Single-A, settling for a one-hit shutout. Friend of AG.com and former part-time MLB.com Twins beat writer Thor Nystrom was in attendance and told me Hermsen was "very solid looking" and "goes after guys." However, he was surprised that Hermsen "doesn't throw hard for his size" and "doesn't have dominant stuff," which matches reports I got before ranking him as this year's 18th-best Twins prospect.

• After signing in September for $3.15 million, Miguel Sano homered on the first pitch he saw in the Dominican Summer League and is hitting .341/.444/.636 in 14 games. What makes that even more impressive is the DSL as a whole hitting .234 with a .315 slugging percentage this year, so his OPS is 427 points higher than the league average. Also worth noting is that Sano has played primarily third base, so any notion of him as a long-term shortstop is already over.

• In less positive prospect news, last year's supplemental first-round pick Matthew Bashore is out for the season following Tommy John elbow surgery and third-round pick Ben Tootle is out indefinitely after shoulder surgery. Bashore signed for $750,000 shortly after the draft, but got into just one game before being shut down and never pitched this year. Tootle looked good in his debut last year, but gave up 17 runs in 18 innings before going under the knife this year.

• Outfield prospect Rene Tosoni is also out for the season following shoulder surgery, which is a shame because he was off to a good start at Double-A after ranking 11th on my preseason list and could have factored into the Twins' plans at some point next season.

20 Comments »

  1. This Sano seems to be great..!!! But how good is this DSL??? How competitive it is??? Whats your opinion?? How it stands in relation to the Appalachian league???
    Is Sano really 16/17???

    Bashore, Tosoni and Tootle all out is a shame.

    Comment by Chris — June 23, 2010 @ 1:06 am

  2. Minor league system=over rated…..Name the 2B, SS, 3B, LF, top of the order starter brought up in the last 5 years…..Name the top of the bullpen guy they’ve drafted and developed. The problem with this team is that they think they are great, when all they are is good.

    Comment by mike wants wins — June 23, 2010 @ 8:55 am

  3. I don’t know if I’d say the Farm is overrated (by some people it probably is), any reports I’ve read this year that talked about MLB Minor League Systems or ranked them never talked about the Twins being great or in the top 10 or anything. They all just said they do what they need to do and do it well, keeping a level of consistency few can match. But Sano, Hicks, Morales, Revere, Kepler, Ramos, Valencia, Gibson, Hendriks and Wimmers makes up a pretty good front end of talent if you ask me. And I think the farm as a whole has been able to help out the MLB squad pretty good this year so far. Hughes, Plouffe, Burnett, Manship, Valencia, Ramos have all filled in pretty well when asked. It’s about time for May[day] or Crain-wreck to go in favor of Slama or Waldrop though.

    I’m also now curious as to what Trevor Plouffe would bring in a deal if someone is ‘sniffing’ around him. At this point I’d make a team overpay for him if I was the Twins and someone really wanted him.

    Comment by Steve L. — June 23, 2010 @ 9:36 am

  4. MWW, name one source in the last 5 years that has said the Twins have a top of the league farm system. Put it in perspective. When Gibson was drafted, 14 pitchers had been selected before him; 10 were picked this year ahead of Wimmers. What was the highest place in the draft order for the Twins in the last 5 years? #14 when they took Revere, probably enduring your criticism at the time? What I’m hearing experts say is that the Twins have put together a better than average talent pool. They’ve done it without the benefit of early picks. And they’ve been improving the talent pool rather dramatically most recently, spending freely to do it. These people are not over-rating the system. You, on the other hand, are being overly critical.

    Comment by birdofprey — June 23, 2010 @ 12:38 pm

  5. I think I meant overrated by the Twins and their fans. This belief that they can draft and develop players, and not sign free agents (and not trade for young players in their prime) and still win it all. The belief that they should hold onto their prospects and not deal them for short term gain. I think the team is good to very good.

    I think the farm system turns out good starting pitchers, but not great ones. I think it is terrible at turning out ss, 2b, 3b. It may or may not be effective in the development of OF players, but I’d say they’ve been largely successful there. I think it actually turns out more relief pitchers than the Twins seem to think (as I think they could easily have more locally grown talent in the bullpen). But, overall, I think having a league average system will not create many championship level MLB systems. If the talent pool is so much better right now, name me some players you look at as certain MLB stars. Name me the players that have really stepped up this year, and improved their standing as a prospect? I do think they have some guys with upside, real serious upside. But, they are mostly at A ball or below, so it’s pretty hard to say with any confidence they are MLB stars (or even starters). Heck, no Seth’s site I was accused of being too rosy eyed when I said I was certain at least one of Hicks/Morales/Benson would be a legit MLB big time player……so I guess now I’m confused.

    Comment by mike wants wins — June 23, 2010 @ 12:58 pm

  6. Someone is forgetting Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza.

    Comment by corybante — June 23, 2010 @ 3:16 pm

  7. Bartlett has had as many good as bad years. Trust me, I have not forgotten who was traded away for Young. Garza, I’ve always been a huge believer in him. But, he’s not always been as effective as I think he should be. I’m not forgetting either one, I’m just not convinced Bartlett is as good as I thought he was. Garza, him I still believe in. I think I did mention they are good at developing good pitchers, right? That’s what he’s been, somewhere between good and very good (though not so much this year).

    I forgot to add they have been great with catcher, with Mauer and Ramos (who they should have considered selling high on once they signed Mauer, but I still believe will have good/great value later this year). First base is tougher to judge, as Morneau has been great, but there haven’t been a lot of guys developed after him (either as trade bait or DH types). DH is tough to judge. I do believe in Kubel, but before that it was a black hole.

    Comment by mike wants wins — June 23, 2010 @ 3:23 pm

  8. MWW: There is more to say, but for now I think you are forgetting about three players: Johan Santana, Francisco Liriano and Joe Nathan. All three were either pieces in trade or Rule 5 selections, but all three were to some extent brought up through the system.

    Also, it is unrealistic to expect any farm system to constantly produce star level talent at every position. Sure, there has been a lack of impact players in the middle infield recently, but there has been value at those positions (like Bartlett, and, yes, Punto). Being able to produce even league average talent is often times a victory, and the Twins do that well. Throw in some serious talent like Mauer and Morneau, and I think you are being way too critical, and, frankly, unrealistic in your assessment of the minor league system.

    Comment by Ted — June 23, 2010 @ 5:06 pm

  9. Actually, you know what, Bartlett was a good player who was never fully appreciated here. He was always criticized for what he was not (the #2 hitter that Gardenhire insists is in every middle infielder’s job description), but rarely thanked for what he was (a consistent glove at SS and a decent bat with good baserunning skills). He was about a 3 WAR player while in MN, but no one seemed to think he was good enough which is why most here thought of him as a throw-in component of the Garza/DY trade.

    Fact is, Tampa made MN look silly. And fans here just cannot accept that Bartlett was a good player.

    It is hard to find quality middle infielders, and even more difficult to find quality shortstops. So you keep saying that the organization has not brought up a SS in the last five years, but you are wrong. Just plain wrong.

    Comment by Ted — June 23, 2010 @ 5:17 pm

  10. And, sure, maybe the Twins could spend a bit more freely on over-slot players in later rounds. And maybe they could take more chances on high risk arms. But the farm system has been solid for years now…maybe unspectacular, but solid. Plus the talent evaluation has been pretty darn good as well.

    Mauer is obviously a star at a premium position. Morneau is elite. Span and Kubel and Cuddyer and Baker and Slowey and others are all solid players.

    So what if Bartlett wasn’t A-Rod v2.0, if Casilla washed out and if Plouffe needs more seasoning? You are complaining because of that? This system might not ever lead the majors in talent, but it is always in the top half, which is astonishing.

    Comment by Ted — June 23, 2010 @ 5:30 pm

  11. Starting to wonder if Cuddy is our 3B after all.

    Neshek may be on the Twins’ Bad List. I mean, they could definitely use him. It’s a given he’s more useful than Crain, but excepting that the Twins won’t demote Jesse, what about Mahay? Not sure what purpose he serves at this point.

    Comment by Neil — June 23, 2010 @ 10:18 pm

  12. Accepting, not excepting. Cripes.

    Comment by Neil — June 23, 2010 @ 10:19 pm

  13. I would dispute the assertion that Punto has provided any value to the Twins, but even if he did, he is not a product of the Twins minor league system. Punto was drafted by the Phillies and spent six years in their system before being traded (as a major leaguer) to the Twins.

    Comment by Dan — June 23, 2010 @ 10:51 pm

  14. For what its worth, Barlett was in the Twins minor league system, but he was actually drafted by the Padres and acquired in a trade for Brian Buchanan.

    Comment by Dan — June 23, 2010 @ 10:57 pm

  15. Is Pluoffe for Wiggenton realistic? If so, Plouffe plus what and would Wiggenton be a good addition?

    Comment by Ricky — June 24, 2010 @ 7:52 am

  16. I agree with the statements that it is unrealistic to expect the minor league system to constantly produce stars. Hence my belief that the Twins’ belief that they can ignore free agency and trading for players in their prime is a mistake, and over rates their system and its ability all by itself to produce championship caliber teams.

    I agree that Bartlett was underappreciated here. I’m not sure anyone has been more critical of that trade than I have (which is why people call me a Delmon hater, which I’m not). If I give you him, that’s one in how many years they’ve drafted and developed (and then traded away with no one in the minors to replace him)? I just checked baseballprospectus, and it is as I thought. Three good to very good years, two years not so good, and this year (which is not good so far). So, just like I said, as many good years as bad years.

    Nathan was not developed in the system at all. I’ll mostly give you Liriano and Santana though, so there are two guys that they had that made people miss bats.

    Comment by mike wants wins — June 24, 2010 @ 11:47 am

  17. Aaron,

    O’s fan here unfortunately. You think the Twins would go for Tejada for Trevor Plouffe? He is a better defender than Lowell, makes less money and is a high energy player. He is old and his bat has slipped this year but might be rejuvenated with a competitive team, at least for a couple months. Trying to find out if there is a market for him, I would think the White Sox would also be a logical destination.

    Comment by Bret — June 24, 2010 @ 1:59 pm

  18. Another S***y outing for Blackburn today. Thank god we’ve got him and his 6.00 ERA locked up for the next four years.

    Comment by Dan — June 24, 2010 @ 2:41 pm

  19. No one could have predicted this from Blackie…..just look at that ERA and W-L record…… :)

    Comment by mike wants wins — June 24, 2010 @ 7:56 pm

  20. I thought Duensing had earned a spot in the rotation after last year, and his relief work so far this year has been even better. How bad does Blackburn have to be before he loses his spot in the rotation? Does the big contract mean that isn’t going to happen?

    Comment by Dan — June 24, 2010 @ 10:47 pm

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