March 12, 2012

Twins Notes: Perkins’ extension, prospect hyperbole, and 1987 romance

• Two months after avoiding arbitration for this season with a one-year, $1.55 million deal Glen Perkins and the Twins agreed to a three-year, $10.3 million extension that includes a team option for 2016. Perkins would have been arbitration eligible for the final time in 2013, so the extension pre-pays that bill and then covers his first two seasons of free agency while giving the Twins a $4.5 million option or $300,000 buyout for his third season of free agency.

Between his 5.06 ERA as a starter and an injury grievance filed against the team Perkins was deep in the doghouse and close to being discarded, but instead he stayed with the Twins and shifted to the bullpen with great success. Perkins wore down late in the season, but that isn't shocking from a 29-year-old working as a full-time reliever for the first time ever and he still finished with a 2.48 ERA and 65-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 62 innings overall.

Perkins wasn't quite as great as his ERA suggested, largely because allowing just two homers in 253 plate appearances isn't sustainable, but his 2.92 xFIP ranked 16th among all relievers with 50 or more innings. And while committing $10.3 million to a 29-year-old with a 4.41 career ERA is certainly risky, Perkins was a completely different pitcher last season thanks to adding 3-4 miles per hour to his fastball moving from the rotation to the bullpen.

Obviously waiting to see if Perkins could duplicate that success before making the commitment would have been ideal for the Twins, but another standout year would establish him as an elite reliever and leave him just one season away from a big contract in free agency. Once a player can sniff the open market the motivation to sign a long-term deal often vanishes, so if the Twins believe the Perkins they saw in 2011 is the real deal they did well to sign him now.

Perkins will get $2.5 million in 2013, $3.75 million in both 2014 and 2015, and $4.5 million or a $300,000 buyout in 2016, all of which will be bargains if he keeps thriving as a reliever. And while the deal also includes incentives based on games finished to raise those salaries if he becomes a closer, by signing Perkins as a setup man the Twins don't have to worry as much about how racking up saves would strengthen his bargaining power and perceived value.

• More and more lately I've been trying to take the "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" approach to the local mainstream Twins coverage, but sometimes it's just too tough. Last week Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press wrote a pair of columns about Twins prospects that really had me shaking my head. First he wrote a column entitled "Brian Dozier is going to be the next big thing for Twins" that was full of fawning hyperbole:

Dozier, a shortstop from Tupelo, Miss., is going to be the next big thing for the Twins. The only question is: How soon is next? ... At the moment, there seems to be no alternative [at shortstop]. However, Twins fans should take comfort in knowing this dire situation appears temporary. Because Dozier has been advancing through the farm system at breakneck speed.

Apparently in Powers' mind "advancing through the farm system at breakneck speed" means a soon-to-be 25-year-old who began last season at high Single-A and has yet to play a game at Triple-A. But wait, there's more:

Everyone seems convinced that Dozier is the next big thing. Of course, spring training is all about hope. If you can't get excited over a prospect in spring training, heck, you should be watching a different sport. But in this case, I really do think that "next" is going to be pretty darn quick.

Powers writes that "everyone seems convinced that Dozier is the next big thing." In reality, Dozier appeared on zero prominent top-100 prospect lists and doesn't even rank as one of the Twins' top seven prospects according to John Manuel of Baseball America or Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus or Keith Law of ESPN.com. Dozier has the potential to become a solid big leaguer, but the picture being painted by Powers is misleading at best.

And then a couple days later Powers wrote another column with similarly hyperbolic prose touting Chris Parmelee as a future middle-of-the-order slugger:

A true power hitter has a different air about him when he talks about home runs. It's not about getting a good pitch to hit or guessing right on a fastball, but rather it's about a certain feeling that occurs when bat and baseball collide. True power hitters get sort of a faraway look just describing it.

"It's some feeling when you know you got it," Chris Parmelee said. "It's a good feeling, a great feeling." And if the ball is going over the fence anyway, it might as well go waaayyy over the fence, right? "Yeah, why not?" Parmelee said with a chuckle.

Parmelee, like Dozier, has the potential to be a solid big leaguer. He also has a grand total of 19 homers in 253 games and 1,073 plate appearances at Double-A. But wait, there's more:

Called up Sept. 6, Parmelee, a lefty first baseman, hit .355 in 76 at-bats. His on-base percentage was .443, and he had six doubles and four home runs. And those homers traveled a long way. ...

The good news is that he never has lost sight of his best attribute: the ability to hit the baseball a long way. In other words, his role is that of a power hitter. ... Here's a kid who can hit the ball a mile. Put him in the lineup until he shows he doesn't belong there.

Powers makes a huge deal about the four homers Parmelee hit for the Twins in September, using them as evidence that the 24-year-old with zero Triple-A experience should be playing every day in the majors, and repeatedly writes things that make it seem as though he's a big-time slugger. Yet not once in the entire 20-paragraph article does Powers mention that Parmelee had just 19 homers and a .416 slugging percentage in two seasons at Double-A.

J.J. Hardy joined David Ortiz in saying that the Twins coached him not to maximize his power potential, although unlike Ortiz he later clarified the comments to be less critical. Whatever the case, the Twins' homer total hasn't been among the league's top five since way back in 1988 and they've ranked 10th or worse 16 times during that span. They've also had one of the league's top five offenses just three times in the past 19 seasons.

Alexi Casilla didn't look awful and graded out decently statistically in 36 starts at shortstop last year, but apparently the Twins weren't impressed. During an in-game interview on FSN last week Terry Ryan said: "We tried Casilla at shortstop a couple times and it didn't really work out."

Kevin Mulvey, who was acquired from the Mets in the Johan Santana deal and then traded to the Diamondbacks for Jon Rauch, has re-signed with the Mets on a minor-league contract after being released by the Diamondbacks. And at age 26 he's little more than Triple-A filler.

• California high school right-hander Lucas Giolito is one of the Twins' potential targets with the No. 2 overall pick, but he'll miss the rest of the season with an elbow injury.

Bobby Valentine, who managed Tsuyoshi Nishioka in Japan for six years, says he predicted Nishioka's broken leg and even warned him about it last spring.

Drew Butera has hit .178/.220/.261 in the majors after hitting .214/.296/.317 in the minors, which makes this article pretty hilarious.

Jason Pridie was suspended 50 games after testing positive for a "drug of abuse," which means the Twins probably won't try to acquire him for a third time.

Doug Mientkiewicz, who last played in 2009, is the Dodgers' new rookie-ball hitting coach.

Joel Zumaya is scheduled for Tommy John surgery and will attempt another comeback.

Gary Gaetti's son is marrying Dan Gladden's daughter.

  • morts

    “Gary Gaetti’s son is marrying Dan Gladden’s daughter.”

    Their gonna have scrappy kids that play the game the right way and aren’t afraid to get dirty.

  • spoof bonser

    and one helluva wedding reception

  • mike wants wins

    Wow, that Butera article was ridiculous. “Research bears him out” that he’s streaky? Really? A 7 game stretch as evidence of that? Wow. It’s articles like that that show just how far we are as a society from understanding basic math / science.

    And, does no one on the planet realize that the words consistent and good are NOT synonymous? Drew Butera is consistent, consitently bad as a hitter.

    Somedays I weep in sadness for thes state of our intelligence as a society.

  • Martin Arrowsmith

    Gaetti/Gladden:

    Bride and bridesmaids all wearing EyeBlack.

  • BR

    Hmmm. Looking at Butera’s mL numbers suggests that he’s been underperforming and really is capable of amassing at least a .500 OPS in the Show. Now that’s clearly something.

  • BR

    As for Perkins, I think the Twins jumped the gun a bit. They should at least have waited until mid-season to get a little longer look/certainty that Perkins has truly turned the corner. Especially since the initial report indicated that there are escalator provisions should Perk become the closer (so it’s not as though the team is cleverly pulling a fast one on him).

  • SL__72

    Top 40 prospects of 2012 turning into Top 25 TOAT.

  • jason

    we all knew that garbage about Zumaya retiring was premature. he’ll be back for another payday as long as it exists and i don’t blame him but think before you speak.

  • toby

    Just saw the weight loss thing – good on you sir! And another vote for brown rice and fresh vegetables.

    I really want to believe Dr. Dan’s “contributions” are gratis.

  • Dustin

    Aaron, I feel you are reading a bit too much into the Tom Powers articles about Dozier and Parmalee, or misinterpreting them at least.

    You criticize Powers for saying that Dozier is “advancing through the farm system at breakneck speed”. Sure, a debate can be had about exactly what is “breakneck” advancement through the minors, and, yes, Dozier could be considered old compared to his competition at each level. Compared to the minors progression of most MLBers, Dozier’s rate advancement may be around average, but compared to the average minor leaguer, it probably is “breakneck” in a sense. He’s played in multiple leagues in each of his three seasons in professional baseball. To criticize Powers for describing Dozier’s advancement as “breakneck” seems rather nitpicky and abrasive.

    Powers writes that “everyone seems convinced that Dozier is the next big thing.” When it comes to Twins shortstops in the recent past, calling a SS prospect the “next big thing” isn’t exactly touting him as a future All Star. Not exactly sure what Powers is trying to say there, but by “everyone” he probably means Gardy and a few coaches he chatted with think Dozier can provide decent production during his cheap pre-arb seasons. Yeah, maybe he should have clarified that for the sake of us internet baseball mavens, but to call out Powers as being “misleading at best” about Dozier is…misleading at best.

    Powers suggestively tosses around the phrase “true power hitter” in the Parmalee article, and yes, he dances around to lack of impressive HR totals in Parmalee’s minors stats. But “true power hitter” actually isn’t a bad description of Parmalee, considering his middling BA, lack of speed, and many Ks and BBs. Basically, he looks for his pitch and swings hard when he thinks it’s coming. Sounds like a true power hitter. Maybe not a great one yet, but that’s likely what he’ll be, if or when he reaches his potential. Powers even includes a quote from Parmalee suggesting that he is learning that hitting for power is more than just swinging hard: “It used to be that I’d think the harder I swung, the farther the ball went.”

    You say “Powers makes a huge deal about the four homers Parmelee hit for the Twins in September”. You’re being hyperbolic there. I felt Powers went out of his way to temper expectations for Parmalee at the MLB level this year. His September performance was described for what it was, a glimmer of hope in an otherwise forgettable Twins season. I didn’t feel Powers was projecting that small sample size unreasonably, if at all. Powers would like to see Parmalee given a look in the bigs this year, sooner rather than later. Not sure I agree with Powers about that, but it’s not an outlandish opinion or suggestion. Why harp on Powers for not including Parmalee’s Double-A stats in the article?

    Powers may or may not be the Marilyn Hagerty of Twins baseball writers, but it seems you were going out of your way to find something wrong with his articles.

  • Dave

    Dustin – I agree with Aaron’s criticism of the Powers article. I can’t stand it when baseball writers throw around terms like “next big thing” with no stats to back up there claim. Or, even worse, by cherry-picking one or two stats that support their case (like Parmalee’s 4 Sept homeruns) while ignoring a bunch of other contrary stats.

    The only part of this debate where I could agree with Powers is that perhaps Parmalee does have a power-hitter’s makeup. It sounds like he approaches the game like a power hitter and thinks like a power hitter. But, when I hear the phrase “true power hitter”, I think 30+ homeruns, which so far Parmalee has shown no evidence he can do. Maybe someday he will, but calling him a “true power hitter” without pointing out his anemic home run totals is absolutely misleading. It would not have been that hard to give a more complete (and accurate) picture of Parmalee – that he approaches the game like a power hitter (which you Dustin actually do better than Powers) but doesn’t yet have the stats to back it up.

    It’s possible to still be optimistic without ignoring the facts, and it’s different than being ignorant or delusional. Sometimes Aaron is a bit overly negative and pessimistic, but at least his writing is grounded in reality, and not full of unsubstantiated generalities and impressions.

  • Pedro Munoz

    I thought Aaron was pretty gentle with Powers, who has no business being paid to write about sports.

  • Pedro Munoz

    Average age of MLB debut 2005-2009 (per Baseball Prospectus): 24.4. Sorry, but if he’s aleady on the wrong side of average, its not “breakneck” in any sense.

  • Dustin

    Pedro – I disagree with your conclusions.

    Dave – I totally agree with you about the annoying things that many baseball writers say. I’m primarily a Dodgers fan and am exposed to the crap of Plaschke and Simers way more than I would prefer. I just feel in this case that Aaron’s criticism was unnecessary and nitpicky. The effort would have been better used on something else.

  • Pedro Munoz

    For shortstops, the average age is 23.6.

  • Buddy Grant

    I guess Powers is just trying to incite some local excitement for a team that lost 99 games last year and has as many question marks going into the season than last years squad had.

    For the Parmelee article the focus on tape measure power (“waaayyy over the fence”, “those homers traveled a long way”, “his best attribute: the ability to hit the baseball a long way”, “Here’s a kid who can hit the ball a mile”) was a bit of a head scratcher. Chris Parmelee’s 4 MLB HR’s in 2011 traveled the following distances:
    422
    405
    380
    356

    FWIW, Thome, Kubel, Cuddyer, Hughes, Plouffe, Valencia, & Tosoni all hit HR’s farther than Parmelee’s longest HR.

  • Jamer

    Those Tom Powers assessments of Dozier and Parmalee are a bit “pie-in-the-sky,” but come-on. . . Why are you parsing this guy’s words like they’re some sort of contract? It is just some spring-training BS meant to entertain readers. Imagine what the articles would be like without such fluff!

    Usually people roll their eyes at what Bobby Valentine says, but I am pretty sure that he is accurate with this Nishioka thing. Good observation after-the-fact, yet I still believe that it was made in a timely manner.

  • Art Tatem

    Valentine was Nishioka’s manager for a long time and spent a decent amount of time pumping him up in media prior to his going to MLB. He’s also chums with Gardenhire. So if he saw it coming, he either didn’t think it was a big enough issue or kept it to himself for other reasons.

  • Jamer

    I didn’t know that Valentine and Gardenhire were friends. I know that Tom Kelly would go out of his way to avoid the guy. I guess this is just another case of lumping Gardenhire and Kelly into the same “mental envelope.”

  • http://www.pokerbankrollsfree.net James B.

    Poor Jason Pridie has joined the dark side ^^