August 31, 2012

Sifting through the wreckage: Darin Mastroianni

As the Twins head for a second straight 90-loss season one of the few positives about all the losing is that it provides an excuse to give extended looks to marginal prospects, career minor leaguers, and various other players who wouldn't get the same opportunities for a 90-win team. There's a finite amount of playing time available over the course of 162 games and losing teams can squeeze value out of that by uncovering players who might be future assets.

In rare cases giving those chances to players who might not otherwise get them leads to guys like Trevor Plouffe and Scott Diamond emerging as potential long-term building blocks, but most of the time it simply means finding a decent fifth starter or solid middle reliever or capable fourth outfielder. Either way, as they play for little more than draft position and pride down the stretch the Twins can evaluate role players for jobs in 2013 and beyond. Players such as ...

Back in February the Twins claimed Darin Mastroianni off waivers after the 26-year-old former 16th-round pick was designated for assignment by the Blue Jays. Aside from a one-game cup of coffee last season Mastroianni had spent his entire five-year career in Toronto's farm system, including three different stints at Double-A. And that's where the Twins sent him to begin this season after Mastroianni failed to win an Opening Day roster spot in spring training.

He got off to a 5-for-35 (.143) start, but when Rochester's roster was depleted by early injuries and call-ups the Twins promoted Mastroianni to Triple-A anyway. And he showed up with a hot bat, hitting .346 in 20 games, and when the Twins demoted Danny Valencia to Triple-A on May 10 it was Mastroianni who replaced him. He's played sparingly, starting 34 of 100 games, but has shown the speed and on-base skills that were evident in his track record.

Mastroianni has hit .280/.372/.368 in 255 games at Double-A and .290/.365/.395 in 99 games at Triple-A, and per 150 games between the two levels he averaged 80 walks and 55 steals at an 82 percent success rate. When a hitter draws that many walks despite a grand total of just eight Double-A and Triple-A homers in 1,600 plate appearances it shows excellent patience and strike-zone control, and Mastroianni has carried over enough of that to the majors.

Small sample size caveats apply, but through 154 plate appearances he's hit .272 with 14 walks for a .338 on-base percentage. He's also shown a bit more power than expected, going deep three times on the way to a .390 slugging percentage. He's looked great defensively, albeit almost exclusively as a corner outfielder, and has stolen 16 bases at an 89 percent clip. He's been exactly the player his track record showed, with a little extra pop.

He hasn't played much center field because Denard Span and Ben Revere are around and without seeing Mastroianni in action there it's tough to fully evaluate his long-term potential, but he played primarily center field in the minors and given his elite speed it's probably safe to assume he'd be at least decent out there. He's certainly a plus defender and then some in left field and right field, and Mastroianni even has some experience at second base in the minors.

He might be playing a bit over his head offensively, but Mastroianni's on-base skills are legitimately very solid and his speed is spectacular. Toss in the defensive versatility to play all three outfield spots while being an emergency option at second base and Mastroianni looks like an ideal bench player who could potentially platoon with a left-handed-hitting outfielder and wouldn't be overmatched stepping into the everyday lineup on a short-term basis.

August 29, 2012

Twins Notes: Morneau, Hendriks, Pavano, Sano, Liriano, Mauer, and Battey

• Within the Los Angeles Times' story about the Dodgers-Red Sox blockbuster trade was this tidbit from beat reporter Dylan Hernandez:

A four-time All-Star first baseman, [Adrian] Gonzalez was the prize in the deal. The Dodgers inquired about him leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline and approached the Red Sox again after a failed attempt to land Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau last week.

Not shocking, as the Dodgers were also linked to Justin Morneau in July, but the notion of the Twins turning them down multiple times is certainly interesting. Morneau has been excellent since the All-Star break, hitting .320/.365/.523 in 39 games, but his overall production this season still qualifies as good but not great and his health remains an issue. Toss in the fact that he has one year and $14 million left on his contract and Morneau's trade value isn't great.

Or at least it shouldn't be, which makes me wonder if they should've jumped at the Dodgers' offer assuming it included any kind of decent prospect. Simply clearing Morneau's salary off the books for 2013 has value to the Twins, especially with Chris Parmelee waiting in the wings as a minimum-salaried replacement, and the Dodgers ended up sending a surprisingly strong package of players to the Red Sox for the right to take on $275 million in mostly bad contracts.

Given how the Dodgers are throwing around money it's not safe to assume their interest in Morneau and his contract guarantees similar interest from other teams, and now Los Angeles is no longer an option for a future deal. Obviously every Twins fan would love to see Morneau resume being an elite hitter, but $14 million would come in handy and letting him walk for nothing as a free agent in 15 months would be a missed opportunity.

Liam Hendriks came into Monday with an 0-8 record and 6.75 ERA in 13 career starts, threw a one-run complete game while allowing just three hits ... and lost 1-0 to Felix Hernandez. Setting aside the silliness of "wins" and "losses" for pitchers it was a very encouraging outing and it's nice to see the Twins giving Hendriks an opportunity to start every fifth day down the stretch following another good stint at Triple-A. At age 23 he maintains mid-rotation potential.

Carl Pavano has been ruled out for the season and--you may want to sit down for this--the Twins' medical staff apparently failed to properly diagnose his injury for three months before a second opinion found the source of the problem:

It's too bad it took three months diagnose that. I could have been resting. The good news is, it doesn't require surgery. I've had this in the past and gotten through it, and obviously I've pitched a lot since then. But as far as I'm concerned, this whole season has been a failure on many levels, for myself, for the team. It's just kind of lousy that it took this long.

Pavano went on to blame himself, rather than the Twins, but it's tough not to connect those dots after reading John Shipley's article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Keith Law of ESPN.com recently stopped by Beloit to watch the Twins' low Single-A team and had some interesting observations about Miguel Sano. First, the good:

Sano has incredibly easy power, with a clean, rotational swing that generates most of its power from his hips and legs, a textbook example of how to make hard contact and drive the ball to all fields. His home run on Friday night went over the batter's eye in Beloit, which is 380 feet from home plate, and he drove two more balls to left without even squaring either up fully.

And now, the bad:

Sano's biggest drawback is his obvious disdain for the defensive side of the game. ... So while he has the arm and hands for [third base] now, the question of whether he'll outgrow the position is secondary to the question of whether he'll work enough to make third base a possibility.

Law also wrote up reports on Eddie Rosario, Kennys Vargas, and Taylor Rogers.

• Monday night Lew Ford started at designated hitter and batted fifth for the Orioles, going deep off White Sox starter Francisco Liriano for his first homer since 2007. What a world.

• Speaking of Liriano, since being traded to the White Sox he's started six games with a 4.26 ERA and 33-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 32 innings. Liriano has allowed two or fewer runs in five of those six starts and dating back to rejoining the Twins' rotation in May he's started 17 games with a 3.87 ERA, .211 opponents' batting average, and 112 strikeouts in 98 innings.

Joe Mauer passed Earl Battey for the most games caught in Twins history, which provides a good reason to remind everyone that Battey was a helluva player.

• While researching a future article about prospect development, I stumbled across this:

Mauer in the minors: .330 batting average, .406 on-base percentage, 1.2 walks per strikeout
Mauer in the majors: .322 batting average, .404 on-base percentage, 1.2 walks per strikeout

It's probably also worth noting that Mauer was done playing in the minors at age 20, played only 73 games above Single-A, and skipped Triple-A altogether.

Joe Benson's nightmare season now includes left knee surgery, along with a demotion from Triple-A to Double-A and a broken wrist. Coming into the year he looked just about ready to claim a starting job in the majors at age 24, but instead he hit .202/.288/.336 while missing half the season with injuries and never even got to Minnesota.

• Twins' record in their last 300 games: 117-183.

Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times depressingly notes that all the recent losing has dropped the Twins' all-time record since moving to Minnesota below .500.

• Hundreds of players are placed on revocable waivers every August. Mauer is reportedly one of them. Probably isn't the first time. Probably won't be the last time. The end.

• I'm not sure what exactly is going on here with Mauer, but I watched it about 50 times.

• I went to last night's Twins-Mariners game (the weather was nice, at least), which means I was part of the smallest crowd in Target Field history.

• For a lot more about Morneau and Hendriks, check out this week's Gleeman and The Geek.

August 27, 2012

“Gleeman and The Geek” #56: Live From the State Fair

This week's episode of Gleeman and The Geek was recorded live in front of an audience from the KFAN booth at the Minnesota State Fair and topics included the Twins' slide, September call-ups, reports that the Dodgers pursued Justin Morneau, the aftermath of "Girls Gone Gleeman," living in the MLB Fan Cave and trying to build a media career with special guest Lindsay Guentzel, Sweet Martha's Cookies, and why I shouldn't lead with my hair on first dates.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 56

In addition to the direct download link above you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

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August 24, 2012

Link-O-Rama

• Sunday starting at 3:00 p.m. John Bonnes and I will be doing a two-hour version of Gleeman and The Geek live from the KFAN booth at the Minnesota state fair. I learned yesterday morning how much fun it is to do live radio in front of an actual audience and I'd love to see a bunch of AG.com readers and Gleeman and The Geek listeners there. We'll take questions from the crowd and you can watch us argue in person, so come hang out and say hello.

• On a related note, yesterday's "Girls Gone Gleeman" bit at the state fair went a lot better than I expected, which is to say it wasn't a total disaster. There was a big crowd at the KFAN booth, Paul Allen was a great ringleader, Joe Nelson worked his magic behind the scenes, and the women were way too nice, way too normal, and way too pretty to be involved in something so silly. And based on the reaction I've gotten, it made for some interesting radio.

This was my view from the KFAN booth (that's me in the middle):

You can listen to my initial hour-long appearance and the whole dating game part of the show by clicking here. And then later, after going on a hour-plus quasi-date (and eating fried pickles) with one of the women, we returned to the KFAN booth and recapped everything with PA and Marney Gellner from FSN, which you can listen to by clicking here. And yes, underneath the hoodie I was wearing my tuxedo t-shirt.

Miguel Sano is trying to steal my tuxedo t-shirt look.

• Just when I was getting sick of constantly hearing my own Bane impression, this exists.

• Everyone always says this, but I really mean it: They're perfect for each other.

Thomas Golianopoulos at Grantland put together an oral history of one of my favorite movies, White Men Can't Jump. Among the many interesting tidbits revealed: Sidney Deane and Billy Hoyle were almost played by Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves.

• It takes an incredible amount of effort to ruin a picture of Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com Mila Kunis at a baseball game in a Dodgers jersey.

Jeff Kent is going to be on the new season of Survivor, presumably with his mustache and without Barry Bonds.

• If you're a stand-up comedy fan and don't already know the greatness of Joan Rivers, listen to her be an amazing guest on Nerdist with Chris Hardwick. At age 79!

Melky Cabrera was a big investor in Jukt Micronics.

• This starts off with a story about throwing up in public and then pretty much goes downhill from there.

• As someone who liked the book and mostly disliked the movie, Screen Junkies' "honest trailer" for The Hunger Games hit the spot:

And it made $700 million, so what the hell do I know.

Nick Blackburn, worst pitcher in baseball.

• I couldn't even bring myself to mention this on last week's show. So much shame.

• Never underestimate the power of Seinfeld, even decades later.

• On a related note, YouTube has a full version of Jerry Seinfeld's documentary Comedian and it's just as good as I remember from watching it the first time in 2002.

• After nine seasons The Office is coming to an end. It was never as good as the British version and declined in recent years, but the show was pretty damn funny for a long time. And served as the launching pad for Jenna Fischer's ongoing Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com candidacy.

• Most of these responses were dumb and/or ignorant, but Death Cab For Cutie frontman (and Zooey Deschanel ex-husband) Ben Gibbard made stat-heads proud.

• Showtime canceled the Marlins despite their new ballpark, offseason spending, and Ozzie Guillen's best efforts to make a last-place team interesting.

• This comment is so amazing that I'm half-convinced it's parody. AG.com commenters aren't so bad after all!

• Two great tastes that taste great together: Julie Klausner podcasts it up with Marc Maron.

• How adorable: My blog-mates Craig Calcaterra and D.J. Short met in person for the first time and wore matching outfits.

• Not exactly the lightest read in terms of subject matter or style, but The Hot House: Life Inside Leavenworth Prison by Pete Earley is one of the best non-fiction books I've ever read.

Jay Boller at the Minneapolis Star Tribune's sister website Vita.mn wrote a nice little article about this blog's 10th anniversary, although because I didn't have time for a new photo shoot they used an on-file picture of me from 100 pounds, six years, and three laptops ago.

• Back by popular demand, this week's most amusing, weird, and random search engine queries that brought people here:

- "Is Glen Perkins a viable setup man?"
- "Tsuyoshi Nishioka KFAN porn"
- "Gordon Ramsay baseball"
- "Elisha Cuthbert baseball"
- "Jimmy Pardo fantasy baseball"
- "Why did Francisco Liriano get traded?"
- "Delmon Young ugly mustache"
- "Who is Lew Ford's girlfriend?"
- "Eric Chavez handsome"
- "Why can't you use big gloves for infield?"
- "A.J. Pierzynski boxers or briefs?
- "Minnesota Twins why they stink"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Happy Song" by Otis Redding:

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August 22, 2012

Got any plans Thursday?

As a hermit I like to get my money's worth when I actually leave the house, so I've got a busy Thursday planned and want to invite AG.com readers and Gleeman and The Geek listeners to be part of it. Thursday morning I'll be doing radio live from the Minnesota State Fair and then Thursday evening I'll be co-hosting a little Twins viewing party/get-together at a bar. I'm officially inviting you all to both things, so here are some details:


Thursday morning:

Thursday morning starting at 9:00 a.m. I'll be on Paul Allen's show live from the KFAN booth at the Minnesota State Fair. I'm sure we'll be talking Twins, but the main focus will be on a dating game-style show called "Girls Gone Gleeman" that's intended to either find me a nice woman to date or embarrass me to death trying. You can come see me find love and/or be humiliated, all in front of an audience and live on the radio. Click here for more details.


Thursday night:

Thursday night starting at 7:00 p.m. I'll be at Park Tavern in St. Louis Park, eating and drinking and watching the Twins-Rangers game with John Bonnes, Parker Hageman, Nick Nelson, Lindsay Guentzel, and some other familiar names from the local blogging and social media world. We're basically just going to hang out for a few hours, so the more the merrier and all you need to do is show up, say hello, and grab a chair. Click here for directions.


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