February 20, 2013

Twins sign longtime Indians setup man Rafael Perez

rafael perez indians

They've failed to acquire as much rotation help as everyone was led to believe heading into the offseason, but the Twins added a last-minute bullpen option by signing left-hander Rafael Perez to a minor-league contract. Perez spent the past seven seasons in Cleveland, throwing 329 innings with a 3.64 ERA as one of the league's best setup men, but missed nearly all of last year with a shoulder injury that required surgery in September and got him non-tendered in November.

According to the Twins he's already fully recovered from surgery and even if Perez experiences some setbacks along the way he's a worthwhile flier considering the lack of risk. If he makes the team out of spring training Perez will get $1.2 million and in the meantime the Twins have neither committed any upfront money nor given him a 40-man roster spot. He's essentially in the same boat as Rich Harden as a no-risk lottery ticket with a potentially valuable payoff.

However, even before last season's shoulder problems Perez was showing major signs of decline despite maintaining nice-looking ERAs. He was a dominant reliever early on, with 163 strikeouts through his first 149 innings, but from 2009-2011 he managed just 101 strikeouts in 172 innings as his strikeouts per nine innings plummeted from 10.1 to 6.0 to 5.3 to 4.7. Perez's control also suffered, as his walks per nine innings went from 2.7 in 2006-2008 to 3.6 in 2009-2011.

Or, put another way, from 2006-2008 he struck out 27 percent of the batters he faced, compared to 13 percent from 2009-2011, and his swinging strikes rate fell from 14 percent to 9 percent. So how did Perez continue to post good ERAs while half his strikeouts vanished? He allowed just 10 homers in 759 plate appearances, which is due partly to a high ground-ball rate and partly to an unsustainably low rate of homers per fly ball that was half of his previous career norm.

Perez never threw particularly hard in the first place and his velocity basically stayed the same despite the strikeouts drying up, but he relied more and more on his slider to the point that he threw the pitch 60 percent of the time in 2010 and 2011. Perez's slider has always been his best pitch, but there are diminishing returns when the usage gets that high and it's natural to connect the dots between throwing 60 percent sliders and needing shoulder surgery.

All of which is why expectations for Perez should be kept in check. If the shoulder problems are behind him and the Twins decide to keep three lefties in the bullpen Perez has a good chance to beat out Tyler Robertson for the job and he could eventually move past Brian Duensing into the primary southpaw setup role. An added wrinkle is that the Twins are apparently planning to give Perez an opportunity to stretch out as a starter, at least early in camp.

Thinking outside the box is commendable given the sad state of the rotation, and whereas most left-handed relievers have extreme platoon splits Perez has been equally effective against lefties (.256/.323/.355) and righties (.255/.317/.377) during his career. However, he's never started a game in the majors and last started regularly in 2007 at Triple-A. Toss in the shoulder problems and huge decline in strikeouts as a reliever and becoming a starter at age 31 is a long shot.

For a lot more about the Perez signing and the Twins' bullpen as a whole check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.


This week's blog content is sponsored by Rotoworld's annual "Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide," which is available in both magazine and online versions. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

February 18, 2013

Gleeman and The Geek #81: Spring Training Questions

Topics for this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode included the Twins signing Rafael Perez, which arms will be healthy, stuffing seven relievers into two bullpen spots, how much a person is allowed to like Brian Dozier, ornery insomnia, casting CSI:GATG, why Joe Benson should be left-handed, unprofessional bathroom breaks, Liam Hendriks vs. Kyle Gibson, snowshoes and the Vinland Center's "winter walkabout," and the importance of spring training.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 81

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

Our podcasting setup at Rye Deli in Uptown last night:

podcasting at rye


This week's blog content is sponsored by Rotoworld's annual "Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide," which is available in both magazine and online versions. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

February 15, 2013

Link-O-Rama

• One of my favorite reality television shows, "Bar Rescue" on Spike, is back for another season and the episodes are available for free online. I'm joining forces with fellow Jon Taffer devotees Parker Hageman and Dana Wessel in an effort to get the show to do an episode in Minnesota. So far this is the extent of our campaign, so obviously we're open to ideas. Let's make it happen.

• If this ever happens to me at a bar I'm going on a rampage and hopefully we'll be recording the podcast at the time so everyone can hear me murdering people.

• Now that he's replaced Joe Christensen on the Twins beat Phil Miller launched his new blog on the Minneapolis Star Tribune's website.

Mike Berardino, who was formerly a longtime South Florida Sun Sentinel columnist, has been hired by the St. Paul Pioneer Press as their new Twins beat reporter.

• Sometimes it's tough to tell the difference between spring training reports from beat writers and erotic fan fiction intros.

• If you've ever doubted the genius of Michael Schur/Ken Tremendous, he just cast the always amazing Andre Braugher and AG.com favorite Chelsea Peretti for his next FOX show.

Francis J. Underwood, sabermetrician.

• In elementary school my class sold Kirby Puckett candy bars for some sort of fundraiser and my mom just bought a bunch of them from me and then let me eat them all, which explains a lot about my life and is also relevant to this shocking Deadspin investigation.

• I'll have more on this next week, but the Twins signed Rafael Perez to a minor-league deal.

• There is no age at which men are immune to the charms of Connie Britton. And if you're not going to read this whole thing then why even bother having the internet or a computer or eyes?

Francisco Liriano broke his arm at home, but it wasn't from falling in the bathroom. No, it was actually even weirder than that.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode "horseplay" and "natural stank" were discussed at length while a woman named April occasionally chimed in.

• On a related note, I'll marry any woman who wears this on our first date.

• In his new book Mike Piazza talks about taking karate lessons to prepare for revenge against Roger Clemens. This is how I imagine those lessons:

Mediocre movie, but that scene gets me every time.

• This is crazy and all, but to lose "only" $13 million on $1 billion worth of bets isn't too bad.

• My blog-mate Craig Calcaterra explained what going to the doctor for an annual checkup has to do with sabermetrics.

• On a related note, here's an example of the type of fan mail we receive at HardballTalk.

• Nearly a decade after beginning her memorable two-year run as Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com Elisha Cuthbert is Maxim magazine's pick for "television's most beautiful woman."

• I'm proud to have convinced Scott Olstad to put together a collection of his 10 favorite Otis Redding cover songs for The Current's website.

• If you're interested in the history of great music and the impact of technology on art the Dave Grohl-directed documentary "Sound City" is a must-watch. Can't recommend it enough.

"Searching for Sugar Man" is another documentary that's definitely worth watching. I won't give away much, but it's a fascinating story that got me thinking about how context is everything.

Trevor Bauer is the next Shaquille O'Neal.

• By far the worst e-mail I've ever gotten.

Alex Pappademas of Grantland went on tour with "Community" creator Dan Harmon and wrote an amazing article about it.

• I started watching ABC's cooking show "The Taste" because of Anthony Bourdain, but have kept watching it because of Nigella Lawson.

Lenny Dykstra's son and Tony Soprano's daughter are having a baby.

• This week "Gleeman and The Geek" passed 500,000 total downloads, so thanks to everyone for listening and for spreading the word about the podcast.

• Giants teammates Tim Lincecum and Hunter Pence are the cutest:

I miss the long hair, though.

Carl Pavano talked about rupturing his spleen while shoveling his driveway and it was gross and scary and crazy.

"What is a badass?"

• Hard to believe, but unless he's a liar this guy turned 52 years old this week.

• The good news is that I bought a red hat, changed my name to Max, and moved to New York.

• Rays reliever Joel Peralta suffered a sandwich-related injury.

• Bloggers seem contractually obligated to hate "Girls" and Lena Dunham, but I watched the first five episodes of Season 2 in one sitting this week and still liked it. I'm constantly confused by who the internet decides to collectively hate or love, but she seems pretty great to me.

• I already liked Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried a lot, but now he's one of my favorite athletes.

David Brauer's return to college hilariously involves having to take freshman comp.

Sh*tty "New Yorker" Cartoon Captions.

• If you saw Mavis Staples on the Grammys, please note that Bob Dylan wanted to marry her.

• My childhood, represented by 29 pictures from one evening that I remember watching.

Jon Marthaler, Brandon Broxey, Clarence Swamptown, and Randall's Stu have started a new podcast about Minnesota sports called "The Sportive" that everyone should check out.

• Some of this week's weird and random search engine queries that brought people here:

- "Chinese food weight gain 2012"
- "Aaron Gleeman fat"
- "Chelsea Peretti naked"
- "Tosoni toes"
- "Todd Glass baseball"
- "Nineties sex symbols"
- "Zoe Barnes wardrobe"
- "Zoe Barnes hair part"
- "Sid Hartman girlfriends"
- "Ricky Rubio's neck tattoo"

• Finally, in honor of Valentine's Day this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Wicked Games" by The Weeknd:

February 14, 2013

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2013: 25, 24, 23, 22, 21

Also in this series: 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40.

25. Nate Roberts | Left Field | DOB: 2/89 | Bats: Left | Draft: 2010-5

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2010     RK+    153     .336     .444     .547      5     16     21     29
2011     A-     283     .302     .443     .446      4     20     28     48
2012     A-     352     .299     .433     .427      4     25     44     37

Nate Roberts has moved very slowly through the system since being drafted in the fifth round out of High Point University in 2010, in part because the Twins have refused to promote him and in part because he's rarely stayed healthy. He'll turn 24 years old before playing a game above low Single-A and spent back-to-back seasons in Beloit despite hitting .302/.443/.446 there as a 22-year-old the first time around.

That might suggest the Twins don't think much of Roberts' potential, but they gave him a spot in the Arizona Fall League and he hit .446/.565/.662 in 19 games. He led the country in on-base percentage as a college junior and has gotten on base at a .439 clip in the minors, combining patience and strike zone control with an amazing ability to get hit by pitches. Dating back to his final college season Roberts has been plunked 81 times in 235 games.

Along with being an on-base machine Roberts also has 41 steals in 179 games as a pro, but his power has been limited with just 13 homers and he's strictly a corner outfielder defensively. It's tough to get too excited about Roberts' future until he stays healthy and faces more advanced competition, but hopefully the dominant AFL stint convinces the Twins to at least push him aggressively at age 24.

24. Daniel Santana | Shortstop | DOB: 11/90 | Bats: Switch | Sign: Dominican

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2010     RK+    144     .264     .285     .421      4     13      3     30
         A-     144     .238     .289     .315      0      7      7     40
2011     A-     409     .247     .298     .373      7     27     25     98
2012     A+     547     .286     .329     .410      8     38     29     77

Daniel Santana all but fell off the prospect map following a 2011 season in which he hit just .247/.298/.373 and moved around the diamond defensively at low Single-A, but the switch-hitter from the Dominican Republic stepped up to high Singe-A last year and showed enough promise to think he can have a big-league future. Santana batted .286 with 38 extra-base hits in 121 games, swiped 17 bases, and struck out in just 14 percent of his plate appearances.

With that said, his overall .286/.329/.410 line wasn't particularly impressive and he drew just 29 walks in 547 plate appearances while being thrown out on 11 of 28 steal attempts. In other words Santana is still pretty rough around the edges and there isn't much in his track record through age 22 to suggest he's capable of being more than a bottom-of-the-order bat. He's hit .266/.313/.398 for his career and hasn't cracked a .750 OPS since rookie-ball in 2008.

Defensively, however, Santana gets positive reviews as both a shortstop and second baseman. He alternated middle infield spots with 2011 first-round pick Levi Michael for much of last season, but Santana eventually emerged as Fort Myers' primary shortstop. If he can remain an asset at shortstop Santana could hit enough to be a decent starter there, but right now he seems to be on the utility infielder track.

23. Zack Jones | Reliever | DOB: 12/90 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2012-4

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     RK+     6      0     0.00       6.0       2      0       9      4
         A-     12      0     3.21      14.0       9      1      25      7

Zack Jones had mediocre results in three years at San Jose State, posting a 4.11 ERA in 138 innings spent mostly as a reliever, but his mid-90s fastball and high strikeout rate convinced the Twins to make him their fourth-round pick in June. Jones started eight games in his final college season, but Baseball America's pre-draft scouting report noted that "scouts view him as a reliever" because he lacked a quality third pitch to go with a fastball and slider.

Jones debuted at rookie-level Elizabethon and then moved up to low Single-A Beloit, throwing 20 total innings while working exclusively out of the bullpen. He overpowered hitters, holding them to a .159 batting average and striking out 34 of the 81 batters he faced, but also walked 11. While the Twins are hoping some of the college relievers they drafted in June can become starters, it sounds like Jones and the organization both prefer him in the bullpen.

Even in short outings his control needs a lot of work. He limited walks in his final season at SJSU, but Jones' overall walk rate in college was 4.4 per nine innings and he issued 5.0 walks per nine innings in his admittedly brief pro debut. Still, as a hard-throwing reliever Jones potentially could move very quickly through the minors and has a decent chance to be the Twins' first 2012 draft pick to reach to the majors.

22. Amaurys Minier | Shortstop | DOB: 1/96 | Bats: Switch | Sign: Dominican

As part of MLB's new collective bargaining agreement the Twins were allowed to spend a total of $2.9 million on international prospects last year and they gave $1.4 million of that to 16-year-old Amaurys Minier, a switch-hitting infielder from the Dominican Republic. Ranked by Baseball America as the 12th-best international prospect in last year's signing class, Minier is currently a shortstop but is expected to move to third base once his 6-foot-2 frame fills out.

According to David Rawnsley of Perfect Game he "has immense power from both sides of the plate" but "doesn't have the athleticism" to stick at shortstop. Ben Badler of Baseball America reports that Minier "has drawn attention for his bat speed and plus power from both sides of the plate" with "one of the sweeter swings in the Dominican." However, he added that "scouts have reservations about his ability to hit in games, so his pitch recognition skills will have to improve."

Three years ago the Twins signed Miguel Sano out of the Dominican Republic as a 16-year-old for $3.15 million, but making that type of investment is no longer feasible under the CBA and the $1.4 million they spent on Minier is more than all but three international prospects got in 2012. That doesn't mean he's destined for stardom, but Minier is definitely a high-upside prospect and it's always nice to see the Twins adding a potential impact bat to the system.

21. Michael Tonkin | Reliever | DOB: 11/89 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2008-30

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2010     RK+    10      0     1.08      25.0      18      1      26      4
         A-     13     12     4.29      65.0      76      7      40     18
2011     A-     48      3     3.87      76.2      82      3      69     24
2012     A-     22      0     1.38      39.0      29      1      53      9
         A+     22      0     2.97      30.1      24      2      44     11

Michael Tonkin is a former 30th-round pick for whom "Jason Kubel's brother-in-law" was once his claim to fame, but he's thrived since moving to the bullpen full time in mid-2011 and last year dominated between two levels of Single-A to emerge as someone to watch. Tonkin racked up 90 strikeouts in 69 total innings while holding opponents to a .209 batting average and three homers, posting a 2.09 ERA at age 22.

Plenty of relievers put up great numbers in the low minors every season, but few are 6-foot-7 with mid-90s fastballs like Tonkin. He's moved methodically through the farm system, finally reaching high Single-A midway through his fifth pro season, but that was in part because Tonkin was trying to stick as a starter early on and now that he's in the bullpen to stay there's the potential to rise pretty quickly.

His time as a starter helped develop a three-pitch fastball/slider/changeup repertoire that misses lot of bats and induces a decent number of ground balls. And for a big guy with a big fastball his control isn't bad either, with 20 walks in 69 innings last season and 2.3 walks per nine innings for his career. It's usually silly to get excited about Single-A relievers, but Tonkin's combination of raw stuff, size, and performance since shifting to the bullpen is very encouraging.


This week's blog content is sponsored by "[Expletive deleted] New Yorker Cartoon Captions," where an imbecile desperately tries to win the "New Yorker" cartoon caption contest. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

February 13, 2013

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2013: 30, 29, 28, 27, 26

Also in this series: 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, 31-35, 36-40.

30. Kennys Vargas | First Base | DOB: 8/90 | Bats: Switch | Sign: Puerto Rico

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2010     RK-    160     .324     .388     .507      3     19     13     40
2011     RK+    191     .322     .377     .489      6     17     15     50
2012     A-     186     .318     .419     .610     11     22     28     41

Miguel Sano was the big draw in Beloit last season but Kennys Vargas actually had the highest OPS on the team by more than 100 points, hitting .318/.419/.610 with 11 homers and 10 doubles in 41 games. He also put up big numbers in rookie-ball during the previous three seasons and the 6-foot-5, switch-hitting first baseman has a .309/.390/.509 career line with 68 extra-base hits and 73 walks in 159 games through age 21. That's the good news.

The bad news is that he's played just 159 career games thanks to serving a 50-game suspension after being busted in 2011 for a weight loss drug used to speed metabolism. And as you might expect from a 6-foot-5 slugger who struggles to control his weight Vargas isn't much of a defender at first base and has struck out 173 times in 667 plate appearances. He's big and slow and swings through a lot of pitches, but Vargas' power potential is very intriguing.

Of course, he was also somewhat old for the level of competition in the Midwest League and as far as player types go low-minors sluggers with high strikeout rates who're destined to wind up at designated hitter don't have a particularly good track record of long-term success. This year should tell a lot about Vargas as he moves up to high Single-A and hopefully puts in a full season for the first time at age 22.

29. B.J. Hermsen | Starter | DOB: 12/89 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2008-6

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2010     RK+     8      6     3.32      38.0      39      2      39      4
         A-     12     12     5.00      72.0      85      6      46     15
2011     A-     21     20     3.10     124.2     131     10      81     31
         A+      5      5     4.39      26.2      34      1      20      6
2012     A+      4      4     0.78      23.0      16      1      12      5
         AA     22     22     3.22     139.2     145     12      75     25

B.J. Hermsen has nice-looking ERAs and win-loss records at every stop since the Twins grabbed him in the sixth round of the 2008 draft out of an Iowa high school, but his secondary numbers have consistently been underwhelming. Last season he went 12-6 with a 2.88 ERA between high Single-A and Double-A on the way to being named Twins minor league pitcher of the year, but managed just 87 strikeouts in 163 innings and has a career rate of 5.9 per nine innings.

Also worrisome is that after being touted as a hard-thrower coming out of high school the 6-foot-5 right-hander has typically worked in the high-80s with his fastball as a pro. He has excellent control and the ability to pump strikes at inexperienced hitters has no doubt played a big part in his low-minors success, but when a pitcher can't crack five strikeouts per nine innings versus Single-A and Double-A hitters it's tough to take him seriously as a prospect.

There are certainly pitchers who find some big-league success with miniscule strikeout rates, but most of them missed a fair number of bats in the minors and also induce lots of ground balls. Hermsen does neither of things and never has. Throwing strikes and knowing how to pitch have gotten him this far, but it's hard to see Hermsen developing into more than a back-of-the-rotation starter unless something changes.

28. Tyler Duffey | Reliever | DOB: 12/90 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2012-5

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     RK+    12      0     1.42      19.0      10      1      27      2

Drafted in the fifth round as part of the team's focus on college relievers, Tyler Duffey and Twins second-round pick J.T. Chargois were co-closers for Rice University. Duffey can't match Chargois' dominant raw stuff, but prior to the draft Baseball America's scouting report had him throwing in the low-90s with a good slider and his 2012 numbers were even better than Chargois' with a 1.93 ERA and 68-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 51 innings.

Duffey also had a 2.52 ERA and 76-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 61 innings for Rice in 2011 and struck out a total of 189 batters in 153 college innings. And unlike Chargois there's apparently some hope that Duffey's changeup is good enough to make it as a starter. However, for his debut Duffey was assigned to rookie-level Elizabethton and worked out of the bullpen, throwing 19 innings with a 1.42 ERA and 27-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Those numbers are obviously incredible, but a 21-year-old college reliever thriving against rookie-ball hitters doesn't prove much of anything. Assuming the Twins eventually decide to actually test Duffey a little bit he could move pretty quickly up the organizational ladder as a reliever, but if they're serious about giving him an opportunity to start that whole process would probably take significantly longer.

27. Corey Williams | Reliever | DOB: 7/90 | Throws: Left | Draft: 2011-3

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2011     RK+     7      0     3.86      11.2      12      0      11      5
2012     A-     47      0     3.47      62.1      55      5      68     33

Before binging on hard-throwing college relievers in last year's draft the Twins used their 2011 third-round pick on Vanderbilt left-hander Corey Williams, whose 4.49 ERA didn't match his impressive velocity out of the bullpen. As a draft-eligible sophomore he was a tough sign and the Twins had to spend $575,000 to lure Williams into pro ball, doubling the recommended slot bonus amount.

Williams had a solid seven-appearance debut at rookie-ball after signing and then moved up to low Single-A last season, throwing 62 innings with a 3.47 ERA and 68-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He overpowered left-handed hitters, holding them to a .179 batting average and 24 strikeouts in 67 plate appearances, but had much less success versus right-handed hitters and struggled to consistently throw strikes overall.

Williams had 54 strikeouts in 55 innings for Vanderbilt and has whiffed 79 in 74 innings as a pro, which are far from exceptional strikeout rates for a reliever with a mid-90s fastball facing SEC and Midwest League hitters. On the other hand he's still just 22 years old and induces lots of ground balls to go with the good but not great number of missed bats, so Williams certainly has considerable upside as a potential late-inning reliever.

26. Adam Walker | Right Field | DOB: 10/91 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2012-3

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2012     RK+    254     .250     .310     .496     14     25     19     76

Adam Walker's professional debut looked exactly like his college numbers suggested it would, as the third-round pick from Jacksonville University filled the stat sheet for rookie-level Elizabethton with extra-base hits and strikeouts. Rarely do the Twins draft college hitters in the early rounds, especially college hitters with big strikeout totals, so they clearly saw something they really liked in Walker's power potential.

And there's no doubting his ability to hit the ball a long way. Walker blasted 41 homers and 51 doubles in 168 college games and went deep 14 times in 58 games in Elizabethton, posting a .246 Isolated Power that was second-best in the entire Appalachian League. Unfortunately all that pop came with extreme contact issues, as he whiffed 184 times in 168 college games despite facing less than elite competition and struck out 76 times in 58 rookie-ball games at age 20.

Those are alarming strikeout totals and become an even bigger red flag when combined with just 19 walks in 254 plate appearances for Elizabethton. Over the years the Twins' farm system has been short on power-hitting corner outfielders and homers can certainly make up for a lot of other flaws, but until Walker cuts down on the strikeouts and posts a decent batting average there will be plenty of reason for skepticism that he can clobber more advanced pitching.


This week's blog content is sponsored by "[Expletive deleted] New Yorker Cartoon Captions," where an imbecile desperately tries to win the "New Yorker" cartoon caption contest. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »