September 6, 2013

Link-O-Rama

• Will you guys come visit me in Pennsylvania?

• Imagine how great LeBron James would be if he didn't have the world's most disgusting feet.

Chase Utley finally responded to Mac's love letter from "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia.

• I'm proud to have been there to see Twins Daily writer and local rap superstar Nick Nelson get kicked out of karaoke for swearing.

• My analysis of the Twins trading Justin Morneau to the Pirates, including the identity of the not-yet-official player to be named later.

• I went back through my archives to find the earliest stuff I wrote about Morneau in 2003.

This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode was recorded live in front of an audience at the Minnesota State Fair. We broke down the Morneau trade, fan favorite producer Kate Butler made her triumphant return, the microphones exploded, and the crowd booed John Bonnes when he explained that Paul Allen and Dan Barreiro wouldn't be showing up because it was just us. And we said goodbye to KFAN for the season. Next week it's back to podcast-only (and beer drinking).

• In fact, Saturday afternoon we'll be recording "Gleeman and The Geek" at Summit Brewing's annual "Backyard Bash" event. Details here.

• As a Twins fan it makes me incredibly sad whenever prominent media members ignorantly and dangerously downplay the damage done by concussions, so watching this video felt good:

Imagine being the guy on the other end of that.

• I have a couple openings in my "Hardball Dynasty" league on WhatIfSports and the new season begins next week. If you're interested in joining, please read this first.

• I'll probably never write a better headline in my life and I'm fine with that.

"Where Bloggers Blog" might only be of interest to me.

• I really enjoyed this New York Times story about Miami Heat power forward Udonis Haslem and his wife.

• As someone who lost 150 pounds almost exclusively via counting calories and moderate exercise Susan Perry's "why we can't rely on counting calories" piece for MinnPost was very interesting.

• Much like me, Alison Pill regrets having a BlackBerry.

Craig Finn from The Hold Steady talked Twins with The A.V. Club.

• Defensive lineman Terrence Stephens, who eventually got cut by the Bengals, sang a John Mayer cover on "Hard Knocks." It wasn't bad, either.

Ben Revere is bootylicious.

• I'm always a sucker for bloopers and "Parks and Recreation" has some of the best:

Keep clicking through YouTube, because it's broken up into five parts.

• I had Korean food for the first time in Philadelphia during the SABR convention last month and loved it, so Thursday night I went to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant located in the back of a grocery store in Columbia Heights called Dong Yang Oriental Food and fell further in love.

dong yang restaurant

Definitely worth checking out.

Road Warrior Animal followed me on Twitter, so 10-year-old me had an amazing week.

• "Jordan, Jesse, Go!" is always great, but Shelby Fero joining Jordan Morris and Jesse Thorn this week was especially delightful. And also Thorn encouraged listeners to "write something about us on your f***ing blog." Done and done.

• Netflix just added Gary Gulman's stand-up special and it's basically perfect.

• During my weekly half-hour chat with Paul Allen we discussed the Twins' projected 2014 lineup and my pick to win the World Series. And dating at the State Fair, of course.

Julie Klausner was also at the Minnesota State Fair last week and her recap was magical.

Neko Case is really funny/great.

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

- "Chase Utley groupies"
- "Pirates trade for Joe Mauer"
- "Dick Bremer awful"
- "Jonny Flynn shirtless"
- "Complete list of all Matt Capps cards"
- "Kevin Garnett prom picture"
- "Tim Lincecum fan fiction"
- "Who is Aaron Gleeman?"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Wake Me Up" by Avicii and Aloe Blacc:


This week's blog content is sponsored by Ticket King, a local ticket broker that doesn't charge check-out fees, offers in-store pickup, and specializes in Twins tickets. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

July 19, 2013

Link-O-Rama

• Sign-ups are open for the Twin Daily light rail pub crawl/Twins game on September 14. For just $36 you get a ticket to the Twins-Rays game, a t-shirt commemorating the event, and a chance to go pregame bar-hopping with me, John Bonnes, Parker Hageman, Nick Nelson, and various other people of note from the internet. Space is limited, so go reserve your spot.

Daunte Culpepper, who once received a $16 million signing bonus from the Vikings, just had his 10,000-square foot house in Florida taken by the bank as part of a foreclosure case.

Carly Rae Jepsen looked good throwing out the first pitch at an Orioles game two months ago, but her second try at a Rays game didn't go so well.

• There was an entertaining profile of Mets ace Matt Harvey in Men's Journal and his comments about modeling his dating life after Derek Jeter drew headlines, but here's my favorite excerpt:

"Dirty martinis and music--that's the big motto in our family," he says, describing his extended Italian-American clan as a rowdy tribe, fond of letting loose as often as possible. "We get the booze going, and the music starts playing. Always old-school hip-hop. Jay-Z. Tribe Called Quest. The Pharcyde. My parents love that stuff."

Do you think Harvey's parents would adopt me? Imagine going to a family dinner and everyone is drinking and your mom puts on Tribe Called Quest. No wonder their son is a superhero.

• All-Star game reminder: Mariano Rivera is amazing, but Joe Nathan is pretty great too.

• I have a couple openings in my "Hardball Dynasty" league on WhatIfSports and the new season begins next week. If you're interested in joining, please read this first.

• This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode includes a special guest co-host, on-air reactions to the Twins' just-announced roster moves, and lots of Ron Gardenhire talk.

• Oh nothing, just Rosie O'Donnell awkwardly introducing Puff Daddy and Mase to the crowd at the Nickelodeon awards in 1998:

I was 15 years old in 1998, so you can imagine how things got to be the way they are.

Bud Selig says he's never sent an e-mail in his life.

Tim Lincecum and Buster Posey are the cutest.

• Apparently the Kenny Chesney concert screwed up the grass at Target Field.

• My weekly half-hour chat with Paul Allen on KFAN included Glen Perkins trade talk, debating the merits of the Twins not spending money, and the apparent return of "Girls Gone Gleeman."

• On a related note, if the Twins trade Perkins this is the picture fans can look at before storming Target Field.

• And speaking of pictures of the Twins' closer, here's Perkins and Joe Mauer through the years as high school All-Stars, World Baseball Classic teammates, and MLB All-Stars. Pretty cool.

Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky forever.

• I'm apparently not the only blogger re-watching "The Sopranos."

Ben Revere, who hit .347 in 65 games since May 1, is now out two months with a broken foot.

• Before that injury Jeff Sullivan of Fan Graphs wrote a great piece examining how close Revere has actually come to hitting a home run.

• Netflix's new original series "Orange Is The New Black" is definitely worth watching. It's a little uneven at times in terms of tone and some of the performances border on cheesy, but there's lot of good characters, some very compelling scenes, and more humor than I expected.

• "Orange Is The New Black" has a scene in which a prisoner references a YouTube video about the positive impact from minimal amounts of exercise, so I found the video and it's good:

As a lazy person with a sedentary job that's basically the exercise approach that worked for me.

• I'm not sure why, since it was the All-Star break and the team is so depressing, but for some reason I wrote three lengthy Twins articles this week in addition to a two-hour podcast. It would make me feel better about my questionable use of time if you'd read all the stuff:

- Reviewing the Twins' first half: Hitters
- Reviewing the Twins' first half: Pitchers
- Who are the worst All-Stars in Twins history?

Those three articles were written in the span of 72 hours and include about 6,000 words. To put that in some context, many novels are 40,000-50,000 words. This is one of those weeks when I start to think about the amount of Twins content I could produce if it were a job rather than an unpaid hobby and then start to think about needing a new hobby. Anyway, do me a favor and read as many of those 6,000 words as you can.

• I went with a different photo to accompany my "Who are the worst All-Stars in Twins history?" post, but this "Ronald Coomer" baseball card definitely needs to be seen.

• I still can't believe they let my HardballTalk blog-mate Craig Calcaterra (and his HBT Daily co-host Kay Adams) on the field for the All-Star game.

Chris Davis quit Twitter right before the All-Star game and I'm surprised he lasted that long.

• I love when celebrities talk about their Howard Stern fandom and Jonah Hill was the latest to do so on Marc Maron's podcast.

• For my fellow Stern fans: Did you know the morning show that friend of AG.com Dana Wessel now produces on KTWIN-96.3 is co-hosted by longtime Stern show regular Cane? I just pieced that together last week and now I have so many Crazy Cabbie questions for him.

• Speaking of Maron, he was a guest on Joe Rogan's show and they had a good three-hour talk.

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

- "What did the Twins get for Matt Capps?"
- "Picture of Brendan Harris hitting"
- "Famous people over 350 pounds"
- "Zooey Deschanel fantasy baseball"
- "Aaron Gleeman watches 'Blue Valentine'"
- "Man stuffing face"
- "Elliptical workouts at midnight"
- "Elisha Cuthbert in Minnesota"
- "Nikola Pekovic girlfriend"
- "Who was Roy Smalley?"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Royals" by Lorde:


This week's blog content is sponsored by the Twins Daily light rail pub crawl/Twins game, where you can join Aaron Gleeman, John Bonnes, Parker Hageman, Nick Nelson, and Seth Stohs for a day of bar-hopping and baseball on September 14. Space is limited, so book your spot.

May 8, 2013

Revisiting the best Twins prospects of the 2000s

mauer and morneau rookie

Coming into the season the Twins were universally regarded as having one of the truly elite farm systems in baseball, boasting plenty of star-level talent and impressive depth. I called it the best crop of Twins prospects in my decade-plus writing about the team and nothing has changed since then, as consensus top-25 prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton are off to amazing starts and most of system's other significant prospects have played well.

I've written plenty about the Twins' prospects as part of my annual rankings, so there's no sense in revisiting everything a month into the season, but I thought it would be interesting to examine the recent history of Twins prospects. This year the Twins had six prospects in Baseball America's top 100 list, including Sano and Buxton in the top 10 and Oswaldo Arcia in the top 50, but what exactly has it meant to be a Twins prospect in the Baseball America top 100?

I wanted to focus on how prospects were perceived nationally at the time, rather than local hype or how I personally viewed them or how they actually turned out--no Johan Santana, in other words--so I relied on BA's list. On a season-to-season basis prospect crops vary wildly, so not all rankings are created equal, but below you'll find my best estimate of the highest-rated and/or most-hyped Twins prospects since 2000 (minus current prospects) and where they stand now.


1. Joe Mauer: #7 in 2002, #4 in 2003, #1 in 2004, #1 in 2005

Joe Mauer was basically as good as prospects get. He was a multi-sport superstar in high school, got drafted No. 1 overall, had immediate success hitting .400 at rookie-ball, thrived at every stop in the minors despite being young for the level of competition, was named Baseball America minor league player of the year, and reached the majors two weeks before his 21st birthday. Mauer was arguably the best MLB prospect of the 2000s and has obviously lived up to the hype.


2. Francisco Liriano: #83 in 2003, #6 in 2006

When the Giants traded Francisco Liriano to the Twins he was a former top 100 prospect who'd fallen off the list due to arm problems in the low minors, but two years later he re-emerged as the best pitching prospect in baseball. He showed why with one of the most dominant rookie seasons ever, but that was cut short by elbow surgery. Liriano has found some post-surgery success, but he was never the same and is a prime example of the volatile nature of pitching prospects.


3. Justin Morneau: #21 in 2002, #14 in 2003, #16 in 2004

Coming up in the same farm system at the same time as Mauer made Justin Morneau somewhat overshadowed, but he was definitely an elite prospect. Not only did Morneau rank among Baseball America's top 25 prospects in three straight seasons, he put up big numbers at every level in the minors and debuted in the majors a month after his 22nd birthday. Injuries have unfortunately kept Morneau from realizing his full potential, but he obviously lived up to the hype.


4. Michael Cuddyer: #36 in 1999, #18 in 2000, #55 in 2001, #27 in 2002, #17 in 2003

Michael Cuddyer was the ninth overall pick out of high school and cracked Baseball America's top 50 a remarkable five times, peaking at No. 17 the same year Mauer was No. 4 and Morneau was No. 14. He doesn't have an MVP, but Cuddyer has played 13 seasons as an above-average corner outfielder and occasional infielder, hitting .272/.342/.457. Everyone should be thrilled if similarly hyped prospects turned out as well as Cuddyer.


5. Jason Kubel: #17 in 2005, #58 in 2006

Oh, what could have been. Jason Kubel hit .352/.414/.590 with 16 steals between Double-A and Triple-A at age 22, hit .300 in a 23-game September debut, and ranked 17th on BA's list. Then a gruesome collision destroyed his knee, knocked him out for an entire year, and turned Kubel from an athletic, high-average hitter with good speed to a plodding slugger. And yet Kubel has still managed a decade-long career as an above-average corner outfielder not far off from Cuddyer.


6. Matt Garza: #21 in 2007

Matt Garza made just one Baseball America top 100, but that's because he went from first-round pick to the big leagues in one year. After some initial struggles Garza made 15 starts with a 3.69 ERA as a 23-year-old, at which point the Twins traded him for Delmon Young. Young is one of the biggest prospect busts of the 2000s whereas Garza had a five-season run as a solid No. 2 starter, but injuries have derailed him at age 29.


7. Michael Restovich: #50 in 1999, #26 in 2000, #63 in 2002, #37 in 2003

Drafted in the second round out of a Minnesota high school, Michael Restovich was a 6-foot-6 slugger who put up big power numbers in the minors and ranked among Baseball America's top 100 prospects four times. He debuted with the Twins at age 23 after hitting .286/.353/.542 at Triple-A, but never got an extended chance despite generally faring pretty well. He was lost on waivers in 2005, bounced around a ton, and ended up with just 297 career plate appearances.


8. Carlos Gomez: #60 in 2007, #52 in 2008

Carlos Gomez twice cracked Baseball America's top 100 in the Mets' system and was arguably the centerpiece of the Twins' haul for Santana. He debuted at age 21 and was the Twins' starting center fielder at 22, but rushing Gomez through the minors left him as mostly a mess offensively. Traded to the Brewers for J.J. Hardy after the 2009 season and now 27, he's finally becoming an impact hitter to go along with what was always excellent defense.


9. Adam Johnson: #41 in 2002, #85 in 2002

Adam Johnson was the No. 2 pick in 2000 draft out of Cal-State Fullerton, but Baseball America projected him as a mid-first rounder and the Twins were criticized for making a "signability pick." Johnson predictably fared well in the low minors against less experienced competition and cracked the top 50 in 2002, but things fell apart once he advanced past Single-A. He posted a 10.25 ERA in 26 innings as a major leaguer, washing out at age 23.


10. Luis Rivas: #70 in 1997, #55 in 1998, #63 in 1999, #86 in 2000, #93 in 2001

Luis Rivas ranked as a top 100 prospect in five straight seasons, but in the early days of this blog I wrote often about how his actual performance never matched the hype. He never hit well in the minors, yet the Twins made him their starting second baseman at age 21 and stuck with him as a regular for five seasons despite a .262/.307/.383 mark and iffy defense. He played 565 games for the Twins through age 25, but totaled just 83 more games after they finally let him go.


11. Wilson Ramos: #71 in 2009, #58 in 2010, #96 in 2011

While never quite an elite prospect Wilson Ramos typically ranked among the top five catchers and was a good enough prospect for long enough to create questions about how the Twins could make room for him and Mauer in their long-term plans. Ramos was a top 100 prospect three times and debuted with the Twins at age 22, but was traded to the Nationals for Matt Capps later that season. He's still just 25, but looks headed for a lengthy career as an above-average catcher.


12. Glen Perkins: #91 in 2006, #66 in 2007

Glen Perkins starred for the Gophers, made the top 100 twice, and debuted for the Twins two years after they made him a first-round pick. He was billed as a mid-rotation starter and looked the part as a 25-year-old rookie, but then struggled for two seasons as injuries derailed him. Perkins was demoted to the minors at age 27 and returned as a reliever, throwing harder than ever and quickly moving into the closer role.


13. J.D Durbin: #66 in 2004, #70 in 2005

J.D. Durbin threw hard and talked a good game, nicknaming himself "The Real Deal." He debuted in 2004 with all kinds of promise at age 22, but didn't make it back to the majors until 2007 and all that prospect shine had worn off by then. His strikeout rates and overall numbers in the minors never quite matched his hype and once he got to Triple-A poor control further did him in. Last year Durbin spent his 13th season in the minors, compared to 73 total innings in the majors.


14. Deolis Guerra: #35 in 2008

Deolis Guerra is technically still a prospect in that he's only 24 years old and hasn't reached the majors, but between his on-field struggles and recent health problems he's looking like a long shot to have a big-league career. Once upon a time many people felt that Guerra, not Gomez, was the best prospect in the Santana package, but like Gomez he wasn't helped by being rushed through the minors in the Mets' system and has had little success above Single-A.


15. Matthew LeCroy: #44 in 2000

Matthew LeCroy was a first-round pick out of college and crushed minor-league pitching while moving quickly through the Twins' system, debuting as their Opening Day catcher in his third pro season. He struggled offensively and proved to be a liability behind the plate, but after a demotion back to the minors he returned as a good platoon bat versus left-handed pitching at designated hitter, first base, and occasionally catcher.


16. Kevin Slowey: #71 in 2007

Kevin Slowey was an oft-debated prospect because his ridiculously great numbers in the minors didn't match his underwhelming raw stuff. Baseball America tends to skew heavily toward stuff over stats, so the fact that Slowey still made the top 100 shows just how silly his numbers were. He debuted at age 23 after posting a 2.28 ERA and 159-to-31 strikeout-to-walk ratio between Double-A and Triple-A, and split the difference by becoming a decent mid-rotation starter.


17. Ben Revere: #59 in 2009

Ben Revere was viewed as a reach in the first round of the 2007 draft, but started to get some prospect hype after he hit .379 at low Single-A in 2008. That was his only year appearing in the top 100, which isn't surprising considering prospect rankings are all about upside and Revere's complete lack of power and arm strength limited that even in optimistic scenarios. He's more or less become the flawed but useful player his minor-league track record suggested.


18. Jesse Crain: #89 in 2004, #63 in 2005

Jesse Crain was a college reliever and second-round pick who moved quickly through the Twins' system, debuting at age 23 after 162 innings in the minors. While the shape of his performance has changed over the years, Crain was a good setup man immediately and has remained so for a decade with a 3.18 ERA that includes just two seasons above 3.60. Relievers are rarely considered elite prospects, but Crain's career has gone almost exactly as hoped.


19. Matt Moses: #81 in 2004, #75 in 2006

Billed as a "pure hitter" coming out of high school as a first-round pick, Matt Moses got by on that reputation for quite a while before everyone finally realized that he couldn't actually hit. He cracked Baseball America's top 100 twice, peaking at No. 75 on a 2006 list that had Jay Bruce, Dustin Pedroia, and Kendry Morales in the next three spots, but never advanced beyond Double-A and hit just .249/.304/.374 in the minors overall before washing out at age 24.


20. Nick Blackburn: #56 in 2008

I disagreed so much with Baseball America ranking Nick Blackburn as the Twins' top prospect in 2008 that I made a bet with the magazine's editor, John Manuel, that Blackburn wouldn't get 70 career wins. I'm feeling pretty safe about the bet now with Blackburn stuck on 43 wins and his career at a crossroads, although in retrospect he did turn out better than I expected even if 819 innings of a 4.85 ERA is nothing special.


This week's blog content is sponsored by Curt's Salsa, a locally owned salsa company that believes in fresh ingredients and rooting for the little guy. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

April 19, 2013

Link-O-Rama

• I'd have pegged Jose Mijares as the perpetrator, not the victim, in a "someone farted in the bullpen" situation.

• I was trying to keep this a secret, but I guess the news is out: I live in Michigan now and have a 6-year-old son.

• I took issue with IMDB's ranking of the top 10 baseball movies of all time, so I put together my own list over at HardballTalk. Despite blogging since 2002 it was my first real foray into making lists for people to argue about on the internet. And boy did they!

Kyle Buchanan of Vulture did some interesting research (with graphs!) about how male movie stars get old and their female love interests stay mostly the same age.

• As a freshman in college I had three roommates I'd never met before and within the first week two of them uttered the same phrase as Oklahoma politician Bill Johnson.

• I have a few openings in my "Hardball Dynasty" league on WhatIfSports and the new season begins next week. If you're interested in joining, please read this first.

• One of my favorite writers, Joe Posnanski, did a lengthy feature on one of my favorite coaches, Gregg Popovich, and not surprisingly it's great.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode a woman named Delilah interrupted the show, decided she liked us, and stayed to chat for a while.

• I didn't think it was possible to be any more into Alison Brie, but then I watched her 22-minute chat with Paul F. Tompkins.

And there's more where that came from.

• On a related note, my favorite moment from the most recent "Mad Men" episode? Please do!

• Of the several million "Mad Men" recaps I read each week Molly Lambert's for Grantland always rate at or near the top.

Justin Bieber on Anne Frank, obviously.

Ben Revere is not off to a good start in Philadelphia and the complaints sound familiar, but his catch Monday night was incredible. Of course, not every attempted great catch works so well.

• I'm getting pretty sick of Glen Perkins trying to ride my coattails to fame.

• Between the weather and the score last Friday night's Twins-Mets game was depressing, but the highlight was what happened when a bat flew into the stands. My new best friend is the guy in the Johan Santana jersey holding an ice cream cone.

• My favorite baseball player is selling his house and it's cheap enough that I think we should all pool our money together and buy the place.

Rasheed Wallace announced his retirement again and I'll choose to remember him like this.

Adam Scott is sick of Adam Scott.

• I joked on Twitter that Carlos Quentin's punishment for charging the mound on Zack Greinke should be having to do the same on Kyle Farnsworth, and Dayn Perry of CBSSports.com looked into Farnsworth's "weapons-grade soup-bones."

Faith Hill is stepping down as the "Sunday Night Football" theme singer, so I've put in a request with the NBC higher-ups to do the right thing and replace her with Mase.

• Oh, no big deal, just Dolph Lundgren singing (and drumming) Elvis on Eurovision:

Amazing.

• I enjoyed this chat between official pitcher of the internet Brandon McCarthy and living legend Carson Cistulli, who also had a good chat with Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic about life as a baseball beat reporter.

Nate Sandell of 1500ESPN.com wrote a good piece about new Gophers basketball coach Richard Pinto being a stat-head.

• My fellow "Chopped" fans will love frequent judge Scott Conant's appearance on "WTF" with Marc Maron. He was great and hopefully it convinces Maron to interview more chefs.

Norm MacDonald's weekly video podcast has quickly become a must-watch and Russell Brand was an especially entertaining guest.

• Link-O-Rama regular Dana Wessel was a guest on this week's "The Sportive" podcast, if you're into that type of thing.

• I watched "The Campaign" on HBO and it was decent, but far more interesting was discovering that the actress who played Will Ferrell's wife was married to both Dennis Hopper and French Stewart in real life. How do you think she describes her "type"?

• My love for Mets right-hander Matt Harvey knows no bounds, unlike my photoshop skills.

Joe Mauer turns 30 years old today and I choose to celebrate by looking at this picture again.

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

- "Corey Koskie net worth"
- "Is Miguel Sano that good?"
- "FSN naked girl"
- "Sid Hartman drinking hot chocolate"
- "Is Jon Taffer Jewish?"
- "Jon Taffer in Minnesota"
- "How did Kevin Goldstein get famous?"
- "Men line up Target Field restroom"
- "Twins pitching still sucks"
- "Mila Kunis tired"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Vivrant Thing" by Q-Tip:


This week's blog content is sponsored by DiamondCentric's new GAME SIX shirt, commemorating one of the best moments in Minnesota sports history. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

March 25, 2013

Twins Notes: Hicks, Butera, Gibson, Diamond, Benson, and 612 Brew

aaron hicks three homers

• Making official what was pretty clearly the plan as soon as they followed up the Denard Span trade by also trading Ben Revere, the Twins named Aaron Hicks the Opening Day center fielder. Perhaps if Hicks had a terrible spring training Darin Mastroianni could have worked his way into the gig as a place-holder, but Hicks made that a moot point by hitting .350/.397/.650 with three steals in 18 games, including a headline-making three-homer game.

Hicks is a very good prospect with an all-around skill set that could make him a long-term building block, so I'm extremely excited to see him play. However, by jumping him from Double-A to the big leagues at age 23 the Twins may be rushing his development a bit and are definitely sacrificing their ability to delay his eventual free agency for the maximum amount of time. If he never goes back to the minors Hicks will be a free agent following the 2018 season, at age 29.

Based on service time rules they could've pushed back his free agency by an entire year, gaining an extra season and 162 games of team control, by sending Hicks to Triple-A for as little as four weeks. In that scenario if the Twins called him up in late April or early May and Hicks never went back to the minors he'd be a free agent following 2019, at age 30. Short-term gratification is hard to ignore, but stretching a prospect's pre-free agency years is done regularly by many teams.

Instead of having Hicks for 135 games this year and 162 games in 2019 they'll have him for 162 games this year and zero games in 2019. That math seems straightforward enough, especially considering Hicks is likely to be better as a 29-year-old veteran than as a 23-year-old rookie and the Twins might actually be contending in 2019. It's not about being cheap, it's about maximizing a player's value before he can leave. But it apparently never factored into the Twins' decision.

• One thing that has always made Hicks an intriguing prospect is excellent plate discipline, which he displayed immediately as an 18-year-old at rookie-ball in 2008 and has maintained ever since. He's averaged 98 walks per 150 games as a pro, including 79 walks in 129 games at Double-A last season, which is not a skill set you typically find in speedy, athletic, up-the-middle defenders. Joe Mauer, who knows a little something about plate discipline, took notice of Hicks' approach:

I've been real impressed by him. For a young guy to take pitches and work at-bats is pretty impressive. Even today, I talked to him and told him taking pitches is going to help the guys behind him. He has a pretty good grasp on how to approach an at-bat.

Ron Gardenhire tends to use speedy center fielders and middle infielders atop the lineup even if they lack strong on-base skills, so it's nice that Hicks is actually a patient hitter. By comparison, Revere drew a grand total of 57 walks in 254 games for the Twins. Hicks' high walk rate has also come with lots of strikeouts and mediocre batting averages, so it'll be interesting to see how he adjusts to facing pitchers with better control and no fear of throwing him strikes.

• Back in December the Twins tendered Drew Butera a contract for 2013 and then in January the two sides avoided arbitration with a one-year, $700,000 deal, but he'll be making that money in Rochester after being optioned to the minors. On one hand it's encouraging that the Twins finally realized a career .183/.232/.265 hitter probably shouldn't be in the majors. On the other hand it would have been nice to come to that conclusion before signing him to a $700,000 contract.

One-year deals to avoid arbitration aren't fully guaranteed until certain dates this month, so even after signing Butera they could've saved five-sixths or three-fourths of the money by releasing him. Detroit recently did that with Brennan Boesch, saving $1.9 million of a $2.3 million deal, but those deadlines have passed. Gardenhire talked of wanting a stronger bench and removing Butera fits that, but he also talked of wanting Jim Thome and that apparently isn't happening.

Kyle Gibson won't be joining Hicks on the Opening Day roster, as initial reports of him looking great coming back from Tommy John elbow surgery gave way to struggles in actual games and the Twins sent him to Triple-A. He'll be limited to 130 innings this season, so there's an argument for not wasting them at Triple-A, but the problem with that line of thinking is assuming Gibson is ready to succeed against big-league hitters when he hadn't even done that yet before surgery.

• What was supposed to be minor surgery to remove a bone chip from Scott Diamond's elbow in December has become a season-opening stint on the disabled list for the would-be Opening Day starter. For now the plan is for Diamond to make his season debut in mid-April, missing the Game 1 matchup versus Justin Verlander and a couple more starts, but the Twins' injury timetables haven't been worth a whole lot in recent years and worrying about elbow issues tends to loom.

• Diamond on the DL and Gibson at Triple-A means Samuel Deduno or Cole DeVries is likely to be in the Opening Day rotation and both of them could get a spot if the Twins decide to send Liam Hendriks back to Triple-A. At the beginning of the offseason Terry Ryan spoke of big plans for fixing the awful rotation, yet the Twins are already turning to the same career minor leaguers who were thrown against the wall to see if they stuck last season as emergency options.

Joe Benson was sent to Triple-A after a lackluster spring training, but even if he'd played well there wasn't much room for him on a roster with Hicks and Mastroianni. Benson is coming off a terrible, injury wrecked season, so he needs to get back on track or risk falling off the prospect radar, but he'd seemingly be the obvious call-up if Hicks struggles or if any of Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau, Chris Parmelee, or Ryan Doumit gets injured.

Danny Rams and Cole Nelson were among a handful of minor leaguers released by the Twins. Rams was a 2007 second-round pick with lots of power, but couldn't turn himself into a quality defensive catcher and hit .241 with 543 strikeouts in 406 games while failing to get past Single-A. Nelson and Lester Oliveros were acquired from the Tigers for Delmon Young in 2011--the same day "Gleeman and The Geek" debuted--but the big left-hander from Edina stalled at Single-A.

Anthony Swarzak will join Diamond in beginning the season on the disabled list as he recovers from the fractured ribs suffered in the "horseplay" incident during Twins Fest.

Tim Wood, who was a candidate for the Twins' bullpen and out of minor-league options, has been shut down with a strained rotator cuff.

Matt Capps failed to make the Indians on a minor-league deal and may accept an assignment to Triple-A one year after beginning the season as the Twins' closer.

Scott Baker's comeback from Tommy John surgery has been derailed by a strained elbow and he'll be shut down for at least a month.

• Thanks to everyone who came to the Twins Daily meet-up Saturday at 612 Brew. It was a great turnout and we're definitely planning to host semi-regular events throughout the season. Between the beer and laid-back space 612 Brew is an ideal venue, with the added bonus that the owners are Twins fans and the head brewer is a "Gleeman and The Geek" listener. I'm sure we'll be back there at some point, but in the meantime I highly recommended checking out 612 Brew.

• I didn't think to take any pictures until after the crowd had already thinned out a bit, but ...

twins daily 612 meetup2

twins daily 612 meetup1

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twins daily 612 meetup3


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