December 11, 2013

Twins Notes: Hendriks, Pelfrey, Davis, Sano, Jones, and the Rule 5 draft

Cleveland Indians v Minnesota Twins

• To make room on the 40-man roster for Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes the Twins designated Liam Hendriks for assignment, cutting the 24-year-old right-hander loose just two seasons after he was named the organization's minor league pitcher of the year. Of course, last season's minor league pitcher of the year, B.J. Hermsen, has already been removed from the 40-man roster too and this year's winner, Andrew Albers, isn't exactly destined to remain there forever.

Here are the Twins' last 10 minor league pitcher of the year winners:

2013  Andrew Albers
2012  B.J. Hermsen
2011  Liam Hendriks
2010  Kyle Gibson
2009  David Bromberg
2008  Anthony Slama
2007  Kevin Slowey
2006  Matt Garza
2005  Francisco Liriano
2004  Scott Baker

There's obviously a lot more to the story, but that list is a good indicator of when things started to go wrong for the Twins. As for Hendriks, he's been terrible in the majors so far and even when he was putting up nice-looking numbers in the minors I was never a particularly big fan, viewing him as a potential mid-rotation starter long term. Still, considering his age and the replacement-level talent still residing on the 40-man roster letting him go isn't the call I'd have made.

• Even after adding Nolasco and Hughes the Twins are apparently still trying to re-sign Mike Pelfrey, which makes zero sense to me. He was a mess for the Twins and while he'll be another year removed from elbow surgery the problem is that Pelfrey was never much good before the injury with a 4.36 ERA and measly 5.1 strikeouts per nine innings for the Mets. I'd rely on young arms before turning back to Pelfrey and the idea of a two-year deal seems all kinds of misguided.

• Free agent outfielder Rajai Davis signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Tigers and in doing so reportedly turned down a two-year offer from the Twins. Davis is incredibly fast, stealing 60 bases per 600 plate appearances during the past five seasons, but also hit just .271/.317/.382 over that span and is a surprisingly mediocre defender. It's interesting that the Twins made a run at him, because they're certainly not short on outfielders at the moment.

Miguel Sano stopped playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic last month because of an elbow injury and the Twins are still waiting to determine whether Tommy John surgery is needed. That would obviously be a huge blow to Sano considering how close he is to the majors and how much of his ability to remain at third base revolves around arm strength, but position players do recover from Tommy John surgery more quickly than pitchers. Still, not good.

Garrett Jones, who left the Twins as a minor-league free agent way back in 2008, signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract with the Marlins. I'm not sure why the Marlins of all teams need a mediocre 33-year-old first baseman coming off a career-worst season, but good for him. Jones always showed good power in the minors, but his all-around skill set was never very impressive and his hitting .256/.318/.462 in five seasons for the Pirates definitely qualifies as a surprise.

• As of now the 40-man roster is full and Terry Ryan indicated that the Twins don't plan to pick anyone in the Rule 5 draft Thursday. Last year they selected Ryan Pressly from the Red Sox and he stayed in the majors all season as a low-leverage reliever, throwing 77 innings with a 3.87 ERA and 49-to-27 strikeout-to-walk ratio at age 24.

• Tickets won't go on sale until Friday morning, but here are the details on the next Twins Daily and "Gleeman and The Geek" event. Should be a good one.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we talked about the Twins missing out on free agent catcher targets A.J. Pierzynski and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the new homes for Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan, and Hendriks getting dropped.


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August 2, 2013

Miguel Sano, Chad Rupp, David Ortiz, and the chase for Tim Laudner

sano and sluggers

Friends and family, we are gathered here today to drool over Miguel Sano's power potential.

As a 19-year-old last season Sano played 129 games at low Single-A and hit 28 homers. Not only did that lead the Midwest League, no one else had even 20 homers. And that's nothing compared to what he's doing now. Sano began this season with 16 homers in 56 games at high Single-A and has homered 10 times in 40 games since a promotion to Double-A. That adds up to 26 homers in 96 games and puts Sano on pace for the most homers by any Twins minor leaguer in 25 years:

                    YEAR      PA     HR
Chad Rupp           1997     491     32
Garrett Jones       2004     563     31
Mike Ryan           2002     600     31
David Ortiz         1997     594     31
Michael Cuddyer     2001     593     30
Matthew LeCroy      1999     506     30
David Ortiz         1999     563     30

Chad Rupp was a 44th-round pick in 1993 out of the University of Miami who hit .272/.352/.575 with 32 homers in 117 games at Triple-A in 1997. That season the Pacific Coast League as a whole hit .293 with a .465 slugging percentage, so Rupp's power wasn't as impressive as it looked and as a 25-year-old first baseman who hadn't hit much before that he was a non-prospect. He was out of baseball two seasons later.

Garrett Jones and Mike Ryan were longtime Triple-A fixtures for the Twins in the early 2000s, combining to play parts of 10 seasons there in the organization. Ryan had his 31-homer season as a 24-year-old in the hitter-friendly PCL, a year before the Triple-A team moved to Rochester. He hit .261/.330/.522 in 131 games, but never produced like that before or after. Ryan got a handful of brief chances with the Twins, hitting .265/.313/.408 in 285 plate appearances.

Jones is one of the Twins' most prolific minor-league sluggers, homering 31 times at Double-A in 2004 and then topping 20 homers at Triple-A in four of the next five seasons. He also hit just .259 with a .318 on-base percentage and 411-to-167 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 518 games at Triple-A and no tears were shed when he left the organization as a free agent in 2009. Jones signed with the Pirates, worked his way to the majors, and has hit .258/.319/.462 in 661 games.

Michael Cuddyer had his 30-homer season as a 22-year-old at Double-A, hitting .301/.395/.560 in 141 games in 2001. He was repeating the level following a mediocre season for New Britain in 2000 and didn't get an extended opportunity with the Twins until 2004, when he was 25. Cuddyer had good power for the Twins and is nearing 200 career homers, but he's topped 25 homers in a season just once with 32 in 2009.

Matthew LeCroy had his 30-homer season as a 23-year-old at Single-A in 1999 and then hit 20 homers in 89 games back at Single-A the next season before the Twins finally promoted him to the high minors. He continued to show big-time power at Double-A and Triple-A with 57 homers in 246 games, but never managed more than 17 homers in the majors because he struggled against right-handed pitching and served as a part-time designated hitter/first baseman/catcher.

David Ortiz is the only Twins minor leaguer to reach 30 homers twice in the past 25 years. He did it split between Single-A, Double-A, and Triple-A as a 21-year-old in 1997, hitting .317/.372/.568 in 140 games. And then he did it two years later at Triple-A, hitting .315/.412/.590 in 130 games. And now 15 years later Ortiz is closing in on 500 career homers, although only 58 of them came with the Twins.

What does all of that mean for Sano? Who knows. In terms of upside he's certainly more Cuddyer and Ortiz than Rupp and Ryan, but Sano is a year younger than Ortiz was in 1997 and two years younger than Cuddyer was in 2001. And if Sano stays in the minors for the entire season he may end up closer to 40 homers than 30 homers. Tim Laudner is the last Twins minor leaguer with 40 homers, going deep 42 times at Double-A as a 23-year-old in 1981. Sano was born in 1993.


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