October 16, 2013

Twins Notes: Roster cuts, post-trade Morneau, attendance, and Big Papi

josh roenicke twins

• Three weeks ago I listed 16 players in danger of being removed from the 40-man roster and so far the Twins have dropped five of them: Josh Roenicke, Clete Thomas, Doug Bernier, Cole De Vries, Shairon Martis. I'd expect at least another 3-4 cuts by the end of the World Series, but in the meantime the Twins already re-signed Bernier to a minor-league contract that keeps the 33-year-old journeyman in the organization without a 40-man roster spot.

Roenicke being cut might have surprised some people simply because he spent the entire season in the Twins' bullpen and logged the same number of innings as Glen Perkins, but he posted a 4.35 ERA compared to the league average of 3.69 for relievers and his secondary numbers were actually even worse with a 45-to-36 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His stats for the Rockies last season were similarly underwhelming and at age 31 he was due for a raise via arbitration.

Thomas started 79 games for the Twins, including 48 in center field, but hit .214/.290/.307 with 92 strikeouts in 322 plate appearances to finish with the same exact .597 OPS as Aaron Hicks. He was a bit better defensively than I expected, but Thomas is hardly a great center fielder and doesn't hit enough to be more than a backup. That player type is always available on waivers or minor-league deals, and Alex Presley's arrival made Thomas especially superfluous.

Bernier, De Vries, and Martis are exactly who baseball analysts are talking about when they refer to "replacement-level players" being readily available. It's important to have them stockpiled at Triple-A heading into every season, but it's also important to bring in a fresh batch every winter without clogging up the 40-man roster and as the Twins have shown recently things get ugly in a hurry when more than a few of them are pressed into extended action.

• Making official what was reported at the time of the trade, the Twins acquired Duke Welker from the Pirates as the player to be named later in the Justin Morneau deal. I wrote quite a bit about Welker as part of my overall analysis of the trade on August 31, but the quick version is that he's a big right-handed reliever with a mid-90s fastball, good strikeout totals, and terrible control. Not a bad flier to get along with Presley, but Welker is already 27 years old.

Including the postseason Morneau ended up hitting .267 with zero homers and a .317 slugging percentage in 31 games for the Pirates. Overall this season between Minnesota and Pittsburgh he hit .260/.325/.413 in 158 games and combined for the past three seasons he hit .256/.329/.406 in 361 games. There are still local media members stumping for Morneau's return to the Twins as a 33-year-old free agent, but it's awfully hard to understand why.

David Ortiz's dramatic grand slam for the Red Sox led to all the usual grousing about why the Twins let him go back in 2003 and it's important to note that it wasn't for a lack of hitting. Ortiz has the fifth-highest OPS in Twins history among all hitters with at least 1,500 plate appearances through age 26, which is when he left. The only Twins with a higher OPS through 26?  Joe Mauer, Kent Hrbek, Morneau, and Lyman Bostock. Ortiz could always hit. And look at that punim.

Speaking of Ortiz's time in Minnesota, here's an interesting Associated Press story from 2001:

Minnesota Twins designated hitter David Ortiz was placed on the disabled list Saturday, a day after breaking his right wrist diving into home plate.

Ortiz was injured Friday night in the fourth inning of Minnesota's 6-2 victory over Kansas City. One inning later, he homered into the right-field bullpen, but rounding the bases he knew the pain was more than discomfort. He then went to a hospital for X-rays. Ortiz is expected to miss six to eight weeks. ...

Twins' trainers at first thought Ortiz hurt a thumb. "We asked David maybe 90 times or 100, I'm not sure, I lost track: Are you all right?" manager Tom Kelly said. "He said he was, so we let him hit. After he hit, the trainers said his wrist was starting to swell, so we got him out of there."

Kelly seemed to take the injury in stride. "We don't cry about injuries," he said. "We never have and we're not going to start now. I had a man go blind one day, a Hall of Fame player. We just move along. Injuries are part of the game."

Ortiz might be out of place in the Twins' lineup these days, but the injury stuff sounds familiar.

• Twins attendance fell by 3,688 fans per game this season, which was the fifth-largest drop in baseball. In their first two seasons at Target Field the Twins averaged 39,000 fans per game, but that dropped to 34,000 last year and 31,000 this year. And those are tickets sold figures rather than actual fans in the seats. In their final season at the Metrodome the Twins averaged 29,446 fans per game, which seems fairly likely to top next year's totals at Target Field.

• Over the years I've criticized Ron Gardenhire and the Twins for their unwillingness to platoon hitters, which is something Gardenhire and general manager Terry Ryan talked openly about last month in a series of somewhat maddening quotes. Jack Moore of Sports On Earth wrote a very interesting article about how the A's among the teams to take the opposite approach to platooning with lots of success.

• In addition to Bernier the Twins also re-signed Triple-A players James Beresford, Jermaine Mitchell, Lester Oliveros, and Virgil Vasquez to minor-league contracts. Beresford could get a look as a potential utility infielder next season and Oliveros was in the majors before missing this season following Tommy John elbow surgery.

Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors took a lengthy look at some of the key roster issues facing the Twins heading into the offseason.

• MLB Productions released some old video this week that involved a bit of Twins history.

• For more on Morneau's post-trade performance, plus Twins payroll projections and reviewing over/under picks, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.


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February 20, 2012

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2012: 35, 34, 33, 32, 31

Also in this series: 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, 26-30, 36-40.

35. Scott Diamond | Starter | DOB: 7/86 | Throws: Left | Trade: Braves

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2009     AA     23     23     3.50     131.0     152      5     111     53
2010     AA     17     17     3.52     102.1     113      4      90     39
         AAA    10     10     3.36      56.1      53      2      33     15
2011     AAA    23     23     5.56     123.0     158     11      90     36
         MLB     7      7     5.08      39.0      51      3      19     17

Scott Diamond was a worthwhile pickup when the Twins plucked him from the Braves' system in last winter's Rule 5 draft, but rather than simply keep him in the majors as a long reliever they traded former second-round pick Billy Bullock to Atlanta for the right to stash him in the minors. Not only was Bullock the better, higher-upside prospect, making the swap lopsided in talent alone, the Twins ended up promoting Diamond to the majors in July anyway.

Once there he struggled in seven starts with a 5.08 ERA, 19-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .317 opponents' batting average in 39 innings, showing the mediocre raw stuff that limits his long-term potential. His average fastball clocked in at just 88.9 miles per hour and batters also did damage against his 83-mph changeup. Seven bad starts aren't necessarily meaningful and Diamond did a good job inducing ground balls, but the marginal stuff matched his track record.

He's allowed just 13 home runs in 33 career starts at Triple-A, but that comes with a 4.87 ERA and 123-to-51 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 179 innings from a left-hander who'll turn 26 years old this summer. For the first time in a long time the Twins' system is short on starting pitching and Diamond is nice to have around as depth, but he seems unlikely to be more than a fifth starter and giving up Bullock to keep him when the Twins basically already had him was a mistake.

34. Jairo Perez | Third Base | DOB: 6/88 | Bats: Right | Sign: Venezuela

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2009     RK-    142     .217     .324     .317      1      9     17     12
2011     A-     316     .337     .413     .580     15     36     32     48

Jairo Perez signed with the Twins out of Venezuela as an 18-year-old in 2006 and hit .338 over 48 games in the Dominican summer league in 2008. That earned him a 2009 promotion to the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, but he hit just .217 in 37 games and then missed all of 2010 following Tommy John elbow surgery. Perez was totally off the prospect radar, but the Twins moved him up to low Single-A last year and he responded with a monster half-season.

He hit .337/.413/.580 with 15 homers and 20 doubles in 74 games, showing decent strike-zone control with 32 walks versus 48 strikeouts in 316 plate appearances. Perez also committed 17 errors in just 49 games at third base and likely lacks the range to play second base despite seeing some time there for Beloit, but the Twins can obviously find a home for him further down the defensive spectrum if he keeps hitting.

Everything about Perez was surprising last season, but his power was particularly noteworthy from a guy listed at 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds. Because of the season lost to elbow surgery Perez is already 24 years old and he may prove to be a one-year wonder, but posting the second-best OPS in the entire Midwest League is worth noticing in a farm system severely lacking in impressive production above rookie-ball last season.

33. James Beresford | Shortstop | DOB: 1/89 | Bats: Left | Sign: Australia

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2009     A-     505     .289     .342     .313      0     11     34     70
2010     A-     540     .297     .349     .363      1     25     34     56
2011     A+     545     .270     .328     .299      0     13     43     63

James Beresford showed some power development while repeating low Single-A in 2010, doubling his extra-base hit total and adding 50 points to his slugging percentage, but the skinny shortstop from Australia moved up to high Single-A last season and took several steps backward. He failed to homer in 545 plate appearances and managed just 12 doubles, producing a measly .299 slugging percentage despite a solid .270 batting average.

To put that lack of power in some context, consider that no hitter in Twins history with 500 plate appearances in a season has ever posted an Isolated Power below .040. He had a .029 Isolated Power for Fort Myers and a .037 Isolated Power for his career. Beresford has a good enough glove that he certainly doesn't need to be a slugger, but at some point he'll have to show some ability to drive the ball or it's tough to see him developing beyond a utility man.

Beresford is 6-foot-2 and an above-average athlete, but for whatever reason he's been unable to put on muscle since the Twins signed him as a 16-year-old. He's still just 23 years old, so that could change, and he's done a nice job controlling the strike while drawing a fair number of walks for someone to whom pitchers will gladly throw strikes. With even a little pop he'd be very intriguing and as always the Twins could use some long-term middle infield help.

32. Terry Doyle | Starter | DOB: 11/85 | Throws: Right | Rule 5: White Sox

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2009     RK+    12     10     2.98      57.1      51      1      75     15
2010     A-      7      7     0.96      47.0      31      2      58     12
         A+     20     20     3.71     121.1     115     13      99     34
2011     A+     11     11     2.84      73.0      71      3      49     11
         AA     15     15     3.24     100.0      91      8      73     22

With the No. 2 pick in the Rule 5 draft the Twins selected right-hander Terry Doyle from the White Sox. Doyle's strong performance in the Arizona Fall League got the Twins' attention, but that involved just eight starts and he split the regular season between Single-A and Double-A despite being a 25-year-old drafted out of college in 2007. He fits the Twins' mold with good control and a low-90s fastball, throwing 173 innings with a 3.07 ERA and 122/33 K/BB ratio.

Rule 5 picks must remain in the majors all season or be offered back to their original team, but last year the Twins got around that by overpaying the Braves to retain Diamond as a minor leaguer. That move never made sense to me and made even less sense when Diamond was in Minnesota around midseason anyway, so presumably by passing on higher-upside arms to take Doyle with the No. 2 pick they're willing to simply keep him in the majors as a long man.

Vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff told John Manuel of Baseball America that the Twins think Doyle "has got the ability to be a fourth or fifth starter" with velocity that ranges from "marginal" to "average." Not exactly the upside you'd ideally like to target atop the Rule 5 draft and his declining strikeout rate isn't encouraging from a 26-year-old with 15 career starts above Single-A and none at Triple-A, but Doyle isn't without potential.

31. Tyler Grimes | Shortstop | DOB: 7/90 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2011-5

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2011     A-     159     .225     .316     .406      4     13     13     53

As part of their uncharacteristically loading up on college middle infielders last year the Twins drafted Wichita State shortstop Tyler Grimes in the fifth round and signed him for a $132,500 bonus. He showed minimal power as a junior, but hit .300 with 57 walks in 65 games for an excellent .467 on-base percentage. He also struck out 61 times in 65 games and Baseball America's pre-draft scouting report noted both his lack of consistency and all-or-nothing swing.

Those concerns proved accurate in his professional debut, as Grimes skipped rookie-ball and hit just .225 with 53 strikeouts in 42 games at low Single-A. He also failed to maintain the standout plate discipline that he showed in college, drawing just 13 walks in 159 plate appearances, but did flash more pop than expected with four homers and 13 total extra-base hits for a solid .181 Isolated Power.

Grimes' future at shortstop is in question because he made a ton of errors in college, continued to do so during his pro debut, and the Twins used him at second base about one-fourth of the time in Beloit. His arm strength isn't in question, but Baseball America noted that "he plays out of control at times." In theory at least Grimes' speed and on-base skills make him a welcome addition to a Twins system that's perpetually lacking middle infield depth.

February 9, 2011

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2011: 25, 24, 23, 22, 21

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

25. Anthony Slama | Reliever | DOB: 1/84 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2006-39

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2008     A+     51      0     1.01      71.0      43      0     110     24
2009     AA     51      0     2.48      65.1      46      5      93     32
         AAA    11      0     3.45      15.2      11      0      19      8
2010     AAA    54      0     2.20      65.1      41      5      74     32

After four seasons of being nearly unhittable at every level in the minors Anthony Slama finally got his first shot in the majors and didn't impress in five appearances, allowing opponents to bat .300/.440/.550 while showing the mediocre raw stuff and shaky control that convinced the Twins to keep him on the farm until age 26. However, a bad five-game debut is hardly damning and while nowhere near overpowering his low-90s fastball and high-70s slider looked decent.

Slama also surrounded that two-week stint in the big leagues with a very strong performance at Triple-A, tossing 65 innings with a 2.20 ERA, .178 opponents' batting average, and 74-to-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He now has a 1.95 ERA and 345 strikeouts in 249 career innings in the minors, including a 2.46 ERA at Double-A and Triple-A, which should be more than enough to get him another chance to establish himself with the Twins at some point in 2011.

His velocity will never match those great minor-league stats, but Slama is far from a soft-tosser and plenty of big-league relievers have had long, successful careers with similar raw stuff. His window of opportunity will be limited due to his age and the Twins' lack of faith, but hopefully four years of dominating in the minors earns Slama more than four innings to prove himself in the majors. He deserves a legitimate chance to sink or swim, and I still think he can float.

24. James Beresford | Shortstop | DOB: 1/89 | Bats: Left | Sign: Australia

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2008     RK+    211     .246     .345     .285      0      6     25     35
2009     A-     505     .289     .342     .313      0     11     34     70
2010     A-     540     .297     .349     .363      1     25     34     56

International scouting director Howard Norsetter has mused that James Beresford still looks more like "the bat boy" than a big leaguer five years after Twins signed him out of Australia as a 16-year-old, but the 165-pound shortstop has developed into a very intriguing prospect by slowly but surely adding some power at the plate to go along with what has always been an outstanding glove.

Beresford had almost zero power in his first two pro seasons, managing just eight extra-base hits and a .292 slugging percentage in 100 games at rookie-ball. He moved up to low Single-A in 2009 and his power went from non-existent to very poor, and last year Beresford repeated the level while hitting his first career homer and more than doubling his extra-base hit count. He's still in no danger of turning into a slugger, but can at least drive the ball occasionally.

While he was young for low Single-A the first time around asking Beresford to repeat the level last year was odd because he won team MVP honors in 2009 and certainly held his own by hitting .289 with a .342 on-base percentage. He repeated as team MVP last year, hitting .297 with a .349 OBP and upping his slugging percentage by 50 points while cutting his strikeouts by 25 percent. Right now he looks like a bottom-of-the-order hitter, but there's room to grow.

23. Niko Goodrum | Shortstop | DOB: 2/92 | Bats: Switch | Draft: 2010-2

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2010     RK-    128     .161     .219     .195      0      4      9     34

His name ranks as the best in Twins' farm system whether he goes by Cartier Goodrum or his nickname Niko, but last year's second-round pick struggled mightily in rookie-ball after signing out of a Georgia high school for $515,000. Pre-draft scouting reports focused on his raw tools and difficulty making consistent contact, and sure enough Goodrum hit .161 with 34 strikeouts in 118 at-bats in the Gulf Coast League.

It's impossible to find any positives within that performance, but Goodrum was drafted for his long-term upside rather than his ability to thrive immediately. Goodrum is a switch-hitter with what Baseball America described as "surprising raw power" and "good hands" while calling him "an easy player to dream on." He's a very long way from the big leagues, so Goodrum's future depends on the Twins' ability to mold his considerable tools into actual baseball skills.

He's athletic enough to play primarily shortstop for now, although no one seems to believe he has any real shot of sticking at the position and Goodrum may wind up shifting to the outfield eventually when his 6-foot-3, 175-pound frame fills out. He has above-average speed and a strong arm, so Goodrum should be an asset defensively somewhere as long as his bat proves worthy of being in the lineup.

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

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2009     RK-    10     10     1.35      53.1      32      0      42      4
2010     RK+     8      6     3.32      38.0      39      2      39      4
         A-     12     12     5.00      72.0      85      6      46     15

B.J. Hermsen fell to the Twins in the sixth round of the 2008 draft due to a broken collarbone suffered as a high school senior in Iowa and concerns over his bonus demands, but ended up getting second-round money in signing for $650,000. He debuted in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2009 and was nearly unhittable with a 1.35 ERA and 42-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 53 innings, allowing zero homers while opponents batted just .171.

Hermsen moved up to rookie-level Elizabethton to begin last season and thrived there as well, posting a 3.32 ERA and 39/4 K/BB ratio in 38 innings before earning a midseason promotion to low Single-A. He struggled at Beloit, managing just 46 strikeouts in 72 innings while opponents hit .295 with six homers, but maintained excellent control with just 1.9 walks per nine innings and was among the youngest Midwest League pitchers to start double-digit games.

As a 6-foot-6, 230-pound right-hander Hermsen has an intimidating mound presence and while in high school his velocity was regularly said to be in the mid-90s, but he's typically worked in the low-90s as a pro and has just 127 strikeouts in 163 career innings. He makes up for the lack of missed bats with pinpoint control and a fair number of ground balls, but it remains to be seen if Hermsen's size and once-touted velocity lead to the development of better raw stuff.

21. Manuel Soliman | Starter | DOB: 8/89 | Throws: Right | Sign: Dominican

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2009     DSL    14     14     2.15      71.0      66      0      55     20
2010     RK+    12     12     3.48      64.2      47      5      74     21

When the Twins signed Manuel Soliman from the Dominican Republic as a 17-year-old in 2007 he was a third baseman, but after hitting just .199 with a .288 slugging percentage during two seasons of Dominican summer league action he made the move to the mound in 2009 and had immediate success. Despite never pitching before Soliman joined the rotation in the DSL with a 2.15 ERA and 55-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 71 innings while allowing zero homers.

Last season Soliman bypassed the rookie-level Gulf Coast League to pitch one level up in the rookie-level Appalachian League, starting 12 games with a 3.48 ERA and 74/21 K/BB ratio in 65 innings as a 20-year-old, including seven no-hit innings in his second outing. He served up five homers, but opponents batted just .201 against him overall and the right-handed Soliman was actually more effective versus lefties (.160) than righties (.222).

He's a long way from potentially entering the Twins' plans and still needs plenty of refinement, but Soliman's raw stuff is good enough to take notice of the early success and his unique lack of pitching experience could leave lots of room for further development. Armed with a low-90s fastball and mid-80s slider, Soliman has gone 11-4 with a 2.79 ERA and 129/41 K/BB ratio in 136 innings through 26 career starts and will likely make the leap to full-season ball in 2011.