June 25, 2013

Twins Notes: Gibson’s debut, Buxton’s promotion, and Slama’s release

kyle gibson rochester

• It took Mike Pelfrey going on the disabled list with a back injury, but the Twins finally called up Kyle Gibson from Triple-A. Gibson will start Saturday at Target Field against the Royals, making his debut four months before his 26th birthday and nearly 22 months after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery in 2011. He'll be the ninth different pitcher to start a game for the Twins this season, which shows the lengths they went to avoid calling up Gibson.

He leaves Rochester having thrown at least six innings in seven consecutive starts, posting a 2.20 ERA and 41-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 49 innings over that span. Overall in 15 starts there Gibson had a 3.01 ERA and 79-to-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 93 innings, holding opponents to a .229 batting average and four homers in 371 plate appearances. His age and modest strikeout rate keep Gibson from being an elite pitching prospect, but he's plenty good and very ready.

Gibson has never missed a ton of bats, but the 6-foot-6 right-hander throws harder than a typical Twins starting pitcher and has a chance to post an above-average strikeout rate in the majors. His main strength is keeping the ball out of the air, with 57 percent ground balls and just 16 homers in 210 career innings at Triple-A. To put that in some context, only four MLB starting pitchers have a ground-ball rate above 55 percent this season. If things go well he has No. 2 starter upside.

• Gibson is presumably in Minnesota to stay, which could get tricky because of a team-imposed innings limit in his first full season back from surgery. It's been tough to nail down specifics on Gibson's workload cap, but it's likely somewhere around 130-150 innings and he's already thrown 93 innings at Triple-A. If he started every fifth day for the rest of the season he'd be in line for 17 starts and even at just five innings per outing that's 85 innings. He'd fly past any limit.

Gibson sticking around for good would also require dumping someone from the rotation whenever Pelfrey returns from the DL. Pelfrey could be that someone considering he's signed to a one-year deal and has a 6.11 ERA in 14 starts, but P.J. Walters would also be an obvious candidate to dump. Walters imploded Saturday against the Indians, failing to make it out of the first inning, and now has a 5.42 ERA in 18 starts for the Twins.

Walters has a 6.06 ERA in 144 total innings as a major leaguer, which is about what you'd expect from a 28-year-old with a 4.45 ERA in 597 innings at Triple-A. There's little in his lengthy track record to suggest more than a replacement-level starter. He was acquired on a minor-league deal last offseason, passed through waivers unclaimed shortly after the season, and then re-signed on another minor-league contract.

• Two weeks after promoting Miguel Sano from high Single-A to Double-A the Twins promoted Byron Buxton from low Single-A to high Single-A. Buxton wound up playing 68 games for Cedar Rapids and stuffed the stat sheet by hitting .341/.431/.559 with eight homers, 33 total extra-base hits, 32 stolen bases, and a 56-to-44 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is incredible production from a 19-year-old center fielder in a league where the average player is 22.

As of the promotion Buxton led the Midwest League in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, total bases, triples, and runs. He also ranked second in batting average and third in walks, steals, and RBIs. It doesn't get any better for a stud prospect's first exposure to full-season competition and as Jeff Johnson of the Cedar Rapids Gazette pointed out Buxton's performance looks a lot like what Angels superstar Mike Trout did as Cedar Rapids' center fielder back in 2010:

            PA     AVG     OBP     SLG    HR   XBH    BB    SO    SB
Trout      388    .358    .452    .514     6    32    45    76    45
Buxton     320    .341    .431    .559     8    33    44    56    32

It's worth noting that Trout was 18 when he played for Cedar Rapids and Buxton is 19, but those numbers are close enough to make me grin from ear to ear. Trout got promoted to high Single-A for the second half of 2010, crushed Double-A to begin 2011, and made his MLB debut that July at 19. And now he's the best player in baseball. None of which means Buxton is destined to become the next Trout, but so far at least he's walking in Trout's footsteps.

• Here's a complete list of all the teenagers with an OPS of .975 or higher in the Midwest League during the past 30 years:

Byron Buxton      2013     .990
Javier Baez       2012     .979
Oscar Taveras     2011    1.028
Mike Trout        2010     .979
Alex Rodriguez    1994     .984
Larry Walker      1986    1.011

Six total players in 30 seasons. Buxton, Oscar Taveras, and Javier Baez are currently among the top 20 prospects in baseball, Trout is the best player in baseball at age 21, Alex Rodriguez is a three-time MVP with 647 career homers, and Larry Walker is a three-time batting champ with an MVP. Buxton has a long way to go, but doing what he just did as a 19-year-old in the Midwest League is special.

• For years I wrote about how frustrating it was that the Twins refused to give Anthony Slama an extended opportunity in the majors despite extraordinary numbers in the minors and now it's too late. Slama is nearly 30 years old and injuries have started to pile up, causing him to struggle for the first time this season at Triple-A and leading to the Twins releasing him. Not exactly how I envisioned the whole "Free Anthony Slama" campaign ending.

Prior to this year Slama had a 1.99 ERA and 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings in six seasons as a minor leaguer, including a 2.27 ERA and 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings at Triple-A. And yet for all that dominance in the minors the Twins saw fit to give him a grand total of just seven innings in the majors, relegating him to Triple-A for parts of five seasons before finally cutting him loose as a shell of his former self.

It's a real shame, not because Slama was capable of being an elite reliever but because he was certainly deserving of a chance to show that he was at least capable of being a useful part of a major-league bullpen. His raw stuff didn't match his incredible numbers, but Slama threw in the low-90s just like plenty of other successful relievers and the Twins have given bullpen jobs to all sorts of awful pitchers over the years. I'll never understand why they ignored him.

• In the past week Twins vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff and St. Paul Pioneer Press beat reporter Mike Berardino have separately compared Oswaldo Arcia to Bobby Abreu. Both players are relatively short and stocky left-handed-hitting corner outfielders from Venezuela, which may be where a lot of the comparison stems from, but in terms of actual skill sets Arcia and Abreu are very different.

Abreu was among the most disciplined hitters of his era, drawing 100 walks eight seasons in a row, at least 70 walks every year from 1998 to 2011, and the 22nd-most walks of all time. He even averaged 80 walks per 150 games between Double-A and Triple-A. Meanwhile, if Arcia has one clear weakness as a hitter it's his lack of strike zone control. He has 40 strikeouts versus 12 walks in the majors after posting a 92-to-44 strikeout-to-walk ratio at Double-A and Triple-A.

Abreu was also a good base-stealer, with at least 20 steals in 13 straight seasons and 399 career steals at a 76 percent success rate. Arcia has 29 steals in 449 pro games and has been caught 22 times. There's no doubt that Arcia has huge long-term upside and Twins fans should be thrilled if he's anywhere near as valuable as Abreu, who played 17 seasons and hit .292/.396/.477 with 300 homers, 400 steals, and 4,000 times on base. But stylistically any comparison seems forced.

• Just like Buxton last year, No. 4 pick Kohl Stewart signed with the Twins just two weeks after the draft. He agreed to the exact slot bonus recommendation of $4,544,400 and will begin his pro career in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Of the Twins' top 15 picks only second-rounder Ryan Eades, fifth-rounder Aaron Slegers, and eighth-rounder Dustin DeMuth are unsigned and all three are expected to agree to deals eventually.

• Two weeks ago I wrote about Triple-A center fielder/on-base machine Antoan Richardson and he hasn't slowed down. Richardson is now hitting .317/.454/.413 with 58 walks and 29 steals in 71 games between Double-A and Triple-A, raising his career on-base percentage to .404. As a 29-year-old journeyman with little power he's not exactly a hot prospect, but a switch-hitter with good speed and a .450 OBP seems worth giving an opportunity to at some point.

• Nearing the midway point of the season the Twins are 10-2 against the Brewers and White Sox compared to 24-36 versus every other team, which is probably the most fun way to be 34-38.

Joe Mauer has scored 53 percent more runs than anyone else on the Twins. He's on pace for 103 runs. No one else is on pace for more than 68.

• Pitching staff walks: Twins 193, Tigers 197. Pitching staff strikeouts: Twins 424, Tigers 701.

• MLB.com headline: "Phillies remaining patient with Delmon Young."

• For a lot more about Gibson's call-up, Arcia's upside, and Richardson's on-base skills check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.


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.

March 29, 2013

Link-O-Rama

Sad news about Johan Santana, who's probably my favorite Twin of all time and was such a huge part of this blog, beginning with the "Free Johan!" days and extending to his time as the best pitcher in baseball. AG.com began in 2002, from 2002-2010 a total of 121 pitchers started at least 125 games, and Santana was the only one with an ERA below 3.00. And I'll never stop being upset that he was robbed of three straight Cy Young awards by win-obsessed voters.

• Congrats to everyone involved for what is probably the best moment in journalism history. And the follow-up might be even better if you pay close attention to the photo credit.

• Crazy, sad story about catfishing, blackmail, suicide, and a Minnesota native.

• Turning an old ballpark into an apartment complex is absolutely brilliant. I want to live there.

Headline of the week/weak: "Police called over man singing 'Free Falling.'"

• If you were house-sitting a mansion and found $100,000 worth of 100-year-old whiskey, what else could you possibly do?

• As a big "Parenthood" fan I already liked Dax Shepard, but his excellent, emotional story about saying goodbye to his father makes me a fan for life.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we talked Aaron Hicks and Drew Butera, recapped Saturday's big Twins Daily meet-up, and discussed why getting to second base without passing out can be difficult.

Alison Agosti is one of my favorite Twitter follows and podcast guests, and this video of her, Kyle Kinane, and Nick Rutherford telling jokes to avoid drinking "toilet wine" is funny:

After watching that I'm more convinced than ever that we need to do a "drinking game" episode of "Gleeman and The Geek." You know, as opposed to the usual "just drinking" episodes.

• Baltimore reassigned 36-year-old Lew Ford to the minors, where he could be Triple-A teammates with Danny Valencia.

• First-year manager Mike Redmond picked Kevin Slowey for a spot in the Marlins' starting rotation. Redmond caught Slowey for 11 games as Twins teammates.

• What does the Twins' season-opening roster look like? I'm glad you asked.

• I made my triumphant return to Paul Allen's show on KFAN and after 20 minutes of Twins talk he called me out for not following him on Twitter as I warned: "I don't like where this is going."

Rob Dibble was fired as a high school baseball coach after 10 games.

• Addiction-wise I'm exactly like Buzz Bissinger, except for eating Chinese food and queuing movies I'll never watch on Netflix.

• Shouldn't the goal be to spend as little time as possible in public bathrooms?

• As someone who writes about baseball for a living I'm not qualified for much else, but "full-time barbeque editor" seems like a job I could thrive at.

• If what Tilda Swinton did qualifies as performance art then I'm ... actually, I don't know of any famous performance artists.

• Important question from my childhood: Why did Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky never hook up?

• RIP Gus Triandos, who was a very good catcher and a very memorable part of "The Wire":

Most underrated part of that whole thing? Officer Dozerman is a stat-head.

Norm MacDonald launched a new video podcast and his first guest was Bob Einstein, who you may also know as Super Dave Osborne and/or Marty Funkhouser. It was great.

• "Aaron Gleeman loves him more than Mila Kunis and Julie Klausner combined" is big talk.

Close enough, I guess.

• My super-cheery Twins season preview on NBCSports.com.

• I defy you to find a better picture of DMX.

George Clooney, late bloomer.

• As someone who legitimately likes Pizza Hut's chicken wings I don't have much room to talk, but Mike Trout has terrible taste in chicken wings.

• If you love listening to Al Green's music as much as I do you'll also enjoy listening to Oliver Wang talk about his music and the greatness of "I'm Still In Love With You."

• Congrats to friend of AG.com Ray Henson for winning a World Series of Poker circuit event.

Ron Swanson fans should listen to this, if only to hear how great/goofy Nick Offerman's real-life laugh is.

• Netflix instant recommendation: "Bachelorette" is pretty mediocre overall, but there was plenty of fuel for my longtime Lizzy Caplan crush.

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

- "Aaron Hicks girlfriend"
- "My nose cartilage grow is it normal?"
- "Delmon crab stick"
- "How much does Boof Bonser make?"
- "Pronounce Trevor Plouffe"
- "Nick Blackburn awful"
- "Does Kate Mara wear braces?"
- "Is Darren Wolfson married?"
- "Wild boar watching"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is the aforementioned "I'm Still In Love With You" by Al Green:


This week's blog content is sponsored by Territory Train, which takes the heavy lifting out of planning and executing Twins road trips. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

November 16, 2012

Link-O-Rama

• I recently wrote a lengthy article touting my 15 must-listen podcasts and yesterday I had the honor of being a guest on one of them. I talked to one of my favorite people for 93 minutes and baseball was barely mentioned, which is another way of saying it was a fantastic time. If you like me even the slightest bit, check it out (and leave some comments there too).

• Next time someone says Twitter is pointless, show them this brilliant chronicling of life as a drunken, Dwayne Rudd jersey-wearing Vikings fan.

• Someone broke down every episode from all 20 seasons of "Law and Order" to analyze the trial results, sabermetrics-style. Hopefully the Pulitzer Prize committee has been alerted.

• OK, but did he like the restaurant or not?

• Now that the election is over Nate Silver went back to his baseball-writing roots to explain why Mike Trout deserved the AL MVP over Miguel Cabrera.

• I'm having trouble deciding whether Trout or Ryan Gosling was robbed more this week.

LaVelle E. Neal III has made the big time now. Or again, I guess.

Scott Baker signed a one-year deal with the Cubs after seven seasons with the Twins.

• Who can the Twins (realistically) sign to replace Baker? I'm glad you asked.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we mostly talked Claire Forlani and facial hair, but also found time for an argument that made me want to punch John Bonnes again.

Manny Ramirez made quite a debut in the Dominican Winter League:

Seems like kind of a fun place to watch a baseball game, huh?

• Knowing what I know about both parties involved, this exchange made my week.

• This interview with longtime AG.com favorites Lizzy Caplan and Alison Brie was so good I had to take a break halfway through to compose myself.

• Old friend Torii Hunter signed a two-year, $26 million deal with Detroit, where he more or less replaces old friend Delmon Young in the lineup.

• After seeing Dave Attell perform live at Mystic Lake Casino last week I really enjoyed watching his two-hour chat with Joe Rogan and Brian Redban.

• Speaking of really good stand-up comedy, I'm going to see Hannibal Buress at Acme Comedy Company in Minneapolis next weekend. I invited him on the podcast, too.

Royce White's rookie season isn't off to such a great start.

• My favorite part of Jon Hamm drunkenly strolling around Los Angeles is the hat.

• Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com candidate Jenna Fischer bought Casey Stengel's old house.

• Everyone getting hurt is bad news for the Timberwolves and good news for local pot dealers.

• I asked Twitter for post-apocalyptic book recommendations and then immediately spent $100 ordering them all on Amazon, leading to this exciting Wednesday evening.

• This look lasted less than 72 hours, for fear it was too sexy even during Movember.

Chelsea Peretti's greatness is a frequent Link-O-Rama topic and her script-flipping appearance on "You Made It Weird" with Pete Holmes is her at the peak of her powers.

• We didn't know it at the time, but Twins fans were watching history being made in 1999.

• "Stop Podcasting Yourself" with Graham Clark and Dave Shumka is my pick for the most underrated podcast around and this week's episode is an excellent example of why.

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

- "Toddler found in cage"
- "Mila Kunis or Aubrey Plaza"
- "Anthony Slama deception"
- "Gleeman Cistulli enemies"
- "Robby Incmikoski real name"
- "Jerome Felton girlfriend"
- "Kevin Slowey engaged"
- "Minnesota chubby chasers"

• Seriously, go listen to me as a guest on one of my favorite podcasts. Money-back guarantee!

• Finally, in honor of the song turning 20 years old and me still knowing all the words this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Nothin' But A G Thang" by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg:

September 14, 2012

Link-O-Rama

• It took a while, but someone finally put all this newfangled strike zone technology to good use and produced some meaty, worthwhile analysis. Ground-breaking, really.

• In fairness to Mike Francesa, most of the time radio is a lot less exciting than you might think and all of the time napping is amazing.

• Between this story and this story it was a banner week for my Alison Pill crush.

• This should be required reading for any Twins fans/Minnesotans/sane people.

• For my purposes this New York Times headline might as well be "breathing is bad for you."

• As a lifelong Howard Stern fan, this was a big thrill. Seriously.

• Ah, rookie hazing: Bryce Harper is McKayla Maroney. And also one of the best 19-year-olds in baseball history.

• My favorite headline of the week: "DMX says he would beat up Drake in an elevator if it were 10 years ago." Is there room to open up shop in an elevator?

• After reading about how few people are watching the Astros on television I'm thinking maybe they should just start a podcast.

• My advice for this week's Gleeman and The Geek? Fast forward through the 90 minutes of Twins talk for the last 15 minutes of philosophical discussion about aging and life lessons.

• This week's AG.com sponsor is Darrell Roehl, a fiction writer who wrote a book about personal redemption, nostalgia, and the Minnesota Twins during the Calvin Griffith era. And not only that, his sons are longtime AG.com readers. Check it out.

• If you're into mixed martial arts, this roundtable show with Ariel Helwani, Mike Chiappetta, and Luke Thomas is a must-watch:

I used to work with Chiappetta at NBCSports.com and the few times we met in person he was very nice and very willing to talk MMA with me, so it's great to see him getting to shine.

• As a kid I used to listen to The Fabulous Sports Babe, so Michael Kruse's lengthy Grantland profile of the former nationally syndicated radio host was equal parts interesting and sad.

• Speaking of Grantland, they lured one of my favorite basketball writers, Zach Lowe, away from Sports Illustrated. Bill Simmons has built quite a stable of talent over there.

• I'm in favor of making Chelsea Peretti all-time podcast guest, much like all-time quarterback in playground football, so her appearance on NBA.com with Roy Hibbert was spectacular.

Brandon McCarthy is out of the hospital and joking about threesomes, which is great news.

• My latest weekly chat with Paul Allen on KFAN was filled with a shocking amount of baseball.

Mike Trout is the first player with a double-digit Wins Above Replacement total since Barry Bonds in 2004. He's also a 21-year-old rookie.

• If you've ever wanted to play baseball scout--or maybe just go on record with your opinion of Ben Revere's arm strength and Josh Willingham's range--this is your big chance.

• I used to have nightmares about this happening to me in little league, so my condolences to Josh Beckett. Carlos Beltran is such a meanie.

• I can't imagine this movie not being great, just based on the ad.

• Someone please give friend of AG.com and fellow Twins blogger Nick Nelson a new job, if only so he'll quit giving me foot rubs.

Dan LeBatard and friend of AG.com Jon Sciambi were joined by Jeff Van Gundy and Stan Van Gundy for a great discussion about sports media, coaching, and Dwight Howard.

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

- "Tom Kelly Zubaz"
- "Maddie Bisanz age"
- "Brian Dozier is so cute"
- "Who is the father of Diora Baird's baby?"
- "Aaron Gleeman recipe"
- "Darin Mastroianni girlfriend"
- "Liam Hendriks girlfriend"
- "Lizzy Caplan looks like Zooey Deschanel"
- "Minka Kelly baseball hat"
- "Anthony LaPanta hair"
- "What a pound of rice looks like"

• Finally, just because I had a random memory about a kid named Ryan buying me Craig Mack's Project: Funk Da World for my 12th birthday this week's AG.com-approved music video is one of the songs from that CD to blow my 12-year-old mind, "Flava In Ya Ear":