March 20, 2013

Twitter Mailbag: Answers

Last week I asked for mailbag questions submitted via Twitter, so here are about 2,000 words worth of me answering 140-character queries ...

@joewmitchell: With Aaron Hicks doing well, what chance does Joe Benson have to make the team? What should the Twins do with Benson? What will they do?

Tough to envision a scenario in which both Aaron Hicks and Joe Benson make the Opening Day roster. My guess is that Benson will go back to Triple-A and wait for Hicks to struggle or someone to get injured. I haven't given up on Benson becoming a valuable big leaguer, but he's certainly running out of time to do that or at least do that in a Twins uniform.

@Loosey1981: Assuming that Justin Morneau is with team all year and isn't traded, what will his next contract look like with his injury history?

Tough to predict. Even if he's healthy and hits like he did last season Justin Morneau may have a hard time getting a big multi-year contract. This offseason, for instance, Adam LaRoche got two years and $24 million at age 33 after hitting .271/.343/.510 with 33 homers. Morneau will be 32 and hit .267/.330/.440 with 19 homers last season. LaRoche's market was hurt by having draft pick compensation attached to his free agency, but the Twins may do that to Morneau too.

@Ausjin: If you were a closer what would your entrance song be?

In terms of an opening riff stirring up emotion I think "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes is tough to beat, but since that's sort of a sporting event cliche at this point I'd go with:

1. "Superfly" by Curtis Mayfield
2. "Regulate" by Warren G and Nate Dogg
3. "Hold On I'm Comin" by Sam and Dave
4. "Big Poppa" by Notorious B.I.G.
5. "Mr. Pitiful" by Otis Redding

Needless to say I spent more time thinking about this answer than all other answers combined.

@tonyrossi22: Why do the Twins have vastly different plans for Mike Pelfrey and Kyle Gibson even though Pelfrey's elbow surgery was much more recent?

Their recovery timetables actually weren't much different. Kyle Gibson last season, like Mike Pelfrey this spring, was back pitching in games about 11 months after Tommy John surgery, it's just that Gibson's games were in the minors. Their workload limits this season are different, but Pelfrey is a veteran former workhorse signed to a one-year contract, whereas Gibson has never pitched in the majors and is part of the Twins' long-term plans. I talked a lot more Gibson here.

@ErichHeber: What changes do you think should be made with instant replay and what do you think will be made?

There's been plenty of talk about what types of things MLB should be reviewing, but I'd like to see some emphasis placed on the review process. Instead of bringing the entire game to a halt so the umpires on the field can gather together, decide to review a play, and then leave the field to do so, why not add another umpire to the crew who just sits in a booth and looks at video? There's no reason why, in 2013, reviewing a play should take five minutes.

@DanaWessel: Parker Hageman and I are doing shots with Jon Taffer at one bar. Kate Mara is at a bar across the street. Which bar do you go to?

Sounds like one of those river-crossing logic puzzles with the a fox, a goose, and a bag of beans. I'd obviously go to the bar across the street, effortlessly charm Kate Mara within minutes, and invite her to the other bar to do shots with Dana Wessel, Parker Hageman, and Jon Taffer. And then just pray Taffer doesn't steal her away from me, which is probably the biggest challenge of the entire scenario.

@larneal: Will we ever get to enjoy Slama Time?

Looking pretty unlikely. At no point have the Twins shown any interest in giving Anthony Slama an extended opportunity despite consistently incredible numbers at every level of the minors and he didn't do himself any favors this year by struggling in a few spring training appearances. Plus he's 29 years old, so Slama might be a lesser version of himself by now anyway. He has a 1.99 ERA and 446 strikeouts in 325 innings as a minor leaguer and seven innings as a major leaguer.

@PRH1987: If Mark Appel is available at No. 4 will the Twins draft him?

As we saw last year, trying to predict how the draft will go on the day on the draft is very difficult. Trying to predict how things will go three months out is impossible. With that said, like last year Mark Appel is considered one of the best prospects available in a weak overall draft class. I liked the decision to pass on Appel and other college pitchers to take the highest-upside player available in Byron Buxton, but that will be tougher to do at No. 4 than it was at No. 2.

@JeremyWieland: Listening to your podcast and heard about the 612 Brew event, but can you please repeat the details?

Twins Daily is hosting a get-together this Saturday afternoon to watch the Twins-Rays spring training game on television at 612 Brew in Northeast Minneapolis. I'll be there, along with John Bonnes and the whole Twins Daily crew. Details here.

@Brandon_Warne: Who was prospect No. 41?

This year's last cut for my Twins top-40 prospects list was Caleb Thielbar, who surprisingly got added to the 40-man roster and projects as a potential middle reliever. I wrote about him here.

@swmrgngl: Which prospect outside of your top 10 has the best chance of being a top-five Twins prospect at this time next year?

Max Kepler, who just missed the top 10 because I try to be conservative with prospects who've yet to play against full-season competition. But it'll be a tough top-five to crack next year too.

@jmdunner: Who are your early projections for Twins minor league hitter and pitcher of the year?

Here are the Twins' minor-league award winners since I started blogging in 2002:

YEAR     PLAYER              PITCHER
2012     Oswaldo Arcia       B.J. Hermsen
2011     Brian Dozier        Liam Hendriks
2010     Joe Benson          Kyle Gibson
2009     Ben Revere          David Bromberg
2008     Ben Revere          Anthony Slama
2007     Brian Buscher       Kevin Slowey
2006     Alexi Casilla       Matt Garza
2005     David Winfree       Francisco Liriano
2004     Jason Kubel         Scott Baker
2003     Joe Mauer           Jesse Crain
2002     Lew Ford            J.D. Durbin

Not only is that a mixed bag, at best, quite a few of those winners weren't even considered quality prospects at the time they won the award. Hopefully this year will be different, since the Twins have no shortage of high-end prospects. Oswaldo Arcia potentially spending some of his season in the majors makes him a tough repeat pick, so I'll go with Miguel Sano and Alex Meyer.

@JosephKrueger: How many miles have you put on your car?

I bought my car on February 28, 2012 and as of March 20, 2013 it has 2,710 miles on it. By the way, I got multiple versions of this same question. Seriously.

@olerud1: What's up with Rich Harden? I haven't heard anything about him since they signed him.

There was lots of initial optimism being reported about Rich Harden's health status when the Twins signed him to a minor-league deal back in December, but that's predictably disappeared. He's still working his way back from shoulder surgery and will begin the season at Triple-A, with the ability to opt out of his contract on July 31 if he's not in the majors.

@adamscoll: Is Josh Willingham the next Twin to be traded for more young pitching?

I've sort of given up trying to actually predict what the Twins will do in terms of trading or not trading veterans, but I certainly think trading Josh Willingham for young pitching would be a good idea. Might have been an even better idea eight months ago or three months ago.

@dhollett: Hearing a lot about Samuel Deduno lately, is he a fantasy sleeper?

I'm not sure if this was intended as a joke, but I laughed. Samuel Deduno is 29 years old and four months ago went unclaimed on waivers by all 29 teams after being dropped from the Twins' 40-man roster. I'd have no problem with him getting another chance as a fifth starter, because Scott Diamond will begin the season on the disabled list and it's not like the other options are any good, but 10 innings in March don't change much. Fun story, but we've seen it before.

@_TreyWarren: Your prediction for the Twins in 2013, over or under 75 wins? Over or under 85 wins in 2014?

We devoted half of last week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode to making over/under picks for AL teams, including the Twins. Their actual over/under win total for this season that you can place bets on is 67.5, so anyone who thinks 75 wins sounds reasonable should probably book a trip to Las Vegas. As for 2014, who knows how the roster will look by then, but right now 85 certainly seems pretty optimistic.

@ogs065: Is the podcast ever going to hold session on a Friday or Saturday night so more fans could potentially participate?

We've recorded a few episodes in front of an audience, at various get-togethers, but it's not much fun for anyone involved. It's basically just two guys sitting at a table talking, so no one would be able to hear much unless they're sitting next to us, and for us if a bunch of people are gathered somewhere stepping away to go talk to each other for 90 minutes is kind of a buzzkill. We'd need speakers and a more involved set up to make it at all worthwhile.

@Jerjo: Ever think of posting a transcript of your podcast for those of us who haven't got the time to listen?

I transcribed an episode once, for the Dave St. Peter interview, but generally speaking that sort of defeats the purpose of a podcast. Plus, transcribing audio is enough to drive a person crazy and would also take significantly longer than the actual recording (or listening) time of an episode. As a listener the beauty of podcasts is that you can pause and resume and fast-forward whenever, so consuming one 90-minute episode per week doesn't have to be some huge time commitment.

@ToddAbeln: What number of sacrifice bunts actually lead to runs? Compared to not bunting?

Depending on the game situation and the strength of the hitter or pitcher there are certainly many circumstances in which bunting is a good idea, but overall bunting hurts more than it helps. Good luck convincing all the World Baseball Classic managers, though.

@josephwgoodman: Why are the Rays so good at developing young pitchers? Do they see things other teams don't? Great coaching? Just luck?

I think the Rays, more than perhaps any other team, combine scouting and statistical analysis in a way that extends to every level of the organization. They have a ton of smart, new-school thinkers in the front office, a manager who's both player-friendly and very open to those new-school ideas, and a scouting department that repeatedly unearths gems in trades and mid-round draft picks.

@Hal_Stenson: Will you ever finish your all time top Twins countdown? I love reading the recaps and want to know the order of the top 10.

"Ever" is a very long time and I'll definitely finish the top-40 countdown some day, but it likely won't be anytime soon. I love researching and writing the articles and the reaction was always great, but they're very time consuming to do right and I've struggled to find as much free time as I had when it started years ago. One of the downsides to not being paid to write about the Twins. I left off with Roy Smalley at No. 15 and you can read the 25 completed write-ups here.

@PRH1987: When are you planning on posting your Twitter mailbag?

We're through the looking glass here, people.


This week's blog content is sponsored by DiamondCentric's newest shirt honoring the "Legends" of Minnesota baseball. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

March 14, 2013

Twitter Mailbag: Any Questions?

I just realized that the last time I did a mailbag post was way back before the offseason had even started, so I thought it would be good to open the floor up for any questions about the Twins, me, this blog, the podcast, or whatever else you have in mind. My only requirement is that they must be submitted via Twitter. Feel free to send as many questions as you want to @AaronGleeman and I'll answer them all here in this space early next week.

www.twitter.com/aarongleeman


This week's blog content is sponsored by DiamondCentric's newest shirt honoring the "Legends" of Minnesota baseball. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

October 17, 2012

Twitter Mailbag: Answers

Last week I asked for mailbag questions submitted via Twitter, so here are about 1,600 words worth of me answering 140-character queries ...

@mdidrikson: What is the best baseball book you've read?

Without question "Ball Four" by Jim Bouton. I've read it at least five times and it never ceases being amazing. For him to write something that great in 1970 is crazy. Meeting him at the SABR convention in Seattle a few years ago was a big thrill.

@caniwarrior: How did Rick Anderson survive the coaching purge?

Rick Anderson became pitching coach when Ron Gardenhire replaced Tom Kelly as manager in 2002, so the combination of a decade on the job and Gardenhire's support is a pretty strong one. My assumption is that Gardenhire fought to keep Anderson around, perhaps at the expense of multiple other coaches, but that's just speculation. Obviously the Twins' pitching has been in decline for a while now and Anderson is presumably on the hottest of hot seats.

@ZBurmeister: What are your favorite podcasts I probably haven't heard of?

I work from home and listen to podcasts constantly all day while I write for NBCSports.com, so at this point I subscribe to more than 40 of them. There's a complete list on the right-hand sidebar of this page, but in terms of podcasts you may not be familiar with my favorites right now are:

- "Stop Podcasting Yourself" with Graham Clark and Dave Shumka
- "The Best Show On WFMU" with Tom Scharpling
- "Fan Graphs Audio" with Carson Cistulli and Dayn Perry
- "The Long Shot" with Sean Conroy, Eddie Pepitone, Jamie Flam, and Amber Kenny
- "Throwing Shade" with Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi

And of course "Gleeman and The Geek." Once the playoffs are over and my work schedule settles down a bit I think I'll write up a guide to all the podcasts I like, because it's something people ask about a lot and as someone who loves the medium spreading the word would be nice.

@jacoblaxen: What is Terry Ryan's first move this offseason?

It's always hard to predict the timing of moves, but based on Terry Ryan's repeated comments about upgrading the rotation and not liking the free agent market my guess would be some sort of trade for a starting pitcher. Reading between the lines, it sure seems like he has a trade or two on the table that he feels reasonably comfortable with.

@skrypzUSN: Who would you rather see traded for starting pitching, Denard Span or Ben Revere?

It all depends on what type of returns they would fetch. Denard Span is a better player than Ben Revere right now and generally seems underrated by Twins fans, but he's also older, much more expensive, and much closer to free agency. If they both had identical trade value I'd probably lean toward trading Revere and sticking with Span, but they don't. Span should be able to command a lot more in return.

@commnman: Are there any bargain free agent starting pitchers you'd be comfortable with the Twins targeting this offseason?

Quite a few, actually. This is a pretty deep crop of free agent starters, at least relative to other offseasons. There aren't many elite, top-of-the-rotation options, but the Twins wouldn't be in the mix for them anyway and there are plenty of mid-rotation types available. As soon as the playoffs end I'll have an article breaking down all the options, but for now some names to ponder: Joe Blanton, Hisashi Iwakuma, Ervin Santana, Gavin Floyd, Brandon McCarthy.

@dbrugg999: Twins talk is about how they need starting pitching, but what other position is crucial that they upgrade?

Middle infield, but that's been true for essentially the past decade. Right now Pedro Florimon is probably the favorite to start at shortstop in 2013, which says a lot about a lot.

@jackthumser: How closely do you follow other sports?

Pretty closely. I've always been a big basketball and football fan, and for several years I wrote about the NFL for Rotoworld. I know absolutely nothing about hockey and don't have a ton of interest in other sports except for mixed martial arts and, if you consider it a sport, poker.

@mattusaurus: Who has the best pitch in baseball?

Mariano Rivera's cutter was the correct answer to this question for 15 years, but since he missed the entire season I suppose we need a new one. Fan Graphs assigns run values to pitches and based largely off those my picks would be Craig Kimbrel's fastball, Fernando Rodney's changeup, Clayton Kershaw's curveball, Yu Darvish's slider, and R.A. Dickey's knuckleball. And along the same lines as Rivera's cutter, I guess Dickey's knuckler is the best.

@salmensays: Do right-handed hitters or left-handed hitters get more infield hits?

I'm guessing most people would assume left-handed hitters get more infield hits, by virtue of being a couple steps closer to first base. However, studies have shown that right-handed hitters actually get more infield hits because they hit more ground balls to third base and shortstop, which require longer throws than ground balls hit to second base and first base.

@ZnelND: Who's the best Twins prospect no one has heard of?

I'd say probably Jorge Polanco. He was overshadowed by Miguel Sano and Max Kepler when he signed for $750,000 as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2009 and then got off to a slow start as a professional, but Polanco had a great half-season at rookie-ball. He's years from potentially entering the Twins' plans, but as a shortstop with a good bat Polanco is one of their highest-upside prospects.

@jimcamery: Do prominent ex-players make better coaches than scrubs? Is there any real data?

That question was about Paul Molitor being turned down for a job on the Twins' revamped staff. Many fans assume that great players like Molitor would make great coaches, but there isn't much evidence to support that. Very few Hall of Fame-level players go on to become great coaches or managers and many of the best coaches and managers were marginal players. Molitor, for instance, was fired by the Mariners after one season as hitting coach in 2004.

@MeatSauce1: Bring Alex Rodriguez to the Twins?

That question comes from the world renowned Meat Sauce of KFAN fame, so of course I have to answer it. There's zero chance of the Twins trading for Alex Rodriguez, but it'll be interesting to see if the Yankees try to trade him, period. He's owed $114 million for the next five seasons and I'm guessing they'd have to eat at least $75 million to unload him. Also worth noting: Rodriguez hit .272/.353/.430 this season. Justin Morneau hit .267/.333/.440.

@mdidrikson: What's the best team in the past 25 years to not win the World Series?

There are a lot of them, because the nature of baseball means being the best team during a 162-game season and winning the World Series are often very different things. I'd probably go with the 2001 Mariners, who set the modern record with 116 wins and lost in the ALCS. Any good baseball team can beat any other good baseball team three times in five games or four times in seven games, which simultaneously makes the playoffs great and maddening.

@ScandiAngel: What's a reasonable expectation for Kyle Gibson in 2013? Will the Twins treat him like Stephen Strasburg?

I'm sure Kyle Gibson will be on a workload limit in 2013. In terms of what to expect, he's off to an impressive start in the Arizona Fall League and reportedly throwing harder now than he did before Tommy John surgery. He'll compete for a rotation spot in spring training before most likely heading to Triple-A. Expectations should be held in check because Gibson wasn't an elite prospect before the injury, but if things go well he could join the Twins' rotation midseason.

@jimcamery: Was Prince Fielder worth the money?

Prince Fielder hit .313/.412/.528 with 30 homers in 162 games, so he certainly earned his $23 million salary this season. That was always pretty likely, though, because he's 28 years old with a great track record. He's still owed another $191 million for the next eight seasons and the odds of the second half of that deal looking good for the Tigers seems iffy at best. Then again, I'm more or less against handing out massive long-term contracts to any player.

@SpitThatHotFire: Where do you see Josh Hamilton ending up next year?

Josh Hamilton is one of the most interesting free agents ever. Based solely on his track record at age 31 he'd be in line for well over $100 million, but because of his off-field (and on-field) issues it wouldn't surprise me if he signed for less than $100 million. As for where ... I have no idea. It sure seems like the Rangers don't want him back unless it's cheap and most of the usual free-spenders seem unlikely to go nuts for him. "Not the Twins" is the best I can do.

@wombat_socho: Is there any cure for Ron Gardenhire's addiction to scrappy/useless infielders?

Well, the most obvious cure is for the front office to stop providing him with such players, but then that brings up the question of who has the addiction in the first place.

@commnman: How are Twins fans supposed to decide between rooting for Delmon Young and rooting for the Yankees?

We actually discussed this at some length on this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode and ultimately concluded that rooting for the Tigers made sense under these circumstances.

This week's blog content is sponsored by Audible, which is offering a free audiobook download for AG.com readers and "Gleeman and The Geek" listeners at AudiblePodcast.com/Gleeman.

October 11, 2012

Twitter Mailbag: Any Questions?

I haven't done a mailbag or question-and-answer post lately, so before starting with the usual offseason content here I thought it would be good to open the floor up for any questions you have about the Twins, me, this blog, the podcast, or whatever else you have in mind. The only requirement is that they must be submitted via Twitter. Feel free to send as many questions as you want to @AaronGleeman and I'll answer them here early next week. And ... go!

www.twitter.com/aarongleeman

July 25, 2012

Twins Notes: Deadline duds, spreadsheet nerds, back hair, and Zubaz

• In what may have been his final start in a Twins uniform Francisco Liriano turned in a clunker Monday night in Chicago, failing to make it out of the third inning while the White Sox got to him for seven runs. Coming into the game Liriano had gone at least five innings in every start since April 27, but he allowed three homers in 2.2 innings after allowing a total of three homers in his previous 71 innings.

Obviously one bad start isn't likely to significantly impact someone's trade value and even with the ugly outing Liriano has a 3.68 ERA, .190 opponents' batting average, and 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings in 11 starts since rejoining the rotation in late May. Still, it was rough timing considering he has a maximum of one more start before the July 31 trade deadline and at least a half-dozen scouts were on hand to file reports to interested teams.

In terms of what the Twins might actually get for Liriano, the Marlins' haul for fellow impending free agent starter Anibal Sanchez offers some clues. Miami sent Sanchez and good but not great infielder Omar Infante to Detroit for a three-prospect package led by 21-year-old right-hander Jacob Turner, a 2009 first-round pick who ranked among Baseball America's top 30 prospects in 2010, 2011, and 2012. Fans should be thrilled with a Turner-like prospect.

• On a related note, this week's Gleeman and The Geek episode featured me arguing with John Bonnes about whether or not Liriano's trade value was likely to continue rising if the Twins held off making a trade until right before the deadline.

Terry Ryan made it clear he'll be looking for high-upside prospects rather than MLB-ready prospects at the trade deadline, which is good to hear. Putting a decent team on the field for 2013 would be nice, but taking a short-term view of a long-term problem would be a mistake and Ryan deserves credit for recognizing that even when he might not be general manager for the long haul. They simply need talent and putting any limits on that search is silly.

• Two weeks ago Glen Perkins publicly outed himself as a Fan Graphs-reading, batting average on balls in play-quoting stat-head, which means he's now subject to the same anti-sabermetrics taunting that lowly bloggers like me have long endured on a regular basis. Case in point, this Twitter exchange between Perkins and a media member bully following Monday night's game in which Twins hitters grounded into five double plays:

Nerds are the worst, amirite?

Carlos Gutierrez has been limited to 10 appearances at Triple-A due to shoulder problems and now the 2008 first-round pick may be out until next season following arthroscopic surgery. If healthy Gutierrez still projects as a potential ground ball-getting middle reliever, but with a 4.90 ERA in 257 innings between Double-A and Triple-A his on-field performance has never matched the Twins' frequent touting of his raw stuff and he'll be 26 years old in September.

Brett Jacobson, the minor-league reliever acquired from the Orioles along with Jim Hoey for J.J. Hardy, has been released. Jacobson was always a marginal prospect and completely fell apart at Double-A this season, walking 45 batters and allowing 41 runs in 42 innings. Hoey was lost on waivers to the Blue Jays back in December, so the Twins officially got zero value out of the Hardy trade that was all kinds of misguided even if they'd gotten a better return.

Jason Kubel had a three-homer game this week and is hitting .297/.368/.577 with 21 home runs and an NL-leading 71 RBIs for the Diamondbacks, but it's tough to blame the Twins for letting him walk. Ryan Doumit has matched his Twins production at a fraction of the cost and Kubel has hit .257/.320/.414 away from Arizona's hitter-friendly ballpark. And for all the talk about Target Field killing Kubel's power he hit .275/.335/.450 on the road in 2010-2011.

• I'm not saying this couldn't have been me, but it wasn't me:

My favorite part? Someone else had to do the sculpting of that Joe Mauer back-hair jersey.

• It's too bad that so much of Chris Parmelee's season has been spent collecting dust on the Twins' bench, because when given a chance to play regularly at Triple-A for the first time in his career he's been very impressive. Parmelee, who initially skipped Triple-A to begin this season in the majors, has hit .302/.446/.510 with four homers, eight doubles, and more walks (24) than strikeouts (18) in 28 games for Rochester.

• In their never-ending search for pitching depth the Twins have signed Eric Hurley, a former first-round pick who was released from Triple-A by the Angels. Hurley is still just 26 years old and ranked among Baseball America's top 100 prospects in both 2007 and 2008, but hasn't pitched in the majors since 2008 and has a 5.43 ERA in 60 career starts at Triple-A. He's purely depth for Rochester at this point.

Trevor Plouffe's thumb injury is a shame, because even after his power binge of 13 homers in 22 games came to an end in mid-June he's hit .283/.354/.460 with five homers, five doubles, and 11 walks in 26 games since. And overall since carrying a .133 batting average into May 15 he's hit .296/.344/.618 with 18 homers in 52 games.

• When asked by Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com if the Twins are shopping Josh Willingham an unnamed general manager replied: "He's out there if you want to pay, like, forever."

Michael Rand of the Minneapolis Star Tribune passes along the best Tom Kelly picture ever:

I'm waiting for Zubaz to make a comeback. Maybe we can get hipsters to wear them ironically?

This week's blog content is sponsored by Ballplayer: Pelotero, a controversial new documentary about baseball prospects in the Dominican Republic starring Miguel Sano as a 16-year-old.

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