August 15, 2007

Twins Notes: Sexy LeCroy, Doppelgangers, and Macri

  • Earlier this week the boys over at Stick and Ball Guy's blog questioned the selection of Matthew LeCroy as my all-time favorite Twins player, but this video of LeCroy showing off his dance moves in the Rochester clubhouse should explain the choice:

    There are actually two more clips like that one, but there's a limit to how much sexiness one blog entry can handle.
  • A utility man who plays more than he should and gets labeled as "scrappy" when he's really just white and not good, Willie Bloomquist is the Mariners' version of Nick Punto. Given that, the following note about Monday's Twins-Mariners game in the Seattle Times was amusing:

    Bloomquist was racing up the line as [Johan] Santana ran to the bag to take the throw from first baseman Justin Morneau. It looked like Bloomquist would beat the play out for an infield hit--until he dove into the bag and was called out by an eyelash.

    Diving or sliding into first base actually slows a runner down by creating resistance. Bloomquist knows all that and admitted, grudgingly, that he just couldn't help himself.

    "I do the same thing every time," he said with a shrug. "Always on the same type of play, too. I don't know why I keep doing it. It's just instinct, but I always come away asking myself, 'Why did you just do that?'"

    Not only can't the 29-year-old doppelgangers help themselves when it comes to stupidly sliding into first base, for their careers Punto has hit .247/.317/.324 and Bloomquist has hit .261/.314/.334. Scary.

  • Signed for $3.1 million this offseason, Ramon Ortiz lost his spot in the rotation after just 10 starts and has spent the past 10 weeks working sporadically out of the bullpen in a mop-up role. Now he'll finish the season in Colorado, with the Twins trading him to the Rockies yesterday for minor leaguer Matt Macri. Trading Luis Castillo and allowing Jeff Cirillo to be claimed off waivers weakened the team while saving money, but parting with Ortiz does only the latter.

    Signing Ortiz and handing him a spot in the rotation coming out of spring training was a misguided move that went every bit as poorly as should have been expected, but recouping some of the money wasted on him doesn't help much at this point. The best-case scenario is that the Twins take the $3.5 million that's been saved by dumping Castillo, Cirillo, and Ortiz, and put it towards actually improving the team this winter. The most likely scenario is that it simply goes in Carl Pohlad's wallet.

  • Parting with Ortiz is addition by subtraction, but Macri looks capable of potentially helping down the road. Originally selected by the Twins in the 17th round of the 2001 draft, Macri opted for college instead of signing. He played three seasons at Notre Dame, batting .367/.465/.667 in his final year, and was taken by the Rockies in the fifth round of the 2004 draft. After hitting very well at two levels of Single-A to begin his pro career, Macri batted just .232/.293/.370 at Double-A last season.

    Asked to repeat Double-A, Macri has bounced back by hitting .298/.349/.502 with 11 homers, 34 total extra-base hits, and a 58-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 79 games. His strike-zone control needs work and his numbers aren't that impressive from a 25-year-old repeating Double-A, but he immediately becomes one of the better upper-minors hitting prospects in an incredibly weak system. Reportedly a capable defender at third base and second base, he's at least worth watching.

  • Jason Bartlett left yesterday's game with a hamstring injury that will likely put him on the disabled list, which is a tough loss given that he's 18-for-56 (.321) with seven extra-base hits this month and has hit .294/.320/.437 since the All-Star break. If the Twins get creative, they could slide Alexi Casilla to shortstop and call up Matt Tolbert to play second base. Instead, they'll likely further weaken the offense by handing shortstop to Punto and playing Tommy Watkins or Luis Rodriguez at third base.
  • Joe Nathan saved a 1-0 game against the Indians on August 6, but then went seven days without appearing in a game before mopping up with an eight-run lead Tuesday night and finishing yesterday afternoon's game with a five-run lead. While Nathan went unused in the bullpen, the Twins lost three one-run games, including Monday's loss to the Mariners that came when Matt Guerrier served up a walk-off homer to Richie Sexson as Nathan watched from the bullpen.

    Ron Gardenhire has thankfully learned to use Nathan at home once a save situation is no longer possible, but on the road he continues to hold him back in the bullpen for save chances that often never come (and some people say I give too much weight to statistics). The result is not using your best reliever in the tightest spots, which leads to 24 percent of Nathan's appearances coming in games that aren't within three runs either way while numerous close games end without him pitching.

  • Ryan Rowland-Smith mopped up against the Twins on Tuesday night, allowing two runs in two relief innings. That name might look familiar, because the Twins selected Rowland-Smith in the Rule 5 draft in 2005. He was a 22-year-old left-handed starter who had no experience above Double-A back then and predictably didn't make it out of spring training with the Twins. Sent back to the Mariners, he's since moved to the bullpen and now looks like a solid middle-relief prospect.
  • Jose Offerman's time with the Twins lasted a season longer than Rowland-Smith's, as Offerman came before Ortiz, Juan Castro, Tony Batista, and Sidney Ponson in the team's tradition of veteran mediocrity. Offerman was said to be popular in the clubhouse while hitting .256/.363/.395 in 202 plate appearances for the Twins back in 2004, but has apparently gone insane since then.
  • Ben Revere received the smallest signing bonus of any first-round pick since 1998 when he signed with the Twins, whereas the Tigers recently handed over $7 million to their first rounder, Rick Porcello. You might assume that Porcello was taken much earlier than Revere, but they were actually drafted back-to-back with the 27th (Porcello) and 28th (Revere) overall picks. However, had the Tigers passed on Porcello, there was zero chance of the Twins drafting him.

    The Twins typically draft on a budget, going for players who're likely to sign and likely to accept relatively small bonuses in doing so. On the other hand, the Tigers take advantage of small-payroll teams passing on elite prospects over money by snatching them up and getting them signed. Porcello was considered the top high-school pitcher available this year and the Tigers also used their free-spending ways to snag elite prospects Andrew Miller in 2006 and Cameron Maybin in 2005.

    Porcello, Miller, and Maybin shouldn't have been available to the Tigers based strictly on talent, but their willingness to spend money has allowed them to stockpile elite prospects. Revere is off to a good start as a pro and Porcello may never pan out, but Miller (already in the majors) and Maybin (doing well at Double-A) both look like potential stars down the road. Compared to one of their primary rivals, the draft is now another area where the Twins face a disadvantage because of money.

  • During Tuesday's broadcast, FSN color commentator Bert Blyleven remarked that "Mike Redmond is a great hitter," citing only his ".290 career batting average" as evidence. Redmond's career batting average is actually .292 now, although even that's far from "great." Looking beyond batting average, his career has also produced a .348 on-base percentage and .368 slugging percentage. To the person paid to add analysis to Twins games on television, .292/.348/.368 makes someone "a great hitter."
  • The Twins have scored double-digit runs twice in the 34 games since they put 32 runs on the board in a doubleheader against the White Sox on July 6, beating the Royals 11-4 on August 8 and beating the Mariners 11-3 on Tuesday. In those two games, Punto went 1-for-11 (.091) while the rest of the team combined to go 36-for-76 (.474).

  • Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

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