September 8, 2010

Twitter Mailbag: Answers

Last week I asked for mailbag questions submitted via Twitter, so here are about 1,200 words worth of me answering 140-character queries ...

@JosephKrueger: Of all the Twins' prospects, who are you most excited to see in the big leagues one day?

It seems like this question boils down to upside, so I'll pick Miguel Sano. He's been crushing the ball in the low minors at age 17 and is definitely much different than the usual hitters the Twins go after. Could be a bust, could be Miguel Cabrera, and we probably won't know either way for about five years.

@bertrecords: Should the Twins re-sign J.J. Hardy for 2011?

Technically they don't have to re-sign him because J.J. Hardy is under team control for 2011 as an arbitration eligible player, but whether or not to non-tender him is essentially the same question. Hardy's offense has been disappointing, he's struggled to stay healthy, and recently he's made some poor throws, but for the most part his defense has been outstanding and his .696 OPS is actually right around the position's MLB average of .699. I'd like to see him back.

@T_Charbonneau: What's a good place to check for Type A and Type B free agents as they stand right now?

MLB doesn't officially make that information public, but MLB Trade Rumors reverse-engineered the rating system and provides regular updates on everyone's status.

@hinkstar: Is Danny Valencia eligible for Rookie of the Year?

Yes. He'd never played in the majors before June.

@jwursu: I know minor-league success is the best predictor of long-term success, but are there exceptions who don't come back to earth?

There are absolutely exceptions, although for the most part track records prevail over the long haul, good and bad. Denard Span is an example of someone who drastically out-performed his minor-league track record in 2008 and 2009--leading to all sorts of speculation about why he was faring so much better--but unfortunately this season he's hit just like he did in the minors. There are plenty of exceptions, but you won't come out ahead betting on them.

@hubakin: If and when Justin Morneau returns, who do you see losing playing time?

It would make the most sense to sit Michael Cuddyer against right-handers and either Jason Kubel or Jim Thome against left-handers.

@ScottStenzel1: What do you think the Twins' contingency plan would be if Morneau still isn't ready to go next year?

When a player has a broken leg or a torn elbow ligament it's easy for a team to plan for their absence and find a replacement, but the incredibly unpredictable nature of concussions makes that pretty tough. Cuddyer, Kubel, and Delmon Young are all under contract for next season, so the Twins could potentially just try to re-sign Thome and trot out the same group they have been since Morneau went down. There are no real impact bats in the upper minors.

@MNTwinsGUFS: Who's your favorite current Twins player?

Probably either Joe Mauer or Thome.

@jstorlien: If Kyle Waldrop and Anthony Slama join the bullpen next year, which current relievers are most likely to be traded?

Overhauling the bullpen for next season wouldn't require any trades, because Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch, and Brian Fuentes are all impending free agents.

@BobStutelberg: How did the White Sox let the Twins get Brian Fuentes?

Couple reasons. First and foremost, they spent $4 million claiming Manny Ramirez off waivers, so also claiming Fuentes and the $1.9 million left on his contract may not have been an option. Beyond that, Chicago's best reliever this season has been left-hander Matt Thornton and they added a second potentially dominant lefty by calling up this year's first-round pick, Chris Sale, who's been almost unhittable so far.

@Leb13: What happened with your weight loss?

Same thing that always happens. I drop a bunch of weight, stop eating right for a couple days thinking it'll be no big deal, and a month later I'm back to the old fatso routine. Pathetic, really.

@SixHoleMN: At what point is Brian Duensing's performance thus far likely indicative of future success?

This depends largely on how you view that "performance." Brian Duensing has posted a 2.80 ERA in 183 career innings, which is a huge change from his mediocre track record in the minors, but his xFIP is a far less spectacular 4.43. I continue to think he'll be a solid mid-rotation guy.

@brandonwarne52: Is Cuddyer overrated?

Definitely. Cuddyer makes $10 million per season and some people act as if he's in the running for team MVP, yet he's hitting .275/.340/.424 this year and has a career line of .270/.343/.452. His defense is overrated when people focus on his good arm instead of his poor range and his offense is overrated when people focus on his nice-looking RBI totals rather than his mediocre overall production. Cuddyer is a perfectly solid player who's paid like and treated as a star.

@jbohrerUW: Do the Twins have any flame-throwing prospects we can expect soon?

Not really. Starters like Kyle Gibson, David Bromberg, and Alex Wimmers are promising and close to the majors, but definitely not flame-throwers. In general the Twins just don't go after high-velocity guys much, although 2009 second-round pick Billy Bullock throws very hard and had 105 strikeouts in 74 innings as a reliever between high Single-A and Double-A this year.

@JosephKrueger: Is it worrisome that the Twins' minor-league teams have struggled for the most part this year?

A little bit, in the sense that their Double-A and Triple-A teams struggling speaks to the lack of MLB-ready impact prospects, but typically win-loss records in the minors don't accurately show the strength of a system's prospects.

@cttacheny: What's one stat announcers could refer to that would help end the obsession with batting average?

OPS would certainly be the easiest and most accessible, but I'm not sure why it would have to be just one stat. I'd be happy if announcers talked more about walks and extra-base hits and on-base percentages rather than just saying stuff like, "Smith is hitting .284 this season."

@JMSemiz: Mary Kate or Ashley?

I was always more of a Lori Loughlin guy, then and now.

@MNTwinsGUFS: Who's your favorite all-time Twins player?

Johan Santana or Matthew LeCroy.

@JosephKrueger: Who is your least favorite Twins player of all time?

Purely in terms of my emotional reaction to someone, I'd say Luis Rivas. He infuriated me not only because he was a terrible player, but because the Twins and many fans assumed he had significant potential simply due to being young. He hit .262/.307/.383 and played bad defense, yet was the Twins' starting second baseman for five seasons. They finally let him go in 2005 and despite being only 25 years old Rivas played a grand total of just 83 more MLB games.

@jwursu: Harmon Killebrew eulogized Kirby Pucket by calling him the greatest Twin ever, but is he?

By beginning a Top 40 Minnesota Twins series back in 2006 my intention was to have provided the answer (or at least my answer) to that question by now, but I got sidetracked a few times along the way and unfortunately the whole project stalled at No. 15. I'm definitely planning to re-start the series this winter, so I'm hesitant to do a short answer because it's a complicated, interesting question and I hope to write a ton about it soon. So, for now ... "maybe."