May 21, 2012

“Gleeman and The Geek” #42: Marquis de Buzzkill

Topics for this week's episode of Gleeman and The Geek included Jason Marquis' implosion and the state of an increasingly ugly rotation, Drew Butera and Ben Revere turning into Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, how the Twins handled Chris Parmelee, David Lee Roth and the Van Halen concert-going experience, Nick Blackburn's return to the disabled list, our PickPointz MVP picks, early impressions of Brian Dozier, Twitter questions from listeners, and Lewwww!

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 42

In addition to the direct download link above you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

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.

May 18, 2012

Link-O-Rama

• This is a great New York Times correction: "An earlier version of this article misstated the name of Howard Stern's bulldog. It's Bianca, not Bernice."

Mila Kunis took a break from her Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com duties to save someone's life.

• They told me to bring the stats, so I unleashed some sabermetrics (to the tune of Steely Dan) on KFAN with Paul Allen yesterday. You can listen to my entire appearance here.

• Almost every supermodel claims to have been unattractive in high school, but based on their yearbook pictures almost every supermodel is lying.

Torii Hunter took a leave of absence from the Angels after his 17-year-old son was arrested and charged with sexual assault of a child following a months-long investigation.

• Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, great teacher, and awesome person Chris Ison was badly burned in a propane explosion, but thankfully is now recovering well.

• Not since Brett Favre has a legend coming out of retirement been such a sad idea. On the other hand, maybe that's just the 12-year-old me who had the original version talking.

• Last week's Gleeman and The Geek episode featured my mom's podcast/radio debut. Hilarity did not, as they say, ensue. And she claims to have been trying to sound like Lauren Bacall.

• My fellow Friday Night Lights fans will like this compilation of Coach Taylor warning people that he has something to tell them:

Let me tell you something: That video somehow makes me miss the show even more.

• On a related note, Coach Taylor's television daughter seems to be doing well post-FNL.

• As always my MinnPost colleage David Brauer analyzing local radio ratings is a must-read. Among the interesting notes: KFAN has the No. 1 or No. 2 rated show among male listeners in every time slot.

• On a related note, KFAN's overall ratings rank No. 9 among all sports stations in the country.

• I look forward to running into Michelle Beadle at the NBC holiday party. Also, congrats on getting away from Colin Cowherd.

• As an NBC homer I'm extra happy that they renewed Parks and Recreation, Community, 30 Rock, and the highly underrated Parenthood.

• Once again, Penn State seems like a wonderful place to spend your college years.

Jon Hamm answering advice questions submitted by teenage girls is pretty great, and as usual when not dressed as Don Draper he's repping the St. Louis Cardinals.

• Speaking of which, if John Slattery co-stars as Andrew McCutchen this movie will be great.

• One of my favorite basketball writers, Zach Lowe of SI.com, writes about the return of vintage Kevin Garnett at age 36.

• If you haven't been following the Sarah Phillips story, it's a weird one about fake identities, Twitter followers, ESPN, and gambling.

Ozzie Guillen explains, via video, that he's quitting Twitter because "people out there are nasty" and "I'm not Kim Kardashian":

I'm sad to see him go, because Guillen's tweets were pretty great, but he's basically right.

• Who are the Twins considering with the No. 2 pick in next month's draft? I'm glad you asked.

• Thing that makes me feel elderly: Kerry Wood is retiring.

David Letterman and Conan O'Brien get together to talk Jay Leno.

• After hundreds of Link-O-Rama posts over the years I'm amazed this has never happened.

Chelsea Peretti might be my all-time favorite podcast guest regardless of the show, so not surprisingly she was great recently on Sklarbro Country and You Made It Weird.

• Worlds colliding: Will Leitch was a guest on Julie Klausner's podcast to chat about Fargo.

• It was fun while it lasted, but I certainly understand.

• Congrats to friend of AG.com and original baseball blogger Jay Jaffe for his new SI.com gig.

Drive is on Netflix streaming now, so I'm planning to re-watch it over and over again until I figure out why so many people loved it.

• Car update: I bought a new Honda Fit on February 27 and it took me until May 9 for the little 10.6-gallon gas tank to be empty for the first time. I drove a total of 315 miles in 73 days.

• If you're interested in advertising your product, service, business, or website on AG.com I'm taking "sponsor of the week" reservations through the All-Star break. Click here for details.

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is Ellie Goulding's live version of "Lights":

This week's blog content is sponsored by PickPointz, where you can make predictions, pick games, and win prizes for free. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

May 16, 2012

Getting to know the Twins’ draft options with the No. 2 overall pick

Not all draft classes are created equal and unfortunately for the Twins they've stumbled into a bad year to have their first top-10 pick since 2001 and five other top-100 selections. There's no year in which having the No. 2 overall pick won't allow a team to potentially land a future star-caliber player, but the consensus on this year's pool is that it lacks the elite-level talent typically available that high in the draft and isn't even particularly strong in overall depth.

Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton is widely considered the highest-upside prospect in the class, but several prominent draft analysts have suggested that he might not even be a top-five pick in many years. Stanford right-hander Mark Appel was once viewed as the clear-cut top college prospect and still sits atop many mock drafts, but his mid-90s fastball comes with more question marks than a typical college ace linked to the No. 1 pick.

In other words, the Twins are even bad--or at least unlucky--at being bad. And that's not just the opinion of various outsiders publicly analyzing the draft for an audience at Baseball America or ESPN.com or MLB.com. Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune asked Twins vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff for his thoughts on the overall quality of the draft class and he didn't pull any punches:

At this moment in time, this crop of talent is not very good. Last year, there was about seven or eight guys that were high end. We had eight guys with an 8 [on the 2-8 scouting scale]--the highest value you can give a guy--and this year we have zero.

It's worth noting that last year's class was considered unusually deep in elite-level prospects, with Jim Callis of Baseball America writing recently that "there were seven No. 1 overall pick-caliber talents available." Still, based on the above quote Radcliff is seemingly saying that the Twins' highest-rated targets in this year's draft wouldn't have been among their top eight targets in last year's draft and that's very discouraging for a team picking No. 2 overall.

Of course, lamenting the lack of elite-level talent isn't going to change anything and on June 4 the Twins will pick someone No. 2 regardless of where that someone would have been picked in other years. Whichever one of Buxton and Appel the Astros pass on with the No. 1 pick will seemingly be the favorite to land with the Twins one spot later, but that's far from guaranteed and a handful of total prospects could be in the mix. Let's get to know them ...


Byron Buxton, Georgia high school center fielder

Keith Law of ESPN.com says:

By far the best upside prospect ... his body and off-the-charts athleticism have earned him comparisons to players from the Uptons to Matt Kemp to Eric Davis to Willie Mays. If you want raw tools, this is about as good as it gets. ... There are risk factors here. Buxton has hit for very little power this spring ... raising questions about what his actual power ceiling might be.

Callis of Baseball America says:

A five-tool center fielder ... Buxton has emerged as the consensus top talent and compares favorably with [last year's No. 5 overall pick Bubba] Starling, his parallel as 2011's best athlete available.


Mark Appel, Stanford University right-hander

Numbers: Appel has started 12 games for Stanford this season, throwing 94 innings with a 2.68 ERA and 95-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Conor Glassey of Baseball America says:

Appel has the ingredients to be a front-line starter. He has a pro-ready body at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds to go along with his mid-90s fastball that touches 98. He throws a hard slider that has the potential to be an out pitch and his changeup has improved. ... The knock on Appel is that he hasn't dominated like most highly-ranked pitchers have in the past.

Law of ESPN.com says:

Appel has shown consistently above-average stuff all spring, but his command has come and gone and concerns over Stanford's abuse of his arm may keep him from going in the top two overall picks. ... The problem is that hitters seem to square up Appel's stuff more than they should given its quality and velocity.


Kyle Zimmer, University of San Francisco right-hander

Numbers: Zimmer has started 12 games for San Francisco this season, throwing 83 innings with a 2.59 ERA and 96-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Glassey of Baseball America says:

Recruited as a position player ... before transitioning into the role full-time last year. ... Zimmer's fastball typically sits in the 94-96 mph range and gets as high as 99 and his hammer curveball is just as good. ... Zimmer pounds the strike zone and throws all four pitches for strikes.

Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com says:

Zimmer has the makings of four pitches that could be at least major league average. Any talk about the strong, durable right-hander has to begin with his plus fastball that he can run up to 97 mph. ... His curve is a power breaking pitch, one that could be an out pitch at the next level. ... He is a very consistent strike thrower.


Mike Zunino, University of Florida catcher

Numbers: Zunino has played 52 games for Florida this season, hitting .320/.379/.645 with 14 homers, 22 doubles, and a 35-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Law of ESPN.com says:

Zunino is the best college bat in a terrible year for college bats. ... He doesn't offer any real plus tools, but there's a lot that's average to above-average and no major holes. ... His weakest tool is his throwing arm, just average arm strength with a somewhat slow release ... I don't think he'll ever have to move, but he's unlikely to be plus back there.

Mayo of MLB.com says:

Zunino is the best catcher in this draft class and he has the potential to be a very good everyday big league backstop. While he does have a bit of a long swing and can struggle with offspeed stuff at times, he has bat speed and loft, meaning he should have plenty of future power.


Kevin Gausman, Louisiana State University right-hander

Numbers: Gausman has started 13 games for Louisiana State this season, throwing 92 innings with a 2.95 ERA and 112-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Will Lingo of Baseball America says:

Gausman has two premium pitches with a fastball that sits 94-96 mph, touching 98, and he mixes in a low-90s two-seamer. ... Gausman's 85-86 mph changeup is a second plus pitch, but scouts do have significant questions about the development of his breaking pitches.

John Manuel of Baseball America says:

If I were drafting and I wanted a college right-hander this year, I'd go for Gausman. ... I think Gausman has the best combination of size, stuff, projection ... the breaking ball has been there in the past, it should be at least an average pitch, and his fastball and change could both be plus down the line.


In addition to those five prospects California high school right-hander Lucas Giolito was being talked about as the potential No. 1 overall pick before an elbow injury ended his season. Considering the Twins' tendency to shy away from high school pitching and recent bouts with organization-wide pitching injuries it seems unlikely that they'd target him, but if healthy he'd definitely be in the mix.

May 14, 2012

“Gleeman and The Geek” #41: Shake-ups and Wake-ups

Topics for this week's episode of Gleeman and The Geek included Danny Valencia's demotion to Triple-A and Francisco Liriano's move to the bullpen as part of yet another roster shakeup, Scott Diamond's unexpected gems, votes of confidence, Dan Osterbrock's outspoken tweets, our PickPointz contest winners from last week and predictions for this week, what the future holds for Trevor Plouffe and Joe Benson, and my mom calling in for Mother's Day.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 41

In addition to the direct download link above you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

This week's blog content is sponsored by PickPointz, where you can make predictions, pick games, and win prizes for free. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

May 11, 2012

Twins Notes: Birthday boys, pimping, demoting, neglecting, and mocking

• Reminder: Gleeman and The Geek airs live on KFAN at 4:00 on Sunday. I can neither confirm nor deny that this week's show will just be me sighing into the microphone for an hour.

• Happy birthday to No. 1 prospect Miguel Sano, who turned 19 years old today and is hitting .303/.417/.655 with 10 homers and 20 walks in 33 games at low Single-A. Last week Sano hit a game-winning homer against the Angels' affiliate and the benches cleared because, as Cedar Rapids manager Jamie Burke put it: "I think he kind of pimped that home run a little bit." Here's more from Jeff Johnson of the Cedar Rapids Gazette:

Sano stood in the batter's box awhile to watch his homer against relief pitcher Carmine Giardiana. He trotted the bases, but virtually stopped a few feet before touching the plate, taking off his batting helmet as Kernels catcher Abel Baker barked at him.

Sano glared at the Kernels dugout after finally touching the plate, with Kernels players continuing to give him significant grief. He took a step toward Baker, and the dugouts began to empty, with umpires Fernando Rodriguez and Paul Clemons, as well as both teams' coaching staffs, doing a good job of squelching what could have been an ugly scene.

Also worth noting is that being annoyed by Sano's actions following the homer didn't stop Burke from effusively praising him as a player:

He's young, but he's one heck of a player, man. He's unbelievable. That's the best player I've seen here, by far.

Twins fans may remember Burke as the White Sox catcher who got destroyed by Torii Hunter in a home plate collision back in 2004.

Anthony Slama has never gotten an extended shot with the Twins despite dominating every level of the minors and was dropped from the 40-man roster after injuring his elbow late last season. He's healthy again, posting a 0.57 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 16 innings as Rochester's closer, which gives him a 2.35 ERA and 162 strikeouts in 133 career innings at Triple-A. Slama is 28 years old and has shaky control, but there's no excuse for ignoring him at this point.

Remember when the Twins signed Jason Marquis and Terry Ryan said "he throws the ball over the plate" despite the fact that his career walk rate of 3.5 per nine innings was the exact same as Francisco Liriano's? Through five starts Marquis has more walks (11) than strikeouts (10) in 27 innings and has thrown the same percentage of his pitches for strikes as Liriano, who's been banished to the bullpen.

Sean Burroughs and Clete Thomas cleared waivers after being designated for assignment by the Twins, meaning they'll both remain in the organization at Triple-A but no longer reside on the 40-man roster. Stockpiling that type of depth is a good thing, but in making room for Thomas in Rochester's outfield the Twins demoted No. 2 prospect Joe Benson from Triple-A to Double-A despite the fact that he'd already spent two seasons there.

Benson was off to a rough start, hitting .179 with 27 strikeouts in 28 games, but was hitting for power and drawing walks. At the time of the demotion Benson had a .584 OPS and Ben Revere had a .592 OPS. Demoting a 24-year-old back to Double-A for a third straight season because he struggled in 28 games seems odd, particularly when Chris Parmelee is struggling in the majors after skipping Triple-A following far worse Double-A production than Benson.

• Parmelee sticking in the majors because the Twins trusted September and March instead of a mediocre track record was misguided enough, but now he's not even playing consistently. Parmelee is a left-handed hitter, yet he's been on the bench for three straight games against right-handed pitchers. It'll be buried beneath the mountain of problems, but the handling of prospects Parmelee, Benson, Revere, and Liam Hendriks leaves a lot to be desired.

Dan Osterbrock was the Twins' seventh-round pick out of the University of Cincinnati in 2008 and spent four seasons in the farm system before injuring his shoulder and getting released this spring. Since then he's been extremely outspoken about the Twins' handling of his injury and other pitcher injuries. For instance, when it was announced that Scott Baker needed Tommy John surgery after the Twins initially said he could pitch Osterbrock tweeted:

Wait, the Twins allowed an injury to linger longer than a year without taking care of it?! Shocker.

Then in responding to various questions about his own health status, Osterbrock wrote:

Twins released me. My shoulder was hurting so instead of helping me out, they got rid of me.

I really enjoyed my time with the Twins, but I'm none too pleased with the way it ended and how it was handled.

Shoulder surgery Round 2 tomorrow morning. Looking forward to finally getting this fixed properly.

Surgery went well. Should be throwing soon. Special thanks to the Twins for completely neglecting the obvious injury I had.

Osterbrock also said in an interview with the University of Cincinnati's website that "they kept telling me that I was going to be all right and that I should try to play through it and I did for as long as I could." Because of the increasing number of questions about the competency of the team's medical staff Osterbrock's comments got some attention and the Twins were forced to respond. Not surprisingly they denied any wrongdoing.

• Tommy John surgery has already derailed the career of 2009 first-round pick Kyle Gibson and now 2010 first-round pick Alex Wimmers may be facing the same fate. Wimmers came back from extreme control problems last season to re-establish himself as one of the Twins' better prospects, but he's been shut down with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. Predictably the Twins are saying he can avoid surgery and will try rest and rehab. Good luck.

• Twins owner Jim Pohlad gave votes of confidence to Ryan and Ron Gardenhire, dismissing the notion that either man's job could be in jeopardy. That's certainly not surprising, but it's also worth noting that Pohlad gave Bill Smith a public vote of confidence in October ... and then fired him five weeks later.

Jared Burton served up two homers in his Twins debut and gave up a run two appearances later, but he's been unhittable since then. Literally. Burton has thrown 10.2 consecutive no-hit innings dating back to April 13. During that time batters are 0-for-32 with 11 strikeouts off him, getting on base only via two walks and two plunkings.

• Minnesota native Michael Wuertz held an open tryout for teams in mid-March and the Twins were in attendance, but six weeks later the once-dominant and oft-injured reliever signed a minor-league deal with the Reds.

• Since the Twins traded him to the Orioles last offseason J.J. Hardy has 38 homers in 709 plate appearances. During that same time the Twins' entire infield has combined for 52 homers in 3,828 plate appearances. This season Hardy is out-homering the Twins' infield 8-to-3.

• In starting the season with an MLB-worst 8-23 record the Twins have been outscored by 67 runs in 31 games while no other team has been outscored by more than 32 runs.

• How did Dan Haren lose to the Twins? He was hurt. At this point I'll assume that every Twins victory will be followed by the opposing pitcher revealing an injury within 48 hours.

Jim Callis of Baseball America published his first mock draft and it has the Twins selecting Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton with the No. 2 pick.

• Last and least, I guess now we know that Robby Incmikoski checks Twitter while he's working the game for FSN.

This week's blog content is sponsored by Coordinated Business Systems, which offers innovative technology solutions for Minnesota businesses. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

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