March 16, 2015

Gleeman and The Geek #185: Rosario Time?

Topics for this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode included Eddie Rosario's chances of stealing the center field job from Aaron Hicks, Mark Hamburger's case for a bullpen spot, winning Twins season tickets from the Minnesota Corn Growers, Spider-Man the internet repair guy, Joe Nathan being a mess, Kevin Correia finding a new home, eating salads at Mac's Industrial, getting into soccer, big spoons and little spoons, and AL Central cliches.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 185

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 the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, which is hosting a Twins season ticket giveaway contest on their website, MNFarmTeam.com.

March 13, 2015

Link-O-Rama

• I'll bet the guys in Lifehouse were super pumped about their super fun plane concert and then they saw Jonah Keri's tweets.

• My dad was on WCCO news being interviewed about getting free tickets from Kevin Garnett.

Stephon Marbury scored 38 points to beat likely top-five pick Emmanuel Mudiay's team in the Chinese league semi-finals.

• Twenty years ago this week Michael Jordan quit baseball. His one Double-A season was a lot more impressive than he gets credit for.

• Just sub "Joe Mauer" for "Joey Votto" and almost any Minnesota newspaper columnist could've written this same thing.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we revealed the details of a straightforward, no-strings-attached contest giving away 20-game Twins season ticket packages to listeners. And also a drunk woman crashed the show until her friend came and got her.

• To wrap up my series ranking the Twins' top 40 prospects I reviewed their entire farm system.

• On a related note, here is some hardcore pornography for Twins fans:

And a little more, just in case:

You're allowed two cigarettes now.

• If my hypothetical rankings of non-sports prospects this kid would be the easy No. 1 pick.

Nicole Curtis answers the age-old question: What's worse, tearing down an old Minneapolis house or sending an online mob after a woman?

• This isn't such a big deal compared to the Twins giving $9 million to Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

Manute Bol's son is a 6-foot-10 high school basketball player struggling to find stardom.

Rihanna is singing about whiskey now, because sometimes dreams really do come true.

• Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo opened up about how close he was to being chosen as the Twins' new manager over Paul Molitor.

Johan Santana signed a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays, including an opt-out clause.

Pat Neshek wanted to stay with the Cardinals, but they didn't want him.

Kevin Correia, fresh off a two-year, $10 million contract with the Twins, signed a minor-league deal with the Mariners.

Nick Punto is sitting out the season and probably retiring despite signing with Arizona.

Paul "Meatsauce" Lambert ran the 40-yard dash in the KFAN offices while wearing boots and a sweater:

Still faster than me, guaranteed.

• Congrats to friend of AG.com Brad Fischer for coaching the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh women's basketball team to a second straight conference title.

• I highly recommend "The Overnighters" on Netflix, which is a fascinating documentary about the North Dakota fracking boom and pastor Jay Reinke. It starts heavy and gets heavier.

• HBO's six-part documentary "The Jinx" is great. Strong mix of facts, drama, weirdness, and mystery like a television version of what "Serial" was hyped up as.

• Baseball Prospectus has been sold to Jim Walsh, formerly of Maple Street Press.

Rob McElhenney from "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" was fun on Marc Maron's podcast.

• My favorite podcast is "Stop Podcasting Yourself" and they had back-to-back great episodes with guests Todd Glass and Andy Kindler. Choose one and become a fan.

• I loved my first time at Travail Kitchen, which offers a 15-course tasting menu and now takes pre-paid reservations rather than everyone waiting in line for tables every night.

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

- "Sid Hartman net worth"
- "Minnesota Twins blog sites"
- "Where is pitching coach Rick Anderson now?"
- "How much is Jon Taffer worth?"
- "Top tweeter city"
- "Justin Morneau shirtless"
- "Glen Perkins arrogant"
- "Chicago White Sox jokes"
- "Bumped into Kate Mara"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Hanging By A Moment" by Lifehouse:


This week's blog content is sponsored by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, which is hosting a Twins season ticket giveaway contest on their website, MNFarmTeam.com.

March 11, 2015

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2015: System Overview

Also in this series: 1-5, 6-10 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40.

Sano-Buxton

My annual series ranking and profiling the Twins' top prospects concluded last week, so here's the complete list of 40 players along with links to each individual write-up and an overview of the farm system as a whole:

 1. Byron Buxton, CF               21. Jake Reed, RP
 2. Miguel Sano, 3B                22. Travis Harrison, LF
 3. Jose Berrios, SP               23. Zack Jones, RP
 4. Alex Meyer, SP                 24. Mitch Garver, C
 5. Kohl Stewart, SP               25. Aaron Slegers, SP
 6. Nick Gordon, SS                26. Max Murphy, CF
 7. Jorge Polanco, SS              27. Brandon Peterson, RP
 8. Lewis Thorpe, SP               28. Stuart Turner, C
 9. Nick Burdi, RP                 29. Tyler Jones, RP
10. Eddie Rosario, CF              30. Jason Wheeler, SP
11. Trevor May, SP                 31. Tyler Duffey, SP
12. Stephen Gonsalves, SP          32. Sam Clay, RP
13. Amaurys Minier, LF             33. Tanner English, CF
14. Michael Cederoth, SP           34. Ryan Eades, SP
15. Max Kepler, CF                 35. J.R. Graham, RP
16. Michael Tonkin, RP             36. Lester Oliveros, RP
17. Adam Walker, RF                37. Stephen Pryor, RP
18. Taylor Rogers, SP              38. Levi Michael, 2B
19. Chih-Wei Hu, SP                39. Logan Darnell, SP
20. Lewin Diaz, 1B                 40. A.J. Achter, RP

This time last year the Twins' farm system was widely regarded as baseball's best. And then the injuries struck. Elbow surgery knocked out Miguel Sano for the entire season and wrist problems followed by a concussion cost Byron Buxton most of the year. Four of the system's top pitching prospects--Alex Meyer, Jose Berrios, Kohl Stewart, and Lewis Thorpe--all experienced some arm issues. And while not an injury, Eddie Rosario missed 50 games on a suspension.

All the injuries put a dent in the system's overall standing, but it remains one of the two or three best in baseball thanks largely to Buxton and Sano retaining their elite-prospect status. Adding a third consecutive top-five draft pick in high school shortstop Nick Gordon also helped prop up the group and second-round pick Nick Burdi's impressive pro debut combined with perceived MLB readiness put him squarely on the prospect map right away.

In most years several of the Twins' top prospects graduate to the majors--Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks, and Kyle Gibson all did so in 2013, for instance--but Josmil Pinto was the only member of the 2014 top 10 to spend enough time in Minnesota to lose his prospect eligibility. Retaining or losing "prospect" status doesn't change a player's long-term value, but it does greatly impact how a farm system is perceived and the lack of 2014 graduates gives the system a boost for 2015.

Last season also showed the importance of depth beyond the big names and top-100 list regulars, as Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas emerged as potential building blocks for the Twins after being relative afterthoughts coming into 2014. Jorge Polanco also took a sizable step forward, which combined with Santana's shockingly impressive debut and the addition of Gordon gives the Twins some young middle infield talent to get excited about for the first time in a long time.

Buxton and Sano remain the crown jewels of the farm system, but pitching dominates the rest of the top 40 and that makes sense given the Twins' multi-year focus on adding arms via trades and high-round draft picks after the cupboard was left alarmingly bare. In years past the Twins were typically overflowing with back-of-the-rotation starters, but now even after the high-upside quartet of Berrios, Meyer, Stewart, and Thorpe they have several intriguing mid-rotation types.

They also have an assortment of hard-throwing, bat-missing relievers approaching MLB readiness in Burdi, Michael Tonkin, Jake Reed, Zack Jones, Brandon Peterson, and Tyler Jones. It may not fully come together in 2015, but there are finally power arms on the way to Minnesota and in general the farm system looks nearly ready to start making a significant MLB impact after years of stockpiling talent in the minors.

Of the top 11 prospects all but Stewart, Gordon, and Thorpe have a realistic shot of playing in the majors this season, led by Buxton, Sano, and Meyer potentially playing big roles. That means next year's farm system may plummet in the MLB-wide rankings, but far more importantly it means this could be the year fans stop hearing about the trade pickups, high draft picks, and big-money international signings rising through the minors and start actually seeing them at Target Field.


This week's blog content is sponsored by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, which is hosting a Twins season ticket giveaway contest on their website, MNFarmTeam.com.

March 9, 2015

Gleeman and The Geek #184: Molitor’s Philosophies and Extending Dozier

Topics for this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode included whether the Twins should sign Brian Dozier to an extension, Paul Molitor's quotes about managing philosophies, talking with Adam Czech of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association about a season ticket package giveaway contest for listeners, 612 Brew's new cans and where to get them, Mike Pelfrey as a starter only, and the difference between live radio and recorded podcasts with a drunk, show-crashing woman.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 184

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 the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, which is hosting a Twins season ticket giveaway contest on their website, MNFarmTeam.com.

March 4, 2015

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2015: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

Also in this series: 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40.

5. Kohl Stewart | Starter | DOB: 10/94 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2013-1

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2013     RK-     6      3     1.69      16.0      12      0      16      3
         RK+     1      1     0.00       4.0       1      0       8      1
2014     A-     19     19     2.59      87.0      75      4      62     24

Considered the top high school prospect in the 2013 draft, the Twins selected Texas right-hander Kohl Stewart fourth overall after college stars went 1-2-3. On draft day scouting director Deron Johnson described Stewart's ceiling as "unlimited" and he signed for $4.5 million, bypassing a chance to follow in Johnny Manziel's footstep as Texas A&M's quarterback. Stewart had a great pro debut with a 1.35 ERA and 24/4 K/BB ratio in 20 rookie-ball innings.

He moved up to low Single-A last season and on the surface Stewart had similar success, posting a 2.59 ERA in 19 starts and holding opponents to a .233 batting average. However, he managed just 62 strikeouts in 87 innings, struggled to maintain peak fastball velocity, and was shut down with shoulder problems. High school pitchers make risky top-10 picks for a reason and Stewart failed to crack Baseball America's annual top-100 prospects list after placing 52nd last year.

Along with the sub par strikeout rate he did induce plenty of ground balls and allow just 17 total extra-base hits in 360 plate appearances, so if the shoulder issues prove minor Stewart's first full season was hardly a disaster. If not for the hype attached with being a top-five pick simply holding his own against low Single-A hitters as an 19-year-old with 20 post-high school innings under his belt would be very encouraging.

4. Alex Meyer | Starter | DOB: 1/90 | Throws: Right | Trade: Nationals

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     A-     18     18     3.10      90.0      68      4     107     34
         A+      7      7     2.31      39.0      29      2      32     11
2013     AA     13     13     3.21      70.0      60      3      84     29
2014     AAA    27     27     3.52     130.1     116     10     153     64

Acquired from the Nationals in exchange for Denard Span two offseasons ago, Alex Meyer was the 23rd pick in the 2011 draft out of the University of Kentucky and the 6-foot-9 right-hander with a mid-90s fastball has a 3.14 ERA with 420 strikeouts in 364 innings as a pro. Last year he made 27 starts at Triple-A and struck out 153 in 130 innings, leading the International League in strikeouts and strikeout rate. Yet he's already 25 years old and hasn't debuted in the majors.

Poor control and some nagging arm issues have certainly delayed Meyer's arrival to the majors, but when a last-place team has a top-50 prospect make 27 starts at Triple-A as a 24-year-old that rightfully raises eyebrows. For some context: In the majors last season 750 games were started by a pitcher younger than Meyer and he's less than six months older than Madison Bumgarner. Meyer is a very good prospect who's almost too old to be considered a very good prospect.

Meyer has an overpowering fastball that approaches triple-digits, his slider and knuckle-curveball receive praise, and his changeup is said to be improving. And coming from a 6-foot-9 frame adds a little extra to every pitch. If he can stay healthy and harness his dominant raw stuff Meyer has top-of-the-rotation potential, but shifting to the bullpen to unleash his fastball even further gives him a late-inning relief role to fall back on if needed.

3. Jose Berrios | Starter | DOB: 5/94 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2012-1

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2012     RK-     8      1     1.08      16.2       7      0      27      3
         RK+     3      3     1.29      14.0       8      1      22      1
2013     A-     19     19     3.99     103.2     105      6     100     40
2014     A+     16     16     1.96      96.1      78      4     109     23
         AA      8      8     3.54      40.2      33      2      28     12

Jose Berrios was the Twins' "other" 2012 first-round pick, going 30 spots after Byron Buxton in the compensatory slot received for losing Michael Cuddyer via free agency. He's six-foot-nothing on a good day, but Berrios regularly works in the mid-90s with his fastball and complements it with a good curveball and changeup. Not yet 21 years old, he spent much of 2014 at Double-A, made a cameo at Triple-A, and was named the Twins' minor league pitcher of the year.

Berrios dominated high Single-A hitters to begin last season, starting 16 games with a 1.96 ERA and 109/23 K/BB ratio in 96 innings while holding opponents to a .218 batting average. He was one of just three 20-year-olds to make at least 15 starts in the Florida State League and then in July he moved up to Double-A, where he was the youngest pitcher in the Eastern League to throw more than 40 innings.

Even with a poor season-ending start at Triple-A included his overall numbers were brilliant for a 20-year-old, with a 2.77 ERA and 140/38 K/BB ratio in 140 innings. Berrios is often overshadowed within the Twins' system, but he'd be the No. 1 prospect for a lot of teams and could be knocking on the door to the majors in the second half. It's subjective, of course, but Berrios' mix of upside and polish makes him arguably the Twins' top pitching prospect since Matt Garza in 2007.

2. Miguel Sano | Third Base | DOB: 5/93 | Bats: Right | Sign: Dominican

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2012     A-     553     .258     .373     .521     28     60     80    144
2013     A+     243     .330     .424     .655     16     33     29     61
         AA     276     .236     .344     .571     19     37     36     81
2014

As a 20-year-old Miguel Sano destroyed Single-A and was one of the best hitters at Double-A in 2013, hitting .280/.382/.610 with 35 homers and 65 walks. Last spring he arrived in Fort Myers on the verge of the majors, but elbow problems that first popped up during winter ball worsened early in camp and Sano underwent Tommy John surgery. He missed the entire season, losing a crucial year of development at age 21, and must now re-establish himself as an elite prospect.

Sano's chances of sticking at third base always seemed iffy given his 6-foot-5, 250-pound frame and now his arm strength, which had been his main asset defensively, may be diminished by the elbow surgery. The good news is that Sano's upside offensively is high enough that even being forced to move from third base to right field or first base would leave plenty of room for stardom, although he certainly also has lots to prove at the plate following a lost year.

You won't find prospects with more power potential than Sano, but his .268 batting average and 286 strikeouts in 252 games above rookie-ball are possible red flags. Or at least reasons to pause dreams about Sano turning into the next Miguel Cabrera. There are only six active right-handed hitters with a batting average below .270 and an OPS above .800: Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson, Carlos Quentin, and Mike Napoli.

1. Byron Buxton | Center Field | DOB: 12/93 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2012-1

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2012     RK-    102     .216     .324     .466      4     11     11     26
         RK+     87     .286     .368     .429      1      8      8     15
2013     A-     321     .341     .431     .559      8     33     44     56
         A+     253     .326     .415     .472      4     16     32     49
2014     A+     134     .240     .313     .405      4     10     10     33

This time last year Byron Buxton was MLB's consensus No. 1 prospect after hitting .334 with 49 extra-base hits, 55 steals, and 76 walks between two levels of Single-A as a 19-year-old. Then a spring training wrist injury that was supposed to be minor knocked him out for most of the first half. He returned to Single-A for 30 games and hit just .240, at which point the Twins promoted him to Double-A and he suffered a concussion from a brutal outfield collision in his first game.

While not a totally lost season like Miguel Sano experienced, Buxton played poorly when not sidelined by two significant injuries and now faces the same post-concussion question marks that loomed over Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Denard Span. The good news is Buxton is still just 21 years old. He'll begin this season as one of the youngest players at Double-A or Triple-A and could be the first 21-year-old with 100 plate appearances for the Twins since Mauer in 2004.

Thanks to the rough 2014 he's no longer MLB's consensus No. 1 prospect, but Buxton still claims the top spot on several prominent lists and holds a top-three spot everywhere. Upsides simply do not get much higher than a Gold Glove center fielder with a middle-of-the-order bat and 50-steal speed, and before the injuries he showed more plate discipline and power than expected in the early stages of his development. He has franchise-lifting talent if he can just stay healthy.


For a lengthy discussion about what to expect from Miguel Sano following a lost season, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.

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