After being gone for a couple weeks, I returned to the most wonderful news...that for the first time ever, the Twins had four of their minor league teams playing in the playoffs. Now that is exciting!
For the season, the system had an overall record of 365-319, or 46 games over .500 for a .534 win percentage.
There was certainly lots of player movement these past few weeks led by the trade of Adam Harben to the Cubs for Phil Nevin. What the future holds for Nevin with the Twins remains to be seen, however, Harben's 67 walks in 122.2 innings are an indication that his future within the Twins organization was limited. On September 1st, the Twins recalled Scott Baker and catcher Chris Heintz from Rochester and middle infielder Alexi Casilla from New Britain. I will be starting a series of articles next week on Scout.com, reviewing the minor league system by position. With the minor league season now complete, did Alexi Casilla have the top performance of any position players this year?
Josh Rabe was also recalled from Rochester with any additional recalls delayed until the Red Wings playoff run ends. Francisco Liriano will make his much publicized rehab start for the Red Wings tonight in Scranton-Wilkes Barre. After Heintz was recalled by the Twins, Shawn Wooten went down with an injury and returned home, leaving the Wings with no catchers for their playoff run. Jose Morales was brought up from New Britain as was Kyle Geiger who had begun his season in Ft. Myers. Jeff Christy, who had recently been promoted to Ft. Myers from Elizabethton, moved up to New Britain for the last few games of the season. Glen Perkins had his best few starts of the season and was promoted to Rochester the last week of the season where he has continued to start and pitch very well. Beloit reliever Danny Vais left Beloit this week to return home for his wedding today. He was replaced on the Beloit playoff roster by Elizabethton's closer, Danny Hernandez. Finally, 2006 top picks Chris Parmalee and Joe Benson moved up to Beloit for their playoff run from the GCL Twins.
Kevin Slowey pitched very well for Team USA including a five inning outing with 1 run in their last game win over Cuba. He has returned to Rochester and is travelling with the Red Wings. Look for Kevin to be activated and join the Wings should they move on to the second round of the playoffs. USA Today awarded their Minor League Player of the Year award to Twins pitcher Matt Garza. This is the same award that Liriano won in 2005, making the Twins only the second organization to ever win this award in two consecutive years (Atlanta won it in 1995/96 with Andrew Jones winning the award both years). Brock Peterson was the FSL Player of the Month for August giving the Miracle that award for the second consecutive month (Brandon Roberts won it in July).
Rochester Red Wings (AAA)
The Red Wings finished their season with a record of 79-64, which was good for second place, 5.5 games behind Scranton-Wilkes Barre. They earned a wild card spot and entered the playoffs for the first time in nine years...facing Scranton in a best of five series.
The Wings won Wednesday's game 6-5 behind a solid start by Mike Smith, who pitched 6.0 innings with 4 runs. Beau Kemp allowed a run in 2.0 innings and Bobby Korecky closed the game out with 2.0 shutout innings. Andres Torres had 3 hits and a walk while Garrett Jones was 3 for 4 with a double, run scored and 3 rbi.
On Thursday, the Wings won 11-5 behind three shutout relief appearances by Henry Bonilla (3.1 innings), Kevin Cameron (1.2 innings) and Kemp (2.2 innings). Dave Gassner started the game pitching only 1.1 innings with 6 hits and 5 runs. The hitting stars were Quinton McCracken who was 4 for 4 with a walk, and Jones who was 2 for 4 with a walk, 2 runs scored, 2 rbi and home run.
Last night the Wings lost 3-6 behind Pete Munro who lasted 4.1 innings with 10 hits and 3 runs. Jason Miller got the loss, pitching 1.2 innings with 3 hits and 2 runs. Jones was again the hitting star, going 3 for 3 with a walk and run scored. In the first three games of this series, Jones is hitting .727Ave.
The Twins have said that Terry Tiffee will be recalled following the Wings playoff run. It appears that Jones, who led the system in 2006 with 92 rbi and tied with Brock Peterson for the system lead with 21 home runs, is also making a claim for his first callup by his play in the playoffs.
The Wings have game four tonight in Scranton. Liriano will be starting and limited to 50 pitches. Up two games to one, will the Wings win it and move on to the second round?
New Britain Rock Cats (AA)
The Cats finished the season in last place, 16.0 games out with a record of 64-78.
Entering the season, the Cats had what appeared to be the top starting rotation in the organization with Perkins, Simonitsch, Justin Jones, Harben and Blackburn (a top pick plus three pitchers on the 40-man roster). Based on their performances in 2005...this staff should have led the Cats to an Eastern League championship. Unfortunately, they did not. Jim Rantz told me earlier this season that he didn't recall if they ever had four number one picks on the same team...as did the Cats when they had Garza, Span, Moses and Perkins.
Moses, Span, Doug Deeds, Trent Oeltjen and Danny Matienzo are also amongst the top position players in the system. Why this team finished 16 games out is a mystery. New Britain is an excellent franchise with wonderful fan support. It is unfortunate that this group of talented players just didn't get it done on the field!
Ft. Myers Miracle (Hi-A)
The Miracle finished the first half of the season tied for first (lost championship on tie-breaker) with a record of 38-32. They won the second half by a half game with a 42-28 record. Eighty wins was certainly a wonderful season for a team that often appeared to be a central bus terminal with the number of players coming up from Beloit or moving on to New Britain. Although they weren't in Ft. Myers all that long, the high point of their season had to be the early season pitching of Matt Garza and Kevin Slowey who were both in contention for many Player of the Year awards.
The Miracle opened their playoff run with a three game series against arch rival Dunedin. They won Tuesday's opening game 6-5 behind Kyle Waldrop who pitched 5.0 innings giving up 5 runs (3 earned). Chris Shutt pitched 1.2 shutout innings of relief and Danny Powers got the win with 2.1 shutout innings. Trevor Plouffe was the hitting star going 3 for 4 with a double and 2 rbi. Steven Tolleson was also 3 for 4 with a double, run scored and rbi while speedster Brandon Roberts was 2 for 4 with a double, 2 runs scored and rbi.
On Wednesday they travelled to Dunedin, losing a hard fought game 3-4 behind an excellent start by Oswaldo Sosa who went 5.0 innings with 3 runs (2 earned). Jose Mijares gave up a run in 1.0 inning and J.P. Martinez closed out the game with 2.0 shutout innings. Plouffe was again the hitting star going 3 for 5 with a double. Dave Winfree was 2 for 4 with a run scored, rbi and home run. Roberts and Telleson were also effective, both going 2 for 4.
On Thursday, the Miracle lost the deciding game 2-3 in an eleven inning thriller. Staff ace Anthony Swarzak was sterling, pitching 7.0 innings with 5 hits, 1 run and 4K/1BB. Danny Powers blew the save with a cheap run in 2.0 innings and Tim Lahey got the loss, pitching 1.2 innings with 3 hits and 1 run. Brock Peterson was the only hitter with a multi-hit game going 2 for 5.
The Miracle may have seen a lot of changes with 55 players playing at least one game this season, but they rewarded a record 116,397 fans with a winning season and playoff baseball as their manager, Kevin Boles, got 80 wins in his rookie season at the helm.
Beloit Snappers (A)
The Snappers, who were one of the youngest teams in the league, finished their first half in third place with a record of 35-33. They lost their entire infield (Lis, Thompson, Kelly and Robbins) to the disabled list during the second half, however their pitching staff led them to a 39-31 record which tied them for second, 3.5 games out, and earned the Snappers a spot in playoffs.
The Snappers began their three-game series with Peoria on Wednesday with a 2-0 win behind a 9.0 inning shutout performance by Yohan Pino (9.0ip, 4hits, 0runs and 6K/0BB). Pino, who finished the season with a record of 14-2 with a 1.91era, 0.95WHIP and 99K/20BB in 94.0 innings, clearly has to be one of the top pitching prospects in the Twins organization. Juan Portes was 1 for 2 with a walk and Hibbing native Eli Tintor took care of all the scoring the Snappers needed with a 2 run home run.
On Thursday the Snappers lost 1-6 behind Eduardo Morlan who pitched 5.0 innings with 4 hits, 2 runs (1 earned) and 3K/2BB. Danny Vais and Frank Mata both allowed 2 runs in one inning, while Dan Leatherman pitched a shutout inning.
Alexander Smit started last night's deciding game, earning the win in the Snapper's 4-3 victory pitching 7.0 innings with 3 hits, 2 runs (1 earned) and 10K/4BB. Adam Hawes gave up a run in 0.2 inning while Ryan Mullins and Dan Leatherman pitched 0.1 and 1.0 shutout innings. Tintor was 1 for 4 with another 2 run home run. Portes was 1 for 3 ith a walk and Allan de San Miguel was 1 for 2 with 2 walks and 2 rbi.
With most of their opening day starting rotation moving on to Ft. Myers and beyond and their entire infield, which includes several of the Twins top prospects, out for the last month or two of the season...this playoff run is somewhat surprising. This success demonstrates the system's tremendous pitching depth as the Snappers send out Pino, Morlan and Smit to start these three games. Now on to round two which begins tonight!
Elizabethton Twins (Rookie)
The Twins finished their season in first place with a record of 42-26. They again faced Danville in the championship series, however, unlike last season they lost game three, 3-4. Alex Burnett, who is one of the top young prospects in the system, lost game one after allowing 4 runs on 6 hits in 5.1 innings. Jose Lugo, who won 8 games this season, only lasted 1.1 innings in game two allowing 4 runs on 8 hits. The Twins came back to win this game 5-4 behind 4.2 shutout innings of relief by Matt Williams. Jose Casillo pitched 5.0 solid innings, allowing 2 runs in game three that was lost 3-4.
The hitting star of the playoffs was catcher Greg Yersich who was 2 for 4 in game one and 3 for 4 in game two. 2006 draft pick Danny Valencia was 4 for 4 in game two with 2 runs scored, 2 rbi and a home run. Danny Santiesteban had two hits in each of the last two games, including a double each night.
GCL Twins (Rookie)
The Twins were in contention for the championship until the last ten days of the season when they couldn't win, finishing 26-27 in third place 8.5 games behind the cross town Red Sox.
The top pitchers were Omar Alcala (3-1, 4.02era), David Bromberg (3-3, 2.66era), Tyler Robertson (4-2, 4.25era) and 7'1" Dutch native Loek VanMil (1-2, 3.30era). Aussie Brad Tippett was a very successful closer with 10 saves, a 2.53era and 18K/5BB in 21.1 innings. Fourteenth round pick from the Universtiy of Notre Dame, Jeff Manship, signed late and pitched 5.2 shutout innings for the Twins before moving accross the parking lot to the Miracle where he had a 2.08era with 12K/2BB in 8.2 innings.
Top picks Chris Parmalee and Joe Benson both had excellent seasons. Parmalee hit .279Ave with 8 home runs and 32 rbi in 154 at bats. Benson is an excellent centerfielder who hit .260Ave with 5 home runs and 28 rbi in 196 at bats. The top hitters however, were 19 year old Deibinson Romero and 18 year old catcher/first baseman Wilson Ramos. Romero led the team with a .313Ave and 4 home runs and 38 rbi in 176 at bats. Ramos hit .286Ave with 3 homes runs and 26 rbi in 154 at bats.
Players of the Week
Watch for my Player and Pitcher of this playoff week on Seth's site on Monday. I will be doing a series on Scout.com where I review the system by position, beginning with the catchers next week.
Several of you have asked about our trip to France. We arrived in Paris on the 24th which was Bonnie's birthday. While there for three days we saw the normal sites...the Louvre, d'Orsay museum, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, etc. One couple in our group insisted that we have dinner one evening at Le grand Colbert, which is the restaurant featured in the Jack Nicholson/Diane Keaton movie "Somethings got to give." It was fun seeing it but to be honest, it was the most disappointing meal we had during our stay in France.
Our group of four couples was joined by a couple from Iowa and a travel writer, Steven Stern, who annually publishes an illustrated book of the top 100 resorts in the world and another guide about cruises. French Country Waterways picked us up at our hotel on Sunday as we travelled nearly two hours to Chatillon sur Loire where the barge Addrienne awaited. It is a nearly new 128' hotel barge that travels a canal with 32 locks about 65 kilometers to the city of Nemuers. The Pont-Canal was dug by hand in the 1700's and at one point crosses the Loire river via a 900 meter aqueduct that was constructed by a gentleman named Eiffel. Travelling on a barge on water over an aqueduct that is more than 50 feet above a river is a really odd feeling...how they built this thing 300 years ago is beyond my comprehension.
A typical day was to awaken as the barge began its days journey (at a maximum speed of 6 knots). A wonderful breakfast was normally followed by an excursion to places such as the ancient city of Sancerre (including wine tasting), shopping in Montargis, visiting the famous ceramic pottery factory in Gien or a horse drawn carriage ride in Montbouy (where we visited a Church and saw the memorial to the village's 100 dead in WWI...which is unbelievable considering the village only had a population around 3,000) where we saw the original walls that were built to protect the city from the armies of Julius Caesar before the birth of Christ.
The staff of six (captain, tour guide, french chef, deckhand and two gals who did everything from clean rooms to cheese service) was as professional and friendly as one could imagine...by the end of the week they almost felt like family. Lunch, consisting of a meat course, pastry course, several cheese courses, salads, dessert and two to three wines, was served on board in the dining room or outside on the deck. Afternoons were normally quiet which resulted in my completing several books by one of my favorite writer's, David Baldacci. Others walked along the canal or took advantage of the bicycles on board to ride to nearby villages or historic sites. Dinner, including at least three wonderful local wines, was served promptly at 7:30...normally lasting until 10 or 10:30. There was a complete bar that was open to us 24 hours a day. The highlight may have been our one dinner on shore, at the famous french restaurant "Auberge des Templiers" which was begun by the Templiers that have become more familiar to us since viewing the Da Vinci Code. After our Captain's dinner Friday evening we returned to Paris on Saturday.
On Sunday our trip went south as we boarded our plane for our trip home. Our flight out of Paris was delayed 2.5 hours so we missed our connecting flight to Minneapolis and got to spend an extra day in Reykjavik, Iceland. Iceland is the most barren place I have ever seen...I asked Bonnie the other day if she could remember seeing a single tree. I couldn't! Iceland air did a good job however of putting us in one of their wonderful hotels, etc...but we didn't need that extra day of travel. Now if I can only sleep later than 4am I will be back to normal.