Minor League Report...September 8, 2007

All the teams have gone home for the season, with the exception of the Beloit Snappers.  The Snappers won their best of three opening series with Quad Cities, 2-0, and now proceed to the second round versus the Clinton LumberKings.

Prior to closing up shop for the season, the organization's four full season teams had a wonderful Labor Day weekend, winning 12 of 13 games played.

There has been additional player movement these past few days, beginning with Jason Miller being taken off the 40-man roster and placed back on the Rochester roster.  Luis Rodriguez was called up by the Twins from Rochester.  Last week, Henry Reyes was added to the Beloit roster from Elizabethton to make a spot start.  After that start, he was placed on the disabled list with a "left groin strain."  Following their championship series, D.J. Romero, Rene Tosoni and Greg Yersich" were promoted to Beloit for its last few games which makes them eligible for the playoffs.  Nick Blackburn was added to the 40-man roster and called up by the Twins...and has done reasonably well in his first couple appearances.  Lew Ford was also recalled by the Twins as was Jose Morales following Mike Redmond's hand injury.  The Twins announced that the August Player and Pitcher of the Month awards went to Elizabethton's D.J. Romero and Michael McCardell.

Rochester Red Wings (AAA) (2-1, 77-67)

The Wings finished their season trying to make the playoffs, yet, with so many players up with the Twins they fell 1.5 games short.  Unfortunately, due to the schedule and early snows...they actually had as many wins as Wild Card winner Richmond, who was 77-64.  Many point to the callup of Tommy Watkins as the date that the team lost a special person who may have been the glue that held their team together, because they seemed to fall apart right after he left for Minnesota.  

Brian Bass pitched his finest game of the year in Sunday's 3-0 win over Buffalo.  The 25 year old Bass pitched a 9.0 inning shutout with 5 hits and 11K/1BB.  Finishing with a 3.48ERA in 37 games (10 starts) with a 7-3 record in 103.1 innings, Bass appears to be another player the Twins found last winter whom should be retained for the future.  Brian Duensing and Dave Gassner both also pitched well with Duensing losing 6-3 on Saturday and Gassner winning on Labor Day, 8-5.  Gassner struggled early in the season, however, was solid the last few months...finishing with a 6-12 record and 4.95ERA in a team high 149.0 innings.  Duensing finished with a 3.24ERA and 11-5 record in 19 starts including 3 complete games and 1 shutout.  Bobby Korecky finished with a franchise record 35 saves and a 3.71ERA and 5-6 record in 66 appearances (85.0 innings).  Kevin Slowey was the IL Pitcher of the Year, finishing with a 10-5 record and 1.89ERA n 133.2 innings with a 0.98WHIP and 107K/18BB.  The second best ERA in the league was Norfolk's Garrett Olson who was well over a full run higher at 3.16ERA.  Julio DePaula was tied for third with 12 wins (two players tied for a league best 13) at 12-5 with a 2.90ERA.  Finally, Nick Blackburn was as good as any pitcher in the league not named Slowey.  Although he didn't have enough innings at AAA to qualify for the ERA title, he would have finished a close second to Slowey with his 2.11ERA to go with his 7-3 record (110.2 innings) in 17 starts with 3 complete games and 2 shutouts.  

Denard Span had a good holiday weekend, finishing the season at .267Ave with 7 triples, 20 doubles and 25 stolen bases in 39 attempts.  More encouraging, Span hit .290Ave in June, .273Ave in July, .324Ave in August and .444Ave for the three games in September.  Why he isn't up with the Twins getting his first taste of the big leagues is a question we all should be asking?  The hitting star this weekend however, was Doug Deeds, who was 2 for 2 with 2 home runs on Sunday and 3 for 4 on Labor Day, raising his average to a season ending .243 with 9 home runs in 235 at bats.  Although his playing time was limited, Deeds should return in 2008 and can become a solid AAAA player.  Unfortunately, Jose Morales slipped to fourth in the batting championship race at .311Average.  It was won by Buffalo's (Cleveland) Ben Francisco at .318Average, however, Francisco was called up by Cleveland and missed the last few games of the season in the IL.  Recently acquired Matt Macri hit for a .213Average in his first 47 at bats for Rochester, however, he had 3 home runs.  Meanwhile, Twins fan favorite Matthew LeCroy finished what likely will be his last season as a player, hitting .194Average with only 3 home runs in 247 at bats.  I for one hope that the Twins are successful in retaining his services as a minor league coach.

New Britain Rock Cats (AA) (4-0, 69-72)

The Cats struggled all season to get above .500 and never made it, finishing in fourth place of their division...13.5 games behind Trenton.  They did however, have a wonderful last weekend, winning 7-5, 3-2, 12-3 and 11-7.

Oswaldo Sosa had his last start on Saturday, pitching 4.0 innings with 3 hits, 4 runs and 5K/3BB.  Sosa finished witha 1-4 record in AA, appearing in 9 games (48.0 innings) with a 4.50ERA and 35K/22BB.  Yohan Pino didn't pitch this week, finishing with a 5.13ERA in 9 games with a 2-4 record and 40K/9BB in 47.1 innings.  Anthony Swarzak was New Britain's best pitcher down the stretch, finishing his season with a 5-4 record in 15 games with a 3.23ERA and 76K/23BB in 86.1 innings.  Swarzak is now off to the AFL where he should gain additional experience against the best hitters in minor league baseball.  Jose Mijares made two appearances this week, pitching 3.2 innings with 2 hits, 1 run and 4K/3BB.  Jose pitched in 46 games (61.0 innings) this season with a 5-3 record, 3.54ERA and 75K/48BB.  His walks were high and several bad appearances tainted an otherwise excellent season at the AA level.  Ryan Mullins had a good start on Labor Day, finishing his year at AA with a 3.99ERA in 14 games (85.2 innings) with 68K/23BB.  Ryan had an excellent 1.98ERA in 54.2 innings at Ft. Myers before his promotion and we all are aware of the difficulties he had in his 4 starts at AAA.  Mullins will join Swarzak in the AFL.  Closer Tim Lahey finished his AA season with a 3.45ERA and 56K/33BB in 78.1 innings with 13 saves.  Lahey also had a late season promotion to AAA where he appeared in 2 games (3 innings) with a 9.00ERA.  Perhaps the surprise of the season for the Twins organization is reliever Armando Gabino who was promoted to New Britain and proceded to appear in 10 games (16.0 innings) without allowing an earned run (0.00ERA).  Gabino had 14K/8BB with 4 saves.  While at Ft. Myers, Gabino appeared in 26 games (37.0 innings) with a 3.16ERA and 25K/15BB.  Jesse Floyd led the team in innings at 130.0 with a 7-9 record and 5.05ERA, while Tristan Crawford appeared in 82.0 innings with a 5.16ERA, Brad Baker appeared in 77.2 innings (13 starts) with a 5.33ERA, and Danny Powers was solid out of the bullpen, appearing in 34 games (59.2 innings) with a 5.28ERA.  Other pitchers contributing this season were spot starter Josh Hill with a 4.36ERA in 53.2 innings and J.P. Martinez with a 4.19ERA in 53.2 innings.  Jay Sawatski had a 4.50ERA in 50.0 innings before his promotion to AAA where he had a 4.87ERA in 20.1 innings, while Frank Mata had a 5.36ERA in 48.2 innings following his promotion from Ft. Myers where he had a 1.33ERA in 20.1 innings.

The story of the season for the Cats was Garrett Guzman whose week will be discussed later.  Trevor Plouffe is off to the AFL following his break-out season when he hit for a .274Average with an organization leading 37 doubles, 9 home runs and tying with the Miracle's Steve Tolleson for the system second best 75 runs scored.  Brandon Roberts recovered from a .148Average in 61 April at bats to hit over .300Average every full month for the remainder of the season.  Brandon finished with a .293Average, which was second on the team (excluding Brian Buscher who hit .308Ave in his half season with the Cats).  Roberts stole 14 bases in 21 attempts while scoring 50 runs in 369 at bats.  Rashad Eldridge likewise struggled early and finished with an excellent .291Average with 7 home runs in 361 at bats.  Brock Peterson hit .285Average with 15 home runs, 64 rbi and 21 doubles in 389 at bats.  Luke Hughes hit .283Average  and 9 home runs in 315 at bats while Felix Molina had a .272Average in 425 at bats.  Two of the better known prospects didn't do as well, however, with Matt Moses hitting .263Average with 4 home runs in 262 at bats following his return from AAA where he hit only .224Average with 2 home runs in 174 at bats.  Former Player of the Year, David Winfree, hit for a .267Average in his first taste of AA ball, including 12 home runs, 27 doubles, 5 triples and 51 rbi in 460 at bats.  After hitting .333Average in only 30 at bats in April and .274Average in May, Winfree had a terrible slump in June (.214Average) and July (.202Average), before finishing strong with a .330Average in 109 at bats in August with 4 home runs and a .429Average in 14 at bats in September.  Winfree will return to the AFL where his performance may be the deciding factor of whether or not this young player is added to the Twins 40-man roster.

Ft. Myers Miracle (Hi-A) (2-0, 40-30)

After a terrible first half, the Miracle improved greatly after the addition of three hitters from Beloit, Danny Valencia, Brian Dinkelman and Johnny Woodard.  After their 12-game winning streak ended in late August they were unable to close the gap, finishing in fourth place, 4.0 games behind Clearwater.  

This week, Jeff Manship finished his season with a gem, leading the Miracle to a 1-0 victory while pitching 5.1 shutout innings with 5 hits and 3K/2BB.  Manship finished with a 8-5 record and 3.15ERA in 71.1 innings after leading Beloit with a 1.51ERA in 77.2 innings and a 7-1 record.  Kyle Waldrop started the final game, pitching 7.0 innings with 9 hits, 3 runs and 3K/1BB in a Miracle 17-5 win.  Kyle had a 3.40ERA and 7-5 record in 92.2 innings to go with a 5.34ERA in 59.0 innings at New Britain.  Oswaldo Sosa was perhaps their best pitcher before being promoted to New Britain, with what would have been the leagues best ERA (2.23) had he pitched just a few more innings (105.0).  Yohan Pino pitched out of the bullpen early in the season, thus only had 67.2 innings, however, he had a team best 1.73ERA with 64K/17BB before departing with Sosa to AA.  Jay Rainville returned from missing all of 2006 with shoulder surgery to have a remarkable season.  Jay led the team with 142.1 innings with a 9-11 record in 26 starts with a 3.29ERA and 110K/31BB.  This season appears to have put Jay back on the fast track to top prospect status in this pitching rich organization.  The story of the year for the Miracle may have been starter Zach Ward who at one time had a 3-15 record with an ERA around 3.00; before fading the last few weeks of the season much as he did last year after being traded to the Twins from the Reds in the Kyle Lohse trade.  Zach finished with a 5-17 record in 130.0 innings with a 4.08ERA.  Kyle Aselton pitched in 71.1 innings with a 3.79ERA while David Shinskie appeared in 64.1 innings with a 3.36ERA and 7-4 record.  Closer Eduardo Morlan was lights out before his promotion late in the season...with 92K/17BB in 65.2 innings with a 3.15ERA and 4-3 record and a team high 18 saves.  Morlan's ERA suffered somewhat from a few bad performances, however, he normally was 1-2-3 with a strikeout or two.  Rob Delaney moved up to Ft. Myers after his unbelievable start at Beloit, joining Morlan as a late inning option.  Delaney pitched in 17 games (23.1 innings) with 7 saves, for a 1.54ERA and 27K/10BB.  While at Beloit, Delaney had a 0.77ERA in 46.2 innings with 28 saves and 56K/6BB.  Angel Garcia appeared in 45.1 innings with a 3.38ERA and 44K/26BB before his promtion to New Britain where he had a 7.97ERA in 20.1 innings.  Errol Simonitsch made 7 rehab starts, pitching 41.0 innings with a 5-0 record and 4.17ERA.  Josh Hill had a 3.00ERA in 39.0 innings before his promotion to AA while Alexander Smit had a 5.86ERA in 50.2 innings with 38K/26BB before being lost on waivers and pitching better back in the MidWest League.

The hitting star this season was converted left fielder Erik Lis, who hit for a .274Average, however led the organization with 18 home runs (which was 6th best in the FSL) while leading the FSL with an organization best 97 rbi and having a league 4th best 34 doubles.  Dustin Martin hit .294Average in 119 at bats after his trade in late July (full season .290Average with 8 home runs and 71 rbi).  The two other hitting stars with the Miracle for the entire season were Steve Tolleson and Juan Portes.  Tolleson had a .285Average with 27 stolen bases in 37 attempts plus 5 home runs, 4 triples and 24 doubles to go with his 75 runs scored in 487 at bats.  Portes quietly put together an excellent season while playing a little second, third, left and center fields.  Portes hit for a .269Average with 12 home runs, 5 triples, 24 doubles, 62 rbi and 71 runs scored.  This has to be a good season for this young man who has struggled with injuries the past several seasons.  Three players moved up from Beloit and ignited the Miracle offense who had done little to help their excellent pitching staff the first half of the season.  Danny Valencia continued to be one of the top hitters in the organization, finishing with a .291Average with 6 home runs (17 total including 11 at Beloit), 31 rbi (66 total) and 8 doubles (23 total) in 230 at bats (242 at bats at Beloit).  Valencia had hit for a .302Average in 242 at bats at Beloit.  Brian Dinkelman continued to impress the Twins brass as he hit for a .255Average for the Miracle (had hit for a .283Average in 240 at bats at Beloit) including 6 home runs, 4 triples,7 doubles with 56 runs scored in only 247 at bats.  Including 48 runs scored in Beloit, Dinkelman had an amazing organization best 104 runs scored for the season.  Dwayne White had a .238Average in 353 at bats while player/coach Luis Ugueto hit for a .228Average in 267 at bats.  

Beloit Snappers (A) (4-0, 35-35)

As the result of their first half championship the Snappers are in the playoffs.  They began their week however, winning 4 of 4 as they recovered from a funk that had seen them playing sub-.500 ball for several weeks.  

They began the playoffs with a three game series versus Quad Cities, beginning away on Wednesday where they won game one, 3-0 behind an excellent start by team ace Alex Burnett who pitched 5.0 shutout innings with 5 hits and 5K/1BB.  Danny Leatherman followed with 3.0 innings of 1 hit shutout ball while Anthony Slama slamed the door shut on Quad Cities with a 1.0 inning save with 1 hit and 1K/0BB.  Two players recently called up from Elizabethton contributed with Rene Tosoni going 1 for 4 with a double, run scored, and 1 rbi while catcher Greg Yersich was also 1 for 4 with a double, run scored and rbi.  Matt Betsill, Garrett Olson and Steve Singleton each had one hit while Danny Santiesteban was 2 for 4.  Tosoni was in right field with former first round pick Chris Parmalee as the DH.

On Thursday the teams returned to Beloit where the Snappers put away Quad Cities with a 5-4 win.  Tyler Robertson was Burnett's equal, pitching 5.2 shutout innings with 5 hits and 11K/3BB.  Danny Vais allowed a run in 1.1 innings with Jose Lugo also giving up 2 runs (1 earned) in 0.1 inning.  Anthony Slama couldn't slam the door shut this night, allowing 2 hits and the tying run in his 1.2 innings.  Rochester, Minnesota native Aaron Craig pitched 2.0 innings of shutout ball with only 1 hit to give the Snappers their 11 inning series win.

Young centerfielder and leadoff hitter Joe Benson was the hitting star with a 3 for 5 night including 2 runs scored, a home run, rbi and walk.  Danny Santiesteban again was 2 for 4 with a walk while Garrett Olson was 2 for 5.  Chris Parmalee, Greg Yersich and Steve Singleton all contibuted with 1 hit.

The Snappers now begin the second round on the road against the Clinton LumberKings, who had a season much like Beloit...finishing as the first half wild card before losing several players to promotions, fading in the second half before playing well going into the playoffs.  Game one is tonight after Clinton finished off Cedar Rapids last night in game three of their short series.  I expect Beloit will start Cole DeVries tonight against Clinton.

Featured Players of the Week

One cannot recognize a player this week without including New Britain outfielder Garrett Guzman for the second time this season.  Garrett finshed his season with 11 hits in 16 at bats (.688Average) including hits in his last at bat on Saturday...then going 4 for 4 on Sunday and 5 for 5 on Monday.  That is hitting successfully in his last 10 at bats to raise his average to an organization best (full season teams) .312Average, beating out Jose Morales by a point (.311Average).  In addition, Guzman had 8 rbi, 5 runs scored, a double and home run in the Rock Cats four games this week.

Guzman finishes his season amongst the organization's best in several categories, including home runs (14), rbi (88), and runs scored (71).  Guzman had 475 at bats in 125 games while making only 2 errors from his normal spot in left field.  What a finish for Garrett Guzman...will this season earn him a spot on the 40-man roster so that he stays with the organization?

After struggling for much of the season at the plate, 5-tool prospect Danny Santiesteban finished strong hitting for a .538Average in the Snapper's four games in September.  Danny also had 2 walks, 1 double, 3 runs scored and 3 rbi for a great four game finish to his season.  Danny then continued his hot streak, going 2 for 4 in each of the Snappers wins in the opening round of the playoffs.  Getting it done in the playoffs earns Danny a spot as this week's Co-Player of the Week.

Danny's season hasn't been what he wanted as he hit for only a .219Average in 338 at bats with 8 home runs and 12 stolen bases in 17 attempts.  Perhaps this last week and a strong performance throughout the playoffs will give him the encouragement to work hard for another winter which hopefully will bring a better 2008 for this fine young man with so much natural ability.    


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