Twinkie Town Interviews John Sickels

John Sickels was kind enough to answer a few questions for us heading into the start of the minor league season.  He's a great baseball mind, and covers the minors over at his site Minor League Ball.  His new book, The Baseball Prospect Book 2008 is a great read for Twins fans, and for baseball fans in general.  I highly recommend it.

Hi John, welcome to Twinkie Town and thanks for taking time to answer a few questions at this busy time of year.

Let's start at the top.  Before Santana was dealt to the Mets, you had Tyler Robertson ranked as the top Twins prospect for 2008.  What's the best thing he has going for him heading into the season?

Other people don’t seem to like Robertson as much as I do, but his performance metrics are outstanding. There are mixed reports about his stuff. He can be anywhere between 86 and 92 MPH with the fastball, but his slider is excellent. He has the funky delivery, of course, which scouts don’t like. I think he can be a number three starter, which at the time I wrote the list was the best thing I saw in the system.  

Deolis Guerra, like Robertson, is still very young which can make projections risky.  This doesn't stop Twins fans from being exstatic about his ceiling.  If there's one thing he can work on that will make him a more complete pitcher in 2008, what is it?

He needs to build stamina and consistency with his velocity, like Robertson his radar guns readings go up and down, 87 to 95 in his case. The theory is that as he gains maturity that will become more consistent. His breaking ball needs a lot of work, too. His upside is outstanding and I think he has a better chance to develop for the Twins than he did for the Mets.

What kind of future do you see for Ben Revere? 

I really want to see Ben Revere in action, see if those GCL numbers are for real. Beloit and the Midwest League aren’t real easy places to hit, and I’m very curious about how much his gaudy numbers will carry forward. I like the speed and gap power potential, but we need to see how he adjusts.

When do you expect to see him debut with the Twins?

I wouldn’t look for him before 2010 at the earliest.

Chris Parmelee had a disappointing 2007 after an impressive '06 campaign with the GCL Twins, but we're still hoping he can turn into a middle-of-the-order force in a few years.  What are you looking for from him in 2008?

The strikeouts ate him up a bit last year, and lefties dominated him. He’s still very young, of course, the equivalent of a college sophomore. Way too early to give up. I suspect his numbers will be similar to last year but with a higher batting average, something like .255/.325/.430 or so.

Ozzie Lewis, Joe Benson, Rene Tosoni:  Who's the best outfielder?

Well I’m not a huge Joe Benson advocate at this point, he’s very raw, but being younger and more athletic than the Lewis and Tosoni gives him the edge.

Erik Lis is an intriguing prospect, in that he can hit but he isn't a "Twins guy" in that he doesn't have the best defensive reputation.  He'll be 24 this year--what are the chances he's able to make it to The Show as a designated hitter?

Personally I think that Lis can hit. He’s hit everywhere, and I don’t expect that his performance is going to drop off much at least in Double-A. How they slot him in the lineup, I don’t know. This goes back to the Tom Kelly days, suspicion of sluggers in the organization. I understand it, but sometimes the "one dimensional" guys can help you. . .David Ortiz being the best example. But even the Paul Sorrento types, to draw another name from the past, have their place. Lis can probably do that, but I doubt it will be with the Twins.

Can Trevor Plouffe and Alexi Casilla be the future of the Twins middle infield?

I don’t know. Plouffe’s range has deteriorated a bit and might not be up to Gardenhire standards. He could end up at second, or perhaps as a utility infielder. Don’t know what they will do with Casilla.

Sliding over to third base, Matt Moses has been a disappointment thus far in his minor league career and has been shifted to the outfield.  Danny Valencia and Deibinson Romero have come on the last year.  Which third base prospect are you most excited to watch this summer?

Well let’s see how Romero does at Beloit. Valencia’s bat is interesting but, again, he supposedly doesn’t have very good range at third and that could be an issue. I don’t see either one of them as surefire regulars yet.

Most people who read you understand that you're a Twins fan.  Is there one guy you're really rooting for this year, hoping they'll succeed?

Well I stuck my neck out on Robertson so I’m rooting for him to do well since I don’t like looking bad. Anthony Swarzak is another guy I like quite a bit. I’ve had my eye on Pridie since he was in high school and I’d like to see him do well, especially if Gomez struggles. Basically I want the team to do well; it doesn’t matter too much who does it, though naturally the guys I have rated highly in my book are people I want to do well, for selfish reasons.

Do you have any sleeper/dark horse predictions for this season?

Alex Burnett looks like a sleeper to me. Zach Ward is still interesting too, like his ground ball tendencies. I think Kevin Mulvey will do well, and Phil Humber looks better this year now that he’s another year removed from Tommy John. Carlos Gomez is going to have days where he is spectacular, and days when he is absolutely horrible. If he stays healthy and plays I think he’ll put up a line like .260/.310/.390 with 40 steals. I think the major league team will finish around .500.

Finally, as a general State-of-the-Farm, what's your evaluation of the Twins minor league system?

As painful as the Santana trade was, it brought in some needed talent. Depth had taken a hit recently, and when Baseball America rates Nick Blackburn as your top talent, you have a problem. I’m not bashing Blackburn, he’s a decent prospect, but he is not the type of impact guy you typically see in the first slot in a farm system. The trade adds two ready or almost-ready arms in Humber and Mulvey, a guy who could be an ace in Guerra, and an outfielder who could be a star in Gomez. Gomez could also turn into a huge bust, so it’s not a sure thing, but he’s still better and closer to being ready than any outfielders they had in the system before the trade.

Thanks, John, for spending your time with us.

It’s a pleasure.

 

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