Minor League Report...December 26, 2009

With the Winter League regular seasons winding down, the Caribbean League playoffs will soon begin.  Last year, the Aragua Tigres went all the way to win the Caribbean Series Championship.  With more Twins playing for Aragua than any other team, it was an exciting time for Twins fans to follow several key prospects.

This season, Aragua finds themselves in seventh place of their eight team league and a repeat appears unlikely.  The team with Twins ties that may have the best shot at being in championship consideration is Escogido who is in first place in the Dominican Winter League with a 2.5 game lead. 

Francisco Liriano joined Escogido a few weeks ago.  In his first three starts, Liriano appeared in 11.2 innings with a 1.54 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 17K/2BB.  With over a strikeout and a half per inning, could this be a glimpse of the Liriano of old?  There is probably no other player on the Twins roster who could have a greater impact on their 2010 season than a healthy, effective Liriano.

Alexi Casilla had what must be considered a disappointing season with Gigantes in the DWL.  Casilla played sparingly, hitting .219/.288/.288 in 73 at bats.  Estarlin De Los Santos hit .280/.321/.320 in 50 at bats earlier in the DWL season, prior to most of the players with major league experience reporting.

The Puerto Rican League has a few more games in their regular season with Mayaguez in third place, 2.0 games out of first.  Danny Valencia reported a few weeks ago and is getting valuable playing time as he prepares for the most important spring training of his life.  Valencia is hitting .222/.300/.222 in 27 at bats.  Ryan Mullins had a 0-2 record earlier in their season with an 8.22 ERA and 4K/5BB in 15.1 innings.  Nelvin Fuentes is being used as a lefty specialist, appearing in 9 games with a 1-0 record, 5.40 ERA and 2K/6BB in 6.2 innings pitched.  Former Twins prospect Angel Garcia has a 1-0 record, 1.93 ERA and 4K/7BB in 9.1 innings.  Angel Morales had very limited playing time with Ponce, appearing in 10 games with a .176/.300/.235 in 17 at bats.  Appearing against the caliber of pitchers he faced, these limited at bats are a valuable experience for Morales as he prepares to take another step up the organizational ladder next spring.

Eight players with Twins ties played for Aragua.  Jason Pridie made a brief appearance, hitting .381/.422/.476 in only 42 at bats.  Another outfielder who Pridie may compete with for a Twins roster spot this spring, Dustin Martin, hit a solid .298/.395/.477 in 151 at bats.  Yangervis Solarte was noticed by many as he hit a solid .302/.362/.417 in 96 at bats.  Jonathan Goncalves appeared briefly, hitting .143/.182/.238 in 21 at bats. 

Jason Jones didn't help himself this winter with a 0-1 record, 7.11 ERA and 12K/6BB in 25.1 innings.  Frank Mata was very good earlier in the year, with a 2-1 record, 3.44 ERA and 11K/6BB in 18.1 innings.  Jhon Garcia pitched 11.1 innings with a 1-1 record, 4.91 ERA and 9K/2BB.

The star of the Aragua Tigres this winter is Wilson Ramos, who again is one of the top hitters in the league.  Ramos is hitting a league ninth best .332 Average, with a .397 OBP and the league's second best .582 SLG.  Ramos has 14 doubles (7th most in league), 12 home runs (3rd most) and a league best 49 RBI.  Ramos hit his twelfth home run this week off Yusmeiro Petit, who spent most of this past season with the Seattle Mariners. 

Following a season at New Britain that was plagued with two injuries, it is great seeing Ramos showing the type of power and production everyone knew he was capable of.  With spring training only two months away, Ramos is entering a pivotal season with his appearance in a Twins uniforms likely by September at the latest.

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