With all position players in camp as of yesterday, Twins spring training is in full swing with games starting late next week. The front office was silent this week as everyone begins to focus on the coming season.
Last weekend Jesse interviewed Twins Assistant General Manager, Rob Antony. There was a link a few days earlier to an interview John Sickels had with the organization's International Scouting Coordinator, Howie Norsetter. These interviews are as good as any I have seen. If you haven't read them, I would encourage you to go back and do so. The Norsetter interview gave us good insight into the operations of the scouting department and philosophy of Twins management.
I will touch on a few items that I liked about several key Twins prospects.
Rob Antony appeared very positive when discussing Danny Valencia with Jesse. He indicated that Valencia will get a good look in spring training and if he is the best option a month from now, he will come north with the Twins. They also discussed Charlton Jimerson, who will not be an option to make the team out of spring training because he will not be in big league camp. Jimerson is a pure centerfielder who provides depth in the organization and if a need arises, could be an option during the season if he is playing well in Rochester.
In reply to a question from Jesse about Rob Delaney, Antony responded with the names of three relievers who are very close to pitching in the Twins bullpen. The three he mentioned were Alex Burnett, Delaney and Anthony Slama. I found it interesting that he mentioned Burnett first. Did that mean anything? Does Burnett project as the best of this trio?
Personally, I loved the Norsetter interview which told us much about how this organization operates. Norsetter talked about short reliever Loek VanMil, indicating he is still in development and we shouldn't look for him to join the Twins this year. He indicated that VanMil's fastball topped out at 78mph when he scouted him and that it is now at 98. He mentioned that VanMil has two plus pitches which is another reason this young man was added to the 40-man roster last fall.
I found it very interesting that Norsetter compared Tom Stuifbergen to Nick Blackburn. He indicated Stuifbergen will likely begin the 2010 season in Beloit. His comment that Stuifbergen threw 39 of 41 fastballs in one game for strikes confirms what we know about this young starter who had 69 strikeouts and only 6 walks in 79.2 innings last year. He believes that Stuifbergen needs to grow emotionally with better control on the mound. Armed with a 93 mph fastball, he expects a break out year for Stuifbergen this season.
Norsetter was also very positive when talking about Liam Hendriks. He indicated that Hendriks throws four quality pitches with command and has better stuff than fellow Australian, Brad Tippett. Hendriks is a very good athlete with at least an average fastball who he compared to Jeff Suppan. He expects that Hendriks, who like Stuifbergen missed all of 2008 with an injury, is also a candidate for a break-out season in 2010.
He talked about Brad Tippett and his comparison to Brad Radke. Like Radke, Tippett throws multiple pitches with command. Even though his body has yet to fully develop, Tippett will never be a hard thrower.
Norsetter's comments about Max Kepler-Rozycki were more than encouraging. He indicated that while in last fall's instructional league Kepler-Rozycki's skill level was advanced when compared to others his age, yet his experience was not. He confimed what we don't know about this young prospect when indicating that ranking him tenth in the organization could be aggressive or light.
Norsetter indicated that Luke Hughes has latent power that could turn into something special, if he could stay healthy. Another very young third baseman he talked about was Rory Rhodes, who didn't turn 18 until late last July. Rhodes, who had a plus arm before recent arm surgery, was described as an athletic third baseman with "light tower power."
He seemed to glow when talking about James Beresford. He said he has a chance to be very good and could become a breakout type player who isn't being looked at as a future utility player. He said he is biased and although Beresford needs to mature physically, he can be as good as he wants to be.
He projects Alan de San Miguel as a backup catcher who is very good defensively and is getting better at getting on base. He likes Matt Williams, who he said is very good at getting people out, has a plus make-up with a good forkball.
Perhaps the most relevant comment from both interviews was Rob Antony's comment that Ben Revere "isn't that far away." He confirmed that Revere will begin his season in New Britain, indicating that once you get to AA you are only a phone call away from the Twins. He said he likes what Revere can do both offensively and defensively, with a special mention of his speed. Our friend Seth Stohs told me this week that he is also hearing from sources within the organization that Revere isn't that far away. Perhaps one of the reasons the Twins aren't pursuing someone to serve as Span's backup on their 25-man roster is that they believe Revere will be ready to fill in, if needed, by mid-season.