Minor League Report...March 20, 2010

Good morning from beautiful Southwest Florida.  Today I will recap the past week's performace of several young prospects who are with the Twins this spring.  I will then review my observations from yesterday's game against the Devil Rays by a team comprised of players who mostly will be with the Snappers this year.

First, lets take a look at the roster moves made by the Twins this week.  They made their first cuts last weekend, optioning Deolis Guerra, Loek VanMil and Estarlin De Los Santos to New Britain.  They also assigned Jose Lugo, Jair Fernandez, Danny Rams, Steve Singleton and Rene Tosoni to minor league camp.  A few days ago, Rob Delaney and Alex Burnett were both optioned to Rochester.  After yesterday's game, Danny Valencia, Trevor Plouffe, Luke Hughes and Anthony Swarzak were also optioned to Rochester.  

At Twins Fest we learned that Jose Morales was recovering from a wrist injury and would likely not be ready for the start of the season.  So who will be Joe Mauer's backup when the Twins break camp in a few weeks?  Many of us thought that the more experienced Drew Butera would win the job in part because the Twins would want top prospect Wilson Ramos playing every day at Rochester.  So far this spring, Drew Butera is hitting .133/.235/.133 in 15 at bats while Ramos is hitting .381/.381/.714 in 21 at bats with only 2 strikeouts, 4 doubles and a big home run off a pretty good lefty yesterday.  Ron Gardenhire's comments recently indicate that he has been impressed with what he has seen of Ramos this spring.  If Ramos does open the season with the Twins, don't be surprised if he is here to stay!

Although some of us were surprised when Danny Valencia was sent to Rochester yesterday, the Twins were saying all winter that they believed he needed more seasoning in the minors before he would be ready to come up and play every day.  He certainly had a nice spring, hitting .273/.292/.636 with 2 doubles and 2 home runs.  Luke Hughes also had a big week with 2 doubles and a home run in Wednesday's win over Tampa and a game winning double Thursday.  Hughes hit .333/.333/.619 in 21 at bats while playing most of the time at second base.  As the Twins moved him around the field these past few years, look for Luke to see a lot of playing time at second base for the Red Wings. 

After an incredible first few games this spring, Juan Portes cooled this week. Trevor Plouffe had a nice spring, hitting .333/.385/.667 in 12 at bats.  Ben Revere has seen as much playing time as anyone as the Twins work to get him ready for the big leagues should he be needed later this season.  Revere was 3-15 this week and is now hitting .303/.303/.424 in 33 at bats with 2 stolen bases in 3 attempts. 

Rob Delaney had a nice spring before being sent down on Thursday, appearing in 4 games (5.1 innings) with a 5.06 ERA and 9K/0BB.  Delaney made 2 appearances this week, pitching 2.1 shutout innings with 2 hits and 4 strikeouts.  Alex Burnett was also solid in his two outings, pitching 2.0 no-hit innings with 2 strikeouts.  Burnett finished his spring with a 6.75 ERA in 4.0 innings with 3K/4BB.  Two young relievers still with the club are Kyle Waldrop and Anthony Slama with neither having allowed a run.  Waldrop has appeared in 4 games (5.1 innings) with 2K/0BB.  Slama has appeared in 3 games (3.0 innings) with 6K/1BB.  With questions lingering as to who will be the Twins closer this year, can Anthony Slama make their bullpen out of spring training?

Yesterday, Bonnie and I spent our afternoon watching a team of young prospects who will mostly be with the Snappers this season.  It is a different experience to sit on four row metal seats that are less than 40 feet from home plate and 10 feet from the players bench.  With the temperature in the low 70's and Tom Kelly sitting at the end of the bench chirping away at the players, it was a special baseball experience.

Although Matt Guerrier threw the first inning, he was followed by Liam Hendriks, Miguel Munoz, Dakota Watts, Ben Tootle and Tom Wright.  Liam Hendriks was solid in his 2.0 innings, striking out the side in the second.  Unfortunately, he deflected a ball up the middle that led to an infield hit which was followed by a soft grounder in the hole to put runners on first and second.  After strking out the next hitter for the second out, Tobias Streich attempted to get the runner at first base and threw the ball into the right field corner which would lead to the first of two runs in a game eventually won by Tampa Bay, 2-0. 

The Rays led off two later innings with bunts, one of them coming around to score their second run off Munoz.  The most noticeable thing about Ben Tootle in his first outing of the spring was that his ball makes a different sound when it hits the catcher's mitt.  You can just feel that his pitches are in another speed zone.  However, a couple reminded me of that pitcher from Bull Durham, Nuke LaLosh, as Chris Herrmann once lept as high as he could for one high heater.

The opening lineup was Brian Dozier (ss) leading off, followed by Derek McCallum (2B), Aaron Hicks (CF), Steve Liddle (RF), Angel Morales (LF), Jon Waltenbury (1B), Tobias Streich (C), Nate Hanson (3B) and Anderson Hidalgo (DH).  Aaron Hicks had a couple nice at bats as he fought off breaking pitches before a couple nice line drive singles.  The one time the Twins did get runners to second and third, Angel Morales hit what would have been a nice deep sacrifice fly, unfortunately, there were two outs. 

Defensively, Chris Herrmann came on late in the game and made a strong throw to nail a base stealer by several feet.  Nate Hanson had a nice pick-up to his left to nab a runner at first.  Andrew Thompson also came in late in the game and made a beautiful turn of a double play.

For several innings in the middle of the game I was sitting next to Ryan Mullins as the AA and AAA guys not playing yesterday were required to spend some time watching the two games played at the Twins complex.  We talked about everything from his season last year to where he feels he will start the season and his time at Vanderbilt University.  Ryan had a very good year last year at New Britain and feels that after two and a half years in AA he deserves another shot at AAA.  He is one semester away from graduation with a degree in Health and Human Services.  When asked to sign two baseball cards, I found it interesting that the big lefty writes right handed.

We had an interesting discussion with a man sitting in front of us.  Although originally a baseball coach in California, he now lives in the Ukraine and has a company that manufactures wooden bats from Yellow Beechwood.  We talked about how that wood (which is found only in the Ukraine) bonds better than Maple and is less likely to break.  He explained the cost and process involved in getting bats approved for the major leagues, a process that he doesn't anticipate getting involved with.  His concentration is on getting exposure for his bats in various amateur and college leagues as an alternative to aluminum bats.

I also spent a few innings talking with Paul Klingsberg's dad.  Paul had a nice season for Elizabethton last year and is hopeful to make the move up to Beloit this spring.  His dad wasn't aware of the similarities between Paul and another big first baseman taken by the Twins in the 49th round several years ago, Brock Peterson.  We talked about Paul's two years at Pepperdine and his last year in college before the Twins drafted him last spring.

Finally, after the game Bonnie and I had the opportunity to meet Aaron Hick's Mom who was sitting in front of us.  As you would expect, I had lots of questions for her about her son who just may be the Twins top prospect.  I asked about the stories we all have heard about his golf game?  Yes, he was as good as we heard and was winning tournaments by the time he was twelve.  He began playing golf at the age of three when his father cut off an old set of his clubs and proceded to watch Aaron hit the ball both long and straight....yes, at three years old!  So when Aaron was a teenager and playing several sports, his Dad told him he would need to eliminate can imagine the surprise he had when Aaron immediately told him it would be golf. 

Yes, the rumors are true that Aaron told all the teams who were considering drafting him as a pitcher that he did not want to pitch.  He enjoys playing the game of baseball and wants to be on the field, playing everyday.  He appears to be a sharp young man with a great family background, a young man who has saved nearly all of his signing bonus.  His Mom told me that the only thing he bought was a new car.  When asked what that car was...she told me it is a Lexus!  A young man with the future that Aaron has certainly needs to reward himself a little, doesn't he?

We will be at the back fields again later today before seeing the Twins play a couple games early next week.  Have a great weekend everyone!

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