Minor League Report...July 24, 2010

Congratulations to Joe Benson who is this week's Twinkie Town Player of the Week.  Benson collected 45% of 137 votes cast.

The organization battled to play .500 ball this week, however, couldn't overcome New Britain's seven game losing streak as they finished two games short at 19-21. 

The Twins sent Alex Burnett back to Rochester with Anthony Slama making his long awaited trip to Minnesota.  To make room for Slama on the 40-man roster, the Twins placed Clay Condrey on the 60-day disabled list.  The Twins also sent Jeff Manship back to Rochester when they activated Alexi Casilla from his rehab assignment. 

Ryan Mullins aggrevated a lower back injury in the third inning last Sunday and was placed on the disabled list.  David Bromberg was promoted to Rochester with Bobby Lanigan moving up to New Britain as his replacement.  The Rock Cats also activated Brandon Roberts from the disabled list.  Closer Kane Holbrooks, who had recently moved into Beloit's starting rotation, was promoted to Ft. Myers.  B.J. Hermsen and Michael Tonkin were sent down to Elizabethton from Beloit with relievers Nelvin Fuentes and Matt Hauser moving up to Beloit.  Beloit activated center fielder Aaron Hicks from the disabled list.  Jose Gonzalez also moved down to Elizabethton from Ft. Myers.  Ramon Santana is with the Gulf Coast League Twins on a rehab assignment.  Matt Bashore and Jairo Perez were moved to the 60-day disabled lists.

Before we know it will be November and discussion will center on who the Twins will add to their 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule V draft.  My focus today will be on those players in the minors who are on the 40-man roster and those players deserving consideration to be added by November.  Because this review will be lengthly, my discussion of Beloit, Elizabethton, the GCL Twins and DSL Twins will be brief.         

Rochester Red Wings (AAA) (3-4, 38-63, last place, -19.5 games behind Scranton/WB)

The Wings immediate goal is to overcome the 4.5 games they trail Lehigh Valley and move out of last place.  They split a four game series with Buffalo behind three of the best starts of the year from Anthony Swarzak, Glen Perkins and Matt Fox.  The trio collectively pitched 20.0 innings while allowing only two runs (one earned) with Swarzak losing a heartbreaker on Tuesday, 1-0. 

Six of the current Red Wing pitchers are on the 40-man roster.  We all know the type of year Alex Burnett had for the Twins (1-2 record, 4.39ERA, 35 games, 41.0 innings with 30K/16BB) until his recent demotion.  He made his first appearance with the Wings this week, pitching an inning with one hit and strikeout.  Burnett clearly has a bright future as a key member of the Twins bullpen.  Rob Delaney, who was added to the roster last November, picked up his first save last night as he replaces Slama as the Wings' closer.  Delaney has a 7-5 record, 5.31 ERA and 68 strikeouts with 18 walks in 45 games (59.1 innings).  Pat Neshek began his season with the Twins before another trip to the disabled list.  When Pat returned from a brief rehab stay in Ft. Myers, he was optioned to Rochester to work his way back to the Twins.  Pat has made 17 appearances, pitching 22.2 innings with a 4.76 ERA, 18 strikeouts and 6 walks.

After four trips to Minnesota, Jeff Manship appears to be the Twins first option when pitching is needed.  Manship has delivered for the Twins where he has a 2.45 ERA in 5 games (14.2 innings).  While in Rochester, Manship has made sixteen starts with a 3-5 record, 5.15 ERA, 70 strikeouts and 20 walks in 85.2 innings.  Glen Perkins didn't make the Twins staff out of spring training and remains a few days short of being arbitration eligible.  Perkins wasn't good as he compiled ERA's of 8.10, 8.14 and 7.99 in April, May and June, respectively.  As the calendar turned to July, Perkins must have realized that he needed to step-up his game if he was going to get back to the big leagues and be in position for a much bigger check in 2011.  In four July starts, Perkins is 3-0 with a 2.19 ERA in 24.2 innings to improve his season numbers to 4-8, 6.59 ERA, 77 strikeouts and 28 walks in a team high 98.1 innings.  Anthony Swarzak made only two starts in April before a trip to the disabled list with a foot injury.  Swarzak wasn't very good when he returned as he put up a 8.28 ERA in five June starts.  Swarzak seems to have been a different pitcher his last two starts as he allowed only one run in 12.0 innings with 12 strikeouts and 7 walks.  Swarzak has a 5.71 ERA with a 2-7 record in 64.2 innings.

Slama Watch.....Anthony Slama finally took that last big step to the Twins earlier this week.  Slama was very good in his first outing, pitching the ninth inning of a big Twins win with two strikeouts.  Last night wasn't as good as Slama gave up a hit that preceded a home run to pick up his first loss in Baltimore.  Slama left the Red Wings with an International League fourth most 17 saves and a 1.71 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 24 walks in 52.2 innings.          

There are three pitchers not on the 40-man roster who are having very good seasons.  Each has previously been exposed to the Rule V draft and could be lost in this year's draft or as minor league free agents.  Kyle Waldrop was pitching as well as any reliever in the International League before a rough game two weeks ago when he allowed six of the fourteen earned runs he has allowed this season.  Waldrop has a 4-3 record in 42 appearances (62.1 innings) with a 2.02 ERA, 44 strikeouts and 16 walks.  Ryan Mullins has had an excellent season since moving into the starting rotation following his first experience as a reliever in April.  Mullins has a 4-7 record with a 4.60 ERA in 19 games (90.0 innings) with 58 strikeouts and 26 walks.  During this time Mullins has pitched through a lower back injury until going on the disabled list earlier this week.  Matt Fox was injured when the Twins drafted him as a supplemental first round pick in 2004.  After missing all of 2005 following shoulder surgery, Fox has worked his way up to AAA where he has been the Wings most reliable starter.  Fox has a 5-7 record with a 4.09 ERA, 78 strikeouts and 37 walks in 88.0 innings and appears to have made himself ready to become a major league pitcher in the near future.     

Rochester has two catchers who both are on the 40-man roster, Jose Morales and Wilson Ramos.  We all are aware of Morales who hit .311 Average for the Twins last year before beginning this season on the disabled list.  Morales returned to Rochester in late April where he is working his way back from wrist surgery.  Morales has been doing some catching, however, more often playing as the Wings' DH.  Morales is hitting .359 Average in his last ten games as his numbers have moved up to .284/.375/.396.  Wilson Ramos has been much talked about as a future star who has been rumored by many outside the organization as a possible part of any trade the Twins might be considering.  After a brutal start to his first AAA season, Ramos had those memorable first few games with the Twins.  Ramos will be my nominee for Player of the Week as he has hit .405/.463/.459 in his last ten games with two doubles and seven RBI with three walks and only two strikeouts in 37 at bats.  Ramos is now hitting .240/.321/.407 in 263 at bats with the Wings.  

The Wings have had three infielders who are on the 40-man roster, Luke Hughes, Trevor Plouffe and Danny Valencia who is now with the Twins.  Hughes had that memorable first at bat with the Twins before returning to the Wings where he is again on the disabled list.  Hughes, who was hitting .257/.313/.405 when he played his last game in early June, appears to be a player who will never reach his potential as he spends a good part of every season on the DL.  Trevor Plouffe also had a glimpse of what it is like to be a major league player.  Plouffe has shown hints of power in previous seasons, hitting more than 30 doubles in several seasons.  This year, Plouffe has matured with 15 home runs, 20 doubles and 4 triples to go with a solid .265 Average.  Danny Valencia was hitting .292/.347/.373 in 185 at bats before moving up to the Twins where he has confirmed what we all expected.......that he is the Twins third baseman of the future.  Brian Dinkelman was exposed to the draft last year.  He is hitting .267/.337/.390 and appears to be capable of becomming a solid major league utility player.   

Jason Repko was signed by the Twins after being released by the Dodgers late in spring training.  After hitting .281/.368/.412 in 228 at bats, Repko was added to the 40-man roster and called up by the Twins late last month.  After several excellent seasons following being acquired by the Twins in the Luis Castillo trade, Dustin Martin had a disappointing 2009 when he hit .254/.319/.351 following an excellent spring training with the Twins.  He has recovered somewhat this season as he was a recent International League All-Star.  After a torrid start, Martin's numbers have been sliding as he is now hitting .262/.339/.432 with 10 home runs.    

New Britain Rock Cats (AA) (0-7, 28-72, last place, -31.5 games behind Trenton)

The Cats are in another seven game losing streak as they continue to have the worst record in minor league baseball.  This week they actually had several very good starts with Bobby Lanigan, Tyler Robertson and Michael McCardell allowing one, none and two runs, respectively, in games they would lose 1-0, 2-1 in 11 innings, and 2-0.  Last night Kyle Gibson was locked in a pitchers duel when rain delayed the game.  After Gibson pitched 3.1 innings of shutout ball, the bullpen lost the game 6-2. 

Deolis Guerra, who is on the 40-man roster, has a 2-5 record with a 4.86 ERA in 13 starts (76.0 innings) with 49 strikeouts and 25 walks.  Guerra also pitched in five games for Rochester where he had a 6.84 ERA.  Guerra, who had a 3.44 pre all-star ERA, remains one of the Twins top pitching prospects as he is pitching very well in AA ball as a 21 year old.  Loek VanMil is the other Rock Cat pitcher on the 40-man roster.  VanMil began his season on the disabled list before putting up a 8.02 ERA in 18 games with the Cats (21.1 innings) with 14 strikeouts and 13 walks.  Van Mil remains a pitcher with tremendous upside who would likely be lost if removed from the roster.

There are several pitchers with the Rock Cats who could be lost if not protected from the draft.  David Bromberg was the Cats best starter with a 5-5 record and 3.62 ERA before last year's Twins Pitcher of the Year moved up to Rochester.  Bromberg allowed 5 hits and 3 runs in his 6.0 inning AAA debut on Monday.  Tyler Robertson is another starter from whom much was expected as he moved up to AA this year.  Robertson has a 5.00 ERA and 2-9 record in 93.2 innings with 59K/39BB.  Michael McCardell was selected as the Twins Minor League Player of the Year by USA Today a couple years ago.  After being very good in AA late last season, McCardell has struggled this year with a 0-11 record, 4.91 ERA and 55K/37BB in a team high 108.1 innings. 

Spencer Steedley was the Rock Cats top reliever when lost for the season the first week of May.  Steedley had a 3.00 ERA in 18.0 innings with 19K/7BB.  Will the injury keep Steedley from being lost in December's Rule V draft if not protected?  Steve Hirschfield is another pitcher who will be draft eligible after missing all but the first week of this season.  The Twins obtained closer Chris Province from Boston for Boof Bonser.  Province, a 2007 fourth round pick, has a 5-3 record, 5.28 ERA and 5 saves in 58.0 innings. 

The two players that appear to be locks to be added to the 40-man roster are Rene Tosoni and Joe Benson.  Tosoni was penciled in to be in AAA until the Twins late minute signing of Repko.  Tosoni battled a shoulder injury all season before undergoing surgery last month that cost him over half of this season.  While limited to DH duties, Tosoni hit .270/.369/.422.  Assuming he comes back healthy, Tosoni should be in AAA next season before eventually joining the Twins in either late 2011 or 2012.  After an excellent start to his 2009 season in Ft. Myers, Joe Benson took exception to a concrete dugout wall costing him a good part of his season.  This year Benson struggled in AA in April (.169 Average) before hitting .283 in May and an eventual demotion to Ft. Myers.  Benson hit .294 in 85 Ft. Myers at bats with 11 doubles, a triple and 4 home runs.  Benson returned to New Britain, hitting .292 in June.  He has been in a bit of a slump in his last ten games, however, Benson is now hitting .242 in 256 AA at bats with 14 doubles, 6 triples and a league ninth best 15 home runs.  His 19 home runs lead the organization and he is on track to have the most home runs of any Twin minor league player in recent history.  This is Benson's break-out year, a year in which he is confirming his five-tool status and potential to become a star with the Twins a few years from now.

Other Rock Cats who will need to be considered include Chris Parmelee and Steve Singleton.  Parmelee is a former first round pick who will likely be added.  Considered the top high school power hitter when drafted, Parmelee took a similar route this season as Benson....New Britain-to-Ft. Myers-to New Britain.  Parmelee hit .338/.430/.463 in his brief stay in Ft. Myers while hitting .244/.298/.357 for the Cats.  Parmelee's power hasn't developed however, as he has only 5 home runs in 258 AA at bats with 14 doubles.  Singleton, who also was exposed to last year's draft, is hitting .256/.310/.405 after hitting .291/.319/.418 for the Rock Cats last season.

The top performance this week was by Carlos Gutierrez.  In his first two appearances since moving to the bullpen, Gutierrez pitched 4.1 shutout innings with one hit, three strikeouts and one walk.  

Ft. Myers Miracle (Hi-A) (5-1, 14-12, 3rd place, -1.5 games behind St. Lucie)

With a lineup without a lot of well known prospects, the Miracle appear to have gotten serious about getting into the playoffs during the second half.  With three consecutive games early this week when they won by scores of 1-0 (Michael Tarsi) and 2-1 (Danny Osterbrock) while losing another game, 1-0 (Matt Williams), the starting staff appears to be the rock on which they will build their playoff run.  Michael Tarsi's 6.0 inning shutout performance with three hits and six strikeouts was this weeks top performance for the Miracle.   

The only player with the Miracle who is on the 40-man roster is last year's surprise addition, Estarlin De Los Santos.  After beginning his season in New Britain where he hit .170/.248/.208, De Los Santos moved back to the Miracle.  He is hitting .270/.337/.324 for the Miracle in 222 at bats with 18 errors in 56 games.  A couple of players with the Miracle who will get some consideration for the 40-man roster include Michael Tarsi who leads the Miracle with 83.2 innings with a 4-8 record, 4.52 ERA and 58K/31BB.  Brad Tippett will also be eligible for this year's draft, however, he is again on the disabled list following an excellent 2009 with Beloit where he had a 9-8 record with a 3.21 ERA. 

Beloit Snappers (A) (3-2, 11-14, 7th place, -5.0 games behind Quad Cities)

The Snappers saw significant changes to their pitching staff as two young starters, B.J. Hermsen and Michael Tonkin, moved down to Elizabethton.  Aaron Hicks returned from the disabled list with a 3-5 game on Wednesday.  James Beresford had two multi-hit games while Danny Rams hit his tenth home run with three RBI on Sunday.  Rams is hitting .216 Average, however, has 31 extra base hits (18 doubles, 3 triples and 10 home runs) in a total of 58 hits (53% of his hits go for extra bases).   

The top performance this week was by Miguel Munoz who pitched 7.0 innings in Wednesday's 4-2 win, allowing one run with five hits, seven strikeouts and no walks.  Munoz is a 21 year old Venezuelan who's 100.2 innings leads the Snappers with a 7-5 record, 4.83 ERA and 90K/37BB.

Elizabethton Twins (Appy Rookie League) (5-3, 18-13, 2nd place, -3.0 games behind Johnson City)

Last week the Twins dropped a three game series to the arch rival Danville Braves.  This week they lost two of three to division leading Johnson City. They salvaged game three of the Johnson City series behind Manuel Soliman who pitched 5.0 innings with six hits and three runs.  B.J. Hermsen made his Appy League debut last night, pitching 7.0 innings with four hits and a run before recently signed Logan Darnell gave up five runs (four earned) in 2.0 innings of a 6-2 loss.  Blayne Weller had an excellent start in the opening night loss to Johnson City, pitching 7.0 innings with six hits and two runs (one earned).

Oswaldo Arcia had another four multi hit game week and now leads the league in slugging (.768), RBI (29), doubles (13), hits (48) and runs scored (30).  He has dropped to second in the league in hitting (.384, note the leader is hitting .388 and has 40 less at bats), OBP (.431), home runs (9), and triples (4).  As CMathewson pointed out yesterday, Arcia is only 19 years old and these numbers could be reflective of what we can expect in the future.

The top performance this week was by Adrian Salcedo on Monday when he pitched 8.0 innings of shutout ball with four hits and eleven strikeouts against Bristol to pick up his third win in five decisions.     

GCL Twins (Gulf Coast Rookie League) (2-3, 10-18, last place, -8.0 games behind Red Sox)

The GCL Twins pitching struggled this week with their best start on Tuesday in a game they would ultimately lose, 11-10.  In that game, Pedro Guerra pitched 6.0 innings with only four hits and one unearned run.  Jorge Polanco was 5-13 (.384 Average) this week as he has been playing some second base and now has his average up to .282/.326/.282.  Miguel Sano was 4-15 (.267 Average) with his second home run to even out his Average at .300. 

Eddie Rosario is hitting .378/.383/.511 with four doubles and a triple in his last ten games (45 at bats).  It seems the Twins draft a young Puerto Rican outfielder every year in the top five rounds.  This year it was Rosario who is hitting .360/.398/.547 with eight doubles, a triple and two home runs.  

DSL Twins (Dominican Summer League) (1-1, 20-22, 5th place, -10.0 games behind the Cubs1)

The Twins week began with the all-star break before losing three games to Tropical storm Bonnie.  They got an excellent relief appearance in Wednesday's 6-4 win when Edgar Martinez pitched 3.0 shutout innings of one hit ball with five strikeouts and no walks.  Martinez has a 4-1 record with a 2.10 ERA.  The top performace in this short week was from first baseman Alexandre De Oliveira who was 4-4 with a run scored and RBI in Wednesday's win.  De Oliveira is hitting .164/.275/.194 in 67 at bats. 

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