Minor League Report...August 14, 2010

For the third time this season, Kyle Gibson is Twinkie Town's Player of the Week with 40% of the 126 votes cast.

For the third consecutive week, the organization entered play on Friday playing .500 ball. This week they had a winning Friday to finish their week with 23 wins against 21 losses. Rochester and Elizabethton led the way at 5-2 with the GCL Twins winning three of five and Beloit, 3-3. Congratulations for their first winning week in a long time!

The Twins sent Anthony Slama back to Rochester, opening a spot for Orlando Hudson who returned from the DL. They recalled Glen Perkins for a spot start in Chicago with Trevor Plouffe returning to the Red Wings. They also recalled Jeff Manship for the fifth time when Jose Mijares went on the DL with a knee injury. The Twins moved last year's first round pick, Kyle Gibson, up to the Red Wings to fill Manship's spot in the starting rotation.

A week ago the Twins signed outfielder Derrick Phillips. Phillips was a twenty-third round pick of the Nationals in 2008 who was released in mid-July after hitting .280/.357/.440 in his third year in the GCL. Phillips has been assigned to Elizbethton. Rochester announced that Ryan Mullins will be shut down for the remainder of the year with a lower back injury. They also placed Jacque Jones on the disabled list with a left knee sprain. Nick Blackburn left the Wings for a few days following his excellent start on Thursday, going home to be with his wife for the birth of their first child on Friday.

Erik Lis returned to Rocheser with Evan Bigley moving up to New Britain to fill his spot. The Snappers placed Derek McCallum on the disabled list with Daniel Santana moving up from Elizabethton. Yangervis Solarte completed his rehab assignment and was assigned to Ft. Myers.

Ben Revere's swelling is down and although it was originally thought he would be out four to six weeks, Jim Rantz commented last Sunday that he is a quick healer and may be back before the end of the season. LaVelle E Neal, III wrote about Luke Hughes, who went into surgery for a sports hernia and came out with a second groin surgery as well. Hopefully this young prospect will finally be healthy so the Twins can see if he is an option at second base in 2011. Aaron Hicks injured a hand and although not on the DL, hasn't played in several days. The Snappers placed reliever Matt Hauser on the disabled list and will activate Brad Stillings today. The Snappers also received outfielder Michael Harrington from Ft. Myers who recently was re-instated from the restricted list. The DSL Twins reinstated reliever Jose Murillo from their restricted list. Finally, Monday is the signing deadline for this year's draft picks. Will the Twins sign anyone at the last hour, perhaps one of the talented high school picks remaining unsigned?

We spent several months last winter selecting the Twinkie Town Top 50 prospects. Today I will focus on how the top prospects are doing at each of the seven minor league clubs.

Rochester Red Wings (AAA) (5-2, 45-76, last place, -26.0 games behind Scranton/WB)

The Wings are only two games behind behind fifth place Lehigh Valley who they beat last night behind Kyle Gibson. Gibson was one out away from a quality start, allowing five hits and one run in 5.2 innings. With his fastball touching 92mph, Gibson threw 50 strikes in 88 pitches. With the Twins wanting to limit his innings this year, look for Gibson to make only two or three more starts before they shut him down. Nick Blackburn was excellent on Sunday, when he pitched 6.1 innings with four hits and two runs as the Wings beat Syracuse, 3-2. Blackburn returned Thursday in a 2-0 win over Gwinnett, pitching 5.0 shutout innings with four hits.

The first time I had ever heard of the Batavia Muckdogs was in the 2001 movie, Summer Catch. In that film, Freddie Prinze, Jr played local star Ryan Dunne, a pitcher for the Chatham A's in the Cape Cod League. The movie was about baseball and his relationship with Tenley Parrish (Jessica Biel). In the end, Dunne signed with the Phillies who assigned him to the Batavia Muckdogs. This week the Red Wings announced they will no longer manage the operations and provide support to the nearby Batavia franchise that is drawing an average of only 1,000 fans a game.

After leading all minor leagues in strikeouts at Beloit in 2008, David Bromberg led the Florida State League in strikeouts in 2009 when he was named the FSL Pitcher of the Year. Bromberg, Twinkie Town's 8th ranked prospect, moved up to New Britain this year where he was their top starter. On a team losing more than seven of ten, the twenty-two year old Bromberg had a 5-5 record with the league's ninth best ERA (3.62). Although his strikeouts were down, 65 in 99.1 innings, Bromberg pitched well enough to earn a promotion to AAA last month. Bromberg has made five starts for the Wings, pitching 29.0 innings with a 1-2 record and a 3.72 ERA which should keep him in the top ten in our 2011 Top 50.

Anthony Slama, who is our 12th prospect, was dominating in his role as the Red Wings closer with a 2-1 record, 17 saves, 1.76 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and 68 strikeouts in 56.1 innings. The only concern the Twins had was his 27 walks (4.3/9 innings), which led to problems after he was called up when he walked five in 4.2 innings with the Twins. Slama is back with the Wings, working on his control so he can contribute if called back to the Twins in September. In three games since returning to the Wings, Slama has pitched 3.2 innings with one run, four strikeouts and three walks.

Our 17th prospect is a twenty-two year old reliever who was originally slated to be part of the Red Wings bullpen, Alex Burnett. When Clay Condrey couldn't start the season, Burnett was a surprise selection to join the Twins. He was very good with the Twins until the season began to wear on his arm and he was sent out to Rochester in mid-July. While with the Twins, Burnett appeared in 35 games with a 1-2 record, 4.39 ERA, 30 strikeouts and 16 walks in 41.0 innings. Since joining the Wings, Burnett has appeared in eight games with a 6.00 ERA in 12.0 innings. Burnett picked up his first save last night when he pitched 1.1 inning with a hit and strikeout as the Wings beat Lehigh Valley. Before wearing down Burnett was much better during the first half of the season than his numbers indicate. All indications are that Burnett will be a bright spot in future Twins bullpens.

Starter Jeff Manship is our 18th ranked prospect. Manship's recent promotion, his fifth of the year, tells us that he has a future in the big leagues. Manship had a 1-1 record with a 5.68 ERA with the Twins in 2009 including a huge start and win the final weekend of the season. After compiling a 4-2 record with a 3.22 ERA in eight starts for Rochester in 2009, he hasn't been able to duplicate that performance. For some reason, Manship has pitched much better for the Twins, 2.45 ERA in 14.2 innings, than in Rochester where he has a 3-8 record and 5.13 ERA in 98.1 innings.

Trevor Plouffe is the lone everyday player amongst the Wings top prospects, ranking #22 in 2010. Plouffe seems to have been in the organization forever with this season being his third year with the Wings, yet he is only twenty-four years old. With a previous high thirteen home runs at Beloit in 2005, Plouffe has surprised many with 15 home runs with the Wings and another big home run recently for the Twins. Although he had only four hits in 29 at bats with the Twins, Plouffe's play was solid and he is a legitimate candidate for a spot on their 25-man roster in 2011.

The Twins obtained Brandon Roberts in 2006 from Cincinnati in the Juan Castro trade during the FSL All-Star break. Roberts went on to hit .316/.370/.396 for the Miracle while stealing 50 bases in the FSL that year. A speedy centerfielder, Roberts has spent a good part of every year since on the disabled list, playing only 40 games in 2008. Roberts began this season back at New Britain before again going on the DL. He returned recently, receiving a promotion to Rochester late last month. Roberts was the Red Wings top player this week, going 11-29 (.413 Average) with five multi-hit games, five runs scored, two triples, four RBI and two stolen bases in four attempts. For the season, Roberts is hitting .315/.407/.401 in 232 at bats at Ft. Myers, New Britain and Rochester. He has three triples and fifteen stolen bases in eighteen attempts.

New Britain Rock Cats (AA) (1-5, 34-85, last place, -37.0 games behind Trenton)

The Eastern League is changing with more teams having several 28-30 year old minor league veterans. With the recently signed Jeff Howell the only player on the roster over 25 years old, the Cats are one of the youngest teams in the league. I don't see the Twins changing their philosphy, thus, the Cats will need everything to go right in future years if they are to compete for a spot in the playoffs. That hasn't been the case this year as key injuries and disappointing play by several returning players has led to the Rock Cats having the worst record in minor league baseball.

The Cats lone win this week was Sunday, 11-3, when Kyle Gibson pitched 5.2 innings with 7 hits and 3 runs. Gibson, our 4th ranked player in 2010, finished his brief stay with New Britain with a 7-5 record, 3.68 ERA and 77K/22BB in 93.0 innings. He began his season in Ft. Myers where he had a 4-1 record and 1.87 ERA in 43.1 innings with 40K/12BB. After not pitching last summer because of an injury and not signing until the last hour, Gibson will soon be shut down as he approaches 150 innings. After two months rest, will Gibson pitch in the Arizona Fall League? With all indications that Gibson will join the Twins sometime in 2011, he should again be a top three prospect.

Ben Revere was our 5th ranked prospect last winter and didn't disappoint, at least when he was able to play. Missing time with five different injuries, Revere's season may be over as the result of his being hit with a pitch below his right eye on August 3rd. Revere leads the Cats in hitting at .297/.365/.349 with his average ninth best in the league and his 31 stolen bases in 43 attempts third best in the league.

Rene Tosoni was on the fast track to the Twins when he was assigned to AA in 2009 after playing only 42 games higher than rookie ball. This is the Twins, they don't rush players so Tosoni must be a special player. Tosoni proceded to play in the 2009 Futures game where he was the games most valuable player. He was a 2009 Eastern League All-Star and an Arizona Fall League Rising Star. After hitting .271/.360/.454 with 15 home runs in 2009, Tosoni was penciled into the Rochester roster this spring. When the Twins signed Jason Repko at the end of spring training, Tosoni returned to New Britain for a second year. Although limited to designated hitter because of a shoulder injury, he proceded to hit .270/.369/.422 in 52 games before being shut down for shoulder surgery in early June. Tosoni continues to be a top prospect and our #9 ranked player should return to our top ten next winter.

Deolis Guerra, our #10 prospect, is the lone player remaining from the Santana trade. Guerra had a brief stint with Rochester and is pitching in AA as a twenty-one year old. For the first half of the season, Guerra was very good with a 2-4 record, 3.44 ERA and 47K/20BB in 68.0 innings. That was excellent for a team that was losing over 70% of their games. Is Guerra playing through an injury? Does he have a tired arm? Is the entire staff demoralized and tired of losing? Whatever the reason, Guerra has not pitched well since the all-star break as his 0-5 record and 12.49 ERA indicate. At his age, Guerra remains a good prospect. But will he be deserving of a top ten selection in 2011?

Perhaps the prospect who has made the biggest impact in the organization this year is our #16 prospect, Joe Benson. Benson had to battle through a demotion that at the time appeared to be without merit as he was hitting .283 Average in May when he was one of three players sent back to Ft. Myers. Although his average isn't as high as most would like it to be, Benson is having his break-out season. Benson's 19 home runs are tied for fifth most in the league with nearly a hundred at bats less than the leaders. Benson's 23 home runs, including four from Ft. Myers, leads the organization. We saw enough of his speed and defense in spring training with the Twins to know that this five-tool player has a very bright future. Benson should be a top five prospect in 2011, a prospect who could find himself playing in the Twins outfield as soon as late next year. With two home runs and five RBI this week while going 5-21, Benson is again the Rock Cats nominee for player of the week.

Ft. Myers Miracle (Hi-A) (3-3, 20-26, 4th place, -7.0 games behind Palm Beach)

The Miracle had been within reach of a second half playoff spot. With the end of the season approaching, to overcome this deficit will take, well a "Miracle." The Miracle did have several special performance from starting pitchers this week with four quality starts by Kane Holbrooks (2), Bruce Pugh and Matt Williams who was making his fourth start. Nick Romero had three multi-hit games while Jonathan Goncalves had two.

The Miracle had a disappointing loss to Charlotte on Thursday, 8-6. Daniel Osterbrock wasn't himself, allowing five runs in 7.0 innings to get the loss. The final blow however, was Shooter Hunt who got only two outs while walking six with two wild pitches to allow three runs.

Angel Morales is our 7th ranked prospect and top prospect at Ft. Myers. Morales began his season back at Beloit with his usual slow start, however, turned it around to hit .289/.381/.474 in 211 at bats with 18 stolen bases, 13 doubles, 7 triples and 4 home runs. Morales earned a promotion to Ft. Myers in late June where he proceded to strike out in six of his first ten at bats without a hit. I recall a lot of negative comments at the time about this young man, who soon adjusted to the pitching in the FSL and is now hitting .282/.354/.367 in 177 at bats. In his last ten games, Morales is hitting .294/.415/.500 in 34 at bats with two doubles, a triple, home run and 3 RBI. More important, he has struck out only eight times while taking seven walks. Some questioned his lack of power following his promotion, but that is also starting to come as he gets more comfortable in Florida. Morales, who won't celebrate his twenty-first birthday until late Novemeber, could merit a move up to the Top Five.

Shooter Hunt was our 33rd ranked player, a ranking that was questioned by many yet a reasonable risk for a talented former second round pick. Although there were times this season when Hunt appeared to have put his problems behind him and 73 strikeouts in 63.1 innings are intriguing, he also has 69 walks. I see Hunt returning to the Twins in 2011 for what may be his last chance to solve the control problems that have plagued him since signing in 2008.

Brad Tippett was our 40th ranked prospect who moved up to Ft. Myers following an excellent 2009 season at Beloit where he was 9-8 with a 3.21 ERA. This twenty-two year old Aussie has battled injuries much of this season, appearing in only ten games with a 6.28 ERA with 23 strikeouts and 9 walks in 28.2 innings.

Brian Dozier is another exciting prospect who should rank a lot higher next winter than his current #41 ranking. After hitting .353 Average at Elizabethton following the draft last season, this eighth round pick hit a solid .278/.347/.338 in 39 games at Beloit this spring. His season took off after a promotion to Ft. Myers, where he is hitting .290/.371/.353 in 269 at bats with nine stolen bases. In an organization lacking middle infield talent, Dozier may be the Twins top shortstop prospect.

Kane Holbrooks had two of the staff's quality starts, beginning with 8.0 innings in a 1-0 loss on Saturday in which he allowed only four hits and a run. The former reliever who has made five starts since joining the Miracle, returned last night to pitch 6.0 shutout innings with four hits in a game the Miracle would lose 5-2.

Beloit Snappers (A) (3-3, 23-21, 4th place, -3.5 games behind Quad Cities)

The Snappers are one of two winning teams in the organization and remain only a few games out of a second half playoff spot. Unfortunately, injuries and promotions have taken a toll on its pitching staff. The Snappers had two quality starts, both from pitchers who have a combined six starts since moving up to Beloit. Recent sixteenth round pick Clint Dempster pitched 6.0 innings with five hits and a run in Wednesday's 7-4 eleven inning win. Pedro Guerra pitched 7.0 shutout innings in Thursday's 2-0 win at Peoria. Guerra allowed four hits with four strikeouts and three walks. Nelvin Fuentes has been excellent out of their bullpen since joining the Snappers a month ago. In eight games, the left handed Fuentes has a 2.04 ERA, one save and 27K/5BB in 17.2 innings.

Aaron Hicks was our second ranked player last winter and continues to be respected as a young man with as high a "ceiling" as any player in the organization. Although he has been very good in spurts, hitting .278/.394/.423 in his second year at Beloit has to be a bit disappointing. Eighteen stolen bases is excellent, however, being thrown out ten times means he needs to work on baserunning. Sixty nine walks are amazing, yet, ninety eight strikeouts are more than last year and a concern. Hicks remains one of the most exciting players in the organization, however, does he merit a ranking of #2 next winter?

Tom Stuifbergen was our 23rd ranked player in 2010, following missing all of 2008 with an injury and an excellent 2009 at Elizabethton where he was 5-2 with a 3.28 ERA. This twenty-one year old native of the Netherlands gained International attention with his performance for the Dutch team in the 2009 WBC when he was the starter in their surprising upset of the Dominican Republic. Stuifbergen has again battled injuries this season, however, when healthy has been very good with a 5-1 record and 2.09 ERA in twelve starts.

Danny Rams (ranked #28) intrigues fans with his power as he has 42 extra base hits in 81 total hits. His thirteen home runs in 333 at bats is wonderful, unfortunately, the Twins were expecting him to hit better than his .236 Average. Hitting .343 Average in his last ten games, a hot finish could get his average above .250 which combined with his power could move him up in next winter's ranking. His .343 Average with four doubles, a triple and two home runs merit Rams consideration as this week's player of the week.

Former Gopher Derek McCallum was our 45th ranked player. This season has been a huge disappointment as McCallum has battled injuries limiting him to only 47 games, hitting .228/.323/.296.

Liam Hendriks began 2010 as Beloit's top starter. After pitching for a 2-1 record with a 1.32 ERA in six starts, Hendriks was promoted to Ft. Myers. He proceded to win five of eight decisions for the Miracle with a 2.00 ERA and 52K/6BB in 63.0 innings. Unfortunately, he had emergency surgery a few days before the Futures Game in which he was selected to pitch for the International Team. Although he wasn't ranked last year, Liam Hendriks should earn a very high ranking in our 2011 poll.

Elizabethton Twins (Appalachian Rookie League) (5-2, 34-17, 1st place, +2.0 games ahead of Johnson City)

Now winning two-thirds of their games, the Twins are playing more like the Appy League Twins of past seasons. They have almost clinched a play-off spot in the revamped playoff format and appear on track to battle the Danville Braves for another championship.

They received quality starts this week from Manuel Soliman (6.0 shutout innings with one hit and 7K/0BB), and B. J. Hermsen (6.0 shutout innings with two hits and 7K/1BB). Recent third round pick Pat Dean made his first start on Monday, pitching 5.0 innings with three hits, two runs and 6K/0BB. This year's sixth round pick, Logan Darnell pitched 5.0 shutout innings in Tuesday's 2-0 win with three hits. With Oswaldo Arcia battling a hand injury (5-19 this week), this year's twenty-ninth round pick Brian Burke was the Twins top player at 11-32 (.343 Average) with four multi-hit games and three doubles.

Adrian Salcedo was our 15th ranked player last winter. Salcedo leads the Twins with 56.1 innings with a 4-2 record and 3.04 ERA. Salcedo had a brief stint with Ft. Myers earlier where he had a 6.26 ERA in 27.1 innings. This talented 19-year old remains one of the organization's top young starters.

B. J. Hermsen was our 19th ranked player who had a 5.00 ERA at Beloit in 72.0 innings before moving back to the Twins. Hermsen has a 2-1 record and 3.00 ERA in 30.0 innings with 30K/4BB.

Blayne Weller (our 39th ranked prospect) was another solid starter for the GCL Twins last year. Weller has a 3-3 record and 4.03 ERA in 51.1 innings for the Twins.

No player has made an impact this year as has Oswaldo Arcia. Our 44th ranked player should make a bigger move up than any player in the system, perhaps into our next Top Ten. Prior to this week's hand injury, Arcia led or was second in nearly every category in the league. Hitting .380/.429/.735 with 19 doubles, 5 triples, 14 home runs and 45 RBI, this ninteen year old has a huge future with the Twins.

GCL Twins (Gulf Coast Rookie League) (3-2, 22-24, 3rd place, -3.5 games behind the Rays)

With fourteen games remaining, the Twins remain within striking distance of the first place Rays. What they need is a nice six or seven game winning streak...can they do that this week?

The Twins had two quality starts last week, from Cesar Ciurcina (6.0 innings Saturday with 3 hits and 2 runs) and David Deminsky (6.0 innings with 8 hits and 3 runs on Wednesday). Matt Tolbert is with the Twins on a rehab assignment, appearing in three games with two hits in eight at bats. Eddie Rosario was again their top hitter, 8-19 (.421 average), with 5 runs scored, 1 triple, 1 home run, 5 RBI and 4 stolen bases.

Miguel Sano was our top ranked player and appears destined for strong consideration to repeat next winter. Sano began his season with the DSL Twins, where he hit .344/.463/.547 as a seventeen year old. He joined the GCL Twins in early July and is hitting .295/.342/.467 with 9 doubles and is tied for the team lead with 3 home runs.

Max Kepler-Rozycki was our 13th ranked player who just may move into the top ten. Kepler-Rozycki is hitting .254/323/.314 in 118 at bats, however, hitting .333 Average in his last ten games shows that this young seventeen year old is adjusting to his first year of professional baseball, his first year away from his home in Germany.

Wander Guillen was our 32nd ranked player following hitting .336/.443/.409 as a sixteen year old in the DSL. Guillen has struggled this summer in the GCL, hitting only .137/.210/.151. Although he may fall out of our top 50 next winter, he too is a very young prospect with talent that may have a big future.

Jorge Polanco was the third big International signing last summer that we ranked #37. We heard he is a great glove without much of a bat. The glove part appears to be true as he has made only four errors in 24 games with the Twins. Errors don't tell the entire story however, and the few comments I have seen about his defense is that it is special. Although he isn't hitting like Sano, hitting .247/.325/.329 is an indication that he may not be a player who will be all glove and no bat when he reaches the Twins.

Are all three of these young men playing as well as we could have hoped for? Or are they playing even better?

DSL Twins (Dominican Summer League) (3-4, 28-35, 5th place, -18.5 games behind Cubs-1)

The Twins are very young and currently in fifth place in this eight team division, having trailed the Cubs the entire season. The had one quality start this week from Sterling Bonilla who pitched 6.0 innings with three hits and a run in Wednesday's 2-1, twelve inning loss. Juan Blanco had two multi-hit games, hitting 6-16 (.375 Average) this week as their top player. With Sano gone, Blanco is the DSL Twins top hitter at .315/.374/.396.

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