I will be skipping the Elizabethton Twins to review the GCL Twins. I will do the DSL Twins next week, then finish with Elizabethton on December 17th.
In other news, we will begin selection of the 2012 Twinkie Town Top 50 Prospects on Thursday after the Winter Meetings. The rules will be tweaked so that we can get this completed a little quicker than last year. Watch for the selection of our Top Prospect Thursday afternoon.
In winter league news, Rene Tosoni and Joe Benson returned home after brief appearances in Venezuela. Aaron Bates is hitting .372 average in 43 at bats with a .994 OPS in Puerto Rico. Angel Morales is off to another slow start, hitting .219 average in 32 at bats. Eddie Rosario picked up where he left off in the Appy League by hitting .320 average with a .833 OPS in 25 at bats. Alexi Casilla is hitting .288 in 59 at bats in the Dominican Republic.
Most of the pitchers are playing at home in Venezuela. Deolis Guerra has a 3.38 ERA in 13 games (18.2 innings) with 17 strikeouts. The other Guerra, Pedro, has a 3.86 ERA in 11 games (23.1 innings) with 22 strikeouts. Jose Mijares has five appearances without allowing a run. Lester Oliveros is one of several relievers in contention for a spot in the 2012 bullpen, either out of spring training or later in the year. He has been excellent early this winter with a 0.82 ERA in 12 games (11.0 innings) with 10 strikeouts. Cuban Dennys Suarez has made five starts, pitching 24.0 innings with a 3.38 ERA. Esmerling Vasquez, who is on the 40-man roster, has a 7.36 ERA in 3.2 innings in the Dominican Winter League. One of the many free agents signed this winter, Luis Perdomo, is also pitching in the Dominican Republic. He has a 1.80 ERA in 15 innings.
It was announced this week that Yangervis Solarte signed with Texas. My review of the GCL Twins follows the jump.
The GCL Twins finished their short rookie league season in second place with a 31-29 record, seven games behind the Orioles.
The Twins were a team without a lot of big names or highly ranked prospects we are familiar with. The Twins had the fourth youngest group of hitters in the fifteen team league at 19.5 years old (league average was 19.9). They had only one player with over 41 at bats hit for over a .300 average, catcher Phillip Chapman. They were also careful with their young starting staff, limiting five starters to three or four innings in most starts. For example, their top starter Angel Mata pitched only 37.0 innings in twelve games (eleven starts). Their pitchers, who were the second youngest staff (19.9 years old vs. league average of 20.4), were very good with the league's second best ERA (2.89) versus the league average (3.80). This excellent staff provides a ray of hope for an organization in need of pitching, even if they all are years away from joining the Twins.
Mata, who is celebrating his 19th birthday today, was also the DSL Twins Ace in 2010 when he had a 2.12 ERA in 59.1 innings. This year he finished with a 0-1 record, 1.46 ERA, 30 strikeouts and 19 walks. Had he pitched another ten innings, he would have officially had the league's second best ERA. Ricardo Arevalo is a 20 year old starter from Venezuela who was 0-4 with a 3.60 ERA in thirteen games with a team high 40.0 innings. Three years ago the Twins signed 16 year old Hein Robb, who is from South Africa. After pitching only 9.1 innings for the GCL Twins last year, Robb had a 0-2 record with an excellent 3.82 ERA in eleven starts (37.2 innings) with 29 strikeouts and 17 walks. Another 18 year old starter was Hung Yi Chen, who is from Taiwan. Chen had a 0-4 record in ten starts (35.1 innings) with a 4.33 ERA, 38 strikeouts and 5 walks. The oldest starter on the staff was 21 year old Bobby O'Neill, who had a 3-3 record with a 2.27 ERA in ten starts (39.2 innings).
The Twins had an excellent closer, 19 year old Luis Nunez, who moved up from the DSL this year. Nunez had a 5-0 record, 5 saves, 1.67 ERA, 37 strikeouts and only 6 walks in sixteen appearances (32.1 innings). The Twins bullpen was aided by two college relievers signed as free agents, Nick Cicio and Kyle Wahl, who both had two saves. Wahl had a 5-1 record with a 2.23 ERA in 32.1 innings while Cicio had a 2-0 record with a 1.74 ERA in 20.2 innings. Both were 22 years old and as often is the case with older pitchers in the GCL, they have been released.
Other relievers who pitched well included the Twins 44th round pick in 2009, 20 year old Tyler Herr. Herr had an excellent season with a 5-3 record and 2.65 ERA in 37.1 innings. Markus Solbach is a 19 year old German who saw his first professional action this year. Solbach appeared in 15 games (28.1 innings) with a 3-3 record and 1.91 ERA. The Twins had two young Mexican relievers, 19 year old Gonzalo Sanudo and 17 year old Gerardo Ramirez. Sanudo had a 0-1 record and 5.66 ERA in twelve games (20.2 innings) with 22 strikeouts. Ramirez may be a prospect to watch. He had no decisions with a 3.12 ERA in ten games (17.1 innings) with a dozen strikeouts. Josue Montanez was the Twins fifteenth round pick out of Puerto Rico. He is a 19 year old who appeared in eight games (12.0 innings) with a 5.25 ERA and 14 strikeouts. Finally, many were surprised to learn that the Twins recently released Mark Trau, who was a 20 year old Australian who had an excellent 1.08 ERA in 16.2 innings.
Phillip Chapman may be the second best hitting catcher in an organization that is weak behind the plate. Chapman, who was drafted in the 35th round last year, hit for a .308 average and .834 OPS with 12 doubles in 104 at bats. Wander Guillen hit .317 average in just 41 at bats before the Twins sent him back to the DSL Twins for the balance of the summer. In somewhat of a trade, Javier Pimentel moved up from the DSL Twins to replace Guillen on the GCL roster. Pimentel is a 17 year old slick fielding shortstop who hit .167 average with five doubles, two triples and a home run in 102 at bats. First baseman Josh Hendricks is an Australian who hit for a .275 average in 160 at bats with 18 runs driven in. Candido Pimentel is a speedy centerfielder who hit .250 average in 136 at bats with 8 stolen bases. Jorge Polanco is another excellent defensive shortstop who we have been aware of since he signed in 2009. Polanco, who turned 18 during the season hit for a .250 average in 172 at bats with 8 doubles, a team high 3 triples and 6 stolen bases.
Catcher Michael Quesada and outfielder Kelvin Ortiz tied for the team lead with three home runs. Both also had seven doubles. This year's 37th round pick Drew Leachman finished with twenty runs driven in, one less than the team leader Phillip Chapman. Other infielders seeing significant playing time included 33rd round pick Stephen Wickens (.245 average in 106 at bats), 18 year old Aussie second baseman Jacob Younis (.219 average in 105 at bats), 45th round pick Julio Torres (.214 average in 84 at bats), and 20 year old Aderlin Mejia (.210 average in 119 at bats). The Twins sixth round pick and 19 year old son of Pudge Rodriguez, centerfielder Dereck Rodriguez, hit .156 in 90 at bats. Kelvin Silvania, a 20 year old first baseman who hit .276 in 87 at bats, was also released after the season.
Unlike the past few seasons, this group didn't have a lot of the bigger named prospects like Sano, Rosario or Kepler. They did however, have a very fine pitching staff with many young prospects who may make names for themselves in coming years.