Minor League Report...February 26, 2011

There was only one move made public this week, the signing of nineteen year old shortstop Darfi Ortiz. Ortiz, who was a Dominican Prospect League All-Star, signed for a reported $30,000.

Thanks to Jesse's interview with Rob Antony, we learned that the $4,700,000 signing bonus paid for the rights to sign Tsuyoshi Nishioka came from the Twins International Signing budget and will not be prorated as part of the player budgets the next three years. After spending well over $5,000,000 last year with much of that spent on just three players, the Twins spent the majority of this year's budget on bringing Nishioka to Minnesota.

Jesse also touched on the subject of who the third catcher in the organization is? Although it isn't anticipated that he will be on the 40-man roster or break camp with the Twins, if either Joe Mauer or Drew Butera should be injured the third catcher becomes an important position. Jesse touched on the background of the two minor league free agents who were signed this winter, Rene Rivera and Steve Holm. Both have some major league experience and Rivera was once thought to be the catcher of the future for the Mariners. Unfortunately, neither has been able to take that final step of becomming a regular big league player.

There are also two players in the organization who would like to throw their hats into the ring for consideration, Jair Fernandez and Danny Lehmann. After coming over from Seattle in the R. A. Dickey trade, Fernandez was thought to be an excellent hitting prospect. After hitting for a .287 average early in 2008 at Beloit, Fernandez would miss much of the season. After struggling at Ft. Myers in 2009, he earned a promotion to New Britain early last year where he would hit a respectable .267/.326/.409. His performance last season put his name into consideration as a future starter at Rochester who is capable of moving up to the Twins, if needed. After hitting for a .294 average at Ft. Myers in 2009, Danny Lehmann moved up to New Britain where he struggled. Lehmann split last year between New Britain and Rochester, putting up better numbers in AAA where he hit .263/.341/.355. All four of these catchers are with the Twins in spring training. The question is who will emerge as the top guy at Rochester, the catcher who will get that call if needed by the Twins?

Last week over half of you indicated that you thought Chris Parmelee would begin his season in New Britain before moving up to Rochester. However, more than a quarter believe he will join the Twins sometime in 2011!

After the jump I will talk about the International signings the last two years.

Prior to the 2009 season, the Twins likely spent over $6,000,000 on International signings with nearly $5,000,000 spent on three highly publicized signings, Miguel Sano, Max Kepler-Rozycki and Jorge Polanco. We are all aware of what those three accomplished as seventeen year olds in the DSL and later with the GCL Twins. But the class of 2009 was much larger than just those three, with eighteen other players joining the organization last season.

That group included four of the five starters for last summer's DSL Twins (including their age at the start of last season), Sterling Bonilla/18, Jose Jimenez/18, Angel Mata/17, and Ezequiel Zarzuela/19. Bonilla led the staff with a 1.36 ERA while Zarzuela was the winningest pitcher on the staff with a 7-3 record and a 2.68 ERA. Seth Stohs has pegged Mata as the player he believes is the top prospect off last year's DSL Twins. Mata finished his first professional season of ball with a 1-5 record, however, he had a 2.12 ERA with 54 strikeouts in 59.1 innings.

There are six other pitchers who broke into professional ball with the DSL Twins last summer. They are Yeison Florentino/18, Carlos Suarez/17, Junior Subero/18, Javier Vargas/17, Jose Vasquez/19, and Elias Villasana/17. Villasana pitched mostly relief, appearing in 21 games (43.1 innings) with a 2.08 ERA. Subero also had an excellent ERA (2.91) in 46.1 innings, as did Florentino (2.70) in 16.2 innings.

The eight position players included a catcher, Felix Gallardo/18, first baseman Erick Gonzalez/19, middle infielders Jose Ramirez/18, Jonatan Ynojoso/17, Aderlin Mejia/18, and Dubal Baez/17, and outfielders Jhon Silva/16 and Adonis Pacheco/18.

Baez (.250 average) and Mejia (.224 average) hit the best of this group and it wouldn't be surprising to see all eight return to the DSL Twins for another season. It is likely however, that three or four of the starting pitchers and a few of the relievers could find their way to Ft. Myers next month along with several older players who have been in the DSL for a few years.

This past winter the Twins signed six International players that I am aware of. They include Darfi Ortiz/19, a middle infielder whose signing was announced this week. Last fall the Twins announced that they had signed a right handed pitcher from Taiwan, Hung-Yi Chen/18. Chen, who was signed for an estimated $100,000, was the 2010 Yu-Shan Cup MVP and it has been reported that his fastball touches 90 mph. Both of these players will likely begin their careers with the Gulf Coast League Twins.

Their big signing which was announced in November was Dominican shortstop Javier Pimentel/17, who signed for a reported $575,000. Pimentel, 6'3" and 185 pounds, was the thirty-second ranked international prospect by one source. We are also aware of the recent signing of Dominican right handed pitcher Felix Jorge/17. Jorge, who throws his fastball at 88-91, was signed for $250,000 and was ranked as the thirty-first best prospect by the same source. Carlos Martinez/17 is another shortstop who was signed early last fall out of Panama. They also signed Dominican lefty Reyson Zuguier/17. It is expected that all four of these prospects will be with the DSL Twins next summer.

These are the six we are aware of, however, experience holds that there will be another eight, ten or more players who have been signed by the Twins and will be on the opening day roster of next summers DSL Twins.

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