Minor League Report...March 19, 2011

With the end of spring training in sight, the Twins will be making a lot of decisions between now and opening day. On Sunday, the Twins optioned Rene Tosoni, Eric Hacker, Anthony Swarzak and David Bromberg to Rochester. Deolis Guerra, Joe Benson and Chris Parmelee were optioned to New Britain. Chris Herrmann, Jair Fernandez, Ray Chang, Brian Dozier, Justin Huber, Yorman Bazardo and Kyle Gibson were sent to minor league camp. Many were surprised when Benson and Parmelee were sent out so early, however, that was expected. The reason is that when a player who is on the 40-man roster goes on the DL while with the major league team in spring training, he is paid his major league salary (minimum in these type of cases) until he comes off the DL.

The Twins sent Matt Brown to minor league camp yesterday with another round of cuts expected later today. They also announced the signing of three pitchers, including young latin right handers Geraldo Ramirez and Gonzalo Sanudo. Also signed was 25 year old lefty Andrew Albers. Albers is a Canadian who was drafted by the Padres out of the University of Kentucky in the tenth round of the 2008 draft. After pitching only a handful of innings, Albers had Tommy John surgery in 2009.

Last week I asked when you thought Carlos Gutierrez would begin his major league career. More than a third of you believe he will join the Twins in late summer, making more than twenty appearances. Another thirty percent expect him to be a September callup with nearly 90% of you of the opinion that he will appear with the Twins some time in 2011.

With opening day thirteen days away, Ron Gardenhire and staff will soon have to decide who will be his utility infielder. The Twins have hit eleven home runs this spring with Luke Hughes hitting five (no other player has more than one). He also has a .341 average with a team high 44 at bats, 14 runs batted in and 13 strikeouts. Matt Tolbert's bat came alive this week as his average moved up to .281 with a home run last night. Trevor Plouffe appears to be the odd man out by hitting .206/.216/.235. Today I ask that you put on Gardy's cap and make the decision who you believe should get that 25th spot on the opening day roster? [Edit: Plouffe was part of this morning's cuts]

I will look at the spring of a couple of younger players, how Rochester's lineup is shaping up and talk about cuts after the jump.

A week ago nearly one hundred sixty players reported to minor league camp. With fifty nine players with the Twins, another thirty four will join that group who are all battling for a spot on one of the organization's six minor league teams. About one hundred will be assigned spots on the four full-season teams before opening day, April 7th. Another fifty to sixty (including all the latin players moving up from last year's DSL) will be assigned to extended spring training as they await the start of the rookie league seasons or spots to open up at Rochester, New Britain, Ft. Myers or Beloit. Depending on injuries, that leaves almost thirty players facing that day when they will be called in to see Jim Rantz to get the worst news of their career. This number is higher than previous years because the organization signed so many minor league free agents as they work to improve the quality of play at Rochester and New Britain.

When Danny Lehmannn was selected as our 50th ranked prospect last month, many commented that he wasn't worthy to be included in our top 50. Although the team always invites extra catchers to spring training, his prospect status was verified by the Twins with a spring training invitation. His play this spring has confirmed that he is a good defensive catcher who has some potential as a hitter by hitting .250/.308/.333 in a dozen at bats. Look for Lehmann to be assigned to New Britain where he will share the catching duties with Jair Fernandez.

Another young catcher who has been noticed this spring is Danny Rams. He appeared in ten games with five hits in ten at bats, hitting .500/.500/.900 as four of his five hits were doubles. There are several catchers higher in the organization who are candidates to become solid major league backups. Rams' powerful bat says he may be a catcher who has a ceiling that is a lot higher than a big league backup.

A few weeks ago the readers of Twinkie Town picked Rene Rivera as the catcher most likely to get the call should the Twins need to call up a catcher. Atlhough Rivera has had a solid spring, hitting .250 average in 16 at bats, Steve Holm's bat has been on fire. Holm is hitting .429/.579/.571 in 14 at bats with a pair of doubles.

Brian Dozier was only 2-13 this spring, however, he got valuable experience for a young man drafted less than two years ago. Inviting him to spring training confirmed that the Twins see him as the best shortstop prospect who could be ready to compete for a roster spot a couple springs from now.

Jim Mandelaro talked about how the Red Wings roster is shaping up in an article about the Wings earlier this week at: http://blogs.democratandchronicle.com/extrabases/

Brian Dinkelman is getting a lot of playing time with the Twins and should be in the mix of outfielders on opening day. It is also likely that Ben Revere and Jeff Bailey will be assigned to the Red Wings as was Rene Tosoni. With Brandon Roberts and Dustin Martin returning, Mandelaro sees Rene Tosoni moving back to New Britain as he did last spring. I see Tosoni sticking with the Red Wings with either Roberts or Martin not with the team when they break camp.

The Red Wings starting rotation is taking shape with Kyle Gibson and David Bromberg returning as their top duo. It looks like they will be joined by Anthony Swarzak. The final two spots should go to free agents signed this winter with the leading candidates Yorman Bazardo and Eric Hacker.

Two of the three candidates for the Twins utility infield spot (Matt Tolbert, Luke Hughes and Trevor Plouffe) will anchor the Wings middle infield. Jeff Bailey can be a corner outfielder but will also share playing time at first base with Justin Huber, who returns from a year in Japan. Ray Chang is in the hunt for an infield position with Chase Lambin and Matt Brown battling for time at third base.

Rene Rivera and Steve Holm should split time as their catcher. With another strong bullpen, the Red Wings should be much stronger than last year's team that had one of the worst records in International League history.

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