I haven't exactly been subtle in how much I've been looking forward to September and this upcoming off-season, if only because I like looking to the future. I like seeing what the future of this team might look like. So when the Twins struggle, it gives me an excuse to look forward.
September callups are more important to our Twins this year than they've been since, possibly, the turn of the century. The Twins have to realize that the decisions they make this season will have long-reaching ramifications, simply because nearly every single decision they made last year has backfired.
While they had some difficult decisions to make, all Minnesota had to do last winter was re-load. A combination of poor decisions, injuries, disappointing performances and bad luck sunk their strategy. As such, this winter the Twins are in a transitional state; not only do they have the same problems they had last season, but they're now a year behind in filling those holes. Another winter like the last one and the Twins will become not a team that has to re-load, not a team that's in transition, but a team that would need to go into overhaul mode.
So September becomes a very useful month. With players hurting and the team out of contention the future is squarely in focus, and it is a unique opportunity for the Twins to not just give some guys a cup of coffee, but to get them a month's worth of Major League at-bats.
After the jump we'll talk about which players are available to be called up, and which ones are the mostly likely to make an impact on the team's future.
At first glance that's not a great list, and not an extensive list, but it's obviously worth mentioning that the Twins have been calling upon their 40-man roster a great deal this season already. Ben Revere, Trevor Plouffe, Luke Hughes, Rene Tosoni, and Rene Rivera are all on the 25-man roster right now as position players, and the pitching staff is armed with names like Scott Diamond, Phil Dumatrait, Alex Burnett, Lester Oliveros, and Anthony Swarzak. Not one of those ten guys were on the Opening Day roster this year.
Looking through that depleted list of nine players, which ones are most likely to impact our future and which ones probably won't, at least to any great extent? Here's how I rank them, feel free to disagree.
#1 - Joe Benson, OF
Although Benson has spent the entire season in double-A this year, if the Twins cannot retain Michael Cuddyer or Jason Kubel it's possible that Benson could be the starting right fielder on Opening Day next spring. At 23 Benson has plus tools in multiple areas (here's a comparison of Revere to Benson from a few years back), and has hit .281/.384/.495 for New Britain with 45 extra base hits and a 101-to-51 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Speed is still a plus for him (13 stolen bases in 19 attempts this year) although he's not as fleet of foot as Span or Revere, but he also has a stronger arm. If the Twins lose the two veterans and choose to stay in-house for a right field solution, Benson is the best equipped to be the strongest producer of the available options.
#2 - Chris Parmelee, IF
Parmelee has his critics, and with good reason. His power isn't that of a prototypical first baseman, he doesn't have the maneuverability or glove work of a good defender at any position, and he's not the quickest guy on the field. In spite of those hiccups, the 23-year old has made strides in his game this season. He's hit .291/.372/.445 in 134 games, belting 13 home runs along with 28 doubles and five triples, but in his first full season in double-A has kept his strikeout rate steady, upped his walk rate from a decent 9.3% to an impressive 11.5%, and he's hitting more balls in the air while continuing to hit more line drives. He's getting the ball in the air, which you want from a power hitter, and I know the .152 ISO isn't ideal for a first baseman - but it's an improvement from where he was last season (.114 in double-A). There's certainly nothing shabby about a .354 wOBA, either. His future is somewhere in the right field - first base - designated hitter area, but in the next year or two there will be an opportunity for that player with the Twins.
#3 - Anthony Slama, RHP
Slama hasn't had a great deal of success in his very short stints with the Twins, but he hasn't had a great deal of opportunity, either. In just two appearances this season he's struck out three and walked two in 2.1 innings, and hasn't allowed a run. One of the biggest question marks next season for the Major League team will be the bullpen, since apart from Glen Perkins it's impossible to tell what it's going to look like, so September could have been a fantastic audition opportunity for Slama. Unfortunately he's done for the season. While there may not be a great deal of upside with Slama, he seems capable of being a serviceable arm at a minimal cost provided he can return either next season, or in the future should he end up having Tommy John surgery.
#4 - Deolis Guerra, RHP
Just 22, Guerra is the final remaining player from the Johan Santana trade. And, since being moved to the bullpen earlier this season, he has turned in a fantastic performance: 26 appearances, 51 innings, 64 strikeouts, 13 walks, 36 hits. That's a 2.28 ERA, a .195 opponent average, 11.3 K/9, and 0.96 WHIP. Like Benson and Parmelee he's spent his time in double-A, and he's probably not completely ready, but it wouldn't hurt to evaluate him. He might come in and surprise a few people.
#5 - Chuck James, LHP
James wasn't what we were hoping for when he was with the Twins this season, but he continues to blister hitters in triple-A. It's plausible that he's one of those successful minor leaguers who just can't make the transition to The Bigs, but as we've already mentioned the bullpen will have plenty of spots up for grabs next spring. James will be competing with fellow left handers Jose Mijares, Scott Diamond and possibly even Brian Duensing, but the opportunity is there. If James can find a way to make it click, and of course if the Twins believe he's worth handing a 40-man roster spot to for two years in a row, he'll have a positive impact next season. (Yes, Seinfeld fans, evaluating a guy for a 40-man roster spot is essentially like asking someone if they're "Sponge-Worthy".)
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#6 - Jeff Manship, RHP
Manship actually has six starts and 23 relief appearances under his belt for the Twins, and is in his last year where he has options. In the past the Twins have been reluctant to part with players who are A) out of options and B) have MLB service time, even if they aren't necessarily the most talented players. What makes Manship interesting for this club is that he can play a role similar to that of Swarzak; being a spot starter and long reliever has value. His peripherals have been solid in the minors (7.6 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, 8.6 H/9 in triple-A this season), but without good stuff has been pretty easy for Major League hitters to pick up. It's also somewhat telling that, in spite of a 3.54 ERA in his minor league career, the numbers at double-A (4.37) and triple-A (4.46) have been very mediocre. Still, at league minimum one-win pitcher has value on a Major League staff. He's buried a bit on the starter and reliever depth charts, but with MLB experience he can't be counted out.
#7 - David Bromberg, RHP
In spite of pitching well in a few innings at Rochester at the end of 2010, Bromberg hasn't appeared there in 2011. He's been hurt, and his performance at double-A New Britain has regressed. Because he's still somewhat of an unknown quantity and still could have some upside, I've kept him this high on the list because there may be value in him in the future. Is that value in Minnesota in September or even 2012? Probably not. But I'm looking forward to seeing if he can bounce back next summer.
#8 - Matt Tolbert, IF
We know exactly what Tolbert brings and does not bring to the table. He's a known quantity in the mold of any number of Twins minor leaguers in the last ten years, and we all understand that those types of players have value. Unfortunately for Tolbert the Twins already have light-hitting infielders ahead of him on the depth chart. The organization will continue to give opportunities to Alexi Casilla, too much money has been invested in Tsuyoshi Nishioka to bury him under Tolbert, the Twins obviously like Luke Hughes right now, and Trevor Plouffe deserves some time to show what he can do.
#9 - Jim Hoey, RHP
If he could develop another pitch (or two) and have better command, that straight-as-an-arrow 97 mph fastball might not be so easy to hit. Unfortunately none of those things seem likely, and Hoey is likely headed for free agency after this season.