Minor League Report...March 31, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 17: Lester Oliveros #17 of the Minnesota Twins delivers a pitch against the Cleveland Indians in the second inning on September 17, 2011 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Today I want to discuss something related to what Jesse wrote about when he reviewed recent Twins drafts. Until recently, the Twins were a small market team and it was prudent that they operate accordingly. They developed a sound business plan, one that enabled them to compete successfully for much of the past decade. Their plan was to develop talent in their minor league system to continually restock their roster without competing with the big market teams for expensive free agents. The opening of Target Field provides more cash-flow which will give them more options. They have been clear however, that they will continue the same plan that has worked so well.

If the Twins plan is to take them to the promised land, they must secure the best talent available. Whereas good coaching can improve any player, talented players are needed if they are to eventually get to a World Series. There are generally five sources from which they restock their system, the annual draft, signing International free agents, trading for minor league prospects, and signing both undrafted and minor league free agents. Most people who track minor league organizations consider the Twins to be middle of the pack. That cannot be acceptable if they are to succeed at Target Field well into October. They must be better.

The success of a minor league system can be gauged in many different ways, ranging from success on the field to the number of top prospects. There are thirty major league teams, thus, the average team should have three and a third players in the Baseball America Top 100. Mr. Ryan and others in the organization do not put a lot of weight in prospect rankings. The truth is however, more top prospects will improve your organization. With the number two overall pick and several of the Twins top prospects scheduled for A ball, the Twins will have more than two prospects in Baseball America's 2013 Top 100. Personally, I would like to see them have at least five every year.

Another way of ranking an organization is by their success on the field. If these players are the Twins future, they should have several winning teams throughout the organization. With opening day next Thursday, it is time to get excited about the hundred players who will be playing ball on their four full-season teams. I will be looking for the organization to play winning baseball in New Britain, Fort Myers, Beloit, Elizabethton, the Gulf Coast League, Dominican League and especially Rochester. Is it wrong to expect at least half of the organization's teams to be in the playoffs come September?

I will make a few pre-season observations after the jump.

The Rochester Red Wings are coming off consecutive seasons of more than ninety losses for the first time since 1903-1904. Just think about that for a moment, that cannot be acceptable to anyone with the Twins or Red Wings organizations. We all have been watching all the pitchers they signed this winter as prospects for those last three spots in the Twins bullpen. The success of all those players, however, is equally important to the Rochester Red Wings.

Competition for the Red Wings staff was so tough that several pitchers who many thought were locks for Rochester will open their seasons in New Britain. They include Luke French, Deolis Guerra, Lester Oliveros and Luis Perdomo. Although we won't know exactly who is on the Rochester staff for a few more days, the Red Wings bullpen looks to be very strong with Carlos Gutierrez as a candidate to be their closer. Other candidates for the Red Wings' bullpen include Tyler Robertson, Phil Dumatrait, Cole DeVries, Jeff Manship, Anthony Slama, Brendan Wise, Anthony Slama and Esmerling Vasquez.

The New Britain Herald released the Rock Cats roster yesterday. In addition to the four pitchers mentioned above, their pitching staff will include Andrew Albers, David Bromberg, Logan Darnell, Steve Hirschfeld, Brett Jacobson, Bobby Lanigan, Blake Martin, Daniel Turpen and Alex Wimmers. It is exciting to see Wimmers on this roster as it means that he is back on a fast track to Minnesota. A surprise for me is that I understand that Bromberg will begin the season in the bullpen. Noticeably absent are several pitchers who saw considerable action in New Britain last year, players such as Dakota Watts, Bruce Pugh, and Tony Davis.

The rest of the Rock Cats roster includes catchers Chris Herrmann and Danny Lehmann, first basemen Nate Hansen and Chris Colabello, middle infielders James Beresford, Darin Mastroianni, Estarlin De Los Santos, and Pedro Floriman, third baseman Deibinson Romero, and outfielders Evan Bigley, Mark Dolenc and Aaron Hicks. Mastroianni is a speedy center fielder who the Twins recently signed and added to their 40-man roster. He will be available for duty in the outfield as will Chris Herrmann.

At first glance, the 2012 Rock Cats appear to have a strong pitching staff with a good defensive team. Considering that their four best hitters (Joe Benson, Chris Parmelee, Brian Dozier and Yangervis Solarte) are gone, this group doesn't look as strong offensively. But the more I look at this roster, the more I like it. Herrmann is an excellent hitter and both Bigley and Dolenc hit well last year. Add Colabello, who ripped the cover off the ball in an Independent league, and Mastroianni who hit over .300 average with 46 stolen bases in the Eastern League two years ago and this roster might be very exciting. There is also Aaron Hicks who may have turned the corner in the Arizona Fall League and is ready to blossom into the star we all are waiting to see.

Although all the team rosters aren't final, look for Manuel Soliman and Adrian Salcedo to be staying in Fort Myers with the Miracle. Based on comments from Jake Mauer, the Miracle double play combo should be last year's top pick Levi Michael and Daniel Santana. After missing most of last season, Angel Morales will begin this season back with the Miracle where he will be joined in the outfield by top prospect Oswaldo Arcia. Miguel Sano is slated for the hot corner in Beloit while Minnetonka's A. J. Pettersen will also be with the Snappers. Seth Stohs told me that both Niko Goodrum and Max Kepler will stay in extended spring training, however, will likely join the Snappers before the rookie leagues begin play.

I have seen several comments that indicate the caliber of the players in spring training was better than recent years. If so, that is an indication that this may be a very good year. Confirmation can be found in the long list of quality players who were recently released, many of whom enjoyed a lot of success the past few years. Included in this group were Steve Pearce and Jason Bulger, who both were free agent signings this winter. Also released were Red Wings outfielder Dustin Martin, New Britain infielder Chris Cates and pitchers Spencer Steedley, Michael Tarsi, Deinys Suarez and Matt Schuld, Fort Myers pitchers Kane Holbrooks, Dan Osterbrock and Brad Stillings, Beloit hard thrower Ben Tootle and Blayne Weller, and Elizabethton's Tyler Koelling, Roy Larson and pitchers Derek Christensen and Matt Bashore. That is an impressive group of young baseball players. Their release must bring optimism to the start of another season.

Next Thursday is nearly here. It is time to 'Play Ball!'

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