Minor League Report...July 21, 2012

March 25, 2012; Jupiter, FL, USA; Minnesota Twins center fielder Joe Benson (63) at bat during a spring training game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE

In what is becoming routine this summer, the organization had another winning week at two games above .500 (22-20). The charging Red Wings led the way at 6-1, with the GCL Twins, 3-1, and New Britain, 4-3, also with winning records. Beloit and Elizabethton were 3-3 with Fort Myers (2-5) and the DSL Twins (1-4) both three games under .500.

There was lots of player movement beginning with Nick Blackburn returning to the Twins to replace Matt Capps who returned to the disabled list. The Rochester Red Wings activated Lester Oliveros with catcher J. R. Towles and infielder Michael Holliman both going on the disabled list. Moving up to Rochester from New Britain were catcher Danny Lehmann, pitcher Shairon Martis and outfielder Evan Bigley. Steven Hirschfeld also returned to New Britain from Rochester. Joe Benson completed his rehab assignment at Fort Myers and returned to New Britain. Rene Tosoni, who was in the GCL on a rehab assignment, moved up to Fort Myers early in the week then on to New Britain on Thursday.

Pitchers Matt Summers and Clint Dempster both moved from Beloit to Fort Myers who placed Adrian Salcedo back on their disabled list. The two pitchers were replaced in Beloit by recent second round pick Mason Melotakis and fourth round pick Zack Jones who moved up from Elizabethton. Beloit also activated Matt Tomshaw and lost outfielder Jonathan Goncalves who was promoted to Fort Myers. Infielder Adam Bryant was placed on Beloit's disabled list with a turf toe injury. The Twins fourteenth round pick, Jake Proctor, was transferred from Elizabethton's seven day disabled list to their sixty day disabled list. Recently signed thirty-second round pick Andrew Ferreira, who is a left handed pitcher from Harvard, was assigned to Elizabethton. Luke Bard, who is rehabbing his shoulder in Fort Myers, will begin his career with the GCL Twins. If my California math is correct, Kennys Vargas should be eligible to come off the suspended list next week.

Our Player of the Week was New Britain outfielder Aaron Hicks, who collected forty-two percent (42%) of the votes. This week's review follows the jump.

The biggest news in the organization is coming out of Rochester. As the Twins and Rochester Community Baseball consider an extension to their agreement which ends at the end of the season, the Red Wings are playing their best baseball in three years. Coming off two seasons in which they lost over 90 games, the Red Wings (50-49) find themselves above .500 for the first time since mid-April. By winning thirteen of seventeen this month, the Red Wings have moved into fifth place five games behind northern division leading Lehigh Valley.

The Player of the Week in Rochester was Liam Hendriks, who beat Toledo on Friday with a seven inning performance in a 7-3 win. He allowed three hits, two runs and no walks with five strikeouts as he stretched his record to 7-0. Hendriks returned on Wednesday at Norfolk where he pitched another seven innings in a game the Red Wings would win in fifteen innings. He allowed only one run on five hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Caleb Thielbar got the win with 3.2 shutout innings with Lester Oliveros pitching three shutout innings with only one hit in his second appearance since returning from the disabled list.

Nick Blackburn allowed three runs, only one earned, in seven innings of a 4-3 win against Toledo on Saturday. After their four game sweep of Toledo, the Wings moved on to Norfolk where Jeff Manship got the win on Tuesday, 6-2. Manship, who is 5-1, struck out seven with no walks in a six inning outing which was his longest start since returning to Rochester at the end of June.

Evan Bigley was five for seventeen in his first four games in AAA with a pair of doubles and six runs driven in. After riding the pine in Minnesota, Chris Parmelee needed a few games to get his batting eye back. After going one for fourteen in his first four games, Parmelee was nine for thirty (.300 average) in his last seven games. With the game at Norfolk tied 1-1 in the fifteenth inning Wednesday, Parmelee had a bases clearing double to give the Red Wings a 4-1 win. On Thursday the Red Wings were led by Bigley and Pedro Floriman, who both had three hits and Brian Dinkelman, who had four. Down 7-2 in the fourth inning, they scored five in the fifth and five in the sixth on their way to a 14-8 win overcoming Shairon Martis' first start in which he allowed seven runs in 3.2 innings.

The Twins made news early last week when they announced they had extended their agreement with New Britain through the 2014 season. They also need to deal with Rochester, Fort Myers and Beloit as their agreements also expire at the end of the season.

The Rock Cats (58-39) remain in second place, four games behind the Trenton Yankees. They lost three of four last weekend to Trenton, winning Friday, 9-2, behind Shairon Martis. Martis pitched seven innings with only one run in his last start before moving up to Rochester. Trenton won Sunday, 3-1, when B. J. Hermsen had a quality start, allowing three runs in six innings.

Steve Hirschfeld was very good upon his return to New Britain in a 4-0 seven inning complete game Monday against New Hampshire. Logan Darnell started the opener, allowing four runs in five innings of a 8-5 win in which Dakota Watts pitched two innings of shutout ball for the win. David Bromberg pitched a complete game shutout on Wednesday when they closed out the New Hampshire series with a 8-0 win, winning three of four. Bromberg pitched six shutout innings in the rain shortened game which was his best start since returning from his latest trip on the disabled list. Manager Jeff Smith commented that Bromberg is a great competitor and always ready, whether used out of the bullpen or as a starter.

My Player of the Week is outfielder Joe Benson who appears to have put his early season struggle behind him. Since returning from his rehab assignment in Florida, Benson was 5-10 (.500 average) in three games with two runs scored, two driven in, a double, walk and no strikeouts. In twenty-six games with the Rock Cats, Oswaldo Arcia is their top hitter with a .316 average and .870 OPS in 98 at bats. Arcia has five doubles, two triples, three home runs, 24 runs scored and 26 driven in. Aaron Hicks also continues to hit well in July, .343 average, as he has his average up to .275 with a .803 OPS. Evan Bigley closed out his stay with the Rock Cats by hitting .268 in 347 at bats with 66 runs driven in while also leading all outfielders with ten assists.

The Fort Myers Miracle (12-16) are in fourth place, three and a half games behind Bradenton. Last Friday, Pat Dean had a no hitter going into the seventh inning. He would eventually give up two runs in 6.2 innings in a game the Miracle would lose at Clearwater, 4-3. Dean returned on Wednesday, when he pitched six innings with six hits, two runs, no walks and five strikeouts. Although he lost the game to even his record at 6-6, four runs in twelve innings makes him my Player of the Week. He is also a young man who is overdue for a visit to Jake Mauer's office informing him he is moving up.

Matt Summers made his Florida State League debut on Thursday, pitching five innings in a game the Miracle would lose at Lakeland, 4-3. Summers allowed four runs (three earned) on eight hits and a walk with five strikeouts. Summers finished his stay at Beloit with a 9-4 record, 3.55 ERA, 71 strikeouts and 34 walks in 109.0 innings. Tom Stuifbergen pitched 5.1 innings with two runs allowed versus Dunedin on Sunday. Jose Gonzalez came on to pitch 2.2 no-hit innings for his second win. Cole Nelson was the other winner this week in the opening game against Dunedin Tuesday, pitching five innings with one run of a 2-1 win.

In his brief stay with the Miracle, Joe Benson hit for a .303 average in 33 at bats with three doubles and a home run. Rene Tosoni was 3-13 with a home run in his four game rehab assignment. The Miracle's leading hitter is Daniel Santana, who is hitting .289 average in 353 at bats with a .728 OPS. He also has twenty-one errors. Santana, Danny Rams, and all-star catcher Josmil Pinto all had two multi-hit games.

Hitting .359 average in 39 at bats this month is a good sign that our top prospect, Miguel Sano, has put his extended slump behind him. Sano, who leads the Midwest League with twenty home runs and 68 runs driven in has also struck out only nine times this month while taking eleven walks. With rumors that Eddie Rosario is nearly ready to return, the Snappers (12-14) only trail Burlington by three games and are poised for a second half run for the prize that eluded them in the first half. The question is whether or not they have enough pitching with Madison Boer, Matt Summers and Clint Dempster all gone to Fort Myers.

Jason Wheeler continues to be tied for the most wins in the league (11) following Thursday's win at Lansing. Wheeler allowed only one run in six innings as he won a pitchers duel with the Lugnuts, 2-1. Cole Johnson made a spot start in the nightcap, pitching three no-hit innings. Mason Melotakis came on to pitch two shutout innings for his first win. Corey Williams, who leads the staff with fourteen saves, was charged with the loss at Lake County on Tuesday. With the game tied 8-8, Williams' error allowed the lead-off hitter to get on. After two sacrifice flies, the winning run scored on Williams' wild pitch. Williams is an exciting prospect who has dominating stuff, but this wasn't the first time that his fielding and wild pitches have cost the Snappers a game.

Steve Liddle and recently promoted Steve Wickens both had two multi-hit games. Drew Leachman, who is my Player of the Week, had three multi-hit games while going 9-20 (.450 average) with three runs scored, four driven in and a double. In 255 at bats, Leachman is hitting for a .286 average with a .741 OPS.

The Elizabethton Twins (19-10) have slipped into second place, a half game behind Greeneville. The difference continues to be the rubber game of their series last Friday, a game they lost 3-2 in ten innings.

With many exciting prospects spending their summer in Elizabethton, the first thing I do every week is check on the progress of 2010 supplemental picks Hudson Boyd and Travis Harrison. Boyd appeared in a 8-0 win versus Bluefield with two hits, three walks and two strikeouts in a game he was limited to only four innings by a strict pitch count. Travis Harrison is hitting .289 average with a .793 OPS in his last ten games as his average has slipped to .323 in 99 at bats.

Tenth round pick D. J. Baxendale appeared in two games (3.0 innings), allowing a hit and walk while striking out eight batters. The Twins certainly appear partial to University of Kentucky lefties with Taylor Rogers being the most recent Wildcat to join the organization. Rogers had the best start of his brief professional career against Bluefield Saturday, pitching six shutout innings with two hits, a walk and seven strikeouts. In five starts (24.0 innings), Rogers has a 1-1 record, 1.88 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 29 strikeouts and only four walks. Eighth round pick Christian Powell also recently joined the Twins. In his first three appearances, Powell has pitched five shutout innings with only two hits, two walks and nine punch outs.

Romy Jimenez continues to lead the Twins with a .388 average and 1.175 OPS, which also leads the league. Outfielder Candido Pimentel has his average up to .360 with a .404 average in July. The player who was hottest this week was Max Kepler. Kepler, who has a nine game hitting streak, was 9-18 (.500 average) with three runs scored, nine driven in, a double, triple and home runs in three consecutive games. Kepler, who after a brutal first couple weeks of the season, is hitting .312 average with a .958 OPS in 93 at bats while striking out only ten times. He has also taken eighteen walks which is why he has a .453 on base percentage which is second in the league to only Jimenez (.462 OBP).

The GCL Twins (16-10) are holding on to first place, a game ahead of the Red Sox. The Twins had two starts this week from Kyle Gibson. He allowed two hits, a run and walk in 0.2 innings in a 4-1 win against the Rays last Friday. He then pitched two innings with two hits and runs in a game they would lose to the Rays on Thursday, 7-6. As Gibson has mentioned, he is more concerned with his progress than he is with results at this stage of his rehab.

Trent Higginbotham pitched two shutout innings in relief of Austin Malinowski against the Red Sox Saturday for his first win. Jose Berrios struck out the side in an inning of work for his fourth save. Chris Mazza was the winner in relief of Gibson on Thursday when he pitched three shutout innings with only one hit. Mazza, Malinowski and Josue Montanez all have a 0.60 ERA.

Dereck Rodriguez is the GCL Twins leading hitter (.390 average), although he hasn't played since July 5th. Jorge Fernandez, who is a high school catcher from Puerto Rico recently drafted in the seventh round, is hitting .325 average in 40 at bats. The hottest hitter this week and my Player of the Week is Dominican middle infielder Aderlin Mejia, who was 7-16 (.437 average) with two runs scored, one driven in, a double and stolen base. In 87 at bats, Mejia is hitting .322 average with a .781 OPS and seven stolen bases.

The DSL Twins (19-21) are in sixth place in their eight team division, five back of the Diamondbacks. The Dominican Summer League All-Star game was Sunday with the American League beating the National League, 6-3. Jadison Jimenez, who is eighteen years old, pitched the third inning with two hits, a run and two strikeouts. Adonis Pacheco got a triple in his one at bat while also walking. Engelb Vielma, who turned eighteen three weeks ago, went hitless in his one at bat.

Miguel Gonzalez threw four shutout innings in a game the Twins would lose to the Reds, 6-1, on Friday. The normally reliable Junior Subero, allowed five runs in six innings of a 9-7 win over the Rockies on Tuesday. Jadison Jimenez picked up the win while Reyson Zoquiel earned a save with a shutout inning.

Adonis Pacheco is another repeat Player of the Week nominee with two multi-hit games. Pacheco, who is hitting .356 average, was 8-15 (.533 average) with four runs scored, one driven in, a double and three stolen bases. Although Gabriel Ynfante had four hits and Ernesto Ciprian three hits with a home run on Tuesday, Pacheco was the only player with two multi-hit games during this shortened week.

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