Minor League Report...August 18, 2012

FORT MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 27: Matt Carson #79 of the Minnesota Twins poses for a portrait on February 27, 2012 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

I returned from a week off to the wrath of the SB Nation Ghosts! After writing my usual report yesterday, I opened it to find that nearly all of it has been lost. What you see today will be a brief recap of how each team is doing as their seasons draw to an end.

After one of their best weeks of the year two weeks ago, 24-16, the organization eked out a winning week at 22-21. Some of the highlights will follow the jump.

With a two year extension of their development contract with the Twins signed, the Rochester Red Wings (65-61) won five of seven and are in fourth place, five and a half behind the Empire State/Scranton-WB Yankees. With eighteen games remaining, they are three and a half back of Pawtuckett for the wild card spot in the playoffs.

Liam Hendriks is two innings short of qualifying for the league lead with a league best ERA of 1.99. He pitched seven innings of shutout ball in Sunday's 10-0 win at Lehigh Valley. Recently acquired Pedro Hernandez made two quality starts, pitching thirteen innings while allowing three runs on thirteen hits. The best pitcher of late however, has been Esmerling Vasquez. Vasquez, who was a member of the Diamondbacks' bullpen last year, has not allowed a run in his last three appearances (18.2 innings). He picked up his eighth win of the season in a 6-2 win over West Division leading Indianapolis on Wednesday when he pitched seven shutout innings with four hits and ten strikeouts. Will Vasquez be added to the forty man roster so he can make a September audition for a spot in the Twins rotation next year?

The New Britain Rock Cats (67-57) are hanging on to a wild card spot. Although they are five behind Trenton, they lead the Reading Phillies by a game for second place and a spot in the playoffs. B. J. Hermsen has been their go to Ace since his promotion earlier this year. Hermsen became their first ten game winner last Friday when he pitched a nine inning complete game in a 5-1 win over the Phillies. He backed that up with another solid start in Wednesday's 4-3 win against Richmond when he allowed one run in five innings. With Andrew Albers back from the disabled list, will the Rock Cats have what it takes to hang on in their last eighteen games?

The Fort Myers Miracle (23-30) are in fifth place, five and a half back of the St. Lucie Mets. Although not mathematically eliminated, they don't have a realistic chance for post season play.

The biggest news out of Lee County were recent rehab starts by Kyle Gibson and Carl Pavano. Gibson moved up from the GCL Twins on Tuesday to pitch three innings against Jupiter, allowing one run on three hits and a walk. Pavano made his second rehab start Thursday, pitching three shutout innings with two hits, two strikeouts and no walks. Will he be ready to return to the Twins after one more start? If he does, there would be time for him to make two starts before August 31st.

With a first half wild card spot in hand, the Beloit Snappers (28-24) know they will start the playoffs against the second half division champ on September 5th. They are currently in third place, trailing Clinton by three games. With eighteen games remaining, can they upgrade their playoff position by overtaking Clinton for a second half championship?

With the leagues most potent middle of the order, Rosario, Sano and Vargas, two other Snappers have been a huge part of their offense. Nate Roberts is hitting a solid .296 average with a .851 OPS and 22 stolen bases. If the Twins can ever keep him on the field for an entire season he may have a bright future. On a team with two shortstops drafted in the top ten rounds last year, Stephen Wickens moved up from Elizabethton this summer to add his name to the mix. In 112 at bats, Wickens has the Snappers' highest batting average, .321, with a .441 on base percentage.

The Snappers' starting rotation is taking shape for the playoffs with two pitchers drafted in the lower rounds of the 2011 draft leading the way. David Hurlbut, who has an excellent 2.92 ERA as a starter, allowed only one run in each of his last two starts when he pitched a total of thirteen innings. Matt Tomshaw returned from the disabled list a month ago to put his name in the hat to start the opening game of the playoffs. Tomshaw has allowed one earned run in his last three starts when he pitched a total of 21.2 innings. Throw in thirteen game winner Jason Wheeler and the starting rotation appears to be set for a playoff run. With a couple recently drafted college arms recently joining the Snappers, their bullpen is also armed and ready. DJ Baxendale has a 1.59 ERA in six appearances (5.2 innings) with nine strikeouts and no walks. Zach Jones has a 1.04 ERA in seven games (8.2 innings) with fourteen strikeouts and two walks.

With eleven games remaining, the Elizabethton Twins (38-16) have a eight game lead and a magic number of four. With another likely rematch with their arch rival, the Danville Braves, the Twins are a lock for the playoffs.

When draft week came and went this past June, I read a lot of comments criticizing the Twins for not drafting one or more top college starting pitchers in the first few rounds. Taken in the supplemental round, Jose Berrios moved up to Elizabethton after posting a 1.08 ERA in 16.2 innings with 27 strikeouts and only three walks for the GCL Twins. In his first start for Elizabethton on Saturday, Berrios pitched four innings of shutout ball with one hit, one walk and five strikeouts. Having turned eighteen in late May, Berrios just may be the answer to all of our wishes this past June.

Although their top hitter, Romy Jimenez (.370 average), has been out since late July, the Twins continue to have four players hitting over .300 average in their daily lineup (Candido Pimentel at .341, Jhonatan Arias at .326, Travis Harrison at .313 and Jorge Polanco at .312). And that group doesn't include Max Kepler, .295 average with eight home runs, and Adam Walker, who is tied for the league lead with thirteen home runs.

The Gulf Coast League Twins (27-26) are three behind the cross town rival Red Sox with seven games remaining. Three of those are against the Red Sox, meaning the Twins need a sweep of the Sox for a realistic chance to win their division and a spot in the playoffs. Their young pitching staff is led by four promising eighteen year old starters, Sam Gibbons (2.59 ERA in 31.1 innings), Randy Rosario (2.01 ERA in 31.1 innings), Felix Jorge (1.82 ERA in 29.2 innings) and Yorman Landa (2.86 ERA in 28.1 innings). Add Josue Montanez and you find a good looking group of young arms. Montanez is a nineteen year old Puerto Rican who was drafted in the fifteenth round in 2011 out of Miami Dade Community College. He pitched twelve innings late last year with a 5.25 ERA. In six games this year (19.2 innings), Montanez has a 0.46 ERA with 24 strikeouts and seven walks. He made two appearances this week, pitching 4.2 shutout innings with three hits, no walks and nine strikeouts.

The DSL Twins (28-35) are in sixth place, nine back of the Diamondbacks with eight games remaining. With any chance of the playoffs gone, the Twins season will end next Saturday.

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