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2010 Twinkie Town Top 50 Review...21 thru 25

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With the Top 20 behind us, we move into an area of our Top 50 where the players are less likely to ever play a major role for the Twins. Yet, two of this group have already made their major league debut. Players ranked between twenty-one and twenty-five were: Billy Bullock (21), Trevor Plouffe (22), Tom Stuifbergen (23), Rob Delaney (24), and Michael McCardell (25).

21 - Billy Bullock

The Twins selected Bullock, a hard throwing closer, out of the University of Florida in the second round of the 2009 draft. After opening his professional career with the Elizabethton Twins, Bullock quickly moved up to Beloit where he had a 2.73 ERA with eight saves in 26.1 innings.

This past spring, Bullock reported to Ft. Myers where he would become a FSL Mid-Season All-Star before moving on to New Britain. While with the Miracle, Bullock had a 0-4 record with 14 saves and a 3.62 ERA, 45 strikeouts (10.91/9 innings) and 19 walks in 37.1 innings. Bullock would move on to AA where he had a 0-2 record with 13 saves and a 3.44 ERA, 60 strikeouts (14.91/9 innings) and 24 walks in 36.2 innings. Bullock's 27 saves for the full season led the organization.

There is no question that 43 walks in 74.0 innings are more than the Twins like to see, however, nearly fifteen strikeouts per nine innings in AA tells us this young man may have what it takes to pitch short relief or even become the Twins closer a few years from now.

22 - Trevor Plouffe

Plouffe returned to Rochester this spring for the third straight season, yet, on opening day he was only 23 years old. He was very young when drafted by the Twins in the first round of the 2004 draft. Should he return to Rochester next spring for a fourth year, he will still be about two years younger than the average player in the International League.

Plouffe hit .244/.300/.430 in 402 at bats which at first glance isn't impressive. He did however, improve his power numbers with 22 doubles, 4 triples and 15 home runs. What may have been most promising, he reduced his errors from 26 in 2009 to 12 this past season. Plouffe also made a couple trips to Minnesota where he had his first exposure to the major leagues. While with the Twins he hit only .146/.143/.317 in 41 at bats, however, did hit two home runs. Plouffe has a role in the Twins future plans, it just isn't known whether he will join the Twins out of spring training or later in the year.

23 - Tom Stuifbergen

Stuifbergen's biggest moment on the diamond to date was his start for Holland against the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. Holland would win that game over the heavily favored Dominican Republic and move on to the second round.

Stuifbergen's career with the Twins has been interrupted by several injuries, including shoulder surgery which would cause him to miss the entire 2008 season. Stuifbergen began this past season in Beloit as one of three top starters who all were capable of being called the team Ace. Although he missed much of May and June to another injury, Stuifbergen was nearly unbeatable the first half earning a spot on the Midwest League Mid-Season All-Star team. Although he missed the game because of his injury, Stuifbergen had a 4-0 record with a 1.47 ERA in six starts (36.2 innings) before the break. Stuifbergen returned from his injury to post a 2-4 record with a 3.95 ERA in 57.0 innings following the break. For the season, Stuifbergen was 6-4 with a 2.98 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 88 strikeouts and 23 walks in 93.2 innings, making him my fifteenth ranked pitcher in the organization.

24 - Rob Delaney

Delaney is another member of this group to have already pitched for the Twins, pitching one inning with two hits, a walk and one earned run.

Delaney's professional career began when he went to a try-out camp following his 2006 graduation from St. Johns University. After a less than spectacular season with the GCL Twins that summer, Delaney would move up to Beloit the following spring. There he would become a Midwest League All-Star before moving on to Ft. Myers where he would be a Post-Season All-Star. The reason for the awards was simple, Delaney's combined record for the year was 3-0 with a 1.03 ERA, 83 strikeouts and 16 walks in 70.0 innings. Delaney may have been even better in 2008 when he was named the MLB.com Minor League Relief PItcher of the Year following stints at Ft. Myers and New Britain where he would compile a 3-3 record with a 1.23 ERA, 72 strikeouts and 11 walks in 66.0 innings.

Delaney wasn't as good this past year at Rochester where he had a 7-9 record with a 4.73 ERA, 92 strikeouts and 23 walks in 61 games (80.0) innings while working in an overused Rochester bullpen. Considering that the minor league season is less than five months long, 61 games and 80 innings can only be described as to much work. Look for Delaney to get another long look in spring training as the Twins look for the best arms to fill out their bullpen which as of today has several openings.

25 - Michael McCardell

Following his 2008 season at Beloit in which he was 9-4 with a 2.86 ERA, USA Today named McCardell their Twins Minor League Player of the Year. McCardell would follow up with a very good season at Ft. Myers and New Britain, winning fourteen of twenty-two decisions with a 3.98 ERA including a 5-2 record for the Rock Cats.

With that success behind him, it is puzzling what happened this past season in New Britain. Although the entire Rock Cats team was in a funk that would lead to one of the worst seasons in their long franchise history, based on his work the previous summer McCardell should have been a stopper. He wasn't as he finished with a 3-13 record with a 5.28 ERA. His season began with a 3.97 ERA in four April starts, losing both decisions. After that McCardell appears to have let the Rock Cats problems get to him as his season also went south.

It is often said that the hardest step for players to make is to AA. On the surface it would appear that McCardell failed in taking that step last year, yet, he was successful in AA the last few months of 2009. As we look forward, 2010 will be a critical year for McCardell if he is to retain his dream of playing for the Twins. He likely will begin back at New Britain where he and his teammates need to put their dismal 2010 season behind them.