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Minor League Report...Christmas Day

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Good morning and Merry Christmas!

Today we will be addressing whether Twinkie Town should include recently signed Tsuyoshi Nishioka in our 2011 Top 50. Today's poll will ask the question, yes or no. If the readers of Twinkie Town decide Nishioka should be included, a second poll will follow in which we will decide if he should be ranked 1-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-13, 14-16, or in the current rounds which will be 17 and beyond. If we decide on one of the earlier groupings, we would then have a third poll in which we would decide where he would rank within that group. When completed, he would be listed in our ranking as 3A, 6A, or wherever. This poll will remain open until 6am, Tuesday, December 28th.

On this holiday weekend, I will briefly take a look at some of the notable performances Twins players had in the various Winter Leagues.

Justin Huber was an International League All-Star for Rochester in 2009 before moving on to Japan this past season. Huber hit 22 home runs for the Red Wings that summer and the Twins will look to him to provide their AAA club with some serious power in 2011. He currently is playing with Melbourne in the Australian Baseball League where he was off to a terrible start. Huber's bat is starting to come around. He had a huge week, 9-24 (.375 average), with four home runs and seven runs batted in as he raised his average to .188 with a .705 OPS.

Eddie Rosario is playing with the last place Indios de Mayaguez in the Puerto Rican League. Rosario had a handful of at bats earlier in their season, then didn't play for over a month until last weekend. In a league where many of the pitchers are from the higher minor leagues with some having major league experience, the nineteen year old Rosario was 5-18 (.277 average) in four games and currently is on a five game hitting streak. In 35 at bats, Rosario is hitting .229/.250/.229 with three stolen bases in four attempts. Rosario was Mayaguez lead off hitter this week while playing center field.

Nelvin Fuentes is also with Mayaguez where he appeared in two games, pitching 2.1 no-hit, shutout innings. With a 0.90 ERA in 20.0 innings, Fuentes is a lefty who has pitched better against right handed hitters (.178 average) than left handed hitters (.240). After missing most of last summer's season at New Britain, Steve Hirschfeld is getting valuable innings for Mayaguez. His last start was Wednesday when he pitched 5.2 innings with seven hits, four runs (three earned), four strikeouts and three walks. Hirschfeld has a 3.72 ERA in eleven games (48.1 innings).

Alexi Casilla continues to play exclusively at second base for Gigantes in the Dominican League. Casilla appeared in four games before their Christmas break, going 6-13 (.461 average) with five runs batted in, four runs scored, three walks and two stolen bases. In 155 at bats, Casilla is hitting .303/.374/.400 with seven stolen bases in twelve attempts.

Dustin Martin joined the Tigres de Aragua earlier this month and his bat has heated up of late. In three games, Martin was 5-10 with a triple, his first home run and is now hitting .333/.429/.533 in 30 at bats. Luke Hughes also recently joined Aragua where he has been playing mostly third base with an occassional game at second. In 51 at bats, Hughes is hitting .196/.305/.314 with three doubles, one home run, six walks and five runs batted in. Yangervis Solarte had an excellent week, 7-21 (.333 average), with a triple and six runs batted in. Solarte is hitting .262/.340/.369 with eleven strikeouts and eleven walks in 84 at bats.

Cesar Ciurcina allowed three runs on four hits in 5.0 innings in Wednesday's start. Considering that veteran pitchers such as Bazardo, Guerra and Baldwin have ERA's of 2...something, Ciurcina's 2.70 ERA in ten games (30.0 innings) is validation that he is another of the Twins exciting young prospects. Yorman Bazardo also made one start this week in a game Aragua won, 8-3. Bazardo allowed three runs in 7.0 innings, picking up his seventh win in eight decisions. Bazardo has an excellent 2.62 ERA in 65.1 innings with 27 strikeouts and 12 walks.

Deolis Guerra had a no-decision in Magallanes 4-5 loss on Tuesday. Guerra pitched 7.2 innings with five hits, one run, seven strikeouts and one walk. Guerra, who is pitching like a serious prospect this winter, has a 2-1 record, 2.89 ERA, 32 strikeouts and only four walks in 37.1 innings. Recently signed Duluth native Andrew Baldwin faced off with Aragua and Cesar Ciurcina on Wednesday. Baldwin was the winner as Caribes beat Aragua, 6-3, pitching 6.0 innings with three hits, two runs and a pair of strikeouts and walks. Baldwin has a 2.00 ERA in twelve starts (72.2 innings).