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Minor League Report...January 22, 2010

When in the Pacific Time Zone it is a lot easier to post this on Friday night than in the morning. If you haven't seen it, go to the Star Tribune website and take a look at the piece Seth wrote today about the temperature in Warroad, -33 degrees.

Well Seth, it was 76 here in the desert today!

Last week I asked the readers of Twinkie Town which reliever they thought would make the Twins bullpen out of spring training. There was a virtual tie between Alex Burnett and Jim Hoey with Anthony Slama also getting a lot of votes. The bullpen will be fun to watch this spring as nearly a dozen pitchers battle for up to four open spots on the big league roster.

After the jump I will take a look at how the few players who are still playing in the winter league playoffs are doing. I will also review the position players signed by the Twins this winter.

With the Australian League coming to an end, the Perth Heat have a half game lead over Sydney. The Heat's Allan de San Miguel has the league's fifth highest on base percentage, .406 to go with a .282 average in 131 at bats. Luke Hughes missed a month when he traveled to Venezuela. While with the Heat, he has five home runs in 78 at bats with a line of .333/.454/.628.

Melbourne's Justin Huber leads the league with 28 RBI and has the second most home runs (9) while hitting for only a .228 average. James Beresford didn't play until the first of the year, however, he has been the league's top hitter since. Beresford is hitting .455/.489/.591 in 44 at bats with six doubles. This is a small sample and the level of pitching isn't consistant, but hitting nearly .500 will get people's attention.

The Caribbean Leagues are well into their playoffs which means that most of the Twins player's winter seasons are over. Angel Morales made a couple starts for Ponce in the Puerto Rican playoffs, while Alexi Casilla was back with Gigantes for two games.

The Twins signed eight minor league veterans this winter. They include two catchers (Rene Rivera and Steve Holm), a first baseman (Justin Huber), three third basemen (Chase Lambin, Matt Brown, and Ray Chang), a utility man (Michael Holliman), and a first baseman/outfielder (Jeff Bailey).

The top player in this group has to be Jeff Bailey, a 32 year old corner outfielder/first baseman. Bailey has 136 major league at bats with the Red Sox with his best season being 2008 when he hit .280 average with two home runs in 50 at bats. Bailey, who was the International League's MVP in 2008 (.301/.405/.562 with 25 home runs in 418 at bats at Pawtuckett), hit .289/.387/.462 with a dozen home runs in 478 at bats for Reno of the Pacific Coast League last year. Signing Bailey gives the Twins another option should Justin Morneau spend a significant part of 2011 on the disabled list.

Justin Huber was an International League All-Star for Rochester in 2009 before leaving for Japan last year. He will return to the Red Wings as the player who was their leading hitter at .273/.356/.482 with 22 home runs. Huber will join with Bailey to give the Twins two powerful bats in the middle of the Red Wings lineup and two options at first base, if needed by the Twins.

With Jose Morales recently traded to Colorado, the Twins need a catcher at Rochester to serve as the organization's third catcher. They signed two with Rene Rivera being the most likely candidate to fill in for the Twins, if needed. Rivera, 27, is also a Puerto Rican who has seen several stints in the big leagues with Seattle. He was considered by many their catcher of the future when he arrived as a 22 year old in 2005. Rivera hit .396/.408/.521 in 48 at bats and reportedly was a talented prospect behind the plate. He didn't get it done the following year when he hit only .152 average in 99 at bats that would be his last opportunity with the major league club. Rivera hit a solid .290/.324/.500 at Trenton and Scranton Wilkes/Barre (AA and AAA) last year. As he approaches his prime, he will provide the Twins with a catcher who should be able to both hit and catch at an acceptable level, if needed. Steve Holm played for the Giants a little in 2008 and 2009, hitting .264/.364/.396 in 91 at bats. A 2007 Eastern League All-Star, Holm played all of last year in the Pacific Coast League where he hit .246/.343/.382 in 228 at bats.

Chase Lambin is a 31 year old third baseman who was a 2010 International League All-Star. Lambin hit .252/.327/.414 in 488 at bats with 15 home runs for Syracuse. Lambin's best season was 2005 when he split the season between the AA Eastern League and AAA International League, hitting .309/.372/.587 in 392 at bats with 24 home runs. Matt Brown is another 2010 All-Star, picking up his award in the Pacific Coast League. Brown, 28, hit .249/.311/.442 with 10 home runs in 301 at bats for Oklahoma City. Like many of this winter's signings, Brown has a handful of major league at bats (24) in 2007 and 2008. Ray Chang, 27, was an Eastern League All-Star last year with Portland. Chang hit .298/.384/.436 with nine home runs in 440 at bats. Look for Chang to begin his season back in the Eastern League with the Rock Cats. Danny Valencia has earned the right to be considered the Twins starter going into the season, however, it looks like the Twins bought some insurance by signing three players who all could help if Valencia is injured or suffers a sophomore jinx.

Michael Hollimon, 28, was drafted by the Tigers in the sixteenth round of the 2005 draft out of Oral Roberts University. Hollimon played briefly for the Tigers in 2008, hitting .280 average in 23 at bats while playing a few games at third base, second base and shortstop. Hollimon's best season in the minors was 2007 at Erie (AA) where he hit .282/.371/.478 in 471 at bats with fourteen home runs and seventeen stolen bases.

Of these eight, who is the most likely to make a significant contribution to the Twins in 2011?