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Minor League Report...May 14, 2011

The four full-season teams began their week last weekend by dropping six of seven. They never recovered, winning only ten games with sixteen losses. New Britain was the only team with a winning record at 5-2.

The week began with the announcement that the Twins had signed twenty-seven year old first baseman/outfielder Aaron Bates. Bates was with the AAA Pawtuckett Red Sox in 2010 where he hit for a .240 average. The former third round pick is a .277 career minor league hitter with seventy home runs. Bates took the spot of Brandon Roberts who was again placed on the disabled list. Delmon Young was activated yesterday with Rene Tosoni being optioned back to Rochester. Steve Singleton was sent back to back to New Britain after hitting .250 average in 32 at bats with two home runs for the Red Wings.

New Britain catcher Alan de San Miguel suffered a torn UCL. He was placed on the Rock Cats disabled list and reported to Ft. Myers where he will begin a rehab program. Ryan Mullins was activated from the Ft. Myers DL and promoted to New Britain. The Miracle also placed pitcher Brad Stillings on their disabled list with Seth Stohs reporting that Logan Darnell will move up from Beloit to help a depleted Miracle starting staff. Catcher/designated hitter Kyle Knudson was placed on Beloit's disabled list with Matt Parker moving up from Extended Spring Training to fill his spot. Seth is also reporting that Pat Dean and Ben Tootle will both join the Snappers from EST.

Evan Bigley was last week's Player of the Week, collecting thirty-nine percent of the vote. Adrian Salcedo was second, fifteen votes behind Bigley.

A review of this week follows after the jump. Now that the season is about a quarter done, I will focus on how a few of the top prospects are doing.

Rochester Red Wings (AAA) (2-5, 14-19, fourth place, -5.5 games behind Scranton/WB)

The Red Wings are battling as they play a waiting game, waiting for several players to return from the Twins and waiting for their team to settle down and develop some chemistry. With all the chaos surrounding over forty percent of their opening day starters spending some time with the Twins, they have done well to be only five games under .500.

The Red Wings began this week by dropping two at home to the Gwinnett Braves. Kyle Gibson had another quality start on Saturday, allowing three runs in six innings. Unfortunately, the Red Wings would get only three hits against the fine Braves staff, losing 6-3. Scott Diamond had his first rough outing Sunday, allowing five runs in only 3.2 innings in a 5-1 loss. The Red Wing bats were again silent with only Toby Gardenhire having more than one hit.

Louisville came to town on Monday with Dontrelle Willis getting the start for the Bats. Rochester would get eight hits and five runs off Willis, however, starter Andy Baldwin gave up nine hits and four runs in 5.1 innings. With the game tied, 7-7, after nine they entered extra innings. With the game still tied 7-7 nine innings later, Ray Chang came to bat with two outs in the bottom of the eighteenth inning with Dustin Martin in scoring position. His walk-off single ended the longest game the Red Wings have played in twenty-seven years. What is interesting is that Chang had never had a walk-off hit in his six year career and has now had two in his first week with the Wings. Anthony Swarzak was very good in Tuesday's 8-1 win, allowing one run in 6.2 innings. Recently signed Aaron Bates was the hot hitter with three hits and a home run. Catcher Danny Lehmann was also 3-4. The Red Wings would drop the last two of their second straight series, losing to the Bats 7-3 on Wednesday and 5-2 on Thursday. Eric Hacker allowed five runs in 6.2 innings on Wednesday. Kyle Gibson allowed four runs in only five innings on Thursday. The Red Wing bats were again silent in both games as Chase Lambin was the only player with a multi-hit game.

The Wings opened a four game series at Charlotte on Friday, losing 6-4. Scott Diamond had his second rough start of the week lasting only 4.2 innings with eleven hits and six runs. Ray Chang was 3-4, raising his average to .297 with a .372 OBP in his first nine games at AAA.

The starting pitcher we all are waiting to see in a Twins uniform is 2009 first round pick Kyle Gibson. Gibson flew through the organization last year with stops at Ft. Myers, New Britain and Rochester. In his first full year at AAA, Gibson has been solid but not dominant. Gibson has a 4.14 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, thirty-seven strikeouts and only seven walks in 37.0 innings. With the exception of his first start of the season when he was on a short pitch count, Gibson has pitched either five or six innings in each start. Thursday was his first start where he allowed more than three runs with quality starts in four of his seven starts. The other first round pick making his way to AAA this spring is Carlos Gutierrez. He has appeared in fourteen games with a 2.74 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, fifteen strikeouts and a disappointing twelve walks in twenty-three innings. Gutierrez has allowed only two unearned runs in his last five appearances, 10.1 innings, with eight strikeouts and five walks.

All three of the position players most likely to make it to the Twins this year were in Minneapolis prior to Rene Tosoni's return Friday. Tosoni is hitting .280 average with three home runs and sixteen runs batted in for the Red Wings. Look for Tosoni to use the experience he got in thirty-five at bats for the Twins to become a better player at AAA. Ben Revere had a terrible start at AAA before hitting for a .375 average in his last ten games in Rochester, raising his average to .293/.330/.315 in 92 at bats with seven stolen bases. Trevor Plouffe was hitting .282/.344/.590 with six home runs when he got his call from the Twins. Plouffe was back in the Twins lineup last night where he will continue to work to impress the Twins so that he never takes that trip back to upstate New York.

This week's player of the week is former Braves starter turned short-reliever, Chuck James. James appeared in four games, pitching 4.2 shutout innings with six hits and one walk while striking out six. In fourteen games, James has a 2.25 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with twenty-six strikeouts and six walks in 20.0 innings. With numbers like that, we may soon see him in a Twins uniform.

New Britain Rock Cats (AA) (5-2, 20-13, tied for second place, -0.5 game behind New Hampshire)

After posting one of the worst seasons in Eastern League history, it has to be an exciting spring for the Rock Cats and their fans. With the best record in the organization and a mix of AA veterans and top prospects, the Cats are playing like a team that believes they can win it all in 2011.

Their week began with an ugly loss at Portland Saturday, 15-7. Deolis Guerra lasted only 1.2 innings with eight hits, three walks and ten runs as his ERA skyrocketed to 11.57. Guerra missed his next start on Thursday as the Twins evaluate what to do with the pitcher they said had improved more than anyone this spring. It was a shame they didn't have better pitching as three players, Chris Herrmann, Joe Benson and Evan Bigley, hit home runs. Bobby Lanigan got the Cats back on track Monday with a 4-1 win with Joe Benson and Dan Rohlfing having multi-hit games.

Monday the Cats traveled to Binghamton, winning 8-5 behind a spot start by Brett Jacobson who allowed two runs in four innings. Spencer Steedley picked up his second win in a three inning relief appearance. Cole DeVries had his first rough outing of the year, allowing two hits and two runs in two innings. The Cats offense took charge of the game with a five run fifth inning led by Chris Parmelee and Deibinson Romero, who both finished their nights with three hits. Steve Hirschfeld pitched another gem on Tuesday as the Cats took a 2-2 game into the bottom of the ninth. Binghamton would rally for three runs off Jake Stevens, wasting Hirshfeld's quality start. They would take the series with a 10-8 win on Wednesday. Liam Hendriks was solid, pitching five innings with seven hits and three runs. Tyler Robertson picked up his fifth save by pitching two shutout innings with one hit and four strikeouts. Chris Herrmann was again the hitting star with a 4-6 night including a double and triple. Yangervis Solarte and Deibinson Romero both had three hits with Joe Benson hitting his second home run of the week.

The Rock Cats returned home to open a weekend series with Portland on Thursday. Recently promoted Daniel Osterbrock struggled in his second start, allowing seven runs (six earned) in three innings. Spencer Steedley pitched 2.1 innings of no-hit relief to pick up the comeback win, 10-9. Cole DeVries had another rough night, allowing five hits and two runs in two innings as he earned his organization best eighth save. Bobby Lanigan was the starter in the Cats 2-0 win last night with Steve Singleton going 2-3 with a double and home run in his first game back from AAA.

Everyone in and out of the organization has been patiently waiting for Deolis Guerra to step forward and become the pitcher they envisioned when he arrived in the Santana trade. Unfortunately, he has taken another step backwards although he is in his third year at AA and only 22 years old. Four other starters are pitching like they believe they should some day be with the Twins. Steve Hirschfeld leads the staff with the league's fourth best ERA, 2.08 in 34.2 innings with a league best 0.84 WHIP. Many believe that Liam Hendriks is a future star and he hasn't been a disappointment this spring. In seven games, Hendriks has a 3-1 record, 3.66 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, thirty strikeouts and only nine walks in 32.0 innings. David Bromberg had a 3.63 ERA in three starts before going on the disabled list with a broken arm. And finally, there is the organization's Pitcher of the Month for April, Cole DeVries. After two rough outings this week, DeVries still has a 1.59 ERA and 0.66 WHIP with twenty-nine strikeouts and only four walks in 22.2 innings.

Last year's Player of the Year, Joe Benson, broke out of his slump with a 8-26 (.307 average) week including a double, two home runs and six runs batted in as he got his average back up to .268 with a team high four home runs. Former first round pick Chris Parmelee is hitting an excellent .323/.390/.469 with a team high twenty-three runs batted in. Three of the Cat's top hitters are Yangervis Solarte at .352/.372/.536, Evan Bigley at .310/.358/.469, and recently promoted Chris Herrmann. Herrmann, who was 10-31 (.322 average) this week, is hitting for a .302 average with three doubles, a triple and home run in his first 43 AA at bats. These three aren't often talked about when discussing the organization's top prospects, maybe they should be?

This week's top Rock Cats performance was by Bobby Lanigan. He was the winner on Sunday, pitching six innings while allowing only three hits and one run. He returned last night with one of the organization's top starts this season, pitching eight innings of shutout ball while giving up only three hits with four strikeouts and no walks as he upped his record to 4-2. Lanigan certainly belongs with the trio discussed above as a starter with big league aspirations. In seven starts, he has a 4-2 record, 2.61 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, twenty-eight strikeouts and only nine walks in 41.1 innings.

Ft. Myers Miracle (Hi-A) (1-5, 20-13, tied for second, -4.0 games behind St. Lucie)

After an excellent week a week ago the Miracle had edged so close to St. Lucie. Unforunately, losing five of six puts them four games back as they approach the mid-point in their battle to win a first half season championship.

If you thought the Rock Cats 15-7 loss last Saturday was ugly, the Miracle 20-2 loss to Jupiter was worse. Tom Stuifbergen returned from the disabled list to last only 1.2 inning with five runs, including four that were unearned. Shooter Hunt would follow him and allow six runs in two innings with five hits, three walks, two wild pitches and a hit batter. Brad Tippett, who was also returning from the DL, gave up four more runs while getting two outs and the normally reliable Dakota Watts finished it off with a pair of runs in two innings. James Beresford had a 3-4 night while Brian Dozier was 2-4. Finishing off a nice six game winning streak with that disaster earned Jake Mauer's squad a day off on Sunday. They finished their three game series by traveling to Jupiter on Monday where they picked up their only win of the week, 5-3. A 2010 free agent signing out of the University of St. Thomas, Matt Schuld, has been a reliable starter. Schuld pitched five shutout innings to pick up his second win in two decisions. Dakota Watts got two outs by facing one batter when he got a bases loaded double play to end the game and pick up his sixth save. Aaron Hicks and Nick Romero both had two hit games.

The Miracle returned to Hammond Field on Tuesday to begin a four game series with Dunedin, a series in which they would get swept. Kane Holbrooks was solid in Tuesday's 6-2 loss, allowing three runs in five innings. Aaron Hicks, Brian Dozier and Danny Rams all had two hits with one of Rams hits his second home run. Edgar Ibarra picked up his first loss on Wednesday when he allowed five runs in 4.2 innings. Thursday's rainout was made up as part of a doubleheader on Friday. Tom Stuifbergen pitched three innings with three unearned runs to pick up his third loss in three decisions while Nick Romero had his second two hit game of the week. Andrew Albers was very good in the nightcap that the Miracle lost, 3-2. Albers allowed two runs in five innings with three strikeouts. Shooter Hunt had a solid relief appearance, pitching two innings with two hits, one run, one strikeout, a walk and a wild pitch. Dunedin's pitchers held the Miracle to six hits with no one having more than one.

It is a bit surprising that the Miracle are within striking distance of St. Lucie as their starting staff hasn't been great. Only Kane Holbrooks and the recently activated Andrew Albers have ERA's under 4.85. Holbrooks has had an excellent spring which you wouldn't know by looking at his 1-5 record. He leads the staff with a 2.21 ERA in 40.2 innings with ten walks. What is surprising is that he has so few strikeouts, thirteen. Dakota Watts, who shares the closer role with Bruce Pugh, has a 3.31 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and a team high six saves. Watts strikeout total is also a bit lower than expected for a hard thrower, thirteen in 16.1 innings.

The top ranked prospect on the Miracle roster is Aaron Hicks. After repeating last year at Beloit, Hicks is struggling with Florida State League pitching as he is hitting .224/.331/.319 in 116 at bats. He did have two multi-hit games this week and is hitting .263 average in his last ten games. Two middle infielders are playing like players who are aware of the Twins lack of middle infield depth in the upper levels of the organization. James Beresford is hitting a team best .339/.359/.355 while Brian Dozier is also hitting well at .293/.413/.431 with twenty walks and only thirteen strikeouts. Beresford also doesn't strike out often, fanning only twelve times in 124 at bats. Perhaps the organization's top catching prospect, Danny Rams, is hitting .314/.369/.471 with ten extra base hits in 102 at bats.

This week I am going with Nick Romero as the Miracle nomination for Player of the Week. Romero was 6-17 (.352 average), with two multi-hit games, a double and two runs batted in.

Beloit Snappers (A) (2-4, 18-14, third place, -6.0 games behind Burlington)

The Snappers also are faced with an uphill battle as they are six games out of first and a half game behind Cedar Rapids after dropping two of three to the Kernels last weekend. B. J. Hermsen couldn't stop Cedar Rapids last Saturday as the Snappers lost, 5-3, allowing ten hits and five runs in six innings. Wang-Wei Lin had a pair of hits and Michael Gonzales hit his fifth home run. Logan Darnell would make what appears to be his last start for the Snappers on Sunday, losing 9-2. Darnell allowed five runs in 4.2 innings with Dan Glad's home run the only bright spot for the losing nine. The Snappers would win the final game of the series with the Kernels in ten innings on Monday, 5-4. Adrian Salcedo had an exciting outing with a no-hitter through three innings and a two hit shutout through six. He would run out of gas in the seventh, allowing four runs (three earned) in 6.1 innings. Clint Dempster would get the win with 2.2 shutout innings with Matt Hauser picking up his fifth save without allowing a run in the tenth. Daniel Santana had his second home run while Nate Roberts, Michael Gonzales and Lance Ray all had multi-hit games.

The Snappers would move on to Kane County where they would drop two of three. Andrei Lobanov continues to struggle as a starter, allowing six runs (three eanred) on nine hits in 3.2 innings of a 8-4 loss on Tuesday. Daniel Ortiz, who was only 4-18 this week, was 3-5 with his team best seventh home run. Manuel Soliman allowed eight runs (only two earned) in a short 3.1 inning start of a game the Snappers would lose 8-2 on Wednesday. Michael Gonzales hit his sixth home run while Lance Ray and Toby Streich had a pair of hits. B. J. Hermsen returned on Thursday to lead the Snappers to a 10-3 win. Hermsen allowed three runs in 6.2 innings to pick up his third win in seven decisions. Jamaal Hawkins, Nate Roberts, Michael Gonzales, Lance Ray and Toby Streich all had multi-hit games led by Gonzales who was 4-5.

Adrian Salcedo is the top starter on the staff with a 2-1 record, exellent 2.50 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in six games (36 innings). Logan Darnell had a 2-2 record with a 3.78 ERA in 33.1 innings before he reportedly will move on to Ft. Myers. One of the team strength's this spring has been the performance of two relievers, Blayne Weller and Matt Hauser. Weller has won three games with a 0.92 ERA in eleven games (19.2 innings). Hauser leads the bullpen with five saves while posting a staff best 0.69 ERA with ninteen strikeouts and eight walks in thirteen innings.

With top hitter Oswaldo Arcia out for a couple months, the Snappers needed someone other than Daniel Ortiz to step up at the plate. Ortiz, who is hitting .352 average, is amongst the league leaders in many offensive categories including the league's top slugging percentage (.667). When Arcia went on the disabled list, Nate Roberts joined the team out of spring training. Although he doesn't hit for power like Arcia, he is getting on base as often with a .357 average and .500 on base percentage in forty-two at bats. All indications are that this young man who was a star in the Appy League after being picked in the fifth round last year just may be another name we need to add to a large list of excellent outfield prospects.

Although Nate Roberts and Michael Gonzales were both 9-23 this week, the nod for Player of the Week must go to Gonzales. In addition to hitting .391 average, he had two home runs and four runs batted in with two multi-hit games that were a big part of both of the Snappers wins this week.