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Minor League Report...June 4, 2011

With all the chaos related to player movement on most teams, it isn't surprising that the teams aren't playing winning baseball as the organization had another losing week at 15-18. Only Beloit and the DSL Twins had winnings weeks at 5-2 and 3-1, respectively.

There may have been more players moving this week than any week in my memory. To create openings on the 40-man roster, the Twins moved both Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Joe Mauer to the 60-day disabled list. Both are expected back in the next few weeks which means two players will have to be removed from the 40-man roster. Will Bill Smith be able to get something for them? The Twins placed Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, Jim Thome and Jason Kubel on the disabled list. Their spots were filled by Chuck James, who was added to the 40-man roster, Anthony Slama, Ben Revere and Luke Hughes. They optioned lefty reliever Dusty Hughes to Rochester when they activated Jose Mijares. Also optioned to Rochester was Trevor Plouffe, with Brian Dinkelman added to the 40-man roster and recalled by the Twins. Sloan Martin posted a must read article yesterday titled "Plouffe's imprisonment needs to end."

In an effort to get bodies for the Rochester roster that was down to twenty players, the Twins completed a trade with the Brewers for twenty-nine year old outfielder Jeremy Reed. Reed has played parts of the past seven seasons in the major leagues with several teams. His best season was 2008 when he hit .269 average in 286 at bats for Seattle. It was reported that the Brewers will receive 'future considerations,' which hopefully isn't too much. Also promoted to Rochester were relievers Michael Tarsi and Cole DeVries. Steve Singleton returned to Rochester for last night's game which left New Britain with ten players and only four infielders. The Wings also placed their top hitter, Ray Chang, on the disabled list. In other Red Wings news, Kyle Gibson was named the International League Pitcher of the Week.

Bruce Pugh was promoted to New Britain along with fellow reliever Blake Martin. New Britain activated catcher Jair Fernandez with lefty reliever Spenser Steedley going on their disabled list. Ft. Myers placed their top starter, Kane Holbrooks, on the disabled list along with top prospect Aaron Hicks. Ft. Myers activated closer Dakota Watts. Moving up to Ft. Myers was Beloit's closer Matt Hauser. Beloit activated lefty reliever Nelvin Fuentes with second baseman Hyeong-rok Choi joining the Snappers from EST. The Miracle learned this week that they have three all-stars, catcher Danny Rams, shortstop Brian Dozier and recently promoted closer Bruce Pugh. LaVelle E. Neal III reported last night that Joe Benson was placed on New Britain's disabled list. Benson will have minor knee surgery next week with Jim Rantz saying he was hopeful he would be out only two to three weeks. Neal also reported that twenty-seven year old Cuban pitcher Deinys Suarez will be assigned to New Britain. Suarez and fellow Cuban Yuniesky Maya tried out for major league scouts in the Dominican Republic in 2009. Maya signed a $7,400,000 contract, however, Suarez didn't receive any offers acceptable to him. He recently signed with the Twins and had been working out in Extended Spring training.

Ben Revere was last week's Player of the Week, collecting 52% of the votes. This week I will focus on the rookies on the Dominican Summer League Twins roster as they began play this week. With the minor league seasons nearly half over, I will also review how Twinkie Town's Top Ten are doing.

Rochester Red Wings (AAA) (3-4, 21-31, last place, -12 games behind Lehigh Valley)

The Wings battled hard this week which is amazing considering the turmoil on their roster. They split the final two games at division leading Lehigh Valley last weekend, losing 4-3 on Saturday before winning 6-2 on Sunday. Their top hitter, Ray Chang, hit two home runs on Saturday before breaking his leg late in the game. Chang was hitting .322/.375/.448 in 87 at bats since his promotion from New Britain. Kyle Gibson was perfect through six innings on Sunday before former White Sox outfielder Scott Podsednik led off the seventh with a triple. After allowing two runs, Anthony Slama got the final four outs including two strikeouts.

The Wings returned home Monday to host the Toledo Mud Hens in a four game series. They split the series the hard way, losing 7-3 and 5-0 before winning the last two, 10-9 and 8-0. Cole DeVries made his first AAA appearance in relief of Scott Diamond in the opener, pitching 1.2 innings without any hits or runs. Carlos Gutierrez, who was making his fourth appearance in five games, allowed three hits and three runs. Rene Tosoni and Ben Revere both hit home runs. Andy Baldwin allowed three home runs in Tuesday's loss giving him the league lead with thirteen. Ryan Mullins allowed eight runs in four innings on Wednesday with Cole DeVries picking up his first AAA win in relief, allowing one run in three innings with six strikeouts. The Red Wings comeback was led by Rene Tosoni who was 3-4 with his third home run in four games. The Wings earned the split Thursday behind Eric Hacker who pitched six shutout innings. Hacker has a 2-3 record with a 4.26 ERA in 44.1 innings. Five players had multi-hit games with lead off man Dustin Martin hitting his third home run.

The Wings opened a weekend series with Norfolk last night with Kyle Gibson on the hill. In his next start after Sunday's six perfect innings, Gibson had his worst outing of the year. He allowed six runs (four earned) in five innings in a 7-2 loss.

Last winter, Twinkie Town selected 2009 first round pick Kyle Gibson as our top prospect. Gibson twice has flirted with no hitters this year, however, continues to hit a wall around the sixth or seventh inning. Overall, Gibson has been very good with a 3-4 record, 3.90 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in eleven starts. In a team high sixty innings, Gibson has struck out sixty-four (9.60/9 innings) while walking only eleven.

Our fourth ranked prospect was speedster Ben Revere, who was recalled by the Twins on Thursday for the second time this year. While with the Red Wings, Revere hit .303/.338/.364 in 132 at bats with only eleven strike outs and six walks. He stole eight bases in ten attempts with three doubles, a triple and one home run. If Revere's minor league career has ended, he never hit under a .303 Average in the four plus years since being a first round pick in the 2007 draft. Is Ben up with the Twins to stay?

With three home runs in four games and a 9-26 (.346 average) week, Rene Tosoni earned consideration as our Player of the Week. Two doubles, six runs scored and seven runs batted in cinched it for me. Tosoni is now hitting .275/.311/.472 in 142 at bats with a team best six home runs and twenty-five runs batted in. But what do we do about recently signed Aaron Bates? Bates was 12-22 (.545 average) with no extra base hits and four runs scored. Bates is hitting .355/.449/.487 in 76 at bats since joining the Wings in early May. The answer is easy, for the first time this year we will include two players from the same team in voting for our Player of the Week and let you decide.

New Britain Rock Cats (AA) (3-5, 30-23, third place, -4.5 games behind New Hampshire)

Until this week the roster musical chairs in Minnesota and Rochester hadn't affected the Rock Cats roster. This week the chaos trickled down a level and their play reflected it. The Rock Cats played the final three of a four game series at Divsion leading New Hampshire last weekend. Although each game was competitive, they lost all four as they fell six games behind the Fisher Cats. They can be contenders if they can figure out a way to win some games against the Fisher Cats.

They could manage only two hits on Saturday in support of Steve Hirschfeld, losing 4-0. They would lose a one run game on Sunday, 2-1, when Liam Hendriks allowed only one run in seven innings. Joe Benson was two for four with a double and the Cats only run batted in. They would get swept on Monday, 7-6, when the bullpen wasted a quality start by Bobby Lanigan. Closer Tyler Robertson allowed five runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to pick up his third loss of the season.

Portland came to New Britain on Tuesday with the Cats sweeping a doubleheader, 2-0 and 5-3. Brett Jacobson threw five innings of shutout ball in the opener to pick up his second win. Recently promoted Blake Martin made a spot start in the nightcap, pitching 2.1 innings with one earned run. Tony Davis picked up the win with 3.2 innings of one hit ball with three strikeouts. Joe Benson was three for four in the nightcap with a pair of doubles while Michael Holliman had two hits in the first game with a home run in the second. The Rock Cats hitters gave Deolis Guerra a 8-0 lead in the second inning on Wednesday. Unfortunately, Guerra allowed ten hits and seven runs in 4.2 innings (Guerra has allowed forty-one earned runs in his last eight starts (thirty three innings)). Bruce Pugh, who would come on to make his first appearance in AA, would get only four outs before allowing five hits, four walks and another eight runs to turn their 8-0 lead into a 18-9 shellacking. Evan Bigley was three for four while Chris Parmelee was two for five with his fourth home run. Parmelee is hitting .284 average while leading the Cats with thirty runs batted in. Steve Hirschfeld returned Thursday to pitch one of his best games of the year, allowing one run on six hits in 7.1 innings. Unfortunately, the Rock Cats would strand ten runners with several baserunning mistakes to give Portland a 1-0 win.

The Cats opened a series at Bowie last night. Liam Hendriks pitched seven shutout innings in a 5-0 win. Michael Holliman hit his second home run of the week with Jair Fernandez hitting safely in his third consecutive game since coming off the disabled list.

The top ranked player at New Britain is sixth ranked centerfielder Joe Benson. Benson had a great start this spring before going into a terrible slump lasting from late April until mid-May. In 180 at bats, Benson is hitting .294/.380/.452 with a team best five home runs, sixteen doubles, two triples, twenty-eight runs scored and twenty-six runs batted in. Benson has been successful stealing in seven of nine attempts while playing excellent defense with only one error and five assists. Benson continues to strike out to often, 50 in 205 plate appearances (24%), which is a bit less often than last year. Like Torii Hunter, Benson was a high school football star who may take longer to make it to the Twins. Like Hunter, there is a high probability that Benson will be a very good outfielder once he gets to Target Field. Now he needs to heal fast and get back on the field to help the Rock Cats in their run for a title.

The other member of our Top Ten with New Britain is our eighth ranked prospect, Liam Hendriks. Many pitchers struggle with the jump from A ball to AA, however, Hendriks has not. He has pitched five or more innings in each of his ten starts, including the Rock Cats only two complete games. In fifty-nine innings, Hendriks has a 5-2 record, 2.75 ERA and an excellent 1.08 WHIP. He is getting nearly one strikeout (58) per inning with less than two walks (13) per nine innings. Although it may be best that this twenty-two year old Aussie spend the entire year in AA, he could be the Twins best option should more injuries require another starter in AAA. Regardless of where he finishes his season, he is one top prospect determined to join the Twins sometime next year.

In my first draft last night I was expecting that Joe Benson would be this week's Rock Cats Player of the Week. After all, Benson was six for fifteen (.400 average) with three doubles, a home run, two runs scored and three runs batted in. That was before Liam Hendriks threw a seven inning gem last night. Hendriks didn't allow any runs or walks while scattering six hits with seven strikeouts. In two starts, Hendriks pitched fourteen innings with eleven hits, one run, two walks and thirteen strikeouts.

Ft. Myers Miracle (Hi-A) (1-6, 28-27, second place, -1 game behind St. Lucie)

St. Lucie is doing everything possible to give Ft. Myers a chance to overtake them. To do so, the Miracle is going to have to win more than a game a week.

The Miracle dropped two of three to Clearwater last weekend. Logan Darnell pitched a great game on Saturday, allowing two runs in 5.1 innings. Bruce Pugh allowed five runs (three earned) in the ninth inning as the Miracle lost 7-2. Brad Stillings pitched four shutout innings in the opening game of Sunday's doubleheader. Andrew Albers picked up his third win in four decisions, pitching three shutout innings with only two hits. Albers, who has been very good since signing with the Twins this spring, has a 1.91 ERA in thirty-three innings. Tom Stuifbergen pitched a seven inning complete game in the nightcap allowing only one run, unfortunately the Miracle got only one hit and lost 1-0.

The Miracle travelled to Lakeland Tuesday, where they got swept, 13-2, 6-5 and 4-0. Matt Schuld had his poorest start of the season in the opener when he allowed six runs in three innings. Edgar Ibarra allowed six runs in 3.1 innings on Wednesday. Matt Hauser made his first appearance for the Miracle, pitching two shutout innings. Logan Darnell was solid on Thursday, allowing four runs in six innings. Unfortunately, the Miracle got only five hits and were shut out for the second time of the week.

Ft. Myers opened a weekend series with Lakeland last night, losing 8-6. Brad Stillings pitched only 3.1 innings, allowing seven runs (five earned). Three Miracle hitters had multi-hit games led by Nate Hanson who was four for five.

The Twins second ranked prospect, Aaron Hicks, is with the Miracle after spending two seasons in Beloit. Hicks went on the disabled list last week with a thumb injury from which he is expected to return within a few days. After hitting for only a .211 average in April, Hicks hit an excellent .286/.390/.440 in May with two home runs, twelve runs batted in and six stolen bases in seven attempts. Hicks has struck out less this year (38) while taking twenty-five walks in 160 at bats. What is interesting are his splits with the bases empty (.185 average) and with runners on base (.338 average).

Last year's top pick, Alex Wimmers, missed part of spring training with an injury. Our fifth ranked prospect faced six batters in his first start, walking all of them. Wimmers immediately moved across the parking lot to extended spring training. He has been working with the EST staff with the latest reports saying he will be assigned to Elizabethton when their rookie season begins.

Our tenth ranked prospect, Angel Morales, is a talented outfielder who has been on the disabled list all season.

This week's Miracle Player of the Week is Dutch pitcher Tom Stuifbergen. Stuifbergen allowed only one run and seven hits in a seven inning complete game loss against Clearwater. He struck out six while allowing only one walk in his fourth loss without a win. Stuifbergen, who missed much of April while on the disabled list, has a 4.88 ERA in 31.1 innings with twenty-two strikeouts and seven walks.

Beloit Snappers (A) (5-2, 27-28, tied for fifth place, -10.5 games behind Burlington)

The Snappers were the only full-season team with a winning record. Although only three games out of a playoff spot, time is running out in the first half after their nine game losing streak last week. They lost to Clinton Saturday when B. J. Hermsen allowed six runs (only two earned) in a 6-4 loss. Clint Dempster, who has a 2.17 ERA, pitched 2.1 shutout innings of relief. Michael Gonzales and Daniel Ortiz both had two hits with Gonzales hitting his seventh home run. After a rainout on Sunday, the teams played two on Monday with Adrian Salcedo allowing only one run in a seven inning complete game for his fourth win. Lance Ray had a multi-hit game as the Snappers won, 7-1. Ryan O'Rourke made a spot start in the nightcap, pitching three innings while allowing one run. Jose Gonzalez pitched 2.2 innings of shutout relief for the Snappers 2-1 win.

The Snappers travelled to Dayton on Tuesday where they had one of their biggest comebacks ever. Starter Pat Dean allowed five runs in 4.2 innings. Trailing 10-5 in the ninth inning, the Snappers scored six runs for a 11-10 win with the big hit a Lance Ray grand slam home run. A. J. Achter made his second start for the Snappers on Wednesday when they won, 6-5. Achter allowed three runs in four innings with Nelvin Fuentes, who allowed one run in three innings, picking up the win in his first appearance of the season. The Snappers didn't get the sweep on Thursday. Manuel Soliman was again very good, allowing three runs in 5.2 innings with seven strikeouts in a 4-2 loss.

The only player in our Top Ten who is with the Snappers is seventh ranked Oswaldo Arcia. Arcia began his season hitting just as he had at Elizabethton last year where he was the Appy League Player of the Year. Arcia left spring training with an elbow injury which limited him to designated hitter. Although injured, Arcia hit .352/.420/.704 in 71 at bats with eight doubles, one triple, five home runs and eighteen runs batted in. Arcia had his elbow cleaned out shortly after going on the disabled list May 1.

MIchael Gonzales is a big first baseman who is in his second year with the Snappers. After going nine for twenty-five (.360 average) this week, Gonzales is hitting .291/.396/.462 with a team best seven home runs and thirty-seven runs batted in. Gonzales had one home run, two doubles, five runs scored and ten runs batted in.

The other two players in our Top Ten are Miguel Sano (third) and Max Kepler-Rozycki (ninth). Both are eighteen years old and in extended spring training awaiting the start of the rookie league seasons.

DSL Twins (Dominican Summer League) (3-1, 3-1, second place, -0.5 games behind the DSL White Sox)

The DSL Twins opening day starter was a young man we are familiar with, Sterling Bonilla. Bonilla pitched three shutout innings, allowing only one hit while striking out four. Seventeen year old rookie Randy Rosario pitched two no-hit innings of relief. Francisco Nunez closed out the twelve inning, 4-3 win against the White Sox by pitching 4.1 shutout innings. The Twins wasted an excellent start against the Orioles in a 3-0 loss Monday by Junior Subero, who pitched three innings while allowing one unearned run. They beat the Rockies on Wednesday, 4-2, with rookie Melciades De La Cruz pitching four shutout innings. Jose Abreu is another rookie starter who pitched three shutout innings in last night's 5-2 win over the Padres.

In addition to Rosario, De La Cruz and Abreu, other rookie pitchers seeing action this week were Felix Jorge (17), Yorman Landa (16), and Reyson Zoquiel (17). Only Jorge allowed any earned runs in their first appearances.

The three hitting stars were outfielder Adonis Pacheco (19), who was six for twelve (.500 average). Pacheco hit .214 average in 154 at bats last year. Eighteen year old rookie catcher, Joel Polanco, was three for seven for a .429 average. Twenty year old first baseman Erick Gonzalez was three for eight for a .375 average.

Other rookies seeing action were catcher Eddy Concepcion (18), shortstop Ronald Jimenez (17), infielder Javier Pimentel (17) who signed for a reported $575,000, and touted Panamanian shortstop Carlos Martinez (17).

The DSL Twins nominee for Player of the Week is outfielder Adonis Pacheco. Six hits in twelve at bats with a pair of doubles and runs scored plus a stolen base was the best performance for the DSL Twins in their opening week of the season.