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Minor League Report...July 16, 2011

When Rochester and New Britain lost both ends of doubleheaders last Saturday, it wasn't looking good for a winning week for the Twins system. They weren't to be denied as Elizabethton (6-0) led the way to a winning week at 21-20.

The Twins recalled Delmon Young, who had been on a rehab assignment, and Trevor Plouffe from Rochester. To make room, they optioned the two Rene's (Tosoni and Rivera) to the Red Wings. With Rivera returning to the Wings, they sent catcher Jair Fernandez back to New Britain who in turn sent Danny Rohlfing to Ft. Myers. Two pitchers moved up to New Britain from Ft. Myers, Matt Schuld and Andrew Albers. The Red Wings also activated Steve Holm and placed former first round pick Carlos Gutierrez on the disabled list

Estarlin De Los Santos completed his rehab assignment with the GCL Twins and was assigned to Ft. Myers with Derek McCallum returning to Beloit. The Snappers placed outfielder Nate Roberts and infielders Andy Leer and Tyler Grimes on the disabled list. Reggie Williams moved back to Beloit who needed an extra infielder. The Miracle activated Brad Stillings and placed Matt Tone on the disabled list. Beloit released reliever Andrei Lobanov and also lost their closer, Clint Dempster, who was promoted to Ft. Myers. Bart Carter and Sam Spangler were promoted from Elizabethton to Beloit to replenish the Snappers bullpen. Miguel Munoz and Alex Wimmers were assigned to the GCL Twins with both seeing their first action this week. The GCL Twins placed pitcher Nate Fawbush on the disabled list. They also swaped third basemen with the DSL Twins when Wander Guillen was sent back to the DSL and Javier Pimintel moved up to the GCL. It is unclear why Guillen is moving back to the DSL as he was in the GCL all last year and was hitting .317 average in 41 at bats this season. The Twins also announced that they had signed seventeen year old Australian right hander Sam Gibbons.

With a month left to sign 2011 draft picks, the Twins have signed only six of their top twelve (Rounds 1-10) picks. On draft day it appeared that the Twins had an excellent draft. That won't be the case however, if they don't sign their top three picks and most of the top twelve. With all their recent injuries, Beloit could use top pick Levi Michael and Madison Boer could move up if they signed Corey Williams (third round).

For the third time this season, the readers of Twinkie Town selected Trevor Plouffe as the Player of the Week. The Twins responded by promptly recalling him so that he could become the hero of Thursday night's come from behind win over the Royals.

The Red Wings (1-4) remain in last place, nineteen and a half games out. They entered their all-star break with a 35-55 record, which is too close to last year's 33-59 record. The Wing's biggest problem has been all the roster uncertainty caused by the injuries on the Twins. They also haven't had good starting pitching, which is surprising considering they signed several veteran starters last winter. Unfortunately, none of them have been good with Eric Hacker making fifteen starts (5.73 ERA) and Andy Baldwin making fourteen starts (5.55 ERA). With Anthony Swarzak likely up with the Twins to stay, Kyle Gibson has been their best starter with a 4.17 ERA in sixteen starts. Scott Diamond has had some excellent starts, but has been too inconsistent with a 4.70 ERA in seventeen starts.

What the Wings need badly is one or two of New Britain's top starters. Unfortunately, the most likely candidate was David Bromberg who has been on the disabled list since the end of April with a broken arm. The Wings should get a couple good position players back from the Twins when Denard Span and Jason Kubel return. Unless they get better starting pitching, however, they are flirting with another year like last year which was amongst the worst in their hundred plus year history. Will the Twins move Steve Hirschfeld or Liam Hendriks to Rochester when Bromberg returns?

The Wings dropped a pair at Scranton last Saturday, 9-0 and 6-4, with Trevor Plouffe getting a couple hits in each game. They won on Sunday when Kevin Slowey pitched 4.2 shutout innings with four hits, a walk and three strikeouts. He threw 71 pitches with 49 strikes. The Wings returned from their break on Thursday with a 5-3 loss at Buffalo. Tom Diamond made his second start of the week, allowing four runs in 4.1 innings as his ERA soared to 8.57. They lost again last night, 8-4, with Kevin Slowey allowing six hits and three runs in 4.2 innings. Kevin threw 84 pitches with 58 strikes.

The Red Wings top player was speedy centerfielder, Brandon Roberts. Roberts was 8-20 (.400 average) with a double, three runs scored, one RBI and two slolen bases. Roberts is an excellent baseball player, unfortunately he cannot stay healthy as was again the case this year as he has appeared in only 34 games.

New Britain (1-5) entered their break in fourth place with a 45-43 record, six games behind New Hampshire. Unlike Rochester, the Rock Cats have gotten excellent starting pitching from a trio of the organization's better starters, Liam Hendriks (fifteen starts with a 2.70 ERA), Bobby Lanigan (17 starts with a 3.96 ERA), and Steve Hirschfeld (17 starts with a 3.56 ERA). Brett Jacobson, who moved into a starting role after Bromberg was injured, has also been very good with a 4.24 ERA in twelve starts. Delois Guerra struggled as a starter (10 starts with a 9.00 ERA), however, had been very good the last month in eleven relief appearances with a 2.70 ERA. That was before last night's outing which ballooned his ERA as a reliever to 4.35.

The Cats also began their week by dropping both ends of a doubleheader to Binghamton, 7-6 and 9-5. Binghamton completed a four game sweep with two more Rock Cat losses Sunday and Monday, 9-4 and 5-3. The Rock Cats had three representatives in the Eastern League All-Star game on Wednesday, Liam Hendriks (one inning with no hits and a walk), Brett Jacobson (1.1 inning with no hits and a strikeout), and Yangervis Solarte (0-2 with a walk). The Cats started the second half with a win Thursday, 5-4, at Portland. Steve Hirschfeld allowed four runs in six innings with recently promoted Andrew Albers picking up a win in his first AA appearance, pitching two shutout innings with two hits and two strikeouts. Yangervis Solarte was 3-4 with a pair of doubles. Brett Jacobson lasted only 3.1 innings last night, allowing two hits and runs. Deolis Guerra picked up the loss by giving up four runs in 0.2 inning as Portland beat the Cats, 10-6.

Yangervis Solarte was again the Cats top player at 5-10 (.500 average), with three doubles, three runs scored, three runs driven in and an All-Star appearance. Solarte is the league's second best hitter with a .333 average while also hitting the league's fifth most doubles (25).

The Ft. Myers Miracle (4-2) remain in fifth place, however, only 2.0 games behind first place Charlotte. Their starting rotation has been bolstered by two lefties recently promoted from Beloit, Logan Darnell and Pat Dean. Darnell (2010 sixth round pick) has a 7-1 record with a 2.82 ERA in ten starts. Dean (2010 third round pick) has a 2-1 record in three starts with a 3.86 ERA. The Miracle's two top starters both spent some time on the disabled list, limiting each to fifteen starts. Kane Holbrooks, who was 0-4 in April when he pitched very well, has a 4-9 record with a 5.09 ERA which ballooned in May before going on the disabled list. Tom Stuifbergen has a 3-5 record with an excellent 3.43 ERA.

The Miracle beat Brevard County on Sunday when Darnell pitched seven innings, allowing only one run. Oswaldo Arcia hit a home run that was reported to have traveled about 480 feet. They split two with Brevard County on Tuesday, dropping the nightcap 6-5 after winning the opener 5-1 behind Kane Holbrooks who pitched a seven inning complete game with one unearned run. James Beresford was the hitting star, going 5-8 in the two games. Daytona came to town Wednesday when the Miracle won 4-3 with Pat Dean getting the win with a 7.1 inning quality start. They dropped game two Thursday, 5-2, in ten innings. Tom Stuifbergen pitched five innings with nine hits and only one run, Arcia was 2-4. Darnell returned last night, pitching 6.2 innings with three runs in a Miracle 5-4 win with Aaron Hicks hitting his fourth home run.

My selection this week as the Miracle's Player of the Week is James Beresford. Beresford was 10-21 (.477 average) with two doubles, two runs scored and five runs batted in. After a rough June, Beresford is hitting .271/.330/.300. He has struck out only 35 times in 317 at bats.

The Beloit Snappers (3-3) are in a three-way tie for second place a game back of Kane County. With a lot of the Twins brass in Beloit this week and our friends Seth and Travis in town for the weekend, Beloit will be featuring Woodman's Mac N Cheese.

The Snappers were fortunate to get fourteen starts (combined 4-2 record with 3.25 ERA) out of Dean and Darnell before they moved on to Ft. Myers. But their go to starters all season have been Adrian Salcedo and B. J. Hermsen. Salcedo, who was named to the all-star game, leads the Snappers in starts (17) and innings pitched (106.1) with seventy strikeouts and the league's eighth best ERA (2.62). We all have followed the career of B. J. Hermsen since the Twins spent the summer of 2008 trying to sign him after taking the Iowa high school star in the sixth round. After spending some time in Beloit a year ago, Hermsen returned with a disappointing May when he lost four of five decisions with a 5.08 ERA. Since May, he has been the dominating pitcher we expected three years ago with a 6-0 record in six starts with a 2.12 ERA. Manuel Soliman has been effective all year with a 4-5 record and a 3.95 ERA in sixteen starts, including 85 strikeouts in 82 innings. With Darnell and Dean off to Florida, Ryan O'Rourke moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation. Overall he has a 2.30 ERA in 58.2 innings with 60 strikeouts, including a 2.62 ERA in eight starts.

The Snappers week began by dropping two of three to Clinton, including a 8-5 loss on Saturday when Jairo Perez hit two home runs. Manny Soliman picked up their only win Sunday, 5-0, with what may have been his best start of the year. Soliman pitched seven shutout innings with seven hits, four strikeouts and no walks. Jairo Perez was two for three with a walk. After taking Tuesday off to watch the all-star game, B. J. Hermsen returned to the hill against South Bend, pitching seven innings with three hits and one unearned run in the Snappers' 5-1 win. They beat South Bend again on Friday, 6-3, when Adrian Salcedo allowed two unearned runs in seven innings. The Snappers were unable to complete the sweep last night when O'Rourke allowed four runs in 4.0 innings in a 10-2 loss. Lance Ray had a pair of hits including his ninth home run.

This week saw Soliman pitch seven innings of shutout ball with Salcedo and Hermsen pitching seven innings with one or two unearned runs. We also saw Perez, who is hitting .402 average, go 9-22 with two home runs. I believe however, that someone else needs a bit of recognition, Daniel Santana. Santana was the Snappers shortstop for much of the year until Perez and this year's two high draft picks (Bryant and Grimes) arrived. He moved to centerfield, however, with the injury to Grimes is now playing some shortstop again. Santana, who has an eight game hitting streak, was 10-21 (.476 average) with four runs scored, a double, triple and two runs batted in. Is this week a springboard for the twenty year old Santana to launch an excellent second half?

The Elizabethton Twins (6-0) are beginning to remind us of the Appy League teams we have come to know these past few years. Their three top starters are Todd Van Steensel (3-0), Tim Shibuya (3-0) and David Hurlbut (2-1). Van Steensel is a former Philadelphia farmhand from Australia who signed with the Twins over the winter. Shibuya is this year's twenty-third round pick who was drafted following his senior year at UC-San Diego. Hurlbut was this year's twenty-eighth round pick out of Cal State-Fullerton. Van Steensel has a 3.55 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 25.1 innings, Shibuya has a 3.43 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 21.0 innings, and Hurlbut has a 3.46 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 26.0 innings. Cesar Ciurcina is also starting, however, isn't the dominant pitcher he was the past few years in the DSL and GCL, as his 10.80 ERA in 15.0 innings would indicate. Perhaps the biggest news out of eastern Tennessee is that after five relief appearances, Matt Bashore has allowed three runs in seven innings for a 3.86 ERA with seven strikeouts and six walks. After a rough first few outings Bashore made his first start Thursday, pitching three shutout innings.

The Twins took two from Greeneville last weekend, 3-2 and 5-4. Bart Carter picked up his second win with two shutout innings of relief on Saturday with Shibuya making a quality start on Sunday. Pulaski came to Elizabethton Tuesday offerring themselves up for a Twins sweep, 17-5, 6-3 and 5-4. Van Steensel allowed one run in six innings on Tuesday. Matt Summers picked up the win with 1.2 shutout inning of relief on Wednesday. Since signing a couple weeks ago, Summers has yet to allow a run in five appearances (6.1 innings) while ringing up twelve strikeouts with one walk. After having two multi hit games earlier in the week, Max Kepler hit his first professional home run in two at bats with a pair of walks on Thursday. After getting only 4 hits in his first 26 at bats in June, Kepler is hitting .357 average in July. The Twins completed their perfect week with a 7-0 shutout last night at Greeneville. David Hurlbut pitched seven innings of shutout ball with three hits, no walks and five strikeouts with Sano, Kepler and Lockwood each getting two hits.

The player of the week for Elizabethton is a middle infielder who was drafted in the ninth round in 2009, Nick Lockwood. After struggling at Elizabethton last year (.180 average in 100 at bats) following his promotion from the GCL Twins earlier in the summer, Lockwood is hitting a lofty .322/.365/.433 in 90 at bats. This week Lockwood was 10-23 (.434 average), including a huge 4-5 game in last Sunday's 5-4 win. Lockwood had two doubles, scored nine runs and had three runs driven in to go with three walks in the biggest week of his career.

The GCL Twins (2-3) weren't able to maintain their string of winnings weeks, yet held on to second place 2.5 games behind the Orioles. The Twins trio of top starters are all young International pitchers, twenty year old Venezuelan, Ricardo Arevalo, who has a 1.59 ERA, 17 strikeouts and 7 walks in 17.0 innings; eighteen year old Taiwan native, Hung Yi Chen, who has a 1.38 ERA, 16 strikeouts and only 1 walk in 13.0 innings; and eighteen year old Dominican Republic native, Angel Mata, who has a 1.38 ERA, 12 strikeouts and 6 walks in 13.0 innings.

The Twins opened their week with a 2-1, eleven inning win over the Red Sox. Hein Robb pitched three innings of shutout ball, however, the highlite of the game was the first professional appearance of seventeen year Mexican old pitcher, Gerardo Ramirez, who allowed one hit in an inning of relief. The Twins traveled to face the Rays on Monday, where Angel Mata pitched three no-hit innings with three strikeouts and two walks. Luis Nunez picked up his third win without a loss by pitching two innings of shutout relief. The Twins lost to the Orioles, 4-3, in ten innings on Wednesday. They were shutout by the Orioles, 3-0, the next day when Miguel Munoz, who had been on the Miracle' disabled list, pitched a shutout inning of relief. Alex Wimmers also pitched a shutout inning of relief with a walk and strikeout. The Twins dropped the rubber game of the week to the Rays yesterday, 7-4, when Hein Robb allowed four runs in 3.2 innings. Eighteen year old Mexican reliever, Gonzalo Sanudo, allowed a run on two hits in two innings. Shortstop Jorge Polanco was three for five with a double and triple with Dereck Rodgriguez and Drew Leachman each collecting two hits.

This week's Player of the Week is Taiwanese pitcher Hung Yi Chen, who pitched three shutout innings against the Orioles on Wednesday. Chen allowed only one hit with three strikeouts.

The DSL Twins (4-3) remain in contention this year, tied for second a half game behind the Orioles. Their top starter is nineteen year old second year pitcher Junior Subero. Even though Subero is winless (0-3), he has an excellent 1.11 ERA in 24.1 innings with 25 strikeouts. Sterling Bonilla, who is pitching like he did last year following a couple rough early outings, has a 2.17 ERA in 29.0 innings with 28 strikeouts. Jose Jimenez has a 2.42 ERA in six starts, rookie Jose Abreu has a 2.08 ERA in four starts, and rookie Melciades De La Cruz has a 2.86 ERA in five starts. Five starters with sub 3.00 ERA's means the 2012 GCL Twins should see a couple very good young arms moving up from the DSL.

The Twins beat the Orioles Saturday, 7-5, with catcher Joel Polanco getting three hits. Their bats exploded on Monday when they beat the Cubs-1, 14-3, when Jhon Silva was the hitting star with four hits. The Twins dropped a pair to the Rockies on Tuesday, 5-3 and 2-1. Javier Vargas picked up the win Wednesday, pitching three shutout innings of a 2-0 win over the Reds. Sterling Bonilla allowed only one run in four innings Thurday, before the bullpen imploded in a 12-3 loss to the Padres. Edgar Martinez made his first start yesterday, pitching four shutout innings as the Twins beat the Diamondbacks, 2-1, in fourteen innings. Martinez has appeared in thirteen games (21.0 innings) with an excellent 0.43 ERA.

The Twins top player was their closer, Francisco Nunez. Nunez appeared in three games, picking up two wins and a save. In ten shutout innings, Nunez allowed only three hits and two walks while striking out sixteen batters. In thirteen appearances this year, Nunez has a 6-1 record, four saves and 0.29 ERA. In 31.0 innings, he has walked six with forty-one strikeouts.

There were lots of legitimate questions last year after Oswaldo Arcia was named the Appalachian League's Player of the Year. After all, we all have seen players put up phenominal numbers in the Appy League only to burn out in A ball. But most of those players didn't have a year like Arcia who led or was in the top three of most of the league's offensive categories. This spring he picked up where he left off by hitting .352/.420/.704 in 71 at bats for Beloit before being shut down to have his elbow cleaned out. The question often heard was can he continue at that pace for Beloit when he returns? The answer was no, because he didn't return to Beloit. With a healthy elbow, the Twins sent Arcia across the parking lot to the Miracle after his rehab in their Ft. Myers training center. Although it has been only 56 at bats, Arcia is the Miracle's leading hitter at .304/.344/.464. Is Arcia making a statement that all of us better think very hard before placing anyone above him in next winter's prospect rankings?