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Minor League Report...August 20, 2011

I haven't been happy with the product I have been putting out this year. Maybe it is having done this for however long. Or maybe getting up at 4am to have it done by 9am every Saturday morning for six years is taking a toll. I know us old guys are supposed to not need as much sleep, but 4am on Saturday is just too early!

It is also possible that all the losing these last couple years is getting to me, so I am going to make a few changes. First, I have moved the week I am writing about to Friday thru Thursday. This will enable me to write most of this on Friday, then review and publish Saturday morning. Second, I will include all the transactions as a comment. I really want to streamline this and that will help a bit. Now on to baseball!

As the Twins struggle to keep ahead of Kansas City, the entire organization is also struggling. They were 19-25 this week, with only the Elizabethton Twins (4-2) and New Britain (4-3) playing winning ball. I will also have a few comments about this year's draft and recent signings after reviewing this week for all the teams.

Dan Rohlfing fans made a big push in the voting for Player of the Week, giving Dan the nod with fifty percent of the votes. He is a player we don't often read a lot about and he has been playing very well all year, congratulations Dan!

Last week I thought that the Red Wings (1-7) were in good shape to not have their first consecutive 90 loss seasons since 1903-1904. After winning only one game, they need to win eight of their remaining eighteen to avoid being an embarrassment to Twins Management and the organization. That doesn't extend to the Red Wings organization and their fans who have continued to support this team through two disastrous years. I don't know what Red Wings management is thinking, however, all indications are that their relationship with the Twins remains strong.

After dropping two at Columbus, 6-3 and 11-7, the Wings split a doubleheader with Columbus at Frontier Field on Tuesday, winning the nightcap 4-3. Chuck James picked up the win with two shutout innings of relief. Scott Diamond pitched seven strong innings with only two runs in the opening game 2-0 loss. Can the Twins view his 4-13 record and 5.42 ERA as a successful season? The Wings travelled to Lehigh Valley where they were swept, 5-2, 3-1, and 11-1. After two rough starts, Liam Hendriks was very good on Tuesday, allowing six hits and two runs in 6.0 innings with four strikeouts and no walks. Those of you wanting to see Carlos Gutierrez join the Twins can expect to wait until 2012. In five appearances since coming off the disabled list Gutierrez allowed eight runs in 5.2 innings, including five earned runs last Saturday without getting a single out.

Because he signed after the season began, Aaron Bates only recently became eligible for the league leadership in hitting. Hitting .309 average in 298 at bats, Bates trails Alex Presley of the Indianapolis Indians by only fourteen points for the league lead. Former International League MVP Jeff Bailey hit for less than .200 average in April and May. Since the all-star break he has been on fire, hitting .320/.382/.620. After struggling since his recent demotion from the Twins, Luke Hughes had a big week and is my selection for Player of the Week. He was 9-22 (.409 average) with four runs scored, two doubles, a triple and home run. Topping off his week was a phone call from the Twins that he was coming back to Minneapolis. Now if they just had someone familiar with the Lehigh Valley airport help him find his flight, everyone would have been happpier on Thursday.

The New Britain Rock Cats (4-3) aren't repeating their disastrous season of 2010. The Cats are in fourth place, eight games behind New Hampshire. They are within two games of .500 (61-63) and only a game and a half out of second place. Allowing several top prospects return and mature has made a difference.

The Cats took three of four at Bowie, winning 4-3 on Friday, losing 8-5 on Saturday and winning a doubleheader on Sunday, 3-0 and 6-1. Logan Darnell allowed only three unearned runs in 7.2 innings on Friday. Spencer Steedley pitched four shutout innings in a spot start Sunday with Deolis Guerra allowing only one hit in three innings of relief for the win. Tyler Robertson picked up the win with three shutout innings of relief in the nightcap. The Cats faced an old friend in Saturday's loss, Armando Gabino. Gabino, who has a 3.41 ERA, pitched three shutout innings of relief for Bowie. The Cats moved on to Binghamton where they lost Tuesday and Thursday, 17-5 and 8-7. They won Wednesday, 7-3, with Guerra again pitching three shutout innings of relief with only one hit. After posting a 9.00 ERA as a starter, Guerra has been a very good reliever. He has a 4-2 record and 2.86 ERA in 23 games (44.0 innings) with 55 strikeouts and only eleven walks.

Yangervis Solarte, who played in only two games this week, continues to lead the team with a .320 average. Joe Benson was only 5-25, but he had three home runs, seven runs scored and nine runs driven in. Benson now has a .282 average with a .868 OPS. The Cats' top player this week was Chris Parmelee, who was 13-27 (.481 average) with five multi-hit games, five runs scored, three driven in, two doubles and two home runs. Parmelee is hitting .298 average with a .842 OPS in 460 at bats. He also continues to reduce his strikeouts (82), while taking 61 walks. Our usually positive friend, Seth Stohs, went off yesterday on Twins managements lack of calling up a player so they didn't have to play Thursday night with no bench. I agree entirely with what Seth said and have been frustrated with Rochester being forced to play too often the past few years with a shortened or no bench! Joe Benson belonged in a Twins uniform last night and if there are problems getting a player here, baseball is a multi billion dollar business...charter a Jet to get him here!

Ft. Myers (1-5) continues to slide and is in fifth place, thirteen games out. With a 20-32 second half record, they are only a half game out of last place.

Their week began by dropping a three game series to Palm Beach, 10-2, 9-5 and 9-3. They then travelled to Jupiter, who is in last place, where they dropped two of three. After losing the opener, 7-1, they won 5-1 on Wednesday before losing the rubber game, 1-0. Alex Wimmers made his second start of the season on Tuesday. Wimmers pitched 4.0 innings, allowing two hits and a run with four strikeouts and three walks. Shooter Hunt, who recently came off the disabled list, pitched a hitless inning with a strikeout and no walks. B. J. Hermsen has been one of the brightest stars in the organization this year. Making only his second start for the Miracle Wednesday, Hermsen picked up the win by pitching six innings with one run on eight hits, five strikeouts and one walk. Matt Hauser, who pitched three shutout innings of relief, has been excellent since his June promotion with a 1.91 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 37.2 innings. Matt Tomashaw, who was drafted in the 42nd round of this year's draft, pitched his best game as a professional in Thursday's loss when he pitched five shutout innings with only one hit.

There weren't a lot of bright spots for Miracle hitters this week, although Oswaldo Arcia had a huge game on Wednesday when he was 3-3 with a double and his sixth home run. With no position players having big weeks, B. J. Hermsen gets my nod as Player of the Week. For those of you interested in the recovery of Angel Morales, David Dorsey of the Ft. Myers News-Press wrote a must read article.

The Beloit Snappers (3-4) have also been losing their quest for a playoff spot. The Snappers are in fourth place in their eight team division with a 24-28 record, seven games behind Kane County.

The Snappers beat Wisconsin last Friday, 4-1, behind Manuel Soliman who pitched 7.0 innings while allowing only one run. Burlington came to town Saturday, taking two of three. The Snappers won the opener, 3-1, behind Pedro Guerra who allowed one run with eight strikeouts in 5.0 innings. They lost the next two, 3-0 and 2-1, wasting excellent starts by A. J. Achter (allowed one earned run in 6.0 innings) and Blayne Weller (allowed one earned run in 4.0 innings). Ryan O'Rourke allowed one run in 5.1 innings of Wednesday's 10-1 win over Kane County. Manuel Soliman was the loser Thursday, 2-0, when he pitched 7.0 innings with only two runs.

Adrian Salcedo made two relief appearances, allowing two hits in 2.2 shutout innings with three strikeouts and no walks. Since moving to the bullpen, Salcedo hasn't allowed a run or given up a walk in 6.0 innings while striking out six. The hottest hitter this week was shortstop Adam Bryant, who was 7-20 (.350 average) with three multi-hit games. Jairo Perez was 2-4 on Wednesday with a double, his thirteenth home run and four runs driven in. Perez is hitting .332 average with a .988 OPS, however, with only 217 at bats he doesn't qualify for the league lead. Pitching 14.0 innings with only three runs makes Manuel Soliman my Player of the Week at Beloit.

The Elizabethton Twins (4-2) are in the battle for their playoff lives. The Twins (32-24) are in second place, five games behind Johnson City. With twelve games remaining, they lead Kingsport by a game in their battle for one of the Appy League's four playoff spots.

The Twins week began by losing two of three to the division leading Johnson City Cardinals. They won last Friday, 7-6, with A. J. Pettersen and Matt Koch hitting home runs and Miguel Sano hitting two. They continued their home stand on Tuesday, sweeping Bristol, 5-1, 7-3 and 13-3. Tim Shibuya allowed only one run in seven innings Tuesday with Tim Atherton pitching 5.0 innings with only two runs on Thursday. Sano hit home runs fourteen and fifteen in the first two games, then went 3-5 Thursday with a pair of doubles. Eddie Rosario, who isn't going to let Sano run away with the home run title, hit home runs twelve and thirteen in the last two games.

Players with multi-hit games included A. J. Pettersen, Rory Rhodes, Niko Goodrum, JaDamion Williams, Max Kepler, Matej Hejma (2), and Rosario (2). Williams is the team leader with a .328 batting average in 128 at bats and a .891 OPS. But no one had a week like Miguel Sano, who had hits in every game with two three-hit games. Sano was 10-25 (.400 average) with three doubles, five home runs, six runs scored and eleven runs driven in. Sano is hitting .284 average with a .954 OPS and the leagues most home runs, second most runs scored (45), and is tied for the league lead with six triples. Is there any limit to this young man's future?

With their season ending next Saturday, the GCL Twins (3-3) have been eliminated from the race for their division championship. They are in third place, ten games behind the Orioles and a game and a half out of last place.

The Twins split two with the Red Sox last weekend, winning 4-1 on Friday and losing at home on Saturday, 4-3. Bobby O'Neill picked up his second win Friday, pitching 5.0 shutout innings in a game the Twins had only three hits with eight walks. They dropped another game to the Orioles on Tuesday, 7-1, before taking two of three from the last place Rays. They won a double header Wednesday, 3-0 and 5-2, before losing on Thursday, 4-0. Bobby O'Neill was solid in their 5-2 win, with Luis Nunez pitching 3.0 shutout innings of relief for his fifth win in five decisions. Nunez has an excellent 1.55 ERA in 29.0 innings with 33 strikeouts and only six walks. Hein Robb, who has been solid all season, pitched 4.0 shutout innings in the opening game with the win going to Kyle Wahl, who pitched three shutout innings.

Candido Pimentel, who had two multi hit games, is hitting .259 average with a .629 OPS. The star for the Twins this week was Aussie first baseman Josh Hendricks. Hendricks, who was 4-11 (.363 average) with a double, is hitting .266 average with a .635 OPS.

The DSL Twins (3-3) are the lone team in the organization battling for a championship. They are in a second place tie with the Rockies, two games behind the Orioles with five games remaining including an important final game with the Orioles. The DSL Twins are an interesting group as they haven't had any every day stars like in previous years. Rather, they have had contributions from several first year players with a team effort that has led to an excellent 42-25 season. They have had several outstanding seasons from pitchers who as a staff have the league's second best ERA (2.75).

The Twins top hitting performances this week were from Jose Ramirez, who had two multi-hit games, and Jonatan Ynojoso, who was 3-3 on Saturday. Francisco Nunez, who is the staff Ace, pitched seven innings with only one run on Tuesday for his ninth win (9-1) which is tied for third most in the league. Nunez has an excellent 1.47 ERA in 49.0 innings with 61 strikeouts and only eight walks. As good as Nunez was the top performance this week was from rookie, Jose Abreu. Abreu, who has a 3-1 record, pitched 6.0 no-hit innings on Sunday with three strikeouts and two walks. Abreu has a 1.30 ERA and hasn't allowed an earned run in his last 27.2 innings.

The Twins had a flurry of activity hours before this year's signing deadline for draft picks. Going into the evening on Monday, they hadn't signed their top three picks. As we know, they signed all three by going roughly three hundred thousand dollars over slot for the two high school players that were their compensatory picks.

The Twins signed thirty-three of their fifty-two picks, including their top fifteen (rounds 1-13) and twenty of their top twenty-one. They signed their top three for over slot bonuses of $1,175,000 (Levi Michael), $1,050,000 (Travis Harrison), and $1,000,000 (Hudson Boyd). Harrison and Boyd had leverage as they had attractive scholarship offers to USC and Florida, respectively. They parlayed that leverage into an extra $300,000+ for each of their bank accounts.

Although Harrison and Boyd are very exciting young prospects, the strength of this year's draft may be three relief pitchers taken in rounds two (Madison Boer), three (Corey Williams) and four (Matt Summers). Like the two high school prospects, Williams could have returned to Vanderbilt and used that as leverage to get a $575,000 bonus which was significantly higer than Boer ($405,000) and Summers ($171,500). The Twins appear to be very sensative to their bullpen problems and although at least two years away, they addressed it with this trio of strong prospects. Boer has already moved up to Beloit after picking up nine saves with a 2.60 ERA in fifteen games (17.1 innings) at Elizabethton. Boer had 31 strikeouts with only two walks. Summers has been even better, with a 1.00 ERA in seventeen games (18.0 innings). Summers, who picked up four saves since Boer left, has 34 strikeouts and four walks. Williams recently joined the Twins and has pitched in only four games with a 2.16 ERA.

I was of the opinion on draft day that this could be a fantastic draft for the Twins. As the hours ticked down to the signing deadline, it appeared that a draft with so much promise was about to become a disaster. We aren't privy to these negotiations, however, at the eleventh hour the Twins stepped up and did what it took to get it done!