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Minor League Report...March 17, 2012

Good morning and happy St. Patrick's day!

Voting for our Top 50 and the Pre-Season Players of the Year is now complete. Miguel Sano is our top prospect and your selection as most likely to be the 2012 Player of the Year. Alex Wimmers was chosen as Pitcher of the Year and Matt Hauser as Relief Pitcher of the Year. We will know in September if we were correct.

Coming off back-to-back seasons with over ninety losses, this is a critical season for the Rochester Red Wings. Their relationship with the Twins could be in jeopardy as their working agreement is up for renewal this summer. The best way to insure renewal is to put a competitive team on the field, one that will contend for the playoffs.

The Twins have started with a new manager and the promotion of a hitting instructor some say is destined for the same job with the Twins, Tom Brunansky. On the field, they have signed several solid minor league veterans who will be joined by a trio of the organization's top prospects. Joe Benson and Chris Parmelee had a taste of the big leagues last fall and should be hungry to return. Brian Dozier is considered by some within the organization, led by Ron Gardenhire, to be the Twins shortstop of the future. Will all three remain in Rochester for most of the season or will they be needed in Minnesota?

With all the veteran minor league pitchers signed to compete for the Twins bullpen, the Rochester bullpen should be excellent. But as Tom Kelly was known to say, "you are only as good as your next starting pitcher." I will look at several candidates for the starting rotation after the jump.

One starter who is written in with ink is Liam Hendriks. Didn't he have a great start last night against the Red Sox? Three no hit innings with four strikeouts and one walk. Hendriks should be the Red Wings go to starter for as long as he is with them. As we enter a new season, the question is how long will that be?

When the Twins announced their first round of cuts this week, some were surprised to see Scott Diamond's name on the list. He needs to get stretched out if he is going to be ready to start in three weeks. With all the relievers battling for three spots in the Twins bullpen, there just aren't enough innings with the Twins for starters like Scott.

In most years there are six or seven pitchers competing for the starting rotation at Rochester and the other teams in the organization. When the Twins went out and signed more than a dozen pitchers this winter, there may be as many as ten competing for the remaining three spots in the Red Wings starting rotation.

One also threw two shutout innings last night, P. J. Walters. Walters, 27, has pitched 51.0 innings in the big leagues, mostly with the Cardinals. He made 24 starts in the Pacific Coast League (AAA) last year with a 8-7 record and 5.17 ERA. He had an excellent 8-5 record with a 3.81 ERA in AAA in 2010.

Another name new to many Twins fans is Luke French, 26. French has 155.0 innings of big league experience with Detroit and Seattle. In 25 starts, he has a 9-12 record with a 4.99 ERA. Last year at Tacoma (AAA), he was 9-9 with a 6.27 ERA in 146.1 innings. In 2010, he was 11-3 with a 2.94 ERA also at Tacoma.

The Twins signed three pitchers named Thompson this winter. Two of them could be starters for the Red Wings, Daryl and Aaron. Daryl, 26, has appeared in four games for Cincinnati. He was solid at Louisville (AAA) last year where he had a 3-4 record with a 4.17 ERA. Aaron, 25, appeared in four games for the Pirates last year. He also had a 4-7 record with a 5.16 ERA in the Eastern League (AA) and a 1-0 record with a 2.84 ERA in four starts at AAA.

Sam Deduno is a 28 year old native of the Dominican Republic who has appeared in six games (three starts) with the Padres and Rockies. Last year at Tucson (AAA), Deduno was 4-6 in 40 games (12 starts) with a 3.93 ERA.

Following an excellent performance in the Arizona Fall League, the Twins selected Terry Doyle in last December's Rule 5 draft. He hasn't looked good in his first few outings this spring which may cost him any chance of remaining with the Twins on opening day. Last year the Twins worked out a trade with Atlanta so they could send Scott Diamond to Rochester. Will they do the same this year with Doyle? If they do, he would certainly fill one of the spots in the rotation.

Finally, there are three starters from New Britain who could be looked at for promotions. Steve Hirschfeld and Bobby Lanigan were anchors of the Rock Cats rotation last year. Hirschfeld had a 3.73 ERA in 128.0 innings while Lanigan led the team with 153.2 innings with a 4.45 ERA. A final candidate from New Britain made five starts for the Wings last August, Deinys Suarez. Suarez is a Cuban who defected and was out of the game for several years before signing with the Twins last winter. He wasn't all that effective with the Rock Cats where he had a 1-6 record with a 5.48 ERA in a dozen starts (65.2 innings). With a year of pitching behind him, can he become the pitcher many thought he would be when he defected?

Thats nine pitchers who are battling for three spots in the opening day starting rotation. Their success or failures will go a long way towards determining whether the Red Wings can put two disappointing seasons behind them.