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Minor League Report...July 14, 2012

March 14, 2012; Clearwater, FL, USA; Minnesota Twins shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka (1) throws the ball to first against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Networks Field.  Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
March 14, 2012; Clearwater, FL, USA; Minnesota Twins shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka (1) throws the ball to first against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Networks Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Before I begin, I want to let everyone know that I have made some changes. After all, sometimes a bit of change is good.

The organization had another great week at 25-18. Elizabethton and the GCL Twins both were 5-2 with Rochester also three games over .500 at 4-1. The DSL Twins were 4-2. The only losing team was Fort Myers (1-5) as Beloit and New Britain were both 3-3.

Going into yesterday's signing deadline, the Twins had signed twenty-four draft picks, including eleven of their top thirteen selections (top ten rounds). Baseball America had indicated some time ago that sixth round pick Andre Martinez had signed. Several reliable reports indicated that wasn't correct. Apparently that changed yesterday and it now appears he has signed. That leaves the only unsigned player from the first ten rounds, University of Connecticut second baseman L. J. Mazilli. They also signed Zach Larson yesterday, taking the total signed from this draft to twenty-six. Reports indicated that Larson (20th round high school center fielder) was signed for $190,000. There also was confusion regarding fifteenth round pick, Jarret Leverett, a pitcher out of Georgia Southern. After signing with the Twins, he traveled to Minnesota for his physical where he learned he would need Tommy John surgery which voided his contract.

In player movement, Matt Capps completed two rehab appearances in Fort Myers and was activated by the Twins with Kyle Waldrop optioned back to Rochester to open a spot for Capps. Steve Wickens and Steve Evans both moved up to Beloit from Elizabethton. Adrian Salcedo completed a short rehab assignment with the GCL Twins and was activated by Fort Myers. With Rene Tosoni joining the GCL Twins for a rehab assignment, Joe Benson moved up to Fort Myers where he will continue rehabbing from his surgery. Beloit released Bart Carter while Elizabethton activated three players from their disabled list, Kelvin Mention and pitchers J. T. Chargois and Tyler Duffy. Former first round pick Kyle Gibson, joined the GCL Twins where he begins his journey back from Tommy John surgery. Byron Buxton hasn't played since Tuesday when he injured his hamstring while sliding into second base. In other medical news, two Rochester pitchers who are on the disabled list will be lost for the season. Matt Maloney will undergo Tommy John surgery and Carlos Gutierrez had arthroscopic shoulder surgery.

Our Player of the Week was Oswaldo Arcia, who collected forty percent of the votes. This week's review follows the jump.

The most exciting news in the organization was made by Kyle Gibson when he stepped on the mound as Wednesday's starter for the GCL Twins. Aided by an inning ending double play, Gibson faced only three batters in his first appearance since undergoing Tommy John surgery last September. He threw a total of fifteen pitches with Rob Antony reportedly commenting that his fastball topped out at 94 mph. He didn't fare as well yesterday when he started against the Rays and faced six batters. He gave up a lead off home run followed by a double, wild pitch and after getting two outs a walk. He left the game with Matt Tomshaw getting the third out to hold the Rays to only one run. Should his rehab continue without any setbacks, the Twins will consider assigning Gibson to the Arizona Fall League following the season.

The GCL Twins (13-9) are in first place with a game and a half lead over the Red Sox. Centennial High School grad Austin Malinowski made one of their best starts of the week when he threw five shutout innings against the Red Sox on Saturday in a game the Twins won, 3-0. Malinowski has appeared in four games, pitching 12.0 innings with a 2-0 record, 0.00 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, eleven strikeouts and three walks. Josue Montanez matched Malinowski's performance, throwing five shutout innings against the Orioles on Wednesday when he allowed only three hits. Montanez has a 1-0 record, 0.60 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in four starts (15.0 innings). Supplemental pick Jose Berrios also made two appearances, pitching four no-hit innings with five strikeouts and no walks. Berrios, who has a 1.50 ERA in six innings, picked up his second and third saves.

The GCL Twins Player of the Week is recent nineteenth round pick, John Murphy. Murphy was 10-28 (.357 average) with five runs scored, four driven in, a double and four stolen bases in four attempts. After getting only five hits in his first thirty-five at bats, Murphy is hitting .324 in his last ten games.

Many of us have seen reports out of Rochester regarding Danny Valencia. Jim Mandelaro recently wrote in his blog that Valencia told him that he is playing for 29 other clubs besides the Twins.

The Red Wings (44-48) have taken a big step as they are no longer alone in the Northern Division basement. At only four games under .500 they are tied with Syracuse, eight games behind Lehigh Valley. Prior to last night's game, Liam Hendriks had not allowed a run in his last three starts, 22.2 innings. Although he has yet to win his first game for the Twins, he is a perfect 6-0 in eight starts with the Red Wings (53.2 innings) with a 1.69 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. Matt Carson continues to hit for a solid .284 average while leading all Red Wings outfielders with ten assists.

One of the more interesting developments at Rochester is the progress Tsuyoshi Nishioka is making. Unlike when he broke in with the Twins a year ago April, Nishioka looks comfortable at AAA. Facing former Twins draft pick Andy Oliver Thursday night, Nishioka got the Red Wings first hit in the fifth inning. He also had a two out double to drive in two runs in the sixth as the Wings went ahead 4-1 in a game they would win, 4-3. In a week shortened by the all-star game, Nishioka was 5-15 (.333 average) and gets my nod as Player of the Week.

The New Britain Rock Cats (50-40) are in second place, two games behind Trenton. Following their all-star game, first place Trenton came to New Britain Thursday for a four game series with the Rock Cats dropping the first game, 7-6. Their best start of the week was by former reliever Blake Martin who threw a seven inning complete game shutout in the first of two on Sunday. Bruce Pugh, who made two more appearances this week, has now appeared in fourteen games (18.1 innings) without allowing a run. The Twins lone representative in the Futures Game on All-Star weekend was Rock Cat outfielder Oswaldo Arcia. Arcia, who is the Rock Cats top hitter at .297 average, went one for two in Kansas City.

All of us have been waiting for top prospect Aaron Hicks to begin playing at a level commensurate with his lofty rankings. Well, it appears he is starting to do just that. In 280 at bats, Hicks is hitting for a .275 average with a .807 OPS. He is tied for the third most triples in the league (5) while hitting nine home runs with nineteen stolen bases in twenty-seven attempts. Although he continues to strike out a bit to often (73), he continues to take a lot of walks (41). More important, he is hitting .301 against lefties while hitting a respectable .264 against right handed pitchers. Hitting from the left side of the plate has always been Hicks' most glaring weakness. We saw improvement in last fall's Arizona Fall League, improvement that has carried over to this season in New Britain where he is my Player of the Week. Hicks, who is currently on a nine game hitting streak, was 10-25 (.400 average) with seven runs scored, two driven in, a triple, two home runs and a stolen base.

Joe Benson has had a season that he most likely would like to forget. He hit only .179 average in 95 at bats in Rochester before being demoted to New Britain. He hit only .156 there in 32 at bats and a few days after hitting his first home run, broke his hamate bone and would miss six weeks following surgery. He began a rehab assignment a week ago with the GCL Twins and moved up to Fort Myers this week. And Thursday night when the Miracle were facing Roy Halladay, Benson would have his best night of the year. In a game the Miracle would lose, 4-3 in twelve innings, Benson had a RBI double off Halladay while going 3-5 with a home run, walk and two runs driven in. I suspect we all wish Benson well for the rest of the season as he works his way back up the ladder towards Rochester and beyond.

The Fort Myers Miracle (10-11) are tied for third, three games behind Bradenton. 2011 second round pick Madison Boer continues to give up a lot of hits, nineteen in 13.1 innings, but has been effective as he walked only one while allowing six earned runs. Matt Capps pitched an inning on both Monday and Wednesday, allowing one hit, one unearned run and no walks. He picked up the win Wednesday in relief of Tom Stuifbergen who had his best start since coming off the disabled list a month ago. Stuifbergen pitched four shutout innings with only one hit, no walks and three strikeouts. Levi Michael, Daniel Santana and Kyle Knudson all had two multi-hit games. My Player of the Week is Anderson Hidalgo, who was 6-16 (.375 average) with two doubles, a home run and seven runs driven in.

There have been signs that Miguel Sano is beginning to come out of his lengthy slump as he is hitting .313 average in his last ten games. Sano, who leads the league with eighteen home runs and is second with 62 runs driven in, is hitting .244 average with a .863 OPS. Sano has struck out 102 times in 299 at bats while drawing the third most walks in the league (51). He also has committed 31 errors as he continues to be a work in progress.

The Beloit Snappers (9-11) are in sixth place, two and a half games behind Quad Cities. Matt Summers had another great start in a 2-1 win against Burlington on Saturday. He stretched his record to 8-4 with a seven inning outing in which he allowed only one run on eight hits. This week's Player of the Week, Jason Wheeler made two quality starts. He allowed three runs in six innings of a 5-4 win at Clinton on Friday. He returned Thursday night when he allowed two runs in eight innings of a 6-2 win at Ft. Wayne. That win gave him ten wins (10-4) which is tied for the most in the Midwest League.

There was an interesting article in the Elizabethton Star recently about the Twins tenth round pick, D. J. Baxendale. Baxendale, who won two games for Arkansas in this year's College World Series, will be used out of the bullpen in Elizabethton even though he is projected as a starter. The article talked about a formula the Twins have for pitchers taken in each draft. This formula limits the innings a pitcher can pitch related to the innings they threw for their college team. Thus, it is not uncommon to see a pitcher projected as a starter being used as a reliever during the short season following the draft. Baxendale indicated that it is frustrating, however, the Twins will not vary from their formula as they protect the young arms that often are overused in college. In his first three appearances, Baxendale hasn't allowed a single hit, walk or run in 3.2 innings while striking out eight.

The Elizabethton Twins (16-7) are in first place a half game ahead of Greeneville. The Twins opened a three game series with Greeneville on Wednesday, losing the opener (7-4) and winning Thursday (12-1). The biggest news out of eastern Tennessee has been the performance of the two high school players drafted a year ago in the supplemental round, Hudson Boyd and Travis Harrison. Boyd, who was their opening day starter, pitched his best game of the season Tuesday when he threw six shutout innings with two hits, five strikeouts and no walks. Boyd has the third best ERA in the league, 1.44, with a 2-3 record in five starts (25.0 innings) with eighteen strikeouts and eight walks. Travis Harrison, who again is my Player of the Week, is hitting .359 average with a .996 OPS in 78 at bats. Harrison, who was 5-6 with his third home run on Tuesday, was 8-23 (.347 average) with six runs scored, four driven in, a triple and two home runs. Other players with big weeks include Candido Pimentel, who had three multi-hit games, and Max Kepler, D. J. Hicks, Jhonatan Arias and Niko Goodrum, who all had two multi-hit games.

The DSL Twins (18-17) are in fifth place in their division in the Dominican Summer League, three games behind the Rockies. Adonis Pacheco had two multi hit games, including a 3-4 game with two walks and five runs driven in a 17-4 win over the Reds on Thursday. Although Pacheco is their top hitter with a .333 average in 117 at bats, most good prospects who will turn twenty-one today have moved several steps beyond the DSL.

On the other side of the age discussion is seventeen year old starting pitcher Damian Defrank. Defrank leads the staff in innings pitched, 27.1 innings in seven starts, while posting a 1.98 ERA with a 0.95 WHIP, seventeen strikeouts and eight walks. Defrank is my Player of the Week who allowed only one run in eight innings off six hits in two strong starts. Junior Subero, who is twenty, had another strong start in Wednesday's 6-1 win over the White Sox. He pitched five shutout innings with four hits, six strikeouts and no walks. Engelb Vielma also had a big week with four multi-hit games.