Monday, December 30, 2013

Minnesota Twins Power Rankings: December 30, 2013

Welcome back to another exciting week of POWER RANKINGS.  Oh man, the Twins have been doing mad stuff over the past week, and the only way to truly appreciate their moves is to make an awkwardly ordered list.  Here we have the final POWER RANKINGS of 2013.  It's time to rock...and roll...and rank!

10.  Liam Hendriks

Hendriks didn't even get a chance to play for the storied Cubs franchise.  He was claimed off waivers by the Orioles this past week.  While I did disparage the city of Baltimore for smelling of crab cakes last week, I do think this is a better fit for the 24-year-old starter.  Basically, when the Orioles deal with Grant Balfour went sour, they needed another right-handed Aussie.  Hendriks meets both of those criteria.  Orioles GM Dan Duquette was realistic about Hendriks and stated that he could be a good spot starter if the MLB club needs him.  High praise for a guy with a career ERA over 6. 

9.  Taylor the Prospect Octopus

Wait, who?  If you don't visit Puckett's Pond very often, you might not be familiar with Taylor.  Basically, I was deep-sea diving and I came across an octopus with a bunch of Twins Minor League hats on.  We got to talking and it turns out that he is a prospect enthusiast without the proper fingers and thumbs required to write about them.  He tried podcasting but it just sounded like he was underwater.  Therefore, he and I chat from time to time and I write up his thoughts.  Taylor just finished a 128-player recap of the Twins' Minor Leagues and he is unveiling his top 30 Twins prospects, starting on January 6.  Head to Puckett's Pond to see what all the fuss is about!

8.  Independent Power Hitters

If you're a big, powerful man and also an Independent Ball masher, you might just get a chance with the Twins.  They signed Chris Colabello from the Indys before the 2012 season and now they added another prodigious power-hitting Indy sensation in C.J. Ziegler.  Actually, the Twins bought him from the Wichita Wingnuts, in a move that would make Abe Lincoln roll in his grave.  Ziegler hit 30 home runs with the Wingnuts in 2013, in just 100 games.  That extrapolates to 300 home runs in a 1000-game season.  Think about it.  Ziegler is a mountain of a man at 6' 5" and 245 lb.  He'll probably play first with Rochester and who knows, he could be the next Chris Colabello!  Bulk up, America; you could end up with the Twins.    

7.  Alex Meyer's Students

There was a story circulating this week about Alex Meyer's off-season occupation.  As a former substitute teacher, I salute this young man because subbing is not an easy job. The real winners are Meyer's students.  I've subbed many times and kids are usually stoked to simply have a sub.  However, when the sub is someone "famous" I can imagine extra excitement.  The kids used to love to ask me about my job at the nut and bolt shot, I can only imagine how excited they would be to ask Meyer about his career.  Plus, Meyer is really tall and kids like that.

6.  Alex Presley

With Darin Mastroianni outrighted off of the 40-man roster, Presley has to feel pretty secure with his MLB job.  Presley is the favorite to start the 2014 season in center and he could hold down the job for the season if he plays well.  Personally, I'd like to see Aaron Hicks start 2014 with the job, but almost everyone else prefers that he is forced to retire from baseball and disappear forever.  Even if Hicks defies the odds and wins the starting center field job, Presley will have a roster spot as the fourth outfielder.  It's all pretty win-win for Presley. 

5.  An Article from Twinkie Town

I really enjoyed this article from Andrew Bryz-Gornia:  Radar Mapping the Five Tools.  Basically, he used stats and math to create some cool radar maps that show how 12 different Twins players stack up in the "five tool" categories.  I'll let you read his methods and findings, but I wanted to call attention to the article, in case anyone missed it.

4.  "The Eddie 400"

I'm starting a new campaign for 2014!  I even created a dope logo:

Basically, I'm intrigued with Eduardo Escobar and I would like to assume that at least one person calls him "Eddie."  So, my campaign aims to get Escobar 400 at-bats this season.  Basically, I want to see what he can do with some playing time.  He hasn't gotten consistent MLB playing time in his career.  He's two years younger than Pedro Florimon and a very similar player.  He might be better offensively too.  Plus, he could play third when the Twins face a tough righty and want to save Trevor Plouffe three strikeouts.  If nothing else, the Twins' defense would be great with Escobar on the field.  He might not be worth it, but why not find out?  The Eddie 400; get used to hearing about it from me.

In fact, you can support The Eddie 400.  Copy the image above and make it your Twitter avatar, add it to your blog, or go lo-fi and print it out and cover the windows of your car with it.  Together, we can get Eduardo Escobar 400 at-bats. 

I meant to include Sano in the inaugural POWER RANKINGS last week, but there just wasn't enough room!  Sano was cleared for baseball activity and will not have to have surgery on his throwing elbow.  At least not now.  Yay!  I choose to be 100% optimistic and assume that Sano will never have another injury issue again in his entire life.  Sano could make his MLB debut in 2014.  I'm predicting four home runs in his first game. 

While doing research and analyzing the Twins' 40-man roster last week, I decided to see how impressive Arcia's rookie season really was.  What I found surprised me.  Arcia posted a 102 OPS+ last season and did so in his age 22 season.  I used Baseball Reference's play index tool to find all instances of a 22-year-old or younger posting a 102 OPS+ with the amount of plate appearances Arcia received in 2013.  I just looked at the last 25 seasons, but the number of players was much lower than I was expecting.  In fact, it had only happened 76 times in the past 25 seasons, by just 54 different players.  Nice!  Here's the link.

Now, you can be all cynical and say "oh, Junior Felix is on that list twice, Ben Grieve's there, and is that Gordon Beckham?  Really?"  Or, you can see guys like Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Trout, Roberto Alomar and just start drooling like a baby.  Only four players met this criteria in 2013:  Trout, Bryce Harper, Yasiel Puig and Arcia.  Strong company. 

Please, let me explain.  Tanaka was officially posted last week.  Each of the 30 MLB teams can now mess around with Tanaka to try to woo him to their franchise.  He is the "Belle of the Ball!"  See, the picture makes sense now.  I'm going to be bold and predict that Tanaka ends up with the Twins.  Why?  Because I want it to happen.  Tanaka would probably become the Twins' best starter and would headline a suddenly stacked rotation (objectivity!).  MLB Trade Rumors said that the Twins have interest.  That's enough for me.  I've bought my jersey, cleared a spot for his bobblehead and legally changed my daughter's name to Masahiro. 

Mr. Tanaka, if you are reading this (and come on, we both know you are), I pledge to keep you at number 1 on the POWER RANKINGS until you sign with the Twins.  At that point, I will retire the number one position and simply count from 10-2.  Not only would you make the Twins a contender, but you would save me 10% of the work I put into my POWER RANKINGS.  Do it for the people of Minnesota; do it for me.  Sign with the Twins. 

Also, when you do sign, can you please create and wear an "Eddie 400" patch for me?  Thanks!

Another week, another set of POWER RANKINGS!  We'll just keep countin' it down, week after week.  Frequent visitors to this blog can look forward to some New Years' resolutions and a fresh (fake) mailbag later this week.  I hope everyone enjoys these final fleeting seconds of 2014.  Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Minnesota Twins 40 Man Roster Analysis: Infield

Over the last week or so, I've been investigating the Twins' 40-man roster to try to determine who will contribute to the next good Twins team.  I've reached the end of this short journey and will cover the infielders today.  However, I did complete this activity in four parts, so if you missed the first three, you can find them here:

Now that we have hyperlinks out of the way, we can look at the Twins' infielders, ordered from least likely to contribute to most likely to contribute in 2015 (that magical season I am forecasting). 

Infield is not the strength of the Twins' 40-man roster.  Vargas is known for his strength.  Paradox?  Nope, just something I thought sounded cool.  Vargas was added to the roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.  Vargas spent his 2013 season with High-A Fort Myers and he showed off his massive power, hitting 19 home runs and slugging .468.  Unless Vargas absolutely crushes AA in 2014, I don't see how he plays for the Twins in 2015.  Perhaps 2016?

Compared to Vargas, Polanco is ever so slightly more likely to be playing for the Twins in 2015, mostly because he could man a middle infield position and possibly fill a utility role.  I don't think that scenario plays out though.  Polanco could be the Twins' second baseman of the future, but I'd say that future is more than two years away and his career won't be starting in 2015 at the age of 21 or 22. 

Well, the Twins tried to sell him to Korea, so that's probably not a great sign for his long-term future with the organization.  Colabello was a really nice story in 2013, going from Independent Ball to AAA legend to the Majors.  He struggled mightily against MLB pitching, striking out in nearly a third of his plate appearances and posting a shoddy .194/.287/.344 line.  Colabello has massive right-handed power, which should play well at Target Field.  However, he doesn't have pull power and the home runs don't really fly out of the park to center and right unless they're hit by Jim Thome.  Plus, Joe Mauer now occupies the only position Colabello can effectively play.  Unless Colabello adjusts to his field and to MLB pitching, he won't be much more than a bench bat and I'm not sure it will be the Twins' bench by 2015.

Santana could be on the active roster in 2015.  He'll be 24 and will have had AA and probably AAA experience.  He might even get a 2014 September call-up if all goes well.  Santana had a quietly effective offensive season with New Britain in 2013.  He hit .297/.333/.386 with 22 doubles, 10 triples and 30 stolen bases.  He also made 32 errors at short, and I can't remember a time when the Twins have consistently used a shortstop who was that error-prone.  That said, Santana reportedly has the skills for short and could provide better offense than Pedro Florimon or Eduardo Escobar by 2015.  I think he'll be on the team, but I'm not sure he'll be starting just yet.

Pedro Florimon

The Twins have given Florimon 596 plate appearances over the past two seasons, about 595 more than I figured he would receive.  That said, Florimon has been a good defender at short and provided some speed when he actually hit the ball.  He wasn't a complete disaster, posting a 70 OPS+.  By WAR, he was one of the Twins' three best players in the first half.  He was pretty brutal in the second half and he might not be better than other options on the roster (see below).  He's 27 now and approaching arbitration.  I imagine he'll be with the team in 2015, but I would wager that he'll be a utility player by then. 

The Twins seem to value Plouffe's versatility.  He's a third baseman, but he can play a corner outfield spot as well.  I like versatility too, but I also like performance.  If you take Plouffe's crazy June/July of 2012 out of the equation, he's a roughly 90 OPS+ third baseman with a nice (but somewhat inaccurate) arm and little range.  He also cannot hit right-handed pitching, hitting .227/.284/.382 in his career.  His best offensive tool (power) doesn't even apply against the much more common arm-side pitching.  With his shaky defense, I don't think the Twins can properly exploit his potential defensive versatility.  In fact, I'd prefer to see more of another young player at third in 2014...

Eduardo Escobar

Escobar might be that better option than Florimon and/or a decent platoon-mate for Plouffe.  I look at his numbers next to Florimon's numbers and I see very similar players.  Low contact, a few walks, good speed, but not on-base enough to utilize it, good glove and the ability to play a couple positions.  Escobar is two years younger and might be a better defender. Even if he can't unseat Florimon for the shortstop job, he should provide enough value as a guy who can play all infield position to keep his job while cheap.  If Plouffe doesn't improve offensively, I'd give Escobar some starts at third as well.  At least Escobar will play great defense.  Escobar will be cheap in 2015, even though he'll be arbitration-eligible.  I hope he gets a longer look; I like him.

Dozier is probably one of three sure bets for 2015, with Oswaldo Arcia and the new first baseman.  In 2013, Dozier reclaimed his lost plate discipline, but also traded a few strikeouts for more power.  He hit more fly balls and finished 2013 with 18 home runs.  His defense was much better at second and he finished the season with 2.8 fWAR, good for 8th among all qualifying MLB second basemen.  However, Dozier was very up and down in 2013, and this chart proves it:


Dozier's best month appears to be June, when he started his breakout.  He did some things really well in June, including striking out at the lowest rate he posted in any month and nearly doubling his season walk rate.  He also had a really high .364 BABIP and an equally high 19.2 home run to fly ball ratio.  I actually like what I see in August a little more. He had less luck with fly balls going over the fence and a slightly lower BABIP.  He also walked at a rate more in line with his season average, which seems a lot more sustainable than a giant one-month spike. 

The plate discipline he showed in every month other than May should keep his performance at the level we grew accustomed to from June on.  His home run total might have been a bit of a fluke though.  I'd guess he'd settle more in the 10-15 range going forward, which is still very valuable at second base.  Even in his best months, he never hit above .260.  However, if he can walk about 8-10% of the time and provide a little pop, he could settle in around .250/.320/.430, which would be great and pretty similar to his overall numbers in the second half of 2013.  He won't be arbitration eligible until 2016, so he'll definitely be around in 2015. 

Monthly samples are pretty small, so this is all pretty futile.  I'm just going to predict 45 home runs and be done with it.

Joe Mauer

I could be all sensational, say that Mauer is cooked and that he won't provide any value as a first baseman, but I wouldn't believe it.  Mauer is an excellent hitter and that won't change at a different position.  Mauer may not be a traditional number 3 hitter, but batting order is largely overrated anyway.  Mauer makes outs at one of the lowest rates in the Majors today.  Avoiding outs helps the team win and there's absolutely no reason to think that Mauer will lose that skill anytime soon.  He's a lock.

There we have it, an entire tour of the Twins' 40-man roster.  The Twins have some really great pieces already on the roster.  They will add a few next off-season and add a few from their own farm system.  Also, some will come out of nowhere, surprising everyone with their contributions.  I fully expect the 2015 Twins to be good.  How good depends a lot on the 40 men who occupy the Twins' roster.  Thanks for reading, everyone!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Minnesota Twins 40 Man Roster Analysis: Catcher and Outfield

Last week, I took a look at the Twins' 40-man roster to try to determine which pitchers would be a part of the next contending Twins team, which I believe will exist in 2015.  While all of these players will be around for 2014, some will be gone before the Twins truly contend.  If you missed them, here are the relievers and the starters.  Today, I'll investigate the outfielders and catchers on the 40-man roster.  How many of these players will be on the roster in 2015 and how many will be contributing positively?  Let's find out.

There's no point in putting Kepler's name anywhere near the Twins' 2015 roster.  He won't be ready.  He's a nice prospect and I'm glad the Twins didn't take any chances with his Rule 5 status, but there is about a zero
percent chance that he's even in AAA in 2015.

Suzuki's 2015 status depends a lot on how Josmil Pinto develops in 2014.  If Pinto continues to hit as he has in 2012 and 2013, the Twins will need a true backup catcher going forward.  Chris Herrmann could play that role nicely, with the versatility to play outfield when needed.  The Twins also have Eric Fryer on the 40-man and haven't removed him yet, so you have to think they value his presence.  Therefore, I see Suzuki as a one-year Twins catcher because I'm not willing to even entertain the thought that Pinto will flop.  Twins fans deserve something good from Pinto.

Here are the facts.  The Twins got a good deal when they signed Willingham before the 2012 season.  Willingham had a fantastic 2012 season, posting a career-best OPS+ of 143.  Willingham dealt with injuries and had a very disappointing 2013 season.  Willingham has one year left on his very reasonable contract.  Willingham will be 36 when the 2015 season starts.  The Twins have numerous young outfielders.  Oswaldo Arcia is better suited for left field than right field.  The Twins like to use the DH to rest regulars.  The facts point toward 2014 being Willingham's last season with the Twins. 

Parmelee has a slightly better chance of being with the Twins in 2015, if only because he is younger and cheaper.  Since Parmelee posted a ridiculous 183 OPS+ in his 2011 September debut, he has hit .228/.302/.364 in 543 plate appearances.  That works out an 84 OPS+ and that is not acceptable for a corner outfielder or a first baseman.  Parmelee will be 27 when the 2015 season starts.  He will be in his final non-arbitration season.  Unless his offense comes around rapidly, he won't get to that 2015 season with the Twins.  I have to say, I'm not fond of his chances. 

Eric Fryer

Fryer is a back-up catcher with good plate discipline.  The Twins seem to like his defense and have a long track record with true back-up catchers who provide good defense and little else.  Everyone thinks of Drew Butera, of course.  Fryer can't hit either, but he can draw a walk.  Fryer is younger, and therefore cheaper than Butera.  Fryer is almost certainly destined for AAA in 2014.  However, having a reliable backstop just a phone call away is not the worst use of a 40-man spot.  Fryer will make the league-minimum in 2015 and I imagine he'll still be kicking around with the Twins while getting kicked around by the fans. 

Chris Herrmann

I'm not sure that Herrmann is a good player, or even an average player, but he is a versatile player.  Versatility is underrated.  The fact that Herrmann can catch is useful.  While Eric Fryer may be a better receiver, Herrmann may be a better fit for the active roster because he can play another position when not pitching.  Obviously, you know what versatility is, so I'm not really sure why I explained it so deeply.  The Twins seem to value versatility and Herrmann would make for a good value, even if he isn't really a good player.  If he can demonstrate some of his Minor League plate discipline as an MLB player, he might become a legitimately good player. 

When the Twins acquired Presley in the Justin Morneau trade, I thought he could have been released or designated for assignment this off-season.  Instead, Presley looked pretty good in his September in Minnesota.  He hit .283/.336/.363 in 122 plate appearances and played solid defense in center.  Presley can hit leadoff and play center, two valuable qualities.  However, Presley is 28, in his final pre-arb season and not nearly as talented as the next guy on this list.  He's better suited as a 4th outfielder and I think that's the role he will fill in 2015.  4th outfielders are important and he'll contribute in that role.

Oh my.  In 2013, Hicks hit .192/.259/.338 and nearly went 0 for April.  He had a clash with his manager (which I explained here), got sent to AAA in July and was not recalled as part of the Twins' September call-ups.  He then decided not to play Winter Ball and ugh, gosh he just had a really bad year.   I hope the Twins and Twins fans can just forget about his 2013 season and look at the fact that he is a very talented player.  The 2014 and 2015 Twins will be better if Hicks can get his career back on track.  I think he will.

First, Hicks has always adjusted to new levels slowly.  He needed two stops in Low-A and he showed major improvements in High-A and AA in the second halves of those seasons.  Then, the Twins skipped him an entire level and he struggled mightily.  It's not the most shocking development.  Second, Hicks had his moments, both in the field and at the plate.  He made some outstanding catches and covered a ton of ground in center.  Even at the plate, Hicks rebounded relatively well after that horrendous April.  His OPS+ was 90 or higher from May to July.  He wasn't good, but he wasn't awful.  It's a shame his worst month was his first.  Third, he's 24 and he has a first-round pedigree.  He's an incredible athlete and an instinctual baseball player.  There's no reason to think he won't rebound.

He's going to be better in 2014 and then even better in 2015.  He might move to right field because Byron Buxton is a phenom, but Hicks and Buxton will cover an amazing amount of real estate in the outfield and Hicks will get to flex his massive arm on throws from right field.  I'm very excited to watch Hicks again.

Josmil Pinto

Pinto hit .342/.398/.566 in his brief September debut.  In that month, he basically convinced everyone that he was the catcher of the future and that Joe Mauer should be traded for some bubblegum.  The Twins did the reasonable thing and moved Mauer to first base and then signed Kurt Suzuki to share the catching responsibilities.  They'll likely just buy some gum.  Pinto is going to be a good, but he isn't 165 OPS+ good.  He had a .440 BABIP in September, which is both insane and not sustainable.  Even so, I do think Pinto is the catcher of the future and I fully expect that he is huge part of the 2015 team. 

Oswaldo Arcia

Arcia is a cornerstone player and an emerging fan favorite.  He had rough patches in his rookie year, but still posted a 102 OPS+ as a 22-year-old with almost no AAA experience.  He struck out a ton and didn't walk much, but he also just reached legal drinking age.  He slugged .430 and I wouldn't be surprised if he eclipses that number for the next ten seasons.  I really liked what I saw from Arcia in 2013 and I think he'll be one of the biggest reasons why the 2015 Twins will contend for the playoffs. 

Here's some proof for the nay-sayers.  In the past 25 years, just 76 players have posted an OPS+ of 102 or better, with the same amount of plate appearances as Arcia, at age 22 or younger.  A couple are repeats actually, so we're talking about just 54 total players, or about 2 per season.  Here's the link to the list:  Click here.  Some of the names are duds, but the vast majority are All-Stars.  Impressive company. 

With that ray of sunshine, we end.  Tomorrow, I'll give you my thoughts on the infielders.  I'll see you all then!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My Minnesota Twins Christmas Wish List

Hey all, I finished my Minnesota Twins Christmas wish list.  Just in time too, it's Christmas Eve!  If you're out at the malls today and can find some time to pick up a few items for these Twins players, it would be much appreciated.  Each of these players will hope to cash in on these "gifts" during the 2014 season.  They do so much for us, it's really the least we can do.

Phil Hughes - Some Luck

Newly signed Phil Hughes has had a relatively rough career.  He was a super-prospect once upon a time and made his MLB debut at 21.  He never got his career going as a starter, but had an extremely impressive and important season in 2009 as a reliever.  After that season, the Yankees moved Hughes back into the rotation.  From that point on, every pitch Hughes threw was hit out of that tiny new Yankee Stadium.  While Hughes has brought some of his struggles on himself, it would be nice if his fortunes reversed a bit and he had a really lucky and excellent season in his first with the Twins.

I haven't seen these three lumped into a category yet, but I see each of these guys in the exact same light going into 2014.  Each is talented and each does not have a clear job for next season.  Gibson is part of a suddenly crowded rotation.  Hicks plays a position that the Twins used a Justin Morneau trade to address at the end of 2013 and they have a super-prospect on the cusp of his MLB debut.  The Twins just signed a player to potentially cover Pinto's spot on the team. 

All that said, I hope that each of the three original players finds a full-time job before the 2014 season ends.  Alex Presley, Kurt Suzuki and any number of number six starters shouldn't stand in the way of these three talented players.  The 2014 Twins are a .500 team if everything goes perfectly.  The 2015 Twins could be a playoff team if things go well.  The 2015 Twins will be better if they know whether or not Hicks, Gibson and Pinto will be regular contributors or not. 

Eduardo Escobar - Some opportunity

Speaking of jobs, I am hopeful that Escobar gets some regular playing time.  Escobar is two years younger than Pedro Florimon and equally talented.  I like Florimon, but I'd like to see more of Escobar too.  The Twins don't platoon and they don't have a real platoon-mate for Trevor Plouffe.  However, I'd use Escobar in a platoon with Plouffe.  Plouffe can't hit right-handed pitching.  Escobar might be able to.  If nothing else, Escobar will be a solid defender at third.  I think the 2014 Twins should do everything they can do get Escobar 400 or so at bats.  If nothing else, he's a good clubhouse guy, so that's nice.  I want to see more Escobar.

Brian Dozier and Oswaldo Arcia - Continued Development

Dozier and Arcia were the two biggest offensive surprises in 2013.  Dozier went from a failed, over-hyped shortstop to a powerful, steady second baseman.  Arcia made his MLB debut ahead of schedule and while his season was up and down, he did finish with a 102 OPS+ at the tender age of 22.  If these two continue to develop, the Twins could have two above-average offensive players and Dozier would provide additional value as a very solid second baseman too.  There's a decent chance that these two could fill two spots in the Twins' lineup for the next five or six seasons.    

Joe Mauer - No concussions

This is an easy one.  No one deserves to deal with concussions and headaches and brain injury.  Mauer will deal with them for the rest of his life, but hopefully he won't have any added issues going forward.  Moving Mauer to first base will hurt his overall value, but it was the right move for Mauer as a human being.  Mauer is still a great player and will be a great player at first base.  While I would have loved to continue to watch a Hall of Fame catcher, I'm willing to settle for a great first baseman.  Joe Mauer is my favorite player, and his position doesn't really matter to me.  He's a person first and he needs his brain for the rest of his life. 

Man oh man.  These three are the future of the Minnesota Twins.  If they all reach their ceilings, the Twins will have a Mike Trout, a Miguel Cabrera and a Stephen Strasburg on their roster, all at once.  Those ceilings aren't fair at all (and the comps aren't great either), but ceilings are meant to be fun, not fair.  Each of these players could debut in 2014 and getting their careers started would be great for the future of the franchise.  Almost every player struggles in the early stages of their careers.  If these three can get the struggles out of the way in 2014, the 2015 season could be even better than some are anticipating. 

In a lot of ways, their gift is a gift to the fans as well.  If these three super studs are on the Twins roster in 2014, the fans are going to get quite a treat.  Buxton is going to be a treat to watch.  He can hit, he can field, he can run and he can throw.  Sano is a powerful man who might set the record for the longest home run in Target Field history within his first few games.  Meyer is a giant human with hard stuff.  He's unlike anyone Twins fans have watched before.  These three players are insanely talented and their debuts will be appointment viewing.  What if all three debuted on the same day?  Oh man.  SUPER DEBUT!  Let's make it happen.  Someone start a petition or a kickstarter or something.

Mike Pelfrey - All the best

I was indifferent when the Twins signed Pelfrey in 2012 and angry when they signed him a couple weeks ago.  I've cooled off significantly since then and I actually think that Pelfrey will be a nice fit with the Twins in 2014 and 2015.  I still loathe to watch him pitch, due to his procrastination when it comes to delivering the ball.  That said, if he pitches well, he'll win me over.  I loathed Kevin Correia at this time last year and now I am truly excited that he is on my favorite team.  Good performance is quite the elixir. 

If these players get their gifts, the 2014 Twins will be something to see.  Selfishly, I hope that each gets what I want for them.  These players hold the key to a successful 2014 season.  In this season of giving, maybe the fans will get the best gift of all.  Happy Holidays, everyone!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Minnesota Twins Power Rankings: December 23, 2013

I've come to the realization that Kevin Slowey was Framed! is getting a bit stale.  Sure, you can find analysis and opinion and photoshop and all that, but I'm really missing some of the features that make the big sports sites go wonderful.  Mostly, I don't have nearly enough POWER RANKINGS.  See, POWER RANKINGS put things in order.  I love order.  Therefore, I decided to make some completely arbitrary Twins POWER RANKINGS (that's getting old already) to celebrate the Twins' off-season so far. 

Who knows, this could become a weekly feature.  You don't really need to know that though.  I don't want to get too detailed on how the sausage is made here at "The Slow" so let's just get to some serious rankings.

I'm not hearing a lot of Correia criticism this December.  Correia was the most hated man in Minnesota in December of 2012, if I remember correctly.  He was basically Sgt. Slaughter, when he turned his back on USA and aligned with Iraq during the Gulf War.  Unlike Slaughter, Correia never got the chance to fight Hulk Hogan and he actually won over the state of Minnesota with surprisingly good pitching performances.  Now, he's considered a "reliable starter" and a "potential trade chip" instead of a "drain on humanity" and "cat crap."  What a year!

9.  This Phil Hughes t shirt

You see, "Hughes" sounds like "who's" and that's just good stuff.  But seriously, if anyone is seen wearing one of these shirts, just assume that person is very unstable. 

Kurt Suzuki is a millionaire.  I am very happy for him.  I like this signing for the Twins and I think he will help as a nice part-time catcher.  He's a millionaire.  My front left tire is starting to bulge out and to fix it, I just put an extra coat in my car for when it finally blows out and I have to put the spare on while on the freeway.  I'll probably ride around on the donut for at least 500 miles.  Kurt Suzuki is a millionaire.  There's a reason he is number 8 and I'm not listed. 

For the record, I am not looking for pity.  I am a millionaire too.  I am really lazy.  I'd guess Suzuki has more sense than I do.

Balfour signed a lucrative contract with the Orioles but failed a physical and had the deal voided.  Or, the deal never really existed.  Not sure.  Either way, Balfour is 7th because he doesn't have to spend half of his time in Baltimore.  That city smells like crab cakes.  Do you know how much mayonnaise is in crab cakes?  Disgusting.  The only thing more disgusting than mayonnaise is Miracle Whip.  Miracle Whip doesn't rinse off of the knife.  Why doesn't this bother anyone else?!?  Shouldn't it rinse off with warm water?  You have to scrub it off and even then it comes off in a hideous, far-too-white blob.  Ugh.  Balfour can head to a different city where they are known for something less skin-crawlingly awful.  For the record - not a fan of crab cakes.

Doumit was traded from the Twins to the Braves less than a week ago.  He moves from a 96-loss team to a 96-win team.  He went from zero Upton brothers to TWO Upton brothers.  In addition, are you aware of how cheap real estate is in the Atlanta area?  You can buy a 7-bedroom, 8-bath, 5000 square foot house for 80 bucks.  It's true. Atlanta is truly something.

However, I do take issue with Delta.  Delta is in Atlanta, far from an actual delta.  If you ask me, Delta should move to Savannah, Georgia or change its name to something more geographically accurate.  For that reason, Doumit cannot appear higher on this list. 

Kubel had an abysmal 2013 season.  He hit just five home runs, got traded from sunny Arizona to sunless Cleveland, and then he was forced to sign a Minor League contract at the young age of 31.  He's fifth on this list because the Twins snatched him up and then traded their incumbent DH/squat guy, basically opening up that role for Kubel.  Kubel had some really fun moments with the Twins from 2004-2011.  He hit for the cycle.  He crushed 28 home runs.  He blinked a lot.  Now that he's back in his baseball home, we should expect nothing but long-term greatness from Kubel. 

4.  Aaron Gleeman

Fellow Twins blogger Aaron Gleeman had the courage to post his favorite songs from 2013 last week.  I know, I know, saying "fellow Twins blogger" in this instance is like Jay Canizaro saying that Kirby Puckett is a "fellow Twins alumni" but I've decided that I need to be a lot more brash.  It's one of my resolutions.  Anyway, Gleeman deserves major credit for sharing his musical tastes with the masses.  They say, "don't talk religion or politics" but I'd add music to that list as well.

Is there anything more individual than musical taste?  Music brings out the strongest sense of self-superiority in otherwise decent human beings.  You say just once that "I kind of like the Red Hot Chili Peppers' new album" and your best friend literally decapitates you.  I know for a fact that I am one of a very select few who exclusively listens to bucket drumming bootlegs and that's fine.  I don't need to force my musical tastes down the throats of my friends, family and co-workers.  I do think it's fun to share my tastes with others though, with the hope that someone, someday will share my affinity for Monster Magnet. 

Anyway, kudos to Mr. Gleeman for sharing.  I enjoyed his list and I hope everyone can take away the beauty of human individualism from his writing, like I did. 

That said, any and all country music is offensive garbage.

3.  Twins fans

Awwwwwwwwwwww.  For real, Twins fans have to feel pretty good after the last couple months.  The Twins lost nearly 300 games between 2011-2013.  I will go on record saying that the Twins will not lose 300 games next season.  Even more important, they may lose fewer games than they win.  There's an avenue to a .500 record.  It involves additional moves, some luck and maybe some minor chicanery, but there is an avenue.  You couldn't say that in December of 2012 when Sgt. Correia was hanging out with The Iron Sheik.  At least, that's how I remember it.

2.  This Glen Perkins tweet:

Perkins joked about new Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki hitting a home run off of him during the 2004 College World Series.  Former Twins third baseman and current "guy with a smug look on his face," (most likely) Danny Valencia, corrected Perkins to point out that the CWS refers to the World Series itself and not the Regionals or whatever.  Perkins replied with just two words and somehow conveyed annoyance and disdain.  Calling someone by the name they do not go by is just classic HEADGAMES!  I love it.  He also used all lowercase, when he clearly knows the importance of proper nouns, evidenced by his use of capital letters when writing Suzuki's name in his original tweet.  HEADGAMES!  Valencia, you are not worth a shift.

Valencia called him "bud" in response, which is just tired.  He should have called him "G-bag" or "len" (note the lowercase) and played off of his name like a real pro.  He also typed "lol" which means he is 11.  That could explain his difficulties against right-handed pitching.

Plenty of people have called me "Bradley" over the years, just to be annoying.  Every time I hear it, I slowly start to pull my throwing star out, before ultimately deciding against using my greatest skill.

Unfairly dubbed "Mike Smelfry" by a brash blogger, Pelfrey signed a two-year deal with the Twins just a short while ago.  (note - using terms like "short while" is an indication that I am too lazy to open a new tab and find the date)  Pelfrey can laugh all the way to the bank, so long as he invests his money wisely.  It's entirely possible that he just throws all his cash onto a pile in his garage for all I know, but I like to think of my favorite team's players as being financially responsible.

Anyway, fans who loathed watching Pelfrey strut around the mound seemingly trying to form a baseball into a diamond will get two more years of enjoyment from Mr. Pelfrey.  In reality, his signing was fine.  He was durable prior to his injury and most seem to think that he will return to his durable self.  He doesn't totally suck.  He parlayed pretty poor performance into a two-year contract and I'm not sure anyone on this list can top that. 

Congratulations to Mike Pelfrey, the most powerful man in Twins Territory!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Minnesota Twins 40 Man Roster Analysis: Relief Pitchers

I'm on a quest to analyze the entire 40-man roster to figure out who the Twins can rely on in 2015.  2015 is the season I think the Twins start to compete for the playoffs.  Who will contribute to the 2015 team?  I looked at starting pitchers yesterday and I'll take a look at relievers today. Let's start with those least likely to contribute and move down the list.

Oh, if you missed the starters, here you go.

Self-promotion over, let's talk relievers.  

Um.  I guess the Twins were worried that they would lose Ibarra in the Rule 5 draft.  I guess that makes sense.  They may have lost him, I suppose.  However, who cares?  Ibarra is a lefty reliever with a decent strikeout rate and a poor walk rate.  He has a career MiLB ERA of 4.12 in almost 600 innings pitched.  He had an excellent 2013 season, but a pretty bad 2012 season.  I don't envision Ibarra as part of the future, but I guess the Twins were too sentimental to potentially lose him.  He's been with the organization since he was 17; it's natural.

Pressly was a Rule 5 selection and he pitched reasonably well in 2013 considering he hadn't ever pitched above AA.  His strikeout rate was paltry and his walk rate wasn't great either.  His Minor League numbers aren't much better, although he had been a starter through much of his MiLB career.  I'd bet the Twins will keep Pressly at AAA in 2014 and try to see if he can start.  I'm not sure how that will work, and even as a bullpen arm, I don't see him as anything more than a mop-up guy in 2015. 

The Twins have to know that they are still rebuilding and therefore, Burton could become a reasonable trade chip this season.  The Twins have really good options for late-inning, right-handed relief and Burton's good track record over the past two seasons could make him attractive to a contending team in need of another arm.  If he isn't effective, he's a 33-year-old reliever with an expensive option.  That player is expendable.  So, he's either good, and therefore valuable as a trade chip or not good, and therefore expensive and getting old.  Either way, I don't think he'll be on the roster in 2015. 

Duensing had always been productive as a reliever, but slipped a bit in 2013.  There was a point in the season when I thought Duensing could have been released altogether.  He rebounded some and posted a 102 ERA+.  He had some bad BABIP luck (.348 in 2013, .310 career mark) but his strikeouts and walks weren't completely out of line with his career numbers.  He'll reach free agency after the 2015 season and if he has another rough season in 2014 and another lefty (see below, the suspense!) continues to develop, the Twins may opt to non-tender him after next season and save a couple million bucks. 

Thielbar was hot like fire in his first 19.2 innings of MLB work, giving up zero earned runs.  He finished 2013 with 46 innings pitched, a 1.76 ERA, 39 strikeouts and just 14 walks.  He was outstanding against lefties, posting a 5.75 K/BB ratio.  His 2013 season might have been a touch lucky though, as he had a .175 BABIP and a 83.3% strand rate.  The lefty dominance is encouraging, but I'm not sure he will hold a lot of long-term value beyond being a standard LOOGY.  As a situational guy, I think he can help in 2015.  If the Twins try to thrust him into a bigger role, I'm not sure it will work so well.

Please don't move him back to the rotation!  Swarzak was really good as a reliever last season, so don't mess with success.  He had his highest strikeout rate and lowest walk rate and much of that comes from the fact that he didn't make any starts.  He's better suited for the bullpen and works well as a long-man.  His 96 relief innings were the most any relief pitcher had thrown in a season since 2006.  Hopefully the Twins will not need a lot of mop-up innings in 2015.  If they don't, Swarzak could easily slide into a more high-leverage role and I think he'd be just fine. 

Fien does a really fine job.  Here's an odd table of two fine Fien seasons:


Adventures in Small Samples!  Fien actually pitched better in 2013, evidenced by his strikeout, walk and ground ball rates.  However, he got worse results due to a correction in BABIP and strand rate and an over-correction in home run to fly ball ratio.  Most of those home runs came against lefties, so maybe Fien should be used in a more specialized role.  I actually think he could fill in for Jared Burton as the 8th inning guy just fine.  I expect he'll still be with the team and throwing quality innings in 2015. 

Tonkin is your typical hard-throwing, fastball/slider, late-inning reliever.  He may never be a closer in the Majors, but he could end up in the 8th inning and it could happen very soon.  His fastball touches 96 and he has that "traditional" late-inning stuff.  Tonkin doesn't have a huge platoon split in his MiLB numbers, as he was actually better against lefties last season.  He's a big man, that's for sure.  I think it's nearly impossible that he isn't helping the Twins bullpen in 2015, but his role depends on his performance and the performance of others.  Of course, that can be said about everyone and everything. 

Here's my expert Glen Perkins analysis:  he's awesome.  He'll contribute in 2015, so long as the Twins don't trade him.  He's a lot of fun to watch and I hope the Twins keep him forever.

There we are.  Each reliever has some value and I could easily see each of these players on the Twins' active roster in 2015.  They won't all make it, which is sad.  Some dudes just get left behind.  In the next installment, we'll investigate the outfielders and the catchers.  We'll do that next week.  See you then!