Saturday, August 4, 2012

My Time at Puckett's Pond

For the last 4 months, I have been writing for Puckett's Pond. Because I only mustered 7 posts for them, I no longer write at Puckett's Pond. Since I want to make sure I always have ease of access to my work and in case anyone missed it, I will review my time there.

I started by predicting the AL Central. I was pretty wrong on the Twins (homerism). The White Sox have also been better than I thought they would be.

I said Goodbye to Luke Hughes. Most of my fond memories of Luke were in 2008 in AA, not his time in the majors. He seems like a really good dude but unfortunetly he has had trouble sticking with a team after he was let go. After spending time at 3 levels of the A's organization he was let go and about to play independent ball but Toronto picked him up and sent him to AAA. Good luck Luke, I wish you nothing but success.

I pondered a promotion to Fort Myers for Miguel Sano. His .271/.407/.614 line through 20 games made me jump the gun and although his 1.3 K's per game was a concern. I wanted to make folks think of realistic promotions (not the knuckleheads that think Sano should be in the majors) and I've grown tired of the Twins taking it so slow with just about every prospect. (Except Joe Mauer) For the season he is hitting .251/.375/.496 for the season and striking out 1.16 times per game. While I jumped the gun, I think he could have turned in similar production in Fort Myers.

I welcomed Cole DeVries to the majors and expressed surprise at seeing him there. Cole has had 9 starts for the Twins, going 2-2 with a 3.98 ERA with strikeout and walk rates similar to his minor league numbers. While Cole would have no place on a strong starting staff, he might just be able to hang on in the majors for a couple years. I do wish him success.

I re-ranked the Twins top 20 after the draft. Top pick Byron Buxton landed at #2.

Inspired by my trip to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, I wrote about how well Twins fans travel. Unfortunetly, I was too busy to also write a story about the games themselves. Or anything about my trip to New Britain 2 weeks ago.

Finally, I started looking at moves that will shape the 2013 team with Liriano's trade. I will continue that series of stories here.

I enjoyed my time on the Pond, but it lacks a certain inflexibility that an old ass man with a family and a road sales job needs in his blogging life.

The Pond is short of writers though, so if you are a Twins fan and interested in writing, you should apply here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

2012 Minnesota Twins Prospects, The last of the prospects: Top 3

So, it's June 12th and I still have not completed my off-season prospect lists. The excuses are many. I'm married with a child in sports. I have dogs, my house needs work, I have a busy new job, PuckettsPond, etc... The fact remains, I posted prospect #4 on April 24th.... and that is even quite late. Next year, I might be better off not doing individual profiles for each of the top 15. With the Twins recently completing their draft and getting their picks signed, I need to get this done. Guys like Bryon Buxton and J.O. Berrios really belong high on prospect lists, so I better finish my top 50 now.

So, we profile the top 3 in one post.

#3 Joe Benson, Outfield, 24 years old.

2011 stats: .285/.388/.495 with 16 HRs for New Britain in 472 PAs.
Last Year's Rank: 4
Acquired: Drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 2nd round of the 2006 draft out of Joliet Catholic Academy.

Joe Benson has always been a great athlete with five tool potential, but until 2010, he really hadn't found his power tool. That changed in 2010, when he hit 27 HRs between Fort Myers and New Britain with a .538 slugging percentage. His .881 OPS combined with 19 stolen bases and great defense as a 22 year old vaulted Benson up to the #100 ranked prospect by Baseball America. He followed that up in 2011 with a .285/.388/.495 line in his return to New Britain. This earned Benson a late season call-up. He hit .239/.270/.352 in 74 plate appearances with the Twins.

Fast forward to 2012. Benson was sent down to Rochester early in spring and he struggled in his first exposure to AAA. He hit .179/.269/.316 in 108 plate appearances before being demoted back to AA New Britain. He wasn't any better there, going .156/.250/.250 in 8 games. ....and now he is injured and out until late July. It's been a tough year for Benson!

Ideal Scenario: Benson is just 24 years old and has all of the tools. Hopefully he has a speedy recovery and can resume his climb toward the major leagues. He has to work on his contact rate a little, but coming back strong puts him in the majors by the end of the season.

Path to the majors: He has potential to be a great defensive center fielder in the majors, and with Aaron Hicks not quite ready, Benson should still have the inside track if/when Denard Span gets traded. If Benson brings his bat, he could be similar to what Torii Hunter was.

I've always been a Joe Benson guy, profiling him in here and here in fall 2010.

#2 Oswaldo Arcia, Outfield, 21 years old.

2011 stats: .291/.335/.531 with 13 HRs in 308 PAs for Beloit and Fort Myers.
Last Year's Rank: 7
Acquired: Signed by the Twins in 2007 out of Anaco, Venezuela

Arcia has been a solid power prospect for the Twins since he was a 19 year old in Elizabethtown. He ripped through the competition with a .375/.424/.672 line with 14 HRs, 7 triples and 21 doubles in 279 plate appearances. Last year, he followed up with a .291/.335/.531 line while spending most of his 20 year old season at Fort Myers.

So far this year? More of the same. He is hitting .323/.385/.538 with 7 HRs, 3 triples and 15 doubles in 219 plate appearances. While some of us have referenced calling up other guys (cough, Sano, cough), my fearless leader at Puckett's Pond instead insists that It's time to promote Arcia. The way he is hitting while repeating Fort Myers, it's hard to disagree. He could use tougher competition.

Ideal Scenario: Arcia is just 21 and is looking more and more like a solid major league contributor that could add even more power as he fills out. He does need to improve his K rate and there have been some reports of maturity issues, but Arcia has the look of a solid or better corner OF sooner rather than later. I see a lot of his fellow country-man Bobby Abreu in Arcia's numbers. A look at those numbers really seem to validate the argument.

Path to the majors: Arcia is probably 2 years away, A promotion this season and a continuance of his current production could give him a shot at a September call-up next year.

#1 Miguel Sano, Third Base, 19 years old

2011 stats: .292/.352/.637 line with 20 HRs in 66 games with Elizabethtown.
Last Year's Rank: 3
Acquired: Signed by the Twins in 2009 out of San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic.

Miguel Sano went into last Monday as the unquestioned Twins #1 prospect. He is hitting .243/.351/.517 with 15 HRs. With the drafting of Byron Buxton, that could come into a little bit of a debate. Keith Law has said he'd rank Buxton ahead of Sano and "that's saying something". To even mention another prospect near Sano's level is a good thing for the future of the Twins. For now, Sano is #1.

We all know about Sano by now. He signed for a Twins ametur free agent record $3.15 million. He started his Twins career with a .344/.463./.547 line in a brief stint with GCL in 2010. He followed this up with a monster .292/.352/.637 line with 20 HRs in 66 games with Elizabethtown as an 18 year old. This season, he started so hot, that I asked if it was too soon to call up Sano to Fort Myers. His .276/.422/.586 in 25 April games while still 18 years old was ridiculous, but he has cooled since. His line of .243/.351/.517 in 63 games is solid, but the reduction since April shows that the league has figured him out some. His high strikeout rate has remained but he has taken less walks. He still leads the league in HRs, is 4th in slugging and 2nd in ISO while ranking near the bottom in BABIP all while being one of the youngest players in the league. He's also second in strikeouts. As good as he's been, he's probably been a little unlucky.

Ideal Scenario: Sano has shown huge power and whether he sees a promotion in 2012 or not, he still has all of the makings of a future force. The strikeouts and defense could be an issue, but, by the time he is major league, those flaws may not even matter, his power is that special. If Sano can improve his weaknesses, he could be a perennial MVP candidate.

Path to the majors: As much as I'd like Sano to move up, it is pretty likely he will spend all year in Beloit. With some aggressive promoting starting next year, Sano could make the majors in 2014.

Prospects in low-A are by no means guarantees, but Sano is the closest the Twins have had since Joe Mauer in 2002.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

2012 Minnesota Twins Prospects #4 Liam Hendriks


4. Liam Hendriks, RHP, 23 years old

2011 stats: 12-6 with a 3.36 ERA  in 139.1 innings, with 111/21 K/BB for New Britain & Rochester
Last Year's Rank: 6
Acquired: Signed out of Perth, Australia in February 2007.

Fun fact about Liam Hendriks. He has only walked 60 guys in 375.2 minor league innings. That's 1.4 an inning. That's amazing! He's also struck out 343. That's an incredible 5.72 strikeouts per walk. In a system that preaches throwing strikes, Hendriks fits the Twins mold very well. It seems many Twins prospects fit a similar mold. On #6 Adrian Salcedo I wrote, "His other numbers have remained solid, but it is disturbing how much his K rate has dropped. Has he turned into a typical Twins pitcher". On #16 Tom Stuirbergen I wrote, "Stuifbergen always has a really good walk rate (Twins kind of guy) but his strikeout rate plummeted in 2011". On #32 Pat Dean, "He has four pitches including a low 90s fastball and doesn't walk too many guys. He definitely fits the Twins mold of pitching prospects". It isn't hard writing about Twins pitching prospects, many of them have similar abilities. Having said all of the, Hendriks is the best of the bunch and the most major league ready.

The Australian hurler made his debut in the GCL at 18 years of age, striking out 52 and walking 11 in 44 innings. After back surgery derailed his 2008 season, he came back from injury and made the 2009 Australian roster in the World Baseball Classic. After the WBC, he split the season between Elizabethtown and Beloit. He had a decent year with a 3.55 ERA, 75 strikeouts and 19 walks in 83.2 innings. In 2010, Hendriks returned to Beloit and dominated In 6 starts, (34 innings) striking out 39 and walking 4. He also only gave up 16 hits. This earned him a quick promotion to Fort Myers. In 74.2 innings there, he struck out 66 and walked 8. Hendriks was good again in 2011 going 8-2 with a 2.70 ERA with a 81/18 K/BB ratio in 90 innings for New Britain. The remainder of the year he started 9 games for Rochester, striking out 30 and walking 3 in 49.1 innings and he also made his major league debut.

Hendriks has been good at every level in the minors. He strikes out 8 per 9 innings and walks 1. His WHIP is always around 1.1. He is the Twinsiest of the Twins pitching prospects. Hendriks has 4 pitches, but no single dominating pitch. His fastball touches the low 90s and he also has a decent curve and change-up. He did get roughed up in his major league debut. He went 0-2 with a 6.17 ERA with 16/6 K/BB in 4 starts, but he was only 22 with less than a year above AA. He has looked pretty poised in his 2 starts this year but has had trouble sustaining success throughout the games. Hendriks will be counted on a lot this season. He's only 23 and he is going to have to be fine with his pitches to be successful, but his track record suggests he should be able to do it.

Ideal Scenario: Hendriks will probably spend most of the season in the majors due to injuries and ineffective options. He will take some lumps this year, but if he can maximize his abilities and continue to control his walk rate, he could be a middle rotation starter. He may be the de facto ace going into next season with all of the turnover expected in the off-season.

Path to the majors: Hendriks passed Gibson, Wimmers and Bromberg in the pecking order of Twins pitching due to injury and ineffectiveness. He's a major leaguer.

Hendriks seems like a pretty good dude and always has that "what me worry" look on his face, so I will root for him even more. Check out Hendriks prospect adoption on TwinsDaily and check out his "singing" with James Beresford

Check out the rest of the prospects here.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

2012 Minnesota Twins Prospects #5 Eddie Rosario (Post 100)


5. Eddie Rosario, 2B/OF, 20 years old

2011 stats: .337/.397/.670 with 21 HRs and 17 stolen bases in 23 attempts for Elizabethtown.
Last Year's Rank: 17
Acquired: Drafted by the Twins in the 4th round pick in 2010 June Major League Draft out of Rafael Lopez Landron High School in Guayama, Puerto Rico.

I really liked Rosario coming into the 2011 season. As an 18 year old in GCL, his .294/.343/.438 and 22 stolen bases made him a very decent looking prospect. He was drawing comparisons to Bobby Abreu when he was drafted.What I didn't expect is that Rosario's power would go as crazy as it did in 2011. In 298 plate appearances, Rosario belted 21 HRs as a 19 year old for Elizabethtown. His play upstaged his more heralded team-mate Miguel Sano. Both hit 20 HRs after only one other player had done so in the last 20 years of the Appalachian League. 

Coming into 2012, Rosario is also looking at a position change. With all of the outfield prospects and lack of infield prospects, he is being tried out at second base. If Rosario can play second base, he would definitely have a chance to move quickly through the system. Will Rosario be able to play second base? It will be interesting to see how he does there defensively and how his offense does in A-ball. Some good analysis on Rosario here a lot of it focused on his swing. There also seems to be a pattern of E-town inflating statistics. Rosario has a long way to go, but at 20 years old, I wouldn't dismiss how he did last year or his ability to refine his swing. He struck out in 20% of his plate appearances in rookie ball, so that is a little bit of a concern. A second baseman with power and speed anywhere near what Rosario has shown so far is very hot commodity.

Ideal scenario: Rosario can play second base. If he can stay at second defensively while hitting for good power, he will be on the fast track to Minnesota. He isn't going to be the 1.067 OPS guy we saw last year, but just continuing to show some power will move him quickly.

Path to the majors: If Rosario stays at second and keeps hitting, he could be with the Twins by 2014. If he is destined to be an outfielder, it will take longer. Look for him in 2015.

This is my 100th post at On the Road with Shawn and true to its name, I have been on the road, living in 3 states since my first post on September 7, 2009.

Check out my other work at minor league musings and my latest gig at Pucketts Pond. The rest of the top 50 continues here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

2012 Minnesota Twins Prospects #6 Adrian Salcedo

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6. Adrian Salcedo, Right-Handed Starter, 21 years old.

2011 Stats: 6-6 with a 2.93 ERA in 135 innings, with 92/27 K/BB for Class A Beloit.
Last year's rank: 8
Acquired: Signed out of Mocha, Dominican Republic in December 2007.

What would you say if I told you the Twins had a prospect that has a 2.76 ERA, strikes out 7.1/9 and only walks 1.5/9? He's a pitcher that gives up less than a hit per 9 and has only allowed 12 HRs in 359 minor league innings. This pitcher is only 21 years old and is 6'4". What if I also told you that he has a really good, mid 90s fastball, decent breaking pitch and change up? You'd probably say he is the Twins #1 prospect! He is Adrian Salcedo and his numbers jump off the screen....except that 7.1 K rate.

About that K rate. Salcedo struck out more 8 batters per 9 in rookie ball. In the 162.1 innings above rookie ball, Salcedo only struck out 108 entering this season. His other numbers have remained solid, but it is disturbing how much his K rate has dropped. Has he turned into a typical Twins pitcher?

Salcedo has been in the Twins system for a little while, but he is still only 21 years old. Scouts seem to like his stuff, but his pitches are a little bit inconsistent. Salcedo is still young, has generally been young for his level and he has never really struggled. Salcedo had all of the looks of a potential ace early in his career. He's a tall kid that still has room for a couple pounds and a couple miles on his fastball. It's a little early to dump dirt on his potential ace status, but if his 2011 numbers are more indicative of how his career will play out, he will still be a good pitcher.

Ideal scenario: Salcedo continues to throw strikes, but gets more swings and misses. He is only 21 and if he needs development time, spending all season in Fort Myers will be just fine. If he can get that strikeout rate around 8 per 9 innings in Fort Myers, he could be in-line for a late season promotion to New Britain.

Path to the majors: Salcedo is still a couple of years away and I hope the Twins take their time with him. Given the state of the major league pitching staff, he could be just a year and a half away of making his major league debut if he pitches well.

Check out prospect #7 here and check me out at puckettspond, which will become my primary home soon.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

2012 Minnesota Twins Prospects #7 Aaron Hicks


7. Aaron Hicks, Center field, 22 years old

2011 Stats: .242/.354/.368 with 5 HRs and 17 SB in 26 attempts for Fort Myers.
Last Year's Rank: 2
Acquired: Drafted by the Minnesota Twins 14th overall in the 2008 June Major League Draft out of Woodrow Wilson HS in Los Angeles.

Twins fans are historically a patient lot. Sure, there are fringe characters out there, but for the most part, the fan base is patient with its team and prospects. Will 2012 be the season that Twins fans run out of patience with Aaron Hicks? Hicks was considered the crown jewel of the system with his 5 tools and projectable frame, but as he begins his 5th year in the system, he isn't progressing the way many thought he would.

Hicks spent 2011 in Fort Myers after spending two years in Beloit. He has established very nice on-base skills and has gap power, but hasn't been able to generate home run power yet. He also gets caught stealing too much and strikes out too much. Hicks is still young. At 22 in AA, he will still be pretty young for the level, but is he slow to develop or are his flaws holding him back?

A great defensive CF with a .265/.375/.407 line and a 67% stolen base rate looks less like a 5 tool star and more like a 4th OF. What happens if Hicks has another year with a low .700s OPS? One argument has been to scrap switch hitting and have Hicks just hit right handed. In 2010 he hit .248/.383/.339 from the left side and .362/.449/.663 from the right side and in 2011 he had a .219/.349/.337 line from the left side and  .259/.342/.391 from the right. His splits were much more pronounced in 2010 but he has a better batting average and more power from the right side. While becoming a strict right handed hitter could improve his numbers, he'd also lose the righty/lefty advantage batting right-handed vs. a right-handed pitcher. He also is not used to hitting right-handed versus right-handed pitchers. He could also be returned to the mound. He was highly thought of as a high school pitcher with a 97 MPH fastball and if he looks to be a mediocre player, a switch to the mound might be in order.

Ideal scenario: Hope Hicks is a late bloomer. Hicks starts to put everything together (he is .250/.273/.550 through 6 games) and starts to develop those potential 20-20 tools in New Britain. Hopefully he can build on his Arizona Fall league .294/.400/.559. Torii Hunter had a .270/.334./417 line and Denard Span had a .286/.355/.356 line in the minors so there is still plenty of hope for Hicks. He's actually been better than both Hunter and Span were at age 22.

Path to the majors: The Twins have a good group of OFs ahead of Hicks right now, so the Twins can take their time with him. Span, Josh Willingham and Ben Revere in the majors and Joe Benson in AAA are all ahead of Hicks. If  Hicks starts to come around this year, it will give the Twins options to trade Denard Span or perhaps Hicks himself. Don't expect to see Hicks until late 2013.

Prospect #8 and the rest start here.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

2012 Minnesota Twins Prospects #8 Kyle Gibson

8. Kyle Gibson, Right-Handed Starter, 24 years old.

2011 Stats: 3-8 with a 4.81 ERA in 95 innings, with 91/27 K/BB for AAA Rochester.
Last year's rank: 1
Acquired: Drafted by the Twins in the 1st round (22) of the 2009 MLB June Amateur Draft out of University of Missouri.

Going into last season, Gibson was poised. He was our #1 prospect and he'd jumped three levels in 2010. He looked like he was almost ready to make the team. All he would need was a couple of months to fine tune in AAA and anyone of the Twins starters that fans had anointed as worthy replacement, those they felt were beneath Gibson's ability would be banished and Gibson would come in on a white horse to save the day. That didn't happen, then he got hurt.

Gibson had what looks like a rough year based on his record and ERA, but it really wasn't bad at all. He struck out 8.59 a game and only walked 2.55. He was hurt by the 11 HRs he gave up and the .339 BABIP. Gibson's numbers really took a hit in his last 3 starts when his elbow problems started to flare up. He gave up 16 earned runs in 14 innings, spiking his season ending ERA by almost a run. In his last start, he walked 5 (the most walks given up in his career) in 5 innings.

After his July 22nd start Gibson was shut down. The Twins went with their usual route of rehab for his torn ligament, before eventually opting for surgery on Sept 7th. Would having the surgery earlier have made an impact on Gibson's career? Probably not, but getting a little work in this year could help him get a little better feel his pitching and routine going into 2013. 

Ideal scenario: Gibson's rehab goes well and he is ready to go for 2013. The success rate of Tommy John has really increased and that is why he is still worthy of a top 10 ranking. 

Path to the majors: Assuming Gibson is fine, he probably should start the 2013 season in with a cup of coffee in AAA. With Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, Jason Marquis and Scott Baker all potentially leaving after the 2012 season (or sooner), Gibson will have to be considered one of the options to go north with the team out of spring in 2013.

Prospect #9 and the rest start here:

Also, check me out at my new gig on PuckettsPond here.