Monday, June 6, 2011

Minnesota Twins Update

The Twins have played 58 games with their franchise player Joe Mauer having played in only 9 of games. Add to that the fact the Twins have been forced to call up 14 players from the minors due to injuries and poor performance, and it is no wonder the Twins have the worst record in baseball.

Still it has been an interesting year with interesting subplots, some of which I write about below.

Casilla and Plouffe

Alexi Casilla seemed on the verge of being release, now he is playing like the team’s most valuable player. After a horrid start, Alexi Casilla has become an igniter in the Twins lineup with his batting average having risen over 100 points to .262. He leads the team in stolen bases with 8 which is twice as many the as anyone else on the team.

Casilla has had quite a ride with the Twins since being first called up in 2006. From bad to good to bad to good, Casilla’s play has been all over the place, and rightly earned him the reputation of being an enigma. He may yet fail again, but Casilla recent play has earned him a chance to play out the season as a starter

Casilla supposed replacement Trevor Ploufe on the other hand has earned the demotion he received. Plouffe was called up when Casilla go off to a horrible start. Ploufe, a former 1st round draft pick, had the chance to win the shortstop job and secure his spot on the team for the next few years. While Ploufe did hit 3 home runs in his time up with the Twins, I have never seen someone airmail so many throws to 1st base.

Plouffe’s throws seem to be careless, and he was to easily upset by reports questions about his bad play. He also hit only .200 in the 18 games he played for the Twins. Bad defense, being easily hurt by bad press, and hitting only .200 is not a good combination to have if you want to be a big league shortstop.

Kevin Slowey and Glen Perkins

I have never seen the entire Twins organization turn on someone as they have turned on pitcher Kevin Slowey. Twins television color man Bert Blyleven, who is a Hall of Fame pitcher, has repeatedly slammed Slowey on air about Slowey’s unwillingness to pitch out of the bullpen. Others have followed in bashing Slowey whose time here in Minnesota is obviously about to end.

I have meet Kevin Slowey and thought he was a pretty decent guy. That said Slowey has been with the Twins 5 seasons and has yet to pitch more than a 160 innings as a starter (typical good starting pitchers pitch 200 + innings in a season). Slowey cannot seem to stay healthy, and when he is healthy he gives up way to many fly balls many of which turn into extra base hits.

Glen Perkins was once like Slowey, a man about to be sent into exile, but Perkins arrived this year with the attitude he was going to move to the bullpen and be effective. To the surprise of many, Perkins has been the Twins best reliever. Though he is currently on the disable list, Perkins has been the biggest and most pleasant surprise for the Twins this season.

Liriano and Pavano

Right now the highlight of the season is Francisco Liriano’s no-hitter. However, Carl Pavano’s no infamous attack on a garbage can in the Twins dugout in at Kansas City on May 1st may go down as the symbol of how most Twins fans feel about this season.

The Future for These Twins Might be as ex-Twins

I believe if the Twins are over 10 games out of first place by the all-star break in July, they will explore trading Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young, Jason Kubel, Carl Pavano, Matt Capps, and of course Kevin Slowey. All but Young will draw interest, and many will be traded. I do not think as some have suggested that Jim Thome will be traded as he is too beloved here to be sent away via trade. Plus Thome may take a while to reach home run number 600, and the Twins will not trade him till he reaches that milestone.

I respect Justin Morneau for playing hard even when it is obvious he still has injury concerns. I respect Joe Nathan for realizing he was not ready to contribute to this team, and removed himself from the closer role, and asked to be put back on the disabled list. Men of character are hard to find in pro sports, and Morneau and Nathan are 2 of them.

I think Morneau will be back to his old self and with the Twins next year. Nathan, on the other hand, will likely not be back, but should land a job elsewhere.

The Twins Minor League System

Luke Hughes, Trevor Ploufe, Rene Rivera, Steve Holm, Rene Tosoni, Brian Dinkelman, Ben Revere, Jim Hoey, Phil Dumatrait, Eric Hacker, Jeff Manship, Anthony Swarzek, Anthony Slama, and Chuck James are the 14 players called up from the minors to help the Twins. Only Revere, Swarzek, and James have major league talent.

Matt Tolbert, Jason Repko, and Dusty Hughes were Twins on the opening day roster that had no business being on a major league roster and should be in the minors. Come to think about it, Dusty Hughes is back in the minors. I have a feeling Tolbert and Repko’s time on the big league roster is limited.

The only minor league talent the Twins have not called up this season that is even remotely ready to help them are starting pitchers Kyle Gibson and Liam Hendriks. Gibson is at Triple A Rochester, and Hendriks is at Double A New Britain. The Twins currently have enough decent starting pitching that neither man is needed, but by next year Gibson especially will be a factor.

Outside of Gibson and Hendriks the Twins best minor league prospects are Oswaldo Arcia (a 20 year old outfielder who can hit for power and average), Adrian Salcedo (a 20 year old starting pitcher with ace potential), Miguel Sano (a 18 year old hitting sensation), and Nate Roberts (a 22 year old outfielder who can hit). All have star potential and all are in low A ball or the rookie leagues which means 2-3 years minimum before they can be counted on.

Unfortunately it looks like supposed top 10 prospects Aaron Hicks (21) and Alex Wimmers (22) are not on verge of greatness as many had hoped. Hicks is a great defensive outfielder who cannot hit. Wimmers has suddenly lost his ability to throw strikes. The Twins were counting on both players to help out in the near future. Now it looks like neither will be ready for some time if at all.

There is always hope some minor league player will suddenly blossom ala Denard Span, and there are other players in the system like Joe Benson, James Beresford or Logan Darnell who have the chance to be a good player. On the whole though all the really good players are young and will not be contributing next year.

Final Thought

The Twins may yet somehow end up contending, but I sense this is a lost year.

I think the Twins organization needed to be knocked down off their high pedestal. The Twins organization has started acting pretty smug lately. It was time to remind both the baseball side and the business side of the Twins that they are not infallible. There is a fine line between being a winning and losing team.

If there is one thing I know about the Minnesota sports fans, it is they support winners not losers. God forbid the Twins have a couple losing seasons in a row. Target Field will become a ghost town. Let’s hope that does not happen, but the Twins had better watch out because it can easily become the case.