Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Last night the Twins bats came alive against someone who was supposed to end all their playoff hopes, Freddy Garcia. It wasn't enough. The team battled back from an early deficit and continued to battle through the middle innings but in the end it wasn't close. This year it has been exceedingly difficult for the Twins to get the White Sox's number. Ever since the Garcia trade, experts around the country have proclaimed the race all but over and the Twins have done little to dispel this belief. The team has seemed content to lie down and take their beating in the hopes of making a move in the race at a later date and it is becoming increasingly frustrating to watch. Wednesday night's game was filled with the good, the bad and some real ugly for the home team.

The Good -
We'll start with the good because it's simply the easiest pill to swallow. Joe Mauer was what every fan has been told he would be. He had perhaps his best night last night blasting 2 homeruns. The first of which was far from meaningless in getting the team back in the game. Don't expect him to make this a regular thing just yet in his career. What he showed is that he came to play. Right now he is one of the few hitters in the lineup who looks comfortable at the plate. Maybe it's time for the Twins to consider moving him up in the order. I know the team wants to continue to play Mientkiewicz but it would be better for him to continue to struggle lower in the order. There is less pressure down there and I think part of Doug's problem is that he is too be too hard on himself. Let him work his way back up to being one of the team's only patient and thus a valuable hitter. In the meantime a flip flop in the order with Mauer may be a win-win situation for both.

Freddy Garcia pitched like Freddy Garcia. He is not the second coming of Randy Johnson or Josh Beckett. He is never going to put a team on his back and carry them to a pennant. He is a very good pitcher whom the White Sox probably over paid for. He is not an Ace and it is a great sign that the Twins touched him up. Last year the White Sox added Roberto Alomar and Carl Everett about the same time and everyone picked them to beat the Twins. It's amazing how fast people have jumped off the Twins bandwagon in the national media. Maybe it has something to do with them actually getting outscored by their opponents. Nevertheless, it's July 1 and they are only a game out of first. They may or may not be able to make a move in the next month but they will have several important players returning from injuries such as Shannon Stewart. Then you consider that their pitching appears to be coming alive and they are fixing some bullpen issues and you realize this is a very strong team. What the Twins need to avoid is falling 8 games behind the White Sox this year because they will not be able to make up that kind of ground again.

The Bad -
Brad Radke was due for a poor outing. It was a much hyped match up and he allowed his team to fall behind early. What really makes it bad is that he finally got some run support and just kept giving it back. Radke has been a rock for the past month for the club so it's hard to fault him for one game. It's just too bad it came against division rivals whom the Twins entered the game tied for first with. This was a game the Twins needed to win if only to send a message that they weren't going to just give up. The hitters tried to answer the bell with Guzman's three run homerun and Koskie's homer to open the home half of the 6th. It wasn't enough for Radke last night.

The Ugly -
The White Sox came into our house and have taken the first two games as the Twins continue to struggle against them this year. The Twins have now lost 4 straight and given the White Sox the lead in the division. What's worse is that they don't even look capable of beating the Sox. They battled for half the game Wednesday night while only delaying the inevitable. The White Sox are a flawed team, not the powerhouse many are making them out to be. When the Twins needed it most last night their pitchers could not keep the balls in the park. They have let the Sox come in and outplay them. They are playing like a team that wants to repeat the mistakes of last year and fall way back in the standings. This year though, they wont be able to come back. It is disgusting baseball to watch. There is a reason the Twins had the better record coming into the series. They are the better team they just don't seem to know it. Many people write them off because they have been outscored this season and say their success is luck. The problem with that reasoning is that the White Sox had a better differential in each of the last two seasons in which the Twins not only beat them head to head but won the division outright. It's not luck that helps the Twins win games, it's the fact that the Twins play the game right and are able to win more close games. The Sox pound the ball and crush teams but are supposed to run into a buzz saw when push comes to shove because pitching and defense are what really wins. The Twins have failed to back that up so far this year and it makes it ugly to watch.

One More Bullet to Fire:
His name is Johan Santana and he has recently become the Ace the Twins envisioned in the off season. He has been nearly unhittable in his last 4 starts with an ERA under 2 and 39 K's. If ever their was a cure for the Twins woes it would be him. Couple that with the fact that Jon Garland is pitching for the Sox and the team will salvage the final game of the series today.

Fifth Starter Debate:
It is very apparent the Twins don't have an in-house option at to fill this position. Scott Baker would be a mistake although I don't agree with the Adam Johnson comparison. Baker has not yet done enough to warrant such a promotion. I don't like the idea of piecing together starts with Muholland and Roa either. I wouldn't mind seeing Roa actually get a chance in the role as his position in the bullpen has become redundant. I don't think he would succeed but at least he would stabilize it until a better option can be found. I'm afraid the Twins will bring someone in just to do so and he won't be any better then either of the other two who failed. There are always plenty of Rick Helling type pitchers on the market and there is a reason for that. It was not a mistake to let Rick Helling go, the pitcher the team does miss is Munro who has helped the Astros in their fifth starter role.

Bullpen Issues:
The team has a plan to fix it's bullpen but will it work? It isn't enough to expect JC Romero to suddenly be fine and that Jesse Crain is going to come up and be consistently dominant. Neither move will fix the problems that have belied the pen as of late. The 7th inning has been a disaster with starters getting stretched out too long and just about every reliever failing to record key outs. I would like to see Grant Balfour emerge in the role but every time he looks close he has an outing that's not so good. The pen is a mess that isn't going to fix itself anytime soon.

That is it for today here at Twinschatter. We hope you enjoy our content as always. If you have any comments feel free to drop them below or email me at We are always looking for ways to improve ourselves so any suggestions are also welcome. Hopefully the team will go out and finally beat the White Sox tonight, salvaging the series and a tie for first.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

4 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 HR

That’s the line from Matt Guerrier’s second major league start, a 7-2 loss last Saturday at the hands of the Milwaukee Brewers. Unfortunately for both Matt and the Twins, his first major league start (4 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 HR in a 6-4 win over the lowly Expos) wasn’t much better.

Where have the cries of “Free Matt Guerrier” gone so suddenly? If it hasn’t already become blatantly obvious to everybody by now, I’ll spell it out for you: Matt Guerrier is not the solution to the Twins’ fifth starter conundrum. Yes, I realize that he’s relatively young (26), and has had only two big league starts to prove himself, but let’s not kid ourselves here. Guerrier doesn’t have great stuff in the first place, and thus far in the majors his location has been very poor. When you miss up in the strike zone with mediocre stuff in the major leagues, you’re gonna get pounded. That is exactly what has happened to Guerrier these past two starts. He hasn’t been fooling anybody, that’s for sure.

Now it looks like Guerrier will probably get one more start to prove that he belongs in the majors (Saturday against Arizona), but for the sake of argument, let’s take a look at a couple of other options the Twins have regarding the hole in their rotation.

1.) Trade for a veteran starting pitcher

I know many Twins fans wanted desperately to see Freddy Garcia in a Twins uniform come July, but that simply was not to be. It’s time to move on. One name that I have dying to bring up for weeks now is the Pirates’ Kris Benson. The former first overall pick (1996) doesn’t have the most impressive overall stats (4.78 ERA and 1.49 WHIP) but he has been pitching pretty well of late. On Monday night he limited the Cardinals to just one run and six hits in eight innings of stellar pitching, and his ERA for the month of June is a solid 3.95. He sandwiched a bad month of May (8.10 ERA) between April and June, which is the main reason his numbers aren’t that great overall.

I really think that the Twins and Kris Benson would be a good fit. He’s a solid veteran who doesn’t walk many guys, with a low 90s fastball and pretty good stuff. The biggest hurdle, as always, is salary. Benson will make over $6 million in his walkout year, and the Twins have always been reluctant to rent players for the stretch run. It’s rumored that the Yankees, Mets, and Phillies (among others) are also interested in Benson, but the Twins can outbid any team in baseball when it comes down to what the Pirates really need: prospects. The Yankees’ farm system is almost bone dry, and both the Phils and Mets have only a handful of good prospects. The Twins can dangle Morneau, Kubel, Durbin (heaven forbid), Restovich, Ford (shudder the thought), Liriano, and Tiffee, among many others. I don’t think Benson will cost as much as Garcia did for the ChiSox, but TR would have to give up a prospect or two and probably pay about half of Benson’s salary. The Twins are a few mil under payroll for the year, so the latter is not out of the question.

Benson and Garcia were the biggest two names in an otherwise meager trading market, but another rumored possibility is the Expos’ Tony Armas Jr. Armas had shoulder surgery this off-season and has been a little rusty overall thus far this year (6.18 ERA in 23.1 innings this year), but he pitched well in his last outing and could emerge as a hot commodity come July. Armas is only 26, makes just $2.1 million this season, and isn’t a free agent until after next year. You can’t ask for much more from a mid-season acquisition if you are a small market team like the Twins. A trade is how I hope the Twins fill the void in the rotation, but there is also another option.

2.) Fill from within

This is the more realistic and likely option, but it is also the worst. Simply put, there isn’t a whole ton to choose from when it comes to starting pitching within the Twins organization. J.D. Durbin would have been a candidate had he stayed healthy, but he’s out for a while longer and was only pitching at AA before he went down. Wille Erye has been putting up Matt Guerrier-type numbers at AAA, but it’s pretty apparent that the team doesn’t think that highly of his potential. Pete Munro and Rick Helling would have been possible options, but neither is with the organization any more. Carlos Pulido is proving once and for all that he is indeed the epitome of the phrase “washed up”. And Seth Greisinger has been as bad in Rochester as he was up here in Minnesota.

A name I’ve heard recently is Scott Baker, the 2003’s second round draft choice out of Oklahoma State. He has dominated at both high A and AA ball so far this year, but I think it would be a grave, grave mistake to bring him up in the middle of a pennant race. We all remember what happened last time the Twins brought up a “polished” college pitcher with little minor league experience in the middle of the season (see: Adam Johnson, 2001). Maybe I’m missing someone, but it doesn’t look like the solution to this problem is currently within the Twins organization.

Well, there you have it. I hope this post helps fill the empty place in your soul left by yesterday’s off-day, as it has most assuredly accomplished this for me. If you have any thoughts of your own, don’t hesitate to drop a comment in the comments section below. I’ll try to respond the best I can, and maybe it will help me organize my thoughts a bit better in regards to this subject. Also, feel free to e-mail me at Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

Monday, June 28, 2004

A Blessing in Disguise?

Originally, I had planned a post for today entitled “The Fifth Element”, which was to be about the pickle the Twins currently find themselves in regarding their fifth starter situation. However, something much more pressing occurred on Sunday that requires extrapolation. John and I weigh in on the big trade that went down in the AL Central.

Freddy Garcia and Ben Davis are traded to the Chicago White Sox for Miguel Olivo, Jeremy Reed, and Michael Morse

The gut reaction many Twins fans will have to this trade is “Holy criznap! The White Sox just traded for the best pitcher on the market! We’re screwed!” I choose to rise above this reaction and look a little deeper into the trade. Honestly, I do not think this will make or break the AL Central race. For sure, this is going to be a two-team race (eventually) between the Twins and White Sox. But Freddy Garcia, as good as he used to be, is not the ace that he used to be. For sure, he is still a solid pitcher. He’s 4-7 this year with a 3.20 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. However, in 2002 and 2003 he was pretty average, posting ERAs of 4.39 and 4.51 respectively. Yes, he is still a good pitcher, but not the kind of guy that will win a pennant for you. And not worth what the Sox gave up for him.

That last sentence touches on the most important aspect of this trade: the huge price the White Sox paid to get arguably the best pitcher on the market. First of all, they gave up one of the most promising young catchers in the league. Olivo hit .270 with 7 HRs and 25 RBIs for the Sox this year, and had a respectable .799 OPS (for a catcher). He’s only 25, has good speed for a catcher, and is solid defensively. Not exactly an untradeable commodity, but Olivo is a guy you hate to give up on. His new replacement, Davis, was absolutely putrid this year before being sent down, and although he is a capable major leaguer he will struggle to fill Olivo’s shoes.

The Mariners were also able to finagle the White Sox top prospect, 23 year-old OF Jeremy Reed, out of the deal. Now, I know you’ve all heard lately that Reed is overrated, but it can’t be denied that he should still become a very good major league player. He was lights-out in 66 games at AA last year (1.065 OPS) but has been only human in his first season at AAA this year, batting .279 with 8 HRs and 12 steals in 272 ABs (he does have 36 walks to 33 strikeouts though). There was some speculation that he would make the team out of spring training this year, although that failed to materialize. The third player in the trade was the AA third basemen Morse, who is just 22 years old. He is having his best minor league season at Birmingham, as he already has 11 HRs and 38 RBIs. The bottom line is : White Sox GM Kenny Williams simply gave up too much for a pitcher that makes almost $7 million this year and really isn’t that good anyway. Yes, this trade does help the Sox solidify the 5th spot in their rotation for now, but what about next year? And 2006? Obviously, the White Sox aren’t concerned about such trivialities.

John’s take:

We have to strike back. Then again, maybe not. While it's scary that at this point the biggest flaw on the White Sox we all have been pointing to now appears to be fixed, nothing has changed. The Twins are a team that defies the odds because they play as a team. Heck, they've actually been outscored by their opponents this year and still sit in first place. They have a winning formula and stick to it. They have proven that they can survive slumps and injuries. Their pitching is still better then the White Sox and really coming around. Their hitting has been troubling as of late but they have always been a streaky bunch. Then you couple in that the Twins have yet to make a move of their own and what they stand to gain from returning players and it becomes scary for the White Sox.

Freddy Garcia has been a great pitcher this year, he has been a great pitcher in past years. Unfortunately he had some terrible years wedged right in the middle. Which Freddy Garcia is going to show up? He has never played in a World Series and while he has pitched very well against the Yankees in the playoffs, he really doesn't qualify as a true ace. The White Sox still gave up "ace" quality prospects to get him. Jeremy Reed could be special and should have brought much more in a trade.

Oliva was a vital part of a team that has lacked chemistry in the past. They will miss his talent behind the plate. Ben Davis has never lived up to his own hype. It is true that the White Sox have more firepower than the Twins. They always have. They just can't find the way to put those pieces together. I expect them to surge for awhile following this trade then fall into a slump in which they can't get out of.

In the meantime, the Twins do need to make a trade of their own. They have no in house candidate ready to take the fifth starter spot in the rotation. Geurrier has looked terrible and isn't the answer. It would be unacceptable for the Twins to not take from their glut of outfielders and turn it into something useful. There is also a huge gap in the middle of the bullpen as evidenced by yesterday's game. The Twins should not put it all on the young Jesse Crain to be the savior. There are good veteran relievers out there who will get the job done. Another bat would be nice to see, but I see the team coming out of its hitting slump soon.

The Twins need to be aggressive too. A window of opportunity only lasts so long. They have a bright future and present. Standing pat would be a mistake as long as doing something doesn't mortgage the future.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Twins Win!

It was a great game yesterday with the Twins winning 4-3 over the Red Sox in 10 innings. Once again Brad Radke failed to get much for run support and the bullpen couldn't hold the his lead when they came in. Grant Balfour finally showed the signs of being the reliever the Twins need right now though and pitched enough scoreless innings for the team to score the winning run in the 10th allowing Joe Nathan to notch the save. I'm not going to post a new column today in order to allow everyone an extra day to read Ryan's piece comparing the 2004 Royals to the 2002 Twins. It's a very interesting comparison. It is a wonder how some teams are able to get over the hump while others regress before they ever get anywhere. There will be a Twinschatter column this weekend for anyone interested so stop back and see what we want to chat about.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

What Went Right and What Went Wrong?

The Twins pulled out a very nice 4-2 win over the BoSox on Wednesday night, but because the power was out at my house for most of the evening, I wasn’t able to catch the game on TV. Instead of a game recap (which I’m sure you’ll be able to find at one or more other blogs), I wanted to discuss a topic that has always intrigued me: the difference between the 2002 Minnesota Twins and the 2004 Kansas City Royals.

As most baseball fans already know, Royals GM Allard Baird has announced that he is willing to trade almost every veteran player on the Royals’ roster before the trading deadline. 2004 has been a complete nightmare for the preseason’s ‘chic’ pick in the AL Central. The Royals, who most believed would challenge the Twins and White Sox for a playoff spot this season, currently sit in last place at 28-40, 10 games behind the first-place Twins. For all intents and purposes, this season is over for the Royals.

Before this season began, many people (including myself) likened the 2003 Royals to the 2001 Twins. Both teams were relatively young; both were perennial losers in the latter part of the 1990s; and both emerged as surprise contenders in the weak AL Central only to come up short in September. In case you don’t remember, the Twins finished with a record of 85-77 in 2001, and the Royals finished 83-79 in 2003. I distinctly remember many “experts” being cautiously optimistic about the Twins’ chances in 2002, but we all know that they far exceeded anyone’s expectations. With that precedent already in place, many of these same experts were quick to anoint the Royals as the favorites in 2004. They had kept nearly every piece from 2003, and even added a few new ones: veteran slugger Juan Gonzalez, ageless catcher Benito Santiago, and steady reliever Scott Sulivan. They also brought back 2003 mid-season acquisitions Brian Anderson, Kevin Appier, and Curtis Leskanic.

So what gives? Logic says that the Royals should have been a better team in 2004 than they were in 2003. Now, I fully realize how “flukey” their good record was in 2003 when you look at such things as the Pythagorean standings (more on them tomorrow). But that argument has been done to death, and quite frankly, I’m sick of it. Instead, I would like to briefly compare, position-by-position, the 2002 Twins and 2004 Royals.

Catcher: A.J. Pierzynski vs. Benito Santiago
When I saw that the Royals had signed Santiago this past off-season, I wasn’t exactly sure what the move would accomplish. I don’t know exactly what the Royals were expecting to get out of the 38 year-old catcher (perhaps just veteran leadership?), but it’s safe to say that he has been just average this year (.763 OPS). He recently broke his hand and is out 8 weeks, so the Royals won’t even be able to trade him! A.J., on the other hand, blossomed into one of the game’s best young catchers in 2002, as he was one of the team’s better hitters. The biggest difference between the two is the sticker price: A.J. made the minimum while Benito will cost the Royals $4.3 million over the next two years.
Advantage: 2002 Twins because of age, potential, and money

First Basemen: Ken Harvey vs. Doug Mientkiewicz
Although the two were originally slated to share the 1B/DHing duties, I have chosen Harvey over Sweeney for this spot because Sweeney’s injuries have forced him to DH more. Harvey has been a pleasant surprise this year, hitting .350 with a .897 OPS. There aren’t many bad things you can say about those numbers. Dougie Baseball, on the other hand, had a mediocre 2002 season as he hit .261 with just 10 HRs and 64 RBIs. Both made (or are making) around the minimum as 2nd or 3rd year players. Mientkiewicz is far superior defensively, as he won a Gold Glove in 2002.
Advantage: 2004 Royals, as Harvey is a young player having a breakout season; although had I done this analysis before April I may have gone the other way.

Second Basemen: Luis Rivas vs. Desi Relaford/Tony Graffanino
Ouch. The competition at this position isn’t all that fierce. Rivas was injured early in 2002 and never really got on track following his stellar 2001 season. Relaford was a key part of the Royals’ 2003 success, but he’s having a terrible 2004 (.197 BA). Graffanino is a role player who has played well in limited duty at 2B, but there isn’t a whole lot of potential there. This is a tough one to pick.
Advantage: Draw. Rivas at least showed signs of potential in 2001 and 2002, but despite Graffanino’s decent 2004 performance, he is what he is And pretty much everyone knew Relaford was a fluke in 2003.

Third Base: Corey Koskie vs. Joe Randa
Joe Randa’s lack of power this year is one of the main reasons why the Royals have been so terrible, as he has just 2 homers in 229 at-bats this year. The Royals were counting on him to produce, and he has flopped miserably. Now Koskie wasn’t a ball of fire back in ’02 (.815 OPS but just 15 HRs and 69 RBIs) following his breakout 2001, but Randa isn’t on pace to even come close to those numbers. And Randa makes a lot more money ($3.25 mil) than Koskie did ($300K).
Advantage: Big-time 2002 Twins. Koskie is simply far better all around than Randa, in almost every facet of his game. And the price was right.

Shortstop: Angel Berroa vs. Christian Guzman
The Royals were really counting on Berroa, 2003’s AL ROY, to step it up in ’04 and anchor the infield. He has struggled with injuries and sickness and has been very underwhelming (.686 OPS in 218 ABs) thus far. However, Guzman also had a disappointing 2002 after his All-Star 2001 season, so this is a tough matchup to call.
Advantage: 2004 Royals. We have the value of 20/20 hindsight on this one. Guzman has yet to live up to his potential, while Berroa, despite his weak performance thus far, has at least shown flashes of brilliance. However, both teams counted on much more from their shortstops. The Twins were able to survive, while the Royals obviously haven’t.

Outfield: Jacque Jones/Torii Hunter/Dusty Kielmohr vs. Matt Stairs/Carlos Beltran/Juan Gonzalez
Each of these two contestants have their strengths and weaknesses. The Twins’ foursome (including the infamous Mohr/Kielty platoon) was young, cheap, hungry, but somewhat unproven entering 2002. The Royals’ ideal OF consisted of three veterans, including the superstar Beltran. Stairs has actually played quite well (.802 OPS and 10 HRs), but Gonzo was a complete (and predictable) failure. Baird knew he was taking a risk when his signed the oft-injured Gonzalez for $4 million this off-season, but like almost everything else, it turned out quite badly for our foes down the interstate. Gonzalez only had 17 RBIs before he was injured, and it appears the Royals are stuck with his contract. Baird also passed up myriad chances to trade Beltran this off-season in anticipation of the 2004 “pennant drive that never was”. While he has been his normal productive self, he almost certainly will be traded within a few weeks. In ’02, Jacque and Torii cost a fraction of what Gonzo and Beltran will make this year, and I guarantee the latter won’t come close to matching the production of the former.
Advantage: 2002 Twins. The Gonzalez signing was a dumb risk, and you don’t win championships with a bunch of “maybes” (a common theme with the 2004 Royals). Beltran is still very good, but even he’s not worth what the Royals will pay him this season.

Starting Pitching: Radke/Reed/Lohse/Milton vs. Anderson/Gobble/May/Affeldt
Here we are at last. This is the category that separates the pretenders from the contenders. The big question surrounding the 2004 Royals was: “Will their starting pitching come through?” The answer, as we all know, has been a resounding “NO!”. Brian Anderson was supposed to be the ace of this “staff”, yet he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that his solid 2003 was a fluke with a 7.00 ERA so far this season (and we’re in late June!). The Royals gave Darrell May a big contract this winter following a very good 2003, but he has an ERA of almost 6.00 this season. Young Jimmy Gobble has been the Royals’ best starter, but even he has been mediocre (4.54 ERA w/4 wins). Affeldt struggled with injuries and was moved to the bullpen, but he has been surprising bad this year as well (1.65 WHIP), especially for someone so talented.
I fully realize the Twins starting rotation in 2002 wasn’t the world’s greatest by any means, but at least they had a few guys (Reed, Radke, and Milton) who had proved themselves at the big league level for more than one year. Sure, all four were pretty middling in ’02 (except Reed, who had a pretty good regular season), but they were good enough.
Advantage: 2002 Twins. This is the X-Factor. The Royals took an awful risk with their 2004 rotation, and it failed miserably. The Twins played it safe (despite the added costs) and it paid off in the long run.

Bullpen: Guardado/Hawkins/Romero/Jackson/Fiore vs. Sullivan/Grimsley/Leskanic/MacDougall
This is a no-brainer, for obvious reasons. The 2002 bullpen was quite possibly the best in franchise history (especially with wunderkind Johan Santana). Many thought the Royals’ bullpen would be solid this year, and if you look at individuals, it hasn’t been all that terrible (Sullivan and Grimsely have been pretty decent). But the collapses of Leskanic (since released) and MacDougall have been crippling. MacDougall was an All-Star last season, but he has only pitched 3.1 big league innings this year. What was perceived as a potential strength before the season has turned into yet another weakness for the Royals, while exactly the opposite was true for the 2002 Twins.
Advantage: Big-time 2002 Twins. There is little explanation even needed here. The Royals tried to go with proven bullpen arms, but they have simply not lived up to expectations. The Twins went with unprovens, yet it turned out spectacularly. Go figure. Had you compared these two teams before their respective seasons, the verdict might have been a little closer, but I still don’t like cobbling a bullpen together with a bunch of overpriced middle relievers. The Twins went for a blend of young arms and veterans, which seems to be a much better recipe for success.

Well, there you have it. I realize this rudimentary analysis was done with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, but as you can see, the rest of the country should have realized before the season began that the 2004 Royals would never hold a candle to the 2002 Twins. If you have any thoughts of your own, feel free to drop a note in the comments section below, or e-mail me at Thanks for stopping by Twins Chatter and have a good day.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Searching for the Next David Ortiz

Whatever happened to the David Ortiz we once knew? The one that the Twins let go a couple of seasons ago after several years where his potential did not translate to performance. Remember how he could hardly play an entire season without suffering some kind of injury? Sure there was that great July of 2002, but who could have expected that to ever happen again (and this time, for almost a full season)? The Twins cut bait following the 2002 season so they wouldn't have to over-pay for potential. All Ortiz has done since then is almost win an MVP on the way to carrying his team to the 2003 playoffs. Along the way, he hit 31 HR and has added another 16 to his career totals this year including one last night against his former team. Those power numbers would look pretty good in the middle of a lineup almost completely devoid of power. A lineup whose first baseman has provided so little production as of late some circles have mentioned him in the same breath as Luis Rivas from a month ago. This all begs the question: which players on the 2004 Twins could follow the same career path as Ortiz?

Here is a list of players who may not be with the team next year due to either their contract situations or on-the-field play.

Luis Rivas and Cristian Guzman - Earlier in the season everyone was calling for their heads. That speculation has cooled as their play has improved. Each are due huge raises next year. Rivas can go to arbitration and Guzman has an option for $5.25 million. The team may decide that neither are worth the money and go with younger cheaper versions hoping for the same production. Both have a lot of unrealized potential. Rivas is having a month reminiscent of the breakout Ortiz experienced in July 2002. He has gone through spurts before and like Ortiz has suffered several injury setbacks. He could land with another team and really settle into being a productive player. It is more likely though that he will fall into being an average ballplayer not worth the $3 million it will likely cost to keep him.
Guzman might be attractive to other teams. The Twins would be out of their minds to keep him at $5.25 million. If there is a way they could keep him for less money they should make a fair attempt for what he brings to the table. He is never going to be a big base stealer or hit for any kind of power. His defense is inconsistent at best. If given the right situation he could be a very exiting catalyst down the road but I doubt the last couple of years would lead anyone to believe that no one will ever see that player.

Corey Koskie - Koskie makes the list because he will be the Twins biggest decision in the offseason. What most people forget about Ortiz was his clubhouse presence. Koskie is one of the teams most popular players and lightens up the atmosphere in the clubhouse. He also has been the team's most consistent hitter over the last couple of years. His glove is great and he has a little bit of power. It should be no surprise if he goes elsewhere and puts up numbers. The real debate is whether his back makes his signing worthwhile.

Matt LeCroy - LeCroy often split time with Ortiz when he was around. He has often struggled for playing time and has suffered a few minor injuries. The difference between LeCroy and Ortiz of a couple of years ago is that LeCroy has almost always been productive when given at bats. The problem is that LeCroy's ceiling is not as high as Ortiz's was and the Twins will have to make a decision whether they are sick of trying to get him at bats and ready to let him go. Wherever he lands he will put up decent numbers but nothing that will surprise the Twins to make them feel like they made a mistake (like they might feel with Ortiz).

Jacque Jones - The mantra since the offseason has been to trade Jacque Jones. The organization has a glut of outfielders and Jones is the most tradable. Jones' contract is up at the end of the year and he stands to get a raise in arbitration. If he is not traded before then the team may be forced to let him go. Jacque might be the best overall hitter on the team. The problem is he doesn't draw any walks and struggles against lefties. The Twins would know what they are giving up. He has played everyday and been given at bats in every situation. Someday he may have a great season and put up a very high average. If he ever learns how to walk he could be very dangerous but it will never happen.

Henry Blanco - One can only hope he is gone before the season ends for he is no "Babe" Blanco. No one has ever regretted giving up on him.

JC Romero - Recently demoted to AAA he has thrice lost the confidence of the team. He is the most talented arm in the bullpen when up and it still is going to take a lot for the team to give up on him. Faced with arbitration the Twins may decide he is not worth the risk and Romero will certainly be given an opportunity with another team. It is easy to imagine him shut down teams in the ninth for someone but with the type of problems he has had it probably wont happen. How he reacts to his latest demotion could very well determine his career path. If he comes back and performs for the Twins he will most certainly be resigned and hopefully maintain his dominance. If he struggles he may be doomed to spending the rest of his baseball life as just another bounce around reliever with great stuff and bad aim.

Michael Cuddyer - Which brings us to Cuddyer. He was once the Twins most hyped prospect. Everyone said, "look out for Cuddyer, this kid can really mash." A couple tries at a full time job later and the Twins just may be thinking it is time to cut bait. He has rarely showed his promise at the major league level while being given opportunities. Those opportunities have been short and he has lost his job after struggling for only a short time. Still, the isn't much that Cuddyer has done in the major leagues that should lead the Twins to believe he can be much more.
Out of all the players the Twins could let go in the off-season he is the one with the most potential. There is no excuse for why he has not performed but he has had his moments such as when he was called up at the end of 2002 and spring training this year. Those moments are what lead me to believe he could still achieve his ceiling. His swing is still powerful and he can play several positions but needs to settle in at one. He is still cheap next year and the team should hold on to him and his potential for one more go. Otherwise, he may be the next David Ortiz.

Monday, June 21, 2004

June Swoon? I Think Not

Well, they did it again. Just when you think the Twins are reeling from a difficult late-inning loss, they come right back and win the next day in convincing fashion. As most of you know already, the story of Sunday’s 4-2 win over the now-formidable Brewers was Johan Santana, a.k.a. the Johanimator (copyright Bat-girl). He was his old brilliant self over 8 innings: 2 earned runs, 4 hits, and most impressively, 12 strikeouts. This is the pitcher that we were counting on to lead our staff in 2004, not the impersonator that had a 5.61 ERA as late as May 29. Here are Johan’s totals so far for the month of June:

3 W, 30.2 IP, 17 H, 9 ER, 6 BB, 36 Ks, 10.7 K/9 IP, 2.68 ERA, 0.76 WHIP

I don’t know about you, but I’d say those are some pretty impressive numbers, and if you only include Johan’s last three performances, they are even more outstanding. Sunday’s masterpiece also helped Johan lower his season ERA to 4.61, well on its way to a Johan-ish level (somewhere in the low-to-mid 3.00s).

So far in June, the Twins have a record of 11-7. There have been a few very noticeable blemishes (losing 3 of 4 to the Deviled Hams and 2 of 3 at home to the Phillies), but somehow, at least record-wise (the only statistic that actually matters) it has been a pretty good month for the hometown nine. How has this happened? Our offense, which was absolutely putrid in May, hasn’t been a whole helluva lot better in June. The Twins are hitting a collective .248 this month, with a measly .319 OBP. They’re averaging a mediocre 4.6 runs per game, which is not a figure you would expect from a team that is consistently winning ballgames. But the Twins have finally returned to their old tried-and-true method of winning: pitching and defense.

Even after his baffling meltdown on Saturday night, Brad Radke still has a 2.28 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in June (all without collecting a win!). Carlos Silva has also performed admirably, notching 2 wins to go with a 3.16 ERA in his four June starts. Even the enigma that is Kyle Lohse has been respectable, posting a 3.79 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in his three June starts. As hard as I was on him the other day for giving up four sixth inning runs, he really didn’t pitch that badly overall.

The bullpen, which hasn’t quite lived up to the lofty expectations that stemmed from their April and May dominance, has been pretty decent as well in June. Juan Rincon (who will get his own column one of these days) has been spectacular this month: 10 scoreless innings, 2 vultured wins, 5 H, 3 BB, and a whopping 14 strikeouts. He is almost single-handedly responsible for holding the ‘pen together after the implosion J.C. My man Grant Balfour, despite his moments of shakiness, has only allowed a run in 5.1 innings pitched. Joe Nathan has also been his dominant self, although not as lights-out as he was in April and May. Even Fultzy and Mulholland haven’t been completely terrible.

The Twins’ fielding hasn’t improved quite as much statistically in June as the pitching did, but the team is slowly climbing up the charts in fielding percentage in June (they now sit at 10th in the AL) and their have been a number of spectacular plays made this month. Torii has been making great catches left and right, and even Louie Rivas is flashing some leather. Although the numbers might disagree somewhat, defense has also played a big role in the Twins’ stellar June record.

Johan’s tremendous Father’s Day performance has really helped bring to the forefront the Twins’ improved pitching in the month of June. With a rotation that has four guys (Radke, Santana, Lohse, and Silva) all pitching well, I don’t see why the Twins can’t expand upon their 1.5 game lead in the division during the upcoming week.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Happy Father's Day Weekend!

Just a short post from us today, First we would like to direct your attention to Seth Speaks today. Dr. Buck Ford, father of Twins outfielder (and Official Player of this blog) Lew Ford was kind enough to write a piece about Lew for the occasion of Father's Day (which is this Sunday). It's a very good read, and We strongly encourage you all to check it out.

The Twins won last night 6-4. Matt Guerrier made his major league debut and his numbers were not that impressive. He allowed 2 earned runs on 6 hits while striking out 3 and walking 1 in 4 innings of work. What stuck out from last night was how the bullpen picked the team up yet again. It has gotten so that it is expected that they will just shut the other team down.

The one exception was Grant Balfour. He was coming off of 6 appearances without allowing a run entering the game. Last night was his first real opportunity in a pressure situation. Juan Rincon had pitched 2 innings the night before and so Balfour had a chance to prove himself. He failed miserably, allowing a run and leaving the game with two more in scoring position. Luckily, out came Joe Nathan to save the day. It's amazing how effectively he and Rincon have used the strikeout in recent outings.

Also of note was Doug Mientkiewicz's homerun. Stuck in an extended slump it was a good sign to see Doug finally get ahold of one. He has been taking the lineup down as of late and needs to pick it up. He needs to be the steadying force in the lineup. Torii Hunter, on the other hand, is horribly inconsistent. It's so frustrating to watch him flail away at pitches so obviously out of the strike zone then come up with a big double such as he did last night. His defense is what keeps most of the criticism off of him.

That is all for today, be sure and stop by Twins Chatter first thing next week for a brand spankin' new post. In the meantime, have a great weekend, don't forget to spend some time with dad and let's go Twins!

-Ryan and John,

Thursday, June 17, 2004

A Win is a Win is a Win...I Guess

Today's post, unlike most that I write, doesn't really have a central theme. I just want to comment briefly on a variety of Twins-related issues; throw some ideas/thoughts out there just to see what other people think.

First off the bat, we have the Twins 5-4 "win" over the beyond-lowly (I don't know what is below "lowly") Expos. As many of you probably already know, I put "win" in quotes because the Twins didn't actually "win" in the truest sense of the word. In your morning paper it will have the Twins down for another victory, but in reality, the Twins won because the umpires screwed up big time (I umpire quite often, so I realize that umpires are only human and prone to mistakes just like the rest of us). Luis Rivas' 11th inning homer was at least a couple feet foul, but I doubt anyone in Montreal will put up much of a fuss (outside Frank Robinson--more on that later). I'm glad the team did "win", but it definitely feels like a hollow victory. Seems like we're only kicking a poor dog who's almost dead anyway.

The stat line on starter Kyle Lohse (6 innings, 4 ER, 6 H) is a little misleading. I wasn't able to catch his first few innings, but he looked reasonably solid until the 6th inning, when he gave up the runs. Lohse's ERA is so bad right now (5.38), he's going to need a string of about three or four very good starts to lower it down to a respectable level. Unfortunately for Kyle, opponents don't come much easier than the Expos, so it's too bad he wasn't able to take advantage.

Was anybody else saddened by the spectacle put on by Montreal manager Frank Robinson during the 11th inning? Now I realize he was (understandably) upset by the HR call, but it makes you wonder how far the mighty have fallen, doesn't it? Here's a guy who was one of the best players of the modern era. He hit 586 home runs, is the only player to win the MVP in both leagues, and was a first-ballot Hall of Famer. And now he's making choking motions in front of 3,000 fans as the manager of one of the worst baseball teams ever assembled? And what about the Expos themselves? I admire their spirit, but what the way Major League Baseball has run this once-proud franchise into the ground is disgusting. They are just so bad. It truly is a sad state of affairs.

Statline of the Night:0-5, GIDP, 4 Ks, 5 LOB
As you probably already guessed, this line belongs to none other than our beloved Torii Hunter. He had about as bad a game as anyone can possibly have, striking out in four consecutive at-bats (he warmed up by grounding into a DP in his first AB), including a clutch strikeout with the bases loaded in the 8th inning. I know everyone has bad days, but today's "performance" really got me thinking about Torii. Despite reports to the contrary, Torii's plate discipline really hasn't changed at all. When he falls behind in the count, he still swings at just about everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING. Case in point: his 4th strikeout Wednesday was a fastball about two feet outside and in the dirt—I mean come on! I know we all hoped Torii would blossom into this amazing superstar after his great 2002 campaign, but let's face it: Torii will never be anything more than he is right now. He'll hit .250-.270, hit 25 homers, and drive in as many runs as his lineup allows (probably 80-95). The most valuable part of his game will always be his defense, as he has few (if any) peers out in center field. Now, even if Hunter never improves from these norms, he will still be a very solid player. He's just not the player that the Twins had in mind when they gave him a club-record 36 million dollar contract before last season.

I had a couple more things I wanted to talk about (most notably Dougie Baseball's recent performance and the Matt Guerrier's ML debut), but it is getting rather late and I have to work in the morning. Those thoughts and more will have to wait for another time. As always, thanks for visiting Twins Chatter. Feel free to e-mail me at if you so desire. Adios.

Expos reliever Jeremy Fikac sits alone on the Expos bench after the Twins take yet another game from hapless Montreal

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Help Wanted

It’s that time of year again and the Twins should hope to be players in this year's trade market. From about mid-June until the trade deadline rumors heat up and deals go down. Some teams, like the Royals, are already out of it while others will wait around a little bit longer before gutting their pieces. There are many spare parts and a few studs out there. The Twins are a team hoping to get over the hump this year and advance in the playoffs. Anything is possible with the current roster but an upgrade would greatly improve their chances. What do they need and what is it going to take for people to be calling the Twins world champions come October?

It is hard to tell where to start when considering what the team's greatest need is. There are numerous areas of weakness but if the Twins hope to advance in this year's playoffs they must add an Ace starter. Pitching makes all the difference in the playoffs and right now the Twins don't have 3 or 4 pitchers capable of shutting down a team. Brad Radke has pitched very well and once again the team will rely on him to win. He is followed by Johan Santana who had mixed results last year against the Yankees. This year he needs to shake off freak injuries and come up big for the Twins to advance. Carlos Silva has been great this year and will earn the right to start in the playoffs but no one should expect him to shut down an opponent. He just allows too many hits and lacks experience. Kyle Lohse has been inconsistent his whole career and a big game will only get him more exited and more inconsistent as has happened before.

The problem is there aren't many Aces available out there. The ones that are, are not considered true Aces but cost as much as one. So the team might have to go ahead and gamble on what they've got in the playoffs. Nevertheless, they need to at least add a veteran starter before the deadline. Right now the fifth starter has been a major void and no one has emerged. It could be JD Durbin or Joe Mays in the end but this team can't wait.

The second biggest need is a big time hitter. Unfortunately most of these hitters play positions the team is already stacked at. This move is unlikely to happen but it would be nice to go into a playoff series with a player capable of driving in some runs. Perhaps a Jacque Jones and a prospect deal would be the ticket. The past two years the Twin's bats have been shut down in the playoffs. It doesn't matter how well your pitchers throw if you don't score any runs. A .400 OBP. and 30-40 homerun guy in the middle of the lineup would look very good but once again could be quite costly.

Before the end another middle reliever would really help the staff. This might be the cheapest item on the market but still may be overpriced. To this point the bullpen has performed admirable especially with the meltdown of JC Romero. The bullpen lacks depth and proven pitchers. A high quality set up man would help everyone out. Juan Rincon has performed very well but a second option will cause other teams headaches and keep him fresh not to mention if he should falter.

At the beginning of the year everyone was calling for a middle infield addition. That speculation has cooled with the improved play of Cristian Guzman and Luis Rivas. I don't think this team needs someone to start over these guys or could find anyone better. What they need is a guy good enough to start who can hit a little bit off the bench. That way if Rivas gets into another slump they will have an option to replace him. Also he adds flexibility to late inning personal changes. Nick Punto will be a welcome addition with his return.

The team is going to have to give something up to get help. They have a glut of outfield prospects that are ready to play in the majors. Mike Restovich might look very appealing to other organizations but in this one really doesn't have a spot. The team should be willing to part with him. Grant Balfour is another player who has a lot of talent but has yet to prove himself. I would not part with JD Durbin or Jesse Crain unless the team was blown away with a player. The Twins have a window of opportunity and just about anyone else should be made available to make postseason glory possible.

Justin Morneau might be the team's most valuable asset. They should do their best to hold onto him. Out of all the prospects that have come up he has the best chance to provide the power this team has lacked since 1987. He might be hitting cleanup for the next 10 years. He might even be a valuable weapon for the Twins down the stretch this year at a cheaper cost then anyone they try to trade for.

This is a team that needs to be active in this year's trade market. They have to be smart and identify needs without overpaying for players with some kind of fault. Terry Ryan has been very good about being creative and getting more then he should for AAAA type players. He needs to bring that same mentality to this year's dealings. The competition is only going to get stronger and the Twins must follow suit. The time is now and nobody knows when the window of opportunity closes.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Ford’s MVP Award Caps Storybook Season for Twins

November 9, 2004

MINNEAPOLIS, MN- If you had asked any so-called baseball “experts” for their AL MVP pick before the start of the 2004 season, the list would have probably been a predictable one.

Alex Rodriguez. Manny Ramirez. Vladimir Guerrero. Derek Jeter. Even Garrett Anderson.

But Lew Ford? Come on. No one in their right mind can honestly say they saw this one coming, Ford included.

“To tell you the truth, this [the MVP award] was the absolute last thing on my mind at the beginning of the season. Heck, I was just trying to get back to the big leagues,” said the Twins outfielder at Tuesday's award presentation ceremony.

On April 9th, Ford did indeed get recalled from AAA Rochester, and he never looked back. He hit a blistering .419 in April, rebounded from a June slump to bat .357 in July with seven home runs, and proved himself once again by coming up with several clutch hits during the Twins drive for the American League Central Division title in late September. Overall, Ford’s numbers are indeed MVP-worthy: a .338 batting average, 35 home runs, 112 RBIs, and a league-leading .456 on-base percentage. Most importantly, he was the main offensive catalyst on a team that struggled to score runs at various points throughout the season.

“What more can you say about the kid?” said manager Ron Gardenhire at the press conference. “Lew really stepped up this year and carried us. I know many people thought his great April was simply a fluke, but I think he really proved his mettle when he had that unbelievable series down in Chicago.”

“Unbelievable” is putting it mildly. Entering a late September series with the division-leading Chicago White Sox, the Twins were three games back and needed a sweep to keep their already-slim playoff hopes alive. Ford, it seems, wasn’t ready for his breakout season to end. He collected an astounding 12 hits during the three game series, none bigger than his game-winning three-run homer in the 9th inning of the series finale. The now-famous “South Side Sweep” would propel the Twins to their third consecutive AL Central Division championship, and also to their first World Series championship in 13 years.

“A lot of point to that series as the turning point of our season, and I have to admit that they’re right,” said Gardenhire. “Lew obviously carried us during that series, and once we were in the playoffs, our starters simply took the torch and led us to the promised land. But there is no doubt in my mind that Lew was as valuable to us as any other player in the league was to his team.”

Ford’s near-unanimous selection puts an exclamation on what has been an extraordinary year for the Minnesota Twins. Like Ford, not many expected the team to make much noise (at least in the playoffs) before the season started, but both surprised the entire nation in a very big way.

“I still can’t believe any of this has happened,” said Ford on Tuesday. “It all seems like some incredible dream.”

For the Twins organization and their fans, this is one dream they hope will never end.

If you enjoyed this 'article' check out the one I wrote about Henry Blanco back in April

The Sunday Chatter

It is back. The Sunday Chatter has returned just in time. The Twins were caught up in a whirlwind weekend of news. Players were sent down and others took their place and oh by the way the team also played some baseball this weekend. Unfortunately the team lost 2 out of 3 but at least there is plenty to talk about so enjoy.

What are your reactions to the Twins' play so far during the interleague schedule? What are some of your thoughts for the upcoming week (vs. Montreal and Milwaukee)?

John‘s Response: “I think we should all be encouraged by the results so far. The Twins were not winning any games before and now they seem to be turning things around. The team suffered a couple of tough losses during the Phillies series. There are some things they have not fixed. The offense is still much too inconsistent and I'm not sold on the pitching either. Starters such as Santana and Lohse need to continue to build on good outings and a fifth starter needs to emerge. The bullpen, with the exception of the now demoted J.C Romero, has been phenomenal. The Twins need to play well in their upcoming series. Montreal is a team that they need to beat up on. It should be very eerie for the players to go into Olympic stadium and play in front of 3,000 fans.”

Ryan‘s Response: "I was also encouraged by the early returns from interleague play. The sweep of the Mets wasn't always pretty, but you can't argue with results. Those perennial underachievers from Queens were the perfect remedy for the Twin’s funk. I was a tad disappointed by the Phillies series, not only because the Twins lost 2 of 3, but because they conceivably could have swept the Phils. Friday's comeback was outstanding until J.C. went into his patented "implosion mode", but I thought it was enough of a boost for the Twins to charge back and win the series. Today's loss was heartbreaking. That being said, the team should bounce back against the lowly Expos, although I'm not looking forward to watching games in Olympic Stadium (yeeech!)."

Obviously, the big story of the week was J.C. Romero, he of the 5.70 ERA, being sent down to AAA Rochester. Michael Restovich was recalled to take his place on the 25 man roster. Do you think J.C. will be able to get himself straightened out in AAA? And why did the Twins call up Restovich of all people?

JPB: “J.C has so much talent but it is difficult for him to put it together mentally. The demotion could be either very good or bad for him. It sounds like he saw it coming and almost welcomed it meaning it was the right decision. Now he can go down and put together some good confidence boosting outings without any pressure. Maybe he'll never totally put it together for more then short intervals. I just hope he doesn't go down and give up. I hate to see wasted talent.”
Restovich is 25 years old. The team needed another bat on the roster but their options were limited because of the 40 man roster. I don't think they wanted to commit the playing time needed to call up Morneau. Restovich gives them a power hitting, pitch hit option off the bench for at least the rest of interleague play. The only other choice to call up would have been Prieto but he was called up yesterday to replace Michael Ryan."

RM: "I was flabbergasted to see that J.C. was expecting a demotion! This is a guy who was arguably the best middle reliever in the game only 2 years ago. I realize he's had more than his fair share of troubles, but as a big leaguer you have to at least have confidence in your own ability! I realize his options were limited, but Gardy should have never sent him out there for that 9th inning against Philidelphia. There is no denying J.C.'s great stuff, but I have serious doubts as to whether or not he will rebound simply from a demotion. J.C. strikes me as a player with an extremely fragile psyche, and I can't reliably say what will become of him. But obviously as a Twins fan I hope he can bounce back.
The Restovich call-up was a tad unexpected (even by Restovich himself) but I like it, even if he gets limited duty. With Mike Ryan on the DL, perhaps we can give Resto some extended playing time, if only to showcase him to other teams. I think there is a good possibility that Restovich will get traded come July."

The Twins finally cut bait on Seth Greisinger this weekend after a series of mediocre to terrible outings. Can they reasonably expect more from Matt Guerrier or is he just holding the spot until an option outside the organization materializes?

RM: "In the short-term, I like this move. It has become undeniably apparent over the last few weeks that Seth Greisinger could not get the job done at the big league level. I think its great the Twins are becoming a 'meritocracy' (a word I learned over on the DTFC)--if you suck, you get sent down. THAT'S THE WAY THINGS ARE SUPPOSED TO WORK! If anything, Guerrier can't be any worse than Greisinger. He was a bit of a hard-luck loser at AAA (with a 3-6 record), as his ERA was solid around 3.50. He gives up some homers, but then again, so did Greisinger. I just think it's a shame Rick Helling couldn't hang on for another week or so..."

JPB: “I'm pretty sure Rick Helling would not have been an upgrade for this team. Everything I've heard about him seems negative as far as his stuff goes. If he was worth something other teams would be standing in line to give him a chance. I would rather they give those innings to a young kid who has a chance to prove himself. Guerrier is the first in line for an opportunity. The best thing I've heard about him is that he doesn't walk anybody which is always a good sign. His stuff isn't supposed to be amazing but the staff likes him. I'm just happy that he's not Greisinger. I began calling for his demotion weeks ago when everyone still had his 7 shutout innings fresh in their minds. The guy never looked like a major league pitcher and was a waste of a start every fifth day. I foresee Guerrier getting starts for a month before the team swings a trade for a veteran. They already tried to go after Paul Abbot so they must see starting depth as a weakness. Who knows, maybe they'll pull off a blockbuster for someone big. They have enough upper level prospects to do it and this is the year they want to get over the hump. I suppose we can all ask ourselves “when will Joe Mays return?”

This weekend also saw the re-emergence of Luis Rivas (who went 7-8 vs. Philly, raising his BA to .275). What do you think about this rather unexpected new development? How does it change the Twins' second base predicament?

JPB: What second base predicament? Luis has come storming back and reclaimed the spot. The question with Luis has always been potential. Right now he looks like he might live up to it. Last year he put together a couple of good months in the middle of the season too. Michael Cuddyer did not do enough with his opportunity to change anything. A serviceable Rivas strengthens the lineup. He is fun to watch when he comes to play and nobody turns the double play better. I don't think anyone can complain about good performance so we should ride his wave as long as possible.
At this point I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a defense of Luis Rivas I recently received from one of our readers and a former little league coach of mine, Bill Johnson. When discussing the play that occurred last Thursday in extra innings versus the Mets he points out that Rivas had no idea whether Mientkiewicz would be safe or not at third base. If the play goes through and Doug is thrown out, then Rivas would have been criticized for not getting to second on the play and putting himself in scoring position with two outs. As it was, the play turned out unfortunate when Rivas was thrown out at second and the inning ended without the Twins scoring. This is an explanation I have not previously seen mentioned and paints Rivas in a better light then the one claiming Rivas was trying to take away the possibility of a double play.

RM: Even though I have never been a big Rivas guy (and have been just as hard on him as anyone out there these last 2 seasons) I was pleasantly surprised to see how well he's played the past two games and sense his return. This is what Luis Rivas is supposed to do; we've all kind of forgotten how good he once was. Louie is supposed to hit the ball in the gaps, utilizing his great speed to turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples. He's also supposed to play great defense, as he's always turned the DP with the best of them. You're right about Cuddyer-as much as I love his power potential, he did not do enough in Rivas' absence to justify more playing time now that Luis is back. And he is still horrific at turning the double play, especially when compared to Rivas. Plus, if Rivas is hitting, what good is Cuddy?

What is the Twins ideal lineup with everyone back and healthy?

Stewart - DH
Guzman- SS
Ford- LF
Koskie- 3B
Jones- RF
Hunter- CF
Mientkiewicz- 1B
Mauer- C
Rivas- 2B
"I think it's pretty obvious by now that Lew is a better defensive outfielder than Stewart will ever be (especially now with his foot problems), and there is simply no way you can take him out of the lineup. LeCroy is the odd man out, but we should be able to find some ABs for him at first, catcher, and DH. As I stated earlier, Rivas simply looks better than Cuddyer right now (my, how things change quickly!) and he should probably be starting at 2B. There aren't many surprises in the rest of the lineup, except that Dougie is hitting 7th. Until he starts driving in some runs and hitting higher than .250, that is where he should be."

Stewart - DH
Mientkiewicz - 1B
Ford - LF
Koskie - 3B
Hunter - CF
Jones - RF
Mauer - C
Guzman - SS
Rivas - 2B
“Ford is the team’s best hitter right now and deserves to bat third. They have not had a legitimate third hitter in the lineup since Paul Moliter. It’s hard to decide who bats second between Mientkiewicz, Mauer and Guzman. I go with Mientkiewicz because I think he is the most consistent hitter at this point in his career and does a good job taking pitches and moving runners over. Koskie is not an ideal cleanup hitter but that’s the way the lineup works out, if Morneau or LeCroy are in the lineup they would hit cleanup (Funny how that works). I would feel confident that this team would consistently score with this lineup. It just flows in my mind."

Friday, June 11, 2004

You Play With Fire, You Get...Rewarded?

Wow! What a game we had tonight. I hope you all stayed up to watch the Twins defeat the New York Mets 3-2 in 15 innings, but if you didn’t, you missed one helluva contest. It is pushing midnight here in MN, but since I’m still on a warped collegiate sleep cycle (“night” lasts from 2 a.m. until 11 a.m.), I’ve still got the energy to highlight a few interesting points from Thursday’s game.

First of all, what an effort by Kyle Lohse (to borrow an oft-used phrase by Bert Blyleven). THIS is the Kyle Lohse that we all know and love, not the imposter that has been terrible the entire season up to this point. He was a little shaky over the first three innings (Floyd’s homer and double scoring the Mets’ only two runs) but was lights out from the fourth until the seventh. Kyle finally did what everyone has been telling him to do for the past two months: he stopped trying to overthrow his pitches. Just because you CAN throw 94-95 mph doesn’t mean that you are most effective when you throw that hard. From what I saw, Kyle was spotting his fastball nicely at about 92 mph, but he was still able to pump it up to 95 when he needed a big strikeout. He also stopped trying to throw the “perfect” curveball every time—something that has hurt Lohse at times throughout the season. A curveball that only breaks 6 inches but is on the outside corner at the knees is far more effective than a curveball that breaks a foot but hangs right over the middle of the plate. But it all comes down to throwing strikes, which is what Lohse did tonight (one walk in seven innings). In 2003, Lohse averaged about 2 walks per 9 innings pitched (one of the better ratios in the league); before Thursday, he was averaging more than 4.5 BB/9 IP in 2004. Hopefully Kyle finally has himself straightened out and can start acting like the pitcher we all know he can be.

Next, can I get a show of hands from all those people who are still chuckling after seeing LeCroy chug around the bases and score the game-tying run in the 9th inning?! Wasn’t that something? I still can’t believe that he scored, as it was an amazing play all around. When I realized that Gardy could only make one of the two possible moves (either pinch hit for Blanco or pinch-run for LeCroy) I was certain he would let Blanco hit. In a normal universe, it would take at least two hits (read: two doubles) to score LeCroy from first base, and the odds of that happening with two outs are slim/none. And if Cameron hits either one of the cutoff men, LeCroy is out by 15 feet. But Lady Luck was smiling on Gardy and Al Newman tonight it seems (and on more than one occasion) as the game would go on.

Now I must (regrettably) focus on one negative aspect of the game: the overall play of one Luis Rivas. Now I know he had the infield single in the 15th and scored the winning run, but for the first 14 innings of tonight’s game, his play was terrible. Rivas had four consecutive weak-ass groundouts, and when he finally did bloop a single into center, he made a potentially HUGE baserunning mistake by getting thrown out at second. Louie Louie Louie—what were you thinking?!? The winning run is on third, there is only one out, and your run means absolutely NOTHING! Why would you even think about trying for second? It is simply beyond my ability to even comprehend such a boneheaded mistake. The reason some people will give—that Rivas wanted to take away the double play—is also moot, since Guzman was up next and is extremely difficult to double up. In the end, it didn’t matter, but at the time it looked like a potentially game-costing gaffe by Rivas. I don’t know if I could dislike Rivas any more than I do right now.

I would also be remiss if I did not mention the brilliant effort by the Twins relief corps. 8 scoreless innings is no small task, and although it was touch-and-go a few times there (the Mets had major threats in the 11th, 14th, and 15th innings). The Mets left 17 men on base for the entire game, and a large percentage of those game in extra innings. Juan Rincon was once again lights-out, and Joa Roa also did a commendable job. But my man Grant Balfour finally got a chance to prove his mettle in a big game, and he did not disappoint. He got two big outs in the 14th with the go-ahead run on third, and was even able to pitch a scoreless 15th (with a little help from Torii Hunter). I still think that he could be the X-Factor in this bullpen, as he and Rincon would comprise a perfect 1-2 punch out of the bullpen.

And lastly, there is Michael Ryan. I was extremely disappointed with his first two at-bats (two ugly strikeouts), but he came through with his only his second hit in his last 20 at-bats to score the winning run in the 15th. Had he choked once again I may have come out and called for his demotion, but when you come through in the clutch, such trivial things are forgotten. For on this day, Michael Ryan, you are not a slumping 5th outfielder. You are the hero.

Mike Ryan connects on with the game-winning single in the bottom of the 15th inning to propel the Twins over the Mets 3-2.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Now Leading Off - Doug Mientkiewicz

Doug has now led off three straight games for the Twins. He is not your prototypical leadoff hitter. If not for Matt LeCroy, he quite possibly could be considered the slowest member of the team. What the Twins first baseman does well is get on base.

Everyone likes Shannon Stewart because of his ability to take pitches and set the tone for the rest of the lineup. This is what Mientkiewicz is capable of in the leadoff hole. This year his OBP is down at .326 but he is still has drawn 21 walks. Most players tend to return to their career average as the season progresses. Doug's career OBP is .367. This year that would put him right in the middle of AL leadoff men Johnny Damon .380, Ichiro .379 and Alex Sanchez .355.

Batting Doug first is a good idea while Stewart is out. He sets up the rest of the lineup much the same while also putting himself in a position to score runs. In fact, he has actually scored more runs, 22, then he has batted in, 15. He is caught in the middle of an up and down year but so is the rest of the team right now. His speed should not be an issue as both speedsters Cristian Guzman and Luis Rivas have failed in the role in years past. All that matters is that he gets on base for the rest of the lineup to drive him in.

The rest of the lineup included Lew Ford batting third last night. The Mientkiewicz move also sets this up. Ford has been the team's best most consistent hitter. He has a little bit of speed and can drive in runs. He did a great job leading off but in that spot was not given the opportunity to drive in runs. Batting third he can be fully utilized and with Mientkiewicz getting on base he will have someone to drive in.

Imagine this scenario; Doug leads of and rips a gapper for a double. Guzman comes up and in typical fashion can't lay down a bunt and ends up popping to third for the first out. Now batting Leewwwwwwww Ford. Who promptly rips a single to center scoring Mientkiewicz. If the Twins could get that from the first inning they'd be setting themselves up nicely for the rest of the game. Heck, that lone run is all Brad Radke needs these days. The Twins should keep these two guys in their spots and see where it takes them. So far they have a 3 game winning streak.

Note - Mientkiewicz is only 1/11 batting leadoff and hates the spot in the order. This doesn't mean that he can't be succesful there or help the team most by hitting there. Even 1/11 isn't necessarily terrible if he is being patient and taking pitches.

Power Outage.

I was already to deliver an excellant column tonight when the power mysteriously went out. Now that it is back on it is much to late for me to post anything of substance so I am forced to wait until tomorrow. I apologize for any inconvienence but if you stop back before noon there will be something new up on the site. Until then please check out Ryan's excellant draft coverage from earlier this week if you missed it or some of the other excellant blogs out there.

The Twins won a great game last night 5-3. Johan Santana pitched like we all expected at the beginning of the year going 7 innings while allowing 1 run. He even pitched out of a 7th inning jam. Joe Nathan notched his 16th save after coming into the game in the 8th inning. Jacque Jones hit a 3 run homerun. Matthew LeCroy also hit one. The Twins are finally showing signs of escaping their slump. Even Luis Rivas had a good game driving in 1 run while going 2/3. Thank you all again for you patience.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

A Midsummer Night’s Nightmare

In the comments section of John’s entry yesterday, there was a good deal of discussion surrounding “Sweet” Lew Ford (who has been the official player of this blog for a month and a half) and his candidacy for All-Star consideration. Also, Jimmy Souhan over at the Strib wrote a related piece today. This got me thinking. Even though it is only June 9th, All-Star balloting has been going for at least three weeks already and it is never too early to start thinking about such things. It doesn’t look like the Twins will have a player voted into the starting lineup (no surprise there), so we’ve got to start speculating about subs. Who should be the Twins All-Star representative(s)? Do the Twins even deserve more than one? First of all, let’s take a quick look at the possible candidates:

Joe Nathan
1-0, 18 hits allowed in 25.2 IP, 1.75 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 11.22 K/9 IP, 15 saves in 16 chances
Even if Nathan doesn’t continue his recent dominance (Sunday’s near-disaster notwithstanding) and is only respectable, he’s an almost sure-fire lock to make the team as a reliever. Joe Torre always likes to carry plenty of closers and middle relievers on his All-Star teams, and Nathan is one of the top three or four closers in the AL right now. Obviously Torre will take Mariano Rivera, and Francisco Cordero (Texas) and Keith Foulke are strong candidates as well. Outlook: Barring an unforeseen collapse, Joe Nathan will almost certainly be representing the Twins in Houston come July.

Brad Radke
4-3, 3.36 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, MLB-demolishing 0.87 BB/9 IP (8 walks in 83 innings)
This is one case that has really REALLY got me steamed. Brad Radke has been absolutely outstanding this season; he has been a model of consistency over the past month and a half. If Radke gets even average run support over that span, he could easily have eight or nine wins right now. He should most definitely have AT LEAST seven. If the Twins offense hasn’t decided to go on vacation during the month of May (and now June), Brad could have possibly cruised into July with 10 wins and a low 3.00s ERA, more than enough to gain a spot on the squad. As it stand right now, the ninth-best ERA in the AL has only garnered Radke a measly four wins and little/no buzz about an All-Star appearance. Outlook: Unless the Twins start scoring more than 0-2 runs when Radke pitches, he’ll simply be another player left “on the bubble.”

Lew Ford
.326 AVG, .404 OBP, .917 OPS, 7 HRs and 31 RBIs
I want to first off give this little disclaimer: I am a HUGE Lew Ford fan. In fact, I took the liberty of naming him the Official Player of Twins Chatter before he even reached his full sweetness. But Lew, as much as I love him, is not an All-Star. John and Mimiru did a good job of explaining just why yesterday, but it simply comes down to the fact that outfield is an extremely difficult All-Star position to crack. Manny and Vlad are locks, and Sheffield or Damon may (undeservingly) be the third OF starter, which would only further diminish Lew’s already-slim chances. In a perfect world, Ford might be rewarded for his excellent first half with an All-Star bid, but unfortunately, the All-Star selection process is even more flawed than the rest of the world. Outlook: Unless Ford goes on another tear like he did in April, his chances of making the All-Star game don’t look good.

The Usual Suspects:
Few of the Twins “core” players, they guys you would expect to warrant All-Star consideration, are even in the running this year.
Torii Hunter
Hunter is actually 9th among AL outfielders in the voting right now, but he doesn’t deserve to be. Torii was a deserving starter in 2002, but injuries have limited him to just 8 HRs and 24 RBIs this season.
Corey Koskie
Corey is tied for the team in home runs with 10, but a batting average in the .250s isn’t going to cut it any year.
Jacque Jones
Before his horrendous 1 for 37 slump, JJ was actually a viable All-Star candidate. But obviously that's not the case anymore, as his splits are .255/.314/.447.
Doug Mientkiewicz
Dougie Baseball has struggled with the omnipresent injury bug, but when playing he’s been one of (if not the) worst offensive first basemen in the majors.

My picks: If the game was to be played tomorrow, I believe Joe Nathan would be the Twins’ lone representative. A 31-26 team doesn’t really deserve more than one or two, and the Twins have never been a superstar-laden bunch. But by July 13th, I think that Radke will finally have the record to back up his superb ERA and will sneak in as a starter. In baseball, things usually have a way of evening out and I'm counting on this to be the case with Brad. Joe Nathan and Brad Radke are my predictions, but I hope Lew comes on strong and makes Torre seriously consider him for a bench slot (although I would be surprised if that happens).

Any other predictions/analysis out there? Post a comment below or e-mail me at Thanks for stopping by Twins Chatter again today; please drive home safely.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Twins Fact or Fiction

Today is the first installment of what may become a semi-regular feature of this site. You have seen it on TV with the experts and now here fact or fiction is at this blog. We are not experts but we are knowledgeable, insightful and often opinionated Twins fans. What else do you really need?

1. Luis Rivas deserves to start at second when he comes of the disabled list today.This is tough question to answer. I have been in love with the potential of Michael Cuddyer since the first time I've seen him hit. He just looks like a hitter at the plate. Unfortunately the numbers have not been there. He is mediocre at best in the field with the results being arguably better at second then at third. He has also began to heat up at the plate and despite everything is capable of driving in runs and hitting for power. Rivas was the starting second baseman and can expected to be rusty in his return. He wasn't hitting that well before he went down and that slump goes all the way back to last year. He turns a better double play better than Cuddyer but is not head and shoulders above him in any other area. I'm disappointed that neither have stepped up this year and taken the position. Cuddyer promises more potential but has not done enough to usurp the position. His recent hot hitting, while encouraging, could easily be a slump next week if he follows the pattern has developed in his major league career.
It is a fact that Luis Rivas is still the teams starting second baseman for now. He has been given ample opportunity to succeed but you can expect this to be his last chance. I want to see him provide offense and speed while being solid in the field. The chances of that are slim but at this point he slightly gives the team a better chance to win by bringing back a semblance of stability.

2. Joe Roa would be a better fifth starter then Seth Greisinger.
This is a fact. Joe Roa was a starter in the minors and began last year in the Phillies rotation. He has answered the call this year throwing 29 and a third bullpen innings while posting a 2.76 ERA. He has proved himself for a shot at the rotation. It would be a loss for the bullpen but the role he occupies at the moment is not necessarily that important. The fascination by the staff with Greisinger is troubling. He is not that good. They claim he has pitched better then his numbers indicate but for the whole year? I haven’t seen it. He has looked like just another AAAA pitcher. I'm sure the name Seth Greisinger doesn't spark fear in the hearts of any opponents. Neither does Joe Roa but both are holding down roster spots. The 12 man pitching staff is a luxury the Twins can't afford to have much longer. Roa is more useful and has pitched better. Greisinger or Muholland are the obvious choices to go. Muholland is more versatile then Greisinger. Grant Balfour has not gotten a long enough look since coming off injury to make a determination. It's time to cut bait on Seth Greisinger and go with option Joe.

3. Lew Ford deserves to be an all-star.This is fiction for now. The guy has played his heart out for the team and is a big reason they are only a game out in the standings. To be an all-star, from a good team, in the outfield you have to do almost everything. You can either hit lots of homeruns or steal many bases. Lew can do both but not enough. Even his .328 average is impressive but not nothing special. The Twins who deserve all-star consideration are Joe Nathan, Brad Radke and Carlos Silva. Torii Hunter might be a borderline pick because he is a fan favorite and for his defense. These players have excelled at their positions compared to others in the league. For the Twins to get all-star respect they need to have a good month between now and the game. It helps to be in first place. Guys need to emerge and take their spot on the team. It is hard to say what more Lew can do but he has yet to earn it.

4. Interleague play adds excitement to a long summer.It is a fact. It does take a little bit away from the World Series but adds a completely new element to the game. By the time the Series is played much of interleague play has long since been forgotten anyways. What is remembered is the crazy swings from American League pitchers or the Joe Mauers of the world getting to play with Mike Piazza. National League baseball is a lot of fun and American League fans should get to see it and its stars. The stars come out to play. The intriguing match up comes later this week when the Twins play the Phillies. Both teams were winners in last winters trade. It's too bad Eric Milton is not scheduled to pitch in the series but hopefully Silva manages to pull out a win for the home team.

Thank you for stopping by Twinschatter on what is our two month anniversary. If you agree or disagree with any of my opinions feel free to leave a comment below as always or email me at Anything that leads to Twins chatter is what we are all about here. If you feel like you have more to say feel free to write a column and send it to us. We might publish it and make you one of our guest columnists. All are welcome to take part in the chatter surrounding our favorite team.

2004 Day One Draft Recap

Well, the fun part is over. The Twins selected 18 new players in today's amateur draft, and early indications look good (don't they always?). The Twins did pick a couple of the players that I thought they would, but as is the nature of the baseball draft, there were plenty of surprises as well. The Twins had more than their fair share of surprises, but I trust Terry Ryan, Mike Radcliff, and the Twins scouting department wholeheartedly. Here are the players the Twins selected today:

Rnd, (Overall), Player, Position, School
1 (20) Trevor Plouffe SS Crespi HS, Northridge, Calif.
1 (22) Glen Perkins LHP U. of Minnesota
1 (25) Kyle Waldrop RHP Farragut HS, Knoxville TN
1S (35) Matt Fox RHP U. of Central Florida
1S (39) Jay Rainville RHP Bishop Hendricken HS, Pawtucket, R.I.
2 (61) Anthony Swarzak RHP Nova HS, Ft. Lauderdale FL
3 (91) Eduardo Morlan RHP Coral Park HS, Miami
4 (121) Mark Robinson OF Mountain View HS, El Monte, Calif
5 (151) Jeff Schoenbachler LHP Reno (Nev.) HS
6 (181) Patrick Bryant RHP Pensacola Catholic HS, Gulf Breeze, Fla.
7 (211) John Williams LHP Middle Tennessee State U.
8 (241) Jay Sawatski LHP U. of Arkansas
9 (271) J.P. Martinez RHP U. of New Orleans
10 (301) Jeremy Pickrel OF Illinois State U.
11 (331) Kyle Aselton LHP Oregon State U.
12 (361) Shane Boyd RHP U. of Kentucky
13 (391) Walter Patton RHP Lincoln Land (Ill.) CC
14 (421) Javi Sanchez C U. of Notre Dame
15 (451) Juan Portes SS Malden, Mass.
16 (481) Matt Tolbert SS U. of Mississippi
17 (511) Eamon Portice RHP Ft. Lauderdale HS, Oakland Park, Fla.
18 (541) Josh Rose RHP Mariner HS, Cape Coral, Fla.

Plouffe and Perkins were expected picks for the Twins, although I was a tad surprised that they took Plouffe with their first pick. His stock must have risen substantially as draft day approached...Perkins was almost a forgone conclusion, so I'm glad to see he'll have a chance to play for his hometown team. The Waldrop pick at #25 was a big surprise, however; one of the biggest surprises of the entire first round. Waldrop, a 6'5" 200 lb. power righty, is considered to be a very tough sign, as he has committed to Vanderbilt. I hope the Twins make a good effort to sign him, but the odds don't sound good. Here's a quote from Waldrop that appears in Baseball America: "I'm going toward Vanderbilt unless something catches me off guard or blows me away. Unless I'm presented with an even better opportunity with the draft than (the experience) Vanderbilt offers, I'm looking forward to a good three or four years of college."

Matt Fox was a great pick at #35, as he's a college guy with good velocity (low-mid-90s) with command of four pitches. I like that the Twins at least tried to balance talent and performance by selecting both high school and college pitchers. Jay Rainville surprisingly dropped all the way down to #39, and Radcliff and the Twins were smart enough to snatch him up. You can read what I said about him in the Draft Preview below, and this sounds like a steal for the Twins. He'll take some time to develop, most assuredly, but the results could be very rewarding.

Other picks of note are Swarzak, who is also considered a tough sign, and Robinson, one of only 6 non-pitchers drafted by the Twins.

My reactions:
Many experts considered this to be a pretty weak overall draft, with the one strength being college pitching (the Big Three from Rice being prime examples). I even read that it wasn't necessarily a good thing to have multiple early picks this year, as the Twins did. However, I think the Twins have definitely made the best of the hand they were dealt. The organization will probably only sign about 12-15 of their drafted players, instead of the 20-30 they normally sign, so they can focus on signing their myriad higher selections. This is a great strategy, as the team only has a limited draft budget. Usually, teams use the draft to not only find new talent but to fill out their minor league teams. The Twins, thinking ahead, have already accomplished the latter objective and can therefore dedicate more money to signing their higher draft picks. I think you can see evidence of this mindset especially in the Waldrop and Swarzak picks. These are two guys who's draft positions were underestimated not because of talent, but because of signability. If the Twins make a good effort to sign these guys (i.e. give them more money than their draft positions would normally dictate) I think the Twins could potentially have 6 legitimate first-round draft choices this year. This is a great way to take advantage of having so many high picks in what is perceived as a weak year--draft guys who other teams are scared to take.

As usual, the Twins also took an absolute ton (7) of HS pitchers early, although they took a bunch of college pitchers (8) as well--but mostly in later rounds. In a draft thin on position players, this was a smart move, but the Twins always take a ton of pitchers every year. You can never have too many young arms that thrown in the 90s! The Twins were also smart to draft Plouffe and a few other shortstops. This is an organization that desperately needs infielders in the minor leagues, and this should help with that a lot. At first glance, I'm pretty pleased with Day One of the 2004 Draft, but we won't know how successful the Twins' front office was until at least 2008. That is a long time to wait, but such is the nature of the MLB Draft.

p.s. Sorry I took so long to post this draft recap...A couple things came up and I decided to wait until the draft was done for today. Rounds 18-50 are tomorrow, but I don't think we'll have any extra content about them, except for perhaps a quick profile about two MN HS pitchers that will possibly be drafted: Tim Radmacher (Rosemount) and Aaron Craig (Rochester Century). I had a chance to watch both of them pitch over the weekend so I may post some thoughts if the Twins happen draft either one.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Welcome to Twins Chatter!

I just wanted to devise a post to welcome all you first-time visitors to Twins Chatter. We've been going strong for about two months now, and although it has been a struggle at times, it has also been very rewarding. Twins Chatter features two writers: myself (Ryan) and my longtime friend John. We're both life-long Twins fans who enjoy writing as well.

Anyway, I hope you'll check out my latest post, which discusses (in some length) the upcoming Major League Amateur Draft, to be held Monday and Tuesday. Also, here are a few other notable archived posts you may enjoy:

Twins 2-Month Report Card
The Lost Month
Sunday Chatter
Early Season Playoff Match-ups
Thank You Victory Sports for Giving Me My Life Back
Braves Struggle Under Curse of Henry "Babe" Blanco

Also, if you would like to know more about John and I, click here to read a short biography about me and here to learn more about John. Thanks again for stopping by. Be sure and drop by again tomorrow as John will have a new post up.

-Ryan M.

2004 Twins Draft Preview

At noon on Monday, the 2004 Major League Amateur Draft gets underway. This year the occasion is extremely noteworthy for Twins fans. The Twins have five of the first 39 picks this year: numbers 20, 22, 25, 35, and 39. No other team has more than three of the first 40 selections; the Twins themselves have never had more than three of the first 50. Four of these picks (each except #20) are compensation selections for the free agent losses of Eddie Guardado and LaTroy Hawkins this past winter, including the latter two picks which will take place in the supplemental first round. For an organization that traditionally builds from within, this is a great opportunity for the Twins to ensure the continued success of the franchise.

What I have compiled below contains two parts. Part One quickly reviews the Twins’ recent draft history, and Part Two looks at some possible draft choices for the Twins in the early rounds of 2004. It’s a bit lengthy, but I think it is well worth reading in its entirety.

PART ONE: First of all, let’s take a look at the some early-round draft choices of the last few years for the Twins.

1998: 1st Round (6th overall)
Ryan Mills- A highly-touted lefthander out of Arizona State, Mills has been a complete bust for the Twins. He has struggled with his control at almost every level of the minor leagues, and was recently dropped from the 40-man roster. Mills seems to have found his niche lately as a mediocre AAA reliever. Not exactly worth the $2 million signing bonus the Twins doled out in ’98.

1999: 1st Round (5th overall)
B.J. Garbe- Garbe has been another early-first-round disappointment for the Twins. He has definitely not been the hard-hitting outfielder the Twins envisioned him as, posting an OPS of .508 at AA last year. He has been bad this year also, hitting only .232 through Sunday.
2nd Round (56th)
Rob Bowen- Bowen has done about average for a second-round pick, as he is currently the AA catcher for the Twins and has seen some time in the majors as well in ’03 and ’04. He might still become a serviceable major league player, but the Twins are obviously not the right organization for players at his position (more on that later).

2000: 1st Round (2nd overall)
Adam Johnson- Johnson has been one of the biggest draft busts in recent memory. After a horrific 1999 season, Twins fans everywhere were looking forward to a high draft choice in ’00, but the Twins chose signability over promise when they chose the seemingly-polished Johnson out of Cal-State Fullerton. He rose quickly through the ranks, making his ML debut in ’01, but never recovered from the pounding he took that season. He has been terrible at AAA and in his brief major league time ever since. And who can forget his infamous spring training meltdown of last year…
1st Round Supplemental (31st overall)
Aaron Heilman- The Twins drafted Heilman out of Notre Dame, but were unable to sign him. Heilman signed with the Mets the next year, and has been one of their top pitching prospects, although he has struggled in the majors this year (6.75 ERA).

2001: 1st Round (1st overall)
Joe Mauer- What more can I say about this guy that hasn’t already been said? Mauer has as good as advertised thus far: a patient, high-average hitter who is outstanding behind the dish. There was some controversy when the Twins chose Mauer over Mark Prior, but as Jim Souhan said in the Strib Sunday, the decision was a no-brainer. And hey, don’t look now, but Mauer collected his first ML home run, extra-base hit, and RBIs in Sunday’s game! Hopefully these are the first in what promises to be an illustrious career for the 21 year-old.
2nd Round (45th)
Scott Tyler- The jury is still out on Tyler, as he is only 21 years old. He is a great physical specimen (6’5”, 210) but he hit a little bump on the road last year at Quad Cities after a solid season at Elizabethton in ’02. He has been hurt for much of this season and has only made 4 appearances.

2002: 1st Round (20th overall)
Denard Span- ’02 marked the first time in almost a decade that the Twins did not have a top-10 draft choice. Management knew that Span would most likely take time to develop, as he was a rather raw high school player when drafted. Span, who had a decent season at Elizabethton last year, has struggled at times this season in Quad Cities, although reports say he is making progress. He projects as a lead-off man in the Kenny Lofton mold.
2nd Round (61st)
Jesse Crain- Every Twins fan worth his (or her) weight in off-color Teflon has heard the name Jesse Crain. A closer/shortstop from the University of Houston, Crain absolutely dominated the minor leagues these past two seasons, tearing through the Twins minor league affiliates like paper. He has been merely human this year at Rochester, posting a 3.81 ERA to go along with 12 saves. Crain has 98-mph fastball, a plus changeup, and a devastating breaking ball that Ron Gardenhire referred to as the “curveball from hell.” One of the better draft choices by the Twins over the past few years, he should see time with the Twins at some point this season.

2003: 1st Round (21st overall)
Matt Moses- Last year the Twins drafted the swing-swinging 3B Moses as a high school player. He was good in rookie ball last year, but has struggled somewhat with injuries, including a heart defect and back problems. Hopefully he will be okay, as he’s just 19 years old (actually 5 months younger than me—how weird is that?!).
2nd Round (58th)
Scott Baker- A standout pitcher at Oklahoma State, Baker has limited upside but has performed well thus far in the pros. He was very good at Fort Myers earlier this year (2.40 ERA in 7 starts, with only 6 walks in 45 IP) and earned a promotion to New Britain, where he has gone 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA. Everything I read says he projects as a middle-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues, which isn’t bad for a second-round pick.

Whew! We’ve gone over some recent draft history for our beloved Twinks, and as you can see the results have been somewhat less-than-spectacular. Many people refer to the draft as a “crapshoot,” implying that there is almost no way to know whether or not the player you’ve selected will pan out. But I’m not willing to concede that point just yet, so let’s take a look at some of the players the Twins are considering for their first three selections in this year’s draft.

PART TWO: Collegians

Josh Fields, 3B, Oklahoma State
Fields, who was also OK State’s star QB the past two seasons, probably won’t be around when the Twins pick at #20. If he is, I hope that the Twins draft him. Fields is a great college hitter with good power (12 HRs last year) and shows potential defensively at the hot corner. The Twins organization is sorely lacking in infield depth, and as a relatively advanced college player Fields would help fill a need. Also, he doesn’t project as an NFL quarterback so that can’t be used as bargaining leverage against the Twins (no Drew Hensons here).

Glen Perkins, LHP, University of Minnesota
Perkins and the Twins seem like a match made in heaven. The Twins, as we all know, have always sought to draft hometown kids and Perkins (who is from Stillwater) is extremely talented to boot. His fastball reaches 92 mph, he has a very good changeup, a plus curve, and has good control as well. The only knock on Perkins is that he’s not very big (5’11” 190) but I’m not too concerned with that. His relative lack of stature also means that the Twins will undoubtedly have the opportunity to draft him (probably with their #25 pick) and I would be shocked if they didn’t.

He did get roughed up the other day by Cal State Fullerton in the NCAA Regionals, but in the words of Sir Sidney this morning, that might actually have been a “good” thing because it will hurt his draft status. Leave it to Sid to find the silver lining in every Gophers loss…

B.J. Szymanski, OF, Princeton
I think that the Twins may possibly draft Szymanski only if they choose to go the “best available player” route. It is well publicized that the Twins aren’t hurting for outfield talent, but Szymanski sounds like he might be too good to pass up. Dubbed a 5-tool player by scouts, he’s a 6’5”, 215 switch hitter with a sweet stroke from both sides. His outstanding speed also should help him in the outfield. He hasn’t faced the best competition (playing in the Ivy League) so many scouts are anxious to see how he fares in the Regionals (update: not that well, unfortunately). I haven’t heard much about the Twins in connection with Szymanski, so I doubt that they will draft him. But you never know.

Mike Ferris, 1B, Miami of Ohio
I’m going to stick with the collegiate player theme and profile the Miami sensation Ferris. Ferris is the epitome of a “Moneyball” player: college hitter with very good plate discipline, mediocre fielder with little speed, and great power numbers. Despite the fact that he only emerged as a prospect last year, he sounds like a pretty safe pick (relatively cheap as well). I wouldn’t mind seeing the Twins draft him (despite the fact that we already have Justin Morneau), but it sounds like he will probably be snatched up by another budget-conscious team before the Twins, such as the Royals. If both the Twins and Royals pass, I’m sure Billy Beane will ecstatically draft him at #24.

David Purcey, LHP, Oklahoma
Purcey, also one of the top lefthanders in the draft, is an interesting case. He has been extremely inconsistent throughout his career thus far, which, despite his enormous physical gifts (the lefty is 6’5”, 240 with a 95 mph fastball) has scared some teams off. This spring he appeared to put it all together, sharpening the command of his fastball, curve, and change (he had 54 walks and 130 strikeouts in 118.2 innings this year). He’s a risk, but his talent means that he will go somewhere in the Twins range. I would actually rather the Twins took a high school player, because Purcey has the look of an Adam Johnson about him. But it is definitely possible that the Twins will take Purcey at either #22 or #25.


Scott Elbert, LHP, Seneca, Mo
Elbert is considered one of the top two left-handed pitchers in the draft (the best HS one), and it will be a surprise if he’s still available for the Twins at #20 (let alone 22 or 25). He has a 93 mph sinking fastball, a change that also sinks, and a mid-80s slider (which is extremely impressive I think!). I can’t imagine the Twins could pass on him if he’s still available, but it’s doubtful he will be—he’s projected to go anywhere from #10-17. Mike Radcliff, Twins director of scouting, says that the Twins will continue to go after high school pitching despite the obvious cost concerns.

Jay Rainville, RHP, Bishop Hendricken HS, Pawtucket
Rainville, who comes from the same high school as Rocco Baldelli, put up some absolutely mind-boggling numbers this year: 10-0, 0.18 ERA, 9 walks and 165 strikeouts in 77 innings. It doesn’t get much better than that, even in high school! I’ve seen Rainville and the Twins linked in a couple of articles, so he seems like a pretty likely pick (provided he’s still available). He’s got a 90-94 mph fastball and is 6’3”, 220 lbs—that alone is reason enough to make him a surefire first-rounder. His other pitches are less refined, so it would most likely take him a few years to progress through the minors. I could definitely see the Twins drafting Rainville, although he’s not the safest pick in the world.

Blake DeWitt, SS, Sikeston, Mo.
I have seen the Twins and DeWitt connected numerous times, and it seems very likely that the Twins will draft him (probably in the supplemental round). Dubbed “one of the safest bets to hit among the draft's high school prospects” by Baseball America, DeWitt and the Twins seem like yet another match made in heaven. DeWitt was only ranked the 65th best prospect by BA, so I hope the Twins don’t stretch and use a regular first-round choice on him to save money. He’s also not going to be a shortstop in the pros and will probably be moved to second or third. Despite this, I would be surprised if the Twins didn’t draft him.

Eric Hurley, RHP, Wolfson HS, Jacksonville
In early draft previews, it appeared that the Twins would have a good shot at selecting Hurley with their first pick, but those chances have dwindled significantly as Hurley finished the prep season better than many of his fellow prep stars. Hurley is a scout’s dream: consistent 92-95 mph fastball, 6’4” 192 lbs, with an ability to maintain velocity late in games. I’m sure the Twins would be thrilled if Hurley fell to #20 (I know I would be), but that is looking less and less likely all the time. He will probably go from #10-15.

Trevor Plouffe, SS, Crespi HS, Northridge, Calif.
Plouffe also seems to be a likely pick for the Twins in the supplemental round. He was a great pitcher and shortstop in high school, and could do both if he chooses to honor his commitment to USC. He’s probably the second-best prep shortstop in the draft behind Matt Bush (whom the Padres are considering with the first overall pick) and has been compared to a young Robin Yount. But he could also be a pitcher, as he has a 91 mph fastball. I hope the Twins take Plouffe, as shortstop is a position of major organizational weakness.

Billy Butler, 1B/3B, Wolfson HS, Jacksonville
A budget-conscious first round pick, this kid can flat rake, but doesn’t really have a defensive position.
Chuck Lofgren, OF/P, Serra HS, Burlingame, Calif.
Previously regarded as an outfielder, he struggled at the plate this year and moved to the mound where he has been impressive. Possible supplemental pick.

Well, that’s enough for tonight. I hope all of you found this guide to be interesting, informative, and useful. It was actually kinda fun to write, as I hadn’t really taken the time to study this year’s draft before this weekend (usually I start reading stuff weeks in advance). Throughout the day tomorrow (Monday) I’ll post updates as to where these various players go in the draft and who the Twins get. Also, be sure to check out Twins Chatter each and every weekday for more insightful, thoughtful, and somewhat opinionated Minnesota Twins coverage.

-Ryan M.