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.