Friday, May 29, 2009

Punto on DL, Casilla called up

The words "Punto" and "DL" go good together. And I've always liked Alexi Casilla. So I'm glad to see that after tonight's game that Casilla was called up to replace Nick Punto who was placed on the DL.

I've always been extremely opposed to Nick Punto taking up a roster spot. The reason is that his bat belongs nowhere near the big leagues. In 2006 he received 472 at bats, and hit .210/.291/.271, good enough for one of the worst offensive seasons ever for a player with that many at-bats. So far this season he has been even worse in 123 at-bats. He is "hitting" .187/.290/.211. It's never good to see a batting average below .200, it's worse to see an on-base percentage below .300, and it's even worse when you have that low of an on-base percentage and have a slugging percentage nearly .80 lower than the on-base percentage. Oh, did I mention that he only has 3 extra base hits this season?

Ok I admit Alexi Casilla was terrible with the Twins earlier this year. But it seems like he has been getting back on track at AAA Rochester with a much better line of .316/.353/.392. He was a huge piece for the Twins last year and we need another boost from him again so that we actually get something from the middle infield.

It sounds like Casilla will take over second base and Brendan Harris will be the shortstop with Matt Tolbert the backup. It's about time Tolbert be forced into a backup position, it is where he belongs. If Casilla can turn things around and Harris can hold off Punto and Tolbert for the last starting infield spot (not likely with Gardenhire's sickening love for Punto and Tolbert) then the Twins lineup will be very solid:

LF Denard Span
C Joe Mauer
1B Justin Morneau
RF Michael Cuddyer
DH Jason Kubel
3B Joe Crede
SS Brendan Harris
CF Carlos Gomez
2B Alexi Casilla

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Danny Valencia, 3B of the future

Today, we will be taking a look at Twins prospect Danny Valencia, a third baseman.  The Twins are set at catcher, 1B, DH, and the outfield for the next few years.  The Twins biggest area of need in the future is the infield, especially the left side. Their current 3B, Joe Crede, is signed only for this year.  The Twins however have hope for 3B in the future, because of Danny Valencia.  

Valencia is currently in AA with the New Britain Rock Cats.  He is 24 years old.  The Twins acquired him with their 19th round pick in the 2006 draft.  He played in college at Miami.  He has been great with the glove and the bat throughout his minor league career.  Last year in A ball, he hit .336/.402/.518 (avg./OBP/slugg.) with 19 doubles, 5 homers, and 44 RBI in just 220 at-bats before getting called up to AA.  There he had 18 doubles, 10 homers, and 32 RBI.  

He is almost always listed as one of the Twins top 5 prospects, and is probably regarded as the top hitting prospect out of the Twins upper two minor league teams.  This year he is still in AA, and he has 5 homers, 4 triples, and 9 doubles in 124 at-bats, while hitting .339/.432/.597.  That is a 1.028 OPS, which is very very good.  And he is great on defense as well.  

I'd project he will move up to AAA Rochester by the all-star break.  He might get a September callup with the Twins, and I'd expect Danny Valencia to be the Twins 3B starting in 2010.  I don't know if he will be an all-star, but he should be a great bat and a great defensive 3B, and one of the better overall players on the Twins.  I'd project him to hit 15-20 homers a year, with 30+ doubles, and a batting average around .295 in the majors.  It seems as though the Twins have finally found a good long term solution at 3B, something they've been lacking since Corey Koskie left them in 2004.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Anthony Swarzak pitched a great major league debut for the Twins. I'll take 7 innings and 0 runs anytime. Swarzak is the first Twin pitcher in history to pitch 7 shutout innings in their first major league start. That is very impressive. I'm sure he won't be in the rotation when Perkins returns, but he might be sent to the bullpen. It is nice knowing that there is another quality young starting pitcher available if needed. I wonder if the Twins would ever trade one of their young starting pitchers... I'd trade Perkins or Blackburn for a great young shortstop or second baseman, but not a third baseman. Even though Joe Crede is only signed for this year, I'm not worried about the future of third base for the Twins. Their top prospect in the upper levels of the minors is 3B Danny Valencia. He is killing the ball at AA right now, and I'm sure I'll do an article on him in the next few days...

The other story of the game was Joe Mauer, hitting his 9th home run of the year, matching his home run total from last year in just 21 games. No doubt, this guy has been the best hitter in baseball this month. It sure is fun to see him hitting .429, getting on-base .516% of the time and slugging .844. Those are just sick numbers! He's on pace for 60 homers and 185 RBI's. I know he's not likely to keep that pace up for the whole season, but if he did, he would have the greatest non-steroid offensive season of all-time. At his pace he could hit over .400, break Roger Maris pre-steroid HR mark of 61, and win the triple crown. I know that is extremely unlikely and premature, but it is fun to dream. And the kid is just 26.

It has been great to see Michael Cuddyer return to form. The guy is just locked in. Hits for the cycle last night, and now is second on the team with 30 RBI. Plus 7 homers. It has been great to have a right-handed power bat in the lineup, especially since Delmon Young isn't developing the power we'd hoped to have seen from him at this point.

At this point Mauer and Morneau have to be the best 1-2 punch in the majors. And Span, Mauer, Morneau, Kubel, and Cuddyer form a nice little offensive juggernaut. And Crede is not a bad guy to have at #6 with his seven homers. Now if the bottom third of the lineup would just start hitting, the Twins would have an amazing lineup all the way through. But it needs to start with Delmon Young. He should return to the lineup today, and I hope he starts heating up now. He usually starts off the season slowly, so hopefully he is past that now.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Twins destroy White Sox 20-1

I think the box score speaks for itself today. Joe Mauer has a ridiculous 1.319 OPS. Not to mention 8 home runs in 19 games. If he keeps this pace up, he will be the AL MVP. Also, Michael Cuddaver seems to have woken up and he is on track to have a season similar to his remarkable 2006 year.

The batting order seems like a silly thing to talk about while the pitching on this team has been so horrendous. But we'll do so anyways. The biggest problem with Gardy's batting order has been the #2 spot. Probably 90% or more of the at-bats there this season have been filled by the likes of Alexi Casilla and Matt Tolbert, who were both hitting under the Mendoza line. This is obviously not what you want from your #2 hitter. You want someone who gets on base at a 35 or 40 percent clip, so that the heart of your order has runs to drive in. A little speed/good baserunning skills is a good thing to have as well. This is probably the perfect spot to slot in Joe Mauer. (Although now that he is hammering homers every other day, he is a great #3 hitter as well.) Gardenhire might have figured that out today, and he plugged Mauer into the #2 spot, and just like magic the Twins go off for 20 runs. Now of course nobody scores 20 runs a game, but I think it would help the offense run a little better. Here is my preferred lineup to maximize run scoring potential:

CF Span
C Mauer
1B Morneau
DH Kubel
RF Cuddyer
3B Crede
LF Young
2B Tolbert
SS Harris

I chose Harris over Tolbert in the 9th spot because they both see roughly the same amount of at-bats, but I think it's preferrable to have your worst hitter in the 8th spot rather than the 9th. The reason is that the 9th guy isn't that far away from your power hitters, so why would you want an automatic out 2 batters before Mauer, Morneau, and Kubel come up?

Another decent reason to shift up Mauer, Morneau, and Kubel up one spot is that they will receive a slight increase of at-bats, being a little closer to the top of the order.

Anyways, batting orders are largely overrated, but there are a few things you can easily avoid that can plague your lineup. Perhaps Gardenhire has figured out that one of them is don't place an automatic out in the lineup right before your best hitters come to bat.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Breslow gone. Swarzak called up.

Today the Twins announced that Craig Breslow has been claimed off waivers by Oakland.  Anthony Swarzak has been called up to replace Breslow on the roster.  Swarzak will be the Twins starting pitcher on Saturday against the Brewers.  He should get a couple of starts while Perkins is on the DL.  If he impresses, he might be put in the bullpen when Perkins comes back (which should be in 15 days.)  

Delmon Young returns this weekend and I'm sure Jose Morales will be sent back down to AAA Rochester when Young returns.  Besides that move, I'd expect the next move will be to get rid of Luis Ayala.  I still can't understand why the Twins thought he'd be a good sign.  He was in the horrid Mets bullpen last year and was cut and was then on the Nationals.  I don't know about you but I don't really want to see a cast-off from the Nationals playing on my team.  I'd imagine the next guy to be called up would be relief pitcher Bobby Keppel.  He is the other pitcher in AAA Rochester's bullpen that has pitched great this year.  Hopefully though the Twins will call up Rob Delaney and Anthony Slama, or at least promote them to AAA.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Projected HR Totals

From ESPN statistics, here are what their projected home run totals are for the Twins:

52 - Joe Mauer
50 - Justin Morneau
27 - Joe Crede
22 - Jason Kubel
17 - Michael Cuddyer
11 - Brendan Harris
8 - Denard Span
8 - Brian Buscher
6 - Delmon Young
0 - Carlos Gomez
0 - Nick Punto
0 - Matt Tolbert
0 - Mike Redmond

And time to redo my predictions:
Justin Morneau - 38
Joe Mauer - 34
Jason Kubel - 26
Joe Crede - 22
Michael Cuddyer - 18
Delmon Young - 13
Carlos Gomez - 10
Brendan Harris - 9
Denard Span - 7
Brian Buscher - 6
Alexi Casilla - 4
Nick Punto - 1
Matt Tolbert - 1
Mike Redmond - 0

Perkins on DL. Henn called up. Who else might be coming up?

Glen Perkins has been horrible over his past few starts, especially last night, and now we know why. Perkins told people after the game that he had been dealing with soreness in his elbow for a while. I still don't understand why players (mainly pitchers) try to play through pain, as they only end up hurting themselves and the team. No good ever comes from keeping an injury hidden, and trying to fight through it. Right Liriano and Neshek? They learned that lesson the hard way by getting Tommy John surgery, let's hope Perkins situation isn't as serious.

Lefty reliever Sean Henn was called up from AAA ball to take Perkins place on the roster. Henn is deserving, for in 15 games this year he has a 1.13 ERA with 6 saves. He has 17 hits and walked ten, but has struck out 32 in just 24 innings.

Calling Henn up should help bolster the bullpen, but it still forces the Twins to make a decision on who will take Perkins place in the rotation while he is injured. I see three options: R. A. Dickey, Anthony Swarzak, and Kevin Mulvey.

We know about Dickey, the knuckleballer, who is currently in the bullpen. He'd probably give you 5 to 7 innings while giving up 4 or 5 runs. Nothing spectacular, but he'd eat some innings. One problem is that if you use him as your starter, then you lose your long relief arm in the bullpen.

If I were the Twins GM, I would call up Anthony Swarzak. Swarzak was a 2nd round pick in 2004. He is pitching very well in AAA this year, and is probably the Twins best pitching prospect right now. He has made 7 starts so far this year. In 44 innings he has given up 11 walks, 40 hits, while striking out 32. He has a 2.25 ERA. For those of you who care about win-loss record (you shouldn't) he is 2-3. He also went 5-0 at AAA at the end of last season. I would love to see Swarzak in a Twins uniform this weekend. But if they don't choose Dickey or Swarzak, they might choose Kevin Mulvey.

Kevin Mulvey was a pitcher the Twins acquired in the Johan Santana trade. The Twins might like to bring him up to show that they did get some good value from the Santana trade (but if they really felt like doing that, they would be playing Carlos Gomez every day.) Mulvey has a 4.15 ERA in 34.2 innings so far. He has a better strikeout rate than Swarzak so far, he has 31 K's. But he has given up 19 walks and 34 hits. Clearly Swarzak has had the better year so far.

Who might be sent down or released? Catcher Jose Morales would be a top candidate. Other candidates would be Luis Ayala and Craig Breslow. I would release Luis Ayala, in my mind he has been the worst bullpen pitcher so far. Jesse Crain wouldn't be too far behind those guys, but I doubt the Twins would get rid of him so fast. Only Nathan, Mijares, and Guerrier are to be trusted at this point.

Who are the other top bullpen pitchers that the Twins could call up? They have two amazing relievers in AA, Anthony Slama and Rob Delaney. Slama has a 1.69 ERA, in 21.1 innings he he has a 33-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio while allowing just 13 hits. He hasn't given up a run in five straight appearances. Delaney has a 2.22 ERA in 28.1 innings with a 31-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He also hasn't given up a run in five straight appearances. Sick of seeing relievers give up homers late in games? These two have given up just two in 49.2 innings.

The thing that drives many Twins fans crazy is that they are only in AA, despite dominating every level they've pitched at. They should be in AAA at least by now. Slama spent all of last season at A ball despite posting some of the most incredible pitching stats you will see. The Twins are moving these two along much too slowly and now it is hurting them. Hopefully with Henn going to the Twins, one of Slama or Delaney will be promoted to AAA. These two hopefully will be great bullpen options for the Twins in a month or two. And next year the bullpen should look much better with Nathan, Neshek, Mijares, Slama, and Delaney in it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mauer Pauer

First off, if you haven't seen the replay of Joe Mauer's 9th inning play yesterday, do yourself a favor and go check it out. It's currently the primary video at I'm pretty sure that Mauer is the only catcher who could have done that and it will go down as one of his best defensive plays.

Anyways about this Mauer guy. 6 home runs already?! He is already 2/3 of the way to his total last year (9) despite only having 56 at-bats, and is on pace to hit 56 home runs and 148 RBI for the season. Will he keep it up? Not likely. But I don't think he will regress to be just a 10-15 HR guy. I think he is evolving into a player that hits home runs somewhere in the 20's and 30's. It's tough to say at this point of course. But adding power to his game certainly isn't out of the question. Oh, did I mention that he is hitting .429, with an on-base percentage of .529 and slugging .804! Ridiculous! The guy would be leading the league in virtually every offensive category if he only had enough at-bats.

The Twins must lock this guy up. Everyone knows that his contract goes through 2010. I can't even imagine the market for him if he ever becomes a free-agent. It doesn't help that the Yankees and Red Sox catchers are old and beat up. He'd be able to sign one of, if not the biggest contracts ever. I'm sure the Twins will lock him up before then, and Mauer will want to stay in his hometown state. But I'd sign him to a 7 or 8 year deal asap. His price is already skyrocketing.