Thursday, September 30, 2010

Minor League Twins - Kane Holbrooks & Dakota Watts

This originally appeared as a "Minor League Musing" at TwinsTarget. Please check out my post there on Oswaldo Arcia. All minor league posts here, will be posted there first. Please click the link on the right frequently or just check out my posts after reading Andrew's!
In the world of social media, one has an opportunity to connect to people much easier than in the past. Famous people, semi-famous people, even Twins minor league players. I have been Kane Holbrooks "friend" on Facebook for some time. He once interjected on a Facebook post I had written: "I think u forgot to mention that Kane holbrooks is throwing 99 not to mention just overall sexy" On Sept 2, he posted on his page: "Everybody dakota watts hit 99 tonight. I will hear about this for at least 2 months. Until he hits 100. Then I'm removing his arm from his body." When he & Dakota Watts got promoted to New Britain the next day, I wrote: "Congrats on the promotion, who will throw harder at New Britain? Dakota or you?" Kane responded with "Haha come on you know I throw harder than his little pansy ass".
Kane seems like a funny guy and seems to have a friendly competition with Dakota. Without knowing either of them personally, they seem to have a lot in common. They were both picked in the later in the 2009 draft, they are both tall right-handers & both born in 1987. Could they both be Minnesota Twins someday?
Holbrooks was selected in the 21st round of the draft out of Texas State. He started slow in 2009, compiling a 5.04 ERA on 25 innings at rookie Elizabethtown. He has been great in 2010. He went 5-3 with 9 saves and a 1.67 ERA in Beloit. Pitching mostly in relief, he had 71 strikeouts and 13 walks in 54 innings. He made the transition to starter and was promoted to Fort Myers in mid July. He was 3-3 with a 2.27 ERA with 36 Ks and 15 walks in 43.2 innings. As he has stated above, he throws hard. He also has a good slider and changeup.
Watts was selected in the 16th round of the draft out of Cal State Stanislaus. He had a 4.60 ERA in 29.1 innings at 3 levels in 2009. He also had a great year in 2010. He went 2-1 with 2 saves and a 2.31 ERA with Beloit. He had 55 strikeouts and 30 walks in 46.2 innings. He was promoted to Fort Myers a couple days before Holbrooks and went 4-2 with 6 saves and a 3.19 ERA. He struck out 29 and walked 12 in 31 innings. He is another guy who throws hard and has a good slider.
Both pitchers had breakout years in the Twins system, spending the whole year together at 3 levels. Both have great stuff. Both guys will probably start the season back in Fort Myers and could be on the fast track to the major leagues. Both could be premium relievers or Holbrooks could start. Watts could close out those starts. It will be interesting to watch the careers of these two "Twins" as they make their unexpected rise up prospect lists. For now, they'll have to settle for being Fort Myers "Twins" or New Britain "Twins", but someday it would be great if they were both Minnesota Twins.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

This Twins losing streak, no big deal!

As the Twins slog through their post-clinch losing streak, the fan base is getting a little (a lot) upset. Reactions are ranging from general grumbling day-to-day to the more specific rips on "Fat" Gardy ruining the team. So, what is going on here? Does this blow it for the Twins in the playoffs? Please! As I said early in the year, There is still nothing wrong with the Twins!

I'm not worried!

In 1987, the Twins lost all 5 games after they clinched. They managed to win the World Series. The 2000 Yankees went 3-15 after they clinched. They won 3 rounds of playoffs including the World Series 4 games to 1. These are two examples of teams that have been fine.The Twins are 1-5 since they clinched, but their probable first round opponent, the Yankees, have only gone 2-5 in that same time period.

The Twins have been great at home this year going 52-25 and on the road, they end this night 40-40. The 5 games in a row they have lost have all been on the road.

The Twins haven't had their best position players. Mauer and Thome haven't played in one game since the team clinched, due to some nagging injuries. They are my MVP and runner up for the 2010 season. In place of Mauer, the Twins have had 4 games of Jose Morales and his .188/.282/.219 line and 2 games of Drew Butera and his .189/.232/.289 line. With Thome out of the lineup, the opportunity to play has been given to the monster sized bats of Nick Punto, Matt Tolbert, Alexi Casilla, Ben Revere and Jason Repko. Useful parts, but not the kind of guys that a fan would want too many of in the lineup. With J.J. Hardy also missing 5 of the 6 games, the Twins have had at least 3 of these guys in every starting lineup. In the last 6 games, the team has still managed 26 runs, while only winning 1.

The pitching has been even worse! Friday, Liriano was fine until he got sick after 3 innings. He should be ok. Jeff Manship and Alex Burnett gave up 8 of the 10 runs. Neither pitcher will be anywhere near the post-season roster. Saturday, Carl Pavano was awful, but he hadn't pitched in 8 days and should be sharper next time around. One start doesn't worry me. He gave up 7 runs in 4 innings. Glen Perkins gave up 2 runs in .2 innings. He's another guy who won't be on the post-season roster. Brian Duensing wasn't terribly sharp Sunday, but he wasn't too bad. Last night, Kevin Slowey was brutal, giving up 6 in 1.2 innings. He probably won't make the post-season roster, surely not as a starter. Manship gave up 3 more runs. Randy Flores, another guy who won't sniff the post-season, gave up a run in .2 innings. Finally we get to tonight. The pencilled in Game 4 starter, Nick Blackburn, gave up 8 runs in 4.1 innings. This is Blackburn's first hideous start since before he was sent down to the minors. Scott Baker has a great opportunity tomorrow. A good start would bump Blackburn out of a starting role. Baker is the better pitcher overall, so I am hoping Baker turns it around. The Twins were also blessed with 2.2 innings and 2 runs from Perkins tonight.

So, basically, the Twins have been crap lately! They've lost 5 in a row. Their hitting has been inconsistent, their defense has been lousy and their pitching has been crap! The good news is, a lot of the players that have been failing the last 5 games, will see little or no action in the post-season.

I look for the Twins to finish up strong, but even if they don't, they will have as good a shot of winning the world series as they had last week!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Your 2010 MVP

With the season winding down, and the Twins getting ready to start their 6th post-season since 2002, it's time to award the players that have made that possible.

So, who is the team MVP? It was harder to pick than in most seasons, because there has been no single, dominant player. With the Twins fighting for the best record in the majors, they have needed many players to step up!

Please check out links to many other MVP posts at

8.) Delmon Young has had a real nice breakout season. He has been worth a WAR of 1.8. His bat carried the team in July and his overall numbers are an improved .298/.332/.482. If his defense were better, he'd be one of the best overall players on the team.

7.) Danny Valencia should get votes for rookie of the year. He has been worth a WAR of 2.9. His bat has been great, particularly at home. His power has really come around as well, hitting 2 HRs Saturday. He was left in AAA to start the season to work on his defense and was only supposed to be a brief call up. Once he reached the lineup, his bat (.331/.372/.481) and glove insured that he would stay. He will be in that spot the next 5 years.

6.) Orlando Hudson has been a good find for the Twins. He has been worth a WAR of 3.0. His .268/.336/.371 is down over past seasons, but his defense has been much better this year than the last 4. His .707 OPS in the 2 hole and at 2nd base is still better than what the Twins have sent out there the last several years. A decent player at a premium position.

5.) Carl Pavano has been the most consistent starter for the Twins all season. He has a 3.83 ERA with a 4.08/4.02 FIP/xFIP and has been able to record 17 wins. He has been worth a WAR of 2.9.

4.) Francisco Liriano has been nearly ace-like this season. There could be an argument to rank him #1 on this list. His numbers have been that outstanding. His 6.2 WAR is highest on the team. His ERA is 3.48 but is probably inflated due to a high .342 BABIP. His 2.50/3.08 FIP/xFIP are among the best in the league. He does occasionally lose focus in games but for the most part has been almost as good as he was in 2006.

3.) Justin Morneau would have been my team MVP on July 7th when he got hurt. He'd have still been the team MVP August 7th or even September 7th. The fact that he hasn't played since July 7th bumps him to 3rd. His 5.3 WAR is the best for any position player on the team and he had the highest position player WAR in the AL at the time of his injury. The Twins have taken off since he has gotten hurt, but may have been in too deep a hole to come back weren't it for Justin carrying the team. With 81 games, Morneau's .345/.437/.618 were worth 18 HRs and 25 doubles. It's sad he wasn't able to complete the season and help in the playoffs. As good as the Twins have been, they still could use their best player. He will be missed in the playoffs.

2.) Jim Thome has sure been worth that $1.5 million plus incentives. His .280/.412/.631 have been huge. He has really stepped up as a part-time player, especially since Morneau went down. His 3.6 WAR is his best in 3 years. He has not only been very helpful to the Twins playoff push but has provided many of their most moments in 2010. I'll remember the walk-off against the White Sox or the time he hit the flag-pole for the rest of my life. Almost every one of his 26(25 since that one in Cleveland was called a double) HRs has been appointment TV. Hopefully Big Jimmers is back to collect number 600 next year. I've already drawn up the plan.

1.) Joe Mauer was the MVP of the AL in 2009 with a ridiculous .365/.444/.587. In 2010 he'll have to settle for Twins MVP. There have been a ton of Twins that have stepped up this year. There are the other 7 guys on this list, but there have been many more. Michel Cuddyer and Brian Duensing have helped the Twins with their flexibility. Jason Kubel has times of incredible clutchiness. Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch and even 5.2 innings of Matt Fox have been very important to the Central division champs. Mauer, however, has been the best player the whole season. He has a .331/.407/.473 line for the season. This production at the catcher position has been worth a WAR of 5.2. After starting the year slow, he really got it going after Morneau went down. The 2010 Twins could win the World Series and many guys deserve credit. Mauer is their MVP.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Estarlin De Los Santos: The 40-Man Pariah

This was originally posted at That is the place to check out all of my minor league content. Click the "Minor League Musings" icon on the top right of the blog and check it out!
Whenever a potential move needs to be  made by the Twins, the name Estarlin De Los Santos finds its way to the top of the blogosphere's drop list. If Anthony Slama needs to be added to the 40 man, the Twins can take off De Los Santos. If Justin Morneau comes off the 60 day DL, the Twins can DFA (designate for assignment) De Los Santos, etc.... So who is Estarlin De Los Santos? Is he so terrible?
De Los Santos was signed by the Twins in 2005 out of Villa Mella, Dominican Republic. He was added to the 40 man roster after the 2009 season. Coming into his 23rd year, this surprised a lot of fans. As a 22 year old, he hit .290/.330/.397 in High A Fort Myers with 11 stolen bases in 15 attempts. He had decent numbers at Fort Myers and is very good defensively but by no means, was he an overwhelming prospect.
One thing in De Los Santos favor is there were only 5 other players to play SS on the Twins 40 man. Trevor Plouffe, Alexi Casilla and J.J. Hardy were the only other SS, with Matt Tolbert and Nick Punto also able to play short. In fact, the system is nearly bereft of shortstops. It seemed like an odd choice at the time, but De Los Santos was the next best middle infielder in need of protecting. With his age, speed, a little bat and good defense at a premium position, it shouldn't have come as such a shock that he'd be added to the 40 man roster. His numbers as a 23 year old in A+ ball are similar to those of Matt Tolbert put up at the same age and level.
In 2010, De Los Santos has been slightly disappointing. After hitting .274/.340/.346 with 13 steals in 15 attempts in a return to Fort Myers, he was promoted to AA New Britain. Once promoted, he struggled big time. He hit only .177/.249/.245 with 6 steals in 14 attempts. When fans see those numbers, it makes sense that they'd think De Los Santos would be dropped off the roster, the first time the Twins need a roster spot. But it hasn't happened.
I think there is a real chance De Los Santos isn't dropped from the roster after the season. Hardy will probably be retained by the club for 2011, but second baseman Orlando Hudson will probably not be retained. Taking Hudson's spot will be either Alexi Casilla or Trevor Plouffe with Matt Tolbert also available. Nick Punto will most likely be let go due to a $5 million club option, injury and declining skill.
There are not a lot of options to add to the roster in the system at SS or even 2b. James Beresford might be one SS to add to the roster. He will only be 22. He hit .295/.347/.360 and stole 14 bases in 28 attempts in his second year at low A ball Beloit. He is 2 years younger than De Los Santos, but also 2 levels behind him in the system. The Twins could also choose to add Steve Singleton to the 40 man roster, though they didn't protect him following 2009. Singleton had a .267/.325/.410 for New Britain, playing mostly 2b. These numbers are similar to his 2009 numbers. He is a year and a half older than De Los Santos and has a little bit better bat, but will most likely go unclaimed again.
Estarlin De Los Santos is not a great prospect by any means. Soon to be 24, he is not terribly young anymore. He would return to AA next season and will profile as the next closest shortstop prospect to the major leagues. While no one should be too disappointed if he is removed from the 40 man roster, no one should be too surprised if he is left on the roster. Should the Twins drop him and add Beresford or Singleton or both? Do they add Beresford and keep De Los Santos on the 40 man? Do they find depth elsewhere? Do they go into 2011 with only 5 middle infielders, including Luke Hughes on the 40 man? I'm guessing he has one more year to grow, before the Twins give up their protection of him. They could drop him and he may go unclaimed, but another team may need SS depth. I believe he stays on the 40 man roster. He will return as the 40 man pariah.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How does this Twins team stack up?

As the Twins draw near to a playoff berth, the naysayers are going to start coming out of the woodwork bashing Gardy and the team's post-season record. Since 2002, Gardy's teams have won 6 division championships but have gone 6-18 in the playoffs. They have lost 9 playoff games in a row. So, the Twins win in the regular season ,due to a soft schedule, but are no match in the post-season. It is my contention that they haven't been a strong team in the past and this year they are much stronger. I have examined all of the playoff years from 2002-2010 to prove this.

2002 Twins:
Lineup: 2002 < 2010
C AJ .300/.334/.439 < Mauer .331/.407/.473
1b Douggie .261/.365/.392 > Cuddyer .274/.339/.423
2b Rivas .256/.305/.392 < Hudson .273/.340/.377
SS Guzman .273/.292/.385 < Hardy .274/.324/.400
3b Koskie .267/.368/.447 = Valencia .335/.377/.470
RF Cuddyer .259/.311/.429 < Kubel .254/.329/.434
CF Hunter .289/.334/.524 > Span .266/.334/.353
LF Jones .300/.341/.511 >Young .297/.332/.482
DH Ortiz .272/.339/.500 < Thome .276/.408/.619

Bench 2002 > 2010                                                          
Kielty .291/.405/.484                                      Punto .274/.339/.423
Hocking .250/.310/.323                                  Casilla .265/.322/.382
LeCroy .260/.306/.448                                   Repko .214/.298/.342
Mohr .269/.325/.433                                     

Starters: 2002 < 2010
Radke 9-5 4.72 ERA 3.92/4.29 FIP/xFIP < Liriano 14-8 3.44 ERA 2.44/3.08 FIP/xFIP
Mays 4-8 5.38 ERA 4.92/4.73 FIP/xFIP < Pavano 17-11 3.60 ERA 3.92/4.00 FIP/xFIP
Reed 15-7 3.78 ERA 4.40/4.01 FIP/xFIP < Duensing 10-2 2.19 ERA 3.51/3.99 FIP/xFIP
Milton 13-9 4.84 ERA 3.95/4.13 FIP/xFIP > Blackburn 9-10 5.43 ERA 5.04/4.69 FIP/xFIP

Relievers: 2002 = 2010                                                        
Guardado 2.93 ERA 3.46/3.55 FIP/xFIP > Capps 2.61 ERA 3.28/3.95 FIP/xFIP  
Hawkins 2.13 ERA 2.76/3.23 FIP/xFIP            Fuentes 3.16 ERA 4.12/4.58 FIP/xFIP
Santana 8-6 2.99 ERA 2.66/3.35 FIP/xFIP      Crain 2.49 ERA 3.29/4.09 FIP/xFIP
Fiore 3.16 ERA 4.76/5.21 FIP/xFIP                 Rauch 3.27 ERA 3.06/4.26 FIP/xFIP
Lohse 13-8 4.23 ERa 4.77/4.69 FIP/xFIP        Mijares 2.63 ERA 3.71/4.58 FIP/xFIP
Romero 1.89 ERA 3.05/3.56 FIP/xFIP            Guerrier 3.46 ERA 4.52/4.80 FIP/xFIP
Jackson 3.27 ERA 4.02/4.65 FIP/xFIP             Baker 12-9 4.60 ERA 4.01/4.04 FIP/xFIP

The 2010 team is much better than the 2002 team. They are better at 5 positions, much better at catcher and DH and worse at 3 positions, much worse in center field. The top 3 starters are better than 2002. The bullpens are equal with 2002 having a stronger bench.

2003 Twins:
Lineup 2003 < 2010
C AJ .312/.360/.464 < Mauer .331/.407/.473
1b Douggie .300/.360/.464 > Cuddyer .274/.339/.423
2b Rivas .259/.308/.381 < Hudson .273/.340/.377
SS Guzman .268/.311/.365 < Hardy .274/.324/.400
3b Koskie .292/.393/.452 = Valencia .335/.377/.470
RF Jones .304/.333/.464 > Kubel .254/.329/.434
CF Hunter .250/.312/.451 > Span .266/.334/.353
LF Stewart .322/.384/.470 > Young .297/.332/.482
DH LeCroy .287/.342/.490 < Thome .276/.408/.619

Bench 2003 < 2010
Hocking .239/.291/.362         Punto .274/.339/.423                                
Ryan .393/.441/.754 68 PA   Casilla .265/.322/.382                                
Gomez .251/.279/.354           Repko .214/.298/.342
Ford .329/.402/.575 83 PA   

Starters: 2003 < 2010
Santana 12-3 3.07 ERA 3.24/3.57 FIP/xFIP < Liriano 14-8 3.44 ERA 2.44/3.08 FIP/xFIP
Radke 14-10 4.49 ERA 4.33/4.05 FIP/xFIP < Pavano 17-11 3.60 ERA 3.92/4.00 FIP/xFIP
Lohse 14-11 4.61 ERA 4.29/4.27 FIP/xFIP < Duensing 10-2 2.19 ERA 3.51/3.99 FIP/xFIP
                                                                        Blackburn 9-10 5.43 ERA 5.04/4.69 FIP/xFIP

Relievers: 2003 < 2010
Guardado 2.89 ERA 3.23/3.78 FIP/xFIP = Capps 2.61 ERA 3.28/3.95 FIP/xFIP
Hawkins 1.86 ERA 2.38/3.05 FIP/xFIP      Fuentes 3.16 ERA 4.12/4.58 FIP/xFIP
Rincon 3.68 ERA 3.79/4.42 FIP/xFIP         Crain 2.49 ERA 3.29/4.09 FIP/xFIP
Reed 6-12 5.07 ERa 4.76/4.68 FIP/xFIP    Rauch 3.27 ERA 3.06/4.26 FIP/xFIP
Romero 5.00 ERA 5.17/4.88 FIP/xFIP        Mijares 2.63 ERA 3.71/4.58 FIP/xFIP
Rogers 13-8 4.57 ERA 4.25/4.28 FIP/xFIP Baker 12-9 4.60 ERA 4.01/4.04 FIP/xFIP
Milton 2.65 ERA 3.91/4.71 FIP/xFIP

The 2010 team is much better than the 2003 team. They are better at 4 positions, much better at SS and DH and worse at 4 positions, much worse in center field. The top 3 starters, the bullpen and bench are also better than 2003.

2004 Twins:
Lineup: 2004 < 2010
C Blanco .206/.260/.368 < Mauer .331/.407/.473
1b Morneau .271/.340/.536 > Cuddyer .274/.339/.423
2b Cuddyer .263/.339/.440 < Hudson .273/.340/.377
SS Guzman .274/.309/.384 < Hardy .274/.324/.400
3b Koskie .251/.342/.495 < Valencia .335/.377/.470
RF Jones .254/.315/.427 < Kubel .254/.329/.434
CF Hunter .271/.330/.475 > Span .266/.334/.353
LF Stewart .304/.380/.447 < Young .297/.332/.482
DH Ford .299/.381/.446 < Thome .276/.408/.619

Bench: 2004 = 2010
Offerman .256/.363/.395  Punto .274/.339/.423
Rivas .256/.283/.432        Casilla .265/.322/.382
LeCroy .269/.321/.424     Repko .214/.298/.342
Kubel .300/.358/.433

Starters: 2004 > 2010
Santana 20-6 2.61 ERA 2.92/2.95 FIP/xFIP > Liriano 14-8 3.44 ERA 2.44/3.08 FIP/xFIP
Radke 11-8 3.48 ERA 3.55/3.87 FIP/xFIP > Pavano 17-11 3.60 ERA 3.92/4.00 FIP/xFIP
Silva 14-8 4.21 ERA 4.36/4.45 FIP/xFIP < Duensing 10-2 2.19 ERA 3.51/3.99 FIP/xFIP
                                                                    Blackburn 9-10 5.43 ERA 5.04/4.69 FIP/xFIP
Relievers: 2004 < 2010
Nathan 1.62 ERA 2.16/3.17 FIP/xFIP > Capps 2.61 ERA 3.28/3.95 FIP/xFIP
Rincon 2.63 ERA 2.50/2.89 FIP/xFIP        Fuentes 3.16 ERA 4.12/4.58 FIP/xFIP
Balfour 4.35 ERA 3.99/4.23 FIP/xFIP       Crain 2.49 ERA 3.29/4.09 FIP/xFIP
Romero 3.51 ERA 3.63/4.01 FIP/xFIP      Rauch 3.27 ERA 3.06/4.26 FIP/xFIP
Mulholland  5.18 ERA 4.79/4.54 FIP/xFIP Mijares 2.63 ERA 3.71/4.58 FIP/xFIP
Lohse 9-13 5.34 ERA 5.06/4.95 FIP/xFIP Baker 12-9 4.60 ERA 4.01/4.04 FIP/xFIP

The 2010 team is better than the 2004 team. Their lineup is much better in 2010. They are better at 7 positions, much better at catcher and DH and worse at 2 positions, much worse in center field. 2004 had a better #1 and #2 starter. The 2010 bullpen is stronger, other than closer, and the benches are about equal.

2006 Twins:
Lineup 2006 = 2010
C Mauer .347/.429/.507 > Mauer .331/.407/.473
1b Morneau .321/.375/.559 > Cuddyer .274/.339/.423
2b Castillo .296/.358/.370 < Hudson .273/.340/.377
SS Bartlett .309/.367/.393 > Hardy .274/.324/.400
3b Punto .290/.352/.373 < Valencia .335/.377/.470
RF Cuddyer .284/.362/.504 > Kubel .254/.329/.434
CF Hunter .278/.336/.490 > Span .266/.334/.353
LF White .246/.276/.365 < Young .297/.332/.482
DH Tyner .312/.345/.353 < Thome .276/.408/.619

Bench: 2006 < 2010
Ford .226/.287/.312         Punto .274/.339/.423
Rodriguez .235/.315/.322 Casilla .265/.322/.382
Nevin .190/.340/.286        Repko .214/.298/.342

Starters: 2006 < 2010
Santana 19-6 2.77 ERA 3.04/3.12 FIP/xFIP = Liriano 14-8 3.44 ERA 2.44/3.08 FIP/xFIP
Bonser 7-6 4.22 ERA 4.55/4.03 FIP/xFIP < Pavano 17-11 3.60 ERA 3.92/4.00 FIP/xFIP
Radke 12-9 4.32 ERA 4.66/4.55 FIP/xFIP < Duensing 10-2 2.19 ERA 3.51/3.99 FIP/xFIP
                                                                      Blackburn 9-10 5.43 ERA 5.04/4.69 FIP/xFIP

Relievers: 2006 > 2010
Nathan 1.58 ERA 1.68/2.35 FIP/xFIP > Capps 2.61 ERA 3.28/3.95 FIP/xFIP
Crain 3.52 ERA 3.38/3.40 FIP/xFIP       Fuentes 3.16 ERA 4.12/4.58 FIP/xFIP
Neshek 2.19 ERA 2.88/2.28 FIP/xFIP    Crain 2.49 ERA 3.29/4.09 FIP/xFIP
Reyes .89 ERA 2.87/2.80 FIP/xFIP         Rauch 3.27 ERA 3.06/4.26 FIP/xFIP
Rincon 2.91 ERA 2.84/3.59 FIP/xFIP      Mijares 2.63 ERA 3.71/4.58 FIP/xFIP
                                                                Baker 12-9 4.60 ERA 4.01/4.04 FIP/xFIP

The 2010 team is a little better than the 2006 team. The lineups are about equal. They are better at 4 positions, much better at 3b, LF and DH. They are worse at 5, much worse at 1b, RF and CF. 2010 has a better #2 and #3 starter, Liriano's 2010 numbers are close to Santana's Cy Young 06. Brad Radke as a 3rd starter was a shell of his former self and game 3 was his last ever start, due to injury. The 2006 bullpen was stronger at closer and overall, though less overall depth. 2010s bench is much stronger.

2009 Twins
Lineup: 2010 > 2009
C Mauer .365/.444/.587 > Mauer .331/.407/.473
1b Cuddyer .276/.342/.520 > Cuddyer .274/.339/.423
2b Punto .228/.337/.284 < Hudson .273/.340/.377
SS Cabrera .289/.313/.430 < Hardy .274/.324/.400
3b Tolbert .232/.303/.308 < Valencia .335/.377/.470
RF Kubel .300/.369/.539 > Kubel .254/.329/.434
CF Span .311/.392/.415 > Span .266/.334/.353
LF Young .284/.308/.425 < Young .297/.332/.482
DH Morales .311/.381/.361 < Thome .276/.408/.619

Bench: 2010 > 2009
Harris .261/.310/.362  Punto .274/.339/.423
Gomez .229/.287/.337 Casilla .265/.322/.382
Casilla .202/.280/.259  Repko .214/.298/.342

Starters: 2010 > 2009
Duensing 5-2 3.64 ERA 4.13/4.77 FIP/xFIP < Liriano 14-8 3.44 ERA 2.44/3.08 FIP/xFIP
Blackburn 11-11 4.03 ERA 4.37/4.56 FIP/xFIP < Pavano 17-11 3.60 ERA 3.92/4.00 FIP/xFIP
Pavano 14-12 5.10 ERA 4.00/3.96 FIP/xFIP < Duensing 10-2 2.19 ERA 3.51/3.99 FIP/xFIP
                                                                          Blackburn 9-10 5.43 ERA 5.04/4.69 FIP/xFIP

Relievers: 2010 > 2009
Nathan 2.10 ERA 2.88/3.00 FIP/xFIP > Capps 2.61 ERA 3.28/3.95 FIP/xFIP
Guerrier 2.36 ERA 4.35 FIP/4.31 xFIP   Fuentes 3.16 ERA 4.12/4.58 FIP/xFIP
Rauch 3.60 ERA 3.88/4.64 FIP/xFIP      Crain 2.49 ERA 3.29/4.09 FIP/xFIP
Mijares 2.34 ERA 4.01/4.43 FIP/xFIP    Rauch 3.27 ERA 3.06/4.26 FIP/xFIP
Mahay 4.29 ERA 5.56/4.90 FIP/xFIP        Mijares 2.63 ERA 3.71/4.58 FIP/xFIP
Liriano 5-13 5.80 ERA 4.87/4.55 FIP/xFIP   Baker 12-9 4.60 ERA 4.01/4.04 FIP/xFIP

The 2010 team is much better than the 2009 team. They are better at 5 positions, much better at 2b, 3b and DH and worse at 4, especially at catcher where Mauer hasn't lived up to his MVP 09 season. All of 2010s starters are better than 2009. The 2010 bullpen is stronger other than closer and the 2010 bench is better as well.

Looking at the numbers, this 2010 team is Gardenhire's best teams. Other than the 2006 team, no other Gardenhire team has been close to the talent on 2010's squad. The 2006 team was the only squad given a really good chance to win its first round series. Many analysts considered the 2006 team a world series contender. The 2006 team had better middle lineup and top relief core, however 2010's team has much better starting pitching and overall depth. The 2010 team would be able to outlast the 2006 team and would crush the others.

The 2010 team may not go anywhere in the playoffs but will be the best squad Gardenhire has brought to the post-season.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Twins are on Fire!

Did you know? The Twins are 40-16 since the All-Star break.
The starters have gone 29-10 in that stretch. One of those a spot start by Glen Perkins.
The starters lead the league with a 2.26 ERA in 12 September starts.
Brian Fuentes has yet to give up a base runner.
Jesse Crain has been arguably the best reliever in the AL since June.
There is also Joe Mauer and Jim Thome.....
They've won 9 of their last 10.
They haven't lost by more than 2 runs in 19 games.
They have allowed the second fewest runs in the A.L.
They are 7 games ahead of Chicago with 18 to go.
They are 1.5 games behind the Yankees for the best record in all of baseball.
Their 48-23 home record is the best in the major leagues, the way they are playing, they will have home field advantage until the World Series.

Other than Justin Morneau, the team is now fully healthy.

There are no guarantees in the playoffs but, this Twins team is not like the others. This is a special team. With 18 games to go, fans should start enjoying it!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Minor League Musing - Getting to know Joe Benson

As of Saturday September 11th, I have taken over "minor league musings" at This is a great opportunity to garner more readership for my writing and this blog. It is also going to be fun to speak to a minor league focus two or more times a week. I'd like to thank Andrew Kneeland for the opportunity. I will still be blogging on this site, but most posts about the minor leagues will be posted over there. So, please check out There is a lot of great Twins content there. While you are there and check out "minor league musings". My latest post about Estarlin De Los Santos is posted. Joe Benson was my first post, enjoy.
With my first post, I will introduce you to my favorite Twins prospect, Joe Benson. He plays all outfield positions and is capable of playing a very good center field. The 22 year old was a Twins 2nd round draft pick in 2006 out of Joliet Catholic Academy in Joliet, Illinois. He is not as highly thought of in Twins prospect circles as Aaron Hicks, Ben Revere, or Angel Morales, but he should be. He is a similar, if more advanced player than Aaron Hicks and Angel Morales. Hicks most likely will walk a little more than Benson. He is the same age as Revere and has much more power and is a better fielder, if not as fast a runner.
In 2009, he batted .285/.414/.403 for Fort Myers with 14 stolen bases in 21 attempts. He ranked #4 overall in my Twins prospect list coming into 2010. At the time, I said "he is developing into a prototypical lead off or #2 hitter. He's another of many high-end outfield prospects in the Twins organization." Well in 2010, his power has taken off. The 6'2" 211 lb. Benson finally added power that his frame would suggest. Prior to 2010, Benson topped out at 5 HRs in a season. He had a .259/.343/.538 line with 27 HRs, 31 doubles and 8 triples for Fort Myers and New Britain. He also stole 19 bases in 28 tries. His .527 slugging percentage at New Britain ranked 5th in the Eastern League of players with 300 plus plate appearances. His .862 OPS ranked 11th of players with 300 plus PA. His 23 HRs ranked 4th in the league. He probably isn't a going to be a 1 or 2 hitter after-all, though he hits at the top of the order for New Britain.
I have seen him play 3 times this season. When he was named as one of seven Twins to make the Arizona Fall league, I posted a scouting report on the 7 players.
This was my scouting report on Benson:
I saw him in June and wrote this: He's 22 and LaVelle E. Neal thinks he'll arrive in 2012. For some reason, he was sent back to Fort Myers this year. I personally think he is a better player than Revere right now. He certainly looks to have more upside. He is almost as fast as Revere but also has power. He went 2-5 with a 2B and a walk on Wednesday and 1-4 with a HR in Thursday's game. He leads New Britain with 9 HRs. The bounce in power is great especially since he is considered more of a speed guy. He already has 13 HRs in 2010 between Fort Myers/New Britain. He's never had more than 5 HRs in a season. If Micheal Cuddyer were traded in the off-season, Benson may be better equipped then Revere to replace some of his offense by next season.

I also saw him in August: He went 0-5 and some of his swings were really hard. Carlos Gomez hard. He is certainly the best prospect in AA for the Twins currently, but he has some work to do. I love watching him in the field and he has legitimate power. He also might be wound to tight. He got mad a couple times during the game, tossing his helmet hard into the dugout and also on the field after just missing his pitch and flying out. The kind of reaction usually reserved for strikeouts. Benson has a ton of tools and potential that is starting to show. I hope he is able to keep his emotions in check and just enjoy the game a little more. He has enough ability to go a long way someday soon.
Benson is a 5 tool player that could be a future star for the Twins. He can hit, hit for power, steal a base, plays great defense and has a good arm. He is more than capable in center field but may eventually shift to a corner. When he is in the lineup with Ben Revere, Revere has played center. Benson has also improved his on-base skills in the last couple of seasons.
The one flaw in his game is his strikeout rate. Benson struck out 136 times in 519 plate appearances in 2010. His 115 Eastern League K's ranked 11th and his total of 136 would have placed him in 6th place for the league. That's a strikeout every 3.82 plate appearances. Many mention his strikeout rate as a reason to keep Benson in AA for another season and it may be a fair reaction. Give him more time to work on this flaw before promoting him to AAA or the majors. As a comparison, the Twins strikeout leader this year is Jason Kubel. He has 102 strikeouts in 515 plate appearances. Kubel never had more than 59 Ks in any minor league season. Benson's strikeouts are a problem. Mark Reynolds and Adam Dunn never struck out that much in the minors.
Joe Benson will be added to the 40 man roster over the winter and will get a look in spring training before he gets sent back to AA. Between Arizona Fall league and his return to New Britain, Benson should be tasked with lowering his K rate. If he can do that, he will be ready to make an impact with the big league club as soon as mid-season. Guys like Aaron Hicks, Angel Morales and Ben Revere could be great players for the Twins, but Joe Benson is the most likely to do it first.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pickup Jason Kubel's extension? I don't think so

I'd like to take a moment to thank everyone who has mentioned the one year anniversary of this blog you are reading. Especially Nick Nelson, Aaron Gleeman and Seth Stohs for linking it. Three better blogs, all worth a daily read.

Friday's twitter discussion repeats Dave Cameron's discussion about Kubel vs. Hinske with this tweet from Cameron: Jason Kubel: .335 wOBA, 0.4 WAR. Eric Hinske: .333 wOBA, 0.6 WAR. Maybe I'm not crazy after all...

I had just spoken of Kubel's extension recently in evaluating recently signed extensions. Here is what I wrote: "Jason Kubel was given a 2 year $7.2 million extension plus a $5.25 option in 2011. He has been worth a 3.5 WAR worth $15.2 million. He was worth much more in 2009 than in 2010 due to greater offensive contribution as well as a lack of exposure on defense. The Twins should exercise Kubel's option, but keeping him off the field for a better defender increases Kubel's value. As an aside, when Kubel was given his contract, Dave Cameron suggested Kubel was no better than Eric Hinske. Hinske has a 1.5 WAR and has been worth $6.5 million the last two seasons."

Kubel has certainly been worth his contract taken over two seasons and better than Hinske over the two seasons. But, most of the value was in 2009. Was 2009 a fluke? Kubel has never had a season above a .8 WAR outside of 2009. He's never had an OPS above .806 other than in 2009. Kubel has brought a decent but not dominant bat most of his career. He is also poor defensively. He has shown the ability to make a catch on any ball close to him. The problem is, his range doesn't allow him to get close enough to many balls.

The Twins have a $5.25 option on Kubel with a $350,000 buyout. Should the Twins pickup this option? It depends on 2009 being the fluke and not 2010. Kubel's .4 WAR in 2010 would not be worth anywhere near $4.9 million. His 3.0 WAR in 2009 was easily worth it. To break even financially, the Twins would need to get a WAR of 1.3-1.4 out of Kubel. Kubel is going to have to be worth 13+ runs above replacement. Given Kubel's poor defense and his position, he'll need an OPS of at least .850 as a full-time player to be worth $4.9 million. Kubel's career OPS is .805. Kubel's 2010 numbers are below his career average. Kubel has had 4 full seasons since recovering from his injury in the Arizona Fall League in 2004. His 2010 numbers are the worst of the 4 year stretch. Did Kubel top out at 27 and is now in decline?

Numbers wise, I find it unlikely that Kubel will achieve enough offense to be worth $4.9 million. Does letting him go hurt the team so much, that paying Kubel $4.9 million is still worth it? For the record, I think the Twins will pickup his option.

Assuming Morneau is healthy for 2010. The Twins have Morneau at first base. They'll have Young, Span, and Cuddyer to play the outfield with Repko as their fourth outfielder. Ben Revere has already been added to the 40 man roster. Joe Benson and Rene Tosoni, coming back from injury, should also added to the 40 man roster. The Twins also have a 6 year free agent in Brandon Roberts in AAA, who could provide additional depth assuming he remains in the organization. Cuddyer is the current first baseman and the backup to Morneau. The Twins have some 1B depth in Brock Peterson, who'd have to be added to the 40-man or I'm sure he'd bolt to another organization after 7 minor league seasons. Chris Parmelee will most likely be added to the 40 man roster and has a future as a power first baseman, but may not be ready to contribute in 2011.

There is some depth if Kubel walks but there are a couple other questions: Is Jim Thome re-signed? I have advocated for this and he'll cost about what Kubel's extension costs. Thome, even in a reduced capacity is probably going to be more valuable than Kubel in 2011. Could Micheal Cuddyer be traded instead? Cuddyer is loved by the team and is owed $10.5 million while providing similar offensive and defensive production as Kubel in 2010. The money/production would tell me that Cuddyer will not be traded.

Kubel has been a fair hitter for the Twins over the last 4 years. In 2009 he showed the kind of skill at the plate that made him such a highly regarded prospect. If the Twins are able to re-sign Thome, I'd let Kubel walk. If they don't sign Thome, there should be enough other guys to fill the roster. If the Twins lack financial flexibility, I'd also let Kubel go. If the Twins have the money to keep Kubel as a luxury, I'd say do it. For $4.9 million, he could restore some of his 2009 magic.

Kubel has had many decent moments with the Twins, but he is getting expensive. He will be 29. He's shown decent power. He's also a defensive liability. If the Twins have the luxury to keep Kubel, they should. If there is only enough money to sign either Kubel or Thome or if the money can be used to keep Orlando Hudson or sign a pitcher, letting Kubel go could turn out to be a smart move. I like Kubel a lot, but his value may be less than he is owed.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What should Derek Jeter get?

I appreciate all of the views I got for my anniversary post. 524 is great, my second best day ever. I asked for 1000 to receive a prize, so there will be no give away. I will have another contest soon.

Today, I am going to step away from the Twins for a second to talk about Derek Jeter. Jeter is having a terrible year by his standards and will be a free agent in the off season. Jeter's contract status is fascinating to me. Even though I hate the Yankees, how they do business is still interesting. Living in Yankee land does it to me.

Jeter is in the final year of a 10 year/$189 million contract that he signed before the 2001 season. says he has been worth 45.7 WAR in the 10 seasons. Fangraphs has been keeping salary value stats since 2002. His 2001 season is slightly better than 2008 so I used that salary figure for 2001. Anyway, he has been worth approximately $167 million. Not too much less than he has made on his contract. Given the Yankees endless financial streams, overpaying $22 million for their captain has not been a big deal.

Jeter has had a tough 2010 campaign. His OPS of .703 is the lowest of his career. His 1.7 WAR (wins above replacement) is the lowest of his career. His defense has fallen after he made adjustments the last couple years. At 36, he is no longer a great player.

Of shortstops, his .703 OPS ranks 10 in the majors. He ranks 13th in WAR. Jeter had a great year in 2009. He was 3rd in OPS with an .871 and 1st in WAR with 7.4. Jeter was decent in 2007 and 2008. He was 4th in OPS with a .840 and 8th in WAR at 3.5 in 2007. He was 9th in OPS with a .771 and 7th in WAR with a 3.7 in 2008 before having a near MVP season in 2009.

So, what can the Yankees expect from Jeter in the future? A guy like Roberto Alomar had a similar fall-off and played only one more season past 35. Cal Ripken had only one decent offensive season after his year 35 season. Robin Yount started to decline at 34, never achieving much after that. Many middle infielders have to change positions and/or they fall off dramatically.

What about recent Yankees? They gave Jorge Posada a 4 year, $52.5 million after 2007, in his 36th year. The two prior seasons he had an .867 & .970 OPS and a 4.9 & 6.4 WAR. Bernie Williams got offered only $1.5 million after having a .795 & .688 OPS in his 35th and 36th year. By this point Bernie was such a liability on defense, that his offense couldn't sustain him. Bernie was done.

What can the Yankees expect from Jeter? It appears he made some defensive strides in 2008 and 2009. Reports of better positioning, could be responsible for a couple better defensive seasons. Age probably eroded that away in 2010. Does Jeter have another adjustment at his SS defense? Is there a position that he could play in the future? An OPS of .703 will not work for the Yankees at any other offensive position.

So Jeter, as a starter for the Yankees, is a shortstop only. He is 36 and not close to elite in 2010. The likelihood of him being elite again is not great. It is reasonable to expect an offensive improvement in 2011 but he will probably continue to slide defensively.

Assuming he is re-signed, what to pay him? Fangraphs has Jeter's value at $6.9 million at this point in 2010. A $33.2 million value in 2009 when his defense/offense were at the top. The two years prior he was valued at $14.3 & $16.5 million.

Jeter is 36, he's been declining 3 of the last 4 seasons coming out of a great 2006. 2009 was a culmination of great offense and smarter played defense. Can Jeter do it again? If I were the Yankees, I'd offer Jeter no more than a 2 year deal. I'd either offer 1 year $15 million or a 2 year $24 million deal. This would account for some recovery towards 2007-2008 like numbers. This amount would be more than any other team would offer Jeter. The captain, Jason Varitek was offered much less to stay in Boston. His career was in steep decline and the Red Sox responded with a contract in kind. No one offered more.

People say Jeter deserves money and years as a measure of respect. Does he deserve to get paid for who he used to be? The Yankees have given old icons large contracts when they have produced and also cut bait with old icons. Being paid many more dollars in 2011 & 2012 than he was worth in 2010 shows this respect. As a Twins fan, I think it would be funny if the Yankees offered Jeter a huge deal because he is Jeter. The Yankees can afford the mistake, but it doesn't they should make it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A birthday for the blog. One Year Old!

Today, is this blog has a birthday! September 7, 2009, it entered the world with this humble post. The name Ontheroadwith.... was to represent my status as an out state Twins fan. I go to many games, almost all on the road and my initial idea would be to state where I had arrived "on the road". What started out as a hobby, stayed a hobby for most of the first year. This will only be the 60th post. I have stepped up lately however, this is the 25th post since June 21st.

This blog has been mostly Minnesota Twins based, however, there have been exceptions:

Post #2 was about a Minnesota Gophers game locally. I wrote a post about my late friend. I moved to Texas. I even started looking at Houston Astros prospects, before the combination of a bad system and general boredom had me abandon the project. I do like their stadium. Recently, I wrote something about a new stat, still looking for feedback and I am adding it to the post.

The rest of the posts are about the Minnesota Twins in one way or another. I had a post of my favorite and least favorite Twins memories. At the trade deadline, I compared the Twins to other playoff teams in three posts ending with this one. The others are linked in the post and I plan on follow-up the posts if the Twins make the playoffs.

Last December, I did a top 50 Twins prospect series of posts. Instead of arbitrarily ranking prospects, I used only cold, hard numbers. I used OPS for hitters and WHIP for pitchers. I used 2009 season numbers with a formula factoring in age and level. Prior numbers and other factors were only used to break ties. I will not be ranking prospects in this method in the future, but I may still use it as a guide. The Top 10 post is here, with links to the other 40 players.

Lets see how the top 10 is doing this year:

10. Andrei Lobanov Lefty Reliever 1/25/1990.
He went 2-1 with a .82 ERA in 15 appearance/22 innings for the Gulf Coast Twins, giving up 14 hits while striking out 35 and walking 1 in 2009. These numbers and his youth placed him as my 10th best prospect. Lobanov has gone 3-2 with a 2.71 ERA mostly in low and high A ball. He's struck out 55 and walked 14 in 63 innings in 2010. His numbers are not as gaudy as they were in rookie ball, but he's only 20, his future is still quite bright. 

9. Danny Valencia Third Base 9/19/1984.
He batted .285/.337/.466 between New Britain and Rochester in 2009. He was considered one of the most MLB ready Twins prospects, however, there was a major divide on how ready he really is. Reports had some in the organization think he was MLB ready at the end of 2009 right now and some saying he wouldn't be ready until 2011. We now know that he has been great this year with the Twins. After starting the season at Rochester, hitting an ordinary .292/.347/.373, he was called up by the Twins in June. He was expected to only spend a few days on the team, but injuries have given him an opportunity to start. He has flourished, hitting .343/.382/.454 plus playing solid defense. His batting average is due for regression but he should also expect to hit for more power. He should be at least a league average third baseman for years to come. Given the Twins problems at the position, they'll take league average. 

8. Tom Stuifbergen Starter 9/26/1988.
He went 5-2 with a 3.28 ERA in 13 starts/79.2 innings for Elizabethtown, giving up 79 hits while striking out 69 and walking 6 in 2009. He went 6-4 with a 2.98 ERA in 93.2 innings for Beloit in 2010. He struck out 88 and walked 23. He has always had problems with injuries throughout his career and they cropped up again this year. He is still young and remains a decent starter prospect.

7. Bradley Tippett Starter 2/11/1988.
He went 9-8 with a 3.21 ERA in 25 appearances/24 starts/146 innings for Beloit, giving up 131 hits while striking out 107 and walking 25 in 2009. He doesn't throw very hard, reports are a fastball in the high 80s, but has great control. He has had a rough year in 2010 due to injury. He went 0-2 with a 6.28 ERA in Fort Myers in 10 appearances, 5 of them starts. He has struck out 23 and walked 9. He hasn't pitched since July 7th. Hopefully he comes back strong in 2011.

6. Alex Burnett Relief Pitcher 7/26/1987.
He went 3-3 with a 1.85 ERA in 58 appearances/78 innings between Fort Myers and New Britain, giving up 58 hits while striking out 78 and walking 26 in 2009. He was on the path to being an ordinary starter, but was switched to relief for the 2009 season. He was a top relief prospect going into the 2010 season. He started the season with the Twins. He's gone 2-2 with a 4.26 ERA in 42.1 innings with a couple stints with the Twins. He has struggled some after a hot start but looks to have a great future as a reliever.

5. Angel Morales Center Fielder/OF 11/24/1989.
He batted .266/.329/.455 for Beloit with 19 stolen bases in 25 attempts in 2009. He batted .289/.381/.474 in his return to Beloit before his promotion to Ft. Myers mid season. After his promotion he hit .272/.347/.349. He stole 29 bases but was caught 12 times between Beloit and Ft. Myers. He struggled when he was promoted and still has a high strikeout rate but he is still very young. He has a great future and he is the Twins prospect I am most excited to see play.

4. Joe Benson Outfield 3/5/1988.
Last year, he batted .285/.414/.403 for Fort Myers with 14 stolen bases in 21 attempts. Joe Benson has become my favorite prospect this past season. I have written a bit about him this year. The link also has video of an at-bat and a picture he took for me. This year, he has found a lot of power. He had a career high 27 HRs this year, topping his previous high of 5. He has hit .258/.342/.535 with 19 stolen bases in 28 attempts in Fort Myers and New Britain. His on-base percentage has taken a real hit but his power has shot through the roof. He has work to do. He has his new found power and his speed. If he can improve his plate discipline, he will be a major league all-star.

3. Adrian Salcedo Starter 4/24/1991.
He went 3-2 with a 1.46 ERA in 11 appearances/10 starts/61.2 innings for the Gulf Coast Twins, giving up 60 hits while striking out 58 and walking just 3 in 2009. In Elizabethton and Fort Myers this season, he has combined to go 5-6 with a 4.15 ERA, 81 strikeouts and 18 walks in 93.1 innings. Not the eye popping numbers of 2009, but he is still 19. His ERA jumped to 6.27 when he was promoted to Fort Myers. He has a long way to go, but is an exciting prospect.

2. Wilson Ramos Catcher 8/10/1987.
He batted .317/.341/.454 for New Britain. He is also a good defensive catcher, throwing out 41% of would be base stealer's last season in 2009. Wilson started the season slow, hitting .241/.280/.345 in Rochester. He also made his MLB debut. In a 28 plate appearance stint with the Twins, he started fast and ending up with a line of .296/.321/.407. He was traded to Washington for Matt Capps at the trade deadline. Since the trade, he has hit .316/.341/.494 for AAA Syracuse. His trade value took a slight hit this season due to his poor year in Rochester. He also has some injury history. He still profiles as a great defensive catcher with power. He could be a great player for the next 10 years. He has a good chance of being Washington's starting catcher in 2011.

1. Josmil Pinto Designated Hitter/Catcher 3/31/1989.
He batted .332/.387/.610 for Elizabethtown. He threw out 46% of would be stealer's, but is not otherwise known as a great defensive catcher. Pinto is a great example of why I will not use formula alone to rank prospects in the future. The formula gave a particularly positive ranking to those players who had not yet played above rookie ball. He hit only .225/.295/.378 for Beloit in 2010. His pick as a #1 prospect was dubious and his poor 2010 makes it even more so. He will be just 22 in 2011 and could still develop into a power bat. Another factor in Pinto's favor is Elizabethtown is in a hitter friendly league and Beloit in a pitcher friendly league.

This blog has given me the opportunity to talk Twins baseball with many of the great Twins bloggers out there. I have also gotten the chance to appear on podcasts and met some great people at Twins games. All because of the this blog.

I have also started a facebook fan page. It has links to the blog as well as other Twins related stuff and pictures from Twins games and other games I have attended.

As a way to grow this blogs readership, I have decided to pimp it with a give away. If this blog gets 1000 hits by the end of September 7th, I will send a Rod Carew figurine to #1000. I have never had 1000 views in a day so help me break my record. Tell all of your friends. Get the word out about OntheroadwithShawn!
Thanks for reading this year and I look forward to another great year of writing and Twins baseball.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

What Do You think of Bill Smith Now? Extensions

This is the 4th in a series of reviews of the job Bill Smith is doing? If you need catching up, I'm not a huge fan of his trade history, I like his free agent signings and think he is crappy at managing the day-to-day major league roster.

This post will focus on the extensions he has doled out to current players. I will use WAR (wins above replacement) and dollar value figures from

Before 2008, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer and Joe Nathan were given Smith's first extensions. These extensions were given after Johan Santana was traded and Torii Hunter was let go.

Justin Morneau was given a 6 year $80 million extension. This was the largest contract the Twins had ever doled out. Through the end of 2010, Morneau will have earned $35 million. Morneau has had his season de-railed each of the last two seasons, however, he has still been worth 12.5 WAR, worth $53.6 million. He has been well worth the contract so far. If he can come back from his concussions, he should be worth the rest of his contract as well.

Michael Cuddyer was given a 4 year $33.5 million extension (counting the 2011 option the team has already picked up) through the end of 2010. He will have earned $23 million. He only has a 3.2 WAR the last three seasons worth $13.6 million. He is well respected in the clubhouse and in the MLB, but his bat hasn't been great and his defense hideous.

Joe Nathan was given a 4 year $47 million extension plus a 2012 option. He performed well in 2008-2009 but has missed all of 2010 due to Tommy John surgery. He has earned $33.75 million, but the team saved approximately $6 million due to insurance for his injury. He has been worth a 4 WAR in his two healthy seasons worth $18 million. As an elite close he has still only been worth $9 million a season.

In 2009, Smith signed Jason Kubel, Scott Baker and Nick Punto to extensions.

Jason Kubel was given a 2 year $7.2 million extension plus a $5.25 option in 2011. He has been worth a 3.5 WAR worth $15.2 million. He was worth much more in 2009 than in 2010 due to greater offensive contribution as well as a lack of exposure on defense. The Twins should exercise Kubel's option, but keeping him off the field for a better defender increases Kubel's value. As an aside, when Kubel was given his contract, Dave Cameron suggested Kubel was no better than Eric Hinske. Hinske has a 1.5 WAR and has been worth $6.5 million the last two seasons.

Scott Baker was given a 4 year $15.25 million extension with an option for 2013. Baker was just coming out of his serf years and has earned $3.75 million. He has been worth a WAR of 5.8 and has been worth $24.9 million. He has been worth his contract already and this was a smart signing by the team.

Nick Punto was given a 2 year $8.5 million extension plus a 5 mill option in 2011. The much maligned Punto has had his own day and has a WAR of 3.1. Due to good defense, Punto has been worth $13.3 million. I would not pick up his option, due to better and/or cheaper options. If Punto's option is picked up, Punto will probably be, at least, worth what he is paid.

Before 2010, the Twins signed Joe Mauer, Brendan Harris, Nick Blackburn and Denard Span.

Joe Mauer, 2009 AL MVP and potential 2011 free agent was going to get a boat-load of cash. He got that boatload from Minnesota. Joe signed the biggest extension ever, not given to a current New York Yankee. He was given an 8 year $184 million extension for the 2011-2018. He has had a fine season, though not up to 2009 standards. His 4.7 WAR in 2010 has been worth $18.9 million so far this year. He will have to average 8 seasons slightly better than his 2010 campaign to be worth his $23 million a year contract. Joe's contract was about more than money. He's from Minnesota and homegrown in the Twins organization. Letting Joe Mauer go was not an option and signing Mauer is worth a premium to keep him the face of the franchise.

Brendan Harris was given a 2 year $3.2 million extension. He has earned $1.45 million in 2010 but he has been just terrible this year. He earned a negative .9 WAR before being dumped off the 40 man roster and sent to AAA. He has been worth -$3.5 million. This extension was unnecessary due to Harris' arbitration standing, but didn't look bad at the time. However, IT HAS BEEN BAD!

Nick Blackburn was given a 4 year $14 million contract plus an option for 2014. Blackburn has earned $750,000 in 2010 due to coming out of serf status. I didn't hate the deal at the time, but many did. He has been worth a 0 WAR and spent some time in AAA this season. He has been worth $0. He has been a big game pitcher at times, but needs to strike out more and give up less hits to come anywhere close to earning his deal.

Denard Span was given a 5 year $16.5 million contract plus and option for 2015. Span has struggled this year and I've advocated his benching. He has still been worth a 2.5 WAR and $9.8 million, mostly due to a 6.3 UZR/150 in center field. To the naked eye, his defense looks brutal. He may have increased his range and perhaps just looks bad on certain balls he should have caught. Span is coming out of serf status and earned $750,000 on his contract in 2010. His contract has almost paid for itself already and it is expected that Span will bounce back offensively.

Smith has doled out extensions that have cost the Pohlad family $114.15 million since 2008, less nearly $6 million coming back due to Joe Nathan's injury. He has gotten $144.2 million worth of value out of these contracts. Smith has done very well signing the team's core players, though contracts such as Blackburn's and Mauer's could haunt in future seasons.

Finally, there is one notable extension Bill Smith could not workout. The re-signing of Torii Hunter. Hunter was offered a 3 year $45 million deal but instead signed with the Angels for 5 years and $90 million. So far, through nearly 3 years of that deal, Hunter has an 9.2 WAR, worth $39.9 million. Hunter has been worth less than the 45 million the Twins were willing to give him. Letting him go has been a smart move. Smith offered fair worth, the Angels are losing money on Hunter.

Smith gets his best score on contract extensions!

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Bill Smith roster derailed post

I have been working on a series of Bill Smith posts. How he is doing as a trader and how he is doing signing free agents. I have more posts on his running of the franchise coming, but last night's game made me remember that, Smith sucks at roster maximization. I'm not really referring to who is on the roster so much as keeping the roster prepared at all times. Roster maximization is hard to quantify. There are no stats to measure it, but examples exist, such as last night.

Let's take a look at last night's game. Scott Baker started and hurt his elbow, throwing only two innings. Jeff Manship went 4 innings, throwing 65 pitches. Jon Rauch threw a scoreless 7th. After 7 innings, the Twins were leading 7-3 and had only used 2 relievers. To start the 8th, lefty Randy Flores was brought in. He got an out and gave up a HR. The team then turned to Matt Guerrier. Matt is showing signs of wearing down, as he did in 2008. I'd have gone with Jesse Crain in this spot and given Matt a day to rest. Guerrier came in and gave up 3 runs in .2 innings, tieing the game at 7-7. The top of the 9th saw the Twins score a run, so Jesse Crain was brought in for the save. (Gardenhire wanted to rest Matt Capps) He blew the save. Crain went 2 innings. Why couldn't Crain have gone 1.2 innings and give Guerrier the night off?

The whole bullpen was used-up after 10 innings. Capps was deemed unavailable and Brian Fuentes had tightness in his back. Smith surely cannot be responsible for Baker getting hurt. He is not responsible for Gardenhire's use of the bullpen, though he should be aware of it. Because Blackburn was used last night, he couldn't be used to start today's game.

Due to starters on the 40-man roster such as Glen Perkins and Anthony Swarzak being used recently, the team has to call-up Matt Fox today and place Justin Morneau on the 60 day disabled list. For one spot start, the Twins need to make a roster move they'd rather hold onto.

How does this happen? There seems to be times where the team holds an injured player for 5+ days before sending them to the disabled list. Too often in Bill Smith's tenure, a guy like Matt Tolbert is pinch hitting with the game on the line. The roster is often missing a player or two that it needs, due to roster mismanagement.

How could this have happened last night? Certainly the team went into the game looking relatively strong, but things happen. Things should not happen in September. Once September 1st rolls around, teams can expand their rosters. Anyone on the 40-man roster can be called up to the major league roster. The Twins called up two position players, but no pitchers. The reasoning was to keep rosters in the minors filled until the end of their minor league seasons. The minor league season ends Monday! Rochester and New Britain are not threats to extend their season in the playoffs.

Last nights game meant Fox had to be called up as well as Rob Delaney and Alex Burnett. How could the Twins have avoided this? They could have called up Delaney and Burnett already. This could have saved Guerrier's arm and helped prevent starter's getting wasted in an extra innings game.

I am not a fan of Smith's trades, though he has been better the last 2 seasons. I like what he has done in free-agency. Smith's biggest weakness might be in roster management. It may have cost a game last night. Last night's game may cost a game down the road.

I hope Smith learned a lesson for next September.

An update on this post. Matt Fox made a good start for the Twins. The Twins have not lost a game since the nightmare game against Detroit. Fox was then designated for assignment to call up Ben Revere. Fox was claimed by Boston today. Smith, leaving his team short-handed in September, may have cost the team a game and definitely cost the team some decent starting pitcher depth. Again, I hope Smith learned his lesson.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Manny's impact on the White Sox

Yesterday, Manny Ramirez finally made his way to the Chicago White Sox, several days after he'd been claimed. He wasn't ready to be pencilled in the lineup, but his intimidating presence as a potential pinch-hitter helped A.J. Pierzynski hit a home run!!!!!! Ok, that might be a stretch, though, his presence in the on deck circle could have resulted in better pitches for A.J. Other than intimidating pitchers from the on-deck circle, what does the Manny trade mean to the White Sox?

The White Sox are 4 games back of the Twins with 30 to go. As I documented at the trade deadline, their starters are very good, their relievers had been having a good year as well, but have struggled lately. While the pitching has been mostly solid, the Sox have a had a hole in the DH spot. They have been running Mark Kotsay and his .237/.311/.385 in the DH spot most of the season. While Manny, at 38, hasn't been the same old Manny, he still has managed a .311/.405/.510 line in 232 plate appearances. Playing the DH position should help keep Manny in the lineup. He has had injury problems this season and not having to play the field should save his body.

So, how much of an impact will Manny have? Zips predicts a line of .303/.405/.545 in 78 plate appearances. His performance in LA in 2008, suggests he could be capable of more. His .396/.489/.743 line in 229 plate appearance was awesome. One of the great trade deadline impact performances of all time. It was worth 3.1 wins in just 2 months, even factoring in his bad defense.

I imagine Manny will be motivated, much as he was in 2008, but he is two years older this time and he has had a hard time staying in the lineup this season. He may have a hard time adjusting to a full-time DH role. He may also be missing a certain special something this time around. While there is no proof Manny was getting help from, um, fertility drugs in 2008, he certainly was by the beginning of 2009. Given his contract year status, some new motivation, and the fact that the White Sox play their home games in U.S. Cellular, I'll predict a .320/.450/.575 line for Manny down the stretch. Zips predicts 78 plate appearances, which amounts to about 20 full games out of 30. Given the fact that Manny has been fighting injuries and often sits a day after a night (As an owner of his in fantasy baseball, he has been almost unstartable), I'd say this is about right. He'd probably be available to pinch hit in the other 10, still having some impact.

So, is 80 plate appearances of .320/.450/.575 enough of a difference over .237/.311/.385? The Sox have 16 games at home, while the Twins have 18. The Sox still have 7 games with the Red Sox, 3 on the road and 4 at home. The Red Sox are probably not playoff bound but are as good or better team than the White Sox. Will Manny even play much in Boston this weekend? Given his history there and his mercurial personality, the White Sox may keep him on the bench for the bulk of this series. The Twins have 3 games this weekend at home vs Texas, but thats about it for tough opponents. The key to the season is the 3 game series the Twins have in Chicago from September 14-16.

Manny is still a great hitter. His bat should be worth a win to the White Sox. The problem for the Sox is, the Twins are 4 ahead, not 1, have more home games and a similar schedule. Unless Manny helps the White Sox sweep the Twins in September, his bat won't be enough to close the 4 game gap between the teams.

Manny is till a great hitter. Manny will make the pennant race more fun! Welcome Manny, while I fear you, I don't believe your impact will be enough!

As I write this, the Sox are down 4-2 with 1 on and 1 out in the top of the 8th inning. Manny is due another plate appearance. Will it matter? Stay tuned!

Half-Ass scouting report on Twins Arizona Fall League players

Today the Twins announced their Arizona Fall league assignees. This is a great group of players, guys that will make an impact in the majors. Since I have seen or met 6 of the players I figured I'd post my half-assed scouting reports instead of digging deep into stats.

Joe Benson is my favorite prospect in the Twins system. He has hit .249/.335/.516 with 24 HRs, 18 SB/9 CS in High A Fort Myers and AA New Britain this season I saw him in June and wrote this: He's 22 and Neal thinks he'll arrive in 2012. For some reason, he was sent back to Fort Myers this year. I personally think he is a better player than Revere right now. He certainly looks to have more upside. He is almost as fast as Revere but also has power. He went 2-5 with a 2B and a walk on Wednesday and 1-4 with a HR in Thursday's game. He leads New Britain with 9 HRs. The bounce in power is great especially since he is considered more of a speed guy. He already has 13 HRs in 2010 between Fort Myers/New Britain. He's never had more than 5 HRs in a season. If Micheal Cuddyer were traded in the off-season, Benson may be better equipped then Revere to replace some of his offense by next season.

I also saw him in AugustHe went 0-5 and some of his swings were really hard. Carlos Gomez hard. He is certainly the best prospect in AA for the Twins currently, but he has some work to do. I love watching him in the field and he has legitimate power. He also might be wound to tight. He got mad a couple times during the game, tossing his helmet hard into the dugout and also on the field after just missing his pitch and flying out. The kind of reaction usually reserved for strikeouts. Benson has a ton of tools and potential that is starting to show. I hope he is able to keep his emotions in check and just enjoy the game a little more. He has enough ability to go a long way someday soon.

Here is video of Benson's first at-bat.

Ben Revere recently came back from getting hit in the face with a pitch. He is batting .295/.363/.350 with 34 SB/13 CS in AA New Britain this season. He has some upside as a Juan Pierre type. I saw him in June and wrote in reference to LaVelle E. Neal ranking him as the Twins #4 prospect: He's also (as is Joe Benson) 22 and Neal also predicts he will be with the Twins in 2011. He played yesterday after missing some time with injury. He went 1-4 with a strikeout. While he didn't do much in the game, it was great to see him play. I saw his speed trying to beat out ground balls. 

Chris Parmelee could be a future power hitter for the Twins. He is batting .289/.360/.407 in High A Fort Myers and AA New Britain this season. I saw him in June and wrote this: Chris Parmelee also had 3 hits and hit a very hard foul ball right by us. Dude has scary power, if he can ever put it all together. I saw Parmelee in August, he had a hit, walk, RBI, and a couple runs scored. 

I have seen Carlos Gutierrez many times. He is 5-8 with a 4.57 ERA as a starter and reliever in AA New Britain this season. I saw him in 2009, before I was blogging, he looked good, topping out at 94. He signed a ball for us in 2009. I wrote this in June, La Velle E. Neal had him as his #5 prospect: He's 23 and Neal predicts he could be on the MLB club in late 2010. I don't see him with the club this year but maybe next year, probably as a reliever. He started the game Wednesday. He got the win, going 6 innings, giving up 6 hits, walking 2, and striking out 3. He looked very confident on the mound. His sinker was working for him, topping out at 95 MPH and sitting around 91-93. Some of the hits could have been outs with better defense. (Jair Fernandez, a catcher played a few innings at 3rd base when Chris Cates was thrown out of the game) His off speed pitches looked ok but I'm not sure if they are swing and miss pitches right now.

I saw Kyle Waldrop in 2009. He has since become a dominating reliever and will make an impact soon. He is 5-3 with a 2.57 ERA for Rochester this year. I didn't have much to say about him when I saw him, but here it is: Kyle Waldrop, former #1 pick was next, he went 3.2 giving up 1 earned on 3 hits and a walk with a strikeout. He looks to be adjusting nicely after an injury derailed 2008 His fast ball topped out at 91.

I have not seen Tyler Robertson pitch but I met him this year. He is having a tough year, going 3-13 with a 5.47 ERA in AA/AAA but he is still only 22 and has been fairly decent in the past. He did take a pic.  for me and was a good guy. He didn't hesitate, even though I pestered him while he was texting. Someone needs to get him a "Viva La Stache" shirt as well. He was a Big Fan of mine.
David Bromberg also made the team. I wasn't lucky enough to see him pitch this year but he went 6-9 with a 3.75 ERA for AA New Britain and AAA Rochester this season.

That's all I got. Congratulations to the guys. Check out Seth Stohs much better take on the AFL.