Friday, June 10, 2005
Twins Blogger Night: June 21John "Twins Geek" Bonnes has been talking about putting together a big night at the Metrodome for Twins bloggers and Twins blog readers for quite a while now. He e-mailed me the other day to say he's finally got a plan together for what sounds like a great night at the ballpark.
One of John's friends runs a non-profit organization called "Admission Possible" that helps low-income students earn admission to college through SAT/ACT test preparation, assistance with college applications, and financial aid. The Minneapolis Star Tribune ran a very favorable editorial about the organization a couple years ago.
What does this have to do with going to a Twins game? Good question. Admission Possible was recently given a gift from Carl Pohlad and the Twins that is basically a full-fledged "event" for the game against Detroit on Tuesday, June 21.
The event includes a pregame picnic outside the Dome with food, drinks, and a band, a raffle to sit in the owner's suite with Twins great Tony Oliva, and plenty of tickets to the game. And perhaps the best part, aside from the fact that it's a chance for a whole bunch of us to get together for a night of baseball, is that 100% of the money raised goes to Admission Possible.
So you hang out and have some good food, go to a baseball game, maybe sit with Tony O in the owner's box, and give a little bit to a very deserving cause. It's a win-win situation if there ever was one. Plus, you get to meet and talk Twins with John and I (and maybe some other Twins bloggers). You know, if that sort of thing sounds exciting to you.
The total cost per person is going to be $25, for which you will receive:
Admission Possible will be setting up a website within the next couple days where you can sign up for the event. In the meantime, please save the date. I'll be there, John and his whole family will be there, and it would be great if a whole bunch of our fellow Twins fans came too.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- News, Notes and Quotes (June 10, 2005) (by Aaron Gleeman)
- Blast From The Past: History Lesson From 1929 (by John Brattain)
Today's Picks (47-43, +$190):
Washington (Ohka) -130 over Seattle (Pineiro)
New York (Johnson) -110 over St. Louis (Mulder)
Atlanta (Smoltz) -170 over Oakland (Saarloos)
Oakland (Zito) +105 over Atlanta (Ramirez)
Washington (Armas) -130 over Seattle (Franklin)
Baltimore (Ponson) -130 over Cincinnati (Ortiz)
Chicago (Garcia) -115 over San Diego (Lawrence)
Minnesota (Radke) -110 over Los Angeles (Houlton)
Boston (Wakefield) +120 over Chicago (Rusch)
Cleveland (Lee) -125 over San Francisco (Rueter)
Thursday, June 09, 2005
The Twins' DraftThe tendency with drafts is to judge them on first-round picks. However, while that works just fine in basketball and reasonably well in football, the baseball draft is so long and such a complete crapshoot that the odds of finding a player in rounds 2-50 who turns out better than your first-round pick are pretty damn good.
Another thing to consider when thinking about the Twins' draft this year is just how different picking at the end of the first round is from picking at the top of it. For years, the Twins had high first-round picks, culminating in 2001 when they drafted Joe Mauer over Mark Prior #1 overall. There is a huge difference between picking at the beginning of the first round and picking at the end of it, so much so that late first-round picks really shouldn't be viewed any differently than second or third rounders.
That is part of the reason why recent back-to-back-to-back first-round busts Ryan Mills, B.J. Garbe, and Adam Johnson were so disappointing -- they were all top-10 picks. The expected "return" on a top-10 pick is so high that getting complete nothings like Mills, Garbe, and Johnson really hurts. In fact, while 1997 first rounder Michael Cuddyer is contributing to the Twins and still has a chance to become a good player, even he has given them very little actual value at this point.
Keeping in mind that Cuddyer still has some potential, take a look at this brutal stretch the Twins had:
YEAR # PLAYERTo not come away with a single above-average major leaguer from five consecutive top-10 picks is remarkable. It also shows the importance of finding value after the first round, because the Twins have built a thriving organization with a constant flow of young talent despite going five years without an impact first-round pick. Can you imagine an NBA or NFL team succeeding despite coming up empty with picks 2, 9, 6, 5, and 2 in a five-year span?
When you start picking in the 20s, as the Twins have been fortunate enough to do in the last three years, it becomes more about finding someone who fits what the team is looking for, rather than an obvious selection. In other words, at pick #5 there should be an obvious, no-brainer choice and he should be expected to become a very good major-league player. At pick #25, there is no such obvious choice and in turn there should be no such expectation.
Keeping all of that in mind, here's a look at the top 10 picks from Twins' 2005 draft, with stats (when available), quotes from draft experts, and a few of my completely uneducated comments ...
Matt Garza | #25 | RHP | Fresno State University
YEAR ERA IP SO BB HFor an organization that leans toward drafting high schoolers, the Twins certainly haven't shied away from using their first pick on college pitching. In fact, Matt Garza becomes the fifth college pitcher the Twins have taken with their first pick since 1995, following Mark Redman, Mills, Johnson, and Glen Perkins. After an ugly 2003 and mediocre 2004, Garza was the WAC Pitcher of the Year this season and led the conference in strikeouts.
Mike Radcliff: He has a lot of the stuff we emphasize to be a starting pitcher in the big leagues. He has command and control, which we think is important. He was a little skinny kid out of high school. He evolved the last couple of years and became the Friday night guy.
Baseball America: Garza had only a four-seam fastball and a slow, lazy curveball when he enrolled at Fresno State, but he now has plus stuff with a four-pitch repertoire. His fastball ranges from 90-94 mph and touches 95, and a hard 82-84 mph slider is an effective second pitch. A 72-78 mph curve has the makings of a solid third pitch, while his changeup has been slower to develop. He's projected to be a starter in pro ball but could move into relief if his curve and changeup don't progress or he lacks the stamina to be a starter.
Henry Sanchez | #39 | 1B | High School (California)
Henry Sanchez is probably the Twins' most interesting pick, in that he is a massive first baseman with very little defensive ability and a lot of power. In other words, he's just about the exact opposite of the type of player the Twins typically go after. For them to take him 39th overall makes me think that they believe his bat is truly special, so it'll be interesting to see how much power he shows early on. As with any large player, the comparisons made are pretty funny to read.
Baseball America: At 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds, Sanchez could become the biggest first-round pick in draft history. He physically resembles a larger Andres Galarraga, and naturally draws comparisons to Brewers prospect Prince Fielder. Sanchez isn't quite as athletic as Fielder but has the same explosive, raw power and ranks as the top power prospect in this year's draft. Exceptionally strong, he can crush balls with a short stroke that generates bat speed well beyond his years.
The prevailing thought is that he could hit 35-40 home runs in the big leagues or just as easily flame out in Class A. His weight, which has reached nearly 300 pounds in the past, is a concern. It limits him to first base, though he has decent mobility around the bag and adequate arm strength for the position. He's a below-average runner.
MLB.com: Large, heavy body. Similar to Bengie Molina, but taller. Quick, powerful bat and alert fielder. Gamer who exudes confidence.
Paul Kelly | #54 | SS/RHP | High School (Texas)
Like many draftees, Paul Kelly is apparently very good at both hitting and pitching. I have often wondered how many teams have drafted a young, two-way star and chosen the wrong position for them as a pro. In other words, when a team drafts a shortstop/pitcher and decides to make him a full-time shortstop, how many times have they missed out on someone who would have become a great pitcher?
Baseball America: Kelly reminds a lot of area scouts of Jesse Crain, who starred as a two-way player at Houston. Kelly isn't quite as physical as Crain yet, but he has a similar build and the potential to be drafted either as a shortstop or a pitcher. While teams preferred Crain on the mound, Kelly has support in both roles. He's close to a five-tool player at shortstop. He handles the bat well and should hit for average with gap power. He shows good quickness on the bases and in the field. Defensively, he has the actions, range and arm strength to stay at shortstop. If he doesn't cut it as a position player, he could fall back on being a reliever because his stuff is reminiscent of Crain's.
Kevin Slowey | #73 | RHP | Winthrop University
YEAR ERA IP SO BB HKevin Slowey is a textbook Twins pitcher because of his outstanding control and intelligence on the mound. And for a stathead like me, his 134-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio this year (and 328-to-41 strikeout-to-walk ratio for his career) is drool-inducing.
Baseball America: Few pitchers had improved their draft stock as much as Slowey, who burst on the scene with a 19-strikeout game as a freshman but didn't emerge as a candidate for the first three rounds until this year. Slowey has always had solid stuff and excellent control that scouts rate at least a 60 on the 20-80 scale; now his stuff has improved as he's become stronger.
He's an excellent competitor who challenges hitters with a fastball in the 87-92 mph range that touches a bit higher. He complements it with a solid-average slider, which was his best secondary pitch this year, while his changeup was his best secondary offering in his first two years. Slowey impresses scouts with his makeup and intelligence on and off the field (he has a 3.96 GPA thanks to one B, in business calculus). Scouts liken his ceiling to that of Cory Lidle or Jeff Suppan, as an innings-eating third or fourth starter.
MLB.com: Good strength for a pitcher. Attacks strike zone with all pitches. Can put fastball on either side of the plate with some late sink. Nice curveball that can throw for strikes. Slider has some quick bite to it. A clever, methodical control pitcher.
Drew Thompson | #80 | SS | High School (Florida)
Baseball America: His father Robbie played second base for the Giants for 11 seasons. Drew is a lefthanded hitter but a similar player in some ways. His father's best tool was his bat (he hit 119 home runs), and Thompson has the advanced approach and hitting instincts of someone who grew up around the game. He has a compact lefthanded swing that sprays line drives to all fields.
He has solid hands and an average arm, probably good enough to be a college shortstop, but pro scouts believe he fits the profile of an offensive second baseman, once he fills out physically and begins to hit for more power. Thompson's father is a Gators alumnus, and scouts believe Drew would have to be drafted higher than the third round to get him to sign.
MLB.com: Athletic middle infielder. Soft hands, excellent instincts. Makes it look easy. Quick bat and hits well to all fields. Makes adjustments. Shows occasional power. Smart base runner, with good first-to-third speed. Knows how to play the game.
Brian Duensing | #84 | LHP | University of Nebraska
YEAR ERA IP SO BB HBrian Duensing is an interesting pick. He missed all of 2004 after having Tommy John surgery and then pitched well but with a sub par strikeout rate this season. The Twins must feel like he will get stronger as he continues to recover from the surgery. His 2005 stats are strange, because he didn't strike many hitters out and didn't show great control, but had a 2.60 ERA (with an 8-0 record) and gave up just 63 hits in 80 innings.
Baseball America: Duensing's stuff hasn't been the same since an elbow injury cost him most of 2003 and eventually required Tommy John surgery in 2004. He competes with an 86-90 mph fastball and a changeup. He bailed Nebraska out at the Big 12 Conference tournament by pitching well in back-to-back starts, including 7 2/3 scoreless innings in a 1-0 title-game win over Baylor.
MLB.com: Left-handed pitcher with quality stuff. Throws sinking fastball with good sink. Commands both sides of the plate. Three-fourths slider with tight, sharp rotation and his changeup are his best pitches. Has a feel for pitching.
Ryan Mullins | #105 | RHP | Vanderbilt University
YEAR ERA IP SO BB HRyan Mullins is surprising pick, because he has had some off-the-field problems and his on-field performance hasn't been all that spectacular. As you'll see in Mike Radcliff's comments below, the Twins must be convinced that he has learned from his mistakes.
Baseball America: He pitched behind Jeremy Sowers -- the No. 6 pick in 2004 -- for two seasons in the Commodores rotation, but stumbled as a junior trying to replace Sowers as the staff ace. By the time Southeastern Conference play came around, righthander Jensen Lewis had overtaken Mullins as the Friday starter, due in part to Mullins' six-game suspension for a DWI arrest.
Mullins' stuff has been a bit off all year. Typically he pitches with an 87-91 mph fastball and hard curveball in the low to mid-70s, but this year he's been in the upper 80s with a slower, though still 12-to-6, curveball. Even when it's not on, the curveball is an average pitch because he locates it and can change its shape, throwing a shorter, quicker version of the big bender at times.
Mike Radcliff: We sat down with all the parties involved. The kid made a mistake, no doubt about that. But we're moving forward.
MLB.com: Body similar to Chuck Finley, only thinner. Moves the ball around, sets hitters up. Tight rotation curveball, lots of potential for strikeout, gets it in the zone. Some feel for fade away changeup.
Caleb Moore | #135 | C/RHP | East Tennessee State University
YEAR G AVG OBP SLG BB SOMuch like Garza, Caleb Moore struggled early in his college career and then broke out in a major way over the past two seasons. If he can stick at catcher, his bat makes him a potential impact player. He has hit .400+ with a .700+ slugging percentage and 44-to-46 strikeout-to-walk ratio over the past two years. Just from his numbers, I love this pick. Of course, I hope the Twins won't need another good catcher for a while, but that would be a nice problem to have.
Baseball America: A two-way slugger and power reliever who has put up big numbers for consecutive seasons. Moore touches 93-94 mph with his fastball, but it's fairly straight due to his high arm slot, and he hasn't shown a consistent breaking ball. His arm strength might attract attention, and so might his bat. He makes consistent contact. Scouts think he won't hit for power with his current swing, but he's a solid enough receiver and has enough arm strength to merit a look behind the plate. Which position he'll play depends on the team.
Steven Tolleson | #165 | SS | University of South Carolina
YEAR G AVG OBP SLG BB SOSteven Tolleson was a very consistent college hitter and put up solid numbers for a middle infielder in a strong conference, but I'm not optimistic about him becoming an impact player in the majors. He had very little power at South Carolina and struggled to control the strike zone, which is a really bad combination.
I said earlier this week that I'd love to see the Twins "go after a college middle infielder who is close to being major-league ready" with their first rounder. While they didn't do that, they did draft three shortstops with their first 10 picks, including Tolleson.
Baseball America: The son of former big leaguer Wayne Tolleson. Tolleson's father was a defensive stalwart who hit .241 in his eight seasons in the big leagues, and most scouts expect Stephen to be a better hitter. He has wiry strength and uses the whole field. He's also patient and has adapted well to hitting toward the top of the Gamecocks lineup, drawing more walks and becoming an efficient basestealer despite his average speed.
He has too much power for his own good sometimes and loses sight of the fact he's not a power hitter, selling out in his swing trying to hit home runs. Tolleson's glove isn't as good as his father's, especially at shortstop, where he usually doesn't have enough arm to make the play in the hole. Most scouts believe he profiles better as a second baseman (where he could be an above-average defender) or utility infielder.
J.W. Wilson | #195 | OF | High School (Texas)
Baseball America: A star wide receiver in football, Wilson has size (6-foot-2, 195 pounds), strength and speed but is raw and needs more discipline at the plate. If he doesn't sign, he'll join his older brother Josh on Texas Tech's baseball team.
MLB.com: Looks similar to Chipper Jones. Not as tall. Very athletic. Strongs hands are made to hit line drives. Plays a very alert right field with good arm strength and accurate throws. Good runner out of the box that gets better once he gets going.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Freaky Batting Leaderboards (by Studes)
Today's Picks (47-42, +$290):
Cleveland (Westbook) +150 over San Diego (Eaton)
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Comeback in the DesertI have plenty of thoughts on the Twins' draft, but I might as well wait until they finish up with rounds 19-50 today. Plus, there was a pretty good game last night to talk about today. So, barring some sort of big news between now and then, I'll have a draft wrap-up tomorrow.
Did I ever mention that the Twins are the team that won't die?
As he has been doing all too frequently of late, Brad Radke decided to give the Diamondbacks a four-run head start last night. No matter, that just meant the Twins' bats had to come alive to get Radke off the hook and take a late-inning lead.
Then Juan Rincon picked a bad time to give up his first home run of the season, serving up a three-run shot to Tony Clark that tied the game in the bottom of the eighth inning. No big deal, that just gave the Twins a little extra challenge on the way to their 34th win of the season.
Torii Hunter came up with his second monster game of the month, going 4-for-5 with a pair of solo homers and four runs scored (including the game-winner, pictured below), and Michael Cuddyer snapped out of his slap-hitting rut with a two-run homer and three runs scored.
To Radke's credit, he recovered nicely from yet another disastrous first inning to right the ship and pitch scoreless second, third, and fourth frames, before giving up a solo homer to Luis Gonzalez in the fifth inning. But recovery or not, there is no doubt whatsoever that his ongoing trend of first-inning implosions is very concerning.
Radke has been knocked around to the tune of .368/.373/.772 in the first inning this season, which is bordering on the ridiculous when you consider he has held opponents to a .263 batting average and .390 slugging percentage in innings two through nine. The inability to get through the first inning unscathed is nothing new for Radke, but prior to this season it seemed like something he had gotten over.
Last year, for instance, batters hit .236/.264/.374 off him in the first inning, compared to .267/.290/.393 overall. Of course, if you look beyond last year you see that batters hit .316/.336/.602 in the first inning off Radke in 2003, so if he put the struggles behind him they were only a few feet away. While I wasn't able to locate Radke's career splits by inning, I was able to find his career numbers by pitch.
PITCH AVG ERA IP/HRI haven't looked at these sorts of numbers for enough pitchers to get a feel for exactly where Radke's overall record stands, but it is certainly obvious that he struggles early in games. The above numbers are from a career spanning 11 years and consisting over 2,000 innings and 300 starts, so it's a pretty huge sample size. In other words, I don't think his early struggles are a fluke.
The most discouraging thing about all of this isn't really how poorly Radke has pitched early in games -- although certainly that is up there on the list -- but rather that no one has figured out a way to fix his problem in 11 years with the Twins. It seems to be coming to a head this season, so perhaps a solution will finally be found. If there is one to be found, that is.
And just so it doesn't seem like Radke is being unfairly singled out, Johan Santana has allowed a .353 batting average (and .706 slugging percentage) in the first inning this season, compared to a .188 batting average afterward. The big difference with Santana is that he held opponents to .226/.285/.391 in the first inning from 2002-2004, making this season's struggles unique and potentially just a small sample-size fluke.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Draft Notes (by Aaron Gleeman)
- Business of Baseball Report (by Brian Borawski)
Today's Picks (47-41, +$440):
Toronto (Halladay) -150 over Chicago (Mitre)
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Twins NotesSome notes after an off day ...
Greisinger was painful to watch last season. I realize that's easy to say about a guy who got knocked around to the tune of .319/.366/.563, but he simply didn't have anything in his repertoire that had any chance of getting big-league hitters out. With that said, Greisinger avoided disaster in his first start for the Braves, going five innings while giving up two runs on seven hits Sunday night.
I've said here a few times that I'm not the world's biggest fan of either Jim Souhan or Patrick Reusse, but they certainly each have their moments. And just generally speaking, the level of coverage the paper gives the Twins on an everyday basis is impressive. Not as impressive as the extraordinary level of coverage the team gets from its immense blogosphere, of course, but that's a tough standard.
The Twins recently had preliminary discussions with Philadelphia concerning second baseman Placido Polanco, who is batting .295 and is scheduled to make $4.6 million this season. Those discussions never developed because the Phillies requested players such as reliever Jesse Crain and top pitching prospects Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano in return.Placido Polanco is a personal favorite of mine, and I even called him "the best available free agent second baseman this offseason" back in November. That may sound like some major hyperbole considering how well Jeff Kent has done so far in Los Angeles, but at the very least Polanco would be a perfect fit with the Twins. He plays great defense at nearly every position, hits for a high batting average, gets on base, and has very good speed.
With all that said, there is no way I would ever give up a prospect like Jesse Crain, Francisco Liriano or Scott Baker in a package centering on Polanco. Crain has been a stud so far out of the bullpen, and Baker and Liriano represent what will hopefully be 40% of the Twins' rotation in a couple years. Polanco, while a very good player at a position the Twins have a need at, is very expensive and not likely to stick around past this season. Thankfully this is the sort of trade Terry Ryan tends not to make.
The Twins are outdrawing teams with new (or at least relatively new) ballparks in Cincinnati, Detroit, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Arizona, and Colorado. Plus, they are outdrawing teams in larger markets like Chicago, Toronto, Detroit, and Miami. Take the stupid roof off the ballpark and there is no doubt in my mind that the Twins would rank among the top dozen or so in attendance every year.
AVG OBP SLG IsoD IsoPTiffee has a little more power and doesn't strike out as much (which is an interesting combination), but they both struggle to draw walks at an acceptable rate and neither of them has great power. As I've always said with Tiffee, unless you think he's going to be able to keep hitting .300 in the majors, he's just not going to be useful as an everyday player. The same applies to Williams, who like Tiffee is a switch-hitter.
Of course, the Twins aren't really asking Tiffee or Williams to be everyday players. So maybe Williams is better suited for a job off the bench, especially considering he has a little more defensive versatility. I still think Tiffee is pretty close a perfect backup corner infielder if the Twins would show a little more patience with him.
I'm not afraid to do that at all. If we don't have Morneau, and four outfielders all swinging good ... you try to find a way to get them all in.I'm not sure why exactly, but Jones doesn't strike me as the sort of player who would be a good defensive first baseman. Of course, neither do Torii Hunter, Shannon Stewart or Lew Ford. No one can be much worse than Matthew LeCroy has been this month, I suppose.
25. Twins: Brian Bogusevic, lhp/of, Tulane U.Personally, I would love to see them go after a college middle infielder who is close to being major-league ready, in the mold of guys like Khalil Greene, Aaron Hill, Dustin Pedroia, Russ Adams, and Omar Quintanilla. I'm just not sure the Twins would ever look for such a thing. (Troy Tulowitzki, Cliff Pennington, Tyler Greene, and Craig Burley's favorite, Jed Lowrie, would all fit the profile.)
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Freaky Pitching Leaderboards (by Studes)
- Finding Flaws: NL East (by Ben Jacobs)
- Hardball Questions: Mike Pelfrey (by Matthew Namee)
Today's Picks (46-40, +$445):
Oakland (Zito) -105 over Washington (Armas)
Chicago (Contreras) -130 over Colorado (Kim)
Monday, June 06, 2005
The Team That Won't DieLike the menacing villain in seemingly every horror movie ever produced -- from Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees to Michael Myers and the Fisherman in the Raincoat from I Know What You Did Last Summer -- the Twins just keep coming. You can shoot them, hack off a few of their limbs, light them on fire and watch them burn, flatten them with a bookcase, or any of the other horror movie cliches.
They keep coming.
They don't hurry things, because that's just not how these things work. Freddy doesn't kill everyone in the first 10 minutes, he slowly stalks them for two hours. When the damsel in distress sees her boyfriend decapitated and screams in horror as she runs into the woods, Jason doesn't run after her. No, he collects his thoughts and his machete, and takes a nice, leisurely stroll in her general direction.
If the 2005 baseball season were a horror movie -- and really, Project Greenlight has had worse ideas -- this would be the point where the scared-out-of-her-shirt girl went scampering into the woods or screaming up the stairs to hide. And to their credit, the White Sox found a damn good hiding spot with a 24-7 start. But the Twins know they have plenty of time, because the credits don't start rolling for another 100 games.
So with wounds all over them and limbs falling off left and right, they just keep coming. Nick Punto goes to the disabled list right when he's starting to find his groove at second base. Keep coming. Justin Morneau goes down with an elbow injury after missing most of the first month from a beaning. Keep coming. Joe Mauer's groin starts acting up when everyone was focused on his so-far-so-good knee. Keep coming.
Players drop like flies, but no-name reinforcements keep coming up from the minors to do the job. Brent Abernathy, Luis Rodriguez, Terry Tiffee, and Michael Ryan, who until very recently were four-ninths of Triple-A Rochester's lineup, combined to start seven times this weekend. Together they went 9-for-26 (.346) with five RBIs and four runs scored.
You can't kill the Twins because -- and forgive me if I mix film genres here -- like Bebe's Kids, they don't die, they multiply. Without their two best hitters and their starting second baseman, and without their two best starting pitchers on the mound, the Twins took two out of three from the New York Yankees.
And now we have this:
AL CENTRAL W L WIN% GB
Today at The Hardball Times:
- The Arm Pitch Counts Forgot (by Aaron Gleeman)
Today's Picks (44-40, +$245):
Baltimore (Ponson) -115 over Pittsburgh (Fogg)
Chicago (Garcia) -135 over Colorado (Kennedy)