Friday, February 06, 2009
Khloe was devastated when she discovered evidence that Rashad was cheating with girls online. She confronted him, and he reacted angrily and tried to deny the story at first before admitting that it was true. He'd been hooking up with girls over Facebook for the past two weeks.Finally an answer to my long-standing "what's the point of Facebook?" question!
Several years ago the Minneapolis Star Tribune convinced John Bonnes to move his Twins Geek blog to their site, but that was short-lived amid union-related issues and since then most newspapers have turned their beat writers into bloggers. Still, it seems natural that, for instance, U.S.S. Mariner's superb content and huge audience would be of interest to one of the Seattle newspapers. As the line between "mainstream" and "blogger" continues to blur my guess is that we'll see more moves like Weisman's.
Naturally much of the piece seems silly looking back nearly 30 years later, but the report's conclusion holds up pretty well: "Engineers now predict that a day will come when we get all our newspapers and magazines by home computer, but that's a few years off. So for the moment at least, this fellow [a man selling newspapers on the street] isn't worried about being out of job."
Unfortunately, like most places these days, ESPN has been struggling. This is just my take, but it seems the network/website/magazine became obsessed with adding every big journalism name out there. So it started unloading tons and tons of money on the Rick Reillys of the business. Rick, of course, is a wonderful talent. But what have they done with him? At some point, ESPN seemed to be hiring for the sake of hiring. They treated journalists in the way sports organizations treat players--gobbling up "free agents" without much thought. Now, they're loaded with big names, but is the finished product that much better? Probably not.Good or bad my first impression of a sports columnist tends to stick, but my initial take was way off on two well-known guys: Pearlman and Jason Whitlock. At first they both struck me as Jay Mariotti-style columnists who were more interested in creating controversy than actually producing good writing, but I've since come to appreciate them both as very good, entertaining columnists who genuinely have a lot of interesting (and sometimes controversial) stuff to say. Also, neither engages in much poultry humor.
Be warned, men. Apparently that's what happens when you put a ring on it.
Thursday, February 05, 2009
Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2009: 20, 19, 18, 17, 16
Previous Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2009: 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40
20. Steven Tolleson | Shortstop | DOB: 11/83 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2005-5The son of former major leaguer Wayne Tolleson, Steven Tolleson was picked by the Twins in the fifth round of the 2005 draft after a three-year career at the University of South Carolina. Despite being a fifth rounder with college experience Tolleson moved slowly through the Twins' system, reaching Double-A for the first time last season as a 24-year-old in his fourth pro campaign. He displayed excellent plate discipline while hitting .270/.374/.377 in 290 games at Single-A and added power to the mix last year.
Tolleson went deep nine times in 93 games at New Britain to equal his homer total from 181 games at Fort Myers and also hit .300 with 28 doubles, 44 walks, and a dozen steals. He rated 14 percent above the Eastern League average with an .848 OPS and split time between shortstop (34 games), second base (33 games), and center field (17 games) defensively. Tolleson wrapped up the season by batting .383 in the Arizona Fall League, but struggled defensively with a dozen errors in 27 games at shortstop.
Last year's bump in power aside Tolleson doesn't figure to do much slugging, so his value will come from defensive versatility and getting on base. His best bet for a starting job will probably come if Alexi Casilla falters at second base, but for now at least Tolleson seems more likely to end up as a speedy, walk-drawing, gap-hitting utility man. He was added to the 40-man roster in November and will try for a bench job this spring, but figures to get at least a half-year taste of Triple-A before arriving in Minnesota.
19. Anthony Slama | Reliever | DOB: 1/84 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2006-39A middle reliever during his senior season at the University of San Diego, Anthony Slama lasted 1,176 picks into the 2006 draft before the Twins took him in the 39th round. When college seniors go that low they're usually destined to be roster filler, but Slama shocked everyone with a dominant debut between rookie-ball and low Single-A that included a 1.71 ERA and 49 strikeouts in just 31.2 innings. He moved up to high Single-A last season and was amazingly even better.
In fact, he had one of the sickest stat lines you'll ever see with a 1.01 ERA, 110-to-24 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .173 opponent's batting average that included zero homers in 71 innings. Equally amazing is that despite a 24-year-old with college experience absolutely eviscerating Florida State League hitters the Twins inexplicably refused to promote Slama. It's tough to top a 1.23 ERA with 159 strikeouts in 103 innings and it's a shame that Slama is already 25 years old and has yet to throw a pitch at Double-A.
Even adjusting for Slama being a 24-year-old at Single-A doesn't keep his 2008 season from being the best of any pitcher in the Twins' system, because only so much wind can be taken out of the sails of a guy who faces 280 batters and strikes out 40 percent of them without giving up a single homer. Being skeptical of a former 39th-round pick is natural, but his performance thus far goes well beyond "great" and Slama deserves a chance to show that he's for real against some real competition.
18. Robert Delaney | Reliever | DOB: 9/84 | Throws: Right | Sign: AmericaAs if Slama alone wasn't enough dominance for one bullpen, Fort Myers had him splitting closer duties with Robert Delaney for the first half of last year. Delaney saved 13 games with a 1.42 ERA and 34-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 31.2 innings before a promotion to Double-A, where he tossed 34 frames with a 1.05 ERA and 38-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Delaney's overall numbers aren't quite as jaw-dropping as Slama's, but he's a year younger, more polished, and has already thrived against Double-A hitters.
Plus, 66 innings of a 1.23 ERA, 72-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .189 opponent's batting average is plenty sick and earned Delaney the award for Minor League Reliever of the Year from MiLB.com. Slama was a 39th-round pick, but Delaney actually went undrafted following a modest career as a starter at St. John's University. He's been a full-time reliever since signing with the Twins and heads into his age-24 season with a 1.91 ERA and 185-to-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio through 174 innings as a pro.
Baseball history is full of relievers who failed to do anything in the majors after dominating in the low minors, but Slama and Delaney both have legitimate, MLB-quality raw stuff in addition to insanely good stats. For whatever reason the Twins decided that Delaney was ready for Double-A when Slama wasn't last season and he's also likely to be given a chance in the big leagues first, but they're both extremely promising relief prospects with a shot to reach Minnesota for good this season.
17. Luke Hughes | Third Base | DOB: 8/84 | Bats: Right | Sign: AustraliaSigned out of Australia as an 18-year-old in 2002, Luke Hughes hit well in two rookie-ball stints before batting just .238/.293/.339 in 190 games at Single-A. Despite those struggles the Twins moved him up to Double-A for the first time in 2007 and Hughes posted a strong .283/.356/.438 line in 92 games as a 22-year-old in a pitcher-friendly environment. He stayed at New Britain to begin last season and batted .354/.430/.677 with eight homers in April to officially establish himself on the prospect map.
Hughes cooled down somewhat after that, but was hitting .319/.385/.551 with 15 homers in 70 games when the Twins promoted him to Triple-A and then batted .285/.325/.453 in 29 games at Rochester. It's tough to find much fault in a 23-year-old hitting .309/.368/.523 with 18 homers in 99 games between Double-A and Triple-A, but Hughes had a mediocre walk rate while striking out in 23 percent of his trips to the plate and struggled defensively at third base.
His slide down the defensive spectrum has already seen Hughes go from shortstop to second base to third base and last year's breakout draws some skepticism because of troubles in the low minors, but he's fared well in 191 games at Double-A and Triple-A despite being young for the level of competition and may have enough bat to make an impact as a corner outfielder. For now he'll head back to Triple-A and try to turn in another strong showing offensively while searching for a long-term home defensively.
16. Michael McCardell | Starter | DOB: 4/85 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2007-6Michael McCardell was a two-way Division II college star at Kutztown University, but the Twins took him as a pitcher in the sixth round of the 2007 draft and he's quickly fit into the organization's preferred mold of a strike-throwing machine. McCardell outclassed rookie-ball hitters after signing, posting a 2.14 ERA and 95-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 63 innings, and continued to miss bats and throw strikes last year at low Single-A in his full-season debut.
McCardell ranked second among Midwest League starters in strikeout-to-walk ratio and WHIP, but his great numbers aren't quite as impressive as they appear because he was 23 years old. While putting away less experienced pro hitters has come easy for McCardell thus far, outstanding command and a high-80s fastball are unlikely to produce the same results once he's facing more advanced bats. He'll probably begin this year at high Single-A, but there's little need for a prolonged stay if he keeps thriving.
From the small-college pedigree to the great strikeout-to-walk ratios despite modest velocity McCardell looks like a poor man's Kevin Slowey thus far, except he turns 24 years old in April and has yet to throw a pitch above low Single-A while Slowey turns 25 years old in May and has already logged 227 innings in the majors. McCardell looks capable of moving quickly through the system if the Twins let him, but his upside is probably a mid-rotation starter and he's no sure thing to clear the high-minors hurdles.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
AG.com Live Chat Today at Noon
Doors open for pre-submitted questions around 11:30 and the chatting begins at noon.
Monday, February 02, 2009
Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2009: 25, 24, 23, 22, 21
Previous Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2009: 26-30, 31-35, 36-40
25. Brian Duensing | Starter | DOB: 2/83 | Throws: Left | Draft: 2005-3Brian Duensing is an example of why win-loss records and ERAs are far from the best way to evaluate the potential of pitching prospects. Some fans and media members misguidedly bought into Duensing as the next Matt Garza or Kevin Slowey after he went 15-6 with a 3.02 ERA in 2007 between Double-A and Triple-A, but a mediocre strikeout rate and high-80s fastball painted a far less promising long-term picture. Sure enough, Duensing's modest velocity and lack of missed bats caught up to him last year.
Despite being a 25-year-old repeating Triple-A his strikeout rate fell from mediocre (18 percent) to sub par (13 percent) and he allowed 150 hits in 138.2 innings while going 5-11 with a 4.28 ERA. His control remained excellent and keeps Duensing on the prospect map as a possible fourth or fifth starter, but his upside looks very limited. That was the case last year as well, but a shiny win-loss record and ERA masked that from many people.
Duensing turns 26 years old next month and has logged 255 innings at Triple-A in addition to pitching in the Olympics, so he's as MLB-ready as he's going to get. His odds of cracking the Twins' rotation are beyond slim and Duensing seems miscast as a reliever because he's been equally effective against righties and lefties. That likely leaves him back at Rochester for a third straight year, waiting for injuries to strike while trying to hold off the higher-upside arms coming up through the system behind him.
24. Deibinson Romero | Third Base | DOB: 9/86 | Bats: Right | Sign: DominicanA prospect on the rise last year at this time, Deibinson Romero ranked 13th on my list of the Twins' top 40 prospects after hitting .314/.390/.487 in 116 games at rookie-ball to begin his career. Unfortunately his move up to full-season ball was a struggle last year, as he had modest numbers at low Single-A and missed over 100 games with injuries. Romero came back strong following April knee surgery, but a broken fibula suffered while falling into the dugout chasing after a foul ball ended his season in July.
Romero will probably head back to Beloit to begin this year, making 2008 more or less a lost season in terms of development time, but at 22 years old he'll still be plenty young for the level of competition. Despite his lack of experience and complete absence of success above rookie-ball the Twins smartly added Romero to the 40-man roster this winter to protect him from the Rule 5 draft and he's capable of moving quickly through the system if healthy.
He's added lots of size since the Twins signed him out of the Dominican Republic as a 17-year-old in 2004, but Romero still runs well and is considered a strong enough defender to stick at third base for the long haul while perhaps even being an asset there. Last year was definitely a setback for Romero, but it was hardly disastrous and his ceiling remains as high as any third baseman in an organization that suddenly boasts quite a bit of depth at the hot corner.
23. Trevor Plouffe | Shortstop | DOB: 6/86 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2004-1The 20th overall pick in the 2004 draft out of a California high school, Trevor Plouffe is now five years and 2,388 plate appearances into his pro career and has yet to crack a .750 OPS at any level. However, within that poor production his offensive game has changed quite a bit. While posting a sub-.700 OPS in the low minors Plouffe showed good plate discipline, but since advancing to Double-A his batting average and power have improved while he's drawn 40 percent fewer walks.
Ultimately he's not going to draw a ton of walks because pitchers won't be afraid to throw him strikes, so Plouffe's improving average and power are more important than his declining walk rate. However, the deterioration of his walk rate without a corresponding shrinkage in strikeouts is a red flag for a guy who really can't afford to let chunks of value disappear at this point. Another concern is that Plouffe's shortstop defense gets mixed reviews and he played lots of second base and third base last year.
Plouffe's potential offensively is better than his ugly .255/.319/.380 career line suggests because he's played in pitcher-friendly environments while being much younger than the competition, but he's at the point where performance needs to take precedence over age and so far he's done nothing to show a bat that's starting-caliber unless it comes with excellent defense at shortstop. Plouffe has always been pushed more aggressively than his play warranted, so he'll give Triple-A a second try at the age of 23.
22. Alex Burnett | Starter | DOB: 7/87 | Throws: Right | Draft: 2005-12Alex Burnett has been young for every level he's pitched at since the Twins took him out of a California high school in the 12th round of the 2005 draft, but he's yet to struggle and impressively posted a 3.76 ERA at high Single-A as a 20-year-old last season. Not only was Burnett the third-youngest pitcher in the Florida State League to log 100-plus innings last season, of the 32 other guys who qualified 24 of them were at least two years older and seven of them were at least four years older.
That's the good news. The bad news is that his 3.76 ERA, however impressive for a 20-year-old versus Florida State League hitters, came along with 84 measly strikeouts in 143.2 innings. Burnett struck out 24 percent of the batters he faced at rookie-ball in 2006, but that dropped to 18 percent at low Single-A in 2007 and fell again to just 14 percent at high Single-A last season. His control has been consistently great throughout and his overall success is impressive, but the decline in missed bats is a concern.
Of those same 32 other Florida State League pitchers who tossed 100-plus innings last season, only three had a lower strikeout rate than Burnett. With a low-90s fastball and sharp-breaking slider Burnett seems capable reversing that downward trend in his strikeout rate as he gains more experience and adds more strength, but unless or until that happens it's tough to project him as more than a potential middle-of-the-rotation starter.
21. Joe Benson | Center Field | DOB: 3/88 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2006-2Viewed as the center fielder of the future when the Twins took him in the second round of the 2006 draft and lured him away from college football with a $575,000 bonus, Joe Benson has hit .254/.337/.386 in three pro seasons while Aaron Hicks, Ben Revere, and Angel Morales all passed him on what is now a crowded center field depth chart. Benson's repeat of low Single-A ended after 69 games last season due to a stress fracture in his back, but at 21 years old he'll still be very young for high Single-A in 2009.
Beyond having youth on his side Benson's seemingly modest production has actually rated above the league average in each of his three seasons, which is impressive for a toolsy young center fielder any way you slice it. However, he's struck out 244 times in 251 games while hitting just .254 and has been thrown out on 45 percent of his steal attempts despite having good speed. He also manned right field often last season while Revere played center field and figures to end up in a corner spot long term.
Benson is a good athlete with plus speed and a .252/.338/.370 line in 199 games at Beloit is far better than it looks coming at the age of 19 and 20, but the back problems are a concern and at some point he needs to begin refining what is an extremely raw all-around game for someone who showed good plate discipline right out of high school. Cutting his strikeouts by just 10-15 percent would be a major first step even if Benson isn't able to post big numbers in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League.