Thursday, May 24, 2012
Friday, May 18, 2012
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
(Writer's note: this piece was written last May, now that it's 2013 I will look at where these ideas are at as the Twins head to 2013. My new notes are in parenthesis after each point.)
To be fair to the Minnesota Twins they had a nice series victory against a good Toronto Blue Jays club over the weekend. I did have to laugh after looking this up but after this weekend in the history of Target Field Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau have combined for 7 home runs in 894 plate appearances.
That's not the funny part.
The funny part is Blue Jays sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion have hit 16 home runs in 88 plate appearances. 16!
The two loses to Cleveland were bad since one was a blown save by Matt Capps and the lineup against Derek Lowe yesterday didn't really resemble the 1927 New York Yankees.
You can't blame the last 7 1/2 months of Twins baseball on any one person or thing. The Twins are a collective entity from top to bottom and when there's failure, it's a system failure. They won as a system and will lose as a system.
Ron Gardenhire has his faults. He has gone against using split stats to put players like Jacque Jones, Jason Kubel, Brian Duensing, and Danny Valencia in situations where they won't succeed. It's frustrating. He also isn't a tactical master that a Tony LaRussa was or a Mike Scioscia is now. BUT no manager gets more out of less than him. How many division titles would Scioscia have won in Anaheim with the limited payroll Gardenhire had and lineups featuring Nick Punto, Lew Ford, Juan Castro, Rondell White, Adam Everett, and Tony Batista?
Also how is any of this pitching coach Rick Anderson's fault? You can't make chicken salad out of chicken youknowwhat. And in case you haven't noticed he's done one helluva job with a group of no names with limited stuff out of the bullpen. They've been a bright spot.
It's not Joe Mauer's fault either. He's hitting way too many grounders and with the defensive adjustments being made when he bats, he may need to change his approach. At the very least how can it be one players fault?
Some blame can be placed on former-GM Bill Smith who was behind the Johan Santana trade and Tsuyoshi Nishioka signing. So there was some accountability there and another horrific season could lead to more firings and I'd look to hitting coach Joe Vavra on that note. We aren't done with accountability yet.
With all this said I'm here to take a look at the Twins top to bottom and see what can be done to improve the team in the short term and long term to get our favorite team back on track. Some of these are plausible, some will happen, some would happen in another organization but probably won't happen in this organization. All in 13 simple steps.
1. Send Drew Butera back to Rochester and unless there's a series of situations like the time Mr. Burns hired ringers for his Power Plant Softball team make sure he stays there. He's such a poor hitter that it doesn't matter how good defensively he is. There's a certain point where you can have too many guys who can't hit at all in your lineup. Tom Barnard's commentary on him during the KQ Morning Show to the Pioneer Press' Bob Sansevere is always a highlight. (Skip ahead to 36:21).
Butera signed a new contract and will be back with the Twins in 2013.
2. Call Danny Valencia back up and play him only against lefties. Sure his .190 batting average and .204 on-base percentage this season is Butera-esque, but his lifetime rates of .325/.374 and a .485 slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers is very good. Bring him back up, keep him on your bench, and have him ready for a south paw.
Valencia was traded to Boston last season, spent most of his time at Triple-A Pawtuckett, was released this offseason and has signed with Baltimore
3. Start Trevor Plouffe almost every day until the All-Star break. Bating average is at .140, but he's cutting his strikeout and drawing walks. He's 26 and has power. Is he a career Triple-A kind of guy? Quite possibly. Could a light bulb go off and he can be a productive mainstay in the lineup? Sure. Hit him 100 grounders a day at third and lets find out.
After trading Valencia, the Twins started Trevor at third, he tore up the league, got injured, and never really recovered. I still like him even if it it's a tad irrational.
4. Trade Denard Span. He's a good lead-off man and has a very reasonable contract. Terry Ryan can get a good prospect or two for Span and maybe the Twins can actually be proactive this year instead of holding on to Kubel and Michael Cuddyer last year. Have Ben Revere come up and just play him everyday. If Revere doesn't succeed then we have a quality fourth outfielder for the future and then call up another high school center fielder who was a first round pick, Aaron Hicks. Look at his stats at Double-A New Britain and its clear it might be coming together for Hicks. Trade Span, call up Revere again, and groom Hicks at Triple-A Rochester.
Around Thanksgiving, Span was traded to Washington for top pitching prospect Alex Meyer.
5. Trade Josh Willingham. Power hitters with favorable contracts don't grow on trees. I wouldn't do it unless you can get something better than what you'd get for Span but at the very least make him available.
Willingham is still the team's left fielder, but if the team is treading water this summer he could be very valuable for a contender.
6. Trade Matt Capps and/or Jared Burton. Both could be late inning guns for contenders and have been good this season. Capps' success may be a mirage so it might be good to cut bait with him while he's got the best value. Burton could be legit and hats off to the Minneapolis Star Tribune's LaVelle E. Neal III for saying since early in Spring Training that Burton is legit. I'd only move these two if you could get a legit power reliever with high-upside closer potential at Double or Triple-A. A player you can say on Opening Day 2014 at the very latest will be the teams closer with Glen Perkins the cushion.
Capps is a free agent unsigned this offseason, Burton signed a two-year extension this offseason.
7. Promote Miguel Sano to high-A Ft. Myers. Hasn't seen a good off-speed pitch yet, but if the numbers, youtube videos, scouting reports, and film crew are any indication, we could have baseball's next big thing on our hands.
Sano will most likely start the year at High-A.
8. Ask Tsuyoshi Nishioka if he really wants to be here. Broke his leg early last year, embarrassed himself when he was healthy, went through a divorce in the offseason, didn't make the team in the Spring, isn't doing himself any favors in Rochester so far.
Nishioka asked, and was granted, an outright release and has signed to play in Japan.
9. Cut bait with Alexi Casilla. Can't hit, won't get any better. Brian Dozier is going to be valuable, Jamey Carroll is a better defensive player, Pedro Florimon at Triple-A won't hit either but Gardenhire has raved about him defensively so you know he's going to get a shot, and if you're bring Valencia back up someone has to go.
Casilla was non-tendered and signed with Baltimore.
10. Get Alex Wimmers Tommy John surgery ASAP. The former top pick by the Twins in 2010 battled control/mental problems early last year only to bounce back and right himself as a prospect. Now he's down with a partially torn UCL. He was up here last week where the organization decided to avoid surgery by doing rehab for now. I don't know the severity of the tear but the organization did this with Pat Neshek in '09, only for him to rehab for six months then get TJ. He never really recovered and was released in the spring last year. This organization cannot afford this mistake again, especially with a former-no. 1 pick. More on this in a little bit but the great Rob Neyer's article on the Twins pitching philosophy sheds a TON of light on the organization.
Like Neshek and Kyle Gibson before him, after several months of rehab, Wimmers went under the knife for Tommy John last August and will miss the 2013 season. Sigh.
11. Bring in the fence and make the top of the padded wall in right-center field a home run. Like the Mets this season and probably the Padres next, the 23-foot high wall at 368 feet out there is too far. Also home runs to left center field pre-2010 for Joe Mauer are now long outs. I could live without this being done, and this does work both ways, but just give in already.
The organization has shot this idea, San Diego and Seattle both moved in fences this offseason.
12. Reevaluate the scouting department. Top scouting/minor league coordinator Mike Radcliff has been with the organization before there was a Minnesota Twins. He was drafted by the Washington Senators! He was the the teams director of scouting from 1994-2007 and along with Terry Ryan built the Twins to a model organization. On the day Ryan stepped down and Smith was promoted to GM, Radcliff was also promoted to Vice President of Player Personnel where he oversees player evaluation and progress at the minor and major league levels. This tells me that when you hear a Pat Reusse, Phil Mackey, Aaron Gleeman, or LEN III say the upper-minors are barren how much further do you have have to look to the man overseeing the operation? He's been here longer than anyone, and if it's a system failure, isn't he the head of the system?
Look at the high draft choices since 2005:
2005: First-rounder Matt Garza has been great. Just not for us. Second-round pick Henry Sanchez never made it above High-A Beloit and was released in '09.
2006: First-rounder Chris Parmalee has bounced between the minors and the Twins bench this season, second-rounder Joe Benson was recently demoted from Triple-A back down to Double-A New Britian.
2007: First-rounder Revere remains an enigma, Catcher Danny Rams can't catch, and Angel Morales showed a ton of potential as an 18 year-old at rookie ball, but has battled injuries and hasn't made it above High-A ball since 2009.
2008: First two picks Hicks and reliever Carlos Gutierrez will get a shot, Gutierrez isn't the lights out closer they thought they were drafting out of Miami.
2009: First-rounder Kyle Gibson was seen as a popular savior for the rotation last year before needing Tommy John. He'll still get a crack at the rotation next year. Second and Third-rounders Matt Bashore and Billy Bullock are no longer in the organization.
I'll stop there because anything sooner is way too early to tell. But if you want to know why the well is dry it's because, the tops picks haven't lived up to their potential. If someone needs to be held accountable, it should be the scouting and development staff.
After over 50 years in the organization Radcliff retired.
13. Draft Mike Zunino or Byron Buxton. Buxton, the high school outfielder from Georgia is a five-tool prospect a'la BJ or Justin Upton but might be taken first overall by Houston. If he is the Twins should pass on Stanford starter Mark Appell and take Florida catcher Mike Zunino. Zunino who has the offensive ability and size to be a Buster Posey or Carlos Santana should be fast-tracked as the heir apparent to Joe Mauer by the middle of 2014 (best case scenario). Appel is seen as the top pitching prospect, but I would solely avoid him because he isn't seen as the no doubt ace that recent top college pitching prospects David Price and Stephen Strasburg have been. Wait out to see what potential aces are out there for the top of the 2013 draft.
With the second overall pick the Twins drafted Buxton who was named the Appalachian League MVP. With Appel's signability issues he slipped to Pittsburgh at the eighth pick, never signed and will pitch his senior season at Stanford. One guess as to who his agent is.
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
|Kelly Brook, yes THAT Kelly Brook|