Monday, October 27, 2008

Tyler Robertson Interview

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing one of the Twins pitching prospects, Tyler Robertson. He was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 2006 draft (3rd round). He was part of the Ft. Myers organization this past year and went 5-3 with a 2.72 ERA in 15 starts. He walked 31 and struck out 73.

Kevin Lewis: Tyler, thank you for taking time to answer some questions about your career so far.

Tyler Robertson: Anytime. Sorry it took me a while to get back to you.

KL: I read that you also played football and basketball during high school. What made you decide the baseball career?

TR: I always knew I was going to play baseball and that I was and am a baseball player first. I loved basketball too growing up and played my first year of football as a freshmen. Football quickly became my second favorite sport behind baseball. I played quaterback and had a good amount of Division 1 football scholarship offers but like I said, I have loved baseball all my life and knew thats what I was going to do.

KL: Growing up as a kid and during high school, did you have a favorite player/idol? If so, who was it?

TR: I have always been a fan of Randy Johnson. I would say he was definately my favorite player/idol growing up.

What was it like being drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 2006 Amateur draft? Do you remember where you were when you found out you had been drafted?

TR: I talked to many teams my senior year in high school and developed a great relationship with Kevin Bootay, the scout for the Twins who signed me. I was very happy to be drafted by the Twins. The draft took place on the same morning of my high school graduation. So I graduated at about 10:00 that morning, got home about 10:40 and was drafted around 11. It all happened very fast and was one of my favorite and most special days ever.

KL: You have four pitches in your arsenal. Your fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. Can you give us a little insight into your pitches? Which one might need work? Which one is your strongest?

TR: I do throw all 4 pitches. I would have to say my two best pitches are my fastball and slider. I feel very confident in my curveball and change up as well. If I had to pick one pitch out to work on most it would be my change up.

KL: This kind of touches on the last question, but do you feel there is a pitch that will need some more work before you reach the majors?

TR: I feel like the pitches I have now are good enough, I just think the main thing is fine tunning them and getting better command and more consistant with each of them.

KL: Where do you anticipate starting the 2009 Minor League season?

TR: Not sure yet. I ended the season on the DL. My arm is all better now so its up to the people in charge really. I would say there is a chance at AA if I am throwing well in Spring Training. Either that or they will want me to show them that I am healthy and start me back in Fort Myers.

KL: If there is one thing you could tell the young kids out there learning to become a pitcher, what would you say?

TR: Throw as much as you can to strengthen your arm and watch and listen. That is how you learn about pitching.

KL: I again want to thank you for answer a few questions. All of us Twins fan wish you the best of luck in 2009 and beyond.

TR: Thank you very much.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Winter League Update

Since there is very little talk going on about the Twins off-season as of right now, I will be giving daily updates on the Twins players that are participating the Winter Leagues. The Twins have several players participating in both leagues (Arizona Fall and Venezuelan Winter Leagues).

Most are familiar with the Arizona Fall League, in which some well-known prospects go to fine tune their skills or to work on a specific part of their game. Minnesota Twins players who decided to participate in the Arizona Fall League are part of the Phoenix Desert Dogs, who currently sit in 2nd place in their division. For the most part, the Twins prospects have been looking pretty good down in Phoenix.

Here is a quick look at some of the top prospects:

2B, Steven Tolleson (.405 avg, 0 HR, 12 RBI, 3 BB, 6 K, .452 OBP in 12 games)
3B Danny Valencia (.211 avg, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 4 BB, 12 K, .262 OBP in 15 games)
OF Dustin Martin (.265 avg, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 5 BB, 16 K, .333 OBP in 13 games)

Looking at those three guys, Tolleson appears to be having the better overall Fall so far. He leads the the team in RBI with 12 and has a very nice on-base percentage. Tolleson is very close to becoming a member of the Twins 25-man roster. If he continues to have a strong showing in the Fall and then during Spring Training, he could platoon with Casilla. Otherwise, he will likely be a September call-up in 2009.

Along with the Arizona League, the Twins have a few prospects who are playing in the Venezuelan Winter League. The two big name guys who are participating there for the Twins are 3B Luke Hughes and C Wilson Ramos.

Hughes has gotten off to a very rocky start. In six games, he is hitting .111 with zero RBI and has struck out seven times. Many Twins fans, including myself, were hoping that he would be able to fine tune his skills overall and possibly make a push to be the third baseman for the Twins in 2009. He put together some solid numbers in 2008 between New Britain and Rochester, so don't let these numbers worry you too much. Hughes in my opinion should be given a strong look at possibly being on the 2009 Opening Day roster and splitting time at third base if we don't acquire someone this off-season.

Ramos is very interesting case. He plays catcher, so many of you are thinking, "What about Mauer?". That brings up a good point. What will the Twins do with Ramos, who hit .288 with 13 home runs and 78 RBI in Ft. Myers this year. Well you have to first remember he is only in Ft. Myers, but be in New Britain most of the year next year. So he is atleast 2 years away from being on the Twins 25-man roster. By that time I expect Mike Redmond to be gone via retirement or free agency. So then Ramos would becomes Mauers backup and then he would ocassionally DH. But Ramos is only 21, so anything could happen between now and the call-up. Keep an eye on him though, he could be something very special.

By keeping an eye on the above mentioned players, we should learn where they will be starting next year and what their future in the Twins organization holds.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Anthony Slama Interview

Late last week I had the chance to interview Twins pitching prospect, Anthony Slama. He is one of the Twins top relief prospects. He was drafted by the Twins in the 2006 Amateur Draft out of San Diego College. He is currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League.

Kevin Lewis: Anthony, thank you for taking time to answer a few questions today.

Anthony Slama: No problem, sorry it took me so long to get back to you. Been staying very busy out here in Arizona.

KL: Before we get into the more detailed questions, not many people in the Minnesota and around the baseball world know you. Can you give us a little bit of a background and how you got involved in baseball?

AS: I grew up in Garden Grove, California; attended Mater Dei High School where I played basketball and baseball. I didn't get serious about pitching until my sophomore year and I was offered a scholarship to UC Riverside in my junior year. My first year at UC Riverside was a redshirt year and after it was made clear I would not pitch much my freshman year, I enrolled in Santa Ana College near my house. After two years there I got a scholarship to University of San Diego. I was drafted in the 39th round after my junior year there and decided to come back to school. My senior year I graduated then signed with the Twins before the 07 draft.

KL: When you were growing up as a young kid and then progressed through high school and college, was there someone in your life who was there for you and was pushing you to do the best that you could?

AS: My parents were always supportive in whatever decision I made early in my career. My coaches always pushed me to do my best, and my girlfriend Lauren always believed in me.

KL: What was it like when you found out that you were drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 39th round of the 2006 Amateur draft? Did you have any hints at who might take you in the draft?

AS: I did not know who would take me in the draft, and had only spoken with a few teams prior to the draft. I was happy to be selected by the Twins but knew I had to delay my career and go back to finish school.

KL: You have gotten off to a very hot start in your minor league career. In 78 games, you have a record of 5-2, 39 saves. To go with that, an amazing 1.23 ERA. Was there anything specific that you can contribute to all the success you have had early on in your career? Where do you expect to start next season? Do you think you will still be at Ft. Myers or will they send you up to New Britain?

AS: I go out and pitch aggressively throwing strikes and challenging hitters. It is never certain before spring training where you will end up, but I should probably start the year in New Britain.

KL: When you are on the mound and you need to get that critical out to end the inning, what is your "out" pitch? I know you have a fastball that touches the low 90s, a slider and then a changeup.

AS: I use my changeup more to lefties, I use my fastball to get ahead in the count or I can use it as my out pitch as well. The slider has worked well as a strikeout pitch.

KL: I noticed you are participating in the Arizona Fall League this year. Are you working on a specific pitch? If so, which one? Or are you just there to kind of fine tune everything in your arsenal?

AS: In a way, this is a tuneup for the type of hitters I will be facing. These are some of the best hitters the minor leagues has to offer, and it is always good to face the best. It will give me good feedback on what I need to work on and what pitches get certain types of hitters out.

KL: Thank you again for taking time to answer a few questions and good luck the rest of the Arizona Fall League and in the future.

AS: Thanks man, anytime.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Rafael Furcal or Orlando Cabrera?


Rafael Furcal or Orlando Cabrera? That’s the question I would be asking myself if I was in Bill Smith’s shoes this off-season. One of the Twins needs this winter is a shortstop. Yes, Nick Punto will likely be back with the Twins next season, but is he really the answer at shortstop? Both Furcal and Cabrera are impending free agents this winter. Both were in the playoffs this year, something the Twins need veteran leadership to get them there. It’s just a matter of which one of those two you want on your squad.

Furcal will be the more intriguing guy to go after this winter as he fits the Twins offense better with his speed. Despite coming off a season in which he only played in 36 games, he managed to hit .357 along with five homeruns and 16 runs batted in. Now, I’m not saying he would have kept that average up all year, but playing on Field-Turf sure would have helped. Before arriving in Los Angeles prior to the 2006 season, he was a member of the Atlanta Braves since arriving in the league in 2000. If Furcal is able to return to full health, he could add even more speed to one of the quickest teams in baseball. Prior to the 2008 season, he averaged about 31 stolen bases. For a soon to be 32 year old, that would be a fairly good amount. Add Gomez and Span to that and you would have a dangerous base running team.

Cabrera is the type of guy who would bring experience in the playoffs to the Twins clubhouse. He was a member of the 2004 World Series champion, Boston Red Sox. So he knows what it takes to get to the World Series. He is a career .274 hitter and would help the Twins fill the hole at short stop. Another plus with Cabrera is the fact that he has faced the Twins many times as a member of the American League (Boston, LA Angels, and Chicago), so he knows how to adjust to the Field-Turf. He also wouldn’t need any time to adjust to the American League pitchers, something Furcal would have to do. Cabrera has a very solid glove at short. He has one two Rawlings Gold Glove Awards. The first came in 2001 as a member of the Montreal Expos and the second came just last season when he was with the Los Angeles Angels. With question marks at third, we need someone that we can put at short and know he will be able to get those tougher grounders.

Of course when we talk about these two, we also need to discuss the money issue. The Twins are typically very quiet in the off-season when it comes to signing free agents. Cabrera would likely cost anywhere from 20-25 million over 3 years to get him to come to Minneapolis. Furcal on the other hand would cost a little bit more. He would probably cost anywhere from 30-35 million over 3 years. However, both the White Sox and Dodgers will be working hard to keep these two on their respective teams. If I had to choose one of the two to join the Twins, I would pick Rafael Furcal. He is two years younger and has a bit more speed. He will be the more expensive of the two, but in my opinion he would be worth the money. But hey, maybe Punto will have a monster year. Wouldn’t that be something?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Third Basemen Ideas

While the Rays, Red Sox, Phillies, and Dodgers battle it out for the World Series, there are 26 other teams that have already begun to plan their off-season. Some might be staying put, some might be making drastic changes to their team. The Twins seem to be in the middle of that pack. Being a Twins fan, I don’t have any high expectation for the off-season. The Twins tend to stay put most years, unless singing a 40-year old has been (ala Ramon Ortiz, Rueben Sierra, Tony Batista) count as off-season moves. But hopefully this year is different with Rookie GM, Bill Smith at the helm.

One of the Twins most glaring holes for many years has been the third base vacancy. Ever since Corey Koskie left the Twins after the 2004 season, the Twins have been unable to find long-term third basemen. Over the years, they have tried out many players at that spot. Some of the names include Tony Batista, Brian Buscher, Brendan Harris, and Michael Cuddyer. This could be the off-season that we finally find a third basemen that can be a consistent hitter and have a decent glove.

There are a few intriguing names on the free agent market or maybe even through trades. Here are some of the possibilities:

Hank Blalock: Hank is a very interesting case. Early on in his career he was the third baseman that the Rangers planned for when they drafted him in the 3rd round of the 1999 Amateur Draft. But after just a couple seasons at the Major League level, problems started to occur. He has had some injuries, the most notable being diagnosed with Thoracic outlet syndrome during the 2007 season. That affected his throwing, so he was then moved off the everyday third base duties. In the 2008 season he split time at 3B and 1B. If he can build his arm strength back up and work on his hitting, he could very well be a good acquisition for the Twins, if he is available via trade.
Joe Crede: Joe is another player that the Twins may look at to fill their void at third base. In 2008, Crede hit .248, 17 HR and 55 RBI. He played in only 97 games due to injuries. Before the injuries, he was a very solid third baseman for the Chicago White Sox. The only thing that might hold the Twins back from going after Crede is the fact that Scott Boras is his agent. As we all know, Boras tends to go after the big bucks for his clients.
Adrian Beltre: Out of the three that I have briefly talked about, Beltre seems to be the most likely choice. The Twins inquired about a possible trade near the Trade Deadline back in July, but the Mariners demands were too much for the Twins. Seattle wanted one of the Twins young starting pitchers, but the Twins felt it wasn’t worth it. And boy, did the Twins make a smart decision there. Hopefully the Mariners have lowered their demands for Beltre this winter. In 2008 Beltre hit .266, 25 HR and 77 RBI. As well as his bat, Beltre has a pretty solid glove on defense. As we all know, there is the good and then the there is the bad. The bad part about Beltre is that his contract is 12 million dollars this coming season. So the Twins will have to think long and hard about that part of Beltre.
These are just a few of the players that could be available for the Twins this off-season to fill the void at Third Base. Some other players I didn’t mention that could be available are Rich Aurilia, Casey Blake and Edwin Encarnacion. I just hope Bill Smith makes the right decision when he chooses a Third Basemen, if he does. Otherwise we will be watching Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris split time at third again next season.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Jeff Manship Interview

Today I had the great opportunity to ask Jeff Manship a couple questions. For those of you who don't know Jeff. He is a starting pitcher for the Ft. Myers Miracle, which is the Minnesota Twins High-A affiliate. He was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 14th round of the 2006 Amateur Draft out of the University of Notre Dame. He is currently participating in the Arizona Fall League with the Phoenix Desert Dogs.

Kevin Lewis: Here with me today is Twins pitching prospect, Jeff Manship. Thanks for joining me today Jeff.

Jeff Manship: Thank you for having me.

KL: When you were growing up as a kid, who was your baseball idol to watch?

JM: I was a big fan of Ken Griffey Jr. when I grew up. Even though the Houston Astros were the closest team I still found myself rooting for the Mariners.

KL: I know your college career didn't start the way you would have liked. You underwent Tommy John Surgery during your freshman year at Notre Dame. What kept you so focused during your rehab? Did you get advice from anyone who had gone through that on how to deal with it? Are at the point where you have gotten your velocity back or is that still on the way up?

JM: I was able to stay focused because I was made aware that through hard work I could return to normal and even have the chance to improve. I had a great trainer at Notre Dame who helped me complete the rehab and always kept me positive. I was determined to come back full strength so I made sure to do everything correctly. Matt Macri was a junior at the time that I was a freshman and dealt with the same injury during his freshman year so it was very helpful having his support and knowledge. Another teammate of mine who is currently with the Brewers organization had Tommy John right around the same time that I had my surgery so we did everything together. We were able to push one another towards recovery. I feel that my velocity is back to normal. In high school I could top out higher, but I would say that I throw harder on average now, which I would much rather possess.

KL: If there was one person who influenced you the most from your Little League days to where you are now, who would that be?

JM: My father has been the biggest influence on me both on and off the field. He taught me how to pitch when I was 10 and continues to provide helpful advice. In addition, my pitching coach during high school and former big league pitcher, Ben Van Ryan, was a very influential person in my life. My brother, Matt, has been very important. He served as a role model throughout my life and continues to be a person that I greatly admire.

KL: What is it like being part of the Twins organiztion and knowing that they have a very good track record of developing young starting pitchers into well-known pitchers around the league?

JM: The Twins organization has been great. The pitching coaches that I have dealt with are very helpful and have taught me a great deal since signing.

KL: You utlitize for pitches and hit the low 90s. What is your best pitch? Would you also consider that pitch your out pitch? Is there one pitch that you are still trying to develop more?

JM: Last year I would have said my slider (which is more of a slurve and pretty much the same thing as my curveball), but this season I would say my curveball is my best pitch. I altered the grip on my slider so that pitch is still a work in progress. I would consider both my curveball and sinker to be my out pitches. The change-up and slider are both pitches that I am trying to fine tune. The change-up has significantly improved and I have developed so much more confidence in the pitch. As I continued to move up level by level it was made more aware how necessary and effective a usable change-up becomes.

KL: Since you will be participating in the Arizona Fall League this season, do you plan on trying to improve the pitch discussed from the last question? Or are you going there just to work on everything overall?

JM: My main focus in Arizona will be to slow down both my change-up and curveball to gain a much wider range of velocties between all of my pitches. If I can get both pitches into the mid to upper 70s I will have accomplished my goal.

KL: If you aren't on the mound and just relaxing, what are some of the things you enjoy doing?

JM: I enjoy playing video games, watching movies, and listening to music which is probably the standard with most minor league players.

KL: Well, that is all I got for now. I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy baseball life to answer a few questions about your career. I look forward to seeing you in Minneapolis in the very near future. Good luck in 2009 and the future years.

JM: Thanks a lot, and hopefully I will get up to Minnesota soon.

Monday, October 6, 2008

2008 Season Review

As I sit at home and watch the White Sox face the Rays and nearly get eliminated the other night, I can’t help but think, “This could be the Twins. We could be giving the Rays a tougher fight than the Sox are”. It would have been so fun to watch two small-market, rarely talked about (until this year) teams face each other. But Chicago beat them in the one game playoff and as much as it hurts me to say this, they deserved to be there. The Twins had our chances after they swept Chicago. Just two wins over Kansas City would have sealed the deal, but KC was on a streak winning 12 of their last 14 games.

So, now that I am hunkered down for the winter watching the playoffs, which by the way are not exciting at all this year, I can reflect on the Twins 2008 campaign. There were some good accomplishments during the season and then there were some things we need to focus on heading into next year. I will discuss some of the good things and bad things that came out of this season.

There were many accomplishments this season, but I felt that the play of the prospects from Rochester that made the team out of Spring Training and then the surprising pitching from our young rotation were worthy of mentioning.

The play of the youngsters this year was very nice to see. Going into this season, there were questions on who would fill Torii Hunter’s shoes. Well as us, the fans, saw during Spring Training, Carlos Gomez and Denard Span were fighting for the starting center field job. Frankly, I would have been fine with Denard Span winning the spot over Gomez, but I guess Gardenhire felt Gomez should be at the MLB level. Gomez actually was second in RBI in the month of September, trailing only Justin Morneau. Gomez also made some game saving diving or running catches late in the season that kept the Twins in the race. This is the great thing about the Twins, they always have some prospect waiting for their turn to be called up to the big leagues and then surprise everyone.

If you didn’t have enough fun watching the young guys play, then maybe watching the young starting pitchers was the thing for you. The Twins rotation was one of their brightest moments this year. Forget about Livan Hernandez. The fans all knew starting 5-0 was a fluke. You knew he was going to get knocked around once teams saw him more than once. Then once Liriano was ready to comeback, not before a little controversy, they had to get rid of Livan. Gardenhire couldn’t afford to put Liriano in the bullpen. Once they fianlly got rid of Livan, the Twins had one of the youngest rotations in all of baseball. No one gave the Twins a chance this year with the rotation they had. They all said, “This team won’t go far with Santana gone”. If you were to even ask me before the season started, I would have agreed with that statement. But this rotation proved everyone wrong. They were so great to watch on that mound and will be for many more years to come. I have to give a congrats to Rick Anderson, the Twins pitching coach, for getting these guys ready and put the confidence that he did into these players.

Now, we move onto the disappointments from the 2008 season. Although there were some disappointments from each game, there were two big ones that lasted throughout the season. They were the bullpen not being able to hold leads during critical games and then the lack of power on t his team.

The struggles in the bullpen started well before that awful, 2 week road-trip to the West coast. It all started when Pat Neshek went down with an arm problem. The exact cause of his injury was a tear in the UCL (Ulner collateral ligament). With him going down early on in the season, this placed even more pressure on Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain. And it was apparent that neither of them was going to be able to handle much more than what they typically do in a season. Guerrier started the season off pretty well, but then he started to collapse a little bit towards the end of the season. Then Jesse Crain, who I have never been a big fan of, seemed to be the guy who would come in with a 2-3 run lead in the 8th and managed to give up the lead or leave with the tie. Then as the bullpen overall, the huge 2 week road trip was one that they would like to all forget.

Please don’t even mention the re-surfacing of Eddie Guardado. I thought it was cool they brought him back, but wasn’t sure if it was the right move to do. Then they have him pitch in Oakland, where he has always seemed to struggle. However, the good news is that Pat is expected to be ready for Spring Training next spring.

The one problem that the Twins seem to face every season is the lack of power on this team. The Twins finished ranked 29th in the league in total homeruns with 111. That is only 17 better than the last place San Francisco Giants. You can’t expect to go after if you only manage 111 homeruns all year. Don’t get me wrong. I love the small ball play of the Twins, but if we want to get far in future playoff series, Bill Smith need to get some more power on this team. Yes, the Twins were one of the top hitting teams average wise and with runners in scoring position, but they can’t compete with Boston, Los Angeles, New York year in and year out, if they don’t have any heavy hitters. I’m not expecting them to go out and sign a 30+ HR, 120+ RBI guy, but at least a 20+ HR guy would help boost this team.

The Twins have some things they need to work on and some things to continue to appreciate before the 2009 season approaches. I think the Twins need to take a long and hard look this off-season to add a few bats to the lineup and maybe a bullpen arm.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Interview with Seth Stohs

Hello everyone. Today I had the great opportunity to interview one of the most well-known Twins bloggers, Seth Stohs. Like me, Seth is an avid Twins fan and has his own blog over at We talked about the 2008 season and the future, but let's get to the questions.

Kevin Lewis: Seth, thanks for taking some time to answer a few questions about the Twins 2008 season and the future.

Seth Stohs: Always happy to talk about the Minnesota Twins. Thank you for asking me!

KL: Before we get into the future of this ball club, whether it be the off-season or prospect, I would like your take on the 2008 season. So many Twins fans thought this was going to be a down year with the losses of Johan Santana and Torii Hunter. But did they ever surprise us, well at least they surprised me. But I have to ask these two questions. Who was the biggest surprise of the season? Who was the biggest disappointment of the season?

SS: The biggest surprise, for me, was the whole team. I expected them to win about 75 games this year. But if I had to pick a player, I would have to pick Denard Span. Like many bloggers, I have been tough on Span, not seeing any power, poor base stealing percentages, not “enough” walks, etc. But when he came up, he ignited the team. And once he moved into the lead-off position, he really was excellent. The biggest disappointment was the Pat Neshek injury (not Neshek but the injury). As much as they maybe missed Torii Hunter and Johan Santana, losing Pat Neshek really hurt the team. It meant too much work for Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain, who should have been more limited due to just coming back. It would be easy to just say Matt Guerrier, but he was very good until he got used too much.

KL: Now moving onto the off-season. I think this off-season we really need to nail down the left side of our infield, but that is just my personal opinion. But, do you feel there are any major holes on the team that they need to address either through free agency or via trades? Or do we have some sleeper in Rochester that is just waiting to blossom at the major league level?

SS: People may want to say Luke Hughes is a sleeper, but Twins fans paying attention talked about him a lot last year. I also just don’t think he’s ready to make a major contribution yet (but he could). If I had to pick a sleeper, maybe Trevor Plouffe or Steve Tolleson to get a shot in spring training.

So, I think that the Twins need to address the left side of the infield through trade or free agency. I personally would keep Alexi Casilla at 2B. With that though, I would only want a 3B with a one year deal (either Free agent, or in a trade). I am a huge believer in Danny Valencia and that he should be the 3B of the future as early as 2010. I think he’s close. That really narrows it to a trade for Adrian Beltre. Garrett Atkins isn’t much outside of Coors and Kevin Kouzmanoff has too much time left before free agency. Hank Blalock is mentioned, but 1.) he’s left-handed, 2.) he’s always hurt, and 3.) he’s really not all that good.

KL: I think one of the biggest questions I have for the ball club heading into the 2009 season is what are we going to do about our outfield situation. Now that Michael Cuddyer is healthy again, we will have five outfielders who are capable of playing everyday. I would imagine Carlos Gomez has centerfield nailed down. But then that leaves the corners up for grabs. In left field, we have Jason Kubel and Delmon Young. Then in right field, we have Michael Cuddyer and Denard Span. If you were Ron Gardenhire, what would your approach be for the outfield situation?

SS: First, if I’m Bill Smith, I would keep them all just in case of injury or regression. For Gardy, I do think that he will have to find a way to keep them all active and fresh and put them into situations that they can succeed. Ideally, you work out a situation with the following playing time breakdown. All five will/can play eight out of ten games.

LFDelmon Young – 7 times per 10 games

CF – Carlos Gomez – 8 times per 10 games

RF – Michael Cuddyer – 7 times per 10 game

DH – Jason Kubel – 8 times per 10 games

That leaves Denard Span. I think he is the outfielder most capable of playing all three outfield positions well. I would have him play 3 out of 10 games in LF, 2 out of 10 games in CF and 3 games out of 10 in RF. That makes him the team’s lead-off hitter at least eight out of ten games. I think that Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer can DH at least once every 10 games. Obviously Jason Kubel can play the corners once in awhile or in case of injury.

I would run with that through about 90-100 games. They will work out the playing time down the final month or two and hopefully all will remain healthy and fresh.

KL: As I mentioned earlier about the sleepers in Rochester. Do you feel anyone in Rochester could step in right away next year. Whether that is a pitcher or an offensive player. I have been paying attention to Rochester this year and I have a few guys that I want your opinion on whether they could make an impact. Luke Hughes is the first guy that comes to my mind. He came out of no where this year and played very well at Double-A with New Britain and was then promoted to Triple-A Rochester in August. Another guy I have my eye on is pitcher, Brian Duensing. Although he is a starting pitcher, could he possibly work out of the bullpen as maybe a middle relief guy or even long relief (ala Boof Bonser). What are your thoughts on those two guys in Hughes and Duensing?

SS: In terms of pitching, I think that if needed, Brian Duensing, Kevin Mulvey and Anthony Swarzak could all come up and give the team a chance to win. All of them still have things to work on, but enough talent and stuff to succeed. I think that Luke Hughes is likely the only player at Rochester who could come up and immediately have some impact. He could platoon at 3B, maybe DH some, and fill in at 2B. He has some pop, but he needs to work a lot at AAA on putting the ball in play and not making so many errors on defense. Jason Pridie would be the team’s “6th outfielder” in my above scenario. Another half-season, and I think that Trevor Plouffe will be ready. Dustin Martin, Erik Lis and especially Danny Valencia are guys who could start in Rochester or New Britain and contribute in the right situation .

KL: I want to move onto some prospects that I saw in your reports on your web page. The three guys that some Twins fans might want to know more about are the following:

A) Steven Tolleson is the first guy I would like your opinion about. This year at Double-A New Britain, he hit .300 with 9 homeruns and drove in 50 runs. In my opinion, he seems like the guy who could be the starting 2B in 2010 when we move into Target Field. You may ask, "what about Alexi Casilla". Well I imagine by 2010 Punto will be gone. So then we could possibly shift Casilla over to SS and then put Tolleson at 2B. Or maybe, they could try him at 3B, since that seems to be a position we can never figure out.

B) The next guy I would like to talk about is SP Anthony Swarzak. He started the year in Double-A New Britain and went 3-8 with a 5.67 ERA. His BB/K ratio was ok. He walked 37 and struck out 76. Then he was promoted to Triple-A Rochester and went 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA. He walked 14 and struck out 26. Hopefully they will keep him at Triple-A next year and then maybe he could be a September call-up or if someone gets hurt (knock on wood), he could fill in. But he looks like he could be a #3 or #4 guy in the Twins rotation. What are your thoughts on him?

SS: Steve Tolleson was a guy that really jumped up in my rankings this year. He actually had a very solid season in 2007 in Ft. Myers, but what he did in 2010 tells me that he should be in the Twins plans. In reality though, I look at him as another utility type, although I would have zero concern if he needed to take over starting for a couple of weeks. In my mind, I would rank him about where I would have ranked Matt Tolbert. Good speed. Good glove. Nothing spectacular, but he could be defined as a ball player.

Swarzak is a very interesting case. I ranked him very highly following the 2007 season despite his slow start and that 50 game suspension. He dominated the Eastern League the last two-plus months of the season. The assumption was that he would move up to Rochester to start the 2008 season, but instead he went to New Britain again, and he was horrible. The numbers tell it all. He got lit up, he walked too many. He didn’t strike out many. The concern was a lack of a third pitch. For some crazy reason, he was promoted to Rochester and made seven starts late in the season, and he was remarkable. I was told that he was throwing FOUR big league pitches. So, that’s why he is ranked highly again. I am concerned though about a guy who wasn’t able to bring his good stuff back to AA with him this year and stepped it up when he got promoted. Sounds like an attitude type of thing. Or, maybe it was something else. He’s worth watching. His ceiling would probably be a #2 starter, but mid-to-back of the rotation is more likely. If he doesn’t have a good third pitch, could be a bullpen guy.

KL: Lastly, I would like your opinion on the 2009 Twins outlook. I know it's not even the off-season yet, but it's never too early to think about 2009. If we can get a decent third basemen and maybe even bolster our bullpen, where do you see the Twins? I can see us finishing 2nd or even making another run for the A.L. Central crown.

SS: My concern is that the Twins will rest this off-season after a tumultuous off-season last year. If they do that, they will be in trouble. They won’t hit over .300 with Runners in Scoring position again. That was an all-time record, so that’s not really repeatable. Some guys will regress. Some guys will continue to improve. They will have to make a few moves, and they have a lot of pieces to deal and plenty of cap room. I personally don’t want to see more than one more-major deal as I don’t think that the Twins need to break up the current core too much. My point is just that they will need to improve to continue to compete for the division title. I have to believe that Cleveland will bounce back in 2009. I think Chicago will get worse. I actually don’t think Detroit will be a lot better. But Kansas City has a solid manager and they will play well.

KL: Well, I want to thank you Seth for taking a few moments to answer some questions that Twins fans want to know.

SS: Good luck with Twin Nation! I look forward to checking it out all off-season. Thanks for giving me this opportunity. Again, it’s always fun to talk about the Twins, especially when the snow will be outside soon!

Interview with Joe DeMayo

Joe DeMayo is a good friend of mine that I met a few years ago. He has been a Mets fan since he could remember. He and I talk on a daily basis about baseball and sports in general. Joe is primarily a minor league guy, but will also talk about the majors if it's something very important. So he constantly fills me on rumors and happenings around the league. So the first person I felt that I should interview was him. So without anymore waiting, here we go:

Kevin Lewis: Welcome Joe. Since you are a Mets guru, it's great to be able to ask you a few questions about the Johan trade, a year later. So, if you don't mind, let's get right into it.

Joe DeMayo: No problem Kevin. Let's do it.

KL: Joe, looking back at the 2008 season, do you feel the Twins made the right move by trading Johan Santana to the Mets for the package of players that they received?

JD: Yes and no. You can look at it this way, the Twins made it to a one game playoff and suffered a tough loss to the White Sox, if you have Santana on the staff, do the Twins win the AL Central? It's certainly possible. At the same time, where are the Twins in September without Gomez? He made multiple fantastic plays in center to save runs, and also put up a .290 batting average. Santana was brilliant for the Mets, but wasn't enough, maybe if he was still in Minnesota then we may be watching the Twins and the Rays rather than the White Sox. But at the time it seemed logical to trade him with the unlikelihood of him re-signing and only getting two draft picks. Bill Smith did seem to overplay his hand at the time by demanding both Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury from Boston, and Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera (doesn't make the Yankees look too good right now huh?). Mets GM Omar Minaya was just patient throughout, and it paid off, as he got him without losing prized prospect Fernando Martinez or prized pitchers Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese. But the bounty was still heavy with Kevin Mulvey, Phil Humber and Deolis Guerra going with Gomez. But the way the Twins operate, and their great ability to develop pitchers, you could see all three of those pitchers possibly have a great positive impact on the Twins for a while.

KL: Many Minnesotans don't know much about Deolis Guerra. What can you tell us about Guerra's pitches, his work ethic and what he can bring to the table as a future Minnesota Twin starting pitcher? When do you expect him to be in the majors?

JD: Guerra unfortunately had a very poor year, posting an ERA over 5, including over 8 in the month of August. The Mets did not want to include him in the Santana trade, but it essentially came down to Guerra or no deal, so Minaya pulled the trigger. Guerra is still very young at 19, and has a great repertoire that leads you to believe he can be a #1 or #2 type starter in the future. He sports a fastball that when the Mets signed him as a 16 year old was in the 88-90 range, but by time they dealt him he was reportedly flinging it at 93-95, as he grows into his body he could develop more velocity, and he has potentially the best changeup in the minor leagues, if you watched the future's game in 2007 you would have seen it. He also has a developing curveball that has good natural movement, as do all of Guerra's pitches. If he gets one more good pitch, you're looking at a frontline pitcher, despite his low strikeout number this year; you are looking at a guy who could be a big time strikeout pitcher at the big league level. I do not know much about his work ethic, but hearing nothing is better than hearing something negative. I think Guerra is a kid for Twins' fans to keep an eye on, and you may see him as soon as 2011, or maybe 2012 at latest, which would still have him coming as a 22 or 23 year old which is still extremely young. Maybe you can see him sooner if he pitches his way up there, but he didn't help his cause this year.

KL: Phillip Humber is the only pitcher of the group we got in the trade that fans got to take a look at this year. He was a September call-up and worked out of the bullpen. Do you possibly see Humber being a long-relief pitcher or will he eventually make the rotation. Is there any worry about the Tommy John surgery having any long-term effects for his progression?

JD: When the Mets drafted Humber #3 overall in the 2004 draft (passing up talents like Jered Weaver, Phil Hughes, and Homer Bailey) it was widely believed Humber was a #2 or #3 type, but somebody who would ascend through the minors extremely fast. He along with teammates from "The Big 3" at Rice, Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend all underwent Tommy John within their first year of turning pro, though Townsend was a year later as he didn't sign with Baltimore in 2004. The percentage of pitchers to come back successfully from Tommy John is over 90%, and Humber being over two full years removed from the surgery may be amongst that 10 or so percent. Granted he helped his cause with a 2.74 ERA in August, you can't at this point look at him as anything better than a #4 or #5, but possibly a bullpen arm. It's unfortunate as Mets people had high hopes for him, but the surgery seemed to hinder him quite a bit, though I heard his velocity was just starting to come back around mid-season this year.

KL: Kevin Mulvey is probably the one pitcher out of the three that has the most questions. After pitching fairly well for the Binghamton Mets, their Double-A affiliate, he seemed to struggle a little bit in Rochester. Should Twins be worried about his progression? Does he have a shot at cracking the roster after Spring Training?

JD: I personally liked Kevin Mulvey a lot. I saw him last year in Binghamton and he impressed me quite a bit with his pitchability, he reminded me a lot of Brian Bannister with better stuff. He is somebody you can look at as a #4 starter down the road; I don't think his ultimate destination is in the pen. He struggled some in his first season in Triple-A, but not to worry, the Twins should start him there again in 2009, and he can very well pitch his way up to the big club during 09. When this trade happened, it was my belief that Mulvey had the chance to be the sleeper of the trade, he was the least discussed member of the trade at the time, but I think he has the talent to be better than Humber.

KL: Carlos Gomez is by far the most popular player out the trade. That is in part to him being the only guy in the trade that the fans got to see day in and day out. He showed us why he is so coveted as a young outfielder. But at the same time, he showed how he has a long ways to go. He seemed to kick it up a notch during the month of September. Do you anticipate the CF job to be his to lose in Spring Training with Span lurking?

JD: I think the job should be Gomez's to lose. I absolutely loved Carlos Gomez as a member of the Mets organization, when you have a kid who when he raced Jose Reyes would win "9 out of 10 times" according to Reyes, that definitely opens your eyes. Gomez reminds me a ton of Reyes actually, very speedy, and when he first came up as a young kid, Reyes was one of the most raw players I ever saw, very similar to Gomez. After a couple years Reyes really got it, and he's looked at as one of the best players in the game today, and I think Gomez can very well follow suit. He is going to be a dynamic lead-off hitter, and if he grows into his body a little more he could provide more pop than Reyes does for the Mets, and steal you 60+ bases every year. He is a guy that to me you can look at as a future star, but just be patient with him, let him go through his ups and downs like the Twins did this year, and soon enough those ups will be far more often than the downs.

KL: Thanks for taking time to answer a few questions. I look forward to reading your updates that you post over on

JD: Anytime Kevin, thanks a lot!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

What Will The Off-Season Bring?

It hasn't even been 48 hours since we came up short in our bid for an A.L. Central title and I am already thinking about what the Twins will be doing this off-season. This will be the first full off-season for GM Bill Smith, who took over after Terry Ryan left the GM spot. This will be a big test for Smith this winter.

Some questions you may want to know about are: What do we need to improve on? Are we willing to spend the money? Who exactly is available within reason? Well, I will try to answer these questions and many more over the next few days, weeks and months ahead.

I will be also be doing various reports. For example, I will be looking back at the 2008 season and looking towards the off-season. I will discuss possible moves, rumors that come up, teach you guys about some prospect you may not know about off hand and then just any other Twins information.