After getting mangled and outscored by the Toronto Blue Jays 26-5 over the past few days, it's difficult not to imagine that the Twins' season is essentially over, making them sellers at the deadline. The problem is that it feels like Terry Ryan isn't going to be doing much at all between now and Tuesday, whether the Twins want to be a buyer or seller. I am convinced that Ryan wants to protect his prospects at all costs, which obviously rules out the idea of being big buyers of any sort. However, I also believe Ryan won't be making any of the smart trades he should consider, such as moving Torii Hunter, Carlos Silva, and Luis Castillo (all free agents at the end of the year) and even Joe Nathan, as suggested by Howard Sinker. Rather, it also appears that Ryan wants to hold out hope of re-signing Hunter, as some many fans hope, and no rumors suggest that he is actively shopping Silva or Castillo, even though there is as little chance of re-signing either as there as of Ryan giving Hunter a six year, $90 million contract he's probably envisioning.
The most the Twins have been involved in numerous trade rumors: one regarding a scout watching Kevin Slowey at Triple-A; another indicating some interest in the Devil Rays' Ty Wigginton; a recently shot-down rumor regarding the Phillies' Pat Burrell coming over for Kevin Slowey; and other supposed (but mostly unsubstantiated) rumors of interest in players like Dan Johnson, Jacque Jones, and Mike Lowell. Yes, that makes for a few interesting possibilities, but as noted, most of those have died down or been completed negated and none of them involve the possibility of the Twins as sellers. LaVelle Neal suggests the Twins remained interested in a Wigginton trade or a trade with the Phillies, but as pointed out, those are old rumors at this point.
If this is true, the true source of hope for Twins fans must lie in the future, with the prospects that Ryan protects so diligently. We've written considerably about some of the Twins' top-flight prospects, like Jeff Manship and Anthony Swarzak, but today, I'd like to highlight a few other prospects that Twins fans can look forward to soon:
Brian Dinkelman, 2B Fort Myers Miracle:
While it's true that the Twins are viewing Alexi Casilla, who is doing fairly well in Triple-A, as the second baseman of the future, Dinkelman has been opening some eyes in the lower levels of the Twins' minor league system. A eighth-round pick in last year's draft, Dinkelman has made quick progress since batting .298/.338/.420 in 188 at-bats with four home runs and 32 RBI in his 2006 debut for Elizabethton, the Twins rookie-league team. This year, he has excelled with the bat at both Beloit and Fort Myers, hitting .296/.383/.496 with 12 home runs, 36 RBI, 77 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases between the two levels, displaying patience, power, and speed. For a team devoid of middle infielders with any power (see Nick Punto, Luis Rodriguez, Jason Bartlett, and Luis Castillo), Dinkelman is an awfully intriguing prospect, especially if he ends up being good with the glove, which is somewhat iffy according to many scouting reports.
Brock Peterson, 1B New Britain Rock Cats:
Peterson is quite the unlikely prominent offensive prospect, as he was the 49th-round pick in the 2002 draft for the Twins. After a solid debut, in which he hit .290/.404/.473 in 207 at-bats at Elizabethton with nine home runs and 31 RBI, he had two down years in 2004 and 2005 before breaking out at Ft. Myers last year, where he hit .291/.356/.494 with 21 home runs and 76 RBI. So far this year, Peterson has been one of New Britain's best bats, if not the best (his main competition was the recently called up Brian Buscher). He's hit .276/.359/.459, continuing to show solid power and patience at the plate and he has 11 home runs and 45 RBI so far this year. The major concern with Peterson, however, has been his defense, as he had 10 errors at Ft. Myers in 2005 and seems to be viewed by the organization as having more of a future as a DH. Even if that's true, Twins fans know very well that the DH spot could use some improvement in the future.
Daniel Valencia, 3B Ft. Myers Miracle:
Valencia has been mentioned a few times on this site, as he has thrived while two of the organization's major third-base prospects, Matt Moses and David Winfree, have flopped this year. Valencia, who played his college ball at Miami, was a 19th-round pick in last year's draft and he had a good debut in Elizabethton, hitting .311/.365/.505 with eight home runs and 29 RBI in 190 at-bats. This year, he started out very hot in Beloit, hitting .302/.374/.500 with 11 home runs and 35 RBI in 242 at-bats before moving up to Ft. Myers in June. So far, he's been solid there, batting .285/.321/.439 with four home runs and 17 RBI in 123 at-bats. Overall, thats .296/.356/.479 with 15 home runs and 52 RBI. Considering the terrible void at third base now and the floundering third base prospects in the system, Valencia should give Twins fans some hope, as he has already shown better power and patience than Moses or Winfree did at Single-A.
Alex Burnett, SP Beloit Snappers:
Burnett was a 12th round pick in the 2005 draft who has gotten lost in the fray of so many other prominent pitching prospects in the Twins system, including his teammate Manship. Burnett had a solid debut, going 4-3 with a 4.04 ERA and 71 Ks in 71 1/3 innings for Elizabethton last year. So far this year, he's been far more impressive, going 6-5 with a 2.97 ERA with a 1.10 WHIP in Beloit. His peripherals are particularly impressive, as he has posted an 87/25 K/BB ratio in 115 innings and has limited opponents to a .238 average while only allowing eight home runs so far. All those numbers speak very good things about Burnett's future potential and only reinforce that the Twins have plenty of good pitching prospects, even outside of the big three fans have gotten to know this year.
Robert Delaney, RP Ft. Myers Miracle:
Delaney is probably the most interesting prospect on this list, even moreso than Peterson, because Delaney didn't even go in the 49th round and instead went undrafted out of St. John's University. The reason? He wasn't particularly impressive in either season he had at St. John's, going 5-2 with a 4.37 ERA in 2005 and 7-3 with a 4.01 ERA in 15 starts in 2006 and in both seasons he gave up more hits than innings pitched. His debut last year wasn't anything special either, as he had a 4.64 in 33 innings for the GCL Twins and gave up three runs in five innings at Ft. Myers (5.40), continuing the trend of high ERAs and more hits than innings pitched. This year, however, things appeared to have changed or Delaney has been very lucky, as he threw 46 innings at Beloit to pick up 28 saves, giving up only four earned runs (eight total) for a 0.77 ERA and only 25 hits while displaying an amazing 56/6 K/BB ratio. Since moving up to Ft. Myers again, he has been a little more human, giving up two runs in six innings so far (3.00 ERA) while striking out eight and walking one. Its quite possible Delaney is riding a hot streak, but if he has really turned a corner, then the Twins not only found a great diamond in the rough, but another bullpen gem to replace Nathan if he leaves.