Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Notes

The Twins broke their Thursday spell last night with a win to complete a sweep over the hapless Royals. Kevin Slowey hurled a complete game, allowing just one run on an RBI double off the bat of Alex Gordon with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Twins pitchers will have a bit of a tougher task ahead of them against the Yankees this weekend, but for the time being, the Twins have won five of six and are three games above .500. Life is good. A couple notes:

* Yesterday the Twins acquired Craig Breslow off waivers from the Indians. A 27-year-old lefty reliever, Breslow owned a 3.24 ERA and 7-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 8 1/3 innings this season, and a holds a 2.95 ERA over 36 2/3 career major-league innings. While the ERA is good, Breslow's big-league WHIP is an ugly 1.67, his numbers against left-handed hitters have been underwhelming and he has struggled with his control. Nevertheless, he posted good strikeout rates throughout the minors and looks like a fairly decent addition.

While the team's desire to add another left-handed reliever to the bullpen is understandable, it is interesting that they felt the need to go outside of the organization to get one. There are a pair of southpaw relievers down in Rochester who have put up pretty good numbers this season, and seemingly have earned a shot at pitching in the big leagues. Mariano Gomez has posted a 2.27 ERA and 23-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio while allowing only one homer over 31 2/3 innings, and Ricky Barrett has posted a 3.38 ERA in 29 1/3 innings while holding opposing hitters to a .216 average. While the two have pitched well this year, Gomez hadn't proven much prior to this year and Barrett has struggled with his control (as usual); those factors might help explain why the Twins sought to acquire a more reliable option.

Breslow is expected to join the Twins in time for their series opener against the Yankees tonight.

* There is a tendency amongst fans of a baseball organization to want to see prospects promoted aggressively. This makes sense -- most fans follow the big-league club and they want to see talented young players making an impact with the team as soon as possible. If a prospect goes on a hot streak, you'll almost always see message boards and blogs filled with calls to see him sent up to the next level.

People who advocate promotions based solely on statistical proficiency tend to overlook some important factors in whether or not a young player should be moved up. How is he handling things mentally? How is his attitude? Is there room at his position at the next level? Is he old enough that a promotion is warranted? I generally tend to agree with the organization's rather conservative philosophy in promoting prospects, so I have no problem with the previously unspectacular Luke Hughes -- this blog's Prospect of the Month in April -- spending some more time in New Britain to prove that his incredibly hot start is for real, or with 2007 first-rounder Ben Revere hanging in Low-A Beloit for a while despite the fact that he's hitting almost .400 there.

With that said, there are a couple guys in Class-A Ft. Myers who I think the Twins really need to move up to New Britain very soon: reliever Anthony Slama and third baseman Danny Valencia. Slama -- a lanky right-hander with a funky delivery -- has absolutely dominated out of the Miracle bullpen this year, allowing just one earned run over 28 1/3 innings (0.32 ERA) while posting a fantastic 46-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio and getting tons of ground balls. While he's in just his first full pro season after joining the Twins last year, Slama is already 24 years old, which gives him a distinct advantage over the younger hitters in A-ball. Meanwhile, Valencia is hitting .347/.409/.571 in Ft. Myers with five homers and 17 doubles in 47 games. He's 23.

The outstanding numbers being posted by these young men are certainly encouraging, but it's not exactly unusual for college products like Slama and Valencia to dominate the low minors. The step up to Double-A will be a big one for both players and will likely serve as a strong indicator as to how close they are to big-league ready. Being that both players fill what are likely to be positions of need for the Twins in the near future, I think it's best that the organization move them up to a more fitting level of competition and see how they handle it.

13 comments:

Dwade said...

Valencia has been solid lately with six multihit games in his last 10. With both he and Hughes playing well, I wonder if the organization will push both up a level to see if they can cut it at the next level.

I agree with you that Hughes' lack of a track record makes it a bit premature to be calling for his call-up, but if he can continue playing well in AAA, it has to make his improvements seem a little more realistic and not a fluke.

jonas said...

Looks like they sent down Korecky. Predictable move, but still sad. What they will do when Baker arrives, now, that is the question. Either the new guy goes down to AAA, or a roster move happens with Bass, Rincon, or Bonser. Gulp.

SethSpeaks said...

I would say that Rob Delaney should move up to New Britain first, before Slama, with Slama following soon after.

Valencia is a definite, but I think that Brian Dinkelman is also an easy choice as ready to move up. He's everything they could ask from a leadoff hitter, and his defense is fine too...

I think Manship is ready too now that he's confident in his changeup.

In each of these cases, I believe that they will move up soon after the All-Star break since all five of them were named to that team (along with the injured Rene Tosoni). They'll move up.

Corey E. said...

Having seen Slama's delivery, I wouldn't exactly say that its funky. If anything, it appears to be rather normal.

Nick N. said...

Having seen Slama's delivery, I wouldn't exactly say that its funky. If anything, it appears to be rather normal.

He's got a short-armed delivery with an unorthodox follow-through.

TT said...

One thing to remember is that how well a prospect is doing depends on how much they are improving. Players often start out ahead of the league in early spring and then the rest of the league catches up to them. Hughes, for instance, is a AA veteran who started out hot.

The quality of the competition in a league will get better as the year goes along. So unless players improve their results are going to start to decline.

The other thing is that the Twins usually make a series of moves to provide spots for players signed from the June draft. So who moves up sometimes depends on who gets drafted. If they take a lot of college players high in the draft who they want to start in A ball they will need to make room for them.

ABP said...

I was at the Mets-Dodgers game last night and noticed that Blake DeWitt seems to have worked his way into the Dodgers' rotation pretty regularly now with Andy Laroche rehabbing his thumb. I wonder whether there's a chance the Twins go after a guy like Laroche with the Dodgers having a surplus at 3B.

Nick N. said...

What they will do when Baker arrives, now, that is the question. Either the new guy goes down to AAA, or a roster move happens with Bass, Rincon, or Bonser. Gulp.

My guess is that they will part with Bass and put Bonser in that long relief role.

Players often start out ahead of the league in early spring and then the rest of the league catches up to them. Hughes, for instance, is a AA veteran who started out hot.

I have two quibbles with that. One: does 92 games really make you a "veteran" of a particular level? That's how many Hughes had played at Double-A prior to this year. Two: saying Hughes "started out hot" is awfully misleading, because his start was more than simply "hot" (he matched his career high for homers in one month!), and he hasn't exactly cooled off with a .329/.393/.539 hitting line in the month of May. He went 1-for-3 with a homer, three RBI and two walks last night.

I wonder whether there's a chance the Twins go after a guy like Laroche with the Dodgers having a surplus at 3B.

People have been talking about the Twins bringing in LaRoche for some time. He's the classic blocked prospect, and his patience and power potential make him very intriguing for an organization like the Twins. Unfortunately, I don't know that the Twins have the trading pieces available to pull off such a deal. I'm on record as saying this organization really can't afford to part with any of its top pitching talent, despite this perceived overload of arms which -- in my mind -- isn't really there anymore.

beth said...

I don't know if the Twins were really seeking outside help for another lefty in the bullpen. It sounds to me more like an unexpected opportunity fell from the sky, and they took it.

I'm really intrigued with what's going to happen with the return of Baker. This team has surprised me so often in the past that I have no idea what to expect.

TT said...

Hughes spent all of last season at AA. In the minor leagues, repeating a level makes you a veteran. At least in my book.

Hughes hit 8 home runs in April (in 99 AB) and 3 in May (in 76 AB). He has hit .243 over the last ten games with one home run in 37 AB. I think it is safe to say he had a hot start. That doesn't mean he shouldn't move up, but any optimism from his numbers ought to be tempered by the realization that he has not really sustained those kind of results over any length of time.

Dianna said...

I think one of the reasons the Twins generally move player right around the FSL/MWL All-star game is not because they want them to have fun, but because those games also coincide closely to the draft. And the draft, to a large extent, it used to replace those players at the lower levels that are promoted up. Take outfield for example - this is the stock of outfielders in extended:

Atherton, Tim
Choi, Hyun-Wook
Goncalves, Jonathan
Lara, Herbert
Morales, Angel
Schmiesing, Andrew

Of those, the first 4 are first year players, none are domestic, and all are exhibiting levels of play with will put them in the GCL. They'll have to find someone in the draft that they can move into the outfield to fill out the E-Town roster because you've only got two going there. And that makes it hard to move Revere, because who do you replace him with?

I'm not worried about losing Valencia or Slama. If Leger is ready to play he come and either take over 3rd or Robbins or Portes can shift over. Robbins is kind of tied to first tho with Woody and Berg out.

But unless they have a strong draft I think the overall moves are going to minimul because they can't replace the players with what they've got stockpiled at the lower levels.

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