Monday, December 21, 2015

Making sense of the Twins new crop of minor league signees

Over the weekend the Twins signed 6 new minor league free agents:  RHRPs David Martinez Raul Fernandez, and  Marcus Walden,  IF Leonardo Reginatto, OF Keury De La Cruz, and  C Jose Ortiz.   Let's examine each of them

RHP David Martinez ( 28 years old, 6'2", 220 lbs) was signed by the Astros as a sixteen year old International Free Agent in 2005.  He needed 4 seasons in the Venezuelan Summer League before he crossed the border as a 21 year old.  At that point he climbed fast the Astros organization going from Rookie ball to a cup of coffee in the majors in 4 seasons.  Fastball (low 90s), slider, change reliever, with mixed results that were better in the lower minors.  His career AAA numbers (3 seasons) are 5.77 ERA, 1.617 WHIP, 6.5 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9.  He does have the excuse of pitching in the Pacific Coast League, but lots of pitchers pitch there with better results.  Organizational depth signing at this point with not much upside.

RHP Raul Fernandez (25 years old, 6'2", 180 lbs) was signed by the Rockies as a seventeen year old International Free Agent out of the Dominican.  He was signed as a Catcher and converted to a pitcher his second professional season.  Moved to the States in 2011 as a 21 year old and he has been moving slowly up the minors.  Was traded to the White Sox the 2014 season.   In his only AA season in 2015 (Southern League) he pitched late in the games for the Birmingham Barons appearing in 36 games (61.3 IP) with a 4.26 ERA, 1.288 WHIP, 6.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9.   Organizational depth, with just a tick or two of upside.

RHP Marcus Walden (27 years old, 6'0", 180 lbs) was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 9th round of the 2007 draft from Fresno City College.  After 2 seasons in low levels, he lost 2 seasons with elbow issues, one trying the rest and relaxation bit, before he head the surgery the next.   Coming back from the surgery he was a better pitcher, but pitched in A and high A teams that were too young for his age at that point.    When he moved to AA and AAA in the subsequent seasons he had trouble getting hitters out.  Moved to the A's organization in 2014 and to the Independents in 2015 before signed up by Cincinnati to pitch a single AA game (3 IP).   Organizational depth at this point, with not much upside.

IF Leonardo Reginatto (RHB, 25 years old, 6'2", 180 lbs) is a Brazilian who was signed at 18 as an International Free Agent by the Rays and had spent all of his career with that organization.  He has played mostly at SS and 3B, and a few games at 2B and LF.    Mostly a utility player in the minors; he made it up to AAA for a half season in 2015.  Career .286/.346/.351  slash line with 8 HRs and 48 SB in 7 MiLB seasons.  Organizational depth, but there might be something there.

Keury De La Cruz (24 years old, LHB, 5'11", 170 lbs) was signed by the Red Sox as a 16 year old International Free Agent out of the Dominican in 2008 and moved pretty fast in their system.   He can play all OF positions, including Centerfield.  He opened some eyes in 2012 when he hit .308/.352/.536 with 19 HRs and 19 SB (506 PAs) as a 20 year old for A Class Greenville (South Atlantic League).  2013 at High A was unremarkable, but he rebounded in 2014 in an injury shortened season in AA: .295/.327/.434 7 HRs and 3 SB (275 PAs).  He repeated AA last season with not that great results:  .240/.282/.375, 9 HRs, 3 SBs (433 PAs).  Could potentially be a change of scenery candidate.  He is still young, and had great results before, so worth a second look.  His biggest issue is a pretty violent inconsistent swing that tends to get a lot of strikeouts.  Needs work with his routes at the outfield.

C Jose Ortiz (RHB, 21 years old, 5'11", 205 lbs).  Ortiz was drafted by the Reds in the 17th round of the 2012 draft from Puerto Rico.  He is very young, and he has played that last 2 seasons in Dayton of the Midwest League, so he is familiar to some Twins.   He is very young but not very good, hitting just  .199/.239/.321 with 6 HRs and 0 SB (309 PAs) in those 2 seasons in the Midwest League.   Hard to see why the Twins signed him, other than replacing the equally bad but older Michael Quesada who was released last week.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Nine things on the newest Twins' addition, LHP Fernando Abad

The Twins announced the signing of LHP Fernando Abad, adding to those of Dan Runzler and Buddy Boshers in their search for lefty relief help.    Here are 9 facts and thoughts about Abad:

  1. Abad is a Dominican who celebrated his 30th birthday today and signed as an International Free agent by the Astros at the ripe age of 20. He flew through the Astros system from the DSL to the majors in 4 years.  In addition to the Astros, he pitched for the Nationals (singed as a Free Agent in 2013) and the Athletics (traded for OF/1B John Wooten, fresh off a 20 HR season in Beloit, in 2014)
  2. 2014 was Abad's best season in the majors when he pitched in 69 games (57.3 IP) with a 1.57 ERA (3.25 FIP, 3.06 SIERA), 23.6% K% (8 K/9,) 2.4 BB/9 and 0.85 WHIP (.211 BABIP)
  3. 2015 was Abad's worst season in the majors when he pitched in 62 games (47.7 IP) with a 4.15 ERA (5.50 FIP, 3.82 SIERA), 22% K% (8.5 K/9,) 3.6 BB/9 and 1.34 WHIP (.264 BABIP)
  4. In his career, lefties hit .251/.304/.411 (423 PAs) and righties .247/.330/.423 (547 PAs) off him.  A lot of people would look at this and tell you that he will be ineffective against lefties.
  5. However, his FIP (3.54 vs 5.04, against lefties and righties,) K% and K/9 (25.1% and 9.5 vs 15.9% and 6.17,) BB/9 (2.06 vs 3.83) indicate that he has the makings of a decent LOOGY
  6. And that what he has been with the Athletics: A lefty specialist who pitches in more games than innings, who will face righties if necessary, but usually comes in low leverage situations.  Even in his best season, in 2014, he pitched 66.2% of the time in low leverage, 17.1% of the time in medium leverage and 16.7% of the time in high leverage situations
  7. Why his 2014 and 2015 were so different?  Different pitch mix.  In 2014 he threw a 93 mph above average Fastball (of both 4 and 2 seam varieties) supplemented mostly by a very good changeup that he threw against righties and an average knucklecurve that he threw mostly against lefties.  Since he was in the Athletics organization he started to learn the cutter that was not a pretty pitch for him.  In 2015 he threw that ineffective cutter for 20% of the time and got pounded.  Also his fastball (especially his two seamer, his four seamer was above average) and curveball was not that effective. I suspect that the grip and pressure of the cutter did affect the grip and the pressure of the two-seamer and the knucklecurve.
  8. What will the Twins get in 2016?  I think that the cutter experiment will be over and they will have Abad pitch to his strengths: four-seamer, two-seamer, changeup and curve, with a heavier those of that change and maybe against lefties as well.  That could produce results close to 2014 or maybe even better.  Have to remember that Abad has really never been tested consistently in high leverage situations in the majors; however he misses a lot of lefty bats. 
  9. Nevertheless, Abad is not a bad addition.  However, like Runzler and Boshers, he is not exactly someone who will step in for the Twins and expected to be in a bases loaded, one run up, one out, lefty in, 7th inning situation, and get a strikeout, which is what the Twins are missing at this point.

A week ago I said this about Abad and the Twins, but I hope I was mistaken:

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Twins pick four Free Agents, potentially addressing their pen and 4th outfielder needs

Today the Twins announced that they have signed 4 players to minor league contracts:  30 year old OF Darin Mastroianni, 24 year old middle infielder Wilfredo Tovar, 31 year old RHRP Brandon Kintzler and 27 year old LHRP Buddy Boshers.

Mastroianni who amassed 271 PAs with the Twins from 2012-2014, when he was selected off waivers by the Blue Jays, does not need introduction to anyone familiar with the Twins.  The last 2 seasons, he managed 32 MLB PAs (all with the Blue Jays in 2014) hitting .156/.156/.250.  He split last season between Lehigh Valley and Syracuse in AAA International League where he hit .257/.308/.345 with 25 steals in 112 games as the starting Center Fielder of both clubs.  He will provide depth at the OF for the Twins and will compete with Joe Benson and Danny Santana for the fourth outfielder position

Wilfredo Tovar is a former Met who is a wizard with the glove in middle infield, still young at 24, and making enough contact on occasion, to believe that his floor might be better than Pedro Florimon.  He already played in 8 minor league seasons (since he was signed as a 16 year old from Venezuela) amassing a .263/.324/.339 slash line with 14 HRs and 117 SB (Had 30 last season in 102 games) in 764 games.  He had a cup of coffee with the Mets due to injury in 2013 and he hit .200/.294/.200 in 7 games.   The right hand batter hit .307/.353/.386 against LHPs in 127 ABs last season in AAA Las Vegas, so he could have some potential as a bench/platoon infielder, on the other hand not with the Twins, since the incumbent SS Eduardo Escobar hits .299/.328/.483 against lefties.   Tovar will provide depth at AAA and likely be behind both Danny Santana and Eduardo Escobar pending trades and/or a potential move of Santana to the outfield. 

Brandon Kintzler is a 31 year old RHRP who was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 40th round of the 2004 draft, released by them in 2006 after injuring his throwing shoulder and requiring surgery.  He recovered all 2006 and in 2007 he signed with Winnipeg and played two years of independent ball as a swing man getting a 4.07 ERA, 1.177 WHIP, 4.8 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 in 77.3 IP in 2007 and a 4.65 ERA, 1.558 WHIP, 5.8 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 in 112.1 IP in 2008.  In 2009 he signed with the Saint Paul Saints, thus making him eligible for the Hall of Players who played for both the Twins and the Saints.  He was mainly a starter getting a 2.79 ERA, 1.401 WHIP, 5.1 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 in 80.7 IP (14 games, 11 starts)  At that point the Brewers thought they found something and signed him to a minor league contract mid-season.  Next season, 2010, his age 25 season was his breakthrough season after he moved to the pen.  Pitching at the end of games for both AA Huntsville (SL) and AAA Nashville (PCL) at a rate of 1.47 ERA, 0.755 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, 1.3 BB/9 with 16 saves in 49 IP, got him a spot on the Brewers' 40-man roster, a September callup and a trip to the Arizona Fall League.  That was the peak of Kintzler's professional career, as he fractured his throwing elbow early in the 2011 season, resulting in surgery and a lost season.  Subsequent elbow inflammation kept him in the DL half of 2012, hepitched with chronic left knee pain due to a injured patellar tendon in 2013 and 2014, which was surgically repaired in 2014 after he was sidelined with stain on his surgically repaired shoulder, allowing him to pitch only 19 AAA and 7 MLB innings in 2015. In 2013 (when the knee problem started) he was the set up man for the Brewers, appearing in 71 MLB games, for 77 IP, with a 2.69 ERA and 2.54 FIP, 1.06 WHIP (.281 BABIP), 19% K% or 6.8 K/9 and 1.87 BB/9.  In addition he had a ridiculous 3.12 GB/FB rate.  His Swinging Strike percentage was a respectable 9.7%.   At his best he was a heavy sinker, slider, change pitcher who when was not missing bats was killing worms.  Depending on his health, the Twins could be getting a pitcher better than Blaine Boyer, Casey Fien, or JR Graham were last season, who can get them out of jams late in the games.  The downside is minimal, even if he is not healthy enough to be effective.

This is a great video of Kintzler at his best:

Buddy Boshers was drafted by the Angels in the 4th round of the 2008 MLB and the lefty, whose given name is Jeffrey Alan, has been climbing their organizational ladder until after the 2014 season when he became a free agent.  His last 2 seasons with the Angels he was mostly shuttling between AA Arkansas (Texas League) and AAA Salt Lake City (PCL), which are not pitchers' paradise.  He appeared in 25 games for the Angels as a LOOGY in 2013, pitching 15.2 innings with a 4.70 ERA (but 3.11 FIP), a 20.6% K% and 4.70 BB/9 which helped get his WHIP to 1.37 (.317 BABIP.)   Primarily a fastball/curveball pitcher, pitch F/X has his 2013 fastball average close to 93 mph, and rates it, as well as his change as effective.   He did have 10.3% Swinging Strike percentage and his GB/FB ratio was 1.4.  His seven season minor league line was 446.1 IP in 234 games, with a 3.67 ERA, 1.362 WHIP, 9 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 In 2015 he signed a MiLB contract with the Rockies but was released after Spring Training, ending up with Somerset of the Independent Atlantic League, where he pitched 54 innings in 52 games with a 1.00 ERA, 0.9891 WHIP, 11.8 K/9 and a good to see 2.3 BB/9.   At this point an upgrade over Ryan O'Rourke and Aaron Thompson, with no downside, but not as high potential as Dan Runzler.

The Twins potentially filled their bullpen holes with the minor league signings of Dan Runzler, Brandon Kintzler and Buddy Boshers, and their 4th outfielder who can play Centerfield issue with those of Joe Benson and Darin Mastroianni, if everything works out in the best case scenario.  But that is a huge if, for a team that is competing...

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The one play that defines Micheal Cuddyer's contribution to the Twins

Today Michael Cuddyer has announced his retirement from baseball. For me this one play is what defines his contribution to the Minnesota Twins. 2008. Game 163 at the Chicago White Sox.


I wish I could find his post-game interview, all smiles in the dugout saying how great a season it was and there is always next season... 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Twins finally sign a free agent in the winter meetings

The Rochester Red Wings announced that the Twins have signed 29 year old utility man Buck Britton (brother of the Orioles' Zach Britton) to a minor league contract.  He hit left-handed, can play corner infield and outfield positions and a bit of first base and has a career .253/.304/.379   AAA slash line.  Yesterday they re-signed 26 year old second baseman James Beresford.

Neither of them is a left handed pitcher who can have an impact in the 2016 bullpen.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Twins nab yet another Catcher

Today the Minnesota Twins have announced that they have selected John Hicks off waivers from the Seattle Mariners.   This fills up their 40-man roster, and unless someone is traded or designated for assignment before the 5th of December, they will not be able to participate in the Rule 5 draft.  Hicks will likely start at Rochester and provide depth behind Kurt Suzuki and JR Murphy.  In other words, effectively the Twins replaced claimed Josmil Pinto with Hicks as their third Catcher in the organization.

In various Mariners' 2015 prospect lists, Hicks was ranked 18th by John Sickels (Minor League Ball) and 16th by Kiley McDaniel (FanGraphs.)   Who is John Hicks?  He is a rich man's Stuart Turner.  A defense-first Catcher but his defense is elite.  He has thrown out around half  (47%) of runners trying to steel and has been touted about his game calling and blocking techniques.  The former 4th Round selection of the 2011 Draft can hit ok.

His best hitting performance was last season as a 24 year old in the Arizona Fall League where he hit .304/.396/.522. In the first half of 2014 in the AA Southern League  (the same league as Twins' affiliate Chattannoga is playing,) he hit .296/.362/.418  in 211 PAs, which suggests that there is some potential with the bat.  For comparison's purpose, in the same leagues Stuart Turner as a 23 year old (a year younger) hit   .223/.322/.306 in the Southern League and  .171/.306/.220 this fall in the AFL.    In 2015 he had a miserable season in the PCL hitting .245/.282/.362 in 320 PAs and in his cup of coffee in the majors collecting 2 hits in 34 PAs.  On the other hand,  his success in the Southern and Arizona Fall Leagues indicates that Hicks has potential with the bat.

If he were still a prospect under my criteria (he does not qualify because he played in the majors) I would had ranked him higher than Turner (who was 28th in my 2015 list) because they are of similar age and Hicks is better on both sides of the ball.

I did mention that he managed to get only 2 hits in the majors in 34 PAs this September.  I did not mention that, even more importantly, he threw out 5 out of 10 runners in that span, like this:

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

After Twins' top prospects take a step back, heads roll in AAA

Today the Minnesota Twins' affiliates announced their new coaching staff.   One of the surprising and uncharacteristic moves (after a 77-67 season) was that the AAA Rochester Red Wings' Pitching, Hitting and Strength & Conditioning Coaches were fired and replaced.   This comes after a season in which young top talent such as Alex Meyer, Oswaldo Arcia and Josmil Pinto took a definite step back in AAA without getting appropriate help.  One could add Taylor Rogers and Eddie Rosario to the list who both dramatically under-performed in comparison with their results in the AFL and MLB respectably.    In detail Pitching Coach Marty Mason  was replaced by Stu Cliburn, Hitting Coach Tim Doherty was replaced by Chad Allen, and Strength & Conditioning Coach Tyler Donahue was replaced by Dax Fiore.

Congratulations to the Twins for holding their Coaches accountable for talent development.  These changes, all within the organization, resulted in a series of additional changes.   Here is a detailed list of the full season leagues coaching staff for 2016 and 2015 (Rookie Leagues coaching staff has not been announced yet) :

Rochester Red Wings (AAA - International League)


Manager - Mike Quade 
Pitching Coach - Marty Mason 
Hitting Coach - Tim Doherty
Trainer - Larry Bennese
Strength - Tyler Donahue


Manager - Mike Quade
Pitching Coach - Stu Cliburn
Hitting Coach - Chad Allen
Trainer - Larry Bennese
Strength - Dax Fiore

Chatanooga Lookouts (AA - Southern League)


Manager - Doug Mientkiewicz
Pitching Coach - Stu Cliburn
Hitting Coach - Chad Allen


Manager -  Doug Mientkiewicz
Pitching Coach - Ivan Arteaga
Hitting Coach - Tommy Watkins 

Fort Myers Miracle (A+, Florida State League)


Manager - Jeff Smith
Pitching Coach - Ivan Arteaga
Hitting Coach - Jim Dwyer


Manager - Jeff Smith
Pitching Coach - Henry Bonilla 
Hitting Coach - Jim Dwyer

Cedar Rapids Kernels (A, Midwest League)


Manager - Jake Mauer
Pitching Coach - Henry Bonilla 
Hitting Coach - Tommy Watkins 


Manager - Jake Mauer
Pitching Coach - J.P. Martinez
Hitting Coach -  Brian Dinkelman

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