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Written by Shawn Berg | 15 February 2012

Spring training is almost upon us and as such, it is time to look at 2012's batch of Minnesota Twins prospects. I have been posting these 5 at a time at my other space, OntheroadwithShawn but figured I'd bring them here in groups of 10. 

The Twins may have lost 99 in 2011 but on February 15th, the slate is clean and what prospects provide is hope of better days.

50. Luis Nunez Left Handed Reliever 9/26/1991.
Nunez was signed as a free agent out of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in 2008. Repeating Gulf Coast ball in 2011, Nunez continued to improve. He went 5-0 with 5 saves with a 1.67 ERA in 16 appearances. He struck out 37 and walked only 6 in 32.1 innings. He's a hard thrower. He's small at 5'11" 160, but is only 20. He could be a closer someday.
2012 Outlook: Will probably start the season in extended spring training and either report to Elizabethtown or Beloit.

49. Dakota Watts Right Handed Reliever 11/16/1987.
Watts was drafted in the 16th round of the 2009 draft out of Cal State-Stanislaus. He went 3-4 with 10 saves and a 6.30 ERA in 48 appearances between High A Fort Myers and AA New Britain. He struck out 53 and walked 33 in 65.2 innings. His strikeouts have slipped as he's moved up the system but he still walks WAY too many batters. I ranked him #33 last year. I also wrote about him here. He still has late inning big league reliever potential because throws hard, but he has to throw more strikes.
2012 Outlook: Will return to AA New Britain.

48. Matt Bashore Left Handed Starter 4/6/1988.
Bashore was drafted #46 in the first round of the 2009 draft out of Indiana University. He has pitched very little since being drafted and has just recently come back from Tommy John surgery. He went 0-0 with a 3.24 ERA in 12 appearances and 3 starts for rookie league Elizabethtown. He struck out 15 and walked 8 in 16.2 innings. If he can regain the form that made him a first round pick, he will move through the system quickly.
2012 Outlook: Will probably start in extended spring training and then report to Beloit.


47. Darin Mastroianni Center Field 8/26/1985.
Mastroianni was claimed off waivers today (February 9th) from Toronto Blue Jays. He hit .268/.353/.370 with 3 HRs and also stole 34 bases in 44 attempts for AA New Hampshire and AAA Las Vegas. Going into his 26th year, Mastroianni is almost as major league ready as he is going to be. He made his major league debut in 2011, playing in one game. He enters an organization set at starting OF in the majors and with many highly rated OF prospects that will be seen later in my countdown. Where he provides value is at the 4th OF spot. A backup who can play CF, get on base, steal some of those bases, be a late inning defensive replacement to Josh Willingham and provide a right handed bat off the bench (backing up two lefties) certainly has value. I like the pickup. If nothing else, he is younger and strikes out less than Jason Repko.
2012 Outlook: He is on the 40 man, so he may break with the Twins or spend time in AAA.

46. Jorge Polanco Shortstop 7/5/1993.
He was signed in 2009 out of San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic for $750,000. He hit .250/.319/.349 with 1 HR in 193 plate appearances for Elizabethtown. He also stole 6 bases in 10 attempts.  I ranked him #37 last year. He is still very young and an excellent defensive prospect, but hasn't yet found a bat. He is the elite fielding SS prospect in the Twins system. If he finds a bat, he could become one hell of a ballplayer some day.
2012 Outlook: Due to his young age, I'd expect the Twins to start him in instructional league before sending him back to Elizabethtown or Beloit. 

 45. Rory Rhodes Third Base 7/28/1991.
Rhodes was signed in 2008 out of Brisbane, Australia for $220,000. He hit .261/.363/.389 with 2 HRs in 182 plate appearances for Elizabethtown. He's very tall, he strikes out a lot and he has a lot of power. He plays in the Australian Baseball League during the winter, where he was runner-up Rookie of the year in 2010-2011. He will eventually transition to first base due to his height, but his bat could someday make him a real force. Will be interesting to see how he he does in a full season league.
2012 Outlook: He should start the season in Beloit.

44. Phillip Chapman Catcher 3/28/1989.
Chapman was drafted in the 35th round of the 2011 draft out of the University of Memphis. He hit .308/.392/.442 in 124 plate appearances for the Gulf Coast Twins. He proved to be a doubles machine in college and had 12 in just 124 plate appearances in his first pro season. A catcher with gap power and a good on base percentage comes in pretty handy but, Chapman was pretty old for the GCL, so, it'll be important for him to continue to hit at the next level and move up pretty quick.
2012 Outlook: He may start in extended spring training, but should spend at least a decent amount of time in Beloit.


43. Lester Oliveros Right Handed Reliever 5/28/1988.
Oliveros came over to the Twins organization late in the 2011 season in the Delmon Young trade. He went 3-3 with a 4.12 ERA between AA Erie and AAA Toledo & Rochester. He struck out 58 and walked 21 in 48 innings. He struggled in his 21.1 major league innings for the Tigers and the Twins as he probably isn't yet major league ready. He has a good hard fastball and a good slider and has struck out more than one batter per inning every step of his minor league career. With his age and stuff, he could soon become an elite reliever in the majors, but he needs to improve his command.
2012 Outlook: Has a good chance of making the Twins out of spring training, though he could use more time in AAA. He will impact the major league club in 2012.

42. Deolis Guerra Right Handed Pitcher 4/17/1989.
Guerra has been in the Twins system since 2008. He came over in the Johann Santana trade and has never come close to the prospect hype (hope) that was bestowed on him. Many had him as a top 50 prospect at the time of the trade, but his fastball and raw numbers have never come close lived to the early hype. His 2011 stats look like a lot like those from 2010 on first blush. He was 8-7 with a 5.59 ERA for AA New Britain. Taking a deeper look, maybe the numbers really say more about Guerra as an awful starter. He gave up 43 earned runs in 10 starts and 43 innings, striking out 30 and walking 15. That's a 9.00 ERA. Since converting to reliever full time, Guerra was much better. He gave up only 16 earned runs, struck out 60 and walked 13 in 52 innings for a 2.25 ERA. I think Guerra's time as a starter has passed and he should stay in the pen! If he is used primarily as a reliever, he should move up the rankings as well as provide a late inning reliever for the Twins relatively soon.  I had him #47 last year and #19 in 2010.
2012 Outlook: Should spend most or all of the season at AAA Rochester in the bullpen.


41. Anthony Slama Right Handed Reliever 1/6/1984.
Slama was drafted by the Twins in the 39th round of the 2006 draft out of the University of San Diego. He went 3-2 with a 2.92 ERA for AAA Rochester. He struck out 42 and walked 16 in 37 innings. Slama continued to have great strikeout numbers with average stuff in AAA. For the second straight year, he spent some time in the majors. He didn't get much of a chance to show what he could do in the majors because of an elbow injury. After the season, he was dropped from the 40 man roster and at 28 years old, 2012 is probably Slama's last chance to find his way into the Twins bullpen. I ranked him #29 last year and #31 in 2010.
2012 Outlook: Will start at AAA, but will be available for a call-up if the Twins need a reliever added to the 40 man roster.

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 27 September 2011

Reason for excitement, or simply straw-grasping?

As the team's loss column approaches triple-digits, both the front office and armchair GM's across the country are entering winter mode. Much ink has been spilled on the topic of offseason trades and acquisitions, but the key to a successful 2012 season – or at least a fairer feud with the .500-mark – may be found in last night's lineup.

Kansas City's sweeping youth movement is receiving all the press, but the Twins have at least one player who could be playing his way into Minnesota's immediate future.

Chris Parmelee has zero Triple-A experience to his name, but his major-league performance this fall could result in a tough roster decision next spring. As far-fetched as it seems, Parmelee could see regular playing time at first base in 2012, especially with Justin Morneau's still-indecipherable status.

A few years ago, Parmelee was viewed as a prototypical slugging corner infielder who struck out too much. Since then, he's raised his batting average and lowered his strikeout rate. Now, the 23-year old has some thinking he could go toe-to-toe with the American League's best rookies.

Parmelee joined the team at the start of September this year, and has done a terrific job of manning first base in Morneau's stead. The left-handed slugger belted another home run Tuesday night, bringing his triple-slash line to a Pujols-ian .351/.429./.581. If he can perform even remotely near this level next Spring Training, he could win a job on the 25-man roster. At the very least, he'll find his name on the short list for an early-season promotion.

“He's nervous and wants to do well,” manager Ron Gardenhire said of Parmelee after the game on Tuesday night. “But he's had some quality at-bats since he's been up here.”

Parmelee is drawing rave reviews this month, but he keeps his sights set on the future.

“I feel good about it,” Parmelee said of his season. “This offseason I'm going to get some work in and come to Spring Training at 100 percent."

In the clubhouse after the game, Parmelee said it's easy to get star-struck and lose focus.

“There's a lot going on around you, and not just on the field. I mean, look at this,” Parmelee said as he motioned around the Twins' clubhouse. “But once the game starts you try to treat it the same as any normal game.”

You can count the number of “normal games” Parmelee has had this season on one hand. The 23-year old California native has put up extraordinary numbers for a team in extraordinary need of a reason for excitement.

It's foolish to expect Parmelee to continue smacking opposing pitching at the same clip, but he does appear to have the talent to be a major-league regular. The trial-run lineups the Twins have been trotting on the field these last few weeks may not win many games, but they provide an invaluable glimpse into the future.

And even while the core of the team crumbles around them, it's okay to get excited about these young guys.

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 19 August 2011

Jim Thome was recently at Cub Foods on 26th Avenue just south of Minneapolis for a public meet-and-greet, and was promoting his involvement with Pepsi Max' "Field of Dreams" program. For more information about this program and for a chance to play against some of MLB's legends in your hometown, visit mlb.com/pepsimax.

Jim ThomeI had a chance to talk with Jim Thome about No. 600 and his storied career. He's one of the nicest guys you could ever meet and a real class act. The transcript of our quick chat is below.

On #600, and being in elite company: "It's pretty neat. I think any time you play the game of baseball you obviously want to succeed and want to keep doing well. For me, it's been a dream. I don't think you could ever imagine one day hitting 600 home runs, I mean who could? It's been a great career. It's really been quite surreal, to be honest with you. It's been a long journey to get to this point."

On transforming into a HR hitter: "I think a couple different things. At the plate, opening my stance up, which Charlie Manuel was a big key for that. And I think a lot of positive thinking. You've got to believe in yourself, believe that you're going to have some ups and downs and along that way, if you're blessed to play a long time, [the stats will follow]."

On Charlie Manuel: "Charlie, for me, has been there since really day one. When I was a young kid I had him all through the Cleveland system. And then he went to Philadelphia so I had him there for a little bit. And obviously now he's the manager and we've parted ways, but he's been a big, big influence on my career, no question.

On hitting No. 600 in Detroit, and getting standing ovation: "Very cool, especially from the opposing crowd. Think about it, for years and years you go in there as an opponent, and they don't want to see you do well. To do that was very classy. I was very taken aback by that, very cool."

On importance of World Series ring: "It would mean everything. That's why you play. You play to win a World Series, you play to ultimately celebrate at the end of the year with your teammates. I think for me personally, that would be the ultimate dream: To celebrate and win a World Series. The individual things are nice, but I think ultimately we all play the game to win a World Series."

On Hall of Fame discussions: "Very cool, very humbling. Again, when you start playing baseball you don't ever think about the Hall of Fame or this and that. You dream about it, but when people talk about it's a very, very neat thing. I think you let that process take its part, let it do its thing. It's something you respect. If that day were to ever come, it would be a joy. It would even be more surreal than what we're talking about. It'd be very cool."

On his career wrapping up, and his legacy: "My kids are at the age now where they're growing up, they need their dad at home. That's a big legacy to the name. Also giving back to the game. I think the legacy of the game and your name are also important because there are young players out there who can learn from older players who have played the game. If I can do that in any way it would be an honor." 

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 15 August 2011

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 08 August 2011

Baseball fans have a chance to witness history this week, with Tim Wakefield gunning for win No. 200 and Jim Thome trying to collect homerun No. 600. Accordingly, ticket prices have gone up. Here's the breakdown:

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 02 August 2011

For a chance to win a 1991 World Series Collector's Edition DVDs, log on to your Twitter account, and retweet the following:

RT @akneeland RT this for a chance to win a '91 WS Collector's Edition DVD!

Each person who retweets this will be entered into a drawing for one of the two DVDs below. Remember, your source for Twins' tickets and merchandise is TwinsBaseball.com. Feel free to click on each of the titles below to purchase them from A&E Home Entertainment.

 

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 19 July 2011

In innings six through nine this year, the Twins have been outscored by 48 runs.

When the Twins have been tied in the last four innings of a game this year, they have gone on to lose more games than they've won.

Unquestionably, the greatest need for this Minnesota squad is bullpen relief. Ignoring the iconoclastic pitching of Glen Perkins, the four relief pitchers with the most innings pitched this year have a combined ERA of 5.29. Phil Dumatrait can't get anybody out, Jim Hoey has been worthless and Dusty Hughes allows over two base-runners per inning.

That's a problem.

These guys form the Minnesota bullpen, and are asked to protect leads or give the offense a chance to catch up. The starting pitching hasn't been atrocious this year -- the Twins' rotation is currently hanging just below the middle of the pack in OPS-against –- but the bullpen is awful. The second-worst unit in the league, opposing batters are averaging All-Star caliber performances against Minnesota's bunch of relief pitchers.

As we discussed yesterday, the Twins are too close (and the AL Central too flawed) to sit on their hands for these next two weeks. The team could get markedly better by adding a league-average reliever or two, and Bill Smith should jump at the opportunity.

The top few prospects in the system are untouchable, but the Twins could pry away a few bullpen arms by offering some mid-level minor-league talent.

Predicting the trade deadline maneuverings of any team is a daunting and often impossible task, especially when you're trying to guess the actions of the unpredictable Smith.

But if I were the GM of the Twins, here is my wish list:

Tyler Clippard, RH-RP, Washington Nationals 

Washington's strike-throwing righty is young, but already has several years of effective work at the MLB level. The 26-year old is under team control through the 2015 season, and is one of baseball's best strikeout artists, averaging nearly 11 K's per nine innings since 2008. His walk tally is higher than most, but Clippard's sub-2.00 ERA shows that he gets the job done.

Imaging him in Minnesota's bullpen isn't at all difficult; convincing the Nationals to part ways with Clippard is the hard part.

Clippard is clearly on the trade block, but Washington wants a long-term solution in return. That may include either Denard Span or Ben Revere, but the Nationals would need to ship over another piece if they wanted either of our center fielders.

Trading away future value in order to make a run for the division title this year is exactly what the Twins shouldn't do, but a mutually-beneficial trade involving some young talent may not be out of the question. Denard Span should be an integral part of the team's future, but if he provides more value in a trade than he would in Target Field, Smith should at least explore some possibilities.

Perhaps the Twins could swing a deal involving both Clippard and shortstop Ian Desmond for Span's team-friendly contract?

Grant Balfour, RH-RP, Oakland Athletics 

It seems Balfour has finally found his groove. The former Twin is working on his second outstanding season in a row, and the 33-year old could be an attractive bullpen solution for Minnesota. For a relief pitcher, Balfour has a hefty price tag, as he's owed nearly $8 million for this season and next. But if he continues to post sub-3.00 ERAs, he is worth the investment. 

The Athletics no doubt appreciate Balfour's efforts in Oakland, but would be more than willing to move the righty if the right prospect were offered. Oakland wouldn't demand a high-caliber minor-leaguer as compensation in any trade for Balfour, they wouldn't even ask for an adequate major-leaguer. A mid-level prospect like Tom Stuifbergen or even Bruce Pugh may get the job done.

Randy Choate, LH-SP, Florida Marlins 

A lefty-specialist, Choate has been nearly unhittable this season. His walk rate is higher than most would like, but he more than makes up for it with a gaudy 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings. Jose Mijares hasn't exactly been reliable for the Twins this season, and Minnesota would love to have an answer for Chicago's Adam Dunn and Cleveland's Travis Hafner.

 

I don't want to over-state the importance of the bullpen. In the grand scheme of things, relief pitchers are the most fungible and least valuable players in baseball. But their purpose – locking down leads and keeping scores close in the late innings – remains important.

And if the Twins can't stop teams from outscoring them in the late inning, they don't stand much of a chance competing in the AL Central.

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