Monday, March 14, 2005

Second & Short

The Twins are an organization that really like versatility in its minor league system. As a result, that makes it really hard to break down the middle infield between short-stops and the second baseman, because they are often interchangeable. The same with the outfielders.

So I was trying to decide if I should procrastinate on the middle infielders on the on the outfielders.

However, even more riveting than the Michael Jackson trial is the battle for shortstop on the Twins.

I have to say, I'm backing Jason Bartlett. I WOULD have backed Nick Punto, but he calls in sick more than any person I know. In fact, he's missing more days than the aforementioned Jackson has missed at this trial. He's even missed more days this spring training than Typhyod Justin Morneau. Scary stuff.

So I have to back Bartlett. In part because I've yet to hide my head in my hands and scream over a stupid play. Juan Castro on the other hand, has that effect on me. In fact, the hiding of the head is usually accompanied by the drumming of the heals on pavement in shear frustration.
And I just can't take Augie Ojeda seriously as a full time player.

So if Bartlett, by some miracle or other lands the job, where does that leave us in the Minors?

The Rock Cats had three infielders that they used at short this season, although one actually belong to the Miracle.

The first is Seth Davidson who somehow skipped the Miracle and went on to play with Cats. His skills at short seemed adequate from what I saw of him last season in spring training. But I'm not sure he's ready for the AAA.

Of course, my opinion might change after I get another look at him this year. Plate wise, he was .280 on the year with no yarders and only 8 RBI's, showing not just a lack of power hitting, but also a lack of clutch hitting.

The next likely candidate would be Jake Mauer. I've mentioned Jake in my 3rd base breakdown as well because he played their quite a bit, with Davidson seeing 94 starts at short for the Cats. When he was with the Miracle however, Jake was the usual starter at short.

Jake strikes me as the kind of player who never quite made the jump from the Aluminum bats used in college to the wooden bats used in professional baseball. That he can have such a bad stance at the plate, and be so powerless with the bat, is mind boggling, given that he's Joe Mauer's brother. Then again, he's the older brother, so perhaps he was the experimental child?
Yes, I freely admit, there are player without power who make to the Majors and maybe Jake will get there one day. Right now he needs to get out of New Britain. His batting average beats out Davidson, .258 with 31 RBI's. So perhaps they will advance him.

Granted, the Red Wings could also use Glenn Williams or Brent Abernathy into that slot -- both are 2nd baseman which have played 3rd and both could probably pay short as well. Another option might be Riverdale High School grad Tommy Watkins who hit .267 on the year with 47 RBI's and 8 yarders. As stated in a previous article, he's a good utility infielder and could also cover third if Terry Tiffee gets called up or is injured.

Next down the list is Kualana Kuhaulua. He's from Hawaii and his name's not that hard, once you get the hang of it. "Koolie" played mainly a the Single A advanced level last season with only a seven game call up to the Rock Cats.

Some experts have pointed to that as the drop off in his game last year, but honestly, when I think back, he was bobbling the ball during spring training. He also seemed to have problems justing to Danny Matienzo at first, who is substantially shorter than Garrett Jones was. Still, some of those throws, Jones would have needed a ladder to reach.

As a result, Koolie comes into spring training with his position very much in question. This is not just my speculation, I've seen this voiced elsewhere on the web.

He finished the season in Fort Myers with a .237 batting average, 43 RBIs and 5 homers.

The other option though was Jesus Merchan who didn't appear on the fast track to success either. He frustrated early on by "Showboating" trying to throw in the middle of a jump and the like. This lead us very early in the season to suggest that maybe they should team him the basics of "Plant and Throw". We were told it was too early in the season for bleacher coaches. He did however start to improve shortly afterwards and managed to keep his feet on the ground.

Still he swung well, considering the lack of offense on the Miracle. A .287 batting average, although only 21 RBIs and no homers.

Part of what was originally appealing him though was his hitting, especially after a .314 season in the Gulf Coast League.

I should also mentioned that he's been somewhat maligned by the fans because of his looks, or lack thereof. I think that's a bit unfair to the kid. He is very friendly and when I saw him this weekend he was wearing Rock Cats' red. But somehow I just don't see him advancing either.

However, there is room for advancement (I believe) within the organization and I'm not sure we can keep holding the back the prospects in low A.

Of the two, I have been most impressed with Sam Tayler who decided during the course of last season that he liked the name J.R. Taylor instead. Doesn't matter, same player. Put in some good defensive work in spring training last season and has a sweet movement on his bat.

Hit .266 with 57 RBIs and 4 homers for the Swing last season. By all reports he was also a valuable member of the Quad City defense and deserves a promtion this season. Maybe enough to skip Fort Myers and head for the Rock Cats?

The other prospect on short in the Quad Cities was Angel Garcia. I can honestly say I have never seen him play, or at least I don't remember ever seeing him play.

Lacking an eyewitness report, I can only go by his stats, which were .245 with 27 RBI's and one homer. Honestly I don't know. Given the depth at this position they may cut some players loose and he could advance.

The biggest prospect at this position remains Trevor Plouffe. I'll be looking forward to getting my first look at him in Spring Training this season as he started last year with Betsy. .283 in sixty games with 28 RBIs and 4 homers. He is expected to start the season with the Snappers, but may be on the fast trick to the bigs.

Patrick Ortiz is a switch hitter who also spelled a bit at short, but only played 19 games last season, batting .268 with 2 RBIs. It's a bit hard to consider moving him up to the Snappers, especially if Garcia stays with the team.

(Note, Matt Tolbert was drafted from the University of Mississippi as a short stop but played mainly at 2nd base for the Betsy Twins. I will cover him with the second basemen.)

On the move though should be Juan Portes, who batted .327 with the Florida Gulf Coast League with 31 RBIs and 8 homers. As I recall his big problem was his errors, but he was late round draft pick who had not played for a while. Will likely start at Elizabethton this year, but could start to move quickly through the system as well.

Destined to repeat in the Gulf Coast League is Michael Lysaught. While he was solid enough at short, his batting was painful to watch. Only managed a .186 for the Gulf Coast League Twins with 7 RBIs. make it short, that's it for the Short Stops in the system.

Roster Moves

The Minnesota Twins announced today that they have optioned pitcher Travis Bowyer, catcher Rob Bowen and infielders Garrett Jones and Luis Rodriguez to Rochester (AAA, International League), pitcher Francisco Liriano to New Britain (AA, Eastern League) and pitcher Scott Tyler to Ft. Myers (A, Florida State League). The Twins have also reassigned infielders Luis Maza and Glenn Williams and outfielder Josh Rabe to minor league camp.

The Twins currently have 47 players in camp (13 non-roster)- 20 pitchers, 6 catchers, 11 infielders and 10 outfielders.

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