Thursday, March 17, 2005

Second Thoughts

I'd like to believe the answer at second base is Luis. I'm just not sure which one.

While the Twins seem dedicated to Luis Rivas at second, big toenails not withstanding, he didn't exactly fill me with a great deal of confidence last season.

I don't care if his little imaginary friend is dead. Little imaginary friends have a weird way of popping up after you think they've gone.

So I'm still not exactly comfortable with Rivas on second.

Oh sure, the name of Michael "Cuddy Bear" Cuddyer has been batted about on blogs here and there as moving from third to second. It might happen. Terry Tiffee might yet become a major leaguer this year. I certainly wouldn't weep if that occured.

For whatever reason, the Twins aren't really comfortable with Rivas' understudy, Luis Rodriguez. He got a look in training camp and was sent down to play with the Red Wings again. He needs to work on this defense some, he needs to improve a bit at the plate as well.

Still he remains the top prospect at second even if the Twins aren't yacking about him all of the time. (Which does concern me a little.)

Alex Prieto also put in some time at second for the Wings, but the .249 batting average is not exactly making him the talk of the town.

Honestly, Rodriguez understudy is Luis Maza. Maza started out as a short stop and struggled a bit there. He was moved to second and flurished. Very athletic and very competative, he can grab a ball and shut down a play in nothing flat.

He spent nine games with Rochester, but honestly, the stat that most impressed was 62 consecutive errorless games at the AA level. And he can swing a stick too, going .311 with the Rock Cats in 492 at bats with 66 RBI's and 12 yarders.

Never a horse that tore up the turf getting to the top, Maza's improvement has been slow and steady and has hinged on his tireless work ethic. He will need to work his way up to the next level but there's no reason he couldn't work himself into the Major League line up in a few years. (Note: he also has "my" Aaron's endorsement, which, yes, does mean a lot to me.

Tommy Watkins and Jake Mauer, two utility players I've mentioned in both the short stop and 3rd base essays are also available to play second. Watkins is a better second baseman than a short stop but he does try to excel at any position he plays.

On the home front here in Fort Myers, Felix Molina managed to turn into a pretty solid second baseman by the end of the season. He's likely to repeat in Fort Myers and there seems to be no current movement at second base, but I won't be disappointed to see "Mo" back. No, don't call him "The Cat" even if he seems cat quick at times. He hates his first name. But he does have a magical bag of tricks that he dips into from time to time.

Ben Pattee and Dusty Goman, who I've covered in previous posts also filled in a second.

One infielder I have missed though in my other posts is Brent Tamburrino. Tambo was one of the two Aussie players that went to the Olympics (the other being OF Trent Oltjen). Much like Watkins and Mauer before him, Tambo is a utility player and plays well enough at any position he's assigned.

He came up as a mid-season call up in 2003. At the end of the season though he managed to break his wrist. He then started the 2004 season on the DL after he dislocated his shoulder sliding into home base during a game in Australia.

The current question for Tambo is if he can regain the power he has lost through injuries. His stock has fallen a bit with the Twins as his power dropped off, so it will be interesting to see what the new season brings for him.

Pattee was doing second base duty in Quad Cities until he got called up. He'd been sharing though with another Australian, Paul Rutgers who got the bulk of the starts.

I liked Rutgers in the Gulf Coast League a couple of years ago when he was second in batting and hits and was named to the Post Season All Star Team. Rutgers production dropped off though with the Swing, as he was only hitting .202 in 77 games. (Note, a fall off in production is not unexpected, but this one was kind of steep.)

I would like to see him move up, but I believe he'll be repeating at the Low A level, at least to start the season.

Luke Hughes and switch hitting Matt Tolbert split second base duties in Elizabethton. Hughes I've watched play before and he's adequate but I've never been really enthused with him. Ended up batting .284 with 19 RBI's and 3 homers.

The problem is he was sort of eclipsed by Tolbert, who was drafted in the sixteenth round as a short stop out of the University of Missippi. He rather lost short to Ploufe, but performed well enough, hitting .308. Both may be candidates for promtion to the single A level, but I'd be surprised if Tolbert didn't start with the Snappers.

I've not got to evaluate him live yet, but I hope to have that opportunity this weekend.

In the Gulf Coast League second base belong to Odannys Valdez. He took the most of the starts there, 46 out of the sixty game schedule. I'm not exactly sure where we got him from, but he put in a solid rookie season, hitting first or second in the order and batting .252. He needs to put some power on his swing though, as he ground out quite a bit.

His understudy was Mike Lysaught, another Australian who played a couple of other positions as well. Rather unfortunately, his bat doomes him to another year in the Gulf Coast League.

Quick Notes:

Aaron Gleeman is featured in a blogging article in Major League Baseball 2005. They talk about his "Free Johan Santana" campaign.

SethSpeaks is the subject of an interview with the Perham Enterprise Bulletin. Where do they come up with the names for these newspapers anyway?

The rather large white building under construction across Plantation from the Twins Training Facility is going to be a high school. "Just what we need," one of the Gulf Coast League parent's quipped. "More distractions for the kids!"

Minor League pitching prospect Pat Neshek has been blogging about training camp and complaining about the "Weight Room". He has the name wrong. It's the "Wait Room". That's why they're still waiting for weights! Also, don't let him fool you. It hasn't even hit 90 yet, let alone 95! Whimp!

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