Thursday, December 7, 2006

A slight draft

Justin JonesEveryone should know the story by now...Terry Ryan takes Johan Santana in the Rule V Draft, puts him in the Twins bullpen for a year, sends him down to the minors for a bit and manages to come up with a two-time Cy Young Award winner.

The odds of this happening are on the same level as picking up the next Triple Crown winner for $50,000 in a maiden claiming race. Which, however, does not stop general managers, including Mr. Ryan, from trying their hands at it.

In fact, Ryan snags someone each year. He just rarely keeps them.

The Twins potentially lost two pitchers in the major league portion of today's Rule 5 Draft, with closer Kevin Cameron being picked up by the Padres, in the first round, and reliever Levale Speigner being picked up by the Nationals in the second round.

Of the two, Cameron probably has the best chance to stick with a major league club. He was on the fast track for Minnesota a few years ago until he was derailed by injuries. In fact, Pat Neshek was sent down to High A Fort Myers as he was not getting enough time behind Cameron in AA New Britain. But Neshak is now in the majors, and Cameron took over for Neshak in Rochester after the Minnesota native was pulled up to the majors.

He got a bit of a showcase in the Arizona Fall League, posting a 1-1 record with a 8.59 era, but on the whole he can be solid. Cameron was 6-4, posting a 2.98 era with 9 saves, 53 hits, 26 BBs and 65 Ks in 66 IPs with Triple-A Rochester.

Speigner split time between New Britain and Rochester this year, allowing 5 home runs in 40 games in AA, but is considered a good prospect. He throws a low 90s fastball and a solid curveball, but his projection into a major league bullpen right now is kind of questionable.

Meanwhile, Ryan claimed infielder Alejandro Machado from the Nationals. Machado's numbers were not stellar in AAA Pawtucket: .260/.356/.346 with 21 SBs in 373 at bats. Nor is a change of scenery likely to make a difference, as he's been traded four times in the last five seasons. Still he may be an insurance policy if Jason Kubel is not ready to play next season after undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus at the end of November.

Machado played with the Florida State League's Brevard County in 2004, and entered professional baseball in 1999 with the GCL Braves. He DID hit .300/.359/.379 in 117 game in Pawtucket in 2005, but on the whole, the likelyhood of Machado staying on the Twins roster is going to be slim and will depend on the injury situation.

In the Minor League portion of the draft, the Devil Rays claimed Erold Andrus from the Twins in the first round, with the first selection. Andrus was acquired from the Yankees last spring and spent the season with the Fort Myers Miracle. He's a decent enough fielder but hit only .207 with the High-A team in 198 at bats.

Also gone from the Twins system is left handed pitcher Justin Jones, who was claimed by the Nationals. Jones started the season in AA New Britain, but struggled and was demoted to High A Fort Myers. He continued to have some problems, and did not look like the lefty ace he was in 2005. I had asked him if he was injured, and he said no, but shortly thereafter he was placed on the disabled list with a shoulder ailment.

He was supposedly activated to AA New Britain at the end of the season, but never went, as he was sitting in the stands for the Miracle's play off game against Dunedin.

I rather liked J.J. and wish him well with the Nats. I was hoping to get him to sign and 8 x 10 for me in spring training, but I don't want it bad enough to drive over to Spacecoast and find him.

Meanwhile the Twins took right handed pitcher Jesse Floyd from the San Francisco Giants in the first round and 3rd baseman Brian Buscher, also from the Giants in the second round.

Floyd, who pitched last season for the AA Connecticut Defenders is expected to join the Rochester Red Wings this season. The 6'5" native of Nederland, Texas, had a 4-14 record with a 4.00 ERa in 25 games (135 innings) for the Defenders. The Defenders were woeful last season, finishing 15.5 games behind Norther division leading Trenton, and half a game ahead of the Twins affiliated New Britain Rock Cats, which were cellar dwellars all season long.

Buscher also played for the Defenders last season. He hit .259/.321/.366 in 467 at bats with the AA team. This is an interesting pick up, as I was expecting Matt Moses to play for triple-A Rochester and David Winfree to handle 3rd base in double-A New Britain. Buscher's entrance into the system might mean the Twins have lost faith in one or the other of their current prospects. Winfree, the Twins 2005 minor league player of the year hit only .176 in the Arizona Fall League this season, but three of his 12 hits were for home runs and four more for extra bases. He also had 17 RBIs in 21 games and slugged .382.

Moses hit .297, but only hit 1 homer and drove in only 13 in 21 games played. Moses has spent the last year and a half in AA working on his batting, which was only .249/.303/.386 last season in 474 at bats.

It may be an interesting contest for third base this spring training down in the minors.

The Twins finished off their involvement in the winter meetings with out much activity, although there were several staff changes. Rob Antony was promoted to Director of Baseball Operations and Contracts and will now work in the contract negotiation role as well as taking care of his previous duties. Just in time to, as we get into the arbitration period and the Twins have several contracts to renegotiate.

Also Perry Castellano was named the Major League strength and conditioning coach. (Great going Perry, but I'm going to miss seeing you around the GCL games.) Perry has been the minor league strength and conditioning coach for the past six seasons.

The Twins also added Lee MacPhail and Kenny Compton to their scouting staff. There was no word on which territories they would be covering. MacPhail was recently with the Nationals organziation as Director of Baseball Administration while MacPhail, the nephew of former Twins general manager Andy MacPhail, has worked previously with the Twins organization.

Today was also the last day for the teams to offer salary arbitration to players or risk losing them to free agency. Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Nick Punto, Mike Cuddyer, Lew Ford, Jason Tyner and Juan Ricon are all eligable for arbitration this year.

Twins fest starts on January 26th and major league pitchers and catchers report on February 18th for the start of spring training.