Whether you love him or hate him, Nick Punto can draw both the best and worst out of people.
A lot of Twins fans think Punto shouldn't be in the major leagues; some say he is extremely under-valued. The opinions on this utility infielder fall not into just these two buckets, however, but dozens.
How do you view Punto? Where should he be playing? Why does manager Ron Gardenhire insist on inserting him into the lineup day after day?
Answer these questions and more on Feb. 12, Nick Punto Day! On this date, feel free to let loose your varying opinions on Punto, whether via your own blog, through either an email to me, or as a comment on any one of the dozens of Twins blogs on the interwebs.
So, on Feb. 12, share your thoughts on one of the most controversial subjects in the Minnesota clubhouse: Nick Punto!no comments
If you haven't already heard, Francisco Liriano appears to be back to his old self.
After putting up a 0.80 ERA in just under 50 innings of work in the Domincan Winter League, Liriano has impressed scouts to no end. He struck out over eleven batters per nine innings, while walking a total of five. You would be hard-pressed to find a scout that doesn't believe Liriano is a prime candidate for a breakout season in 2010.
Although I don't claim to be anything close to an expert, I compiled three pitches from Liriano from throughout his short career. The first one is from July 4 of 2009, against the Detroit Tigers. The second one is a bullpen pitch from Spring Training in 2008, and the third one is from last night, in the final game of the Dominican Winter League.
(Video courtesy of espn360.com, twinsbaseball.com, and an amateur clip picked up off YouTube)
(As you can tell by the video, this is an amateur attempt in every sense of the word. I simply captured these three clips, slowed them down a little, and uploaded them via the ever-helpful Photobucket. The frame counts I reference later were counted by slowing the videos down much more, but those versions weren't uploaded. Also, this is a .wmv format. The "real" scouts combine dozens of stills into a .gif. The "analysis" that follows is very much from an untrained eye, and should obviously be taken with a grain of salt. If you have some expertise to add, please leave it in the comments or shoot me an email!)
By slowing down the most recent video further, I counted a total of 26 frames from the balance point -- right before the knee begins to fall -- to the release of the ball. This was the same in the July 4, 2009 game. According to the Baseball Think Factory, Liriano boasted an incredibly quick 22-frame delivery in 2006, when he was obviously at his best. From what I've learned, a faster delivery is better because of the increased momentum a pitcher can utilize as he releases the ball.
Other than this tempo discrepancy, most of Liriano's delivery remains the same (again, according to my very untrained eye). The number of frames from when Liriano lifts his left arm to the release of the ball has remained consistent (11 or 12 frames), his elbow leads his arm and is seen at a horizontal angle, his knees bend and his rump moves to the right ("sitting down," as some scouts call it), and his right arm has remained firm throughout the years.
Liriano lives and dies by his slider. In 2006, he was pitching quick and was throwing his slider as fast as he could, which gave him a slider 23 runs above average. After his injury that year, though, the Twins tried to slow him down and extend his delivery to better protect against injury risk. As a result of this, Liriano's slider was not as dominant as before (single-digit value), and his confidence took a free-fall.
This is baseball ethics at their finest. Should a pitching coach allow his pitcher to throw an extremely effective pitch that puts him at an injury risk (which could be relatively insignificant for Liriano after his surgery), or should he protect his pitcher, no matter the cost? In Liriano's case, not being allowed to throw the way he did in 2006 could spell an end to his career -- in Minnesota, at least.
Liriano has one of the highest potentials of any pitcher currently on the 40-man roster. Having his future decided by whether or not pitching coach Rick Anderson and manager Ron Gardenhire allow him to throw hard is disconcerting, to say the least.
But watching him throw his slider without holding back during the Dominican Winter League was extremely enjoyable. If he doesn't succeed with the Twins, I wish him the best of luck with another organization.
What do you think? Will the Twins allow Liriano to throw the way he did in 2006, or will they slow him down again in 2010? What is your statistical projection for Liriano in 2010? Be sure to let us know in the comment section!no comments
After signing Jim Thome, the Twins' front office was probably given the sense of confidence and security that most receive when purchasing an insurance policy. For $1.5 million, it's hard to disagree with them.
Thome provides an excellent left-handed bat off the bench and the ability to smash right-handed pitching. Because most relief pitchers are right-handed, Thome will provide power to a Twins' bench that was largely devoid of any late-inning pinch-hitting threat last season. Although 39 years old, Thome clearly has the ability to play at a high level, which his 23 home runs last season will attest to.
The slugger's ability to play in the field, though, is clearly lacking. Thome hasn't played a defensive position with any regularity since 2005. (His most recent defensive assignment came at first base on June 13, 2007 in an interleague game, when being a designated hitter wasn't an option.) Thome likely won't be able to spell any of Minnesota's outfielders, but he could conceivably be available at first base if Justin Morneau ever needs a day as a designated hitter.
Where Thome will play is a question that has yet to be fully answered. The Twins have said that they view Thome as a bench bat, but his .847 OPS last season clearly shows that he is capable of much more than that. Minnesota obviously already has an excellent left-handed designated hitter in Jason Kubel, and finding Thome at-bats may prove to be a difficult endeavor. That is, unless Delmon Young struggles offensively in left field. With a proven veteran waiting in the wings, Young will feel the pressure to perform. Because of his great performance to end the 2009 season, Young has been given the benefit of the doubt and will receive another chance in 2010, albeit with an incredibly short leash.
Should Young fail to build off his strong finish to last season, manager Ron Gardenhire will yank him in favor of Kubel and slide Thome into the designated hitter position.
Assuming he gets playing time, Thome will help the Twins in 2010, which is all a fan can ask for.
Though solidifying the bench was a good move, there were other positions that should have held priority over this relatively minor move. Don't get me wrong, Thome will prove to be a great addition, but he won't be able to solve the Twin's deficiencies at second base, third base, or in the second position of the batting order. By reportedly offering $5 million to Jarrod Washburn, the Twins revealed that they still have space available on their budget, something fans aren't forgetting anytime soon.
There is little not to like about the low-risk Thome signing. If his acquisition prohibits the Twins from addressing a position of more urgent need, however, perhaps Minnesota could have better allocated their resources.no comments
Following last night's debacle of a game, I had every intention of turning my attention squarely on the Twins. My analytical side, though, (and a column assignment at work), is delaying that transition for a few hours. Rest assured, I'll be back as soon as possible with some more coverage on the only Minnesota team that won't let you down! (Wait...)
In the meantime, make absolute certain you free up two hours tomorrow night for Seth Stoh's pre-Twins Fest podcast, featuring some huge names. To call this show a must-see would be a drastic under-statement. Here is his tentative lineup:
SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast - 8 p.m. Central
Schedule (Times Central):
8:00-8:05 – Introduction
8:05-8:20 – John Sickels
8:20-8:35 – Pat Neshek
8:35-8:50 – Joe Benson
8:50-9:05 – Carlos Gutierrez
9:05-9:10 – Catch Up
9:10-9:25 – Kyle Gibson
9:25-9:35 – Open
9:35-9:45 – Denard Span
9:45-9:55 – Jeff Manship
9:55-10:00 – Wrap-Up
Wow! Once again, the show will start at 8 p.m. central time. Make sure to tune in!no comments
While we sit and wait for some meaningful news to float out of the Twins’ offices in Target Field, anticipating the future is one of the best ways to pass time.
As we saw last week, the Minnesota Twins have no shortage of elite outfield prospects. From the stars like Aaron Hicks and Ben Revere to the lesser-known Joe Benson, Angel Morales, Max Kepler, and Rene Tosoni, there is plenty of outfield talent in the Twins’ system.
Most of these guys are still quite a ways away from breaking into the major leagues, but by 2012, the Minnesota outfield could conceivably be bursting at the seams.
That leaves Span and Young as the outfielders of the future, along with the hordes of minor league talent. Will all of these prospects find regular playing time? If so, where?
Most probably, Revere will be an offensive-minded corner outfielder with average defense. Hicks should be above-average both offensively and defensively, which makes him an ideal candidate for center field. Morales and Benson also have great defense, but their size and power may eventually push them to a corner. Tosoni’s lack of defense will relegate him to a corner, while Kepler is a complete wild card as this point.
(As a side note, you won’t necessarily see these guys playing in their designated/predicted spots this year in the minor leagues. I’m sure Hicks will get some time in the corner, while Revere, Morales, and maybe even Tosoni could get some reps in center field.
As a minor-leaguer, Span played almost exclusively in center field, but had to learn a corner position when he was promoted to the Twins because of the presence of Carlos Gomez. Hopefully Minnesota learned their lesson.)
The estimated-times-of-arrival for these players vary. Revere and Benson will beat Hicks and Morales to the major leagues by a year, Tosoni could be a September call-up as early as this season, while Kepler’s primary objective should be to finish his junior year of high school.
Outside of Tosoni, none of these prospects should be ready by the 2011 season, which very well could be Cuddyer’s last. Minnesota will most likely be forced to deal with an extremely crowded outfield for the 2012 season.
Span will most likely be shifted to the corner position opposite Revere, while Hicks will roam center field in Target Field in 2012. Admittedly, I have no idea what will happen with Young during these upcoming years. He could very well use the momentum he finished the 2009 campaign with and exceed all expectations, but he could just as easily fall flat on his face.
I do know, however, that not all prospects will pan out as expected. The scenario I just presented (an outfield of Revere/Hicks/Span) leaves out Morales, Benson, and Tosoni.
While they have serious issues to work out (strikeouts for Morales, left-handed pitchers for Tosoni) they are incredibly talented and could be potential trade chips.
This over-crowded outfield is certainly a good problem for the Twins. If one prospect gets injured or simply doesn’t live up to expectations, another one will be waiting in the wings.
What will the Minnesota outfield look like in 2012? Which top prospect am I too high on? Which one am I under-valuing? Be sure to let your voice be heard in the comment section!
It's common news in Minnesota that the Twins have an infield need. Besides Justin Morneau and JJ Hardy, the Minnesota infield is up for grabs. Nick Punto will most likely play somewhere, but a starter is needed at either second or third base. Before last night, most Twins fans didn't care which position was addressed, just as long as Brendan Harris and Matt Tolbert weren't awarded any full-time duties.
(Though I will say that I wouldn't mind a platoon of Harris and Tolbert at third until Danny Valencia is deemed ready to take the reigns. That wouldn't upset me at all.)
With the news last night that Kevin Kouzmanoff had been traded by the San Diego Padres to the Oakland Athletics, many Twins fans were disappointed. They (or, rather, we) felt that Kouzmanoff was an attainable and realistic goal for the Twins. If Minnesota was really in the market for a third baseman, Kouzmanoff was probably the best option.
Judging from what Oakland gave up, though, I'm very happy the Twins abstained. The center-part of the package the Athletics shipped to San Diego was Aaron Cunningham, who consistently hit over .300 in the minor leagues while reaching double-digits in both home runs and stolen bases. He is listed at just 5'11'', but was one of the best prospects in the Oakland organization. As Seth Stohs said on Fanatic Jack's podcast last night, Cunningham could be comparable to Ben Revere.
So, with Kouzmanoff most probably out of our price range and most certainly no longer available, the Twins need to turn their attention towards second base.
Click here to read a Tale of Two Second Basemen!
Originally published at TwinsMVB.com.
One of the most trusted and reliable scouting services on the web, Baseball America has a long-standing tradition of accuracy. That said, the release of their Top 10 Twins’ Prospects list this morning raised a few eyebrows. Let’s go over some of their more controversial claims.
Best Defensive Infielder – Jorge Polanco
Without having played a single game in the minors, BA gave the young shortstop from the Dominican Republic the title of “Best Defensive Infielder.” For those not aware, Jorge Polancois a 16-year-old who was signed out of the Dominican Republic this past year by the Twins with a signing bonus of $750,000. He was ranked by BA as the 23rd best prospect to come out of Latin America this year.
The best aspect of Polanco’s game is, indeed, his defense. Despite being just 16, he is projected to have the hands that will allow him to stay at the shortstop position.
Now, as Parker said earlier today, claiming that Polanco is the best infield defender in the system could either be a testament to his incredible defensive prowess, or BA’s tendency to read too much into the hype.
Carlos Gutierrez – 7th Best Prospect
This confuses me. Last year, BA ranked Carlos Gutierrez as the 9th best prospect in the Twins’ system. After putting up a 6.12 ERA in 52 innings (5.02 FIP) at New Britain, BA raised Gutierrez’s ranking two spots. Now, it’s worth noting that quite a few prospects were removed from last year’s list (Mulvey, Hunt, Swarzak, Mijares) but I still don’t understand how pitchers likeBJ Hermsen and Adrian Salcedo were deemed less worthy of a place on this ranking than Gutierrez.
I’m not diminishing Gutierrez’s value at all. I think he is a great pitching prospect (I ranked him 19th) with a very real chance to be a force either in the rotation or bullpen in a few years.
Max Kepler – 10th Best Prospect
This ranking will most likely be the most controversial. Max Kepler, a 16-year-old from Germany, is regarded by most as the best prospect to ever come out of Europe. He has incredible five-tool potential, and is an excellent athlete, but hasn’t finished his junior year of high school yet. He will be unable to complete a full season of rookie-ball until 2011, when he graduates.
I ranked Kepler as the 41st best prospect in the system not so much because of my doubts in his ability to live up to the hype, but because there are so many other deserving prospects. As I mentioned above, Salcedo should have made this list, as should have Joe Benson and Chris Parmelee.
Outside of these few “mistakes,” I think BA did a fantastic job ranking the Top 10 Twins’ prospects. Be sure to check out the list and read an overview of the Twins’ system. If you subscribe to BA, also make sure you read the scouting reports on each of their Top 10.no comments