Sunday, July 31, 2011

Denard Still a Twin; At What Price Though?

          As the non-waiver trade deadline passed today at 4:00 eastern, the Twins didn’t make any moves, but sure created some buzz around a Denard Span deal. There had been talk about a trade with the Washington Nationals involving Denard Span for closer Drew Storen. In the end though, the teams just couldn’t agree on other players to include in the trade.

          Despite not agreeing to a deal with the Nationals, it might have done more harm than good on the Twins front. It appears as though Denard was starting to get irritated with all the ongoing talks and can you blame him? He had waited a couple years behind Torii Hunter before he was able to get his shot at the center field job. Once Torii left, it was Denard’s job to lose.

          Then over the past week or so, there had been talk about Denard being traded to make room for Ben Revere to be the full-time center fielder. I think there will be some tension in the Twins clubhouse once Denard rejoins the team. They can say that the Twins weren’t the ones to start the trade talks, but to continue to discuss trade possibilities with the Nationals won’t sit well with Denard. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Twins revisit a possible trade once the season ends.

          I fully expect Span to retake his center field job back when he is activated from the disabled list and rejoins the Twins, hopefully later this week. But as we all saw and heard this week, anything can happen come the week of the trade deadline. I also expect the talks over the last week to light a fire under Denard and look for him to go out and prove that he should be and will be the center fielder for the next 5 years.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Denard On Way Out?

With the non-waiver trade deadline just 3 days away, there was a few major moves yesterday, but none involving the Minnesota Twins. There was very little expectation of the Twins making any trades before the deadline, but one name has surfaced a bit the last few days. Outfielder Denard Span, who is currently rehabbing in Triple-A Rochester has been the focus of a rumored trade to Washington.

Why trade Span? That is the question many Twins fans maybe asking themselves. I look at it like this. The Twins have a plethora of outfielders currently at the major league level and then a few good looking prospects that will be at the major league level within the next three years, hopefully. With Delmon Young going through the arbitration years, I expect the Twins to hold onto him. Michael Cuddyer will be re-signed after the season ends. It would be a mistake for the Twins to not re-sign him, but that discussion is for a different day.

That brings me to Jason Kubel, who is also rehabbing at Triple-A. He will also be an impending free agent after the current season. I think the Twins will try to re-sign him, but signing him and Cuddyer could be an issue. The other outfielder on the current roster is Ben Revere. He appears to be set in the Twin Cities for a while. However, when Span comes back, where do you put Span or Revere?

This then brings us to the potential trade to Washington. The player that keeps coming up on the Nationals side, is closer Drew Storen. This may bring flashbacks to the Matt Capps-Wilson Ramos trade, but this is not at all like that trade. I personally am in favor of this trade as the Twins need to really bolster the bullpen if they want to make any attempt of a 2nd half run towards another Central crown.

Storen will turn 24 years old in a couple of weeks and has really impressed me this year so far. He has a record of 5-2 with 25 saves (28 opportunities) along with a 2.68 ERA. He could essentially be the Twins closer post-Nathan. Nathan has a team option for the 2012 season worth 12.5 million with a 2 million buyout, so the Twins will need to start thinking about the future closer role. There isn’t really anyone in the minor league system that would be suitable, so I think the trade for Storen would be a good one for the Twins.

Toss in the fact that Storen hasn’t even been in the league for two full seasons yet, so he will be under team control for many years to come. You can also argue that same point with Span, but Span will start asking for more money in arbitration years soon. Don’t forget that Span is coming off a concussion and as the Twins have seen with Justin Morneau, it could really alter his career, so if we can get someone as good as Storen for Span, I say pull the trigger.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Trade Deadline Nears

With the trade deadline just two weeks away, there are thoughts of what the Twins will do come July 31st. Some people say they should look at improving their bullpen, while others think they should stay put and look to improve from within. The Twins are usually pretty quite at the trade deadline, but with the new stadium and more money, they could look to make moves.

However, one name that won’t be moving is Michael Cuddyer. Just a few days ago, the Twins came out and said that they will not be trading Cuddyer at any point this season. I believe that is a very smart move to not move Cuddyer. Even though he might be overpaid at $10.5 million, he has been one of the most reliable and clutch players over the last few seasons. He is also one of very few position players that has remained quite healthy for the Twins, as we have seen multiple players go down in bunches. Also, toss in the fact that he is a huge fan favorite, so trading Cuddyer would make Twins fans question the motive of Bill Smith’s thinking.

Despite being dealing with injuries throughout the season, Kevin Slowey remains the one Twin that will most likely be traded before the July 31st deadline arrives. Heading into the season, Slowey and Scott Baker were battling for the 5th and final rotation spot. At the time, I thought Slowey should have gotten the nod, as he performed very well during Spring Training. Manager Ron Gardenhire proved me wrong as Baker has been pretty darn good this year. With that move, Slowey was originally going to pitch out of the bullpen, but had to go on the disabled list. Once healthy, he was sent to Triple-A Rochester to start in the rotation.

The Pirates and Rockies have recently been reported as being interested in acquiring Slowey to insert into their rotation. The Twins should really consider trading Slowey to the first team that gives them a quality deal. If they do trade Slowey, they should focus on getting more bullpen help. With the recent poor performance by Matt Capps, that leaves basically Glen Perkins and Joe Nathan as the only two quality arms in the bullpen.

If the Twins want to make a push for another A.L. Central crown, they will need to upgrade their bullpen, as they don’t want to overwork Perkins and Nathan. A few names that come to mind when it comes to bullpen help are Heath Bell, Koji Uehera, Although it would take a lot to get Bell, it might be worth looking into. With Nathan returning to the closers role, the Twins may be reluctant to bring in another closer, as that might diminish the chances of Nathan hanging onto the closers role.

Whatever the Twins decide to do over the next two weeks, it should be interesting to see if not only the Twins make any moves, but any other team in the Central. Regardless, it appears that it will be another year where the winner won’t be decided until the last week, possibly the last day of the season.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Interview with Madison Boer

Madison Boer was the Twins 2nd round pick (87th overall) in the June First-Year Player Draft. He is a right handed pitcher out of the University of Oregon. He has recently reported to the Elizabethton Twins, their Single-A Short Season team, to begin his pro career. He was kind enough to take some time to answer a few questions.

Kevin Lewis: Madison, lets start with your younger days as a baseball player. What made you decide to follow baseball as your career path? Did you ever consider any other sports as you were growing up and heading towards high school and later Oregon?

Madison Boer: I knew my best shot at making it to the highest level was baseball because I genuinely enjoyed practicing and doing anything with baseball. I didn't have the football mentality, I don't get super amped up like that, i just wasn't wired that way.

KL: Growing up, who was your inspiration and led you towards the baseball career? Who was your favorite team and player to follow?

MB: I used to watch Braves games on TBS all summer. When I was younger I played third base as well as pitching. My two favorite players were Greg Maddux and Chipper Jones. Greg Maddux and John Smoltz are my two favorite pitchers.

KL: Walk us through the day you got drafted by the Minnesota Twins. Did you have any idea you were going to go in the 2nd round?

MB: I was just watching the online feed at my girlfriend's parents house and my parents were there also. I started eating breakfast because I wasn't expecting to be taken for a whole round yet. All of a sudden, my parents started yelling and got all excited and I was still eating my pancakes when I asked what happened. They said, "the Twins picked you!!!! 2nd Round!" and we just started celebrating and my phone started blowing up.

KL: Following up with the previous question. How much does it mean to be drafted by the Minnesota Twins, being that you grew up in Eden Prairie, a very athletic high school in Minnesota?

MB: I was wondering for a long time, most of my life, what it would feel like to put on a professional jersey and I couldn't have felt more comfortable than to put a Twins jersey on.

KL: You quickly signed with the Twins and reported to Elizabethton to begin your pro career and you quickly notched your first victory. You actually recorded your first victory in your first appearance. How much of a confidence builder was that and could you just describe the moment you were called in from the bullpen.

MB: I wasn't nervous but excited to get my feet wet. Pitching is what I do and it's what I want to do with my life so I just went out to the mound and pitched how I knew I could. Luckily, we took the lead the following half inning and I got a victory.

KL: You throw a fastball that hits the high 80s and then also have a slider and curveball in our arsenal. If you were asked to give a scouting report on yourself, what would you say your strengths are and what could you improve upon as you make your way through the Twins system?

MB: Well that’s what I threw in High School. I have dropped the curveball to focus on a change up, and I have the slider and fastball still. With the strength and conditioning program at Oregon along with just simply getting more physically mature I now sit in the low 90's and can touch the mid 90's. The most important thing in pro ball is getting better everyday. The minor leagues are a long process and at this level everybody is very good. The only way you can separate yourself is to come to the field everyday and get better at something.

KL: The last thing I always ask players is that if you had the opportunity to talk to a group of young kids who aspire to become professional baseball players, what one piece of advice would you give them?

MB: I would say that you have to think about whats important to you? If it’s baseball, are you going somewhere to hit everyday. Eden Prairie has an excellent year round hitting facility called "Players Only." It is a great place that offers much more than just batting cages and you can get instruction on hitting and pitching. The single most important thing is being able to sacrifice free time to go practice, because if you really want to be a ballplayer you have to know whats important and make the right decisions on and off the field.

KL: I would like to thank Madison for taking time out of his busy life, as he begins his pro career, to answer a few questions about his journey to the draft and his future as a Twin. Hopefully one day we will see you back in Minnesota and on the mound at Target Field.

MB: Thank you, I appreciate it.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Interview With Angel Morales

Angel Morales was the Twins 3rd round pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. He attended the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy High School. He has since quickly moved through the Twins minor league system and is currently playing for the Ft. Myers Miracle, their Advanced Single-A affiliate. As Angel rehabs an elbow injury, he took some time to answer a few questions about his career.

Kevin Lewis: Angel, lets start with the day you were drafted by the Twins. Did you expect to get drafted that soon? Was there any indication that the Twins were interested in taking you in the 3rd round?

Angel Morales: Well when I was a senior studying at a baseball academy in Puerto Rico more than half of my coaches were major league scouts, but none of them from the Twins. I knew some scouts were interested in me, but to be honest, I didn’t know how soon, or which team was going to pick me. I really thought the Marlins or Yankees were going to; just for the fact of how many tryouts they invited me to. Hector Otero, which is now not also the scout who drafted me, but a great friend of mine only saw me a couple of times before the draft occurred.

KL: If we were to go back to the 2007 draft and I was a fan interested in the Twins draft, what would your scouting report say about yourself?

AM: Well I would say that Angel Morales is a five tool player with good speed and a plus arm with some unpolished skills, but with the correct personnel, he can improve them and be the best complete five tool player he can be.

KL: You have quickly moved through the Twins organization, spending a full season at each level. It appears the Twins want to have you in the Twin Cities within the next few years. However, there is quite the group of solid out fielders in the Twins organization (Aaron Hicks, Ben Revere, Joe Benson, Oswaldo Arcia), so it will be a battle for the outfield sports. What do you feel you have to improve upon to get the upper hand?

AM: Yeah I think it’s going to be fun one day. All of us in a major league camp competing for the spot. We have a very solid and talented group of outfielders. We all get a long very well and we talk about that at time when we have a moment. It will be a fun, but a difficult challenge, but I’m looking forward to it. I can’t really compare to anyone of them. I rather just focus on my ability and just trying to get better. I think I should work on my overall performance, but I think my biggest weakness is striking out too much, so if I cut those down I’ll be fine.

KL: You have had shoulder/arm issues this season at Ft. Myers. At first there was thought you need to undergo Tommy John Surgery and would really set you back on your way to the majors. It was later determined that surgery was not necessary and just rest and rehab would heal the injury. After moving through the system so quick, how tough has it been to not be able to play this season at Ft. Myers?

AM: Well just for the fact that I’m not having Tommy John Surgery I feel blessed. It has definitely been a tough time for me as an individual because I always set goals for myself and train so hard to accomplish them. Then the injury occurred and caught me off guard, but that’s part of the game. I just have to deal with it, stay positive, understand that this is a process that I have to go through. After that everything is going to be fine and I will be back to do what I love most, which is playing baseball.

KL: Being down in Ft. Myers this year and recovering from your injury, you have seen quite a few players from the Twins active roster come through dealing with their own injuries. Did you get the opportunity to get tips and/or workout with the likes of Joe Mauer, Jim Thome, and Jason Kubel?

AM: Well it was really special. I would definitely prefer meeting them in a major league camp rather than seeing them rehab injuries of their own, but I definitely learn a lot of things from them just by watching the way they handle their situations. You know about being injured they always have a smile on their face. They are very outgoing if they see someone who they think they can help they will. I mean they are very humble and I understand that it’s all about being healthy again to help their team win.

KL: Growing up as a young kid, was baseball always your sport and did you always know that you wanted to become a professional baseball player? Who was your baseball idol and favorite team growing up in Puerto Rico?

AM: When I was a teenager I just loved being active. I remember that I had my dad running all over the island traveling because I was involved with so many sports. I was on volleyball, track and field, basketball, softball, baseball, and even ping pong tournaments. I made my dad take me to tournaments of all sorts. But pretty much I knew baseball was meant for me because it was the sport that I enjoyed the most. I remember I always went crazy when I turned on the TV and watched Bernie Williams play. He was my favorite player and still is to this day. So every time the Yankees were on I always cheered for them because Bernie was on the team.

KL: The last question I always like to ask people is that if you had the opportunity to speak to a group of kids who one day want to play professional baseball, what one piece of advice would tell those kids?

AM: Follow your dream and don't let nobody take it away from you!!

KL: I would like to thank Angel for taking time as he rehabs his injury and wish him the best of luck the rest of the season and hopefully we will see you in the Twin Cities one day.

AM: Thanks for allowing me to share a little bit about my career as I make my way towards the Twin Cities. God Bless.