Posted by: taylorjs | January 6, 2011

Quick Thoughts on the Hall

It’s been a very long time since I blogged, but I couldn’t avoid it today.  I have a mostly-written Hall of Fame post in the vein of those I’ve posted for the last several years saved to draft, but I never got the time to finish it and it will now live in the purgatory of ‘saved drafts’ forever.  I had no plans to write at all, but I needed a forum in which to complain about an article I just read and this one was available and as good as any.

The muse for my short post tonight is ESPN New York writer Rob Parker, who said this in his Hall of Fame column today:

I didn’t vote for Blyleven. I don’t believe you can be a Hall of Famer after nearly 15 years on the ballot. Jim Rice didn’t deserve it last year, either. These are now sympathy votes. Writers are now trying to fill spots and punish players from the steroid era. It’s all wrong. If you’re not a Hall of Famer the first year, you’re not one 15 years later. The numbers and standards haven’t changed. This trend is disappointing to me. It simply makes no sense. Either you’re a Hall of Famer or you’re not.

My disagreement with Parker’s piece isn’t about his view that Blyleven isn’t a Hall of Famer – I’ve said many time before that I think Bert clearly DOES belong, but people are free to disagree on that point and Parker lost the argument anyway.  Whatever the reasons, nearly 80% of Parker’s peers disagreed with him and (properly) voted Blyleven into the Hall.  My problem with Parker’s piece is his view that “Either you’re a Hall of Famer or you’re not”.

Parker’s not alone; I’ve heard plenty of people say when discussing the Hall voting process that 15 years is too long to stay on the ballot and that the eligibility period should either be shortened or changed to just one year.  Usually they give some version of the “Either you’re a Hall of Famer or you’re not” argument.  But of course players don’t come with labels that clearly identify them as such.  In fact, if there are 500 voters for the Hall then there are almost certainly 500 different definitions of what being a Hall of Famer means.

The great part about the process that we currently have is that it provides plenty of time for a community-wide discussion to take place.  Bert Blyleven received just 17.55% of the vote in 1998 when he was first eligible and just 14.1% in 1999.  The writers of the time rather clearly felt that Bert didn’t belong.  A remarkable thing then happened – the larger baseball community, including writers who weren’t eligible to vote, stat-heads, his peers as players, and just plain fans of the game (and, in more recent years, bloggers) made a strong push for his candidacy.  In other words, there was a civil, community-wide discussion of his candidacy.  Isn’t that what this whole process is all about?  Is there anything better for a baseball fan that digging into the intricacies of a really good and maybe great career and parsing it to determine if it’s Hall-worthy?

Parker’s desire to cut this process off is short-sighted and misplaced.  The discussion generated by the current system is worthwhile, meaningful, and enjoyable (unless, like Bert or Jim Rice, you have to wait forever to get the call).  Cutting it off after 5 or (heaven forbid) just 1 year would do a disservice to players who have a legitimate case that might not immediately leap out to some of the . . . shall we kindly say “slow-witted” voters.  It gives those other than mere writers a chance to get involved in the discussion.  Simply put, it should not change.

Finally, I think it’s remarkable that Parker could make the claim that Blyleven is getting votes to “punish” the people from the steroid era and to “fill slots”.  Could this be happening for some voters?  Possibly.  But it’s remarkably dismissive of the deep thought and excellent justifications put forward by a great many voters who bothered to look closely at Blyleven’s career and vote for him – not to mention remarkably dismissive of Blyleven himself.

A few other Hall-related ramblings:

* I don’t think Barry Larkin will gain the 12.9% of the vote he needs to be elected next year, but I think he’ll come close – quite possibly 70% plus.  With a huge number of worthy (but PED-plagued) candidates coming to the ballot in January 2013, next year might be Larkin’s best year for awhile, but if he gets close enough he might squeak by in 2013 anyway.

* If Rafael Palmeiro gets only 11% of the vote, where on earth will Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens wind up?

* Could players like Tim Raines and Fred McGriff end up benefitting as more and more PED-implicated candidates join the ballot?  If Parker’s theory is right than you would expect them to start gaining votes.  So far there’s no evidence its happening.

Posted by: taylorjs | April 15, 2010

Call to the Ft. Myers Bullpen

The first transaction of the season went down after this afternoon’s loss to the Boston Red Sox, with Ron Mahay rather unsurprisingly getting the nod.  It was pretty clear when the Twins brought Mahay in late in Spring Training that they were looking at getting him into the big league bullpen, and the only reason he didn’t make the roster on opening day was that his arm just wasn’t ready to go.  Four outings in Ft. Myers later, Mahay is primed for Major League action and joins the team.  Also not a surprise, roster space for this transaction was cleared by moving Joe Nathan from the 15-Day to the 60-Day DL.  That takes away the Twins freebie move, so if they decide they need to add another player to the roster later this year (say, Anthony Slama for instance), someone else will either have to get hurt or removed from the roster.  How’s that arm feeling, Mr. Clay Condrey?

This move makes a tremendous amount of sense for the Twins.  Alex Burnett, who now heads to Rochester, was simply not experienced enough to be given the ball in meaningful situations.  Today’s chance to pitch the top of the 9th in a game where the Twins trailed by 3 runs was about as much glory as the guy was going to get.  The result is that the Twins were essentially carrying a mop-up pitcher on the roster.  Now, they at least have a useful situational lefty to bandy about.

Posted by: taylorjs | April 10, 2010

Low A Roster Breakdown

BELOIT SNAPPERS

Starting Pitchers: Liam Hendriks, Daniel Osterbrock, Miguel Munoz, Edgar Ibarra, Brad Stillings

I’m guessing a bit on the starters because there are a few guys who could go either way (and because Tom Stuifbergen, who I would have anticipated being in the rotation, has a relief appearance under his belt already in this short season).  Hendriks, Osterbrock, and Stillings all spent time primarily in Beloit last year.  Hendriks had the best performance of the bunch, with a 3.52 ERA and 1.37 WHIP.  That’s probably why he got the opening day start.  Osterbrock and Stillings both struggled with + 5.00 ERA’s.  and + 1.50 WHIP’s.  Munoz and Ibarra come up from Elizabethton, with Ibarra and his 2.84 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 10.1 IP having been particularly effective.

Bullpen: Steven Blevins, Kane Holbrooks, Peter Kennelly, Tom Stuifbergen, Matthew Tone, Ben Tootle, Dakota Watts

The Beloit bullpen is almost entirely revamped from 2010, with only Steven Blevins having spent any real time in a Snappers uniform in 2009.  Blevins posted a 3.52/1.37 last season and, with his experience in A ball, should continue to perform reasonably well this season.  The rest of the bunch all played primarily in Elizabethton a year ago.  Tootle and Watts both had 0.00 ERA’s and sub-1.00 WHIP’s in limited action.  Tone had a 1.31 ERA and 1.01 WHIP with an 11.8 K/9 in 34.1 IP’s.  Stuifbergen, meanwhile, had a 3.41 ERA and 1.08 WHIP as a starter.  Interesting bunch, but obviously success in Rookie Ball doesn’t always translate to full season leagues.

Catchers: Josmil Pinto, Daniel Rams, Tobias Streich

2007 second round pick Rams split last season between Elizabethton and Beloit, and had starkly different seasons with each.  In Elizabethton, Rams hit .355/1234.  In Beloit, he went .229/737.  Now, Rams is back for a return engagement in Beloit to see if he can hit effectively in the less hitter friendly environs of the Midwest League.  He is joined by 2009 5th round pick Streich, who hit .224/739 in Elizabethton after signing.  They are joined by Josmil Pinto, who last played in 2008 in the Gulf Coast League. who spent 2009 in E-Town and hit .332/997 with 13 dingers.

Infielders: James Beresford, Brian Dozier, Michael Gonzales, Anderson Hidalgo, Derek McCallum, Reggie Williams

Michael Gonzales should get the bulk of time at 1B.  He comes up from Elizabethton having put together a solid .298/826 in 2009.  Second base should be shared mostly between former Golden Gopher McCallum, who hit .242/695 in Elizabethton after being drafted in ’09 and Reggie Williams, who will also play some third, and who also comes up from Elizabethton (with the exception of 10 AB’s he had in Beloit in ’09) with a .250/778 line.  Beresford and Dozier will hold down SS, with Beresford getting a return engagement in Beloit after posting a .289/655 in 450 AB’s and Dozier getting a promotion from Elizabethton after putting together a very solid .347/833.  Anderson Hidalgo, who will play mostly at 3B, also comes up from Elizabethton after putting together a .285/830 season.

Outfielders: Aaron Hicks, Steven Liddle, Wang-Wei Lin, Angel Morales

It seems likely that Hicks will be one of the most watched prospects in the entire Twins system in 2010 because of the high esteem in which he is held by prospect-followers.  Hicks, the Twins first rounder in 2008, played in Beloit last year and hit .251/735.  Fellow ’09 Snapper alum Angel Morales, a third round pick in ’07, also returns in 2010 after a season in which he hit .266/784 in 376 AB’s.  They are joined by 2009 15th round pick Steven Liddle, who hit .360/961 in 50 AB’s in Elizabethton.  Also, Taiwanese prospect Wang-Wei Lin makes the jump to Beloit after three partial seasons with limited AB’s in the Gulf Coast League.  Last season, Lin hit .364/977 in just 33 AB’s.  Obviously the Twins feel that he’s now familiar enough with the American game to get some action in a full-season league.

Posted by: taylorjs | April 9, 2010

Friday Quick Hits

I’m not getting the Beloit Roster post up today (tomorrow should be the day) but I wanted to get a few thoughts up:

1) Either Bremer or Blyleven mentioned the other day that Gardy was interested in cutting down to 11 pitchers.  Through four games, that looks like it might be workable since the starters are going relatively deep into games and the bullpen has been lights-out (with the exception of Mijares in the opener).  Certainly, if Alex Burnett is only going to be used in 10-1 blowouts, his utility is pretty low and having an extra fielder could help with late-game matchups.  However, I would caution against rooting too hard for a move back to an 11-man pitching staff.  While I tend to favor 11-man staffs as a matter of principle, I won’t be convinced its the right thing for the Twins until they can be sure that Pat Neshek can pitch in back-to-back games and that the starters are going to continue going deep into games as a matter of course.  If on April 15 the Twins are continuing to perform effectively as a staff, by all means cut back to an 11-man staff until and unless circumstances change.

2) Jim Thome had a nice game yesterday and showed why I was probably wrong to be skeptical of his signing.  I anticipated his being used primarily as a pinch hitter, and I continue to think that he will not thrive in that role.  But even starting just a couple of games a week should allow him to contribute nicely to the team and makes him a valuable player to have.

3) Delmon Young’s swing really does look nice, doesn’t it?  I’m starting to get awfully excited about the year he could put together.  Losing all that weight seems to have been coupled with a more effective, aggressive approach at the plate.  Perhaps he will really begin fulfilling all of his promise this year.

4) Carlos Gomez’s 4-for-5 performance on Opening Day for the Brewers may have initially left some fans wondering if Gomez was going to turn into a star for the Brewers and make the Twins regret trading him away.  Since then, however, Gomez is 0-for-7 while J.J. Hardy has played outstanding defensively and has flashed some power with a couple of homeruns.  Regardless of what happens with Gomez (my prediction is that he’ll be a decent player but not on par with Denard Span), this deal should prove to be a good one for the Twins.  Hardy (through four games at least) looks like he’s reclaimed the skills that he flashed prior to losing his mojo in 2009.

5) It was a dreadful day for most of the Twins minor-league affiliates yesterday, with only Beloit sneaking out a 2-0 win in extra innings.  But days don’t get much worse than that which was put together by Shooter Hunt.  Hunt, who was a first round pick back in 2008, had a dreadful 2009 in which he showed a proclivity to wildness.  Yesterday suggests that he hasn’t figured out the problem.  Facing five batters, hunt retired none of them, giving up a hit (a homer, in fact), 3 walks, and hit a batter.  All five of those runners scored.  I suspect that Hunt’s wildness probably started as a mechanical issue — but if that was the case, it is likely now compounded by a significant mental component.  For a player trying to bounce back from a tough year, starting off with an infinite ERA and WHIP does not help.

Posted by: taylorjs | April 8, 2010

A Slight Delay

I was hoping to get the Beloit roster preview up today, but unfortunately it’s not going to happen — I’ll be at work from 9:00 am to midnight, so no time for blogging.  Hopefully I’ll have a chance after I get up on Friday morning.  Of course, by that time it won’t be a “preview” anymore . . .

Posted by: taylorjs | April 7, 2010

High A Roster Breakdown

Ft. Myers Miracle

Starting Pitchers: Kyle Gibson, Shooter Hunt, Bobby Lanigan, Mike Tarsi, Brad Tippett

All eyes will be on 2009 first round draft pick Kyle Gibson as the season starts, as he prepares to make his professional debut at the High A level.  Expectations are high that Gibson will be able to move quite quickly through the system, but he’ll have to prove that he can get out decent competition in the Florida State League first.  Meanwhile, 2008 first rounder Shooter Hunt tries to recover from a woeful 2009 season in which he had no control and gave up runs to practically everyone who came to the plate.  To this point he has been a bust.  Nonetheless, Hunt has been given a promotion to High A ball — and hopefully will figure out how to keep the ball in the strike zone and get guys out again.  Lanigan and Tarsi both return to Ft. Myers after partial 2009 seasons there that weren’t terrible but also weren’t terribly impressive.  Tippett, an Aussie, earned a promotion from Beloit in which he posted a solid ERA and a very nice 1.07 WHIP.

Bullpen: Michael Allen, Henry Arias, Billy Bullock, Tony Davis, Ron Mahay, Blake Martin, Bruce Pugh, Matt Williams

Ron Mahay obviously won’t be in Ft. Myers for long but he makes the Miracle opening day roster so he’s on this list.  2009 second round pick Bullock had a solid first season split between Elizabethton and Beloit and earns a quick promotion to Ft. Myers where he should anchor the ‘pen.  Williams and Pugh also earn promotions after successful full seasons in Beloit.  Blake Martin was slightly less successful in 2009 with Beloit but also pitched well enough that the Twins are giving him a bump up.  Michael Allen and Henry Arias both spent time in 2009 with Ft. Myers, with Arias spending a full season with the Miracle and pitching relatively poorly.  Tony Davis, meanwhile, was drafted in the 12th round in 2009 and pitched poorly in Elizabethton, but due to his college experience he nonetheless will start the season with the Miracle.

Catchers: Jair Fernandez, Chris Herrmann, Daniel Rohlfing

In his second season in the Twins organization after coming over from the Mariners, Fernandez didn’t hit much in 2009 with the Miracle.  That, likely in combination with a relative paucity of spots at higher levels, get Fernandez a return trip to Ft. Myers in 2010.  He’s joined by 2007 14th round pick Rohlfing, who spent 2009 in Elizabethton where he didn’t do much with his bat.  Herrmann is the most interesting of the catchers.  A 6th round pick in 2009, Herrmann hit .300 in Elizabethton last season and should get plenty of playing time with the Miracle.

Infielders: Nate Hanson, Yangervis Solarte, Drew Thompson, Deibinson Romero, Nick Romero, Chris Cates, Paul Kelly

Thompson and Kelly were both 2005 2nd round picks for the Twins, and both have had star-crossed professional careers.  Kelly hasn’t played much since 2006, while Thompson missed all of 2007 and 2008.  Now, both find themselves in Ft. Myers — probably more because there’s a backlog of younger players who need development time in Low A ball than due to either having earned a promotion on the field.  This may be the last hurrah for both of them as they try to make a go of a professional career.  Solarte also had an injury-filled 2009 split between several levels.   Meanwhile, both Romero’s and Chris Cates spent time in Ft. Myers last year and earned a return engagement, and Nate Hanson gets a promotion from Beloit after a mediocre season.

Outfielders: Evan Bigley, Michael Harrington, Ramon Santana

If the AA outfield wasn’t bursting at the seams with solid players, Bigley’s 2009 season might have earned him a quick promotion.  Bigley hit .307/786 in 101 AB’s with Beloit before moving up to Ft. Myers and hitting .280/741.  However, with plenty of talent above him, the Twins can afford to give Bigley some more time in High A to develop his talents.  Michael Harrington, on the other hand, was given a promotion from Beloit despite hitting just .228/635.  Santana, meanwhile, has spent most of his career in the infield but is being listed as an outfielder and presumably will get a bunch of AB’s there.  He hit well in Beloit last year (where he spent all but 15 AB’s).

Posted by: taylorjs | April 6, 2010

AA Roster Breakdown

Part two of the minor league roster breakdowns is here!  The New Britain Rock Cats roster has some very interesting names this year, including a number of guys we saw this spring.

NEW BRITAIN ROCK CATS

Starting Rotation: Mike McCardell, Tyler Robertson, Cole DeVries, Deolis Guerra, David Bromberg

Robertson and Bromberg follow up solid seasons in Ft. Myers with promotions to the Rock Cat rotation and try to make the next step forward.  Mike McCardell, meanwhile, made that leap in mid-2009 and pitched nearly identically to how he did in Florida, with one exception — his walk rate doubled from 1.5/9 to 3/9, resulting in a slight rise in his WHIP, and more runners on base resulted in a slightly higher ERA.  If McCardell can control the walks he should have success in AA.  All eyes, meanwhile, will be on Deolis Guerra — he is now the last direct link to the Johan Santana deal (although Jon Rauch is a nifty indirect link).  Guerra has struggled since coming to the Twins but continues to earn promotions.  Hopefully this year he will put some things together.

Bullpen: Santos Arias, Carlos Gutierrez, Steve Hirschfeld, Chris Province, Spencer Steedley, Joe Testa, Loek Van Mil (DL)

I’ll primarily be watching Steedley and Gutierrez this year.  Steedley was lights out in Ft. Myers last year and earned a promotion to New Britain, where he wasn’t bad — but wasn’t nearly as good as he had been a step down.  With that experience under his belt, can Steedley complete the adjustment?  Gutierrez, meanwhile, also performed well in Ft. Myers in 2009 but struggled mightily in New Britain.  Like Steedley, he’ll be looking to make the adjustment.

Catchers: Danny Lehmann, Alexander Soto

There’s a bit of a pattern with many of the players on the Rock Cats roster this year — like Steedley and Gutierrez, Lehmann performed well in High A ball in 2009 but not in AA.  For Lehmann, that meant a batting average more than 100 points lower (.190 instead of .294) and a horrid OPS of 485.  Alexander Soto, however, is making his first trip to AA after splitting his 2009 between Beloit and Ft. Myers.

Infielders: Toby Gardenhire, Yancarlos Ortiz, Chris Parmelee, Whit Robbins, Steve Singleton, Estarlin de los Santos

Chris Parmelee hit .258/800 in 2009 with Ft. Myers with 16 HR’s and earned himself a trip to Connecticut.  He should play some first and also get some time in the outfield, with Whit Robbins splitting time at 1B and 3B.  Steve Singleton will probably get most of the playing time at 2B with de los Santos (on the Twins 40-man roster) getting most of the time at SS.

Outfielders: Joe Benson, Mark Dolenc, Rene Tosoni, Ben Revere, Juan Portes

Now THIS is an outfield.  Ben Revere has performed well at every level he’s been assigned to and continues his stately march through the system.  A strong performance this year could make him an interesting watch in spring training 2011.  Meanwhile, Rene Tosoni had a nice year in New Britain in 2009 and was slated to start this season in AAA, but the Twins added an outfielder to the system and Tosoni was pushed back a level.  Juan Portes will look to build on his strong 2010 spring to continue his push to prospect status.  Then there are Joe Benson and Mark Dolenc, both 2006 draftees and both of whom performed effectively in Ft. Myers in 2009.  Divvying out playing time may be a challenge!

Posted by: taylorjs | April 5, 2010

AAA Roster Breakdown ***UPDATED***

The four full-season minor league teams in the Twins organization open play on Thursday.  I’ll be posting a roster review for each team from today through Thursday, starting with the Rochester Red Wings and ending with the Beloit Snappers, in hierarchical order.

ROCHESTER RED WINGS

Starting Rotation: Glen Perkins, Anthony Swarzak, Jeff Manship, Ryan Mullins, Matt Fox

The rotation for any minor league team is always a bit more fluid than it is at the major league level, but I’ve given it my best guess above for how the Red Wings will operate at the beginning of the season.  Glen Perkins should get every opportunity to prove he belongs at the big league level, if for no reason other than to increase the opportunities to trade him.  Swarzak and Manship are two other names that should bother be familiar to Twins fans, and both should get the opportunity to continue developing as starters this year.  Meanwhile, Mullins and Fox get the opportunity to come up from AA.  Both had success in 2009 and deserved a promotion this year.

Bullpen: Rob Delaney, Yoslan Herrera, Tim Lahey, Jose Lugo, Mike Maroth, Anthony Slama, Kyle Waldrop, Ron Mahay (Temporarily Inactive)

Don’t be surprised if a couple of these guys (Mike Maroth and Yoslan Herrera in particular) get the chance to flash their wares as starters a couple of times in the first couple of months.  Both have experience in that role and could make useful spot starters.  I don’t anticipate either of them being in the rotation, however, because there are stronger developmental candidates ahead of them.  Watch for Ron Mahay to be activated soon and, presuming he pitches even reasonably well, to be the first player to be called up to the Twins this season.  Also watch the battle between Slama, Waldrop, and Delaney as they look to position themselves to be added to the roster.  I would expect at least one of them to make his major league debut this season.

Catchers: Wilson Ramos, Allen De San Miguel

All eyes here will obviously be on Ramos, who announced his presence with authority this spring.  De San Miguel is likely only here until Jose Morales gets healthy enough to join the Twins, when Drew Butera will get sent down to be Ramos’ co-catcher (I’d say backup, but the Twins might not want to push Ramos too hard and might not think it’s a bad idea to get Butera playing time, so I will say c0-catcher for now).

Infielders: Luke Hughes, Erik Lis, Brock Peterson, Trevor Plouffe, Matt Tolbert, Danny Valencia, Matt Macri (DL)

Expect Erik Lis to play some outfield and DH in addition to some first, with Brock Peterson getting plenty of AB’s at 1B.  Trevor Plouffe will start most games at short and Danny Valencia will get most of the playing time at 3B.  That leaves Matt Tolbert and Luke Hughes to battle for AB’s at 2B.  Tolbert starts the season at the top of the pecking order for a callup in the event of an injury to a 2B/SS/3B type in Minnesota, but Hughes and Plouffe will undoubtedly battle hard — and if Tolbert continues to struggle as he has this spring, he might not hold that spot for long.

Outfielders: Brian Dinkelman, Jacque Jones, Dustin Martin, Rene Tosoni, Jason Repko, Brandon Roberts (DL)

Rene Tosoni is the prospect to watch here With the signing of Jason Repko, Rene Tosoni has been shipped back to AA. That means I will be watching the performance of Jacque Jones closely.  Will Jones stay in consideration to fill a roster spot in the event of an injury (or if the Twins decide Alexi Casilla isn’t doing anything on the roster and decide to carry an additional outfielder instead), or will Repko move into that slot?  I’ve also been following Brian Dinkelman for the past couple of years as a second baseman, so I’ll be interested to see how he fares having been shifted to the outfield.

Posted by: taylorjs | April 3, 2010

Post-Spring Thoughts

Just a few random  jottings from things that surprised and/or interested me this spring:

1) I’m pleased that Jim Thome has started his Twins career strong by putting together a nifty spring, including a .364 batting average and 3 homers.  I’m still a bit skeptical about how he will perform as a pinch hitter, but so far he’s showing that he can still hit and is looking like a key addition to the roster.

2) I’m not terribly surprised that Alexi Casilla and Matt Tolbert raced to the bottom this spring.  I have very little faith in either as big league players (especially Casilla, who I have virtually given up on).  I’m also not suprised that Casilla nonetheless made the roster — when the Twins decided to place other players on waivers this off-season instead of Casilla, it was fairly clear that Alexi wasn’t going anywhere barring a trade.  Obviously, the trade wasn’t going to happen with him playing so poorly, so voila, the Twins are saddled with a player who is unlikely to help much.  Dare I hope they give up the experiment before too long?

3) Is it possible Jacque Jones will get back to the big leagues?  I thought Jones would have a miserable spring, because I thought he was washed up.  He proved he still has a bit left, so perhaps we will see him again.  It really was neat to see the reaction of the fans, wasn’t it?

4) I was also wrong in predicting that Ron Mahay would make the opening day roster.  Even with Clay Condrey heading to the DL, the Twins have decided to go with Alex Burnett because there just hasn’t been enough time for Mahay to get ML ready.  I would be very surprised if Mahay was not with the Twins by mid-May, however.  I won’t say (for now) whose spot I think he’ll be filling, but I think there will be an opening.

5) I love the lineup overall, and I love the rotation.  I think the Twins will handily win the division, even without Joe Nathan.

More posts to come in the next few days, including some thoughts on Jon Rauch being named the teams new closer.

Posted by: taylorjs | March 30, 2010

Butera or Ramos? **UPDATED**

UPDATE: It appears my prediction was correct – Drew Butera is going north with the Twins and Wilson Ramos is starting the season in AAA Rochester.  Not surprising, but as I say below I would have gone in a different direction were I the one in charge.

The Twins final position player decision of the spring should come very soon, with the Twins brass having met Tuesday night to decide whether to bring Drew Butera or Wilson Ramos north as Joe Mauer’s backup while Jose Morales gets healthy.  Ron Gardenhire is very publicly pushing for Wilson Ramos.  It seems likely that Bill Smith is leaning towards Drew Butera.  What will be (or, at this late hour, perhaps I should say has been) decided?

First, my guess:  Bill Smith will not be convinced by Gardy’s arguments in favor of Ramos.  I believe the team will take Drew Butera north.  The reasons:  (1) Ramos needs to start every day in AAA; (2) Butera has more ‘high minor’ experience and is therefore arguably more ready for the rigors of MLB play; (3) Butera is more polished defensively.  You can also add a fourth — the longer the Twins keep Ramos out of the big leagues, the longer the Twins can control his rights.  Some fella named Mauer is blocking Ramos’ progress in the organization, of course, so this ultimately may mean more to whatever team Ramos ultimately ends up with (he could potentially stay with the Twins long term, but it seems unlikely — and that would be the subject of another post).

Is taking Butera north the right move?  Personally, I don’t think so.  Butera is a skilled defensive player with no bat whatsoever.  It’s nice to know he’ll be able to handle a staff reasonably well and won’t let curveballs fly to the backstop consistently, but is he really so much better in this department than Ramos?  It seems likely to me that Ramos is better offensively relative to Butera than Butera is defensively relative to Ramos (and hopefully that makes sense — it’s late and I’m tired).  Ramos is a guy who seems like a special player waiting to burst onto the scene.  I think Gardy is right when he says that having Ramos on the bench would open up some additional possibilities to rest Mauer — while having Butera on the bench would probably lead to Mauer playing far more frequently in April and May than should probably be the case.

What about the arguments I suspect Bill Smith is putting forth?  Well, to take them in turn:  (1) Ramos will have plenty of time to play every day in AAA from mid-May on after Morales returns.  The 45 or so days of Major League experience would be an invaluable learning experience, giving Ramos direct evidence of what he needs to work on and giving him on-the-job training with Mauer; (2) Neither Butera nor Ramos has any MLB experience.  I don’t care how many innings Butera has caught in AA and AAA — it’s not MLB.  In an ideal world you would want the more experienced catcher — but experience doesn’t trump ability, and Ramos seems to have more of what counts; (3) Butera is undoubtedly more polished defensively, but he will also probably play just once a week if he comes up.  How advantageous is it to have even a ‘special’ defensive catcher who plays so rarely?  I highly doubt it is worth even a single additional win over the span of that few games.  It’s far more likely that Ramos’ bat would have an influence in limited action than Butera’s defense would; and finally (4) the players that give the team the best chance to win should go north.  Worrying too much about a guy like Ramos getting some ML service time is just overthinking the issue.

Hopefully, I’ll have to update this post tomorrow to say that I was wrong about my prediction and that Gardy succeeded in getting Ramos on the roster.  We shall see!

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