Saturday, May 18, 2013
Twins set up for promising future
By Buster Olney
|Miguel Sano has been dominant in Class A so far this season.|
Piece by piece, the Minnesota Twins are getting better. It’s just that you can’t really see it yet -- not at Target Field, anyway.
The big league Twins have been something of a surprise in how effective their pitching has been, and Minnesota begins today two games under .500, at 18-20, in last place in the packed AL Central. But it’s almost impossible to overstate how well the pieces have been coming together in the Twins’ player development, even beyond the emergence of Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia, outfielders who have made their respective major league debuts this season.
If you want to know how well third-base prospect Miguel Sano is progressing at Class A Fort Myers, well, let’s put it this way: He has been to the Florida State League this year what Miguel Cabrera has been to the American League, hitting .368, with a .465 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage of 1.142. There is a presence about Sano, who just turned 20 last week, and a leadership quality, says Twins assistant GM Rob Antony. Sano, born in the Dominican Republic, has been aggressively working on his English and insists on doing his interviews in his second language, Antony says. “Even though they might be in broken English,” said Antony, “he knows that’s important.”
If the Twins had just one high-end prospect like Sano, they would be doing fine, but then there is Byron Buxton, the center fielder who was the No. 2 pick in last year’s draft. He is 19 years old and wrecking the Midwest League, hitting .343 with a .445 on-base percentage. “Not that we had any questions about his makeup,” said Antony, “but he has maybe exceeded our expectations.”
Rather than go home and relax after last season, Antony said, Buxton started training early in the offseason, with the understanding that the preparation he did this past fall would help him get through the long season ahead. “He has treated this like his profession,” said Antony.
Kyle Gibson, the 2009 first-rounder who is recovering from the Tommy John surgery he had 20 months ago, has pitched well in recent outings and is likely on the cusp of a promotion to the big leagues. There are others, too, including D.J. Baxendale, who is dominating the Florida State League.
In a conversation last summer, Twins GM Terry Ryan talked about the need for more talent, for more help -- a lot of it. Soon enough, it will be in place for the Twins, who appear to be building a team that could be very powerful within a couple of years. I agree with what old friend Peter Gammons says: When you think of the Twins of 2013, think of where the Texas Rangers were in 2007 and 2008, and where the Rangers were headed at that time.
Sano has his agent’s attention, writes David Dorsey.
A bump between two outfielders cost the Twins on Friday night.
• For Reid Ryan, Friday was a special day, writes Alyson Footer.
From her story:
Possessing keen business savvy while also understanding the baseball side of the game is key for this position, which made Ryan a solid candidate and a target for [Jim] Crane. While overseeing the sales, marketing, ticketing and communications aspect of the [Astros'] organization, Ryan will be a resource for general manager Jeff Luhnow while also serving as a public face of the franchise.
Pointing out that player development and on-field decisions are Luhnow's to make, Ryan added: "I will be here to help Jeff all he wants. I feel like I maybe bring a dimension that some of the other people that have been in this job haven't had: I was a player -- I've been around it. I know enough to be dangerous. If Jeff wants my advice, I've never been short on giving my opinion, and I'll definitely do it."
Ultimately, Ryan's goals are twofold. First, put the fans first. "We've got to make sure we're taking care of their best interest," he said. "If we take care of their best interest, they'll take care of us."
No. 2: take care of the players. "We've got to make sure we're doing everything in our power to be able to develop the best players, to attract the best players and to obtain the best players we can, because it's all about the players," he said. "If you don't have good players, it's tough to be in this business. And they're coming. It may not be this year. It may not be next year. But they're coming, and it's got me really fired up."
Ryan says this is a dream come true, writes David Barron.
• There are only three teams with more wins than the Pittsburgh Pirates, who won again Friday when the Astros messed up. It doesn’t get much uglier than this.
Pedro Alvarez was "the man" for Pittsburgh.
• Rick Porcello was "the man" for the Tigers, who won Game 2 of the four-game series against the Rangers. We’ve got the Rangers and Tigers on "Sunday Night Baseball" this weekend. Miguel Cabrera is hitting lasers these days.
• Dr. Michael Kaplan was on the podcast Friday talking about David Price, Roy Halladay and Jonny Venters, and he sees a long recovery road ahead for one of the veterans.
• Matt Harvey’s starts have become must-see TV, and his start against the Cubs on Friday was an imperfect masterpiece, even before he got the game-winning hit.
From ESPN Stats & Information: Harvey is the second starting pitcher this season to get the go-ahead RBI in his win in the seventh inning or later. The other was Clayton Kershaw against the Giants on Opening Day. He’s the first Mets pitcher to do that since Sid Fernandez in 1993. It was only the second RBI by a Mets pitcher all season.
Harvey is faring considerably better than the rest of the Mets' pitchers this season.
W-L: Harvey is 5-0, and all others are 5-16
ERA: 1.55 versus 5.42
WHIP: 0.72 versus 1.60
How Matt Harvey beat the Cubs:
A) Established his fastball early (56 percent of his pitches first time through the order).
B) Increased the use of his off-speed stuff each time through the order (62 percent the second time through, 67 percent the third time through).
C) He threw eight first-pitch fastballs to the first nine hitters, then threw just eight to the next 18 hitters he faced.
D) He recorded six strikeouts, all with two outs (career high for two-out strikeouts).
E) Great command: His strike percentage of 73.6 was a career best (78 of 106 pitches were strikes).
F) Mixed up out pitches: third time in his career recording a strikeout with four different pitches (fastball once, changeup once, curveball and slider twice each)
G) Kept the ball down: He induced a career-high 10 grounders thanks to 35.9 percent of his pitches being down in the zone. That rate was the second-highest of his career.
Matt Harvey pitch selection, by time through order Friday
First: Fastball 56 percent, off-speed 44 percent
Second: 38 percent, 62 percent
Third: 33 percent, 67 percent
• Edward Mujica continues to be dominant.
• Justin Upton changed the game for the Braves.
From ESPN Stats & Info: Justin Upton's sixth-inning home run Friday went 461 feet, his longest home run of the season and fifth-longest of his career. The average distance of his home runs this season is 427.4 feet (MLB average: 397.4), the highest for any player with at least five home runs.
• Most good hitters feast on pitchers down in the strike zone, but Paul Goldschmidt is a dominant high-ball hitter, writes Mark Simon. Goldschmidt had four hits Friday night as the Diamondbacks crushed the Marlins and moved into a tie for first place.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. David Lough was promoted.
2. Jon Rauch has been cut.
3. The Mariners called up a reliever.
4. Hideki Okajima is back in the big leagues.
5. Mark Feinsand thinks the Yankees should give Joe Girardi an extension.
6. Jair Jurrjens is back in the big leagues today.
Dings and dents
1. Brett Myers made his first rehab start.
2. Adam Dunn is dealing with a sinus infection.
3. Joe Mauer has a stiff back.
4. Ross Detwiler will miss at least one start.
5. Jason Heyward was activated from the disabled list.
6. Brandon Beachy continues to make progress.
7. Alexi Ogando landed on the disabled list.
8. Ian Kinsler said his injury is not the result of his belly-flop slide, writes Evan Grant.
9. Colby Lewis could be about two weeks away from returning.
10. Logan Morrison is on track to start his rehab assignment.
11. Daniel Hudson is making progress.
12. Jose Reyes is making progress.
1. Jason Kipnis got to go crazy.
2. James Shields got very little run support, again.
3. David Freese broke through for his first homer.
4. The Reds weren’t able to get to Cliff Lee early.
5. It’s safe to say the Angels don’t have a lot of solutions against Chris Sale.
6. Aramis Ramirez got little help.
7. The Giants made a lot of mistakes.
8. Jordan Pacheco powered the Rockies.
9. Dustin Pedroia had a big day, as Scott Lauber writes.
David Ross has a concussion.
Hiroki Kuroda has been a machine this year.
The Rays barely avoided a collapse.
The fixes for Fernando Rodney are mostly mental, writes Marc Topkin.
Jim Leyland trusts Justin Verlander. The Tigers won’t be the same until Verlander is winning again, writes Tom Gage.
Mickey Callaway is getting some praise for his work with the Indians’ staff.
This is a great sign for Oakland: Jarrod Parker had his best start of the season.
The Angels again wasted a solid start by C.J. Wilson.
The Angels are making a lot of mistakes.
It’s time for the Phillies to shut up and play, says their manager.
Matt Garza’s return should help the Cubs, as Fred Mitchell writes.
Ron Roenicke called a team meeting the other day, as Todd Rosiak writes.
The Dodgers have gotten a boost from Nick Punto.
Padres coach Glenn Hoffman knows the freeway, as Jay Paris writes.
And today will be better than yesterday.