Down on the farm

A look at some minor leaguers of interest:

  • Let’s start with former Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks outfielder Jon Weber. At the age of 32, he nearly made the New York Yankees’ Opening Day roster. Instead, he’s at Triple-A. After a horrendous April in which he hit .169, Weber’s managed to hit .307 since May 1. He still has not homered this season.

And now, the Twins minor leaguers:

  • Jacque Jones is leading the Minnesota Twins’ Triple-A affiliate in Rochester in hitting with a .315 batting average in 33 games. We’ll see Jones up with the big league club sometime this season. I’d be surprised if we didn’t.
  • Another former big leaguer who would be a good fit on the big league roster is Jason Repko. Repko, an outfielder known for his defense, is hitting .301 with four homers, 19 RBIs and nine steals in 43 games. If Denard Span gets hurt, this is the likely replacement.
  • Rochester catchers Wilson Ramos and Jose Morales are both struggling at the plate. Ramos is hitting just .221; Morales is at .246.
  • Outfielder Ben Revere, who turned some heads with a big spring training, is leading Double-A New Britain in hitting with a .308 average and 20 steals in 25 attempts.
  • Starting pitcher Kyle Gibson – the Twins’ first-round pick last season – enters Saturday’s start on fire … well, not literally. But he’s 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA in four starts since being promoted from A-ball.
  • 2008 first-rounder Aaron Hicks is experiencing some ups and downs at Single-A Beloit. The outfielder hit .299 in April after a slow start, but has seen his average fall to .246. He’s got five homers and six steals, but he’s been caught stealing seven times.
  • The Twins other toolsy outfielder at Beloit – Angel Morales – has followed the same path as Hicks. In April, Morales hit .281 with three homers and eight steals. Now, his average is at .253 and he hasn’t homered since April, though he has totaled 16 steals.

Twins roster nearly finalized

A number of decisions were handed down to players from the Minnesota Twins on Saturday.

  • Jacque Jones and Anthony Slama were among those told they would not make the team when camp breaks. However, they will stay with the team when it goes to Target Field for exhibition games Friday and Saturday.
  • Matt Tolbert, Mike Maroth and Ben Revere were among those sent to minor league camp.

For Jones and Slama, it’s a tough break for two guys who were having very nice camps with the Twins. Jones was 11-for-32 with two homers, while Slama didn’t allow a hit and struck out nine in 5 2/3 innings of work.

Having not seen Jones’ defense, it’s hard for me to say whether or not he’s deserving of a roster spot. It’s nice to see him hitting, but his value for this team would largely be based on his ability to spot outfielders.

Slama is a head-scratcher for me, but I guess it’s a numbers game. But there’s no doubting whether he did enough to make the team. Other relievers did struggle.

So, there’s not much up for grabs at this point.

Assuming that Francisco Liriano is in the rotation, he’ll join Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Carl Pavano and Kevin Slowey.

That would leave a couple bullpen spots open. It appears Jon Rauch, Matt Guerrier, Jose Mijares, Jesse Crain and Clay Condrey are probably locks to make the team. So it looks like Pat Neshek, Glen Perkins, Ron Mahay and Brian Duensing are battling for two openings.

I’d guess Neshek and Duensing get the spots, while Perkins gets traded.

Alexi Casilla is a lock for the last remaining bench spot, joining Jim Thome and the loser of the Nick Punto/Brendan Harris third-base battle. The other spot goes to a backup catcher, with Drew Butera and Wilson Ramos trying to get the reserve job behind Joe Mauer.

It sounds like manager Ron Gardenhire prefers Ramos, but I think the front office would prefer to see him get regular at-bats in the minor leagues.

Are Slama, Jones playing their ways onto Twins?

A familiar face and a new face might be playing their ways onto the Minnesota Twins’ Opening Day roster.

In Wednesday’s 4-1 spring training victory against the Florida Marlins, Twins outfielder Jacque Jones had a pair of hits – including a homer – to push his spring average to .360.

Meanwhile, reliever Anthony Slama picked up the save and continues to be unhittable. Literally. In five appearances, he’s not allowed a hit, striking out nine in five innings of work. I don’t care what kind of competition you’re facing. That’s an impressive five outings.

Slama has a decent chance of making the Twins’ Opening Day roster. At 26 years old, Slama has done everything he can in the minor leagues. In 140 career outings, he has an ERA of 1.87 with 271 strikeouts in 183 2/3 innings, plus 54 saves the last two years.

With the struggles of Clay Condrey, Brian Duensing and Glen Perkins this spring, Slama should have a real shot of the making the team when camp breaks. And I hope he does. Fans have been dying to see what he can do against big league hitters.

The path to an Opening Day roster is a little tougher for Jones. Most members of the media believe the final position player spot is a battle between Matt Tolbert and Alexi Casilla, and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has said that he’s getting comfortable with Michael Cuddyer as a back-up center fielder when Denard Span needs a day off.

I think the Twins would be better served having someone a little more versatile as a back-up to Span, maybe waiting out spring cuts to see if someone gets let go. But I can understand why Jones is facing an uphill climb, considering he hasn’t played in the big leagues in two years, and the last time he did play didn’t go that well.

But I’m rooting for Jones. I appreciate what the guys – Doug Mientkiewicz, A.J. Pierzynski, Torii Hunter, Brad Radke, etc. – in the early part of the last decade did to drag the franchise out of the dumps. Hopefully, Jones finds his way onto the big league team sometime this year.

Marlins won’t mimic Twins’ model

No surprise from Florida Marlins President David Samson in saying that his front office won’t commit to spending the way the Minnesota Twins when the Marlins move into their new ballpark in 2012.

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is considered baseball’s thriftiest owner, although he has been at the helm during a World Series championship season in 2003.

The Marlins are in a very different position than the Twins. Florida had the second-worst home attendance in baseball last season, finishing only ahead of Oakland. The Marlins averaged 18,770 per home game.

The Twins, meanwhile, were 14th in home attendance last season and have benefitted from the equivalent of 20,000 season tickets being purchased for next season. That has led to their payroll ballooning from $65 million on 2009 Opening Day to $96 million on 2010 Opening Day.

It’s hard to say if the Marlins will get that number of season tickets purchased when they move into their long-awaited new park.

Here’s a couple of other interesting links:

FanGraphs analyzes Joe Mauer’s performance by pitch location.

A FanGraphs in-depth look at Mauer’s splits.

Aaron Gleeman analyzes the Jacque Jones signing and the loss of Jason Pridie.

Star Tribune story on Jacque Jones. Jones says he’ll play at Triple-A if he doesn’t make the big club out of spring training.

 

Twins bring back familiar face

The Minnesota Twins may have found an answer in solving the fourth outfielder dilemma.

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick writes on Twitter that the Twins have signed former outfielder Jacque Jones to a minor league deal that includes an invitation to big league camp for spring training.

Jones hasn’t played in the majors since a brief spell with the Florida Marlins in 2008 after he was cut midseason by Detroit.

Obviously, there are reasons Jones hasn’t played in the big leagues in two years. He hit .147 in 42 games with the Tigers and Marlins in 2008, but prior that, was a pretty good average hitter.

The Twins could care less about that, though. Jones provides the team a veteran fourth outfielder option if he can make the big league club in spring training. As it sits now, youngster Jason Pridie would be in line for that job, and he very well could still get it.

The fact that we’re even talking about a fourth outfielder dilemma gives you some idea of how solid the starting lineup is. But it is an important spot for this team, considering Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer should both be under consideration to get benched late in games when the Twins are in front in favor of defense.

Cuddyer’s bat is probably too potent to sit (assuming he continues to hit like he did in 2009), even with a lead. But Young certainly is someone who could be benched if the team found someone with a little more speed.

Jones rates out pretty well defensively – especially as a center fielder but also OK in the corners – in fielding percentage and in more complex categories like UZR. At least, he did last time he was in the majors. That’s what the Twins would want out of him.

The big question with Jones would be what kind of shape is he in. He played 28 games for Newark in the independent Atlantic League last year (Carl Everett, Willie Banks, Rob Mackowiak and Armando Benitez were among his teammates there), hitting .311. But we haven’t seen much of him lately, though I seem to remember him throwing out the first pitch prior to Game 163 last year or prior to Game 3 of the ALDS (anyone remember this?).

This is hardly a signing to be excited about. But it’s always nice to see a familiar face, especially one from the early part of the last decade who helped drag this franchise out of the muck.

UPDATE: 4:18 p.m.

Just saw that Pridie was placed on waivers and claimed by the New York Mets. The Twins needed to clear a roster spot after signing second baseman Orlando Hudson.

This adds some legitimacy to the Jones signing. Maybe the Twins really believe he can be a fourth outfielder.