The Minnesota Twins signed six players to one-year contracts on Wednesday, locking up three pitchers, and three position players, all of whom are on the team’s 40-man roster. While all six are expected to begin the season in the Minor Leagues, any one of them could make it to Minnesota throughout the season. Justin Jones, Errol Simonitsch, and Patrick Neshek were the pitchers signed, and Jason Kubel, Terry Tiffee, and Luis Rodriguez were the position players signed.
The name on this list that sticks out to most Twins fans in Jason Kubel, who many believe is the future right fielder of the Twins organization. Heading into Spring Training, the race for right field consists of three players, with Kubel being one of them. The other two players are Lew Ford, and last season’s third baseman, Michael Cuddyer.
Kubel was on the fast track to the Major Leagues before a torn ACL, and PCL in the Arizona Fall League on October 12, 2004 put his rise on hold. Prior to that, he had risen from Double-A New Britain, to the Major Leagues, and actually hit over .300 during his stint with Minnesota. Recently, he was give the green light by all his doctors to begin baseball activities, and is slated to begin the 2006 in Rochester until the Twins are sure he can take over right field duties full time.
Luis Rodriguez is coming off a fantastic Winter League season, where he led his Venezuelan team to the Caribbean World Series title. The infielder batted .310 for his team during the tournament, and was named the third baseman on the Series All-Star team. Last season, he batted .269 in 76 games for the Twins, making his Major League debut as a defensive replacement against Milwaulkee on May 21.
It will likely take an injury for either he, or Terry Tiffee to make the Opening Day roster, but both players could prove very valuable as the season wears on. Tiffee,who has made his way to Minnesota in each of the past two seasons, is slated to begin the season as Rochester’s starting third baseman. He batted .207 in 54 games for the Twins last season, but provides a luxury because he can play multiple positions.
Neshek is a player who some believe will be the first of the bunch to make it to Minnesota next season. A dominant relief pitcher since he entered the organization, Neshek is to begin the 2006 season as Rochester’s closer. Since being taken by the Twins in the sixth round of the 2002 draft, Neshek has saved 44 games in his career, including 24 last season. He struck out 95 batters in 82.1 innings of work last season, while posting a 2.19 ERA in 55 games.
Justin Jones came over to the Twins in the Doug Mientkiewicz deal that is better known as the end of Nomar Garciaparra’s career. However, since arriving, Jones has elevated himself into an elite starting pitching prospect, and should be in the rotation at New Britain next season. Recently added to the 40-man roster, it appears that the Twins got a steal in trade, with all other teams involved really losing out.
Errol Simonitsch is a pitcher who has tremendous stuff, and is one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in the organization. When we interview super-prospect Denard Span, he told us that Simonitsch has the nastiest stuff in the organization, and we could not agree more. Whether he stays a starter, or becomes a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen, Simonitsch definitely has a future in the Major Leagues.
So while the Twins continue to round out the edges headed into Spring Training, they are finally starting to get some respect throughout the league. Some experts predict that the Twins are going to surprise a lot of people this season, and could even go back to their rightful title as American League Central Champions. Locking up these six players is a great move, because they not only add depth, but are six guys who can definitely help this club in the long run.