It wasn't entirely good news for the Twins organization this weekend. However, the first thing that I need to mention is that the Twins won three out of four from the division rival Cleveland Indians. The story of the weekend all started on Thursday night really. Jason Kubel came to the park and said that his knees both were a little sore. He is not injured, but based on missing all of the 2005 season, it is worth taking extra precautions. That night, Lew Ford strained his oblique and was immediately put on the Disabled List with Jason Tyner coming up to the Twins. Tyner came through with two hits in his first game on Friday night, including the game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth of the Twins 3-2 win. He added two more hits on Saturday, and two more on Sunday.
Then on Saturday night, Shannon Stewart had to leave the game after running to 1B. Shortly after the game, he was put on the Disabled List with the same old plantar fasciitus injury that has cost him so much time already. Rondell White's rehab was cut short and he rejoined the Twins roster. He was in the lineup as the team's DH on Sunday. He had a lost-ball double, and in the top of the 7th inning, he hit a long home run to left field, his first of the season. On a side note, I am thrilled for White. I touted his signing when they made is last winter, I don't believe that he is completely done, and we all know what a great guy and a great teammate he is. I am very happy for Rondell White! Hopefully this is something that he can build on.
While listening to the Ron Gardenhire Show on Sunday morning, a caller asked him if there were OF replacements in the minor leagues. I wanted to call in and say, "Since there are two available spots on the Twins 40 man roster, why wouldn't Rondell White be allowed to continue to struggle at Rochester for another week and purchase the contract of Josh Rabe? He has been in the organization a long time. He's playing well. He was just in the AAA All-Star game, with Jason Tyner. Why not acknowledge a player like that with a call up?" But, I'm too shy to call in, so I just listened. What was Gardy's response? He mentioned Rondell White, and then he said "Brian Rabe, who has been playing well down in Rochester." There was my answer. That is how the organization looks at JOSH Rabe! (Note - Brian Raabe was a former Gopher infielder who spent a little bit of time with the Twins in the mid-90s) It could have just been a slip, but Rabe should be a known commodity for the Twins staff. I know that The Baseball Cube says he only got four at bats with the Twins in spring training, but that isn't true. He played a lot and was one of the last few sent down before the season started. My thinking at the time was simply, "OK, now I know how the organization thinks of him."
Later in the game Saturday night, Torii Hunter ran down a fly ball, and he could hardly get into the dugout. Ron Gardenhire said that he was near tears. But, a decision on Torii Hunter's status would wait until the results of a Sunday morning MRI were complete. Those became available shortly after the beginning of Sunday afternoon's game, and it wasn't good news for the Twins. Hunter had a broken bone in his foot and would be placed on the Disabled List. The good news, based on my previous paragraph, was that Josh Rabe's contract was purchased and he was called up to the Twins. He should be in uniform on Monday night, and I am completely thrilled for him!
The main thing that I hope the Twins players and coaches remember is that the on-field ramifications of the losses of Stewart and Hunter should be minimal. The Twins did just fine without Shannon Stewart and assuming that Jason Kubel is well enough to play the Twins will not lose a lot offensively with the loss of Hunter. Yes, defensively, going from from Hunter to Tyner is a minimal step backward, mainly because of Tyner's lack of a strong arm, but not as big as the media and broadcast team will want us to believe. (If Nick Punto is the primary CF, which he shouldn't be, the difference would be far more dramatic!) But, losing these two players is no reason to believe that the team can not remain competitive!
The negative of this, from my perspective, is that Torii Hunter's injury could cost him the rest of the season. Do I think that his loss will make the Twins worse? Not especially. However, I think that the Twins were planning on trading him by the July 31st deadline. My thinking was that he could have been had for a major league player and two quality prospects. Now, his trade value is none. The Twins will have to decide after the season whether they want to pick up his $12 million contract for 2007. With two major foot injuries, it would be completely unwise for the Twins to pick that up. So, they will probably pay him his $2 million buyout and allow him to become a free agent. Of course, that means that they will have to determine whether they can offer him arbitration. If they do, there is a chance he could still be a Type A free agent, meaning that the Twins would get the 1st round draft pick of the team that signs him, and a supplemental first round pick. If he's a Type B free agent, the Twins would only get the other team's pick. Thinking beyond this season, I think that this injury really hurts the Twins. Really, Shannon Stewart likely would have been traded too, although he would have little value on the trading market already.
So, how injurious was the Twins weekend series against the Cleveland Indians? Well, they lost their centerfielder and #6 hitter. They lost their DH (who thinks he's a LF) and #7 hitter (who way too many think is a leadoff hitter), and their 5th OF. They replaced them with a career AAAA player in Tyner (who came up with several big hits over the weekend), their opening day DH who was sent to Rochester on a rehab assignment because of an, ahem, injury, and a career minor leaguer in Rabe who has spent the last four years at AAA. They lost two of their big trading chips for later this month meaning that they won't be able to acquire the prospects needed to maintain competitiveness for a small market minded team.
THE TRICKLE DOWN EFFECT
Of course, the repercussions of these three OF injuries will not only be felt by the Twins. The Rochester Red Wings are obviously very affected by them as they supplied the three replacements. Their OF now consists of Kevin West, Andres Torres and Alex Romero. West, like Rabe, has a long track record of success in the Twins system. He is a power hitter who missed a couple of months because of a knee injury he sustained while playing in Venezuela this winter. He is more of a DH-type. Torres is similar to Tyner. He is a veteran with some big league experience with the Tigers in recent years. And, Romero is one of the more underrated prospects in the Twins system. He has split this season between Rochester and New Britain. He is young and a very good hitter, and he is on the Twins 40 man roster. But, they have no depth in the OF (or in the IF really).
So, these injuries also affect the New Britain Rockcats who have a lot of talent in their OF. The big name is probably Denard Span, the Twins top pick in 2002. He was great in April, horrible in May and has been very good since. He still is raw and will need more time to be ready for the Twins, but his speed could be a welcome addition at the top of the Red Wings lineup. Doug Deeds should have been in Rochester to start the season but instead returned to New Britian. He got off to a horrible start, but he has really come on in the last six weeks. His batting average, which had been in the low .200s earlier, is now on the verge of .300. He has a lot of doubles which I love to see. He can also play 1B if needed. Trent Oeltjen has been the Rockcats best hitter for the last two months. The speedy lefty was the Twins lone representative in the Futures Game. He is hitting over .300 with lots of extra base hits and stolen bases. Oeltjen has been a personal favorite prospect of mine to watch the last few years. Garrett Guzman has done alright and shown some power, but he still has less than 100 at bats for the Rockcats. He should stay in New Britain and continue to get more at bats. Scott Whitrock is the other OF on the New Britain roster. He is in his first season at AA after playing for Fort Myers the last two years. He has power and speed, he just strikes out too much.
Assuming that two OF from New Britain move up to Rochester, that means that the Rockcats will have to replace two OF as well. So, that affects Fort Myers. Brandon Roberts had a great weekend for the Miracle. He could move up and play CF if Span moves up to Rochester. He is a speed guy with little power, much like Span except Roberts can steal bases. He just came to the Twins from the Reds in the Juan Castro deal. Jeremy Pickrel is a solid OF prospect. He has shown power and speed (20 extra base hits, 10 stolen bases), but he is hitting under .230. After a remarkable season in Beloit, Deacon Burns has been disappointing in Ft. Myers. He is hitting about .220 with just 12 extra base hits. Erold Andrus is barely hitting .210 and missed some time earlier in the year with injury. He came to the Twins in the minor league portion of the Rule V draft this past winter from the New York Yankees organization. Justin Arneson is a utility player with the Miracle. He barely hits .200 and isn't really very good at any single position, but he can be a decent replacement. He could move up to New Britain as a 5th OF who wouldn't play much. That would allow these other OF to continue to play.
And, then if one or two OF from Ft. Myers move up to New Britain, then one or two OF from Beloit need to move to Ft. Myers. Edward Ovalle would be a solid choice. He is hitting just .265, but he does have 23 extra base hits. He also has 12 stolen bases. Minnesota native Eli Tintor would be a candidate to move up as well. The former catcher is still learning to play the OF, but his bat has been solid most of the year. In the mold of having a speedy outfielder with little extra base power, Tarrence Patterson usually plays. He is getting on about 32% of the time and has 22 stolen bases in his second season in the Midwest League. Dwayne White is probably the only other option at this time although he has less at bats than the first three. Mark Robinson, a 2004 third round pick, is also with the team now.
At Elizabethton, JW Wilson has four home runs in just 57 at bats, but he is hitting just .263. Danny Santiesteban gets some mention, but he is hitting just .215 now. He does have eight extra base hits. At the GCL, the Twins 2nd round pick Joe Benson is crushing the ball, but he is very young and they should keep him in Florida. Top pick Chris Parmalee is showing some power and plenty of strikeouts as well.
At the end of last week, the organization had a major shuffling of pitchers throughout the system. This week, we will likely see a shuffling of outfielders. It will be interesting to see where these guys end up.