Harvesting Opinion: Minnesota Twins–Near-Ready Players

Harvesting Opinion is a regular feature on Seedlings to Stars. Each week, six of FanSided’s team blogs send S2S a question relating to their team’s minor league system, and we answer them in this space–each question gets one article devoted to answering it. In this way, we make sure we regularly get to discuss hot-button issues relating to the systems of every team, as these go on a five-week cycle. 

Please note that any statistics used may be a day or two out of date, as we prepare our answers over the course of a week.

In this edition, we tackle a question sent to us from our Minnesota Twins site Puckett’s Pond:

Joe Benson is one of the few talented Twins Minor League players who hasn’t been called up in 2011, what other new faces could be competing for playing time in September and beyond?

Nathaniel says: Well, if one has a loose enough definition of “beyond,” the list would be something like 70 players, just due to the crazy development patterns of minor leaguers. But if we’re talking about players who could contribute in either September or early next season, the list obviously shrinks quite a bit.

One guy who I really like–and I can see Wally’s disagreement here coming a mile away–is Chase Lambin, a 31-year-old utility infielder in Triple-A. He’s been one of the best batting performers with the Twins’ Rochester farm club, and he offers a solid bat from both sides and good defensive versatility. Basically, he’s a cheap veteran upgrade on Matt Tolbert.

The Double-A club has more interesting names on the offensive side. You mentioned Benson, who continues to make progress in polishing his game and could be in line for a serious look following the 2012 trade deadline. Yangervis Solarte is another outfielder of interest, as he possesses the sort of elite contact bat the Twins love. Solarte has almost as many doubles (32) as strikeouts (35)!

But the best offensive prospect close to Minnesota has to be shortstop Brian Dozier, a highly acclaimed defender who’s broken out with the bat this season, hitting .318/.400/.489 between High-A and Double-A. Given the struggles of Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Dozier could find himself playing in Target Field in June.

As one might expect from this organization, the crop of pitchers is deeper. Acclaimed prospects Kyle Gibson and Liam Hendriks lurk in Triple-A, and while both have elevated ERAs, their peripheral numbers are solid and I wouldn’t be surprised if they could get big league hitters out right now (although Gibson is injured).

In Double-A, oft-maligned Deolis Guerra, still just 22, has broken out with a move to relief and could make for an interesting late-game relief option in the relatively near future. Another failed starter prospect, Tyler Robertson, has turned into a groundball machine in relief, and the big lefty could help the Twins out of the pen sooner rather than later.

It’s certainly not a super-expansive group, but there’s definitely some talent here, with a potentially excellent shortstop, two possible outfield starters, a good utility player, two mid-rotation starters, and two middle relievers.

~~~~~

Wally says:

I’m going to approach this question with an eye on this September more than on “the beyond” aspect of things.

Nathaniel’s unhealthy obsession of Chase Lambin aside—and he does have a “special” fascination for 4-A players – I can see the rationale behind giving the guy a cup of coffee in the bigs. But in the end it would just be a tip of the cap to a guy who has toiled in the minors for 10 seasons. It’s not like he had a stellar campaign in Rochester this year and he really has little to offer the 2011 Twins. He certainly has nothing to offer the club beyond this September so other than a token “thanks for your years of service” splash of at bats I don’t see the point.

If I’m giving any utility type player a September look, it’s going to be Ray Chang. He was born in Kansas City, so he’s ahead of Lambin right off the bat (yes, I’m biased), but he’s also outperformed Chase with a 0.299/.348/.388 line since joining Rochester. Chang also has the advantage of being 3 years younger (just turned 28 last week) and would offer depth at 2B, SS and 3B.

Due to a number of circumstances this season, Ben Revere, Trevor Plouffe, Luke Hughes and Rene Tosoni are already on the Twins 25-man roster and have logged quite a bit of ML service time in 2011. Between the 4 of them they have played in 259 major league games this season with Revere (93) leading the way and Tosoni (39) the low man. They would be the four position players from Rochester’s roster that I most wanted to see this season, and since we are talking about Chase Lambin and Ray Chang, it’s obvious there’s not much left to choose from.

On the pitching side of things, Hendriks is a popular targets but I’m not really comfortable giving him a call up at this point. He has already set a career high for IP having thrown 131.1 IP. His previous high was last year when he pitched 108.2 innings. The jump of 22.2 isn’t a huge one but there is a big difference in the stress and workload hidden within those innings. He’s had to work a lot harder to get AA and AAA hitters out this year than he did breezing by Low-A and High-A hitters in 2010.

Kyle Gibson obviously is on the 7-day DL and hasn’t pitched since July 22nd. Even if he were given a clean bill of health tomorrow I still wouldn’t promote him to the majors just yet. Anthony Slama is another guy who would be in the mix but like Gibson he’s on the DL and hasn’t pitched since July.

Once we drop down to Double-A and peruse New Britain’s roster, there aren’t really any guys I’m clamoring to see called up for the season’s final month. However, Dozier makes some sense as call-up for the reasons Nathaniel identified, but also because he’s 24 years old and I believe could handle the jump reasonably well, and also because I think SS is a primary area of concern for this team when we look at 2012. Giving the major league staff a month to evaluate him directly would certainly have its benefits.

I am a big fan of Benson and do think he’s got a shot at a long and productive major league career, but I’m not enthralled at the idea of bringing him up just yet. While his SLG and HR production have both jumped in August, he’s otherwise tailed off this month. I’d just assume let him start his offseason and give him a real long look in spring training.

The guy from New Britain that I’d really like to see is 1B Chris Parmelee, who has successfully improved upon his 2010 season. The recent return of concussion-related symptoms to Justin Morneau gives the Twins front office even more incentive to give their 2006 1st round pick a look at the major league level to see what the kid can do. He has strong SO/BB numbers for a power bat and at 23-years old shouldn’t be too overwhelmed.

For more on the Twins, check out Puckett’s Pond.

Topics: Anthony Slama, Ben Revere, Brian Dozier, Chase Lambin, Chris Parmelee, Deolis Guerra, Joe Benson, Kyle Gibson, Liam Hendriks, Luke Hughes, Minnesota Twins, New Britain Rock Cats, Ray Chang, Rene Tosoni, Rochester Red Wings, Trevor Plouffe, Tyler Robertson, Yangervis Solarte

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