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  • Down on the Pond: Arizona Fall League

    Gibson is shining in the Arizona Fall League.This post originally appeared at puckettspond.com.

    The Twins sent seven of their minor league players to the Arizona Fall League that kicked off earlier this month. The AFL is a 6-team league in which several teams each send a handful of their prospects to form a team.

    The Twins players play for the Peoria Javelinas (a 40-80 pound skunk pig, for those of you who are curious you can check out the wiki page) which includes players from the Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres and the Seattle Mariners. The AFL is typically offense-heavy as teams are fairly stingy when it comes to sending top level arms to get more work and expose them to injury. If you do see MLB quality arms, they are typically coming back from injury and hoping to log some innings, like the Twins' Kyle Gibson.

    This year the Twins sent Evan Bigley (AAA right-fielder), Logan Darnell (AA Left-handed starting pitcher), Kyle Gibson (AAA Right-handed starting pitcher), Chris Herrmann (AA catcher who made his MLB debut late this season), Nate Roberts (Low-A outfielder), Caleb Thielbar (AAA Left-handed reliever) and Michael Tonkin (High-A Right-handed relief pitcher). Let's take a closer look at how each of the Twins selections have faired after a couple of weeks in Arizona.

    Kyle Gibson has been the most impressive of all the Twins prospects in the AFL, and maybe the most impressive in the AFL. Gibson has made three starts and is 3-0 with a shiny .069 ERA and 19 strike-outs in 13 innings of work. 14 games into the young AFL season Gibson leads the league in innings pitched and strike-outs and of the 35 pitchers who have logged more than 7.0 innings, only Seth Blair (St. Louis) and C.J. Riefenhauser (Tampa Bay) have given up less earned runs. If Gibson continues to pitch like this well and his arm continues to progress from surgery it will be hard to keep him out of the Twins rotation next spring.

    Nate Roberts has been the Twins brightest star on the offensive side of the game. Roberts has seen action in 6 games and is 9 for 17 w/ 3 extra-base hits and 5 walks, his slash line is an impressive .529/.640/1.346!!! Obviously this is a small sample size, but things look bright for Nate Roberts who will most likely start next season in high-A Ft Myers after repeating a second season in low-A Beloit.

    Chris Herrmann has also done well at the dish down in Arizona, but in an even smaller sample size. Herrmann has only played in 3 games so far, but is 5 for 10 in limited action. Herrmann is hampered by the Javelinas' roster which also contains uber catching prospect Mike Zunino (SEA) and fellow catcher Tommy Joseph (PHI).

    Update: Chris Herrmann has injured his left shoulder and has been replaced by AA catcher Dan Rohlfing. The injury is to his non-throwing shoulder and is believed to bemild in nature. Rohlfing started the season in Ft Myers before moving up to New Britain and hit .235/.295/.311 across both leagues in 2012. Thanks to Twins prospect guru, Seth Stohs of Twins Daily, for the news.

    Michael Tonkin has had four appearances for the Javelinas this season and has yet to give up a run, earned or otherwise, in his 5.1 innings of work while striking out 4 and walking just a single batter. Tonkin struck out almost 13 batters per 9 between low/high-A in 2012 and his ability to get out high-caliber batters in the AFL is very good news. It will be interesting to see if Tonkin has earned a promotion to AA to start 2013 or if he starts in high-A where he posted a sub-3.00 ERA in 30+ innings.

    Logan Darnell has also appeared in 4 games for Peoria and has done well for himself. Darnell spent all of 2012 w/ AA New Britain where he made 28 starts and logged 156 innings but was less than spectacular striking out well under a batter per inning and giving up nearly 1.3 HR/9. In his 6.2 innings of work in the AFL Darnell has given up only 2 runs (both earned) and 7 hits to go with 5 K's and 2 BB's.

    Caleb Thielbar has been, to be nice, less than spectacular. In 5.1 innings of work Thielbar has given up 8 runs (all earned) and has a fancy 13.50 ERA to show for it. The good news is that although he gave up 4 runs in each of his first 2 appearances, he's kept batters in check during his last 3 appearances allowing only a single hit and no walks in 3.0 innings of work. Thielbar, who started the year in Ft Myers before getting called up to AA New Britain and eventually AAA Rochester had a strong season and finished w/ a 2.43 ERA between all three levels, helped in large part to 12.1 innings in Ft Myers where he gave up only 1 run (unearned). It will be interesting to see what Thielbar's future is with the Twins, who picked up Thielbar from the Saint Paul Saints after the 2011 season.

    Evan Bigley rounds out the Twins seven selections to the AFL, and his performance has been unimpressive to date. In 7 games of work Bigley has managed to hit only 5 for 29, has struck out 6 times and has yet to take a walk. His slash like is scary bad, .172/.241/.441. Bigley hit .268 for the Rock Cats before getting moved up to AAA to join the Red Wings where he hit just .251/.289/.409. Bigley will need to turn things around in a big way if he wants to stay in the Twins organization as anything other than an organizational guy, especially as the Twins farm system is full of high-value OF prospects. This may be Bigley's last big chance to impress the brass in Minnesota.
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    Comments 29 Comments
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      I've always said that Twins fans got really spoiled there for awhile with top talent coming up each year. Baker, Morneau, Mauer, Kubel, Liriano, Span and that was on the heels of the Hunter, Jones, Mientkiewicz, years. Hopefully another run is coming here starting within the next year or so with Hicks, Arcia, Benson, Parmelee, maybe Plouffe can catapult up to a solid player, and then will come Rosario, Sano, and some of that tier... Likely there will be a name or two that will surprise us. I guess I just choose to be hopeful rather than dwell on the lack the last 2-3 years.
      and your thoughts on the 2004 draft? 5 first rounders
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by johnnydakota View Post
      yes even the knuckleballing fiedel castro ,but my point was if the twins wanted to make a big splash why didnt they sign players before the imposed salary cap?
      you cant tell me cespedes wouldnt look good in right field?
      are we even looking at the japenees kid or just watching tapes?
      my other point was ryan was in charge, but bill smith did the day to day things and when there was a decision on a player or transaction then ryan would give his stamp of approval.....so infact everything comes back to ryan even though bill had the title of g.m.
      You don't remember Sano, Kepler and Polanco getting signed in one offseason? they didn't sign another million+ prospect until this year but they were still very active signing guys. Just because a team isn't signing a 3M guy doesn't mean that they aren't adding a lot of talent.

      Cespedes is your argument? Really? He signed a 4/36M deal with a lot of risk and the Twins are loaded with OF'ers.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by johnnydakota View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by kab21 View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      Winston making the point I have been making. People are in denial about this system.
      This is why the Twins are bad now but I think some have too high of expectations of player development. It's pretty common for teams to have several seasons of the draft not produce much. I think the FO noticed this started getting more aggressive internationally which has resulted in some pretty good prospects in the Twins system.
      which is why they wiated for the salary cap of 2.9 million before they signed any this last june....codo
      Hold it.

      They really had to outbid at least a couple of clubs to get Sano and they paid him big time.

      And, for all Smith's shortfalls that have been exposed here and there, unfortunately nobody mentions that he is the one who re-turned the franchise into the latin american market big time. And this franchise has historically been a leader there from the 1910s till right about the Bay of Pigs era when they moved to Minny. Last important Latin American signee from that time was Tony O. Before Smith doing what he did signing Sano (about 50 years later - to put things into perspective,) the Twins were just non-players. Back in the day every Cuban wanted to come and play for the Senators (and Griffith's uncle/dad Clark) because they knew they will get a fair deal.
      I've often wondered why we were not in on the Cuban players. With Tony O still a hero there it would seem like we would have a great inside track. But yet I don't recall us ever signing a Cuban player and there have been a lot of them.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Winston Smith View Post

      I've often wondered why we were not in on the Cuban players. With Tony O still a hero there it would seem like we would have a great inside track. But yet I don't recall us ever signing a Cuban player and there have been a lot of them.
      For the last 20 years Cubans have been paid like FA's and then produced a pretty dismal track record. Combine that with a team that was a little too cheap (for everyone) and it's not a big surprise. I'm just glad the team isn't cheap when it comes to the Dominicans anymore. They have also been doing great in PR recently.
    1. Paul Pleiss's Avatar
      Paul Pleiss -
      Will any of the AFL players, aside from Gibson, see time with the Twins in 2013?
    1. righty8383's Avatar
      righty8383 -
      Quote Originally Posted by BaseballPirate View Post
      Will any of the AFL players, aside from Gibson, see time with the Twins in 2013?
      I think Tonkin has a shot. Then Herrmann, who is not longer playing in the AFL, could see some more time.
    1. Mr. Ed's Avatar
      Mr. Ed -
      Gibson rocked Monday in Arizona.

      Gave up 7 hits/6R in the 2nd inning. Included were 2 doubles and a triple.
    1. Paul Pleiss's Avatar
      Paul Pleiss -
      Tough inning for Gibson, but I continue to believe that he will be part of the Twins rotation early in 2013, probably not out of ST, but by sometime in May
    1. TRex's Avatar
      TRex -
      I agree. I also wish there had been Pitch f/x data for that start so we could see whether his velocity was down, or if his pitches were elevated, or even if the batters hit good pitches. And Seth already indicated that there may have been some defensive miscues. I can't wait until his next start!
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