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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. gilesferrell's Avatar
      gilesferrell -
      Im surprised the comment section isnt filled with "Gibson should be in the starting rotation to begin next season!" yet...
    1. Paul Pleiss's Avatar
      Paul Pleiss -
      Pitching well in the AFL is a far cry from the big leagues, and while it is quite promising, the return from elbow surgery will surely encounter a few more hurdles before we see Gibson pitching with the big league club. I do, however, expect him to be up with the Twins early in the season if things continue to progress well.
    1. JP3700's Avatar
      JP3700 -
      I hope they move Nate Roberts straight to New Britain and skip Fort Myers. I know injuries have held him back but he's going to be 24 and should be challenged.
    1. sorney's Avatar
      sorney -
      I'm pretty sure Dozier tore it up in the AFL last year...we all saw how well that translated to the bigs the following season.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by sorney View Post
      I'm pretty sure Dozier tore it up in the AFL last year...we all saw how well that translated to the bigs the following season.
      He hit .296/.358/.454 (.811) with 8 doubles, 3 homers and 22 RBI in 26 games in the AFL last year. Not exactly tearing it up (for the AFL)
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by gilesferrell View Post
      Im surprised the comment section isnt filled with "Gibson should be in the starting rotation to begin next season!" yet...
      It's all I seem to hear!! Ha!
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      No one can give a good reason for him not to he up, if healthy.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      [QUOTE=mike wants wins;59966]No one can give a good reason for him not to he up, if healthy.[/QUO
      Let me see if I can't piece together a realistic scenario (or two) for that not to happen. Ryan stated three signings--I will assume these three have successful major league experience. Diamond would make four. Select one of the others from last year's rotation (after a solid ST), or for that matter, a two/three game window for Blackburn to demonstrate he belongs. That's five. If I've read the information correctly, Gibson has only made short starts, so some time seems necessary for Gibson to prove he would be solid for the 6-inning requirement. I predict Gibson after the 40-game mark (of the 2013 season) to be in the rotation--of course with the assumptions of his health and continued success.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Kwak... starters in the AFL rarely go more than 5 innings in any game, so I don't think that it's because he can't... and certainly has no indication on what he'll be able to do next spring.
    1. sorney's Avatar
      sorney -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by sorney View Post
      I'm pretty sure Dozier tore it up in the AFL last year...we all saw how well that translated to the bigs the following season.
      He hit .296/.358/.454 (.811) with 8 doubles, 3 homers and 22 RBI in 26 games in the AFL last year. Not exactly tearing it up (for the AFL)

      I should have said relative to his future expectations as a player....
    1. Chance's Avatar
      Chance -
      Dozier can still pan out... In his first 84 games in the majors he batted what, .234? With 6 home runs? I'm guessing on those numbers but the average is par with other twins middle infielders for the most part and 6 homers is much better than we usually get. He played half a season so there is still plently of hope he can work it up to around the .265 to .275 range with around 8-10 homers and that would be great for the twins.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      The last time a "Twins" prospect came up and stuck with the team, and I'll set the bar at 2 productive seasons is Span and he came up in 2008. Maybe I'm missing someone but isn't Garza the last starting pitcher to come up from our system to stick in the majors? He first came up in 06.

      We have some guys now, Plouffe, Parmalee, Revere, Dozier and Diamond that might stick but they still have a small sample size (see Valencia). Isn't this the real problem we have right now, 4 full seasons without 1 of our position prospects and 6 yrs for a starting pitcher sticking for the long haul and helping the team?

      Until this team proves it can again produce good quality major league players in their farm system I'll remain skeptical of all these guys.

      If I missed somebody I apologize.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Winston making the point I have been making. People are in denial about this system.
    1. Paul Pleiss's Avatar
      Paul Pleiss -
      I don't know if people are in denial, I think most people will agree that the Twins do not have a lot of talent in the upper levels of their system.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      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.
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      People are not in denial. The system has failed to deliver premium talent for years. Winston's facts vback that up. Where some of us differ is in your extrapolation of the past into the future. It's OK to remain skeptical. Your choice. But some of us look at the pipeline and see hope for a year or two from now. Gibson, Hendriks, Parmelee, Dozier, Wimmers, Arcia, Hicks, Benson, Herrmann, Hermsen, Bromberg, Guerra, Florimon, Hauser, Darnell, Tosoni, Oliveros, Robertson, Hauser, Watss, Pugh, Bigley. These players reached AA and AAA. Some of them will become good players, and a couple may be stars. Now, this may not seem to be an impressive list if your expectation is several All-Star caliber players at thes levels, but it isn't all that bad. ANd then, another couple years away are Salcedo, Sano, Rosario, Boer, Michael, Roberts, Soliman, Kepler, Boyd, Goodrum, Harrison, Polanco, Santana, Summers, Morales, and a whole slew of 2012 draftees that performed exceptionally well this year, including Buxton and Berrios.

      So, I don't mind Winston's appraisal of the past at all, but the insistence that future prospects are dreadful and that the organization is clueless gets pretty old.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      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.
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      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
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      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.
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      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.
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