Hump Day Happy Notes
by, 07-08-2014 at 11:56 PM (389 Views)
Things are pretty bleak for Twins fans these days. The club is caught amidst yet another mid-summer free fall, the coaches and medical staff are once again coming under fire for their handling of injuries, and we're left to ponder who can be called up from Triple-A to plug yet another rotation hole while the offense scuffles.
The negative storylines are too easy to grasp onto at this point, so in an effort to change the tone a bit, I thought I'd focus on a few positive developments that are currently taking place within the organization.
Times are tough, but there are some very good and very meaningful things happening outside of the general misery that has characterized Twins Baseball lately.
Let's dig into a few:
1) Top draft pick Nick Gordon is killing the ball at Elizabethton.
It was a bit of a surprise when the Twins announced that they'd be sending Gordon -- freshly added out of high school with the fifth overall pick in the draft -- to advanced rookie ball in Elizabethton rather than the Gulf Coast League, where nearly all prep players start their careers.
The club clearly had confidence in Gordon and so far that has proven to be more than justified, as the shortstop is off to a red-hot start at a level where most players are older and more experienced. Through his first 16 games, he's hitting .362 with two doubles, two triples, a homer and four steals.
The strong debut puts Gordon on track to join a growing group of upper-echelon prospects within the Twins' system.
2) Jorge Polanco has been on fire since his surprising MLB stint.
After joining the Twins a couple weeks ago as an emergency call-up, Polanco was quickly returned to his previous home in Ft. Myers, where he has been playing as though he'd like to get back to Minnesota in a hurry. In seven games since rejoining the Miracle, Polanco is hitting .367 with three doubles and two triples in 33 plate appearances. At this rate, it's hard to imagine he'll remain in Single-A for too much longer, even though he's one of the youngest players in the Florida State League.
3) Fast-rising J.O. Berrios is now in Double-A.
If you've been regularly following the minor-league reports here on Twins Daily, then you know that Berrios has been on fire for months now, consistently turning in spectacular outings in which he's blowing away opposing hitters. He hasn't allowed more than two runs in a start since May 1st and his strikeout rate has been off the charts.
This week, the Twins finally decided to show some mercy to FSL batters by promoting Berrios to Class-AA New Britain. The righty just turned 20 in late May, so he'll become the youngest player to appear in the Eastern League this year by a fairly wide margin.
What Berrios is doing right now -- especially as an undersized specimen at a skinny six foot zero -- is remarkable. It will be interesting to see how he adapts in Double-A, but if he falters a bit, it's important to keep in mind the context of his situation.
4) Free agent success stories.
There's understandably a lot of talk right now about Ricky Nolasco; the team's biggest free agent splash ever has thus far proven to be a poor investment. Nolasco follows in the footsteps of fellow free agent signing Mike Pelfrey, who also performed horribly for a stretch before admitting that he'd been bothered by an elbow injury. Very frustrating.
But on the other end of the spectrum, the Twins have had two smashing successes in the free agent arena this year, and that's something that has been very rare for this franchise (in large part because they've been so unwilling to spend).
Phil Hughes has been one of the American League's better starters, with a league-leading 9.27 K:BB ratio. He's 27 and locked up for the next two seasons at a very reasonable price. You'd have a hard time finding a contract signed during the past offseason that looks better than his right now.
Then there's Kurt Suzuki, who has been a revelation on a one-year, $2.75 million deal. With Josmil Pinto needing more seasoning in the minors, Suzuki has been just what the doctor ordered, holding his own both defensively and offensively. He was recently named as one of Minnesota's two All-Star representatives.
Suzuki's shockingly strong performance is especially satisfying in light of the fact that John Buck -- who the Twins were reportedly "extremely close" to signing before they ended up going with Suzuki -- was just designated for assignment by the Mariners.
5) Chris Colabello is back at it.
Easily one of the best parts of April was Colabello's monstrous performance out of the gates. A great guy and a great story, the well traveled slugger was also an epic producer during the early weeks of the season, coming through with clutch hit after clutch hit (including a home run while his mother was interviewed on live TV).
Watching Colabello fall into a tailspin in May was tough, but after spending some time in Triple-A he's back up with the Twins and once again hitting the ball with plenty of authority. He's only had 16 plate appearances since his return, but has already smashed two doubles and two homers.
Will pitchers readjust? Perhaps. But for now, Colabello is once again giving us a tremendous individual story to root for while the team as a whole fades out of relevance.