Top 10 Minor League First Half Stories: #2

Now that the Minor League full-season teams have reached the halfway point of their respective seasons, TwinCitiesDugout.com takes a look at the Top-10 performances of the first half. In our #2 selection, we look at the promotion of Boof Bonser to the Minnesota Twins, and how in that moment, the A.J. Pierzynski trade got that much more lopsided.

When a team trades a player that potentially becomes an All-Star, it is a move that should be questioned throughout the organization. When the Twins traded A.J. Pierzynski, he was one of the best young catchers in baseball, but the Twins still sent him packing for Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser. Now, over two and a half years later, the Twins are getting the last laugh, and when Bonser joined the Twins rotation in May, it was the final piece to one of the more lopsided deals in Twins history.

Sure, Bonser has since been demoted back to Triple-A, mostly because the Twins do not need a fifth starter until July 17, and the time between starts was not something that Bonser was used to. But when Liriano was picked for the All-Star Game on Monday, he joined Nathan, who is a former American League All-Star. As for Bonser, he will be back with the Twins very soon, and for now, will go back to dominating the International League for a little while.

Some experts believe that Liriano has put together the best season of any pitcher in baseball this year, posting a 1.83 earned run average in 22 appearances. He has made ten starts for the Twins, has notched ten wins in 11 decisions, and has struck out 102 batters in only 88.1 innings of work. He will replace Jose Contreras on the American League roster, and will join teammates Johan Santana and Joe Mauer in representing the Minnesota Twins in the event.

Joe Nathan has been one of the best closers in baseball since he came to the Twins, and had he gotten any innings at the beginning of the season, could have challenged for a spot on the All-Star team as well. In 32 appearances this season, Nathan has converted 15 of his 16 save opportunities, and has a 1.75 ERA to go along with his 5-0 record. Recently, the right-hander picked up his 100th save of his career, which is quite a milestone for a guy who has only been closing games for two and a half years now.

But the wildcard was Bonser, who was beginning to look like the weak link in the trade. He was the prize of the San Francisco Giants farm system during his time with the Giants, and was even named the organization's player of the year in 2000 when he won 16 games for Hagerstown. At the time of the trade, he had just gotten finished playing in the prestigious Arizona Fall League, and the Twins were happy to take him off the Giants' hands.

In his first season with the Twins, Bonser put up decent numbers as a member of both the New Britain Rock Cats and the Rochester Red Wings. He finished the year a combined 13-9, and had an earned run average of around 4.00. Last season, he was with the Red Wings for the entire year, and wound up leading the International League in strikeouts with 168. Still, he did not get the call, and as Liriano and Nathan were making their names known on the Major League level, Bonser was not sure if he would ever get the promotion.

That promotion came this season, as the Twins called on Bonser when Kyle Lohse and Carlos Silva went into a serious funk. He gave the Twins somewhat of a shot in the arm, and he pitched a lot better than his 5.30 earned run average indicates. He allowed one earned run during his first Major League start, striking out eight in six innings before picking up his first Major League win in his second start. He won two games in his time with the Twins, but fell victim to the longball, allowing nine home runs in only 35.2 innings of work.

Still, for the Twins to pick up three future Major Leaguers for one decent catcher was quite an accomplishment, and if Francisco Liriano's career is anything like the beginning, he could win a couple of Cy Youngs along the way. For Bonser, his promotion to the Bigs was a long time coming, as he finally showed the skills that made him such a huge prospect in the Giants organization.


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