Subject to Terry Ryan completing any trades, the Twins bullpen for 2007 should be much like it was in 2006. Dennys Reyes, who was signed last winter to a minor league contract, returned from Rochester early in the season to become one of the best left handed relievers in the league earning a two year contract extension. Joe Nathan will return as one of the best closers in the game. Although they struggled at times last season, Juan Rincon and Jesse Crain have been amongst the leagues best the past few years. Matt Guerrier has been an effective option in long relief and the Twin Cities own **Pat Neshek, 24 (#3/#5) and his funky motion was amazing after his mid-season call up. Only Willie Eyre, who is now the seventh man in the pen, appears to be a question mark heading into next season.
It is unknown whether the Twins will go with an eleven or twelve man staff next spring. If they keep six, Eyre will likely be the odd man out. If they keep seven there is a strong chance that Eyre will be replaced by a second lefty. Could it be **Glen Perkins, if he doesn't earn a spot in the starting rotation? Or will it be the winner of a competition between another off-season signing or two, like Reyes last winter, and three lefties from the minors, Jason Miller, 23+ (#23/#26), Ricky Barrett, (#20/#45) or Jay Sawatski, 23+ (#17/#48)?
The Rochester Red Wings (AAA) sent the top reliever in the system to the Twins at mid-season, Pat Neshek. Neshek was incredible as Rochester's closer with a 6-2 record and 14 saves in 33 appearances (60.0ip, 1.95era, 0.92WHIP and 87K/14BB). Pat joined the Twins at mid-season, where he was as dominant as at Rochester with a 4-2 record in 32 appearances with a 2.19era, 0.78WHIP and 53K/6BB in 37.0 innings or 1.43 strikeouts per inning pitched with 1.46BB/9ip. Neshek may be the Twins main set-up man next season and is the heir apparent to Nathan for the closer role at some time in the future. Their next most successful reliever was Beau Kemp, 25 (#9/#20). Kemp, who had previously been a closer in the system, finished his season with a 7-4 record and 3 saves in 49 appearances (89.1ip, 2.32era, 1.32WHIP and 35K/26BB). Kemp, who isn't the strikeout pitcher Neshek is, was a six-year minor league free agent who recently signed with Toronto. Another reliever that grabbed management's attention this season was Kevin Cameron, 26 (#16/#32), who has been described by Neshek as having incredible stuff. Cameron had a 6-4 record this season with 9 saves in 40 appearances (66.1ip, 2.98era, 1.19WHIP and 65K/26BB). Cameron is currently pitching for Mesa in the AFL where he has been effective in most of his appearances. Kevin should return to Rochester next season and could be in contention for a mid-season call up, if needed.
Lefties pitching for Rochester this season included Ricky Barrett. Barrett is a talented reliever who struggled with a sore arm in 2005 and spent nearly half of last season on the disabled list. Barrett, who had been used as a starter prior to 2006, had a 5-1 record in 27 appearances with 1 save (47.1ip, 3.42era, 1.20WHIP and 49K/26BB). Barrett is a strikeout pitcher who needs to improve his walk ratio, however, will compete for a spot in the Twins pen next season. Another lefty who was discussed with the starters was Jason Miller, who had a 3.81era in 32 games (15 starts) for the Wings. Henry Bonilla, 27+ (#41/#54) was used both as a starter and reliever appearing in 35 games (8 starts with 1 complete game) for a 3-7 record (95.0ip, 4.26era, 1.27WHIP and 63K/32BB). Matt Ford, 25 (#72/-), who was signed as a minor league free agent last winter, appeared in 33 games (6 starts) for a 1-2 record (58.0ip, 4.50era, 1.48WHIP and 33K/25BB). At this time, it is unknown whether the Twins have any interest in bringing back either Bonilla or Ford. Bobby Korecky, 26+ (#34/#65) moved up to Rochester from New Britain at mid-season. Korecky had been a very successful closer at New Britain in 2004 when he had 31 saves, however, missed nearly all of 2005 following surgery. Korecky appeared in 34 games for the Wings, finishing with a 5-3 record (51.1ip, 3.33era, 1.32WHIP and 28K/16BB). The last reliever pitching for the Wings was Levale Speigner, 25 (#37/#30) who also moved up to Rochester from New Britain late in the season. Speigner appeared in 9 games for the Wings with a 1-1 record and 1 save (12.2ip, 4.97era, 1.66WHIP and 8K/5BB).
New Britain (AA) used several closers during the season led by Levale Speigner who earned 13 saves with a 3-2 record in 40 appearances (58.0ip, 3.26era, 1.29WHIP and 37K/14BB). Bobby Korecky appeared in 16 games with a 1-2 record and 5 saves (25.0ip, 3.24era, 1.72WHIP and 14K/13BB), prior to moving up to Rochester. The Rock Cats' most effective reliever was **Julio DePaula, 23 (#5/#19), who is somewhat unknown and many questioned who he was when he was recently added to the 40-man roster. After pitching 15.1 shutout innings in 8 appearances for the Miracle, DePaula was promoted to the Rock Cats where he was as effective as anyone in the system not named Neshek. DePaula completed his season with a 2-2 record and 7 saves in 43 games (66.2ip, 2.57era, 1.28WHIP and 43K/27BB). Another top ten reliever is Australian Tristan Crawford, 23+ (#18/#38). Crawford, who appeared in more games (46) than any other pitcher on the Rock Cat staff, had a 6-5 record with 2 saves (98.1ip, 3.66era, 1.24WHIP and 97K/33BB). Crawford will likely move up to Rochester next season where he will continue working towards a potential spot in the Twins pen in 2008 or 2009. Lefty Jay Sawatski, 23+ (#17/#48) was very effective for the Cats, winning four games (4-2) in 44 appearances with 2 starts (75.1ip, 2.87era, 1.21WHIP and 69K/22BB). Sawatski is one of the four pitchers the Twins have assigned to the AFL, however, he has struggled facing many of the top players in minor league baseball.
Justin Olson, 26 (#56/#44) split his time with the Cats between the starting rotation and the bullpen. Olson had a 7-7 record and 1 save in 32 games with 9 starts (88.1ip, 5.09era, 1.54WHIP and 102K/40BB). Olson's ability to strike out well over one batter per inning will hold the Twins interest for another season which may begin back at New Britain. John Thomas, 24+ (#54/#67) split his season between Ft. Myers and New Britain and between the starting rotation and the bullpen. Thomas appeared in 14 games for the Cats (3 starts) for a 1-2 record (36.0ip, 6.25era, 1.83WHIP and 30K/20BB), before being released late in the season. David Shinskie, 21+ (#36/#68) had been one of the top relievers in Beloit prior to jumping two levels to the Cats late in the season, appearing in 11 games with a 0-4 record (16.0ip, 8.44era, 1.75WHIP and 11K/8BB). Former Cornell University outfielder Chris Schutt, 24 (#51/#34) had a brief stay with the Cats with a 1-0 record in 7 games (10.2ip, 10.13era, 1.78WHIP and 7K/10BB).
One of the best relievers in the system was Ft. Myers Miracle (Hi-A) closer J.P. Martinez, 23+ (#27/#17). Martinez had a record of 4-4 with a team high 12 saves in 48 appearances (77.1ip, 2.91era, 1.44WHIP and 88K/44BB) while continuing to strikeout batters at a rate greater than one per inning. He allowed more than 5 walks per 9 innings which is a problem that he must correct if he is to advance in the system. **Jose Mijares, 21 (#31/#35) is an extremely talented lefty which is the reason he was a surprise addition to the 40-man roster in 2005. After pitching very well for the Twins in spring training, Mijares battled arm problems much of the season. Mijares, who had a 3-5 record in 27 games with 5 starts, was very effective working out of the pen after being less effective as a starter (63.0ip, 3.57era, 1.25WHIP and 77K/27BB). Dan Powers, 23+ (#14/#36) was another effective reliever who moved on to Ft. Myers after an incredible start at Beloit. Powers had a 6-2 record for the Miracle in 30 games with 2 starts (58.0ip, 3.10era, 1.07WHIP and 61K/18BB). Prior to an early season promotion to New Britain, Julio DePaula was perfect out of the Miracle pen (15.1ip, 0.00era, 0.91WHIP and 10K/6BB).
Ryan Callahan, 25 (#74/-) is a Wisconsin native who was signed as a free agent this past spring. Callahan made 1 start in 38 games with a 3-5 record (73.2ip, 3.79era, 1.47WHIP and 57K/27BB). Tim Lahey, 24 (#39/#42) was drafted as a catcher on the twentieth round of the 2004 draft out of Princeton University. Lahey has a strong arm which enabled the Twins to convert him to a short relief/closer role in 2005. This season Lahey had a 7-1 record for the Miracle in 45 games (72.2ip, 4.33era, 1.39WHIP and 57K/27BB). Chris Schutt spent most of the season with the Miracle, appearing in 37 games with a 4-2 record (62.0ip, 2.76era, 1.32WHIP and 64K/30BB). A few years ago Angel Garcia, 22 (#38/#53) was the top pick in the Rule 5 draft. Garcia is a tall intimidating pitcher who has dealt with arm problems throughout his career and 2006 was no exception. Garcia appeared in only 8 games for the Miracle with a 2-1 record (15.1ip, 2.93era, 1.30WHIP and 13K/9BB). Alexander Farfan, 23 was a 2005 minor league Rule 5 selection who was released early in the season (10.1ip, 14.81era, 2.81WHIP and 4K/14BB). Jay Sawatski appeared in 2 games with the Miracle (8.0ip, 2.25era, 1.50WHIP and 5K/2BB). Robert Delaney, 21 (#69/-), who was signed as a free agent this year, spent much of the season with the GCL Twins prior to moving over to the Miracle where he appeared in 3 games (5.0ip, 5.40era, 1.40WHIP and 3K/0BB).
The Beloit Snappers (A) bullpen was anchored by David Shinskie until his late season promotion to New Britain. Shinskie, who was a Midwest League all-star, had a 6-7 record with a team high 11 saves in 48 games (76.0ip, 2.13era, 1.20WHIP and 61K/15BB). Although he was discussed with the starters, Yohan Pino, 22 (#10/#31) has been the most successful pitcher in the system the past three years as evidenced by his 33-5 record. Pino, who made 42 appearances including 7 starts, compiled a 1.91era and 0.95WHIP with 99 strikeouts in 94.0 innings. Danny Vais, 21 (#22/#47) was another key member of the Beloit bullpen. Vais had a 3-4 record with 2 saves in 47 games (80.2ip, 2.12era, 1.31WHIP and 78K/26BB). Dan Leatherman, 21+ (#24/-) joined Vais as a top ten reliever in a season following his signing with the Twins as an undrafted free agent. Leatherman made short stops at the Gulf Coast League and Elizabethton prior to landing in the Snappers' bullpen where he appeared in 13 games with a 0-1 record and 4 saves (22.0ip, 2.45era, 1.14WHIP and 25K/8BB). Prior to his promotion to Ft. Myers, Dan Powers was dominant out of the Snappers pen with a 1-0 record in 9 games with 2 saves (21.0ip, 0.43era, 0.95WHIP and 20K/4BB). It is likely that Pino, Vais and Leatherman will all join Powers in the Miracle bullpen next spring.
Frank Mata, 22 (#67/DNP) was a dominant closer at Elizabethton in 2004 prior to missing all of 2005 with an injury, moving up to Beloit this season in his comeback effort. Mata pitched well at times and as expected, also had several difficult appearances. Mata finished his season with a 5-3 record with 5 saves in 41 games (53.1ip, 4.22era, 1.43WHIP and 30K/18BB). Jose Cordero, 22+ (#65/#50) was used in a long relief/spot starter role as he compiled a 3-2 record with 5 starts in 23 games (51.0ip, 4.24era, 1.39WHIP and 50K/24BB). Armando Gabino, 22+ (#47/#75), who had been a minor league Rule 5 selection in 2005, appeared in 16 games with a 2-3 record (30.1ip, 4.15era, 1.12WHIP and 20K/5BB) prior to being released late last summer. Jose Lugo, 21+ (#46/-) was a 2006 minor league Rule 5 selection who appeared in 22 games for the Snappers before being sent to Elizabethton as part of their starting rotation. Lugo had a 1-4 record with 2 saves (28.1ip, 4.45era, 1.52WHIP and 32K/13BB). The Twins signed Jon-Michael Cline, 24 (#80/-) last spring as a undrafted free agent. Prior to going on the disabled list, Cline appeared in 5 games with a 0-2 record and 1 save (6.1ip, 8.53era, 1.74WHIP and 8K/4BB).
The Elizabethton Twins (Rookie) relievers were led by Danny Hernandez, 20 (#45/#70), who had more saves (18) than any other closer in the system while pitching in a short season league. Hernandez, who was an Appalachian League All-Star, dominated with nearly 1.5 strikeouts per game for a 1-1 record in 28 appearances (28.1ip, 3.81era, 1.02WHIP and 40K/9BB). Australian Matt Williams, 19 (#53/#40) had a very good season for a nineteen year-old, however, was not as dominant as he was in 2005 for the GCL Twins when he had a 1.93era. Williams had a 4-2 record with 1 save in 24 appearances (39.1ip, 3.89era, 1.45WHIP and 41K/10BB). Tenth ranked reliever Dan Leatherman pitched briefly in Elizabethton between stops at the GCL and Beloit, with a 3-0 record in 5 games (14.0ip, 0.64era, 0.57WHIP and 14K/1BB). It is likely that Hernandez and Williams will be begin 2007 at Beloit.
Matt Fox, 23 (#55/DNP) was a top prospect selected with a supplemental pick following the first round of the 2004 draft. Fox had arm problems when he reported and was shut down following the draft, subsequently missing all of the 2005 season. Fox returned this year pitching mostly out of the bullpen for Elizabethton where he had a 4-0 record in 20 games with 1 start (40.1ip, 3.79era, 1.12WHIP and 46K/13BB). Fox will likely be on the Beloit staff next season in what will be a critical year for him to regain top prospect status. Aaron Craig, 20 (#75/#61) is a Rochester, Minnesota native who had a decent year following an excellent 2005 as the closer for the GCL Twins. Craig had a 2-1 record in 20 games (24.2ip, 5.11era, 1.66WHIP and 17K/15BB). Brandon McConnell, 21 (#78/#62) appeared in 20 games with a 1-1 record (37.0ip, 7.30era, 1.59WHIP and 33K/12BB). Patrick Bryant, 20 (#77/#72) appeared in 14 games with a 0-1 record (32.2ip, 6.61era, 1.78WHIP and 36K/18BB). Justin (Jon) Staatz, 22 (#63/-) was signed last spring as a non-drafted free agent. Staatz appeared in 16 games with a 2-0 record (21.2ip, 4.15era, 1.29WHIP and 17K/10BB). Armando Gabino appeared in 5 games with 1 start for a 1-0 record (10.1ip, 0.87era, 0.68WHIP and 8K/2BB), prior to moving up to Beloit and his eventual release. Walter Patton, 21 (#83/#74) pitched briefly for Elizabethton, appearing in 3 games (0.2ip, 135.0era, 22.50WHIP and 2K/8BB).
Australian closer Brad Tippett, 18 (#52/-) had an excellent season for the GCL Twins (Rookie). Tippett appeared in 19 games with a 3-5 record and 10 saves (21.1ip, 2.53era, 1.50WHIP and 18K/5BB). Dan Leatherman began his Twins career in the GCL, where he had a 1-0 record in 3 games (9.0ip, 0.00era, 0.89WHIP and 8K/3BB). Jeff Manship, 21 (#11/-) began his professional career late this summer in the GCL before moving on to the Miracle. Manship appeared in 2 games with a 0-0 record (5.2ip, 0.00era, 0.71WHIP and 10K/1BB). Luis Carreras, 22 (#58/-) was also effective for the Twins, with a 1-1 record in 14 appearances (29.2ip, 3.34era, 1.11WHIP and 23K/5BB). Robert Delaney, who signed as a free agent, pitched effectively before his late season move to the Miracle. Delaney appeared in 17 games with a 1-3 record and 2 saves (33.0ip, 4.64era, 1.15WHIP and 27K/1BB). Delaney fits the mold for Twins pitchers as he allowed only 1 walk all season in 38.0 innings pitched for the GCL Twins and Miracle.
Another undrafted free agent signing was Adam Revelette, 21+ (#66/-) who appeared in 8 games, including 1 start, for a 2-1 record (26.1ip, 4.78era, 1.37WHIP and 18K/3BB). Carlos Garcia, 19 (#71/-) is a young lefty from the Dominican Republic who pitched very well in his first season in rookie ball. Garcia had a 3-0 record in 15 games (22.0ip, 3.68era, 1.45WHIP and 16K/15BB). Bruno Sanchez, 19 (#81/-) appeared in 11 games with a 1-3 record (17.1ip, 8.31era, 2.31WHIP and 7K/9BB). The Twins signed Czech national Jacub Toufar, 19 (#76/-), who did a fine job for the GCL Twins in his first season in professional baseball. Toufar appeared in 10 games (15.1ip, 4.70era, 1.37WHIP and 5K/6BB). Justin Staatz began his career with the GCL Twins, appearing in 6 games with a 2-0 record (11.2ip, 3.09era, 0.94WHIP and 20K/3BB). Striking out 20 in 11.2 innings earned Staatz a promotion to Elizabethton. Thomas Wright, 18 (#82/-) was a 2006 twenty-third round pick who signed with the Twins late last summer. Wright appeared in 9 games with a 0-1 record (7.2ip, 11.74era, 3.13WHIP and 3K/9BB). Jose Acosta, 19 (#43/-) saw limited action appearing in 4 games with a 0-1 record (6.0ip, 1.50era, 0.67WHIP and 3K/1BB). Tristan's younger brother, Nathan Crawford, 19 appeared in 2 games prior to returning to Australia early in the season (2.0ip, 18.00era, 4.00WHIP and 2K/1BB). Walter Patton, 21 (#83/#74) appeared in 2 games (2.0ip, 9.00era, 3.00WHIP and 1K/4BB). Jeff Schoenbachler, 20 (#87/#59) only appeared in 1 game this season (1.0ip, 0.00era, 1.00WHIP and 0K/0BB).
Like most organizations, the Twins try to keep their best young pitchers as starters until they reach the higher levels of the minor leagues, therefore, relievers will usually be rated slightly lower. The top ten rated relief pitchers in the system, based on their comparative performances during 2006 were:
Pat Neshek (#3 - 138.116pts) - Rochester, Minnesota
Julio DePaula (#5 - 119.666pts) - Ft. Myers, New Britain
Beau Kemp (#9 - 118.021pts) - Rochester
Dan Powers (#14 - 106.735pts) - Beloit, Ft. Myers
Kevin Cameron (#16 - 106.233pts) - Rochester
Jay Sawatski (#17 - 105.831pts) - Ft. Myers, New Britain
Tristan Crawford (#18 - 103.076pts) - New Britain
Ricky Barrett (#20 - 99.472pts) - Rochester
Danny Vais (#22 - 98.096pts) - Beloit
Dan Leatherman (#24 - 98.037pts) - Elizabethton, Beloit
With the Twins bullpen nearly set for 2007, the only players who have a realistic shot at making the big club out of spring training could be one of the lefties, Miller, Barrett or Glen Perkins, if he pitches well but doesn't earn a spot as a starter. All the others will be auditioning to move up to New Britain or Rochester where if they pitch well, will be in line to help the Twins when they need an additional arm in their pen during the season. Relievers who are the closest to being major league ready include the three lefties mentioned above plus Jay Sawatski, Kevin Cameron and Julio DePaula. Although a much different pitcher than Neshek, DePaula's track record indicates that he could be the pitcher to accomplish what Pat did this past season.