Monday, December 03, 2007

AL Central Update

Minnesota Twins

  • In all of the big-name trade hoopla, the minor manuvers the front office completed were vastly overshadowed. La Velle glazed over the report of three minor league signings: c Eli Whiteside, 1b/of Randy Ruiz, 1b Howie Clark and 1b/of Jon Knott. Of the four, Knott appears to have the highest pedigree. Only sampling major league pitching with the Padres and the Orioles, Knott, a non-drafted free agent from Mississippi State, has hit .270/.354/.515 in 477 Triple-A games. While prone to striking out (23.5% strikeout rate in 2007 Norfolk), Knott also has patience (14.1% walkrate in 2007), decent power (3.2% HR-rate) and can hit left-handed pitching. In 2006, Knott manhandled PCL left-handed pitching at a .331/.405/.646 clip in 127 at-bats. This isn't to say that Knott will break camp with the big club, however, he is a good offensive insurance policy in Rochester if needed in the corner outfield, dh or pitch-hitting as opposed to forcing Garrett Jones into a corner outfielder position that he is not equipped to man.

  • Brian Bass was resigned after the Twins initially granted him free agency. Drafted by the Royals out of high school in Alabama, Bass made his debut in rookie ball as an 18-year-old. As a Royals prospect, Bass spent the next three season bouncing between A and high. In 2004, the then 22-year-old Bass got 9 starts in Double-A Whicita. His performance left something to be desired: facing 180 batters, Bass walked more than he struckout. The Royals were still high on him despite his nagging injuries and frequent dead-arm spells. After splitting time between Double-A Whicita and Triple-A Omaha with mixed results, the Twins picked up Bass with the intention of using him in the bullpen. In 37 games last year, Bass made 10 starts for the Red Wings. Against 424 batters faced, Bass struck out 18.9% of them and walked only 5.2%, a sharp contrast from his days within the Royals organization when he had the weapons but lacked the control. Even more impressive was his ability to produce groundballs (57% GB rate). Bass made 9 starts for the Tigres de Aragua and continued where his Rochester season left off by walking 2 of the 92 batters he faced (2.2%) and striking out 16 of the 92 (17.2%). Of the balls put in play, 68% of them were on the ground. Rotoworld's analysis is that Bass could made a good swingman out of the Twins bullpen and judging from his 2007 numbers, that might be a good fit.

Chicago White Sox

  • The ChiSox are admittingly out of the Aaron Rowand sweepstakes. Apparently they aren't even in the same "area code" when it comes to a price. I don't know what this spells for the Twins who are reportedly discussing at least internally Rowand as an option. Interestingly ignorant blurb at the bottom of the article: "Williams could try to use third baseman Joe Crede to get a deal done with the Rockies at the winter meetings next week." Apparently Joe Cowley has never heard of either Garrett Atkins nor Ian Stewert.
  • Phil Rogers announces that the Sox have left Fernando Hernandez Jr. off of their 40-man roster despite a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League surrendering five hits in 12 2/3 innings of scoreless ball. The Sox front office felt that Hernandez's high-80s fastball and assortment of breaking pitches were not going to get major league batters out. Traditionally undersized for a major league pitcher (5' 11"), the 23-year-old Hernandez had a good 2007 in Double-A Birmingham tossing 85.1 innings with a 24.1% strikeout ratio, a low 6.6% base-on-balls ratio and got batters to beat the ball into the ground 50% of balls-in-play. While it is a reach, a team desparate for bullpen help and reliance on statistics rather than radar guns might take a flyer out on Hernandez in the Rule 5 draft. It is a stretch since he is nearly 24-years-old and has only played Double-A but his statistics suggest that he does have the makeup of a pitcher. The Twins obviously do not need the extra arm but I wouldn't be surprised to see someone draft Hernandez Jr.

Detroit Tigers

  • Absent Zumaya for the 2008 season, the Tigers are now looking at bringing in LaTroy Hawkins to help bolster the bullpen and according to the Detroit Free-Press, the feeling is mutual. Larry Reynolds, Hawkins's agent, has suggested that Hawk is strongly interested in returning to the AL Central and playing along side former Twins teammate and recent Tiger Jacque Jones. After bouncing around for several seasons between the Cubs, Giants, Orioles and Rockies, Hawkins finally found success in Colorado. While his strikeouts are down and his walkrate up, Hawkins thrived in the National League by keeping the ball down and getting batters to hit groundballs (65% of balls in play) to the best fielding infield in the National League in 2007. The Rockies bought out his 2008 option for $250,000. The market for relievers is crazy this offseason (see: Romero, JC) and Hawkins is figuring to cash in for a multi-year deal at a minimum of $7 million.
  • The Tigers are hoping Jim Leyland's managerial approach will help Jacque Jones reestablish himself as a consistant everyday player. Personally, I think laying off the pitch over the right-handed batters box would be an excellent starting point to making Jones more consistant.

Kansas City Royals

  • The Royals lost Wes Bankston to the Oakland A's after designating him for assignment attempting to guide him through the waivers in order to place him in Triple-A Omaha. Kansas City had claimed Bankston from Tampa on September 21st this past season. While in the Rays organization, Bankston had a great start hitting 18 home runs with a .301/.343/.541 line in 279 at-bats. After spending the next two seasons in low-A, Bankston was moved along to AA in 2005 as a 21-year-old. The follow season, Bankston split the season between AA and AAA. In 2007, Bankston spent his first full season in AAA and was a disappointment. His .238/.282/.418 line at Durham was a significant variation from his career line of .278/.343/.465. With Carlos Pena entrenched at 1b (and several other players that may be shifted to 1b due to nagging injuries), the Rays outrighted him. Now with the Royals, the 24-year-old Bankston wound up finding himself blocked at first base by Ryan Shealy, Billy Butler and Justin Huber. With no real desire to protect him, Royals GM Dayton Moore exposed him to the waiver wire. Oakland, always vilgilant about finding a bargain, have acquired a young player who maybe coming off of a down year rather than an indication of peaking and still has enough power and the ability to get on base to break into the majors under the right circumstances.