Spring Training, Day 1: Twins camp and the DPL

Now that I’m down here in Florida, my hope is to blog a bit more consistently on what I’m seeing and hearing and who I’m talking to. Today was my first full day and I took advantage of a fine day in Ft. Myers

I’ve been saying for quite some time that one of the gaping holes in my coverage of prospects has been on the international front. Luckily this year, Jesse Sanchez (follow him on Twitter at @JesseSanchezMLB) is helping out a ton on that front. But I wanted to pick up the slack, too. And today proved to be a perfect remedy.

First, it started with a trip to the Twins’ Minor League facility. There, I got to chat with long-time Twins farm director Jim Rantz and interview Twins’ top prospect Miguel Sano, who is ranked No. 23 on the overall Top 100 list. It resulted in this story about the teenaged phenom. You’ll see a snipped of the video interview I did with Sano (and translator Rafael Yanez). As I’ve done in the past, I’m posting the entire interview, without editing, here for your viewing pleasure. Watch until the end to see Sano using some English as he continues to work on learning the language.

Rantz and I also discussed some of the other players in the Twins’ system, focusing on some of the question marks. Here’s what he had to say about a few of them:

Kyle Gibson: (Gibson is currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.) “He’s worked hard, he’s very dedicated. He’s in our rehab program. He’s throwing now. We don’t think he’ll hit the mound until about August. Everything is good to go. If work has anything to do with it, he’ll make it.”

Alex Wimmers: (Wimmers was shut down following one of the most bizzarely afwful full-season debuts in 2011. You probably read about it. He couldn’t throw a strike and didn’t retire a batter. He did, however, make it back and threw seven no-hit innings to close out the year). “It was a strange thing that we’ve never seen before. We shut him down, brought him back here, threw him on the back fields where there were no people, no fans. Eric Rasmussen, our pitching coordinator, worked very hard with him. This kid never gave up. He didn’t hang his head, he had a lot of pride. He worked hard and inched his way back by the end of the season to the point where his last game was a seven-inning no-hitter, after everything he’d been through. We had him in the instructional league and he was fine and he’s been fine here. He’ll probably start here, get him going and then move him up.”

Aaron Hicks: (Hicks, the former first-rounder, has plentiful raw tools, but hasn’t been able to consistently turn them into performance as of yet). “Last year, he started out so-so, then he got hot. We thought we were going to move him last year, but then he hit a wall and slid back and finished alright at High-A. Then we sent him to the Fall League and he did alright. He’s going to go to Double-A. This is a big year. I and the staff, individually, said to Aaron, ‘This is has to be your year. You need to break out and do what you can.’ He has all the tools and skills you’re looking for. I’m anxious to see what he’s going to do. He can do so many things. What the answer is is consistency. All the things you want to see in a five-tool player. This is a big year and I think he understands that. I think he sees people, because it was their protection year, passing him by a little bit. Hopefully, he has a little in him that says, ‘It’s my turn, I’m better than this guy or that guy.’ I think he’s going to have a good year. Rod Carew has taken him under his wing a little bit. Not only with his hitting, but with his bunting because he has that kind of speed. They’ve gotten together during the offseason. You have to stay positive with these guys and not let them think we forgot about tthem. Just go out and relax and let your skills play.”


My day was not yet done. I went over to JetBlue Park, the new home of the Red Sox (my first time there — very nice digs). The Dominican Prospect League was playing a game in its tour of Florida and Arizona Spring Training sites, giving teams the opportunity to see some of the better Dominican amateur talent eligible to be signed this summer. Look for a story on that tomorrow. The only down side of the whole vent was seeing infielder Wendell Rijo go down with a knee injury when he got caught in  a run down. It looked awful at first, but word is he should be just fine. One of the better prospects in this year’s crop, I’ll be sure to update with any news on the injury. Another infielder, Richard Urena, plays a good shortstop and used his legs to manufacture a run with a pair of stolen bases. Other top Dominican prospects on hand were OFers Gustavo CabreraLuis Barrera and Jose Pujols, infielder Amaurys Minier, 3B Nathaniel Javier and many  more intriguing players. There were many scouts on hand to watch the action and the teenagers were given the tough task of facing Red Sox minor league pitchers for much of the game. While many put on a huge show during BP, there weren’t as many fireworks during the game against the advanced pitching.

One fun little bonus came as a result of the Red Sox chipping in with pitching, though. Right-hander Francellis Montas pitched for the Red Sox. Montas is making his United States debut this year after spending time in the Dominican Summer League the past two years. He has a mature body and throws pure heat, cranking it up  to 98 mph on Tuesday. Have to give the DPL kids credit. Some got their hacks in and did not seem overwhelmed. Montas is all power right now, but a guy that bumps up to triple digits in mid-March is a guy worth watching.

Sometimes you get lucky and get to see something additional like that. I hope that continues as my time here wears on.

More in the near future… Wednesday I head to Rays camp.



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