Tag: Denard Span

Why Alex Meyer Instantly Becomes Twins’ Top Pitching Prospect

Although it took nearly a year-and-a-half to materialize, the Washington Nationals finally landed a leadoff-hitting center fielder on Thursday evening when they acquired Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins. However, landing the 28-year-old came at a fairly steep price, as the Nationals were forced to part with their top pitching prospect, right-hander Alex Meyer.

While Span will have an immediate impact next season as the Nats‘ everyday center fielder, the trade also addressed the Twins’ longstanding need for a high-ceiling pitching prospect.

Since the beginning of the 2008 season, the Twins have gradually pieced together a mediocre farm system through international signings and the MLB First-Year Player Draft. In fact, prior to Thursday’s trade, it was highlighted by a host of high-risk, high-reward position players who, despite possessing immense upside, are all still at least a year away from contributing in the major leagues.

Third baseman Miguel Sano, the organization’s top prospect in each of the last two seasons, will advance to High-A for the first time next season, as will outfielder-turned-second-baseman Eddie Rosario.

Similarly, the team’s No. 1 draft pick last June (the second-overall selection), outfielder Byron Buxton, will presumably spend a majority of the 2013 season at a short-season level. And although outfielders Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia turned in strong seasons, respectively, last year at Double-A, they are both fairly raw prospects with considerable room for improvement.

Noticeably absent from the Twins’ system is a genuine, front-of-the-rotation pitching prospect. Right-hander Kyle Gibson, their first-round draft pick in 2009, was still regarded as the organization’s top pitching prospect despite missing most of the 2011 and 2012 seasons following Tommy John surgery—which in itself speaks volumes about their dearth of projectable young arms.

Even though he ultimately reached Triple-A late last season and recently pitched well in the Arizona Fall League, Gibson, 25, is more of a high-floor, Nos. 3 or 4 starter-type with an above-average arsenal

But in the wake of today’s trade there’s a new sheriff in town, as Alex Meyer, 22, now ranks as the Twins’ top pitching prospect.

Selected by the Nationals in the first round (No. 23 overall) of the 2011 draft out of the University of Kentucky, the 6’9” (yes, he’s really that tall), 220-pound right-hander was highly impressive this past season in his professional debut.

Beginning the year at Low-A Hagerstown of the South Atlantic League, Meyer registered a 3.10 ERA (2.63 FIP) and .210 BAA over 90 innings spanning 18 starts. His peripherals were equally impressive, as he posted rates of 6.8 H/9, 0.4 HR/9, 10.7 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9. The strong early-season performance also earned him a spot on the USA roster for the XM Future’s Game, as well as a ranking in my midseason top-50 prospects update.

Meyer was promoted to High-A Potomac of the Carolina League shortly thereafter where he continued to thrive until reaching his team-imposed innings limit. Over his seven starts with the P-Nats, the lanky right-hander registered a 2.31 ERA (3.23 FIP) and .213 BAA in 39 innings. Despite the jump to a more advanced level, his command actually improved (2.5 BB/9) as he continued to induce weak contact (6.7 H/9) and miss bats (7.4 K/9).

Headed into the 2012 season, there was concern regarding Meyer’s delivery and mechanics, though nothing out of the ordinary for such a tall, long-limbed pitcher. However, he quieted skeptics throughout his pro debut by repeating his delivery and release point with far more consistency than was expected. In turn, his command was vastly improved and made his electric arsenal all the more effective.

Throwing from a three-quarters arm slot, Meyer’s fastball sits 93-97 mph with considerable weight thanks to a downward plane. Early in games and in short stints, he’ll occasionally flirt with triple-digits.

His slider gives him a second plus offering—flashing plus-plus at times—and is a true swing-and-miss pitch in mid-to-high-80s with late, diving break. The right-hander also made noticeable progress with his changeup last season, and it could be an above-average offering with ongoing refinement.

While it’s doubtful that Meyer will ever possess the command or deep arsenal associated with a No. 1 starter, his two present plus offerings and the makings of a solid third pitch suggest an attainable ceiling of a Nos. 2 or 3 starter.

He’s not as close to the big leagues as Kyle Gibson and likely will need another year-and-a-half of experience and refinement in the minor leagues, but a mid-to-late-2014 debut seems realistic at this point. Then again, with his plus fastball-slider combination, a few late-season appearances out of the Twins’ bullpen next season may not be a bad idea.

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Minnesota Twins: The Offense Will Reign Supreme in the Future

If there’s one thing Minnesota Twins fans can take solace in this season, it’s that this team can hit the ball and will continue to hit the ball well for the foreseeable future.

The Twins rank in the top half of the league in many offensive categories.

Minnesota has the sixth most hits in baseball (963), 14th most RBI (448), runs (466), OPS (.732), 10th best batting average (.264), 10th most walks (340), fifth most stolen bases (86) and the sixth best on base percentage (.331).

Josh Willingham has 80 RBI (third best in baseball), 27 homers (seventh most in baseball), a .378 on base percentage (21st best in baseball), a .549 slugging percentage (16th best in baseball) and a .979 OPS (14th best).

He’s locked up for another two years, and is fully healthy.

Joe Mauer, for all of his problems with power, is the top-singles hitter in baseball. He boasts baseball’s 11th best batting average (.321) and the fourth best on base percentage (.417). Mauer is under contract through 2018.

Trevor Plouffe has come out of nowhere to be second on the team in homers (19), and his power appears to be genuine. He’s pre-arbitration eligible this offseason, which means Minnesota will pay him at least 80 percent of his 2012 compensation ($485,000) and cannot go beneath the league minimum. He’s arbitration eligible after the 2013 season.

Ben Revere is hitting .319 with 25 stolen bases. His contract status is the exact same as Plouffe’s.

Denard Span, despite my demands that the front office deal him, is a talented leadoff hitter with a contract keeping him in the Twin Cities through the 2014 season, with a club option for 2015. He’s hitting .291 with 12 stolen bases and a .354 on base percentage.

Ryan Doumit has been a pleasant surprise for Minnesota. He’s been so well-received that the franchise gave him a two-year extension for $7 million total. He’s hitting .285 with 10 homers and 50 RBI, with the ability to play catcher, first base and outfield.

On top of those six big-league players, Minnesota has a plethora of hitting prospects stewing in the minors. Aaron Hicks, Eddie Rosario, Oswaldo Arcia, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano all could be MLB-ready by 2014.

Sano projects as a prototypical power-hitting third baseman, meaning he’ll strikeout his fair share but also bash many baseballs into the Target Field seats.

Hicks and Buxton are basically the same players: fast, defensive outfielders with the ability to hit for a high average and steal some bases with a little power. Buxton has more upside as a power hitter because his body isn’t as filled out at 18 as Hicks’s is at 22-years-old.

Arcia and Rosario project as line-drive hitters with the ability to hit 15 homers per season (maybe more) and hit for a relatively high batting average.

With those players on the rise, it would appear the Twins would need just a few pitchers in the minor league system to step up to the plate. The problem is the two most likely candidates are recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Minnesota’s 2010 first round pick Alex Wimmers underwent the procedure in the last week and Kyle Gibson, Minnesota’s 2009 first round pick, is currently recovering from the procedure.

Beyond those two, the pitching cupboard is bare in Minnesota’s farm system.

The big-league team has one healthy pitcher worthy of a spot in any other teams’ rotation: Scott Diamond (9-5, 2.93 ERA, 1.17 WHIP).

Sam Deduno has shown glimpses of fulfilling his promise as Baseball America’s No. 11 prospect with the Colorado Rockies prior to the 2009 campaign, but still has plenty of rust to shake off.

The Twins may or may not re-sign Scott Baker this offseason (it may or may not be worth it depending on how his elbow recovers).

Minnesota’s starting rotation for 2013 shapes up as: Diamond, Deduno, Nick Blackburn, Anthony Swarzak and Brian Duensing. It doesn’t exactly get the people going.

Twins fans need to face a simple fact: The next few years aren’t likely to be your Twins of the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

These Twins will win and lose games on their ability to score more runs than the opposition. And not by playing small ball, but by hitting the crap out of the ball and making the opposition pay for pitches left over the plate.

Get ready Minnesota. A new era is coming.

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Minnesota Twins: 6 Bold Predictions for the Twins’ 2012 Season

2011 was a season which the Twins and their fans would like to forget sooner rather than later. The team is approaching the start of spring training with a lot of question marks throughout their 25-man roster. Most notably, will the bullpen be better? can Mauer and Morneau regain their MVP form? And most importantly, what are the playoff chances looking like?

The following are six bold predictions I have for the Twins in 2012 which will help to answer those questions and more.

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Fantasy Baseball 2011 Projection: Can Denard Span Bounce Back in 2011?

After the 2009 season, Denard Span appeared primed to entrench himself as a top 30 outfielder.  That’s what happens when you hit .311 with 23 SB, 97 R and hitting atop a lineup featuring Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.

Maybe the injury to Morneau played a bigger role than we realize…

Maybe the regression of Mauer helped to sabotage him…

Maybe he just played over his head in 2009…

Maybe it was a combination of all three, but the thinking behind Span certainly is different as we head into 2011.  That’s what happens when you post the following stat line in ’10:

629 At Bats
.268 Batting Average (166 Hits)
3 Home Runs
58 RBI
85 Runs
26 Stolen Bases
.331 On Base Percentage
.448 Slugging Percentage
.294 Batting Average on Balls in Play

Obviously, the problems in the middle of the lineup played a role, but Delmon Young also came of age, delivering 112 RBI.  The Twins order certainly didn’t lack punch.  No, problems rest mostly on the shoulders of Span.

The biggest issue is Span’s OBP, which fell from .392 in ’10 (and .387 in his rookie season).  So what happened?  First of all was his walk rate, which fell, though not by a huge rate.  In ’09 he posted a 10.4 percent mark, which fell to 8.5 percent mark in ’10.  It’s a problem, but not one that I would go crazy about.

The biggest issue was his average, though all of the news was not terrible.  Span actually lowered his strikeout rate for the third straight season:

  • 2008 – 17.3 percent
  • 2009 – 15.4 percent
  • 2010 – 11.8 percent

That’s a great trend, but the problem is that he suffered from a below average BABIP, especially for a player with his speed.  With more balls put into play, his BABIP has a big effect on his average.  Had he been able to match his .353 mark from ’09, the results would’ve been impressive.

Of course his ’09 mark may be a bit extreme but so was his ’10 mark.  Figure that he comes in somewhere in the middle, meaning an average of at least .290 is quite possible.

Yes, there are still problems.  He’s not going to hit for any power.  He’s not going to pick up a significant number of RBI.  He has speed, but he’s not a 30+ SB guy. 

Still, with the Twins lineup, you are looking at player who is going to hit close to .300, score around 100 R and steal 25+ bases?  What’s not to like about that?  In fact, here is my 2011 projection for him:

.295 (177-for-600), 7 HR, 60 RBI, 100 R, 28 SB, .334 BABIP, .374 OBP, .402 SLG

He’s not an ace option.  He’s borderline in shallower formats, but in five-outfielder formats he’s a solid selection in the middle rounds.

What are your thoughts on Span?  What are you expecting from him in 2011?  Is he a player you would target?

**** Make sure to order your copy of the Rotoprofessor 2011 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide, selling for just $5, by clicking here. ****

Make sure to check out some of our 2011 projections:


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MLB Fantasy Baseball Profile: Can Denard Span Rebound in 2011?

Denard Span played in a career-high 153 games, had a career-high 629 at-bats, slugged a career-high 24 doubles, tied a career high with 10 triples and stole a career-high 26 bases while being caught a career-low four times.

Those were the positives.

Despite the additional at-bats, he scored 85 runs, which was down 12 from last year. He scored those 97 runs in 578 at-bats.

In his rookie season, he scored 70 runs in 347 at-bats. Part of the blame lies in his diminishing walk rate. In 2008, he had a .124 BB/PA (bases on balls per plate appearance). In 2009, it dipped to .105; last year, it sunk to .086.

Not only was he walking less, but his average took a major hit as well. After hitting .294 as a rookie and .311 last year to avoid the sophomore slump, Span hit just .264, which is discouraging because he hit .308 in the spring with 13 runs in 20 games.

Unfortunately, he struck his mom with a foul ball as spring training was wrapping up. It’s hard to quantify the effect it had on his game, but the numbers suggest it took a toll.

Span opened the 2010 season going 5-for-32 (.156) in the first nine games. He finished the month hitting just .211. He went on a tear in May, hitting .353, but battled various injuries (foot, shoulder) and hit just .250 the rest of the way.

Ron Gardenhire has already said that he wants to rest Span more in the upcoming year, which could actually help improve his numbers so he doesn’t burn out down the stretch.

Span hit just three home runs last year after hitting six and eight in his first two years, respectively, but Target Field had that effect on pretty much everybody.

While I don’t expect a major turnaround in his power numbers, I do think his batting average will come back.

Span had a BABIP (batting average on balls in play) of .295, which is a far cry from what someone of his speed usually produces. In his first two years, his BABIP was .358 and .342, respectively. Assuming his luck improves, so should his average.

I don’t think you should build your team around him, but he’s a solid third outfielder.

He is the 42nd-ranked outfielder, according to Mock Draft Central, going on average with the 171st pick.

Even if you take him before the 15th round like his ADP suggests, I think you’ll be getting a good bargain from a guy who will likely produce a .300-95-5-60-25 line.


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The Minnesota Twins Batting Lineup In 2012


  With all the talk about the 2011 Minnesota Twins, I decided to take a very early look at the 2012 Minnesota Twins and what kind of lineup they could have. Joe Mauer signed his 8 year/$184M contract extension last spring because this is his team and he wants to win a World Series in a Twins uniform. What players will be around him in 2012 and do they have enough talent around him and in the farm system to get him a ring? I’ll share my thoughts on what players will make up their 2012 batting lineup.

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Minnesota Twins: The 10 Best Outfield Combinations

As the Twins head into the winter there are some questions that need to be answered.

Among them, who will be the starting outfield for the second season in Target Field?

Will Michael Cuddyer return to right field, pushing Jason Kubel to a backup role?

Perhaps Joe Mauer will move to left field in order to save the wear tear of catching an entire season, and Delmon Young would move to right.

Is Denard Span better suited as a platoon player? As the everyday center fielder this past season he had the lowest batting average and slugging percentage in his short three year career. 

I compared the outfield for every Twins team since they moved to Bloomington in 1961.

Here are the top 10 outfields in Minnesota history.

The ranking is based on fielding percent, total errors, and assists.

Home runs and RBI were included because, especially for corner outfielders, these are typically considered power positions.

The total wins for each team was included to break any ties.

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2010 MLB Playoffs: Minnesota Twins’ Five Postseason Keys To Advance

The Minnesota Twins have clinched the AL Central and heading into the final week of the regular season they are likely to rest key players such as Jim Thome, Joe Mauer, and Michael Cuddyer.

A first round matchup with the New York Yankees is looking more and more likely with each Yankee loss and Tampa Bay win. 

Which team gives Minnesota the best chance to advance is a discussion for another time. The main focus here is going to be what the Twins need to do in the postseason to ensure they advance to the ALCS for the first time since 2002. 

Here we go…

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Minnesota Twins Hold Their Own Fate, Chase After Yankees for Best Record in AL

At the All-Star break there were questions surrounding the Minnesota Twins line-up.  They didn’t have an every day third basemen who could contribute offensively.  Justin Morneau had just suffered a concussion one week prior and it was unknown when he might return, if at all.

Since then though, the questions have subsided.  Danny Valencia has cemented himself at third base.  Michael Cuddyer has been playing first base for the injured Morneau.  Jason Repko has been an excellent defensive outfielder in place of Cuddyer—when Jason Kubel isn’t getting the start in right field, anyway.

Jim Thome has his sweet uppercut swing hitting the ball a long, long ways.

Joe Mauer is putting together another relatively quiet AL MVP campaign.

Delmon Young is finally looking like a player taken first overall in the MLB Draft is supposed to look like.

And now the Twins find themselves in a position to overtake the New York Yankees strangle hold on the best record in the American League.  The Yankees currently have a two-game lead over the Twins with 19 to play.  The Yankees are currently on a three-game losing streak and have lost six of their past seven.  The Twins on the other hand are on a two-game win streak and have won eight of their last nine.

To say the Twins have a shot at having the best record in the American League is accurate, but in order to actually do so there are some players who need to step up.  Denard Span, the Twins speedy lead-off man, is only hitting .267 this year and has been unable to draw out long at bats. 

Kubel‘s power numbers have been respectable, but his batting average has been slowly dropping over the past two weeks and currently sits at .256 as well as leading the team in strikeouts with 105.

If the Twins want a chance at holding home field advantage until the World Series, those two players are going to need to be more disciplined at the plate.

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To Bunt Or Not to Bunt: What Is the (Unwritten) Rule?

The Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians just concluded a three game series at Target Field.

Some big issues were being made over the smallest of plays—the bunt.

It started in the first game of the series when Cleveland left fielder, Trevor Crowe, was at the plate. With two outs and nobody on base he had the audacity to bunt for hit.

Television color commentator Bert Blyleven and dugout reporter Roy Smalley both questioned Crowe’s tactic. 

According to these two former major-league players, since there were two outs, Crowe should have been looking to put himself into scoring position. They went so far to say the only way to justify the bunt was if he intended to immediately steal second.

Their argument was lost on me.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, with two outs and runners on second and third, Denard Span attempted to reach base by bunting.

This move, although not criticized by Blyleven or Smalley, infuriated me!

Span’s failed attempt ended the inning, stranding two runners in scoring position.

Even if he was successful, the absolute best he would have done was to drive in one run.

Why wasn’t he swinging away attempting to score two runs with a hit to the outfield?

At the time the Twins were losing 2-1, why wasn’t anyone on the broadcast team critical of Span’s ploy?

Fast forward to the second game of the series: 

It’s the bottom of the sixth inning, the Indians are leading 3-1 with runners on first and second and one out, and Joe Mauer at the plate—the Twins’ best hitter.

I’m expecting Mauer to flair one down the left field line into the corner for a double, in true Mauer fashion.

In atypical fashion, he bunts at the first offering, attempting to put the ball down the third base line, and Cleveland catcher Carlos Santana throws Mauer out at first—two outs.

I guess it was better than grounding into a double play—a stat that Mauer leads for the Twins.

The bunt is a ploy best used to sacrifice one’s position at the plate in order to improve the team’s chances of scoring, usually by moving runners into scoring position with less than two outs.

None of these examples fit that description. Yet, Crowe was successful at reaching base safely—which should be the goal of every hitter, and he was criticized!  

When is it okay to bunt?

Many feel it’s unsportsmanlike if a player attempts to break up a no-hitter by bunting late in the game. Isn’t that what every player should be doing—trying to break up a no-hitter? Why is it any less admirable to do this by bunting?

There’s also the situation when a team is leading by a significant margin that bunting is deemed to be disrespectful. 


If he swings away and hits a home run isn’t this piling on?

Again, these arguments are lost on me.

Perhaps to avoid all controversy, a rule should be written down, that bunting is only allowed by pitchers when batting in National League ball parks.

Or when you are among the league leaders in grounding into double plays and this is the best way to avoid increasing your total.    

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