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With No Deals Done, Twins Need Help From Minors

Have you found yourself biting your nails down to the quick this winter, and it has nothing to do with the economy? Or have you been noticing a few more bald spots than you saw in October?

As a Twins fan, you may have watched in frustration as your team’s competitors in the AL Central and elsewhere have improved themselves by signing talented free agents or trades. The Twins, meanwhile, have signed R.A. Dickey (an aging relief pitcher, in case the name doesn’t ring a bell) and re-signing utility infielder Nick Punto.

Given the on-field needs the Twins still have before spring and the names that were floated last fall, a feeling of frustration, and maybe a little anger, would be natural. And both could lead to bleeding nails and hairless patches.

To recap, the Twins brain trust said they were targeting Casey Blake to fill their never-ending search for a true third baseman. But the Twins balked when Blake wanted a third contract year guaranteed. Twins spokesman said the Dodgers overpaid for a 35-year-old player. Maybe the Twins just wouldn’t pay enough.

Then fans heard that the team was trying to swing a trade for the Cubs Mark DeRosa to fill-in at third. When the Cubbies asked for a package of minor leaguers the club deemed too much, the Twins backed away again. Yet the rival Indians offered-up an unimpressive group of minor leaguers and stole DeRosa away, right under the Twins noses. Add him to the newly-acquired Kerry Wood, as well as a healthy and returning Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez, and Cleveland is starting to look formidable again.

Similar excuses were given for the failure of the reputed trades for Adrian Beltre and Garrett Atkins.

Even perennial Central Division doormat Kansas City has spent the off-season getting better.

Rumors continue to circulate that the Twins would like to sign relief pitcher Juan Cruz. But based on this off-season’s track record, that’s about as solid as ice fishing on Lake Mille Lacs in May.

So where does help come from in ’09? Most likely the young recruits in the town of
Rochester, NY.

But who’s ready?

According to John Sickel’s 2009 Baseball Prospect Book, the top 10 Twins minor league prospects don’t appear to offer a lot of immediate help.

Prospects one-through-three do seem to have great potential, including high draft choices Ben Revere and Aaron Hicks in the outfield and prized catcher Wilson Ramos. All seem to be a few years away, the Twins outfield is currently well-stocked and there’s currently a fellow named Mauer squatting in front of Ramos.

Prospects four-through-six may offer a solution, but how soon? Those rankings include Shooter Hunt, a right-handed pitcher who still has control problems. Third base prospect Danny Valencia has promise, but word is that he still has strike-zone troubles. Perhaps prospect number seven, right-handed pitcher Kevin Mulvey, may be close to being ready to offer-up bullpen relief this season.

The top-ten list is rounded-out by pitcher Carlos Gutierrez at number eight, a young but highly regarded hurler. Pitcher Rob Delaney is ranked ninth and needs more time. While power-hitting outfielder Chris Parmelee is young, sports a low batting average and is another outfielder. But he may be the best future power prospect the Twins have in their farm system.

So that’s it—the list of potential names to take the place of the players that got (or will get) away. Do any of them sound like Casey Blake, Mark DeRosa or Juan Cruz to you? Or how about Pat Neshek?

With Twins management unwilling to spend any of the money they’ve saved in salary with the loss of Johan Santana and Torii Hunter, what’s left is the hope for the sudden blossoming of young and green talent.

But then, in the spring, everything young and green does tend to look better in the warm sunlight. Perhaps, like May flowers, the Twins young buds will also blossom. They will have to, given the lack actual talent.

After all, hope--like fingernails--does spring eternal. But the hair may be a different story.

Twins Blog Writer: Rick Jourdan
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