Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Future of Travis Twins Talk

Anybody that knows me knows that I will be starting school in just over a week and am at the University level now so it is going to be way more intense.  However, I still plan to blog it just will not be as often as it is in the summer.  I will still be doing my minor league player profiles and you can look for them every Monday morning with my next one this coming Monday.  However, that is probably all the blogging I will have time to do during the school year as school is hectic.  I will blog as much as I find time for but I will atleast do the player profiles that everyone has come to expect.  I will continue to cohost Twins Minor League Weekly for the rest of the Minor League Season with Seth Stohs.  So thanks for reading me this summer and keep following me here on here or on twitter @travistwinstalk. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Truth about the Twins minor league system

I get asked this question quite a bit and I feel like it is about time I hit people with some truth on the subject. The question that I am asked repeatedly is has the Twins minor league slipped and if so why. I know everyone likes to blame Bill Smith for all the problems with talent as the Twins had a good farm system when Terry Ryan was the General Manager of the Twins. I have even heard Deron Johnson being blamed as he is head of the draft after Mike Radcliff was promoted when Bill Smith took over as General Manager. Some of the criticism is founded, but a great part of it is unfounded.

There is merit for criticism of the lack of top level prospects in the upper levels of the organization. You had misses like not signing Travis Lee, and busts such as Matt Moses, Ryan Mills, Jay Rainville, and Henry Sanchez. That left a vacuum that led to a watering down of the system. Some of these picks were earlier than would be in system right now. Also the Twins have been downright unlucky with some of these guys as former first round picks Matt Fox, Kyle Waldrop, and Matt Bashore were injured. You have had control issues with former first round picks Shooter Hunt and Alex Wimmers that you could not have see coming.

The bottom line is the Twins had a 2-3 year stretch were they did not do well in the draft as guys like Moses, Rainville, and Sanchez were taken early and did not turn out. That left a void as some of those guys would be in the higher levels right now. When you miss on three or four first round picks that will set your organization back a few years. The percentage of early round picks that make it to the pro’s is so small that I feel that Twins fans were spoiled when they went through a stretch when guys like Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, Joe Mauer, Denard Span, Trevor Plouffe, Glen Perkins and Matt Garza became contributers. Twins fans after seeing all those guys come up and contribute forget about guys like Henry Sanchez, Matt Moses, Adam Johnson, B.J. Garbe, Ryan Mills who never even made the big leagues. Then you have guys that even the most adamant Twins fan has never heard of in Kelcey Mucker, Marc Borcelo, Dan Serifini, Scott Stahoviak, Midre Cummings, and Todd Ritchie. What I am trying to say is the draft is such an inaccurate science on who is going to make it and who is not that it is not an easy job for evaluaters. You hear all the time that in every draft you may have 1-2 players make it to the big leagues. So I don’t think it is fair for the evaluaters to get blamed for the lack of talent in the upper levels.

Another reason that expectations for the Twins minor league system are a little bit too much is the Twins in the 90’s were a bad team. From 1994 to 2001 a eight year stretch the Twins picked in the top ten 7 times. Fair or not most draftst have 5-10 blue chip prospects that are considered a high probibilty of making it to the big leagues. So when they were losing 90-100 games per year the odds of getting one of those top prospects was pretty high. Believe it or not that stretch is when the Twins farm system was considered the best in baseball. It is much like how the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals are considered the best farm systems in baseball right now as they have had some bad teams so they got high draft picks. From 2002-2011 the highest the Twins have drafted is 14th in 2008 with Aaron Hicks. I don’t know if its coincidence or not but Aaron Hicks is the number one prospect on my June prospect list. A big thing is when you draft late you need to be smart about who you take and you have to be willing to spend the money to get the guys signed as there is such competition for signing bonuses so the Twins have had to up the ante and they have done just that.

I also take exception that the Twins don’t have a very good farm system because I think the last 2-3 years the Twins have taken the bull by the horns and improved it immensely. It started in 2009 when they went way over slot to sign pitcher Kyle Gibson a starting pitcher who dropped down to the Twins due to a stress fracture in his forearm. The Twins could have sat and said he was too expensive, but they did what was necessary. They spent way over slot to sign BJ Hermsen. Then in 09 they spent over 3 million to sign the top Dominican prospect in years in Miguel Sano for over 3.15 million. This year they doubled slot to sign Corey Williams a hard throwing lefty from Vanderbilit. I know there is not a lot of talent in Rochester, but look at New Britain and below and there are tons of top end talent such as David Bromberg, Joe Benson, Brian Dozier, Chris Parmelee, and Deolis Guerra who has flourished as a reliever this year. In Fort Myers you have big prospects in James Beresford, Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks, Angel Morales, Alex Wimmers, and BJ Hermsen. Then in Beloit you have huge upside guys like Adrian Salcedo, and Madison Boer. Then in Elizabethton you got guys like Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler and Niko Goodrum. If anything I would say the Twins minor league system is loaded not the contrary.

Bill Smith gets a lot of guff for not having a lot of top end talent in AAA and I think the Twins need to take responsibility for a few bad drafts that did not produce the type of prospects thatother teams did. However the last 3-4 years have been phenomenal for the Twins minor league system. I believe in the next 2-3 years the Twins will be known as having one of the finest minor league systems in baseball as the lower levels are just loaded with top end prospects. I feel like the Twins should be commended for seeing a problem and fixing it the last few years. For those that feel Bill Smith, Deron Johnson and the whole Twins front office have not done their job producing prospects well I feel you are wrong and the contrary is true as I feel the Twins have just as many top prospects than any other team it is just the Twins do a good job at letting these guys go at their own speed and develop in a way that not only will they make the Twins when they are ready, but will remain with the team for years to come.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Oswaldo Arcia: The Hitting Machine

Oswaldo Arcia was signed by the Twins on July, 4th 2007 out of Anaco, Venezuela at the age of 16. As a foreign player it is always hard to know what to expect from young players, especially players so young. The Twins saw an outfielder that had a projectable body who people thought would be able to hit. I don’t think when the Twins signed him in 2007 that anybody thought that Arcia would hit the way that he has so far in his young Twins career. He can hit for average, hit for power, plays good outfield defense, and has a good arm. A very toolsy outfielder that the Twins love to put through the system. Guys like Joe Benson, Aaron Hicks, and Torii Hunter before them. After signing with the Twins Arcia spent the 2008 season back in the Caribbean with the DSL Twins. That is where Arcia really came on the scene as a 17 year old kid that turned heads in that season with his quick bat. Here is how Arcia did in 2008 in the DSL:

DSL: 61games .293avg 4hr 36rbi 12doub 4trip 99TB 16bb 27k 8sb .343//432/.775

Those numbers were not huge, but for a 17 year old kid those are very good numbers. The stat that impressed me the most was his 99 total bases and his .343 on base percentage. That is pretty good for anyone let alone a 17 year old. Arcia then moved to the United States for the 2009 season and played with the GCL Twins. He continued his steady progress for the team in 2009 if not eye opening at least it was solid. I will let you be the judge what you thought his numbers were like in 2009 with the GCL Twins.

GCL: 44games .275avg 5hr 24rbi 11doub 2trip 76TB 15bb 18k 8sb .337/.455/.792

Those numbers were very similar to his numbers in 2008 in DSL, but you should not take it as a step backward. Coming over to the states was a big deal as he had to learn so much that have nothing to do with baseball that it is a big learning curve. You have to learn a new culture along with facing good young pitching. He had a good obp again so there was hope that with another year under his belt that he could continue to develop. His .337 on base percentage may not seem like much but for his first year in the states that is quite impressive. In 2010 Oswaldo Arcia arrived, he went up to Elizabethton and had one of the finest seasons in Twins Minor League history. He went from an ok prospect to one of the best prospects in the organization. I have been following the Twins minor league system for a few years and there has not been a season where a player has had any better years than the 2010 season for Oswaldo Arcia.

Eliz: 64games .375avg 14hr 51rbi 21doub 7trip 174TB 19bb 67k 4sb .424/.672/1.096

Oswaldo Arcia’s 2010 is the be all end all of minor league seasons and all the numbers are impressive. However the stat that really impressed me was the 42 extra base hits which is awesome. The other stat that sticks out to me is his 1.096 OPS for a whole season. You really need to digest how good of a season that is to understand how good he was. Arcia’s season in historical reference was quite good as it is ranked as the 3rd best offensive season in Elizabethton since 1990. He only trailed Reuben Salazar’s 1999 season and Paul Russo’s 1990 season for the best individual seasons in E-town history. With that success Arcia became a top 10 prospect in just about everyone’s prospect lists for the Twins. So for the 2011 season the Twins decided the best course of action to send him to Beloit and see how he does for a full season. The problem was Arcia had injured his elbow in the offseason so he started the season as the Snappers DH and here is how he did.

Bel:20games 71ab .352avg 5hr 18rbi 8doub 1trip 50TB 9bb 16k 2sb .420/.704/1.124

Talk about building off his monster 2010 season it looked like Arcia was on the verge of doing that this year for the Snappers. He was mashing for the Snappers this spring and that was surprising as most Caribbean players usually struggle early on for the Snappers due to the cold weather. However, Arcia did well for Beloit and the thought was he could put up another great season in 2011 to match his 2010. However, the pain in his elbow became too much for him and he finally succumbed to his elbow. There were many rumors that he would need Tommy John surgery which would have ended his 2011 season. However, after multiple opinions and examinations it would be decided that the best course of action would be for Arcia to have arthroscopic surgery on his elbow and miss 4-6 weeks. So after his rehab and such he was ready to come back. He put up great numbers in the GCL and the time had come for him to return the Twins surprised everybody and kept him in Fort Myers with the Miracle instead of sending him back down to Beloit. After going up to Fort Myers these are the numbers Arcia put up with the Miracle.

FM: 34games .262avg 3hr 15rbi 8doub 1trip 52TB 5bb 32k .286/ .413/.698

Arcia is only 20 years old so to be up in Fort Myers is quite an accomplishment and probably a year ahead of schedule. His numbers in Fort Myers are quite impressive for his age and even he would say that he needs to get on base more and strikeout less. But I have been quite impressed with his extra base power and look for him to get better and better next year in Fort Myers. Enough of talk from me I asked Roger Dehring from Twinkie Town for his thoughts on Arcia and here is what he had to say.

First, I asked Roger what he thought were Arcia’s strengths and weaknesses were and this is his response. “His strengths are that he can flat out hit, better than anyone else in the system. He is also excellent defensively. I really don't see any weaknesses, other than like all young power hitters he could cut down on his strikeouts a bit.” I agree with him on most of those things except he has some weaknesses in my mind in that he strikes out too often and doesn’t walk at all. He can flat out hit, but there are others that can hit as well so I don’t see it as a clear cut thing, but make no mistake he is one of the best hitters in the system.

Next, Roger was asked how high of a ceiling he has for Arcia and a possible estimated time of arrival. “I see him as potentially becoming a frequent all-star. Looking at his numbers in the minors, he compares favorably with Justin Morneau, who turned 20 in May, 2001. Justin spent the first half of that year in the Midwest League, hitting .326/.420/.728 in 236 at bats with 12 home runs. He then hit .294/.385/.522 in 197 at bats at Ft. Myers. Arcia likewise turned 20 this past May. He began his year in the Midwest League where he hit .352/.420/.704 in 71 at bats with 5 home runs. Granted, that is a smaller sample because his stay was cut short with an injury, but the production is very similar. He is now in Ft. Myers, coming off his rehab and hitting .278/.305/.411 in 90 at bats with two home runs. I expect those numbers will rise as he gets used to the level of pitching and gets healthy, but it is scary how similar the two are at the same levels.” I am very high on Arcia as well, but I think we might be jumping the gun a little bit on Arcia comparison with Morneau as I view them as completely different hitters. I view Arcia as a gap hitter who will be doubles machine while Morneau was always a homerun hitter. I would compare Arcia more to a Jason Kubel who hit doubles like they were going out of style coming up.

Then, I asked Roger what he considers Arcia’s best position and his response was, “He has played some centerfield, however, doesn't have the speed to be a top centerfielder like Revere, Hicks or Rosario. He has a very good arm, thus either corner position works with right field being most likely.” I couldn’t agree more as he just does not have the speed for centerfield, but either corner spot would work fine for him.

Roger was then asked about how Arcia’s upside compares to a guy like Aaron Hicks and his response was, “Considering that he can become one of the elite hitters in baseball, I view him as a better prospect than Hicks.” I disagree with Roger on this one because Oswaldo Arcia and Aaron Hicks are totally different type of prospects. Hicks is the toolsy outfield prospect that the Twins thought that they were getting in Arcia. However, Arcia can just flat out hit and that will be his bread and butter going forward is being able hit. I think it is a personal preference with those two as they are just so different. I think Arcia has a better chance of fulfilling his potential, but it is just a personal opinion, but if I had to say if Hicks reaches his potential then I prefer Hicks by an eyelash.

I then asked Roger, What does Oswaldo Arcia need to get better at going forward and his response was, “He needs to play! Does he need to cut down on strikeouts a bit, yes. It is encouraging that as he has moved up two levels from last year, his strikeout rate hasn't gone up. I look for it to go down over the next few years.” The thing that I think he needs to improve is to take more walks, less strikeouts, and like Roger said he needs to play. Hopefully this was just a blip on the radar with this injury, but until he plays more we just don’t know.

Next, I asked Roger about Arcia’s defense and this was his response. “ Defensively, he has reasonable speed (he isn't Ben Revere) with an above average arm. As I stated, he doesn't make mistakes as supported by having one error since rookie ball in 2008...that is two and a half years with only one error earlier this year.” I think Arcia’s defense is fine, but the big question will be how did his arm come out of his elbow surgery. He had a solid arm, but if he lost much off his arm you could have a problem as he is too young to be a DH. Too athletic to be a DH so it will be interesting to see how his elbow comes around.

The final question I asked Roger was how high he has him rated and how much can he improve in his mind. “As you know, I don't have a Top 20 or Top 50. I have a rating system that I apply to the actual performances of all the players in the organization each year. Based on what Arcia has done so far this year, I will be shocked if he isn't the top rated player in the organization at the end of the year. In preparation for this response to your questions, I did a quick mid-year test of five of the Twins better players as of a few days ago. Arcia was comfortably first with Jairo Perez second. As for improvement, he needs to get healthy so that his last month at Ft. Myers will be more like the first month in Beloit.” I will say this about Arcia he is defiantly a top 5 prospect in the organization for the Twins. It really comes down to personal preference between 1-5 as I don’t believe there is a clear cut number 1 right now. I do think Arcia can continue to improve if he gets his walks up and his strikeouts down to be a top five prospect every year.

Oswaldo Arcia has transformed himself from a toolsy outfield prospect that the Twins signed for about $95,000 to one of the top prospects in the organization and one of the top 30 prospects in all of baseball. Arcia crushes the ball on a regular basis and seems to be getting better and better every day. After solid years in the DSL and the GCL he exploded in 2010 to put himself on the map. He has followed that up with another very good season in 2011 and if it were not for a balky elbow that forced him to miss a big chunk of games. Going forward the sky is the limit for Arcia as he has the ability to be off the charts. He is an extra base hit machine who reminds me of a young Jason Kubel. Think about it he is in Fort Myers at the age of 20 and really has the ability to get better and better. His weaknesses are relatively minor in that he strikes out a little bit too much and needs to learn to walk. However, those are things that are definitely fixable and I fully expect him to be a good major leaguer and the next line of great hitters that the Twins have been waiting to arrive. Arcia has the ability to be special and someone that we all will be talking about years from now.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Trip to Beloit Day 3

Day 3 of the Beloit trip was a steamer even compared to days one and two. We got up at around nine after a long day on Saturday. We checked out of the hotel around eleven. Before we get any further I want to commend the Rodeway Hotel for being very hospitable to us while we were there. The room was clean with the beds comfortable and plenty of towels. We then stopped at my favorite restaurant and yours in Applebee’s for lunch once again. Once again we got a great meal as I had a chicked breast with some steamed veggies and steamed potatoe wedges. All I can say is magnificent once again. The only thing I was disappointed in was the fact that our buddy Josh was not there this day. Not to say our server did a bad job, but Josh was very entertaining and made our experience there on Saturday much better. We then bummed around until noon when it was time to get to the park as it was a 2pm game.

When I stepped out of the car Sunday the first thing that went through my mind was man is it hot. It was a real steamer out so we did not sit in the outside bleachers instead we headed to the closed bleachers to watch West Michigan take batting practice. You could tell how hot it was because the Snappers did a short workout early then headed back to the clubhouse without taking batting practice on this day. We sat and watched West Michigan taking BP and the two guys that really stood out to me is Nick Castellanos who is rated as the Tigers number two prospect in the system at third base. He kept hitting shot after shot out of the park you could really tell he was a top prospect. The other was Catcher Rob Brantley who was also a top 15 prospect for the Tigers. The funny story was we met a former coach of Brantley who had made the trek down to Beloit to see him play. That should tell you all you need to know how when someone makes it to pro ball it is not just the player who has a vested interest, but all those that helped him get there.

After watching BP we got a chance to talk to BJ Hermsen, Adam Bryant, Michael Gonzalez, and Andy Leer. Talk about nice guys as each of those guys seemed geniounly happy to talk to us. That kind of thing is what makes this type of trip a must is it makes you realize these guys are just like you and I they just get paid to do something they love to do. They are accomplishing a dream that most of us had when we were little kids. The thing that impressed me the most though was how it did not change who they are. The coolest thing that I saw on Sunday though was these three Snapper fans who come to all the games. These people were just good people so we got to talk to them for a while and they came up to us from Twins Minor League Weekly and knew who we were I found that really cool. Then to find out that 2-3 times a year they hold BBQ’s for the players at their house with the only rule that no autographs. That really allows the players to relax and just be themselves without having to worry about the one percent of leaches that try to profit off these guys. Instead they get to know these guys as people and just have a good time. When the players would walk by they would give the little girl a hug and they were on first name basis which I found really really cool. Some people put these guys on pedastal’s but at the end of the day they are just people just like you and I and deserve to be treated with that kind of respect.

The game started and my favorite pitcher for the Snappers AJ Achter got the start and was really good. His change-up is the real deal as he got quite a few swings and misses on it. He can place his fastball on the corners as he is not overpowering so if he can place his fastball and throw that change-up he can be tough. He is just learning how to throw a slider because after he signed they decided to replace the curveball that he threw at Michigan State with a slider and he really feels it is coming around. I would say 35-40% of his sliders were good so it definitely is a work in progress, but something that if he can perfect it can really be a really good pitch for him. Achter went seven very good innings and gave up two runs on only six hits with a walk and three strikeouts. A very good outing and has been one of the most consistant pitchers for the Snappers since he got up to Beloit. Jose Gonzalez then came on and pitched the last two innings to pick up the save with a strikeout. Gonzalez is nota very big guy, but he can hump it up there pretty good for his size. A comparable I could think of is a young Jose Mijares body type and ability to throw pretty hard.

Offensively, the Snappers were only able to score three runs on seven hits, but that was enough on this day. Seth and I discussed during the game that he was a bad luck charm for the Snappers as they were 0-4 in games he had attended until this game. The Snappers were led by Wang Wei Lin who went 2-3 at the plate with a double and a single. Reggie Williams went 1-2 with a single and a walk. Lance Ray went 1-4 with a double smashed down the right field line that I made a call on, but Seth disputes. Ill leave it up to the readers when you say someone is going to hit a gapper does it not include the gap between the right field line and the right fielder. I think it does, but Seth disagreed with me so let me know what you think. Derek Mccallum went 1-2 with a single and a sacrifice fly. Tobias Streich went 1-3 with a single along with reaching on an error and scoring a run.

The best part of the day was right after the game we were walking out and I look up and there is former Twins General Manager and current consultant for the team Terry Ryan standing their extending his hand and saying “hi Im Terry Ryan” I shook his hand and was thinking no duh I know who you are and had been trying to get enough nerve all weekend to go talk to him. He was like why didn’t you guys come seek me out I was expecting it. Seth told him we knew he was working so we didn’t want to bother him. The fact that a guy like Terry Ryan would seek us out was the highlight to my trip. I know he has talked to Seth before, but for him to introduce himself to me was so cool and something that I will never forget. We walked a few more feet and there is Reggie Williams waiting for us to shake our hands and thank us for coming this weekend. I found that so cool as it ceases to amaze me how nice of a guy that Reggie Williams is. I know we are supposed to be professional with this, but I am a fan not a journalist and I really am pulling for Reggie Williams to make it because you are not going to find a nicer guy then him so best of luck to him. We then took off and our fun filled trip to Beloit was over so fast.

Before I end this I want to personally thank Jeff Vohs for being so friendly to us that weekend as he went above and beyond what he needed to do. He is one of the hardest working people I have ever met and he does not only the Snappers, the city of Beloit, and the State of Wisconsin a honor by all the work that he puts on. Also want to thank Justin Waters for all the work he put in from setting up the interviews for us and helping getting everything set-up and then doing PA for the game. He is also a credit to the organization and a credit to Jeff that he hired him to do the job. For those that have considered going down Beloit to see some baseball don’t hesitate as it is a grade A experience. If you think it is good ball watching town team ball you would not believe how good these guys are. The park and experience are second to none so I guarantee you that you will have a blast. Plus it is only 5.5 hours from the Twin Cities so there is no reason not to go because I guarantee you that you will not be disappointed and will have a time that you will be talking about for weeks. I know I am already looking forward to going back next summer as it will again be something that I enjoy once again. Again thanks a lot to the Snapper staff for an experience I will never forget.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Trip to Beloit Day 2

Day two of the trip to Beloit had an early start to it compared to the day previous as we had another edition of Twins Minor League Weekly scheduled for 9:00am Saturday morning. That was all well and good, but the problem was my charger for my phone was not working and without my phone there would be Twins Minor League Weekly. So there I am going to Wal-Mart at 7:00am on a Saturday morning after a long day Friday. I got into Wal-Mart and found the right charger and went to pay and realized that I had forgotten my wallet back at the hotel. I may have good looks, but the girl at Wal-Mart was not about to give me a free charger so I headed back to the Hotel and grabbed my wallet. I then headed back to Wal-Mart and picked up the charger this time with money. I headed back to the hotel and decided to rest before the show, but about a half an hour before the show I realized I had a problem in that I couldn’t find my phone. I pulled all the blankets off the bed, looked in the trash, looked in Seth’s car and could not find it anywhere. At this point I was kind of freaking out as I paid some money for this phone and the idiot I am I didn’t put insurance on the phone so I would have been out some money. Finally, I went back to the room for one last look around before I head back to Wal-Mart to see if I brought it there. Luckily for me I found the phone underneath the bed so I was ready for the show. We got going on the show and wasn’t more than two minutes later that I realized that there was an echo in each of our phones from being too close together so that would have made a bad show. So I did the honorable thing and stepped outside. The only problem with that is I have left my notes in the room with my room key so I had no stats to talk about on the show. I tried to lightly knock on the door hoping it would get Seth’s attention, but when Seth is in the middle of a show he has a one track mind so there was no getting his attention to let me back in the room. All in all though I felt it was a solid show and a very entertaining morning.

We left the room about 11am because we wanted to get to the park about two in order to do some interviews with players after batting practice. So for lunch we went to my favorite restaurant and really everyone’s and that is Applebee’s. My thing is if you don’t like Applebee’s you’re really not American as it is as American as it gets. Anyway we had a great meal as I had some pasta which was delicious. We met this waiter named Josh who was hilarious who kept coming back to our table several times. One time he asked us if we were scouts and I so wanted to say yes, but my conscious got in the way. He then told us a story about how he and his fiancĂ© went to a Milwaukee Brewer game and how they had the best seats in the upper deck. It was just classic and made our lunch really fun.

We got to the field about 2:00pm and walked around a little bit before we saw Justin who got us an information packet. He gave us that because it was a new opponent in West Michigan after playing South Bend the night before. We went and sat down in another sweltering afternoon and saw Terry Ryan taking notes once again. The Snappers took a good round of BP once again and Lance Ray, Michael Gonzalez, and Jairo Perez just kept hitting shot after shot out of the park. I thought to myself what happens to those balls since this is not a Major League game do they have someone go find the balls or do they let the fans have the balls like they do in the game. After BP we got a chance and spend a few minutes to talk to Ben Tootle and Lance Ray. They were such level headed guys who seemed like they were geniounly happy to talk to us. Tootle talked about his recovery from Arm surgery and Lance Ray talked about what it has been like coming back from struggling in April to being one of the hottest hitters on the team. I will have more from these interviews when I do their player profiles, but just know these guys were great guys and the stereotype of professional athletes being jerks couldn’t be further from the truth with these guys as they are awesome guys.

The most interesting part of the pregame was once the fans were let into the stadium at 6pm how the autograph seekers go right for the locker rooms of the players and camp out there. Especially with Molitor being in attendance they were ready. When the players came out and went for their dugouts they were all over them. The players had a hard time getting to their dugouts, but what impressed me was Reggie Williams who had just arrived from Fort Myers after being sent back down to Beloit was very nice to us and took time to talk to us as he was hitting off the tee in cage. What a geniounly nice guy who had to be so disappointed to be back in Beloit, but you would never know it by talking to him as he was taking it as a challenge to get back to Fort Myers and the opportunity to get more playing time. I don’t know what is going to eventually happen to Reggie Williams, but for the rest of my life Reggie Williams will be an A+ person in my book. The funniest part of the pregame is when West Michigan came out from the lockeroom Tiger prospect Nick Castellanos, who most Tiger fans had come to see, ducked behind another player who was signing autographs and got to the West Michigan dugout. I am not saying he is a bad guy I don’t know the guy, but I found that hilarious how he avoided the throng of autograph seekers.

It was almost game time so we headed out to the picnic shelter in the right field line. I have to give the Snappers credit as that is quite a deal as it is all you can eat or drink for only 22.00 to me that is best deal in sports. Seth and I had a couple brats and a hamburger before we realized that it is really hard to see back there so we headed back to the grandstand and watched the game from there. Don’t get me wrong they are great tickets for big groups or fans that are there to visit or if they have families. However, Seth and I were there to watch the games so it was not a good fit for us so we found a seat back in the grandstand. The funniest part of sitting in the grandstand was about the 7th inning Seth went up to a guy thinking it was AJ Achter the scheduled Sunday afternoon pitcher who was doing a pitch count. He said something like “Hey AJ” and the guy was like “I’m not AJ” and later it turned out that the guy that he had talked to was the West Michigan pitcher for Sunday.

It was game time as Manuel Soliman was on the mound for the Snappers. He went 6 innings and gave up five runs on eight hits although only one of them were earned along with five strikeouts. The four unearned runs really were his undoing though as it was first and second with no one out and he fielded a bunt and threw to third. The only problem with that idea was there was no one covering third base at the time so two runs scored and he had trouble focusing again after that. Sam Spangler then came on and went two perfect innings along with three strikeouts and was very impressive. Michael Tonkin pitched the ninth allowing no runs on a hit along with three strikeouts. Soliman showed that he has a plus fastball in the low 90’s that can touch the mid 90’s with a good slider. The thing that he needs to work on in my opinion is keeping his composure when things are not going well for him other than that I came away very impressed with him.

Offensively for the Snappers it was not a great as they were only able to manage five hits off of West Michigan pitchers. Danny Ortiz led the way by going 2-3 with a double. Lance Ray went 1-3 with a double that was a rope down the right field line. Wang Wei Lin went 1-4 with a double of his own. Danny Santana went 1-3 at the plate while scoring one of the Snappers two runs on the night.

After the game the Snappers put on quite the impressive fireworks display and it puts to shame anything I had seen before in Perham for the 4th of July. It was quite impressive and lasted quite a bit. After talking to Jeff for a few minutes we went back to the Hotel and called it a night as we knew that Sunday was going to be a burner. Overall, it was a very fun day as we got to talk to some players and watched a very competitive baseball game. I will be back tomorrow with part 3 of my weekend in Beloit series.