Wetmore: 5 thoughts on Morales surprise, power at the top, and Gordon
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The Twins lost in the bottom of the ninth Monday to the Blue Jays, when Casey Fien gave up a walk-off single to Kevin Pillar, who had replaced Melky Cabrera defensively in the top of the ninth. The Twins had scored two runs in the ninth to tie the game, 4-4.
This column presents 5 thoughts from Monday.
As always, feel free to ask any questions or make any observations in the comments. If you have a unique baseball observation during a game, feel free to share it with me on Twitter (@DerekWetmore).
1. I certainly was surprised to see Kendrys Morales in the lineup so soon for the Twins. He batted sixth as the DH. He went 1-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout looking against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. I learned while at a press conference introducing, So, too, did Twins GM Terry Ryan. He said he was surprised to have seen that but said it was a good sign.
2. Danny Santana and Brian Dozier led off the Monday's game with back-to-back solo home runs. Santana homered in Friday's game against the Astros, as well, after which a reporter asked him if he's becoming a power hitter. He laughed and said he's not and that it just happens sometimes. I would agree with that.
Dozier, on the other hand, repeatedly says when he's asked the same question that he doesn't concentrate on being a power hitter. He's said on numerous occasions that his main focus is on-base percentage. But Dozier has 13 home runs and might hit 20-25 if he stays healthy. Power is a part of what makes him valuable.
3. The Twins introduce shortstop Nick Gordon on Monday, who signed at the recommended slot bonus ($3.851 million) and instantly becomes one of the Twins top prospects. The Twins have a loaded farm system, but surely a guy drafted so high and so recently would be considered among the top prospects in the organization, right?
"Sure," Ryan said. "Let's get him out there and see what he does."
He'll start in the Appalachian League, playing for the Elizabethton Twins.
Gordon clearly is not to the level of Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton or Alex Meyer, since they're considered elite prospects and they've reached a more advanced level. Ryan said to find out exactly where Gordon will rank among the Twins' top-10 prospects, it's fair to compare Jorge Polanco and see where Gordon rates relative to him.
The organization has been thin in the middle infield in recent years. Santana, Polanco and Gordon represent some potential impact prospects. The Twins will look at the full picture after the summer, Ryan said. Gordon likely will go to instructional league in after the Appalachian League season.
"After instructional league you're going to have a good idea of what he can do defensively and offensively. Can he steal a base? What kind of range does he have? Accuracy of warm; what kind of hitter he is; can he lay down bunts? Can he drag bunt? All that stuff. Then you get a pretty good idea where he fits."
For more on Gordon, check out this bullet list of what the Twins think of his skills.
4. Josh Willingham tripled to the right-center field gap in the sixth inning. His previous triple was April 29, 2012, his only other three-bagger with Minnesota.
5. Ricky Nolasco wasn't great Monday but the Twins had an opportunity to force extras after scoring two runs in the ninth. (After the Blue Jays failed to turn what should have been a game-ending double play against Trevor Plouffe in the ninth, Kurt Suzuki and Eduardo Escobar each doubled to plate a pair and tie the score.) Matt Guerrier had two runners on in the eighth and gave up a warning-track fly ball to end the inning. He did get two swinging strikeouts in the inning.
In a high-leverage situation in the ninth, Guerrier came back out and walked Dioner Navarro. Anthony Gose struck out on a foul bunt with two strikes. Then Casey Fien entered the game and surrendered consecutive singles, the second of which was the walk-off winner.
In an ideal scenario, Gurrier would not be in high-leverage situations late in games. The Twins probably would prefer to save those moments for Fien and Glen Perkins.