Minnesota Twins Spring Training Stock Watch: Three Up and Three Down
With opening day just around the corner and Spring Training almost at an end, I thought it the perfect time to look at a few players who have turned some heads and a few who have nodded heads thus far this spring.
We'll take a look at three players who have either risen their stock, or watched their stock drop faster then Enron.
Stock UP: Jason Kubel
In a make-or-break contract season in 2011, Jason Kubel has hit the ground running this spring.
In 38 at-bats this spring, Kubel is hitting a monstrous .436 with one home run and 10 runs batted in.
"Right now, I'm just happy with the way things are going so far this spring, just with the way I've started off, the way I'm swinging, the way I feel," Kubel said according to Kelsie Smith of the American Chronicle.
Kubel will be playing for a contract this season following a down year in 2010 where he hit only .249 with 21 home runs.
To return next season Kubel will need to play beyond his value as the Twins currently have youngsters Aaron Hicks, Ben Revere, and Joe Benson all very close to the majors.
"It does make it a little hard," Kubel said. "We've got a couple replacements for Cuddy, myself and Delmon. There are plenty of options."
Stock DOWN: Kevin Slowey
Scott Baker was named the fifth starter earlier today which means Kevin Slowey is the odd man out in the six-man musical chair game the Twins were playing with their starting rotation for this season.
Slowey has a career record of 39-21 but may be on his way out of Minnesota following Ron Gardenhire's decision to go with Carl Pavano, Brian Duensing, Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn for his rotation.
Kevin Slowey was having a good spring, giving up only three earned runs over 12.0 innings pitched.
Possible trade destinations may include the Toronto Blue Jays, who could offer up some bullpen help in the form of Jason Frasor.
If the Twins keep Slowey into the season, he will start the season in the bullpen.
Stock UP: Tsuyoshi Nishioka
Ron Gardenhire has a new favorite toy to play with, and it comes in the form of the 6'1", 175 pound, 26-year-old second baseman out of Japan.
Nishioka may even be better than advertised. The five-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner, and batting champion from the Chiba Lotte Marines has been hitting and fielding at an All-Star level this spring.
Nishioka is hitting a stellar .351 this spring, and showing great flashes at second base leading to Gardenhire thinking he may have a future Gold Glove winner manning the right side of his infield.
"He's got as good hands as I've seen, and he's quick," Gardenhire said to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com.
Stock DOWN: Alexi Casilla
Every time the Twins have tried to give a starting job to Alexi Casilla, he always seems to find a way to get into the customer service line with his receipt to return it within 30 days.
This spring has continued the unfortunate pattern.
After 15 spring training games, Casilla is hitting an underwhelming .206 and has been inconsistent in the field where he was named the starting shortstop after the Twins shipped J.J. Hardy to Baltimore in the offseason.
Casilla will go into the season as the starter at short, but he may be on a short leash if he doesn't take the job and run with it.
In a division that should be a dog fight with the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers, the Twins can't wait too long if Casilla is ineffective to start the season.
Stock UP: Denard Span
Denard Span had a down year in 2010 and is looking to bounce back in a big way in 2011.
If spring training has any relation to what we can expect from Span in the regular season, Ron Gardenhire will be one happy manager.
The Twins center-fielder, and lead off man is hitting .340 with four doubles, a home run, and five steals so far this spring.
Add Span and Nishioka together at the top of the Twins lineup, and Gardenhire has that speed he missed so much last season in his lineup, and Mauer/Morneau could be hitting much more often with runners in scoring position.
Stock DOWN: Jim Hoey
Jim Hoey was the fruit of the trade that sent J.J. Hardy to the Baltimore Orioles this winter in hopes that he would help replenish a bullpen that was gutted by free agency.
Hoey, 28, is a flame-throwing 6'6", 210 pound right-hander with all the tools to be a very good option out of the bullpen if he can just control the strike zone more.
In his 8.1 spring training innings, he has already walked four batters which have helped lead to his bloated 5.19 ERA.
Hoey has never been able to crack a Major League roster with any regularity, and unless the Twins' pitching coach Rick Anderson can help Hoey's control, he won't be starting the season in the Twins bullpen come April.