Now that September has arrived, MLB teams are allowed to expand their active rosters from 25 to 40 and the Twins have added a total of seven players from Double-A and Triple-A. Below you’ll meet the hitters and pitchers joining the team for the stretch run.
Philip Humber | Starter | DOB: 12/82 | Throws: Right | Trade: Mets
Philip Humber went 35-8 with a 2.80 ERA and 422 strikeouts in 353 innings during three seasons at Rice University, winning national Freshman of the Year honors in 2002 and a College World Series title in 2003. Selected by the Mets with the third overall pick in the 2004 draft, Humber was just 15 starts into his pro career when he joined the long list of pitchers from his alma mater to suffer a major arm injury after racking up huge pitch counts in college, undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery in mid-2005.
He returned to the mound a year later and thrived between Single-A and Double-A despite a drop in velocity, but has now turned in back-to-back mediocre seasons at Triple-A and will be 26 years old in a few months. Acquired from the Mets as part of the package for Johan Santana, Humber posted a 5.82 ERA in the first half while being demoted to Rochester’s bullpen. He rejoined the rotation in the second half and pitched well with a 2.67 ERA and 52-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 57.1 innings.
However, the end result of his up-and-down year is nearly identical to his 2007 campaign, which is bad news, given his move from the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League to the pitcher-friendly International League. Humber no longer overpowers hitters or racks up strikeouts, his control is spotty, and as an extreme fly-ball pitcher he serves up homers in bunches. People focusing on his pre-surgery potential and 6-foot-4 frame misguidedly still view him as a top prospect, but he’s anything but at this point.
Humber has a 4.41 ERA and 226-to-93 strikeout-to-walk ratio while serving up 42 homers among 274 hits in 275.1 innings at Triple-A. Despite that, he’ll likely stick in the majors next season, because, like Brian Bass this year, he’s out of minor-league options and would have to pass through waivers before a third stint at Triple-A. He has little chance of cracking the rotation given the Twins’ collection of young starters, and his best chance at long-term success will likely come as a reliever anyway.
Jason Pridie | Center Field | DOB: 10/83 | Bats: Left | Trade: Rays
Taken by the Rays in the second round of the 2002 draft, injuries and poor numbers offensively caused Jason Pridie to be left unprotected from the Rule 5 draft in December of 2005. A 22-year-old with about a month’s worth of experience above Single-A, the Twins nonetheless selected Pridie only to offer him back to the Rays prior to Opening Day. He struggled again at Double-A in 2006, but followed that up by hitting .303/.352/.487 in 134 games between Double-A and Triple-A last year.
That caught the Twins’ eye again, and they re-acquired him as part of the six-player swap headlined by Delmon Young and Matt Garza. At the time, my take was that “Pridie’s success in 2007 sticks out from the rest of an otherwise mediocre track record of .279/.326/.432 hitting” and unfortunately, he basically matched those career numbers with a .267/.303/.426 line in 137 games at Rochester. However, after hitting just .243/.276/.392 in the first half, Pridie did bat .326/.364/.522 in 44 second-half games.
Like Denard Span last year, his strong finish provides some reason for optimism, but Pridie posted an awful 51-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio during that 44-game stretch and struck out 150 times versus just 30 walks overall. Pridie has speed, athleticism, and the ability to play all three outfield spots, but he’s a 25-year-old career .277/.322/.431 hitter who rarely walks and struggles to make contact. He looks like a fourth outfielder to me, but the Twins always love toolsy outfielders who can’t control the strike zone.
Bobby Korecky | Reliever | DOB: 9/79 | Throws: Right | Trade: Phillies
Selected by the Phillies in the 19th round of the 2002 draft after a three-year career at the University of Michigan, Bobby Korecky was traded to the Twins along with Carlos Silva and Nick Punto in exchange for Eric Milton in December of 2003. Korecky waited another five years for his MLB debut, and despite holding his own after finally being called up by the Twins in late April, he was sent back to Triple-A just nine appearances later.
Korecky took the demotion in stride and thrived in his third straight year at Rochester, saving 26 games with a 2.91 ERA, 71-to-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .237 opponent’s batting average in 74.1 innings. Calling him back up again seemingly would have been a no-brainer, given the team’s ongoing bullpen struggles, but instead Korecky remained at Rochester for the next three-plus months while the Twins told people who questioned their decision that they wanted him to “work on his changeup.”
Much like Jason Bartlett supposedly needing to work on his “infield leadership” a few spring trainings ago, that explanation doesn’t really pass the smell test for a 28-year-old reliever who’s pitched in 300 minor-league games. Korecky doesn’t project as anything special, but his lengthy track record includes 69 saves with a 3.34 ERA in 210.1 innings at Rochester and shows someone capable of being a solid middle reliever. If nothing else, that’s something the Twins could have used in June, July, and August.
It’s also something the Twins could use in the postseason, but by waiting until September to recall him, they’ve ruled Korecky out for the playoff roster unless the “Francisco Rodriguez rule” is used to replace Pat Neshek. Bass got five months with the Twins, despite a track record that pales in comparison to Korecky, who’ll turn 29 years old in two weeks and hasn’t gotten a chance to stick in the majors. He can get outs in the middle innings if given an opportunity, but at this point, that seems unlikely.
Matt Tolbert | Second Base | DOB: 5/82 | Bats: Switch | Draft: 2004-16
Selected by the Twins in the 16th round of the 2004 draft despite a modest .288/.365/.393 line in four years at the University of Mississippi, Matt Tolbert has essentially duplicated his college production by hitting .279/.343/.401 in five pro seasons. Within that thoroughly mediocre overall performance, two hot streaks have misled some people to believe that he’s more than a possible utility man. For example, he hit .340 in April and .370 in May after making his Triple-A debut as a 25-year-old last season.
That got fans and media members talking about Tolbert, but he predictably crashed back down to earth by hitting .267/.323/.396 in the second half to finish the season at his usual .293/.353/.427. Similarly, after making this year’s team out of spring training, Tolbert began his MLB career 14-for-35 (.400) while people who didn’t know better got way too excited about his future. An 8-for-48 (.167) slump followed and Tolbert was hitting just .265/.307/.337 overall when a finger injury sidelined him in mid-May.
Tolbert was getting regular starts at shortstop, second base, and third base prior to the injury, but after more than three months off he returns as a reserve. As a 26-year-old career .279/.343/.401 hitter in the minors who’s stretched defensively at shortstop Tolbert has very limited value, but Ron Gardenhire can never have enough light-hitting utility infielders at his disposal, and with Punto an impending free agent, there may soon be a vacancy in the manager’s heart.
Jose Mijares | Reliever | DOB: 10/84 | Throws: Left | Sign: Venezuela
Signed out of Venezuela in 2002, Jose Mijares ranked No. 28 on my list of the Twins’ top 40 prospects two years ago. A disappointing 2007 season full of walks and homers between Double-A and Triple-A followed, and his prospect stock fell further when Mijares broke his pitching elbow in a car accident this winter. He returned to the mound in July, but got his feet wet at rookie-ball and high Single-A before a promotion back to Double-A last month.
Between the three levels, Mijares had a 2.21 ERA, 41-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .234 opponent’s batting average in 36.2 innings, which while somewhat misleading, thanks to the low-level competition is nonetheless very encouraging. Mijares’ raw stuff has always been considered outstanding, but in the past, his results have been inconsistent at best. For instance, even while dominating at high Single-A in 2006, he served up 10 homers and walked 27 batters in 63 innings.
Last year, he again served up 10 homers along with handing out 53 walks in 70.1 innings, which isn’t how great relief prospects generally perform. The Twins clearly think very highly of Mijares, bypassing several more experienced pitchers to call him up all the way from Double-A despite his logging just 15 innings there, thanks to the broken elbow. He’s made some impressive strides this year considering the injury and with 319 strikeouts in 265.2 career innings his stuff has always been electric
With that said, Mijares is still plenty rough around the edges just two months from his 24th birthday and definitely needs to harness his stuff while doing a better job keeping the ball in the ballpark before he can emerge as a strong late-inning option. With left-handers Dennys Reyes, Craig Breslow, and Eddie Guardado already in the bullpen he doesn’t figure to see much action this month and will likely begin next season at Triple-A.
Matt Macri | Third Base | DOB: 5/82 | Bats: Right | Trade: Rockies
Originally taken out of an Iowa high school by the Twins in the 17th round of the 2001 draft, Matt Macri opted for college, instead of signing and played three years at Notre Dame before the Rockies made him a fifth rounder in 2004. Macri hit well at Single-A to begin his pro career, struggled at Double-A in 2006, and then hit .298/.349/.502 in 79 games while repeating the level last year. Traded to the Twins for Ramon Ortiz that August, Macri moved up to Triple-A and hit .286/.322/.554 in 17 games.
Macri carried a solid .282/.350/.467 career line into this year and impressed during a month-long stint with the Twins after making his MLB debut in late May, going 11-for-30 (.367) before Punto’s return from the disabled list got him sent back to Rochester. At the time, it seemed like Macri would be back in the majors relatively soon, but instead he remained at Triple-A for the next three-plus months while hitting just .256/.321/.456 in 88 games.
He’s already 26 years old, strikes out a lot and lacks plate discipline, but Macri is a capable defender at third base who can play second base in a pinch or shortstop in an emergency and offers 20-homer power. He’d be miscast as an everyday player, but if the Twins decide to go with Brian Buscher as their primary third baseman next season, Macri would be a good fit to take over against left-handed pitching as his platoon partner.
Ryan Jorgensen | Catcher | DOB: 5/79 | Bats: Right | Sign: Free Agent
A seventh-round pick in 2000, Ryan Jorgensen is now a 29-year-old career .239/.313/.373 hitter in nine minor-league seasons, including .232/.304/.368 in 1,141 trips to the plate at Triple-A. Along with those putrid numbers, his resume includes a 50-game suspension for violating MLB’s drug policy last year and an appearance in the Mitchell Report a few months later. Despite his off-field issues and inability to hit even minor-league pitching, Jorgensen is in the majors for the third time in four seasons.
He’s a living, breathing example of why Joe Mauer is far more valuable than most people think, has no business in the majors and will be lucky to get a few odd at-bats this month, but the Twins called him up because they wanted to have a third catcher around and Jose Morales is out with an ankle injury. Jorgensen’s biggest contribution figures to be easing Gardenhire’s mind enough to let Mauer start at designated hitter or pinch-hit on days when Mike Redmond is behind the plate.