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Valencia’s demotion, explained

Yesterday, Danny Valencia homered off Johan Santana, and was rewarded by being cut from major league camp — it seemed pretty abrupt to me. But thanks to Joe C, we have an explanation:

Players on the 40-man roster who did not finish the previous year in the majors need to be optioned before today (16 days before Opening Day), or, in the event of an injury, they must be kept on the major league DL.

Since Valencia was expected to contend for the starting third base job, his cut seemed particularly abrupt.

I don’t know if I’d use the word “expected” here. A better choice, I think, would be “hoped.” I believe Valencia is almost ready for a promotion to the majors, and a half-season or so in AAA to make some adjustments to his approach at the plate would definitely do him good.

Even more than that, though, is the fact that Gardy is still the manager around here, and there’s nothing he hates more than:

  1. Young, talented players
  2. Anything that might cut into Nick Punto’s playing time

That’s why I was so interested to read even the most cursory scouting report from Gardy, about Valencia.

Asked what impression Valencia made this spring, Gardenhire said, “He was fine. He moved around just fine. A good arm. He’s still got to learn where to play guys defensively and all those things. His bat seems good, there’s things he’s going to have work on, hitting the breaking ball and all those things. We saw teams that knew him down here they were spinning a lot of balls. … But I guarantee you one thing: He can hit a fastball, and if he sits on a breaking ball, he can hit that, too. … We’re going to go away here with our infield, and if anybody has any issues, he’ll get a chance.”

Of course, no mention of the thing Valencia actually needs to work on: plate discipline. I’ve talked about this before, but throughout the minors Valencia has struggled to draw walks in his first half-season or so at each level, but then adapts and his OBP jumps up, leading to a promotion and the cycle starts over. Also, it’s probably more important that he learn to a) avoid swinging at breaking balls, and b) foul them off when there are two strikes, but that’s not Gardy’s game.

In fact, there’s little surprise Gardy didn’t talk about Valencia’s strike zone control or plate discipline. There’s just about no evidence that he’s aware that either of those things exist.

So there’s nothing wrong with Valencia being sent down, and the Twins essentially waited until the deadline to do it. And he’s just a heartbeat away from a promotion.

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You can thank Mauer for Sano/Jean

We have an update on one of the Twins’ bright new prospects, Miguel Angel Sano/Jean, in the form of some sour grapes from Pittsburgh. Dejan Kovacevic, the talented Pirates beat writer, says the early indications “sure sound liek a match for all those long-stared, lofty expectations,” and the article is filled with thinly veiled criticism of the Pittsburgh front office for falling short in its efforts to sign Sano/Jean.

Miguel Angel Sano/Jean

On Thursday, before the Pirates and Twins played a Grapefruit League game at adjacent Hammond Stadium, Sano stood out in stature and talent in his group of rookie-level minor leaguers: He looked smooth and natural in all facets, and he homered deep to left in his batting practice.

That’s exactly what I had hoped to hear. Often, these hot shot Dominican prospects are considered “raw,” and their futures are all based on their “projectable” bodies; unlike Carlos Gomez, it’s possible that Sano/Jean may not have as long a road to “learning the game.” And that’d be a big bonus.

But perhaps the most interesting part of the article is the quotes from Sano/Jean himself.

Earlier in the week, Sano told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he chose the Twins because of star players Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.

“I want to be able to play with them,” Sano said through an interpreter.

If you needed another reason for the Twins to do whatever they can to sign Mauer, you’ve got it. Sure, the big stars in the middle of the lineup are key to winning games, and marketing the franchise, and drawing fans to the stadium. But they also are instrumental in attracting high upside talent to the organization.

Regarding his bonus, the highest ever for a Latin American position player: “Right now, I really don’t look at money. I let my mom worry about that. In two or three years, when I get to Major League Baseball, I’ll start thinking about it.”

That’s right. The money was less important to him than the chance to be on the field with Mauer and Morneau.

If Mauer signs a long term contract, I think we can expect to see some more prospects like Sano/Jean to find their way, moth-like, to the bright lights put off by these stars.

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