NOTEBOOK: Wilson Trade, Fall League & Sept. Call-Ups

Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins made a trade following Thursday’s game against the Cleveland Indians, sending backup catcher Bobby Wilson to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for a familiar face, catcher Chris Gimenez, as well as cash or a player to be named later.

Wilson is currently on the disabled list with a sprained right ankle, but is eligible to return early next week. While the 35-year-old catcher has only hit .178/.242/.281 in 47 games with the Twins this year, he’s brought defensive stability behind the plate while Mitch Garver has been brought along in the wake of Jason Castro’s meniscus injury.

READ: Wilson Using “Eye of the Tiger” During Trying Season

Wilson will also bring that stability to the Cubs, who haven’t gotten much production out of their backup catchers this season between youngster Victor Caratini and Gimenez. Caratini is a more offensive-minded catcher who hasn’t done much at the plate this year, while starter Willson Contreras and he have ranked rather poorly in pitch-framing metrics this season.

Pitch Framing Runs Above Average via Statcorner:

  • Wilson – 1.0 (3,398 pitches)
  • Contreras – minus-9.6 (8,622 pitches)
  • Caratini – minus-5.0 (1,734 pitches)

Pitch Framing Stats via Baseball Prospectus (out of 105 catchers):

  • Wilson – 3.2 framing runs (22nd)
  • Contreras – minus-15.3 framing runs (105th)
  • Caratini – minus-3.6 framing runs (90th)

Gimenez was up with the Cubs for just a dozen games over the span of a month from late May to late June, and has spent the bulk of the season with Triple-A Iowa. Gimenez was 4-for-28 with the Cubs, and has hit .204/.282/.303 with Iowa this season.

READ: Brandon catches up with Gimenez at Wrigley Field

Gimenez will initially report to Triple-A Rochester, but seems likely to be added to the MLB roster after the season ends for the Red Wings. The Red Wings are 63-73 entering Friday’s action — and thus out of playoff contention — with their season drawing to a close following a Sept. 3 home game against Lehigh Valley.

The Twins’ selections for the Arizona Fall League were announced on Thursday. The Twins will have players on the Salt River Rafters team in the Eastern Division — with the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Marlins and Nationals — with the schedule beginning on Oct. 9.

The following players were selected from the Twins (along with age when AFL starts and most recent level):

  • RHP Griffin Jax (23, High-A Fort Myers) – Has just 124.2 MiLB innings due to Air Force commitments, and as a result is about the league-average age for his level. Will need to be pushed as innings rise, which makes AFL a good fit for that sort of thing. Has a 3.28 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 6.9 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 for Miracle this year with 53.9 percent GB rate. Rule 5-eligible after 2019.
  • RHP Hector Lujan (24, High-A Fort Myers) – Has put up numbers in very limited exposure after Twins took him in the 35th round out of Westmont College in 2015. He’s never been particularly young for a level — including the average age at Fort Myers this year — but has posted a 2.42 ERA in 70.2 innings with a 66-22 K/BB ratio and 1.22 WHIP. Also getting a longer look because he’s Rule 5-eligible this winter.
  • LHP Alex Robinson (24, High-A Fort Myers) – The big lefty is Rule 5-eligible this winter, and is coming off an uneven showing with the Miracle: 4.98 ERA, 11.8 K/9, 6.0 BB/9, 1.46 WHIP. While the numbers aren’t there, arm talent from the left side like this doesn’t come around often, as he has a good fastball with a slider to go with it.
  • LHP Devin Smeltzer (23, Double-A Chattanooga) – Bespectacled lefty acquired in Brian Dozier deal, Smeltzer has done a decent job in 10 innings with the Lookouts working solely out of the bullpen. For the year he has a 4.61 ERA, 7.7 K/9 and a 1.37 WHIP, but with Chattanooga, he’s at 3.60, 11.7 and 1.50, respectively. Smeltzer’s a great story — cancer survivor with a cool Chase Utley connection, too — and could fit as a lefty specialist if things break right for him. Rule 5-eligible next winter.
  • IF Travis Blankenhorn (22, High-A Fort Myers) – Blankenhorn can play a little bit all over — second, third and a very little bit in the outfield — but has taken a step back this year with just a .693 OPS in the Florida State League. The FSL can be a bit pitcher-friendly, so that’s about a league-average mark, for what it’s worth. This’ll be a good look at Blankenhorn, who needs to be protected on the 40-man roster next winter.
  • OF Jaylin Davis (24, Double-A Chattanooga) – Davis has been a bit old for his levels to this point, but has good pop and has moved around a bit in the outfield. A shoulder injury in college made him slip as many as 20 rounds when the Twins got him in 2015, but his production this year between the Miracle and Lookouts — .278/.354/.420 in 116 games — merits him a longer look as an under-the-radar guy. Rule 5-eligible this offseason.
  • 1B/OF Luke Raley (24, Double-A Chattanooga) – Raley was hitting for good power with Tulsa before coming in the Dozier trade, and hasn’t skipped a beat since joining the Lookouts. He had an .822 OPS with Tulsa and that’s jumped four points with Chattanooga, and he’s even walked at a better rate with the Lookouts (11.3 percent) than beforehand (5.5 percent). Playing time has been divvied up between right field (seven games), left field (six) and first base (five) since the trade. Rule 5-eligible next winter.
  • 1B/OF Brent Rooker (23, Double-A Chattanooga) – This is about getting a longer look at Rooker, who could force his way into MLB time in 2019. Has hit .258/.335/.475 for the Lookouts this season, though his month-by-month OPS splits are really something: .638, .739, 1.038, 1.010, .576. He’ll be in the mix for playing time at first base or DH for the Twins early next season, and this will be a good way to further accelerate his development.

Players listed among Twins Top-30 Prospects List on Blankenhorn (18), Raley (19), Rooker (7)

Roster expansion comes into play on Saturday, with the Twins likely adding a few arms then, followed by loading up when minor-league seasons come to an end. Here are the candidates for promotions, with my perceived likelihood they’ll come up.

By the way, it’s worth noting — the Twins have more room than it seems because they can put Logan Morrison, Adalberto Mejia and Ervin Santana on the 60-day DL to clear spots.

The candidates (non-40-man candidates in BOLD):

  • RP – Tyler Duffey: Almost a foregone conclusion. Possibly a last hurrah in the organization as he’s posted a 2.90 ERA in Rochester and a 6.35 mark in Minnesota.
  • C – Chris Gimenez: Pretty much guaranteed to fill in the backup/mentor role to Garver and/or Astudillo.
  • RP – John Curtiss: Hasn’t shown much in limited MLB experience, and has struggled with command at Rochester this season. Seems likely to be recalled.
  • SP – Chase De Jong: Has done a nice job for Rochester this year after coming over in Zach Duke trade, and will likely be recalled. Good rotation insurance this year and moving forward.
  • SP – Zack Littell: No reason not to call him up, and let him knock some of the digits off his MLB numbers.
  • SP – Lewis Thorpe: In a perfect world he’d probably come up, but worth wondering how many innings he has left after 80 last year and 122.2-plus this year.
  • OF – Zack Granite: Enduring a nightmare year with injuries and just a .211/.282/.245 line in 68 games with Rochester. Doesn’t seem likely to come up and might be outrighted this winter.
  • OF – Johnny Field: Probably will come up, but no reason to guarantee him much playing time. Could be gone over winter.
  • OF – Byron Buxton: Should 100 percent be recalled, and probably will be.
  • IF – Gregorio Petit: Probably not, but if they want added depth in the infield, he’s the guy.
  • IF – Nick Gordon: Will need to be added to 40-man this winter, but probably won’t get the call early. Has not hit with Rochester (.545 OPS), and whispers of late-season fades still hold water. Turns 23 in October, so there’s still time.
  • 1B/DH Kennys Vargas: Hasn’t appeared in the big leagues this year and managed to get honors as IL’s best DH despite hitting just .234/.323/.413. Could be promoted for late-inning thump, but probably his swan song in the organization.
  • OF – Lamonte Wade: Robbie Grossman in different clothes as a hitter, but probably won’t get a look until next year.
  • RP – Nick Anderson: Throwing the ever-loving hell out of the ball for Rochester. It’s now or never.
  • SP/RP – Aaron Slegers: All depends on health. If healthy, he’ll be up. If not, could be another 60-day candidate.
  • RP – Andrew Vasquez: Doesn’t get much ink as a guy who’ll be 25 in two weeks, but has put up video-game numbers for three levels this season: 1.30 ERA, 14.0 K/9, 1.02 WHIP in 69.1 innings. How quickly has he ascended? Just three months ago, he was an All-Star in the FSL (High-A). Has to be protected from Rule 5 draft this winter, so worth taking a look.

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