The Rock Cats have rallied back into the midst of the Northern Division race, but it's largely been on the strength of their offense.
The defense has been adequate. They have made their share of sensational defensive plays but have made some costly errors.
When Wilson Ramos is behind the plate and Brandon Roberts is in center field, they are strong up the middle. Yancarlos Ortiz has some flash at shortstop and Steve Tolleson is steady. Brian Dinkelman is an All-Star quality second baseman. That gives them passing grades up the middle.
In the corners, Matt Moses has developed into a good left fielder. Rene Tosoni has been exceptional in right, displaying a powerful arm. Juan Portes has shown to be a steady defender both in the outfield and filling in for the injured Danny Valencia at third base. Toby Gardenhire is a valuable utility player. He even filled in admirably at catcher when manager Tom Nieto had a need.
What concerns me is the pitching.
The rotation features four right-handers -- Jeff Manship, Cole DeVries, Matt Fox and Jay Rainville -- with similar attributes. None are overpowering. They have to spot their fastballs and have command of their breaking balls to be successful. Therefore, the opposing teams get similar looks day in and day out, which allows the hitters to get in a rhythm against them.
Manship had two starts where he looked like the stopper he was projected to be. DeVries has exceeded all expectations thus far with most of his outings solid. Fox and Rainville have not pitched with the kind of consistency needed to get deep enough into games.
Left-hander Ryan Mullins has been unable to get untracked this far.
The bullpen is among the league's best with Rob Delaney setting up closer Anthony Slama. Frank Mata and Yohan Pino have been effective at times but you never seem to know what you're going to get when they're called on. Zach Ward has had some major struggles of late after pitching so well for most of 2008.
The Twins generally make some adjustments between Double-A and high-A every year in mid-June so we're still about a month away from wholesale change. The high-A Fort Myers Miracle have a number of pitchers throwing well, particularly starter Carlos Gutierrez and reliever Steven Hirschfeld. With minor league director Jim Rantz due for a visit soon, we should get the lowdown on what the future holds.
The potential is there for the best season since 2003, but if the rotation can't put together a string of quality starts, the bullpen could begin to suffer from overwork and escaping the lower reaches of the division will be difficult.
With at least one victory in the current three-game road trip to Portland in the bag, the upcoming homestand should give us a good idea where the team is headed. We'll get our first look at the Connecticut Defenders and another look at Portland, which doesn't seem to have the high quality talent its had in recent years.