I don’t usually spend a lot of time blogging about Twins minor league free agent signings because most of the time these players are often signed as a favor to someone, or to fill some empty roster slots at a AAA level and because they will probably never put on a Twins uniform in a game that counts. However; the Twins signing of Burroughs yesterday and the two announced today have tweaked my interest.
The first is catcher J.R. Towles who will be 28 in February and has been in organized ball as a catcher since he was drafted by the Houston Astros back in the 20th round in 2004. Towles had a break-out season in A ball in 2006 when he hit .317 and slugged 12 home runs, knocked in 55 and stole 13 bases. In 2007 Towles started in A ball, moved up to AA, on to AAA and got called up for his first big league action with the Astros in September where he hit .374 in 14 games and had 8 RBI’s in one game. Playing at four different levels in one season is unusual. The right-handed hitting Towles then seemed to forget how to hit and only saw partial big league time with Houston between 2008 and 2011 because he hit .137, .188, .191, and .184. Now the Astros have a hot new catching prospect in Jason Castro and the Stro’s no longer have a need for Towles. I think this is a good addition for the Twins because Towles is only 28, he has 148 games of big league experience spread over five seasons and a change of scenery might be just the thing that gets J.R. Towles going again. I would not be a bit surprised if you see Towles wearing a Twins uniform at some point this season and possibly taking Drew Butera’s job as the back-up catcher. By the way, J.R. stands for Justin Richard.
The other interesting addition is 1B/outfielder Steve Pearce who has been in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization since they drafted him in the 8th round in 2005. Pearce has shown power in the minors hitting 25 or more home runs in both 2006 and 2007. Steve Pearce debuted with the Pirates in September of 2007 and has been with the big club off and on ever since but he has not been able to snag a full-time playing gig. So why should we care about a guy that will be 29 in April and can’t win a starting job with a team that has not been on the plus sign of .500 for 19 seasons? Again, Pearce is leaving his first organization and power hitters don’t grow on trees, at least they don’t in Twins territory. He will certainly start the season in Rochester who could use some help themselves but if things don’t pan out for Justin Morneau in his quest to get healthy and the Twins need a 1B, this man might just fight the bill, at least on a fill-in basis.
Both guys have invites to spring training and it will be interesting to see what these guys can show us. I like these moves Mr. Ryan! If nothing else, these moves will make Rochester a lot more competitive.