Farm director helps fill holes in Beloit's roster
The Beloit Snappers were devastated by injuries last week, but at least the right man was in town to fix the situation.
Minnesota Twins' Director of Minor Leagues Jim Rantz saw the injuries that depleted the Snappers' roster first hand and quickly got on the telephone to bring some healthy bodies to Beloit.
In a three-game stretch, the Snappers lost Ramon Santana and Rene Leveret to pulled hamstrings and Deibinson Romero to a broken leg. Paul Kelly is also out with a hamstring injury while Eric Santiago and Jair Fernandez have hand and wrist injuries. The two biggest blows actually came earlier in the season when Joe Benson was lost for the season with a back injury and Chris Parmelee broke his wrist.
“It's been one of those years for Beloit,” said Rantz. “Not just the broken bones, but the hamstring has been the injury of the minor leagues this year. I've got those at other places, too. They've done a nice job here to stay competitive with what they've got.”
In the major leagues, if a player is hurt a replacement is called up to fill his spot almost immediately. It's different in the minor leagues when teams often carry less than the 25-man allotment and sometimes can be stuck with only a few extra position players.
“You've seen it down here - a lot of our players are very versatile and can play different positions,” Rantz said. “To be versatile helps. We've played short-handed here and at Fort Myers. We all know injuries are part of the game and it gives other people a chance to step up and get some playing time.”
One of those players who has seized an opportunity is last year's top pick Ben Revere. Revere had a rough first game, but has been on fire ever since and currently carries a batting average of .402 in 66 games.
“He was this kind of hitter in spring training,” Rantz said. “There aren't too many players who can hit .400, but him being an offensive guy doesn't surprise me. The point where he is at does surprise me, but he has a lot of hitting ability.”
While Revere's .402 average is pretty unique, it's just one of the many things Rantz has seen in his 40 years with the Twins. Originally signed by Washington in 1960, the franchise moved to Minnesota the next year and Rantz has been a Twin ever since. As a Minnesota native, it was like a dream come true when the team relocated to the Twin Cities. Rantz was elected to the Twins' Hall of Fame in 2007 and has been the Director of Minor League Operations since 1986.
“I went to the University of Minnesota and now I'm in my backyard,” Rantz said. “I don't think you'll ever see that happen again because there is so much movement in ownership and general managers. We've only had two owners since I started in 1961 and only five GMs, which is almost unheard of.”
While Rantz isn't involved in the draft process, he is in charge of placing the players after the Twins draft and signing them. He makes the decision on whom gets called up throughout the system (though not to the Twins) and continually makes the rounds to the team's six minor league affiliates.
In Beloit, Rantz has plenty of top picks, but not as much production as he might like due to the injuries. Benson and Parmelee's setbacks were especially disappointing since the two top picks in the 2006 draft were starting to show signs of improvement.
“I'm glad they are as young as they are,” Rantz said. “This is just a bump in the road for them, but I just feel bad for the player. I think, development-wise, the second year is big for them. Where we go from here depends on spring training next year.”
Parmelee saw his power and walk numbers rise significantly, but failed to cut down on his strikeouts before the injury. Rantz said the strikeouts are less of a concern and the high walk totals were very encouraging. Parmelee, who is still fourth in the Midwest League in homers despite not playing since June 25th, should return sometime in early to mid-August.
“The walks were impressive and the home runs were starting to come around and we are looking at a young man who is just 20,” he said.
Beloit may see a few more top picks next year as the Twins had 52 picks in the draft and three in the first 31. While Rantz doesn't do any scouting for the draft, he loves to meet the team's new selections each year.
“I like bringing new players into the system,” said Rantz. “You have to keep the feeder system going with injuries and trades and people move on. You have to keep your minor leagues going and develop the best you can.”