Brewers deal for Twins’ surplus

By Jim Callis
November 15, 2002

Matt Kinney and Javier Valentin once were considered important cogs in the then-rebuilding Twins’ future. But as Minnesota developed into a playoff team, they fell by the wayside. They’ll now try to contribute to another regrouping franchise after the Brewers picked them up on Friday for low Class A righthanders Matt Yeatman and Gerry Oakes.

Kinney, 25, was a 1995 sixth-round pick out of a Maine high school by the Red Sox and joined the Twins in a 1998 trade for Greg Swindell and Orlando Merced. After having bone chips removed from his elbow in 1999, Kinney went a combined 11-3 in Double-A and Triple-A the following year, establishing himself as a prime 2001 Rookie of the Year candidate. But he bombed in spring training and spent that entire season in Triple-A. Bothered by shoulder soreness in 2002, Kinney went 2-7, 4.64 in 14 games (12 starts) with Minnesota. When healthy, Kinney throws a lively 92-94 mph fastball to go with a slurvy breaking ball and a changeup. In 22 big league appearances, he has gone 4-9, 4.82 with a 69-58 strikeout-walk ratio in 108 innings.

Valentin, 27, is the younger brother of White Sox infielder Jose Valentin. A 1993 third-round pick out of Puerto Rico, he spent all of 1998 and 1999 with the Twins but didn’t resurface in the majors until getting into four games this September. A switch-hitter, he spent most of the year at Triple-A Edmonton, where he batted .286-21-80 in 127 games and threw out 29 percent of basestealers. He hasn’t been able to catch as frequently or been as effective behind the plate since having knee surgery in 2000. In 141 major league games over three seasons, he has batted .230-8-46.

Both Kinney and Valentin could be regulars for Milwaukee in 2003, but Minnesota was more concerned with clearing 40-man roster space. In return, they got one of the Brewers’ better pitching prospects.

Yeatman, 20, was a 13th-round pick in 2000 from a Texas high school. He blossomed in 2002, his first year of full-season ball, going 11-7, 2.48 with 127 strikeouts in as many innings. Midwest League hitters batted just .219 against him and he allowed more than two earned runs in just four of his 25 starts. Yeatman’s fastball sat at 89-91 and touched 92-93, and there’s room for more projection as he firms up his 6-foot-4 frame. His curveball is his best pitch at the moment. He’s still working on a changeup and needs to improve his command after issuing 77 walks. He sometimes throws across his body, which causes him to leave his fastball higher in the strike zone.

Oakes, also 20 and a product of the 2000 draft (seventh round out of a Pennsylvania high school), didn’t make the transition to full-season ball nearly as well. Though he had one of the stronger arms in the Brewers system, Oakes got lit up in the MWL. He went 5-14, 7.17 in 27 games (20 starts), including an atrocious 53-84 strikeout-walk ratio in 113 innings. He needs to do major work on his secondary pitches and his command.