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  • Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month - April

    Yesterday we looked at the top hitters in the Twins system in May and today we’ll be taking a look at the top pitching performances of April. It will be separated into two blog postings, one for the relievers and this one for the starting pitchers.

    While the hitting leaders were primarily in the lower levels of the Twins farm system, there are a couple of starting pitchers that appear on today’s list that may not be too far from contributing to the Twins.

    With that, let's jump to the starting pitchers. Here are the Top 5 Starting Pitchers for April:

    Number 5 - Rochester – Kyle Gibson - 5 GS, 1-3, 3.33 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 27.0 IP, 21 H, 9 BB, 26 K

    Gibson’s return from Tommy John surgery has been filled with ups and some downs. He had one start in which he gave up five runs in 4.1 innings. It is a process, to be sure. However, the 25-year-old has been able to strike out nearly a batter per inning. The general belief is that he is getting close to being able to contribute to the Twins. Twins Director of Minor League Operations Brad Steil said, “Kyle is making good progress. He pitched into the 7th inning in his last outing, which was good to see.”

    Number 4 – New Britain – Alex Meyer - 5 GS, 2-1, 2.57 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 28.0 IP, 26 H, 11 BB, 34 K

    In Meyer’s most recent start, he gave up four runs in six innings, but all four runs came in the third inning. If we were nice and we could just pretend that one inning didn’t happen his ERA for the month would be 1.33. Certainly his walk total is a little high, but his strikeouts are encouraging, even exciting. Meyer is blessed with an upper-90s fastball, a hammer for a curveball, a sharp slider and an ever-improving change up. Still just 23 years old, Meyer could rise quickly.

    Number 3 – Ft. Myers – Tom Stuifbergen - 5 GS, 1-1, 2.60 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 27.2 IP, 23 H, 0 BB, 18 K

    The 24 year-old is back with the Miracle for the third straight year. Stuifbergen doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts, but he also doesn't walk many. Zero walks in 27.2 innings?! He also doesn’t give up many home runs. He gave up two homers in his first start of the year and in 22.2 innings since has given up none. He has the pitches, he just needs the opportunity to advance. Steil said, “He just needs to keep doing what he’s doing and be ready when there’s an opportunity. When he’s pitching well, it’s usually because he’s changing speeds effectively and keeping hitters off balance.”

    Number 2 – Cedar Rapids – Tyler Duffey - 4 GS, 3-1, 2.60 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 27.2 IP, 18 H, 3 BB, 21 K

    Last year the Twins used their fifth round pick on Duffey, a relief pitcher from Rice. As would be expected, he dominated the Appalachian League out of the bullpen. The Twins were committed to giving Duffey (and several other college relievers) an opportunity to start. Duffey got that opportunity, and he has made the best of it. In his first start of the season, he threw seven perfect innings for the Kernels, and two pitchers completed the no-hitter. With a six-man rotation and the weather issues this year, Duffey made just four starts in the month. He has shown impeccable control and a general ability to keep runners off base. He is efficient with his pitches and has been able to complete seven innings in three of his four starts.

    And the Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month is:

    Photo by Greg Wagner

    Ft. Myers – DJ Baxendale
    - 5 GS, 4-0, 1.84 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 29.1 IP, 21 H, 6 BB, 25 K

    Baxendale was the top starter of the Arkansas Razorbacks team that advanced to the College World Series. During that season he set the Arkansas record with 20 starts. He went 8-5 with a 3.11 ERA. The Twins were thrilled to use their 10th round pick on the right-hander as they believed he had the talent to be selected much earlier. He began his pro career with the Elizabethton Twins but quickly moved up to Beloit. Combined, he walked just two and struck out 31 in 18.2 innings.

    He pitched out of the bullpen primarily because of the 107 innings he threw during the college season. The plan was for him to move to a starter's role this season, but it was somewhat surprising that he began the season with the Miracle. However, as Steil said, the things he’s done so well in April are the things that got him pushed to Ft. Myers. “He’s been locating well, keeping hitters off balance by changing speeds and keeping the ball down. Along with (those things), just his maturity and poise on the mound.”

    Take a look at the numbers: 4-0 with a sub-2.00 ERA and a sub-1.00 WHIP. He has limited long balls and walks. The Miracle were 21-4 in April, and Baxendale was a big part of it.

    So, what does he throw? A scouting report will tell you that he throws both a 2-seam and a 4-seam fastball that range from 87 to 92 mph. He has a big bending curveball in the low 70s, with downward break, which makes it a pitch that induces ground balls. He also has a very good, late-breaking slider in the 78 to 82 mph range. He has terrific control of it and when he spots it on the outside corner he can get hitters to chase. He also has good arm speed and sink on his changeup.

    What would Baxendale himself say? “I throw a four-seam fastball, sinker, change-up, curve ball and slider. I try to use the slider and curveball both as strikeout pitches in order to keep the hitters guessing what pitch I will come with ahead in the count.”

    Baxendale has great command and makeup. He has the ability to move the ball around the strike zone very well. He can pitch to all zones of the plate, up and down, inside and out. He gets a lot of swings and misses outside of the zone, in part, because he hides the ball well. He is competitive and wants to win at everything. He has a knack of getting out of jams, and has grittiness and intensity on the mound.

    Baxendale credits his pitching coach and his control for his success so far this year. “The biggest key to my success so far is throwing low, quality strikes with all of my pitches. I’ve been working hard with pitching coach Ivan Arteaga to be able to consistently repeat my mechanics which improves my command and control of all pitches.”

    It’s also been about making adjustments to the professional game. Baxendale explained, “The biggest adjustment I’ve made so far in pro ball is to be efficient in my innings and keep the pitch count down. I’ve done this by pitching to contact, throwing the ball down in the zone and getting outs in early counts.”

    For Baxendale to continue to develop and rise through the Twins system, he may need to get a little bigger and strong. By adding some weight and strength, he would likely see a little increased velocity.

    But for now, Baxendale is happy to be part of this tremendous Miracle team. “Being part of a talented team is always fun. We are all really competitive so we want to win. It’s pretty special to be a part of a team that is as talented as we are because every game is fun to watch.”

    There were a lot of great hitting performances in April, but several pitchers threw the ball very well and were quite successful in the season’s opening month as well. DJ Baxendale is the choice for April Starting Pitcher of the Year, but Tyler Duffey, Tom Stuifbergen, Alex Meyer and Kyle Gibson all performed quite well during the month.

    We’ll be back tomorrow to discuss the Relief Pitcher of the Month. Please feel free to comment and ask questions.
    This article was originally published in blog: Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Month - April started by Seth Stohs
    Comments 13 Comments
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      Great article Seth. I love this series. Can you tell us more about Duffey? What are his strengths and how fast are his pitches? What does he need to work on to move up?
    1. Chance's Avatar
      Chance -
      I did cover all of Duffey's pitches on his prospect page.
    1. twinsfanstl's Avatar
      twinsfanstl -
      Does anyone have a breakdown of pitchers on the mend and status? Thinking Blackburn, Perez, Devries, Wimmers, Harden etc.
    1. Twins Twerp's Avatar
      Twins Twerp -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinsfanstl View Post
      Does anyone have a breakdown of pitchers on the mend and status? Thinking Blackburn, Perez, Devries, Wimmers, Harden etc.
      Great idea. Seth could do a "Twins Minor League Rehabber of the Month." Once a month you could check in on all the guys and how they are coming along off of Tommy John's.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Wimmers is the only guy on that list I'm really interested in.....

      Good list Seth, thanks for the hard work, as always. Really, really appreciated. The minor league part of this site is my favorite part by far.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Baxendale reminds me of Alex Wimmers prior to the injury. If he keeps pitching like this, he could move quickly.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Thanks Seth for the BB-Ref links! Especially now the BB-Ref has minor league splits and game logs, it's a really great tool to follow prospects.
    1. J-Dog Dungan's Avatar
      J-Dog Dungan -
      I know I was gone from this site for a while. So could someone give me some info on what we are dealing with for our new Director of Minor League Operations? I haven't heard anything about him.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      Baxendale reminds me of Alex Wimmers prior to the injury. If he keeps pitching like this, he could move quickly.
      I think that's a pretty good compliment. I think that pre-injury, Wimmers was moving pretty quickly, and even if his ceiling was solid #3 starter, there is a ton of value in that for 6 years too!

      I'll see if I can't do some digging on the injuries in the system to get an update.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by J-Dog Dungan View Post
      I know I was gone from this site for a while. So could someone give me some info on what we are dealing with for our new Director of Minor League Operations? I haven't heard anything about him.
      I know that Brad Steil is a really good guy. He's been around the organization for over a decade. He's young (mid-30s, I believe) and very smart. He may have a few things that he'll do differently than Mr. Rantz. Obviously anyone in a front office position isn't going to agree or do things exactly the same. I am certain that he was the right choice for the job. I'm very curious how things like promotions/demotions/releases/signings/etc. will be any different, but we need more than a month of games to find that out.
    1. 2wins87's Avatar
      2wins87 -
      Love the start from Baxendale. Seems like he could be a solid middle of the rotation guy. Great value in the 10th round.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinsfanstl View Post
      Does anyone have a breakdown of pitchers on the mend and status? Thinking Blackburn, Perez, Devries, Wimmers, Harden etc.
      Blackburn and Wimmers have still to start baseball activities
      Perez has been activated and assigned to Rochester for rehab
      DeVries is about to start a rehab assignment with the Miracle
      Deduno is about a week behind DeVries
      Harden had a setback with his shoulder (described as "minor") and he is taking a few days off (day to day)
      Wood is with Rochester and pitching pretty well
    1. Top Gun's Avatar
      Top Gun -
      Baseball America's Jim Shonerd believes that Kyle Gibson could be an option for the Twins if he continues to string together a few more dominant starts at Triple-A Rochester.

      The Twins are usually on the conservative end of promotions, but Gibson would provide an immediate upgrade to a starting rotation that currently lacks any viable starters. In six Triple-A starts, Gibson has a 4.26 ERA with a 7.7 SO/9 and 1.29 WHIP. After missing 2012 due to Tommy John surgery, Gibson is expected to be on an 130-140 innings limit this season.

      Source: Baseball America
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