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  • Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month - May

    It’s hard to believe that we are already nearly two months through the minor league season. However, it is time to hand out some awards. Today, I’ll name the choice for Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month for May. There are fewer candidates this month, yet there were a couple tremendous performances by relievers. The two at the top of the list actually ended the month with promotions to the next levels on their journeys up the ladder.

    Let's get to the Top 4 Relief Pitchers in May:

    Number 4 – New Britain – AJ Achter – 1.64 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 11.0 IP, 9 H, 5 BB, 9 K
    In 2012 Achter was my choice for Twins' Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. He split last year, pretty evenly, between Beloit and Ft. Myers. This year he began the season in New Britain, from where he was promoted last week. The former 46th round draft choice out of Michigan State started the season slowly, but came on in May. For the year, he has now given up 21 hits in 27.2 innings while striking out 26. When Michael Tonkin was promoted to Rochester last week, Achter took over the closer role for the Rock Cats.

    Number 3 – Ft. Myers – Zack Jones – 0.82 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 11.0 IP, 3 H, 11 BB, 16 K

    Zack Jones was the winner of this award last month. This month his numbers were nearly identical to last month's. He throws gas, and he’s still working on a hard slider. He is really hard to hit. I mean, 98 mph heat is tough to square up on. He doesn’t give up hits and he gets strikeouts. However, the difference between April and May for Jones was an increase in the number of walks. Likely the reason he remains with the Miracle is to continue working on his slider and his control of the strike zone.

    Number 2 – New Britain/Rochester – Michael Tonkin – 0.00 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 12.1 IP, 12 H, 3 BB, 20 K
    Tonkin is the brother-in-law of former Twins OF/DH Jason Kubel, but in the past 12 months he has made a name for himself. He split 2012 between Beloit and Ft. Myers. Last year he was runner-up to Achter in my Reliever of the Year balloting. He moved up to New Britain this year and there, after not allowing an earned run, earned a promotion to Triple-A at the end of the month. He has come into two games for the Red Wings since his promotion. In the first, he threw one pitch and gave up an RBI single before leaving. In his second AAA game, he came on and threw two pitches before giving up a game-winning single to Gordon Beckham. Tonkin is a very good bullpen prospect. He throws hard and gets a bunch of sink on his pitches, producing ground balls and strikeouts. That’s exactly what you’re looking for in a reliever. Not bad for a 30th round draft pick.

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

    Photo by Greg Wagner/Fort Myers Miracle

    Ft. Myers/New Britain – Cole Johnson
    0.68 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 13.1 IP, 11 H, 3 BB, 14 K
    Johnson was born in Wisconsin and went to college at Notre Dame. He was the Twins 44th round pick in 2011. A year ago, he was still waiting for an assignment in Extended Spring Training. It was not until the short-season teams started that Johnson was assigned to the Beloit Snappers. He pitched well and was one of their starters in the playoffs. He was assigned to Ft. Myers this spring where he had been overshadowed by bigger name players, but he was nothing short of remarkable. In fact, despite not having as much publicity as others in the Miracle bullpen, it was Johnson who was the first promoted to AA. He was charged with one run in his final appearance of the month, but he’s shown that he can pitch.

    Again, we wonder how the Ft. Myers Miracle have been so good this year. They have the hitting prospects in Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario and Kennys Vargas surrounded by other solid players; they also have good starting pitching and a dominant bullpen. While Zack Jones and Corey Williams get a lot of the credit in the Miracle pen, Johnson had been steady and consistent all season.

    We hope June will be a very good month for the relievers on the Twins minor league affiliates. As always, please feel free to ask any questions you may have.
    This article was originally published in blog: Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Month - May started by Seth Stohs
    Comments 12 Comments
    1. Physics Guy's Avatar
      Physics Guy -
      Well done once again Seth. I don't know how you find the time to keep up on the minor leagues so well.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Thank you! The players deserve recognition, so I'm happy to do it!
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      DJ Baxendale? I thought he would have been a shoo-in to be in the top 4- in his 4 May starts in Ft Myers, 28 IP/0.00 ERA!/0.61 WHIP/7.39 K*9- and then promoted to AA.
    1. righty8383's Avatar
      righty8383 -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      DJ Baxendale? I thought he would have been a shoo-in to be in the top 4- in his 4 May starts in Ft Myers, 28 IP/0.00 ERA!/0.61 WHIP/7.39 K*9- and then promoted to AA.
      This article is for relief pitching.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by righty8383 View Post
      This article is for relief pitching.
      Thanks righty. I plead guilty to the charge of skimming and hit and run posting.
    1. Smcginnity's Avatar
      Smcginnity -
      These are my favorite things to read before I go to bed every night. I make it my nightly reading. Absolutely love these write ups Seth and helps me keep my inner baseball nerd under control
    1. AM.'s Avatar
      AM. -
      I think you should have given it to Buxton, he was amazing this year.

      Just jokin...
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      It's true, I freely admit to being an unabashed-Buxton-booster.

      Regarding Baxendale...I'm bullish on his potential, too...

      Let's just say I'm a big Baxendale future back-end SP backer.

      Bux and Bax are going to be boffo...book it.
    1. Tibs's Avatar
      Tibs -
      How soon could we see Tonkin pitching for the Twins?
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Smcginnity View Post
      These are my favorite things to read before I go to bed every night. I make it my nightly reading. Absolutely love these write ups Seth and helps me keep my inner baseball nerd under control
      Well, thank you! And, I'm glad I can help in any way. HA!

      Starters and Hitters coming soon. Working those between draft articles this week.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Tibs View Post
      How soon could we see Tonkin pitching for the Twins?
      At this point, he could be an injury away. There aren't a lot of other 40 man roster options in the bullpen, certainly not with his kind of stuff... It'd be nice to get him a full month in Rochester and see how it goes. Looked good last night though!
    1. goulik's Avatar
      goulik -
      I have to stand up for my prospect (or after last two weeks, former prospect)Having been promoted to the Majors I sort of understand the omission but since you did not even have a #5 on the list I think Caleb Thielbar deserved a little time.
      In 6 games for Rochester he pitched 9.1 innings giving up 4 hits and 5 walks while striking out 11. He had several holds and did not allow a single inherited runner to score. All the while allowing only 1 unearned run for a 0.00 ERA. I think that makes him top 5 and arguably top 3 if he wasn't now a major leaguer.
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