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
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.