The question of "What's next for Kyle Gibson?" can take on any number of meanings for Twins fans. There are the short-term and long-term implications and possibilities to that question.
Let's start with the short-term. We know that Gibson's innings would be monitored throughout the season. In the offseason, we heard that Gibson could be limited to 130 to 140 innings. Once spring training came, the front office backed away from giving a hard number of innings, saying they would just monitor how he was pitching and how his arm responded.
When I talked to Gibson after the Saturday night game against the White Sox at Target Field, he still maintained that they had not yet been given any timeline. He only said that Terry Ryan and others in the front office only insisted that Gibson be completely honest with them about how his arm, and specifically his elbow was feeling. He said that he continues to feel strong.
So, what is next for Kyle Gibson? As it relates to 2013, there are several questions.
How much more will he pitch, and in what role?
Gibson is a starting pitcher. He is currently at 143.2 combined innings on the season between Rochester and Minnesota. He could make another start or two for the Red Wings. He could make those one or two starts and then be shut down for the season, likely around 155 innings. He could skip the next two starts, and then start for the Red Wings in the playoffs, if they make the playoffs.
Gibson could also pitch out of the Red Wings bullpen for the rest of the season (about two weeks). His innings and pitching frequency can be monitored very strictly.
Is it possible that we see him in a Twins uniform in September? It may be unlikely, but maybe Gibson is able to work out some things, get some time on the Disabled List to rest, and come back to work a hand full of innings for the Twins.
I think the more important question is how you feel about the future of Kyle Gibson.
What means more to you? How much do you choose to make of ten starts at the end of his rookie season in his first season back from Tommy John surgery? Do you choose to go back to his scouting reports before Tommy John surgery and how well he pitched during his strong run at Rochester in May and early June?
There is a general belief that a pitcher should throw no more than 20% more innings than he did the previous season in an attempt to keep healthy. If Gibson ends the 2013 season with 150 innings pitched, a 20% increase in 2014 would put him at 180 innings. I think that's a pretty solid goal.
The scouting reports are what they are. They're something that can help predict how well a pitcher could do. Not how well they will do, but what they possibly can become. In his short time with the Twins, we did see a fastball that sat in the low-90s and touched 94 as we had heard. When he was pitching well, we did see some very good sinking action. We saw that he does have three pitches.
What we didn't see were a ton of ground balls. His ground out to fly ball ratio was essentially 1 to 1. His strikeout rate dropped, which is no surprise. We also saw his walk numbers increase. Some of it might just be the big league hitters have better eyes, and maybe those sharp, sinkers and sliders that several AAA hitters get taken by big league hitters when they dip below the zone. It's certainly an adjustment that Gibson will need to, and will, work on before 2014.
Gibson will be 26 years old throughout the 2014 season. Certainly, that is not young for a player with just ten big league starts. However, when you consider that he lost half of 2011 and most of 2012, and then still was working back early in 2013 because of the surgery, he's where he should be. For those that think this is old, well, The Twins would get his ages 26-31 years under their control.
It's probably fair to say that the big league debut season of Kyle Gibson has been disappointing, but hopefully people can see enough of the big picture not to give up on an arm as talented as Gibson's. That's as silly as giving up on Aaron Hicks because of his 2013 struggles. The truth is that most players come up from the minor leagues and experience some growing pains. The hope is that Gibson will return in 2014, fully healthy, and better off for his struggles.
It is my opinion that the Twins should give Gibson one more start in Rochester, and then shut him down. Let him enjoy the offseason and just have a regular workout routine without the rehab. I have no doubt in my mind that Gibson will be in the Twins Opening Day rotation, and in the rotation for years to come. What happened in his 51 innings with the Twins this season didn't affect my thoughts on this future. If he had been great, my opinion of his future likely would not have changed.
So, what are your thoughts? This is a pretty broad topic, with several parts. It will be interesting to see what the Twins, along with Gibson, decide to do.