In 2013, there were several very good starting pitchers in the Twins system. Several of the top prospects put up solid numbers, but will not be on this list. Alex Meyer was pretty impressive in his New Britain starts, but he missed about two-and-a-half months. Trevor May was solid at times, but lacked consistency. Most of the names on this lists were not high-level prospects coming into the season. However, they each pitched well and deserve to be recognized. Their performances, in some cases, may also boost their prospect standing this offseason.
To be clear, this is just my ranking, subject to debate. This list does include some starters with very good control this season. Unfortunately, as has been consistent in recent years, there are not many big strikeout numbers on this list, nor throughout the Twins farm system (exceptions really being Meyer and May).
Later in the week, we’ll look at my choices for top reliever, hitter and manager. Today we discuss the top starting pitchers in the Twins minor league system. Feel free to debate them, or ask any questions:
Starting Pitcher of the Year
Honorable Mention: Mason Melotakis, Cedar Rapids (11-4, 3.16 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 3.2 BB/9, 6.8 K/9), Logan Darnell, New Britain/Rochester (10-10, 3.22 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 2.6 BB/9, 7.0 K/9), Tyler Duffey, Cedar Rapids/Ft. Myers (7-7, 3.64 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 1.7 BB/9, 6.8 K/9), DJ Baxendale, Ft. Myers/New Britain (12-7, 3.90 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9, 6.7 K/9)
#5 – Matt Summers – Ft. Myers Miracle, New Britain Rock Cats (7-7, 3.09 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 142.2 IP, 125 H, 46 BB, 100 K)
Summers was the Twins 4th round pick in 2011 out of UC-Irvine. Like most other college pitchers, he went to Elizabethton and dominated out of the bullpen. He went 9-4 in 18 starts in Beloit before finishing the season in Ft. Myers. In 2013, he made 21 starts for the Miracle and led the Florida State League starters in ERA (2.47) and WHIP (1.11). He had a couple short stints with the New Britain Rock Cats where he made five starts (and one relief appearance). He was the Game 1 starter for the Miracle in the playoffs. Of those on this top five list, his 142.2 innings is the most.
Summers throws a fastball that hits 94, and he has a good curveball too. To this point, however, he has not been a strikeout pitcher. Like others on this list, he walks very few. At just 24, he should spend 2014 in New Britain.
#4 – Kyle Gibson – Rochester Red Wings (7-5, 2.92 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 101.2 IP, 85 H, 33 BB, 87 K)
Kyle Gibson was certainly the most talked about through most of the 2013 season. Having missed most of the 2012 season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, there were plenty of questions on what would happen with the former first round pick. Could he make the Twins roster out of spring training? What would his innings limit be? How much time would he make in the minors before coming up?
Early in the season, the Twins discussed the lack of consistency for Gibson’s first ten starts. It was true. He was tremendous in his even-numbered starts and really bad in the odd-numbered starts. At that point, he took the advice and found a way to be more consistent. On June 29, he made his major league debut. He went 2-4 with a 6.53 ERA in 51 innings, but he got the big league experience. He will learn from it. The 25-year-old has always had very good control and command of his pitches, and I would expect it to show more in 2014.
#3 – Brett Lee – Cedar Rapids Kernels (8-4, 2.95 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 116 IP, 117 H, 26 BB, 89 K)
When the Twins drafted Lee with their 10th round pick in the 2011 draft, it was the third time he had been selected in the draft. He signed on the last day that he could, so he did not pitch that year. Last year, he pitched primarily out of the Elizabethton bullpen. He went 4-0 with a 2.68 ERA over 43.2 innings. He walked just 12 and struck out 48.
He began the 2013 season in the Cedar Rapids, six-man rotation, though he worked out of the bullpen a couple of times early due to weather. At one point in late June and early July, he worked eight or more innings in three out of four outings. He actually was shut down for two weeks, and his innings were monitored closely so he could pitch Game 1 for the Kernels in the playoffs.
The left-hander has four good pitches including a fastball in the low-90s. He will advance to Ft. Myers to start the 2014 season, and it will be interesting to see if he starts or if he’ll see more time working out of the bullpen.
#2 – Andrew Albers – Rochester Red Wings (11-5, 2.86 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 132.1 IP, 124 H, 32 BB, 116 K)
The Andrew Albers story was incredible in 2011 when he was my choice for minor league relief pitcher of the year after the Twins signed him out of the Can-Am League and he pitched well in Ft. Myers and New Britain. The minor league portion of his story culminated in early August when he had his contract purchased and he made his major league debut. Adding to the mystique, Albers began his big league career with 18 scoreless innings. He has now made seven starts for the Twins and is 2-2 with a 3.35 ERA and has given up less than a base runner per inning.
Albers began the season at the back end of the Rochester Red Wings starting rotation. The 27-year-old was clearly the team’s best, and most consistent starter throughout the season. Despite a fastball that tops out well below 90 mph, he led the International League in strikeouts when he was promoted to the Twins. As we have seen, he has impeccable control and needs it. A very strong case could be made for him being in the top spot in this category.
Starting Pitcher of the Year – Taylor Rogers – Cedar Rapids Kernels/Ft. Myers Miracle (11-7, 2.88 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 140.2 IP, 133 H, 36 BB, 93 K)
Taylor Rogers began the 2013 season as the Opening Day starter for the Cedar Rapids Kernels. The Twins had made the left-hander their 11th round pick in 2012 out of the University of Kentucky, the same school that produced Logan Darnell and Andrew Albers, fellow left-handers in the Twins' system. He began his pro career with Elizabethton where he made six appearances before moving up to Beloit where he pitched five times out of the bullpen and made four starts. Combined, he worked 63.1 innings and posted a 2.27 ERA and struck out 10.5 per nine innings. With the Kernels, he pitched in just three games and posted a 7.80 ERA in ten innings.
This year he was promoted to Ft. Myers in late April, and things couldn’t have gone much better for him than they did. With the Miracle, he went 11-6 with a 2.55 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. He led the league with three complete games and two shutouts. When the season ended, and the Miracle were in the playoffs, Rogers started Game 2. He threw nine shutout innings in the game. Unfortunately, the Miracle didn’t score and their season ended.
Rogers has a very nice pitch mix. He throws a fastball that hits 91-92 mph, touching 93 on occasion. He has a terrific slider that really helps him against left-handers. He also has a changeup that can be very good at times. He should start the 2014 campaign in the New Britain Rock Cats rotation.
Tomorrow, we’ll be back with more Twins minor league awards. Feel free to discuss.