In January, we reviewed the catchers, the first basemen, third basemen, middle infielders and outfielders in the Minnesota Twins organization. In this article, I’ll quickly mention the starting pitchers through the Twins' system.
Starting pitching has been the Twins biggest issue in recent years. The Twins were aggressive this offseason in the free agent market. Last offseason, they actively pursued a couple of big arms via the trade market. And in last year’s draft they targeted another big arm.
The Big Leaguers
The Twins were very aggressive in the free agent market this offseason. Before the end of Thanksgiving weekend, they had agreed to terms with free agents Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes. Before Christmas, they re-signed Mike Pelfrey. Last year’s other free agent acquisition, Kevin Correia, returns in 2014 after a solid 2013. Those four will, assuming health, make up 80-percent of the opening day starting pitching staff.
So, who will be the fifth starter? That’s one of the biggest questions as spring training begins. There are three possibilities who are out of options. They are Scott Diamond, Vance Worley and Samuel Deduno. All three have shown a measure of success in their careers. Also in the fifth starter mix will be righty Kyle Gibson who debuted halfway through the 2013 season. Though he struggled, he is potentially still a #2/3 starter. Finally, let’s not forget that Alex Meyer and Trevor May will certainly get long looks during spring training.
There are others, new to the organization, who will also likely receive long looks. Lefties Kris Johnson and recently-claimed Brooks Raley pitched in the big leagues in 2014. Lefty Sean Gilmartin came to the Twins in exchange for Ryan Doumit. Another lefty, Logan Darnell, was added to the 40 man roster last fall, which may mean his time in big league camp will be limited. However, he is certainly one to watch at Rochester in 2014.
2013 Draft Picks
As they did in 2012, the Minnesota Twins prioritized pitching in the 2013 draft. With the fourth overall pick, the Twins were thrilled to select Texas prep Kohl Stewart. They were then able to give him about four million reasons to forgo a football scholarship at Texas A&M. Another highly-regarded high school pitcher the Twins drafted was Stephen Gonsalves. The Twins got him in the fourth round. The two dominated in the GCL and also pitched well in short stints in Elizabethton.
In the 2nd round, the Twins selected a college arm, Ryan Eades, from Louisiana State University. The Boras client didn’t pitch well out of the Elizabethton bullpen last year, after a long college season, but he could move very quickly in 2014. 6-10 righty Aaron Slegers helped lead the Indiana Hoosiers to the College World Series during which the Twins took him in the 5th round.
As they did in 2012, the Twins drafted some pitchers with strong arms who had pitched out of the bullpen. Some of them will be given an opportunity to start in 2014. Brian Gilbert and Ethan Mildren are two to watch.
Times have certainly changed from five years ago when the Twins had few highly-regarded prospects, and most of those were hitters. In my Top 10 Twins prospect lists, I have four pitching prospects who have a ceiling of “upper-half of the rotation starter.” In the recently-completed Twins Daily Top Ten Twins' Prospect List, there are five starting pitchers.
Alex Meyer (3) and Kohl Stewart (4) are the two Twins" pitching prospects for whom the descriptor “Ace” is a legitimate possibility based on their current projections. As we know, Meyer has consistently pitched between 95 and 98 and has touched 99 and even 100 on several occasions. Stewart has only been a part-time pitcher because of his football background in Texas, and he has already been clocked as high as 97. Both have big-league secondary pitches to go with their heat.
JO Berrios was ranked #6 on Twins Daily’s list and #7 on my list. He’s got better than average control and throws hard with good secondary pitches. He had his ups and downs in 2013 with Cedar Rapids, but he was one of the youngest pitchers in the league. (Berrios did a Q&A for Twins Daily – English version, Spanish version).
Speaking of young, Lewis Thorpe burst on the scene in 2014. The 17 year old gained size and velocity and got on everyone’s radar when he started getting clocked at 95. He also shows impeccable control and has more room to grow.
Trevor May came in at #10 in the Twins Daily prospect rankings (I ranked him #12). He (along with Meyer and Tim Atherton) were the three Twins minor league starters who struck out more than a batter per inning.
I had Steven Gonsalves at #13. Ryan Eades ranked #18 for me, with Jorge Felix following at #19. Taylor Rogers was my choice for Twins Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year after a tremendous season at Ft. Myers. He is also ranked as my #21 prospect. Luke Bard, despite missing most of the season, was my #23 choice. Miguel Sulbaran, who came to the Twins from the Dodgers in the Drew Butera trade, is my choice for #24. DJ Baxendale, who dominated in Ft. Myers the first two months of the season before struggling more in New Britain, was the Twins 10th round pick in 2012 out of Arkansas and my choice for #25 prospect. Lefty Brett Lee had a solid season in Cedar Rapids and ranks #27. Hard-throwing youngster Fernando Romero comes in at #28. Finally, another hard-thrower from the rookie leagues, Yorman Landa, ranks 30th. So, in all, 15 of my Top 30 are currently starting pitchers. Romero and Landa both have high potentials, pointing to how solid the Twins pitching depth is.
In each installment, I have been making my roster projections. There could still be additional signings, and injuries will affect all this. That’s why it is important to have more than just five starters at each level. There are also always players put on the disabled list. This just gives an idea of who could be at each affiliate at the start of the season.
- Minnesota: Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, Scott Diamond, Vance Worley, Sam Deduno,
- Rochester: Kyle Gibson, Trevor May, Kris Johnson, Brooks Raley, Logan Darnell, Pat Dean
- New Britain: Sean Gilmartin, Alex Meyer, DJ Baxendale, Matt Summers, Taylor Rogers, Alex Wimmers, BJ Hermsen, Mark Hamburger (following suspension)
- Fort Myers: Jason Wheeler, Tyler Duffey, Tim Shibuya, Ryan Eades, Miguel Sulburan, Brett Lee, Mason Melotakis, JO Berrios
- Cedar Rapids: Jorge Felix, Yorman Landa, Hudson Boyd, Aaron Slegers, Randy Rosario, Brian Gilbert, Ethan Mildren
- Extended Spring Training: Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves, Lewis Thorpe, Fernando Romero, Miguel Gonzalez
Feel free to discuss the players and the roster.