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  • Twins Organizational Depth Chart - Starting Pitchers

    One of the greatest terms among baseball fans is “Pitchers and Catchers Report.” On Sunday, the Twins' pitchers and catchers (on the 40 man roster, or those who received a spring training invitation) officially reported to Hammond Stadium, and on Monday they will practice together for the first time.

    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.

    Prospect Rankings


    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.

    Roster
    Projections

    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.
    Comments 42 Comments
    1. TNTwinsFan's Avatar
      TNTwinsFan -
      Why would the Twins promote May over Meyer to AAA?
    1. pierre75275's Avatar
      pierre75275 -
      Im curious as to why you feel Alex Meyer will start at AA. Not saying he won't just curious why you think he will and does he have a innings limit this year? Also, what are the chances of Ryan Pressly beginning in the minors so one of the other pitchers out of options gets bullpen duty with the big club rather then being exposed to waivers?
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      1 reason to promote May to AAA is because he has had 2 years already in AA, just sayin , maybe a bump up will get things clicking, and how many starters can you have in Rochester, unless your going with a 7 man rotation...As for seeing Meyer in Minnesota before May(the pitcher) , the Twins have shown time and again , they will dip down into AA for players, So that will come down to how both these kids do , and how they handle themselves this spring
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by TNTwinsFan View Post
      Why would the Twins promote May over Meyer to AAA?
      The answer would be that Meyer has made 13 starts in Double-A whereas May has made 55.

      However, I would be surprised if Meyer was sent back to New Britain after proving dominant when healthy there last year and following up well in the AFL.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by TNTwinsFan View Post
      Why would the Twins promote May over Meyer to AAA?
      May has two full years of AA time... Meyer has like 60 innings. Twins will/should monitor Meyer's innings this year and should be patient. Also, he's another guy (like Sano/Buxton) who could be called up directly from AA, so it really isn't a big deal either way.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by pierre75275 View Post
      ... Also, what are the chances of Ryan Pressly beginning in the minors so one of the other pitchers out of options gets bullpen duty with the big club rather then being exposed to waivers?
      That's certainly one reason he could move down. The other is the whole conversation about him possibly moving back to starting.
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      AAA is largely an irrelevant step for getting to the bigs. It's a place holder often for marginal MLB talent.

      If you asked all 30 MLB teams out there if they'd rather have their roster of AAA guys or their AA guys, almost all of them, if not all of them, would choose their AA teams.

      If a player has any shot at contributing to the MLB level while at AAA...he's usually only there until his super 2 status date is up (often middle June).
    1. Thegrin's Avatar
      Thegrin -
      I would have been satisfied to have a rotation of Correia, Pelfrey, Deduno, Diamond and Gibson or Worley or Anthony Swarzak. They all deserve a chance to realize their potential as major league starters. Once we let them go, I'll bet one or two of them will become an effective starting pitcher on a major league team.
    1. jimv2's Avatar
      jimv2 -
      A "few" comments:

      1. I suspect Meyer will be at AAA, although there's definitely a logjam. But while there may be more potential on a AA roster, the current hitting and pitching talent is better at AAA than AA, and Meyer will learn more there. And to me, there's no such thing as a logjam when you're talking about your best starting pitching prospect. YOu put him where he needs to be and let the rest of it work itself out.

      2. I also think Gilmartin will be at AAA, unless he still has shoulder problems, in which case he might be at EST. I don't think he gains much by going back down to AA, and he's probably our highest ceiling lefty prospect in the high minors.

      3. I had Hermsen starting (or at least being a swing guy) at NB. He had a horrible season last year, but he's one year removed from minor league pitcher of the year. I wouldn't think the Twins would give up on him that fast, but maybe Seth has inside knowledge on this one.

      4. Given his age and success, I would think the Twins would move Jason WHeeler up to AA. I can't figure out how he wins so often, but I don't think he has anything left to prove at FTM. See if the smoke and mirrors work in AA.

      5. I have Eades starting the year in CR. I don't think his Etown results last year are meaningful, but I'd let him prove it in CR. IF he's dominating, then promote him.

      6. Seth, you don't have Bard anywhere on your list. I think he's supposed to be healthy again, and I had him at CR, but do you know more?

      7. I had GIlbert as the (a?) closer at FTM. Are they really serious about turning him into a starter? To me his skills seemed to translate better to closer.

      8. To your EST list, I would add Sam Gibbons. I think the twins are pretty high on him. Again, maybe you know more.

      9. ANd lastly, what conversation about moving Pressly to a starting role? I can certainly see him at AAA so they can stash someone with no options remaining on the ML roster, but I've never heard anyone except a few people on this board talk about him being a starter. He had practically washed out as a starter when they converted him to relief, and he shone. What makes anyone think the results of him starting would be any different this time?
    1. AM.'s Avatar
      AM. -
      What about Swarzak starting ?

      If service time/money, and MLB tradition were all thrown out the window, which five guys on this list would be in the Twins starting rotation to start the year, to give them the best chance at winning the most games?
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by jimv2 View Post
      A "few" comments:

      1. I suspect Meyer will be at AAA, although t

      ... <snip>...

      9. ANd lastly, what conversation about moving Pressly to a starting role? I can certainly see him at AAA so they can stash someone with no options remaining on the ML roster, but I've never heard anyone except a few people on this board talk about him being a starter. He had practically washed out as a starter when they converted him to relief, and he shone. What makes anyone think the results of him starting would be any different this time?
      Good thoughts all... I did add Hermsen to the AA starting staff. He was on my list, but I didn't type it, I guess. I have Gibbons and Bard in the bullpens.

      As for Meyer, I 100% agree with doing what is best for him. I'd never block a top prospect, which he certainly is, but I also think that 3-4 starts in AA to start the season won't hurt him at all.

      Wheeler could certainly move up too. Gilbert... I've just heard too many people say he could start. In the Q&A he did at this site last month, I think he wants to be in the bullpen.

      Regarding Pressly, I'd keep him in the bullpen too, but with all the out of option types, I could see them sending him down, and the only benefit he might get from that would be to stretch out.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by AM. View Post
      What about Swarzak starting ?

      If service time/money, and MLB tradition were all thrown out the window, which five guys on this list would be in the Twins starting rotation to start the year, to give them the best chance at winning the most games?
      I don't think that Swarzak should start. Leave that carrot out there, but he wasn't a good starter, was a good reliever, there are several other better options for starting.

      If you're asking which five starters are best for the Twins to start the season, in my opinion... Nolasco, Correia, Pelfrey, Hughes and Gibson.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      I don't think that Swarzak should start. Leave that carrot out there, but he wasn't a good starter, was a good reliever, there are several other better options for starting.

      If you're asking which five starters are best for the Twins to start the season, in my opinion... Nolasco, Correia, Pelfrey, Hughes and Gibson.
      Those would be my five, but i think Gibson starts in AAA given the option issue with Deduno, Diamond, and Worley (I think TR wants some SP depth). I would guess every one of these three will get claimed on waivers, so i think one ends up our 5th starter right away and one in the bullpen. One is cut or traded (not that we get much back). My gut would say Deduno and Diamond stay.
    1. beckmt's Avatar
      beckmt -
      My instinct tells me that Pressly is sent to AAA because of the options issue. Worley if he does not win the 5th starter(this depends on Deduno being healthy) will be in the bullpen(he has worked there before). That leaves Diamond being cut as the odd many out. Still to many starters and not enough innings to go around. Early spring training can tell, not to decide who wins, but who loses the battle. Twins probably need many multiple game days to get there inbetween pitchers enough innings to make a difference.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      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. LeftySean 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.
      Are you sure that Darnell will be in Rochester? Assuming that Deduno, Diamond and Worley either make the Twins, there are six pitchers (in bold above) who will likely make the Rochester rotation before Darnell and another one of them needs to make the New Britain rotation. Also, how many LHP will the Rochester rotation have?
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      What good do 5 starts in AA do? What do you do then, if he's the guy they think he is?

      I agree with the above poster, while there are guys with higher ceilings in AA, there are also a bunch of guys that won't even make AAA, let alone the majors. In AAA, there are legit MLB players, and AAAA guys and AAA guys. AAA is definitely a better all around challenge in terms of facing consistently better players, if not stars. And, for a pitcher especially, that would be a better challenge. Half or more of the hitters Meyer faces in AA aren't good MLB prospects.

      I do think Seth has it right, but I'd much rather Gibson was up if he was ready, and Meyer was in AAA getting challenged by nearly every hitter. If Gibson looks ready, there is no reason to have him in AAA, at his age, and have KC or a random guy up here, imo. Heck, if it doesn't matter if a guy is at AA, send one of the random AAAA pitchers in Seth's list to AA, and put Meyer in AAA. I prefer the challenge your stars route, to the protect your stars route. Some teams do one, some do the other. I'm sure neither is drastically different for the eventual outcomes though.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      The Twins appear to have several good pitching prospects in the system. It is critical they develop these prospects into major league assets. They have not shown much success in those areas. They might look to organizations like the Cards, A's and Rays. How have they been able to continually find young pitchers? Not only do the pitchers find success but they arrive at the majors at a younger age.

      I think the following is important.

      - A pitcher must be moved aggressively enough to struggle and learn how to work through it at the minor league level. They will be better prepared to handle the struggle they will certainly encounter at the major league level. They need their confidence shaken and build the character to work through it.

      - A pitcher aging curve on fangraphs won an award at SABR this year. It is far different than hitter. Velocity and strike outs begin their decline at an early age. The Twins need to have a plan for their pitchers to reach the majors at younger ages than hitters. They need to make the most of the velocity.

      This is a link to the first in the series http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/pitch...-introduction/

      The velocity of Gibson, Meyer and May is likely already in decline. Gibson and Meyer, in particular, need to be in the majors this year. Other teams would do it. May needs to arrive also.

      The top prospects like Berrios and Stewart need to be pushed more aggressively than one step at a time. The Twins need to make the most of their velocity at the major league level. If they happen to draft a college pitcher, they need to look at the path of guys like Sonny Gray and Michael Wacha.

      The Twins have some young talented pitchers. I am certain Seth is spot on in his projections. This is consistent with the the Twins practice in previous years. It doesn't appear consistent with some other organizations that have successfully developed young pitching. Do the Twins the correct plan for developing the talent? It is critical for their future success.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      If I could love that post, instead of like it, I would.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      It's time to eliminate the "non-prospects". Some, we have seen pitch, some came from other teams. Let them duel it out in Spring training--and then cut right-to-the-bone--so those from the lower levels (with upside) get their innings to develop. The "feel-good" stories should not be the operating philosophy.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      I agree that AAA is a valuable step, I agree completely with jorgenswest and Kwak's last post!
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