Minnesota Twins News & Rumors Forum
  • 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. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      I agree with others here. Meyers should start at Rochester where he will (presumably) face better hitters than at New Britain. If he is the ace of the future, why not push him.

      My main comment focuses on the bottom end of the Twins system. Why do you have Eades who didn't have a good 2013 at Fort Myers?? Where the heck is Brett Lee (who arguably was the ace at Cedar Rapids last year)?? Why isn't he at Fr. Myers?? (yes I may be biased cause he was my "adapt a prospect" last year--but given his year--he deserves a promotion.

      Why do you have Stewart and Gonsalves (both potentially top of the rotation guys) at extended spring training. They should get a shot at Cedar Rapids--will also bring fans to the park. It may be pushing them, but give them a shot--if it doesn't work--send them to E-Town.
    1. william.m.potts's Avatar
      william.m.potts -
      First mention of Vance Worley all off season. Where is he truly at? What are we in on him? As we can't forget, he was the #1 guy at the start of last year, it seems we need to get more out of him.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      Are you sure that Darnell will be in Rochester?
      No. He certainly could go back to New Britain just due to numbers.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      What good do 5 starts in AA do? What do you do then, if he's the guy they think he is?
      Call him up?
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kwak View Post
      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.
      You just can't do that. You need numbers... There are injuries. There are prospects who become non-prospects. There are non-prospects that become solid MLB contributors. THere is no one way.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by DAM DC Twins Fans View Post
      I agree with others here. Meyers should start at Rochester where he will (presumably) face better hitters than at New Britain. If he is the ace of the future, why not push him.

      My main comment focuses on the bottom end of the Twins system. Why do you have Eades who didn't have a good 2013 at Fort Myers?? Where the heck is Brett Lee (who arguably was the ace at Cedar Rapids last year)?? Why isn't he at Fr. Myers?? (yes I may be biased cause he was my "adapt a prospect" last year--but given his year--he deserves a promotion.

      Why do you have Stewart and Gonsalves (both potentially top of the rotation guys) at extended spring training. They should get a shot at Cedar Rapids--will also bring fans to the park. It may be pushing them, but give them a shot--if it doesn't work--send them to E-Town.
      Brett Lee - I just added him to the Ft. Myers mix... HE was good. He's a sleeper for me in 2014. I just didn't type him.

      Ryan Eades - I don't really care about what he did in ET... He could easily go to CR... He's a top college pitcher draftee from last year, and the Twins typically do start them in FM.

      I think there's a chance that Stewart and Gonsalves start in EST and are called up in early/mid-May when the weather in Iowa is a little warmer. Also gives a few other guys a chance that they might not otherwise get.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Call him up?
      I hope that's what happens, Seth. Thanks for the full list, btw. Appreciated as always.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      The Twins waited too long to call up Gibson last year. He had two high pitch count outings for Rochester after the time he should have been called up.

      It was reported that his velocity was sitting at 94 even into the late innings in a May Rochester game. He was 91-92 with the Twins later in the season.

      Meyer and Gibson need to enter the majors this year with their best stuff. They will need it as they learn to adjust to major league pitching.

      They need to put Gibson in the rotation to open the season. Meyer needs to be there by May 1 (if not opening day). Correia does well from the bullpen.
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Brett Lee - I just added him to the Ft. Myers mix... HE was good. He's a sleeper for me in 2014. I just didn't type him.

      Ryan Eades - I don't really care about what he did in ET... He could easily go to CR... He's a top college pitcher draftee from last year, and the Twins typically do start them in FM.

      I think there's a chance that Stewart and Gonsalves start in EST and are called up in early/mid-May when the weather in Iowa is a little warmer. Also gives a few other guys a chance that they might not otherwise get.
      Seth: Good point on Eades being a high college draftee...still wonder if he starts at Cedar Rapids. Now I understand your thinking on Stewart and Gonsalves (waiting for warm weather--aren't we all).

      As always, a great article--just nitpicking a bit. (:-)
    1. AM.'s Avatar
      AM. -
      Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
      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.
      Agree. And backs up the point implied in my question: which 5 guys would be the best 5 starters for the Twins right now, regardless of service time? I agree that Meyer would be on that list. I think Gibson would be. What would the top 5 be? Would Berrios crack that list? (Would Stewart?)
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
      The Twins waited too long to call up Gibson last year. He had two high pitch count outings for Rochester after the time he should have been called up.

      It was reported that his velocity was sitting at 94 even into the late innings in a May Rochester game. He was 91-92 with the Twins later in the season.

      Meyer and Gibson need to enter the majors this year with their best stuff. They will need it as they learn to adjust to major league pitching.

      They need to put Gibson in the rotation to open the season. Meyer needs to be there by May 1 (if not opening day). Correia does well from the bullpen.
      Gibson said at Twins Fest he couldn't get his best pitch, his slider over 7 of 10 starts. Couldn't use it as a first pitch strike. That's a big problem and one that can't be blamed on Rick Anderson. Let him come up when he's ready to shine. That's one of the major reasons why we signed 3 free agent starting pitchers. We need Gibson and Meyer in the starting rotation by the start of 2015, that's all.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      This thread is kind of funny. After damning the Twins for not getting FA pitching, even before the FA season even started, now that the Twins signed free agent pitchers, a lot of the same people are damning them for not promoting the hot Twins prospects, even before spring training has started.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by DAM DC Twins Fans View Post
      Seth: Good point on Eades being a high college draftee...still wonder if he starts at Cedar Rapids. Now I understand your thinking on Stewart and Gonsalves (waiting for warm weather--aren't we all).

      As always, a great article--just nitpicking a bit. (:-)
      Nitpicking is the fun part... sometimes... With a blog/article like this, it's all about guessing. Also, there will be 5 or 6 starters at these levels, and I probably have 7+ names in most all of them... These are the names, and there is a trickle-down effect to it all. Some to the bullpen, etc.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      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.....
      I'd work Swarzak into the rotation as a forth or fifth starter, but that would depend partly on spring training and on early season results with the other guys.

      Clearly Swarzak is a valuable asset as a rubber-armed short reliever, long reliever and spot starter. He works quickly, delivers the ball in a flash, and he attacks the zone as well as anybody on the staff. That said, he definitely wants to be a starter. Why would he be better now than before? If he pans out, it would come down to better controlling his emotions and further refinement of his approach. To me he looks like a better pitcher now than he did a couple years ago. His poise and mechanics look more consistent. Pitching exclusively from the stretch was a good decision.

      I'd let him try his hand at starting as a reward for getting better. It's important for a team to show that a player's improvement is respected and rewarded by chances to move up. Give him a fair shot to start, and if it doesn't work out, Swarzak himself will be the first to admit it.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by jimbo92107 View Post
      To me he looks like a better pitcher now than he did a couple years ago. His poise and mechanics look more consistent.
      Much as I usually say I'm opposed to trying to mind-read, in the case of Swarzak I can't help but continue to wonder whether that cracked rib from horseplay matured him up and he became more serious about his career, in which case he might be worth another shot in the rotation at some point, because there'd actually be reason to hope for better results than before.
    1. TRex's Avatar
      TRex -
      I think the reason Swarzak is doing better as a reliever is that he has pretty much shelved his changeup, which has a cumulative value of -15.3 over his career (compared to +5.5 for his 4-seam FB, 3.2 for his 2-seam, and -4.3 for his curveball)!

      His changeup is just as bad now, and I don't think he can survive as a starter with 2 pitches.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I don't think anyone clamoring for Gibson to be up here thought having KC and Pelfrey both here again was the best possible answer.....but I will only speak for myself on that. I fail to see how that is inconsistent with wanting them to sign 2 good pitchers in FA.
    1. perkins7's Avatar
      perkins7 -
      Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
      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.

      Now I'm by no means an expert or even avid amateur on pitcher development, but it strikes me that you mention the Rays in the same argument as the A's and the Cards. Wacha and Gray are exceptions in the sense that their ability was enough to start with something resembling success in the majors (a fair amount of success too!). The Rays, however, have an approach that is actually much closer to the Twins' than you're giving them credit for in some sense. They hold their pitching guys at each level for the entire season with rare exception, and they have arguably had the best 1-5 rotation in baseball year in and year out since Friedman took over. The main difference between the Twins and the Rays (as far as I can tell) is the commitment to a conditioning and training program that leads them to have far fewer injuries (especially ones requiring surgery) each year than the Twins. Although I don't have easily referenced numbers to cite for this, the Rays have had very few of their pitchers require TJ than the Twins and that's in large part due to the patience in developing and conditioning these young men so that they are maximizing efficiency (i.e. number of innings each season) and minimizing injury. The Twins' approach seems more to value establishing consistent performance at each level, the keyword there being "consistent", and moving prospects up when they demonstrate success.

      I got a little wordy saying it, but the Rays do not develop pitching talent like any other team. They set the standard by which other teams should try to repeat.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      Certain things get repeated to the point that they are accepted as truths even when there are numerous counter examples. The Twins are often cited as promoting their prospects too slowly, but I don't believe that is particularly true. Since this thread is about pitching, I will confine my examples to them.

      I believe the Twins try to individualize their promotions to their prospects, there is no one plan fits all. Over the years many pitchers have been pushed very agressively. Radke reached the majors at 21 or 22 skipping AAA altogether. He wasn't even the best starting prospect, Hawkins was and they pitched together at AA. Milton was a very young starter for the Twins. Both Baker and Slowey were college pitchers who got to the majors quite quickly. Crain was a college shortstop who was promoted as a reliever and got to the majors quickly.

      Liriano was 21 when he got to the majors, Hendriks was 21 or 22. I think the perception that the Twins don't promote quickly is tied to the fact that many top prospects have had injury issues that have slowed their development, and some just haven't been good enough or didn't develop quickly enough to justify quicker promotions. A recent example of this Melotakis, a college pitcher who got to AA in last year in the first full season after being drafted, but then struggled. He was promoted quite aggressively and if he had pitched at AA the way pitched at High A, we would be talking about him pitching for the Twins this year.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Correct... the top prospects, they aren't afraid to move up quickly. Buxton will likely debut at 21. Sano will likely have just turned 21 when he debuts. They, as they should, move guys according to when they're ready to move.
©2014 TwinsCentric, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Interested in advertising with Twins Daily? Click here.