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  • The Twins Thin Pitching Herd

    There have been few examples of teams having their Opening Day starter the previous season see his value deflate to the point where he clears waivers a year later and is traded for a stack of dollar bills.

    But that’s exactly what the Twins did with Vance Worley when they traded him to the Pirates for cash considerations.

    The interest was understandably minimal, said Twins assistant GM Rob Antony, after the 26-year-old right-hander passed through the waiver system unscathed but, based on his age and his past track record, there were several teams that inquired about him.

    “There was some (interest) right after he cleared waivers, some teams looked at him as their reclamation project,” said Antony. “So there were a few teams that expressed interest. I wouldn’t say anybody was jumping through the phone. I think everyone was looking at him the same way we were: What happened to this guy? We used to have really good reports on him but now they are not so good, otherwise they would have claimed him.”

    With the Rochester rotation as crowded as it is and Worley’s rapid descent on the organization’s depth chart, the Twins recognized it was in the best interest of the player to allow him to re-establish his value elsewhere. The Pirates are known for their interest in groundball pitchers and Worley, despite all of his struggles last year, demonstrated a high worm-burner rate of 47%.

    “I told him when we outrighted him that if somebody came and I saw an opportunity for him, a better path back to the majors, that I would try to do something for him,” Antony admitted. “I think maybe a change of scenery would be good for him or gone well for him. Sometimes it starts to snowball on you and you look for a fresh start.”

    Earlier in the spring, Worley acknowledged that he struggled to keep the ball down in the zone, a fact that was punctuated with the sound of loud impact. In 10 starts last year, opponents banged him around to the deafening tune of .381/.427/.557. When opponents put the ball in play (and they did so a lot considering he missed very few bats), they were able reach safely over 40% of the time -- the highest in the game with a minimum of 40 innings pitched.

    “For whatever reason, he didn’t throw the ball as hard as he could in the past, he couldn’t get the ball down in the zone and he couldn’t figure out why. I think there was some mechanical things we tried to do with him that he wasn’t able to do, to change some of things that he knew he had to change.”

    This spring was more of the same. While there were issues identified, Worley struggled to correct them.

    “You’d see him throw some good pitches with angle down in the zone and the next batter he’d elevate and they’d hit it in the gap. There just wasn’t consistency.”

    Remaining down in the zone regularly was Worley’s biggest issue both last season and this spring. Reviewing the data from ESPN/TruMedia, we find that Worley’s location was indeed higher in the strike zone than his previous seasons. In 2011, he was up in the zone on just 29.1% of his pitches. The next season that dropped to 26.8%. This past year, however, a whopping 36% of his offerings were elevated.


    2013

    2012

    His two-seamer with run was now not moving with the same arm-side run that he displayed in 2012. He was not working pitches down in the zone with the same frequency. As a result: Whammy.


    How does a pitcher go from the Opening Day starter one season to being someone else’s reclamation project the next?

    “We were going off his past successes as much as what we saw in the spring last year,” Antony replied. “He didn’t pitch like a guy who should be handed the ball on Opening Day but that was the way it stacked up and he had been there and I think it tells you a little bit about the state of our pitching last year. I just don’t think you can run scared of that. The guy was two years removed from being third in the National League Rookie of the Year.”

    The Twins could be facing another deal similar to Worley's if Scott Diamond, who was reportedly put on waivers on Wednesday, slides through unclaimed. Like Worley, Diamond has dealt with minor ailments and poor results that have devalued his stock.
    Comments 15 Comments
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      The Twins starting staff this year will have only Gibson as a Twins draft pick. The Red Wing starting staff as Len 3 had in a recent post has only Logan Darnell. That means out of our top 10 starting pitchers only 2 were drafted and developed by the Twins.

      Doesn't that say maybe it's time to look at who and how the Twins are evaluating pitchers?
    1. pierre75275's Avatar
      pierre75275 -
      kudos to twins management to get something out of nothing. it will be interesting to see if Diamond clears. My guess is somebody takes him
    1. beckmt's Avatar
      beckmt -
      This is the pitch to contact vs the pitch to miss bats change that took place about 2 years ago. Also has something to say where the Twins were drafting from 2001 - 2010. After the first 5-10 draft picks in a year(1st round), it is a draft and develop issue, you no longer have sure things.
      Worley was a good change, but is was May the Twins wanted. Just did not work out, too bad
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Quote Originally Posted by Winston Smith View Post
      The Twins starting staff this year will have only Gibson as a Twins draft pick. The Red Wing starting staff as Len 3 had in a recent post has only Logan Darnell. That means out of our top 10 starting pitchers only 2 were drafted and developed by the Twins.

      Doesn't that say maybe it's time to look at who and how the Twins are evaluating pitchers?
      There are other factors: they likely aren't able to scout (closely) that many--thus missing entirely on them, then there is the development process.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      And Diamond is put through waivers as well...

      Quote Originally Posted by Winston Smith View Post
      The Twins starting staff this year will have only Gibson as a Twins draft pick. The Red Wing starting staff as Len 3 had in a recent post has only Logan Darnell. That means out of our top 10 starting pitchers only 2 were drafted and developed by the Twins.

      Doesn't that say maybe it's time to look at who and how the Twins are evaluating pitchers?
      I definitely see a difference there in the last 2-3 seasons, starting with Gibson's draft. We shall see how it turns out.

      On the other hand, if you look at the Tigers and the Red Sox, they had only 2 pitchers they drafted in their rotation last season, the Dodgers had one. There is so much player movement these days, that it is hard to have a rotation of 5 drafted players...
    1. minnymadness's Avatar
      minnymadness -
      Quote Originally Posted by Winston Smith View Post
      The Twins starting staff this year will have only Gibson as a Twins draft pick. The Red Wing starting staff as Len 3 had in a recent post has only Logan Darnell. That means out of our top 10 starting pitchers only 2 were drafted and developed by the Twins.

      Doesn't that say maybe it's time to look at who and how the Twins are evaluating pitchers?
      I think we have but developing pitchers doesn't happen over night. Look at are farm systems. The guys we have drafted and signed internationally in the last 2 seasons have been of a different breed. Hopefully the control and throwing strikes doesn't change but a better job of mixing pitches with guys who can miss bats.
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      The Twins couldn't afford to stash him in the back of the bullpen (similar to Diamond). They could have a rotation of Logan, Dean, May, Pressley and Vasquez at Rochester. Meyer could advance. Diamond might stay in the mix. Wimmers should be there by now. I'm sure another body can be had. Part of the Worley/Diamond mess is also $$$ due each pitcher. Are they operating on a major/minor league split contract, do they get something in-between, or are both making whatever they have signed a contract for in the off-season.
    1. DocBauer's Avatar
      DocBauer -
      Here's hoping the change in drafting and signing pays off in the next few years.

      While Gibson will be the only home grown SP to begin the season with the club this year, I don't feel that in itself is a complete indictment of their system as a whole. Players at all positions, but in those focus SP 's, are acquired not only as draftees and young FA signees, but also through FA signings and trade. Some are acquired via trade of your own prospects, or are acquired via trade as prospects themselves, and then developed and promoted. In rare circumstances, you may even acquire a rule 5 player who develops, or a waver wire "reject" who finds himself late.

      I hate to cover too much ground, but over the past 0-20 years the Twins, like most clubs, have used all of these methods to march out Radke, Silva, Milton, Santana, Slowey, Rogers and now Nolasco and Gibson just to offer up a few different examples.

      Garza, not to bring up bad memories, is an example of a young player originally drafted by the Twins. Despite falling off the map after a few solid years, Slowey and Blackburn would be other examples who at least initially were solid pitchers. Some like Perkins and Swarzak found a different role for themselves.

      The fact that Meyer and May, who have yet to arrive I grant you, we're originally drafted by other teams before being acquired by the Twins, and presumably developed and polished by them, should not be counted as a negative toward the Twins development system. That would be like saying Santana, just for example, wasn't a success story for the Twins system because someone else signed him first. The path to major league success is paved with the theoretical corpses of top pitching prospects who never made it despite "sure fire" prospect status.

      If you have been around long enough, you would recall that in the md-80's, the Twins, believe it or not, invested heavily in a batch of hard throwing, high-ceiling youngsters that were universally regarded as top prospects. Playrers such as Banks, Gasser, Bumgarner, Nivens, Pittman and Newman. Even a couple of these young men developing to fruition could have had a major affect on the Twins in the late 80's and early 90's, despite the successes that they DID enjoy. For whatever unforgettable reasons, none of them turned out.

      Whether deliberate or coindicental, possibly from drafting later in each round and/or having young fireballers flame out, the Twins seemed to draft SP's who thre softer, but had better control or polish. Some came through, even if they weren't all Brad Radke. And whether you want to blame poor scouting or bad luck, not all that long ago the Twins DID attempt to draft and develop Johnson, Ard and Serafini amongst others who never turned out. And while I offer no excuses, these young men and others entered the draft as well regarded prospects by all. Just goes to show how much of a crap shoot the MLB draft really can be.

      I'm not sure where to pinpoint any dramatic change in scouting or philosophy, but the past couple of years the Twins DO seem to have focused once again on power arms with potential. Whether drafted, signed or traded for, I honestly can't remember the Twins ever having so many good to excellent young arms in their system as now. If even a couple of them develop to fruition, I will be a huge boost to the team's fortunes.

      For this season, I feel the SP is the best it has, potentially, been in a few years.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Quote Originally Posted by Winston Smith View Post
      The Twins starting staff this year will have only Gibson as a Twins draft pick. The Red Wing starting staff as Len 3 had in a recent post has only Logan Darnell. That means out of our top 10 starting pitchers only 2 were drafted and developed by the Twins.

      Doesn't that say maybe it's time to look at who and how the Twins are evaluating pitchers?
      Of course it does.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      On the other hand, if you look at the Tigers and the Red Sox, they had only 2 pitchers they drafted in their rotation last season, the Dodgers had one. There is so much player movement these days, that it is hard to have a rotation of 5 drafted players...
      I am guessing it is true of a lot of teams. There are probably others but the only team I can think of that has great representation of home grown is San Francisco. I think they had 4 of 5. None of them flame throwers by the way. Bat missability doesn't have to be with 96mph fastballs and pitching to contact did work to the tune of two WS championships. Pitching to contact should not mean throw meatball down the middle. Unfortunately for the Twins recently, it has meant that.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      The difference is, the Twins claim their strategy, the TWins way, The only RIGHT way, is to build from within. If that is your strategy, is it working?
    1. Trevor0333's Avatar
      Trevor0333 -
      This is where the top 3 round misses from the 2007-2012 drafts really hurt.

      2012 1st JO Berrios & Luke Bard; 2nd Mason Melotakis & JT Chargois
      2011 1st Hudson Boyd 2nd Madison Boer 3rd Cory Williams
      2010 1st Alex Wimmers 3rd Pat Dean
      2009 1st Kyle Gibson & Matt Bashore; 2nd Billy Bullock 3rd Ben Tootle
      2008 1st Carlos Guiterez & Shooter Hunt 3rd Bobby Lanigan
      2007 No pitchers taken in top 3 rounds

      Pitchers are always much harder to project & every team has misses but this is truly bad consectutive run of misses in the top rounds. Only Gibson is in the majors & Berrios has #2 starter potential. Dean, Boyd, Boer, & Melotakis could develop into solid mid to back of the rotation starters. Wimmers, Chargois, Bard, & Williams are all basically off the prospect map due to TJ injuries.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      Of course it does.
      In thread. After thread. After thread.

      Twins make a roster move. Time to launch a retrospective on the Twins front office.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      The difference is, the Twins claim their strategy, the TWins way, The only RIGHT way, is to build from within. If that is your strategy, is it working?
      Actually, it may be. They have a number of excellent position player prospects, headed by Buxton and Sano. They have a number of pitching prospects, some close to the majors and some far away, but promising.

      To address your other, rather constant complaint about the front office and accountability: The Twins, as you should know, having brought it up often enough, have made a lot of changes among their farm system coaches and managers. If you were to compare a list of names from 5 or even 4 years ago, the number of new people in those positions might surprise you. The Twins also have a new farm director and a new scouting director. I don't know for sure, because I haven't tried to find out(don't really care) but I wouldn't be surprised if similar turnover has occurred in the scouting department as well.

      Other changes that have occurred over time include: Just more players. The Twins now have many more young guys in extended spring training, then they did a few years ago. Another change is more coaches in the system. A team in the Dominican Summer league. Expanded presence in more countries throughout the world.

      I expect there are more changes, progress perhaps, that I am not aware of. What I am trying to suggest, is that the Twins HAVE responded to past failures, by making changes, replacing personnel, doing more with advanced metrics, and probably other things that you and others have been asking/demanding that the Twins do. You just do not seem to be aware of them, or perhaps just unwilling to acknowledge them.

      Whether all of this stuff is working as well as everyone wishes it would, I don't know. Some of it is a work in progress, so to speak. Drafting and developing players is perhaps more art than science. Luck seems to play a part. But it is hard to have intelligent coversations about these sort of things, if changes and progress that appear to be made is never acknowleged.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim H View Post
      Whether all of this stuff is working as well as everyone wishes it would, I don't know. Some of it is a work in progress, so to speak.

      Drafting and developing players is perhaps more art than science. Luck seems to play a part. '

      But it is hard to have intelligent coversations about these sort of things, if changes and progress that appear to be made is never acknowleged.
      Bad luck?

      Art over science?

      I'd rather philosophically go with teams like the Cards and Rays in their ability to identify, draft and develop- from the bottom of the draft and on a budget. They seem to have their processes down to a science rather than an art, thus making their own "luck", rather than using it as an excuse for repeated failure.
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